Category Archives: FEAR / CHALLENGES
When do you feel your best?
When do you not feel your best?
What gives you energy, inspires you & lifts your spirit?
What takes your energy, leaves you uninspired & low in spirit?
When was the last time like you felt fulfilled, content & complete?
When was the the last time you felt unfulfilled, discontent & incomplete?
Take the time to answer the questions. Don’t formulate the answers, just allow them to present themselves. Quiet down, relax, & allow the answers to effortlessly appear. Write down the first thing that pops in your mind after reading each question. Don’t edit the answer. Don’t second guess it. Just write it down & accept it.
Notice. Simply notice all of the answers. Noticing is one of the most profound steps someone can take to transform their life. It’s effortless, but it’s daunting. For some it is scary. Because once they see what is going on, they will never be the same. They will forever be awake to what is happening in their life. They can no longer sleep-walk through their days & then wonder why they always feel tired, or always feel like year after year, they never reach their desired destination.
Begin to see what is there, & you will not only see that what is making you unhappy is being chosen (by you) repeatedly, over & over again — but you will also see that the peace, joy, energy, & inspiration is always there for the choosing as well.
Imagine a room in your house is buried with things that are unwanted, unsuitable for you, or unneeded at the present moment. Because of that, you will not be able to see the things that are the most appropriate for you; the things that are perfect for you in this moment. It also doesn’t allow any room for anything new to come into your present life. That cluttered room is filled with the past. Past choices. Past solutions. Past desires. Things that no longer serve you.
Maintaining a jumbled existence doesn’t allow for room to play freely. It makes it difficult to see & choose what might serve you best now. Spaciousness (physical & mental) is the freedom that many of us are seeking. And it’s not found in more stuff, or more experiences. We have plenty of those! It is found in being spacious. Being clear. Being open. Being ready & available to what might come our way next.
One way to be clear, is to clearly see. To see what is already there, right in front of you. Be clear about it. Then begin to dig, & clear out what is behind it. Go deep. Don’t be afraid to excavate (figuratively & literally). Dig & clear out your stuff. It’s taking up space, & it’s blocking you. These blocks (stuff being held, be it mental or physical) impede your energy flow. They also block the light. This heaviness or tiredness that people feel is often because they feel weighed down by the things they are carrying unnecessarily. Physical & mental blocks (or baggage) are two sides of the same coin. Therefore, both need to be cleared out. Both need your attention.
Awareness is key. Without that, you are lost. You’ll be on the hamster wheel of life, wondering why you are always chasing after something (or being chased by something). Wondering why you are always falling short of your self-expectations, falling short of what you know you are capable of being or achieving. To meet your best self or your best life, you must first meet who you are now. Have you really met you? Or do you constantly avoid you? I know that sounds funny or silly — but I’m being serious. So many of us are moving through our lives so fast, & we are so busy with work or family or entertainment, that we haven’t really sat with ourselves. When I say sit with ourselves, I mean with open eyes & open arms. We haven’t said, “Ah. I see you! I see how you have been hiding. And I see that you are buried. I love you. And I am going to unearth you, unburden you. I’m going to set you free.”
It’s simply an act of self-love. And unconditional love of ‘the self,’ is unconditional love of all selves (all people). So self-love isn’t a selfish act, it’s a self-less act. There is no separate self, separate from the rest of the world. Also, your life is a mirror. When you see love & perfection (or hate & imperfection) in you, you see it everywhere. Meet yourself where you are today. See what you see & feel at this moment. At this stage in your life. Meet yourself where you are. Then develop the relationship from there. Your relationship to the whole world will improve.
Don’t be afraid of the light. Just as you shouldn’t be afraid of the dark. Shouldn’t isn’t the right word. What I mean is, accept it. Embrace it. Make peace with both light & dark. Find the balance & the harmony between the two, & you will find harmony & balance within yourself. Make friends with the unknown. Meet what scares you. Sometimes the thing that we are most afraid of, is the very thing that would serve us best.
The first section of this blog post is an email I sent to my Mom. It’s about the adventure I had last Sunday with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club in New York. The second half of the post is a detailed description of the event.
Date: Mon, Mar 26, 2012
I DID IT!
Yesterday was 45 degrees (brrr!), cloudy & a bit rainy.
I really didn’t want to go. But I did. I went to Coney Island… to swim with the Polar Bears! :) I was happy that I did it, & it wasn’t as bad as I thought.
I’m telling you, Ma. These fears are just puffed-up illusions. If you poke a hole in them, they really do deflate!
