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Saying “Yes” To Saying “No”

While I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, there is an energetic shift I am setting into motion in 2022. The theme of this shift is saying “yes” to saying “no”. I was inspired to make this a goal after reading a chapter devoted to this idea in Anita Moorjani’s book, Sensitive is the New Strong. I really resonated with what she had to offer on this topic and found that as an empath, it was definitely an area that was challenging to navigate – perhaps you can relate to this too.

As empaths, it is typically quite hard for us to say no. We usually are more concerned with hurting people’s feelings or have guilt around saying no. We also are ordinarily not fans of confrontation or conflict. The result being, we say yes to keep the peace or avoid the awkwardness of having a difficult conversation. There is a tendency to do whatever is necessary to avoid conflict or disappointing people, even at our own emotional expense.

All of these behaviors cause us to feel depleted, weary and ultimately, resentful. It also sets us up to be less than honest about our true feelings, often fearing we will let down our loved ones or friends if we state how we really feel or say no. I finally noticed I hadn’t been giving people enough credit with this line of thinking. Afterall, I am not ever upset when someone isn’t able to fulfill a request or says no. By extension, it seems reasonable to assume that would likely be the case in reverse. I realized that the negative response I feared was really my own projection and coming from my own mind.

In reality, people are much more accepting and accommodating than I was giving them credit for. It is true however, if we have trained people to expect us to subjugate our needs for their needs, it might be surprising to them when we shift. The good news is any healthy and loving relationship will survive the transition. People who love and respect us want what’s best for us and are willing to accept our new way of being. In the end, learning to say “yes” to saying “no” is a win for everyone because authenticity is the foundation of all truly healthy relationships.

The Audacity of Hope

At times like these having hope, optimism or belief in the inherent goodness of humanity and the world can be tough. It can even cause cynics and critics alike to consider such ideas naïve or Pollyanna-like nonsense. As it turns out, I’ve always been a real fan of Pollyanna optimism and find that I am perfectly okay with naysayers thinking love as the answer is a naïve perspective.

The truth of the matter is that you, all of you, have been the clear demonstration that this idea is not only a sound hypothesis but is in fact the only reality there is. It has been through my interaction with a myriad of amazing people and animals that I have seen time and again the goodness, wholeness and unstoppable force of love that will transform this great planet.

I know this because I have been so deeply moved and inspired by the many wonderful people, I have had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with through this work. I see the same beauty, love and yearning for each soul’s expression into greater authenticity and resonance with one’s true self. I see the support and unconditional love of animals helping humans recognize their shining light of divinity and goodness. Endlessly, always sending the same message of love, only love.

So, when people ask me if I am hopeful for the world, the future and humanity. I respond with a resounding, yes. I can respond confidently because I believe in you and I believe in me. If you are short on belief, you can borrow mine. I have the audacity of hope that together we will transform this world one loving act at a time, one connection at a time, one moment at a time.

Your perfect, glorious self

We come into this world perfect. Unfortunately, the perfection of our true nature gets covered over rather quickly. By the time we are old enough to enter preschool, we already have concepts of being “good” or “bad” and all the self-doubt that comes with it. Babies and animals are the perfect teachers to demonstrate for us what self-acceptance looks like. Babies and animals have no guilt, shame or comparison.

They love and accept their bodies, feelings and emotions. They just put it all out there and totally live in the moment, expressing their glorious authenticity fearlessly. We were like that once too. But somewhere along the line we listened to messages from the world that told us we were “not good enough”. We began to believe this poisonous lie and started down the long, arduous path of self-criticism.

Let’s decide once and for all to stop all that nonsense and get back to loving and accepting ourselves exactly as we are. If there are areas in our life we would like to change, we can accomplish this only through first accepting ourselves totally as we are, right here and now. No successful and lasting change comes from shame, self-hatred or guilt. Love and acceptance are the healing balm and alchemical magic that transforms. Only then can we truly see the beauty that was always there just waiting for us to come home to our perfectly magical divine selves.

