Category Archives: acceptance

Comparison and Self-Love

I was chatting with a friend recently about comparison and life satisfaction. If you’ve been following my writing for a while, you know how I feel about comparison.

There are no winners in the comparison game.

In this age of social media, it almost seems inevitable that we will be mired in a cycle of comparing ourselves to others. Furthermore, when others are predominantly sharing their highlight reel instead of their fumbles, it also seems inevitable that we will begin to feel worse about ourselves and our lives. When we compare our insides with other people’s outsides, we will never win.

Upon reflection, however, there IS one way I can see that we can become winners in the comparison game. So, I am modifying my former statement ever-so-slightly.

We win at comparison when we learn how to use it as a tool and not a weapon.

What do I mean by that?

When we compare ourselves to others and feel worse about our lives, it’s like we are using comparison as a weapon against ourselves. No armor could withstand it.

However, if we can use comparison as a tool to gather information then we are gifting ourselves with the means by which we can change our lives.

How?

We mine the data. If we raise our awareness to our thoughts of comparison, and instead of holding them to be true we question them and mine the data, we end up with a cache of information we didn’t have before. A cache of information that can help us create meaningful change in our lives. The key element to this process is remaining emotionally neutral and becoming a witness to your thoughts.

What does this look like? Let me give you a concrete example:

The other day I saw a friend’s Facebook post about her spring vacation, complete with amazing pictures of family and friends in a beautiful locale. Whereas my spring break was non-existent. I don’t have one. Even if I had one, I don’t currently have the funds to take the sort of vacation she took. I started to compare my life to hers, and it felt bad.

The natural inclination (which is a much bigger topic for another day) is to feel lesser-than. When we compare, we’re typically looking “up” at those who have it “better” than us, rather than looking “down” at those who have it “worse” than us. This is actually a good thing, in some ways, because it allows us to pinpoint much more easily the areas in which we desire change.

So, back to the Spring Break story. After I took a pause to redirect myself, I deliberately asked myself why I was reacting to her pictures on Facebook. The answer was simple: I wanted what she had.

Which leads to question #2: What do I believe she has? (Notice the use of the word “believe” in there.)

In that moment I opened up the doors to neutrality. I went from feeling lesser-than to engaging my analytical mind from a neutral place. I could identify the story I made up about my friend’s life and how “amazing” it is, and I could identify my own inner desire to obtain what she was showing. But… I didn’t tell myself that my own life wasn’t “amazing.” And that’s the key difference.

Once I was able to become neutral, it wasn’t about being “less than” what I desired, it was about adding something I desired to my goals and dreams, without deflating myself in the process.

This is what I mean about mining the data from comparison. If you use it as a tool, it can help you identify areas that you wish to change. From there, it’s up to you to make a plan and get to work.

So much of this comes back to self-love and acceptance. But, self-love is not an easily obtained construct. It’s too theoretical for too many people. Self-love requires us to find deliberate, action-oriented beliefs and behaviors in order to become manifest in our lives.

Furthermore, self-love does not mean you can’t want to change something about yourself. It means you love who you are at every step along the path of change, and accept your “as is” in addition to your desire to create change, as well as your process of change. Loving yourself along the way is comprised of those actions and beliefs that you choose in each moment.

For me, going back to the example, I chose to question my thoughts and the story I was telling myself. That simple act of choosing something different is what opened me up to the possibility of something different… and it allowed me to choose a loving response instead of a shaming reaction. Self-love in action, as a result of comparison.

Acceptance Made Easy(er)

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about “acceptance” and how important it is for living a balanced and happy life. And I agree. Acceptance is one of the cornerstones of living well.

Where I have a teensy-weensy problem, however, is the connotation that has developed around the idea of acceptance.

To address this, let’s first look at what acceptance is not.

Acceptance is not:

  • Settling
  • Surrender
  • Giving up
  • A consolation prize
  • Relinquishing responsibility

Nor is it blind faith and/or an abandonment of free will. Rather, acceptance is a calm embrace of what is. It’s a knowing.

Acceptance is peace through wisdom.

Acceptance doesn’t require abandonment of understanding and/or exploration. Rather, it requires questioning. Questioning that moves us through to acceptance from a place of strength, courage, and presence.

Acceptance asks us to question everything so that we arrive at the knowing underneath, the knowing that was always there. There’s a quiet grace in true acceptance that transcends chaos and fear.

