07 August 2016

The Soul vs. The Personality

Hello, you lovely soul explorers! 

It's time that I shook up the Be Unleashed snow globe and shared some deets about my current reality. While the snowflakes have been settled for some time, inspiration has struck and I've started to roll around and make way for a SnoWoman. Given that we're all in this life thing together, just human-ing around and seeing what we discover, I hope this post can be a meaningful outlet for conversation and connection.

Maybe your current reality looks similar to mine and you can relate. Or maybe you’ve been here before and can chime in with a greater sense of objective clarity. Or maybe what you read below will sound like absolute madness and illicit a big shoulder shrug. Either way, I value having a platform to allow for others to share their experiences.

Couple of things I’ve been up to since May…

  • I moved! Ask me about it. The new spot is really lovely and I hit the jackpot with my roomie. What a gem.
  •  I started Transcendental Meditation. Are you a TMer, too?! I would love to talk to you about your experience with it. No idea what I’m talking about? Ask me, and I’m happy to share what’s special about this kind of meditation. I’ll soon write a post about my experience with it, my wonderful instructor, and how TM has transformed my relationship with my anxiety.
  •  I’ve started working with a spiritual coach. It’s like having an accountability partner for loving yourself and your life. You can check out more about his signature Future Self Method here. Peter is an amazing advocate for his clients’ highest selves. His intuitive, action-oriented approach yields incredible results (whether you’re seeking support in the realm of relationships, career, finances, health, or otherwise). A great way to initially get a feel for his beautiful craft is by attending one of his group gatherings. He offers guided meditations and Future Self workshops in Venice at Full Circle and in Brentwood at Unplug Meditation

My most recent work with Peter coincides perfectly with the excerpts of a book I’d like to share with you.

I’ve been reading… very slowly… The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav for the past few weeks. Each chapter – each page – is chock-full of deeply healing, enlightening Truths. This book will change the way you see the world and live your life. Zukav provides both a scientific and a philosophic perspective on evolution and the human condition. If you’re up for checking out the possibilities of a multi-sensory human vs. that of the five-sensory human (you're like, "what?!"), I highly recommend. 

I'll give you a taste of one of the foundational distinctions that the book makes early on: the soul vs. the personality.

“The personality and its body are artificial aspects of the soul.”

YOU are not your body or your personality – the purest form of you, your true essence, is your soul. Your personality is the vessel that your soul has shown up in in this lifetime. It’s the casing for your highest self. Your personality is how you interact with the world and others around you. It’s part of how you’re making sense of this particular chapter on Earth. It's like the homework assignment that your soul has been given for this lifetime. Homework?

“The personality is those parts of the soul that require healing, along with those parts of the soul, such as compassion and love, that the soul has lent to the process of healing in that lifetime. The splintered aspects of the soul, the aspects that require healing, need to interact in physical matter so that each part of the splinteredness can become whole.”

Each time your soul touches down on this Earth, it has karmic debts to pay and learnings to uncover. There are lifetimes-worth of energetic transactions that must be settled. These debts and earnings show up in the form of your personality. Your soul desires to be in balance, and therefore it knows what kind of vehicle it must re-enter the world in in order to realign – whether that realignment happens over the course of this lifetime or many lifetimes.

“From the point of view of the soul, all its incarnations are simultaneous. All of its personalities exist at once... Because the soul, itself, is not confined to time, the past of a personality, as well as its future, is enhanced when a personality releases currents of fear and doubt… A conscious lifetime, therefore, is a treasure beyond value.”

Personalities are worldly; souls are supernatural. While the personality is confined to time and spatial limitations, the soul is not. It exists boundlessly and it is all-knowing. Glimpses into our higher selves (whether granted through meditation, deeply introspective work, or soul connections with others) can reveal incredible Truths to our personalities. These Truths are important guides, as our personalities fumble about on their predestined missions, scrambling to find the meaning of this lifetime. The soul has the bird’s eye view – the objective perspective – on all of the trials and tribulations of the personality. A life most peacefully lived is one in which we stay connected to our observant, nonjudgmental soul, rather than feel dragged around by our personalities and their assignments.

As I’ve been reading about all of this in The Seat of the Soul, I’ve started to become more aware of my personality… or personalities. My coach has been an integral part of helping me to not completely fixate on aspects of my personality, and instead set my sights on my Future Self, whose awareness and intentions are much more aligned with the purity and deep wisdom that characterizes the soul. However, in effort to heal my own splinteredness, in our last session we dove deeply into the aspects of my personality.

“Personalities in interaction are souls that are seeking to heal.”

Whether this refers to a personality interacting with that of another soul (best friend, partner, colleague, etc.), or personalities within one soul interacting, it's all part of healing. The interactions and connections are divinely perfect and destined to alleviate that splinteredness - splinters like feeling disconnected from your true purpose, resisting being vulnerable with others, experiencing a paralyzing fear of making the wrong decision, and feeling separate and removed from your environment or from others. Over the past two months, through my experience with the Future Self Method, I've become more aware of my own splinters, particularly the ones within myself.

If you know me well, you know that I have an extremely difficult time making decisions – more so than the average person. Decisions, from what to order at a restaurant or which hike to go on, to how to address relationship difficulties or job hang-ups, I often struggle to make choices with conviction. I want it all! What if I let someone down? What if I hurt someone’s feelings? What if I make the wrong choice? Where will this decision lead me in the future? My big heart and my big imagination, full of dreams and ideas, sometimes get in the way of my decision-making skills. These are splinters of my personality, trying to heal my soul's karma.

