The Heart of Forgiveness

Iyanla Vanzant (image from Huffington Post)
Iyanla Vanzant (image from Huffington Post)

I just finished the six-week online course on forgiveness given by Iyanla Vanzant and hosted by the Oprah.com website. She is one of the amazing life coaches/spiritual gurus Oprah Winfrey has introduced to a wider audience through her old network TV show and more recently through the OWN network. I have completed my own work on the topic of forgiveness and developed my own forgiveness practice, and have used what I’ve learned to help clients struggling with this same issue. I have a couple of forgiveness meditations I play during life-coaching and/or Reiki healing sessions to help open clients to this topic and to open this door to healing. One of the meditations goes through a series of visualizations and towards the end of the meditation, calls for you to breathe out forgiveness. I was surprised to notice with a number of clients that as soon as they were asked to do this – breathe out forgiveness – they stopped breathing. That their body, mind and spirit locked down their breathing…like they were saying “forgive you, no way, I’m not breathing out forgiveness, forget that, I am holding on with all my might “. When I asked these people after the session was complete whether they were aware they stopped breathing when they were asked to breathe out forgiveness, each and every person was not aware they had stopped breathing. It’s an amazing testament to how tightly and closely we hold our hurts, our stories about what has happened to us in our life, and unforgiveness inside of us. When I saw the opportunity to learn more on this topic through a six-week online course with Iyanla I jumped at the chance, thinking it would be beneficial to use with my clients who really struggle with letting go of their hurts and opening to forgiveness.

From Etsy.com
From Etsy.com

My understanding of forgiveness has evolved over time. I can remember reading the Dalai Lama’s book the Wisdom of Forgiveness many years ago and struggling to understand how Tibetan monks could feel compassion and forgiveness for the military personal who harmed them and their fellow monks. I wondered how you get to that place. I later realized that forgiveness had absolutely nothing to do with the people who hurt you – it was all about you. It was not about blaming or being vindicated but about acknowledging, releasing and finding your peace independent of anyone else. As I developed my own forgiveness practice and discovered a healed and neutral state of mind with old hurts, I also came to understand that you really had to be ready to surrender and be tired or sick enough of your story in order to be ready to forgive. That you had to get to that point where you really were so very tired of reliving the past, the hurts, the pain, going back there again and again, and defining yourself by your past and story, and that you were truly willing to surrender and change. Forgiveness work ventures into some uncomfortable territory dealing with an unearthing old feelings, memories, and triggers your ego, so in order to be willing to go there and be in that space you have to be sufficiently motivated by your goal of healing and learning to see your life through different eyes.

With my healing practice, I encounter people who cling strongly to their stories of what happened to them, defining themselves by their wounds and their past, instead of who they currently are. It’s our ego’s way of trying to protect us from similar hurts and taking us out of the present moment and getting us to believe that our past is more important than where we are right now. Of course what is interesting is how despite the seemingly protective nature of this mechanism, we end up repeating the pattern of our hurts over and over again when we hold onto unforgiveness, attracting the same hurts or types of people into our lives, allowing the same unhealthy behaviors into our life, and reliving and re-experiencing the same emotional hurts again and again.

So I embarked on this course believing that this work would be of benefit to me as a healer and life coach when working with my clients. I am a pretty self-aware person and have done quite a bit of forgiveness work and wasn’t at Stage One but of course found I had more uncovering and releasing to do to let some old wounds heal. As someone who has completed previous work and guided clients on this topic, I thought I would share my perspectives on forgiveness after completing this course. I would also like to share some of my favorite messages from this course that may inspire you, a reader looking for more on this topic, or one of my clients who is starting to work on or just struggling with the task of forgiveness.

My Viewpoints on Forgiveness

I have always loved Oprah Winfrey’s definition of forgiveness:

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.”

That I believe is at the heart of forgiveness. Letting go of the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual anguish and torture of thinking about why did this happen, how could this have happened to me, how would my life have turned out differently if this didn’t happen to me, how could have I prevented this, or why didn’t anyone help me, and so on..”. Those thoughts just deepen the pain we experience.
In the forgiveness course, Iyanla shared the Byron Katie principle that “to deny reality, is to create suffering”. Byron Katie’s book “Loving What Is” helps guide the reader, by sharing many examples we can relate to of how when we project our beliefs and ideas of how people and the world should work or how we were wronged or treated unfairly, we create suffering for ourselves. Instead we can choose to love what is and understand that other people have different values and different ways of viewing situations and the world than we do. What unnecessary struggle and pain we create when we deny who people or situations really are or were . This concept also ties into Oprah’s definition of forgiveness, that to not accept what happened or wish it would have happened differently, just creates suffering….for you. Not for the person or people who hurt you, but for you.

forgiveness quoteNow forgiveness work is not for the faint of heart. The C.S. Lewis quote above is so true. To do this work you need to be brutally honest with yourself and not deny the reality of what happened in your life, your role in things, your beliefs, judgments, and decisions that led you down your path. If we are just starting this work we may be in denial of what we experienced not wanting to label people in our life as “bad”. Often, we have a strong tendency to grasp tightly onto our hurts and upsets in our life, filled with a fear of letting go of them and also with a fear of facing them head on. We think that if we let go of our upsets that it will lessen or invalidate what we experienced; or, we think that if we are giving in and giving up our feelings and beliefs of being wronged, that we are somehow condoning what a person or people did to us. There is also an internal struggle with our ego – a perceived risk that we will have no idea who we are anymore if we let go of our hurts and upsets because we (our ego) defines ourselves so strongly by them . Why is it that we think by holding onto and defining ourselves by our hurts, waving it like a flag proudly, that it affects or has any impact on the people who hurt us? After they hurt us, they moved on, while we go on to continue with suffering from what happened and re-experience the hurt. We seek outside validation, sharing our story, feeding off of reactions and validation that what happened to us was horrible, gaining sympathy, or resonance. But what if instead you just released your story, took the lessons from it and saw how they molded you into the person you are today, this strong, resilient person (even if you don’t see that) who survived their past, and started living in the present as the you of today – not who you were yesterday. How exciting and freeing that would be to start to embrace life from a point of excitement of not knowing what was around the corner and being delighted rather than scared of that – trusting the Universe has positive things in store for you. What about just starting a new narrative of who you are now and throwing away that old story? Letting go of the negative emotions and energy that weigh you down and starting to feel the positive energy of life and emotions you’ve forgotten. Starting to see yourself in a loving and forgiving light instead of beating yourself up for your self-imposed shortcomings, limitations, or flaws or things you could have done differently.

healed_heart
Image from godguysandthegoodlife.blogspot.com

Forgiveness is clearly not about saying whatever happened to you was okay, acceptable, or right. People experience some horrific things in their life. It’s not about saying that you are alright with the people who hurt or wronged you. It’s about freeing yourself from old beliefs and judgments so you can start to let your wounds heal instead of keeping them open, and reopening them again and again, and experiencing those negative emotions again and again. It’s about seeing you can change by embarking on a healing journey of forgiveness and truly let your past be the past and seeing yourself and others in a new loving light. Starting to unclasp your hands from your story and open to just being present and just being you.

The process of forgiveness followed by Iyanla’s course allows the participant to review the upsets in their life and emotions with them, to forgive others and themselves for their part in the upsets, their judgements, beliefs, and to liberate themselves from their stories. It has a strong spiritual basis, which I love, including content from the Course of Miracles, and connecting with Spirit, shifting your energy, and trusting the Universe and your guides on your healing path. Much thought and effort went into the course content, format, videos and supporting materials provided in the online course. They definitely had some top-notch people working on the content and presentation. Taking the course, I was awed how I could accept the Buddhist concept that a thought is just a thought and can create suffering or eliminate it if you release it, but I never thought of major upsets in my life as simply thoughts that I could choose to let go of. What a liberating concept. I also love that there were six weeks dedicated to this concept and that it wasn’t glossed over. There is online access “forever” for this course, so for those who are just starting to scratch the surface, you could go back again and again and peel those layers of your “onion” (a great analogy for healing) and get more and more out of the process, as you develop and release on your healing path. Another amazing observation I  and friends or clients who took the course made is that upsets from totally different facets and times of our life, which seemed absolutely and completely unrelated, created the exact same emotional response – it was the exact same type of upset. Kudos to Iyanla and her team for creating such an invaluable healing tool. I know some of the concepts I’ve learned will be of great benefit to my clients and valuable additions to my daily spiritual routine.

A quote of great truth from the first lesson was that unforgiveness is an act of violence against yourself. That is not an exaggeration. It seems shocking but think about it. What does unforgiveness do to you, your heart, the way you see yourself and the world, and what mind space does it keep you in? Start working on forgiveness if you are holding onto hurts from the past, through a course like this, by reading a book (Iyanla has published a book on this topic), getting a forgiveness-based treatment (like a Reiki ties-that-bind session), or seeing a therapist or life coach to help you work through and release your upsets. This kind of work raises your frequency to a higher level so you can manifest more love, happiness, and peace in your life. You can start simply with just making it a daily practice to forgive those in your life and yourself for little daily annoyances or things that happened in your day so you start to learn that forgiveness really isn’t that hard and let the healing begin.

The Importance of Shielding

Image from http://www.vishwaamara.com
Image from http://www.vishwaamara.com

 Overview

When I work on clients I sometimes sense that they need to work on shielding or protecting their energy field.   The purpose of shielding is twofold: first, to keep our positive energy raised and intact; and, second, to block negative energy from people or situations that either drain us of positive energy or bring negative energy into our aura or spaces. The practice of shielding is based on intention and visualization and is powerful and empowering.  The practice can be quite simple but should be repeated twice a day (first thing in the morning and at night) to be effective.

  The Underlying Concept

Image from pleiadedolphininfos.blogspot.com
Image from pleiadedolphininfos.blogspot.com

Let’s reflect on the quote on the right from physicist Nikola Tesla which states “If you wish to understand the Universe, think of energy, frequency, and vibration”.  The need for shielding is the recognition that all things in this universe are made of energy and that energy transfers that can occur between people and other people and their environments.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I feel drained after being around particular people or situations?
  • Do I sometimes find after I am around certain people who are negative or complaining that my mood has changed from a positive to negative?
  • If someone tells me a sad story do I begin to feel their sadness (feel tears forming) even if I don’t know the people involved or am not directly affected?
  • Can I pick up on someones’ moods or a mood in a room easily without a word being said?
  • When I am in a crowd attending an event or going about my day do I get overwhelmed and tired?
  • Do I sometimes find after spending time in a toxic environment or situation I feel toxic or not well?
  • Am I in a lot of co-dependent or toxic relationships?
  • Do I have a hard time saying no or setting boundaries with people?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions you would benefit from practicing shielding.

