I am enough

I Am Enough

Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW wrote in “Rising Strong,” “To embrace and love who we are we have to reclaim and reconnect with the parts of ourselves we’ve orphaned over the years.” Those orphaned parts are stored in the library of our false beliefs of lack and limitation, feeling separate. Judging and comparing ourselves, our bodies and the lives we live to others all have the common root of “I’m not good enough.”

In this meditation we will select books from this library of not enoughness and open to deep inquiry and the opportunity for integration into the authentic being and wholeness of “I am enough.”Continue reading

Embrace your scars

Embrace Your Scars and Imperfections

“Let everything happen to you, beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”

— Rainer Maria Rilke

gounded beingI was in the midst of writing this article when the COVID-19 virus epidemic was declared a pandemic. Our Illinois’ governor mandated a “stay-at-home” order for all non-essential service employees. Much of my work halted, and like everyone, I was trying to adjust to the effects of isolation and uncertainty. I reluctantly cancelled my June Greek Island yoga retreat. And, I wondered when, or if, I’d get to dance Tango again! But my spiritual teachings and practices helped calm me with an inner knowing. No matter what happens on the surface of our lives, there is an unshakeable ground of being that is eternally present.

As the saying goes, we must “look for the silver lining.” We can choose to shine light on the positives that arise during, and because of, this pandemic. We can also embrace the residual scars that reveal the underlying strength, beauty and wisdom that emerges as healing inevitably pervades.


Gold and silver

I was so disappointed when a treasured statue of embracing dancers broke into many pieces last year.  I thought maybe I could glue it together, or better yet find a new one like it on the Internet. When my search proved fruitless, I consulted an expert on how to repair this item. His fee was far too expensive, but he told me how I might do it myself. Because it was made of a soft soapstone, he cautioned that fragments could easily chip off. I gingerly glued the first two pieces together and waited many days before continuing with the next piece. When I finally got it all together, I was delighted to see it whole again—even though its imperfections were noticeable because of missing fragments.

Several weeks later, still admiring my accomplishment, I remembered referencing the Japanese art of Kintsugi in one of my articles many years ago, entitled, “Living the Wabi-Sabi Way.” When a piece of pottery has broken, the areas of breakage are mended with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Highlighting the cracks and repairs simply represents an event in the life of the object, and thus becomes a symbol of its fragility, strength and beauty.

embrace your scars Aha, I will paint the seams and imperfections with gold paint! As I did so, ideas began to flow on writing about Kintsugi as metaphor for life. Embracing our flaws, scars and imperfections offers us the opportunity to acknowledge our true strength, beauty and wisdom that comprise our essential wholeness.


Wounded, broken

Inevitably, circumstances shift and change and sometimes life seems to fall apart. Stuff happens, often catching us off guard. A relationship goes sour, a job is lost or put on furlough, finances take a hit—or we find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic!  While we are not made of ceramic, our emotions and thoughts can become rigid and corruptible (corrupt comes from the Latin word corruptus, meaning broken in pieces).

When the future becomes uncertain, we can fall into self-pity and victimization leaving us feeling utterly alone and broken. However, what has been broken or lost has the potential to be repaired or recovered. With appropriate resources a relationship may be repaired, a new job found, physical and economic health restored—maybe even better than before. If a void still remains, this creates space for new possibilities and opportunities…a chance to create life anew.

Suffering is a natural part of the human experience; experience that is essentially impermanent. We won’t live in this flawed and imperfect body forever—the surgence of COVID-19 has made this very clear. We don’t need to hide our wounds and scars or pretend nothing happened—any more than we need to ruminate over the past. Every scar has a story behind it, reminding us of a challenge overcome, a battle survived or even a funny moment in our lives. The key is to learn and grow from the experience, knowing that the hurt is over and to not let emotional scars linger as the story.

Emerging strength

Phoenix Often, we need to seemingly lose everything before we can rise from the ashes like the resiliency of the Phoenix. George Mumford, an aspiring basketball player at the University of Massachusetts, had injuries that forced him give up the game he loved. Pain medications led to heroin as emptiness left him spiraling downward. Finally, after turning to mindfulness meditation and getting clean, he was called to help Coach Phil Jackson and the Chicago Bulls, a team in crisis after the departure of Michael Jordan. Mumford has since coached a roster of champion clients from Olympians to corporate individuals.

Moving through challenging times makes us stronger. It’s a strength that emerges from within—our connection with our truest self, our core of being. Just as a physical wound heals from the inside out, there is an inner strength within each of us that arises to help us heal. The stronger we become with each circumstance, the greater ease we bring to each new challenge. We can heal collectively as well.

