My Meat Suit

My weight has been a topic of apparent concern for some lately, so I feel compelled to address it. It’s funny to me that it seems that someone is always unhappy with our bodies. Right?! I was unhappy with it when I was overweight and unhealthy because of the years when I was on steroids, and other people are unhappy with it because I guess I look thinner than they think I’m supposed to. Even in high school when I looked AMAZING, I only noticed my body’s flaws and didn’t really appreciate it. When I was overweight, mentally I felt like the same person I had always been, but I definitely noticed different treatment. People looked at me differently, or rather, I felt like I walked through life totally unseen. Usually I am my own worst critic, but I am in a really great place with my body these days. I am grateful for the hiking that it can do. I am grateful that it allows me to work my 12-hour shifts. I am grateful that’s it’s generally healthy. And dammit, I fucking love the way I look naked!! Finally, after all of these years, I’m in love with my body! But honestly, it took losing the body I had been used to and the health I had been used to and then getting them back for me to get to this place. My body isn’t perfect and I am sure it looked better back in high school and college, pre-baby. But so what? It doesn’t matter! I have the body that I have now. And I am so happy with it now!

So you can probably understand why other people’s opinions of my body don’t mean anything to me. But they do leave me with a general curiosity about why it is that people ever care about another person’s weight. I personally don’t find that I ever even think about someone else’s weight let alone talk to them about it. And I think there’s generally a misconception that while maybe it’s not OK to ask someone about their weight if they appear overweight, it is somehow perfectly ok to insinuate that someone is underweight. For instance I don’t think most people would feel comfortable going up to someone and saying “I’ve noticed you’ve gained some weight recently, is everything ok?” or “you’re SO fat.” But somehow it feels perfectly acceptable for people to say something like “you look like you’ve lost weight, are you ok?” or “you’re SO skinny.” As someone who has lived on both sides of that body fence, let me tell you that NEITHER telling someone that they’re fat or telling someone that they’re skinny is acceptable. Ever. So please stop doing it. Unless the body belongs to you, you’re in someone else’s business and not your own if you’re speaking to them about their weight.

We’re inundated with millions of perfectly photoshopped bodies from every source making us feel like our normal bodies thin, thick, with loose skin, wrinkles, scars, and stretch marks aren’t beautiful just as they are. It’s driving the market for Botox injections, boob jobs, tummy tucks, among whatever else is currently being sold to us as the next best fix for our imperfect selves. We’re being taught that looks are everything, but looks fade as nothing lasts forever, and then what are we left with? If we think our looks are who we are, how will we feel when we age and lose them? Jake Ducey pointed this out at the workshop of his I went to titled “Genius Within”: we are constantly being made to feel worthless and powerless so that we buy things that we don’t need to keep a few rich. Think about it. We’re surrounded by a culture that says we’re not enough just as we are, so maybe we should make an extra effort to love ourselves just as we are, and to give others space to be themselves just as they are. Maybe in that way, we can counterbalance some of the bullshit that society is telling us about ourselves and our bodies.

I’m sure that aside from genetics, some of my lifestyle choices have led to the type of body that I have. For nearly 10 years, I hiked and backpacked for work. So instead of sitting in an office, I got outside and moved my body, usually carrying heavy gear while I did it. When I have days off now, I love to hike. At my current job, I’m on my feet a LOT. I walked 3.5 miles at work yesterday. I don’t eat fast food. I avoid fried foods. I generally don’t eat much meat and have lately cut it out all together. I have been dealing with systemic yeast since my years on antibiotics, so lately I’ve been cutting processed sugars and carbs. I don’t drink coffee (because I don’t like it). I only occasionally drink pop or beer. I’m not a saint. I don’t eat healthy 100% of the time. Sometimes I eat a bunch of garbage. But my habits, my body, have everything to do with me and absolutely nothing to do with you. I rented this particular meat suit for this life, you didn’t. So the only one who has to live with it is me. I get to decide how to use it. I get to decide how I treat it. I get to decide what I put into it. I get to decide how much to move it. I don’t really want to sit around comparing my meat suit to yours because to me, there are so many more interesting things to contemplate in this life.

