Remembering our humanness is where our freedom lies.
Spring is upon us here in the Midwest. After the twists and turns of this past winter, I hope all of you are getting a chance to welcome the return of light and warmth.
Today, I want to speak to the trend of valuing productivity, efficiency, busy-ness, and impeccable performance that we've been seeing in our culture for some time. How do you notice these themes showing up for you in your life? Do they effect the expectations you have of yourself, and those that others have of you?
Many of the aforementioned qualities are valuable things, of which our society is well aware. But what happens when we forget to hold these values in relationship with other qualities? What happens when those values hold dominion over others like connection, rest, play, and humility?
As our culture has become more rooted in productivity and performance, and our fascination with technology has grown, I wonder if, on a certain level, many of us have forgotten what we are. Many of us are trying to stay competitive so we work long hours without rest or nourishment. When we feel grumpy, sick, or impatient, frustration with ourselves mounts because it gets in the way of our "to do list". I mean, "Why can't we just get over it already?!" So we often push through the feelings, tiredness, or pain, hoping it will clear up on its own. We tell ourselves, if only we do better, the "problem" will go away.
If you find yourself grappling through a similar process, I'm here to remind you today that you are NOT a robot! There is so much more to you than how much you can accomplish, and how "good" you are at what you do, and how few errors you make. We are not designed to be productive. We are meant to live.
We are human. To be human is to be dynamic. We feel. Some days we are in a funk. Some days we feel so much joy we think we might burst. There are days where we can fly through the things we wish to accomplish. There are days when we lay on the couch and binge watch Netflix, or just goof around with the kids, eat pancakes, and nothing gets done.
I say all this, so you remember its okay to go easier on yourself. Maybe we are more efficient, and effective, when we allow ourselves the room to experience the messy, and beautiful aspects of life that don't fit neatly into our box, that sometimes throw the whole agenda askew. Perhaps, it's worth finding out.
How are you going to embrace your humanness today?
P.S. Share about your experience with productivity, expectations, and honoring your humanness below. I look forward to hearing from you.
During my work with clients over the last month, I have been noticing a theme that many (including myself) have been facing particularly strongly—our relationship with the unknown.
The uncertainty, of course, is always there. Though some of us may be becoming more aware of its steady presence as we face weather extremes, the upcoming elections, or the unique details of our personal lives.
The question is, as we remember that we are part of larger systems unfolding on a course all their own, how are we relating with ourselves?
Are we freaking out with anxiety, fear, rage, or sadness? Are we scrambling for control, some way to escape, or blow off steam? Are we able to access a sense of faith, and able to ride the waves that are washing in? Maybe you vacillate between these realities depending on the moment.
No matter what your experience is, I would like to invite you to offer kindness, and compassion for yourself. We all want to be safe, loved, healthy, and happy. When we sense these qualities may be in jeopardy, it is natural to respond in effort to preserve them. We all have this instinct.
Sometimes, I wish I had a book that could tell me the details of everything that is to come, and the best way to face it. I would reference it in these times of uncertainty, and share it with you all. But, alas, we all know no such thing exists.
Yet, as I look to the trees during this change of season from summer to fall, it is as if they are guiding, "Gather your resources. Soak in all the nourishment you can. Let all the goodness you have encountered infuse into your being. Fill up your reserves—the deep wells within you—with all the love that has freely washed over you. This has been there, and still is (in case you had any doubt), just like the light from the sun that shines indiscriminately on all of life on Earth.
Then, my friends, shake off the empty shells. The vessels that once were vehicles of life that are now hollow. Shed the old skin, the fading coat, the crumbling leaves. Let the winds of change carry them effortlessly away. You don't need them any more. They served their purpose. Honor them for what you experienced through them. Then let them rest. They will be renewed in their own time in this web of life."
I look to the trees, and this I remember.
What unknowns are you facing right now? How are you working with them? Share your experience with us below, or send me an email.
Wishing so much love, freedom, and trust for each of you.