 

My Observations on Shielding

Image from www.motivateus.com
Image from http://www.motivateus.com

Some people will be more sensitive to taking on negative energy or losing positive energy than others.  People that are empaths tend to be emotional sponges taking up the energy of whatever or whomever they are around.  Those are also those with emotional wounds or physical injuries/traumas may have breaks or holes in their aura that allow this energy transfer process to happen more easily.

When I work on my clients I will often see signs that they either have picked up foreign energy or have what will I describe as an energy drain or leak.  It might be foreign energy the have internalized that they picked up from another person,  it might be a residue of negative energy from other people or stressful situations just outside their auric body, a weak or “drained” chakra, or a coloured energy cord to another person that leaves their body.  When I share my observations with them they will usually know exactly who it is that they took on energy of or who is taking energy away from them or as they often describe, “sucking the life” out of them.

It’s not uncommon to see or hear about these same symptoms in other practitioners or students who come to see me for treatments.  They will work on someone with a physical ailment and then later feel the same pain in their own body, even though they don’t have a history of an injury or problem and it later goes away. This is why I have added this concept to my Level Two Reiki course. Shielding is especially important for people working in the health and wellness field. Often empaths are drawn into this field because they want to help and heal others (e.g., counsellors, teachers, nurses, doctors, or other healing modalities).

Some people will ask “Do I really need shielding? I’m a positive person focused on positive things”.  My answer is yes you absolutely do.  Many of us are working so hard to raise our frequency and seeking more positivity and happiness, so why would you want to let disbelief or naiveté about a concept limit you?  Be open-minded,  give it a try, and see how it feels for you when you start to shield. Do you start to notice you can be around people who formerly completely drained you and now you feel less drained or no different from right before you spent time around them.

It is also important to note that shielding yourself from negative people or situations does not create a barrier to taking in positive energy. You are still open to connecting with people in positive loving ways.

Shielding Exercises

The key to shielding is to find an exercise that resonates or feels right for you.

Image from www.astraldynamics.com
Image from http://www.astraldynamics.com

A simple shielding exercise is to picture yourself surrounded with white or pink light. Use whatever colour appeals to you. You can do this in the morning and ask any negative low-frequency energy to be cleared away.  Set whatever intention you wish for either in your mind or out loud.  During the day when you are around people or situations that drain you can can visualize the shield circling around you. You can even envision your office space or home space being shielded with the same light.  At night before bed, you can ask any negative energy you picked up to be cleared away and then picture yourself being wrapped in a protective loving light. It’s a lovely way to fall asleep.

I teach a more detailed shielding exercise in my Reiki Level Two class, which I use twice daily myself.  You can find similar meditations on YouTube as well.  Just remember to explore until you find something that feels right for you.

You can also use this shielding practice to gain awareness about the nature of your energy exchange in your relationships with others.  It can help you identify relationships or situations that are not “healthy”.

I’d love to hear from you on your experiences with shielding. Namaste.

 

 

 

 

Guide to Being Grounded

Introduction

When I work with clients during a Reiki session and scan their bodies,  I often am often guided to their feet. Energy build-up in this area is a sign that they are spending too much time in their head and require grounding.  When I share this observation with clients, they will share how unhappy and stressful they are being trapped in their mind and thoughts and will often ask me what can I do to ground myself?

The practice of grounding ourselves means just that – getting out of our minds and back into our bodies. It brings us back into the present moment. It allows us to shut off the narrative of worry, fear, and doubt or other negative thoughts in our mind and just “be”.  Being present and grounded allows us to find peace and happiness and gratitude in the present moment – instead of being lost in past regrets or fear-based future forecasting.

Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh (Image from drivingpeace.com)
Image from Etsy.com
Image from Etsy.com

I remember when I saw Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh speak in Vancouver a couple of years ago during his “Open Mind, Open Heart” tour. He used a tree as analogy for the body and mind and to represent the idea of being grounded.  The essence of what he said was that when we are ungrounded and stuck in our head, lost in our mind and emotions, we feel like we are the leaves and branches of the tree getting blown around in a fierce wind. We feel fear, like things are out of control and that we might fly or break off the tree any second.  When we ground and connect with our body and are not lost in our mind, we realize we are like the trunk of the tree, safe and solid. When we move into our body, the solid trunk, from our mind, the waving branches and leaves, the fears or sadness in our mind, the feeling of panic and worry are dismissed, because when grounded we can see these are just thoughts we’ve created in our mind.   So you can make a conscious choice…do I want to be like the leaves and branches of the tree blowing around, lost in my mind thoughts and emotions, feeling unsafe, unprotected, and lost, or do I want to be the trunk, grounded, safe and solid and present.

During my sessions, if I sense a lack of grounding, I will perform Reiki to remove blockages and energies from this part of the body, which helps balance the mind. I also often receive guidance for what is best approach for that particular client to feel grounded. Today I’m going to share some general tips and thoughts on grounding, so you can give them a try and find what works best for you to help you stay grounded and in the present.

Activities that Help you Feel Grounded

Your Breath

Mantra to repeat while breathing deeply (by Thich Nhat Hanh; image from lightstaysretreats.com)
Mantra to repeat while breathing deeply (by Thich Nhat Hanh; image from lightstaysretreats.com)

Your breath is a simple and easy way to get you back in your body and to calm your mind.  Taking deep “belly” breaths will instantly calm and balance you.  Inhale through your nose and notice the sensation of the air traveling through your nose. Let the breath travel all the way down to your belly. When you breath out, audibly exhale and feel the air traveling all the way up from your belly out of your mouth.  Repeat ten times. If your mind is overdrive with negative stressful thoughts, you can adopt Thich Nhat Hanh’s approach of saying to yourself “breathing in, I calm body and mind” when you inhale, and “breathing out, I smile dwelling in the present moment” when you exhale. Repeating this mantra distracts and quiets your mind and allows you to focus on your breathing. You can simplify this mantra further and say “I breathe in, and I breathe out” if you like. Mantras are very effective at getting us out of our head and quieting our mind by repeating some simple and positive or neutral phrases.

Meditating

Meditating is a simple way to teach ourselves that we have the power to quiet our mind.  Rambling ongoing thoughts creating stress in our life are really just a habit we have formed. We can meditate and bring peace and quiet into our mind. Relax our body.  Then we can start to bring the peace we feel during a meditation session, into our everyday lives, little by little, until we reach a state where our mind just isn’t as active and “noisy”.  See my previous posts on meditating for more tips on starting a meditation practice.

Connecting with the Earth

Going for a walk or spending time in nature and focusing on other creatures around you that you share this planet with you helps ground you and feel connected and not isolated, alone, lost or separate. So if you’re on a forest walk, focus on really connecting to each piece of grass, each flower, each plant, each bird, each squirrel you see and pass by on your walk. Acknowledge them like you would a passing person. Don’t worry about naming what you see, just look and absorb, the colours, the textures, the sounds of the wind blowing through the leaves of the trees, the birds chirping.  Expand your senses.  Be one with nature. If you’re on a beach walk, connect with the birds you see, the rocks and stones on the beach, and the waves themselves as the go in and out.  A minute or two after you start your walk, you can stop for a minute and just close your eyes and feel your feet connecting with the earth and say to yourself “I connect with the earth, the sky, and the trees, flowers”..whatever is around you and sense your energy extending in the appropriate direction. Do this again just before the end of your walk. Being connected energetically to the earth and all of the creatures around you isn’t just a concept..it’s real. Immerse yourself in that and try to see if you can sense that energy connection. When we  spend time in nature, looking around us, up at the sky, across the ocean, or into the forest, it brings the sense the world is much bigger than the little bubble we live in and it allows us to gain some perspective on our problems and worries. It also brings a feeling of peace and serenity to us.

Using Crystals and other Tools to Ground Yourself

You may read different approaches on items or tools you can incorporate into your life to feel grounded. I personally recommend the use of crystals. They vibrate at the frequency of the earth, so when we wear or hold them, they change our energy vibration and help remove blockages. Hematite or black tourmaline are great crystals for grounding, but you can use whatever feels right for you (don’t get hung up on “rules” for crystals and follow your intuition).

Some people recommend eating root vegetables. I personally don’t find this helps for grounding with me, but I do think eating more plants/vegetables in general, which again come from the earth, helps raise your energy levels.  If you adopt a vegetarian diet you will feel your energy shift and you will feel lighter.

A Couple of Questions about Feeling Grounded

Here are a couple of FAQ I get from clients about grounding:

 How do I know when I’m grounded?

Sensation of energy you might feel while grounding (image from dianalarameee.ca)
Sensation of energy you might feel while grounding (image from dianalarameee.ca)

 

As someone who senses energy, I can tell you the physical sensation of being grounded is exactly what you would think it would feel like. If you close your eyes and tune in, you may feel  either energy coming down through your feet or up through your feet. The direction represents whether you need to let go of or release something (energy draining through your feet) or you need to take up something (like love or healing from the the earth). It’s like a magnetic pull through your feet. It can also be the same sensation but coming in or leaving through the top of your head from above.

On a mental/emotional level, when you are grounded you feel present and peace in the moment – no matter what you are experiencing. Your mind is quiet and your thoughts are serene and not panicked.

 

 

Do I need to walk in bare feet in nature in order to feel grounded?

It is just our logical mind that thinks that is necessary. Certainly, it may be more likely you may feel energy or it may

Visualizing being grounded to the earth (image from www.heartsongs-crystal-wands-crowns.com)
Visualizing being grounded to the earth (image from http://www.heartsongs-crystal-wands-crowns.com)

feel more palpably “real” for you if you do this.  However,  I can feel grounding energy coming up or down during sessions in my treatment room, which is located on the third floor of my building. Just ask for grounding energy, close your eyes, and picture your feet being the base of a tree with roots extending downward into the earth. In Vancouver, many of us don’t have homes with yards, but are in condos or apartments, so you can go to your local park and put your feet in the grass and see how it feels, or stand with your back against a big tree and see how it feels..then go home and try just visualizing being a tree with roots as described above.  You don’t want to create an obstacle in your mind to grounding..that I need these perfect conditions that are not always readily available to be grounded.  You want to be able to ground yourself anywhere, on the bus, in your office, at the gym, whenever you need it.

