IDENTITY

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I woke up at 3:45 after a weird dream about some girl telling another girl she looked “trashy” and I suddenly had some insights about identity.  Random yet connected thoughts came to me and I began to weave it all together.  I just looked up the main symbol in my dream now (after already writing six pages in my journal about identity).  Garbage apparently represents getting rid of old bad habits and throwing away unwanted characteristics.

Lately, I feel like I sometimes don’t know who I am.  I know can’t be the girl I was but I haven’t yet become the woman I see myself to be–I am caught in limbo.  What has been bothering me the most is my inability to express myself clearly.  I have been so frustrated that I am just not getting through to people.  Why don’t they understand?  Why don’t they get me?!

My other huge hurdle is speaking up for myself which I find so hard to do.  I usually try but then quickly give up; resuming the passive  and weak role (or ‘filter’).  I have this ingrained idea that I don’t have the right to speak about myself or my thoughts or feelings;  that I am not important and somehow not worthy.  I also hold the belief that if I did speak up and voice my true opinions that other people would think I was silly or stupid or they think I was mean and wouldn’t like me anymore.

So I learned to be a ‘good’ girl; nice, quiet, a little weak; passive and unnoticeable.  This is how I coped with the circumstances I found myself in.  I had internalized these traits in order to fit in and make sense of the world around me.  The passivity had become a protective shield that I built for myself.  Being passive helped me feel safe in the past but now it only keeps me from becoming true to myself.  Gradually, I am becoming more aware of the voices in my head that hold me back;  the default mode of my mind.

There’s the ‘weak’ voice that says to me over and over–There’s something wrong with you.  You are not strong enough.  You can’t handle it by yourself.  You don’t have what it takes.  You are a weak, messed up loser!  Just stay small and quiet and no one will notice you.  As a rebuttal, I can hear another part of me yelling back–Look at me!!  Here I am!  I am strong and powerful!  I am perfect just the way I am and I have something special to offer!

And there’s the ‘passive’ voice that says to me over and over–What’s the point?  No one will listen to you anyway.  Keep your ideas and opinions to yourself.  You can’t say that.  You can’t do that.  You’ll never be good at that.  Don’t even bother trying.  But deep down that piece of me that know this to be false screams–Look at me!! Here I am!  I am capable and courageous!  I have something important to say and I can do great things!

I had a flash back (or dream?) to my high school English class where I sat quietly in the back corner hoping to go unnoticed so I wouldn’t have to read a part in Macbeth.  I was so afraid of reading out loud and making a mistake.  I was sure that I would screw up and people would laugh at me.  In my 20’s I was quiet and withdrawn.  I went through university hardly talking to anyone.

It wasn’t until my late 20’s and early 30’s that I came out of my shell… and boy did I come out!!  I think at that point I was overcompensating–acting in excess in attempt to correct my errors and weaknesses and to make up for the lost time.  Unfortunately, instead of achieving balance I had swung too far in the other direction–proving that I was active and expressive, strong and powerful had developed into obsessive dancing.

Finally, I believe I am seeing the truth–that we really are what we think.  We move around in our lives, thinking that we are these physical bodies–flesh and bone–but in reality we are nothing more than energy–feelings, thoughts, ideas, beliefs swirling around in our heads.  We create our circumstances and we usually stay in situations that validate and reaffirm who we have come to believe we are.  We become comfortable reacting and responding in a particular way and we like to stick with it even if it is not healthy for us.

For example, if we are used to being loud and aggressive and fighting people around us in order to feel protected, important, worthy and loved, then we will keep putting ourselves in situations where we have to fend off perceived threats and attackers.  These situations, in turn, reinforce our belief that we have to be dominant and aggressive to survive in the world; that we can never show vulnerability.

Beliefs about ourselves form our identities and our beliefs are really just repeated thoughts.  When a girl does well on a test, and her parents praise her for doing such a good job.  They tell her she is smart.  Since she has heard she is smart, she listens well in class, does all her homework and studies hard.  On the school test, she does very well.  The teacher gives her a gold star and a big approving smile.  The girl starts to have the belief–I am smart.

This type of cycle continues throughout our lives:  We receive information from things, situations, events and people, and then we interpret these situations and people’s reactions based on our personalities, our previous experience and prior knowledge.  Next, we draw a conclusion.  We form a theory.  This theory becomes the basis for our future choices and actions.  After a while, a theory becomes a belief.  And before long, this belief has become our identity–This is me.  This is who I am.

My questions now are– How do I stop these voices?  Will they ever go away?!!  And the scariest one of all–Will I ever be able to really change?  I have all this awareness but what if I’m trapped in this limbo forever!!  It would truly be hell to be totally aware of all of my weaknesses and negative thought patterns and yet be powerless to be able to create REAL change.  But the fact is–I AM changing–RIGHT NOW!  Just this week I stood up for myself once and expressed my true feelings.  I need to be proud of myself for every little step I take forward and gentle with myself whenever I take a step backwards.  (easier said than done!)

