Finding Yoga in the Stillness of Loss

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“A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself. That’s how I hold your voice.”
—Rumi

 

Even as I type these words, the fingers feel the fatigue of grief in them. They pause as my brain fades into silence and I freeze over the keyboard like a printing press coming to a halt. The mind wafts ghostly sensory memories over the memory’s eye, and I see his face and hear his voice merely days before his physical decline. In a nanosecond I remember the long train ride, the smell of his room in the dim New England afternoon light. His tears, the fear in his eyes, the softness of my hands as they reached to care for him. And then a swift frame-by-frame film of every memory of him that I have, captured in the mystery of his death. In this pause of remembering, the Witness—the Watcher—sees, and waits. And then, like running out of air after being under water, I surface, and the words flow once more over the stillness of this grief.

 

No universal description of how grief comes upon us, passes through us, or drags us along exists. Indeed, there is no good reason here in this message to create one, for in many ways the uniqueness of our attachments cannot—and perhaps should not—be generalized. There is good reason, however, to accept that we are not alone, and that acceptance is a spine that supports our humanness in this experience.

 

Amidst the unsettling haziness of this heartache, the muscle memory of daily yoga practice has brought me to the mat, and asana offers a seat upon which to safely grieve. In accepting that we are not alone we may find solace in this system of postures that invite human bodies to move with breath, experience the lifeforce that sustains us, and bond with a universal serenity that transcends the body. In finding this solace, we may come to understand how the practice of yoga can accompany and hold space for us in the midst of great loss.

 

If one is able to move to the mat, one may find that the physical and emotional manifestations of grief find themselves in conversation there. Breath, as always, is the thread. Inhale the weight of the arms up, then exhale to release the weight as the body folds in sun salutation. Inhale and exhale to chaturanga as the breath steadies the body in strength, maybe even all of the way down to the Earth. Inhale as the chest rises, and awaken for a moment in cobra or upward-facing dog, then exhale as the body reaches and lets go in downward dog. Pain, heaviness, lightheadedness, or stiffness entangle with sadness, anger, confusion, trauma, relief, fear. The ethereal and the grit of the body weave into one another, fight, separate, and melt in the movement from asana to asana.

 

We owe ourselves the simplicity and the challenge of listening to the breath in our grief—it is a gift of self-nurturing. We may be tempted to feel guilty for trying to settle our minds on something so essential, though lost in loss. We may worry that we’ve forgotten about the loss when we have a moment of pure focus on the breath, and we may rush back to the suffering. Remember, though, that in practice we can be infused by shared purpose, and that peace of mind is unselfish. We can remember that the body’s efforts to find balance with exertion and ease is a portal to stillness in the mind, and that in finding stillness we find a shared peace.

 

Requiring courage is the knowledge that we may not predict what accompanies the stillness, and so a quiet mind can be a scary place. Fears may think themselves more fearfully, and sadness may want to fill up all of the space that stillness has to offer. Thus, practice may seem like a horribly unpeaceful idea when we are held tightly in the arms of grief, and it may seem easier to numb the pain or to remain frozen in disbelief.

 

One foot, then another: roll mat, feel feet, listen. Let the breath take the weight of worry as you listen to it journeying through the body. Let tears come, let the thoughts present themselves and depart, let anger wrench its way in, and listen to the breath lead each movement of the body. Soften into the practice.

 

It’s okay to do that.

 

And when our practice concludes in Savasana, where we lie recumbent and exposed, what do we do then? What if stillness is a haunted space of regret, or of replaying how we lost what we lost? What if that surrender feels like fullness of pain and the grief overwhelms us in this vulnerable position, lying prostrate on the floor? Why will we not be swallowed into the Earth? How will we get up? Why would we bother?

 

Loss has its own stillness, and that is the sharpest edge of it—the stillness of loss is the foreverness of ending. It seems monstrous in its eeriness and insane in its ability to evade our understanding; it cuts through the noise of day-to-day and grips the heart and belly. And yet, again, we owe it to ourselves to find out whether we can tunnel through it to something deeper and different, something clarifying and undisturbed.

 

In grief, our practice proposes a simple question: can it be possible that the excruciating pain of loss lends to us its stillness so that we may learn how to be still?

 

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Rebecca Ingalls, Ph.D., MSN, CNM, WHNP-BC, is a certified nurse-midwife, women’s health nurse practitioner, and yogi. She is a mother of two, and she has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga for 11 years. She lives with her family in Philadelphia.

How to Enjoy Meditation: Three Tips

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The biggest reason that meditation can be so difficult—at least initially—is that people are misinformed about the nature of meditation itself.

 

Meditation can be fun. Meditation can be easy. Really!! In this post, I’ll share three simple tips for how to enjoy meditation. Through these tips, I’ll simultaneously clear up some prevalent myths that often cause us so much confusion and difficulty.

 

Tip #1: Meditation is like dating. Keep searching around until you find the perfect partner—for you. 

 

If meditation has felt like a chore, or perhaps super confusing, I can promise you one thing: You haven’t yet found a technique that suits you.

 

There are thousands, literally thousands, of meditation techniques. Some involve sitting, some involve walking, some involve chanting or visualization. And even within a single technique, the way that various teachers will teach it are always varied. The permutations of meditation are seemingly endless.

 

Keep searching, my friend. I promise, you will find one (or two, or three) that you adore.

 

About eight years ago, I started my meditation journey. It began with Reiki. Yet, my teacher never called it “meditation.” As the months passed, however, I realized that Reiki  (a form of hands-on healing) was a powerful form of meditation.

 

I was absolutely in love with Reiki. It was literally something I could do for hours and hours and not get tired or bored. Reiki was my meditation: it helped me clear my mind of worried thoughts, it helped my nervous system decompress, and it helped me tap into an inner reservoir of self-love that I never knew existed. It was wonderful! It was amazing! My life began to change in innumerable ways.