:) I love you.
A. (aka, Polar Bear cub)
The hardest part was leaving the Coney Island Polar Bear changing room on the boardwalk & walking out to the beach in a bikini. The distance from the changing room to the ocean seemed so far …& very intimidating. I would have to make my way through the cold, & make my way past all of the people. Everyone on the boardwalk was bundled with coats, gloves, hats, & scarves. They were looking at my friend & I like we were crazy (my friend with his tall thin tattooed body in nothing but orange swim trucks, & me sporting my playful hairdo that looked like Mickey Mouse ears, plus my black bikini-like outfit on a wintery-cold day). People were totally staring.
I was SO COLD walking out to the beach. My friend kept saying “Jump! Do jumping-jacks! Run! Stay active to keep warm!” But I was afraid my boobs were going to flop around (or out!) & everyone was starting at us! I felt frozen on the boardwalk, figuratively & literally. Eventually I mustered up enough courage to cross my arms in front of my chest & run out to the beach. When I got to the ocean I started to jump in place. After that, the rest of the Polar Bear Club arrived, warmed up (with jumping jacks), & then we all got in the water.
Being in the cold ocean wasn’t as bad as I thought. But it was so strange — at one point I thought my bikini bottom fell off. I kept reaching down to feel if my bikini bottom was there. I would reach down to pull it up, only to discover that it hadn’t moved an inch! This feeling kept happening. The other thing that worried me, was my private part felt so cold, it felt like it was going to crack off! My legs, arms, stomach, hands & feet, all felt fine — I just had a numb butt & a completely frozen _____!
The waves were the other thing that made me feel uneasy. As they approached, I wasn’t sure if they would splash me (brrr!), or raise the water level (oh no!). When I would see a wave forming or approaching, I would get really nervous. At one point my friend asked me, “Are you OK? Do you want to leave?” I said, “No, I’m fine, I can stay!” But then he asked me again after the waves started to move with more vigor. He looked like he was making his way out, so I said, “We’re leaving? Ok, let’s go!”
Again I crossed my arms in from of my chest & started to run. My friend & I were making our way over the sand & back to the changing room. People cheered us on. One man even shouted that he was proud of me. He hollered cheerfully, “I have to hand it to you, girl. I couldn’t have done it. But you did it. Bravo!”
The run back to the changing room felt like a flash (an interesting contrast to the run out to the ocean that felt like forever). Once I got to the entrance of the changing room, my muscles were burning. My thighs felt like they were on fire! My whole body felt fiery hot. My friend & I stood at the entrance rinsing our shoes & feet, clearing the sand off. I wasn’t cold at all. I was totally wet, standing in 45 degree weather, having a blast!
After that, we dried off, & headed to the subway. Off we went, to the next adventure for the day.
It was a great experience. I learned so much. It reminded me of a post I wrote last year: your BIGGEST OBSTACLE doesn’t exist. Sometimes the way out of a challenge (or fear) is to go through it. You have to walk right through it to see that it isn’t real. Or to see that it is only temporary. Like stormy weather, or an uncomfortable moment, or even a death — allow yourself to fully experience it. Allow it to dance around you & then see that it was only temporary. Happiness, sadness, pain, pleasure, see it as a flicker of life passing through you. The contrast & joy that is life, moving & shape-shifting. Fully feel it. And fully feel alive.
[Top photo by Jay Dickman.]
Interesting thing is: I’m half German. My mom is from Kiel, Germany. She has blonde hair & blue eyes, & is the definition of unconditional love for me. She loved/loves me so much, there was no way I couldn’t fully take on & see how powerful Unconditional Love is. For me it is the ultimate truth. But as a young child, I wasn’t thinking of that sort of thing. All I saw & knew, was what I was learning from people, all people — what I heard them say, what I saw them do. I soon began to see that I had a light brown face, with dark eyes, & dark coarse hair, & I was an outsider. I remember being in school & seeing racist events take place. I remember reading books about the heinous acts that white people committed — I saw it on the evening news as well. There was even racism in my own family, not only on the white side, but on the brown side as well. (Lots of brown people hate themselves, & that leads to hating the ones that look just like them.)
All of this caused so much pain & suffering for me. I was basing my life, my choices, & my development on it. All of it was real, & all of it was painful. And all of it is still here. But I am at the point now where I see it as a story. A story that doesn’t exist — just like the past doesn’t exist.