You have to name it to claim it

There is a saying, “You have to name it to claim it”. This essentially speaks to the importance of knowing and defining for ourselves what we want to cultivate, nurture and create in our individual lives and the world. Sometimes we can get bogged down by the idea that this has to be some grand vision or purpose with far reaching effects. This month I offer you the idea for contemplation that small is indeed BIG. My challenge to you and to myself is to bring heartfelt reflection and awareness to claiming/defining what happiness looks like as demonstrated in my daily life.

By this I mean the actual details of how it would look, what it would feel like and the very specific ways it would make itself known in my every day experience of life. When we take the time to actually define what this looks like for us personally, we reap a multitude of benefits. It sets us up to get immediate feedback on a moment-by-moment basis when we are in alignment with our values or moving away from them. It also creates a ready-made vision that we can work with to channel our creative energy and life force into projects that support our self-defined goals.

Defining what our own version of happiness looks like may seem self-indulgent on the surface or not impactful to the world at large, but I disagree. The world needs each and every one of us to bring our love, talent, excitement and creativity to the table. This is accomplished best through people who feel happy and joy-filled sharing their good vibes in every interaction. We are always transmitting our vibes to the world we interact with, whether we are conscious of it or not.

Why not become a conscious co-creator and join with the force for love, joy and happiness that exists all around us? Impactful change is never a top-down driven agenda. By definition the status quo is rarely interested in changing. Societal change is enacted by small groups of dedicated individuals that believe a better way is possible. They bring their joy, passion and unwavering commitment to making it happen. The world is in dire need, luckily the Universe has a plan, it sent you.

Reality is okay with me

I was listening to an interesting talk the other night by one of my favorite people, Michael Singer. The topic of the talk was, “Reality is okay with me”. Right away I noticed I had some resistance to this idea. How could reality be okay with me, especially in the times we are currently living through. In the midst of death, disease, violence, civil unrest and environmental degradation, reality seems anything other than okay. In fact, thinking it was okay seemed outrageous.

I was interested to see where this topic would go. I’ve listened to enough talks by Michael Singer to know I always come away with a plethora of aha moments. As expected, in the end, what he offered was a real eye opener in a multitude of ways. What I love most about the way in which Michael Singer conveys a meaningful message is his simplicity of explanation. It is always free of convolution and complication. He’s an expert at providing the straight forward truth.

The truth he served up this particular evening was no exception. I’ll do my best to convey the nuggets of goodness he shared in this interesting talk. The basic premise he started with was the fact that every single thing every single person does, they are doing out of fear. We are either afraid of not getting what it is we decided we need to be okay or we are afraid of losing what we managed to get to make ourselves relatively okay. This sounds normal because everyone is doing this, but it is living in defense mode. In this way we set up a struggle with life where we are trying to get things to be a certain way so that we will feel less fear. Have you ever noticed it doesn’t work?

If there is any particular way life has to be for us to be okay, by definition we are not free. We can’t be free when we need life to be a certain way. We create a full-time lifelong job for ourselves by trying to manage what needs to happen for us to feel less fear and more safety. He suggested that we each make a commitment to take the road less traveled and to stop blaming our lack of well-being on the outside world. Stating that the real work is to realize that as long as our inside peace is conditional on the outside world we will be condemned to a miserable life.

Michael’s suggestion was that we start to engage with life on very different terms. Using the everyday events of life to break us open to a deeper and truer experience of reality. Anytime anything happens that affects our psyche, heart or mind we remember we want to use our lives to liberate and free ourselves to be unconditionally okay. Essentially at the moment of discomfort we say to ourselves, “Here is a condition that has challenged my okay-ness – I am going to let go of whatever is inside of me that can’t handle this condition”.

Notice that this does not mean we aren’t engaging fully in life. Things will happen and unfold in the world around us and we interact with them. The difference is that we have shifted our focus to “I want to be okay no matter what” instead of “I need things, people, events to be this way in the world so that I feel okay” – this is 180-degree difference in every possible way. If we continue to separate out the good, bad, right, wrong, pleasant and unpleasant we are out of harmony with truth. The truth is that life has unfolded for 13.8 billion years and we are here experiencing it for a few decades. Whether or not we like the circumstances that are unfolding is irrelevant.

