The universe is always sending us signs about our callings and our path. We are being invited to grow beyond our limits and evolve into our highest potential. The messages and clues can show up anywhere. But do we notice them?
I love being surprised by the discovery of hearts where I least expect them. Whenever I find one, such as on this painted rock lying along the sidewalk, it reminds me that my purpose in this life involves learning to truly love. My journey has taken me through some challenging experiences to show me all the ways I have been blocking love from flowing into and through my life.
I'm a sensitive introvert, so I spend a lot of time in my head, telling myself stories about how unlovable I am. I'm also a recovering over-achiever and people pleaser because I believed the only way to receive love was to prove how good I was, and that I deserved it.
Through my life experiences, it's been made very clear to me that I've not been good about loving myself. And because I'm not good about loving myself, I'm also not good at loving others, or accepting love from others. The past few years, I've been learning and practicing the art of self-love.
It's not been easy practice for me. There are a lot of old wounds that have needed to be healed. I have been learning how to forgive myself for all the wrongs I have done. I have been learning self-compassion and how to stop beating myself up for every mistake. I have been learning to make self-care a priority and caring for all aspects of my wellbeing. I have been exploring the old beliefs and stories about my lovability, and I'm still working to rewrite them. None of these lessons have been easy.
But as difficult as it's been, it's been equally rewarding. Because breaking my heart open to expose all the hurt and wounds and brokenness inside has allowed my heart to finally begin the healing process, which is creating space for love to flow in. 💜
**Courage** For this sensitive introvert, it's hard to heed the truth in my heart, to even acknowledge that there's a deeper truth in there. I don't want to hear it because then I know I'll have to do something about it.
I'd much rather ignore it awhile longer, hide out, and stay in the safety of my too-small my comfort zone. I procrastinate and let myself get distracted doing other things, often meaningless things that don't really matter in the long run.
I do all this avoiding not because I dislike change. No. I actually really do believe change is a necessity in life. Without change, it's difficult to fully experience all that our life is waiting to offer. Without changing and evolving, it's impossible to grow into our full potential.
I avoid my heart's truths not because I fear change, but because I'm terrified by the unknown. I prefer to avoid the chaos and overwhelm that come when I set foot into unknown waters. Yes, I am pro change. But this sensitive introvert wants it to be on *her* terms. I seek to control the experience so *I* can feel in control.
The thing is, the more I try to push and pull and force and control, the more overwhelmed and stressed I feel. I've learned that when I allow myself to ease up, to stop grasping for control, to start going with the flow of the experience, it becomes much less chaotic and I end up feeling less overwhelmed and more at ease. I usually even come to enjoy the experience itself. Letting go isn't easy to do, it takes continual practice.
I'm learning to trust that if my actions are truly coming from the heart, then no matter what happens, even if it's unexpected or difficult, it's meant to happen. There's a reason I'm going through this particular experience at this particular time. There's a better outcome that I can't see yet, or there's something I need to learn. So I'm listening, heart. I'm learning to trust and find the courage to act.
I took some time in January to revisit my priorities and to create intentions for the year. I don't do New Year Resolutions anymore, but when I did, some of the most common resolutions I used to set were things like: lose weight, eat better, exercise more. But by whose standards? And for what purpose? After setting such surface-level resolutions, I'd be excited to work on them - for the first week or two. Then, the excitement wore off as I started to feel deprived, resentful, or otherwise resistant to the goal. I'd get frustrated with myself for not sticking to it and soon, the resolution was forgotten altogether and I was just left with a bad feeling about the experience.
For the most part, I think I've approached my past resolutions from the perspective of trying to appease others in some way, trying to earn approval or acceptance. I was focused on what I "should be" doing to become some idealized version of myself based on what others expected me to do, or who they expected me to be. Resolutions seemed to be something I either achieved or didn't achieve. I passed or I failed. I felt good about myself when I accomplished it or bad about myself when I didn't. So, no. I don't do resolutions anymore.
One year, I decided to get out of the resolution game, for good. That year, I set intentions instead and I've done that every year since. My intentions are broader, heart-centered concepts that support my continual learning and personal growth. They pull me forward, toward a better version of myself. They set my course, direct my path, and motivate me to keep practicing even when it gets hard. The intentions that I set for myself address deeper beliefs, choices, and behaviors that are attached to old stories I carry about who I am (or who I am not). My intentions are not based on what *others* say I should do or how I should be.
