The Sacred Art of Grief

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Grief is an expression of love. Grief happens because of love, because of our deepest passions and connections. 

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Grief is a fundamental element of being a human being. However, unfortunately, there is no honored place for grief in most societies. It hangs out in the margins, such as our mental institutions (for so-called “crazy people”) or shut away in our private bedrooms. Most cultures do not understand the restorative, liberating processes of grief—thus, we judge it by what it appears to be on the surface level. We judge it as “bad.” We run from it. 

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And yet, it’s here. It’s always here, waiting around the corner. If we dare to love, if we dare to open our hearts, then grief shall surely greet us at some point. 

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This mortal life will break our hearts; we cannot avoid this fact.  The people and the things and the places that we love, eventually, will transition. Some will die. Others will make the choice to walk away. Some outside force (a governmental policy, pandemic, war, natural disaster, or something else.) will shift our beloved daily routine—and we will be left in tears. What to do???

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The first thing to be aware of is that grief can be the single most powerful, transformative healing tool—if we choose to perceive it that way. Despite the fact that we were trained by society to fear grief, we can transform our relationship with it. We can use grief to gain wisdom. We can use it to discover lasting peace. In my experience as a spiritual healer who guides people through various chapters of transition, I have discovered that there are seven common myths surrounding grief. In the following paragraphs, I’ll dispel these myths, so we can  open up a new dialogue. In order to receive grief’s wisdom, we must understand grief’s true nature.

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Myth #1: To go through a period of grief means that we are weak-willed.

In most modern societies, we are conditioned to believe that individualistic strength is the ultimate display of worth. We are taught that we must “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” and achieve many feats all by ourselves. We are taught that we must be strong in order to prove that we are good and worthy citizens. But, how healthy are these beliefs?

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There are many different forms of strength. Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh describes a lesser-known form of strength called “interbeing.” 

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Interbeing is a wise mode of living that acknowledges: I need you and you need me—and that’s okay! Vulnerability (allowing oneself to help and be helped by another) is not a mistake nor a weakness. The iron-jawed, macho version of strength that is so often touted by our society is, frankly, a relic from the past that is quickly passing away on our planet. To recognize interbeing is to admit that we are all in this together. When I am feeling healthy, I can help those who are sick. When I am feeling sad, the ones who are feeling happy can help me. Interbeing is a dynamic interplay; it’s a dance. Living from the principle of interbeing is a brave and beautiful thing to do. In fact, it is the ultimate strength, because it stimulates empathy—medicine that we humans require for our evolution. 

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When loved ones die or when life changes dramatically, we are catapulted into a grief process. Yet, when we accept interbeing, our mindset shifts. We have compassion for ourselves. We understand that when we lose the sun of a loved one, we may feel chilly for a little (or long) while. We realize that when we lose the comfort of a special place or object (our house burns down, we are forced to move, etc.), then of course we feel jangled! It’s totally normal! And it’s okay! Grief is a normal part of human life. 

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To wail, to cry, to moan in shock and horror…to allow these things to be expressed actually require tremendous strength. To grieve is not a weakness—rather, it is the greatest gift we can give. By embracing our grief, we learn to love ourselves more fiercely than we ever thought possible. This process allows us to grow in wisdom and compassion: two vital ingredients needed right now for planetary restoration.  

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Myth #2: Grieving shouldn’t take “too long.”

There seems to be an unspoken agreement in most modern societies that it’s okay to grieve for a few days before and after a funeral, but pretty soon, we should “pull ourselves together” and walk back out into the world with a smile on our face. 

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This is simply bullshit. It’s not true. Grieving might need to take months or, sometimes, even years. As my beloved teacher Ram Dass has often said, “Allow plenty of time for grief.”

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Allow your grieving process to take however long it needs to take. Be patient with yourself. There’s no timelines here—only presence and being.

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Myth #3: When we are sad, lonely, or depressed, other people will dislike us. Grief makes us too “needy.”

This myth is one of the major reasons why so many people hide away their grief and suffer in silence. Many of us have a great fear that says: “If I am troubled, I should keep it to myself. I don’t want to spoil somebody else’s day.” However, this kind of flawed thinking simply breeds more pain and trauma. When we don’t reach out for support, all those feelings and thoughts get bottled up inside of us. Too often, we slap a fake smile on our face and walk out into the world pretending that everything is okay. But this kind of repression breeds disconnection from our fellow human beings, and perpetuates outdated, negative patterns of isolationism. 