 

Reiki was my doorway into meditation. Before Reiki, I had tried to meditate a number of times and “hated it.” I tried going to Zen centers, only to leave in annoyance. I tried using techniques I found on Youtube or that I read about in books. All of them felt weird. Nothing clicked. But then I found Reiki, and everything began to flow. Eight years later…and I’m now teaching meditation!

 

My Reiki journey led me through my transformations. And, over the years, I’ve ventured into other meditation techniques. Some have felt wonderful; some have felt tense or awkward. And, I have fallen madly in love with other practices, too. Every day I do a combination of mantra chanting, singing, prayer (yes, this can be a form of meditation), yoga, dance, and transcendental meditation. All of these bring me inner peace and help me remember my true self.

 

 

Tip #2: Meditation is NOT about trying to stop our thoughts. Rather, it’s about noticing our thoughts.

 

No wonder people try meditation a few times and then quit! If meditation was about stopping thoughts, I’m sure there would only be only two or three people on the planet who would persist in the practice!

 

Simply put, the human brain does not have an “off” switch. That’s not how it works.

 

Meditation is not about stopping thoughts. In fact, this view is a very violent way to look meditation. Why would we want to stop something that the brain was designed to do?

 

Instead, there is a more compassionate, gentle way of viewing meditation. What we are doing in meditation is simply noticing our thoughts. We learn to watch them as if we are a detached observer. As if we are a neutral witness.

 

As we learn to observe our thoughts, we can choose to gently (and lovingly) release them. As we release them, we are choosing to cultivate a calm, clear mind. This kind of mind is like a beautiful, blue, pristine lake on a cool spring morning. With that kind of beautiful mind, our sadness, worry, and suffering is also released. In its place, there is a natural, radiant joy.

 

This is our true state. Our true nature.

 

When we realize that meditation is not about stopping our thoughts but rather about patiently noticing our thoughts, we stop judging ourselves. The practice of meditation then becomes sweet.

 

When we become a witness to our thoughts, we cultivate compassion for the human predicament. We realize the veil of illusion in ourselves, and on this planet, is so thick. We realize how fortunate we are to be one of the lucky ones who have found meditation.

 

This kind of awareness is intoxicating! It’s incredible! We find ourselves drawn to meditation again and again, because it feels so good. It’s like a safe cocoon. We want to go to that cocoon as much as possible. In comparison with the rest of the loud, busy, harsh world—meditation seems like heaven!

 

Tip #3: More meditation is not always better.

 

When beginning a new meditation routine, it’s good to start small, with easily-attainable goals. We don’t want to try to run a marathon before we can crawl.

 

In the beginning, I recommend simply practicing for 5 minutes every day. No matter how busy you are, I know you can attain this goal.

 

After a few months, you can check in with yourself and see if it would feel good to increase your time spent every day. If it genuinely does not interest you to increase your time, then don’t do it.

 

Only increase your time when you have a natural urge to want to do it.

 

Too often, spiritual teachers drone on and on about the value of discipline and hard work. But does this really work? I suspect not.

 

Human nature is both cautious and passionate. Most people will happily invest hard work into things that we know we enjoy and that we know will reap benefits. Yet, in the beginning, when we are warming up to meditation, we probably aren’t certain if we enjoy it yet. We probably are still testing the waters. Thus, why would we invest so much time in it?

 

In the beginning of our spiritual journey, to force ourselves into meditation for long periods is a premature act that can actually be counterproductive. When we are too stern with ourselves, this creates a subtle feeling of tension and self-judgment, which then can create a backlash. The annoyed ego might then decide to quit meditation altogether!

 

At the beginning of my Reiki journey, I remember that my teacher advised me to practice every day. But she did not recommend a precise minute count. She just said to practice. Looking back, I really appreciate that she framed her guidance in that gentle way.

 

In effect, my beloved teacher gave me permission just to explore. To play. And, in relatively short period of time (just a few weeks), I found myself doing two-hour Reiki sessions. This was completely natural and not forced in any way. It was simply a natural desire pouring forth from the depths of my heart.

 

Your situation will be unique to you, dear friend. It may take you some time to test out various techniques. As I mentioned, it’s good to keep seeking until you find one that resonates with you. Once you do find a technique that calls to you, then allow yourself to gradually expand your practice at your own pace. Don’t compare yourself with others. Spiritual practice is not a race. Just have fun with it. See what happens. See what evolves.

 

♥♥♥

 

The choice to begin meditation is one of the most important moments of a human life. You are choosing to venture into territory that most human beings do not yet have the courage (or leisure) to choose.

 

This life of yours is blessed.

 

No doubt, on your journey, there will be times that meditation seems challenging or scary. It will not always be peaches and roses! For me, for example, there have been many Reiki sessions where I have cried tears, allowing many old, toxic emotions to be released. Practicing Reiki is not always blissful or easy.

 

But even when meditation is challenging, it is always something we want to do. It’s something we appreciate, something we gravitate toward, even when it’s hard. This is what is so remarkable about meditation. Once we taste the sweetness, the tenderness, the love of the practice, then we long to return to its arms, again and again and again. Meditation becomes our dear friend. Meditation becomes a blessing.

Healing Pain with the Power of Reiki

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About three months ago, my life partner Terri was suffering from intense lower back pain. She’d injured herself while working at her job. She works in a kitchen, where she continually lifts economy-sized cans of food.
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Terri’s pain was incredibly severe. She felt like her back was locking up. I was concerned. If she didn’t act soon, her back issues might worsen, raising the risk for further injury. We both knew it was time to utilize Reiki to promote healing.
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The Journey to Healing

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I’m so grateful that I’m a Reiki healer. It’s awesome and amazing that through my hands I can facilitate healing for others.
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On a Monday evening, I had Terri sit on a cushioned chair in our living room. To create a more relaxed atmosphere, I dimmed the lights and turned on calming music, infused with water sounds.m
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Terri was ready to receive the life energy flowing from my hands. Neither of us harbored any fears or concerns about the process: we felt only hopefulness and faith. We knew that the healing would come.

