Change the Channel

“You cannot struggle to joy. Struggle and joy are not on the same channel. You joy your way to joy. You laugh your way to success. It is through your joy that good things come.”

~ Abraham-Hicks ~

Right now, I’m reading a great book called, “A Year To Clear” by Stephanie Vogt. In it she says, “If you’re trying too hard to experience freedom and joy, it’s probably because you got stuck on the wrong channel.”

I really like this idea as it coincides with the concept of pivoting that I’ve been working with a lot lately. If I don’t like the direction I’m heading in, I better pivot, or I’ll end up where I don’t want to be. If I’m running a negative storyline in my head that feels bad, I remind myself to pivot, or change the channel to one that feels good. If we don’t like a song on the radio, we change channels. We don’t even think about it. We just do it. So, it’s the same practice when we have negative thoughts, such as: “I’m overwhelmed, too stressed, too busy, too poor, too fat, too sick, not good enough, not brave enough, not loved enough, not smart enough, etc….”. We can pivot to its positive opposite.

Below are tried and true examples I really find helpful:

  • “Slow down and just breathe, in and out.” Do this all day, every day. It’s that simple.
  • “Everything that absolutely needs to get done, always manages to get done.” So much of our energy is wasted in trying to get everything done in the least amount of time. It’s like we’re in a race with ourselves that never produces a winner. We multi-task, which usually only produces half-assed results. If we do one thing at a time, and are completely present and aware, we will likely have a great end-result with far less stress. This is personally my biggest challenge. I’m a do-er, but am actively practising be-ing (I even wrote the word, “BE” on my wrist brace).
  • “Will this matter in a month, a year, 5 years?” Will we lie on our deathbeds and regret all the stuff we didn’t get done? Or will we regret all the time we didn’t spend with those we love and doing all of the things we love?
  • “I have everything I need today.” List everything we do have and are grateful for. This is so important! Seeing our world through the eyes of gratitude, as opposed to lack, is essential in finding lasting joy. If we focus on what we don’t have (money, health, love, time), we will have more lack in all these areas. If we focus on all we do have and appreciate, we will have more abundance in these areas. The Law of Attraction is not hocus pocus. I’ve personally experienced it over and over as absolute truth.
  • “Money is a useful tool to be of greater benefit to others and I welcome it in abundance.” Money is NOT the root of all evil. Greedy attachment to it is. If we have a negative association with money and/or “rich people,” we will never attract money or have enough of it. We are just cultivating poverty mind. Think of money as a person, named Cash. We constantly trash-talk Cash. We think Cash is bad…evil. We believe Cash is everything that is wrong with the world. We hate Cash. Yet, at the same time, we are always complaining we want and need Cash. We want Cash to come round and hang out with us. We wonder why Cash has abandoned us. We feel sorry for ourselves and are jealous of the people that Cash hangs out with. They don’t deserve Cash’s friendship, we do. Is it any wonder why Cash stays away from us? We’re fricken nut jobs as far as Cash is concerned. Cash would rather spend time with those that appreciate and welcome him/her into their lives with love and open arms. Wouldn’t we do the same?
  • “I am moving toward my perfect weight/perfect health.” We spend so much of our time obsessing about our weight or poor health, that of course we experience more weight gain and worsening health. If we spent just a fraction of that energy doing what we KNOW will create the conditions for weight loss and wellness, there would be far less obesity and illness. It’s no mystical secret what creates good health. We instinctively know what to eat, what to avoid, to move our bodies more and what we need to be happy and well. We’ve just been taught to override our instincts in the name of profit, but good, old-fashioned common sense can lead us back to balance.
  • “I am nurturing my body with nutrient-rich food.” This is a great reminder to eat for nourishment…fuel. Our bodies are these amazing, miraculous vehicles to be honoured and respected. Yet we abuse them by eating crap food, smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, taking drugs and even worse…. hating them. No wonder they eventually break down!
  • “I am nurturing my mind by keeping it open to new, positive thoughts and ideas and releasing the negative ones that don’t serve me.” Our negative self-talk is vicious and defeating. I do it, my friends and family do it, strangers I pass on the street are doing it. How do we escape it? Simple…. just stop doing it (oh, if only it was that easy…..). Our habits are created over lifetimes and are incredibly difficult to break. The only way I know of to move beyond the habitual patterns is to first become aware of them. Catch ourselves in the act and just notice that we’re doing it. Then, aspire to change and practise pivoting or changing the channel. I’ve found that, with practise, I’m catching it earlier and earlier, which has prevented a lot of the suffering that comes from following the negative storyline. As one of my fave teachers, Pema Chodron, says, “Stop kicking the wheel.”
  • “I am nurturing my spirit by surrounding myself with loving, vibrant, positive energy.” It is not only ok, but essential that we carefully select who we spend our time with and what energy we allow into our sacred space. If a person or activity lowers your vibration with negative or chaotic energy, reduce your exposure to them/it. Spend as much time as possible with people and engaging activities that raise your vibration and enhance your energy. And for those times when exposure to negativity is unavoidable, use it as a path to practise loving kindness for yourself and others by not getting hooked in. Joining someone in their negativity doesn’t reduce it. It only increases it and makes it stronger. I imagine a blissful pink bubble surrounding me with the negative energy bouncing off my bubble in an almost comical way. It really helps to keep it simple and light. You’re welcome to borrow my pink bubble anytime you want.
  • “I am enough, just as I am.” You don’t have to “do” to be enough. You are enough just by “be”ing. Any thought that says otherwise is a big, fat lie!
  • “I am brave.” Remind yourself of all the times you were scared and did it anyway. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” In other words, it isn’t brave if you’re not scared.
  • “I am loved and love others.” Picture all the people you love and bathe them in loving green energy. This practice will increase the love you carry with you, always.
  • “I am universally intelligent.” Think of all the times you made decisions or solved a problem that led to a great outcome. We all make mistakes and do stupid things, but the ability to recognise it and aspire to change, shows enormous intelligence. Albert Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”