Do you feel overwhelmed by options too? In the digital age of the Internet, social media, and the always-accessible expectation, it's very challenging to filter through the endless options, advertisements, messages, and shiny things vying for your attention. It has become increasingly more difficult to dive deep to connect with your heart (which feels like a direct line to the soul) to ask what it truly wants, separate from worldly desires, temptations, stereotypes, and social norms.

To give you a bit more context around what this decision-making struggle feels like for me, I’ll offer a metaphor that has emerged in my coaching sessions. When I’m faced with a decision, it feels like a game of ping-pong initiates in my mind. Sometimes I am a spectator at the match, and I can have a bit more compassion and laugh at the sheer entertainment of it all. The two dominant aspects of my personality duke it out, and my highest self sits it in the soul bleachers, cheering for whichever player is most driven by love. Other times (most times, up until very recently), I feel like the ball itself, getting smacked back and forth by the two extremes, with no end of the duel in sight.

Learning who the players are – the two extremes – has been essential to understanding my tendency to feel overwhelmed by options. By personifying the two players within me, I’ve initiated the process of self-compassion. (If you want to know more about these two personalities within me, just ask and I'm happy to share.) Looking at them through a lens of curiosity and adoration, instead of one colored by skepticism, has been transformational. When a ping-pong match strikes up in my mind, I try to immediately assume the position of the observer. From this higher place, I can tap into what it is that I truly want, which is usually pretty obvious from the bleachers. Then, it just becomes a matter of giving myself permission.   

The goal is to gradually merge these two personalities, such that they are in harmony and serving the same soul, as opposed to them feeling at odds with each other. Each side is a very important part of who I am, where I've been, and my mission on Earth in this lifetime. Therefore, it's not productive to favor one or the other, or to criticize the more splintered parts of each. Rather, it's most important to love what each of them is revealing and to honor them as necessary vessels for my soul this time around. (This is all equally true when you consider your personality and how it interacts with that of other souls. The goal is harmony and oneness.)

Have you identified differing aspects of your personality that rage war with you? Can you ask yourself what gifts each of them is offering? Lend a curious eye to their antics and desires, and remind yourself that they serve the same greater purpose, even if they bicker like siblings at times. The facade of separateness is just that. 

Share thoughts, ideas, love, questions in the comments below. 

As always, some tunes for you...

Favorite song of the moment: Elle Watson's Phantom.

Meditation is a beautiful way to disconnect from the logical mind / body and sit in the seat of your soul. I'll be writing about my experience with it soon. I'm a newbie, so even if you're inexperienced, you may find my thoughts and suggestions valuable. If you are looking for some beautiful ambient tracks for meditation, yoga, sleep, relaxation, etc., check out the 11 free tracks that Moby recently released. They are really magical and have helped me connect to source energy when I've felt unfocused or disconnected.

04 May 2016

Off the Leash

When's the last time you let yourself off the hook? Really let yourself off the leash you've attached to your wild spirit, and let your body and your mind run free?

TUT's Notes from the Universe recently reminded me:

The only person who should ever have to live by your standards, Tiffany, is you. 
Let everyone else off the hook. Besides, it's doubtful they've lived as much, dreamt as big, or will ever be able to saunter quite like you.  
The Universe
Ps.And while you're at it, Tiffany, let yourself off the hook every now and then. Your sashay is already legendary.

Chances are that if you keep yourself on a tight leash, you probably also strong-arm others into heeling, trotting at your pace, and playing by your rules. Cut yourself some slack. And let others do their thing, too. We are all on our own journey, and it need not look or feel the same as that of others.

Part of me letting myself off the leash today was writing this short, important post. I would typically wait until I had more to say, or a better developed insight to share. But sometimes more is less. And sharing always feels good. So here ya go. 

Feel free to leave your collar at the door. Nobody owns you but you

I have lived my life so perfectly
Kept to all my lines so carefully
I'd lose everything so I can sing
Hallelujah, I'm free
I'm free, I'm free
I'm free, I'm free
Hallelujah, I'm free

Gritting your teeth, you hold onto me
It's never enough, I'm never complete
Tell me to prove, expect me to lose
I push it away, I'm trying to move
Hoping for more, and wishing for less
When I didn't care was when I did best
I'm desperate to run, I'm desperate to leave
If I lose it all, at least I'll be free

A for Effort

Two dear friends of mine are teachers. One teaches 6th grade, and the other teaches kindergarten to 3rd grade. I laugh to tears at the stories they tell me about how unleashed these young children are. From their desire to create and destroy, to their unfiltered reactions and amazing ability to bounce back, children are truly inspiring. The stories my friends share about their students remind me of how important it is to cultivate play and apply their free-spirited approach as an adult as much as possible.

I find children invigorating, as they have the purest of hearts and see the world through such fresh eyes, hungry for exploration and discovery. They can spend hours building Lego sets, turn just about anything into a fort, make up new games on the fly, and see their backyard as a playground with endless potential. They have an incredible reserve of energy, raring to roll around in the grass, play tag, and climb the un-climbable. They speak their Truth without hesitation, and offer unfiltered feedback and questions without fear of judgment. The see others through the purest of perspectives and dig anyone who will join them in their adventures. It's beautiful, and I so enjoy the insights and stories that my friends share about them.

