The Crack in the Crystal Ball

 Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer

We will never fully understand the world by trying to look into the future and predict where our paths will take us.  We usually only understand our experiences when we reflect back on where we have been and what we have learned.

Because we spend every day with ourselves, we fail to see how much progress we make on a daily basis.  Progress and growth are often so uncomfortable and painful, yet we don’t take time to stop and appreciate the process that is happening and give ourselves recognition for all we have walked through.  My birthday is at the end of November, which is also very close to the New Year.  So each time I add another year to my life, I make an effort to reflect on the calendar year that has passed.

Looking over the last year of my life is one my favorite self-reflection activities.  And yet sometimes I can feel paralyzed when I reflect on the unexpected detours my journey has taken.  I am reminded of how the unknown used to leave me so shaken that I would return to negative patterns of behavior that I knew would ultimately lead back to treatment – a predictable and safe conclusion.  However, the more I stepped into recovery, the more I realized that the universe does not curse or bless.  The universe does not dole out good and bad.  The universe only provides neutral experiences.  It is in the way in which these experiences impact our lives for better or worse that is in our conscious control.  A broken heart can render us incapable of leaving the house.  It can color our views of the world so much so that we refuse to trust those around us.  It can drive us to put up guards, locks, and walls around our hearts to make sure that nothing and no one will ever harm us again.  And little do we know that these guards keep the hurt out, but along with the hurt, these walls also keep out any potential good as well.  A broken heart can also drive us to create a masterpiece.  A broken heart can inspire us to chase a dream that has long eluded us because we realize the fleeting nature of our existence.  A broken heart can help us re-evaluate the kind of life/partner/career/family we want which instills a new sense of self-worth and a refusal to settle for any relationship, situation or activity that makes us feel “less than” or “not enough.”

Sometimes I see pictures of my younger self, and I sit in wonder.  This 6, 9, or 12 year old Gracie had no idea the turns her life would take.  Did she know that the college experience that she dreamed of — advancing with ease throughout all four years, meeting the love of her life and friends that would last a lifetime – would change into a series of residential treatment centers, struggles to go back to school, and ultimately attending a small college nothing like any that she had dreamed of?  Did she know she would fall in love like the magic she dreamed of only to have it crumble and leave her questioning what she could have done differently to keep it?  Did she know she would also have the chance to go to Africa, Europe, and South America?  Did she know she would fight back for her life and become strong enough to run two marathons?  Did she know she would meet people that would change her life forever and that she does have friendships that will last a lifetime?  Did she know that the turns in her life would grace her with empathy, resilience, fortitude and courage she never understood a fraction of before?

I no longer fear the unknown like I used to.  Of course there are still days where my stomach turns with anxiety, longing for a crystal ball that will assure me everything will be okay.  But more and more I have learned that the crack in the crystal ball – the unexpected event, or the unexpected gift that comes from the sometimes devastating turn of events – is really the most exciting and inspiring part of the journey.  Now I embrace change, and I even chase it.  I make a concerted effort to step into the unknown.  In the last year I decided to start the journey of yoga teacher training and became a certified yoga teacher, meeting friends and finding a community that brought such healing to pieces of me that I hadn’t realized needed it.  I graduated with my master’s in Social Work and was able to have the gift of working as an individual therapist, returning the gifts of a listening ear, understanding friend and unconditional support that were given to me at my hour of need.  I packed up my life and decided to move to a new state, start two new jobs and throw myself into a completely new climate and community.  I embraced change, leaned into it and actually chose it.  I chose growth.  I chose to trust the crack in the Crystal Ball because honestly it has been the most beautiful and transformative influence in my life.

I cannot wait for the future and yet I am constantly in awe by the beauty of the present.  I am so excited to see where this journey will lead me in the next year of my life.  I cannot wait to look back at pictures of my 20, 21, and 24 year old Gracie and think…she had no idea of the beauty that was to befall her life.