Closing

The secret is finding what works best for you in terms of grounding exercises…what works best for your best friend might not resonate with you.  So try the above exercises and go with whatever gives you that sensation of feeling grounded and quiets your mind.

I routinely see clients who I treat with grounding energy during a Reiki treatment and start to incorporate grounding practices into their daily routines start to shift out of this habit of being lost in negative thoughts and become happier and less stressed.  As you open to incorporating some grounding exercises into your daily routine, your mind will start to shift to a more peaceful state as you start to bring awareness to the habit of being in your head too much and bringing yourself into the present moment. You will feel less tired and stressed and enjoy the quiet of your mind.  Be positive about whatever efforts you are making and don’t judge how you performed. Just bringing awareness to this issue and trying counts! Being lost in our thoughts is only a habit and no matter how long you’ve “been that way” you can change it.

 

 

Angel Life Coaching and Readings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI offer Angel Life Coaching and Angel Tarot Card readings to my clients as either separate stand-alone treatments or in combination with other treatments.

I am a certified Archangel Life Coach (ALC).  I studied Archangel Life Coaching with Charles Virtue, Doreen Virtue’s son, to better understand and work with channeled guidance I receive during Reiki sessions.   Clients find angel life coaching is very helpful in guiding them on their path and purpose in life and overcoming obstacles that block their happiness and flow. My clients find the guidance they receive resonates deeply with them and helps them open, heal and release. Many of my clients combine this service with their Reiki treatment.  The most common combination is for a 1.5 h session – with a 1-hr Reiki treatment along with discussion of channeled guidance and time for questions (cost of $97.50).

angeltarotI also am a certified Angel Tarot Card Reader who studied with Doreen Virtue and Radleigh Valentine.  Angel Tarot Cards combine the wisdom of a traditional tarot deck with the power and higher and lighter frequency energy of the angels.  The whole deck designed by Doreen Virtue and Radleigh Valentine has been infused with clarity and light.  A half-hour card reading can be used to check-in and see what messages there are for you and the wisdom that can be seen in the cards. It can be particularly helpful following a combined Reiki and life-coaching session to see what further guidance there is on whatever subject came up during the session or if you have a particular question you want guidance on.  The cost of a half-hour reading is $45. I encourage my clients to calm and center themselves prior to a reading to help the right questions and guidance flow to them with ease (if you have a Reiki session beforehand..this is not necessary).

Both services are also offered through a combination of Skype/email for those who live outside Vancouver.

Here is what my clients have to say about their Angel Life Coaching (combined with Reiki) sessions:

“Melanie is more than just a Reiki practitioner. She is an extraordinarily gifted healer who channels very pure and profound levels of insight to tailor each individual’s needs. She is strongly connected to very high vibration energy and intricately sees into my blocks in ways no one ever has. Melanie also works on two of my family members and what she does for each of us is different and unique according to our individual needs. Most importantly she has a kind, loving, compassionate nature. You can tell she really cares about what she is doing and the people she is working with. I am an energy healer myself and I appreciate how clean and pure the energy is in her therapy space. I see that she does a lot of inner work herself to keep her vessel clean and clear for herself  and her clients. I highly recommend going to see Melanie for healing based on her immense compassion, professionalism, and strong intuitive gifts. “

“I learned about Melanie through a friend. When I heard how my friend’s Reiki session with Melanie went, I knew I had to book one for myself.  Melanie has a wonderful calming energy about her that I found very soothing.  She creates a lovely, peaceful environment so that you can relax and gain the most benefits from her treatment.  I have had other Reiki sessions, but none were as in-depth as with Melanie.  Her training as an Archangel Life Coach provides an additional layer to the insights Melanie is able to provide to her clients.  No previous Reiki session has left me with such clear insight into my current situation and what I need to work on to move forward.  Afterwards I felt as though I was walking on air and I am still reaping the benefits of that initial session.  Thank you, Melanie!”

Reiki and Cancer

From http://amandanye.wordpress.com/cafepress-artist-designed-stores/cancer-ribbon-white/"
From http://amandanye.wordpress.com/cafepress-artist-designed-stores/cancer-ribbon-white/”

I was inspired by one of my students to write a post on the topic of Reiki and cancer. My Level Two student contacted me and told me that the manager at a hospice she was volunteering at didn’t want her practicing Reiki on patients because the manager wasn’t sure what Reiki was.  Given the hospice is located in Vancouver, which has a really historically strong and prolific Reiki community, this surprised me.  My student asked for information on this topic and I sent her some links from key cancer organizations in Canada, the US, and the UK, for her to review and forward to the hospice manager, as well as information on the Canadian Reiki Association, a national certification body for Reiki practitioners and teachers in Canada, of which both she and I are members.

Reflecting on this topic a bit more, I thought it might be helpful to write a post on Reiki and cancer for not only my students, but also my fellow Reiki practitioners, and especially for those clients who have cancer. The objective of this post is to shed some light on the benefits of Reiki treatments for someone who has cancer as well as potential risks and also speak a bit about being empowered about things you can do to heal from this disease. I will present and provide a brief summary of what the main cancer agencies have to say about Reiki and provide some additional comments as someone with expertise in a healing modality as well science in areas including statistics, study design, and environmental toxicology.

First,  let’s take a look at what the Canadian, American and UK cancer agencies have to say about Reiki. I chose these key agencies but note that there is much, much more information available on this topic online. I did not review information presented by Reiki organizations on this topic but stuck to what is presented by these cancer agencies. My review is meant to  share what is presented by these agencies rather than provide a comprehensive literature review on the topic of cancer and Reiki.  I have not reviewed the original studies cited, which as a scientist I would recommend people who are interested in more thorough information do. My goal with this review is simply to provide a summary of information presented so the reader can answer simple questions like 1) Are there any benefits to having a Reiki treatment? and 2) Are there any contraindications or risks to having Reiki concurrent with my cancer treatments?

Here is what the key cancer agencies in Canada, US, and UK have to say about Reiki:

From  https://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-fight-cancer-10/
From https://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-fight-cancer-10/

1) Of the three agencies, the Cancer Research UK organization provides the most detailed discussion about Reiki (http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/about-cancer/treatment/complementary-alternative/therapies/reiki)

First on overall effects, they say:

“Some people with cancer say they feel better after using therapies such as Reiki. Studies show that this is often because a therapist spends time with the person, and touches them. After the rush and stress of hospitals and treatment, it can be very relaxing when someone gives you attention for an hour or more, in a calm setting. Reiki is sometimes used in palliative care, especially in hospices.

Some people say that Reiki has helped to control side effects of their cancer treatments such as pain, anxiety, and sickness.  They also say that it helps them cope better with their cancer and its treatment. But it’s important to bear in mind that while Reiki may help you to cope with your symptoms or side effects, it is not able to treat your cancer.  It is safe to have Reiki alongside your cancer treatment. But it’s important to tell your doctor about any complementary therapy, alternative therapy or diet supplement that you use. Then your doctor will always have the full picture about your care and treatment.”

Then they comment on research or studies conducted in this subject area:

“There is no scientific evidence to prove that Reiki can prevent, treat or cure cancer or any other disease. But many healthcare professionals accept Reiki as a useful complementary therapy that may help to lower stress, promote relaxation and possibly help reduce some types of pain.”

They go on to cite the following study results:

2003 Canadian study: “A Canadian Phase 2 study in 2003 looked at whether Reiki could control pain in people with advanced cancer. People did have a significant reduction in pain after Reiki treatment but the study was small and had only 20 patients.”

2008 UK study: “In 2008, UK researchers carried out a review of studies into Reiki for any medical or psychological condition. They looked at 9 randomized clinical trials that used Reiki.

  • 2 trials found helpful effects of Reiki in people with depression but another trial did not
  • 1 trial found that Reiki seemed to help to reduce pain and anxiety
  • 2 other trials seemed to show that Reiki and distant Reiki reduced stress and hopelessness.
  • 1 trial showed that Reiki did not seem to reduce anxiety and depression in women having breast biopsy

The researchers stated that all the trials were small and there is no strong evidence that Reiki is an effective treatment for any condition.”

A 2008 Literature Review: “In 2008 another review looked at 24 studies using therapeutic touch to treat pain. 3 trials used Reiki. Overall, the review found that people who had the touch therapies had less pain than people who did not have the therapies. Trials carried out by more experienced touch practitioners seemed to give better results in pain reduction. Reiki also seemed to give greater benefit than other types of touch therapy. The researchers suggested that more research should be done into whether experienced practitioners or certain types of touch therapy can give better pain reduction. 2 of 5 studies looking at painkiller use supported the claim that touch therapies lowered painkiller use. “

A 2009 Literature Review: “A 2009 review by Canadian researchers looked at 12 trials and they found that 9 of the trials showed that Reiki had a significant helpful effects but the quality of 11 of the studies was poor.”

We need to do large randomized clinical trials before we really know how much Reiki can help people with cancer. An American Phase 2 clinical trial is currently looking at the effects of Reiki healing in men with prostrate cancer.  You can see the details of this trial on the American National Centre of Complementary and Alternative Medicine website (NCCAM).”

“Generally speaking, Reiki is safe for most people with cancer. Most practitioners will advise you to rest and drink plenty of water after treatment. There are no reports of harmful side effects.”

They go on to describe what happens during a Reiki treatment, cost of Reiki treatment, various levels of training that Reiki practitioners have and Reiki organizations in the UK.

daffodil2) The Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society has the least information about Reiki and includes Reiki with a number of other treatments under the umbrella of “energy therapies” (http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/diagnosis-and-treatment/complementary-therapies/energy-therapies/?region=pe).   They state that:

“Energy-based biofield therapies cannot be as easily measured or researched. Effectiveness of these therapies has mainly been reported by individuals or is based on small studies. They have mainly been used to relieve symptoms of cancer or side effects of treatment such as anxiety, fatigue, pain, or nausea and vomiting…. Some people with cancer have reported increased well-being, less pain and reduced nausea and vomiting after Reiki sessions…It is also not certain whether these therapies can actually enhance healing.

