Great Posts I’ve Read This Week #3

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I’m grateful there is a light inside me, at the center of me, in this place called my soul, in this ancient and steady core of me. I’m grateful it’s my true self and it burns bright, no matter how much mess I cover it in. I’m grateful for the moments in which a glimmer of that light finds its way through the cracks in my false self. I’m grateful for the glimpse into an unchanging truth:

I’m good enough.

And so are you.

Because you have a light at the center of you, too.

I’m grateful your light comes from the same Source as my light. I’m grateful we’re all connected by our common heritage and that, once we embrace the brilliance of that brightness, all that will be left to do is embrace each other.

Dr Kelly Flanagan

Isn’t that so beautiful? It totally resonates with me.

At Peace with Ourselves

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On Thursday I ended up in tears again at some of the parenting issues I’ve been facing. Hubby has been away for almost six weeks (due home soon!) and the pressures of solo-parenting began to get to me. Master Speedy (middle child and 7 years) has been regularly coming out with negative comments about himself and even tries to get his sisters to hit him to make himself feel better. Among other things.

I’ve been seeking outside help because I have often been at a loss to know how best to help my boy. I’ve been observing that the help he has recently started getting is too little and not often enough. He’s been even angrier with himself than usual. As I was continuing to read The Gifts of Imperfection I had a ‘brainwave’. Why not get a special journal and write some of the key points I’m reading about in Brené’s book and leave spaces for him to write his thoughts as well. Journal keeping has helped me stay grounded over the years and it has helped Master Speedy in the past as well.

I followed up on my thought by purchasing a journal and a special pen for him to use and began to write some entries. Here are some of the thoughts from the book that I’ve simplified or paraphrased a bit for my 7 year old:

If I want to fully experience love and belonging, I must believe that I am worthy of love and belonging.

You are worthy now. Not if. Not when. You are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.

Belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.

We grow love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something that we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow. We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic (not a copy), imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Practicing self-love means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect, and to be kind and loving toward ourselves.

Obviously there is only so much of these that he will take in, but he seems to be understanding enough to make a difference in his thinking. He eagerly began writing his own thoughts in the book and is making decisions about ways he is going to change his words and behaviour to be more loving towards himself. It’s very early days yet, but I’ve seen big enough changes for the better that I’ve realized I need to be committed to helping him establish his own learning and journalling habits.

I also printed out this picture and pasted it in. I spoke to Master Speedy about the fact that his life is like a seed. If he speaks negative words about himself it is like pouring bits of poison onto the seed and that to grow into a big healthy tree he needs to water the seed with love and kindness instead.

I’m aware that I’ve likely contributed to my son’s negative view of himself due to my own dysfunctional upbringing. But I’m so grateful that I got started on my own learning journey, which has included therapy. When I realized just how unhealthy my home life had been for me I worried to my psychotherapist, “I don’t want to repeat the cycle with my own children.” His response was:

“The best thing you can do for your children is to work on yourself.”

I am finding this to be very true. As I’ve worked hard on myself by reading and learning I have become more understanding of my children and better equipped to relate to them on an emotional level. I know that it’s going to be a continual journey of learning and growth, but the rewards have been so huge that I find it totally worth it. Already I have become so much more at peace with myself and who I am. I actually like myself and the woman I’m becoming. I couldn’t have said that 6 years ago.

It’s a privilege to be coaching my son on this most important journey of learning to accept and value himself. Do you have children who struggle to love themselves? Did you struggle as a child? Still? What resources have you found helpful on your journey?

Musings on My Current Read #1

My current ‘learning read’ is Brené Brown’s ‘The Gifts of Imperfection‘. I’ve been reading it for weeks now because I’ve got a little more on my plate than normal, but every time I pick it up I’m encouraged and validated.

I know many of you already know and love Brené’s work. I was first introduced by my Dad who encouraged me to watch her two Ted Talks on Vulnerability and Shame. Back then, almost two years ago now, I was struggling to come to terms with my mother’s betrayal and trying to understand how someone could be so deceptive as to create a false story and live it for so many years.

These talks did help me to answer some of my questions, particularly this comment in her shame talk: We’re pretty sure that the only people who don’t experience shame are people who have no capacity for connection or empathy.” That was huge for me and helped me with finding understanding of my mother’s actions and to accept that it was unlikely that she would change.

This was also great for my personal growth as it meant that I could finally give up the fantasy that Mum would change and my wonky belief that I could or needed to help her with that.  Finally I could move on with my own family and start to really live. Brené’s talk on Vulnerability inspired me to continue being open and vulnerable with others despite the risk of being hurt again.