So, when you catch yourself struggling to find joy, remember to just change the channel.

Namaste 🌈🕉

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Thank you Jeff.

weddingPic

“I fell in love with you because of the million things you never knew you were doing.”   ~ Unknown ~

To my love….

Thank you for your eternal patience,

while I shift, shed, rage and morph into my true essence.

Thank you for your encouragement,

while I struggle to wash away ancient blood and wrong ideas about myself.

Thank you for your warm embrace,

while I cry and grieve the loss of my ego-self.

Thank you for your support,

while I repeatedly and powerfully crash-land trying out my new wings.

Thank you for your tireless efforts to hold it all together,

while I anxiously search for a new life’s purpose beyond motherhood.

Thank you for your stability,

while I move between anger and bliss like a toddler.

Thank you for your generosity,

even when I’m wallowing in self-cherishing.

Thank you for your brilliance,

while I grope in the darkness before my dawning.

Thank you for staying diligently with me on this journey toward awakening,

even when we sometimes lose sight of each other along the way.

Thank you for having faith in my strength and courage,

even when I doubt myself.

Your extraordinary greatness inspires me to grow into my own greatness.

The strength of your love breaks opens my fearful heart.

The equanimity of your being quells my restless and anxious spirit.

I’m filled with deep gratitude to have found my greatest love and teacher in you.

To be able to spend my life living and growing old with you is a most precious gift.

Thank you.

All my love, forever and ever,

Jana

My Balance Checklist

For much of 2017, I felt drawn to the cocoon of darkness, self-reflection and solitude. During this period, a lot of sadness disguised as anger came forward. Another layer of old wounds was revealed. I followed the pain to see where it would lead. There comes a point where there is nothing left to do with it but put it down and leave it behind. There must have been something in the stars because a large percentage of social media blogs and posts were dedicated to this wave of pain and discontent. It seems a genuine feeling of angst was being collectively expressed all around the world.

