I'm a big believer in placing little artifacts in my creative and work spaces to help me remember what I need to cultivate each day, which includes courage, self-compassion, and self-love. As a sensitive introvert, sometimes I need to let my feelings and emotions up and out. If I try to repress them and plow through my work, I'm not effective and it usually leads to a longer period of down time. But when I pay attention to what's going on within, and allow my heart the time it needs to fully process whatever is going on, then I find I can get back to productivity sooner and be more effective when I do. Sometimes this means I need to take an unplanned pause in my work for an hour or a day, depending on what's going on. And I used to be really hard on myself about that, feeling guilty for not being productive. But now I know this is just how I am wired and I need to allow and honor the process instead of trying to fight it. It's not *always* feasible to take a full unplanned day off work, of course. So when I can't, I find other ways to honor myself and the emotions that are longing to be acknowledged. I'll take a break as quickly as I can and go for a walk, sit among the plants in my indoor garden, write in my journal, or do a quick little piece of sketching or other creative expression..... anything that helps me see and understand what's going on within, what triggered the feelings, and what I can do to best nurture my heart in that moment.
As a highly sensitive introvert, I feel and live deeply, so I choose carefully where and with whom I invest my energy. But when I make that decision to invest, I don't just skim the surface, I go all in...
I go all in when a new hobby or passion attracts me, such as a form of art or other types of creative expression. I read or take classes, I experiment and practice, I devote time and energy to learning as much as I can and building my skills to improve my craft.
I go all in when there's a new topic that piques my interest and I want to study it further. I have college degrees, but I've devoted much time and energy to continuing to learn outside of the traditional classroom. I seek to increase my awareness and understanding by reading books and articles, participating in classes, and observing life and my reactions to it.
I go all in when I meet someone new and decide I want to include that person as a regular part of my life (note: throughout this article, I'm not just talking about romantic relationships, but relationships of all kinds, including friendships; as a sensitive introvert, it doesn't matter what kind of relationship it is, they all impact me deeply). When I feel a connection with someone, I want to spend more time getting to know them and understanding who they are, what makes them tick. Because I feel so deeply, and because I've been hurt by past relationships of all kinds, I tend to proceed with caution at first, my heart covered in armor. One thing I've learned about myself is that once I open my heart to someone, it's open. Fully open. Raw and vulnerable. So I'm cautious. Overly so, sometimes. But once I start uncovering the threads of commonality that are weaving us together, I slowly start opening up, sharing more of my heart, more of myself. And when I fully open my heart to the other, I experience the relationship deeply.
I go all in, and feeling this deeply connected to someone brings a sense of aliveness and positive energy. When I find another who wants to know me back, and we help and support each other, care for one another's wellbeing, and encourage each other's growth, I feel a wave of strong positive feelings and emotions that radiate from deep within, including interest, passion, joy, and love (I'm not talking about romantic love, but a broader love that grows when we feel this deeply connected to another, even a friend).
I go all in and this deep of a connection brings a lot of joy. But it can also bring strong waves of fear and pain. Once I've found this kind of relationship. I don't want to lose it, I fear having my heart broken. So I cling too tightly or I pull away. Or I find other ways to sabotage the relationship. As a sensitive introvert, I am in my head a lot and have vivid imaginings. When I don't understand something that's happening in the relationship, I make up whatever assumptions or story will support what I'm feeling.
I go all in, watching, studying, and trying to understand myself better. I've seen these and other sabotaging patterns in action, ruining too many friendships and other relationships. So when I catch myself here now, I let myself feel my emotions. But then I explore, what am I feeling and why am I feeling this way? I remind myself that what's in my head isn't real and that I need to stay present to what's *actually* happening. This helps me stay open. These experiences have been very important heart-training for me. Each time I've gone through something like this, I've come out stronger and my heart opens a little more.
I go all in, in all areas of my life. I experience deeply. I feel deeply. I live deeply. I love deeply. I used to view this as a curse: it's exhausting, challenging, and terrifying. And yes, sometimes I get hurt. But I've learned that my ability to feel and experience deeply is a gift. It's a big part of what makes me who I am. Yes, I deeply feel the pain and the hurt. But I also deeply feel the passion and the love and the joy, and this allows me to experience life to the fullest. So I'm going to keep going all in, even when it's scary to do so. Will you join me?
This spare room in my apartment needed to be multi-functional. It is my home office, my sacred space for journaling and quiet reflection, and my creative space for self-expression through art.
I recently made a couple of small adjustments to create some separation between the work space and the sacred space. I used plants to create a soft border and the feel of a separate room within a room. When I'm working at my desk, I can still see all the plants and the view of the mountains outside. But when it's time to get still and quiet with myself or with my journal, I can situate in a way that I'm surrounded by plants and don't have to look at my work stuff.