I recently went looking for Rising Strong in our library system and didn’t find it (it’s still on my wishlist). I found The Gifts of Imperfection instead and am glad I did. It is in this book that Brené goes into more details about her shame and vulnerability research. She writes about 10 guideposts for wholehearted living: about Cultivating Authenticity, Self-Compassion, a Resilient Spirit, Gratitude and Joy, Intuition and Trusting Faith, Creativity, Play and Rest, Calm and Stillness, Meaningful Work, and Laughter, Song and Dance.

With these ten things to cultivate she talks about ten things to let go of: What People Think, Perfectionism, Numbing and Powerlessness, Scarcity and Fear of the Dark, the Need for Certainty, Comparison, Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth, Anxiety as a Lifestyle, Self-Doubt and “Supposed To” and Being Cool and “Always in Control’.

I’m reading Guidepost #3 about Cultivating a Resilient Spirit and I’m intrigued that she writes that spirituality is a necessary component for resilience. In the opening paragraph of the chapter, resilience is ‘the ability to overcome adversity’. We certainly all need a dose of resilience then, don’t we? I’ve encountered plenty of what I would call adversity in my life and I’m sure that the majority of people could say the same.

“Feelings of hopelessness, fear, blame, pain, discomfort, vulnerability, and disconnection sabotage resilience. The only experience that seems broad and fierce enough to combat a list like that is the belief that we’re all in this together and that something greater than us has the capacity to bring love and compassion into our lives.” from Guidepost #3, The Gifts of Imperfection

I can say that my early connection with a loving being has been a very large contributor to my being able to survive the trials I’ve had to date. My faith became personal to me about the age of 14 years and I have often experienced a presence that has helped me to feel that I’m not alone, that Someone greater than me cares about me and loves me. And I’ve seen evidence of this in countless ways.

These days I’m still pondering how this all fits in the larger scheme of things as I have moved away from organized religion. It’s been a process of letting go of the unhelpful pieces and holding on to the essence. But the essence of what? As I’m sure you can tell I’m still mulling over it all and I like to think that this will be a life-time challenge. I don’t think we are ever meant to have it all figured out!

Brené writes that the heart of spirituality is connection and that practicing spirituality is what brings healing and creates resilience. These points resonate with me and are true in my experience. It seems that having some form of spirituality is important for wholehearted living but Brené writes that she didn’t find that any one particular interpretation has a corner on the resilience market.

I just googled the meaning of spirituality and found this interesting article: What is Spirituality? It begins with “Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives.” I really like that as it helps me to better understand why I have moved away from religion but still consider my spirituality a vital part of who I am.

How about you? Is spirituality important in your life?

Great Posts I’ve Read This Week #2

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What have you been reading this week that has encouraged you on your journey?

Soul Food and World Peace

Readying for school this morning is proving stressful. Miss Bookworm (10 years) says she is going to move back to New Zealand as soon as she’s old enough. She’s struggling to settle into school, mostly because she hasn’t found any special friends to connect with yet. She tells me she is behind all her classmates in her learning, particularly in maths. She keeps sending me accusatory looks while making her breakfast and lunch, like I am to blame for all her troubles. I know she doesn’t really mean that, but either way it’s hard to see her struggling.20151119Landing

After seeing the children off to school I decide that, rather than doing housework, I will take my camera and go for a walk for the hour I have free. I head towards my favourite lookout point which is just 3 minutes from our house. I snap a few photos of the sunlight on the bay and some nearby birds before heading down to the beach.

I pause often, taking more photographs of the sea, birds and waves crashing on the landing as the tide comes in. All the while I can feel my soul being refreshed, the stress of the morning draining away. Eventually I head up some steps to the cliff top and stand for a moment to catch my breath. I look out over the bay reflecting…and feeling completely blessed.

I listen to the waves on the beach, feel the wind blowing my hair, and observe the silvery light of the sun on the bay. I think about how far removed my little corner of the world is from the wars, killing and hatred that seem to abound in other places all around our planet. I think about how it would be so good if collectively we could focus on what really matters: we are all inter-connected, all human.

It’s not about race, religion, the roles we play or our outward appearance. We are all souls and we all want connection, love, and to belong. But isn’t it so easy to get caught up in our own little worlds: the stresses and dramas of raising children, working to make ends meet, etc? Sometimes we forget to take a step back to look at the bigger picture, to really get an understanding of ourselves and why we are here.

