I AM who I AM

24 02 2011

 

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I’ve come a long, loooooong way. And yet, somehow, I never get where I want to be. With every destination I reach, my horizon expands and I’ll find myself en route again toward an even better destination. Where, at first, I found this road never-endingly frustrating, I’ve finally come to appreciate this process of constant expansion and fine-tuning. I am a work in progress.

The biggest lesson in my life, undoubtedly, is to fully appreciate who I AM and to own that, no matter what anybody else thinks of me. Coming from a place where, no matter how much I was loved, I did not feel loved, because at the deepest level, I felt unworthy, that is huge. Most of my life, I tried to feel loved through the act of pleasing. I tried to be the best daughter I could be, the best friend, the best everything. I had learned that pattern so early in my life, I didn’t know any better. When I was in my mid-twenties, it dawned on me that I was depressed because I was living my life through the expectations I thought others had of me. All of a sudden, I saw with clarity that with every externally motivated choice, I gave away my power and lost a precious part of myself. It was then, that the great undoing began. In the more than 10 years that have passed, I have undone my life of most of the over-painting (see True Colors). Slowly, but surely, I’ve gotten used to who I really AM. And finally, I AM ready to show the world my true colors. 

I AM me. As much as I care about you, I don’t care what you think of me. As much as I want you to be happy, I am not responsible for the way you feel. As much as I love you, I love me too. I AM me. I AM happy. I love having you in my life, but you are not the source of my happiness. My happiness comes from within. It comes from knowing my truth and having the courage to own it. It comes from loving myself to the extent that I don’t need your validation. I AM me. I do what I do, because it makes me love myself more. I say what I say, because it makes me feel better about myself. I AM who I am, because being me gives me more joy than anything else ever could. 





What do YOU believe?

16 02 2011

 

 

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Letting go of my religion, was a rather resolute act. I was in my mid-twenties and unaware of the conflict my religious beliefs were creating in my head and heart. I was part of a very structured belief system, that not only included dogmas, but also involved a large part of my social life as my entire family and most of my friends were part of the same church. This environment was my home. In the new testament, Jesus says to Love God with all of your heart, all of your mind and all of your soul. In the protestant church that I was part of, there was an emphasis on the ‘mind’, and contrary to what most people may think, it was  a very rationalistic environment. Yet, unconsciously I did not dare to unleash my full mind power to all that I had learned, knowing deep inside that it would crumble and with it every feeling of security I had. My life was falling apart and I was trying to make sense of it all, when I met Tejo, a counselor. My life was saved the day I walked into his study. Despite all the things I told him that weren’t working, he wanted to focus our conversations on my religious beliefs. I must say I did not quite understand why at the time.

One day, in Tejo’s study, after answering his question ‘what do you believe?’,  he said in his impressively deep voice: ‘Sound theology, but what do YOU believe?’ I had just given him an answer to that question, so I was angry and shocked that he had not listened to a word I had said. And I wasn’t quite sure what he meant, either. But it was the end of our session and there was no room for questions, so I went home. Of course, the wise Tejo had heard every word I had said. In the two weeks that followed, like a mantra, repeating over and over in my mind, there was this question: ‘what do I believe?‘ The next time, I saw him, I knew that I didn’t know what I believed in. I wasn’t ready yet to let go of the church community  I had belonged to my entire life, but I was ready to let go of everything I had believed to be true until then.

Most people have some kind of religion. Most religions aren’t as obvious or overt as mine was, most aren’t organized, and they certainly aren’t called religions, but they are religions just the same. Ironically, this is one of most powerful lessons my religion has taught me. The third of the ten commandments tells us not to worship any god other than God. To worship means to be devoted and full of admiration for something. And by gods other than God, the writer of these ten rules not only meant the false gods worshipped in the polytheistic cultures surrounding the people of Israel, but also and maybe even mostly the less visible gods of our minds.

In the decade that followed, I learned a lot about the power of beliefs. Our minds feel comfortable when they can hold on to certain ideas. Our minds don’t especially care whether our beliefs are true or not, although we religiously believe they are. Our beliefs give us the sense of security and control that most of us are so desperately looking for. I’m not talking about the big G-belief  here. I’m talking about all the small and not so small beliefs that are hidden in invisible depts of our psyches, learned ideas that we have come to see as truths, because we or others repeated them often enough to ingrain them in our minds and make them part of the way we view the world and ourselves.

