In Part One of “Be the Heroine of Your Own Journey,” we discussed what the American journalist and playwright, Nora Ephron, meant when she declared: “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” We explored how the hero strikes out on a solo mission to conquer his demons, while the heroine recognizes that stepping into her feminine power entails aligning with a collective field of support. She is not meant to trek solo as empowered support is vital when she travels.
In this article, we are going to examine the power of partnerships—not just any partnership—but an evolving partnership.
In her groundbreaking book Sacred Pleasure, *Riane Eisler—an internationally known human rights activist, best-selling author, social scientist, women’s advocate and macro-historian—shares a historical perspective on what men and women have gone through for centuries as a result of religious dogma and scientific jargon. She reveals how brutal patriarchal beliefs have been to the psyche and soul of both women and men. Eisler takes the reader through the “pain to pleasure shift” which is a blueprint for the future of authentic, loving, spiritual partnerships.
I refer to these more enlightened connections as “Evolving Partnerships.” It’s one of the core principles of the **Relationship Wisdom™ workshops my husband and I teach. Women are inherently relational beings. We want connections that are fulfilling; emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually. Having a social network is vital to many of us and we thrive in relationships where we feel validated and supported. Of course, there are men who flourish from these types of connections as well.
However women identify with their relationships in different ways than men. For example, women are more apt to conform in social circles in order to avoid losing the connection, or, women may feel compelled to agree and validate someone’s feelings without challenging the underlying perceptions. While our intention is good, this type of conformity weakens and disempowers us.
How many times have you validated a close friend’s reactions without challenging her assumptions? How often have you made yourself “shrink” in order to fit in with others? How frequently do you avoid the difficult conversations? How many times have you, or someone you know, used humor to divert the attention away from something that may feel awkward or uncomfortable yet needs to be addressed?
Too often, we dim down our light to keep the peace. Instead of inviting someone we care about to rise to our level of awareness, we drop down to their playing field. This is because women identify so strongly with our relationships.
The old paradigm for relationships is based on the belief that: “You take care of me, watch my back and agree with me and I will hang in there with you, no matter what.” We often see this behavior exhibited in our family systems. This is outdated tribal thinking based on loyalty to the tribe versus empowerment and authenticity.
Things are changing.
Strong women need strong partnerships; partnerships that are real, where both people have the courage to speak their truth with kindness and respect, where the commitment is not to comfort, but to holding each other accountable.
If a close friend or partner has the inner strength to be honest with you, to challenge some of your assumptions, thank her! It demonstrates she cares enough about you and the integrity of the relationship to speak her truth.
In my own life, when I’m willing to have a difficult conversation with someone, I know it’s because I really care about the evolution of our connection. There have been times that the truth was more than she or he wanted to hear. And those connections drop out. But I’d rather be honest than conforming which inevitably leads to resentment. There’s nothing authentic about validating everything someone feels. That’s called the “Destructive Cheerleader” syndrome; we say “Rah, rah!” to what someone believes just so we don’t lose that person’s support.
Below is a model of the old relationship structure versus evolutionary partnerships.
OLD RELATIONSHIP PARADIGM
- Motivation is to feel safe, secure and comfortable
- Dependent and/or Co-Dependent
- Conforms to protect the security of the relationship
- Bond is based on colluding and a sense of victimhood
- Agreeing with the other person shows loyalty
- Support negative or limiting behavior
- Avoid conflict and difficult conversations
- Validates emotions without questioning assumptions
- Masculine approaches to decision making is valued more highly than those considered “feminine” (i.e., intuitive, perceptive, nurturing)
- Motivation is growth
- Interdependence and equality is key
- Authenticity and being true to one’s deeper self is essential and the relationship adjusts accordingly out of mutual respect
- Bond is based on true empowerment
- Able to see and discuss things from multiple viewpoints supports growth
- Hold each other accountable for creating a future based on integrity and evolution
- Commitment to honesty and openness based on the intention to deepen the connection
- Looks at possible meaning and challenges perceptions
- A feminine approach to decision making is valued equally both personally and professionally
Steps for activating evolving partnerships:
1. Notice the looking glass through which you relate to others.
2. Practice connecting with others without an agenda.
3. Commit to cultivating relationships based on a mutual commitment to growth and that have a shared “agreement” to this commitment. (Note: The people in your life who are not interested in growth are not candidates for this kind of agreement. There are people for whom we shift our expectations accordingly and learn to accept and love them the way they are.)
What kind of advice might a true heroine give to you about fulfilling your destiny? She would invite you to share your highest vision for your life with those who will join you in an evolving partnership. She would ask you to let them know what you are committed to and invite them to share their potentials and future they wish to create. Finally, she would encourage you to give them permission to hold you accountable as you become the heroine of your own journey.