But in the stories of silly recess happenings and classroom shenanigans, there is also mention of progress reports and grading rubrics. Through the students' laughs, light bulb moments, and magnetic energy, I also recognize that performance culture is already settling in, even at the elementary school level. As early as 8 years old, striving for excellence becomes a very important goal. The promised rewards of gold stars, special privileges, and teacher's praise coerce children to readjust their focus from play and creativity, to work and measurable results.

It makes my heart ache when my educator friends tell me about their students' fear of failure or rejection. A little girl crying when she accidentally rips her art project, wailing, "It's ruined!!!" A boy isolating himself when he isn't the fastest runner in P.E. class, in a state of "why even try if you aren't the best?"

How can it be that their bright-eyed perspective and natural desires to build, move, express, and connect with their environment are squashed at such a young age?

In those tough tween years, the painful process of individuation begins, through which children start to unconsciously consider questions like, "who am I?" "what do I have to do to be likable and accepted?" and "what makes me valuable?" Worldly influences start to creep into their awareness, whispering false promises of love and acceptance, and rob them of their invincible, care-free wonder.

One of the biggest culprits of siphoning their spirit is the pressure to perform. During a time in their lives when they are absorbing so much new information and exploring what brings them joy, children have parents, teachers, and coaches pressuring them to abruptly transition to being a responsible, high-performing, nervous, insecure grown-up.

I can recall several childhood memories off the top of my head, wherein my tendency to be free, giggly, and creative was squelched by the pressure to act in accordance with someone's expectations, achieve a high grade, play by the rules, or measure up to someone else. As an adult, I explored these memories in hypnotherapy sessions. When working through a negative, self-limiting belief in my session, it was important to start with the first time I remembered feeling that way in order to uproot it. And it was always in those young, formative years when my regressions would start.

It's not difficult to trace the line from our performance-oriented foundation in school, at home, and on the field to the resultant stress-induced adult life we live out today at home and at work. We become so naturally addicted to outcome, because an unfathomable amount of attention has been given to it our entire lives. No wonder we have a hard time 'enjoying the journey.' Our value as individuals is equated to how much we push ourselves, our final mark, and how it compares to others. The pressure to perform teaches us to detach from our internal compass and to measure how much we should love ourselves against some rubric tracking grades, job title, marital status, body type...and the list goes on.

One of the intentions I set this year is to let go of my report card mentality. Over the past few months, I have been reminded of just how deeply this performance pressure is rooted. I'm my own worst critic, and I see how my focus on outcome can result in missing the whole, juicy process in between. So often, I tunnel-vision on the finish line, such that I ultimately don't feel satisfied when I reach the checkered tape, as I'm always adding another lap in form of some new challenge or goal. It's the idea of 'never enough' that keeps us in a sprint, out of breath on the treadmill to nowhere (or, rather, to some projected idea of the future). 

Hey, being driven is great. Dreaming up goals and setting intentions for growth and development is invigorating and part of living an inspired life. It is when we are so harshly judging ourselves every step of the way and honing in on some preconceived idea of what the final outcome should look like, that we're totally not present or open to a new (potentially better) ending. When you set out on a journey to achieve something, you know what you know in that moment. As you chip away and progress forward, new possibilities and ideas will start to reveal themselves to you, both within you and in the physical world. Perhaps a new door opens up, or a gem of wisdom presents itself. But if we have our blinders on as we approach the finish line, some hazy idea of where we are going, we risk missing those divine guideposts and gifts.

Sometimes it's the pressure to know, without a doubt, what I want that paralyzes me from action and invites in self-doubt. I'm a visual learner, so often I start collecting magazine clippings or get whisked away on Pinterest when I need help crystallizing an idea or intention. Earlier this year, I was vision-boarding with a friend - something I really enjoy doing. The practice of flipping through a catalog of dreamy potential, and repeating to myself that I can call in anything I want, relaxes me to the point of allowing that creative energy to buzz through me and spark inspiration. It reminds me that my dreams and goals are more tangible that I thought, and looking at the images starts to plant the seed of what it feels and looks like to integrate that goal. 

However, on this evening of vision-boarding, I was being particularly hard on myself. With all of my intentions written out in my journal, I had shown up so excited to create a visual representation and keep my goals at the forefront of my consciousness. But, as I started to collect words and images for my board, nothing was coming out right. The design looked childish. My clippings weren't fitting on the board and the arrangement was off. My personal touches of markers and stickers cheapened the richness of my intentions. I felt frustrated and discouraged. That wasn't what I wanted my board to look like at all! I felt stuck between the mental pictures I had drawn and my physical ability to bring those untouchable dreams to life. I kept looking over at my friend's board (she's an incredibly talented artist who has a natural knack for creating lighthearted art and designing cozy spaces), and I started to spiral into a ridiculous state of self-judgment. Talk about report card mentality! This craft of vision-boarding, which was meant to be fun, light, and inspiring, quickly morphed into a way for me to judge myself even more harshly. Totally disconnected from the original intention of the board and the goals I had once so happily drawn up, I ended the night feeling exhausted and like I wanted to trash my board. 

