The only way out is through…

For the past two or three days I’ve been congested and sniffly.  Ever since I stopped smoking (aside from some throat issues I had toward the end of May and beginning of June, which was also energetic and not physical), I haven’t had this problem.  Most of the time when I’m suffering from anything that appears to be physical, it’s usually something energetic that’s just manifesting in a physical way to draw my attention to it so I can work through it.  Thankfully, it’s not the first form of communication Momma reaches for to get through to me, but it isn’t too far down the list either.  What usually helps me begin to figure out what the underlying issue may be is to state what’s going on physically in broad terms.  In this instance, my head is out of whack and can’t decide how it wants to/should express itself (congestion or runny nose, both, etc.).

A number of exciting new things have been going on with me recently that range from coming home to who I am, remembering bits and pieces of previous lives and previous paths to a possible internship opening up, and finding that I might have the money needed to complete the first year of a 2 year-long training in a form of therapy that is exactly how I want to practice professionally.  A common theme that I found running through three out of the four of these issues/events (and loads of other places in my life) is looking to others for fill in the blank instead of looking inward to myself.   I discount myself frequently.

I think that my pattern of looking to others for advice/insight/guidance, etc. stems from a fear of failure/making serious mistakes and a fear of others judging me or thinking poorly of me.  And really, what is failure?  Does it even exist?  I don’t think it does.  As for mistakes, I think calling something a mistake is the “half-empty” version while recognizing it as a learning opportunity is the “half-full.”  As far as others judging me – that’s something I have no control over anyway, so why bother stressing about it?  All of this is ego related.  I choose to not judge it, instead I choose to say, “hmmmm – isn’t that interesting” and be thankful that it has surfaced so that I can work through it.  I choose to recognize it as a pattern of previous behavior with which I no longer will identify.

I also choose to weave some affirmations in to heal where this pattern was.  I remember the Charge of the Goddess and embrace the idea that all that I have searched for outside myself is within me, and I need only turn inward to find it.  Instead of asking myself what I “should” do, I will ask myself “What would I like to do?  What do I think would be best for me right now?”  I also choose to look at this moment and see all of these things unfolding and appreciate how exciting my ordinary life is.  🙂

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Belly breathing

Last week I began reading the book Imagine a Woman in Love With Herself by Patricia Lynn Reilly.  FANTASTICALLY AMAZING.  The book title is a poem the author wrote, and she breaks down each stanza and goes into further detail, provides stories and meditations. After one of the earlier stanzas, she talks about ‘coming home to the breath’ and she notes that in the beginning when we were all little girls, we breathed deeply through our bellies.  Yet, each time we were criticized in our homes, we would begin to breathe from a the more shallow upper chest while tightening our abdominal muscles.  Reilly goes on to say that this is a “fight or flight” breath and that our socialization sets us up to fight our natural self and banish it to our depths or take flight from it by finding and participating in any number of distractions.

When I first read this, it hit me hard.  My memory started playing clips from my childhood where my mother was saying, “Suck in your stomach!” over and over again.  When you’re constantly sucking in your stomach, you can’t do belly breathing.   I was so intent on constantly having my stomach sucked in growing up that I wouldn’t ever NOT suck it in around others – especially romantic interests, and especially if we were being intimate.  Today, I almost have a 6 pack, which I owe predominantly to my mother (sucking in your stomach is a constant ab workout).

After reading this section, and in the spirit of learning how to love myself again, I began doing belly breathing.  All the time.  And I began trying to look at my belly and feel it while I’m breathing and appreciate its roundness and its curves and love it.  It’s been fascinating for me because unless I’m consciously thinking about breathing, my breathing reverts back to that tight-upper chest breathing.  I’ve also been catching myself sucking my stomach back in if I start to pass by people and I need to choose consciously to belly breathe again. I figure it makes sense – after all, it took me a while to learn to breathe so shallowly, naturally, it’ll take a while to break that habit. And each time I belly breathe, I breathe healing into myself and wholeness.

How do you show up?

I took an intensive week-long course in adventure therapy at the beginning of the month which I absolutely LOVED.  It was an amazing experience and one that changed my life in ways I am sure I will continue to discover as the days pass on.  The class was small – 15 people – and one of the things our instructor was continually asking us to think about is how we “showed up” to group and to class?  How did we show up when we faced a challenging and frustrating problem-solving activity to try to work through together?  How did we show up when we were tired, hungry, and maybe a little dehydrated?  The emphasis was on the fact that we all choose how to show up.  We can choose to be patient and kind and understanding, etc. amidst our frustration or we can choose to be cranky, irritable, and frustrated, etc.  There is always a choice.

Similarly, in A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle poses the question, How do you respond to the Now?  The present moment?  Are you friends with it?  Because the present moment, the Now, is Life.  It is all there is.  When I read this section of the book, I saw that more often than not, I am not friendly with the Now.  I’m probably more often frustrated, bitchy, complaining, etc.  As I read on, he noted that the ego (the root of all negative emotions which is conditioned by our past) usually doesn’t like to focus on the Now.  It prefers the past or the future.  If it does focus on the Now, it treats it in one of three primary ways: a) a means to an ends, b) an obstacle to overcome, or c) an enemy.  Tolle nailed me to the wall on that one.  Frequently, I treat the Now as either a) or b) and think I’m doing well because I’m not treating it as c), though that definitely happens, too some times.  The theme running through all of those is that they are viewpoints that resist or judge the Now or view it only in the context of the past or future.  There is no acceptance.  Being friends with the Now means accepting it unconditionally.  And the amazing and wonderful thing is that when I told myself I was going to consciously choose to be friends with the Now, a lovely feeling of peace and calmness washed over me.  I confess it was short-lived as stressors crept back in and up, and I struggled to choose again.
One of my favorite things about my adventure course was that we began each day by playing songs that meant something to us or that we felt were applicable given the experiences we were having.  One of the songs a classmate of mine brought in was “With my own two hands” by Jack Johnson and Ben Harper from the Curious George soundtrack.  I wasn’t familiar with the song but fell in love with it – it is strongly descriptive of how I want to show up to Life.  I invite you to listen and reflect on how you want to “show up” to Life…