Thoughts

Written by: Morgan Blair, Founder and Creative Director

Somewhere between 7:15 and 8:06 I found myself in a tailspin of wound-too-tight brain zaps, which left me lying on the floor, wrapped tightly in a blanket, and my fingers counting my pulse. And there among the dirty carpet and snotty tears, I found a flicker – not an explosion, not an awakening – but a flicker of goodness among all these minutes of personal anguish.

I was okay.

I was okay and I was going to be okay.

One. Two. Three breaths and I was halfway across the rickety bridge to whatever the other side of this journey had to offer. And perhaps that is how it goes. One night gives birth to the strength to fight another and another night gives you the strength to face a day. Then, before you even know it you’re doing it. Whatever “it” may be. But in the moment I was there. I was taken to a place where I was scared and hurting and unwilling to go on. For this reason, the moment was precious. I bottle it up and save it on my shelf as a trophy, gold, shiny, glittering with pride and accomplishments.

Victories are found in the quiet moments, the moments we are certain we cannot go on, and then we do. “The strongest warriors are the ones we know nothing about.”  I read that quote the other day and shrugged it off. But as I lay here, heaving into the carpet, I think again. That quote is me and that quote is you. It is about anyone who has breathed through the night they didn’t think they could survive.

So, I turn off the lights and I stay on the floor until all my tears have dried. I fall asleep to the rhythm of my short distressed breaths. I have no dreams. No thoughts I can still muster up. But, then I wake up and feel a smile creep upon my lips. I get dressed and find a way to begin again.

Slip into those Feelings

Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer 

This slip is good for an entire holiday season of the feels.  Yes, you are welcome.  This slip entitles you to all the feels, the full spectrum – happy, sad, furious, delighted, grateful, love struck, heartbroken, and yes, even all of the grey area in-between.  Whenever you notice that you are turning to one of those negative coping skills that is sure to numb all of your feelings and turn you into an emotional zombie…STOP, re-read this slip, and SIT IN THOSE FEELS.  I want you to allow yourself to experience whatever emotions come up for you, and in addition, I give you permission to feel these feelings without judgment.  This in NOT a permission slip to shit all over yourself and call yourself a grinch if sadness, loneliness or anger creeps up.  This permission slip is an all inclusive reminder to feel without judging yourself, to feel with courage and passion.

I have only met a couple of people in my life who feel without inhibition.  These few lean into the raw beauty of feeling honestly and openly.  The first time I met someone who felt so freely, I was scared shitless.  I assumed that this person was irrational, too exposed, or maybe even someone with ulterior motives.  This person felt and felt passionately, refusing to operate under the societal notion that he was only allowed to show the appropriate emotions, at the appropriate times, in the appropriate manner.  I was blown away by the free flow of honesty and his ability to “wear his heart on his sleeve.”  This was a quality that at times I could admire, but my admiration was clouded by the reality that I could not properly control and manage my emotions in the outside world.  Society had led me to believe that it’s ok to feel; well, to feel sometimes.  And only the feelings that are desirable and socially acceptable.  Oh, and if you do express these emotions, be aware of where you are and who is around you.  Oh and make sure that your emotions are not a burden on others and their own struggles.  Oh and don’t be too open too fast.  Oh and also don’t forget about “gender normative behavior,” so anger is off the table.  Oh and also just be happy because it’s just easier to make people like you, but not too happy because heaven forbid someone interprets it as “fake happy.”

I was led to believe that “wearing your heart on your sleeve” was just an unfortunate case of not being able to control your emotions or manage the image you had so carefully presented to the world.  But here is the truth – and I’m sorry Shakespeare – the world is not a stage.  You are not an actor.  You are a human being and every feeling you are experiencing in this moment has been felt before.  Those around you, those who have come before you: we are all connected by the fact that somewhere, sometime, someone has felt exactly as you are feeling now.  When we deny our right to feel emotion, we deny ourselves the ability connect to others and the world around us.

