Tag Archives: Self-love

The Choice of Self Acceptance

graveyardI’m in Colorado now, having made the trip in early October to Boulder for what I thought was a short stay. Well, things didn’t go quite as planned, and I ended up in the ER in Boise, Idaho, on my way out here. Turns out I had a partially collapsed lung and ended up being grounded for a bit. My dad was kind enough to come and rescue me from Boise and drive me back to Boulder, where I have been ever since.

During the experience in Boise, I thought I might die. I began to reflect. This wasn’t always a pretty process, at times filled with morbid thoughts, confusion, and terror. But some meaningful questions surfaced during that time of deep inner reflection: Why do I want to live? Do I want to live? Who do I want to be if I live? What’s important to me? Eventually, my heart answered with this simple statement: I want to accept and love myself just the way I am. This was clearly the next step on my evolutionary journey.

This theme didn’t go away. It stuck with me, even now that I’m settling in Boulder and feeling (somewhat) more removed from impending death. And so I set the intention to accept myself on all levels. This falls under the category of, “Be careful what you wish for because you will get it.” What I quickly came to experience is that in order for me to accept myself in this way, all those parts of myself that I had been ashamed of and condemned, and then finally denied through elaborate efforts to prove that I am not that, started to rise to the surface. After all, I cannot accept something I am unconscious of due to denial, and so these things had to bubble up so I would have the opportunity to fulfill my intention to accept myself fully. Being surrounded by family and friends greatly accelerated this process, as you can imagine.Bubbles

After setting this intention, I have gone through several layers of what it means to accept myself, and I have no doubt there is more to come. But for now, what it has come down to is this: Full self acceptance is a simple (but not easy) choice. It is a choice stemming from a commitment to live in love. This choice is not based on logical arguments which explain why these aspects of myself exist, therefore somehow exempting me from shame or blame. It is not based on logical reasons which prove my beliefs are untrue and therefore prove I have no reason to be ashamed. It is not based on spiritual bypasses which tell me these aspects of myself are “ego-based” and are therefore not who I really am. No, this choice presented itself to me when there were no more excuses, no more logical arguments, and no more spiritual bypasses. The choice came when I could no longer talk myself out of feeling the full, terrible force of the shame, when all pretense was gone and I was facing head on those aspects of myself that I had been denying and hiding all these years. It was at that moment when I realized I had a choice: I could choose to accept and love Tearmyself for no reason other than I am committed to living in love, or I could choose to continue to hate myself. It really was that simple. And, choosing love in that moment was quite possibly the hardest choice I have ever made.

And so what I’ve learned so far about acceptance is threefold:  1) I had to set the intention (make the commitment) to accept myself fully. 2) The choice to fully accept myself (and by extension, others) only becomes available when I allow those aspects of myself which I have been condemning and denying to bubble up, to come into my conscious awareness. And, those aspects only arise when I am willing to feel fully the shame that goes along with all I have been denying. I found that this is what it actually means to look at myself honestly. It is not a mind game. It is all about being fully available to feel the pain. 3) Once the stage has been set and the choice arises, I now have the incredible opportunity to choose love — to accept myself exactly as I am — for no reason other than I am committed to living in love. This is a choice I must make over and over, day in and day out. It’s that simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple.

The implications of this choice are vast. I know now that the level at which I am able to accept and love myself is exactly equivalent to the level at which I am able to accept and love bird flying2others. I also know that my true heart’s desire is simply to give and receive love more and more fully, When I can face head on what I am most ashamed of in myself and still choose love, I can face anything in anyone else and choose love with them as well. For when I am totally honest, I notice that I carry all those qualities that I have condemned in others within myself. This, I believe, is one of the most important keys to healing ourselves and our planet.

In gratitude & love,
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Suffering 101

I used to think suffering was caused by painful conditions and circumstances in my life. I didn’t realize that, in fact, there is a distinct difference between pain and suffering. After all, the two words are often used together as an indivisible unit — pain-and-suffering — as if we cannot experience pain without suffering. But it turns out we can. And it turns out this distinction is important because often we have no choice whether or not we experience pain, but we do have choice whether or not we suffer.

Definition of Suffering

Suffering is the inner experience of resisting or denying “what is.”