P.S. Tired of facing the uncertainty alone? Reach out, and we'll walk the path together.
Navigating times of transition.
This coming Monday marks a significant day for me. It is my last day working at a part-time job I've had for the last three and a half years as a nanny for a little boy, now almost four. I started this position when Embrace Your Essence was still a fledgling, and wasn't quite able to support itself on its own yet. Leaning into my background in early education, and spending a couple afternoons a week with this little kiddo has provided great fulfillment and joy, and also given Embrace Your Essence the breathing room it needed to grow without unnecessary demands.
Of course, over this time, both the business and the child have grown and both have different needs now. Embrace Your Essence is now in a place where it is sustaining itself, but also requiring more time and space to flourish as it continues to grow. A few months ago this became undeniably clear to me, and after a conversation with the family, I've been making the transition out of nannying and into Embrace Your Essence even more fully.
Over the course of the last several months as this has been evolving, I have been doing my best to honor the process of this transition. As the precipice of change is so close, these ways of integrating and moving through have been very poignant on my mind.
As many of you may be in transition times yourself, I would like to share some of the key pieces I've been reminded of for moving through with grace.
Get yourself plenty of space. Times to be still or allow yourself to not actively be doing something gives room to integrate all the energetic shifts that are happening under the surface. Breathe. Meditate. Sleep. Gaze out the window, or lay on the grass. Though I did mention stillness, conscious, present movement can be supportive too (such as yoga or an easy walk with the intent to be with yourself and your experience). There may be many facets of your experience that need to be witnessed so they can fully move through and out of you. If we rush around, or are constantly engaged in activity, it delays the processing of these pieces. There is nothing wrong with this, just know that they will peak their head up later to receive the attention they need. You have permission to slow down, and to say no to certain things if that feels like it will give you the room you need to process.
Get support. We all need others to help buoy us up, especially when things are in flux. Turn to people you trust who can listen, who are willing to offer nourishment in the ways you need it. Eat good food. Lean into community. Ask for what you need. Look for the ways you are provided it. Allow yourself to receive from those with whom you feel safe.
Accept and allow discomfort. Transitions bring up a whole slew of emotions. Excitement, fear, grief, hope, and everything in between. All of it is valid. All of it needs to be seen. Some of it you may be more comfortable with than others. Witness and breathe into it, and cradle it. If you can, catch ways your mind may be trying to protect yourself from fully feeling everything that is there. For instance, I noticed myself continually contemplating the appropriate goodbye gift for the family and little boy. Even though I had landed on something, for at least a month, my mind kept returning to it thinking it wasn't enough. I held this though pattern with open curiosity, knowing there was something more to this, and wanting to see how it might relate to my healing. Finally, it occurred to me. A part of me felt that if I found the perfect gift to encompass all the beautiful, rich experiences we've had together over the last three years, that it would have been a gateway for all my emotions. No such object exists. I had to trust that the unfolding of each experience we shared together in that particular moment was enough. My responsibility instead, was to sit with the full range of emotions that were present for me.
Honor where you have been. In the space and cradle of support, reflect on what has unfolded within you as a result of the experience that is ending or beginning. How has/is your soul growing and unfolding? What do you have access to now, that you didn't have before? Clarity, compassion, freedom, love, awareness, truth.... Connect with gratitude within your heart for what you have received and learned that you are taking with you.
Nourish hope. With most, if not all, transitions, something is ending, so something new can begin. The presence of the unknown makes itself unavoidably clear. At various points within the transition, fear can rear its head at the mere thought of the unknown. Sit with this discomfort, and as you do, also listen for the inklings of love and support that may drop themselves like breadcrumbs along your trail. Note them, cherish them, and put them in your pocket. Remind yourself of them when fear or doubt shows up. Move slowly if you need to to trust that you are truly safe to move forward. Course correct if needed.
