I got up in the morning not quite feeling…you know, peaceful, at ease…something was bugging me but I didn’t really know what.  I started to do some work but I felt flat and things were seeming so difficult.  And then I made a mistake and had to go back and do something over again.  Ahhh!  I could feel the emotion coming up inside me.  Finally, I went to the bedroom and let it out.  I cried and cried, releasing all that pent up emotion.  I searched myself to see what exactly was bothering me.

A few things had happened the day before.  They were little incidents but they had piled up.  I realized I had felt incapable, rejected, disrespected, unloved, unconfident, awkward…and these were just the feelings I could identify with words.   Keeping all of these emotions bottled up was what was really causing me the flat, yet slightly disturbed feeling.  All they wanted was to be acknowledged and seen with compassionate eyes.

I, like probably many people, have come to fear my own feelings–believing that if I felt them all they would overwhelm me, take over me or make me completely lose it.  And how do we view adults who dare to express their deepest emotions?  How do we see someone who is weeping with sorrow, laughing crazily with joy or raging with anger.  We usually see them as being weak or weird or out of control.

Keep it together, man up, stay cool, don’t cry…this is what most of us are taught.  And so we find ways to numb out those annoying feelings.  And we end up living our lives in black and white, never deeply feeling anything.  Now that’s really sad!

People hate to think that they could become a slave to their emotions.  Paradoxically, those who try the hardest to suppress their feelings, ignore them or make them go away are the ones who are most dominated by them.

Fear is the emotion that gets repressed the most.  I was lying in bed other night and worries were whirling around in my head.  I couldn’t seem to stop the endless vague thoughts of doom and gloom.  I tried pushing them out of my mind. I tried rationalizing with them, analyzing them.  I tried replacing them with positive phrases.  I tried thinking of a rosier future.  Nothing worked.  Then it hit me–an idea I had applied before.  “Just acknowledge them, Donna”, I told myself.  “Simply admit they are there.”  And so I did.

Okay… Hello fear.  Yes, I’m feeling worried.  In fact, I am feeling quite scared.  The truth is I feel terrified!  And it helped.  It didn’t make the feelings go away but it did make them lose some of their power.  Admitting to our feelings out loud or in a journal can be even more effective.  One step further would be to muster up the courage to tell someone else our deep dark feelings…

After this acknowledgement comes the more difficult task of feeling those feelings and allowing them to pass through your body.  You don’t even have to give them a name;  just feel whatever comes up.  Cry, scream, yell, shout, let it all out…as the song goes!  Of course doing this in your own personal space.  (Venting emotions at others is not going to help anyone.)  If you don’t feel your feelings in your heart, those threatening emotions you are denying and repressing are going to bog you down, make you tired, depressed, anxious or even sick.

Emotions are energy.  This is a simple truth we often forget.  Feelings that have been felt don’t clog up our energy channels and that means energy can flow freely.  Once we can stop repressing our emotions and start feeling them, then we are on our way to a much healthier, joyful, more colourful life.  For when we can truly feel the lows, then we can begin feeling the highs!  And who doesn’t want to feel high–buzzing with excitement, joy, bliss, ecstasy?!

Helen Keller said–“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart.”

Donna Schuster said–“Feel and be real!”


I always have a choice

The victim mentality–it’s so easy to blame everyone and everything around us rather than to take responsibility for our own choices and actions.  But the truth is–we always have a choice.

I suppose there were times in my life when I didn’t feel in control;  when I felt like I was being tossed around on the waves without the power to control my circumstances.  As children, we don’t always have a choice.  Probably every adult can remember a time in childhood when they had this helpless feeling.   Unfortunately, some of us carry this memory of helplessness with us into adulthood and we continue to act as if we are not in charge of our lives.

I have been trying to shed this pattern myself but still sometimes catch thoughts of being powerless floating in my head.  I get that feeling like I am stuck when actually all it takes is my conscious and positive choice to change whatever I’m finding frustrating, unfulfilling or unfair.

It can be hard to see past our obstacles to the options that are there.  We blame our boss for our misery at work.  We blame our spouse for not being able to reach our potential or do what we want to do.  We blame the weather for our bad mood, poor service for our own unassertiveness…heck, we even blame time for our failure to get things done.