The next morning, I awoke to my board propped up on my photo altar, and I was able to laugh off the battle I had instigated with it the night before. I looked at it fondly as something I created with the purest of intentions over a much-anticipated night connecting with my girl friend. But in those moments of stagnated creativity and frustration,  I felt so defeated. That alluring desire for perfection, planted when I was a little girl, continues to crop up as an adult and threaten to rob me of the sweet nectar of curiosity, creativity, and unconditional enjoyment without attachment to outcome.

Spoiler alert: perfection is an illusion, and pursuing it is exhausting and uninspiring. If you're addicted like me, give it up. Consider what life would be like if instead of focusing on achievement and accolades, we fell in love with the process, nurtured our curiosity, and celebrated the baby steps. What if we were graded on our effort and the intention that we breathe into our goals, instead of on the ultimate outcome? What if we were rewarded with love, respect and recognition, purely for the heart-energy we dedicate to projects and goals? I can only image how that would change the way we show up to the drawing board, excited for the potential and fearless to follow it where it may lead. 

It's interesting to me that the phrase 'A for effort' is offered with pity, like a bastardized congratulations. The effort and intention are treated as secondary to some shiny proof of results. In my heart, I believe that the only measures of growth and performance that merit any kind of attention are one's degree of self-trust and open-heartedness, the focused energy behind the intention, and one's love of the unpredictable journey. The outcome is whatever. We must shed the many layers of our childhood-born self-judgment and pressure to perform before we can authentically adopt the belief that our efforts and intention are good enough. In fact, it's when we detach from outcome and instead breathe life into the infinite possibilities that we begin living a truly magical, magnetic, and inspired life. You'll be amazed by what shows up when you trust yourself enough to follow your intuition and honor your passions, instead of ball-and-chain yourself to an idea of what your life should be. 

Something that helps me disengage from my attachment to outcome is doing a little self-acknowledgement activity at the end of the day. When I'm lying in bed, exhaling the day, my report card mentality will often pipe up with a laundry list of things that didn't get done or some ego-based measurement of how well I performed that day. I like to nip this mind chatter in the bud by turning to my journal and capturing five things I am proud of myself for. These things can range from standing up for myself or sending love to myself in the mirror at yoga, to finishing a task that was hanging over my head or choosing compassion for someone over judgment. It immediately puts me in a state of gratitude and self-appreciation, instead of sizing up my progress on a myriad of responsibilities and goals.

I hope that we can all hold each other to this higher frequency - buzzing with curiosity, gratitude, and love for adventure, like when we were children. Lower frequency thoughts around comparison, judgment, and expectations will dissipate when we choose to let our current state and our beautiful intentions be enough.  

17 February 2016

Forks and Bends

In the past, the days leading up to my birthday have been times reflection. And when I say reflection, I mean panic. What am I doing with my life?! Why haven't I achieved that goal? Who and what is important to me? What have I learned? What does turning this age mean? What do others expect of me now? 

I often look back to see what I was doing this time last year (and thanks to Facebook Time Hop, there are usually plenty of jarring/endearing photos to remind me). Thoughts of... awww, remember that job? That friend? That feeling? That apartment? I reminisce about choices I made, and the paths I ultimately chose to take. Sometimes I have an overwhelming feelings of peace and gratitude that I followed a flutter of an intuition down one trail. Other times, I get stuck in the illusion of what "might have been" had I chosen another route. From my driver's seat, I'll glance in the rear view mirror and wonder if I should flip a u-ey to see what I missed. Was there a guidepost that I blew by? Did I take the scenic route or the fast track? And what about the intersection where I went left, instead of right?

This life will always present us with different paths and forks on our journey. There will be times when we have to choose between the two job offers. To stay in the relationship or walk away. To say hello or avert eye contact. To book the vacation or save money. To jump or to recede. To invest hope or pull the plug. 

It's the fear of the unknown that makes us resent these forks, instead of embrace them as a choose-your-own-adventure. 

We choose one because we can't choose both. We may always wonder where the other path may have taken us. And it's ok to be curious. But don't let your stray-dreaming distract you from the present journey and loving what it's revealing to you. There will be more forks and more choices. They may feel right in the moment and wrong later. But all we have access to is this moment, so our choices are always in alignment with what's needed right now.

On the 27th anniversary of my birth, I didn't slip into that heart-breaking, confusing stray-dreaming. I didn't try to hijack the past or wish for a rewrite. I avoided comparing and tallying my performance. I didn't measure myself up against some societal-grown expectation. Instead, I felt such extreme gratitude. No qualms about where I was going, or if I hit whatever benchmark. I let myself feel happy. I graciously welcomed the new year and stripped it from any meaning or implications. I gave myself permission to simply feel happy to be surrounded by such wonderful people in this life, to have a spirit that gets to thrive in a healthy body, and to live in a place that bestows sunny, warm days. 

I'm not looking for a "good for you for not having a shitty birthday!" pat on the back. I've had my fair share of horrifying birthdays, where my consciousness darts around in the caves of wonderland and plagues me with the "what if's." Those birthdays where the invite list feels like a drudging, momentous task and who shows up is even more painstaking. But do you show up? And for what purpose? To celebrate, or commiserate? 

I've had both kinds of birthdays - the dreamy, happy ones, and the vacant, depressing ones. Whether it's your birthday, your wedding day, or your least favorite Tuesday yet, you have the power to choose how you view your reality and the micro-decisions, judgments, and observations you make to shape that reality. Don't forget who is at the wheel.