Transitions can be big on the surface like a job change, moving, birth, death, or shifting through different phases of life (this includes our own phases, but also when our children, parents, and significant others move through them too). But sometimes, they show up more subtly, like letting go of a habit or belief. No matter where you may find yourself if your in transition, I encourage you to explore the processes shared above and see if they feel beneficial for you. If you feel inclined to share, comment on our blog or send me an email, and let us know what transition you are in and how you are supporting yourself.
With grace and compassion,
Everything we communicate can be boiled down to a "please" or a "thank you".
Over the past couple years I have been studying the practice of Nonviolent Communication (it also goes by the names Compassionate, or Conscious Communication). This way of connecting was originally shared by Marshall Rosenberg in the 1970s. As the teachings begin to sink in more deeply for me and replace old habits of communicating, I have been humbled by the healing power of this approach, and I wanted to share some of the juicy nuggets of wisdom with you.
The core tenets focus on identifying how we are feeling, uncovering the universal human need underneath it, and then offering empathy for any unmet needs.
Come on a journey with me as we explore this.
For a few moments take nice deep breathes and connect with your body. Tune into what feelings are alive within you.
Some examples are: content, relaxed, exhausted, frustrated, sad, joyful, disappointed, lonely, intriqued, calm, happy, inspired, anxious, torn, overwhelmed, confused, scared, ashamed, impatient, numb, angry, grateful, encouraged, vulnerable, etc.
Note: If something like "I feel so taken advantage of!" comes up, this is a thought and interpretation, not a feeling. In such a case, might you be feeling angry, indignant, sad, disappointed, etc? Acknowledge the presence of the thought, and try to to redirect yourself to the feeling that is within the thought.
Have you identified at least one to three feelings that resonate for you? There may be more, and they may seem contradictory. That is okay. Write these feelings down if it is helpful for you.
In Marshall Rosenberg's work, he says that feelings that are pleasant are a sign that a universal human need is being met, whereas feelings that are unpleasant are a sign of an unmet need within us. When we communicate with others in this space our words convey either a "please": help me meet this need for _________; or a "thank you": celebrate with me, my need for _________ has been met.
Now, let's take a moment to explore what needs may be underneath the feelings you identified. These universal human needs in their essence enhance our quality of life. Here are some examples of needs: safety, acceptance, harmony, predictability, integrity, connection, equality, appreciation, love, self-expression, understanding, respect, clarity, help and support, community, trust, intimacy, meaning and purpose, security, celebration, structure, autonomy and choice, space, fun and play, to matter and belong, mourning, freedom, kindness, responsibility, etc.
Returning to our example of, "I feel so taken advantage of!" we see that there are perhaps feelings of indignation, disappointment, and vulnerability, possibly because the needs for respect, kindness, and appreciation were not met.
As you tune inward, what unmet needs might your feelings be pointing you toward? And conversely, if you are feeling well, what might needs might your feelings be indicating that are being met?
Once you have identified your needs, write them down with the feelings you have identified. Acknowledge within yourself that you are feeling _________ because you are needing _______________ (or your needs for ___________ have been met).
Now, comes the true opportunity for healing. As you hold these needs in your heart, feel or imagine what it would be like if these needs were met. What would the experience of "respect", for example, feel like in your body if you had it completely? Imagine that you can breathe that quality into your being simply by thinking it, as if all the molecules of oxygen that enter your body are infused with ________. Continue to breathe and soak the energy of this in for as long as you like.
So, how do you feel?
Share your experience in the comments or email to share with me privately.
To learn more, read Marshall Rosenberg's book Nonviolent Communication, or visit the Wisconsin Empathy Guild's website to connect with practice groups in the area.
Delight in Your Aliveness
The French have a term "joie de vivre", meaning a delight in being alive, a carefree enjoyment of life, or exultation of spirit. After facing some of my own "demons" over the last few months—a fear of loss, and death—I had the realization that an antidote for many of our fears is to live fully alive. Embrace the present moment for what it is, allow ourselves to be who we really are, follow the little (or perhaps strong) nudgings of our heart, love those in our life fully, and be willing to express that, and delight in the simple pleasures of life. If we allow ourselves to be all that we are, gracefully let go of what we are not, and let our day be guided by our inner joy, our fears dissolve.