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If you are currently surrounded by friends, family, colleagues, or others in your life who are not supportive of your grief process, then I want to share some hope with you. In my work as a spiritual guide, I have learned that if we allow grief to flow with unconditional self-acceptance, then that support system that we desire will eventually manifest. It may take a little time for it to appear in your life, but I promise you that it eventually will. 

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There are many kind, loving, open-hearted people in the world who want to support you. They genuinely believe that your grieving is a healthy process. In my life, when I began to embrace (rather than shun) my deep soul-grief as a tool for healing, my group of friends at the time (some very frazzled, overworked grad students) reacted with coldness, confusion, and anxiety. This was hard. But, it was also a wake-up call. I realized that my priorities in life were changing. Eventually I discovered a new group of friends who truly supported me in the way I wanted. Indeed, a period of grief is a wonderful opportunity to evaluate whether you are happy or not with the people in your life. True companions on the path will love you even during periods of great difficulty and they will encourage you to be authentic and feel your feelings. 

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When we are grieving, it’s healing to talk with others! Friends, family, or a trusted therapist or spiritual healer are an invaluable resource. It’s good to release all those feelings and thoughts in a safe space. There’s nothing “needy” about needing a space to talk. 

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Grieving is simply a normal human process of ending an old chapter and beginning a new one. When we can learn to embrace our grief without guilt or shame, then and only then we can harness the full healing potential of our tears. 

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Myth #4: Grieving is self-indulgent. 

Just as a baby needs to be held when she cries, so too do we need to lovingly hold ourselves during difficult periods. Remember: it takes fierce courage to love, especially when the world looks frightening.

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Myth #5: If I allow myself to truly FEEL all of this grief, it will destroy me. I will never recover. I will never be happy again.

Here’s the thing: At the bottom of every fear is, ultimately, a fear of death. Thus, we often have a subconscious fear that says that our negative emotions might obliterate us. We are afraid that if we allow ourselves to sink into the depths of despair that not only will never again travel to the heights of happiness and hope—but that our physical bodies will not be able to withstand that amount of pain. 

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We are afraid to feel because we are afraid of death.

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In supporting brave survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, these courageous beings who have faced unimaginable losses, what I’d discovered from hearing their stories is that we can only fly so high as we are willing to surrender to the low. In other words, if we want more mountaintop experiences of joy in our lives, then we must be willing to, occasionally, explore the tearful valleys. Ironically, it is only through our willingness to fully taste our sorrows that we will emerge stronger and more capable of enjoying the ecstasies of life. 

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Myth #6: To be spiritual means to be positive.

This an incredibly harmful, false dogma currently circulating in many spiritual circles. This myth says that sadness, grief, and other lower vibratory emotions are a sign of spiritual immaturity. But nothing could be further from the truth! 

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The willingness to fully feel one’s grief is the lotus flower that grows out of the muck. It is the courageous alchemy that transforms a person into a spiritual master. If we attempt to block our challenging emotions and try to strive for only positivity, then we will surely disappoint ourselves again and again. That disappointment will only breed frustration and self-contempt. It’s much better to simply accept ourselves just as we are, and let the grief flow.

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Myth #7: I don’t want to be lazy; I don’t have time to grieve.

These two closely-related myths are perhaps the most persistent of all, especially for Western cultures. We are, quite simply, addicted to working our asses off and always feeling like we have to constantly “get stuff done.” Rest is often regarded as a guilty pleasure or as a necessary evil. And yet, the sweet waters of grief call out to us, interrupting our daily routines and inviting us into a period of deep relaxation—if only we’ll allow it.

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Grief is actually a calming energy for our mind, body, and spirit. The turbulence of some shift or great change has shocked our human system, and so there needs to be adequate time to settle down. If we do not take the time to grieve, we will enter into a state of persistent numbness (trauma), or even perhaps bitterness and hatred towards ourselves and others. 

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I always tell my meditation students, “If you don’t think you have time to meditate, then you are vitally in need of meditation for your sanity!” In other words, when we are constantly busy-busy-busy/go-go-go, then we are not able to heal properly. 

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What are the root causes of discord on our planet today? It’s quite simple, actually. Not enough people taking enough time to slow down and love themselves. Can you imagine a world where it was normal for corporate CEO’s or politicians or presidents to say: “I need some time to rest and cry today.” I think about John F. Kennedy’s assassination, as depicted in the recent film Jackie. Only a few hours after she held her husband’s bloody head in her lap was she asked to stand and bear witness to the inauguration of the new president, Lyndon B. Johnson. Blood stains still covered her dress. Indeed, we live in a very confused, very crazy yang world—where grieving is rushed past or skipped altogether. 