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As the scent of lemongrass filled the air, I placed my hands on her shoulders. I allowed myself to focus completely on Terri. I put my other thoughts aside. And then I initated the opening prayer.

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Opening Prayer

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For me, a Reiki session begins with a prayer to help connect me with God and with the power of life energy that’s available to us for love, comfort, and healing. This is what I said:
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I call on the universal power and energy of Reiki that’s in and around us, at all times. I ask that its healing energy go exactly where it’s needed most for Terri’s healing, with unconditional love and support.

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Let the healing light and energy that is a part of me, touch her back and bring relief; let it flow from me to her, and spread throughout her body.

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I pray that Terri’s sense of knowing be strengthened and that any blocks in her connection to God’s love be removed.

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I call on the energy of those who have practiced Reiki in the past, and those who practice it now, to assist me. I ask you, God creator of the universe and great healer, to bless me and bless me in my healing work.

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The Healing

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The first session lasted about thirty minutes. During this time, Terri fell asleep. (This sometimes happens when we receive Reiki.) Using my intuition, I worked on various areas of her body, including the major chakras.

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Following the initial session, Terri confirmed that her pain had lessened. Evening though it came back the next moring, it was not as bad as it had been the previous day.
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Each night, after arriving home from work, we would begin the healing ritual again. After each Reiki session, I would also massage certain pressure points on her back and feet.
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With every day that passed, Terri’s pain continued to diminish. After nine sessions, at around 30 minutes each, she confidently declared that her pain was gone.
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To this day, she has not experienced any intense back pain.
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We are both grateful for Reiki, this gift from God. That we can heal one another through our hands is an amazing miracle!
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Sarah Atwell lives in Oregon and is currently studying various methods of healing. Connect with Sarah on her blog

How to Prepare for Your Life Coaching Session: Five Tips    

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The choice to book a life coaching session is a crucial moment in your life. It is the first step, among many, that will move you toward empowerment and the manifestation of your deepest dreams.

 

Prior to your session, it is essential to prepare your body, mind, and spirit.

 

As a life coach, I have witnessed the difference between clients showing up haphazardly versus those who take the time to prepare themselves prior to our meeting. The difference is always obvious.

 

A coaching session is like a dance: it takes two to tango. The coach plays their part, and the client plays their part. If both parties are playing their part to the fullest possibility, that’s when the magic happens.

 

When you are committed to the process of transformation, the Universe will assist you—in every way possible!—so that you may have an amazing, awe-inspiring experience with your coach.

 

Now that you’ve booked your session, it’s time to begin the dance. It starts today, right now, as you’re reading these five powerful preparation steps.

 

  1. Write the specific questions you will ask your coach.

 

Going with the flow is usually sage advice; however, in this particular situation, creating a plan for your meeting is a better idea. But don’t worry…it doesn’t have to feel like “work.” It can be fun and effortless.

 

Here’s how you can make it easy. Set the intention that you will create 2-3 questions regarding a certain topic. The topic could be a relationship, finance, spirituality, family/parenting, or something else. Then, simply go about your next few days as normal. The words will simply come. The trick is to carry around a notebook with you wherever you go…and then—bam! Suddenly, inspiration will strike! While you are at the grocery store or having tea with a friend, you can pause to write down the perfect words, as they flow into your mind spontaneously, effortlessly.

 

That’s how the subconscious mind works. Just give it the right space to do its work (set the intention, have the notebook ready), and then it will feed you exactly what you need to grow.

 

After you write down a first draft of your questions, go back and see if you can refine the wording. Be as meticulous as you can. Be precise. The words you choose matter. For example, the question: “Should I get a divorce?” is not so good because it frames your concerns in terms of right or wrong. This kind of black-and-white thinking is not going to produce much personal growth, because reality is never actually set in terms of right and wrong. Reality is much more beautiful than that.

 

Reality is a dancing web of choices, in a variety of shades and colors, and we—each one of us—have the power to choose our destiny.

 

The question “Should I get a divorce?” assumes that there is a right or wrong answer. There is not. If you are feeling unhappy in your life circumstances, then there is a cornucopia of new choices available to you. Some may involve getting a divorce and some may not. What’s best? Only you can tell.

 

Ultimately, there is nothing to fear. Only exploration. Only self-reflection. There is no grim, bearded Father God in the sky judging you. No. There is only you, your heart, your beautiful intuition, and an endless play of creativity and passion.

 

In addition, the question “Should I get a divorce?” is not so wonderful because it subtly places all the power into the hands of your coach. If you’re asking a “should” question, you are looking for your coach to give you the “correct” answer. But to proceed in this way is unwise. Your coach is not a fortune teller. Rather, your coach’s job is to simply hold space for you and to deeply listen. Through that deep listening, they will gently guide you toward self-discovery.

 

When writing your 2-3 questions, allow for some flexibility, for some exploration. Questions based on curiosity and creative play (rather than the desperate search for the “right” answer) allows the collaborative dance between you and your coach to unfold. It is here that you will find the highest expression of your truth.

 

For example, a better question might be: “What might be the hidden challenges of getting a divorce?” or “Why am I feeling so afraid to stay in this marriage?” or “What are you sensing about the arguments I’ve been having with my spouse?” All these questions are excellent because they invite your coach to offer you some nuanced, intuitive insights. Ideally their intuitive offerings will then be filtered through the powerful lens of your own intuition. Which brings me to my next tip…

 

  1. Carve out some alone time for yourself.

 

A few hours prior to your session, make the conscious choice to disconnect from the voices of friends, family, and colleagues. Disconnect from your phone, from gadgets, from all social technology. If the demands of your schedule do not allow for a few hours, then at least take twenty or thirty minutes.

 

This is an important step because you are setting the tone for the session ahead. You are signaling to the Universe that this time is about you: about your own wisdom, your own healing, your own knowledge and self-care.

 

Women often have a difficult time prioritizing their own self-care. We have been trained to be the rock for others. If we do not take the time to support ourselves, though, how can we expect to support those around us?