Instead, the intentions I create each year are chosen from my heart. They are the result of self-observation, self-reflection, and self-inquiry, through which I've come to see what's not working in my life and how I am holding myself back. I make a conscious choice about something that I want to be different and I make a commitment to invest in my own personal growth. For example, the intentions I created for this year are:
These intentions are applicable to all areas of my life - personal, relational, spiritual, and professional. Over the course of this year, they will help me continue to detach from old stories I've believed about myself for too long, and from old fears that are still hanging on. They will support me in continuing to grow my self-esteem, self-confidence, self-trust, and self-love. They will support me in continuing to follow my heart, even when it's scary to do so. They will help me stay focused on my own wellbeing and self-care as I take big leaps toward my life purpose and the mission of my business.
Now that my intentions have been set, I begin practicing. My practice involves reviewing them, along with my priorities, every morning. Together these serve as a compass for my choices and actions each day. My practice also involves self-observation and paying really close attention to how well I'm living in accordance with these intentions . By noticing what I'm doing and what I'm thinking throughout the day, I catch myself in the act when my behavior is not aligned with my intentions. When this happens, I move into some self-inquiry and self-reflection, seeking to understand what is going on and why I'm reacting the way I am. I'll explore what lesson I need to learn from the situation, and then I'll try again.
These kinds of intentions are challenging. Anytime we are seeking to transform a core belief about our self, or even make a significant change to our patterns of thinking or behavior, it takes time and commitment. There is no instantaneous change, there are no quick fixes. What's required is a willingness to experiment, a desire to learn and grow, and a commitment to ongoing practice.
Putting It Into Practice
It's not too late to set your own intentions for this year. Generally, I don't recommend setting as many as I have when you are just getting started. The last thing we want to do it to take on too many priorities for our personal growth at once; that could just lead to chaos, overwhelm, or frustration. So choose the most important ones to start with and you may make some adjustments as you continue working with them. I generally recommend choosing somewhere between 1 and 3 intentions to start with - this helps you hone in on what's most important and helps you stay focused throughout the year.
You might start by spending some time reflecting on what your biggest challenges have been over the past year. In what ways have you felt most "stuck" in your life? What issues keep showing up time and again? What fears are getting in your way? How have you been holding yourself back from your dreams or from living the way you want to live? What do you want your life to look life? How do you want to be, or "show up" in your life (for example, do you want to be more courageous, trusting, open, loving, generous, or grateful?)? If you are unsure where to start, download this FREE tool, the PSR Wellbeing Assessment for some ideas. Reflect on which factors you are the least satisfied with, and you may find some inspiration for which ones you'd like to bring more attention to.
As you start to hone in on what's most important to you, start drafting your intentions, writing them in present-tense fashion, as if you are already practicing it regularly. Notice how I wrote mine: Not "I will trust," but, "I trust." Not "I will embrace," but, "I embrace." This approach brings these intentions into the now rather than something you will get around to "someday."
Continue working with your intentions until they feel right. Allow yourself some time, don't feel like you have to rush the process. Once you have narrowed it down to your top 1-3 intentions, put them where you can easily read them every day. Make this a part of your morning ritual to help you set the tone and your focus for the day.
January! A month during which I took a pause and worked through some visioning for 2018. I listened to my heart and got clear on what I want to create in my life this year. I set my intentions, clarified my priorities and have been working on defining heart-centered action steps that are aligned to those. I paid attention to the ways in which fear has *still* been holding me back from fully engaging with my life and pursuing my dreams. And I recommitted to investing time, attention, and energy into myself, my passions, and my business.
This month has also been about riding the waves of my emotions, learning not to stuff them down or numb them like I usually do. Instead, I found myself exploring them with curiosity, seeking to understand what was at the core of them and what message they were trying to send me.
I focused on paying better attention to my thoughts about and reactions to the various situations I encountered throughout the month. I noticed when I was swirling in over-thinking, over-analyzing, rumination, worry, assumptions, old stories and other unhelpful mind habits. And then I refocused on seeking truth that was whispering in my heart.
I started engaging out into the community for the first time since moving here nearly two years ago. I made some progress toward some business goals. And when I needed rest, I allowed myself to rest.
In some ways, this was a really difficult month. But, I've found time and again that some really good learning and growth happens in the midst of our challenges. This month was no exception. And for that, I'm grateful.