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Let’s change the cultural paradigms around grieving. It all begins with me; it all begins with you. 

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When we allow the sacred art of grief into our lives, we set the tone for what we’d like to see in the world in general. We’d like to see a place where people have the freedom to inquire deeply within themselves, without fear of losing their jobs or without anxiety about social repercussions or poverty. What if it was built into our systems the idea that periodic times of grief was not only normal, but healthy and positive? Furthermore, what if we lived in a land where we taught our children that wanting rest was not an attribute of laziness, rather it was a sign of spiritual maturity? This is the kind of world that you, me, and so many others are visioning into existence. 


Yes, we can allow ourselves to cry and to be sad. We can release shame and remember that it takes courage to do this. We can support each other in releasing the old myths about grief and creating new stories about what we wish humanity to become. Yes, we can do this—together. 

 


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5 Ways to Feel Better Now!

You’re just a few moments away from a smile…



If you’re having one of those not-so-fun, oh-so-crappy days, here’s a list of some quick and easy things you can do to lighten your spirit.
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  1. Eat raw, organic fruit. The light quotient in this type of food is very, very high. Munch on a few handfuls for a burst of happy sunshine! The natural sugars and nourishing nutrients will give you a lovely little energy lift for both body and soul.
     
  2. Hang out with some animals. Spend an afternoon with squirrels in a park. Sit by a river and commune with birds. Give your doggy some extra attention. Animals are Zen Masters in disguise. When we focus our attention on the peaceful, grounded Being-ness of animals, we are reminded what life is really about. 
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  3. Listen to one of my guided meditations on Youtube. I particularly recommend my I am Divinity Meditation. It helps us remember we are more than just a human (seemingly flawed & confused)…we are ALSO a divine spark of God (absolutely perfect and all knowing)!!!
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  4. Make a list of all the things you’re grateful for. Yup, it’s cliched. But it’s cliched because it works!  
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  5.  Take a nap. When all else fails, a nap is a lifesaver. It’s amazing how much brighter the world looks after just 10 or 20 minutes of shut-eye. 
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“Welcome back to Earth, Anya”: A Story about Eating Meat and Listening to the Universe

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For the past five (ish) years, I’ve been a vegetarian. During the bitterly cold Ohio winters, I’ve had a piece of fish (salmon or cod) just to warm up my bones, but mostly during these last five years I’ve enjoyed a plant-based diet. And I’ve also enjoyed fasting regularly. (Both raw juice fasting and water fasting.) I’ve come to delight in the feeling of lightness, of clear-headedness, that comes with this way of life. I have also felt like dropping meat from my diet has allowed me to channel Reiki energy more strongly and has allowed me to connect with beautiful, transcendent beings from non-Earth realms.

 

Yes indeed, this path has suited me. It’s not felt like a tremendous effort or a struggle to not eat meat. I have been content. In fact, I’ve often yearned to go further—maybe I should become vegan? Or even raw vegan? After seeing how amazingly, gloriously high I felt from about two weeks of consuming nothing but raw juice, I’ve toyed with the idea of lightening my diet further.

 

And then, something interesting happened. About three months ago, I moved into a house with two meat-eaters. It was then that my food-world went a bit topsy turvy.

 

To my ego’s dismay, I realized I had some deep healing work to do.

 

I began to notice how I carried an inner judgment, a harsh critique, every time I saw my housemates buying, cooking, or eating meat. I noticed how indignant, how righteous I felt: I was the “good yogi” and they were hedonistic, unethical jerks.

 

But these judgments hurt my soul. These are two people that I love. They are deeply spiritual people. Were they necessarily wrong? Was I necessarily right? Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure. When I broached the subject with them, inquiring as to why they ate meat, they stated simply that their bodies required it. They had both experimented with other ways of eating, but, in the end, settled on what felt right for them. As I listened, I had my doubts (any properly trained yogi would, as we’ve come to believe in such things as breatharianism and other radical forms of gaining sustenance), but, overall, I felt the sincerity of their words. They believed their bodies required meat for stamina and good health. Who was I to disagree? Who was I to judge? However, I needed to be honest with them about how I felt. As we unpacked our boxes and planned the details of our lives together, I told them about how disgusting meat was to me. I hated to look at it and smell it. So, we came to a compromise. They would refrain from eating meat on Saturdays, and, overall, try to eat less of it.