Yes, with greater emotional exposure comes greater risk of being hurt.  However, with greater emotional exposure also comes deeper connection.  When I find people who allow themselves the full range of human emotions and allow it without judgment, I am fascinated and instantly enthralled.  I am inspired by people who lead with their heart.  I find that relationships with true “feelers” are uncomfortable at times because the mask that provides comfort and security has been taken off.  But they are also the deepest relationships we will ever have and that is what makes the vulnerability worth it.  I am not saying that we should open the flood gates, acting on every little emotion we face this holiday season – screaming at the in-laws, dropping down on one knee to propose to the cute Whole Foods cashier who has been so nice during all the crazy holiday shopping, or confronting Aunt Millie in front of the whole family to let her know that you will not be eating the green jello casserole because it is reminiscent of Nickelodeon slime.  However, even if I gave you this permission slip to “freely feel,” I doubt many of you would rush to do any of those things.  Mainly because, if you are anything like me, allowing yourself to openly feel your emotions is scary enough as it is.

However, I would like to ask you what you are feeling right now?  What is this article bringing up for you? Check-in with yourself.  Sit back.  Put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly.  Breath deeply and connect.  Hold space for whatever comes up for you and try to meet it with compassion and non-judgment.  What would you express if you were given permission to feel the WHOLE spectrum of human emotions?  What would you tell others around you?  What would you do differently?  And… do you think, just maybe, that at the end of your little feelings experiment, you might just end up feeling free?

I will end with a quote from one of my favorite songs, “Mary Jane” by Alanis Morissette.  I hope it inspires you to allow whatever comes up for you this holiday season to be seen, heard and honored:

“Please be honest Mary Jane

Are you happy?

Please don’t censor your tears.

You’re the sweet crusader,

And you’re on your way.

You’re the last great innocent,

And that’s why I love you.

So take this moment Mary Jane and be selfish,

Worry not about the cars that go by.

‘Cause all that matters Mary Jane is your freedom

So keep warm my dear, keep dry.”

Permission to Release

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

If there’s one character trait I am all too familiar with, it is definitely that of the “Striver.” Someone who regularly gets caught up in the relentless pursuit of perfection, which I’ve found is a vaguely defined term that doesn’t really exist (or rather exists solely on individually-defined terms).  Even when I’m working hard and achieving things and should pause to be proud of myself, the “Striver” in me makes up new goals to hit, tacks on some extra ladder rungs to climb.

It’s hard to draw a firm line of distinction between this achievement rat-race and genuine, authentic ambition. I think the key differentiator is found in the motivation underlying the striving – am I coming from a place of self-love & confidence in my abilities or from a place of punishment & fear of contentment? When I’m operating from the former switchboard, I find that there are no stakes involved – I try something new, go out on a limb, push myself and get out of my comfort zone, and the worst that could happen is that I make a lesson-filled mistake. But when I’m grinding my gears as a mode of control & gripping tightly to a very precise outcome, there is no room for adjustment or coming up for air.

The concept of “letting myself off the hook” has always been really difficult, because if I am not going to hold myself to the highest standard, then who will? How will I propel myself further if I don’t keep doing, if I don’t keep pushing this machine forward, ever onwards? Well, first: I’m not a machine (making a mental note to repeat this to myself multiple times throughout the day). Second: the notion that we need to actively keep doing specific things in order for the world to keep spinning is a fallacy. I am enough just as I am right at this moment – as long as I keep listening to my intuition, trusting what fills me up and acknowledging what drains me, and continually take the next intended action, the future we dream of will open up without us having to find a special key. Finding contentment does not mean that you will no longer grow.

With that realization comes a huge wave of relief – when you release, you open yourself up to receive. The trick is that my regimented brain usually can’t compute release unless I actively, intentionally give it permission to do so.