So, here we are, a quarter of the way through 2018, and I still feel agitated a good portion of the time. I’m easily overwhelmed and quick tempered. I rapidly alternate between feelings of anger, sadness, restlessness and utter bliss like a toddler (or a woman going through full-blown menopause). I have developed strong aversions to toxic people and triviality. I feel a strong pull toward those that embody love and light and are on the path to awakening. My heart feels wide open to all the energy around me, which has been my goal for a while now, but the reality is tipping me off kilter. I know that practising patience and compassion will bring me back to centre and remove my aversions, but I have to say… it’s fricken hard!

I know from experience that I’m on the brink of a big leap forward in my awakening and am both excited and terrified of what will be revealed once all the dead skin has moulted off. What major life changes will take place? What will fall away and what will come forward to guide me through this next level? How will I integrate my old life with this new version of myself? I’ll be honest here, I find myself clinging to my old ideas and habits out of fear. I have gotten used to this way of being and the unknown brings up a lot of anxiety.

Balance will be essential and, as it turns out, that is my absolute weakest link! My greatest struggle in life is finding the midline. I’m far too stubborn to simply accept its location when told where it is. I have to go to both extremes before finding my way there. And even when I arrive, I doubt, question, challenge and push.

I know that I am 100% responsible for my suffering because I am 100% responsible for my mind. Mastering my crazy, wild elephant mind is my ultimate goal. Through this mastery comes awakening. I also know that although it’s important I don’t squander my time here strengthening the habits of anger and distraction, I must also cultivate gentle kindness and patience for myself on this journey. Again… much easier said than done.

So, my Balance Checklist going forward looks like this….

1. Speak up and tell the truth about how I’m feeling without worrying about how others are going to feel about my feelings. My job is to take care of my feelings and allow others to take responsibility for their feelings without taking it personally. I need to remember that not everything is about me.

2. Say NO to what I don’t want and YES to what I do want, without worrying about being labelled selfish. There are worse things than being thought selfish…. like, becoming so unbalanced I get hit with a catastrophic illness. If others want to make assumptions about who I am based on my choice to take loving care of myself, well, that’s just none of my business, nor my concern.

3. Slow the f*ck down! There’s no finish line. There’s no awards ceremony for those who die having the cleanest house, the longest list of accomplishments, the most money earned, being the most crazy-busy (often worn as a badge of honour as code for important and successful), or being the most well liked. Do one thing at a time and do it well; do it mindfully. Effective multi-tasking is a myth.

4. Put down the phone and connect and engage with the people right in front of you. Have meaningful conversations. Exchange ideas with an open mind and an eagerness to learn something new. Share your (often painfully) hard-earned wisdom. Stop engaging in silly dramas, negativity and tedious (and often hurtful) gossip. The best questions to ask yourself before speaking are: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

5. And most importantly, know that we are ALL doing our best at any given moment. We judge ourselves and others harshly for actions we feel are “bad” and “wrong,” however, we all make decisions to act based on the beliefs we hold in that moment. Sometimes, if we have a little self-awareness, we realise later we didn’t have all the true and relevant information, or were reacting to some old wound that this present moment triggered, or were simply being dishonest or selfish out of fear. Regardless of the reasons why we behaved poorly, in the moment, it really was the best we could do. And rather than wallow in shame and guilt, we can perhaps recognise a more skilful way to handle ourselves in the future and strive to do better. In the words of Maya Angelou, “When we know better, we do better.”