As I write this, I hear of all kinds of people throughout the world who are volunteering in various creative capacities to help us move through this pandemic.

Nelson Mandela recalled a time when he was reading a newspaper while flying with other passengers in a 20-seat aircraft. Suddenly one of the propellers began to sputter and stop. A sense of unease filled the cabin with concern that the other engine would keep running so the plane could safely land. Mandela continued to read his paper as though everything would be fine. Later, passengers remarked on how much his calmness helped them. What Mandela embodied and demonstrated is something we have within us—an unshakeable calmness and ease of being that cannot be broken or shattered and is always present.

Beauty and wisdom revealed

Embrace your scarsJapanese aesthetics value marks of wear from use of an object, and find beauty in what has been broken. In Kintsugi art, when a piece is missing from a ceramic bowl, a fragment from another broken object is fashioned to fill the void. We do this with broken bodies. When a leg is lost a new one can be attached to replace it. Rather than hiding the prosthetic, some people allow it to be freely visible as though wearing it as a badge of honor. Isn’t this an authentic display of inner strength and beauty?

It’s often said that when we bring something into the light, we see it more clearly. This is true of the flaws, blemishes and imperfections of our bodies as well as our lives. Regrets, lost opportunities and hurts, when left to harbor inside, can fester and cause more suffering. However, if we shine a light on them gilding them with our reflections on what we have learned, we begin to put ourselves back together.  We can then accept our true uniqueness—imperfections, deficiencies, challenges, warts and all.

The wisdom of Kintsugi also teaches that acceptance of change is inevitable.  There is a part of us that holds our authentic beauty, that is not broken, accepts everything and forgives our perceived brokenness.  When we can truly forgive ourselves, our inner beauty radiates. Thus, forgiveness brings us back to wholeness.

Life’s golden journey

vein of goldThe healing of our brokenness is sealed with a vein of gold that shines out from the core of our authentic beingness. We only need to regularly open our hearts, rest back and steep in this ground of being with whatever inner practice works for us—meditation, nature, connecting with a loved one. Our life journey then becomes a reflection of that golden vein which nourishes not only us, but interconnects with others throughout the world, the earth itself and the Divine Universe. The COVID Pandemic has brought us to our knees.

Being You

A Meaningful Life is Being You

“The meaning of life is to give life meaning.”

—Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, neurologist, psychiatrist, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning

What gives life meaning? Through the ages that is a question that philosophers and religious scholars have pondered. Today psychologists and other scientists have intensified the study of what makes life meaningful. A wide range of answers has emerged. Some say it is finding a purpose or passion, while others contend it is being useful, living according to one’s values, or simply finding joy in all one does. The answer, of course, differs for each of us, and it can change in different phases of our lives, or even in a moment when confronted with a sudden tragedy. I believe having a meaningful life is being you—your best self! Being you is showing up with right action and right conduct in every circumstance in life.

What is needed?

Viktor Frankl, who was subjected to unspeakable brutality and depravation in four concentration camps, observed that inmates who retained some meaning in their lives were most likely to survive.  He believed it’s not about having what you need to live, but asking yourself, “What am I living for?” Frankl kept the memory of his beloved wife and his hope to be reunited with her alive, which gave his life meaning. A Vietnam POW spent his many years in captivity mentally designing the home he would one day build—which he eventually did!

If one is confronted with unavoidable suffering, Frankl recommended asking what could be learned from the situation. Is there any meaning that can be squeezed out of seemingly meaningless or even disastrous or horrendous happenings? In the aftermath of tragic events such as wildfires and hurricanes, and even mass shootings, countless people find meaningful ways to help others in distress, whether neighbors or strangers; they rebuild communities, and they take action to get laws changed. For Frankl, meaning came from three possible sources: purposeful work, love, or courage in the face of adversity.

Being you

Where do we find guidance on the path to living more meaningfully? According to Richard Miller, PhD, yogic scholar and developer of the iRest® Yoga Nidra training, there are times when we forget our true essence, our Divine nature, and we experience what is known as the kanchukas, or five limitations (limited ability or capacity, limited knowledge, limited time, limited body or space, and scarcity). When this happens, there are messengers who point us toward being as we truly are. Miller affectionately refers to such messengers as “The Pointer Sisters,” after the R&B singers who got their start in the 1970s and are still performing today.

