“You have, within you, the power to create a life of joy, abundance, and health, or you have the same ability to create a life filled with stress, fatigue, and disease. With very few exceptions, the choice is yours.” — Christiane Northrup, MD
I recently discovered Dr. Christiane Northrup through another great community I am connected with the Himalayan Institute. Dr. Northrup is a champion for women’s health and believes we are the key to our well-being, how empowering! Rather than thinking we are victims of unknown forces, she believes we have a say in the matter.
As I travel my path in this life I have made major changes, the most profound changes have been my relationship with my well-being and in return I have been blessed with an abundance of peace and health as a result. I have also been blessed with awareness especially awareness of others who seem to be struggling with the same problem I had, which was the mistaken idea that by sacrificing my own well-being and taking care of everyone else first, was the road to sainthood. I found out it’s actually the road to insanity.
I personally saw my mother and my grandmother always do for everyone else first and take care of themselves last. So this way of being was etched deeply into my DNA and well as environmentally reinforced. This way of being is further fortified as a mother taking care of very young children they cannot feed themselves or take care of themselves they rely on you completely. We must remember though as mothers our job as they grow is to teach them to take care of themselves, have their own experiences, learn from their own struggles, experience their own joy.
I remember when I started working with Lynn Erlinger my ontological coach and she stressed managing my well-being, at first even trying to carve out time to get enough sleep every night was a real challenge for me. I was a TV junkie, mainly because I was exhausted but still wanted to spend time with my kids, so we would watch TV together. My TV addiction was further strengthened while caring for my dying father it was the only pleasure he had left while he was bedridden so we would watch hours and hours of TV together.
Lynn had me create a well-being checklist for my day, my week and my month. I listed those things that I knew if I did on a daily, weekly or monthly basis which supported my well-being, and in turn supported my mental and physical health. When I first started my well-being checklist I had things like this on it; getting at least 7 hours of sleep 5 days a week, flossing my teeth, yoga at least once a week, getting a massage once a month, intimacy with my husband, exercise, journaling, drinking 64 oz of water each day, and eating healthy meals at regular times. All the things that I knew if I did them and did them regularly I felt good. One thing that I began to understand is during times when I felt very anxious and little things would send me spiraling into panic, anger or anxiety, Lynn instructed me to check in with my well-being checklist, without fail every time my well-being had been neglected. I could get pretty nutty when my well-being was on the back burner.
This whole idea of taking care of myself was so uncomfortable to me, what would people think, my gosh a good woman sacrifices for everyone around them after all, so I even put a code name on my calendar so the people at my office did not know I was getting a massage. I wanted it to appear I was at an evening business appointment. I laugh about it now and my massage therapist at Stillpointe knows my code name for her which I still use as a reminder of how far I have come. I felt getting a massage was an over the top indulgence rather than a well-being practice. Massage not only helps with stress, it helps with a variety of the body systems like the lymphatic system which both delivers nutrients to the cells and carries away excess water, cellular waste, bacteria, viruses and toxins. So massage is not just an indulgence it is a vital part of my well-being plan.
I went from being a couch potato to running a marathon and running is part of my exercise routine now along with yoga three times a week and healthy eating. I am proud to say I went to a nutrition coach, Eileen Vollmer to help me with healthy meal preparation for my family and healthy eating habits. I do not consider it a diet just a new way of life and I lost 15 pounds and feel great.
As I stated earlier I am acutely aware of others who are in this same pattern of sacrificing their own well-being and tending to everyone else in their life first. I needed the nudge from Lynn to see this for myself and I hope that someone reading this will receive their nudge. I see people, mainly women but men also, who are rushing around everyday filling their day with appointments, commitments, activities and deadlines, and their well-being practices have to be crammed in around all of that, rather than the other way around. We have become a society that reinforces and praises the rat on the wheel approach to life. When in reality for us to truly evolve as a human race we need to slow down, our brains function better, our creativity is increased, our goodwill towards others is fostered. When you are racing through your day anyone that slows your progress is an irritant. When you are consciously experiencing all that has been put in your path you see these moments when you have to slow down and observe as blessings not curses.