This week a car crashed into another car, right in front of my apartment building. After impact, one of the cars accidentally jumped over the curb onto the sidewalk & nearly drove straight into my building. I was in the bathroom when this happened. But just the sound of the car crash alone sent me into a traumatic state. It shook every cell in my body for a split second. I felt death, I felt terror, I felt suffering, I felt fear. And this was triggered only by a sound! Remember, I couldn’t see anything because I was in a closed room. The reason that a simple sound can send me into a state of panic like that is because I experienced it in the past — I lived it. I was in a serious car crash, so I know first hand what that sound is, & I know how it feels. But the truth is: it happened 15 years ago, yet I still live a tiny part of it everyday, & on some days, like when I heard that sound, I re-live all of it.
It’s like that vinyl record I mentioned in a previous blog post, you can’t help but to play a tune that has been etched in your soul. The good news is: at this point, I see that there is a way to change that. It can be changed, with Awareness. If I just notice — notice that the song, or the story, or the past is playing. If I can catch it & say: “Ah, I know this tune! It’s just notes. All it is, is notes.” If I do that, I can play another tune, or I can enjoy the silence & love what is in THIS MOMENT. What is present now. How it feels to be alive now. How it feels to love now. How it feels to be grateful for what is happening in the present, right now. — What a difference that is! Don’t you think?!
So I think real healing comes when you can love it all. When you can say: “Oh, I’m thinking something that isn’t true”, or “I’m feeling feelings that are based on my thoughts”, or “I’m in the past (or future) & not in the present, for what it is now” — & then effortlessly & gently bring oneself to a place where it feels safe, at peace, & whole.
Healing is a beautiful thing, but you have to think that the process is beautiful too, otherwise, how are you going to get there? Have patience for not only your process, but for everyone’s process. We are all healing. And we are all waking up to the power of Unconditional Love. As well as the power of truly being alive — which can happen only in the present.
The two videos I featured are of the work of Byron Katie. To say that her work is powerful is an understatement. She speaks & gives clarity on every topic that you can imagine.
If you would like to see a short film on the life of Hitaji (the woman in the first video, who later attended Byron Katie’s school as a guest), here is a link to download it: Hitajis-Journey.
Ugh, what a frustrating week I had. I vented a little on my Facebook fan page & I shared my frustration with friends. After that I felt a bit lighter about it all. It was perfect, the most beautiful thing; on the day when I felt most down & most alone, two of my dearest friends (we’ve been close friends for over 15 years) reached out to me. I got an email from one friend with the subject line: “how u feeling today?” & the other about 1 hour later with the subject line: “meant to reach out to u sooner” (interesting that they both type in lower case & they chose to use a “u” for “you” – they are both well above 40 years of age, so I find their youthfulness amusing & a complete coincidence since they are not connected in any way personally). I spoke to one friend on Skype via video (technology is so amazing) & the other friend through a chain of emails. They both made me feel so loved & so much better.
Before they reached out to me, I was doing what I’ve seen many people do. What I was doing was “lumping” – it’s when someone takes many things that are bothering them & lumps it all into one big insurmountable mountain. In my mountain was: two family members in serious situations that are heartbreaking; the execution (murder) of Troy Davis & the hopeless feeling surrounding that injustice (I will write a blog post about it); moving on from past romantic relationships that I found difficult to let go of; then the most recent one that really pushed me over the edge was my deep love for someone that I was at odds with this week (at odds really isn’t the right word, but let’s go with it); plus many more things that are milestones of me moving forward & creating something new in my life as I let go of what was once was. So it all felt like too much on Thursday. But the reminder that love is all that matters & that it’s the only way to set my life & my mind straight, worked wonders. Just the thought alone of that brought me back to being who I know I am. I am someone who loves. I am someone that believes that beneath it all, there is something to See. And as long as I am focusing on Seeing, Loving & Being – there is nothing else better suited for me. This is my life.
I’ll share a quote with you from the email dialogue I had with my friend…
“The best thing about love & heartbreak & destructive people is that they tear me up inside. And I learn how to be more expansive as a result. I learn how to stop making it about me & to see that their lack of awareness & love is actually my own.”
I think my quote is pretty self explanatory, but if I expound on it a bit, I would just say that this idea of a “me” (the identification with a separate self) leads to self-imposed suffering, as well as confusion. This warped view is nothing but a lack of awareness & love. In love & awareness (in its highest sense) there is no duality – nothing exists completely separate or independent of anything else. Also, if challenging or traumatic experiences “tear me up” it’s a good thing because that me or that sense of a separate self isn’t based in truth.
I can never be reminded enough: love is all there is.