Bottom line is that our only competition is with ourselves. We don’t have to be better than anyone else. We only have to learn to love ourselves and our bodies. If we’re not happy with our meat suit, there are some things we can do like diet and exercise to help change them. But comparing our meat suits gets us nowhere of any importance, because what we’ll always find is that my meat suit is different from your meat suit is different from their meat suit. So what? What does that even mean in the grand scheme of things? We are not our bodies anyway. We’re just renting them for this short short period of time. Learn to love the body you have so that other people’s bodies don’t even phase you. Consider that people gain and lose weight for reasons beyond fast food and eating disorders. We are not here to fit into some “one-size-fits-all” box. We are all unique just as we’re supposed to be. I am done living my life to make other people happy. I am not here to make you comfortable. I am here to make myself happy, to make myself comfortable. I refuse to fit my beliefs into a box and I refuse to fit my body into a box. We are not here to conform, so that we can all be the same, act the same, and look the same! (My god that would be so boring!!). We are here to be our unique and beautiful selves and to serve this world in a way that only we can. Can you see how beautiful your body is just the way it is? Can you see how damaging it is to compare yourself in any capacity to others?  In the end, the only opinion about us that matters is our own.

Personally, I especially enjoy being around people who don’t sacrifice their uniqueness for conformity’s sake. To me, the people who are living their lives true to themselves are the interesting ones, the truly beautiful ones, regardless of the size, shape, and outward appearance of their meat suits.

Listen to Michael Franti’s “I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like)” HERE

If you enjoyed this post, please like and share it!

(I first heard our bodies being referred to as “meat suits” by Jake Ducey at his workshop, “Genius Within.” I then heard the term used like this again in the documentary “The Secret.” So, I did not coin the term “meat suit”, but I absolutely love it!)

What is Your Illness Doing for You?

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So, I have been hanging out at home all week, sick.  Today I jokingly referred to it as black lung disease, and my son called it the black plague.  I got him laughing when I sang with my raspy voice to an Imagine Dragon’s tune before school, “don’t get too close, its red inside, it’s where the black plague lies, it’s where the black plague lies…”  We thought I was pretty funny.  I don’t know what it is exactly, but I feel like crap.  My throat hurts.  I wake up with loads of congestion in my chest that I end up hacking up all day long.  I sound a bit like Darth Vader.  I wake up and use cough drops in the middle of the night, because my throat hurts so bad.

During the weekend, the black plague was just a feeling of overall malaise and the subtle warning of impending illness.  I upped my essential oils, I upped my homeopathic remedy, I started taking about 4-5,000 mg of vitamin C per day, and I was drinking green smoothies by the quart.  But in the end, after making it through the weekend, the plague hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was thinking today and had a HUGE Aha!  moment!  For as long as I can remember now, I have associated illness with a sort of free pass to focus on taking care of myself.  I see it also as a reminder from my body that I need to slow down and listen to it and take care of it in the ways that it is telling me to.  This past weekend, I was so excited!  I was lucky to attend Jake Ducey’s (check him out on YouTube and Facebook) workshop titled, “Genius Within.”  When I had seen that Jake was going to have a workshop in San Diego, it sounded perfect. It was one of those times where every line that I read to explain what the workshop was about spoke to me.  I was especially excited to shed light on more of my self-limiting patterns and beliefs, because I am really feeling the need to just let go of all of my old shit, once and for all.  The price was right, the location was close enough to drive there in a day, I really like Jake’s message and positivity, and above all of that, my intuition was very strongly urging me to go.  And then, as the weekend got closer, Matisyahu released his Fall tour dates, and one of them landed in San Diego on the Friday that I would be in San Diego!  So, I was going into the weekend thrilled, but I also had some major Mom-guilt creep in.  For starters, I had only seen Matisyahu with my son, and I knew that he really liked that fact.  Also, because the workshop was all day on Sunday, there was no way that I was going to be able to make it back in time to get my son at the normal time on Sunday night, so I had to make arrangements with his Dad to keep him that night.  I think that Moms reading this will maybe get where I was coming from the most, because I think that in general, it is the Moms who are usually more comfortable putting everyone else before themselves.  I am no different.  So I began to have some major Mom-guilt, to the point that I didn’t even tell my son about seeing Matisyahu until after the fact.  It was a 21 and over show, so he wouldn’t have even been able to go if he was with me for the weekend. Yet, I still felt bad about it.