 

Now, here’s where the story gets interesting. For the past year or so, I’ve been actually having twinges of craving meat. I’d be out at Chipolte, watching the woman in front of me order a steak burrito, and my mouth would suddenly water. Whaaaat??? Really???!!! How weird???!!! Even though the thought of actually tearing cow’s flesh with my teeth made me want to mentally gag, some part of my deeper being seemed to ask for it. Very odd indeed. But I pushed these thoughts away. They were simply incompatible with my spiritual path.

 

But these little strange moments kept coming up. Like, I’d be at the grocery store, walking (quickly) past the meat aisle and then have the thought, “Get some meat.” The thought would feel so disorienting. I would shake my head and bolt away with haste.

 

Then, about a month ago, I made a new wonderful friend. His name is Ian. We were having a lovely time together, walking in the woods. He began to tell me about his carnivore diet—about how he used to be a vegan for a long time and how it was not compatible with his body type. I listened with intrigue. Had it been even a few months earlier (before living with my new roommates), I would have rejected his point of view…but I was, suddenly, that day, in the right state of mind to truly absorb his words. I was open to him.

 

As he shared his story, I was moved by his sincerity and suddenly felt my crown chakra opening. The world got very bright and time seemed to stop. What was this? His words kept flowing through me, until the message inside my heart was very clear. “It’s time for you to bring a little meat into your life, Anya.”

 

For me (the well-trained yogi, the highly-sensitive energy healer), these words came as a shock. I didn’t want it. They made zero sense to my logical brain…but on the level of heart, I understood. Maybe I needed to incorporate a little meat into my diet so that I could dissolve the judgments against my housemates? Maybe I needed a little more humility, a little more flexibility in my soul. Maybe, also, my body was crying out for some nutrients that simply doesn’t exist within plants. Or maybe I needed to stop floating in the clouds and get a bit more grounded? As Ian’s words washed over me, I recalled a few recent grocery store trips when I allowed myself to actually stop in the meat aisle, my eyes transfixed on a piece of beef, a feeling of desire in my bones. What was that all about, anyway? I had dismissed the few incidents as silly cravings of the ego…but were they?

 

I didn’t have all the answers. All that I did know was that the Universe was calling me to eat some meat now. I couldn’t ignore the message anymore.

 

So, dear friends, I’ve begun to eat a little meat. Yes, me. The proud vegetarian. The at-times haughty yogi. Of course, as you can imagine, I do it all in a very intentional way: as I prepare and eat, there are many prayers and words of humility and gratitude for the beautiful being that is becoming one with my flesh. So sacred, so intimate a process. And, of course, all meat that I eat henceforth will always be carefully, ethically sourced: free-range, organic, raised with love, etc.

 

As I ate my first forkful of meat in five years, sweet Ian by my side, I didn’t—to my surprise—vomit. It actually tasted rather good. And I noticed a deep sense of relief within my body. A kind of lovely gravity.

 

As I took a second forkful, I heard the spirit of that beautiful cow say to me: “Welcome back to Earth, Anya.”

 

After hovering somewhere outside my body for the past five years, hardly ever within it, this was an interesting message. That night I slept more soundly than usual, embraced by Mother Earth. I felt different, in a good way. I felt more human. (In a good way.)

 

It’s safe to assume that I’ll never become a heavy meat eater. Once or twice a week, tops. Maybe sometimes I will refrain from it for weeks or months if I’m in a fasting mood. But I can report that, right now, my body feels healthier and stronger. Maybe it’s the Ohio climate that’s causing me to need meat in my diet, or my shaky thyroid. Maybe it’s simply karma: it’s time to unravel lifetimes of uptight judgment against meat-eaters. Whatever the reason(s), I’m here, doing this. It feels really weird, but also really good. I like that I can change my mind and go with the flow of life. I like that I can listen to the Universe as it asks me to grow and change.
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Am I embarrassed about all this? Yes, a little. These days it’s much hipper to be a vegetarian than a meat-eater. But what the f*** does hipness have to do with spirituality? Zero.
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When I realized I was embarrassed about eating meat, that’s when I decided to write this blog. It’s been my practice to show myself, honestly, in my writing. To show all the dents and fears as they come up. To show myself as a spiritual teacher who is not afraid to rip off the mask and say, “I hurt, too. I get confused, too. Life is strange sometimes, yes, I know.”

 

My practice has been courage, even when I don’t feel it. My practice has been sharing, when all I want to do is hide. It works for me.
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What are your practices? How do you keep yourself accountable, to both yourself and the world? I’d love to hear about these things in the comments below.