 

As we come into a space of stillness, away from the opinions and speech and communications of others, we may choose to take a long, soothing bath. Or we may take a walk in the forest or on the beach. Or we may roll out our yoga mat. Whatever we may choose to do during this precious time, we are coming into our own awareness of who we are and what we need. We are learning to trust ourselves. And this is important, because, in order for our session to be truly transformative, the guidance from our coach must be filtered through our own intuition.

 

Sometimes what our coach says may deeply resonate—and, at other times, it may not. Some advice may be spot-on, while some might feel generic or not relevant to our situation.

 

So, how do we tap into our inner-knowing? A simple method for learning to trust our intuition is to ask ourselves: Does this piece of guidance make me feel expanded? Does this advice make me feel excited, intrigued, or happily challenged about the possibilities for the future? Or, does this guidance make me feel contracted, small, fearful, or confused?

 

If we feel expanded, then that is our inner-voice saying “Yes, yes, yes! This resonates with me! This will help me!” On the other hand, if we feel contracted or small as we listen to our coach, then that is our intuition saying, “Nope, that advice might be beneficial for someone else, but it’s definitely not for me.”

 

One part of a powerful coaching session is to be open to the fact that your coach might be wrong about certain things. And, if this happens, it’s actually—strangely!—a cause for celebration.

 

When you can trust yourself enough to truly listen to your own intuition (over the voice of an “expert”), in that moment you have become your own teacher. 

 

Am I saying that you should continue to book sessions with a coach who gives less-than-stellar advice? No. If your coach is not resonating with you overall, then it’s perhaps time to look for a new coach. If, however, you have a fantastic coach but—once in a while—they say something that doesn’t resonate and you choose not to follow it, then this is direct, wonderful evidence that you are learning how to trust yourself. You are learning the art of discernment.

 

 

  1. Practice Visualization.

 

How do you want to feel after the session has concluded? Do you want to feel peaceful? Happy? Relieved? Grateful? Focused? Energized? Joyful?

 

Listen to your intuition and allow it to name the emotional state that would best serve your healing journey at this time. And then, visualize yourself feeling that state. For example, let’s say you want to feel energized. You can imagine yourself running along a beach, arms outstretched, a giant grin on your face. You are effortlessly leaping and doing cartwheels and the warm sun is shining down upon your back.

 

When you take the time to imagine how you want to feel after the session has concluded, you are helping to manifest that very same future. You are inviting it forward.

 

  1. Move Your Body.

 

Moving your body prompts stagnant energy to unblock and release. Indeed, exercise is one of the simplest yet potent ways we can prepare ourselves for our coaching session.

 

If you are not already an avid exerciser, I encourage you to find an activity that you love to do. A day or two prior to the session, spend at least an hour doing that. It could be walking, it could be riding your bike, it could be dancing naked in your living room, it could be yoga. Whatever it is, make sure that it feels fun for you. (Incidentally, this is the way to create a long-term exercise program that you won’t want to quit—by making it fun!)

 

Before you begin your movement practice, I invite you to take a few moments, close your eyes, and speak aloud (or silently) an intention. Say something like: “I am ready to release old energetic patterns in my body. I am ready for new, healthy, fresh energy to flow through me.”

 

  1. Get plenty of sleep.

 

Be mindful to get extra sleep the night before your session. It’s so important to recharge our body’s batteries before our transformative coaching session! Your intuition works much better when you are well rested.

 

♥♥♥

 

As you explore the support of a life coach, it’s important to remain aware of the patterns and dynamics of that relationship. Working with a coach can be empowering, or it can (unfortunately) become a source of toxicity in your life.

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A great coach will want to empower you, not addict you to their advice and pressure you to do endless sessions. If you sense that your coach is not holding this high ideal, it is recommended that you find someone who will. You deserve a coach who will help you grow to your highest potential!

 

With that having been said, most coaches are wonderful. There is nothing to fear if you simply state your intention to remain awake and aware.

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Participating in the field of coaching and holistic healing is not only healing for you, but it’s also healing for the whole human family. In today’s hectic world, the person who takes the time and directs their financial resources toward personal growth is someone who is a model for others. Too often we are taught by our society that it is “selfish” to love ourselves. But that is the farthest thing from the truth! By digging down and carving out a space in our lives for coaches, healers, and wise guides, we then empower ourselves to be the shining light that is so desperately lacking in our world today. By healing ourselves, we give others permission to heal themselves.

 

Through a coaching session, we invite the wisdom of our guide into our own heart. We become like them.

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Every teacher has a teacher. Every healer has a healer. We cannot always struggle onward on our own, alone. Sometimes it is so wonderful to have a friend: someone who can be our trusted mirror.

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This is a path of wisdom, a path to enlightenment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lover

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Part One.

I fell in love
because I could not see him;
I fell in love
because I could not touch him.

I fell in love.
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In the beginning,
The Lover appeared—
once,
twice,
three times.
He seemed like a man,
a very lovely man…
lovely eyes
the shape of the moon
on clear summer nights.
Hands like lightning,
striking a nearby tree.

In the beginning, it was three times.

We met
Three Times.

—And then,
and then,
he
(the seeming man),
was gone.
He returned to his country,
and his hands were no more.
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The weeping was beyond weeping.
The winter was death.

So I began to sing.
Beg.
Offer gifts of poem and proclamation,
endless walks with water and tree.

I prayed,

I prayed,

I prayed.

The earth and the cruel, voluptuous sky:
my only companions.

They never answered.

So I prayed more.

I could not see him anymore.
I could not touch him anymore.
There was nothing,
anymore.
The way his empty hand
never fit into mine;
The way his faraway heart
never near
to whisper or soothe.

This continued.

And then…I simply gave up.

I said no.

This was too much: this terrible “missing.”

This terrible thing from the poetry books and romance films.

No, not for me.

I gave up.

 

Part Two.

Giving up was the moment I found you.