Here is what putting well-being as a top priority can do for you, it lowers the production of the stress hormone cortisol; which is linked to hypertension, depletion of energy and increased susceptibility of infectious disease. Here’s what putting my well-being first did for me; I have increased energy, little things no longer set me off, my kids have actually told me I am a nicer mommy now, my kids are healthier because I have the energy to make healthy meals and engage in outdoor activities with them, my husband and I have a healthier and more intimate marriage. The most important thing that putting my own well-being as a top priority is that I am setting a healthy lesson for my children, family and friends and breaking the cycle of the sanctity of self-sacrifice.
So my friends as Dr. Northrup so magnificently states, the choice is yours; do you want a life filled with joy, abundance and health or stress, fatigue and disease. Please do not fool yourself into believing anything else except that the choice is yours and yours alone.
“If you’d like to know what your choices have been, look at yourself and the life you have lived. What you see is the choices you’ve made.” – Dr. Shad Helmstetter
I had a very profound lesson last week on the power of well-being. I was having a very off day and even snapped at someone I care for very deeply and felt awful afterward. I was talking to a friend later in the day about what was going on and that I was feeling off. She asked me what was different this day than others, I struggled to find a reason for this sudden change in attitude.
As I was recounting my day I realized this was the first day in a very long time I did not start my day by meditating and playing my flute. I used to have this ritual in the morning I called my gratitude exercise, I would stand in the shower and give thanks for everyone that touched my life the day before either through physical interaction or if they popped into my head for some reason. I always began with the people who challenged me the most because I know they are there to teach me something I need learn, to be in this world. Eventually I morphed this ritual into a morning meditation, or some may say morning prayer. I now call it my “love and be loved” meditation because it so much more than gratitude. I not only thank God for the experience of learning from the people I have in my life, I concentrate and send them love, especially the people who challenge me. So on this recent day where I felt out of sorts, where a very small thing set me off, I realized I had not started my day choosing from love. It seems like such a small thing, but it makes such a huge difference and not only for me but for everyone I connect with as I travel through my day, and those I send love to during my meditation.
Since beginning my new meditation I have experienced changes in my life, miracles, as Marianne Williamson, describes them in her book, “A Return to Love” which are reflections on the book, “A Course in Miracles.” Through the religious instruction I was provided as a child I came to expect that miracles were these supernatural events that would rock the world make everyone stop and take note, they were so extraordinary they would leave you in awe. I have come to believe and appreciate that while those are miracles a miracle can also be a change in perspective, if you can change how you perceive things you are experiencing a miracle. It really is that simple and yet that profound. If you think about it what would the world be like if we all changed our perspective, and thought – what would love do here? Rather than reacting from fear, as we are encouraged to do by the preponderance of messages we receive, particularly during this presidential election season. We are not told to love one another, we are told to fear one another. That our choices should not be made through loving kindness, but fear. What does the “choose from fear” mentality create; chaos, pain, and anger. My intention is to choose from love, so it is not consistent with my intention to knowingly choose from fear, I do not want to be a part of that anymore.
I have been noticing when I feel that twinge in my body, that yucky feeling deep in the pit of my stomach when I hear or see something, and I start asking myself hmmm what is going on here? What are you afraid of? I then ask myself, what would love do here? Many times my natural response, typically fueled by my ego, is not in alignment with what love would do at all. It has been a humbling experience and many times I go on and react from fear, giving ego the driver’s seat and am not aware of it until after the fact. I know at that point all I can do is clean up what I can and move forward in this present moment staying in alignment with my intention of love and be loved and focus on being present.
Well, I had a moment of presence as I was typing this blog and I just took a break to go up and meditate, I realized, geez as I am writing about all this profound learning I received about the impact of missing my daily meditation I was going through my day AGAIN without beginning with meditation. Oh well I am a work in progress after all! Some days I feel like a little bit of Wayne Dyer mixed with a lot of Phyllis Diller, really that’s not so bad, a little intention mixed with a lot of laughs.