Enjoy the journey!
*Riane Eisler will be our keynote speaker at the Central Coast Annual Women’s Symposium in San Luis Obispo, CA, on March 14, 2015. www.spiritualcircle.org/symposium
**Relationship Wisdom™ is offering a workshop on The Five Pillars of Successful Relationships on October 18th & 25th in Arroyo Grande, CA. www.spiritualcircle.org/events
Currently, I am involved in a feminine empowerment program. It is a program I chose for the continuation of my spiritual, soulful and emotional evolution. Although the course is founded in wise feminine leadership principles, the curriculum is challenging me to seriously ponder the true meaning of what American journalist and playwright, Nora Ephron, once declared: “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
It’s clear what it means to take 100% responsibility for our lives, but what exactly does it mean to be the heroine of our own lives?
Most of us are familiar with Joseph Campbell’s teaching of the “hero’s journey.” Like the main character in the film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the hero ventures forth from the world of common life into a region of supernatural wonder. There he encounters fabulous forces and a decisive victory is won. The hero returns from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
Although I have always been fascinated by the hero’s journey, I often felt something was missing. That “something” was revealed to me in 2012 when I invited Dr. Jean Houston to be the keynote speaker at the Central Coast Annual Women’s Symposium. While giving an impassioned speech based on her book The Wizard of Us, she asserted, “By the way, the heroine’s journey is very different than the hero’s journey.” Now that caught my attention. For as much as we have sometimes tried to emulate men, we women are very different.
In fact, neurobiology reveals that women’s brains are hard-wired in a uniquely different manner. Dr. Daniel Amen, who’s written over 30 books including Unleash the Power of the Female Brain (2013), shows that women’s brains are very active; the amount of blood flowing into our frontal lobes hard-wire us for collaboration, appropriate worry, intuition, self-restraint and good judgment. And most importantly, we intuitively know when something is wrong and are willing to shift gears before the Titanic hits the iceberg and sinks.
This isn’t about whether a feminine approach to life is better than a masculine one; we need a balance of both energies in order to thrive. But the heroine’s journey does differ greatly from the hero’s journey. And one of the greatest variances is how we choose to travel.
Unlike the hero who strikes out on a solo passage to conquer his demons, women recognize that stepping into their feminine power requires aligning with a collective field of support. Many of us have been trying to do “life” on our own which can only take us so far. How many times have we felt alone in trying to share our gifts with the world, overwhelmed, or unsupported by life? In order to shatter our inner glass ceilings—the limiting beliefs and behaviors that sabotage our success—we need to activate a new culture of empowerment which necessitates a shift into a collective quantum field.
It’s a known fact that geese fly 75% farther and faster when they are flying together. Solo passages cannot carry us the distance. When we are soaring as a self-actualized woman, we must activate a field of unprecedented support. This is, perhaps, the most essential part of the heroine’s journey.
We begin to create a unified field when we affirm:
I AM ALLOWING LIFE TO SUPPORT ME ON MY JOURNEY. THIS INCLUDES ALL OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE OPEN TO RECEIVING THE GIFTS I DESIRE TO CONTRIBUTE.
I AM FULLY PRESENT IN HOLDING THE SPACE FOR OTHERS TO EVOLVE AND TRANSFORM.
I AM LETTING GO OF OLD STORIES OF REGRET, SETBACKS AND DISAPPOINTMENT AND CHANNELING MY ATTENTION, INTENTION AND ENERGIES ON WHAT IS AVAILABLE FOR ME TODAY.
I invite you to step into your own heroine’s journey by bonding with others inside your identity as a powerful and resourceful woman. May we join together in support of our highest potential for loving relationships, physical health, emotional well-being, financial abundance, creativity and friendship. May we birth the seeds of our potential forward as we journey together and answer the call to our souls’ deepest purpose.
So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be really hard. We’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day…. — Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
We are offered no greater opening to know the truth of who we truly are than in relationship. Relationships are such powerful catalysts because they mirror the aspects we most need revealed for our soul growth. What we strongly react to in another, we possess within ourselves. This is projection of our shadow. Both the fear and love we see in another is the reflection of both our own humanness and divinity. Even during the most challenging times we are being given the opportunity to grow since our encounters with others are our greatest opportunities for growth.
We flourish the most when we are willing to be fully present. And yet, why is that we frequently divert onto other things when we’re around the people we love the most? How often, after many years of being together, do people simply grow apart? While counseling couples, I’ve witnessed a common theme where the woman has attended to the home and children (and, often worked), while the man has focused on earning a living, only to discover that when retirement rolls around, they no longer know each other!
