This Feels Like Grace

“Magic words to tell everyone around you

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I heard these magic words on February 13, 2013: “Karen, don’t let the fact that others may go through harder things allow you to make light of your pain. It’s never ‘just’ anything when it comes to hardship. You have just as much a right to the compassion and empathy of your brothers and sisters in Christ as anyone else with problems. Really, no matter what one is going through there’s always someone worse off, you can’t let that invalidate your suffering.”   “

http://karenwriteshere.com/2014/01/17/magic-words-to-tell-everyone-around-you/

I happened upon this post by a fabulous fellow blogger tonight. I was struck immediately by the full weight of these words, feeling lifted up to heaven itself. Good thing too because the next post I read struck me with an equally heavy blow. A heart wrenching tale, finally spoken, by another fellow blogger.

“And I did not break

The last two weeks, I have felt a pressure inside so great, it seemed like I would break. I think now it was the literal feeling of the body’s fragility. I think it was the sensation of a body breaking.

The rest of the memory came to me today. In my mind, I saw again how Natalya died.

They dragged her down the stairs, partly by the hair, partly shoving her, partly pulling. Three men. I don’t really know who these men were. They might have been men I knew. One of them could have been my father. Somehow, who it was didn’t seem important. Only what they were doing. What they were going to do.

She was screaming in Russian.

In the parking lot, they began to beat her. First, with fists, and then with something else. Pipes maybe. I don’t know. It was getting dark then. I couldn’t see. Her teeth began to scatter over the ground.

When she fell, they went on kicking her.”

The story continues, and I will not reblog the entirety of it here, but please read it on your own. I felt a surge of electricity course through my body. My heart still beating started to heat up and then slowly,brilliantly expanded. Larger and larger, my heart grew and grew filling my form completely and then expanding to fill every inch of space surrounding me. I wept and even as I wept I could feel the total and complete sense of peace overtake me. A bright light encompassing the room, seemingly coming from the stars above and shining down through and into the top of my head. Grace. This feels like grace. Is it…..grace? Grace? Yes. Grace…..and Beauty…..and Love. My heart space opens. May all beings feel truly loved and beloved. May all beings be free from suffering. Namaste.

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Hey Universe, I Hear You This Time!

Juanita-Lewis Universe is callingThis post is about a tremendous AHA moment I experienced on Friday. It is so powerful that I needed to share it with all my fellow seekers out there. You see, like many others I am aware of way too many moments in my daily life where stress, anxiety, depression, and a sense of despair threaten to undermine if not destroy my happiness. With all the daily practices I have in place to increase my conscious awareness, I still am a work in progress and prone to ruminating about the tragedies in my past and fretting over my future.

I begin each morning with a silent gratitude session, before my feet even touch the floor. This small ritual is a fabulous way to set the tone for the day. After I drink my deliciously flavored coffee, finish with my personal hygiene, and dress – I then have my morning meditation session. There are days when I am not as religiously adherent to this schedule as I would like myself , but on the whole it is a steady routine of mine. Later on, typically about 6 PM, I have an evening meditation session and finally about thirty minutes before I go to sleep…..or attempt to go to sleep at least…..I put on one of my self-help relaxation CD’s and drift off. Sounds good, right? So what is the problem…..you might ask? Well, even though these steps have positively impacted my physical, mental,emotional, and spiritual health…..I still find myself in states of extreme anxiety throughout the day with a feeling that there is a giant boot poised right above my neck about to stomp down and crush the life out of me.

So, I muddle through day by day, seeking solutions and tools that will help me increase my life satisfaction. I am a firm believer in the concept of Go Give. I find that by giving back and helping others…..even in small ways such as offering a smile to a stranger…..I gain just as much satisfaction as the person I am helping if not more. One activity I do in that vein is volunteering as a legal advocate in the local courthouse for people who want to file for PFA’s…..or protection from abuse orders. This is where, on Friday this week, I met her.