There are two major roads to suffering. The first is when we believe that what is happening (or what we perceive is happening) should not be happening. The second is when we believe something that contradicts Truth at a more essential level, at the level of Reality Itself. Pain, on the other hand, is simply an unpleasant sensory or emotional sensation. I love how Grace Bell expresses the difference between pain and suffering in her blog, Not Minding the Pain. She says, “It hurts, but I’m not upset about it.”

Whether our perception of what is happening is accurate or not, suffering comes when we believe the thought, “It shouldn’t be like this.” If my husband leaves dirty dishes in the sink when I explicitly asked him to wash them, and if I believe he should have washeddirty dishes them, I’ll have an inner experience I might call “annoyance” or “agitation.” I’m suffering because what I believe should be happening is not happening. Notice that if I didn’t believe he should have washed the dishes, I wouldn’t be suffering. My suffering has nothing to do with whether or not he did the dishes, but it has everything to do with if I believe he should have or not. Similarly, I might have an emotion arising within me (like anger), and, due to past conditioning, I believe the (probably unconscious) thought, “Anger is bad. I shouldn’t be feeling anger.” The result is an automatic repression of the emotion. The inner experience we have when repressing emotion in this way will be some form of suffering.

crepuscular raysWe also suffer when we believe something that conflicts with Truth on a more essential level. A simple but profound example is when we believe we are fundamentally flawed or “not good enough” at an intrinsic level. With a little inner reflection, we easily notice the suffering we experience when we believe this profoundly debilitating thought and how it affects our lives in far-reaching ways. When we believe a thought that conflicts with Reality Itself in this way, we will suffer at every level of our being, including physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. 

Resistance

If you have been around the block in the self-help world, you’ve probably heard the all-too familiar, “What you resist, persists!” While this may be true, what is resistance exactly? Resistance, in my view, is equivalent to suffering. It is the inner experience we have when we are in internal conflict with “what is.” We could be resisting something happening outside of us (e.g., “I don’t like that my hubby didn’t do the dishes.”) or something happening within us (e.g., “I feel angry, and I shouldn’t feel angry.”)

On our Healing journey, we begin to see that much of what we resist are natural flows of energy within us. For instance, emotion is simply a flow of energy that moves through us like a wave when it is allowed to flow naturally. However, we often learn when we are young that some emotions are wrong or bad to feel, and so we resist (repress) them. It is when that natural flow of energy hits the wall of wavy balljpgresistance within us that we have the inner experience called suffering. Often, this experience is what we might label as something like “anxiety” or “fear” or “panic,” depending upon the intensity of the natural energy trying to move through. (This experience can take many forms, not just anxiety.) Believe it or not, we can also resist energies like “joy,” or “passion,” or “excitement,” because somehow we learned those were wrong to feel when we were young. In this case, we have the same inner experience of suffering (in the form of anxiety or whatever other form it may take) when that energy hits the wall of resistance within us. Again, suffering/resistance occurs when we believe that what is happening should not be happening. If I resist or repress a certain emotion but the reality is the energy of that emotion is present, then I am suffering.

The Cycle of Suffering

Swirl in cepiaNow I’d like to highlight an aspect of suffering not often acknowledged. I said in the beginning of this post that we have choice in whether or not we suffer. From what I shared above, it may seem the choice would be to simply stop resisting “what is.” Indeed, an entire self-help industry has been built upon this premise. But here is something that is often overlooked or denied: If we are suffering, we want it to stop. That might seem obvious, but this is actually one of the most important breakthroughs I have ever had. Let me put it another way: Intrinsic in the nature of suffering is the desire for it to stop. We have no choice in the matter. If we are suffering, we cannot talk ourselves out of wanting it to go away. No amount of contriving and affirming will make that desire disappear. And when we try to make this desire go away — try to stop resisting — we are simply adding yet another layer of resistance (resisting our resistance), thus compounding the issue further. The desire for suffering to stop and the suffering itself are forever linked together. I call this the “cycle of suffering” because being caught in this cycle feels like being caught in a gigantic feedback loop with the same information being regurgitated over and over. And what happens when we have a desire for the suffering to stop? We will try to find ways to make it end. We will search, seek, analyze, plan, experiment, cajole, beg, plead, and try just about anything to make it go away, “heal” it, or “transmute” it. Unfortunately, all of that searching is a part of the suffering itself. It cannot lead to anything other than suffering, even if the conditions we blame the suffering on shift and morph into other forms. This is the “self-help” trap I’ve been caught in most of my life. At least it has kept me busy!