In other words, if it feels like settling or giving up, it’s not acceptance. Acceptance is an embrace, not a letting go.

Where the Grass is Greener

This week I struggled with something to write about. Call it Mercury Retrograde, or call it fatigue, either way I came up with nothing. It happens. Then I saw this quote on a friend’s FB page:

The grass is greener where you water it.

It wasn’t attributed to any one person directly, and I feel like I’ve heard it before, though I’m not sure where. Then I was reminded of something I read from an interview with Isla Fisher in the American Way magazine. She said:

“…I’m super happy with my life the way it is. The grass doesn’t look greener.”
(I have loved that idea ever since I first read it.)

So, what is this obsession we have with “the grass is greener” concept? Is it greener? Ever? Or is it that we have learned to live life from a basis of comparison? Which, in turn means, we will never be satisfied?

I’ve explored this idea of “never enough” off and on for years, both formally and informally. The bottom line truth that I know for certain is that nobody ever wins in the comparison game.

Whether you are comparing misery (ie: my loss is greater than yours) or wealth and acquisitions (there is ALWAYS somebody who has more than you, or something you don’t have) or bodies (body satisfaction underlies many of our self-esteem challenges and issues of self-worth), nobody wins in the comparison game. Nobody.

In fact, the only way to WIN the game is to choose to not play at all. So, what does that look like?

Well, in some ways, it looks like the two quotes I shared above. Many thought leaders and spiritual teachers talk about acceptance, gratitude, and mindfulness. (Heck, I’m one of them!) But those words can be idealistic and amorphous, and can also create opportunities for the comparison habit to edge it’s way back in (ie: I must not be grateful enough, because s/he looks so much happier than I am). So, even though they are helpful to understand, they’re not always active or directive behaviors you can engage in and put into practice. So, what can you actually do?

Here’s one idea:

When the words should, could, would, enough, more, better, and/or worse (as well as “when” and “if”) enter your thoughts or statements – take pause. Take pause long enough to assess whether you are making a statement of comparison. Are you comparing yourself or your situation to someone else’s or some societal standard? Are you comparing someone else’s behavior to your own? If so, stop. Stop right there, because you won’t win. Not winning looks like: frustration, anger, jealousy, envy, sadness, despair, and desperation, to name a few. And nobody wants that.

Stopping is the first step. The second step is engaging in a positive practice to replace the habit of comparison. This involves identifying what brings you joy, such as: I love my house. Or if that’s too big: I love my bed. Or my garden. Or my feet. Or my nose. Or my dog. Or my brain. Or my….life. You get the idea.

So, the next time you think the ‘grass is greener’ somewhere else, take pause, double-check your words, and then look around you. Then perhaps you can see whether or not the grass you’re standing on is green, because it probably is. Green is green, and comparison is a game of shades that turns something lovely into something invisible, and sometimes harmful.

Knock knock…..who’s there?

Opportunity.

What do you do if you’re awakened by your mind at roughly 3am for 3 nights in a row? Well, if you’re me, for the first two nights, you roll over, say “not now,” and go back to sleep – rather uncomfortably. By the third night, however, you sit up and take notice and accept the fact that inspiration has come to visit. It would be rude (and rather stupid) to keep ignoring the call.

Some say that the ‘veil’ between the physical world and the spiritual world is thinnest around 3 or 4 am. That if there are messages to receive, they will most readily and easily be ‘heard’ during that time frame. Heck, Dr. Wayne Dyer makes it a practice to be up and meditating during the thinned veil time, and look at what he’s accomplished! But I like my sleep. I need my sleep, so

it took three nights for me to heed the call!  …….And I’m ever so glad I did!

Not only do I have the idea and design completely mapped out for an entirely new workshop on authenticity that will be fantastic! (I can’t wait to share it with you!)  I am also writing this piece on opportunity. Knock knock, indeed.

What strikes me about opportunity lately is the realization that it knocks many many different ways. Sometimes we recognize it, sometimes we don’t. Here’s the bit that fascinates me however:

even when we recognize it, we often don’t know what to do!

It’s true! Suddenly, that open door that we’ve been praying and hoping for is before us, and we find ourselves speechless and motionless, seemingly unable to walk through it. Why? Is it fear of what’s on the other side? Fear of losing what’s known (and comfortable) on this side? Or is it something else combined with fear? Something like: lack of acceptance and preparation.