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No matter our individual disposition, no matter our own unique practices and path, I feel it’s vital for each of us to continually listen to the whispers of our heart, ever-changing, as we are lead, day by day, toward our optimal wellbeing. Nobody else should unduly influence us as to what to believe or what to think, not even those who seem so pure. Everybody’s on their own gorgeous, weird, and confusing journey.

 

The heart will speak, guide.

 

The question is: Will we listen?

 


 

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The Miracle of Not Getting What We Want

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed by love. Like most little girls in America, I was raised on a diet of fairy tales, romantic comedies, and the persistent idea that—somehow, somewhere—there was a knight in shining armor made especially for me. He would come along on his white horse and free me from the castle of the mundane, transforming my life into wonderful.

 

Thus, for most of my life—up until recently—I chased love and was chased by love. It was the most potent, intoxicating drug I knew.

 

In high school, I fell in love with a tall boy who had the most charming laugh. Holding his hand in the backseat of my mother’s car: my heart so tender, raw, and wanting. We wrote letters after high school, but after refusing to be monogamous with me, I burned his letters and vowed to forget him.

 

During college, I discovered I could fall madly in love with women. Their breasts intrigued me. I could lie in bed with them for hours and hours, feeling our skin together like satin, lace.

 

Later, it was the poet who always wore black.

 

Then the marine who proposed marriage to me, but then one week later proposed to someone else.

 

Right after college, I married my best friend. He was a lovely man with curly hair and a rotund belly. He worked at Starbucks and loved loud parties. He made me laugh and helped me forget what I wanted to forget. We loved poetry and wine. Five years later, to my utter shock, I found our conversations growing stale. We divorced.

 

While working on a PhD, I discovered that monogamy was not the only way to love. I explored a radical method of spiritual practice called polyamory. By transcending jealousy and allowing my lovers to love others, my heart opened by miles. I felt I was on the cutting edge of human evolution. At one point, I had four partners simultaneously, all of whom were known to each other. In time, each of those romances ended, for various reasons, but I never forgot how amazing it was to say to my partner, “Honey, I’m falling in love with someone else” and for them to say, “Wow, I’m so happy for you! Tell me more!”

 

In my mid-thirties I fell in love with my spiritual teacher. It ended in more confusion and heartbreak than can ever be described in words.

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And then there was the man who lived across the ocean. This man, who loved me as deeply and as fiercely as I loved him. He made love to guitars with his hands. I could sit and listen to his music forever.

We remembered many of our past lives together and sometimes re-entered them by accident, finishing up threads of old conversations, saying our goodbyes and making amends for tragedies that had haunted our souls.

We loved to adventure together, to the wild places of sea and tree. Everyone said we looked like brother and sister. Sometimes, when I looked into his eyes, I saw my own eyes. I couldn’t not be with him. I had no control of it. Kissing him was a breathless, deathless experience of time and space melting. Sometimes we would Skype for six hours in a single day, watching in fascination as the afternoon sun slowly dissolved into dusk.

After five years of plane rides, never enough money, and endless confusions and questions, I finally met his parents. We planned to marry and live in America. I had visions of a pregnant belly and growing a garden. I could rest easy now. I could give up teaching (which still frightened me) and trying to do anything else. My heart had found completion.

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And then, an ending came. Even for us. Even for us.

It was one terrible winter morning, torrential rains. Flooding in his village that stopped the trains. Nightmares that were driving me insane: The immigration system was not on our side. A lingering court conviction and one too many tearful airport goodbyes. Too many miles between us. Just too much. I held the phone to my ear, hand shaking, heart racing: “I cannot marry you.” My silver ring dropped to the floor.

 

The Coronavirus came next, and the world’s borders closed. Shadows and fear everywhere.

 

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Months pass. I am sitting on my back porch, enjoying a bowl of chocolate ice cream with fresh raspberries. It is the first hot weekend of the season: I’m wearing shorts and my arms are deliciously bare.

 

In a flash, everything becomes clear. I now understand.

 

All those past lovers, all of them … those beautiful, blissful, and seemingly tragic loves and losses … they were my destiny. My path of waking up.

 

The intensity with which I’d chased romantic love was the very same intensity of the Universe chasing me. My obsession with men and women, with people I could touch and kiss, was simply a craving for the Ultimate, which one can never physically touch but can also touch us deeper than any person, any situation, any thing.

