Category Archives: acceptance

How Do I Find Acceptance?

I recently had someone ask me “How do I find acceptance?” about something that was entirely outside their control. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked this, and I’m certain it won’t be the last. However, this time, instead of having a longer conversation about it and fine-tuning it for the individual situation, I decided to take a step back and actually write about it from a broader perspective… one that I hope will help more than just the individuals who have asked.

Acceptance can be a tricky presence to master. It conveys an inner peace and a willingness to allow for things to unfold, while not actually relinquishing control over our own person. Acceptance is about discernment. What do I mean by that?

When you can figure out what’s yours and what’s somebody else’s from a neutral place, you are practicing discernment. When you can act from this knowledge you are practicing acceptance. In order to arrive at acceptance through discernment, however, it’s absolutely crucial to take perspective.

Taking perspective is one of those “all-purpose tools” in your toolbox. It can always be brought out in nearly any situation, and usually results in improving it for you.  Let’s use a concrete example though, to really understand how perspective, neutrality, and discernment help us to arrive at acceptance.

Let’s say that someone you love has gotten sick or injured in some way. From where you stand, perhaps the solution is easy. If they do x they should get better. After all, it’s what you would do. But they are not you. From where they stand, the solution is not that clear, because their experiences and knowledge are contributing factors. As a result, you are at an impasse and it can be frustrating, scary, and nearly impossible to navigate your way to compassion, let alone acceptance.

So, the first step is to take perspective. That looks like asking the question: “Is this mine?” And if the answer is “No,” (and it’s almost always no), then you need to take a step back. If you’re not the injured or sick person, it’s not yours. You are on the periphery, but you’re not the one who is at the center. So, we have to take perspective and get discerning in our knowledge. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Can I know what this person is feeling? (no)
  • Can I know everything that’s going on in their head? (no)
  • Have I lived the same life they have? (no)
  • Could I possibly know better than they do about their own situation? (no)
  • Do I have something to add, to help them? (possibly)
  • Should I? (only if they ask)

That last one is the tricky one, because when we love someone we want to help, and we often think that we know better. We don’t. We know different. Until we’re in the exact same situation (which is never possible, because we’re not the exact same person), there’s no way we could know how we’d act or what we’d choose. So, we take perspective and gain some distance. Which actually leads to respect. Respect for the other person, their path, their wishes, and their decisions. We respect their autonomy, just as we would wish someone to respect ours. Only when we arrive at respect can we appropriately show up for someone with compassion, which is honestly what most people need above all else.

Very few people want someone else to “fix” their problems, often they want someone to sit next to them and hold their hand while they work on finding a solution. Sometimes they ask for help, but even then they usually don’t want to have someone impose upon them.

To tell someone what you think they should do is to impose. (It’s really that simple.)

To ask someone how you can help is to be compassionately supportive. 

To discern the difference between these two things is to understand respect and to find acceptance.

Acceptance is not about condoning or even agreeing, it’s about respecting. The respect is a result of taking perspective, which helps us arrive at compassion… and compassion is healing.

xoxo,
Martina

The Duality (and my reality) of Bodily Love

It’s a funny thing to be able to feel intense love and gratitude for something, while also feeling a measure of disappointment, sadness and even a little disgust. I’ve only recently stepped into this quagmire of emotion, and I’m finding it rather difficult terrain to navigate.

Over the past few years (well, a lot longer, actually, but let’s just focus on recent history)… over the past few years I have been steadily plodding along on my journey, day after day. A reader who is very dear to me refers to it as my Hero’s Journey, a la Joseph Campbell. I would have to agree. Because on many days, it has taken a hero’s strength to wake up and keep going, especially of late.

You see, I am at what feels like a landmark in my life. It’s one of those markers on the side of the road denoting an event in history. Only time will tell if it’s a giant bronze statue or a simple plaque. From where I stand today, it feels more like the 10-foot metal kind.