You see, if you’re at all like me (which if you’re human you probably are), then all the hoping and dreaming in the world doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the day the dreams have the potential to become reality. Why? Because the energy has been in the desire, not the acceptance. Wait. What?

The energy has been in the desire, not the acceptance.

Desiring something keeps it at arm’s length. It keeps it external to your reality. Accepting something makes it real…allows it to be received

So, there’s a reason manifesting incorporates receiving. Because asking is only half of the process. Receiving is the next step. The energy shifts and what was once desired is now possible.

As for opportunities. They can be tricky little buggers. The beauty is that if something is meant to be, the Universe conspires to make it happen and will provide numerous opportunities for you to walk through that door. They’ll range from the quiet subtle hints (like hearing something on the radio that ‘happens’ to be just what you were thinking about – coincidence?), to the blatant slaps upside the head, such as receiving a message in your inbox from someone reaching out to connect with you, be it for a job, a conversation or a relationship.

Opportunities are all around us. They abound. The Universe conspires to give us the best life imaginable from where we are today: a life of love, joy, wellness, prosperity and connection. What we have to do is learn to recognize them better, and accept them when they show up, by walking through that door. After all, anything is possible. Whether it’s probable, however, depends on what we do when opportunity shows up.

To live life as a dog.

For dogs there is no yesterday and there is no tomorrow.
There is only now, and there is only love.

Evening watch
Love of food.
Love of sleep.
Love of play.
Love of walks.
Love of their owner.

 

And seemingly, all of these things bring joy. Yes, I think dogs “worry” when they sense their owner is sick or anxious. Yes, they sense fear… but they don’t seem to carry it forward. What happened yesterday isn’t true for today, and won’t be true for tomorrow. “This morning” doesn’t necessarily exist when it’s dinnertime.

So, how can we live life more like a dog? Well, I think the greatest gifts the dog can teach us are these: joy, loyalty and rest – all of which are unrestrained. Unconditional.

When you watch a dog at play – it seems joyful. They’re not concerned about whether their stomach is sucked in, or their tail is long enough or what breed they are. There is a ball and there is someone throwing it for them. Joy.

Watching a service dog stand by its owner in the midst of complete chaos, and only have eyes for its owner’s needs, is the purest example of loyalty I’ve ever seen. It transcends the animal nature that lies within and demonstrates a capacity of service and loyalty beyond measure.

And rest. Dogs know how to rest. They know how to seek their own space in the middle of a family event when they are tired. No apologies, no guilt, simply rest. Their bodies need it, so they do it.

Of course, all these things are encompassed in an animal that knows how to give and receive unconditional love. They don’t keep a running tally in their mind of when you last gave them a treat and whether or not you deserve a lick or two. They simply love, without strings and without expectations.

So, although our colloquial language isn’t there yet, I think it would be quite an honor to be referred to as a “dog.” Instead of being derogatory, I’d allow it to mean I had achieved some measure of peace and greatness, that I was a good friend and companion. And above all, that I knew how to live and love with a joyful heart, unconditionally. Woof!

On Forgiveness

“Lucy…you have some ‘splaining to do!”  Who doesn’t remember that famous line from “I Love Lucy” – it’s a classic!

Well, friends, borrowing from Ricky, I have to say that I have some forgivin’ to do. Or I did. I felt stuck in some ways, and wasn’t sure why. I move forward deliberately in life, and I continually make progress – but recently I noticed recurrent thoughts playing out in the background of my soundtrack, like another story line. I’d be driving, and suddenly think of something that caused feelings of resentment or regret and the needle would get stuck on the record playing the same song over and over again – never loud enough to just turn it off, but just softly enough to raise my awareness to something that was stuck. On repeat. Annoying me. Time to take a look!

What I found was that I was harboring negative emotions toward others (ok, and myself) because of some past actions and events. These were things that no longer played an active role in my life, things I had moved on from, and things I no longer considered on a conscious level. But there they were, like white noise, stirring up old emotions I thought I had dealt with. Nope. Time to forgive.

