BREATHE

breathe

I recently recalled the movie Matrix.  I thought about how when Neo sees what reality is, he cannot go back to the fake, programmed world he was living in.  Now, I have that kind of feeling;  as if I have come out of the matrix and there is no going back.  Once the healing transformation starts, the unravelling seems unstoppable.  I have so much more awareness than before.   I’ve even been becoming more aware in my dreams;  suddenly having this lucid feeling which sometimes lasts or sometimes is brief and I then tell myself,  “Wake up!!”

It’s a little creepy to think that for many years I was only living half-consciously.  I wasn’t fully present.  I wasn’t letting myself feel my emotions.  I didn’t truly love and accept myself.  And I had a false sense of invulnerability and control which made me feel safe and secure.  I was operating from fear;  doing what I thought was necessary to protect myself.  I think two of the most dangerous things we can do are:  1. make choices out of fear rather than from a deep connection with one’s highest self.  2.  push our feelings down; denying or ignoring them.   Connecting with your wise inner self (and listening!) and feeling all your feelings are both essential for cultivating health and peace of mind.  A question we can continuously ask ourselves is–Am I being the best me I can be right now?  I am acting from a place of love and integrity or am I acting from fear and incompleteness?  What is the best choice for me right now?  What is the next best step?

It’s strange that we seem to often encourage the opposite of these.  Crying is a sign of weakness.  Self-exploration is undervalued.  People think emotional health has little to do with physical health.  We learn that we are supposed to ‘Man up!’  Don’t show anyone you are vulnerable.  Anxiety and depression are viewed as common mental problems that are cured with some pills.  When I told my doctor I was having some anxiety, she didn’t hesitate to pull out her prescription pad.  But I knew that taking a pill was not the answer for me.  I knew that this anxiety had something to teach me.  I believe that anxiety is usually a symptom that some underlying feelings have not been addressed;  feelings like anger, resentment, worry, doubt, grief which are all rooted in fear.  I had been stuffing down my anger, sadness and insecurity;  probably some emotions had been held in my body, buried for years.  But these emotions were not going to magically disappear by themselves.  I had to feel them to let them go.  Or perhaps vice versa:  I had to let go to feel them.

One day, during a meditation where I was intently focused on my diaphragmatic breathing, I felt the tears coming and I couldn’t stop them.  I didn’t want to.  I just wanted them to spill out all over.  Finally, I was letting something go.  I didn’t even know what exactly I was releasing but it felt good to soften my heart, relax my belly, and stop holding all of it in;  to just allow it to happen.  Afterward, I had a clarity, ease, expansion and feeling of peace that lasted quite a while.  It’s startling to me now, how little I had thought about my breathing before.  BREATH is our life force!  “The way you breathe is the way you live. Full, free breathing is the key to enhancing physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.”

The breath brings you into the present and has the power to heal and transform you.  When you begin to pay attention to your breath, you become grounded in your body and the body can only be in the present moment.  It’s the mind that is constantly tugging us into the past and the future and that’s where where our fears exist.  Fear does not exist in the present.  When we are fully in the present moment all we do is see, hear, and feel exactly what is there.  Rather than spending 80% of our day thinking (planning, worrying, hoping, regretting, being resentful or retelling our old stories) and 20% in the present we should be doing the reverse.

I used to believe, as many people do, that hope was a good thing but let’s take a better look.  Hope is defined as “the state which promotes the desire of positive outcomes”.  It dawned on me that hope is really no better than worry.  It certainly hasn’t helped me to hope.  It has only distracted me from finding productive ways of dealing with what is right in front of me just like worrying draws me into trying to predict the future.  The definition of worry is “the state of being anxious and troubled over actual or potential problems”.  See the similarity.  Both send our minds into the future where our circumstances are either better or worse.  I’ve noticed at times I slipped into hoping (which is actually not a far cry from praying) –Oh, I hope I will feel better soon.  I hope this anxiety will go away.  I hope that by next year I will feel ‘normal’ again and be able to get on with my life.