Namaste 🌈🕉

The Space in Between

“The biggest thing I did is clear my schedule, leaving a few empty spaces in my days to do nothing. By making this space, everything has seismically shifted for the better. All because I started doing less. Resting more. Finishing one thing at a time. Don’t forget that the space between all the ‘doing’ is a wellness practice in itself.” ~ Dana Claudat

Up until late last year, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, busily ticking things off my endless to-do lists. I had gotten swept away in “doing” and had lost myself in the process. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I was hiding behind the busy. I had let go of many of my wellness practices because I just didn’t have the time. I had worn my busy-ness like a status symbol (as Brene Brown calls it). I was hiding from the revealing of self, from the changes this uncovering would require of me. If I kept up the 100 mile an hour pace, it wouldn’t catch me and I could continue to hide in motion and pat myself on the back for all that I was accomplishing. What was the “it” I was running from? I didn’t exactly know, but I was becoming increasingly unsettled, edgy, restless. I was finding mundane and pointless distractions tedious. It was becoming clear that a major shift was about to take place.

So, my monastic nature kicked in and I went into a period of solitude. To the outside world, it looked like depression, but it wasn’t. Sure, there was a mixture of sadness and anger, sometimes rather intense, but mostly it was about just sitting still. I was allowing all my feelings to run through me without the knee-jerk reaction of avoidance. I didn’t label them bad or wrong. I just let them be. I isolated myself quite a bit from the outside world and returned to my meditation practice with the renewed enthusiasm only suffering can induce. I observed my ego-mind and marvelled at how crazy it was. I listened to the compelling stories it told and became almost convinced they were true.

But then my heart-mind came forward and spoke loud and clear. It was time to stop resisting the shift that was going to happen, regardless of my resistance. It was time to show up for what was truly important in my life and stop hiding behind the busy-ness. I needed to release the story I’d been telling myself, which was that my value was tied up in my doing and accomplishments. So I cracked open the door and allowed a little light to come in. Each day I opened the door a little more. As more light came in, the ego-mind shrank back and eventually became small enough to hold in my arms. I kissed it goodnight and let it go back to what I hope is a good, long sleep.

The shift that finally came wasn’t a big lightening bolt… it was as gentle and quiet as a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. I felt a little disoriented and unsure of myself, but much lighter. I felt unsteady, insecure, out of place, but somehow more liberated. Will I find peace in this new version of my life? Which of my friends and family will remain by my side and who will drift away? What unnecessary baggage will I need to let go of to become truly open and free? Can I practise non-attachment and still be madly in love with my husband and kids? Can I practise groundlessness and still be grounded? Can I practise curiosity and remain open to new ideas without becoming fixed and rigid? Can I keep my heart open in the face of anger and fear? Can I be the calm eye in the storm, as my mother used to say?

I will endeavour to open up the space in between all the doing and be like the tree in the picture above. I will protect the space where my wellness practices live and let go of the idea that everything has to be done right now or the sky will fall. Of course, there is important stuff to do that when completed actually brings a healthy sense of accomplishment and reduces future drama and stress, like paying your bills on time and keeping your house tidy. But allowing myself to become mired down and overwhelmed makes me far less effective and efficient anyway, so what’s the point? I’m starting to see that multi-tasking is not the most effective path. Sure, I can do many things at once, but they’re done half-assed. I think it makes more sense to mindfully do one thing at a time and do it well.

So far this year, I’ve managed to create space in between work, appointments and family activities to nurture myself. I meditate every morning. I journal. I exercise. I get a massage. I take a cat nap if I need one. I spend time with my family and friends. I make time for listening to and learning from my teachers. I read. I don’t make excuses when I don’t want to do something… I just say, “No, thank you.” I tell the truth because it’s easier to remember. And you know what? All the stuff I’m not getting done as timely as I would like, is not throwing the Earth off its axis. It’s still sitting there in my in-box and patiently waiting for me. I’ve found if something really needs to be done, it will get done. If it doesn’t get done, well, it must not have been that essential in the first place. On my deathbed, I won’t regret all the crap I didn’t get done. I will regret all the time I wasted trying to get everything done instead of spending my precious time loving my tribe and taking better care of my heart, mind and body.