People have sometimes assumed that my relationship with my husband is so good because we’re “fortunate” or just “really compatible,” when in reality, we work hard at it. We make our relationship a top priority and always have.
When our relationships become stale and predictable, we may not be honoring them for the temples of healing that they are, or, we may not be delving inward toward our soul where our passion runs deep. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a woman who was complaining that her life was lacking in pizzazz. “The 1960’s was a period with a lot more excitement. The peace marches were really something. Today’s demonstrations are boring in comparison,” she stated.
Yes, the 60’s were a time of great upheaval and change. There was a lot of trail blazing occurring which was necessary to get us where we are today. Revolutionary thinking was key during that time, but evolutionary thinking is required today. And that’s a good thing. While there was much being done on the outer planes during the 60’s, there is much being created on the inner planes today. We now understand the staggering power of our thoughts, which for many, has led to an entirely new way of being, taking action and living.
Could it be that the woman was feeling bored within her relationships including the relationship with herself? Not because there’s less excitement in the air, but simply because she may be playing it safe and not stretching beyond her comfort zones?
Abandonment, rejection, betrayal—these kinds of wounds can easily cause us to shut down emotionally. And for a period of time while we’re grieving, learning to set strong boundaries and healing, this may be exactly what’s needed. Yet if we continue living this way, we minimize our capacity for experiencing joy and intimacy.
Our deepest pain stems from withholding our love. Yes, someone may have done or said something that hurt us, but we hurt ourselves more deeply when we withhold our love. This reminds me of a beautiful quote I once read from an anonymous source that affirmed, “You can never lose by loving; you can only lose by holding back.”
Notice your relationships, especially those with people you’re closest to. Are they a priority or do you allow diversions keep you from connecting with them? This includes your family and “family” is any group of people that has joined together out of mutual respect and support of one another.
Many years ago while studying A Course in Miracles, I learned something that blew me away: What we’re most afraid of, is love. Amazing isn’t it? So many of us are longing for love and yet, at the deepest level, love is the very thing that scares us the most. This reminds me of a beautiful passage that Robert Perry, the founder of the Circle of Atonement based upon the principles of A Course in Miracles, once wrote:
Because I believe love has limits, I have come to be afraid of it: afraid it will be withdrawn, afraid of its conditions, afraid that what seems to be love is only a tease, a tantalizing promise that threatens to disappear if I misbehave. That fear, that constant anxiety over love’s potential for disappearance is the source of my lack of joy. How can I be joyful, even when things are “good,” if love may be withdrawn at any moment? This is the error of our minds we are practicing to uncover, bring to the light, and let go of. Right now, in this moment, I am encircled by Love’s embrace. Right now, without a single thing changing, Love radiates to me without limit and without reservation or question. To know this is happiness, and it is this I seek today.
The heartfelt wisdom of these words is a powerful reminder for each of us. Despite all of the “stuff” we may experience with another, only the love is real, it’s all that remains when everything is said and done. Dare to go beyond your fear and embrace the love available to you with all of your heart and soul. The power of love is staggering; it has the ability to heal addictions, cure disease, transform past pain into present happiness, and dramatically shift the situation that exists within the world today. Love is the glue that holds our universe together and is the reason we exist. Never underestimate its potency or presence; it’s inside of you, it’s inside of me, it’s everywhere.
© Copyright 2014 Laura Grace. All Rights Reserved.
The New Year has long been associated with renewal and rebirth. In a number of North American Indian languages, the term “world” means “cosmos” and is also used to describe a new year. The Yokuts (native to Central California) might say that “the world has passed,” meaning “a year has gone by.” The cosmos is seen as a living entity that is born, evolves, then dies on the last day of the year, only to be reborn on New Year’s Day.
This time of the year has always been very special for me since my birthday falls at the beginning of the year. As December unfolds, I harness my strongest manifesting skills by paying particularly close attention to my night-time dreams. Working with my dreams creates a powerful space for change and transformation to occur in the New Year.
This winter I am working with a dream that has been most compelling. It is a snake-dream. The same snake has appeared in three different dreams the past few months. Because I’ve always been afraid of snakes, the first one was troubling and frightening, and this makes sense considering that through the ages, “snake” has received a very bad rap. In fact, the snake is one of the least understood Biblical symbols. Snake has frequently been depicted as evil and the cause for our human desires and temptations. For heaven’s sake, the snake was even blamed for tempting Eve which led to the downfall of paradise! Unfortunately, the shadow aspects of sexual repression, temptation and sexual guilt have tainted the deeper meaning of this amazing creature.