She was a well dressed middle-aged woman with piercing green eyes wearing what looked like elasticized bandaged sleeves on both her arms. She was glad she had made it here….. in the tiny coat closet sized room given to the woman’s advocacy center I volunteer for in the basement of the courthouse.  As is my custom, I offered her a seat and a box of tissues and asked her how could I help her and what brought her to here this day. As she began to tell me her story, I found myself so captivated that time just seemed to stop. Over the next hour, she shared with me story and why she was seeking a protection order that day. But it was not so much her story that hit me like a bolt of lightning hurdled from the sky…..it was her attitude, the peace and love that radiated from her, and the sense of unflappability that she displayed. The universe was speaking to me, through the form of this brave woman…..and I was listening this time.

She is a survivor of childhood incest and adolescent rape. By 24 she had given birth to four children and escaped from a tortured and abusive marriage. At 37, a devastating car accident landed her in a coma for 17 days and more metal in her body holding her together than I can imagine. Then at 45 she started the journey of dealing with the  big C…..stage 2b metastatic breast cancer. This lead to lymphedema which is why she was wearing support sleeves on her arms. She had psychiatric hospitalizations for earlier suicide attempts and takes medication daily for bipolar depression. During that time of mental health crisis, she found herself in the wrong place with the wrong people and is now facing two separate legal battles that could potentially send her to prison for decades. Oh, and they found tumors in her uterus so she is undergoing a hysterectomy at the end of this month. She found herself on this occasion filing for a PFA for her 3-year-old grandson against his biological mother’s new boyfriend. Wow…..and that is the short story.

As I was struggling to comprehend the enormity and pain of her journey through life and offer her support and compassion, I realized that I was more shook by her account than she was. Is it my imagination or is she just exuding this amazing steadiness and calm? And it wasn’t an act…..she truly gave off a vibe of peace and serenity that I have only witnessed before in yogis and advanced meditators. I politely asked if she would be willing to tell me her secret for seeming so happy and at peace while facing what seemed like overwhelming circumstances. She paused for a moment, taking a deep breath, and said she would be happy to share it with me.

“It didn’t happen overnight, and it hasn’t been easy,” she replied “but I have finally learned to deeply love the person I am. You see, I have been at rock bottom for most of my life and it got to the point that I only had two options left….end my life or turn things around and go up. Naturally, I tried the former approach first and when that didn’t work I began to research and look for ways to radically transform my life. I spent my whole life trying to give…..it was my job to keep everyone else as happy as possible. I didn’t mind giving to my children. I wanted them to have a happy life. But I didn’t give to myself and I didn’t know how to receive anyone else trying to give me help. ”

Boy, did that hit a nerve with me. How many of us are programmed to give but don’t have a clue about how to receive? I was just mesmerized by her and wanted to hear more. “I learned that if I am constantly putting energy out and not allowing any back in, the message I am sending out into the universe is there is no space for abundance in my life. I also needed to learn to love myself and appreciate the moments, people, and things I did have. I spent so much time and energy worrying about what HAD happened to me and what MIGHT happen to me that I never got to appreciate what really WAS happening. When I finally learned how to be present in the moment…..to live in the now as they say…..I feel like my whole life changed and I became almost reborn.”

I have read about this concept before. I do try to practice being present and enjoying the moment that is. Yet, I heard this from her as though it was a brand new revelation. For whatever reason, this time and in this space with this woman, I got it. If she can take the practice of living in the now and implement it in her life in a true deep way to make it automatic, then I can too. This woman came into my life looking for my assistance and help, but instead gave to me a gift that is truly so precious. Live each moment as if it is the only moment, because it is truly the only moment that ever matters. And practice loving yourself as deeply, truly, and profoundly as you give love to others. Pay attention, bring conscious awareness to your thoughts and emotions. Allow yourself to feel and to think as you may, but stop and witness these thoughts and feelings and consider that you do not have to act on any of them…..only acknowledge them and watch them. Live in the now…..what a concept! Hey universe, I heard you this time.

sign from universe

What To Do When Your Life Falls Apart

Sometimes when things fall apart, they are act...