I knew before last weekend, before today, that I am my own worst critic.  I have always been so hard on myself.  And while I have done a lot of the work to move past that way of being, it obviously still sneaks up on me sometimes.  I ended up having a fantastic weekend!  I got to explore a new beach my first day in town, which was really beautiful.  I find that the ocean is so grounding for me.  I stayed with an old friend/coworker who I hadn’t seen in 13 YEARS! Yikes!  It was so great to spend time with her and reconnect.  Her 5 year-old and 2 year-old daughters treated me like their long-lost Aunt who they adored, which was a lot of fun!  I went out on my own in downtown San Diego (which is GINORMOUS by the way!) to dance for hours to Orphan, Zion I, and Matisyahu!  And I basked in Jake’s positivity for two whole days and connected with some wonderful people who also attended.  I also unraveled some more of my long-held beliefs, and was given some new ways to look at things, as well as new ways to create the life that I want for myself.  I was baby-ing myself the whole time with a cold that was brewing just under the surface.  Today, I realized that in always being so hard on myself when putting myself first, especially since the birth of my son, I generally only give myself a completely guilt-free pass to take it easy in all ways when I am sick.  That was my Aha! moment today.  My thoughts brought on this illness.  My body was wanting me to slow down and take care of me, and my thoughts put it into the Universe that the only way I would do that would be if I was sick.  And boom!  I have been sick all week.  I went to the grocery store for a short trip early in the week and got enough stuff to get us by for the week, but otherwise, I have done nothing but rest and take care of myself while my son has been in school.  I’ve napped.  I’ve taken extra vitamins.  And I’m still chugging the smoothies, because my body is seriously craving greens SO much right now!

I watched “The Secret” last night, which really further reinforced the things about the Law of Attraction that Jake shared with us at the workshop.  The fact that our thoughts create our reality.  So consider what my thoughts just did in my life.  I was feeling guilty for self-care, but that went away once I was sick.  When I am sick, I give myself permission to put myself first, and I don’t feel guilty about it.  But why do I feel that I must be suffering with a black plague before I can feel OK with putting myself first?  Can you relate?  I can look back on my past and see a similar pattern.  In college is when I first started to think of illness this way.  I would see it as my body’s way of telling me to slow down and be extra caring towards myself.  I would notice that about once a month, I would feel a bit under the weather, and would shift into self-care mode during that time.  Later, when I lost my health, it kind of gave me a pass to allow some of the cards that I was constantly keeping in the air to drop.  I felt completely responsible for the care of my son, the care of the two dogs, and the overall upkeep of the household.  I did the majority of the household chores, and I did the majority of the grocery shopping.  I was exhausted and stressed.  At the time, I was in nursing school, and not working outside of the home, so I felt immense pressure to basically do everything else.  I’ve always been independent and I preferred to feel like I was pulling my own weight.  I kept it up until my illness struck.  And then, over time, I stopped being so stressed about the things I was not able to get done around the house.  And as I have written before, I was forced to take care of myself because of my illness.  I had been so used to just going and going all of the time that I rarely focused on what I needed.  That stretches back for as far as I can see.  I think a lot of us get wrapped up in the go-go-go mentality of this fast-paced society that we’re living in that we rarely stop to just BE.  But for me, those moments where I just stop and soak in my life in the moment are the ones that I treasure the most.

So, the Universe in all of its preciseness of divine timing, told me that 30 was going to be the year where I would finally start to focus on myself and my own well-being for a change.  It gave me a very clear picture, that I lived through, of what life was like without good health.  I was shown that without my health, I essentially had nothing, because I couldn’t even function without it to enjoy my son, to take care of him at times, to walk, to do the chores that needed to be done, or to do things that brought me joy.  When you lose your health, you realize very quickly that everything else in life is secondary.  You can have every other thing going for you, but if you don’t have your health, it’s very difficult to appreciate the other things in your life.  Since January 2016, I have found that having a daily gratitude practice has led to a lot more joy in my life and a lot more things to be grateful for.  I would say that writing out the things that I am grateful for every night before I go to bed has been one of the simplest yet profoundly life-changing things that I have done for myself.  Try it.  I promise that only good will come from it.  And it is especially important to take note of the good things in your life when you’re struggling with illness or some other challenge.

I love when beliefs that have been held in my subconscious mind become conscious!  Once it becomes a conscious thought, I am able to examine it, look at how it’s been affecting my life, and release it if it no longer serves me.  In this case, the belief that I have to be sick in order to feel OK about fully taking care of myself is definitely NOT serving me well.  Can you see that?  It would be much more pleasant to stay healthy and take care of myself, than to spend a week knocked on my ass to force me to do it.

