I hope to make Mondays a time when I can write about what I’m reading, learning and experiencing in regards to spirituality and mindfulness. There’s much to discuss.
For the majority of my life, I didn’t really think much about spirituality. It’s not that I pushed it away, but just was consumed with the day-to-day grind. Last year, when I started feeling physically and emotionally unwell, I picked the book Mind Over Medicine by Lissa Rankin. I really credit that book with starting me on my journey. The book itself wasn’t super spiritual in nature, but it got the ball rolling, so to speak. I was fascinated by the notion that our minds and thoughts could make us physically ill, and I started wondering about our mind and thoughts in general. What are thoughts anyway? (Just thoughts.) And could something as simple as a thought truly change the way we perceive the world around us? (Hell yes.) And if that’s true, could we create the life we want by becoming more aware of our self-limiting thoughts and beliefs and making positive change through affirmations, mindfulness, and awareness? (Yep. But MAN it’s a constant practice.)
At some point, I just opened my heart to the possibilities of the universe. I pretty much declared that I was ready to receive what was out there for me – I was ready and willing to learn and most importantly, do my part to share with others. (Pre-2013 Sarah would be aghast at this woo-woo development.) And, you guys, that’s when things just started unfolding right in front of my eyes. Books, emails, quotes, random conversations…it was like the answers I had been searching for were all falling into my lap. Now, were these things always out there, right in my line of sight? Probably, but my narrow-minded scope of reality wasn’t allowing me to see.
So. I was taking it all in. Reading the books, attending the workshops, meeting with different practitioners in the fields of energy medicine, hypnotherapy, and holistic healing – really not knowing exactly what it would lead to, but just coming from a place of yes and checking it all out. Some of it was just plain over-the-top (um, hello, angelic clairvoyant healing), but most of it was very eye-opening. I was learning new ways of thinking and living that were definitely helping and healing me, but I wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be the end point. How could I help others with this information? Should I blog about it?
This past Saturday, I attended Gabby Bernstein’s Miracles Now book launch in LA. I’m a fan of Gabrielle’s for many reasons, but mainly because she’s a student of A Course in Miracles, and does a great job breaking down the lessons into manageable tools to apply to your daily life. (Have you read A Course? It’s no easy task.) The evening was a Kundalini yoga workshop followed with some Q&A, and she shared lots of advice from her book.
One thing she mentioned was to let the book guide you – when you have a question, just open the book to a random page and let it speak to you. As you can guess, I’m down with this kind of method – staying open to all possibilities. As I mentioned above, I’ve felt a little strange about my role in all of this in regards to this blog. Do I write about what I’ve learned? Will I turn people away? Will you think I’m cuckoo? Maybe. So I thought about all of this, and opened the book. This is what I saw.
Be the lighthouse. That’s it. My role is to be a lighthouse for someone. So, I will be here, hoping to share love and light with you guys, with the hopes of speaking to your heart. Even if it’s one person, I’m so good with that.
I am not the victim. I am the lighthouse.
Since writing about my struggles, I’ve had a lot of people reach out about their personal challenges, and one thing comes up again and again.
“Do/did you ever get a little angry that most of the people around you are just living their life well and any way they please?”
I think anyone who is dealing with pain – whether it be emotional or physical, has asked this question. I know I have – in fact, last fall and winter, when I was really feeling like complete crap, I found myself asking that question over and over. Every afternoon, I would sit in my car in Wito’s school pickup line and watch all the moms congregate and chat. They all looked healthy and happy, and I would feel so angry and upset that I was in so much pain. Why the anxiety and physical discomfort? Why me, God? What did I do to deserve this struggle? Everyone else looks SO HAPPY. It’s not fair. It’s simply not fair.
Wow. SOMEONE was playing the victim card big time. Wowza.
I have two things to say about this.
First off, we are ALL struggling. Most of those moms I watched in the parking lot? They are fighting a battle too. And they might have been looking at me thinking the same thing I thought about them. I know lots of you mentioned that you thought my life was just peachy keen, not knowing that I had been struggling so much. We all struggle. Keep that in mind in your day-to-day interactions.
Secondly, playing the victim, whether outwardly or just in your head, is no way to live. I promise you. Feeling self-pity due to an illness or being wronged or a shitty childhood or a specific trauma DOES NOT SERVE YOU. At all. Not a bit. Holding onto negativity and stewing in resentment is slowly killing you. It’s not helping you at all. It’s not making things better or right or punishing the person or thing that hurt you. You are just hurting yourself. You are. Yes, you are causing your own pain. Right now. Big time.