So, here’s the thing…forgiveness is about us. Ourselves. Not the other person. It’s a simple truth: Forgiveness is a gift one gives to oneself. I know this. But then I wondered – Does forgiveness need to be face to face? Or, is it possible that the energy of forgiveness itself is enough to release us from the shackles that bind us to resentment, anger, hurt, and frustration? I believe it is. Here’s why:

Forgiveness is an offering. Therefore, it can be shared with another anonymously and be equally as effective. Its power lies not in whether it’s accepted by someone else, whether that person embraces or validates the forgiveness. Its power lies in the act itself. The decision to release ourselves from the imprisonment of the limiting negative emotions is powerful. To acknowledge the hurt and suffering we experienced as a result of something typically outside our control is powerful. It’s not about denying the event or transgression, rather it’s making a statement that what happened no longer fits our lives and then choosing to step out of it like an old and tired piece of clothing that has dropped to the floor.

Forgiveness, then, is a solitary act that does not require reciprocity, validation or acceptance by another to be effective. It asks only that our intentions be clear and our heart be true.

So, back to my own forgiveness. What did I do? I wrote letters. I wrote letters to each person or group that was holding me back because they had hurt me in some way, and I forgave. From my heart I forgave them and embraced myself. Did I send the letters? No. I folded them up and plan to burn them on the next full moon, releasing all of their energy. I did keep one, though. The one to myself. Because after writing the others, I realized I needed to forgive myself the most for choosing to hold on to the negative emotions (and giving them space in my brain and heart) when they weren’t serving my greater good. That letter is in my God box where it can contribute energetically to my ongoing growth in love and compassion. Cool.

A river of Love

Ok – Here we go. I have been working on setting up the blog as its own site – we’re almost there, but not yet. So, in the meantime… I thought it best to keep going here (in light of the near 2-month absence….so sorry.) But, now I’m back. So, let’s get inspired together!!

As I was driving today, I had a thought. (Big surprise, I know.) Basically, I’ve been told by countless teachers, gurus, friends, healers, etc. to “go with the flow.” Life is so much harder if you try to go against the flow of your river. I’ve even written about it myself. It’s true. When we allow life to happen, rather than fighting the current, life is much much easier. We are in the flow, and the Universe works with us. But here’s the thought I had: what if we are in the wrong river? Ok, I know I’m bucking the trend by saying that, but really – let’s think about it.

It’s not necessarily the “wrong” river, because I accept that we’re never out of our proper place to learn and be; but for just one moment, let’s entertain the idea that we have free will and choice in this lifetime, as well as the power to stand up, step out of the river, and go find another one. One that’s more suited to who we are and how we’re meant to live. What if that’s possible?

I think when I was driving I realized for myself that no matter how much I go with the flow, and allow myself to move with the current, I simply felt like it wasn’t right. I felt like I was resigning myself to the waters around me, knowing that they were going too fast, or were too cold, or even too still. So, rather than lying back and floating downstream, I asked myself: “what if there is another river?” Could it be that simple? I mean, I’ve studied, practiced, learned, discussed…. I’ve read countless books and articles on happiness, inspiration and spirituality. I’ve practiced the mantra: “Let go and let God” until I couldn’t say anything else. But there’s a part of me that still questioned the flow. It still didn’t “feel” right. Not for me. So, what if it’s just the wrong river? I can’t imagine that God wants us all to lie back and float with whatever current we’re in, hoping and praying that He will simply take care of everything. I mean, I know He will if we ask and need Him to; but why would He give us free will, if He didn’t also intend for us to use it, thereby working with Him?

I think there’s an empowerment piece missing here. It’s just my opinion, but what if it were possible for us to choose the river we are in? I’m not naive enough to think that there are rivers without rapids and eddies and rocks; but I do believe that we have the power to choose which river we want to be in. And I do believe that God (Spirit, the Universe, etc.) will help us no matter where we are, if we ask; however, I’m starting to also think that a little bit of empowerment, in the form of self-love, is what God intended for us to learn and share. What do I mean by that? Well, I’ve come to realize that one of the greatest gifts we can give someone else is to support, love and empower them to be who they are. So, if that’s the greatest gift we can give someone else, it stands to reason that it’s also the greatest gift we can give ourself.