In the movie, “The Secret,” they talk about the fact that illness has no place in a body that is at ease.  I know that I have mentioned in other posts on this blog that I feel like my illness (or dis-ease) stemmed from my utter disregard for myself.  I stopped holding myself as a priority in my own life, I stopped listening to my intuition regarding situations in my life that were no longer serving me.  My body became a breeding ground for dis-ease.  I sometimes have friends who will tell me about friends or family members of theirs who are struggling with ongoing, chronic health problems, and they will ask if they can pass my contact info to the person.  I have always been happy to use my experience to help other people.  I know that the pain has had a purpose in my own life, but I enjoy using my pain to serve as a purpose in others’ lives as well.  It makes my struggles doubly worth it.  So at this point, when I talk to these people who are often also struggling with Lyme Disease, I ask them to really look at their life to see what is going on.  I ask them to look to see if there is something in their life that is causing them stress.  I would ask them to look for the lessons in their illness.  Have they been neglecting themselves?  Are there situations in their life that are toxic for them?  Have they been ignoring their intuition about things in their life?

Now, I would add for those reading this post, is there a way that your illness is serving you?  Is there a comfort in being ill?  Do people take care of you when you are ill?  Do you have less responsibilities when you are ill?  Do you receive more love from people when you are ill?  An even better question would be, do you receive more love from yourself when you are ill?  And I don’t ask these questions to make you feel bad or worse than you already do, but instead I ask you them to break your attention away from the illness you have and direct it to the thoughts that you hold about your illness.  I would say that I definitely give myself more love, more freely, when I am sick.  This week has been a perfect example.  But why can’t I do that for myself all of the time?  Why can’t I always feed myself well and give myself important vitamins?  And make sure that I get enough sleep?  The answer is that I CAN.  Now that I see what I have been doing, I can choose to change it.  And believe me, I don’t need another illness to come along like this one before I make that change!  Just as I have written before, sometimes, we have to get to a point where we’ve suffered enough before we are willing to make the changes that we need to make for a better life for ourselves.

I have a lot more to my health journey than I have written on this blog so far.  I will write about it as I feel guided to do so.  But at one point towards the end of my time on antibiotics, a woman was placed on my path who served as a sort of counselor for me.  I remember that during our first phone call, she asked me about my life.  After I had told her about my life which invariably included a lot of information about my health struggles, she said to me, “boy, you’re really holding onto your illness aren’t you?”  I remember being kind of stunned, and a little bit pissed off at her response to what I had just told her.  I said something like “well, yeah, I take handfuls of medications and supplements several times a day and pay out-of-pocket for a specialist that I have to go see at least every 12 weeks.  My illness is part of my life.”  Well, in that moment, I didn’t really “get” what she was saying to me.  It took me some time to understand.  But eventually, I did come to understand.  You see, when I got ill, I began to identify myself as sick.  The people around me began to identify me as sick too.  Once I had the diagnosis of Lyme Disease among others, the Lyme became part of my identity.  I identified myself as someone with Lyme Disease.  But you see, I am no more Lyme Disease than you are cancer, or MS, or Lupus, or depression.  I am NOT my illness, just as you are NOT yours.  I was able to flip that switch in my mind after several weeks of being off of my antibiotics, so that I could do a few rounds of medications for the yeast that was becoming more of an issue in my body.  I had been so used to having a flare whenever I came off the medications, but this time was different. (I believe a big factor for me was that I had been on a homeopathic remedy for about 7 months by this time.)  I wasn’t having a flare, and so it gave me space to ask myself some questions.  Like, what makes me sick?  Am I sick because I have had lab work come back positive for several different infections?  Or am I sick based on how I feel?  I decided that because I was managing to work full-time while taking care of my son on my days off, and I was feeling good, that I was not sick.  I had intended to go back on my antibiotics, but I decided that I was going to let how I felt be my barometer for how I was doing rather than some labs.  It was at that time that I stopped telling people that I had Lyme Disease in the present tense.  I started to talk about it only in past tense, if I even brought it up at all.  I began to think of myself as healthy, and I started just being grateful for how I felt in the moment.  I stopped identifying with my illness.  I stopped identifying myself as a sick person.  And my life changed for the better.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have lingering symptoms.  No one has ever told me that I am cured and in fact, this week, my PCP went over labs with me from September and she concluded that I am still “not well.”  Strangely, that felt more warm and cozy and familiar to me than if she had said I was cured.  I easily took on that illness cloak again.  I even told a few people what she had said.  But since then, I have decided that me not being well is no longer part of my belief system (nod to Jake Ducey).  I am not going to allow numbers on paper or cells in my body to determine my health.  I am going to judge my health based on how I feel.  When my body asks for something, I am going to aim to give it what it needs on a consistent basis.  I have been asked if I worry that I will get Lyme again.  (Yes, you can get MORE Lyme, or re-infected with Lyme following treatment!!)  But I am not worried.  I choose to no longer live my life from a place of fear.  I believe that I have gleaned the lessons that I was meant to learn from my illness, so I do not believe that I will have a repeat of Lyme.  I believe that I will continue to be as healthy as my thoughts, which I am always working to improve.  Our thoughts really do create our reality.  What kind of reality have you been creating for yourself?  What feels comfortable to you even though it causes you strife?

