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Are You Carrying a Grudge…Against Yourself?

3 Nov

“Your capacity for salvation lies in your ability to forgive” Marianne Williamson

How many times have you laid awake at night beating yourself up for something you did “wrong” during the day? Did you somehow let yourself down by messing up at work, forgetting to do something, not being productive enough, etc.? The critic in my head likes to remind me at the end of each day how I didn’t eat healthy enough or exercise as much as I should have. It likes to remind me that I didn’t do enough work, didn’t spend my time as wisely or efficiently as I needed to. It basically likes to remind me that no matter what I do, I will never be enough.

But through a lot of work, self-study and sheer Grace, I have been able to acknowledge that my pattern of thinking is habitual and conditioned, but it is not who I am. It is a voice inside my head that for many, many years has had a lot of beef with me. I have held a grudge against myself for a long damn time and I am slowly starting undo what has been done by learning to forgive myself.

Being the proud owner of a grudge against another person is like carrying a bowling ball around in the pit of your stomach. It weighs you down, drains your energy and makes your world often seem very small. Now imagine holding that grudge against yourself. The weight can become unbearable, impossible to carry so we try to lighten it by “correcting” our behavior.

When I was a teenager I acted out in ways that I am not entirely proud of. I did drugs, skipped school, even spent a month in rehab. I had an eating disorder, sometimes cut myself and was simply angry and miserable all the time. I was angry at the world for not understanding me but even more so, I was angry at myself for not fitting in, not being normal. At about 17 years-old I straightened out, went to college, made good, healthy friends and even had a clean-cut boyfriend. I graduated on time with good grades and without much drama. I figured I atoned for my bad behavior as a teen, and went along on my merry way into adulthood.

Fast forward a little over ten years and that clean cut boyfriend and I were getting divorced and suddenly memories from my teen years kept creeping into my consciousness. Not only did I feel horrible about myself because I was getting divorced, I also felt like I was a horrible person for all the pain I caused myself and my family as a teenager. I felt like a failure, like I couldn’t keep it together if I tried. The fact is, I had never forgiven myself. And I was still carrying around that bowling ball, and it was only getting heavier.

But something miraculous happened as I fought with the demons of my past while I struggled to stay sane in the present. I decided to forgive myself. I decided to have a talk with the frightened, angry teenage girl who at the time was also a frightened, angry woman and tell her everything she did during that time was okay. Yeah, I fucked up, but so what? Everyone does. And as a matter of fact, better that I went through that confused, rebellious stage as an adolescent rather than an adult where I would have to pick up all of the pieces on my own. I looked my mistakes straight in the face with as much truth and honesty as I could summon, and chose to forgive.

Are you holding on to something you did in the past that is weighing you down and keeping you from living fully? Are you so ashamed of something you have done that you are struggling to live wholly, freely loving yourself and others in a way that is your birthright? We all make mistakes, we have all done something we are not proud of. It is a universal truth. Your shame and inability to forgive yourself can be healed if you face what it is you are ashamed of, be honest about what you have done and tell yourself:

Hey. I am worth it. I deserve freedom. No being deserves to suffer at their own hands. I LOVE MYSELF and I FORGIVE MYSELF. It is a disservice to me and to my loved ones to carry this grudge around. It is time to shed my layers of resentment and let go. I am more than worth it.

As one of my favorite (anonymous) quotes goes,

“You can’t undo anything you’ve already done, but you can face up to it.  You can tell the truth. You can seek forgiveness. And let God do the rest.”

As I look back now, what I felt was my shameful, awful past doesn’t look so bad anymore. In fact, I don’t regret one painful moment or one “bad” choice I made because without them, I would not be where I am today. While healing from my divorce I took a yoga workshop with Seane Corn and the most profound lesson I took away from that week was that no matter what has happened to you in your life, what choices you have made, what pain you have experienced: you are exactly where you are meant to be. So just hang on and cut yourself some slack.

So as you lay awake at night with that big bowling ball in your gut, just repeat this mantra to yourself and see if you wake up feeling a little lighter:

I FORGIVE. I FORGIVE. I FORGIVE.