Because my Dream Tending™ teacher, Dr. Stephen Aizenstat, Co-Founder and Chancellor of Pacifica Graduate Institute, taught me to always ask the dream image: “Who is visiting now?” I felt drawn to inquire the snake about its presence. This charged question implies a familiarity with the dream image, as though it has appeared myriad times, dressed in different forms, with a similar assignment: Something very important is about to happen—or—is happening so WAKE UP!
Taking this urgency to heart, I journaled about the snake, my snake, which wasn’t just some boring brown common snake, but the green diamond back rattle snake. I thought to myself: Good grief, are you “visiting” me because of repressed sexual desires or fears, some generational sexual wounds that several women in my family have suffered from, or, are you here to reveal the plight of the unresolved sexual issues of the collective unconscious? Isn’t everyone in our culture suffering from some form of Puritanical sexual guilt?
As my confusion escalated, I recalled that some ancient cultures frequently refer to the serpent as being the most universal and auspicious archetype, one that symbolizes rebirth and transformation. I found solace in reading Mary Ellen O’Hare-Lavin’s review of The Practice of Dream Healing: Bringing Ancient Greek Mysteries into Modern Medicine, where she discusses the healing, light-filled image of the snake:
The chthonic serpent image is an ancient one, utilized even earlier than Asklepius. Our healing ancestors were less interested in a “Higher Power.” The serpent image was used to represent a connection with both the upper world and the underworld. The serpent is a shape shifter and it journeys below the earth’s surface (a.k.a. underworld) as well as bathes in the sunlight of the upper world. In the Asklepian tradition it represented the healing and shedding of old skins for new ones.
As I continue to delve into the snake dream image via journaling, drawing the image, and through a process called Embodied Dream Tending™, my snake dreams are evolving. The snake has shape-shifted itself from scarily circulating itself around my shoulders (Dream number 1), to sliding up next to me and laying still as I rest my hand against its head (Dream number 2), to transforming itself into a beautiful, verdant plant (Dream number 3).
Just as we are familiar with the serpent wrapped around the staff carried by the ancient Greek healer, Asklepius, snake now appears in my dreams symbolizing light and dark, spirit and soul, rebirth and transformation. Gone is the old fear based on some much distorted Biblical and societal perceptions.
In fact, Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian-American archeologist, excavated hundreds of figurines from around the world and discovered a snake goddess figurine from the Palm of Knossos, Crete that dates back to 1,500 B.C.E. This powerful female figure holds a snake in each hand demonstrating healing traits: fertility, rebirth and transformation. Such a positive perspective can be seen throughout the ancient Greek’s view of how they regarded snakes as sacred. Instead of fearing them, they were used in restorative rituals and even the venom was used for healing. Not to mention the way snake represents Kundalini, a Sanskrit word meaning “coiling like a snake.” Kundalini or “serpent power” can rise during deep meditation, up through the chakras, bringing a devotee to full spiritual awakening.
It’s not surprising that the snake has been visiting me lately during dream-time. I started a doctoral program in the field of Depth Psychology and Somatic Studies a few months ago and to say it’s been life-changing is putting it mildly. It’s been forcing me to face all aspects of myself, especially my shadow-side. And like the snake, I see how all images—like all people—possess both dark and light. Dream images are gifts that our psyche is offering us. Marion Woodman, a mytho-poetic author, women’s movement figure and Jungian analyst reminds us that honoring our dreams and their images creates a life-changing relationship with the unconscious and our psyches.
Dream images have the capacity to pave the way to your transformation. As you create a vision for the New Year, your dreams can reveal beliefs and perceptions that are limiting you. These may appear as “shadow” dream images, yet they are meant to help you, not frighten you. The snarling dog or fanged snake is calling for your attention. In fact, the more disturbing the dream images may appear, the more powerful they are. James Hillman, in his book Dream Animals once wrote:
Our dreams recover what the world forgets…The dream animal shows us that the imagination has jaws and paws, that it can wake us in the night with panic and terror or move us to tears…and see their living forms so that we respond to them with the gift of intelligence.
Further, not only do dream images possess the power to help us grow and transform, they have the ability to be our “daimon,” an ancient Greek word for “protective spirit.” In his book The Dream and the Underworld, Hillman states: “Each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny. As the force of fate, this image acts as a personal daimon, an accompanying guide who remembers your calling.”
As I continue to connect with the snake during dream-time, my fear is transforming into trust and faith. The snake who now visits has shifted from something disturbing and scary, to being my daimon, a protective escort who is more than happy to guide me on my journey. This hasn’t happened easily nor has it happened over night. It has taken months of committed effort to embrace the snake and open myself to its deeper meaning. True growth and transformation requires persistence and patience and dream work entails the same stamina. But it’s worth it, it’s worth every bit.