There are days when I click on the cruise control and some chill music, and feel wonderfully relaxed as I coast through. I feel comfortable, yet still possess the ability to gun it or slow down. I take in the scenery and feel the wind whip through my hair. It's like the ultimate convertible car ride down the PCH. It doesn't matter where I'm going and when I'm getting there, because it's so beautifully romantic and dreamy every second of the journey. Those are the really wonderful days.

Then there are days when I'm in stop and go traffic. I'll hit a good bout, get to a decent pace (the speed limit if I'm lucky) and then hit a wall. Grid lock. I feel trapped. I'm glued to the clock on my dash, like it's keeping score as my life ticks by. I create a separation between myself and everyone else, and that anger makes them all wrong and in the way. Everything shrinks in on itself. I start to wither away as I disconnect from my synergy with all that surrounds me and my internal power source. No accomplishments or arrivals feel like success, because I made the journey out to be a treacherous obligation. 

What IS that? All that dark mind-chatter and frantic desperation? It's all rooted in fear. Afraid of being late - whether late that day, or late to some feigned milestone in my life. Afraid of not being able to do all of the things I want to - do my job well, spend time with my friends, call family to offer support and shower with love, read my ever-growing pile of books, cook nourishing meals for myself, take hot yoga, enjoy the beach, look at the stars, write, say 'yes' to a spontaneous invitation... the list goes on. The fear of lack will cause any sentient being to feel overwhelming stress, sadness, and defeat. Perhaps it manifests as anger or terseness. Maybe that fear of lack lures you hide away from the world, or to self-sabotage in order to prove your fabricated story. Or maybe you hold on for dear life to everyone and everything, a white knuckle grip on every possession and relationship, whether they serve you or not. 

However it shows up for you, that fear is consuming. It steals our peace of mind. It distracts us from the beauty that surrounds, and it surely doesn't encourage the other-worldly inspiration that emerges in those times of carefree PCH bliss. 

In Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, I stumbled upon the following passage. Driving has been a reoccurring theme for me over the last two weeks. It's been popping up in my writing and in my reading, and the visuals and sensations it evokes feel so spot-on. This little excerpt is a pep talk Gilbert gives herself when she's about to embark on a creative journey or start a project:

“Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I'm about to do anything interesting-- and, may I say, you are superb at your job. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There's plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way... Dude, you are not even allowed to touch the radio. But, above all else, my dear familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”

This is such a lighthearted, but effective reminder. As the author of our own lives, each day is a creative endeavor. And we must accept that fear will often be a passenger. He may want to ride shotgun and belt out super annoying songs that get stuck in your head. Songs about taking the easiest, safest route, or how bad of a driver you are, or how long and tireless the journey is. But, ultimately, we must not give up our position as the driver. Trust your sense of direction and enjoy the ride. Pick up some hitchhikers along the way. Let them off when it's their time to go. Seize opportunities to go off-roading. Everywhere you go is part of your beautiful, divine path. Your whole perspective will shift when you start to choose it, rather than accept it.

15 January 2016

Reclaiming My Seat of Power

While I've been offline for a while, it hasn't been due to a lack of writing. In actuality, over the past several months, I've written more than I have in a long time. I have journals scrawled with beautiful messes of inner workings - questions, confessions, reflections, and intentions. Stream of consciousness entries turned to profound realizations about myself. I took time to retreat and travel deep within myself to excavate the parts that had been buried. For a while, I had lost touch with my true north. I'm now in a place where I feel like I'm reconnecting with my center and I'm excited to return to using Be Unleashed as an outlet to share what is revealing itself to me, as well as a forum for meaningful discussions and mutual support.

One particularly meaningful thing has changed since my last entry this past summer. I've shifted from the awareness of what being unleashed means, to the action of being unleashed in my everyday life. There was only one thing standing between my awareness and embodiment: judgement. My report card mentality, so committed to performance and some unforeseeable end results, kept me from taking the baby steps necessary to unleash little by little every day. It was a rigid, all-or-nothing mindset. I would daydream about the Unleashed tattoo that I wanted, and think "when I'm truly unleashed, I'll get it." I was stuck on the illusion of a gap between my dreams and my reality. But I have since taken on the mantra that "I want for nothing, because I can create anything." This belief takes full responsibility for my power to build and manifest anything my heart desires, as well as releases the idea that there is separation between the now and later. Time is a construct that keeps us in a perpetual state of anxiety and lack - rushing to some finish line (e.g. ‘success,’ financial freedom, marriage, weight loss) and worried we won't get there in time (e.g. by 30, in this lifetime, before others expect me to get there). I want to remind us that we can have it - whatever your 'it' is - right now. There is no want – only having. It's simply a choice of thought. You create your world. (For more information and helpful prompts on setting goals for your life, finding your mantra, and taking steps every day to love your dreams into existence, check out The Infinite Possibilities Project by Mike Dooley. I'll be sharing more about my journey with the IPP in future posts.)

An important way that I have been celebrating my unleashed state and making a concerted effort to visualize my goals and new state of being every day is my yoga practice. It's worth mentioning, however, that yoga wasn't always an outlet for this kind of transformational work for me.