So, my new mantra is…. “Serenity is found in the space in between.”

Namaste 🕉

Healing the Hungry Ghost

When I am triggered to engage in an activity that is harmful to myself or others, to do the habitual thing that always leads to suffering, how do I refrain?

First, I need to identify the trigger. For me, it’s usually an impulse, a thought with a juicy, seductive nature that lures me in. I call her my hungry ghost. She wants poisonous foods, or to be angry, to be perfect, or to engage in a loop of negative self-talk and toxic judgement.

First, I need to pause and breathe; be an unattached witness; bring mindfulness in….turn to my star.

Where is my star?

My star is within.

What will bring me toward my star?

Being fully present.

What is my real need that’s not being met? What do I really want in this moment?

Be a witness…. What am I really feeling underneath the impulse?

I’m feeling bored, lonely, tired, overwhelmed, sad or angry.

Will engaging in this harmful activity really satisfy my underlying needs?

No, it never does.

What will satisfy my needs?

To feel connected, loved, purposeful, engaged, worthy.

How is feeding my ghost going to bring that about?

It won’t.

What is the inevitable result when I feed her?

The continuing loop of shame and self-loathing.

How do I break the loop, the habit?

Embrace my hungry ghost. Meet her with loving-kindness and compassion. Hating my hungry ghost only strengthens her power over me.

Be a witness. Be present. Take a moment to breathe and ask myself the questions above.

Then go do something else.

Take a walk, meditate, tell someone I love them, eat something alive with nutrients, get off social media and pick up that book I’ve been wanting to read, take a nap. Do anything that truly feeds my soul.

This is the practice to heal my hungry ghost. I vow to nurture myself this year and to find balance.

What is your vow for the year to come?

Blessings. 🌈🕉

Note to self….

Note to self:

This past year has kicked your ass, ripped you open

and left you bleeding in the street.

Fear has left you feeling unloveable,

unworthy and overwhelmed.

You’ve been unkind to yourself

and allowed anger into your heart.

You’ve been manipulated and lied to by your ego.

Forgive yourself for all the mistakes you’ve made;

for unfairly judging yourself and others;

and for all the times you didn’t stand up for yourself.

Forgive others, even when they’re not sorry.

See the best in people,

even when they show you their worst.

Believe in yourself.

You have been through worse times than this

and came through them wiser and more resilient.

Believe in others and risk being let down and hurt.

A BROKEN HEART IS AN OPEN HEART.

Remember….vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.

Strong Back, Soft Front

“All too often our so-called strength comes from fear not love; instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brittle and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence. If we strengthen our backs, metaphorically speaking, and develop a spine that’s flexible but sturdy, then we can risk having a front that’s soft and open, representing choiceless compassion. The place in your body where these two meet – strong back and soft front – is the brave, tender ground in which to root our caring deeply.” ~ Joan Halifax ~

Finding My Voice #metoo

Gaslighting: “A form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.”

As I begin to write this, I’m surprised to find how full of dread I am. I’ve never before spoken of this topic on a public level. There has been a lot of talk lately on social media about sexual abuse since the #metoo campaign began. My first reaction was to ignore it. I had recovered from my history of sexual abuse. It was done and dusted and all healed over. I wasn’t going to participate in this campaign by coming out as a victim too. I was a victim no more!

However, over the past several years, I was allowing a person in my life to slowly dig into my ancient scars. From the moment he came into our lives, I’ve disliked him. He makes condescending and sexist remarks designed to make you feel small and insignificant. He comments on how sexy you are and how lucky your husband is to have you in his bed, which on the surface looks like a compliment, but leaves you feeling icky and uncomfortable. He grabs your ass in a hello embrace. He grabs you from behind in a “playful” way and just misses your breasts. He talks incessantly about all the women he has sex with. Are we supposed to be impressed? All I feel is sick to my stomach. Suffice it to say, I believed this man to be a predator.