Sometimes when things fall apart, they are actually falling into place (Photo credit: symphony of love)

I found this OH SO appropriate post by a contributor to The Daily Love…..a blog curated by Mastin Kipp. The author of this masterpiece is Kute Blackson, speaker and life coach and one of my newfound sources of inspiration! I hope you all find it as moving and touching as I do and that it helps…..even just a little bit…..through those tough days we all have.

 

When your life as you know it falls apart, it is a great blessing.

 

Give thanks.

 

In that moment realize that your life is actually falling together even though you might not see it.

 

If your life falls apart then you are ready for something bigger.

 

It falls apart because it was too small for who you are becoming.

 

It falls apart because there is something more that is seeking to express itself in and as your life.

 

It falls apart because what you were living is no longer in alignment with who you are.

 

It falls apart because life is letting you know that perhaps you have gotten too comfortable where you’re at and need to grow to the next level.

 

Life is change. Life is growth. Life is a cycle of Creation-Life-Destruction. Every birth is another form of death. And every death is another form of birth.

 

Often when things fall apart we become afraid, we panic, we resist and fight life. We hold on to what we know, even though it no longer works or serves us.

 

This only keeps you stuck.

 

Holding on to the old will not bring what is new. Resisting what is new will not transform or change what is old.

 

When life falls apart you can resist or fight, which ultimately only leads to suffering and struggle.

 

So, what do you do when your life as you know it falls apart?

 

Simply, LET GO!

 

Perhaps it’s a relationship, job, or a house.

 

Let Go! And Trust.

 

Trust that what no longer remains in your life is no longer meant to be there. And that the Uni-verse is just making room for what is more in alignment with your highest good.

 

When things fall apart, the Uni-verse is trying to make space for something greater.

 

When life as you know it stops working and falls apart this is the moment to let go of your ego, as it can only take you so far. This is the moment to let go of your ego’s attachment of how your life should be, and surrender.

 

In every crisis is an opportunity to let go of what is inauthentic and live with more integrity.

 

In every breakdown is the blessing of a breakthrough.

 

In every challenging situation is the gift to help your soul evolve and become who you were really meant to be.

 

So if your life as you know it is falling apart give thanks and…

 

LET GO!

 

Love.Now

 

Kute

 

My Blogging Anniversary Present…..Tools To Stop My Downward Spiral Into The Abyss

awareness

awareness (Photo credit: tobias feltus)

I am Worthy. I am Strong. I do Matter. I Belong.  Each day we are born anew and it is what we do today that matters most. Today I will find something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.

 

The statements above are part of my “enriching thoughts before m y feet hit the floor every morning” routine. (Sorry, I couldn’t come up with a better name for it.) This month marks my one year anniversary of blogging….. and I am so grateful to be able to have shared this blogging experience with all of you. I have not posted in many weeks and to be honest, my posts recently have been few and far between…..much less than I had expected to post. My past conditioning would have me quickly condemning my inadequacy and self pummeling for failing to meet my own expectations. Instead, I have learned tools that have empowered me and stopped if not reversed this earlier conditioning. I am now aware of these uncomfortable and punishing feelings and thoughts.  I can observe these and allow them to pass through my conscious awareness without attaching judgement to them. The tool I use for this is to imagine or visualize these thoughts as twigs floating down a river bank…..I notice them, watch them with detachment, and allow them to pass on by. I admit that at times I do this in retrospect…..meaning I have already bought into the negative thought process and internalized the feelings associated with them before I am able to recognize the self-defeating nature of them. But this recognition is real progress for me and leaves me feeling proud to be exercising this new mental muscle.

 

I am actively working to stay grounded and mentally healthy amidst what feels like overwhelmingly brutal circumstances. The several surgeries I have had since the start of the year now numbers four. That seems to me more than most people have in their lifetime.  Alongside of this I am enduring financial and legal challenges. My relationship with my children has become strained as they have distanced themselves from me. And as I try to plan for my future and take steps toward ultimately getting rid of social security disability and returning to the workforce…..roadblocks pop up all around and threaten to squash my efforts. I have met blatant fraud and corruption while attempting to complete an internship program, medical emergencies while trying to complete certification as a domestic violence counselor, and bizarre legal issues that just might bring my whole world to screeching halt. Sounds horrible right? I am whining. Focusing this way…… on these thoughts…..with the negative energies they carry…..does nothing to help my mind, body, and soul stay well.