Biofield therapies such as healing touch, Reiki and therapeutic touch, which involve very light physical touch or no touch, are generally considered safe. Few side effects have been reported. Many practitioners of these therapies are not regulated in Canada.People who delay or choose not to have conventional medical care for their cancer and rely only on energy therapies may have serious health consequences.”

3) The American Cancer Association

The American Cancer Association has to say the following about Reiki (http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/manualhealingandphysicaltouch/reiki)

“There are many individual (anecdotal) reports about Reiki’s power to increase feelings of well-being and refresh the spirit. Some patients who were getting cancer treatment have reported an increased sense of well-being, with less pain, nausea, and vomiting after Reiki sessions. One small controlled pilot study found that Reiki was linked with reduced self-reports of pain in patients with advanced cancer, but it had no effect on the amount of pain medicine used by the patients to control their pain.

A non-randomized study reported that Reiki improved anxiety among women after undergoing a hysterectomy. On the other hand, a randomized study reported no effect on anxiety of women undergoing breast biopsies.

A 2008 study looked at 100 people with pain due to fibromyalgia, using Reiki treatments or sham treatments twice a week. Researchers double-checked to be sure that the participants didn’t know whether or not they got Reiki. In the end, they found no difference in pain between those who got Reiki and those who got something that looked like Reiki.

Many studies of Reiki have been conducted without using rigorous scientific methods, so quality information is scarce. For instance, studies that do not use a placebo group (using sham Reiki and identical conditions) are more likely to show symptom improvement shortly after treatment. But studies without placebo control leave open the possibility that the outcome is produced by mental and physical factors other than Reiki.

Available scientific evidence at this time does not support claims that Reiki can help treat cancer or any other illness. More study may help determine to what extent, if at all, it can improve a patient’s sense of well-being.

Reiki involves very light touch or no touch and is considered safe. However, relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying standard medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.”

So based on information presented by the above-mentioned agencies, to answer the first question – What are possible benefits of Reiki? –  it appears that based on anecdotal evidence that possible observed benefits include reduced anxiety, fatigue, pain, or nausea and vomiting. There may also be other healing benefits that were not observed or assessed.  Until more elaborate randomized trials that include appropriate samples sizes and placebos are conducted the statistical significance of these effects, which is used to validate the effectiveness of Reiki as a treatment, remains undetermined.  Reiki should be used to complement other treatments and not used as a replacement for conventional treatments.

For the second question – Are there any contraindications or risks to having Reiki concurrent with my cancer treatments? – it appears that Reiki treatments are safe to include with cancer treatments and may help with the side effects of those treatments such as nausea from chemotherapy or radiation treatments or pain from treatment or cancer itself. However, the physician guiding treatments should always be informed of alternative therapies used.

My views as someone who has gone from a skeptical person with a science background to now being a Reiki Master, who has experienced and observed many physical phenomenon I cannot explain is – that it is worth trying Reiki to see if it can help you as you heal from cancer.  Let go of your beliefs of what you think you understand or know and observe for yourself if it is effective for you.  We live in an age where there is an arrogance where we think we know and understand everything (though I imagine throughout history at any given time that was viewpoint held by many).  The human body is intricately and intelligently designed and connected to our mind and emotions. The human body is not a machine that can be understood by breaking it down into parts. The problem with using that approach as western medicine does is the underlying intelligence and way the cells, tissues, organs of the body communicate with each other and interact is lost as is the mind-body connection – the way our thoughts affect our body and vice-versa.

I encourage people with cancer to combine the best of western and alternative medicine approaches to help them eliminate cancer from their bodies and/or live the best quality of life they can while having cancer present in their bodies.  The western approach of chemotherapy and radiation therapy essentially poisons the body – attempting to kill cancer cells but also killing other non-target cells.  This obviously has negative effects on the health of cancer patients. Accordingly, I recommend balancing the “war-like” approach of chemotherapy and radiation therapy with approaches that bring peace and help heal, nurture and replenish your body, mind, and spirit. This nurturing approach also applies for people who receive a diagnosis that indicates their cancer is too advanced for conventional treatment.  Here are some of my recommendations:

  • Become aware of and shift your thoughts – Your thoughts can affect your body and your healing. Monitor what your thoughts about cancer are. Be an observer and hear what you are telling yourself. Are you saying I am going to die any day? I won’t survive this? Have you successfully removed or reduced your tumor and are really just waiting for the news that it is back? Are you waiting for the next test to tell you its back? It’s time to take control of your thoughts and stop torturing yourself and living in a constant state of fear and stress. Focus on monitoring your thoughts and start to replace negative messages with affirmations that send positive and loving messages about your health. Our bodies, our cells, tissues, and organs receive messages we send as thoughts.  Start to ask yourself is your way of thinking or a thought creating fear and stress and if so replace it with a peaceful thought.  It is essential to recognize that fear and stress come from your thoughts and don’t do anything positive for you. We have to break this habit (and it is just a habit of thinking this way) and work and retrain our minds to not live in these states of mind. Repeating affirmations like “My body is healing perfectly” or “Any cancer cells in my body are dissolving” and feeling those words are true. Visualize your cells being healthy and send love and pink light to the area affected by cancer; often we view the part of body we have cancer as an enemy and not a part of us that needs more love than any other part of our body.  Let go of the worry and fear (I have a post on that topic if this is a big issue for you https://justbreathereiki.com/2013/07/12/letting-go-of-worry/). Start to talk about healing from cancer rather than fighting cancer. Embrace peaceful approaches to thinking about this disease and focus on healing.

 

  • Let go of your cancer victim label and live life again – Our ego loves us to attach to labels and have us identify with roles, situations, jobs, and disease.  If you are diagnosed with cancer, you want to still be you – a whole person and not just be your disease. You don’t want to be the face of cancer. You don’t want every conversation you have to be about cancer you have, your treatments, your prognosis, other people who recently were diagnosed or died from cancer, about statistics, etc.  Start to set boundaries in your life. Speak about cancer to the medical professionals you see to treat you but limit conversations with family and friends. If there is an update to share with family and friends do so, but start to have other conversations.  Tell them you want to talk about life and living again and not talk about your illness. Find things to talk about again. Instead of spending time researching cancer statistics online, which only serves to  reinforce negative messages online look up a new movie you can see or book you can read, maybe a place you want to travel to, maybe just watching a video that makes you laugh on YouTube.  Start to return to life and living. Focus on your cancer and treatments when it is time to do that but don’t let it become the only focus of your life. Focus on your health and well-being, on being loving and compassionate with yourself and those around you.

 

  • Care for your body – Make sure you nourish your body with high quality, high nutrition foods, adequate rest, and exercise. Western medical doctors aren’t educated sufficiently about nutrition (my GP indicated he spent less than a day learning about nutrition in medical school). I would expect that many doctors who specialize in oncology or radiology are better informed on this topic.  It may be worthwhile consulting with a nutritionist (a natural foods oriented nutritionist rather than an “old-school nutritionist”). I’ve heard from a friend who has cancer that the advice she received from the nutritionist assigned to her, which contrasted with her oncologist, was to take Ensure, a nutritional supplement (which has a lot of sugar) and eat red meat to raise her iron.  I’d recommend speaking with someone who can guide you on foods that have high nutritional value, are anti-inflammatory and can help you heal and feel energized. Clean up your diet. Eating healthier WILL make you feel better, more energized, and nourish your body. You may want to consult with a naturopath as well as your doctor on benefits of supplements and vitamins.  Consult with your doctor on whether exercise is appropriate as it can definitely increase your quality of life, reduce stress, and increase your energy levels. Walking outdoors in nature can really help to get you outside your head, your world where cancer predominates, and appreciate the nature around you and feel at peace.  Yoga can be very restorative and make you feel rested and relaxed and let go of the tension you are holding in your body. Be compassionate with yourself, and when you feel like you need to rest or bow out of attending an event do so. Be kind with yourself and if your body says you need rest, rest. Rest and sleep are very healing and gives our body time to do its work at healing and replenishing. Listen to your body!

 

  • Care for your mind through meditation – Having recurring thoughts about your disease, outcome of your treatments, and your mortality are natural when you have a disease like cancer.  However, you want to ensure that topic does not dominate your thoughts day and night.  Stress and worry do nothing positive for your health and conversely, can negatively impact your recovery and healing.  Start to learn to quiet your mind and say to yourself “that is enough on that for now” and find some inner peace. How do we do this? It’s simply breaking a habit. Meditation can be very beneficial. Meditation helps us to control our mind instead of our mind controlling us. It allows us to be present in our bodies and start to learn that we can stop recurring thought patterns that bring us stress and sadness.  Thinking these type of thoughts and have an ongoing narrative with negative messages playing in our mind is something we can stop and replace with quiet. Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey have a guided meditation series that lasts 21-days on the topic of Perfect Health that might be the perfect thing to try (really any of their series are fantastic). They currently have an ongoing series on Finding your Flow that you can sign up for here (https://chopracentermeditation.com/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=day-01). You can also do visualizations while you meditate (Adam Dreamhealer has some great CDs with visualizations). Just search on You Tube and find something that resonates with you and brings you peace.
  • Image from Forbes magazine
    Image from Forbes magazine

    Read books on healing – There are numerous books written by people who have beaten cancer that will have approaches they recommend you adopt but they may not have any medical background/training.  I personally would recommend reading books by western medical doctors who have standard western medical training combined with alternative medicine training like Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weill, Bruce Lipton. They all have numerous books that discuss diseases like cancer and will open your mind and allow you to see possibility for your healing in a new light. They will also give you a different view or perspective of the human body, how it works, how complex and intelligent it is. Reading their perspectives on diseases like cancer will give you a new perspective and allow you to see there is much we don’t know or understand about the human body – how intelligence resides in all our cells, how our cells hold memories, and how intricately the body and mind and emotions are connected. Reading these books can open your mind to healing, being open to other approaches, harnessing the power of the mind-body connection and letting go of what you think you know about this disease.

