Birthday Gifts for Both of Us

In our home, we celebrate birthdays by giving the gift of an experience. Over the years we have celebrated by going on a dragon treasure hunt, learning archery and sporting period garb for a trip to a Renaissance Faire. Although there are plenty of lovely gifts that come in boxes, I want to help my children learn that many of best gifts do not.  

In July, for my birthday, we are off to Philadelphia to hear a live show version of one of our favorite podcasts. (For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, check out "Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.")

This year I also want to give you a gift.

Between now and the end of July ~ if you purchase a 6-session series, your 6th session is free. This offer is good for those who have been working with me for years and those who are new to me. Please feel free to share this with others.

As you know, I love having the privilege of exploring personal, everyday human territory with you.  It is here, in the most intimate and mundane parts of our lives, that we find spiritual gems. These gems keep us feeling aligned with our hearts, peaceful in our minds and connected to the world around us. 

If you are interested in celebrating my birthday with me in this way, click the button below. Once at my online scheduling page, select 3-month Hara Coaching Program located at the bottom of the page. I look forward to talking with you soon.

P.S.  If you are new to me and are considering working with me, I invite you to a free 45-minute Discovery Session. I guarantee that you will come away from this conversation with at least one valuable insight as well as clarity on whether or not you would like to continue our conversations.

P.P.S.  If you would like to read a small but fabulous book on this subject by Mutts cartoonist Patrick McDonnell, check out "The Gift of Nothing."  In fact, through July, I'd like to give you this book as a gift for any referrals.  It is a delight!

Don't Believe Everything You Hear

Uh-oh! That one comment squirreled its way into your psyche, planted roots in the rich soil of your "I'm not enough" storyline and has grown like a weed after a fresh rainstorm and a week's worth of sunshine.

It has happened to me.

It has happened to you.

It has happened to everyone.

And it will likely happen again because the "I'm not enough" storyline has deep roots in most of us. We also live in a world of people -- some who have genuine intentions of being helpful, some who deliberately intend to be hurtful, while others inadvertently blow theses seeds in our direction. Regardless, the result is the same: Some part inside of us perks up her ears, like a dog hearing the distant bark of a fellow canine, and says, "I'm going to run with this one!"

Recently, in a session with a client, we were revisiting the topic of rage. We discussed the importance for her to acknowledge these feelings and find ways to constructively give them expression, both to move this energy out of her body and to hear any wisdom these feelings may hold for her.

Off-handedly Julie said, "I brought this up with a spiritual teacher and he told me that perhaps the rage I am feeling is rage at myself."

There was the one comment: "You feel rage at yourself."

I have no doubt this teacher had pointed her attention in this direction to be of service to her spiritual unfolding.  However, I sensed it had created an opportunity for self-judgment to sneak in the back door undetected.  That one comment was acting like fertilizer, and I could hear her inner, self-critical voice saying, "I probably do feel rage at myself. That's terrible. If I do -- and I think I do -- then something is wrong with me!"

"Julie," I said. "Right now, let's make a decision to NOT turn this into a problem that needs to be fixed. Yes, you feel rage at yourself. We all feel rage at ourselves at one point or another. That doesn't mean that something is wrong with you. All humans feel every possible feeling there is to feel. Don't turn this into a personal problem, okay?"

Giving voice to the rage (and any other difficult emotion we would rather not admit we are feeling) is an important part of learning to accept, have compassion for and integrate the parts of ourselves that feel these emotions. By calling attention to how this one comment was being co-opted by the part of her that believes in the "not enough" narrative, Julie effectively pulled up this tiny spring weed of self-judgment by the roots. As a result, she could explore the rage, even feelings of great anger towards herself, without reinforcing a (false) belief that the very fact of having these feelings indicated her "broken, bad, faulty, not enough" status.

Did I mention that we all have some version of the "not enough" storyline? And did I mention that it is normal for it to sprout up in the gardens of our thinking minds? And furthermore, that when this happens it doesn't actually mean that you are 'not enough'?

Let me say this again:

The fact that your mind can churn out thoughts of the "I'm not enough" variety does NOT indicate that you actually are not enough. The fact that your mind can think these thoughts is NOT evidence proving the thoughts to be true.

Here is another example from my own life:

During a 30-minute private session with one of my yoga teachers, she said, "I notice that your chest is a bit concave. Did you have some trauma in your childhood?"

Zing!

There was that one comment: "Your chest is a bit concave."

I felt my heart race, like a kid being shoved on the playground. Fortunately, I recognized that her comment had swiftly dug a shovel into the soil of my own "not enough" story.  While planting the seed, she inadvertently fertilized the soil by implicitly attaching a negative interpretation to my concave breastbone. Not only was my body abnormal but this was because of some horrible past event!

