This page contains the previous four weeks’ posts. All others can be found on the Specific Topics page, listed alphabetically under topic or title.
May 17th, 2013
“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path. ” Paul Coelho
Even though I recognize the many critical and judgmental thoughts I have each day, I am reluctant to allow them a place in my mind—to be judgmental. I know, even though I still have a strong sense of fairness inside me, that life isn’t fair. Perhaps what I more accurately mean is I accept life isn’t fair.
I cannot explain why a lot of “bad” stuff happens and I admit to not understanding why really cruel and violent situations exist. Perhaps they are here because we would never know “good” if there wasn’t “bad” in the world?
Whatever the reason, I am okay with not knowing the answers to my questions about “good” and “bad.” I am also fine not being comfortable with all that goes on around me. I want to stay focused on myself. I look to understand the reasons for my thoughts, my actions and the results of what I am thinking and doing.
By changing my thoughts and coming from a loving place inside, I feel good. In distancing myself from those whose lives are caught up in drama, I have learned and continue to learn, that inner peace comes from getting off the emotional see-saw of life.
How I feel is the best guidance possible for me, in all situations. If people around me are gossiping about or criticizing someone else, I feel uncomfortable. If the desire to judge the words or actions of a friend or family member comes into my mind, I don’t feel good.
My own negative childhood imprinting means I struggled for years with a poor self-image and with being highly critical of myself and others. And it is only because of my strong intention to live differently, to find a more peace-filled way to live, that my thoughts and behaviors have changed.
I know I made mistakes, chose unwisely, behaved in an unloving way to myself and people close to me. So, I want to do things differently now. I have learned to be kinder, less judgmental and to live from my soul-self.
There was a story I came across somewhere, years ago that has stayed in my heart. Every now and again when I hear, feel the need, or am being asked, to be involved in judgmental talk about someone, it comes to mind. This is the story (with apologies if I have any of the details incorrect) as I remember it:
There was a woman who hired a handyman to do a job in her home, because his good work had been recommended by someone she knew. The man began the work on time, but proceeded to come later and later in the mornings each day. In the afternoons she would make him a cup of tea and sit down with him, talking about this and that as they drank their tea. The man never joined in the conversation and, in fact, seemed surly and quiet. The woman was confused by his tardiness and gruff demeanor, but chose not to be judgmental about what seemed to be a miserable attitude in life. She decided to be kind instead.
It had taken a lot longer than she anticipated, but eventually the work was finished and the man had done a beautiful job. The woman sat with him on that final afternoon, praising his work, and expressing her gratitude for the time and effort he had put in to create the wonderful result. Overlooking his dour face, she smilingly offered her thanks. As she reached out and warmly touched his hand, she was surprised to see the man break down in tears. After several minutes, he was able to share with her his story.
The love of his life, his wife of many years, had become sick just before he started the work. She was diagnosed with a terminal illness and he was late each day, because he had to take care of her needs before he left home. Each day that he had worked, his wife had become frailer, experiencing more pain. He was heartbroken because there was so little he could do to ease her suffering. She had died the day before he finished the work. Now that the job was finished, he needed to arrange her funeral.
What this story and spiritual awareness helps me understand is I do not want to criticize or judge myself or anyone else. It offers insight that unless we have walked in another’s shoes, or know the stories of their lives, we cannot know what motivates them—why they say and do certain things. And even then, if we have experienced similar difficulties or losses, our feelings about these may not be the same because of the different perspectives we bring to them.
Being judgmental about anyone, including ourselves, is choosing to send out negative energy, which is not helpful. Regardless of what we might believe about someone or a situation, it is important to recognize that we cannot know the truth. Peace comes when we replace being judgmental with loving kindness.
Love and peace,
May 10th, 2012
ON THE INSIDE
“You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.” Swami Vivekananda
As I have often shared, sometimes when I am meditating, an idea or topic comes into my mind as something to write about. That is what happened this week, the words: On the inside, popped into my head. Perhaps it’s because I have been focused on self-love recently, or maybe it’s just that I know there is so much more to me and everyone, than can be seen on the outside.
I also know there is a huge emphasis on external things in the world—what we have, how we live, what we look like. I see it every day when I switch on the computer, television or pick up a magazine or newspaper. Somehow, for most people, life is all about appearances.
But I have been there, done that as they say. Yes, at one time I thought that the designer clothes and accessories I wore, my haircut and manicure meant something. Now, even though I still like to look good, wear nice clothes and be surrounded by beautiful things, I know they only add to my happiness, they don’t make me happy. They don't have any real meaning.
Like all of us who have chosen to explore our spirituality, I have grown on the inside. I have discovered the truth of who I am. I feel full of love for myself and others, having learned from the difficulties and hardships I have experienced.
Without judgment, I observe what is going on around me—the apparent repugnance many people seem to feel about looking older. Women I know have had face-lifts, or other surgical enhancements to their faces or bodies. It seems to have become an obsession in our culture—this need to look younger, more beautiful on the outside.