 

So what do I do about this? I will tell you! One powerful tool I use daily is my gratitude journal. Taking a few moments every day before I even get out of bed to take note of the blessings I have really does set my attitude for the day in a positive way. Yet before I know it, my focus shifts…..old habits and patterns of thinking take hold. Even without my conscious awareness, the negative energy starts to seep back  in. So the next tool I pull out is the power of nutrition. For any of you reading that have ever been caught in negative mindset, you can verify that eating right is often the very last thing in the world you care about. Rather, I would forego breakfast or be drawn to fast food…..or comfort food…..loaded with processed ingredients and chemicals and just plain garbage as opposed to nutritious. That has now changed for me as I have realized that something I care about the least is what I need to focus on the most. So I make time to prepare a green smoothie or some other nutritious morning meal even when I really don’t want to.  Ah, but time again goes by and the devilish habits sneak back around. I stop. I just stop. Mid morning every day I make time to sit quietly and meditate……time to just be. Twenty minutes…..sometimes more. This brief practice allows me to refocus on my intention and more importantly my awareness…..or ability to be consciously present in the moment.  Lunchtime comes ’round and I make the effort to eat this meal with mindfulness. Mindful eating is an interesting practice that leaves me feeling full and appreciative.  The next tool I avail myself of is the power of connection and genuine love. By mid afternoon I resolve to have made a loving connection to at least one person and to have smiled to at least three random people. This might sound a bit silly or simple but the power it gives me is undeniable. Instead of feeling empty and unworthy, this practice allows me to feel full of love. Sometimes the connection I make is virtual…..thank you world-wide web! Isolation causes me suffering so I really try to reach out every single day. As the world around me proceeds through the evening rush hour, I take the time to exercise physically in some way. And on those days when I am hospitalized or to ill physically, I visualize my exercise routine by closing my eyes and imagining my body actually going through the motions. Modern neuroscience has given this practice validity and even if it is  a ‘placebo effect’…..it works for me.

 

Throughout the day, I find a way to connect to nature. This truly fills me with a sense of calm and peace. If I find myself particularly perturbed then I look for a way to immerse myself in water and concentrate on dispersing my energy into the H2O.  Oh, did I mention that hot flashes are ruling my days as I now enter menopause? Yep, water really helps me with that issue.  Evening approaches and I enjoy my dinner and follow it with another meditation session. Leisure activities typically dominate the rest of the night until an hour before bedtime. At this point, I reflect on the events and thoughts of the past day. What works best for me in this review is to be both totally honest with myself yet gentle and forgiving. Following time contemplating my future, plans, wishes, and desires….. I prepare for a good night’s rest. In the past, this was almost impossible for me as I struggled with falling asleep, staying asleep, sleeping too much, and night terrors. Add in a few episodes of sleepwalking and you have all the ingredients you would ever need for a lousy quality of life. My solution has been to buy and old-fashioned CD player and a good set of comfy headphones and plug in to some amazing recordings. My bedtime CD collection contains relaxation tapes,binaural beats, subliminal positive messages, visualization exercises, self-hypnosis, and spiritual chants. Rotating these throughout the evenings has done something that no prescription drug ever did…..allow me to actually have some good quality sleep without negative side effects.

 

I still feel deep pain, sadness, and have tough days. But with the consistent implementation of all these tools,  the urge to jump off my balcony and end it all for good no longer drives me. I call that the best present I could ever have!

 

For all beings out there suffering in the world, may you find some measure of peace and know that we are all connected and you are never alone. Happy Anniversary my WordPress family. Let’s keep on healing. Let’s keep on loving. Let’s keep on going!