What might your night-time dreams be telling you? Are there any specific images that call to you? Dreams unfold in what is called the “imaginal” realm. The Sufis speak of the imaginal realm as alam al-mithal. In Hebrew, it is called the olam hamashal. It is the realm of imagination, archetypes and dreams.
May you find soulful guidance from your dreams as you journey through the New Year. In Numerology, the year 2014 reduces to “7” which represents spirituality, science and solitude. It’s a wonderful time to reflect on what matters the most to your soul, psyche and spirit. It’s also the perfect time to set your intention to remember your dreams, to write them down and allow them to reveal their gifts of wisdom.
“Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.”
— Kahlil Gibran
Feeling gratitude toward all that we have and all that we are leads to a gracious heart. Being gracious toward others and ourselves speaks of a rich spirit, abundant mind, and inner power that can heal relationships and create inner peace that extends throughout the world. Being expansive validates our worth and reminds us that we deserve to experience all that our heart desires.
Further, gratitude—versus judgment—allows us to forgive ourselves and others for past mistakes. Healing and awakening requires forgiveness. Without forgiveness we end up distorted with guilt. Forgiveness gently connects to us our deepest self — love — and the love within another. It inspires us to relish all the wonderful aspects of our life, which in turn, allows more love to pour forth, creating a consistent wellspring of balance, happiness and peace.
As we enter into the time of thanksgiving, let us be reminded to give thanks for all of the love we have received as well as the love we have given. I’m reminded of a story I once read involving a group of geography students who were studying the Seven Wonders of the World. At the end of the lesson, the students were asked to list what they considered to be the Seven Wonders of the World. Though there was some disagreement, the following got the most votes:
1. Egypt’s Great Pyramids, 2. Taj Mahal, 3. Grand Canyon, 4. Panama Canal, 5. Empire State Building, 6. St. Peter’s Basilica, 7. China’s Great Wall.
While gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one student, a quiet girl, hadn’t turned in her paper yet. She asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list.
The quiet girl replied, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there were so many.”
The teacher said, “Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help.” The girl hesitated, then read, “I think the Seven Wonders of the World are: 1. To touch, 2. To taste, 3. To see, 4. To hear.” She hesitated a little, and then said: “5. To run, 6. To laugh, and 7. To love.”
As I read about the suffering that super typhoon Haiyan has caused, I’m reminded that we can be another “wonder of the world” right now. Reaching out with love to comfort the countless victims in the Philippines is a wonderful thing, every bit as much as nature’s wonders. And as we join our minds and appreciate our lives, we become miracle workers capable of creating wondrous results.
May your gratitude-filled heart be reminded today of those things which are truly wondrous.
Copyright Laura Grace. All Rights Reserved
All endings are inexorably tied to new beginnings. That’s the nature of the journey. It continues to unfold. It builds on itself. It can’t help itself from doing that. Cherish the moments, all of them. You have seen and felt much in life so far. But still, the best is yet to come. -Melody Beattie
Letting go is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges we face. Our egos easily and all too eagerly attach to things, people, and outcome. Letting go of these attachments can be painful, particularly when we can’t see what’s ahead. Throughout the years, many clients have shared how they have a “back-up person” waiting in the wings just in case their current relationship ends. The fear of the unknown (and being alone), for some, creates feelings that are intolerable. Having “plan B” in place may mitigate some of the fear, but it doesn’t address the real fear: letting go.
I have always found the metaphor of a closed fist and open hand helpful; a closed fist represents our resistance to letting go, while an open hand symbolizes our willingness to embrace the present and future. Moving from a closed fist to an open hand is a process. It requires patience and the willingness to release what no longer serves us. The choice to let go allows us to follow the pathway to our soul.
Life is a series of things to let go of–our friends and loved ones, our children as they grow, our youth, our perceptions of ourselves. In my own life, I have found myself having to let go more these past few years than ever before. In the last year, I have been faced with letting go of my daughter, yet again. The first time was when she graduated from high school and moved away on her 18th birthday, the second time was when I moved from Michigan to California, and then last year, after having moved to California and only living 5 hours away, she relocated back to Michigan. I’ve also faced other losses including the death of my father and letting go of a very beloved pet more recently. Was any of this easy? No. In fact, I’m still working my way through some of it. But, I’m discovering that as long as I keep an open hand (and heart), my experience of letting go is much less stressful. In fact, I remain inspired to let go, knowing that I’m clearing the pathway for my soul to continue its journey and fulfill its destiny.
