healing to worthiness

A writer friend recently asked me what was the genre of the book I’m working on and as I began to explain he offered a summarizing statement of “ohhhh, sounds like a self-help thing.”

Immediately I felt some irritation with his response, as if in the hierarchy of literature categorization self-help sinks near the very bottom somewhere between gossip columns and comics. Writing that somehow isn’t serious.

aa self help book

After reflecting about this days later I wish I would have said, “well I don’t really resonate with the term self-help as that doesn’t reflect the immense diversity or deep potential in human evolution this genre has explored over the past 30+ years. I think something akin to the ‘exploration of quantum spirituality, human consciousness and transformation’ may be closer to the dynamics of self-guided change that this category of literature attempts to examine.”

But alas in that moment I laughed and shrugged off his words, inwardly hoping ‘it’ might be more than a ‘thing.’

Situations like this give me pause about my writing. No, they give me pause about my worthiness to write until I examine why I feel hesitant to contribute my talent in this area. (Check out this awesome video of Brene Brown and Oprah on worthiness.) I remind myself that I understand why the self-help genre receives this reaction from most folks. Many Americans are uncomfortable with the idea that they are responsible for their life and that they are the best experts about their inward journey. Our society loves to belittle us about our innate ability to trust ourselves and our experience. We assume babies don’t comprehend the world around them, that animals don’t have souls or trees consciousness and most adults cannot be responsible for their managing their own physical well-being. Why is this? Where did these beliefs come from? Who benefits from this paradigm?

The human transformation movement, also referred to as the New Age or New Thought movement, isn’t about ‘helping’ people. I don’t even believe that it’s about helping people help themselves. It’s about shifting the way all of us perceive, interact and engage with the world beyond a physical and mental duality paradigm. It’s pretty evident that our current ways of human interaction based on competition, greed, and fear have created a world that reflects these beliefs the majority has about the nature of humanity. This movement and its corresponding literature presents evidence, shares mental and spiritual technologies and describes personal stories of individuals who have transcended these old models of behavior/thinking and literally downloaded a new operating system.

DSC05340 copy

My book about self healing is in essence a book about self-transformation. About the very real and very challenging work of integrating a new way of behavior based on abundance, trust, compassion and love. In a world that continues to be dominated by so much violence, blame and anger I find that healing this mental virus is the most important work there is to do. More important than my job, more important than my parenting, more important than consuming endless amounts of stuff. Yes I continue to work, mother and buy AND I recognize that they are not the primary reason for me being on the planet.

And so I have to trust my worthiness to write my story of healing, 1) because it’s part of my healing journey and 2) because the world needs this voice. Just as it needs to hear everyone wake up and be a contribution to benefit all the entities who share this planet. I trust we’ll get there, because the SHIFT has already begun. Awakening to our worthiness and responsibility is just one page of the story.

Global-Awakening-–-Global-Awakenings-Quote-Our-purpose-has-nothing-to-do-with-what-we-want-out-of-life-it-has-everything-to-do-with-what-our-world-needs-from-us.

If you’re interested in going deeper on this topic I would recommend…

Any of the free films listed on this page generally about human consciousness transformation.

Any of the organizations listed here:

Science of Mind

Humanity’s Team

The Shift Network

and a personal favorite…

Agape International Spiritual Center

Advertisements

Dreams, Health & a happy dance

Keep alive the dream; for as long as a woman has a dream in her heart she cannot lose the significance of living.

– Howard Thurman

This week I’ve been on a major marketing push to support my sister’s storefront launch for her green smoothie shop. We woke up this morning to the news that she made her $8,000 goal via her kickstarter campaign. So first off let me say…

thank-you

We had over 100 people donate amounts ranging from literally $1 to $2,000. It was an amazing experience to see how folks from our family, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our Facebook friends and even folks who didn’t know Andrea from David Neale, give to support her vision: to make healthy food fast and revolutionize an entire industry.

A month ago, when Andrea said she was going to raise $8k many of us in the family (well…actually all of us) were like “umm, seriously?” But I’m so glad she didn’t listen to our doubt. She focused on what her heart was telling her was possible. And its shocked all of us to re-evaluate the limitations we hold ourselves to everyday. Like the way our dad was hoping to fly out to San Fran to help her set up the shop before the opening on the 20th. Two weeks ago he didn’t have the money for airfare, now he’s discovered a way, commenting “I’m riding on the miraculous-ness of everything else GreenLid is becoming.”

Yes, it is sort of miraculous.

But at the same time it’s not.

I know my sister, and I know the deep internal and spiritual work she’s done over the past year that has enabled her to trust this dream. To trust it’s magnificent unfolding. To trust that whatever way it blooms is perfect for her development into more of who she really is. She doing the work, as Iyanla Vanzant encourages. Her commitment to self-improvement and faith in the unseen is the reason this journey has felt so AWE-mazing. Considering she launched this business a year ago in Washington DC at a neighborhood festival and is now opening a storefront in San Fransisco utilizing this new gifting economic system (like this Ted Talk on designing business on generosity, you gotta watch!) … is only the beginning.