  • Monitor your thoughts on your diagnosis – I want you to respect but not be attached to your diagnosis as a death sentence. Remember that scans you received are a snapshot at the time the scan was conducted. It does not  necessarily mean that if time has passed your tumour is the same OR WORSE. Start to question what you know for sure.  When we receive a negative medical diagnosis, which can be based on statistics (like you have 6 months to live) the impact can be dire.  What do we do? I know people close to me that received this diagnosis a number of years ago and pursued treatment and are still here. Deepak Chopra talks about the effect of “nocebo” – of receiving a negative diagnosis and its effect on a patient’s mind, body, and spirit. It’s important to detach from seeing your diagnosis as set in stone and use how you are feeling to guide you as well. Our bodies will show us signs when we are unwell. Picture your body being well and at peace and as noted above affirm your continued healing and return to perfect health.

 

  • Explore Alternative Medicine Options – There are lots of people who have had cancer and had a diagnosis that stated their cancer was too advanced or they would soon die and treatment was not an option and sought alternative treatment and lived or their cancer went into remission. It’s often at this stage of diagnosis people start to go outside the realm of western medicine treatments to look for other help or solutions. The books by doctors noted above talk about cases like these in their book. Start to explore what other modalities might help you.  Review them with your doctor and even if your doctor is dismissive do your own research and if no harm can come and the modality and practitioner is reputable, give it a try. Remember there are lots of practices such as Chinese medicine, herbology, and acupuncture that have existed long before Western medicine arrived on the scene. Western medicine does not have all the answers (if it did wouldn’t we would have found a cure for cancer?). Give healing modalities like Reiki a try. Be open-minded. Everyone’s mind and body respond to treatments differently.

 

  • Forgive and Let Go – Now is the time to forgive grudges you have been holding, for hurts you’ve experienced, and for things that people have said or done that you’ve internalized.  It’s also a time to forgive yourself for anything you’ve done, said, or regret. Healing emotional wounds can help us heal our physical body and is equally important on your healing journey. Letting go of the baggage and garbage you carry around with you will liberate you and make you feel lighter and you may even notice you feel less pain.  You may want to see a therapist to assist you and guide you in this task.  If you are not comfortable with that you may want to explore the self-help book section on this topic.  Forgiving and letting go does not mean you condone the things said or done to you – it is not for the other person, it is completely for you. It’s so you can let old wounds heal and not relive the past through memories or reexperiencing old emotions. Start to see the world through more peaceful eyes. Let go of conflict. Don’t look for what is wrong in the world, look for what is right. Stop watching the news (you can read the news and select the stories you hear).  Sign up for some newsfeeds, blogs, or facebook pages that are inspiring. See the kindness people show you and people around you and be kind when you interact with others. Let go of negativity and pettiness. When you embrace the world with the spirit of forgiveness, positivity and kindness that is what you will receive back. Don’t use your disease as an excuse to be difficult, angry, and to take things out on your loved ones. If these were your last days would you want them to be filled with love and kindness or with anger, frustration, regret, and isolation. You can choose how you live the rest of your life. Choose love and peace and kindness.  No matter your age or how you’ve lived your life, you can  change. You can also forgive yourself if you haven’t been the most loving person in this world and start to share some of that love even with a stranger or a pet. Let your heart open and heal and forgive.

 

  • See the Gift in your Illness – The Universe whether you believe it or not brings illness, injury, and other big life changes to our lives as a gift to help us change things that are not working in our life and to gain perspective. How could someone say that about cancer?  When the Universe gets us to put our lives on hold and let go of our routine and obligations and really focus on the core of life it can make us see the world, the people in it and ourselves quite differently, and change our lives.  It might be realizing that there is this caring and compassionate community of strangers, doctors, nurses, volunteers offering you so much kindness and care when you haven’t experienced much love and care in your life. It might be realizing that you were not quite so kind and compassionate to others who had illness or other challenges enter their life and now you can see that and will make an effort to do so. It might be realizing how you’ve taken so much in your life, including friends and family for granted.  It might be forgiving old grudges and letting things go. It might be getting the gumption to go on that trip you’ve always wanted to go on. It might be creating and living your bucket list. It might be doing some “house-cleaning” and choosing to let go of toxic negative people and surround yourself with those that are truly loving and kind and true.  It might be making changes in your life as or after you heal – changing careers, finding a new different kind of partner, moving to a new home or city, taking up new hobbies, or making health and exercise a part of your new routine.  You may decide to volunteer your services to others after you heal, driving people to appointments, or helping out with collecting donations for cancer charities, or participating in other fundraising.  Many peoples lives open up with realizations about things they never knew about themselves or the world after they develop cancer. They see themselves and the world through new eyes. Open your eyes, reflect, and see what gifts there are for you in your healing journey. See all the opportunities and blessings you have. It’s never too late.

Being an informed and empowered patient and not just going along for the ride is important. So read, ask questions, take control over things you can control like eating a healthy diet, reducing stress, exercising if possible, and thinking positively about your health and life and choosing the best combination of western and alternative medicine approaches. Incorporate things into your daily routine that nuture and energize you and make you feel peace and self-love and help you let go of stress and pain. Be kind and compassionate and patient with yourself and your body and mind as you heal. Wishing you many blessings on your healing path.

Embracing the Beauty Around You and Inside You

From backinskinnyjeans.com
From backinskinnyjeans.com

Sometimes when we get focused on our path of self-improvement, growth, and healing, we get lost in the process and the “work”. We forget that sometimes we need to let go of our “work” and just be present, and breathe and tune into the blessings and beauty around us.  My post this month is meant to encourage my clients to do just that.  To enjoy the increased peace, love, compassion and positivity their “work” has brought into themselves and their lives.  To spend some time just being in that place of awareness where we are really in touch with and can appreciate and take in the beauty within us, around us and in our lives.

Beauty can be found in the simplest of things and unexpected places.  It can be forgetting your troubles and watching children play in the park and tuning into the beauty of their freedom to just have fun, not censor themselves, experience life, and play (we forget that as adults). It can be going out and really savoring a great meal, soaking in the beauty of every bite and every sip and the care that someone took to prepare it. It can be going shopping and buying an item that you are in awe of the beauty of and can’t wait to wear, use, or display. It can be the angelic and beautiful people you encounter during difficult times in your life. Perhaps, you are going through cancer treatments and are touched by the beauty of the kindest and most compassionate nurses you can imagine – that people you don’t really know could be so caring. loving and feel for what you are going through. It can be waking up to your husband kissing you on the forehead when he’s leaving in the morning.  It can be laughing until you cry with a friend. It can be reading a beautiful story of how in a difficult time someone chose love. It can be watching a stranger being kind to someone in need..being selfless.

So as you go about your day, try to look at the world through eyes of appreciation and see the beauty that surrounds you..and notice it comes in all forms. Here are some images of things that inspire me by their beauty.

It could be flipping the page on your calendar and discovering an inspiring message (about beauty).

thich quote

The beauty and art in nature is all around us. Sometimes it’s fleeting. Like a big yet fragile blossom that really is at its peak for only a day or two.

IMG_20130512_161846

The beauty you see could be a cloud in the sky or tree that you see an image in.  This tree reminds me of an angel whenever I walk underneath it.

angel tree

It could be a simply wrapped chocolate bar you open that surprises you with the artistic beauty the chocolatier infused it with (this is from Schokolade – a local company).

chocolate bar

It could be a poem a friend shares with you bravely sharing their writing talent and thoughts (on this very topic).

vanessa poem

It could be an unexpected beautiful gift you receive in the mail…like a big box of Christmas baking from a relative who lives somewhere else and wants you to know you are loved and that they are thinking of you over the holidays.

aunts baking

It could be catching your cat snoring.

IMG_20130915_000327

It could be reading a post that touches your heart and reminds you that there can beauty during difficult times. Josie Maran, a former model who runs a natural  skin care and cosmetic company, has a weekly post profiling inspiring people and their stories …that are simply beautiful. Like this one on a father who has terminal cancer and is writing a love note to include in his daughter’s lunch everyday until she graduates from high school. http://http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fon.mash.to%2FMV7NNi&h=SAQGkeC4Senc=AZPyKsNJeLB6DMnqtKxNmdDiXAwPQFz2U5PtQ7tsKqGHgXlZmlcXCG1EgE0KUi37sCNj_W_W9OFApq3TTBLs4nTrvh8A1kvD0-UUCOnxF9LAZP4fPlMhuoDWr_eB3n0G14FMdShd-Ci3IkSqUktZDGHF&s=1

dad with love notes

It could be getting snapped out of your thoughts  and what you are doing when you look out the window and see the beauty in the sky at night ..and realization of how our world is much more expansive then the room we’re in.

night sky

So look out at the world and see all this beauty that surrounds you  and celebrate it. When we tune into the frequency of beauty, positivity, and light in the world, we feel that inside us and we can then share that beauty with others.

If anyone has something beautiful they’d like to share let me know and I’ll post it. 🙂

Putting an End to Perfectionism

Image from http://seekingmeme.wordpress.com
Image from http://seekingmeme.wordpress.com

Perfectionists have been described as those that ” strain compulsively and unceasingly toward unobtainable goals, and measure their self-worth by productivity and accomplishment.  Pressuring oneself to achieve unrealistic goals inevitably sets the person up for disappointment. Perfectionists tend to be harsh critics of themselves when they fail to meet their standards.” If you talk to a perfectionist, they will describe it as a positive personality feature or trait. For a job interview, people are often coached to use perfectionism if they are asked to name one of their negative qualities or flaws, because it is thought to indicate a harder-than-average worker with great attention to detail and ambition.

perfection quote 2
Image from http://thehappinesstree.wordpress.com/category/overcoming-perfectionism/

In my practice, I’ve seen quite a few perfectionists who talk about how stressed they are because they are striving for these unrealistic standards in their life. They are  not really seeing they are setting these standards themselves and are effectively torturing themselves. One client talked about how stressed she was because she was taking a continuing education course and spending hours and hours in their evenings to make sure she got an A+, and then went on to describe similar stories or sources of stress in her life – all linked to perfectionism. I believe perfectionism is a form of self-bullying – of saying I am not worthy, I am not lovable unless I am perfect or do this task perfectly, I always have to strive to be enough, basically who I am is not enough.  It is a behavior that is simply not loving or compassionate to ourselves or to those close to us. It’s geared on impressing someone be it a boss, a partner, a child, other parents, a group with our perfection to make ourselves feel better about who we are, perhaps to feel superior to others, but ultimately telling ourselves if I don’t make this effort or succeed I won’t be good enough.