The next step will be to add a separate small table in a third area of this room, which will be dedicated for creative self-expression and artwork.
No matter the size we have to work with, we can create the sacred spaces and restorative niches we need to focus on our wellbeing and self-care, and to contribute to our fulfillment. It doesn't need to be a big space. We just need to look at our available spaces with fresh eyes, and bring a little creativity to the process of designing our spaces.
I hung windchimes inside...not just one, but three sets, actually. This set serves as a reminder to embrace my inner fire and to follow my passions and dreams. Before we can follow our passions and dreams, we first need to discover what they are and listen for the whispers of our heart. Our heart is patient, waiting for us to be ready to listen. The guidance of the heart is soft and gentle and may be hard to hear. Sometimes it's hard to discern, is this the voice of my heart? Or is this the voice of my ego and fear? The voice of the heart is both passionate and patient. There's excitement, but not a stressful urgency. Our heart helps us build our courage and inner wisdom so we know when it's the right time to act. Our heart knows that good things take time and that things will happen at the exact right time for us. There's action, but there's no rushing, no pushing, no forcing. Action that comes from the heart can never be wrong. It most likely will be difficult. It may be scary. We can still get off course, encounter roadblocks, and make mistakes. But all these experiences happen for a reason. These experiences are there to challenge us, to help us learn, and to support us in growing into our best self and highest potential. 💜
One of the many lessons I've learned from my indoor garden is to rethink perfection and beauty. None of my plants are perfect, but as long as they are provided the right environment, they all grow how and when they need to grow. And even with their imperfections and blemishes they are all beautiful in their own way.
Nothing in life is perfect, yet everything unfolds exactly as it is meant to. We don't always like the way things happen or the timing of things, but everything comes to us when we need it. The experiences we have and the relationships we begin or end all bring attention to what we need to learn in order to continue our own growth. We humans strive for perfection and control, but we will never be "perfect" by standard definitions. Yet life unfolds perfectly to support our growth, bringing us the right conditions at the right time so we can see what we need to learn.
And as with our plants, we all have imperfections and blemishes, yet we are still beautiful. Do we recognize our own beauty, or focus only on our flaws? And when we're learning the hardest life lessons, do we focus only on our mistakes and failures, or do we see the ways we are learning and growing too? Instead of being so hard on ourselves all the time, let's extend self-compassion and self-kindness, appreciate all that is good about us, and allow our inner beauty to shine through.
May 1 was Global Love Day, a day to give some focused attention to the concept of love and reflect on how you integrate and practice love in your life. The concept of "love begins with me" caught my attention and I spent some time focusing on my own journey to allow more love to flow into my life. For the last five years, I've given focused attention and practice to softening my heart and opening to love. I've learned a lot, grown a lot, and have a lot of personal experience I now feel ready to share with others.
I've done a lot of work to identify and release the blocks and defenses I built to keep love out. I've made significant behavior changes and have noticed differences in how I treat myself and how I interact with others. I feel myself being kinder, more compassionate, and more nurturing with myself and others. I'm more open to going with the flow rather than trying to control every small detail. I'm more present and patient than I used to be, and I'm releasing the grips of perfection-seeking and people-pleasing. I'm looking outward less; rather than constantly seeking validation, approval, and permission from others, I'm learning to turn inward more, checking in with my own heart and what's going to be best for me.
So yes, I've made progress. But I still have a long journey ahead. I still struggle with loving myself unconditionally and with *being* love; it's not coming naturally for me just yet. Old habits, patterns, beliefs, and behaviors still show up. I still let myself down. I'm still too hard on myself when I fail or make a mistake. I'm still full of fear and self-doubt. I still question the source of my value and worth. I'm still not fully trusting myself. I still grab for protective mechanisms to defend my heart in times of stress, chaos, overwhelm and vulnerability. I still have a hard time letting others see the real me and sharing my true feelings with others. I still hesitate and get nervous before pushing the "post" button when I write something this personal.
But when I find myself struggling in these areas, I'm getting better at being kinder and more compassionate with myself. When I feel afraid, I challenge myself to take action anyway. And I continually remind myself that this kind of deep, personal transformation does not happen overnight. It is long, slow work. It took a whole lifetime to become the way I was, and it's not fair to expect immediate change. I had a lot of unlearning and releasing to do so it only makes sense that it will take time, commitment, and a lot of practice in the new ways of being.
Even though it will take time, I am devoted to my practice. I'm devoted to my heart, to my wellbeing, and to my growth and transformation. So even when it's hard, I promised myself that I'll keep going. I'll keep practicing. I'll keep learning. Because I believe that's what I am here to do: to learn, to grow, to evolve, and to become love.