A few weeks ago I was chatting with a friend of mine that lives in Paris via email. We were discussing blogs. I asked her to keep me posted on things that she thinks are cool on the internet. The next day I got an email saying “I really like this blog” The blog she was referring to was Sui Solitaire‘s cynosure blog. When I checked it out, I was in shock. The tag line on her blog was, “empower & love yourself, personal growth, body image, & love” (Minus “body image” it sounded like my current goal.) I thought, “hey, that sounds like me!” Then I dug deeper & I noticed that she also talked about revolution (but spells it rvxn) & uses it as her blog URL & as her Twitter name: @rvxn. I couldn’t believe how much we had in common. I immediately decided to reach out to her. I emailed her & she quickly replied. She was exactly as she portrays herself on her blog, super open & super loving. I told her that I wanted to interview her & feature her on my blog – she agreed!
So here it is, the interview!
I asked Sui Solitaire to answer 9 questions about love, fear & freedom. I’m grateful that she shares her candid answers with us on Sunday Is For Lovers.
If someone said to you, “I want to start loving myself, but I don’t know how” what would you tell them?
Be patient with yourself.
Take yourself out on a date. Go exactly where you want to go, eat exactly what you want to eat.
Take care of your health. Listen to your body. Honor your hungers– eat what lifts you up when you are hungry, rest when you are tired. Give yourself the rest & relaxation you need– that you deserve.
Forgive yourself, and then realize you never have to forgive yourself again because there’s nothing to forgive– you are perfect just the way you are.
Love your body. Nourish it with love, light, & movement. Move your body in a way that is comfortable to you. Eat in a way that makes you feel good.
Make peace with your past, and live in the present. Learn how to be mindful. Practice mindfulness. Start meditating, if it calls to you.
Take at least 5 minutes out of every day to just do nothing.
Prioritize time for yourself to do what you love. Don’t make exceptions. You are worth it.
Treat yourself like your favorite person on the planet. Give yourself little gifts. Write a love letter to yourself.
Repeat affirmations like “I love myself. I am beautiful, empowered, and amazing. I am worthy & deserving of the very best.” Repeat them every day, repeat them whenever you can remember. Repeat them until you believe them.
Let go of the need to be perfect. You already are.
(Also, check out my post on learning to love yourself. There’s a huge long list of ways to start loving yourself there!)
Some say that fear is the opposite of love. Do you think that people fear themselves? So it’s not so much self-hate as it is self-fear?
I do believe that we fear ourselves in the sense that we fear that we could be living a happier, healthier, better life, but we don’t know how. So we act in self-destructive ways because we don’t know how to change, we don’t know how we could possibly love ourselves or give ourselves what we deserve.
We’re taught to fear the possibility of not being good enough by everyone else’s standards, even though those standards are imposed by all the people who don’t matter– companies who want us to buy something or look a certain way so we feel like we’re good enough, people who aren’t worth our time.
Self-hatred stems from knowing that in reality, we’re powerful, we’re strong, we’re amazing individuals… but so many messages have inundated us from the moment we were thrust out into the world that we fear being the powerful selves that we really are, because it would mean that those messages are wrong. But those messages are what everyone believe in, and it’s scary to defy them, to defy what we’ve been taught.
A lot of people suffer from fear & self-doubt. Can you describe the difference between the fearful feelings of taking on something new, versus not doing something new because it doesn’t feel right? How do you tell the difference between nervous butterflies in your stomach from fear & a gut feeling that something isn’t right for you?
You need to trust yourself, trust your intuition. It takes time but start listening to those subtle feelings guiding you, rather than doing what you think you’re “supposed” to be doing. Sometimes fear is actually a sign of what you truly need to do.
I would say that most fear is exactly what I described above– fear of the possibilities of the life you really deserve. For instance, fear of starting a new business. What could possibly hurt you? You could go bankrupt. But does that actually hurt you as a person? It doesn’t have the power to. It doesn’t have the power to rob you of your health or happiness, unless you choose to let it. On the other hand, you could succeed beyond your wildest dreams. You could live your life doing exactly what you love. And even in the bankrupt situation, you can always start over (after overcoming fear of repeating past mistakes) and do even better next time.
Pretty much 99% of the fear we experience now is not related to actual life-threatening situations– a bloodthirsty lion chasing us, a gun pointed at our face. 99% of the fear we experience is mind dust that holds us back from our true selves. This kind of fear is fear we’ve been taught as we grew up, unfortunately– and we have to unlearn that fear. After all, we were never scared of failure as a toddler trying to walk, right? We just tried to hobble and we didn’t care about looking silly– and even if we did look silly, it wouldn’t matter because we were surrounded by people who loved us no matter if we walked perfectly that first time or not.