A word that came to me one morning was ‘resilience’–the ability to bounce back or recover from difficulties.  I realized I didn’t need to cling on to some hope.  What I had developed was much more powerful–RESILIENCE!  I had come this far and I was still okay.  I was alive!  This is my life!!  RIGHT HERE!  RIGHT NOW!!  In this moment, all is well.  I’m exactly where I need to be.  There’s nowhere to get to.  It’s all perfect, RIGHT NOW!  All all need to do is breathe and stay present.

To put it in a nut shell, we don’t need a world of delusions or denials, we don’t need pills or even hope.  We need to breathe, be in the moment, be in tune with our inner self, feel our feelings and trust in our own resilience.  The more you breathe, the more you feel and the more you feel the more alive you are!

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Donna’s Superpower

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Last night, I dreamt that I was in a school.  I was lost and couldn’t find my way back to where I was supposed to be.  Then I was busy managing a large group of kids by myself. I was thirsty and tired and hadn’t had a break yet.  Next, I was taking a course but I didn’t know where the class was or what I needed.   I kept feeling that I was behind and a guy was watching me. I was going through these small tunnels and climbing rope ladders trying to get to join everyone.  Finally, I was so frustrated and angry. I yelled, “I hate this place!!”

After waking up in a bit of a panic, I calmed down and followed my mind to see where it would lead me. I just let the thoughts come without trying to judge them or censor them. After some rumination, I came to one thought–SPACE!  Some other connections came to my mind: 1. Recently at work, a girl kept asking me to read this book about superheroes.  On Friday, I finally decided to put it away.  2. Today, I was planning to go to the movie, “Gravity” (a movie set in space).  3. As I got out a notebook to use for my writing, I saw that the page before the blank one I was about to use had some old writing on it.  It said–SPACE (S-sexy and strong, P-positive and powerful, A-assertive and active, C-creative and confident, E-expressive and energetic.  It was something I had come up with last year.  4.  About a week ago, I had a dream where I felt the words–You are powerful!

I have the ability to FEEL, to sense things that are not visible.  I have the ability to SEE the truth, as bright as a neon sign.  These insights have been coming to me for about a year.  These inspirations of truth come to me like a bolt of lightning out of the sky.  My dreams are like the thunder, rumbling in my brain and then I begin to see the connections between my dream and my waking life and they fuse together to form this electric idea and….ZAP!!  The insight is right there;  no denying the truth it has for me.  It simply IS.  I often wake up from these jolts as if my batteries have just finished charging.  I feel awake, energized, alert and alive–no doubts, no confusion and, for a few moments when all is completely crystal clear, no fear.  And I keep getting the message that I need to share these truths with the world.

One of the main reasons I came back to Canada was to have more space.  Tokyo had become to crowded and hectic for me.  What was once fun and exciting became draining and exhausting.  But one thing I always absolutely loved to do in Tokyo was go to an outdoor live dj event where I could have lots of space to dance freely;  lots of space to move my body around however I wanted.  At these times, I had the SPACE I needed to express myself.  It was an almost indescribable feeling–wild, abandoned, uninhibited, free, playful, joyful, blissful, ecstatic expression.  Creativity doesn’t live in crowded, tight places.  Creativity, ideas, inspirations, and insights thrive in SPACE!

As an introvert, I’ve probably always needed more time and space for myself than the average extrovert.  And now, I crave this time and space even more.  I have realized through my work in education and child care that children need space and time for themselves, too.  They need room to grow, too.  Sure kids can adapt to most environments but they feel stress and frustration just as we do.  They deserve quiet time and space just like any adult.

My soul, or essence, is my own inner child.  It’s that part of me that is always there, deep inside.   Lately, this inner child has been demanding space.  Like a child, she instinctively knows exactly what she needs.  She knows when she needs to eat more.  She knows when she needs to speak her mind or express her feelings.  She knows when a relationship issue needs to be discussed or when a work situation needs to be changed.  She knows.  And now that I have cleared space in my mind (and in my body), she can easily get a message through.  All I have to do is ask and be open to receive.

Before going to sleep last night, I thought about being open to insights.  As usual, I got a piece of the puzzle that I was looking for.  Slowly, gradually, the pieces are falling in to place and the bigger picture is becoming more and more apparent.  I know that I’m on the right track and I know that I just have to keep listening for my truth.  I feel, I listen, I see, I express.