If you read my last blog about triggers being gifts, you will know that I have recently been triggered into addressing some unseen, unacknowledged places within me that I have yet to adequately deal with. In some ways I thought I had, but the truth is, I was only ready to read about them on the menu, not dive in with fork in hand and really consume them. But it seems I must be ready now, because… Voilà! Here they are!

I’m talking about my body.

If you haven’t met me in person, you might not be aware that I am overweight. Actually, I hate that phrase, because I’m not “over” anything. I’m simply in a state where my outsides don’t match my insides. But I get it. I get that we have standards and statistics that we use as information to help us adjust our sails and change direction. So, my body is bigger than the standardized version of someone my height. I actually prefer to say that I am fat. Or, rather, that I have more fat than I would like to have. I think that’s the most accurate statement for me: I have more fat than I would like to have.

But it’s more complicated than that.

I was never a thin child. I always carried a little extra “baby fat” on my body and was always a very curvy girl. I was athletic, too, but curvy. I had a classic “figure 8” body – and I still do, actually. My body was voluptuous, strong, flexible, and round in all the right places. In retrospect, my body was something to be proud of. Of course, I didn’t know that at 16, but time does a wonderful thing for us: it allows us to know and see truth.

Anyhow, sometimes I look back at that younger version of me with wistful longing and wish for that body again. Not because it was smaller, but because it was stronger (though the smaller did make life easier). Instead, I look in the mirror and see a body that is less strong, less flexible, and larger than it used to be. And that’s where the quagmire begins… because I love my body, but it’s not a body that I actually recognize.

My body had changed, and I never noticed it.

Over the course of my marriage, I steadily gained in excess of 60-70 pounds. I actually stopped using the scale so I’m not even sure what I topped out at, but I know it was at least 60. It could have been 70, or even 75. I’m writing about all of this now for an upcoming book, so I won’t go into all of the details. The bottom line is that I was married to an addict, I became a quintessential codependent, and our relationship was stressful and strained for the vast majority of our time together. As a result, I lost myself. I lost who I was, and in many ways stopped living. That’s not to say that it didn’t have some happy and good times. It is to say that it took a toll on my emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical health.

img_0379

I left that relationship six years ago. Since then, I have worked diligently on restoring and repairing the damage that was done – the damage that I unconsciously allowed and contributed to. I have come out stronger, happier, more aligned and authentic than I could have ever imagined. I have become the woman that I am, that I always was, that I had lost sight of. I have reclaimed myself in every way… but one. And (even though I have already lost about 10-15 pounds) I have the physical evidence to remind me daily.

This is what’s truly fascinating to me, why I wrote that I think “it’s a funny thing to be able to feel intense love and gratitude for something, while also feeling a measure of disappointment, sadness and even a little disgust.” It’s the duality of emotion that I feel for my body that has me wandering through the foggy bogs.

I can honestly say that I love myself. My body is strong, resilient, and cherished. Why? Because it survived. A couple of years ago I spontaneously referred to my extra fat as “emotional scar tissue” from my marriage. I couldn’t have been more accurate. My fat is proof that I survived. It’s proof that I am resilient and strong, and I cherish my body because of that.

At the same time, my body is not as strong as it once was. The extra fat has put a strain on my joints and made it more difficult to exercise. My stamina is not what it once was. Everything is just a little bit harder. It doesn’t help that I injured my foot, too, which makes even walking a challenge. But I keep trying. I keep fighting, and I will continue to fight until my outsides match my insides in a way that I recognize. (And, thankfully, I have a heck of a good team of wellness professionals helping me along the way.)