And so today we celebrate her. With happy dances, green smoothies, cheers and applause.

peace lives in the dream.

you become your practice

My peace practice is sacred time for me. And today I was thinking about why that is. Why is it important to practice peace, everyday? Where does the desire to be more peaceful come from? How come it so damn hard sometimes to continue the peacefulness of this time throughout the day?

So this post is about that second question: where does this desire for peace come from?

Here are some thoughts…

Human beings extract experience from more than their 5 physical senses (taste, touch, smell, sight & hearing). The limited physical senses were not meant to define how life is perceived. They cannot begin to, as our experience completely  debunks their relevance in most matters of importance. Experiences of joy, hatred, or love cannot be measured by the the 5 senses not using the scientific method as we have defined it today. Yet of course there is a role for the 5 senses. We can know the birth mortality rate of children in northern Canada or the height of the tallest trees on the planet or the square root of pi. Yet what do these measurements and analysis tell us about our experience of being human? In the midst of learning from others: scientists, theologians, philosophers, social behavior specialists, astronauts, spiritual teachers, mothers, elders and children I’ve come to the conclusion that no one’s  explanation is more valid or more likely than my own experience. My own choice.

beliefs-1

I choose my own beliefs.

And so I have cultivated space in my mind for exploring my physical (and beyond) world with technologies (practices, rituals, processes) beyond the 5 senses. I have created a practice, what I call my peace practice, to establish behavior that opens up receptivity to those technologies and creates safe, regular time to practice. To try them on and compare with previous experience how it feels.

And that is another key element: Feeling. I realize that I’ve had to put some major trust in my feelings and learn how to be guided by them instead of confused and overwhelmed by them. Now I welcome the complexity of emotions (well, most of the time) and no longer run towards something to numb myself away from intense emotional experience (if I’m honest fast food, alcohol, sex, partying, or marathons of Downtown Abbey are ingested most of the time only to shield me from paying attention to what’s emotional going on in my life –thankfully that is shifting!).

You-see-things-as-you-are

Unlike the scientific method, I am coming into this with no premise about how all this works. Just a gut feeling that there is something else going on here and its time to give it the attention it deserves. It is time to open and be receptive to what else I could be doing here, instead of consuming, as our society would have me believe. I believe there is more. I believe, based solely on my experience, that there is a sacredness back of all things, just as it exists within me. The time I give to my peace practice represents the value of that sacredness in my life.

This is why I practice peace.

love poem to fasting

Listen,

to that small voice.listening

It’s speaking,

everywhere.

From the rustles of the highest trees,

to the skipping of the ocean breeze.

Go there,

to that quiet space.

It’s waiting

as sweet air.

Listen.

At sundown I begin my ninth journey through the holy month of Ramadan. It is a tradition I began with my former husband who taught me with much patience, for which I am grateful. I’m also thankful that my first Ramadan experience took place while living in Sierra Leone, West Africa. A country of remarkable religious understanding, whose people embrace and celebrate the tenets of Islam and Christianity regardless of the method each individual or family chooses to adhere to. Waking up to the sound of the Adhan (Call to Prayers), bowing in reverence with devote Muslims at the neighborhood Mosque, and partaking in nightly Iftars with (soon to be) family and friends laid the foundation of what I would begin to understand as the core tenets of this beautiful religion. Despite previous knowledge about the religion observing family and friends who shared insights over the years, living in a country where there was a palpable shift in collective interaction during the holy month was an experience I’ll never forget.

“O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of God” Holy Qur’an (2:183) Asad

Attending to the inward journey is something my life has always incorporated and part of the reason I created this blog. At first the experience of fasting was more of a mental challenge than a spiritual experience. Can I control my physical need for food solely through willpower?  But as the years went on in my experience of the fast, I realized that there were many more moments of clarity, insight and creativity during the time of the fast. But that too is a by-product of the complete experience (like losing a few pounds or having a compelling reason to not to go to the gym). Ramadan is about more than what one is giving up (food and drink for 30 days).

Ramadan is about choosing to prioritize spiritual nourishment over physical nourishment in order to be reminded of why you are here.

I sense this is why the great spiritual teachers always incorporated fasting into their lives on a regular basis. We see this is Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and an array of other spiritual traditions. For why else are we here if not to attend with full presence to that which means more than anything else: LOVE. Yet this word alone is so limited and life-less, especially in English. So allow me to share a poem I recently came across from a Sufi devotee. It is one of the fullest descriptions I have ever read about real love.

starry_skyexpanding heart, expanding cosmos

last night mysteries unfolded.
messages descended as they
ceaselessly descend in all dimensions.

the human love,
in its most pure form
keeps on expanding our heart.
what other way is there
to accommodate more love?

with every glance,
with every presence,
with every outpouring of
the beloved one’s sweetness,
the unseen human heart
keeps on expanding
to make room for more love
and more love
and more.