Thank goodness for Awareness! I caught myself just as the self-critical part of my mind wanted to secure a tight double knot to my "not enough" storyline. Although I couldn't prevent it from getting hold of my thinking entirely, my awareness turned this double knot into a slip knot from which I could more easily release myself.

Ever since I was an adolescent growing up in ballet culture, I have heard a voice in my head trying to convince me that "I'm not good enough -- or talented, beautiful, healthy, even spiritual enough -- because something is wrong with my body." After hearing this one comment, I immediately began pulling up weeds. I reminded myself that even though my sternum is more concave than the "average" person, this did not prove anything was wrong with me, now or in the past, on an essential level.

Mind you, for months, every time I looked at my chest in the mirror, I heard this one comment and felt the tide of my own body-centered self-judgment tug at me. So, this comment, and all that it carried in its wake, became central to my "Don't Believe Everything You Hear" practice.

First, I stuck with the facts. Yes, comparatively, my chest sloped inward a bit. Any conclusions that my thinking mind might draw about this fact -- particularly of the "not enough" variety -- were erroneous and needed to be questioned.

When you notice that someone in your life sends that one comment in your direction and you feel as though you were zapped with your own personal "You Are Not Enough" laser bolt, look at it directly and question it.

Think of this practice of spiritual inquiry as a "So You Think You Are Not Enough" board game. 

Here are the rules of the game:

You get zinged by that one comment.

Ask: Is this comment true?

If it is NOT TRUE, move directly to the "I extend heart-centered forgiveness as I recognize their misperceptions of me belong to them and not me" square.

If it is TRUE, ask: Am I drawing any judgmental conclusions about myself because of this fact?

If NO, then move directly to the "Congrats! I accept the facts!" square. Take any needed actions indicated by your recognition and acceptance of the facts.

If YES, name the self-critical judgments that are arising in your thinking in response to these comments. Once named, move directly to the "I compassionately question these conclusions by asking: "Really? Do I know that these judgments are 100% true?" square.  Repeat for every judgment.

Play as often as life circumstances determine necessary.

Spiritually speaking, there is absolutely no way that you are "not enough." On a relative level, it may be true that you are not a good enough tennis player to play against Serena Williams and win.  But on an essential level, the "not enough" story (and all its favorite derivations) can never hold up to the core truth of you as Life itself. You are a precious, living being sustained by this miraculous planet, an integral part of this awe-inspiring, ever-expanding universe.

In my tiny part of the world, we are celebrating the coming of spring. The first bulbs have bloomed and they are gorgeous --a beautiful reminder of the joy of Life. Can you imagine yourself walking up to that popping yellow tulip and saying, "Geez! I can't believe you even bothered to push your way up through that dirt! You're not good enough to bloom with all of these other tulips!"?

Probably not.

That tulip is you. Your very being in the world is enough -- more than enough. Always has been, always will be.

So don't believe any voice, from another or from inside, that says otherwise. Although your thoughts may need to be questioned, your "enoughness" never does.

Love, Kirstin

Please, Don't Tell Me To Love Myself

You just need to love yourself.

For the past several decades, I have heard this declarative from self-help books to Oprah, good-meaning friends to Facebook memes.  If you are anything like me, part of you thinks, “Hmm, what a good idea!”  Another, louder and feistier part, thinks, “What the bloody hell does that mean?!”

I’m personally not a big fan of slogans that sound good but then leave me with my head cocked, a single eyebrow raised in skepticism as I wait for the rest.  “And…?” Ms. Feisty growls. “If you are going to tell me to go love myself, then you better damn well tell me how!  Otherwise you can just leave your chocolate-coated platitudes at the door and take a hike!"

So, let’s get curious. What does it mean to love yourself?  What does loving yourself actually look like?  And why, from a spiritual perspective, is loving yourself totally spot on AND off the mark at the same time?  

The first challenge comes with the words we use: I, Love and Self.  

Let’s start with Love.  Love is such an unwieldy word, with multiple meanings and very different expressions. I would venture to guess that many of us would describe love as a feeling in our bodies, a warm, tingly and expanded sensation in our chest that radiates outwards. The tough part is making ourselves feel love. Making ourselves feel any emotion, from love to anger, giddy to calm, is difficult. What's easier is to take action. So, how do we get from love as a feeling state, which we have little control over, to love as an action, which we do?

Try the following exercise. First, think of someone for whom you feel great love. Then, make a list of all of the ways you EXPRESS your love towards this person. For instance, when I think of my love for my daughters, this is what comes forward:

When I love my daughters...