I think permission piggybacks off of trust – all of the things on my “should/would/could” list melt away when I trust myself and my own track record. In the history of my life, I have always been ambitious, strong-willed, hard-working, and resilient. All of these things are going to hold constant, even if I stop gripping tightly to what my brain (and/or society..) says I should be doing. If I say no to things, if I take time off from the gym, if my work/life balance leans more heavily towards life – I am still Madeline, and the world is not going to implode.

Around the holidays trust and permission become even more imperative. Just as all of life ebbs and flows, the holidays tend to be a time of the year filled with more indulgence, more inclination to slow down, to relax, to wrap up in a blanket and stay inside. And that’s okay! Giving yourself permission to wind down a bit more, to nourish the part of your soul that craves winter and the pause that it brings, doesn’t mean that you are going to de-rail your life or go off the laziness deep-end. Perhaps more importantly, it also doesn’t mean that in a few months from now, you are going to have to force yourself to swing wildly in the opposite direction. Trust that your mindset, your body, and your energy are on your side and incredibly intuitive.

Terry Pratchett has said, “There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.”  This month, and the rest of the year, I am going to try to keep this front of mind. There’s no hierarchy of good and bad things and reactions. There is just what unfolds in my life and then the way I choose to conceptualize and act on them. As long as I’m giving myself permission to trust myself, every decision I make is leading me in a positive, forward direction – even while I enjoy a piece (or two) of pumpkin pie and decide that I actually want to spend the day making no decisions at all.

I Ain’t Afraid of No Fear

Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer 

I like to keep it real with myself.  I like to give myself mini check-ins to remind myself that I need to chase goals that bring my soul joy instead of buying whatever society is selling, dictating what I’m “supposed” to do.  I like to ask myself a mini-20 questions, pretending like I’m on a first date — well, that is if first dates moved beyond the “crazy weather we are having this week…” small talk to something actually deep, meaningful and vulnerable.

I ask questions like:

What would you try if you knew you could not fail?

What dream would you chase if you had no fear?

What would you tell the people you love if you knew it would be heard, received and the answer positive and receptive?

Who would you love if there were no constraints, judgements or threats to you and that person?

What feelings or emotions would you express if you knew that there would be no negative repercussions and you would truly be heard and seen?

I have been thinking about fear and the looming idea that there are dreams in this life we cannot attain or goals we cannot achieve.  I have been thinking about the paralyzing fear I have felt in my own life: fear of failing, fear of falling, fear of the unknown, fear of it ending, fears of

I like to keep it real with myself.  I like to give myself mini check-ins to remind myself that I need to chase goals that bring my soul joy instead of buying whatever society is selling, dictating what I’m “supposed” to do.  I like to ask myself a mini-20 questions, pretending like I’m on a first date — well, that is if first dates moved beyond the “crazy weather we are having this week…” small talk to something actually deep, meaningful and vulnerable.

I ask questions like:

What would you try if you knew you could not fail?

What dream would you chase if you had no fear?

What would you tell the people you love if you knew it would be heard, received and the answer positive and receptive?

Who would you love if there were no constraints, judgements or threats to you and that person?

What feelings or emotions would you express if you knew that there would be no negative repercussions and you would truly be heard and seen?

I have been thinking about fear and the looming idea that there are dreams in this life we cannot attain or goals we cannot achieve.  I have been thinking about the paralyzing fear I have felt in my own life: fear of failing, fear of falling, fear of the unknown, fear of it ending, fears of not being loved in return, fears of living a mediocre life that lacks adventure or spontaneity, fear of being alone, fear of answering the phone, fear of setting boundaries, fear of stating my opinion unapologetically, fear of asking for something to be explained again, fear of following through, and perhaps most paramount – fear of checking my online banking app for my balance.