I’m writing about all this now, because I’ve been triggered from conversations with a friend. I’ve been triggered to explore how I truly feel about my body. As a result, what I realized this past weekend was that I hadn’t yet grieved. I hadn’t fully grieved for the loss of health that I experienced during my marriage, nor have I grieved for my self. Because… I did this. I did this to myself. I couldn’t tell you how, as I was not eating excessively or even poorly during that time, but I can tell you that I did it. Some of my doctors have blamed cortisol from the chronic stress I experienced for over a decade. It’s possible. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I can stand in front of a mirror and know in my heart that I am a total rock star who is strong and capable, while also looking at myself with sadness and hurt. I know that I am sexy, vibrant, and beautiful, while also knowing that I am unhappy with and would like to change what I see. I can hold space for both to be true. Until the day in which the grief has transitioned into greater love, the grief is part of my daily experience. The sadness and hurt – the disappointment – is part of my daily experience, just as the celebration, love and acceptance is. The process by which things change is only known after they have, and so I can only do my best to show up each day and allow for whatever comes… knowing that it’s okay to love my body, while also working to change it.

xoxo,
Martina

I’m sorry… Thank you. (a love letter to my body)

For those of you who know me, you know that I have spent the better part of the last 15 years working on my health and wellness. It’s a journey, a journey that never ends, so we might as well settle in and enjoy it along the way, right? It’s taken me the better part of a decade to realize that truth. And, it’s also taken me longer than a decade to shift my focus from the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health to the physical.

For me, the physical is the “final frontier,” so to speak, of my wellness boot camp. I’ve gone head first into the other three, but always kept the physical at bay. Why? Oh, I could give you so many reasons, but the bottom line is: it wasn’t time – I wasn’t ready. I certainly did many things along the way to improve my physical health, but few of them took hold, or worked, or mattered enough, actually, to make lasting change. Plus, the spiritual, emotional, and mental frontiers were simply easier for me to understand and apply successfully. And, truth be told, I somewhat assumed that if I focused on those, the physical would just fall into place.

Alas, it’s not that easy. Not for me, at least.

So, here I am, finally in a place where I have been deliberately and diligently addressing the physical aspects of my health for the better part of  the last 1-2 years. I have an amazing team of wellness professionals helping me meander through the various bits of information, and it’s been a lot of trial and error, the results of which have been, at times, discouraging. There have been days when I have literally decided to “resign myself to my fate” of not being as physically healthy as I would wish. Of course, I know this isn’t true, but I’m human and vulnerable to the array of emotions that arise from feeling the struggle.

And then, a couple of weeks ago my dear wise friend, Kate (@wisdomofone), posted this quote on her social media:

14114770_10153736997641466_5172646785627773202_o-2It’s a quote from starting, by Nayyirah Waheed.

It gave me pause – as all good things do. It was a new approach that I hadn’t heard before. What I knew previously was echoed in one of the first few comments, which suggested that instead of saying sorry, we should say thank you. We *should* align with the energy of gratitude when dealing with our physical health. It’s a common message these days, touted by every spiritual thought leader, guru, author, and teacher: Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude… the cure all.

Yes, but… But there was something about this quote that tugged at my emotions and made me sit a little taller.

Frankly, I don’t think it’s an either/or proposition… why can’t we do both? Say “sorry” and “thank you?” And what happens if we do?

If our physical health has been suffering (at our own hand, or otherwise), it seems to me that it would make sense to BOTH apologize AND say thank you. It seems to me that the most powerful approach to wellness includes an acknowledgment of our responsibility as well as an opening up to possibility. The minute I read this exchange on social media, I knew that was what I, myself, needed. I needed to humbly kneel before my own vessel and apologize, asking for forgiveness while also embracing it with genuine gratitude and joy for all it has done for me throughout my transgressions, whether conscious or unconscious.

And with that, I wrote this note to my body:

img_9132

I’m sorry for the way I treated you when I didn’t know better.
I’m sorry for the way I treated you when I knew better.
I’m sorry for when I didn’t make you a priority.
I’m sorry for when I let others treat you poorly.
I’m sorry for when I ignored your messages.
I’m sorry for taking you for granted.
I’m sorry for not loving you enough.
I’m sorry for not loving you more.
I’m sorry for not loving you.