So what is my daily routine that helps stay in alignment with choosing from love; I smudge to cleanse my energy before meditating, I play my native american flute which fills me with humility and patience, and then I meditate with a focus on love. When I am complete, I have an overwhelmingly peaceful and harmonious sense of being.
Have you noticed how much easier it is to choose from love with a perfect stranger than with those closest to us? I remember seeing a quote by Maya Angelou – “
If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning good morning at total strangers.” It is very interesting that choosing from love is easy for me when it is someone I have no history with, however, choosing from love is more challenging with a loved one I am in conflict with. What I have come to know in my meditation is – if I loved then, I still love now, nothing has changed other than my perspective which is usually my ego reacting to not being in charge. What I believe happens is the ego is wounded and it wants to attack in order to protect me, the only problem is the protection the ego is giving me is a wolf disguised as a lamb. It’s telling me, it’s OK I am here to protect you against the bad people who are trying to destroy you, when in reality it is trying to destroy my essence, isolating me and closing my heart.
I have to practice great presence and awareness when I feel ego taking over, sometimes I am successful other times I am not, it is all part of the process of learning and gaining enlightenment. I have found choosing from love to be the most profound change I have experienced in my life. The more love I give, the more peace and harmony I experience as that love is returned many times over. So I invite you to ask yourself during times of strife – “what would love do?”
Your task is not to seek love, but to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it – Rumi
Last year during a very difficult time in our family I had an encounter with a member of my extended family. She was very angry about not being told right away about my stepmother’s cancer diagnosis. Why she was not told is not germane to this discussion but there was a reason, right or wrong. While she was very crossly explaining to me why her anger was justified she told me “we will forgive but not forget, ” the we referring to herself and her husband.
That statement has stuck with me since, I remember saying to her, “that doesn’t sound like forgiving to me.” There was no response to that statement only a continued diatribe justifying why she was right and we were wrong. I do believe it would be very difficult to absolutely forget a situation where someone feels wronged. I have forgiven a very painful situation from my past and while I haven’t forgotten it, when I do remember it, there is no bitterness or resentment attached anymore so I guess I remember it with grace.
Today a friend said she was contemplating the words forgive and forget and how both words have give and get in them and how interesting that is and what does that tell us. I thought how profound her observation was, to forgive is in essence giving, when you forgive someone you are give-ing a gift to those you forgive. When you forget you really are get-ting peace of mind.
Of course I flashed back to the encounter I shared with my extended family and I remember when I was talking to her I felt an overwhelming sadness for her and her husband. I knew at that moment no matter what I said they were choosing this path of not forgetting and I believe not forgiving. Regrettably they no longer speak to any of us.
So what does it mean to forgive and forget?
Well the interesting thing is forgiveness and let’s say graceful forgetting has very profound health benefits according to recent studies published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine and the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. I think the biggest obstacle people have with forgiveness is the feeling that if they forgive they are saying whatever the other person did is ok with them. Actually I do not believe that is the case and truly the act is not what is forgiven. In my case I connected with our creator and said I have been wronged but I trust you, you got me through this and now I need to continue on to do your work and unburden myself of this resentment. In a way if I had not forgiven it was as if I was now perpetrating an ongoing wrong against myself.
In my own situation the act that resulted in my forgiveness was quite grave. So I did not condone the behavior then, and I do not condone that kind of behavior today, but I still forgive the person. I can also give testament to the health benefits of forgiveness and graceful forgetting. Immediately after I truly forgave the person I felt lighter, as if weight was removed from my shoulders. Occasionally I have had to be near the person that wronged me, and while I generally choose not to, because they are a member of my family there are rare times it would be very complicated to avoid. So I make sure it is a safe situation, but I no longer feel any resentment, anger or dread.
I noticed right away after this act of forgiveness I was able to “get” more in my life. My relationships benefited because my interactions were no longer clouded by this haze of umbrage. I began to notice that I could more fully engage in relationships, it was as if, until I could forgive the one person that wronged me, everyone else was being judged as a potential co-conspirator. I know forgiveness is not easy and forgetting with grace is even more challenging.