And we often waste our energy complaining, either out loud or in our heads, about all the people and situations that are the cause of our unhappiness.  We blame, we complain but WE don’t change.  Some of us expect that magically everything we need will appear and everything we don’t want will vanish.  Others are somehow soothed by all the drama and despair–oh woe is me!!

So here is the good news.  You don’t need to blame or complain anymore.  All you need to do is take action!!  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big change.  Sometimes just a shift in attitude, a new perspective or a different focus can open up your mind to all that is good and wonderful.

It’s takes bravery and time to change pattern–courage to get things started and patience to keep going even when it feels like you are in a vicious cycle.  I think sometimes–Oh, my goodness, there’s that same situation again and me reacting in the same dysfunctional way.  What if I never break out of this rut?

I found a reassuring poem in Mark Nepo’s book “Finding Inner Courage”.  Let me share it with you:


I walk, down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in

I am lost…I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I’m in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in…it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

by Portia Nelson

Trust the process.  It’s can be like slogging through the mud but slowly you can begin to change and start taking responsibility for your life–one day at at time.  Stay awake and present.  If you find yourself falling in that hole, be kind to yourself, pick yourself up and  shake it off.  Consciously think of how you can respond better in the future.  Picture yourself doing or saying what you truly wanted to.

Say what you wanna say

And let the words fall out

Honestly, I wanna see you be brave!

from “Brave”  by Sara Bareilles



Let the Sunshine In

The other night I woke up in the middle of the night after some vaguely disturbing dreams.  Why do I still have all of this negativity?  I asked myself.  When will I be able to wake up in the morning feeling renewed, light-hearted, energized and passionate, thinking -“This is going to be an amazing day!!  Anything is possible!”  What is this strange feeling of melancholy mixed with fear that continues to hang on to me and drag me down, like wearing clothes while trying to swim?

In the morning I arose with a song in my head.  It was–Let the Sunshine In:  “Leeeeet the sunshine, leeeeet the sunshine in.  The suuunshine in.”  Wow!  These musical messages from my soul keep coming and always precisely at the right time.  Yes, that was the answer but I was still faced with the question–HOW?  How do I turn the negativity and fear into love and positive power?   I’m so tired of dwelling in worry and unworthiness.

It’s not that I haven’t had many happy moments and many wonderful days lately.  And it’s not that I don’t feel gratitude for all that I’ve been given.  But that feeling of safety and trust in myself has been missing for a while.  The deep inner joy and love of life has been locked up and it’s like I can’t find the key.

I suppose I had these negative thoughts in my head before, but I was too busy to notice them;  moving around too quickly to hear them.  Now with all this space and time, and my ego desperate to save itself, they seem to be this almost constant background buzz in my head, lurking around just waiting for their chance to sabotage me.

Okay, I know I’m feeling negative and fearful here so why isn’t my awareness melting away my destructive thought patterns?  Where is the happy ending?  Maybe the key is in waiting them out.  Perhaps it’s like that game of hide and seek called Eagle Eye where the hiders have to run to back to the Eagle’s nest in order to be safe.  If I just keep watching, aware and alert like the Eagle, they eventually will be seen for what they truly are–illusions.

The ultimate illusion is the belief that we are separate;  that we are alone in this world and we must protect ourselves at all costs.  The truth is we all come from the same place;  the same source.  This source is like the sun–a powerful light that is always there.  To let the sunshine in, we only need to let go of the illusion of separateness.  To let the sunshine in, we only need to stop identifying with the never-ending stream of thoughts that cross our minds.  To let the sunshine in, we only need to open our hearts and say–Teach me.

Aquarius (Let the Sunshine In)  by The Fifth Dimension

Am I good enough?

We all seek to feel worthy.  For some of us, it is our work that makes us feel a sense of importance and worth.  For others it’s being busy and productive that gives them the feeling that they are valuable and beneficial.  As crazy as it sounds, I think some people get off on being stressed-out!  It’s how they stay energized.