Jake reminded us all this weekend that every 7 years, every cell in our body gets replaced.  So every 7 years, we essentially become new people made up of brand new cells!  I’m almost at the 8 year anniversary (November 27th) of passing out at home and losing my health.  None of the cells that were present in my body on that day in 2009 even exist anymore!  How cool is that??!  For me, it was a great reminder, because I have come to see and experience the power of my mind.  Our minds have the power to keep us feeling ill long after every cell in our body has been replaced by a new, healthy cell.  And our minds have the power to free us from our dis-ease.

I invite you to consider that sometimes using our mind to free us from dis-ease isn’t necessarily about getting cured from that which ails us.  Sometimes, it’s about shifting the way that we think about the illness that makes all the difference.  I see my illness as a blessing because of the level of gratitude that I now live with every day.  I could not have gotten that any other way.  So I would not wish it away or go back in time and change things so that I wouldn’t lose my health.  Life is not happening to us, it’s happening for us.  We are not victims, we are students. It is OK to grieve for the loss of your health.  It is OK to feel angry and sad.  It is OK to feel like it is unfair, and to throw shit.  Just try not to live there forever.  Your illness is not a torture device, but rather a teacher.  In the thick of my illness, I would have told you that you were crazy if you told me that in 8 years, I would be writing about how grateful I am that I lost my health.  But here I am.  And I am no different from you.  Our illness may have the same name, or a different name, but that’s meaningless in the grand scheme of things.  We all have the ability to choose peace in every situation, peace with what is.  Because, I have found that it’s usually the way that I am thinking about something that causes me the most suffering.

When I look at a situation and say OK, this is how it is, I can decide how I want to show up.  I am in control of my thoughts, feelings, and actions.  That’s it.  I encourage you to think, feel, and do things that make you feel good as often as possible.  Work to shift yourself into a place of ease, so that dis-ease no longer lays claim to your body.  You are not your body.  You are not your illness.  You are much more expansive than either of those.

Listen to Michael Franti’s “Hey Hey Hey” HERE

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The Plague of Fear

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We have a problem.  We have a big, gigantic problem in this country right now (well, we have more than one, but I’m writing a blog post, not a novel).  Fear.  Fear comes in a lot of different forms.  Some of it is founded, because of things that have happened in our past, like the shooting in Vegas.  But some of our fears are not founded.  Some of our fears may have been passed down to us from our immediate families, or ancestors.  Some fears are created in our minds and have no logical foundation.  But because many of us still believe what our minds tell us, we believe every fearful thought that our minds create.

Lately, when I have talked about going hiking alone, people have asked me things like “aren’t you scared to be out there alone?” and “do you carry a gun?”   Honestly, the thought has never crossed my mind once. And I’m not even sure what I would be protecting myself from on the trail. Animals? Black bears? Mountain lions? Black bears are generally not aggressive. And if a mountain lion decides to attack me, I’ll never even see it coming.  I’ve never understood why anyone thinks that we’ll all be safer if we’re walking around carrying guns to protect ourselves.  If people weren’t carrying guns around, what exactly would we need to protect ourselves from??!  In my experience, while I have encountered wildlife such as grizzly bears, black bears, and mountain lions when I have been hiking for work and leisure, I have never been as scared of any wild animal in the way that I am afraid of a human who carries a gun.  The people who I have met out hiking on the trails have been some of the kindest souls, and I have never feared any of them.  What I do fear in those wild settings is another person who decides to carry a gun because he or she is afraid.  Generally, the trails are filled with good people out to enjoy nature and/or escape all the people in the cities walking around carrying guns. So, where does all of this fear come from? Guns aren’t going to fix anything. At all. Ever.  So, unless you hunt as a means to get food for you and your family, or you’re in the back country of Alaska where the ratio of grizzly bears to humans is high, I see no place for guns in nature.  As a woman, I am MUCH more afraid to walk around a city at night by myself than I ever am when I am out hiking.  And part of that is related to guns and the rising amount of gun violence in this country.

