It is amazing to me how some people seem so fearless in the face of adversity. When I read stories from the great masters, saints, and mystics, I say to myself, “I want to be like that. I want to live my life from a place of great love, not fear!” Joan of Arc is commonly quoted as saying, “I am not afraid . . . I was born to do this.” I recently learned that this is a shortened version of her original statement, which included the words, “I have God.” Joan of Arc’s faith in her mission, and specifically in God, allowed her to accomplish amazing feats of bravery during her short life.
When we have faith in ourselves, in our own mission—whether it is a calling from God, a higher power, Spirit, a message from our own intuition, or whatever we wish to call it—we approach our lives with greater strength, confidence, and courage. Of course, we absolutely have important lessons to be learned from our fear, and we do not want to bury it or brush it away. We want to look at it, access it, and then transform it into courage and action. I believe that being brave, truly brave, in life comes only with a regular practice of inner reflection.
The word “fear” is defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.” Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells us, “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” When we have a regular spiritual routine in place, such as The Practice, we begin a process of accessing our Truth and acknowledging our personal fears and the other blocks in our lives. We start to get curious about what is going on and ask ourselves:
What am I anticipating?
What dangers do I perceive in my life?
What scares me and what comforts me?
Without calling what we see right or wrong, we simply look at our thoughts and our lives as objectively as we can. The problem for most of us is that we often have little tolerance for uncomfortable feelings—that familiar feeling in the stomach that says, “I don’t want this to be happening.” We try to escape it in some way, rather than remaining present and touching the rawness of the experience. To learn from the experience, we must remain present to it by giving it our Focused Attention in the very moment we are having the feeling. I have learned, with practice, to stay with the feeling and really feel it.
Try this the next time you are feeling afraid (but not in any immediate danger):
1. Go to your body and connect with whatever physical sensation you are experiencing. It always feels bad—a tightening in the throat, in the heart, or in the solar plexus. Stay with that feeling and say to yourself, “Millions of people all over the world have this kind of discomfort—this feeling of not wanting things to be this way. This is my link with humanity.” Connect with the idea that this moment is a shared experience all over the world. When I do this, I no longer feel alone, and I am able to sit with the feeling, and really feel it and not be afraid.
2. Next ask, “What is this fear here to teach me? What am I to learn from this moment, this situation, or this person?”
Being with fear in this way, fully present, is the only way in which you can wake up and discover your Truth. As you practice, you will find your own simple, grounded language to ask your inner Self these questions. Be patient. The response might not come right away, and it might never be obvious, but you are beginning to open yourself up to the continually changing, fluid nature of your own being.
With this practice, you increase your capacity to accept whatever is in the moment and to be brave in the face of fear. With your eyes, heart, and mind open and receptive, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities for growth. Life is always changing—really, the only thing for certain in life is that it will constantly change. When you see this, you begin to feel the adventure life truly offers and realize that there is no way to avoid uncertainty—because that is the adventure! Enjoy this beautiful ride called life from a place of love.
With Maya Angelou’s recent passing, the flurry of posts highlighting her incredible contribution to society and her words of wisdom continued for several days. The newsfeed offered many jewels of inspiration, but one in particular comes to mind:
“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
This wise woman suggested that forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. But she also said, “You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’”
These are beautiful words. But can we really forgive everybody for everything? I think what Maya Angelou is saying is that when we have the courage to love those who have caused us pain in some way, we allow ourselves to release that pain from our hearts, little by little, which makes more room for love. And with ever-expanding love, anything is possible—even letting go of that anger and resentment once and for all.
Without the burden of anger and resentment, our load in life becomes lighter. We are no longer bound by agitating memories that make our hearts race or our “blood boil.” We breathe easier and can focus our attention on more constructive thoughts and activities. With this new perspective, we have the freedom to make certain changes in our lives or to take an important action if necessary. This truly is a gift to ourselves, isn’t it?
Forgiveness doesn’t mean we will never be angry or resentful again. Of course not. These are human emotions, and they will certainly crop up again and again over the course of a lifetime. But the same is true for forgiveness. We can continue to practice forgiveness as many times as it takes to ease our burden, free ourselves, and open our hearts to love.
How we go about forgiving is a personal matter, and we all need to figure out what works best for us. Here is how I practice forgiveness:
- When I am hurt by something someone has said or done, I express my feelings. Depending on the situation and/or person involved, sometimes I acknowledge my feelings only to myself or to a trusted confidant. Other times, I speak to the person with whom I’m upset.
- I always make an effort to communicate how I feel as lovingly as possible. This way, I am not covering up my anger. I am gently putting it out in the open so that it can be dealt with and diffused. If a conversation resolves the issue or helps me to see what happened in a different light, that’s great. But not all cases of forgiveness will be so simple.
- If the hurt is very deep, I consciously send loving thoughts to heal the situation. I don’t think about retaliation or hope the other party will come to their senses and make amends. I put my trust in my heart that I will find peace in this situation. Likewise, I trust that they, too, will find peace and resolution.