What do you need to let go of? Perhaps there is a self-limiting or destructive pattern that needs to be released, or maybe you feel compelled to pursue a dream that requires letting go of the work you’re currently performing. The important thing to remember is that no matter how daunting it may feel, you possess an inner strength and courage that is greater than any situation. Courage is about letting go and moving forward, not in the absence of fear, but in the presence of it. When you realize the inner power you possess, you can let go of your attachments. This doesn’t mean that you don’t work your hardest for the highest outcome, but rather, that you do your best and leave the rest to Spirit.
What is it time to release? You have two choices; you can either try to hold onto the past with a closed fist, or you can choose to embrace today with an open hand. As you already know, the former will cause you (and others) unnecessary pain and suffering, while the latter might trigger some fear of the unknown, yet provide rich, new experiences for your heart and soul. Which will you choose?
Affirmations for Letting Go
The past is over; I plan for tomorrow and live for today.
All my experiences are allowing me to become a stronger and wiser person.
As I let go of attachments, I create room for fulfilling and soulful experiences.
I let go easily for I trust that new and exciting opportunities are on their way.
Copyright Laura Grace. All Rights Reserved
As I concluded my interview at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, I walked around the campus and saw how the buildings sat directly between the mountains and the sea. When I commented on this, the faculty member replied, “Yes, healing sanctuaries are called Asclepions, dedicated to Asclepius, the god of healing and medicine. They were established throughout Greece, usually in settings of awe-inspiring natural beauty and scenic grandeur, and the ideal settings were between the mountains and the ocean just like our campus.”
That was the end of March, 2013. Today, I am less than two weeks away from beginning a doctoral program in Depth Psychology and Somatic Studies that will take me roughly five years to complete. After devoting myself to providing spiritual direction and healing the past twenty years, I am now adding another potent layer to that foundation which almost feels like a reinvention: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, even physically.
Recent research shows the amount of women entering their “second act” and/or reinventing themselves is on the rise, especially for women over forty-five. Why? There are many reasons, from women who have experienced a significant change in their job, income or marriage, to women who are ready to stop taking care of others and ready to fulfill their soul’s deeper purpose.
And then, for others, like me, it’s quite simply: GROW OR DIE. It is said that an organism at a steady state is never closer to death. It’s the ultimate stagnation for our mind, body, spirit and soul. The definition of stagnant is “Not moving or flowing; motionless. Foul or stale from standing as in a stagnant pond. Showing little or no sign of activity or advancement; not developing or progressing.”
We either grow or we die.
Some people have questioned why I would make such a big commitment at this point in my life. And my response is: “I have years of life lessons that provide a strong foundation, and at this age, ‘If not now, when?’ Yes, I’ll be 5 years older by the time I graduate, but I’m going to be 5 years older anyway, so why not pursue something I’m passionate about and attain my Ph.D. along the way? Besides, the journey it requires to get there is what excites me the most. It will be soulful, demanding and spiritual—qualities that have always appealed to my deeper self.
Carrying unfulfilled dreams in our soul can be very painful. If you’re feeling stagnant or at a place where you are considering reinventing yourself, here are some thoughts to consider:
• After all of the life experiences you’ve had so far, what do you want more than anything right now? It may help to imagine fast forwarding to the end of your life and looking back. What does your soul need to feel that you lived life fully, richly, deeply? The trick is to release the opinions of others and identify what you truly want.
• Do you need to forgive yourself and others for the past? Resentments way us down and prevent us from moving forward. Take time to release yourself from regrets and past mistakes as well as what you perceive others have done to you.
• Accept that change is scary. Whether it’s “good” change or “bad” change, all change affects our nervous system and can be very challenging. Allow yourself to feel the fear, and then take action. Taking a step forward often alleviates the anxiety.
• Surround yourself with people who support your growth. “Wet blankets” dampen our spirit as much as our enthusiasm. When we are in a mode of change, we need all of the positive energy and support possible. Like a newborn, our new beginnings need to be protected, fed and nurtured.
• Engage in self-care. During the process of reinvention, it is important to care for one’s self and to be compassionate during the transformation.
• Re-invent, Re-vitalize, Re-launch and keep going!
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to listen to author, visionary and vocalist, David Ault, sing and speak. He is a very loving soul and his words touched me deeply. About the same time, David created an inspiring message for Independence Day. It’s titled “I Pledge Allegiance” and I share it with you now as we embrace the TRUE meaning of freedom on July 4th, 2013.
I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE
by David Ault
I pledge allegiance to breaking the self-imposed barriers of my humanness. I recognize that my time on this planet is precious and limited. Every day is a canvas on which I can create. Everyday is an opportunity for me to move in the direction of the dreams and the expanded vision I feel inside. By setting aside petty grievances, past mistakes, righteous anger and my broken story, I pledge to move forward and embrace the experience of freedom right here and right now.