As Queen Elsa would say, LET IT GO. Let it go, peeps.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “Sure, Sarah. I’ll just let decades of resentment release right now. Oh, it’s gone! Look at it floating away! I’m freeeeeeeeee as a biiiirrrrd. I’m totally cool with cancer/being raped/emotional abuse!” *huge eye roll*
It’s not easy. In fact, it might the be the biggest challenge you’ll ever face, but you can change the way you view your circumstances. You are not your thoughts. You are not your thoughts. You are a radiant, energy-filled, intuitive, happy being that is currently being controlled by your negative thoughts. Your bitterness, anxiety, sadness, fear etc…it’s all a loop, circling in your brain, not allowing you to see what’s really in front of you.
What if you make the choice to see things differently? What if you could start to see the separation between your true self and your thoughts? How do you this? Well, you seek out help. Whether it be a doctor or a therapist or a spiritual leader or a book or a friend. You reach out, make a connection, and start your journey.
When I am feeling stuck in fear and victimhood, I address it in several different ways.
1. Practice gratitude. (“Uggggghhhh, I’m so sick of hearing about gratitude.” Hey, I hear you over there.) Do you know why people keep telling you to practice gratitude? Because it works. And it’s cumulative, I promise you. It slowly changes your mental framework over time. Every day, think of what you have. Are you sitting in a structure that is providing you shelter? Pretty cool. Are you reading this on a laptop? Kind of amazing. Is there one person in the world who loves and cares for you? You’ve hit the jackpot. More than one person? You are such a blessed individual. Truly. Be thankful, but most of all, be thankful that you are on this planet. You were given a life. A LIFE. To live. Happily.
2. Practice meditation. (You don’t need to be all buddha on the mountaintop with this. 5-10 minutes a day. Hey, 1 minute is better than nothing.) You know, it’s sad, but most people will never be able to separate their thoughts from true inner self. They will live their entire lives in their head, letting their thoughts run the show. I will address this phenomenon of your “inner roommate” soon (because it’s fascinating to me), but the gist is – if you were to imagine that all of your thoughts were being said to you by an external person, you would think that person was CRAZY. Seriously, you would be running for the hills, screaming. So WHY do you give those thoughts the time of day when they pass through your brain? Why do you engage them and let them take over? Maybe because, I don’t know…it’s always been that way? Well, it doesn’t have to be. By quieting your mind and being still, you will start to witness your own thoughts, and learn to not engage them and let them pass right through. A thought is just that. A thought. It’s not a fact. It’s not true. I think Headspace is the best way for beginners to start meditating. I wrote about it here.
3. Practice being the lighthouse. Use your circumstances to help others. I feel my happiest when I’m doing something of service. When I receive a comment, email or hug after writing a post like this, it feels me with elation that someone relates to what I’m saying, and that it might helpful. I want to help, and I think we all want to help and love each other. The world needs you to be a lighthouse. Reach out to a friend or a stranger. Spread your love.
4. Practice affirmations. You can counteract all of that negative self-talk with positive affirmations. Tell your brain what’s up. You create your reality. Louise Hay is the master of affirmations, and I highly recommend her books, The Power is Within You and 21 Days to Master Affirmations.
5. Practice opening your mind to new ways of thinking. Read a book. Look at this list. And this one. Don’t think too much, just pick a book, and go with it. It might be exactly what you need. It’s funny how the universe just works that way sometimes.
6. Practice kindness to others AND yourself. This is a lifelong journey we’re on – learning the entire way. We all make mistakes, and sometimes our mistakes are our greatest teachers. I still berate myself over my shortcomings (A common one is “why am I still allowing myself to focus on the fearful thoughts? I know that I am causing my own pain, but I can’t stop, therefore I must be a bad person and not worthy.” RINSE AND REPEAT.), but the truth of the matter is that I am growing and succeeding every day. Just stepping back and noticing my thought patterns is a step in the right direction. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep your chin up. Focus on the here and now, and the fact that you are growing as a kinder, wiser, more empathetic person every day.
Most importantly, there is one common thread in all of the above tips. Practice. Practice, practice, practice. Like anything else, you will not see any benefits if you don’t practice regularly. You can’t read a book, nod your head in agreement, and go right back to your old habits. You have to forge forward with your new knowledge and utilize it every day. Trust me, I struggle. We all have bad days. The physical pain thing still gets me all worked up, but when it does, I make the conscious decision to practice one of the above 6 things. You’ve just got to commit.
Make the commitment. This is it, you guys. Make it happen. I’ll be here to support you every step of the way.