When I think of all the pain and suffering being experienced around the world I wonder what I can do in my little corner of it. It’s easy to feel really helpless. But perhaps in our day to day interactions with those around us we can spread a message by the way we live. A message of respect for our fellow man, even if we think differently or believe different things. This pulling down of others, exclusion of others, and this us vs them mentality – it only causes more conflict and hostility.

It boggles the mind that after all these millennia we still don’t get it, we still haven’t figured out how to live in peace and harmony TOGETHER. But let’s not stop trying. Let’s see if perhaps we can make a difference in our little corners. And I think to be able to do that, we need to find ways to refresh our own souls, to find contentment and peace in who we are. Not looking outwardly for validation or love, but learning to love ourselves first. As we take care of ourselves first we will have what we need to love others better.20151119Robin

I’ve discovered recently that taking walks and photographs in the fresh air nourishes and revives my soul. It helps me to stay grounded and peaceful in the midst of my busy life. I am learning to make it a priority and I’m so glad that I did today.

What nourishes you? What are you going to do today to take care of you?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

The Power of “No”

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Do you ever feel a knot of resentment building inside of you when someone asks you to do something and you feel you have no choice but to say yes?

I remember that feeling very well. I grew up experiencing it time and again in my family of origin. I was given all sorts of unhelpful messages, some of them unspoken. Jesus first, yourself last and others in between = JOY. Be selfless and giving. Always put others before yourself. Always say yes when someone asks something of you. We, your parents, are always right, so follow our direction and opinions and you’ll be okay. Don’t listen to your own intuition because it’s off. Your opinions? They don’t matter. Your feelings? You shouldn’t trust them.

It’s challenging to find your way out of that sort of muddle. When you have been given those messages repeatedly you end up believing them and you doubt yourself. I know it’s possible to crawl your way out of that sort of thinking and belief though, because I have done it. How? One little step at a time.

One of the first times I said no was to my brother. It was a bit scary because I’d had no practice. I was ready though, because by this stage I had had enough. Enough of feeling obligated, enough of feeling that knot of yuck inside me whenever I begrudgingly did whatever he asked of me.

A little back story: My brother was staying with us over Christmas. There was a lot of tension between him and us because he was realizing that he didn’t have the same level of control over me now that I was married. Anyway, so Bro’s friends were flying into our city and my husband had offered to collect them from the airport. He asked Bro where he was going to be taking these two girls. Bro’s response, “They are staying here.” What? At our place? You didn’t ask us??

We didn’t know back then what we know now and so we let them come, but expressed our displeasure at the rudeness of it all. He offered no apology – he was offended that we were offended. That night I retreated to our room and let them have use of the kitchen. I felt like a prisoner in my own home. The girls were nice enough, but it felt horrible that we’d been put in such an awkward position.

They left the next day and we were very relieved to have them gone. When we processed together what we were feeling we decided we didn’t like it one bit and did not want to be in the same spot again. So when my brother phoned up five days later to ask me if they could come to stay again I said “No”. He then asked if I could call our grandmother to see if they could stay there instead and my response was, “Sorry, you’ll need to do that yourself.” I still remember how good that felt. It was empowering.

Once I had said no once, the next time was easier, and the next. It might seem juvenile to those of you who learned you could say no in your formative years, but for those of us who didn’t it can be really hard, scary and cause feelings of guilt.

I want to encourage you that saying no is vitally important to your well-being! Imagine you own your own home and it has a fence around it. Would you allow a stranger to come inside your fence and set up a tent on your lawn? Would you let them invite all their friends over and have a party? The answer is no, right? And hopefully people respect your property lines enough not to do that.

The same is true for your life. You have the say over what people can and can’t do to you. It’s called setting boundaries and is about you establishing where others end and you begin. It’s about you learning to value yourself and take care of you first. And while this might seem selfish I can tell you it isn’t! Life is too short to live it for other people instead of for yourself. Start living your life! You can choose what it looks like!

If this is a new concept for you, or something you struggle with I would advise that you look for blog posts or books on the subject of personal boundaries. Here is one I can recommend you read: It’s a two-part series called Personal Boundaries 101 and written by a psychotherapist.

Do you find it easy or difficult to say no?

A key to me being able to take the first step was because I had my husband’s support. Do you have someone who can support you in taking baby steps forward? If you can’t think of anyone who will cheer you on I would love to be your cheerleader. Message me via my Contact Page. I look forward to hearing from you!