I pledge allegiance to the expression of my spiritual honesty. I fully own the fact that my presence here in this body and on this earth is a celebration of uniqueness and importance. Creation makes no mistakes. I am a creation of life, of a higher power, of perfection. My reason for being here matters in the grand divine plan. I must be honest with my contract of life and walk the path of my destiny with conviction, purpose and grace.
I pledge allegiance to the quiet soldier within. I understand that the championing spirit that is already cellularly alive inside of me, that was already in place at the time of my birth, waits patiently for my current belief about myself to join it in its knowing. I march forward towards a history of my own making, wisely, lovingly choosing the means by which I spread my beliefs and convictions. I never make others wrong for their chosen path for I recognize the innumerable roads that lead to the One.
I pledge allegiance to a partnership with divinity. I choose to see others and myself from eyes that already view the wholeness and perfection within. I do not entertain our past damage or encourage us to identify with it for I trust that a grander calling card has been printed for us to distribute in promoting our lives. I champion all of us to celebrate what is working rather than what isn’t.
I pledge allegiance to wise discernment, knowing when to speak and when to remain quiet, knowing when to comfort and when to leave alone, knowing when to intervene and when to avoid rescuing and interfering.
I pledge allegiance to people and projects of substance. I cannot travel this road alone. If there is anything we as a species need, it is each other. I actively choose to support those whose work I believe in with my time, talent and treasure. I joyously give to those whose intention and purpose is for self-empowerment and the awakening of humanity to its personal magnificence. I rally to make others aware of such light bearers and do what I can to support them in furthering their vision.
I pledge allegiance to the freedom from comparison. I once and for all lay down my wearisome, stale beliefs of unworthiness and not being good enough. I know that my past does not define who I am. I am forever evolving, growing and learning. I recognize that I am a marvel. I now choose opportunities to let my voice be heard; to let my light shatter the darkness of futility so that every personal dream is explored.
I pledge allegiance in knowing that things are not always as they seem. Just because something can’t be seen with the physical eye or rationalized by our current mode of understanding does not negate its existence. Understanding the difference between reality and illusion, I move into a fuller acceptance of the non-physical the mystical, intuitive, soul aspect of living that expands my consciousness and deepens my days.
I pledge allegiance to actions that fulfill the greatest good for all. By becoming a gatekeeper of compassion, tolerance and love, I move into a fuller conviction of pure intent with regard to the words that I speak and the choices that I make. I pursue a win-win in all activities of life.
I pledge allegiance to those who have gone before me, the ancestral lineage whose courage, sacrifice and conviction still live in my bones. I honor the privileges given to me today because of the sweat from their pioneering efforts and the fortitude of their convictions. I give thanks for my responsibility in creating the same for future generations.
I pledge allegiance to a love that has no agenda. I no longer choose to give for what I might get, to manipulate in order to control, to abandon before I can be abandoned, to tolerate because there are seemingly no other options. I choose to love as a way of being. I am content in my choice whether outside circumstances respond or not. In being love, I create fulfillment above and beyond what the human condition can provide.
I pledge allegiance to the sacredness of laughter, knowing that the greatest healing force that exists reverberates from the vibration of this holy and irreplaceable gift. I allow humor, joy and eruptions of laughter to make their home in my heart. I let my physical body respond to the sacred stimulus and biological wonder that laughter creates and vow to keep this attribute alive and thriving all the days of my life.
I think very few of those who have lost their beloved have failed to receive some sign or message from them in dreams, and often it is of deep biding and consolation. – William Dean Howells
Night-time dreams have been a significant part of my life since I was a small child. As I write this, I’m in the fourth week of teaching a dream course with a passionate group of dreamers. Each week, I find great joy in hearing their dreams as we delve together into a powerful and healing process called “Dream Tending.” In this unique manner of tending to dream, a healing we call “medicine” reveals itself through the dream.
Earlier this morning, I had such a dream. My father, who passed away ten years ago, appeared in what is called a reassurance dream. This is one of the four different kinds of healing dreams that can occur with the deceased: the message dream, the visitation dream, the reassurance dream and the trauma dream. My father, sensing I could use some comfort right now, came during dream time so he could give me a big hug. I was so happy to see him. He gently reminded me that he couldn’t stay long, but that he was there for me. He recognized that it has been particularly painful with a family member who is struggling with some mental and emotional disorders and that I was not alone. I awoke feeling comforted, reassured and strengthened by his presence.
Dreams like this one are immensely healing. They have the power to make sorrow less painful, to repair and restore harmony and to bring a sense of wholeness into our lives. Further, visitations such as the one I experienced are quite common. Sometimes they occur when we are grieving the loss of a loved one and the loved one appears to reassure us that they are okay. Other times, we may be seeking some guidance about an issue and the deceased delivers an important message.