You, the real You.

The real Beloved.

You!

It was Eyes, looking
back
into itself.
It was the Girl, the girl from the convex mirror.
It was the Boy, the boy who smiled
when they said the mirror was cracked.
It was memories,
past lives
now clean:
two sisters,
swearing to sing forever…
All gone now. All clean.

All the brothers and mothers and children
finally
finally
at peace.

It was love.
It was lightning
striking the tree
from the window
we cannot see.

It was Love, in truest form.

It was Me.

 

 

Consciously Choose YOUR Flow!

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What happens when you aren’t in your own energy flow and you subconsciously (or even consciously) choose the flow of someone else?
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Recently, on my road-trip travels, I found out just how important it is for everyone to be in their own flow before attempting to achieve unity consciousness or “oneness”.
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Do you know what your own flow of energy feels like, or are you simply “going with the flow” without being with your essence? Sensitive empaths are especially susceptible to “flow leaks” because they often aren’t aware which energy is theirs.

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I made this video to help you gain an understanding of the importance of being with YOUR energy. Life can change quickly when you are the master of your flow!

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Susie Beiler is a Certified Holistic Health Practitioner with Spectrum Health Consulting LLC. She is the founder and lead facilitator in The Creation Temple®, an online venue for supporting Lightworkers in their ascension process. Susie lives in Sedona, AZ and enjoys nature, authenticity, and high vibrational food. Please visit her at: www.susiebeiler.com and www.creationtemple.com

Releasing Alcohol and Caffeine in the PTSD Healing Journey

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Trauma survivors often struggle with alcohol. We turn to this substance because we desire relief. We hope to numb overwhelming emotions.
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Also, trauma survivors often become addicted to caffeine. We turn to this coping method because we want increased energy. We want to feel happy, alert, vital, and alive.
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However, there comes a certain point in our journey when we realize that our coping mechanisms are causing us more harm than good.
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Embarking upon the path of holistic healing means we will inevitably have to release certain behaviors, in order to bring peace and harmony into our minds and bodies. This is especially true of individuals with PTSD, whose endocrine and nervous systems are overly-stimulated.
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In this article, we will discuss how PTSD survivors can find balance and true, deep, lasting healing. PTSD is not a life sentence. It is absolutely and totally curable. (I speak from experience!)
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One of the ways we can soothe our overly-stimulated endocrine and nervous systems and bring ourselves back into balance is by gradually reducing our intake of alcohol and caffeine.*
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The Harmful Effects of Alcohol
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I think most of us know, in some vague sort of way, that alcohol is bad news for the body. But…why is it bad? Do we really understand the mechanisms behind that feeling of being “drunk”?

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The ethanol content found within alcohol causes blood pressure and heart rate to increase. This bring a sense of giddiness and euphoria…but, also, a difficult time getting a good night’s sleep. For individuals with PTSD, getting plenty of deep, rejuvenating sleep is utterly crucial to the healing process. Sleep is the time when the body is most able to cleanse the negative effects of trauma.
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Let’s not beat around the bush, dear ones. Alcohol is a poison. True, it may help us temporarily relax, but only by sending toxins to the brain that dull our senses. Even a single alcoholic drink can do considerable damage because it puts strain on our liver and immune system. For traumatized individuals, our systems are already severely compromised. Adding alcohol into the mix only impedes our healing.
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During my years as a college undergraduate and then, later, during my PhD program, I consumed vast amounts of alcohol. I was drunk every weekend and many weeknights. At the time, I had no idea that I was suffering from PTSD.
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Looking back, I can see that my refuge into alcohol was simply my way of escaping the pain of the past. I didn’t want to face the memories; I didn’t want to face the terrifying anger that was bottled up inside of me.
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However, my physical and mental health deteriorated as I neared my doctoral graduation and I knew I had to change. I realized that I had a serious problem with alcohol. So, I began to research mind-body connections. I also began to practice Reiki: a form of energy healing that helps many people heal addictions.
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Now, five years later, alcohol is no longer a part of my life.
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I do not miss it.
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The Harmful Effects of Caffeine
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When I released the habit of drinking coffee and caffeinated tea, my body made an astoundingly rapid, positive shift. My panic attacks were greatly reduced and my sleep was vastly improved. I found that I had greater concentration, focus, and balance throughout the day. I felt happier. And to my great delight and surprise, I discovered that I actually had more energy than I ever had while I was consuming caffeine! Unbelievable, but true!
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Contrary to popular opinion, caffeine is not a harmless substance. Just like alcohol, caffeine is a poison. It’s a toxin. It’s harmful not only for trauma survivors, but for everyone.
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When caffeine is ingested, it prompts our bodies to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which then cause our bodies to enter an artificial fight-or-flight mode.
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In addition to being mentally-emotionally addictive, caffeine is incredibly difficult to digest and puts a strain on the liver. This type of constant stress exhausts the endocrine and nervous systems, depleting our bodies of natural energetic resources. For those of us in trauma recovery, this is the last thing we want!
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Just like popping a pill is (usually) not the best solution for lasting healing, so too is turning to caffeine to “gain” energy. When we are feeling tired, it may seem like the smart solution is to go to Starbucks or eat a chocolate bar; however, the long-term effects on the body are horrendous.
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Back in 2011, I remember waiting nervously in the waiting room of my first-ever holistic doctor. (I’d seen dozens of traditional doctors and had undergone very expensive surgery, but nothing had worked to cure my chronic sinus infections.) After scanning my test results, she announced that I had an endocrine system that was functioning at levels normal for a 70-year old person. I was 30 at the time. She looked me squarely in the eye. She said, “If you really want to recover from this, the first thing you must do is to give up caffeine.”
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I wanted to burst into tears right in her office. Give up caffeine???? How in the world would I get through grad school????? For the past three years, I had been surviving chronic illness by drinking 2-4 lattes from Starbucks, daily. How would I make it through my classes? How would I get out of bed in the morning? As my mind raced with these frightening questions, the full impact of my addiction became clear. I had, somehow, begun to equate drinking coffee with the very ability to live my life.