Perhaps you have noticed that just about every familiar face in movies or on television has ceased to look older? And maybe too, you are fed up like me with the increase in advertisements for products, surgery, or other methods of eliminating the signs of aging—they are prolific. It’s as if one’s looks are all that counts.
To me, this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s who you are on the inside that matters. As I observe the sweet interactions between children and their grandparents, I notice they at least seem oblivious to the lines and all outward signs of aging in the faces or bodies of those they love. And I am heartened. Animals too, sense only the loving energy of the human taking care of them, unaware of what they look like.
It’s not surprising that I included some words on inner beauty when I wrote in The Leopard and The Mouse, “I am also thinking,” continued Thomas, “that you are the most beautiful creature I have ever met. I mean not just on the outside…but also on the inside. You are gentle and kind…” Because this is my understanding of what is important—the beauty that exists on the inside—the kindness, compassion.
For me, there is nothing more amazing in life, than recognizing and connecting with our spiritual selves—the loving energy of who we are—and then developing the ability to see this in others. Our pursuit of spiritual awareness has been a journey on the inside, which has brought us to the realization that nothing on the outside is real, or can bring us peace.
Don’t you just love that popular saying, or maybe they are words in a song: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” Maybe I like them because these few words have the ability to express so much of what I have experienced to be true. It is inner strength, the kind we develop from facing our fears, dealing with difficulties and living to tell about it! But more than that, becoming stronger is the result of growth—personal and spiritual growth. By connecting with ourselves on the inside—we perceive all that we have been through as necessary to learning about life, about love—and in the process, become beautiful people.
Here’s what Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has to say about beautiful people:
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
When you think about the most beautiful people you know or have known, can you describe exactly what they look like? I know I can’t. When I think about those who have helped me along life’s path, to find the real me, what I remember is their kindness, their empathy, their love.
Theirs were the words and behaviors which showed me that beauty exists on the inside. In my memory and heart, their facial features or physical appearance are not clear. I only remember with absolute clarity, their inner loveliness, which I felt and experienced.
On the inside is all we need to know about ourselves and others. On the inside is all the wisdom, knowledge and love—an inner beauty from which we appreciate all that we have been through, all that we are and all we can be.
Love and peace,
May 3rd, 2013
MORE ON SELF-LOVE
“When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn't healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits—anything that kept me small. My judgement called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.” Kim McMillen (When I Loved Myself Enough)
This week’s quote caught my attention because it describes exactly what I began and continued to do, as I developed more understanding of self-love. I know that my decisions and behaviors were difficult for those close to me to accept. I was changing and as you probably know, change is often hard for others to deal with.
Because I was the person it affected the most, changing my habits and beliefs was easier than letting go of certain people in my life. But let go of them I eventually did—people whose lives are so wrapped up in drama and negativity—because I wanted to be surrounded by positive energy. I was okay with others being who they are, as well as comfortable with my own feelings about who I am.
Developing self-love also involved reaching into the well of gratitude I had inside me for the people at various stages in my life who helped me see who I am. It encompassed remembering and appreciating those loving souls who saw what I could not; whose kindness lit some small spark inside of me, which began to shine through the darkness of self-doubt and fear.
This priceless gift—compassion, love and honesty—was so precious to me when I was lost to myself, when I failed to see my own beauty or acknowledge my own strength inside.
Perhaps it was simply a comment about a job well done, or a heartfelt thank-you we were given for being kind, caring, or helpful. But it found its way into our hearts when we were stuck, holding on to the pain and anger of believing what someone else had told us, or led us to believe about ourselves. It came to show us the truth—that we are beautiful, loving, creative and powerful—to help us let go of beliefs that are not true or healthy for us.
Letting go helped us grow. But we didn’t let go of everything, all at once. It was/is a gradual change, as we became more comfortable with feeling good.
Perhaps it seems strange to some, that I needed to become more familiar with feeling good, but like most people who are lacking self-love, I felt for a long time as though I didn’t deserve “goodness” in life. Often, if I was given a beautiful gift, I would rationalize that it was the perfect gift for someone I knew, and re-gift it. Other than buying nice clothes or accessories for work or a special event, I rarely treated myself to things. And I didn’t feel good about it when I did, somehow I always felt guilty, as though I wasn’t worth it.
I wanted everyone else to feel good, but I didn’t pay much attention to feeling good myself. I didn’t know what was important to me. I never took the time to think about it, believing it wasn’t necessary since I didn’t really matter anyway.
I remember a heartbreaking conversation I had with my son on a visit to England many years ago. He had a lot of anger towards me and was finally venting the pain he had held on to for far too long. He said he had been fine living with his father and seeing me at weekends and for holidays, but “Why” he asked me, “did you selfishly decide to leave and move thousands of miles away to America?”
In tears, I searched inside myself for the answer, which surfaced from the bottom of my heart, where it had been hidden for a long time. “Because, I believed you were absolutely fine and happy with your life and family,” (he now had twin half-sisters) I replied. “And the sad truth is, I didn’t love myself back then, didn’t regard myself as important to you. I was unaware that what I was doing with my life would matter to you or anyone else.”