 

I stare into my bowl of ice cream, loosening my grip on the spoon. Watching how the red of the raspberries blend into the deep, earthy brown of the cream.

 

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that anyone else can ever give to me that is not here already.

 

For here is love.

Right now.

This bowl of ice cream.

This breath.

These backyard trees.

No man or woman nearby.

Nobody to chase
or to be chased by.

Just love, living itself through me. Looking through my eyes. Feeling through my heart.

 

I slowly set down my bowl of ice cream, my vision swirling. Smells and sounds now heightened. I step out onto the grass, barefoot, and touch a tree. It’s covered with the most exquisite bright green moss. Tears now mixed with laughter. I’m free, I’m free, I whisper aloud. I’m free.

 

The miracle of not getting what we want. The miracle of failure, defeat, and wanting. The miracle of the broken, rapturous heart. Open, boundless, and free.

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The Gifts of Coronavirus

LisaWhen a dark night of the soul strikes, what do we do? Do we resist it and yearn for the “good old days”? Or do we allow ourselves to surrender, moving into a new depth of wisdom?

Today my lovely friend and collaborator Lisa Stearns, offers us some empowering guidance. In her life’s work of helping heart-centered women create successful businesses, she’s cultivated quite a toolbox for healing stress and overwhelm during challenging circumstances. In this interview, she speaks to those who are feeling anxiety due to being out of work or confined to the home. She also addresses creatives, coaches and healers who are wondering how to consciously align our business with the changing times. How do we continue to share our gifts with the world during shutdown? How do we love and support others in an era of social distancing?

I left this conversation with Lisa feeling renewed in what my gut has been saying all along. This dark night is not so dark after all.

Anya:  I love looking for hidden blessings.  I’ve noticed that seemingly terrible events actually have profound gifts to bear—if only we are open to receiving them.  I am curious if you could speak to that, Lisa. Are there any gifts that the Coronavirus situation is delivering to us? 

Lisa:  I LOVE the forced pause we have had to take.  Some will choose to fight it all the way, in everything they think and do.  Others, more accepting of the situation, will be experiencing an ability to view their lives in a new way, and take stock. What should stay; what should go?  Who and what is of service, or not? This is truly one of the rarest gifts one can receive.  Time for reflection.

For me personally, I have finally been able to put an end to my unhealthy drive to help.  I began this confinement like so many: feeling everyone’s pain, confusion, anxiety and fear.  I reached out every day in one way or another, sometimes several times a day, wanting to soothe.  Living in that heightened state for 2 weeks or more I naturally became depleted.  For the first time in my life I was forced to let it go. There was no choice in the matter. 

I decided I can be supportive to those who ask.  I can always love.  I can listen.  I can deeply care.  I don’t have to bleed compassion.  I don’t have to remain on heightened alert as though I am the only one on this planet that can be of support.  When I exist in a place of balance I am the best, strongest version of myself, for those I am close to, as well as the community I cherish and the world at large.  

Anya:   In your beautiful book, A List is Not Enough, you explore how to be more mindful in the face of being busy. Now that the world has slowed down during this pandemic, what mindfulness lessons are there for us to learn? How can lockdown help us on our spiritual path? 

Lisa:  In my most recent newsletter I talked about acknowledging what is: whether it is fear, anxiety, frustration, anger… whatever it is you are experiencing.  Acknowledge it fully. Cry, shout, stamp your feet, feel terrified. 

Next, notice that all of those negative emotions tend to revolve around dwelling on the things you can’t do… 

  • I can’t run my business the way I always have
  • I can’t leave my house
  • I can’t make money
  • I can’t pay my rent

As you can see, the I Can’t List is fraught with fear and anxiety.

After some reflection, move on to your next list: The I Can List.

The I Can List is filled with hope, opportunity, positivity and forward movement.

  • I can call each of my clients and ask how they are doing
  • I can focus on a re-launch once the world gets up and running
  • I can CHOOSE to enjoy this day and leave all the I can’t statements behind
  • I can devote joy-filled time to my family, loved ones, and friends

If it is possible to be open to a new reality, then all doors open.  Forward progress is possible even while in the maelstrom of a seeming disaster.  Is it hard?  Yes!  Are you unhappy, afraid, anxious sometimes?  Yes, again.  But, the rest of the time you can feel a sense of power over what you can control.

Anya:  How can people bring a sense of calm into their lives right now? 