The way to get rid of fear, according to Michael, is to not be afraid of it. When we realize that we are okay no matter what we will see that fear can’t hurt us. It is just an experience like everything else in life. This won’t be easy. It’s not supposed to be. We have habit formed tendencies that tell us to change the outside to feel better inside. This path is the road less traveled, but once you know it’s really the only path that works, we have a choice to make. Are we ready to stop doing what will never work in exchange for living in harmony with true reality and the freedom it offers?

The Art of Allowing

If you’re anything like me, it can be challenging to practice the art of allowing. What I mean by this is the irresistible urge I have to control outcomes. I can always make a good case for why I need to get in there and fix things or “help” the situation to arrive at the desired outcome. As a matter of fact, the only way I started to release this tendency was when life provided me circumstances that truly forced me to surrender.

There was nothing left to do but fall back into allowing and just be there with the discomfort, pain and dwell in the unknown. Scary stuff indeed, however, coming out on the other side I had inadvertently created a new awareness. Life didn’t need my help to get things squared away. It did a great job all on its own. Sure, the path wasn’t the route I would have preferred, but there I was, I had made it through intact. Ironically, I felt more enhanced and confident than before. I was clearly able to see it was safe to stop being so anxious and fearful about life and instead relax into life’s perfection.

This change didn’t happen overnight, it was a gradual unfolding as life continued to present situations that confirmed and reinforced this new found truth over and over. There are still times I slide back into the old patterns of behavior. However, the detour into madness gets shorter and comes with an awareness that I am out of alignment which allows me to return to sanity in short order.

Looking back, I am so grateful I learned to trust life. It makes this human experience infinitely more enjoyable. It takes a lot of time, energy and effort to control circumstances and attempt to force outcomes. Energy that could be better spent living our lives right now in the present – trusting that whatever happens, we can and will be okay. The truth of our collective situation is that we are all on a return journey back to spirit. A journey which began the moment we were born. This human experience has a shelf life, let’s commit to enjoying it as much as possible while we’re here.

The best laid plans of mice and men

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Oh, how true this is! The events of the past year have really driven home this idea. On a personal level we’ve had a front row seat to this sobering truth during our kitchen remodel project. We made all the preparations, had a plan, checked all the boxes and mitigated all the seeming road blocks. Then life had other plans. In one fell swoop our carefully constructed timeline came crashing down, not just once, but again and again.

The lesson was abundantly clear, we are always on life’s timeline and not our own. We can have a vision, goal or dream but the path or trajectory to that destination is ultimately out of our hands. Any illusion that we are in control is an illusion of our creation and life will quickly and often swiftly remind us of this fact. But this isn’t to say that we are helpless beings, victims of a cruel unjust world. Actually, it is just the opposite. The more we fight and resist what’s showing up, the more we stay stuck in the muck. We think we know the best path to our goal but life keeps reminding us that we need to hold our personal agendas loosely.

In our case, we realized the delays and disruptions ultimately caused us to reevaluate some decisions which resulted in a fresh perspective we hadn’t considered originally. What looked like setbacks actually helped us greatly in a multitude of ways. Has it been frustrating and disheartening at times, absolutely. Do we wish everything was completed and our life back to normal, for sure! But we have finally surrendered to the journey this project is taking us on. We decided to commit to having as much fun as possible and give up the struggle. In the end, that is the only decision we have to make – to stay stuck in resistance or to surrender.

Are we going to struggle, resist and be angry when things don’t go our way? If so, we will be miserable quite often and life will continue to feel burdensome. The alternative is to trust the timing and unfolding of life, not as random but as perfection. We can then stop trying to force our way and begin to practice the art of allowing, creating space for the Universe to work its magic. Only when we loosen the reins and stop pushing our agenda can we truly begin to enjoy the ride that life has planned for each and every one of us.

The Power of Connection

There is a tendency in these times to feel justified in closing ourselves off from the world mentally as well as physically. It can all feel like too much and therefore we retreat as a protective measure and go into survival mode. From there we typically slip into a state of isolation which in turn further increases our anxiety and depression.