I think of a girl at the centre where I work.  She tells me every day–I love you!  I love you!  I love you so much!  I will never forget you (again)! –and I can’t help but believe that the universe does work in miraculous ways.  Like magic, I find everything is perfect–just as it needs to be.  I am in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time and I don’t need to do anything other than be MYSELF.

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BALANCE

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Last week, I was feeling really good.  I was feeling energetic, focused, confident, clear-headed and calm.  There was an ease I hadn’t felt in a long time.  It was like my body had finally relaxed and my brain had finally woken up.  I felt ALIVE!  I had a glimmer of hope that the girl underneath it all was emerging.  The girl who is full of energy, positive, smiling, expressive, playful and goofy.

Lately, even my sleep and dreams have become calmer.  My emotions seemed to be more balanced, too.   This was like night and day compared to how I had been feeling for the last four months:  Nausea and nervousness every morning, feeling self-conscious and overwhelmed, fuzzy brain and trouble concentrating, getting tired easily, emotions all over the place, intense dreams and waking up in a panic in the middle of the night.

I am not exactly sure why this sudden change has happened but I am speculating that it is a combination of my physical and emotional healing.   Although I continue to be cautiously optimistic, taking one day at a time, I can’t help but think–Could it be that this crazy roller coaster ride is coming to and end?  Perhaps, I am finally regaining balance.

Balance is important in so many aspects of our lives.  We need to eat a balanced diet, get the proper amount of exercise and sleep.  We need to balance our work life with our family and social life.  We need to balance our time socializing and helping others with time for ourselves.  In relationships, we need a balance of give and take.  We need to balance our own needs with the needs of others.  And something that so many of us take for granted is the miraculous balance that our body strives for every moment of every day.

Homeostasis is what enables us to survive our ever-changing environment.  Most people know that the human organism controls such things as body temperature,  healthy blood pressure among other things.   But not everyone is aware of the essential role that the nervous system and endocrine system play in maintaining homeostasis.

When people hear the word hormone, many think of sexual function and reproduction but the fact is that hormones affect nearly every cell, organ and function.  They regulate growth and development, metabolism, tissue function, blood sugar, our stress response and our moods.  These are vital chemical substances that carry information and instructions in the body.

Simply stated, when hormones are balanced, pretty much everything runs smoothly.  When a woman’s hormones are out of whack, symptoms can range from anxiety, sleep disorders, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, dizziness and difficulty concentrating to mood swings, irritability, headaches, muscle tension, allergies and gum problems.

In my mid 30’s, I think I was in constantly in overdrive.  I had the pedal to the medal most of the time;  always in a state of activity, always moving.  I pushed myself to excess while my body desperately tried to maintain homeostasis.  By my late 30’s, I had driven myself to exhaustion and was only running on fumes.  I somehow made it to my early 40’s before the crash happened and my hormones went sideways.  It was a blow I was entirely unprepared for.  Of course, looking back, it seems obvious to me now that I should have slowed down and listened to my what my body was trying to tell me.  At the time, though, I was totally in denial about what I was doing to myself.

I’ve learned so much about balance in the last year and a half.  I have been keeping a healthy and balanced lifestyle–eating right, doing yoga and sleeping lots.  These steps have been fairly easy.  The meditation and the self-exploration have been much harder.  The insights kept coming like a never-ending rainstorm!  Honestly, without meditating and taking this time to heal myself, I doubt I would be where I am today.

I am still working on many areas of balance and still have many questions in my mind.  It’s like I am reinventing myself.  It is an exciting process but also very frustrating at times.  I can envision who I want to be, how I want to act, what I want to say but it is not coming naturally to me yet.

I suppose the biggest challenge for my right now is finding that balance between myself and others.  How much do I share and how much do I keep to myself?  When do I speak up and when do I listen?  When do I bend and when do I keep my boundaries firm?  How do I respect my needs while respecting the needs of others?  When do I say ‘No’ and when do I say ‘Yes’?  How much can I look inward without being too self-centered?

Essentially, we are all self-centered;  we see the world from our own point of view.  To a certain extent, it is healthy to focus on oneself.  But without balancing that self-interest with generosity, compassion and kindness, we will end up feeling empty.  Love is giving and we can only give as much love as we have in our hearts.  To love ourselves completely, we need to first take care of our physical body and then we can  heal our emotional and spiritual selves.

Healing your heart and feeling at peace requires that you search your soul ask yourself and some hard questions.  Taking this path will shine a light on inner conflicts that you may be trying not to face.  I strongly believe that becoming balanced, both in body and mind, and feeling whole and harmonious within yourself is the greatest gift you can give to the world.  When I am struggling, I try to see myself as a courageous and peaceful warrior.  As the buddha says–“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.”

LETTING GO

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There are many ways of letting go.  I have learned several of them along my path.  I have learned to let go of bad habits and rigid routines.  I have let go of addictions and compulsions.  I’ve learned to let go of the need to be doing and moving all the time.  I’m still learning to let go of the negative self-talk in my head.  I’m trying to let go of judgments and blame and the need to be right.  And I’m struggling with letting go of caring so much about what everyone else thinks.  I’m discovering the freedom of letting go of the need to control and I’m figuring out how to let go of emotions.  I’m letting go of the past.  Finally, I believe I need to let go of the fear that holds me back from being the truest and fullest expression of myself.

