Emotional Enlightenment

Universal Terms of Surrender

This is the third time I’ve attempted to write this post.  Each time I’ve written it it mysteriously deletes itself or doesn’t save properly.   So…the Universe is asking me to practice what I preach (or write) with this one.

Surrender is one of those words that I believe has been deeply misunderstood in the English language.  Typically, it’s been used in conjunction with wartime to denote a loss on the battle field or a relinquishment of sovereignty.  When did we remove all of the beauty from this word and from this state of being?

I first connected to the word in a different way in relation to the qualities of the Divine Feminine.  Regardless of physical gender, we all have masculine and feminine qualities within, or yang and yin for those familiar with Eastern philosophy.  Surrender, along with the element of water, flow, the moon, compassion, creativity, nurturing and “being” is typically associated with the Mother principle, or divine feminine (yin) in Eastern spiritual traditions.  The masculine, Father principle (yang), is typically described as the active, linear, steady and “doing” force and is associated with the element of fire and the sun.  

So surrender in the spiritual sense has a different meaning than the “rolling over” or “giving up” aspect we might associate with it.

The word surrender when we perceive it in a different way comes with a connotation of great strength rather than great weakness.  Surrender is the state of openness to the unknown, in which we cannot know what comes next in our lives but can allow each moment to stand exactly as it presents itself to us.  Surrender asks us to release our expectations about what’s next, to release our tight grip over control, and to allow a flow to take hold in our lives.  There is courage in facing exactly what appears.  True surrender doesn’t shield one from difficulties or negative outcomes.  It simply asks us to accept that we can’t know or control each moment in the context of a broader orchestration or larger divine dance. 

Surrendering to the possibilities around us at any moment contains an element of fear.  If I surrender to all of the unknown possibilities in this moment, it could mean that I could face some danger from which I won’t recover.  But in the act of closing ourselves off to the anxiety of feared consequences, we often shut our emotional systems down to positive sensations as well, like love, pleasure, excitement, joy, and calm.

Sometimes we spend so much of our mental and emotional resources trying to predict or prevent small or large shake-ups in our lives that we lock away our energy into narrowly focused worries.   And we don’t realize that often these worst moments, when they happen, are the ones that end up defining us the most, unlocking the hidden resources and paths we didn’t before see.

Reconnecting to the flow in my life has required some extreme rewrites and redirects.  An ill-advised cleanse which landed me in the ER seven years ago led to a dietary overhaul and a search for answers through alternative medicine.  Quitting a job (that I thought I would love) eight months into a three year contract gave me the fire in my belly to eventually work for myself.   A jarring kundalini awakening five months before my graduation date led to an exploration of spirituality and energy healing.  For me, these moments of painful and unplanned surrender were unwelcome at first, but they represented the beginnings of a much larger and more rewarding healing journey.

The lesson of the Divine Feminine is that from our place of greatest struggle and pain comes our greatest potential and possibility, our greatest inner resiliency, if we can only open and let go.  The true face of surrender is not giving up.  It is allowing the freedom to feel all of ourselves without contraction and having the courage to release what needs to go and invite what wishes to flow.  

Emotional Healing

Finding Harmony with the Inner Critic

Our internal house can sometimes harbor different voices, different perspectives on the same circumstance.  When we are at war within, how can we truly know how we feel?

For instance, take my decision to open my private practice…part of me was thrilled and excited, ready for the adventure that comes from entrepreneurship.  Another part of me was terrified and negative, certain that this was a silly decision.  In the end, my internal cheerleader and risk-taker won the battle, placating my inner critic with the reasoning that I could always return to a 9-5 position if it didn’t work out.

But how are we to deal with our internal landscape, when we can have differing opinions and emotions towards the same circumstance?  It’s difficult enough to deal with external feedback, let alone be split into opposing teams within ourselves.

I’ve come to call this more fearful part of myself the “inner critic,” or sometimes, my “inner skeptic.”  This is the part of me that has internalized messages, likely from a young age, of fear and lack from the broader cultural landscape, or from personal experiences.  It’s the part of myself that worries about finances, takes to heart stories of failure or loss, or worries about potential or actualized missteps.

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Career Calling, Personal Stories

The Achievement Wheel

The achievement wheel is a treasured American institution.  We are groomed early on in a structured education system to strive for that golden place of success defined by titles and prestige, our own small piece of the American dream.  As the 2010 documentary “Race to Nowhere” points out, these pressured expectations have been produced and reinforced by the culture at large, from colleges to parents to workplaces, and these messages get internalized by kids from a young age.  Many of us continue on this treadmill of achievement and expectations long after we have left grammar school and grades behind…

And I was no exception.

After perfecting my high school educational manifesto and making my way through an Ivy League college degree, the next obvious step for me seemed to be the world of cubicles and commuting.  When I took my first job in 2006 as an entry-level publicist at a corporate book publishing company in New York City, I thought I had made it.

And I had…in a way.

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Spirituality

The Return of the Light

At this time of the year, with the Winter Solstice behind us and the new year around the corner, we are assured a return of the light.  We’ve lived through the shortest day of the year and have made it past our descent into the dark.  While we are still fully encapsulated in winter, daylight becomes more and more prominent from now until the summer season.