Perhaps someone will argue that this is all non-sense or that my mind is just making up stuff and creating connections so I can feel that my life has meaning. I will not try to convince anyone that what I am experiencing is real because it is very REAL for ME. I cannot accurately describe the feeling I have when I wake up with one of my insights but I feel the truth of them deep down inside me.  I have no doubt whatsoever that these dreams are my mind’s way of telling me things I need to know, showing me things that I need to feel.

I think the ultimate truth is that we ALL have this ability to connect to our soul, our essence, our inner child. I heard today words from a yoga teacher about finding your inner strength and truly loving yourself–There is nothing to hide and nothing to prove. — Just be your true self as much and as often as you can. Your superpower is being YOU!!  Everyone has gifts to share with the world.  We are all powerful.  We are all STARS!  When we allow our light to shine, the whole universe is a brighter place.

From Awareness to Forgiveness

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So many ideas and insights and inspiration having been coming to me lately–Where to start?  I know I need to write so I will just write and see what flows.

The first step toward greater awareness is getting rid of addictions and distractions.  Some people are dependent on drugs or alcohol.  Other people smoke or drink coffee or take sleeping pills.  Some of us watch TV, play video games or spend hours glued to our computer screens.  Some eat too much, some eat too little.  Some gamble, shop or exercise compulsively.  We distract ourselves to avoid reality and to avoid really looking at ourselves.  Life seems simple this way.  We can avoid having to think deeply about who we are, what we believe and what we want and need.  We conveniently escape having to deal with our own mistakes and regrets.  We run as far as we can away from those unpleasant emotions like hurt, anger, sadness, guilt and resentment.  What it all boils down to is avoidance and a desire to feel in control.

The people around us can be our best mirrors and our greatest teachers…if we are willing to be completely open and honest with ourselves.  See who you find yourself judging and what you are criticizing them for;  this will likely give you a clue to what your own dark shadows might be.  Even if you know what your weaknesses are, addictions and distractions can be very sneaky strategies of the ego.  They can creep into your life and fool you into thinking you have everything under control.

Just when I thought I had dropped all of my addictions and compulsions (smoking, drinking, dancing and even caffeine), I realized I was still slipping into an old pattern–when life becomes overwhelming and I feel there are situations and feelings too difficult to face, I restrict my eating.  That old voice comes back convincing me that I’m just not that hungry or that I’m too tired to cook a reasonably healthy meal for myself.  Thankfully, I’ve become pretty good at catching it.  Now that I have more trust in myself, in my strength and stability, I feel more confident that I can handle whatever emotions or issues that are in need of my attention.

By letting these addictions and distractions fall away, you will begin to open yourself up to all that is inside you.  As I have mentioned before, this might be terrifying at first.  A good start is simply allowing yourself to BE still and quiet with your mind.  Next comes listening to what that inner voice is telling you.  Then, letting emotions flood through you and allowing everything to unravel.  It is a courageous journey toward awareness.

Without distractions, I have found pathways in my brain opening up.  I am making so many connections in my every day life–from my conscious waking mind to my unconscious dreaming, which is has been really trippy;  words are not sufficient to describe this deep KNOWING and CLARITY that I have discovered .  Of course, I have felt many disturbing emotions like anger, fear, sadness, guilt, helplessness, frustration, inadequacy and impatience.  However, I’ve also felt inspired, excited, fascinated, grateful, powerful, confident, calm, happy, joyful and at times, fearless and at peace.

You can’t truly know yourself until you really allow ALL of your emotions to flow freely.  I imagine trying to read a book in a dimly lit room.  Yes, you can do it but once you turn on the light…WOW!  All the words are perfectly clear and reading becomes so easy!  It’s all so plain to see.  By shining light on yourself you can begin to know and accept ALL of yourself.  This knowing and acceptance is the basis of self-love and all love.