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It was at that moment that a quiet, peaceful voice came into my mind. The voice said, “Don’t worry. You can do this.”
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New Life Patterns
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Since I have released alcohol and caffeine from my life, I have felt healthier and happier with every passing year. I am thirty-five years old today, and I can honestly say that I feel better today than I have ever felt in my entire life! (I was a very sickly child.)
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Saying goodbye to these coping mechanisms was incredibly challenging at times. Yet it was a crucial part of my recovery journey.
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I no longer suffer from PTSD and I live a relatively happy, balanced, peaceful life.
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One of the secrets of releasing something is to replace something old with something new. If we only focus on “quitting” something, then our efforts can often backfire: we can often feel a sense of lack or depravation. However, on the other hand, if we intentionally add in new habits, patterns, or practices, we can often feel a growing sense of abundance and excitement about our new path.
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For me, I have replaced my coffee habit and alcohol habit with positive, healing practices, such as meditation, yoga, and Reiki. I not only look forward to the benefits that I receive from these practices, but I have added motivation to always learn more and dive deeper and deeper, so I can teach them to others.
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My life looks so different than it did even four years ago. Today I have a fulfilling career in the holistic health field. I offer Reiki healing and meditation workshops in a domestic violence shelter, and coach women one-on-one about how they can heal themselves from PTSD.
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And, let me be very clear about something. I am a natural intellectual. I love to think. So, when my team of holistic healers suggested I bring the spiritual practices of Reiki, meditation and yoga into my life, I struggled at first. Because these practices are based on silence and the surrender of thought, I found it difficult to embrace them or have faith in their benefit. However, over time, I have observed the many benefits resulting from these practices and have formed what I call positive addictions to them! For example, when I skip meditating for a day or two, I feel off-kilter and sad! I truly adore meditating now; it brings me such joy.
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And, my taste buds are not complaining, either. Instead of my afternoon latte or weekend wine, I now love to sip organic sparking waters, homemade raw juices, and unsweetened almond milk with cinnamon and raw honey (iced or hot). I also adore caffeine-free herbal teas, such as chamomile, lavender, bergamot, dandelion, and spicy ginger. Yum Yum!
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Slow and Steady Wins the Race
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Dear friends, I know how scary it can be to make big changes.
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My advice is to take it slowly, gently. If you are drinking three cups of coffee or caffeinated tea per day, see if you can reduce your daily intake down to two cups per day, and then one, and then half a cup, and then, eventually, zero.
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A great way to reduce your coffee habit is to blend Teeccino in with your coffee, a blend of rich herbs that taste and smell every bit as delicious as coffee but is absolutely caffeine-free. (Seriously, thank God for Teechino…if it didn’t exist, I probably would miss coffee very much.)
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If you normally drink a bottle of wine every weekend, see if you can have just a glass with dinner once or twice a week.
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If we make changes gradually, then the pain of change is not so intense. If we are gentle with ourselves, then we are free and excited to make the changes we know we want to make.
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As we make wise choices that help us heal from PTSD, we remember that the comfortable or easy choice might not always be the best choice. Sometimes, what our bodies need may be different from what our emotions are craving. And, sometimes making changes can require a certain amount of discipline.

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Change takes patience. There will be setbacks sometimes. Healing takes time.

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Ultimately, when we set the intention to heal our body, mind, and soul from trauma, we choose to prioritize self-love and self-compassion. We listen for the loving voice within, the one that says: “You are a survivor. You can do anything.”
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Ultimately, it is our own inner guide that will guide us, every step of the way.
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*Please note: I am not a medical doctor. I am not a medical professional. I am not a psychologist or nutritionist. In no way does this article constitute a prescription or official medical advice. Rather, what I am gently suggesting here is simply personal opinion, based upon my own personal experience and research.

Healing Our Addictions with Patience and Self-Love

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It’s a cold winter day. As I plunge my hand down into the wax paper bag, I fully expect to find another bite or two. But, alas, there are only crumbs.
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A distinct wave of sadness shoots through my heart. The chocolate scone is gone. And I don’t even remember eating it.
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It is in this moment that I wake up. I quickly shake my head from side to side, as if rousing myself from a long night of troubled dreams.
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What have I just done? What about the vow I’ve made to myself, again and again?
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For years I have known that the best thing for my body’s healing process is to eat fresh, whole, organic foods (lots of leafy greens and fruits) and to avoid ingredients that overstimulate my endocrine and nervous systems, such as sugar and wheat flour.
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And yet, today, here I am again. Eating some stupid, cheap scone I picked up on impulse at the local bakery. Full of who-knows-what ingredients.
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Here I am again. Ignoring my own wisdom. Falling back into the food addiction that has plagued me since childhood.
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Today I have lost control.
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I pull my car over into a parking lot. (Yes, I have been mindlessly scarfing that darned scone while driving!) I take a deep breath.
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Now is definitely the time for some self-love.

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Addiction is a Dirty Band-Aid 

Whether you struggle with a food addiction like I do or you deal with drug or alcohol addiction, every addiction is the same. An addiction is a loss of control over one’s behavior.
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Our addictive behaviors don’t just randomly happen for no reason. They are a symptom of a deeper issue.
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Why do we get addicted?
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That scone or that cocktail or that cigarette brings about a temporary cessation of suffering. They block sadness, tension, fear, pain, boredom, and anger. They numb any and all negative emotions.
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To put it simply, an addiction is a coping mechanism. It allows us to trudge onward in life, but without really looking toward the deeper issues.
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An addiction may be a short-lived, temporary cure for the pain—but, as we all know, it’s not a long-term solution.
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Running to our addiction is like slapping a Band-Aid on the wound—a Band-Aid that is dirty. Over time, the wound gets infected with the dirt and grime, and it worsens rather than heals.