Gut feelings don’t feel the same as fear… not at all. We can usually trust that gut feeling, because it comes from some place deeper, from the wisdom that we hold inside of us that we might not even be aware of.
Fear, on the other hand, can actually be a blessing, a guide– a cynosure, if you will, to the opportunities that we need to take. Oftentimes what scares us the most is what would benefit us the most (quitting a job that doesn’t fulfill us, asking the love of our lives to spend a lifetime together, going back to college, trying something for the first time). Failure doesn’t exist, only lessons.
I personally rarely turn down the opportunity (or fear) of doing something new (and it never gives me a questionable gut feeling). Something so simple as going paddle-boarding for the first time with some friends, I can try to avoid with all my might, but then I do it and I don’t regret it. I’ve never regretted doing something I was afraid of.
“The biggest mistake you can make is doing nothing because you’re scared to make a mistake.”
(Chances are, by doing nothing, you’ll end up making even more mistakes. Funny how that happens.)
Almost all fear is fear of life. Of squeezing all the delicious juice possible from life and drinking it. We’ve been taught too much to fear. Let’s break out and revolt.
What do you think are the biggest fears you’ve overcome? How has your life changed after overcoming those fears?
Oh, I’ve had so, so many fears in my life I don’t know if I can list them all… the whole list would be overwhelming!
My biggest, baddest fears, though? Let me think…
Not being good enough.
And feeling emotions.
Once upon a time, I was scared of life. I was scared of myself.
Not being good enough. A common fear. My biggest fear, because I had spent my life trying to be good enough, smart enough, pretty enough for my parents, for the world, for society.
I overcame my fear when I realized that I was subjecting myself to external standards. Through learning to love myself, I realized that there is no such thing as “good enough”– that we are all perfect when we are authentically ourselves, and don’t squash our own awesomeness. The problem comes when we try to conform to someone else’s expectations, someone else’s standards. The problem arises when we’re told to believe that how we look defines who we are as a person. But none of that really matters to living a happy life. Truly.
Ever since I overcame that fear, I’ve been empowered and feeling strong and amazing and awesome. Why? Because I am me, and I don’t have to try to be anything or anyone else for anyone.
My other huge fear was feeling emotions… a result of getting my heart torn apart one November when I was 14. I started numbing myself with food, and I came out at age 18 realizing that I had spent years not remembering how to cry anymore because I was so determined not to feel sad. The problem was that with suppressing sadness came suppressing happiness, as well. As I recovered from my eating disorder, I slowly started learning how to feel again, how to cry again… and how to laugh again, too. Then eventually, I learned to disable the limiting beliefs that led me to feeling worse than I needed to in certain situations.
Through learning to cry again, learning to let myself to feel heartbroken again, I’ve learned to be happy beyond the wildest dreams of my teenage self.
How would you define freedom?
Freedom is a state of being. If you’re alive, you have freedom over the thoughts you choose, the actions you take. Even if you were held hostage, you have the freedom to believe that things will get better, that you will find a way out somehow– and those thoughts will carry you much further than lamenting your situation.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
For many people it seems like money is the solution to their desire for freedom, if they had the money they could do all that they dream, what do you think the solution is?
Realizing that freedom exists nowhere but within you. Like it or not, you are never limited by your circumstances… unless you believe you are. We ALWAYS have the freedom to choose our thoughts. The choice to believe in ourselves, to believe that we can shape our lives how we will. To believe that our lives are getting better all the time. It’s the difference between someone who’s stuck in a difficult situation and complains about it, and someone else in the same situation who believes s/he can find a solution to get out of it.
It’s easier said than done… but it’s also easier than you think.
Money doesn’t buy freedom. Nothing can buy freedom. Money is just a symbol of value. Speaking of which, if you exercise your freedom of thoughts to believe you can make more money, you will, because your belief will allow you to find more ways to make money, and take those opportunities as they come.
Freedom is letting go. Letting go of negative thoughts, letting go of external standards, letting go of the past.
You are completely free to live the life you want to. You DO have the power. Believe it, & live it.
[All photos are of Sui Solitaire, & I believe they are self-portraits! For more inspirational work from Sui, please visit her blog cynosure, follow her on Twitter, & connect with her on Facebook. You can also subscribe to the cynosure newsletter to get exclusive updates & be the first to get Nourish Yourself, a free guide to mindful, loving eating coming next week!]