Lisa:  I wish there was a magic answer.  But, having faced overwhelming anxiety in the form of PTSD, the best I can offer is that it starts with believing you can ultimately create a space of calm.  Here are 2 tips:

1.  Turn that Sh** off.  Seriously, step away from the news, social media and especially any nay-sayers in your circle.  Decide on a certain amount of time per day, preferably at the same time per day, to check-in. (Please limit this to no more than 10-15 minutes.)  Then, turn it off.  When the gremlin appears in your head that says, I need to find out if anything new is happening, you can say: “Thank you for that reminder.  I will check again at my prescribed time.”  Then, (this is important) choose something very diverting to engage your brain.  

2  Find a quiet space and allow for a PAUSE.  Sit comfortably and observe your breathing.  You can’t do this wrong.  It is not a competitive sport.  You don’t need exercise clothes or candles.  It is just breathing. 

Notice where you feel the breath entering and exiting your body.  That’s it.  Just notice.  (For some, observing breath might raise anxiety levels.  If this is the case for you, choose to instead observe where your body is coming into contact with a solid surface.  Simply notice all the points of contact.)

If your mind wanders, and it most likely will, guide your mind gently back to your breath or points of contact. Notice your anchors.

Practicing this for as little as 30 seconds will dramatically improve your ability to lower anxiety and fear, even anger, levels.  Do it more than once a day and you will be amazed!

Anya:  Is being calm a necessary foundation for self-love? 

Lisa:  WOAH!  That’s a powerful question. 

In my life, the answer is absolutely YES.  Before I found my calm I couldn’t get out of the tornado of my negative thoughts, old ugly stories and doubt.  It was all just really bad noise.  Once I learned to cultivate calm, the old stories and negative thoughts became independent threads, yarns I could unravel, hold up for inspection, see the fallacies and put them behind me. 

Calm allowed me to create new truths and new stories that cultivate self-love.

Anya:  Having fun seems to be a repeated theme throughout your work, both as a business coach and author. Any suggestions for having fun during lockdown and social distancing?

Lisa:   I believe that having fun helps you experience your authentic self.  For this confined time, I created a Break the Routine Jar filled with slips of paper.  They include things like:

  • Play music really loudly and dance with wild abandon
  • Jump on the trampoline and fall down a lot
  • Bake cookies in funny shapes and decorate them to look like something funny… or not.

This jar can also hold things that bring you joy and peace.  It doesn’t have to always be laugh-out-loud activities.  For example, I love to use meditative drawing to put me in a peaceful frame of mind.  So, I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.

Anya:  What advice would you give to self-employed healers, coaches, and entrepreneurs who are in the midst of drastically re-thinking how to share their gifts with the world? 

Lisa:  Be open to something new.  During the early stages of shutdown, I had a session with a client who is a massage therapist and energy healer.  She has a couple of big corporate clients.  Obviously, when they were forced to shut down, she couldn’t serve their workers. 

Here’s what I explained to her.  People who regularly see their massage therapist, hairdresser, chiropractor or acupuncturist (or any of the various helping professions), look forward to their typical established response. They think: “When I see Suzi, (my massage therapist), it’s my time.  No distractions, no interruptions.  It’s my opportunity to shut the world off.”   That response happens automatically as they walk through the door and hear you say “Hi, what’s going on today?”

I explained to my client that she can still offer that gift.  She can offer a 15-minute Calming Session. This can include leading them through breathing, helping them create a retreat at home, or if nothing else, allowing them 15 minutes to close the door to their bedroom and tell everyone Please Do Not Disturb.

My client quickly created a package that included calming breathwork and Reiki to de-stress in troubled times.  About 10 days later she emailed me, her joy and excitement absolutely jumping off the screen. Both companies loved and accepted the idea and some of her clients took advantage of the offering.

Think of what you give to your clients in conjunction with your regular service.  Do you reduce stress, encourage and inspire, provide quiet?  Whatever it is, create an offering.  

Finally, now is the perfect time to learn a companion skill. For example, if you are a massage therapist, you could study the basics of mindfulness and breathing.  When we go back to work, you can then include tiny pieces of your new skill in your sessions.  As always, if you think of your Can Do List, new opportunities will present themselves.

Stay well.

 

Healing Trauma by Listening to Your Body

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This topic is important for everyone.  Chances are, we ALL have some layer of information that our body is carrying that doesn’t feel good.  

 

Trauma can manifest in the body in many different ways: tightness, discomfort, pain, and dis-ease to name a few.  