If you have ever been visited by a loved one who is now deceased, remember that it is a powerful gift. There is always something of value that you can be gained from the dream. Here are some tips on how you can heal, grow and evolve from such dreams:
1. Write the dream down. Notice the landscape. (Landscapes are frequently overlooked.) Are you indoors? Outdoors? Daytime? Nighttime? What do you see, smell, hear or touch?
2. Share your dream with someone you trust. By sharing the dream, you will re-experience the positive qualities that you felt during the dream. I am very blessed to have a life partner that I can share my dreams with every morning when we walk our dog. By sharing my dream with a loved one, I have been able to retain the feeling of comfort and will recall the feeling when I need it in the future.
3. Select a tangible dream image that stands out in the dream. Make this image visible in your daily life. You will feel the positive effect of the dream as you keep the image nearby. For example, one dreamer I worked with remembered an orange scarf that her deceased mother wore during a visitation dream. The dreamer went and bought an orange scarf and kept it nearby. It became her “touchstone” and empowered her whenever she was in doubt or felt anxiety in her waking life.
Our psyche never stops dreaming. We are all dream keepers, whether we focus on night-time dreams or day dreams. May your dreams remain alive and gently awaken you as you record them, share them and let them reveal the gifts they hold for you.
If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you’, that would suffice. – Meister Eckhart
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. November is a special time to dig deep within our hearts and express gratitude for all the blessings in our lives. To be grateful is to accept the “Great Fullness.” The more we are grateful, the more we have to be grateful for.
Recent research has shown gratitude to:
- Relieve Stress (and keep in mind that stress is the number one cause of illness in our culture)
- Boost the Immune System
- Increase Alertness, Enthusiasm, Optimism, and Energy
- Reduce Depression
- Improve Overall Health and Well-Being
- Increase Spiritual Awareness, Regardless of “Religion”
- Enhance Sleep Quality
- Improve the Quality of Relationships
And, the really good news is that further research has shown that it only takes 60 seconds a day for gratitude to improve our lives.
Despite my belief in the power of gratitude, unfortunately, there are days I neglect to express it. Needless to say, those are not my best days. Yet the days I do take a few minutes to express my gratitude, no matter what happens, I feel more content, peaceful and optimistic.
I am blessed to have a gratitude teacher (she doesn’t know she’s my teacher). Most mornings, I begin my day along the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. While sitting on the sand, I watch my teacher as she and her yellow lab move down the beach. They move very, very slowly. The woman appears to have had a stroke. Yet every day she rides her electric wheelchair down to the beach, while carefully holding onto the leash of her beloved dog. Then, with great effort, she lifts herself out of the wheelchair and forces herself to take one itty-bitty step at a time. It sometimes takes her an hour just to walk a few yards.
One particularly dreary morning, which matched my mood, I began observing my gratitude teacher walking with her dog. I watched closely as the woman made a herculean effort down the sand. Her dog, unlike most dogs that sprint and chase after the gulls, waited ever so patiently as the woman painstakingly took baby-steps. About thirty minutes later, noticing they had only covered a few feet, I realized I had never witnessed such loving patience. My heart swelled with profound gratitude for the dog’s love for his owner and for the woman’s persistence and tenacity. Suddenly there wasn’t room in my heart for both gratitude and gloom. Something had to give. So I took out my phone and snapped a photo of the amazing couple. Although they were hard to see from where I was sitting, their silhouettes stood proud and strong. To this day, the picture reminds me that gratitude is all encompassing and is a state of grace.
Here are some ways to allow gratitude to become a state of grace:
- Keep a gratitude journal. I know you’ve heard this advice before, but it really does work. At the beginning of each day, write down 3-5 things you are grateful for. Then “book end” the day by writing 3-5 things you are thankful for from that same day. Simplicity is key; your baby’s smile, a gentle breeze, a colorful sunset or your best friend’s laughter. Relish the feeling you get when remembering and writing it down.
- Express your gratitude. Take the time to share your feelings. Not the simple, polite “thank you,” but the heartfelt emotions. Tell your friend how her support and sense of humor helps you get through tough times, how much it means to you. Don’t take your loved ones for granted. Let them know how much you love them and why.
- Look for what is right about a situation, not what’s wrong. You may be frustrated by your spouse’s clothes on the floor, but thankfully you have a lot of love in your life. The environment is being over developed at alarming rates, but there is still beauty in every living tree, flower and bird.
- Practice gratitude with your family and friends. At dinner, encourage each family member to report one thing that happened that day, something they feel grateful for. Send a “gratitude text” to a friend, and while you’re at it, send one to yourself—writing what you appreciate about yourself will give you an immediate and positive boost!