The bad habits and rigid routines have gradually gone away over the years.  They only provided a false sense of safety and security.   I still like having a schedule but I am so much more flexible than I was before.  It’s really amazing how much spontaneity and creativity can add joy to one’s life.  I’ve learned to trust my instincts and intuition and just go with the flow sometimes.  It’s very freeing!

Addictions and compulsions fall into the category of attachment.  Whenever we become too attached to something it’s pretty much guaranteed to cause us some kind of pain.  Even dancing, which was one of my healthier habits, had become more of an obsession.  I was fixed on going to a club every weekend.  I didn’t leave room for any other possibilities.  I feared that if I stopped dancing I would fall apart or die or something!  But of course, I didn’t.  I am still here;  still me.   Now I can spend a day not doing much at all and not have the anxious restlessness I used to have.  I can find peace just in BEING.

The negative voice in my head occasionally plays that same old song attempting to make me believe that I’m not worthy, not capable, not smart enough, not powerful enough, not strong enough, not good enough…but I am definitely faster at turing it off these days.  It could still prove to be one of my biggest hurdles, though.  I am going to have to stay on top of this;  being present so I can be aware of my thoughts as much as possible.

I think the less I judge myself, the less I am going to judge others.  By accepting that I am not perfect, I can begin accepting others’ imperfections more, too.  This, in turn, will also release any need to to prove myself to others or prove that I’m right.  When I feel really good about myself and recognize and embrace my uniqueness, I can simply allow others to be who they are.  There’s is no competition here;  everyone can shine!

The concept of control is a bit of a paradox.  We have no control and yet we do have control.  The fact is, that there are billions of things in life that we don’t have power over and it is scary to think that things can go from very good to very bad in a split second.   However, we CAN control what we are thinking and our thoughts really do have POWER!

Basically, whatever we choose to focus on can become our reality.  For example, if am focused on all the mistakes I make at work, then I will conclude that I am not good at my job which will likely cause me to make more mistakes.   On the other hand, if I am focused on creating a beautiful home for myself, then naturally I am going to make choices that help me to reach that goal.  It’s so important to have a VISION of how you want to be and how you want your life to be.

In order to move on and make room for my vision of the future, I need to release the past.  I think it is slowly peeling away but it will take some time.  I know there are still some emotions that need releasing and it will be a challenge for me to keep expressing my true feelings; every day.  The pattern of stuffing it all down in fear of rejection has been deeply ingrained.  I believe, with practice, I will learn to balance having respect for myself and feeling worthy of voicing my thoughts  & opinions with being a good listener and respecting other people as unique individuals who have their own perspective.

Last night, I wrote down a bunch of negative beliefs that I have held about myself at one time or another and then I burned it.  Who I am does not depend on what did twenty years ago, five years ago or even five minutes ago.  Who I am is based on the choices I make right now; TODAY!!  It’s strangely difficult to really let go of the person I thought I was; even the negative parts!  Why?!?!  Because without all that past, I am a blank page.  Just like this post was blank about an hour and a half ago.   The truth is we can be whoever we want to be, starting right NOW!  There is no need to hang on to all those old feelings, beliefs and patterns.  Toss them out the window!

It’s the beginning of a new year.  A few images came to me.  I thought of Prince Poppycock performing the song “I’m Feeling Good” –It’s a new dawn.  It’s a new day.  It’s a new life.  –Now there’s a guy who expresses himself to the fullest without fear!  What does the true DONNA look like?  How does she act when she truly believes in herself?  Who is she when she is not holding back?

What also crossed my mind was the image of Scruffy the squirrel on the ledge of our patio.  He was trying to put two hazelnuts into his mouth.  He kept trying and trying, juggling the two hazelnuts in his little hands.  Then he tried putting one in his mouth while holding the other with his front claws;  hopping awkwardly on his back feet.  At last, he realized he could only carry one.  Little did he know that we have a whole big pile of nuts just inside our door!  Why do we cling on to what we see directly in front of us when there is a whole world filled with abundance?!!  Yes, ABUNDANCE!!  It was a word that I saw in my dreams last night.  I also dreamt of walnuts which are supposed to represent joy and abundance.

It’s a new day and it’s a perfect time to take some deep breaths and think about what we can let go of.  When we let go of the stuff we no longer need, we leave space for abundance to flow into our lives.  The emptiness might seem frightening for a short time, but before long the goodness of the universe starts to pour in.

I remember the weird feeling of leaving our apartment in Japan, getting rid of almost everything we had.  But guess what?  We are now living in a great apartment that we have designed and decorated exactly as we wanted.  The material and spiritual world work the same way–it’s all energy.  As I sat down this morning to write this, I actually only had a vague idea of what I was going to say but since my mind was quite clear, the words came pretty easily.  Try letting go of something and see what happens!  Freedom and abundance await.  Maybe just start by cleaning out a closet today.  🙂