I know that people who favor being able to have guns see the issue as a rights issue first and foremost, but I think it needs to be talked about instead as a safety issue.  While I do not like the idea of our government limiting our rights, I have a bigger problem with my fellow citizens who continue to open fire on large crowds of people using semiautomatic rifles.  It is one thing to have a gun for hunting, but it is quite another to have semiautomatic rifle meant for the mass killing of other humans.

I realize that the way we treat mental health in this country is also partly to blame, but even with that being said, the extent of damage done with a non-assault rifle would pale in comparison to damage done with assault rifles.  If a shooter had less ammunition readily loaded, the chances of them being able to mow down a crowd of people in a matter of minutes without being noticed and stopped would decrease significantly.  I know it without having to read research papers and without studying the statistics behind it.  You know it.  I think we all know it, but here we are still arguing about gun rights while innocent people are being murdered.

Gun violence is not new, and even the first shootings that took place in schools have somehow sunk farther into history than I care to admit to myself.  But as time goes on, it just feels like these attacks are showing up more and more in places where people gather to celebrate, connect, relax, or experience joy.  And that’s scary.  It’s scary because it’s unpredictable and can literally happen anywhere at any time.  While we’re at the movies, concerts, school, and church.

I believe that we are being given the opportunity to see just how broken our current society is.  At what point, do we collectively face ourselves as a nation and decide that enough is enough?  When do we start coming together so that everyone can have equal rights, experiences, and opportunities?  When do we collectively start putting ourselves in other people’s shoes so much so that we cannot bear the thought of hurting another human being?  When do we stop looking at other people as if they are the problem and realize that it is our own fear and hurt and doubts that prevent us from fully embracing ourselves and therefore fully embracing others?

Friends, it starts with each of us.  And not necessarily in the sense that you might believe.  Of course I think that pushing for and taking action to have new legislation rolled out that would block the sales of assault rifles in this country would make a positive impact on our society.  But I do not believe that it’s the only thing that we need to consider.  I think we need to really look at and face the demons that we each carry.  Right now.  Today.  What is it that creates your fear?  Why do you believe that owning a gun will keep you safe?  What makes you hate yourself so much that you can hate another person enough to shun them, hurt them, or even kill them?   What is it about the (fill in the blank) race, (fill in the blank) gender, (fill in the blank) sexual orientation that makes you think that you are separate from them?  That you are better?  That you are better to the point of wanting to deny them the same freedom that everyone else has?  To the point of wanting to cause them harm in some way?

In my own life, I can see that the times where I felt like I was being destroyed, when I felt like I hit rock bottom, were the times when I was given the opportunity to start over.  I was given the opportunity to build myself and my life back up the way I wanted it to be.  I can tell you that it was not an easy road.  I did not gain my current perspective, level of gratitude, or positivity easily.  The really good things in life don’t come easy, you have to do the work.  We all have to start doing the work.  I think that sometimes, you have to be brought to such an immense level of pain and suffering that eventually it breaks you so that you begin searching for another way.  That’s the beauty in many of our struggles. The point where we stop and look at the hurt in our daily lives and see that it’s just not working for us anymore.    THAT’S where we start working for real change.

All of this may seem unrelated to my original topic of gun violence, but just bear with me here.  We each live from a place of our own experiences.  We were destined to come into this life with the human personality and body that we have.  We are all made perfect for the journey that our souls wanted us to have in this life.  But we’ve developed a way of looking at ourselves that does not serve us.  I know that I spent many years seeing a lot of my “negative” qualities and “flaws” and focused more on them than I did on all of my “positive” qualities.  As humans, we sometimes beat ourselves up so much that we overlook how amazing we truly are.  And as I have said in other posts, when we judge ourselves so harshly, we also are more apt to judge others harshly.  When deep down, even on a subconscious level, we hate ourselves, we are more prone to hate others.  Let that soak in for a minute.  Self-hate and loathing are not easy things to admit to ourselves.  Sometimes we bury those feelings so deeply that we do not even see them, but they’re doing damage in our lives subconsciously.  We work to distance ourselves from our emotions and qualities that we deem as “bad” or “negative”.  We have gotten so good at distancing ourselves, in fact, that we’re all walking around feeling broken, but don’t even fully understand why.  When we’re constantly seeing parts of ourselves as “bad” or unacceptable, we’re going to focus on those aspects in other people as well.  So to feel more genuine love for other people, we really have to cultivate our own self-love first.  I believe that self-love is the key to real solutions of change and the lack thereof is the underlying cause of the turmoil that we are facing right now.