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How To Ask the Universe for What You Want

24 Sep

Last night I was talking with my boyfriend about ideas for today’s blog, and when I told him my idea he asked me what the hell I think I am–a yoga teacher or a guru? Now, I’m not a claiming to be a self-help guru, but I am most certainly a yoga teacher and throughout my years of practice I have discovered that yoga goes much deeper than physical poses. Yoga touches us physically, emotionally and spiritually. At the core of yoga it’s about uniting with the Divine, which results in living our most fulfilled, authentic and purposeful lives. So no, I ain’t no guru but I think it’s best to teach what we know, and I know that asking the Universe for what we really, truly want works. It’s not hocus pocus, it’s not magic, it is real and it works, and I’m going to tell you how. Read on, skeptics, read on.

Like many of us, there was a time in my life when I was just chugging along, struggling to even get through the day, oftentimes asking myself,”Will I ever be happy? Is this all there is?” I was bored, directionless and sad. But under that malcontent was a budding seed of awareness that was guiding me to my new life. I was practicing yoga daily, meditating and delving deeply into my spiritual practice. At the beginning of most yoga classes I took, the teacher had us sit down, get quiet and set our intention for our practice. Because I was so unhappy, the only thing that ever came to mind was “I want to be happy so bad“. When you set that seed of intention over and over again, even if it’s somewhat vague, the Universe listens. “Okay, so you want to be happy?”, the Universe asks. “Are you ready to make some serious changes? Ask and you will receive.” Fast forward a year and a half, and I can honestly say that I am happier than I have ever been. No, it didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t smooth sailing to get here, but I never gave up hope that I would and could be happy again, and slowly but surely I realized that that something bigger, something more powerful than myself was supporting me in my intention for happiness.

Maybe there is something very specific you have in mind that you want to ask for. It could be something as major as healing from a major illness, or something less serious, like better abs. The Universe listens when your intentions are clear, earnest and humble. I’m not sure the Universe will conspire to get you a Ferrari, but if somehow that Ferrari will serve the greater good then ya never know.

So how do you ask the Universe for what you want? First of all, you need to believe that you deserve what you want. Sounds simple, but when you take a deep, hard look at yourself you may find that you don’t believe you are worthy or deserving of what you desire. Many of us think it is selfish to want, that it is somehow narcissistic to crave happiness and fulfillment or even having our basic needs met. But I say that is B.S. What’s selfish is being miserable. Your misery and feelings of worthlessness leak into your work, relationships and the rest of your life, making other people around feel like crap.

Here are some steps in asking the Universe for what you want:

1. Get quiet. Find a place in your home or in nature where you will be undisturbed for at least 20 minutes, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Envision yourself happy, joyful and filled with purpose. What are you doing? Who is around you? Spenda good five minutes envisioning this scenario.

2. Write down in a journal what you saw, what you were doing and who you were with. Maybe you saw yourself writing that novel you’ve been dreaming about but telling yourself you’ll never have the time/resources/talent to do. Maybe you saw yourself blissfully in love with an “imaginary” partner. Write it down, describe that person. Describe their looks, their personality, their voice, etc. Be very specific, the Universe likes specificity. Remember though, even if what you want is vague the Universe can definitely work with that, it just might take a little more time.

3. Sit or kneel with your hands in the universal gesture of asking, with palms upturned. Your hands can be on your lap or even up in the air. I like this gesture, it symbolizes humility and reverence. When asking the Universe remember this is not a demand, it is a request. The more humble, the better. So go ahead, ask. Say it out loud. Don’t be shy, the more you speak it, the more real it becomes.

4. Once you are done asking it is time to listen. So again, get quiet and still and just listen. You may feel completely ridiculous and you may not hear a thing, but listen all the same. Chances are the booming voice of God isn’t going to come through your stereo speakers (I think that would scare the shit out of me anyway). It will probably be much more subtle, like a flash of insight, a feeling of deep knowing, or profound inspiration. Or you might not feel a damn thing but hey, you tried. And keep trying, perservere and you might be very surprised.

5. Repeat as necessary.

This is a starting place, and just like any new skill it gets easier with practice. Before you know it you’ll be asking the Universe for things left and right, and that’s when beautiful things begin to happen. By this I mean you begin to let go of control and trust that the Universe has your best interest in mind. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “When you make a decision, the Universe conspires to make it happen.” You are a co-creator with the Universe, and it is up to you to make the decision of what is is you want, and the Universe is gonna do whatever it can to help you out. Believe you deserve it (you do), be clear in your intentions, and then trust and let go. And when you do, what you thought was impossible becomes possible and real miracles occur.