I love toying with the questions that free me from the constraints of my fear.  I love these questions because often they reveal the true longings of my soul.  But there is also another part of me that thinks fear is a good and necessary part of the human experience.  Yes, yes, fear is a necessary evolutionary defense mechanism that keeps us alive, running from bears, and out of busy streets.  But deeper than these reasons, I think there is a true triumph and inner strength that comes from conquering one’s fears and overcoming thoughts of doubt or uncertainty.  It is disheartening for me to think that as children many of us didn’t have fears of failing or fears of ending up alone or not living up to our fullest potential.  The world may have seemed limitless – which is also why many of us broke arms jumping off the monkey bars, being under the impression that wings suddenly grow the minute your body free falls.  As we grow, the world often reveals aspects of life that plant seeds of doubt within us and leave us with lists of fears – some rational and some very irrational.  But, I have found that while I still battle many of my fears, naming these fears has helped me own pieces of myself and begin the journey of loving those parts and sending them healing.

One fear that I have worked on since the onset of my eating disorder is overcoming the fear of what other’s think of me.  I always lived for others’ praise and approval but soon the fear of letting people down became so ever present that I did begin letting people down – I stopped returning calls, stopped wanting to go spend time with people, stopped showing up and stopped following through.  I have slowly had to consciously work to answer emails, phone calls, invitations and duties.  I still struggle, but I have learned that honesty is the best policy, and if you say “no,” the person may not feel as let down as if you were to outright ignore them.

The second fear that I have fought and fought to overcome is the fear of taking up space.  It is odd, because I am not sure that this fear had ever really plagued me until I looked into some shame I had surrounding some trauma that had happened to me as a child.  All of a sudden I didn’t feel I deserved to take up space – I was unlovable, gross, disgusting, dirty, and undeserving.  Overcoming this fear and beginning the journey of believing I deserved to take up space was life changing, and something that has forever changed how I view myself and how I view the world.  If this fear had never entered my life, I would have never found such a profound sense of purpose and belonging.

This is the conclusion that I have come to: yes, it would be wonderful if there was no more fear.  But there is also so much strength and growth that comes from overcoming our fears.  So, do I wish I had no fears?  Some days I think it might make life easier, but I am grateful for what my fears teach me about myself and in the process of overcoming my fears, I often find inner strength and deeper connections to my community.  So no, I ain’t ‘fraid of no fear

The Monster Under Your Bed

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with fear. On one hand, fear can be a great motivator for an ambitious, strong-willed person like me who is quick to a challenge in the name of self-improvement. Am I scared of it? Then that means I am going to pursue it, head on. On the other hand, fear has been an invisible, vicious undercurrent consistently derailing my steady swim and yanking me further out to sea.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone particularly controlled by fear; to be honest, I’ve usually thought I tend to fall more in the opposite camp – making decisions that will be uncomfortable and scary, with confidence in my capacity to persevere.

That’s why, upon drilling down on a particular pain point and realizing that at the root of the discomfort is fear, I am always surprised. It becomes almost a humbling experience. Fear is, after all, an ego-driven quality. It is defensive and reactive – it’s a combination of how we are wired (the sympathetic nervous system) and how we have been trained by the world around us to avoid “bad” or “different” things/feelings at all costs. This fear reaction consequentially makes us very resistant to transformation.

For me, I find the fear monster lurking under my bed after huge changes have occurred in my life. I start to scramble around in the hopes that constantly doing will make being easier. This is how he rears his ugly head – disguised as strength, as discipline, as a coping mechanism that makes sure I don’t have to lean into the unknown.

As I grow more and more aware of myself and learn how to recognize when I’m off balance, it becomes easy to grow frustrated when I can’t pull myself out of something, despite using all of the tools in my self-help tool kit. Fear exists as control, as isolation, as complacency. Only when I sit myself down and internally scream “WHAT ARE YOU SO AFRAID OF” do I pause and realize that I am, in fact, acting out of fear – the fear of not knowing, the fear of being unaccepted, the fear of “getting off track,” etc. This is where the process becomes very humbling – I promise you that when you sit in stillness with yourself and really think about why you are so afraid of gaining weight, of being unregimented, of taking time off work, of quitting smoking, of missing a workout, the answer actually contains a lot more depth than those surface level issues.