Spiraling onward

If you were to look at the history of my intimate/romantic relationships in this life, there would be a theme that would eventually surface if you looked for it and waited for it long enough. In every relationship I have ever chosen and committed to in some way or another, I have constructed it so that I am in the background, the sidekick position. Introverted and insecure in many ways, I have always disliked being the center of attention for fear that if people looked at me long enough, they would see through me, see my flaws, and like myself, label those flaws and imperfections as who I am and then reject me. Consequently, my partners and lovers have generally been ostentatious and/or un-ignorable in some way, whether looks, personality, behavior, talents/skills, or any combination therein. These people are magnetic and charismatic in some way – people are drawn to them by their very nature. And with all the attention focused on them, it has been easy for me to hide in their shadows.

I have hidden because hiding is safe. No one really holds you accountable to life and living when you’re hidden. I don’t hide and/or I have not hidden in all aspects of my life. In some, I’ve been downright flamboyant and provocative. But for as long as I can remember, I have always chosen that path in my romantic relationships. And while being hidden might afford some safety, it has enormous drawbacks. One that screams for attention (ironically) the most is that of freezing in time. When I hide, it is as though who I am at the very beginning (or within the first few months) of that relationship seizes and stops and freezes in the moment. And it becomes a prison for my Self – not the relationship, but the decision to hide. I lock into a moment of my identity, my development, and I do not move forward. Instead, I live for the other person, through the boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other. And that is not healthy.

You might imagine the difficulty this creates, both in the relationship and in my Self. Because truly, my Self is screaming at me the entire time to get going, though it has taken who knows how many relationships and years to finally reach my ears and my heart today. Looking back, though, I can see that it has been yelling for a long time. My Self has wanted to continue growing, wants to continue evolving and changing. [Sidenote: I wonder if my years of being single with romantic relationships spotted here and there have anything to do with that.] But my ego has long been in charge and its serenade of “not good enough” echoing constantly in the background has overflowed like a flood into my behavior patterns.

Until today, there has only been one instance that I can recall in which I noticed this pattern and launched myself out of the situation. It was my first serious boyfriend in college. I had been dating him for almost a year and a half. We met toward the end of spring semester my freshman year at the restaurant where we were both working. I hadn’t made many friends at that point, so when we began dating, I spent almost all my time with him. As time marched on and the close of my sophomore year came, I had actually made a number of friends at the restaurant. I wanted to spend time with them before leaving the country to study abroad that coming year. My boyfriend was angered. He was full of bitterness and resentment and manipulation, attempting to guilt trip me into spending more time with him by telling me I didn’t care about him. If I cared about him and loved him, I would want to be with him more right before I left. I was able to pause then and look over the past year. I saw how different I had become, how much I had looked to him for my identity. While I’m not entirely clear on what codependent looks like, it looked a lot like that. I was rediscovering my Self, finding people who enjoyed being around me and who I called friends, and he was pissed off. The reality of the situation rocked me and opened my eyes. I was choosing these relationships to help me see what it was/is that I do and what lies at the root of it. After all, how can I break a pattern I can’t see? And while some things have changed, and I’ve made some small progress, most of the work has been band-aids over a gaping wound.

A few months ago, I started to think of the lessons I learn in terms of spirals. Frequently, I will run into a lesson that I thought I had already learned or that felt oddly familiar. At first, I felt like a failure or a fraud in that while I had thought I learned it, I obviously hadn’t if it was reappearing. After further reflection, though, I came to realize that certain lessons were revisiting me on a deeper level. I had learned the lesson at one level, successfully, but the lesson was greater and deeper and required a reprise to be able to grasp it on a different level, to grasp it more fully.

One of my recent previous posts was about self-love and self-acceptance. In it, I talked about how I had worked to get to a point where I could say I loved my Self, but that I did. I wasn’t lying at the time – I had meant it wholeheartedly. But recently, I’ve taken a turn on the spiral and come around again to this lesson because this is what is at the root of this particular behavior pattern. Just like with surrender, I think there are varying levels to self-love and self-acceptance. This relationship pattern of hiding is out of a lack of self-love, self-appreciation, self-acceptance. If I love my Self, I won’t compare my Self to others. I won’t be trying to be them instead of allowing who I am to come to the surface and make its Self known to me. And I still currently do those things.

I’ve done and I continue to do that a great deal with my beloved. My beloved is an amazing woman. Aside from being an unbelievably talented and skilled Witch, Healer, and psychic, she is the bravest, most wonderfully fascinating, and hardest working woman I have ever met. I have looked to her for so many things that I want to be instead of looking within to learn about who I am. I have forgotten and lost the goddess within. And it is the silence between us right now that finally reached my ears like a song long-forgotten whose music speaks of this lesson so that I might remember and embrace it.