Miller says that we are all seeking happiness in one manner or another, and this is the underlying motive behind every action we take. The Pointer Sisters surface within our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions and relate to beliefs we have about ourselves. We get to know the Sisters’ presence whenever we feel disconnected or constrained in our daily experience. Then they point us to our wholeness with questions to help us realign. Let’s explore the questions.

Feeling separate

SeparateHave you ever experienced a situation in which you felt powerless or limited? However hard you try to rectify the situation, nothing changes, resulting in feelings of frustration, anger, or unhappiness. This is an opportunity to step back and acknowledge that the Pointer Sisters are present and have a message to share. You can discover the message by asking, Who am I? Am I a separate powerless being, or is my true essential nature potent and unlimited? Allow yourself to acknowledge and feel these opposites.

You’re not likely to feel potent and unlimited right away. It’s like trying on new clothes or a new hairstyle that may take time getting used to. It’s not about doing but about coming to accept your true self as whole and connected. As a result, you will be better able to address the situation that brought you to feeling powerless and regain a sense of wholeness.

Feeling confused 

There may be times in your work, managing your finances, and other situations when you may wish you knew more. You may need to obtain more knowledge or training, or consult with an expert. But when it comes to knowing what can truly bring forth a meaningful life or make you happy, what you need to know is already inside you. Accessing this inner knowing helps you with important life choices and decisions.

Do you really need to go to another spiritual workshop or read another book or even this column to bring you more in touch with your true self? Those things may be helpful for a while, but if the teachings are about trusting and knowing yourself, then perhaps you should ask Why am I continuing to pursue these things? It may be because you enjoy connecting with other likeminded people—not because of limited knowledge.

Feeling a lack

As soon as you get that raise or promotion or your kid buckles down with his school work, you’re sure that you’ll be happy. Maybe it’s a new job or the perfect relationship or winning the lottery that you’re counting on to fulfill you. In the meantime, you feel a considerable lack in your life: what you have is inadequate; you desire something better. Or, perhaps you are clinging to what’s present in your life for fear of taking a risk.

You may believe that because life is imperfect you too must be imperfect. But here the Pointer Sisters pose the question What am I? The truth is that you are already complete. I often reflect on how Frankl handled his holocaust experience as a reminder.

Feeling time bound

time boundDo you find there is never enough time to accomplish everything? Anxiety, frustration, or fear about not meeting deadlines may ensue. There’s certainly no time for reflection on what makes your life meaningful. The Pointer Sisters here implore us to believe we are born, then we die; in between time rules our ability to be happy. There is a paradox here. When we are deeply engaged in meaningful activities (in a flow state, also known as being in the zone), it can feel like time stands still.

Instead of feeling constrained by time, what if you were to ask When am I in the flow of life? How can you integrate flow into your life and make it more meaningful? When you do, the past and future become less relevant—and you open yourself to the wholeness of your essential being, which feels timeless.

Feeling limited in space

Time and space are scientific terms used to describe our physical presence in this world. But these are limiting factors when it comes to acknowledging the spirit that inhabits your physical body. You may feel your body is constricted and contracted with all the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that surface throughout your day. But your physicality is not who you truly are. Ask yourself Where am I? You are the all-pervasive awareness at the heart of your true being.

Pointing to your wholeness

Pointing to wholenessTake a moment to experience this right now by closing your eyes, taking a few long, deep breaths, and feeling your connection with the surface beneath you and the space around you. Welcome the Pointer Sisters to be present as you welcome what you believe your true self to be. Feel the limitation of your body. Then allow yourself to expand as the Pointer Sisters point you to the wholeness of your Essential Being.

One of the Pointer Sisters’ hit songs was “Yes We Can Can”: “Oh yes we can, I know we can can/ Yes we can can, why can’t we?” Yes, we can all learn to live beyond our limitations—and thus make this a meaningful life.

Join one of my free iRest courses where you can learn how to live beyond your limitations and Hanna Somatics Movement for pain relief each Tuesday.

Room in your heart

Room in Your Heart

“In a full heart there is room for everything, and in an empty heart there is room for nothing.” —Antonio Porchia, Argentine poet

Have you asked yourself recently if there are things you’d like to welcome into your life? Do you want to improve your career, finances, or relationships? Perhaps better health Continue reading

invest your thoughts

Be a Wise Investor: of Your Thoughts

I read somewhere that our average lifespan consists of 30,000 days. The questions posed with this statistic were: how many days might remain for you, and how do you want to live those days. While it’s helpful to think about and plan your life, breaking down your lifespan into days instead of years provides an opportunity to become more conscious of how you are living. It offers a call to take responsibility for your thoughts, and how and where you want to invest your thoughts –day to day, moment to moment.