- To me, finding peace doesn’t mean forgetting what happened. Rather, it means that I no longer feel an intense emotional charge when reminders crop up. Without the charge, I am clear enough to take whatever action is necessary and resonates with the greatest good for all concerned.
- To send loving thoughts to heal a situation, I often say or write my sacred mantra. Sometimes this is the only action I am able to take. It is a simple task that calms my mind by slowing down my thoughts. With each mantra repetition, I begin to feel my burden weaken and my courage to love strengthen. (For more on the Sacred Mantra, click here.)
We have a tendency to wear our anger and resentment like protective armor. Without it, we might feel vulnerable and weak. So, as Maya Angelou suggested, forgiveness is a courageous act. As we remove these pieces of armor through consistent practice, we begin to feel lighter and lighter. Our whole countenance softens, and forgiveness envelops us with its precious gift of freedom.
I like describing myself as a student of life. I am always learning, studying, growing, expanding, and exploring. I believe strongly that my purpose in life is to pass along this knowledge to all of you; be a teacher. Actually, we are all meant to be students and teachers! So, as a student of life, I am not perfect. I always try to practice what I preach; be authentic. That being said I am a human being, so I slip off track from time to time. I believe strongly that leading a spiritual life means falling on and off the path and the teachings come from how quickly we recover; get back on the path! I need my constant reminders and my positive reinforcements just like anyone else. With all of this being said, there are five core ideas that have really helped me live my own authentic life, serving my highest and greatest ideal. Here are the five best things I have learned while on this spiritual path of life.
- Cultivate your ability to trust, have faith, accept, and surrender. This is a really big teaching for me. Deep down we know we cannot control what happens to us in life; but we try anyway! We cannot manipulate, force, or pressure anything into happening. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way in many instances, so my greatest motto is, “let go and trust; all is well.”
- Make yourself your priority. This is a tough one for many, but so important. Exactly how do we do this many ask me in my lectures and workshops. I always say, “make taking good care of your body and mind a priority, so you can continue to be of service to yourself and others.” You are the only “you” that you have. You cannot possibly live the amazing life you were born to live if you are not feeling your best! Mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, take care of yourself, daily. You’ll have so much more to give to everyone around you when you are your #1 priority.
- Get out of your own way! Life truly is what we make of it, and so often we create the very chaos that we so desire to be rid of. Our anxious thoughts, mindless actions, and necessity to please others create a confusing, stressful way of existence. Take yourself out of this endless loop, and do the work that you are able to do to create the life you desire. Incorporate healthy habits, make wise choices moment to moment, start your day in balance and stillness. Do your best to be your best!
- Don’t compare – EVER. Maybe my second biggest teaching, and one that creeps into my life from time to time. Theodore Roosevelt’s quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy” is so incredibly true! No matter what the situation, comparison is a complete joy killer. So I say to myself and I say to you right here, just don’t do it. Find something to bring your attention on when your mind begins to compare yourself to anyone else in this world. Using your breath, a sacred mantra, or an affirmation is powerful here. We are very unique and magnificent in our own ways, so how can it possibly make sense to compare yourself to another person? Let’s come back here to teaching number one, trust that whoever you are is enough. You do you, and let everyone and everything else be!
- Be compassionate and loving as often as you can. We absolutely have no idea what is going on in the lives of others; but unfortunately we think we do. So be the light when you walk into a room. Do whatever you can to lift someone up rather than bring them down. From loved ones to strangers, treat each person with love and respect; let your essence be love. Be the ray of sunshine in someone else’s day. Maya Angelou said, “Be the rainbow in another person’s life.”
I leave you with my MOST profound teaching; it’s at the foundation of them all-
Never underestimate the power of silence and stillness. Mindfulness, awareness, purposefulness, positivity, all stem from being still. We gain all of our power, self-confidence and strength in life by “sitting with ourselves.” Find a quiet space every morning and sit with yourself in silence, focusing on your breath, tapping into that place within of love and strength. Give it a try and see what happens. Remember if you think you just can’t sit still, here’s a teaching- “In the sitting still we learn to be still.”
My wish for you is that these teachings are as meaningful and helpful for you as they are for me. Let me know what has inspired you to live your most beautiful, magnificent life?
How many times do the left over thoughts of the day, or the worries of tomorrow, prevent you from falling to sleep? I am consistently asked how to “let go” of the day. Whereas some days are certainly more difficult than others, I find these 3 tips give me the best chance for a restful nights sleep.
ALONE TIME: After you do your bedtime routine, commit to no more TV, phone or external stimulus and sit with yourself and your thoughts for no more than 5-10 minutes. During this time, have the intention to let go of everything that has happened, all problems, and all worries.
REFLECT: Reflect on the day, journal, make a few notes, and without judgment, say “This day is over, I did the best that I could, I cannot change anything that has happened but I can be rested and ready to greet the next day.” This is making peace with yourself, so that you can be present, aware, and grateful for the day ahead.