  • I am present with them and listen with attention and caring.
  • I am generous with my time.
  • I feed them wholesome food and am a gaurdian of their health.
  • I play with them.
  • I appreciate their unique gifts (and verbally share this with them).
  • I have compassion for their pain.
  • I accept their limitations and their mistakes.
  • I demonstrate healthy boundaries.

I could write much, much more. When doing this exercise, I encourage you to keep going until you have exhausted every way you express your love for this person. As you can see, love has vast and varied expressions.

The real gem of this exercise comes in the next step. Now change the first part of every sentence to: "When I show love for myself...." This simple switch gives us the ability to see what "loving myself" might actually mean concretely. We recognize what actions we can take when we engage in self-love. We could say that the many "faces of self-love" are self-compassion, self-care, self-respect, self-acknowledgement and so forth. Although the specifics of what this looks like will vary for each of us, self-love might include making time to journal your thoughts and feelings everyday, actively reminding ourselves that perfection is unneccessary when making a mistake, and engaging regularly in an activity that feels like play. It is much easier for us to ACT lovingly towards ourselves than to try to FEEL love for ourselves.

This bring us to the word Self. The human mind has a tendency to separate this idea of Self into parts. These fractured parts then relate to one another in often less than loving ways. Even my six-year-old daughter, Dee*, will say, "I hate myself!" She uses this global declaration of self-disdain to express a more complicated inner experience. If I were to help her say what she really means, it might sound like this: "The part of me that believes I should be perfect is angry and embarrassed at the part of me who is still learning how to draw faces well and makes mistakes." In the mind, these parts become divided into "good" and "bad" with the "good" parts exacting judgment and all sorts of negativity on the "bad" parts (ironic, huh?).

The need to love oneself comes ONLY from the fact that our sense of self is divided. Therefore, what loving oneself means (in part) is that we are relating and behaving in loving ways towards the "bad" parts of ourselves that the "good" parts have judged, hated, ignored, blamed, criticized, and shamed. Loving oneself is about having a loving relationship with ALL parts.

From a spiritual perspective, engaging in this practice is brilliant. A divided self is going to be in a state of "inner against-ness" and this state is filled with conflict. Through the practice of self-love, these divisions begin to dissolve and we start to feel more peaceful, clear and whole. Self-love can assist us in integrating these warring parts so that, instead of experiencing ourselves as a dizzying array of separate and competing selves, we experience the Self as more unified.

So why do we feel so squirmy inside when we think, "I love myself"? One reason is psychological in nature. We tend to twist away from the notion of self-love when we believe that we are truly made up of "bad" parts that are unlovable. If we believe this without question, then we will find it nearly impossible to relate to these "bad" parts in a loving way.

There is another reason though--a spiritual reason--for why the whole notion of loving oneself feels a bit off and even absurd.

Let's look at those challenging words again: I, Love and Self.

On a spiritual level, we intuitively know there is no difference between the I and the Love and the Self. We sense that we are not truly divided, that the I who is loving the selves is just another self and that all the selves are actually one integrated I. We sense that this I is not some static entity but is an active and dynamic expression. The essence of this expression is Love.  

If we know this to be true in our spiritual hearts, then why would we say, “I love myself”? This would be akin to saying “Love loves love" and, even though true, that just sounds goofy.

So, if something feels a tad strange when you say, "I love myself," it could be that you are bumping up against the belief that there are parts of you that are "bad" and unlovable.  It could also mean that you are touching on the spiritual redundancy of saying, "I love myself." It could be a little of both. What's important is to have a self-love practice. As this practice works its magic, healing the inner divisions of "good" and "bad,"  the act of loving yourself will become a natural expression of You.

With love, Kirstin

 

P.S.  There is just so much to share on this topic of Love and Self, so I would love to hear from you if you have something to add.

P.P.S.  I would like to thank one of my brilliant and wise clients who shared the above exercise with me when we were exploring self-love.

*For my on-line presence, when I refer to my daughters, I am choosing to use pseudonyms. I call my elder daughter, Lulu, and my younger daughter, Dee. 

 

To Be Inspired

The new calendar year has just arrived and, for me, this time of year is one of quiet. I give myself space to do less and "be" more. I resist the tendencies of our culture to impose some ego-based notion of high-achieving standards on myself. In these colder and darker days, like the deciduous trees around me, I tend to turn my energy inward, get slow, and allow something fresh and creative to gestate. I notice how my mind wants to stare down this delicate newness with its habitual demands that my life be something better, bolder, brighter. This is particularly true if I am feeling vulnerable, my mind buzzing with self-doubts or self-judgments. However, I know that if I am to have an inner compass guiding me in the coming months, I must get quiet. It is from the quietude of my depths that the greatest wisdom will bubble up (like all truly creative things do) and my mind, even though it believes otherwise, cannot muscle it out of me.