Trust-the-universe21and to accomodate the unseen hearts
of blessed lovers among humanity;
the cosmos keeps on expanding.
the farthest region of this universe
keeps on expanding towards the unseen,
towards the unknown nothingness.

and thus when each eternal adam inside of us
loves each eternal eve
(and vice versa)
with ishk, the pure love divine
the heart keeps on expanding
so much so
that when the time is ready
it is prepared to welcome the Beloved
amidst the mystery throne.

rmi_barriers_toloveso love dear friend,
love not with muhabbat, the love ordinary;
but love with ishk
and keep on expanding your heart
for welcoming the Intimate Guest within.

where else can He take His seat
but on an Infinite Throne amidst an Infinite heart?

finally at peace his birth

Today is my son’s fourth birthday and it feels like the first one I’m authentically happy to celebrate.

I’ve always felt enormous joy for his presence in my life. He is hands-down the best and most effective teacher I’ve ever had. And in that role has taught me how to embody joy, contentment and love. But due to the traumatic events surrounding his birth, it’s been a struggle to let go of those memories and focus primarily on the fact that he is here: healthy, happy and whole.

ameen_day1

Ameen, day 1 (about 2 hours “old”)

I was never that young girl who wanted lots of babies. When I played house with my younger sisters I was always the great auntie who babysat but was always happy to return the doll when my sister came back. And when I was told I was pregnant by a clairvoyant woman I met at a conference (full story to come in a later post) I was a not in the least excited. I literally cried upon hearing the news. Yes, full heaping sobs. (There! I’ve admitted it! Praying that the parenting gods forgive me!) I will forever be grateful for the friend that rode in the taxi with me as we headed to the airport that afternoon and just kept giving me tissues without questions. It would take me weeks to be able to verbally explain this reaction.

Eventually I got on board with being pregnant and envisioned a beautiful natural birth at a local birthing center. And while my pregnancy was experientially perfect, the birthing process left me in disarray, deep sadness, physical pain and emotional scarring. And I can confirm how much I hate hospitals. Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned. That first week I remember feeling all kinds of confusion at how my heart could possibly feel anything but love surrounding the arrival of this being.

ameen_day5

Ameen at 5 days (June 2009)

Yet, the disappointment was real. The shame was palpable. The fear at what could have happened kept me from enjoying the celebration of his arrival. His father and I choose to not have a traditional naming ceremony in the Sierra Leonean tradition a month after his birth or a party to celebrate his first birthday. We blamed it on finances, but for me it was an inability to feel good about the story I created in my mind about how he arrived.

About a year and a half after he was born, I was gifted my first acupuncture session and was able to talk about my birthing experience for the first time. I sobbed through all the traumatic details and the patience that therapist embraced me with as she held my hands and passed on lots of tissues without questions continues to bring me peace to this day. I recognize that afternoon as the first day of my healing.

Other experiences came as the years went on to allow me to really challenge the story I had made up about what the actual circumstances meant. I began to recognize how much pain I continued to hold in my body for my physical inability to birth naturally. And eventually I was able to feel worthy of being a mother. In the beginning I felt that title was a burden, but I began to accept the title as a blessing. I began to feel proud that this soul choose me to enter the world through. And to honor my responsibility to teach him about this world as best I could.

Ameen_IMS

Ameen, age 3 (April 2013)

Finally I feel healed.

Finally I feel at peace with being a momma and celebrating his blessed arrival.

Transforming Shame by Being Vulnerable

A few weeks ago I saw came across the Ted Talk for Brené Brown. I had never heard of her, but the title of her talk, The Power of Vulnerability, jolted my curiosity. Synchronicity would have it that two days later I saw her face on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, the first sentence I heard literally froze my finger on the remote:

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.

Sounds like something I need to hear.

And now after watching her two Oprah appearances, listening to her Ted Talks, and reading half of her newest book, Daring Greatly, I feel ready to share my top three insights gained from the wise Ms. Brown and the subject of vulnerability and shame.

#3 Shame is the fear of disconnection

shame

Whoa, we’re goin’ deep huh?

As an African American female who was raised Christian, I was told from my earliest years there was a whole heap of stuff to feel shameful about. After spending some years blaming society, religion, my parents, my grandparents and all other influential adults for these habitual beliefs I realized that wasn’t making me feel any better. And while I could identify what I felt shameful about:

body image

fotolia_27603162_s-e1338306787941

financial irresponsibility

cosbymeme

public humiliation

images

I couldn’t put my finger on what that shame meant, until I read Ms. Brown’s description of shame equating fear of disconnection.