I know perfectionism well as a I used to be a perfectionist.  I have read that perfectionism stems from being punished for your mistakes as a child instead of feeling accepted;  it’s also linked to needing praise or acknowledgement to build a false sense of self-esteem. You can see how the combination of the two would put you on a search for praise to build self-love with difficulty dealing with failure or criticism.  Growing up I learned that when I did things people wanted me to do or did well in school I was praised or “good” but when I didn’t I wasn’t behaving acceptably and was “bad”; I was not loved unconditionally – as most of us experienced.  This led me to be a big people pleaser in my life and do things that would earn me praise – I needed others to tell me I was good, special, smart, worthy…  wanting to get praise and attention from others, to feel special, trying to feed my need to feel that I was worthy, good enough, excelling at what I was doing or who I was.  A core component of that was believing I had to do something to earn that, to go beyond my best, to sacrifice – that who I was or what I did was not enough.   When I started to heal and learn to love myself and realize that our sense of self  should come from inside not outside, my perfectionist standards fell away. I choose being kind, loving and compassionate with myself instead. I now know we should never attach higher importance or internalize what other people think or perceive about ourselves or use that to guide our decisions in life – that’s a recipe for unhappiness.  What others think really doesn’t matter at the end of the day. It’s what we think about ourselves that’s important, and being kind, loving, and compassionate to ourselves. Self love means that we do our best and be kind to ourselves when there are those times when we don’t feel we have the energy or time to.  Self-love means we learn from our mistakes but don’t internalize them and feel bad about ourselves because of a mistake or failure. We are grateful for the learning experience and for what we experience on our journey. Self-love means that we embrace our imperfections as what makes us unique and special .

perfectionism quote edit
Quote adapted from feministhealthuk.wordpress.com

As this quote illustrates an emotion that drives perfectionists is fear. Fear that if we’re not perfect we won’t be loved, worthy, we’ll be a failure, or we’ll lose our jobs. We create all kinds of unrealistic and false motivators to drive our perfectionism. So you can counter that fear with self-love and realism. When you notice your inner perfectionist activated try to observe yourself and ask some questions to inject self-love and realism into the situation.  You can use the above statements and question if they’re true. You can ask what would happen if I didn’t (fill in the blank with whatever you’d usually be compelled to do in order to try to obtain perfection in what you’re doing).  Would anyone but you even care or notice?

It’s also important to take some time to honestly look at your life and see the costs of that drive for perfectionism.  How happy is that perfectionist drive making you? What about your loved ones? When you’re a perfectionist you often extend that tendency to those in your life because they’re a reflection of you too. Do you drive your partner, kids, coworkers crazy with your criticism and expectations? Are you unavailable because you’re always putting work first and trying to be the perfect employee? Do you criticize your performance after you complete something focusing on what wasn’t right or criticism you received instead of feeling good about the things you did well? Are you in debt because you are always trying to beat the Joneses with the perfect clothes, perfect home, perfect car?  Are you always late because you spend an hour on your hair and make-up? Do you look in the mirror and criticize your appearance instead of seeing your beauty?  What is perfectionism doing for the balance in your life? Is your health suffering due to stress and working long hours and trying to please everyone? Have you damaged relationships and hurt other’s self-esteem with your drive for perfectionism? What is the cost of perfectionism in your life?

perfection cycle

This diagram provides a great summary of the cycle of perfection  in science, a field I used to work in that attracts perfectionists, but really this applies to perfection overall. The perfectionist develops unrealistic expectations. If things don’t go well (they’re get the message they’re not perfect), they blame themselves creating more low self-esteem. Then they procrastinate, are defensive and have low confidence and my have reduced productivity. If things go well, the perfectionist gets positive feedback, and continues the game of filling their self-worth from the outside.

So once you’re aware of the costs of perfectionism, how do you relax your perfectionism? Well your life is going to improve without question if you start to focus on accepting and loving yourself for who you are and not seeking things from the outside to fill you (see other posts I’ve written on this topic such as  https://justbreathereiki.com/2013/09/10/learning-to-love-yourself-its-an-inside-job/ and https://justbreathereiki.com/2012/11/28/finding-happiness-and-love-inside-you-instead-of-yearning-for-the-outside-world-to-be-perfect/).  To directly work on perfectionism itself, you will find it is easiest to start letting go little by little of your expectations and standards and see what happens. Doing this will allow you to reduce your stress a little (and it will only be a small amount to start because you will be scared of not being perfect) and bring you a little ease, allow you to breathe and let go a little, feel a little glimmer of happiness. As you continue letting go of perfectionism, testing the waters and seeing what happens when you don’t do the perfect job, but just doing your best, following realistic standards instead of the harsh ones you imposed on yourself, you start to see that it’s okay. That your performance doesn’t have to be perfect. That people don’t notice a difference on what you’ve let go of in terms of your standards but that they notice you are happier, less stressed and more easy-going.

Here are some suggestions for different areas you may find perfectionism activated for. If you’re a perfectionist with your appearance, go out without make-up, unwashed hair and schlep around a bit. Does the world really encounter you that differently, do they give you shocked sighs, do they not make eye contact – of course not – they just see you a person.  Don’t feel that your diet or exercise has to be perfect all the time; let yourself enjoy some pleasurable food or relaxation regularly. You may notice as you start to let go of perfectionism about appearance and start to love and accept yourself that your judgements about others starts to become more compassionate and kind. Let you family and partner be who they are without giving them criticism or guiding who you think they should be or look like.Be happy with what you have materially and start to detach your ego with associating your self-worth with your material possessions. Look at those who have less. Are they really less happy than you? Look at those who have very little and could benefit from your generosity and share some kindness with them – not out of pity but true compassion and connection.

Image from http://thissparklylife.wordpress.com/2012/03/
Image from http://thissparklylife.wordpress.com/2012/03/

If you’re a perfectionist at work, look at your workplace and really see what is expected of the staff around you. Is everyone putting in the hours you are? Is everyone as stressed as you? Figure out what your boss really expects and deliver that. Start seeing what it’s like when you cut out the extra two hours of edits on your reports catching little typos and errors or changing wording around obsessively. If your boss is a perfectionist, it might not be the healthiest workplace dynamic or great for your career. Try to see if there’s someone else you can work under or maybe look for a workplace that has a different dynamic that drives their employees. Become more comfortable with delegating and positively praise staff that do work for you instead of focusing on how their work is imperfect and how you could have done a better job. Give constructive criticism but have praise be the focus.

If you’re a perfectionist when it comes to a hobby or activity start to notice what happens when you just let go a little. Do you notice you’re having more fun? Does your perfectionism suck some of the joy out of your activities? Can you see what you’re doing as a source of enjoyment instead of competition or performance? So if you train for a marathon and your time was not as good as your peers you trained with or you didn’t achieve your goal would you look for what went wrong and internalize that experience as a failing of some kind or would you feel good about your accomplishment, improvements to your health, and fun you had training. Start to shift your perspective to a more compassionate, self-loving perspective.

love yourself signSee yourself as perfect just as you are. See that the flaws and imperfections people have are what makes them interesting and memorable. Find the authentic you without all these perfectionist trappings. Start to fill the time you spent getting ready in the mirror, shopping for the latest and greatest indicator of status, redoing your graphs for the meeting, judging and criticizing yourself or others, and fill your life with activities, people, things that actually bring you happiness and self-fulfillment. Embrace your imperfection as absolute perfection – you are absolutely perfect just as you are – just by breathing and being.

Opening your Mind and Body to Healing

fibonacci-nature-body

Our mind and our thoughts are a powerful force that can influence healing in our body. We’ve all heard of the placebo effect in medical studies. A placebo effect occurs when people believe they are receiving a treatment but really aren’t (e.g. a sugar pill) but respond with improvements in health.  The conventional medical community is confounded by the powerful effect of what we think or believe can have on our body. We can also all relate to the physical symptoms or sensations we experience when we experience powerful emotions, like great sadness when someone we love passes or leaves our life, or the rush we get when we experience love for a new romantic partner or our newborn child. We’ve all directly experienced that our mind and body are interconnected. They are not separate operating systems. So why not use our mind and thoughts to send our bodies messages that encourage healing?

In my Reiki practice, many people come to me with chronic issues after they’ve exhausted traditional western medicine approaches for dealing with their health issues.  Understandably, they are often frustrated, angry, sad and/or negative about their state of health and are desperate for a solution. Often when we are in pain or receiving frequent treatments for a health issue/condition, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with negative thoughts about our health or have our lives heavily focused on what’s wrong or unwell with us. We may spend a great deal of our time in pain or receiving or recovering from treatments. We become accustomed to focusing on being unwell, talking about being unwell, feeling sorry for ourselves, and sharing our story of being unwell with others…it can become all encompassing and define who we are. I also notice when I work with many of these same clients even when they are making notable improvements along their healing path, they continue to put their focus on their problems and being unwell. Some of their bigger issues have gone away and they switch their focus to some smaller issue(s).  They are so habitually focused on being unwell instead of focusing on being well; they overlook improvements they’ve made and healing they’re experiencing in their body.

I believe our mind is a powerful force when it comes to healing and if we are sending negative messages about our body, outlook, lives, and/or selves it can affect us on a physical level. I encourage these clients to start to become aware of their thoughts and beliefs about healing and messages they are sending their bodies, so they can start to make a shift to more healing and empowering thoughts.   Here are some tools you too can use to become aware and shift your thinking to encourage healing and enhance the treatments you are receiving to help make you well again.

First Step – Becoming Aware of Your Beliefs about and Blocks of Healing

Image from Elephantjournal.com
Image from Elephantjournal.com

Buddha wisely said “What we think we become”.  Start to banish negative, disempowering and limiting beliefs and embrace the power of positive thought to empower your healing.

There are two approaches you can use to assess your beliefs and thoughts about healing. The first is a questionnaire and the second is a couple of visualizations you can try.

A) Questionnaire

Here is a series of questions that can help you see what your true thoughts are about your health and condition and healing. Be brutally honest in answering these questions. Pay attention to what pops into your mind first. Don’t answer with what you think you should say or think.