I practiced Bikram yoga for years – the militant, unwavering practice in oh-my-gosh-this-can’t-be-good heat. That was the only yoga I knew. I stuck with it for about 4 years, until my body starting asking for something new, and I honored that. I see now in retrospect that Bikram perpetuated my unrealistic and unfair attachment to results and reaching the ‘full expression of the posture.’ Its mirror-centric focus and thousand verbal micro-adjustments actually disconnected me from my body and its own ability to adjust and self-regulate. I became a robot in a sense, letting the teacher's dialogue hack my mind and possess my body. I developed a harsh scrutiny of my body, feeling so disconnected and, at times, at war with its abilities. Breathing and progress didn't come easy. I've since dabbled in some other outlets for exercise and release, landing on lightly heated vinyasa classes that really allow me to drop into flow and travel inward. I've found that I am so much more at peace in my practice, and the resultant gentle encouragement creates more room in my heart and mind during and immediately after my classes. I tie my breath to my movement and let it intoxicate me and guide me to exactly where I need to be in every moment. I love myself in these classes. I don't judge - I just do. And it's in that powerful state of inner trust and release to what's possible in this moment that has made way for some deep-rooted realizations to finally surface.

The thread that emerged in my class this week is the power of vulnerability. It’s something that I have read about and preached for years – being open to love and to hurt. Being willing to feel pain so that we can feel joy. Avoiding numbing and cracking our heart spaces wide open. Brene Brown’s TED talks and books have been focal points for my personal transformation and commitment to self-awareness for years. 

The question of why people avoid vulnerability is intuitive: who wants to put themselves center stage for judgment, hurt, and disappointment when there is a perfectly cozy greenroom backstage? Invulnerability is born from fear - usually out of fear of being hurt. When we are not willing to be vulnerable, we are choosing self-preservation. But as we know, we can’t selectively numb emotions. When we cut off feeling to one part of them, we can’t feel any of them.

However, a realization came to me in yoga class the other night about my own resistance to vulnerability. I haven’t felt the active fear that would cause me to run from my emotions that I've written about before. But I'm aware of some kind of rub that keeps me from putting myself out there and speaking my Truth.

We had just come out of several heart-opening postures and were finally at the end of the class, welcomed to choose a closing posture of our choice. Something called me to supine bound angle (supta baddha konasana). I lay on my back, heels kissed together and knees relaxed open in a diamond shape. It’s a vulnerable posture - one that stirs up emotions, as it opens the hips. 

A question came to me, like a divine download, seemingly out of nowhere. “Why do I fear being vulnerable? What drives my fear of being seen?” The answer that came is not the reason that has felt resonant in the past – the fear of being hurt. For me, in this chapter, it is the fear of hurting others that often keeps me from my fullest expression. The ‘pleaser’ mentality, born from my childhood, is still something that holds me back from connecting with my intuitive wants and needs. It’s a little voice in my ear that keeps me “tame” and in-line with the expectations of others. It keeps me hyper-aware of when people want things from me and calls me to give, without consideration of my own boundaries or personal needs.

I realized that I've been afraid to say no. I’ve been resistant to taking total ownership over my feelings and to sit in my seat of power, where I honor the value of my own intuition. In the past, I have often tended towards being less direct and more wishy-washy with people to avoid having to make a decision one way or the other. Internally, I always know what I want and it's not hard for me to make up my mind when I'm in an unleashed state. But if it’s a decision that I think will be unfavorable to others or is contrary to what others want from me, I feel strong resistance to clearly asserting it.

Keeping it in the gray area is dangerous and most definitely always leads to more hurt. Ironically, in an effort to protect others from undesirable information, I end up creating more of what I’m trying to avoid. Do you ever feel that way? Like you need to protect people from the truth because you know it's not what they want to hear? While it might feel like the best option in the moment, it does two dishonorable things. 1.) It tells your intuition that you're not interested in what it has to say. It denies your Truth and contributes to a practice of self-sacrifice and numbing your own desires. Not only is that a disempowering place to be in temporarily, but it also starts to severe your connection with your true north. If repeated enough, eventually you won't be able to hear your own desires anymore. 2.) It disrespects the other person(s) involved. They deserve honesty, and it will hurt more later when the Truth comes out, as it always does. 

We can choose to accept that we are not responsible for other people’s feelings about how we live our lives. It is not our work to manage how our personal choices please or displease others. We are here to act in accordance with the divine - not with what a parent, professor, friend, or other bystander may expect from us. When we are listening to our dreams and desires born from within, and are acting from a place of integrity in pursuit if our unique purpose, we are in divine alignment. Not only do we feel good, but we become examples for others. There's nothing more beautiful or inspiring than a person who wholeheartedly owns their soul purpose and acts from a place of love and deep inner knowing. 

Our only true responsibility is to be honest, have integrity and compassion. Choose vulnerability at all times and with everyone. That means, dropping your armor - showing up open-heartedly; being honest with yourself and others; allowing yourself to feel the full scale of emotions. That’s not "selfish," "hurtful," "weak," "shameful," or whatever else our ego or other people may sneer at us. It's actually the most courageous, unleashed thing you can do for yourself and others. It honors you, the divine inspiration that flows through you, and everyone around you. 

Today, ask yourself how you may be hiding out or holding back. You aren't doing yourself or any of us any favors by armoring up. Own your Truth and do you. That's when the real magic happens...
"Don't wake me, I'm not dreaming."