MOVE-ON: Acknowledge that while we cannot change what happened earlier in the day, we will probably have another chance to try again in a similar situation. Take time to do some inspirational reading, a couple of minutes is enough and close your eyes focusing on your breath.
Ending your day with a sense of peace, strength and connectedness provides a firm foundation for a good night’s rest.
When we worry, our minds are focused on our problems or fears without constructive thoughts toward resolution. Worry is a repetitive thought process. It keeps us stuck in an unproductive loop and can dull our enjoyment of everyday life. It can even manifest as physical symptoms of anxiety.
For all these reasons, worrying is an activity we should try to keep to a minimum! But with everything going on in the world and in our personal lives, it’s virtually impossible not to worry. We are human, so we are usually going to have “something on our minds.” The idea is to figure out how to put our worrying to the best possible use. That starts with putting our worries in perspective by asking the following questions:
- Is this a life-or-death situation? Does it have the potential to harm you or someone you know? Are you or someone else currently in potential danger? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, seek support from someone you trust. Make a list of the people or services that can help ease your concerns surrounding this issue, and then contact them.
- Can it change my life? If your worry doesn’t fall into the above category, that’s great news. This is certainly something to be grateful for. However, if it is a worry that has the potential to change your life in some way, that’s still a pretty big deal. This worry is actually a fear of the unknown. While we never know what the future holds, we can guess and make the potential outcomes not such a mystery to us. This turns worries into constructive thoughts. Try this activity:
- Make a list of all of the potential outcomes resulting from this change, including the best-case and worst-case scenarios. To make this fun, you can even include ridiculous things that could happen but probably won’t. When considering the worst-case scenario on your list, ask yourself how you might be able to use that particular outcome (if it happens) to make you a stronger, wiser person in the long run. When considering the best-case scenario, think about steps you can take to make that outcome more likely.
- Am I worried about someone else? Does your worry fall into the category of concern for someone else’s well-being—maybe your spouse, child, friend, or even a group of people? Of course, if you have the opportunity to support or assist the person or group by taking an action, seize the opportunity. However, if this isn’t possible, the next best thing you can do is send loving thoughts to the individual or group you are concerned for. Imagine that person or group in your mind’s eye feeling happy, content, and fulfilled. Imagine they have everything they want and need to thrive. I think you’ll agree that this is a better activity for your mind than ruminating about how helpless you feel!
- Am I still worried? Even when we take steps to put our worries in perspective, sometimes it seems as if our minds have a mind of their own. We might know that something is not a big deal or that worrying isn’t going to change anything, but we just can’t stop thinking about it. If that’s the case, stilling the mind through meditation can help. Watching the worrisome thoughts come and go without engaging them can help you find peace of mind. With continued practice, you might even discover that you are worrying less and seeing the actions you can take to reduce your worries more clearly!
Are you ready to have what could be, up until now, the best day of your life? Don’t let jitters or the fear that everything must be perfect ruin your magical day. Here are 5 tips to help you enjoy the day of your dreams.
- FIRST THING: Disconnect from the drama and all things happening around you in the external world. Start your big day off with 5 minutes of sitting with yourself. Look in the mirror and say, I love you- I am a magnificent bride marrying a magnificent man!” Find somewhere quiet, just you, and sit in calm with yourself breathing in and out settling into the day, deeply connecting with you. Breathe in a smile and say, “thank you for this beautiful day” breathe out saying, “I am loving and peaceful” for the 5 minutes- then leave your space feeling connected, strong and peaceful.
- STAY FUELED: It’s so important today that you eat and drink during the entire day. DON’T let this day be a day where you feel that you can make it without stopping for nourishment! Make sure to eat and drink and choose foods that nourish your body, mind and spirit. Drink lots of water, choose a calming, relaxing tea, and eat vegetables, and proteins that are light and freeing.
- BREATHE: Remember to stop when necessary and breathe; NO ONE can take this moment from you today! You started your day in silence, and connected to the deep source of strength and peace within- So during each moment of this day if you start to feel impatient, nervous or scared, close your eyes for a few deep breaths; Breathe, let everything go and just “BE” – you will instantly connect with that peace within and your deep knowing that “all is well” Doing this quick breathing throughout the day will bring you the calm to enjoy each moment of your day.
- BE PRESENT: This is your day! By taking a pause and consciously breathing you will be bringing yourself back to the present where all of this beauty, greatness and fun of this big moment of your life is happening. Remember being in the present moment grounds you in the experience that this moment is the most important moment of your life and you will have the feeling that you don’t want to miss anything no matter what. Set the intention for you day- to stay in the present moment no matter what your mind says you will stay present.
- LET GO: And last but not least- give up control! You have done all that you can do for the planning, and you have done a magnificent job, so let this knowing that you are ready and prepared and give up all expectations of what you think should happen and go with the thought of being open and receptive to the people and place here in this moment- The day will far surpass your wildest dreams if you let go of your thoughts of how it should go and trust that the Universe plan is amazing; it is here to support your highest and greatest god and you don’t need to control or now the outcome.