What, then, is the antidote to fear? Well, I definitely know what it is not – it is not complacency or helplessness, just throwing up your hands and conceding defeat. This is putting yourself into victim mode – feeling like everything is happening to you. As seems to be a running theme, it comes back to finding the middle point between giving up control and feeling helpless.

I think our agency can be found in determination. When we think of fear we think of the overcoming of it, but sometimes the real strength lies in existing alongside the fear.

Fear can many times be rational, and in my darkest days I found myself wishing I was more afraid – wishing I had something to be afraid for, anything to feel strongly about. As I’ve learned how to deal with more irrational fears, such as a piece of cake somehow equating to my chances in the college admissions process, I recognize that many of my fears now – like the passing of time, my parents aging, being hurt when I’m vulnerable – are valid, straightforward, and are not going to disappear any time soon. I think naturopath and life coach Beth Bridges poignantly captures this duality when she says, “Life delivers us circumstances, events, people that are beyond our control. But – our acceptance of their place in our life, in our experience, is very much within our control.”

What if we retrain the way we react? Instead of collapse, of heaviness, of constricting, of hiding, what if we expand, listen, push into the hurt? What if we look under the bed and realise that the monster living under there isn’t really a monster at all, but rather all of the feelings, gut reactions, and daunting decisions we’ve brushed aside and let collect, out of sight?

And even if we did find a monster there, wouldn’t there be a relief in knowing? No more wondering or haunting nightmares about what is lurking. If we are prepared, equipped with strength and sound of mind, letting our hearts rather than our ego drive our reactions, that monster doesn’t stand a chance.

Steps Towards Freedom

Written by: Morgan Blair, Founder of Unpolished Journey

Oh Darling, it’s just a step,Image result for holding the universe

with your eyes closed tight

and your hands tied

and your feet bound

and your faith caught up

between the what is lost

and what is found.

Oh Darling it’s just a step,

towards everything that’s right

away from darkness

and into light;

a step of courage,

a step of hope,

a step to flourish,

a new way to cope.

 

Related imageOh Darling, you must walk

away from all you know

off this cliff

towards the freedom

you deserve to hold.

 

Misconceptions About Self-Compassion

Written by: Emily Blair, Director of Operations

A lot of times when people hear the words self-compassion, they think that it means giving excuses, slacking off, a cop-out, letting yourself off the hook.  Maybe that person is you.  Maybe you read that list nodding your head up and down and internally m-hmmm-ing.  

Well, I want you to change your mind.  I want to convince you that self-compassion is the farthest thing from letting yourself off the hook or whatever other negative perception you may have had of the concept thus far.  

I’ve had similar thoughts, I’ll admit.  I thought criticizing myself was the way in which to protect myself, to make myself work harder, to improve.  Yet research by Dr. Kristen Neff shows that criticism does exactly the opposite.  Criticism discourages improvement and encourages a loss in self-worth, whereas self-compassion allows us to embrace our shortcomings in a manner that lets us continue forward.  

You’re probably still skeptical.  That’s why I want to discuss a topic I had brought up to me in a group I attend called Embracing Your Body.  In the group, we are working through The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook.  At one point, the workbook combats the misconceptions people generally have in regards to self-compassion, which I want to share with you.

The first misconception the workbook brings up is self-indulgence.  A lot of people think self-compassion is merely giving yourself an excuse to do what you want whenever you want.  Yet as the workbook points out, this reflects “an unwillingness to invest effort to make meaningful changes in yourself or the world” (Desmond, 9).  This is quite the opposite of the goal of self-compassion.  With self-compassion in mind, you desire to improve, to become a better version of yourself.  You practice self-compassion to allow yourself to make meaningful changes in your life.  Self-compassion involves being kind to ourselves in realizing that we aren’t perfect and there are ways in which we can improve ourselves, whereas self-indulgence fails to admit that we need to improve ourselves at all.