  1. Do you think your health can be improved?
  2. When you picture yourself in the future doing things when you’re daydreaming or when you remember your dreams do you picture yourself healed or in your current or even worse condition?
  3. Do you think your thoughts can influence your health?
  4. Do you think healing is all due to external sources (like practitioners you are seeing or treatments you are receiving) or can you influence your healing?
  5. When you are experiencing a manifestation of your condition (e.g., pain, need to take medication, need to go for a treatment to deal with condition) what type of thoughts and emotions arise?
  6. Do you become angry, annoyed with or hate that part of the body or mind that is affected?
  7. Do you view your mind or body part where you have injury or illness as an enemy/outsider/invader?
  8. Do you think you are worthy of or deserve healing and medical aid?
  9. Do you identify strongly with your illness or condition? For example, when you talk to people is that most of what you talk about or when someone talks to you is that the first thing they ask about? Has it become the focus of your life?
  10. Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
  11. Can you picture yourself enjoying perfect health?

Now look at the answers to these questions? What overall picture do you see – is it positive or negative?  Is there hope or distress? Do you see yourself as a victim who will never get better? Do you think you have done something to deserve this illness/condition? Has your illness or condition become who you are (is it the focus of most of your life)? Do you think change is possible?

B) Visualization Exercises

I often get feedback from clients when I do these visualization exercises during Reiki treatments that they identified a blockage during these exercises.

Exercise#1:

Healing Shower of Light – Visualize a pink shower of light coming from the crown of your head and washing down to your feet. The light you picture will flow through your body like a river, clearing away any debris and darkness. Pay attention to whether you see areas that are dark or grey or never get “cleaned” by the light or if you just can’t get the light to flow inside parts of or your whole body.

Exercise#2:

Chakra Meditation – Listen to this chakra meditation from the Wellness Experiment on You Tube.

 

Pay attention to what thoughts come to you during the meditation. What do you sense? You may find there are certain chakras you can’t visualize as being “lit up” or chakras that feel heavy or dark.

The inability to visualize these colours/lights in either of these exercises is usually representative of a blockage (unless you are a completely non-visual person). Sensing darkness is a sign that you sense you have issues in these areas/chakras.

Second Step – Starting to Shift your Thoughts about your Health and Healing

Now you’ve assessed your thoughts and hidden beliefs about your health and healing. If you find your thinking is negative and disempowered or you have blockages identified through the visualization exercises,  you can now start to shift your thinking to more positive trains of thought that are more empowering, enlivening, and hopeful.

A) Affirmations

To shift our thinking to a more positive train of thought regarding healing and our health, affirmations can be a powerful tool. Affirmations allow us to forcibly send new powerful positive messages to our mind and body and start to rewrite some of the old scripts and stories we have playing constantly in our mind. When we practice sending positive instead of negative messages we remind our body of its innate healing ability and the interconnection between our body, mind and spirit. For tips on using affirmations see my previous post (https://justbreathereiki.com/2012/04/25/the-power-of-affirmations/). It’s important when you read them they feel true. If they don’t you continue until they do (and use the lack of truth to alert you to your beliefs about healing).

Here are some to try:

  • My body is full of healing energy (you can picture a vibrant light emanating from your body when you say this)
  • My body’s natural healing abilities are turned on and grow stronger each day
  • The healthy food I eat to nourish my body  (supplements I take, exercise I do, fill in the blanks) help my body to heal
  • The cells of my body are bathed in  love and are clear of any negative energy and debris
  • I am vibrant and healthy
  • Each day I am getting better and better

Practice these at the start of your day or before you undergo a treatment. When you are in pain or a negative state/condition, pull these out and see if they can shift your thoughts and mood to a more positive place. When in pain, we can add an affirmation, “this pain is temporary and fades with my breath” (and do some deep breathing sending your breath to the area where the pain is, seeing it like a pink light, and continuing to the pain starts to subside); when we are in pain we tend to contract our breathing and taking big breaths helps to relax our body.

B) Talk a Different Talk

Start to change the dialogue you have with yourself and others about your health.   Talk about your health issues truthfully and honestly with medical practitioners – your doctors, therapists etc.  In your day to day conversations with family, friends, strangers, don’t have your health issue be the focus or the start of your conversations.  If you saw in the above questionnaire exercise that there is a strong focus in your life about your illness, that your illness or condition now defines who you are, start to change that.  Tell your family and friends you don’t want your conversations to focus on your illness – that you will share news with them when necessary but you want to start to focus on being well. Start to see yourself as more than your illness. Talk about the beautiful weather outside, a new book you’re reading, or your loved ones.  Start to break the pattern of your ego identifying you as this illness/condition or a victim of this illness/condition. Talk about any healing or progress you are making. Talk about how great you feel (even if it’s only part of you). If you have people who share your illness you may want to share what you’re trying to do and ask them to join you in your efforts. Recognize there is nothing worse than spending time with someone who celebrates your weaknesses or illness like a badge of honour and brings you down when you spend time with them.  Start to see the light that shines in you again.

If you have trouble finding things to talk about at first or it seems awkward, that’s fine. It will be a bit uncomfortable making that shift because sometimes we become so identified with our illness/condition and talking about it, we can find we have nothing else to talk about. That our health has become all that people ask about or we talk about that we lose our well-roundedness. Know that you will find you start to feel a little sigh of relief when you start becoming more than your health issue. Start to cultivate some new interests that you can talk about. Start to find some things that delight you or entertain you again. Start to embrace life again, even if it’s only for a few minutes to start. These new interests can distract you when you’re in pain or getting or recovering from a treatment that’s uncomfortable too. Start to embrace life again with your mind in a new place of being.

You will find as you take your attention off your illness and focus on the goodness in your life, the beauty around you, the people in your life, and being well, that you feel your life and your mood shift to a more positive place. It may take some time so be patient with yourself (and others) as you make this change.

C) See Yourself Being Well and Your Body Healing

We must remind ourselves that our body has amazing healing capabilities; that healing happens inside us, not outside of us. We can get outside support such as medical help, medication, and treatments to help us heal, but the healing happens inside our body. Think of something simple, like how we get a cut and our skin regrows and heals over a short period of time. How amazing is that?

There are numerous visualizations you can do to empower your healing. One big thing is to picture yourself in the future being healthy and healed (stopping picturing yourself in current or worse condition). Deal with the realities of your condition in the present but stop seeing your future as a bleak one.

You can become informed of your condition and visualize your cells, organ, part of your body being healed. Adam Dreamhealer has some amazing visualization CDs you can practice customized for various diseases/conditions.  Our cells are constantly being renewed, so start to picture the damaged cells dying and being eliminated from your body then coming back as healed vibrant cells. Send that message to your body.

You can also repeat the above visualizations you used to audit your thoughts (the pink healing light shower and the chakra meditation). See if you can see a change in the “strength” of your visualization.

D) Dealing with Your Emotional Wounds

If you carry a lot of emotional damage around with you and have a chronic health issue, seriously consider seeking professional help/counseling be it traditional psychotherapy or alternative approaches (like those discussed by authors such as Brene Brown, Byron Katie, Ekhart Tolle, or Brandon Bays). I am intuitive and an empath and can often sense emotional wounds/hurts in people when I am treating them, usually in their area of illness or injury. You cannot dismiss the effect of carrying emotional pain on your physical health. If you start to clear some of the emotional wounds away and allow them to truly heal you may find your physical health starts to improve.  We can hold emotional pain in parts of the body and this can slows or stop our healing. If you know you have stuff you carry around with you that you relive over and over, regardless of your age, do start to look inside and start to address the source of the negative emotions you may carry with you (grief, sadness, hurt, low self-esteem). Our bodies and minds are interconnected and emotional wounds can manifest as physical symptoms in the body. That’s not to say there’s not a physical component to your illness or condition. It is to recognize that being emotional healthy and healed can help us heal our physical bodies. There is work we have to do to heal that is internal and not always from outside.  Read the work of some of the authors I noted above and see if they start to shift your thoughts about who you are, were, and who you can be.

E) Have an Attitude of Gratitude

When we put our focus on things we are grateful for it shifts our thinking to a positive place (see my previous post on this topic).  We can end our day by naming the things we are grateful for…the parts of us that feel well, the things we are able to do, kind people in our lives, the beauty around us, having clean drinking water that comes from our taps, having a warm and soft place to sleep…. Practice listing 10 things to be grateful for when you go to bed each night.

F) Being Compassionate with Yourself and Leaving the Pity Party

When you are affected by an illness/condition you may have limitations in what you can do in your life and may not see yourself as “normal”. What we have to realize it that most people aren’t “normal”.  Virtually everyone has something that is a problem for them. You may not see it. It’s human nature to hide your struggles. People may have an injury or disease that’s not apparent, or mental health issues that aren’t apparent, that they struggle with everyday. You may try to do things so you don’t disappoint people in your life that aren’t best for your health or you may beat yourself up for having to rely on people or being a burden. Learn to let go of that and be kind and compassionate to yourself. You are a lovely being and when you are tired or in pain, know your limits and listen to your body.  Don’t do something to please someone if it’s going to mean you having to leave midway through an event or being in twice as much pain the next day. Start to listen to what your body is telling you and respect your body. Treat your body with care, eat nourishing food, get the rest you need, get treatments that help you and send yourself love. You can send the parts of your body where you have an issue love instead of hate, frustration or anger. Treat it like a baby you are nurturing. Picture you body and its cells being filled and bathed with love washing away any grey areas or debris.  Treat yourself with as much kindness and compassion as you would a loved one.

Now feeling compassion for yourself is very different from feeling self-pity and like you’re a victim. Think of what it’s like when you’re on the receiving end of these two emotions from another person. Compassion is lovely and pity is icky.  When we see ourselves as a victim and feel self-pity we attach to the feeling of being powerless, of being at the whim of the world, everything is out of our hands, the world is our enemy.  When you share your victim story too it can be exhausting and toxic for others to be around. People get addicted to being a victim and when the source of their victimhood goes away they just find another source. Compassion is about being kind and loving to ourselves and making empowered choices that support our health and well-being.

G) Seeing the Gift in your Condition/Illness

You may not be able to do this at first, but as you travel down the road of healing yourself physically and emotionally you will be able to see a gift in your condition or illness. Maybe you were a workaholic who was career driven and didn’t have time for your family, then whoa, the brakes were put on your life. Maybe you were not really compassionate towards others until you experienced pain and illness yourself. Maybe you didn’t really connect with your loved ones on an emotional level until you were ill or injured. Illness and injury make us hit the brakes on our lives and stop and look. Just like any crisis in life, it forces us to observe where we are and see what is truly important. Illness and injury can greatly change who we are, open us up to being vulnerable, being needy, being loving, being grateful, being compassionate and letting go of our emotional wounds and who we thought we were. Try to see if you can see your transformation as it happens or after it’s done and be grateful for it.