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The Addiction is Not the Problem

Here’s the thing about addiction, dear friends: The addiction is not really the problem. The addiction is the glaring symptom.
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If we can look deeper than the symptom and see the situation from a holistic point of view, then we may begin to bring about a resolution to much of the suffering in our lives.
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So, what is the deeper issue? What lies at the root of addiction?
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Ultimately, all addiction—no matter the type or the severity—stems from a lack of connection. When we feel disconnected from other people, from our society, from our deepest hopes and dreams, and from a sense of love, then this disconnection brings about powerful emotions. These emotions hurt, and so we run to the seeming solace of the addiction.
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The addiction may seem, on the surface, as if it’s the problem, but actually it’s not. The addiction is, in reality, a helpful pointer, showing us that there’s some internal healing we need to do.
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The wonderful thing about addiction is that it is a powerful red STOP sign. It screams loudly: “Look! There’s a problem!”
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Addictions help us get in touch with our inner self. Just like a cough helps us connect with the needs of our lungs (do I need fresh air? do I need more exercise? do I need to take certain herbs?), an addiction helps us get in touch with the needs of our heart.
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Our heart is the seat of all emotion. Our heart is where feelings arise, are felt, and then released.
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When we feel a lack of connection and love, we do not feel safe. We do not feel safe enough to explore the many emotions that can arise as a human being in our daily lives.
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When we feel disconnected, negative emotions can feel overwhelming and scary. This is particularly true for those with abuse or trauma in their life history.
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The addictive behavior is a misguided attempt to self-soothe. We believe that if we eat that scone or we drink that beer, then those scary emotions will stop and we will somehow be safe, somehow feel connected again.
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But we all know that doesn’t work. What ends up happening is that, once the temporary high wears off, we are left feeling crappier than ever.
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The addiction is not the problem. The problem, rather, is the false perception that there is no love, no connection.

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Rising from Bottom

The cliché of the “rock bottom” is a cliché because it’s true. Most addicts eventually experience it.
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Rock bottom looks different for everyone. It will have varying levels of intensity and consequences.
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For some, the bottom is drastic: a suicide attempt, an illness, or a hospitalization. For some, it will simply be a very sad day when they realize that the time has come to change.
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This time of rock bottom is the moment when we begin to wake up. It’s the time when the healing can truly begin.
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For me, my rock bottom with food addiction came when my body had disintegrated nearly to the point of death.
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I was on my perhaps my tenth round of antibiotics that year and having a severe allergic reaction to the medication. Delusional with a high fever, unable to lift myself from bed and barely able to call for help, I realized I probably would not live much longer if I did not change just about everything in my life. Shortly after, I began to explore the world of alternative medicine and began to clean up my diet.
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We can think of this rock bottom—this intense realization that things need to shift—as the bottom of a spiral. This spiral begins at ground zero, and it moves upward through time.
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As the days, weeks, and months pass, and we dedicate ourselves to a new way of being, we will have various challenges that arise. We will learn and grow and allow our emotions to be felt, rather than running from them. We will heal old wounds from childhood that have been lurking for many years.
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Over time, with patience, we will be slowly shifting our perspective. We will become a new and better version. We will be moving from contracted perceptions of disconnection, lack, and fear, into expanded perspectives of connection, abundance, and love.
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Through the adoption of various healing practices such as meditation, support groups, therapy, prayer, Reiki, or exercise, we come into greater harmony within ourselves. We learn to love ourselves.

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Relapses on the Spiral of Evolution

In my struggle with addiction (not just with food, but with many other substances over the years), I have realized I am grateful to addiction. Addiction has played a very powerful role in my spiritual evolution.
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Addiction is a powerful point of change. It is a journey inward. It the journey of becoming aware and conscious.
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As we humans make this journey, and break the cycles of addiction, it’s so important to remember that change is not linear and it’s often not easy. Relapses happen.
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The spiral analogy can be helpful. If we imagine that we are travelling upwards in consciousness, to greater and greater levels of joy, power, and self-awareness, then we can avoid traps of self-blame when we do occasionally relapse.
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That day when I woke up to find scone crumbs on my lap was a challenging day indeed. I’d just had a disagreement with my roommate and was struggling with money issues. When I stopped at the bakery that day, intent on buying some tea, those scones whispered sweet love songs to me and I could not find the willpower to resist.
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In that relapse, I temporarily lost sight of my own truth: That I want to avoid sugar and wheat flour in order to heal my body.
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In that relapse, I was returning to the particular side of the spiral that was so known and comfortable: running to unhealthy food for comfort.
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And yet, even though I had returned to that old familiar side of the spiral, I actually experienced this relapse from a greater height! In other words, in this relapse, I was able to more quickly move past it and get back to my own power.
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It took just a few minutes and I forgave myself and moved into self-acceptance. I did not beat myself up.
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In that cold car on that cold winter day, I placed my hands on my heart, and whispered some words of love and reassurance to myself. In the past, in the beginning of my healing journey with food, I might have added a cookie or a brownie on top of the scone, as a way to escape the terrible emotions of self-judgment and guilt. But—this time I didn’t! 

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Love Yourself and Heal 

A relapse is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens.
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If you or someone you love has been healing a pattern of addiction, please know that patience is key.
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The spiral of evolution will bring you situations that will test your courage and self-awareness. Sometimes you will succumb. And that’s okay!
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If you wake up and suddenly find yourself acting in a way that you know is not your highest good, then congratulate yourself for waking up. Take stock of your long-term changes and pat yourself on the back for coming this far.
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Notice how you can more quickly bounce back from the relapse, with greater levels of patience and self-love. Notice how awesome you are!
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Ultimately, the journey of addiction recovery is a journey of healing. And it’s a journey all humans go through, as we refine to greater and greater levels what it means to love and care for ourselves.

 

 

This post originally appeared on tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post here.

Loving Everything

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In our journey of healing and awakening, we often believe, mistakenly, that the darkness is an enemy. We fall into the false belief of duality. We believe that light is good and darkness is bad.