The second misconception is that self-compassion equates to self-pity.  That is, we mess up, and we immediately feel sorry for ourselves and believe that the world is out to get us.  But as the workbook explains, “self-pity suggests that life is something that happens to you, that you are a victim of circumstances and have no role in shaping your experience” (Desmond, 9).  Self-compassion is a recognition that messing up and making mistakes is a part of being human.  It acknowledges the fact that sometimes we fall short and that we can strive to improve ourselves each day.  In this manner, self-compassion does not put the blame on the world but allows ourselves to take responsibility for our own flaws (pride, insensitivity, overly controlling, etc.).  And by realizing that we aren’t the only one who messes up, we are more likely to strive to become better versions of ourselves than just wallow in our own pity party.  

The third misconception is that self-compassion is passive.  In other words, it means we are not actively doing something to better the situation we are critical of (i.e. we got a bad grade, we missed a deadline, we didn’t get into the college we wanted to, etc.).  I want to point something out that one of the other individuals in the group I attend said that really stuck out to me.  She said that, if you think about it, self-criticism is the easier route.  It’s the cop-out.  It’s what we’re used to, and it comes naturally.  So, in reality, self-compassion is the harder choice – the one we have to strive more actively and consciously to achieve, thus making it exactly the opposite of passivity.  

The final misconception the workbook mentions is egotism.  Some people are convinced that self-compassion is egotistic, as the focus is on the self.  But this is entirely untrue.  By practicing self-compassion, we are able to become individuals who can be more present and supportive with others.  When we practice self-compassion, we are filled up.  We give ourselves the space needed to recharge and by doing so, we are better able to be there for others when we want/need to.  In other words, “true self-compassion enhances your compassion for others rather than undermining it” (Desmond, 10).

I hope this helped change your perspective on self-compassion in some way.  And I hope you are able to be compassionate towards yourself today and in the days to come.  

 

Soften My Brow

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

To be quite honest, lately I have had absolutely no clue how to practice self-compassion.

I have felt like a train hurtling forward into infinity, with no end-point in sight and no time to look out the window.

How could I nurture myself when I needed to make sure I was aligning one foot in front of the other in the perfect way? I was treating my relationship with myself like that of disciplining a child – one party clearly knows better than the other, demands things of the other, scolds the other when they want to act differently.

I was explaining this circle of reprimand that plays out all day in my head to my therapist, and I watched as her eyes turned sad and she told me, “That sounds like you are being awfully harsh to yourself.” That made me pause, because up to that point I hadn’t really considered that the way I was treating myself was a choice – didn’t I have to act that way, perform those things, to be the successful human that I wanted to be?

I would never, ever choose to speak the words that I speak to myself to another person; yet, they roll so easily off of my internal monologue. Once I stopped to think about this, I remembered times recently when I would be in the gym and physically burst into tears just because of the bully inside that was screaming at me.

That is powerful stuff. A clear image of an over-bearing, dominating, plain old mean voice, much like the personified “Ed” voice, emotionally beating my authentic self to a pulp. But somehow, I still couldn’t figure out how to exist any other way –  I was pulled in really deep.

I found myself wanting to yell STOP at the top of my lungs – I couldn’t keep going at this pace, this hurtling forward was unsustainable. And let me tell you, I have never believed in the Universe and the way it works out and my Creator’s plan more than I do now – after a particularly grueling weekend, I experienced a severe allergic reaction while on my Monday lunch break.

The experience of anaphylaxis is nothing if not the definition of being out of control. As my lungs closed and ambulance workers shocked my body back to life with a huge adrenaline shot, I had to just close my eyes and believe it would be alright. In tears and with a heart that felt like it was going to explode, there was no choice but to tell my body it was going to be okay. With every needle in my arm and chemical pumped into my veins, I clung so close to myself, telling my body that it was so strong, look at what it could handle!