What do I believe in? I believe in myself. As much as I used to rely on the outside validation of my belief system, nowadays I don’t attribute specific powers to things outside of myself anymore. I don’t need the bible or any science to back up my world view for it to be true. My safety comes from knowing that I’m good enough for myself to decide what feels true to me, or not. I believe we recognize the truths of who we are when we encounter them. Finding and accepting them feels extraordinary. It feels as if the pieces of a puzzle are falling into place, as if we are coming home to ourselves. And when we do, although our minds will undoubtedly play their best  unbelieving Thomas ever, we simply know in our guts that it is true for us, no matter what anybody else thinks.

So, at the end of this session, before we say our goodbyes, let me ask you, ‘What do YOU believe?’





What kind of milk carton are you?

8 02 2011

Imagine two full milk cartons. Now imagine punching holes in one of the milk cartons. The milk is pooring out, and doesn’t stop until it has reached the lowest hole. Your assignment is to fill the carton with milk again, to the top. What do you do? I imagine you would think of a way to close the holes, as there would be no use in pooring milk in a carton with holes. No matter how hard you would try, you wouldn’t be able to fill it.  

Think of your mind as the milk carton and your emotional energy as the milk. Think of vibrant people you may know. I bet they’re appreciative, powerful, full of life, they never seem to complain, they laugh a lot and nothing ever seems too much. In their presence, the world feels brighter and you always leave them feeling better about yourself. They’re the full cartons of this world. Think of the not so vibrant people you may know. They most likely don’t laugh as much, they complain and worry more, they feel irritated and dissapointed more easily. Life doesn’t seem to be as good around them. They often think of their carton as half empty, and with good reason, because it is. 

Having a full or whole carton means your energy is contained within the boundaries of the carton. It doesn’t go anywhere, unless you want it to. And energy spent can be easily replaced again. However, it’s human to have a punched carton. The real question is not about whether we have holes, it’s about the position and the size of those holes. From the age of 7 or so, I remember having had a rather severly punched carton. These weren’t minor dents I had in my carton, but medium to big-sized holes. And they weren’t at the top of carton either, they were at least halfway down, sometimes even near the bottom. A lot of the time they were so big, they were not only draining my emotional energy, but my physical energy too. In these last years I have learned to locate those leaks and close them. 

Yesterday, I had an acute energy leak, which nowadays usually manifests itself as acute tiredness, resulting in impatience, frustration, snapping and not too uplifting thoughts. In that condition, it took me over half a day to recognize this wasn’t a normal physical tiredness. Finding the leak and stopping the leakage actually took less than half an hour. After that, my energy was back and up again within the hour, brimming. Finding energy leaks and restoring them is a mental and physical job. And unless you feel joyous, appreciative, loving and empowered all the time, it is one I higly recommend. 

The next time you feel bored, frustrated, irritated, worried or discouraged, instead of expressing it outwardly, turn inward and feel what is going on in your body. Sometimes it is obvious, mostly it is not. Feel the sensations, however unpleasant they may be. It may be the contraction of your muscles, the rushing of your blood or a certain numbness. Focus on what you’re feeling by simply directing your awareness to where you sense any offness. Now, use your intuition, ask yourself what this feeling is about, and trust your hunches however strange they may seem, they’re accurate about 100% of the time. Once you have determined the location of the hole, it is time to restore it. Most likely, thinking of the subject of your offness will make you feel even more off, with your thoughts and emotions stuck in a negative loop and your energy gushing out. Simply asking you to stop what you’re doing, won’t help. It’s like asking you not to think of a pink elephant. What I want you to do instead is find a new thought on the subject, one that causes a bit of relief. Relief will manifest itself as the relaxation of your muscles, a slower heart beat, tingling where there was numbness. You will feel slightly better. Then next, you find another thought that will make you feel slightly better, and another. 

This process involves small steps. Knowing the steps involved isn’t that important, it is learning to feel the subtle distinctions between thinking thoughts that make you feel off and thoughts that make you feel good, between thoughts that cause leaks and thoughts that restore leaks. With sustained practice, the holes in your carton will be restored from the bottom up. With every leak you close, it will be easier to manage your energy level. You will feel better about your life, about yourself.