I’ve been questioning and exploring my life purpose for years: why am I really here? Who and how am I being called to be? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? In what ways am I supposed to be serving others? These are big, important questions so I often find myself grasping for or demanding quick answers so I can get on with it. But our deepest callings and our true life purpose may take years to emerge. Each little calling we hear along the way is pulling us forward, preparing us for the next calling and then the next. I have found that understanding the topic of callings has presented a challenge for myself and some of my clients. What is a calling? How do we know when we are being called? How do we know if something is a true calling or just a whim? What if we don’t want to pursue a calling? The whole idea of finding your calling, let alone pursuing it, can feel overwhelming. In this post, I attempt to simplify it enough to get you started and share five things you need to know right now.
We will be invited to participate in a variety of calls over the course of our lives. Some will feel easier than others. Some will be downright terrifying. Sometimes we’ll say ‘yes,’ sometimes we’ll say ‘no,’ and sometimes we’ll say, ‘not yet.’ Each time we say yes, we’ll stretch more, grow more, and move that much closer to evolving to our highest potential. My hope for you is that you be open, be curious, and be willing to explore the possibilities of your calls.
In the photo above, which I took for a daily photo challenge on Instagram, there's the face on the far right, looking up. The one I placed there intentionally when I made this collage a few years ago. Then there's the face in the center, that I didn't see until the shadow highlighted it and I looked at the picture on my phone much later.
The first time I became aware that we all had an interior “shadow” was a few years ago when I read Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr. I remember being curious about this concept and although I spent some time reflecting on what my own shadows might be, the significance of this concept eluded me. I’ve since read more about shadow work in various other books and each time, I’d still leave the topic feeling a bit puzzled. Reading about shadows and experiencing them firsthand are two very different things.
Our shadow is made up of parts of our personality that we’ve denied, buried, or repressed. Rohr defined it as “what you refuse to see about yourself, and what you do not want others to see.” This past year I’ve had many, many, (many!) opportunities to become intimate with what was lurking just beyond the light. The clues are in our behavior, such as:
No one really *wants* to know the ugly truth about herself. As unpleasant as it is, in order for us to grow spiritually, it is absolutely critical for us to contend with our shadows. Otherwise, as I discovered, these denied or hidden parts of ourselves will keep tapping us on the shoulder, begging for attention. And sometimes, what we’ve repressed will burst forth at unexpected and undesirable times.
Shadow work is not about fixing your weaknesses or abolishing what you don’t like about yourself. It’s coming into relationship with these repressed parts of yourself and transforming them into something positive. Rather than judging people, perhaps you learn to be forgiving. Instead of gripping tightly to control, perhaps you learn to relax your grip and go with the flow more. According to Rohr, “once you have faced your own hidden or denied self, there is not much to be anxious about anymore.” You’ve seen the truth. And you can get on with evolving into your True Self, your highest potential.
#presence #spirituality #lifepurpose #lifelessons #personalgrowth #spiritualgrowth #spiritualbooks #innerwork #reflection #shadow
"Creativity" is something I've struggled with for most of my adult life. My focus has been on achieving my goals, striving to maintain total control of my environment, and doing it all to some impossibly high (and incredibly unrealistic) expectation of perfection...only as a superwoman could. I was too hard on myself to endeavor into creative expression. I "didn't have time" to be creative, I told myself. In reality, I was too scared to let myself open up to the vulnerability that creativity requests; too afraid to come out from behind the veil of perfection and control.
Yesterday I attended a creative yoga class. Our intention was to keep the channel open and find joy in creative expression.... through the act itself, not by producing any particular or perfect end result. I cast aside all wishes of creating a perfect masterpiece and instead set a personal intention for openness and curiosity. I gave my Self permission and freedom to play. I had no ideal in mind, other than to enjoy the process and see what emerged. I chose to stand rather than sit so I could get my whole body involved and so I had the mobility to see what I was creating from multiple perspectives. I had to trust my inner guidance to know when I was done (a struggle for this recovering perfectionist...to know when something is done rather than ceaselessly striving and then over-doing!).
I wasn't worried about what wasn't getting done while I was creating. I wasn't afraid of what others would think of what I created. I wasn't looking around, comparing what I was creating to what was being created by others in the class. I was fully present with my Self and my art. When I was done, I turned around and said to no one in particular, "That was fun!" Something was ignited in me and the joy flowed freely.
And as if the Universe was making sure I had learned something deeper from this experience....as I was trying to get all of my still wet paintings loaded into my car at the end of the class, I dropped two on the floor. They folded up onto each other and onto themselves, altering what I had created. A year ago, the perfectionist in me would have been really upset that my creations were "ruined." The emerging artist in me today sees beauty in the flaws, like they were meant to be. There is no perfection in creativity. As there is no perfection in life.