 

When this happens, we run from the darkness. We flee.

 

However, as we gradually wake up on the spiritual path, we learn that all is One.

 

Every single thing is a part of that mysterious being we call “God” or “Source.”

 

This recognition has huge implications. If we recognize that everything is a piece of God, then this means that even the darkness, even the evil, even the suffering has a necessary role to play in the cosmos. Everything is here for a reason; nothing is by accident.

 

Everything is us.

 

 

 

Learning to Love Everything

 

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While our conceptual minds may grasp this life-giving wisdom, our emotional bodies may need some time to adjust. We may need some time for our life experiences to prove to us that, yes, this wisdom is true. We are all One. We are all God.

 

Indeed, it is incredibly challenging to integrate the understanding of ‘all is One’ into our daily lives. Not impossible—but very, very hard! Since birth, our parents and teachers have told us we were separate. We are working against deep programming.

 

So, yes, it takes time. The process of evolution is not a quick one. It must be undertaken with patience and self-compassion.

 

As we awaken, we begin to see the necessity of loving everything that arises—even the darkness.

 

We see how our “sins” are like children, crying out for the compassion of our own motherly love.

 

At this point, you might be asking yourself: Wait a minute!? If I love my darkness, won’t it get stronger???

 

My friend, that’s an understandable question!

 

Imagine a crying baby. In the old days, many parents believed that comforting a crying child would spoil them. In today’s world, most of us understand that if our child is crying, we do not punish the child by ignoring it—no! We go to the child, love it, caress it, nurture it.

 

In the same way, we can bring a loving awareness to whatever arises, even if it happens to appear bad or dark.

 

By comforting ourselves when we do something we dislike or by sending loving thoughts to another person who does something we consider “wrong,” we then transmute those seemingly “negative” energies into love. We convert fear into love.

 

It is only by loving everything that we can create more love.

 

By loving, we do not create more fear. By loving, we actually—finally!—bring an end to the vicious cycles of fear and violence.

 

This does not mean that we passively sit back and allow those in power to trample all over us. No. When action is called for, we courageously take it. If a law is unjust, we disobey it. If we do not appreciate another’s abuse, we walk away from them. Yet, we can do all of these liberating, rebellious acts of dissent with a heart full of love. Love and rebellion can co-exist.

 

We can learn to love everything, even the darkness within our own heart.

 

 

 

The Magic of Healing

 

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By bringing our dark side, our pain, our shortcomings, our suffering, our selfish tendencies up into the light of loving awareness, then that light begins to work the magic of healing. But if all that darkness stays hidden, then no healing can ever happen.

 

We can only heal that which we are conscious of. The first step in solving any problem must be to admit that there is, in fact, a problem.

 

Without bringing our problems out of the shadows and into the light, they will always stay hidden, replicating themselves over and over in an endless cycle.

 

How do we awaken? How do we heal? We learn to love even our shadows. We learn to love even our hate. We learn to love each and every reaction, no matter how grotesque or terrible they might seem. We learn to love it all. We learn to see everything as a vital part of the Universe.

 

This work is not easy, but the rewards are nothing short of miraculous. By bringing to light that which we fear, we heal the wound. As Jesus the Christ said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” (Gospel of Thomas)

 

 

Mantra Practice

 

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Okay, let’s take this conversation out of the world of theory and into the world of practice. To that end, I would like to offer to you three powerful mantras that you can use in your day-to-day life. These powerful mantras will help you begin—or deepen—your liberating journey into love.

 

  1. “Hello.”

 

When you notice someone doing something that irritates or angers you, simply say “hello” to that irritation or anger.

 

You don’t have to be cheerful about it. You can simply say hello in a neutral way. You can be an observer, a witness.

 

If you’d like, you can take this greeting a step further and say “Hello, how fascinating.” The human brain loves to analyze things—that’s its job! If you add “how fascinating” after saying hello, you are giving your brain delicious permission to observe something dark and “negative”—but without judgement.

 

Something that might help is to think of Mr. Spock from the old TV show Star Trek. He was a really profound, wise character, yet he was rarely judgmental, rarely upset.

 

 

  1. “Well done!”

 

When you observe a dark thought arising in your own mind, you are already awakened! You are already conscious!

 

The skill of mentally distancing yourself (extricating yourself from the swirl of the human drama) in order to be able to observe your own internal thought processes is success in itself! You have won!

 

Next time you notice a dark thought arising in your mind, take a few seconds to congratulate yourself. Pat yourself on the back and say “well done!”

 

By noticing what you don’t want without anger or self-recrimination, you are being a kind and loving parent to yourself. You are giving yourself unconditional love. Through unconditional love, you then feel truly empowered to make changes without shame or blame.

 

  1. “Thank you, darkness.”

 

If you’re an early riser, greet the dawn with a bowed head and the simple mantra “Thank you, darkness.” If you’re more of a night owl, before you go to bed you can bow your head to the night sky and say “Thank you, darkness.”

 

Without darkness, we would not know the glory of the dawn. Without the bitterness of winter, we would not appreciate the magic of the summer. Without the terrors of hate, we would not know the bliss of love.

 

Every day, take a few minutes to salute the darkness. It’s a crucial part of the cosmos, too! Without darkness/ignorance, our light/spiritual illumination could never happen!

 

♥♥♥

 

By using these three simple mantras, we can, over time, come to trust the fact that loving everything is the wisest thing we can possibly do. We can let go of our fears and soar into the sky.

 

 

Soul Food for Friday: The Truth of the Spiritual Path

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The critics will always be there. Always, there will be those who will scoff, snicker and smirk. But are these folks worth our time and energy?
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The world today is a dense world. Hard-earned paychecks spent at the cinema, rapt in a rush of guns and guts. It’s sad. But once we realize our critics are born from this world—this hard-edged world of darkness and violence—then we can allow our reactions to their cynicism to fall away. No need to wonder if they are right. No need to doubt ourselves.
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We know the truth.
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We know we must follow the spiritual path.

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