Although I didn’t like being around him, he was a good friend to the family, always there to lend a hand and help out when needed. Everyone else didn’t seem to mind him and thought it was all harmless behaviour from a lonely old man. I was advised to just ignore it. Whenever I talked about his behaviour, it was usually greeted with the eye rolling and deep sighs that said I was being ridiculous and over-reacting. The message was clear… my feelings weren’t valid. This is a lesson women are taught from early on. Our feelings are mostly invalid because they defy logic and rationality. If we can’t articulate our feelings in a way that makes perfect sense and present a case that removes all reasonable doubt, then our feelings simply don’t matter. And because of the systematic training of women to view this kind of behaviour from men as normal, we don’t even see it as abuse. Obviously I was just being over-sensitive. I began to doubt my own mind and overruled my instinct to punch him in the face. After all, he doesn’t mean anything by it. So, I just swallowed my feelings, did my best to be polite and ignored his behaviour like a good little girl.

Throughout my life I have been sexually violated, both subtly and violently. When I was a teenager, I was date-raped twice. I hate that term, date-rape. It’s a sugar-coated expression designed to make the rape seem less ugly. After all, I voluntarily agreed to go out with these men who I found attractive, so I must have wanted it on some level. If you’re on a date and you say no, and they rip your clothes off and rape you, well… you deserved it. Face it, they invested money in you by buying you dinner and drinks and it was the least you could do to repay them for their generosity. So, you don’t call the police. You don’t tell anyone. You just accept it as a really bad date. And later, when I did talk about it to others, I was often told that perhaps I wasn’t clear enough with these men and I should have fought harder. This was actually more brutal than the rapes because this is exactly what I had been telling myself. The ensuing shame was immense and all-consuming and I sought solace through drugs and alcohol. The body eventually heals, but the shame lives on in perpetuity. We live in a culture that still supports the idea that women are to blame for the actions of men who can’t be expected to control themselves, otherwise known as the Provocation Defense.

Recently, and rather unexpectedly, a sudden vitriol came to the surface as the old scars were ripped open. I was drowning in rage. I couldn’t sleep. I would lie in bed all night and cry. I couldn’t breathe at times. I tried, in vain, to talk about it, but couldn’t find my voice. I was yelling but not being heard. I felt all alone. I realised it was time to really talk about the abuse. I had talked about it before to friends and therapists, but I had recounted the stories in much the same way a historian tells them… from a detached and emotionless place. I was just outlining the facts as I recalled them. I had gone through the process of identifying the decisions I had made about myself at the time of the abuse and did my best to rewrite history by changing those old ideas into new and empowered ones. And I felt I had been successful. I had taken control of my life and felt strong and brave and free from my shameful past. But like an onion, another layer was peeled back, which revealed some significant residual pain. I clearly had more work to do. A close friend put it in perspective by asking me, “What would you say if this was happening to me? What would you tell me to do?” I didn’t hesitate! I knew exactly what I would say to her.

It was time to extract this predator from my life. My Dharma teachings, along with my teacher’s voice in my head, were telling me to find patience and compassion in my heart and mind, but also to remember it’s imperative we surround ourselves with fellow seekers of truth and love, not those that promote hatred and division.  Why had I waited so many years before exposing the whole truth? I know why…. because of shame and distrust in my feelings.

So, once again, it’s time for me to slow down and allow my feelings to come up and be experienced fully. I will sit with the discomfort and grieve for all the stolen moments and lost innocence. I will tend to the painful wounds that never fully healed. I vow to never again allow my feelings to go unchecked, unheard, unsupported. I will have more faith in myself and will honour my truth. I will reach out and open up more and not hide my feelings away like something ugly and shameful. I will not protect predators by making excuses for them. I will expose them to the light and banish them.  I will encourage others to come forward and share their stories so they, too, can let go of the shame.  And maybe, just maybe, we can put a stop to this abuse once and for all.

Namaste. 🕉