Thank you for taking care of me when…

… I treated you poorly.
… I allowed others to treat you poorly.
… I didn’t make you a priority.
… I didn’t listen to your messages.
… I took you for granted.
… I didn’t love you.

And perhaps that’s how we should look at all the aspects of our health: By taking ownership for our role in the patterns we have created (consciously or not) and apologizing, then expressing gratitude for what’s worked. And maybe, hopefully, this can be a model that we can take out into the world with our other meaningful relationships.

xoxo,
Martina

Perspective, Fat-Shaming, and Truth

Well, this week I’m getting more personal. It’s a blog, though, isn’t it – so, in many ways it’s about being personal. For over seven years I have shared my thoughts and perspective on myriad things, usually from a place of having vetted the topic through many many filters of experience, knowledge, and teachings. This week, I’m getting a bit more personal, and you’ll see why when you read what I have to say.

Many of you know me and/or know much of my story. Many of you don’t. Either way, you’ll get a glimpse into how I became who I am today from this week’s piece. I hope you enjoy it, and if you’ve experienced anything similar for any reason – know you are not alone. (For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you may have already seen this as a post earlier this week.)

I just made the mistake of reading the comments on a beautiful story of a discriminated segment of the population standing proud and doing something that goes against stigma… And the majority of comments were horrible. I had hoped that they wouldn’t be on such a lovely piece. I was wrong.

It made me pause and think. I haven’t mentioned what “segment” this is. Did you have an idea in your head when reading my above paragraph? What if I’m referring to disabled individuals? Or African-Americans? Or LGBT? What if I’m referring to the elderly, or the poor? To immigrants?

I’ve seen many posts in recent times about all of these groups doing something against the stigma, and the majority of comments have been “you go girl!” or “well done,” or even “about time!” But because I’m NOT speaking about any of these or similar groups, I see a different trend in the commentary.

Would it surprise you to know I’m speaking about plus-sized women? More specifically, Plus-sized women dancers who have more flexibility and strength in their bodies than many other people on the planet? And still…they are demeaned as nothing more than a number on a scale, or a size on a label.

These strong women are dancing beautifully, breaking a stereotype and a stigma, and attacked for doing so. They are called “fat” and “obese” and told that they shouldn’t be dancing because it “glorifies” being fat, when they should be hiding it away and working harder to be thin. (Because “thin” = “healthy” apparently.)

This makes me mad. Nobody – NOBODY – has a right to judge another. Unless you can walk in the other person’s shoes, you simply don’t know (and you can’t, and even if you could, there’s still no place to judge). If these comments were directed at any other discriminated population, the perpetrators would be called “racist” and “bigots.” But for some reason it’s still ok to fat-shame. An entire segment of the population is routinely put down (negated, attacked, dismissed, shamed) because of their appearance and the social stigma attached to it, and it’s simply wrong.

I speak from experience on this. I’ve been thin(ner), and I’ve been fat. I currently carry an extra 60lbs of ’emotional scar tissue’ from my marriage. But I’m alive. It’s increasingly harder for me to shift the weight, but I’m working on it with a team of experts. And I’m alive. Unless you’ve walked in my shoes, you have no right to judge me and how I look – and yet…I’ve been judged. I’ve received comments, and stares, and messages (unsolicited offerings of advice and help), because people “care” for me or (in actuality) are uncomfortable with my weight. Well, luckily, they don’t have to be the one carrying it.

And I smile and nod in “appreciation” because it’s easier that way. It’s easier to seem grateful for the thoughtful/less suggestions than it is to say, “f**k off!” And I build a story around it: “…but I’m alive,” to justify others’ discomfort at my appearance.