To love, support and empower who we are ourselves needs two things: honesty and communication. It means looking in the mirror and actually being truthful about how we feel inside and comparing that with how we behave outside — then communicating that in a loving and thoughtful way with ourself. Does this make sense to you? It recently hit me like a ton of bricks, though I have to admit I’m still sorting through a bit of the rubble as I piece it all back together. What I know is this:

The most important thing we can do, for ourselves and others, is to love ourselves, unconditionally. To truly do this, we need to accept ourselves, flaws and all, and make decisions based on who we are, not who others might want us to be. This acceptance comes from honesty and communication. It’s the greatest gift we can teach our children: self-love. And from there, we can love others unconditionally. It becomes effortless. Why? Because when we are true to who we are, we end up being surrounded by people who support us and love us. There are no agendas, no games, just love, respect and support. Of course, in some relationships, usually the romantic ones, more issues come up than with just friendships, because it’s a balancing act. But that doesn’t mean that we have to lose ourselves. It means that because we love the other person, we’re willing to learn, grow, and become more flexible, out of a desire to experience a deeper love. A love that carries with it a freedom, unknowable in any other way. And that, well – that is when we are living God’s will for us: To live in Love. And the first step, the key that unlocks the door to all of this, is self-love.

So this brings me back to my original thought: If I’m in a river that doesn’t “feel” right for me, and I’ve spent countless hours, days and weeks practicing ‘letting go’ only to find that I still don’t feel good about where I am — do I love myself enough to actually take a look at the river and make a change – or at the very least explore whether that possibility exists? What do you think?

“Right” or “Wrong” – What is real?

To answer that, we need to ask: what is reality? Everybody has a different perception of reality. Do you know that in a room full of people, all witnessing the same exact event, you can end up with as many different reports on what happened as there were people in the room? Is this solely a matter of perspective? I can’t believe that is all there is to it. In fact, I believe something different.

I believe that our individual realities are wholly influenced by the sum of our personal experiences. That is to say that – whether you believe in reincarnation, or not – the sum total of everything our individual soul has experienced influences our perceptions. Therefore, reality is subject to interpretation. As such, it stands to reason that a lot of our miscommunications with others are caused by this convergence of multiple realities.

With that said, what is actually real? In asking that question, we are also asking “what can we count on?” I think a lot of us ponder this question on a regular basis – though it may be expressed differently. We know we can rely on ourselves (though at times even that may seem distant). But can we truly depend on anyone, or anything, else? The world has seen a lot of upheaval lately: the economy, natural disasters, violence, crime. That which we had assumed as stable and reliable – or real – didn’t always turn out to be. So, if the one thing we can almost always rely on is our self, what else can we do to bring balance to our lives and help bridge the gap between our reality and the realities of others around us?

It’s a classic case of “he said, she said.” Unfortunately, the fact that I can use the word “classic” in that sentence implies that it’s an all-too-common experience. We get caught up in our own personal stories (realities) and we act accordingly. More to the point, we REACT accordingly, especially when our pride gets involved. We know we’re “right,” because it’s our reality. So, the other person can’t be “right.” Here’s the truth, though: nobody’s right, and nobody’s wrong. We all have our own realities, and at times, they come into conflict with somebody else’s.

The natural desire to have interpersonal relationships causes us to seek out people with similar experiences, thereby adding validation to our own reality. Where it gets complex is when we attempt to have others conform to us. Though they may have similar experiences, we would do well to remember that they still have their own perspective on what’s “real” to them.

When you boil it down and reduce it to it’s purest form, it’s about knowledge, tolerance and acceptance. Which are arrived at by choice. Yes, once more it’s about choice. We’ve all heard the popular phrases “positive mental outlook” or “attitude of gratitude” – but when you’re in the midst of heartache or financial turmoil, it seems more difficult to find the strength to “choose” to modify your attitude. Interestingly, though, it’s primarily during times of struggle that most people come to realize the importance of thinking differently. It’s in suffering that the greatest changes can occur. When we are stripped of all the trappings of our ego, we create an opportunity for faith, hope and possibility to plant seeds and grow roots in our minds.

A perfect example is when we argue with someone close to us. When we fight, we (our egos) typically just want to be heard and validated for our point of view, which we determine is “right.” However, if we have learned that there are multiple realities based on individual experience and interpretation (knowledge), and we allow for the possibility that there is no “right” or “wrong” (tolerance), we become more accepting of the truth and can focus our attention on what we truly need: which is not to be proven “right” or prove someone else “wrong,” but to be heard and acknowledged. We can harmoniously agree to disagree, and our relationships will be the better for it.

So, the next time you’re feeling “right” about something, and you don’t understand why the other person can’t seem to see how right you are, perhaps you should consider that their reality – their interpretation of events, based on their experiences – gives them an alternate view of the situation, and is just as valid as your own. In honoring their view, you also honor yours – simply by choosing a response based in knowledge, tolerance and acceptance.

Welcome to serenity.

In Love and Light,

Martina