21 August 2015

The Balance Between Sharing & Listening

If you've ever been to Cafe Gratitude, you know that they ask a question of the day when they take your order. It's meant to open up the table to positive discussion and offer some clean food for thought. Last week, when I stopped in for a tea and a warm environment for some evening reading, I was posed with the question of the day. But because I was alone and my server was quite busy, I was left to have a dialog with myself about it. 

"What are you learning?"

The question was short and simple, but also felt loaded. The ever-student, always-improving spirit in me reared at the question, so eager to pour out all of the learnings I had been collecting over the past few weeks. I think I have may have given myself a shock of sensory overload at the thought of untangling the answer!

I realize now, a week later, that the clearest learning was in the reaction to the question itself. I am always eager to share. It does not take much to warm me to the point of opening up with others (hence this blog and its name). But I realized that I can be overly open to others, and that I could benefit from being more selective with whom and when I share my energy. 

I am learning that I harness a lot of a love, light, and power. We ALL do - it's just a matter of discovering the tools to plug into them. I have a magnetic quality about me. And people can see and feel it. Others want to feel embraced by the enthusiasm and love they feel radiating from me. And I am happy to give, and I do so often. It's an integral part of what makes me feel happy and connected to my human experience. But a few gems of wisdom related to this willingness to give and open have made themselves known to me, and I think they will speak to you too:

1.  I may choose to share my energy and my story, but I must not give away my power. Given the alluring quality of an open spirit, one must actively decide whom to allow into one's sphere. It's not something I am required or obligated to share with everyone, despite how much my overly-giving spirit may feel this way. And given how easy it is for me to open up, I must continuously and clearly establish boundaries. Otherwise, I risk springing a leak in my tank or compromising my natural defense mechanisms, at which point I will quickly deplete and open myself to harm. What I mean is that when we are overly giving of our time, wisdom, and spirit - particularly to the wrong kinds of activities and people - we will wilt and be less able to 1) tap into our inner magic and 2) protect ourselves from negative energies. I have already experienced what this feels like, and I see how I suffer when I don't have enough energy to give myself and the people that do matter.

Can you get honest with yourself about where you are leaking? What arenas or people in your life are you surrendering your power, your time, and your life force to? Where are you happy to share, and what areas could you reel back in your spirit to nourish the more important parts of your life? And, to be clear, the areas that are most important are the people and things that bring you JOY. If you don't have enough time or energy to invest in the humans, hobbies, and experiences that bring you joy, you're due for some reallocating of life force resources. Because if not to feel joy, why are we here?
So - to recap - when I am more conscious in delegating my energy and sharing, I have more left to invest in myself and the things that bring me joy. But equally as important is the reality that in this grounded state, I am more privy to outside inputs. It's easy to see what is clean, divine energy, and what is negative, untrue energy when you are practicing conscious awareness of how you show up and open up in the world. I'm noticing that by tempering my need to share so wildly and freely, I am more available to TAKE IN new information, learn others' stories, and hear whispers from the Universe. I see that my willingness to share often prevents me from hearing others and noticing things outside of my own story and journey. When I choose to sit in the silence or in the presence of others sharing, it is then, and only then, that I can LISTEN. 

2.  I can actively choose to not share so immediately (or at all), and to instead sit comfortably on the receiving end. Just as there is power and beauty in giving, there is a reciprocal amount in receiving and enjoying that of others. How so? I think people over-share for two reasons: either 1) to validate themselves (asking for love) or 2) to try to make the recipient feel comfortable enough to open up in return (an attempt to give love). Unfortunately, the latter, more noble intention usually achieves the opposite of the desired result. When someone blasts you with THEIR experiences and THEIR opinions and THEIR stories, do you feel encouraged to share, or overwhelmed and inferior? I'm finding that genuinely holding space for people, listening without interruption, and giving them the time they need slowly unfurl is the best way to form that desired, deeper relationship. (If you are more prone the the first reason for over-sharing, you must get clear on the reality that NO ONE can validate you, and that you hold the power to love and accept yourself in every single minute.) The organic give and take of conversation and connection facilitates our feeling comfortable with each other and helps to prevent misunderstanding and projecting. Can you practice listening - really hearing someone - without interjection? Yes, you may have had a similar experience and what they are sharing may land with you in a significant way. But wait for the appropriate time to share in return. Let someone else have the floor, and see what wisdom you can glean from them. Whether to empathize with someone else, to gain a new insight, or simply to quiet our own need to share, listening is often where the most potent learnings reside.

This week, I encourage us to practice listening more. Even if you tend to not share verbally, but have an internal conversation with yourself as you observe people and the world -- see if you can actively listen instead of judge or react. Our opinions and ideas are not made invalid by waiting for the right time and the right outlet through which to share them. For myself, I want people in my life and the Universe to have a clear channel through which to share and illuminate learnings for myself. And I recognize that I won't be able to receive them if I'm always outputting. 

* * *

Since I've listened to this song probably 87 times in the past couple of days, I thought I should share the speaker love with all of you.