H) Be Open to Trying Other Treatments

When you’ve seen a lot of practitioners or tried a variety of treatments for a problem you can experience burn out and you give up hope. Or perhaps you’ve only tried only one approach (medication) so far for your issue/condition.  Always be open to trying a new treatment. If the treatment won’t harm you, give it a try. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the right practitioner or treatment for our issue. There are countless alternative treatments and practitioners out there (especially in a city like Vancouver). Do your homework. If you’re unsure if it’s right for you, consult with your physician before trying out a new treatment. If someone has a strong recommendation based on their own personal experience, talk to them about their treatments and their issues to get an idea if it might help you.  Do your research on the internet on the practitioner (sites like RateMD.com and even Yelp have reviews for various practitioners) and the potential risks/benefits treatment (stick to the more reputable sites). Then discuss any questions you have with the practitioner and discuss the anticipated treatment schedule and effects.

It is a very good idea to stick to trying only one new treatment at a time; otherwise you won’t be able to tell whether a new treatment is having a positive, negative, or no effect on your health. A lot of alternative health clinics will have multiple practitioners and modalities offered. When they get a new client a practitioner might recommend seeing other practitioners in the clinic/getting other treatments. This cross-referral helps the practitioners expand their client list and clinic gain more income, but isn’t always in the best interest of the patient. Ask to stick to one treatment at a time, so you can figure out if it is helping. Once you figure out if the new treatment is working, you can always try another.

End Goal

The end goal of the exercises and advice in this post is to help you to shift to more positive thoughts so you can start to focus on becoming well again, reignite hope and possibility, and start to disentangle your identity from your illness/condition. You can start to see yourself as an empowered warrior instead of a victim.  Just give this a try. You truly have nothing to lose by starting to change and harness the power of your mind and thoughts towards healing.

Learning to Love Yourself (It’s an Inside Job)

oprah and deepak love yourself beachInspired by Deepak Chopra’s and Oprah Winfrey’s recent meditation challenge on Miraculous Relationships I want to talk about feeling loved and learning to love yourself.  The last day of the challenge, the centering thought Deepak had us repeat was “love begins with you“. It truly does. If you did the entire meditation challenge you may have noticed that the first week or so of the meditation challenge, which focused on relationships, focused soley on loving ourselves.  That is because the foundation for healthy, loving relationships is having a loving relationship and feeling love for ourselves.  Most of us don’t realize or forget that. That’s not to say you can’t have a loving relationship without being able to love yourself. It’s that the quality of that relationship, the dynamics of that relationship, the way you see the world and your life is intrinsically different when you love yourself.

Image from Attractology.com
Image from Attractology.com

Many of us see life as a never-ending struggle, as an unfullfilled experience, a relentless search for satiety where we search for love or something else in our external world to make us feel complete …never realizing that what we’re searching for is inside us and has been with us all along.  The message  we tell ourselves is that when …in the future.. I meet that person,  I finish school, I get my dream job, I have a house, I have a fancy car, designer clothes, I am debt free, I retire, I have grandchildren… I will be happy and complete. With that happiness and wholeness always residing in a fantasy future and the present being not enough and unfulfilled. The hole we are searching to fill with this person, event, or thing in the future is love for ourselves. Understanding that no matter our present circumstances, we are perfect, we are whole, complete, worthy of love (both giving and receiving love), and to connect with that feeling and enjoy that feeling in the present – that is the magic we are searching for.

Do you Love Yourself?

loveyourself
Image from Kleopatralove.com

Ask yourself this question – Do I love myself? What is your answer? If your answer is a resounding booming yes – you get it, you understand this concept, and this article is just confirming what you know is true.  For many of us though, the answer is uncertain –  “I think so” or “of course I do? right? aren’t I supposed to?” or “I don’t know“. You may even have trouble checking in with yourself and “feeling” the answer to the question. You are just faced with this dull, uncertain void. For many of us, our sense of self-love that we were born with has long been abandoned or been drowned out by criticism, self-loathing, negative tapes playing, so much so that we can’t even remember the last time we felt filled with love for ourselves.  Feeling love for ourselves is different from feeling good about things you did for someone else or accomplished (getting a promotion, getting engaged, having a child, planning a special birthday party, or making someone feel good about themself). It’s about looking in the mirror and feeling love for you just being, just breathing, for existing. Letting go of seeing ourselves with criticism and judgement.  Some of us only know love as something we tap into when we feel it for other people, beings, experiences or things we love.  I would break learning to love yourself into two key steps. The first is developing awareness of your thoughts about yourself and the second is learning to love yourself. When you accomplish loving yourself, unconditionally, truly, deeply, everything in your life and the way you see the world shifts.

Developing Awareness of your Internal Dialogue

If you start tuningdebbiedowner into your feelings, you can start to explore the internal dialogue that goes on in your mind. Often we’re not aware of the messages we tell ourselves because it’s such an automatic process that goes on in our mind but we are always able to tune into how we’re feeling.  If you can tune into the times when you don’t feel loved, you feel critical, you feel bad about yourself – using the feeling as an alert signal – you can then explore that feeling like a curious child. What is here? What caused that feeling? Why do I feel that way? When have I felt this feeling before? The underlying answers might surprise you.  It may be helpful to write down some of the messages you notice or become aware of.  You may be surprised to discover you have a little internal “Debbie Downer” in your head. Perceiving what happens around you and creating a negative dialogue. Internalizing what goes on around you in a negative way and tying it to your self-worth. Where do these messages come from?   You may have grown up around people who criticized you and caused you to develop a low sense of self-esteem or you may have perceived things that happened in your life in a negative way.  Regardless of the source you can start to rewrite those negative messages.

Developing Self Love

There are a number of ways we can start to generate feelings of self-love for ourselves. These are but a few. You need to try these practices for a solid month to really start to feel their effect.

I am open to the beauty and positive loving energy around me

I forgive the past and let go of worry, fear or doubt

I fully embrace healing, life and love and feel guided protected and loved

I am positive sweet energy and unconditional love

Patience and serenity are now filling my mind and heart

I am a love-filled being

See how they feel when you say them and read them everyday to fill yourself with the love-filled feeling these positive messages bring (see my blog link posted above for guidance on using affirmations).

  • Being kind to yourself – if you have low sense of self-love you likely are used to accommodating others and ignoring your own needs. It’s time to start being kind to yourself. Start saying no to things you are dreading and just doing to please others. Start doing something every day as an act of love to yourself. It might be giving yourself a foot massage, taking a bath, taking a walk in nature, ignoring a phone call and choosing some time for silence and peace for yourself. You may find it awkward to do at first but empowering each time you practice it – treating yourself with loving kindness.

love hand

  • Look at yourself with love – practice looking in the mirror at yourself with loving thoughts. This is especially hard to do when you’re in the buff with no enhancements but give it a try. Look and try to see love reflected back at you in your eyes, smile at yourself, drop the criticism and tendency to look for faults. Try being excited to see yourself – like the feeling of when you run into a friend you love unexpectedly or see someone you love that you don’t get to see often. Do this daily and start to see yourself through loving eyes.
  • Let go of criticism, self-judgement, and perfectionism – All these practices diminish us and make us feel we are unworthy unless we do something to earn it. Try being kind to yourself in your internal dialogue. Think supportive loving thoughts. Be compassionate with yourself. Treat yourself like you treat your best friend when they’re going through a hard time. Be your BFF. Let these thoughts go like a helium balloon into the air and breathe the sigh of relief that comes with shutting down your inner critic.
  • Think of something nice to say about yourself to yourself everyday – start to replace the old negative critical comments with loving comments noticing things about yourself you take for granted. It can be physical, emotional or spiritual qualities or recognizing your qualities in action.
  • Notice the energy drains – As you work on building yourself up and filling yourself up with positive energy you may start to be very sensitive or notice people or situations that are energy drains. Could be a coworker, family member, or someone else who goes on a negative rant or is just difficult to be around or a job that’s not the right fit. You can start by giving yourself little breathers from these people or situations when it is too much. Leave the room, go for a walk, get a coffee. If it’s your job, start to think about what you’d like to do and take action to start moving to a more positive work environment or career. It may be cutting phone calls short with people who drain you (remember you aren’t doing them any favors by letting them stew in their negative story). Do some shielding and surround yourself with white light and fill yourself with love before and after being in these situations.
  • Toxic relationships – Further to the previous point, if someone is really a continuous drain you may want to consider letting them go from your life. Let go of someone toxic in your life and let someone loving into your life. It’s funny how the universe does this for us. We are often, when we have low-self esteem or in a toxic relationship – for some reason – scared of letting go of it  – be it obligation, fear of being lonely, fear of conflict. The Universe is kind to us though and you will find when you let go of a relationship that is toxic not only you feel a big sigh and sense of relief and liberation – but the Universe will send someone in who is living at a higher, more positive frequency to replace that person. It is also empowering to choose happiness and let go of toxicity.
  • Bask in gratitude – See the blessings in your life and each day note the things you are grateful for and feel the shift being grateful brings into your energy field ..into how you feel. Start to see the world as a loving kind place and you in it – as a loving kind being.
  • Take care of yourself – Don’t let yourself run yourself ragged. Get sleep when you need it. Seek medical care when you need it. Eat healthy foods. Exercise even if it’s walking. Start to care for yourself in a loving way. Sometimes when we don’t love ourselves we neglect ourselves.
  • Let go of your negative stories – Maybe you focus on the past and negative stories or see negative things happening to you in the future. Let go of these stories. If it’s in the past, it’s already happened and reliving it over and over only tortures you. If it’s a negative future, try to picture positive and exciting things around the corner. See yourself as a happy and loving person in your future. Recognize it’s your ego that keeps you focused on the past and future as being more important than what is happening in the present. Let yourself let go of past regrets and negative future forecasting and just bask in the present and focus on the positive aspects in your present (bask in that gratitude and self-love).

Learning to love yourself is a process and truly a gift – because it’s not something someone can give you or that you can buy but it’s something that is totally in your power to give yourself – and no one can take it away from you.  It takes time but learning to love yourself will truly change your world and you will fill full from the inside out and then be able to share that loving self with the world.

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