Well, no more. I’m tired. I’m tired of being looked at as ‘lesser-than’ because I have a ‘bit-more’ than others. Because here’s the truth of the matter:

I’m fat. I gained 60lbs during a (mostly) dysfunctional marriage, and I’m having a hard time getting it off, because of an injury. But…I’m alive. In the last year of my marriage I was certain I wouldn’t be for long, either at my own hand, or his. So, I’m alive, and I’m fat. And I have some health concerns that I am working on with professionals – (mostly the result of my silly toe that stopped bending – the rest of me is healthy by the numbers). And I’ve had relationships since my divorce with (attractive/slim) men – should I not have, because I’m fat? Because I’ve been told that, too. Yes.

And…

And I’m SO MUCH MORE than all of that. It’s just one ~ one ~ piece of my story. A story that is always evolving and growing, and includes:

I’m alive. I survived. I’m beautiful, smart, funny, creative, and strong. I’m fat and flexible, happy and whole. I’m intuitive and blessed, grateful and living my life with purpose and passion – I’m living, because I’m alive, and I survived. And I’m everything I ever was and will yet be, because of that.

People are more than their bodies. #Stopfatshaming

Post-Note: Unless we learn to regularly take perspective, how can we invite compassion into our lives, or expect it from others? The key to creating change in humanity includes this very crucial first step: taking perspective.

Resistance, Obstacles, and Making Sense of the Senseless

Last week, in light of the recent tragedies and violence in the US and abroad, I wrote a bonus blog and recorded a video on how we make sense of the senseless. The bottom line, for me, was that we stop trying. It’s virtually impossible to make sense of something that goes against our very nature. Trying to attribute rational thinking to such a problem becomes an endless cycle of frustration, grief, and disconnection.

What we can do, instead, is work to heal the root cause of the senseless actions of others. In this instance, I believe that all violence has its origins in the low-vibration energy of Fear, and fear is taught. Therefore, if we wish to combat senseless violence, we must teach Hope. Hope is a high-vibration energy that directly counteracts fear. (To learn more, you can read the rest of the blog here, or if you prefer, you can watch the video.)

Then, this past weekend, I stumbled across this video by Mingyur Rinpoche. I admit that I clicked on it because of the title, “I’m too lazy to meditate,” because I am too lazy to meditate. Well, I’m not sure if “lazy” is the right word –  but you get what I mean.

In the first few moments of the video, he gives the basic answer that I gave to dealing with the senseless violence: Stop trying. Or in the meditation example, stop fighting the laziness. When you stop pushing against that which is your obstacle, you give your obstacle the room it needs to fall away naturally.

I believe that the body and soul have a natural inclination to homeostasis. I also believe that all the obstacles we face in our lives are our soul’s journey through remembering who we are at our core, and each challenge brings us that much closer to the central truth. Therefore, if our natural inclination is to return to center, and the obstacles are there to assist us in doing just that, it makes sense that our job is to stop resisting the obstacle in order to allow it to teach us what we need so that it can fall away.

Did you catch that? Sometimes, it’s truly as simple as taking a step back and accepting that which we perceive to be in our way. It’s often this basic act of acknowledgment that allows the obstacle to go. 

In the case of being too lazy (tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, scared, etc.) to meditate, as Mingyur says, it’s about taking a step back, accepting the state you’re in, and reframing your perspective to welcome the obstacle into your life, which paradoxically, allows it to go.

I really enjoyed this video, and I hope you will too. I write often about how to create change in our lives, and how awareness and small consistent steps have the most lasting effect. This video describes just that, and for me, it’s perfectly timed. I have been frustrated with my lack of meditation and routine and itching to get back to it. However, my frustration has caused me to feel overwhelmed which has prompted me to not try. Yup – that’s what I said.

Mingyur’s video is a reminder to me that it’s not about trying or perfection, it’s about choice and presence. Five seconds of meditation is still 5 seconds, and five seconds repeatedly will add up and eventually lead to five minutes.