The second big step to take is letting go of the victim mentality.  Like addiction, it’s another devious ego trap and it can appear in many forms.  I noticed it in other people recently;  again due to the mirror effect–now that I have become aware of it in myself, I saw it reflected back at me.  These were my observations:  I saw the ‘complex-victim’ type–the person who lets one perceived weakness, limitation or setback define him.  “Oh, this is such a hardship!”  I saw the ‘struggling-victim’–the person who sees things in life as a struggle.  “Everything is so hard!’  I saw the Shoganai-victim–the helpless type who feels powerless to change their situation.  “There’s nothing I can do about it.”  I saw the ‘martyr-victim’–the one who sacrifices himself in order to feel strong or tough.  “See how much I have suffered!”  I saw the ‘protector-victim’–the kind of person who thinks everyone is out to get her or someone else so is constantly in attack mode, ready to strike.  “I am no victim!”  And then there’s the ‘alone-victim’–the one who thinks that she has been abandoned and left to do everything by herself.  “Why doesn’t anyone help me?!’  I know the last one, in particular, rings true for me.

No matter what victim role you have found yourself in, they all have one thing in common–BLAME.  Whenever, we blame other people or situations for our own “problems”, we give away our personal power.  It’s not until you let ALL the blame fall away, that you can eliminate the victim mentality and take full responsibility for your life.  We erect the blame around us like a false wall of protection.  Our ego puts it there thinking it will keep us from being vulnerable and hurt.  But once the wall is broken down, all that’s left is OUR life, with OUR choices, OUR actions and we can see clearly how WE have been active participants in everything–the good and the bad!

Once the blame has been stripped away, we can begin to construct REAL boundaries to protect us and then regain our power and take charge of our life.  But before that, there is another essential step–FORGIVENESS.  This idea used to sound corny to me.  I never felt that anyone had done anything horribly wrong to me and I hadn’t done anything terribly wrong, had I?  What did I have to forgive?  After lot of digging, though, I realized that I did hold resentment towards people who I thought hadn’t supported me enough.  In fact, deep down, I WAS still blaming others and I had used this an excuse for not living up to my potential. To stop blaming others, I had to accept them, knowing that they were imperfect and were trying their best, just like me.  This acceptance will lead the way to forgiveness.

Surprisingly, after I stopped blaming others for my mistakes and misfortunes, I was painfully aware that the only person left was ME–standing naked and exposed with no false wall of protection anymore.  I noticed myself beating myself up sometimes.  I listened to the cruel voices in my head–Why are you so stupid?  You’re such a loser, a failure!  How could you have treated yourself, your body, so badly?  How could you have let others stomp all over you?  You’re 42 years old and you are still trying to get it together!  You’re hopeless.  It’s too late.–Then it dawned on me that I would never say such mean things to the children where I worked.  Why would I let my ego get away with it?  I found myself, crying in the kitchen and saying out loud–STOP!  STOP IT!!

I knew that I had a much better sense of who I was and I knew that I was definitely on the path to loving myself as a complete human being but there was still work to be done.  I knew that I had to quiet these voices that had lurked in the shadows all these years.  I knew that I had to set real boundaries for myself but I sensed there was something else I needed to hear.  I went to bed asking my dreams to tell me the answer and I wasn’t disappointed.  I woke up in the middle of the night with the message spelled out loud and clear–

FORGIVE YOURSELF!

A little girl, who has become my symbolic ‘inner child’, came to me in my dream and said–Forgive yourself.  I could SEE the words and FEEL them.  Now the pieces were coming together.  As cheesy as it sounded, what I needed to do was give myself a big mental hug and say, from the bottom of my heart, “I forgive you, Donna.”

As I move on, I believe another essential element for me will be giving up my perfectionist thinking and continually forgiving myself.  I don’t have to get it right all the time.  I can make mistakes.  It’s okay.  Actually, making mistakes is AWESOME because it means I’m trying new things, taking on challenges, taking risks and facing difficult situations.  When I screw up, I need to quickly acknowledge it and forgive myself and then try to learn from it.

Forgiveness does not make you weak;  it is an act of tremendous STRENGTH, POWER and COURAGE.  It’s completely surrendering yourself so that those hard artificial walls come down, leaving your heart open wide and ready to love.  And borrowing from a quote I read, “forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.”  It’s living in the present and opening up to the endless possibilities of the future.