Thought investments

Not only was I never taught how to invest money in my earlier years, neither was I taught how to invest wisely in my choice of thoughts (my parents hadn’t learned this either). Strange, since thinking is central to the education process.

Thoughts are funny things. Without our doing anything they can pop into our head instantly, and jump around incessantly – like Mexican jumping beans. Imagine you’re planning the menu for a party for Uncle Henry’s 90th birthday party. Here’s how your thinking might unfold:

Pasta would good – maybe lasagna…not sure about cheese…..I should cut back on fats – and sugar! I really need to lose weight….no self-discipline….maybe I can find some recipes on the internet….my back hurts… I really need a new computer chair…. can’t afford it now….when is the economy going to improve…I need a better job….my boss is always putting me down…..wish those politicians would get their act together…I’m cold…I miss summer….I’m not very creative….my cousin Sherry might have some recipes….I’m so envious of her….she’s always had it together….always positive……she never had to go through what I have….maybe yoga would help my back. . .I’ll ask Sherry for recipes.

Thought triggers

Anything can trigger a thought. Scents, sounds and body sensations can spark thoughts and memories of past experiences. We can be thrust back to reliving that experience at an emotional level whether positive or negative. When negative, over time, brain pathways form that repeatedly keep us stuck in negative thought patterns, thus preventing us from being fully alive and present.

Think of what you are missing with negative thinking within the hours, minutes and moments of each passing day.

Wouldn’t you suppose that starting with a mindset, for example, that the “cup is half empty” instead of “half full” could affect how you study, learn, experiment and create? If fear, doubt or self-judgment is present how can you make wise choices? Fortunately as a participant in the school of life and lots of study into the science of thought, I have generated a significant positive thought portfolio.

Releasing triggers

One solution to rewiring the brain’s thought patterns is to go on a negative thought diet and use affirmative words and phrases to wash your brain of negativity. This is what Mohamed Ali did to build his self-esteem when he proclaimed, “I am the greatest.” People with strong will-power can shed pounds of negativity with this process, while the rest of us lose merely ounces, fluctuating up and down at best.

Invest wisely

I suggest rather than push away the negativity, welcome it in, and see what you can learn from it.  Doing so removes its grip on you. Over time this has a cleansing affect that frees you to welcome in positive thoughts and affirmations: “I am good enough.” “I do have what it takes.” “Every day, more and more, I’m learning to live each moment.” This is true freedom. (Also see my article “Welcome Life’s Messengers)

I invite you to attend my weekly iRest meditation classes when I guide you to watch your thoughts, and then learn how to set them free.

LIFE'S MESSENGERS

Welcome Life’s Messengers

Whenever you find yourself reacting to a person, situation or circumstance, you are encountering one of life’s messengers. Your messenger may reveal itself as physical sensation or feeling, emotion, thought or belief. Whether your response is joy, anger, hurt, shame, pride, depression or delight, your reaction transmits like a courier or emissary bearing information that has been sent from a deeper truth within you to teach you ways to “be” on the path of harmony and wholeness.

Like asteroids flying through space, some of life’s messengers fly into our atmosphere and penetrate our surface, while others pass us by. Those that linger are bearers of great gifts. When their messages challenge us or make us feel bad, we bolt our doors, try to ignore them or push them away. But “whatever we resist, persists,” as the saying goes. Instead of trying to avoid or ignore them, we must welcome them. Invite them in for a cup of tea and discover what they have to teach us. The results can be amazing!

A process I work with, called Integrative Restoration, iRest®, Yoga Nidra, offers simple yet profound processes for creating pathways to greater peace and harmony. For many years, as a life coach, I have helped others accomplish goals and discover a deeper relationship with their “real self” in order to live a more authentic and fulfilling life. iRest has helped me to deepen this relationship in my own life, while providing powerful tools to assist others.

Discovering truth

In a recent body sensing session with my client Sally, the emotion of fear surfaced out of a sensation in her body. We welcomed it as a messenger and through a process of deep inquiry, I asked her to describe what fear looked like. She was surprised to discover that it wasn’t fear at all, but a suppressed and neglected little girl who wanted to play. Having spent much of her life dealing with chronic illnesses, Sally had not given attention to her playful nature. I asked if the little girl had a name. She said, “Sunshine.” We then explored ways she could fully anchor Sunshine into her daily life, including singing.  When she spontaneously burst into, “You Are My Sunshine,” I joined in and we “all” sang together.