Whether it’s trying to make sense of the senseless, or feeling frustrated over the lack of a routine, it’s the resistance that keeps us stuck.

xoxo,
Martina

Resistance

Acceptance Is The Key

This past week I’ve been soul-searching a bit, as I meandered through the last few days of the online workshop I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It’s been an interesting process, to say the least.

On the one hand, I was prompted – quite literally – to explore certain topics, approaches, and ideas behind what it means to be authentic and show up in your marketing. And on the other hand, I was unknowingly moved into a space of mental and emotional decluttering during the process. Needless to say, both were rather exhausting.

Now that I’m on the back-end of it all, I can see the benefits of having done the exercise. Not only do I have a better understanding of just how much real estate I was giving to things that didn’t necessarily deserve it, I also got to explore some of my own internal belief systems and cross-check them against my values and inner alignment, which is something I talk about in my book, What if..?

In my opinion it’s critically important that we take this sort of inventory every so often in our lives. Like cleaning out your closet or your pantry, you never know what’s lurking in the corner that is past its “use by” date if you don’t take a good look. This workshop required me to take a good look and it resulted in some A-ha! moments as well as some visibility hangovers and shame spirals.

The upside is that I am now much better equipped to deal with all of these things, because of all the work I have done. Whereas a few short years ago I could have found any of these things to be somewhat debilitating, now they are a blessing. It’s a reminder that there is more freedom at the end of the process – and that is always a good thing.

So, what happens next? Well, as in all things, I am taking the time to integrate what I learned, what I let go of, and what it means for how I move forward. Interestingly, I have been listening to a Katy Perry song of late (somewhat obsessively, on repeat) and there’s this line that keeps jumping out at me and replaying in my head:

Acceptance is the key

I’ve been reminded, once again, that acceptance is key to moving forward. This is not an acceptance of outdated items shoved into the dark recesses of our internal cupboard, which allows us to continue to ignore them – that’s resignation, or even complacency. Rather, it’s an acceptance of the need to regularly undergo experiences that compel us to explore the cupboard, to choose change, growth, and sometimes discomfort, in pursuit of freedom.

The Most Powerful Tool in Your Tool Box (No, it’s not a sledgehammer.)

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know I refer to my tool box often. It’s a constantly growing arsenal of lessons learned, experience gained, and skills acquired. During my recent book tour one attendee (who has been with me since 2010) suggest I change it from a “tool box” to a “tool shed” based on its ever-expanding size. She may be right.

However, I think one of the most important things I can do for my clients and readers is to help them create their own growing tool box. The key word being “growing.”

It’s essential for us to always be learning, expanding, and adding to our armory of useful skills and knowledge. However, it’s also important to know the difference between a sledgehammer and a screwdriver in order to best apply each tool to maximum effect. In addressing this practical aspect of our tool box inventory, I think it’s most important to know your most powerful tool, what it is and how to use it.

So, what is the MOST POWERFUL TOOL in your tool box?

It might surprise you, but it’s NEUTRALITY.

I suppose a more obvious answer would be Love or Compassion. Perhaps even Empathy. Certainly, my training and certification in Brené Brown’s work would suggest that Empathy is a very powerful tool. But it’s not the most powerful. Neutrality is.

But to fully understand Neutrality, we have to also understand what it’s not.

Neutrality is not a reaction, nor is it a response. Neutrality is not lack of connection, compassion, love, understanding or empathy. There is no “lack” in Neutrality. It includes all those things.

Conversely, Neutrality is not full of any one characteristic either. It’s not Love, and it’s not Empathy. Nor is it compassion and understanding – but it is a form of connection. In a way.

Neutrality is presence. And through that presence is a connection to your Self. Your inner knowing and your core essence. It’s not passive, rather it’s an incredibly active and deliberate way of being, of relating.

At its core, neutrality is 100% authenticity, wrapped in integrity, and expressed as presence.