Perhaps you will find it as the wind grazes your face, in the scent of blooming milkweed, from the kindness of a stranger, watching a child squeal with glee, making a step toward that trip you have always wanted to take, giving in to your soul's urging to pick up a cello and explore how the friction of the bow on strings produces pure sound, or picking up the phone to repair a relationship with a beloved.
My question for you is, how can you step into this joie de vivre in some way today? How can you allow yourself to be more fully You? If you feel inspired, practice this in a least a small way everyday.
Share how you personally cultivate joie de vivre in the comments below.
It's time to throw your gunny sack in the fire.
Have you ever had an interaction with someone, where they get upset with you for a seemingly insignificant reason? It takes you off guard, and you can't really understand why they are so hot and bothered. Perhaps, eventually that person shares that there is really something else going on for them, and you both realize that the blow up was merely a trigger for what was happening underneath.
Let me introduce to you the "gunny sack." Each of us metaphorically has a gunny sack that we carry around with us. Anytime we feel an injustice and aren't able to forgive, we add it to our gunny sack. Anytime we choose others over ourselves, and we feel resentment because we aren't getting what we need, we add that to our gunny sack. Anytime we hold any sort of grudge or grievance we pack it into our gunny sack. If we don't pay attention, what was a light, clear sack becomes a heavy burden we carry around with us. The weight of others' responsibilities, being unappreciated, and not cared for makes us solemn, detached, and angry. Most of the time we don't say anything, and maybe we even try to pretend it isn't there because it feels so difficult to change. But every once in a while, everything that we have really been feeling, that we have stuffed into our gunny sack (perhaps even from years ago), is knocked from our shoulders and spills out onto those around us, those we care about. It becomes like a oil spill contaminating our environment and covering us all in slimy, goopy, sticky mess. So what do we do about it?
First of all, remember that we are all human. Please be kind and gentle with yourself that you have been carrying this around. It hasn't been easy, and most of us have not been taught how to work with these feelings and situations in ways that honor ourselves AND others. If you are an innocent bystander in the "spilled gunny sack", please have compassion (for both you and the person who is upset). Know that no matter what is expressed, it really has nothing to do with you.
Second, take a moment to tune into what you are feeling. There may be a variety of things going on within you. Give space to all of it. There is room. As uncomfortable as it may seem at first, these feelings will not kill you... that is the illusion of the "heavier emotions" (especially if you have been carrying them for a while). Giving these feelings space is what will bring you relief. Remember to breathe, and offer more and more room for the sensations to be exactly as they are. (Think of this as a practice in unconditional love.) If you feel overwhelmed by the sensations, go one bit at a time. Doing so will help relieve some of the pressure that has built up.
When you're ready, ask yourself what am I really needing here? What core value of mine is not being met? It may be space, solitude, quiet, safety, joy, freedom, appreciation, connection, purpose, etc. Please note, it will not something specific that you "need" someone else to do. If you find yourself going in that direction return to your feelings and give them room to be exactly as they are. Blaming or wanting someone else to change is a diversion from what is really going on. If you follow that blame, you will reinforce what is in your gunny sack and continue chasing your tail.
Once you have a sense of what you need, breathe it in. Feel that the air you are inhaling is saturated with love, joy, appreciation, safety, (whatever your need is). Visualize it going to the parts of you that have been shut off from receiving it. Hear yourself offering kind words filling this need. Be your own best friend. Know that all your needs are met once you allow it. Notice what begins to shift in you.
Eventually, things may shift within you enough that you are ready to empty the injustices in your gunny sack. You can imagine everything you have been carrying being recycled into your core value, or even throwing the sack into a fire so it all is released. You are free.
If you find yourself struggling with any part of this process, receiving energywork can help. It allows you to get out of your own way, and dissolve the gunk while you rest. Let me know if I can help you with this process.
Reiki Master Teacher and Owner of Embrace Your Essence