Consider this, what if I told you that if you trained and ran one marathon you could add ten years to your life, you would have stronger relationships and you would feel better about yourself; would you take on that challenge? Interestingly I think many would feel more inclined to run a marathon than let go of a well entrenched injustice. I believe you can add years to your life through practicing authentic forgiveness, and it’s not just the quantity, it’s the quality of those years that you will be adding.
We get so caught up in drinking the right water, taking the right supplements, eating organic, or not eating this or that to improve our health and I happen to be one of those people who does all these things. But I also look at the other side of my well-being, my mental health. Many of us focus on exercise and nutrition but overlook the most accessible way to improve our health and station in life, a well-balanced mental health.
Give the gift of forgiveness, forget with grace and receive love, peace and expand your universe beyond your wildest dreams. What are you holding on to that its time has come to let go? Where does your power lie, in the keeping or the getting?
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” ~ Paul Boese
My yoga teacher Jan always says the difficult people in our lives are our greatest teachers. If we are curious and in touch with the difficulty we experience with certain people, we have the opportunity to learn patience, they slow us down make us more mindful and gift us with presence. It’s very interesting if you think about it, difficult people, difficult times are actually gifts, and many times I have resoundingly rejected these gifts.
Jan compared difficulty in our lives to potholes in the road, they may cause damage to our car unless we slow down, in other words difficulty encourages us to approach these people or experiences more mindfully. Of course this shift, while simple, is not easy.
I can only speak for myself as I always try to do, but I find as I did just yesterday that these potholes feel like huge caverns if I approach them from a place of depletion. By that I mean, any difficulty in life is muddled, confused and amplified if I am not taking care of myself. Lynn my life coach asked me to track my well-being practices, which are those things that fuel my spirit and my body. I pay attention to sleep, nutrition, exercise, yoga, meditation, and journaling if any of these get out of balance I head down the road to depletion. So when I get in one of those wacky unbalanced states I do a quick review of my well-being and every time I am out of integrity with well-being.
We all do it, of course it’s easier to spot others wackiness than our own at first. But I do notice many people working through lunch and not eating, working late into the evening and missing sleep, driving themselves constantly with no reward. And for many years I created that kind of life for myself, I still have my moments as I shared with you, but they are becoming less and less as I pay more attention to well-being. One thing I have noticed is that I do not spiral out of control like I used to before I was aware of well-being. Those days my life was littered with potholes and I did not pay attention and drove full speed ahead over them and caused myself and my support system a lot of damage as a result.
I still have potholes and I always will, as we all will, but I am noticing as I become more present, more aware, and more authentic in my connections I am seeing less potholes and the potholes I do see I am able to approach more thoughtfully which causes less pain. For me life is like a long road trip, the kind I would take in college, where you don’t really have a destination in mind you just set out driving to see what you find along the way and the only goal is to have fun. I know I will not have smooth roads the whole way and I can’t always keep my eye on the road or I will miss all the beautiful scenery, but when I come upon a stretch of road littered with potholes I want to slow down. I may even pull off the road, maybe there is something I am supposed to stop and see and if I drive on by I will miss it.
So notice your potholes, embrace them, they are actually there for a reason. And if you feel you are on a road of endless potholes take care of yourself, I mean really take care of yourself. I have noticed in my engineering practice I have learned the most from the projects that did not go well or did not go the way I thought they would. The projects that went smoothly, while a blessing, sort of fade somewhat in my memory. But the projects that were uncomfortable, grueling. difficult, those are the ones that gave me my greatest lessons. So I really understand what Jan my yoga instructor meant when she said difficult people are our greatest teachers, so are difficult times. When you are knee-deep in it, remember this too shall pass, and when it does you will be blessed with a greater knowledge, a greater understanding and that weight will be lifted.
“Impossibilities are merely things which we have not yet learned.” Charles W. Chesnutt