Neutrality is a tool that allows you to be present, without giving away or allowing someone to take your power. It can be passionate in its sure-footedness, without being emotionally charged. It allows for the acceptance of “both-and” thinking where two things can be true (i.e.: someone can be behaving like a jerk, and also be a kind person).

For me, a lighthouse is the ultimate symbol of Neutrality. It stands its ground and does what it does really well. A lighthouse knows it can neither change the storm nor navigate the ship. A lighthouse allows for both the storm and the ship to pass as they will, without judgment. This, in turn, allows the lighthouse to keep being a lighthouse, free from the ebbs and flows of emotionality.

Power resides in this freedom, which is why practicing Neutrality is the most powerful tool in your tool box.

Resilience, Faith, and Self-love

As part of my book tour for What if..?, in September I spent a week in New York for media meetings. I love New York, and I grew up in the area. Since leaving in 1990, I have gone back to visit every so often. Fourteen years ago, almost exactly, I flew to New York for a friend’s engagement party. My presence was to be a surprise, so my then-husband and I decided to spend a few days in the city before heading out to the suburbs for the event. We made our travel plans about six weeks before, or early August 2001.

We never could have known what would transpire two weeks before our trip on that fateful day – September 11th. The world could never have known. And we never could have planned for how it would impact and change us as a global society.

But, on that weekend 14 years ago, after the unimaginable had happened, we had to make a choice:

Live in fear, or
Live in love.

We chose love, and went to my friend’s engagement party. Nobody expected us to keep our plans. People weren’t traveling, least of all to New York. But my ex-husband and I knew it was the right thing to do. So, we boarded our almost empty plane in Chicago and headed to the Big Apple less than two weeks after the towers came down.

After being in town for a day or possibly two, we decided to head down to Ground Zero. It was not fully roped off yet, and we were able to stand within feet of the bent and collapsed ribs of steel. When I looked up, I saw the thick layer of dust encapsulating every building – it looked like a layer of spray foam insulation. We bought American flag bandannas from a vendor, partially out of national pride, but mainly to cover our faces and protect our lungs.

We walked among the resilient, the curious, the fatigued, the torn. We listened to stories as we shared in the national after shock of tremendous tragedy.

As I stared at the remains of my beloved buildings, decades of my life flashed before my eyes. “I’ll never get to enjoy a meal at Windows on the World again,” was one of the thoughts that flew into my brain as I remembered my 11th birthday. I was lucky enough to have experienced it once.

My New York was changed forever. I knew it at the time, but I had no idea how far-reaching that sentiment would be.

During our walk so long ago, as things became overwhelming, we stepped inside Trinity Church. I had never been in it before, but it felt like a fitting time to stop in, take pause, and simply breathe.IMG_6898

Now, 14 years later, I had the same idea as I meandered the streets of Ground Zero. In the midst of media meetings promoting my new book, a quiet pause seemed fitting – and needed.

One World Trade Center is a sight to behold – it’s a marvel. The surrounding area is busy, chaotic, vibrant, and alive – the New York we all know, with a slight edge to it. An awareness of tragedy, rather than the former insulation provided by a sense of invincibility. So much has changed, and yet, it felt oddly familiar.

Walking into Trinity Church 14 years later, I still felt the gratitude, calm, and refuge the church provided so long ago. The miracle that it survived such an event unharmed is evident in the grain of the wood in the pews. IMG_6897Serenity and peace filled the air as I sat quietly staring up at the stained glass in between writing these words:

Fourteen years have passed and it feels like I have lived many lifetimes. Fourteen years have passed and it feels like both forever and yesterday. Fourteen years have passed and I know more gratitude, love, and joy today than I ever could have imagined then. I’m not the same person I once was, and yet, I’m exactly who I have always been.