Bros by Wolf Alice

16 July 2015

Compassion (Born from Nicaragua)

Hi friends! I’ve just returned from a two-week getaway in Nicaragua, and boy do I have some shiny souvenirs for each one of you! What the beautiful, love-full pictures from my trip to Nica don’t convey are the discoveries I made and the mud I tread through to unveil them. Yes, the time away in a beachside town was wonderfully fun and relaxing; but it was also challenging and fraught with important learnings that came in the form of hurt and disappointment. On the plane ride home, I started to look at the trip as a whole. From my zoomed out perspective above the clouds, I found the treasure that I have brought back to my life in LA. – it’s better than any memento I could buy for myself or you.

What I learned was a true lesson in compassion. And in excavating that compassion, I had to survive a whole mountain of judgment (on the sending and receiving end), criticism, guilt, and unmet expectations.

It is my intention that in sharing these learnings with you, I will help you remember the humanness in all of us and, by extension, facilitate more joy in your own life experiences. This reflection is a combined collection of my own realizations, teachings from a Shaman I saw in Nica, and excerpts from the elegant Buddhist Pema Chödrön.

What is Compassion?

“Compassion isn’t pity or helping someone else out who is less fortunate. That’s disempowering to the recipient. Genuine compassion is when you stand in your own shoes, then you standing in the shoes or other people too. It is shared humanity. When things hurt, you think, ‘Other people feel this.’ And when things are delightful, you get in the habit of thinking, ‘May other people enjoy this feeling.’ Compassion heals us. It is a continual feeling of your world opening up.” - Pema Chödrön

Compassion is simply the act of honoring our shared humanity and acknowledging our collective experience. It means sitting in your own human skin and recognizing that others share that same skin. In another word, compassion is maitrī (pronounced "my-tree"). Maitrī is the Sanskrit word for "Unlimited, Unconditional, Loving and Kindness towards Oneself." It represents making friends with oneself, and discovering and becoming intimate with your humanness. In seeing your own humanness fully, you can see that of others.  

Learning Compassion

This learning is the biggest gift I’ve received from Nicaragua. And, with it, I have been awarded a profound understanding of how debilitating it is to pass judgment. The latter was the most difficult part of my getaway. I didn’t realize how many expectations I had stacked up around my trip until they were unmet, or how many judgments I made until they were proved wrong. Very wrong. Countless times, I passed blame or criticism. I blamed others when the day didn’t go as I’d hoped. I was upset when people didn’t treat me the way I wanted. I was annoyed with people. I gossiped. I thought unfriendly, mean thoughts. I laughed at the expense of others. I saw people as threats or enemies. I judged others’ emotions and struggles. And all of that, for what? Disappointment, a heavy heart, confusion, and shame.

I see now that my unkind thoughts and actions were driven by fear. Fear of my own inadequacy, or fear or losing something, like love, money, time, or power.  We can all relate to that fear if we dig deep enough into a situation where we were in a position of judging someone else.  Think back to a time when you were criticizing someone – picking on their situation, expecting a different outcome from their actions, or judging how they felt. “Why can’t he stay in his own lane?” “Why does she have to be such a b*tch?” “Why can’t he get it right?” “Why won’t she just leave me alone?”

All of these judgments, when really boiled down, are simply coming from our own fear that the other person may affect us. We fear that he is going to disappoint us. We fear that she is going to waste our time. We fear that he is going to steal the spotlight. What we really fear, in all of these situations, is being hurt.

But here’s the kicker. As I was reminded in my powerful session with a Shaman, the idea that anyone can harm us or make us feel anything IS A LIE, told by our own egos. In reality, no one can rob you of your power, inherent value, or the Truth that you are love. Your worth and innocence are things that you are born with, and they are completely immutable and untouchable. No one can make you feel less than, unloved, or powerless.  If you feel those emotions bubbling up, it is actually your own choice to suffer, or not.

Practicing Compassion

So, now, we are left with the understanding that all judgments against anyone else (born from our own fears of being harmed or inadequate) have nothing to do with the other person(s). They are essentially judgments against ourselves, or merely our own fears projected onto others. If we understand that no one can actually rob or hurt us, and that we will always Be Love, there is no place for meanness, accusations, or criticism of others. They can’t touch you – the REAL you. So why put the armor on or raise your weapon in defense?

I now realize just how ‘on the defense’ I was. It was a humbling experience to feel the weight of my own disappointment and shame, coming down from my rigid expectations and assumptions. These discoveries are ushering me towards a deeper understanding of why I have been so quick to pass judgments or see others as a threat or unacceptable or unlovable. It’s mean-spirited and closed-minded. It’s limiting and unfair. Everyone deserves to be loved and to be seen as innocent. What a waste of precious life energy to position myself as separate from or against others. There is so much to learn and share with each other. Each time we are unkind or in a place of judgment, we close a door of possibility to love or learn from one another. We miss out on the human experience, stifle miracles, and fail to see omens and clues.

“Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.” - Pema Chödrön

Let’s remember that emotions are just guideposts. We need not be afraid to read them.

All any of us really seeks is love, because each of our souls are comprised of pure love.  Person to person, there is no separation or difference in our inherent, true selves. Our spirits have shown up to this life in different shells, comprised of a variety of physicalities and personalities. But, as Love in the flesh, we are ALL being called to do the same two things in this life: to remember who we truly are, and to play!

Here’s a simple takeaway that I am going to use as a tool to help align me with these learnings about compassion:  If we can see all actions of others as either (1) A cry out for love, or (2) An extension of love, we can truly see the humanness and LOVE in each person. Separateness and judgment are erased, and compassion is ignited.