Hello beautiful women,
The month of September has offered me a taste of my new reality. Both of my girls are in full-day school now and that means I have started experiencing what hours of uninterrupted time and brain-space feels like. It has been a decade since I have had this kind of solitude, I can already tell that it is really good for my soul. And my girls are happy and so well loved at their school; we are all in a good place, I’m grateful to feel so comfortable in not missing them ;-).
I’ve spent a lot of time doing my absolute favorite thing – hiking. I get a lot of clarity when I spend time in nature. As I set myself up for the next decade of life, how I want it to feel and how I want to be using my time, I am grateful that I have a few years of intentionally slowing down under my belt; I’m certain that I never want to be too busy again, and I also know that I want to create what has been simmering in the background of my mind, actually, the background of my soul.
So my goal is to do both: create – and stay comfortably rooted.
—– More on this with time.
While I was visiting my friend in Greenville, South Carolina, this summer we had a lovely dinner with some of her closest friends. At one point during our conversation her friend asked this question, “When do we know that we love ourselves? Because I never realized that I didn’t until I started exploring love”.
Boy can I relate.
When I realized that I did not love myself well it was almost unbelievable. And crushing to my ego, thank goodness. For most of my life my self-love had been wrapped up in proving my self-worth, and I had been hustling for my sense of self-worth for most of my life – what an unsatisfying way to live….
So when she asked this question I checked in with myself, commented about it being a question of mine too, and recited this quote, saying – “I think the answer to our question can be found in this”:
I am still unwrapping this package but I know that I am some where between forgetting about it and loving the world — and I wonder if this is a permanent state. Examples of not loving myself still pop up in my reality — I can easily become too busy proving my worth and forget to enjoy my life, although it has become more rare.
Will I one day realize that I’m just loving the world? Will I get completely beyond unhealthy inner conflict? I hope so – but I don’t know yet.
What I do know is this:
My body hurts way less than it once did – I am way less chronically tense, thank the gods.
I consume way less alcohol then I once did.
I orchestrate the celebration of my birthday.
I am internally settled and calm while engaging in honest and vulnerable communication.
I say “No” when I want to and “Yes” only when my whole body agrees (most of the time).
I have noticed a depth to my laugh that I never had before.
My breath is full, I no longer sip air.
I know how to take in joy and pleasure, meaning I can feel it in my body tissues, and I honor it in the moment; I stay in the emotional-hormonal-physiological response longer, because I understand how deeply therapeutic it is.
My gratitude is authentic.
I don’t spin out in dramatic and chaotic inner screenplays as much as I used to (but they still creep up sometimes…)
I am responsible and accountable for my thoughts and actions, especially when given time to explore them.
I’ve noticed that I am way, way, less judgemental and critical of others (except it still happens, especially with my husband or difficult people, but it is more rare now…I cringe when I consider how I have been in the past.).
And mostly, I can feel my heart, like right now, it just lit up and is emanating a warmth that drops me into the safety and comfort of my soul – I feel at home in my body.
I feel like I am somewhere between forgetting about learning to love myself and loving the world.
And it feels like sweet relief. Seriously.
My primary tool – my only genuine “practice” (a practice requires effort, consistency, and often times it feels hard) in this journey has been exploring a concept that I have heard stated in various ways and by many practitioners and authors.
Expansion in lieu of contraction.
Flow in lieu of stagnation.
Relaxation in lieu of tension
Ease in lieu of dis-ease
Stay in pleasure just a little bit longer than you normally would.
I have used my body tissues to explore the concept. When I notice tension, I quickly remind myself to release it, (man my neck, shoulders and belly are grateful for this practice), and I repeat this like 500 times per day. Relax, release, relax…
This simple practice has made me hyper aware of the ripple effect of held body tension and mostly to the possibility and potential within consistent expansion. Expansion is so relieving, it is so pleasurable and at its essence it allows for love, in all variations, to be more accessible.
And with more love comes the meaning of life….and the ability to be resilient.
So until I find that maybe I’ve transcended to just ‘loving the world’ — I’ll keep practicing expansion and I’m going to focus on my heart now, especially in difficult relationships and in heated situations.
I have recently started exploring how easy it is for me to contract in my heart space, like it is almost an unnoticeable habit, one that my spiritual ego really wants to deny. But it happens every time I feel like things should go my way and they don’t, which happens often, like every day…
I want to know what it feels like to be good at quickly catching myself building that wall of resentment or disapproval (=contraction) and expand in my heart space while feeling upset.
Is it possible?
What will the result be?
I have a feeling it will get me closer to that place of ‘loving the world’. But I gotta say – even as I write this it feels like this exploration is going to be really hard. There is a significant part of me that contracts easily, as if it satisfies me. It certainly protects me (i.e allows me to feel right in any given situation), but this protection keeps me from everything that I claim to want more of: more connection, more joy, more pleasure, more ease, more peace, more rapture, more love of life.
None of this is available in a state of contraction.
Because I can attest to how effective the simple practice of noticing body tension and releasing it has been for my overall health – I get a sense that when I have had enough experience with expanding my heart in lieu of contracting it I’m going to feel like a very different person.
My goal is to keep it a simple practice, not think too much about why I am contracting and that I shouldn’t be doing so, (because I will feel like a failure in no time).
I’m just going to notice that I am contracting, or that I have, and then remind myself to expand.
There is such a breath of fresh air, hope, and love (for self, other, and the world) in this very subtle action of expanding the heart space. I’ve noticed that immediately I better understand the perspective of another and that I care a little more when in an expanded state, even when I am angry.
I’ve needed a physical practice, one that I can feel engaged with while entertaining the notion of: ‘Letting it go’. That phrase, “Let it go” used to get under my skin. It felt like such an idealistic concept that was very inconsiderate of the emotions that are real for me in the moment…there is good reason to get worked up about things, especially in current time.
nervous system while doing so
because that response is the
opposite of self-love,
it is harmful to overall health and well-being.
And chronic stress is the #1 cause of dis-ease. And dis-ease is related to all disease.
I’m going to continue releasing muscle tension while also encouraging my heart to expand and soften, even when I am upset. That’s it. I’m going to make it that simple, and I’ll report back in a year.
If you care to join me I’d love the company.
One final thing I want to share:
Don and Diane St John are offering another workshop in November — the reason I am here writing to you every month encouraging a better way to move through life is essentially because of them (and a few others). What they have introduced me to has been transformational at the cellular level and the result (a never ending process) is enjoying a well-lived life and participating in relationships more fully. What their work has offered my marriage and our emotional-intimate relationship has made my 17 years of monogamy feel new, exciting, comfortable and like there are decades of rich exploration to be had
The epitome of expansion.
You can learn more by vising their website. I will be there and would love to share time with you. Please reach out if you have questions.
Wishing you a sensation-full fall, as the leaves turn glorious colors and fall to the earth, may you soak up all that is offered.