Sally met what she thought was fear and discovered a long-repressed part of herself that was longing to be invited out to play and become fully restored and re-integrated into Sally’s being and life.

Assumptions stick

We often live our lives based on assumptions, misperceptions and beliefs about ourselves. One of the agreements in Don Miguel Ruiz’ insightful little book, “The Four Agreements,” is: “Don’t assume anything.” Yet we do, continually. While some messages are transmitted directly to us from outside sources, others are totally made up in our minds based on assumptions. They instantly pop into our head at inopportune times because they are all lined up, waiting at our door, ready and eager to make their grand entrance.

Early in life we begin the process of cultural and personal conditioning forming beliefs and assumptions often based on other people’s expectations of how we should fit into the world. Parents, teachers, siblings, peers, and later spouses and bosses, etc. transmit a variety of messages. While generally well-intentioned, these messages are rooted in experiences based on their own life story, and don’t always support our True Nature. As a result, they instill a complex view of the world that often turn into on-going voicemail-like messages.

If you received messages early on such as “you’re stupid,” “not good enough,” or “you’ll never amount to anything,” the messages, programmed in your head, will transmit as, “I’m stupid,” “I’m not good enough,” or “No one loves me.” These messages are myths that become beliefs, like self-limiting obstacles continually showing up in your life in people, situations and circumstances. After many years, one client discovered that she had married her “mother.” Her husband churned out his own version of her mother’s message of “you’re stupid.”

If, on the other hand, the original message was, “You are free to choose your own unique path in life,” or, “Life is what you make it,” an expectation or intention is set in motion that will likely propel you down a pathway to realize these truths. When the messages are aligned with your True Nature, they help you become a more fully integrated human being living with meaning and purpose.

Now we’ll explore ways to transform our life messengers into allies and integrate them for creating harmony and wholeness.

Releasing naturally

It’s not surprising that dissatisfaction and suffering occur when you continuously hear the messengers’ voices running in our heads. If you try to chase them away, reciting mantras and affirmations, you may, at best, keep them at bay. The good news is that there are many processes to help address this treadmill-like ordeal. For example, Byron Katie, in her classic work “Loving What Is,” (www.thework.com) offers a simple process of questioning, challenging beliefs with four simple questions designed to explore their inherent truths, how you react to them and how you would be without them.

What I love about iRest is that we are not asked to change or disbelieve anything. Yes, we do investigate our assumptions of truth. But we do it naturally through the body, not by trying to DO anything. Rather we open our awareness, welcome and invite in whatever shows up in the form of sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, beliefs and images. Change comes naturally. iRest can be done with a trained teacher, in a guided process in a group or individual setting, or on your own. “To understand truth, all seeking must stop,” said spiritual teacher, Jean Klein.

Drop the “I”

Drop the ego

                           Drop the “I”

iRest (notice the small “i”) helps you put the ego “I” to rest as you explore through sensation in your body. We all seem to be seekers of happiness. If only I had……. Yet, once we actually get…. we are never really fulfilled and still seek something new. It’s like being on a treadmill of perpetual stuckness and suffering. Trying to repel desires doesn’t work either. Once we let go, rest the “I” and meet with our messengers, we move into a state of deep relaxation and discover a state of being. It’s like slipping into a warm enveloping bath where we find the innate inner wisdom of our True Nature.

One might ask how this can help when I’ve lost my job, or a relationship or I have serious financial challenges. When we welcome things as they are, we can go beyond them. What emerges is “right action.” We’re able to make better choices in future endeavors and how we want to live our lives.

Feeling cut off

How frequently do you find yourself irritated or uneasy in your daily life? Maybe you are cut off while driving in traffic, someone makes a remark that triggers a memory or emotion, or you find yourself worrying about something in the future. Perhaps it’s that incessant voicemail-like message that’s telling you you’re incapable or something or unlovable.

When, the man whom I believed was truly the love of my life decided to leave, I had to examine my own I-ness and my long-held assumptions that men never stay in my life. I found myself honoring what he believed was his truth, knowing that “i” have been given an opportunity to start anew – and to love myself even more. Everything moves through a cycle of birth, growth, decline and death. It’s the nature of all things. I’m learning that underneath the big “I” is a delightful beingness that is so vast and is filled with love that “i” am.

Messengers will continue to show up in your life. Welcome them into your Guest House of awareness. When you inquire why they have come, you’ll make them your ally and discover ways to integrate them into your greater wholeness.

Read The Guest House from The Essential Rumi, version by Coleman Barks:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
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