We can get our self-worth from being a good parent, getting love from our children, pleasing our spouse, keeping the house tidy, doing a challenging workout, reading a whole book in a day and countless other ways.  Even in my recent yoga classes, I realize how often I flip-flop from–“Gee, I am so good at this pose!  Look at me!!”  to “Oh, this is so hard. Why can everyone do this but me?”– It’s rather sad that, for many of us in this society, it’s this sense of doing or accomplishing or being good at something that leads us to believe we are a worthy human being.

Shortly after leaving a job where I felt valuable, generally competent, and well-liked, I realized how much my self-worth was tied up into what I was doing, how I judged myself to be performing and how well people around me seemed to like me.  Being around children was a great way for me to boost my ego–It was always busy so I felt productive.  By giving instructions, I could feel powerful and in control.  And I could get the attention I desired along with lots of love and approval.  Children don’t judge so it was safe for me.

But safe and comfortable rarely bring any personal growth.  Little did I know that quitting my job was going to have me go face to face with my biggest fear–Am I good enough?  Suddenly I was doing work that was very different from anything I had done before and I found myself trying so hard to be competent, capable;  trying so hard to look intelligent and of course always trying to appear busy.  Busy, busy, busy!

Now the question is–can I get over my ego and use this experience to teach me some valuable skills?  Some days I have freaked-out, thinking, “I’m just not good at this.  I’m so useless.”  I know that this is not the kind of work I want to be doing long-term yet there’s this strange “rightness” about it.  I’m learning exactly what I need to learn:

How to feel good about myself even when I feel unknowledgeable.  How to voice my true opinions and disagree with my partner even when I think it might hurt his feelings.  How to communicate more clearly and confidently, both verbally and in writing.  How to manage my time and prioritize–knowing when to power on through and when to take a break.  How to deal with real freedom and be responsible for every choice in my day.  And perhaps most importantly, how to express my vulnerabilities and say–Hey, you know I’m not feeling very confident here.  I could use some patience and encouragement.  Or as a child used to say to me–A little help here!

I know I will still have many challenging days where I am ready to curl up into a ball and cry but I am slowly, gradually, learning to dig deeper to find that sense of self-worth;  that feeling like–YES!  I am good enough just as I am.  I have nothing to prove.  I am a beneficial presence on this planet.  YES!  I have unique talents and gifts to share with the world and the most valuable gift–just being me.

As my yoga instructor inspired us to do today–dig deeper to find that ever-present source–go beyond the body, beyond the emotions and beyond the mind to that place where you feel “powerfully peaceful and peacefully powerful.”  I promise you it will be worth it!

What if….

This morning I was thinking about how I could transform fear.   When fear overwhelms us, we can start to numb out; afraid that if we acknowledge the fear, it would completely devour us.  I seem to bounce between feeling anxiety and feeling dull.  What I really want is that balance in the middle–the place where I feel invigorated and excited.  The place where I feel alert and alive.

I recalled an idea I had read in a book about people who were able to transform their fear into courage, strength, excitement, enthusiasm and passion.  Passion is being full of life, digging deeply into the moment and really feeling whatever is in our heart;  whether its joy, anger, lust or sorrow.   When we allow fear to be in control, life loses its vividness and beauty.

Pretending that we are not scared and denying fear does not work–it actually makes the fear more powerful.  The only way to manage fear is to face it, acknowledge it, notice what it is saying to us.  Then we can clearly see when our fear needs to take the back seat.  Instead of listening to this back seat driver who is telling us–Don’t do that!  You can’t!  What if you fail?  What if you make a fool of yourself?  What if something horrible happens?!–we can take our fear for what it is–irrational worries that are holding us back.

Now once we have seen what our fear is, why not transform it into something useful–“What if I fail?”  can become “What if I succeed beyond my wildest dreams?”  “What if I fall ill?”  can become “What if I have more energy and vitality than I ever dreamed of?”  “What if I make a mistake?”  can become “What if my imperfections and screw-ups actually make me more lovable and more compassionate?”   “What if I lose control?” can become “What if I let go and trust myself?”

What if I become more bold, exuberant, expressive, open and harmonious that I ever imagined possible?  What if every day I felt the amazing rush of being fully awake and alive!!  Change your fears into dreams!