I have lived both ways now.  For many years, without even realizing it, I did not love myself.  I fought against parts of myself that I did not like, or that other people did not like about me.  And at the time, I could not see how that was negatively impacting my life.  I did not feel happy.  I sought to fill the void in me with relationships.  I aimed to please people.  I came to believe that as long as the other people around me were OK, then I would be OK, so I sought to make people happy.  I avoided confrontation.  I avoided rocking the boat.  I cruised along like this for a long time.  Until my life fell apart.  And my life felt like it was falling apart for years.  It wasn’t a quick process, but eventually, I worked with people who helped me pick apart my beliefs.  I started to see how my beliefs about myself were negatively impacting my life.  And it became almost like a game to me, to find the underlying beliefs or thoughts, to examine them, and then to decide whether or not to keep them based on how they made me feel.  As I shed more layers and uncovered more of my actual truth, I began to experience self-love in a way that I had never before.  And I can tell you that this self-love has created a positive ripple effect through all areas of my life.  One of the biggest shifts comes from the fact that I have much less judgement about other people than I used to.  It’s really not about getting rid of the parts of ourselves that we don’t like, but rather realizing that it takes all of the little parts to make the whole of us.  We all have light and dark in us, but it’s not about rejecting the dark.  It’s about realizing that we ALL share light and dark and it’s OK.  If something about us is really upsetting to us to the point where we don’t feel like we can live with it, then we have to remember that we have the power to change.  Just because we have always hated a certain group of people does not mean that we must continue on that path if it’s hurting our heart.  Just because we have always believed something does not mean that we have to believe it forever.  Give yourself permission to change and grow.  Give yourself permission to live with a more open mind.

Sometimes our judgments of people are sneaky.  Do you routinely judge those with differing opinions to yours?  Do you judge when people have different values or a different lifestyle to you?  Do you believe that your beliefs are true while other people’s aren’t?  I have looked at my own judgments of people.  Even now, they come out at times, but I notice them.  I see that I am judging.  I see that my ego is just working to make me feel better than others.  My ego works to keep me separate from others, so it looks for our differences.  But my heart, my soul, is always looking for the similarities.  As I connect with the love that I am, I connect with the love that other people are.  When my mind and ego get out of the way, I see things to love in others more than I see things to hate.  I have begun to naturally see the light in others, the good.  I think that sometimes I am actually glimpsing people’s souls.  The souls of humans are absolutely beautiful.

When you break down the beliefs in your own life, you begin to see that we are all the same.  We are all souls here having a human experience, regardless of what that experience looks like.  We have come to feel very separate from each other, but it’s simply not true.  I am no better than you, and you are no better than me.  We are unique, but we share our humanness as our ultimate commonality in this life.  Try embracing that for a change.  Treat every person you meet as you wish to be treated regardless of differing beliefs or values you might each have.  It doesn’t matter.  How we treat ourselves and other people is what really matters.  The rest is a bunch of stuff our minds create.  If our collective goal became to treat each other with respect and compassion, there would not be room for violence and hate that we are experiencing in this country.  Accept those around you with grace and compassion and see how your life shifts.  When we each do that on a regular basis, we create peace in our own lives.  When we create peace in our own lives, we create peace in the world.  As Michael Franti sang, “we can bomb the world to pieces, but we can’t bomb it into peace” and “violence brings one thing, more and more of the same.”  Fighting is not the answer.  Guns are not the answer.  Hate is not the answer.  As cliche as it may sound, love is the only answer.  Love yourself completely so that you may love others.  It’s the only way to end our suffering.  It’s the only fundamental way to stop all of the gun violence.

Have we reached our breaking point yet?  Have we suffered enough?

Sending you all much love and peace.

Listen to Michael Franti’s “Bomb the World” HERE

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