 

The word “trauma” may evoke immediate thoughts of abuse and molestation. However, trauma may also have been a time in sixth grade when a bully knocked your books out of your arms and laughed; it may have been when a parent yelled at you to stop singing because they had a headache; or maybe it was a time when you were told you were ugly or not good enough.  Any of these types of experiences, and many more, can cause your body to hold onto stuck energy.

 

Trauma is when we have stuck energy in the body. 

 

Trauma can be initiated by many circumstances, including:

  • Rape, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse
  • Experiences in war
  • Being bullied
  • Car accidents, falls, surgeries
  • Sports accidents
  • Being shamed, yelled at, teased
  • Having emotional or physical support withheld; parents not physically present;  parents present but not emotionally available

 

Having these events happen does not automatically mean your body will hang onto it as trauma. It’s all about how it is met in the moment and how the body and brain responds.  An event that has no long-term effect for one person can create trauma in another, or an event that causes one type of response in one person can cause a completely different type of response in another. (An excellent example of this is the car accident story with Ute and Stan in Chapter 14 of van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.)

 

The events that happen in our life intensely shape our bodies and our minds and drive our actions into adulthood.  Sometimes the events that are particularly mysterious or terrorizing are the ones that happen in the early stages of life as our brains and bodies are newly developing, often before we have a way to verbalize what’s happening. 

 

Peter A. Levine, PhD, pioneer in the field of trauma and developer of the Somatic Experiencing method, describes how we can heal trauma through simple awareness of body sensations:

 

“I learned that it was unnecessary to dredge up old memories and relive their emotional pain to heal trauma. In fact, severe emotional pain can be re-traumatizing. What we need to do to be freed from our symptoms and fears is to arouse our deep physiological resources and consciously utilize them. If we remain ignorant of our power to change the course of our instinctual responses in a proactive rather than reactive way, we will continue being imprisoned and in pain.” (from Waking the Tiger, page 31)

 

I have seen in my work with my own body, and in my work over the years in thousands of hours with clients, a new way of looking at trauma.  I’ve seen over and over that all it really comes down to is this:

 

  • Are you in your body?
  • Are you in the present moment? Is your body on-line? (Brain research by van Der Kolk has shown that certain areas of the brain shut down during trauma. These areas must remain on-line to be able to heal from trauma. Therapy won’t work if we keep being pulled back into the past.  We must be grounded in the present moment: this opens up the possibility of deeply knowing, at a body level, that the horrible events belong in the past.)
  • Are you listening to your body?  (Slowing down)
  • Would you like to make a change? (Honoring free will)
  • Are you willing to feel? (To balance the feeling-heart with the thinking-mind)

 

When all of those answers are a “Yes,” then we can release patterns and rewrite the old scripts that we have been reliving. It often initially helps to have some guidance from someone who can hold safe space for us; but, in time, much of the work can be done alone.

 

We can let ourselves go into the wisdom of our body. All the wisdom’s in there.

 

We also don’t need to feel like we’re stuck in the box of a diagnosis forever. Our body’s capacity to heal itself, to align with its original template of well-being, is immense.

 

It’s really about listening to the guidance and wisdom of the body, and the willingness to be in it.

 

So, no matter what name we give our past pain, I invite you to slow down and take note. When your body gives you a message, listen to it.

 

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Leslie Blackburn, MS, RCST® woke up from a lifetime of “holding on, numbing out and keeping people out” to reconnect with her body, her power and deepest authentic purpose in life.  In that journey from fifteen years in corporate engineering to now ten years as Sacred Sexual Healer & Transformational Guide, she birthed her own unique medicine informed by the wisdom of a wide array of teachers and experiences. Leslie has worked with and inspired thousands of people on the path of Sacred Sexuality, she’s honed ways to liberate others through her story, spiritual teachings and deeply embodied experiential practices. She now offers a path of connecting with your own deep clarity and soul purpose through sexual empowerment.  Leslie bridges the realms to bring deep mystery teachings back into our world from a place of clarity, joy, wisdom and giggles so that we create a culture of love and respect for honoring ourselves, our bodies, each other and the planet.  Love in Action!

 

Leslie offers private sessions to support you to connect with and listen to your body.  She also offers a 3 month leadership and sexual empowerment program supporting sexuality educators and somatic professionals to feel joy and clarity on their soul purpose, learn new tools and build their skills in supporting other’s sexual empowerment.

 

Also, for more about this topic and much more, stay tuned for her upcoming book “Sacred Sexuality: Listening to Your Body.” Subscribe at her website for notice of its release at http://www.LeslieBlackburn.com

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.