Turning Jealousy into Abundance

7 Sep

I remember sitting on the dock one morning at my parent’s house in the midst of my painful and messy divorce. It was early morning and I couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d catch the sun rise and try to calm my restless mind. During that time my self worth was shot, everything I had ever identified with was crumbling along with life as I knew it. I remember thinking to myself, “How will I ever be happy again? How will I ever even like myself again?” Up until that point, my self worth was largely derived from what others thought of me or how much better I thought I was than many people. But sitting on the dock that summer morning, I didn’t think I was better than anyone. In fact, almost everything I thought that made me ME, was gone. I felt, as my friend Alison perfectly phrased it, “like a turd in a ditch.” Can’t feel much worse than that.

Then the thought popped into my head, “How will I ever feel good about myself again if I’m not better than anyone else?” Yes, I felt like said turd, but I was also humbled through my yoga and spiritual practice into the realization that we are all One. We are all living, breathing manifestations of the Divine. All of us are sacred beings, no one better than the other. So if that is true, then my ego had been tricking me all those years into believing that in order to be happy, I had to be better than others. And better to me meant smarter, prettier, more successful, more popular, a better yogi, a better runner, and an all-around better and more fabulous person. The realization that I am no better than anyone else on this planet left me kind of stunned. So that sent me on a personal quest for self-esteem that wasn’t derived from my ego’s sense of self but from some place real and authentic.

So that might have seemed like a pointless ramble, but let me tell you that jealousy is one of the predominant characteristics I have let rule my life on and off for the last 30 years. In yoga, jealousy is something that will fall away as we practice aparigraha,  translated as “non-possessiveness” or “non-attachment”. It is on of the moral codes (Yamas) described by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras written some 2,000 years ago. This jealousy, this wanting for what is not mine and damning those who have it has made me crazy over and over again throughout my life. Because you see, what I have coveted in others is to be like them. And if I was like them (successful, beautiful, skinny, happy, radiant, flexible, blah, blah, blah) then everyone would want to be like me. And then I would feel good about myself because I was better than others.

Most of us have heard the siren song of jealousy and tried to achieve our goals and desires based on it. I know that being jealous of others has motivated me to work harder to be like them at times, but most often it just backfires. I end up trying to achieve my goals based on what other people are doing, and I only become more fearful and afraid of failing that I end up ruminating rather than acting. And just because someone has what appears to be success and happiness doesn’t necessarily mean that they really have it – you never know what’s going on in their personal life.

Ever hear good news about a friend or loved one and rather than feel excitement and joy, you feel a pang (or a punch) or jealousy? Why did they get to be so lucky and not me? This is possesivness and striving at their most potent, and this is where our practice of aparigraha comes in. Listen, just because it happened to them doesn’t mean it won’t happen to you, and the sooner you figure this out the easier life is gonna be. When we see other people getting things we want, we suddenly feel as though those things aren’t available to us anymore. So in their experience of abundance, we feel lack. The truth is, the Universe is conspiring to give you everything you need and more if you just trust that it can happen and believe that you are worthy. Abundance is all around us. Look at the sun, the sky, the ocean, the mountains. They are overflowing with abundance. As Wayne Dyer says, “Abundance is not something we acquire, it is something we tune in to.” What is it you desire? Just because someone else is doing and doing it well does not mean you are irrevocably axed from ever living your dreams. Just make sure they are your dreams.

You have what you need to accomplish everything you ever wanted. Trust that. Also know that jealousy is like a toxic acid that will erode your sense of self worth into Turd in a Ditch status. Being happy, fulfilling your dreams and desires is your birthright, but you don’t have to be better, more successful or more abundant than anyone else to feel good and love yourself. Next time you feel a tinge of jealousy when you hear about the wonderful thing that happened to someone else, as Pema Chodrom says, “Rejoice. Until I began to practice rejoicing in other’s good fortune, I had no idea how much envy I had.” If that’s not a spiritual practice, I don’t know what is. Rejoicing in other’s abundance will actually attract abundance, because it will make you aware of your jealous tendencies and inspire you to change and grow. Through this change and growth, you will find that things come your way with less striving because you are now moving from a place of love rather than fear, abundance rather than lack, and this my friends, is how you will truly begin to love yourself.