With some time in between meetings, sitting in Trinity Church, I allowed myself to sit, reflect, breathe, pray… connect. Or rather, re-connect to what I know to be true: I am who I have always been. Gratefully, I am finally living my life in alignment with that statement. Gone are the struggles to conform, seek approval, bargain for acceptance. It’s not 100% all the time, but it’s getting closer every day. And when old habits or patterns are triggered, I have the resilience, understanding, and faith to return to self-love – to return to myself: Who I am… who I have always been.

Perhaps that’s what faith, resilience, and self-love are all about. Like the Trinity Church, they help us to survive. They stand strong through the chaos as a safe haven in the midst of struggles and challenges, just waiting for us to return, to re-connect. Regardless of what’s going on outside, we know that the familiar stability of a strong internal alignment, however that manifests, is the home in which we can always find comfort, draw resilience, and feel peace.

Emotional Imprisonment

This week, this quote has shown up repeatedly in my Facebook feed.

“Care about what other people think and
you will always be their prisoner.”
–Lao Tzu

Whenever something appears more than a couple of times, I take note. Whether it’s an important message for me to hear or share is always the question. Often, it’s both.

For me, being a prisoner in this sense implies more than a lack of freedom: It represents a loss of will. I can’t imagine many worse things than losing your free will. It’s one of the few gifts we have been given that allow us to create the life we desire through the choices we make each and every day. Choosing to invest in the approval and acceptance of others is, therefore, akin to handing them the blueprint to your life and saying, “You decide.”

The quote is simple and clear. But while it’s easy to say, it’s much harder to practice. Often we associate “caring” with being a nice person. Therefore, “not caring” might feel mean or insensitive. It’s important to care, but it’s not healthy to care to the point of your own detriment, which leads to emotional imprisonment and the loss of your free will.

A baby step toward freedom might be choosing to ask yourself the same questions you would ask someone else, and listen to your own answers for the approval you seek, instead of outsourcing the job.

Self-Love

What does “self-love’ actually mean?

I received this question after last week’s writing. Here are my thoughts on what self-love actually looks like:

If we all woke up tomorrow with complete self-love and acceptance, there’s this notion that entire industries would tumble. That somehow self-love means the decimation of the multi-billion dollar industries centered around self-improvement.

But I disagree.

Loving myself exactly as I am today, does not mean I don’t want to improve myself for tomorrow.

  • It means I’m doing it from a place of love instead of fear or lack.
  • It means I’m doing it because I know I’m worth it, not because I feel unworthy or require external approval to feel valid in the world.
  • It means improving myself is defined by me, and not some imposed measurement of my value.

Self-love is not about acceptance through defiant resignation or surrender. Self-love is about standing up for yourself and who you are inside, and making decisions in alignment with that inner knowing. It’s about being accountable to yourself, on every level. If you want to be more fit, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself. If you want to dye your hair, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself. If you like to wear make-up, have body piercings, or only wear designer duds, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself.

Today I could have fruit and yogurt for breakfast and tomorrow I could have sausages and pancakes. I could weigh less in a year, or I could weigh more. I could be stronger and healthier or I could be more flexible. Or I could be exactly as I am today.

Self-love is all of that, because if my actions are in alignment with who I am, then I am practicing self-love. The variable is the answer to the question: Why? As in, why am I doing what I’m doing?

The only time it means you don’t love yourself is when you’re doing all of that (or more) in order to be somebody you’re not inside: If your actions are out of alignment with your inner self.

If you’re trying to gain approval or you’re seeking acceptance by others, then perhaps the decision to work out 7 times a week is not loving. Similarly, cookies every day because you don’t care anymore and/or you’re defying the Madison Avenue propaganda, is not loving.

But, if you enjoy a cheeseburger with friends, or you like to do yoga daily, and the decisions you make are from a place within, then that, my friends, is self-love. Even when it includes a desire for self-improvement, however you define that. Perhaps especially when it includes a desire for self-improvement.

It’s time we re-labeled what it means to practice self-love. It’s not about defying anything; rather, it’s about embracing everything from a place of alignment with who you are inside. And that makes all the difference.