These seasonal cycles were once honored by ancient cultures for the distinct energy they would bring into our lives.  Spring is a time of rebirth, summer is a time of youthful exuberance and planting seeds, fall brings the harvest and decline of the light, and winter is a time of hibernation, contemplation and gathering our strength for the inevitable rebirth.

Cultures, like the ancient Druids and other pagan traditions, who celebrated Solstice and seasonal rites of passage were wise in their recognition of the seasonal cycle as representative of the human narrative as a whole.  There are seasons to our lives, descents and ascents.  There are times for deeper lessons and karmic experiences and times for jubilation, emergence, and a celebration of cycles completed.  As we deepen our winter burrowing, we are in preparation for the the journey back to our rebirth in the Spring.

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Emotional Enlightenment

What Are You Here for?

It’s the age-old question, the source of our existential angst….

Ultimately, it’s a much bigger question than can really be answered in a blog post, or even two or three.

But I’ll give it a try…

So why are you here?  What are you doing here in this body?  Why are you here, in this spacesuit of skin and bones, looking through your eyes?

It’s clear that the identities and meaning we create through social media aren’t always the authentic version of ourselves, and the freedoms we have sought through the mobile worlds at our fingertips sometimes only serve to keep us more bound up in one version of reality.  We have created a vast world for ourselves through technology in the name of broader horizons, yet have somehow managed to stuff our true selves deeper down into hidden places, far beyond the online profiles and photo collages.

Engaging with technology requires us to constantly engage with stimulation outside of ourselves, to seek answers outside of ourselves.  We think perhaps we can fill the many voids and spaces within us with the knowledge gained through this continuous engagement with information and content.  But what if all the answers we seek already lie within?

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Personal Stories, Spirituality

How Spirituality Found Me (a former skeptic)

I’ve contemplated writing about my spiritual awakening experience for a while now, but it has never quite felt like the right time.   Words aren’t always adequate to capture an experience that’s both deeply personal and is best understood as a felt, embodied sense rather than something that can be described and analyzed.  But I am going to try my best because it feels important to begin sharing how my own path has included twists and turns for those who may have had their own interesting, unexplainable experiences.

I grew up within the Catholic religion, experiencing all the prescribed milestones throughout my childhood: Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation.   I even had the opportunity to visit the Vatican and see the pope from afar in my teens. While I always appreciated the rich tradition that Catholicism provided, beautiful religious art and architecture especially, as I grew into my late teens and early 20’s I began to look at religion as a cultural signpost, a representation of my heritage, rather than as a spiritual tradition.   I recognized that religion did provide spiritual support for many and good moral foundations, but it had never fully connected the dots for me and the dogma didn’t seem to fit my developing sense of self-autonomy.  And so I left it at that….without the drive to explore further, I labeled myself as agnostic in my young adulthood and visited Church only on holidays.

Science and research became another “religion” of sorts for me in my late 20’s as I entered graduate school for psychology.  It seemed to provide solidity in a way that was comforting, in a way that I could get behind.  There was a prescribed sequence of inquiry, analysis, and data that research provided.  My analytical left brain found satisfaction and excitement in finding new ways to explore the world of human nature through reading, citing, and conducting research.  I felt like I had a greater understanding of the world, a foundation from which to base my decisions, actions, and worldview.  And I did….but little did I know, as I entered my final year of graduate school, that things were about to get a whole lot less linear.

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education, Positive Parenting

Sensitive Souls in the Classroom

More and more, I am hearing stories from parents and educators of an epidemic in our schools.  Seemingly on an upward trend each year, mainstream school classrooms are more packed with children with IEPs (individualized education plans) or needing additional services like counseling, than ever before.  They may be given labels like high-functioning autism, ADHD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or are anxious or depressed. There are times when a single diagnosis fits perfectly for these kids and leads to the access of appropriate school services and therapies. But for more and more of these children, there seems to be a blending and overlap of symptoms in diagnostic categories, leading to unclear diagnoses or more than one diagnosis, or only a few scattered characteristics with no clear diagnosis. They may not fit in with their peers, often struggle with their emotions, and have difficulty with a traditionally structured school day, or even shut down, refusing to attend school all together. They may demonstrate high intelligence, high creativity, high emotionality or empathy, but combined with oppositionality, anxiety, sensitivity to external stimuli, attention problems, or obsessive thinking and perfectionism, it makes functioning in traditional classrooms difficult to say the least.

Parents and professionals in the psychological field are struggling to understand this growing group of children who don’t fit into traditional special education services, yet aren’t quite served by the mainstream model either.  We are coming to terms with the differences we see children facing today than when we grew up.  Children now are exposed to screen time and smart phones at a younger age, with more access to immediate sensory gratification and are used to rapid attention shifting and peer scrutiny through social media. They are being asked to memorize more information from a younger age for state testing and are being placed in an academic pressure cooker of expectation by well-meaning parents and school staff who see the competitive road these youngsters face in future college and job applications. Meanwhile, they are faced with an outdated, overly structured school system, not rising to meet the needs of their increasingly stressful world and overworked, sensitive emotional systems.

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