My body has shut down the week following this reaction, from all of the chemicals and the physical trauma as well as from PTSD and intense emotional trauma and anxiety from the first time I experienced this reaction that had been triggered. I have been forced to rest, to really and truly give myself the compassion I need. My body is so in tune with the world almost on a spiritual level, and it finally put its foot down (no pun intended) and wouldn’t let me get out of bed until I did some serious reevaluation.

I came across a blog post from Mystic Mamma, who writes about wisdom, tuning in, meditations, and astrology, about the New Moon that happened this week. She wrote that this time is “a time of deep self-healing,” a time that has come where she who is dedicated to healing others “must retreat and give some of that healing to herself.” I realized amidst feelings of being paralyzed in my loneliness that I have all of the capability to mother myself within me. I needed to give myself the time and space to heal and “tune into [my] inner Mother and connect with that healing, nurturing energy.”

Once you pull yourself out of the depths of your self-hatred and expand your view, look beyond your body’s capability and into the capability of your heart and your spirit, it becomes a lot easier to pause and see the value and necessity of self-compassion. Your worries don’t all melt away; rather, they become just a thought, not all-consuming, that exists and can either be remedied or worked through.

I’m definitely not an expert at self-compassion yet, but I am getting there. This month I am going to meditate on stillness, on broadening my vision and being anchored deep in the body that knows me better than my mind knows me.

In a section of her new book “Honoring Voice,” Pixie Lighthorse writes, “Soften my brow. Help me hold my gaze.”

In my quest for self-compassion, I hope to soften my brow, to ease the deep tension that has taken up home in my body, and to focus on all of the incredible things that my body has survived and will continue to survive, and the world that is waiting for it once it has rested.

Self Compassion in Real Life

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Written by: Morgan, Founder of Unpolished

My alarm goes off. It’s 10pm and I have to leave for my overnight shift in 15 minutes. My body is sore from exhaustion and my head is pounding because I didn’t drink enough water throughout the day. It’s hard to keep track of the basics. Sleep. Water. Food is easier, but maybe because I am hyper-aware of that element. I slowly peel my eyes open, place my feet on the ground, and stand up.

I have to make money. I have to pay bills. I have to save if I want my year of travel to happen. But, I also go to work for deeper reasons. I go to remind all the girls there that they matter. My overnight doesn’t include much interaction, but I find ways to brighten the house. Writing notes, making homemade games to play in group. There are ways to leave traces of hope in a space where many are hopeless.

Compassion for other’s is a simple concept for me to grasp. Others deserve compassion. Others are important and worthy and beautiful because I love people. I truly do. There are very few people I find myself having issues with. But, one of those few that cause issues happens to be myself and this is, perhaps, the most problematic situation.

“How can you be compassionate for others without having any compassion for yourself?” my therapist asks me.

“It’s simple,” I respond, “You just do it. It’s second nature for me.”

But, as the years go on and time slips by, I start to realize the issues with this way of living. Living without compassion is like hiking in the desert without sunblock. Eventually you will end up burned, dehydrated, and tired. Eventually you will wear out. Eventually you will have to stop.

Maybe that’s what treatment was for me – my burn out point. It was my body, mind, and spirit saying, “hey listen lady, you need to learn to be nicer to us.” And, yet even with them screaming in my ears, I still have the hardest time listening.

Self-compassion looks a lot like the last 6 miles of a marathon. Clenched teeth, testing faith, the final stretch. It doesn’t feel good at first. Especially if you haven’t been practicing it previously in your life. For me, self-compassion is standing in the bathroom, staring at my face in the mirror while my head screams to stop and my heart screams for help. It is painting my nails when my head says it’s pointless, taking a day off work because my heart needs a nap, or painting when I haven’t cleaned. Self-compassion is a fight. It does not come easily.

But, just like training for a marathon, the more you practice the easier the fight becomes. Over time the fight will feel less like the last six miles and more like the first ten. It will still be strenuous and hard, but it will offer more reward than struggle. Keep practicing. Self-compassion is so important even if it feels unnatural.