It can seem counter intuitive, but ironically the quickest way to elevate our state of mind is to take the focus off ourselves and our own problems. When we engage in activities, or put our energy into something that helps others we lighten our mental load. The result is a release from the inner madness and hyperawareness that is constantly directed towards our own problems.

We can do this from our own home if we are unable to actually get out into the community. There are so many ways to get involved in a cause that speaks to our hearts. We can also start small and look to our own circle of connections. Where is there an opportunity to reach out to a friend, family member or neighbor who needs a little support or a helping hand? The point is when we start looking for ways to bring our time, talent and attention to something, we not only spread the love, but get the benefit of both physical and mental upliftment. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time; it just has to come from the heart.

Interestingly, the more challenging and precarious the circumstances we find ourselves in, the more we need to make this a priority. Doing so helps us remember we are never truly alone and no problem is insurmountable. These wonderful opportunities are always available. When we reach out with openness and curiosity, we allow the magical healing balm of connection to remind us of the goodness that is ever present.

What’s love got to do with it…as it turns out, everything!

In the world we are currently living in it can be a curious conundrum to speak about believing we live in a friendly, loving Universe. We need only look around us to find countless arguments and evidence that appears to suggest the contrary. But are we really seeing ultimate reality? Again, this can sound like a Pollyanna viewpoint devoid of realism, scientifically minded judgment and within the realm of wishful thinking.

However, I don’t share this fatalistic viewpoint. I feel there is an overwhelming plethora of evidence that points to a Universe (and humanity) that is kind, loving and always working on behalf of our highest ultimate good. The problem as I see it is the all-knowing Divine mind of the Infinite lays out these plans in ways that are often in opposition to what we humans deem as the best path or right situation. We think we know how things should be for us to be happy, fulfilled, safe, successful but the truth is we don’t know what’s coming around the corner and we can only make decisions from our own past experience and limited point of view.

This often makes us snow-blind to seeing the potential for a positive outcome from circumstances that don’t fit within our definition of desirable. None of us would actively choose to have a bankruptcy, serious illness, experience the death of our child, find ourselves homeless, and a whole host of other deeply challenging circumstances. But repeatedly we find the people who encounter these life altering situations are inexplicably changed and, in many instances, changed for the better. They typically speak of living life with more freedom, love and kindness than ever before – frequently stating they would not change the fact these circumstances occurred in their life.

Somewhat surprisingly, they are usually deeply grateful for having had the seemingly “tragic” circumstance come into their life. Time and again people who have traversed these situations credit the experience as completely altering the trajectory of their life and adding a meaning to their existence that had been missing. I don’t know about you, but that certainly sounds like the result of a kind and loving Universe. Somehow a mysterious alchemy takes place, transforming what we initially defined as our worst nightmare into the method of our evolution.

When we decide life is for us and not against us, it completely changes the way we interact with everything. We start to loosen our grip on needing to control outcomes and agendas. We become less fearful and more trusting in all areas of our life. In turn, our reality that was once viewed through ominous lenses morphs into one in which we begin feeling safe to extend love in all circumstances. We do this in confidence knowing a loving, kind Universe has our back and indeed the best is yet to come.

Spring has sprung

It’s April in Michigan, winter has released its grip, and we are enjoying the glorious spring season emerging all around us. It always feels like a breath of fresh air to witness the ground breaking open with new life. This year in particular feels like a time of rebirth and reemerging into life. It happens to also be one year since my father passed away.

In some ways it seems impossible that a year has come and gone since his death. In other ways it has been a year filled with extraordinary challenges and change for not only myself, but the entire world. I think we are all ready to emerge from our collective hibernation and reclaim some normalcy and connection. This time of isolation has created such a deep appreciation for the little things that once seemed so insignificant and mundane. Experiencing the holidays, special occasions and meaningful moments of this past year without dad has been tough. But slowly through the grief I have discovered a new way to live without his physical presence.

During this past year we have all been through a master class in learning to live with loss and grief while wading deep into waters of the unknown. I look forward to this spring season with renewed hope that the worst is behind us and that the best is yet to come.