One new place of quietude has come, ironically, from taking on more responsibility and adopting a crazy-cute, small dog named Scout. Two to three times a day, Scout goes for a walk. In daylight, we walk on mystical, nature paths along the Delaware River. In moonlight, we walk among the dark, smalltown streets of Lambertville, New Jersey. Mostly, I let the sounds around me be the soundtrack for these walks. Sometimes I listen to the late John O-Donnahue, poet and writer on Celtic spirituality, who speaks of the soul in the "Anam Cara" audio series. He says the soul needs quietude and solitude to reveal its wisdom to us. The soul, he says, cannot bear to be sought out and looked at directly.

I'm reminded of the deer that I chance upon on my hikes. The soul, like the deer, bolts beyond sight if chased down. However, if I become still and silent, this same deer will allow me to take in her beauty.  The same can be said of the soul.

So, what is the soul?

John O'Donnahue does not define the soul. I prefer not to define it either. Soul is simply a word that is pointing us toward some unnameable part of ourselves that is the conduit of wisdom and connector to this sacred life.  I believe that it is from the depths of the soul that all inspired thought is born. Quietude is the threshold through which this inspiration comes. 

And what do I desire as I look into the new year, or even a new day?

I want to be inspired.

So, instead of making a New Year's Resolution, I invite in a New Year's Inspiration.

To find out if this is right for you, try this simple experiment.

First, close your eyes and say the word, "resolution." Notice what sensations arise in your body. Next, again with your eyes closed, say the word "inspiration." Notice what sensations arise in your body and how they are different from the word "resolution."  Like me, you may notice that these words produce very different feelings.

I notice that resolution sits like a solid weight in my lower belly. My attention moves downward and I feel grounded, serious, and in touch with the grit needed to commit, make changes and put plans into action.  The word inspiration flutters around my chest. My attention moves upward and I feel delighted, curious and with an inward smile that says, "Surprise me!" 

What I experience will likely be different from what you experience. What is important to note is that these words resonate differently inside of you. So, which of these words points you towards what you need and want right now?

Both words have value. Being resolute is crucial in many aspects of our lives. But, becuase I have a tendency to get caught up in notions of better-ing myself, creating a list of "have-to's" that are thinly disguised self-criticisms dressed up in a glittery new year's gown, I decided to drop this ritual of "making a resolution" long ago and replace it with a ritual of quietude and an invitation to inspiration.

Just so's you know, nothing new and inspired has come to me yet this year. For some time now, I've been guided by the simple phrase "No Struggle." So, in keeping with this wisdom, I am not forcing an outcome. As long as I continue to make space for the quiet within, what will come, will come on it own time.

So how does this sound? Do you light up inside when you think about finding times to be quiet, in meditation or on nighttime walks or in bubble baths? If yes, then give this gift to yourself and gently send the direct gaze and relentless drive of your mind on holiday, while you open up to a New Year's Inspiration. I'm fairly certain its waiting to spring up from your soul to guide you.

I'd love to hear what comes to you, whenever it comes to you.

Love and blessings,

Kirstin

 
 Meet Scout--newest, and possibly cutest, member of our family.

 Meet Scout--newest, and possibly cutest, member of our family.

 P.S. This is from "Anam Cara: Wisdom from the Celtic World," an audio program produced by Sounds True.  As you read it, imagine a sonorous and loving male voice with a strong Irish accent reading it to you… it is even better that way!

"And this is one of the lovely recognitions of the Celtic mind: that the world of the soul is a secret and sacred world and that you can't shine in on that world a light that is aggressive or that is too bright. The fascinating thing about modern life is that there is such spiritual hunger in it. So many people are awakening and something marvelous is coming ashore. But sometimes the intensity and hunger with which people chase or try to hunt down the spiritual means that they will never actually arrive there, because the soul was never meant to be seen completely with a brightness or with too much clarity. The soul is always more at home in a light which has a hospitatlity to shadow. In olden times, in Ireland, before electric light came, there was the whole candlelight tradition and the lovely thing about the light of the candle is that it makes wonderful openings in the darkness and it befriends the world of the dark. Now in modern life, we have a neon kind of consciousness and much of the spiritual world is now completely pervaded with the language of psychology. And, too often, the language of psychology has a neon kind of clarity to it that is not able to retrieve or open up the depth and density of the world of soul. In a certain sense, one of the recognitions of the Celtic world is that maybe rather than trying to find our souls or really care for our souls, that we could let the soul find us; and that the soul has a wisdom and special light in it which can completely guard and and and protect your life.  And in a certain sense, when you're soul awakens, your destiny comes to meet you in a new and adventurous kind of way."