In that moment I flash-backed to all the acts that produced that oh-so-familiar feeling of shame: the heaviness of my heart, the lowering of neck with the raising of my shoulders, the instant nervousness of being called-out as a fraud or fake or liar, the fear of not being valued as the nervous, bewildered, oversensitive child I carry in my heart. With Brene’s words, the memories around shame instantly crystallized into memories of unworthiness and disconnect. It was a moment I reached out to someone to be seen, as in Avatar’s ‘I see you‘ and feeling that instead I was discarded.

Ok, I’m depressed now…

…but not really. Because what I learned from all this clarity about what my shame really means is a greater understanding of my desire for connection. The ease in which I fall in love, not just romantically but with songs, flowers, hilarious youtube videos, and broadway scores.

Recognizing my desire to be seen and heard directs my behavior to do that in healthy ways. Actions that honor my body, my sense of self and my spiritual journey. I accept that I cannot change the past, and I heal the past by forgiving my previous thoughts and actions and being thankful for the lessons that they taught me. I can now step forward and claim my power to choose again. Choose with wisdom from the past. Choose with clarity for my need for connectedness.

#2 Vulnerability is courageous

Before Ms. Brown’s book I would equate vulnerability with weakness. And that’s from a person who will debate until the death the difference between conflict resolution verses conflict management. (Don’t even get me started on the ease in which folks use peace studies as a academic cover-up for our society’s obsessive study of conflict…but that’s another post.) The past few years my best friend and I have been on a mission to be more authentic. Yet I never defined what that meant for me. Using the word vulnerability materialized that goal of authenticity. It gave it weight and colored it with meaning. Suddenly there was a way to be authentic, and that way was being vulnerable.

BreneBrownQuote2-640x300

But who wants to volunteer to be vulnerable!?!?

Again, my old shame conversations brought up all the reasons why I needed to be strong, forceful, closed-off and powerful. I come from a long line of women who didn’t take nothin’ from nobody. My grandmother couldn’t have had eight kids and worked full-time as house maid raising another mothers’ children if she was weeping through all her shameful moments. My great-grandmother who turned 95 recently, still doesn’t like to be told what to do, especially about her health. My own mother would rarely show her children how to be vulnerable. It wasn’t until I became a mother did we begin to exchange stories about those moments of honest fear, anxiety and protectiveness that can be so overwhelming sometimes.

“There’s no equation where taking risks, braving uncertainty, and opening ourselves up to emotional exposure equals weakness.”

– Brené Brown, from Daring Greatly

So as I learn how to tease vulnerability from weakness I begin to recognize that it’s strength comes from its real-ness. It’s authenticity. It’s honest display of human experience. Being vulnerable begins to look like the courage to act in alignment with my values. It looks likes the strength to balance parenthood, career and creative pursuits with honesty and limits. It looks like showing up, in every relationship with my truth at that moment. And, a big one for me, it looks like saying good-bye to Ms. Perfectionist and Hello, Welcome! to Nina the Courageous. Thanks Carly.

perfectprotest-61

#1 Self-love comes from forgiving shame and accepting (even delighting in) your need to be vulnerable

This last one is a doosey, especially that delight part.

If you’ve been on the self-development track awhile, you know (intellectually at least) about the need for self-love. And we all are aware that it’s a good idea to love yourself a little bit to have a healthy sense of confidence, direction, respect and self-worth. I’m a middle child and I recall a lot of my early conceptions of self-worth were highly, HIGHLY impacted by the level of peacefulness in my large family.

I took it as my personal responsibility to keep everyone happy, resolve (not just manage) conflicts between birth and multiple foster siblings, keep a clean house and prepare healthy meals (in the absence of my mother who worked on her degrees during most of my childhood). It would have been one thing to do all this just for the sake of supporting calm family dynamics. But because I added in my worthiness to the equation, you can imagine just how screwed up I felt when (not if) fights broke out, pets were killed, dinners burned and  drama ensued. At eleven years old, I failed at managing a family. And now, I’m so glad I got that lesson early because I have no pretenses about the impossibility of being a perfect mother. I feel safe (most of the time) to show my limitations and my failures. Speak my needs and ask for help.

“Vulnerability is also the cradle of the emotions and experiences that we crave.”

Brené Brown, from Daring Greatly

What I learned from Brené Brown was the step of self-forgiveness, and experiencing delight in moments of vulnerability. I discovered a sense of ease one receives when you don’t have to have all the answers. And the sense of playfulness that my three-year-old teaches me is really an act of delight with vulnerability. I’m still working on this one, but I sense it is the most important for me, because it allows me to display that full desire for authenticity by transforming shame into a joyful dance with vulnerability. Allowing love to grow all the while.

vulnerable love

And that’s how I’m re-imagining peace by being vulnerable.