With an open heart my adult son, who now had a baby son of his own, accepted my explanation. After more questions and deeper communication, he let go of his anger, forgave me and we moved on. Now we have a more loving relationship.
From greater spiritual awareness comes the concept of unconditional love. For me, and probably all of us whose childhoods didn’t include this, it also brings with it the need for acceptance and forgiveness—forgiving those who we believe have hurt us, as well as ourselves—which is integral to self-love.
I have come to accept that the way my mother behaved was because of the way she felt about herself, not me, and I have let go of my anger and pain. My son helped me learn that.
Self-love involves perceiving differently. It means seeing all of your seemingly terrible thoughts, words and actions as mistakes, accepting them and forgiving yourself—this is unconditional love. It means making yourself important in your life, not in a “I am full of myself” way, but rather in a “I am full of love for myself” way.
When you truly love yourself, you have let go of beliefs, people or whatever did not feel good or isn’t healthy—you feel compassion for yourself and others. Self-love is experiencing fully the peace, joy, love that is you.
Love and peace,
April, 26th 2013
“A deep love resides inside each of us. This love is independent of the desires, thoughts, and opinions, good or bad, which are readily offered to us. It is a love that is gentle and kind, accepting and nonjudgmental, playful and spontaneous, courageous and curious. It is always encouraging and always evolving. This love can be discovered only through turning off the noise around us, coming to ourselves in silence, meditation, and prayer. If we listen carefully we will hear the murmurs of our inner voice tell yearnings of our truest selves. What is available to us is a profound understanding, appreciation, and full acceptance of self, all of the good and all of the bad.” Marlon Hartley Lindsay
As many of us have discovered, self-love comes from the deepest part of us, from our soul-selves. Self-love feels good because it incorporates unconditional love, which supports us in being the best we can be. When we love ourselves, we are able to love others. Self-love means we do not need anything or anyone outside of us to give us what we already have.
Unfortunately, it took me a long time to figure this out. I wanted to be loved by others because I believed I was unlovable. My lack of self-love was reflected in the negative—critical, judgmental, unkind—thoughts constantly parading through my mind, preventing me from truly enjoying life. They were thoughts which created fear and doubts, holding me back from all life had to offer.
These are the type of thoughts which often come from childhood imprinting. And, as I eventually learned, until we realize the disastrous effect they are having on our happiness, our relationships and our lives, we cannot take our first steps towards changing them. As soon as we start to question why we are thinking what we are thinking and how bad it makes us feel, our need for self-love surfaces.
It is then, when we begin observing our thoughts and questioning whether they are true, that we find the answer—they do not reflect what we truly believe about ourselves.
We allow self-love to develop by gently replacing our unwelcome thoughts with those which are non- judgmental, kind and accepting and in this way, change what we believe about ourselves and the way we feel.
Changing our thoughts to be more loving takes time, so it is important to be kind to ourselves. Yes, it doesn’t happen overnight, but the positive results in my life were the inspiration for me to continue. Now, I could not be more thankful for having come to know and love myself. I have also not forgotten just how hard it was to live without self-love. As I shared recently with a friend, while we were walking and talking together early one morning, “I could never go back to the way I used to live!”
We had also been discussing the negative emotions, the drama in which most people’s lives are enmeshed, and relinquishing the need to be part of it all—to change, to want to change. “It isn’t easy” she said. I agreed. And although I didn’t say it, I believe it is part of self-love. Letting go of what doesn’t feel good requires changing the way you think and behave. It isn’t easy—it takes effort, it takes time—but it is worth it.
These words, which I found on C.JoyBellC.’s website, perfectly describe the loss of living without self-love: “You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don't know it, all of that doesn't even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away… don't throw even one of your moments away.”
I had tears in my eyes when I first read them, because I recognized that I, like so many of us, spent a long time not seeing myself, not loving myself. Maybe too, my tears were not so much for the “old” me, who didn’t know anything about self-love, but for all those who remain blind to the knowledge of who they are—unable or unwilling to feel their own power or accept their own love.
Perhaps I see the time spent not loving me as not entirely wasted but comprising many lost moments—time in which I could have lived more fully, with greater peace. Still, I believe there is no point in looking back, it is important to live in the present and be the best I can be, now. It doesn’t matter how long it takes any of us to come to know ourselves, to love ourselves, it only matters that we do this.
Self-love is a gift we already have, so why not claim it? By opening our hearts, examining the incorrect beliefs about ourselves and changing them, we can do this. Our beliefs create reality.
We will experience the blissful freedom of self-love when we realize the way we feel is our responsibility; when we refuse to accept what others believe about us or tell us, is true. Other people’s thoughts, words and behaviors are theirs—they reflect who they are and have nothing to do with us. Only we know who we are.
You are loved—you know that don’t you?
Love and peace,