There are many ways to be creative, and art is only one. We can bring creativity into anything we do. Creativity, and life, asks that we be open, be curious, and be fully present. It helps if we give ourselves permission to bring a sense of playfulness into all that we do. These actions may require us to lean into our vulnerabilities and fears. But presence helps us with this. The more present we become, the easier it is to let go of the fears that masquerade as control and perfection and that hold us back from reaching our full potential in life.
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once (she) grows up." Pablo Picasso
We spend much of our life trying to force everything into discrete categories. Am I an introvert or an extrovert? Do I want to be successful at work or do I want to be satisfied at home? Do I focus on my self-care needs, or do I give unselfishly to others? Do I follow the rules or break them? Am I living in fear or acting in courage?
In Falling Upward, Richard Rohr wrote that the dualistic mind compares, competes, conflicts, conspires, condemns, cancels out contrary evidence, and crucifies with impunity. With comparison comes judgment and condemnation naturally follows. Dualistic thinking leads to a decision that one thing is good and the other is bad. Rather than seeing the whole picture, we see only a part of the story - that which affirms our view of the world and the story we have told. Forcing discrete choices with dualistic thinking is not helpful in most of life’s situations and may create turmoil in our relationships.
Non-dualistic thinking, on the other hand, involves wholeness. We move away from either-or in favor of both-and.
Non-duality is incredibly important when we are in times of change or deep personal growth. Real, lasting behavior change takes time; it does not happen overnight or over the course of a few weeks. When we get trapped into non-dualistic thinking, we see ourselves only as passing or failing, changing or not changing. In reality, sometimes we are going to be the person we want to be and act the way we want to act, and other times, we are not. We’re going to slip. We’re going to take two or ten steps backward. We are going to make mistakes.
But failing does not make us a failure. We are imperfect human beings, who throughout the day are subjected to any number of external situations and environmental issues that impact our behavior and the choices we make. As we learn to practice present moment awareness, we’ll notice more quickly when we are getting off track so we can try again. Rather than scoring ourselves pass or fail, we see that we are doing the best we can given the situation and grade ourselves an “A” for our best effort.
When we awaken to our truth we realize we are free (Kristi Bowman).
What is our truth? Sometimes it's hard to find because we are easily influenced by external sources. We hear a good idea and think, I will do that too! And we excitedly start down the course. We muster up our courage and we take swift action. And then - nothing happens. What we were hoping for doesn't materialize. We don't get what we wanted. We feel disconnected from people. It's harder than it should be, or takes longer than we thought it would. We feel isolated and alone.
Then the negative self-talk kicks in. "What was I thinking?" "Why did I think I could pull that off anyway?" "No one understands me." "No one wants what I have to offer." <Insert your version of negative self-talk here.>
We become filled with uncertainty, doubt, and fear and we are unable to act. We get stuck, we stall, we freeze.
And then one day, we step far enough away from the situation to look at it with objective eyes. Then we see what's really going on. We realize: "Wait, this isn't what I wanted at all." In some cases, we discover that the path we pursued is actually opposite of what we really wanted to begin with, had we just taken a moment in the beginning to consider that. Perhaps the path we followed doesn't align to our deeply held beliefs or our innermost core values. Or maybe we neglected our deeply held talents and gifts and tried to do something that we didn't love.
And this new awareness comes not from harsh negative self-talk, but from a more gentle and understanding place. This new awareness is presented to us in a more loving and compassionate tone, because it comes from our heart.
We approach this new awareness with curiosity and openness. We can then say to our self with honesty, grace, and self-compassion: "That way may work GREAT for that person. But it doesn't work great for me." We let go of what's not working. We reframe what it means to "fail" and realize that every situation we encounter - every single one - is an opportunity for learning. Every situation brings with it a lesson and we just need to open up and give it space to emerge. When we are ready, the lesson becomes clear. And then we can choose a new path.
Our heart is wise and knows what it is that we truly want. Our heart approaches everything with light and love and joy. Our mind, on the other hand, swirls around our fears and doubts. Too often, we allow fear to run our life. When we choose fear over love, we dim our inner light.
When we follow our heart, we know our innermost desires. When we follow our heart, we radiate light, love and joy. When we follow our heart, we tell the Universe that we are open to possibilities and are ready to receive the synchronicity and miracles that are just waiting for us to be ready.