So… What’s Next Then?

When I had this realization, I immediately understood that the only way out of this cycle is to shift our attention to “something else” within us that is not suffering. This can be the hardest thing in the world to do for many reasons. Suffering is extremely compelling. It is addictive. And it is often literally who we think we are. Furthermore, we are convinced that we have to somehow directly address the suffering itself to make it go away. But the truth is, resisting our resistance (suffering) only keeps us in the cycle.

Our choice is not in whether or not we are resisting “what is.” If we are suffering, we are already doing that. Our choice is in where we place our attention next. Just because we are caught in the cycle of suffering doesn’t mean there is nothing else to who we are. Many of us do not realize there is anything else to us. Our entire lives have become almost entirely about trying to control and avoid what we don’t want (suffering).

the journey beginsThe process of Healing begins by noticing there is more to who we are than the cycle of suffering we are caught in, that there is “something else” to us. We can begin to turn our attention toward this broader aspect of ourselves and, grounded in this Resource, form a new relationship with our suffering. When we do this, our suffering will be transmuted. At its core, this is a process of deep self acceptance.

Would you like to read more about the process of Healing? Check out the section on my webpage entitled, What Is Healing?

In Gratitude & Love,
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“There are kids starving in China.” Huh. Yep, I still hate peas, but now I feel guilty for hating peas!

As a youngster, I despised peas.  Peas were the enemy.  But for some reason, my parents insisted I eat them.  I accomplished this horrific task by attempting to swallow them whole as quickly as possible so as to hardly taste the awful things going down.  I also tended to drench them in butter and salt, which basically counterbalanced any nutritional value they once had, thus making the whole exercise fairly pointless.  I’m not sure if it was my parents or someone else who then pointed out that there are kids starving in China, so I should be grateful I have food on my plate at all.  We’ve all heard this line of reasoning in one form or another.  The problem was that I still hated peas.  Now, on top of being forced to eat peas, I was also horrified that there were kids starving in China.  I wondered why I was such a bad person to hate peas when those kids in China would be grateful to have them.  Ah, sweet, sweet guilt!

Even though most of us know by now the ridiculousness of that argument, the truth is we still do the same kinds of comparisons every day in hopes that we’ll suddenly feel better and grateful for what we have because someone else is supposedly worse off.  Lately, I’ve been noticing a somewhat disturbing tendency in my friends and clients to dismiss their feelings by comparing themselves to those “less fortunate.”  For instance, a client might spend five minutes pouring her heart out to me about how she just doesn’t feel passionate about her job anymore and is actually quite miserable.  Then, suddenly, she goes on to exclaim in an unconvincingly chipper voice, “Well, at least I have a job!  I know so many people who don’t have work.”  While it’s true that many people don’t have work and that situation certainly presents its challenges, this fact has absolutely nothing to do with my client feeling miserable in her current situation.  So why do we do this?  Do we actually feel better by comparing ourselves to people we think might be more miserable than us?  In the long run, I don’t think so.  I think we actually feel worse.

I believe the reason we feel worse is because all we succeed in doing is adding guilt to our misery, and guilt + misery only equals more misery.  The fact that we are feeling miserable for whatever reason doesn’t change, but now we also think we shouldn’t feel miserable because, after all, someone else would clearly feel grateful (or so we think) to be in our situation.  Sure, for a short time, we might feel better as we realize how lucky we are in so many ways.  That’s fantastic!  Gratitude is a wonderful thing.  Unfortunately, though, the problem is that after only a few hours or even a few minutes we often revert back to our original feelings, only now we are also disgusted with ourselves for not being able to stop those feelings.  I remember many times in my depressed states hating myself because I would look around the world and see the absolutely horrific atrocities happening to millions of people, and then I would look at my cushy little life and feel that I simply had no right to be depressed.  I ended up dismissing my feelings as invalid and had added yet another reason to hate myself.  You can imagine how well that worked out for me!

So the next time you are tempted to perk yourself up by comparing yourself to some poor, suffering soul like Kim Kardashian or Charlie Sheen, remember that being grateful for what you have has nothing to do with what other people lack, and your feelings are valid regardless of your situation compared to others.  For me, this realization was one small step toward loving and accepting myself just the way I am, pea-hater and all.

Aloha & blessings,

Penny