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Happy New Year!

I used to ego-box with people. I went through life with a chip on my shoulder. My wounded sense of self (ego) could not hear reason, or determine what was best for me, or watch my actions to ensure I behaved in appropriate and responsible ways. My wounded ego was only interested in remaining the same, in blame, in projection, in defending its right to see what it wanted to see, to hear what it wanted to hear, and to invent countless reasons why I could not be completely free of its controlling and manipulative grasp.

To heal I had to take full responsibility for how my wounded ego was keeping control over me.  I had to be responsible for how my wounded ego inappropriately took my pain out on others. I had to intentionally wake up, grow up and stop acting like a victim of something beyond my control. I had to take control of my wounded sense of self by learning how to lead with my wise, peaceful and responsible heart/soul.

One of our great “‘aha” life-lessons is that the changes we long for from other people are actually the changes we need to make in ourselves. Self-assessment of our behavior is vital to creating the life we want. No, ego does not want to look at itself. Ego wants us to stay focused on the laundry list of what everyone else needs to do. It is our honest and responsible heart that wants us to courageously face our fears, identify negative thought patterns, look for limiting beliefs, and discover the ways we project unhealed stuff onto others.

This week, as we enter the new year, make a list of everything that is right with you. Then make an honest list of what you do not feel is right with you. Love yourself by allowing your heart/soul to reveal what about your behavior and thoughts are preventing you from having the best life. You don’t need to be afraid or upset if you do not like what you see. It is by identifying what needs to be changed that you put yourself on the right road to self-empowerment. Being courageously honest with yourself about yourself is the way to heal and grow so you have the best life.


Think About What You Think About

As an adult, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. Growing up, I had a horrible time in school and with any activity where I had to sit still and concentrate.  That made college so difficult I graduated with poor grades. It also made life in general hard. My relationships suffered because I was not present with myself, much less other people or my pets. My mind was always off somewhere else. So when I was accepted into a master’s program in leadership I really wanted to get a handle on my attention. I went to a psychiatrist and had the tests. She told me I had ADD worse than most of the people she had seen and prescribed Ritalin.

My life immediately changed – for the worse. I could not sleep, had no appetite, lost lots of weight, and was fuzzy from the drugs. After two months of giving the drugs a chance I quit them. While Ritalin slightly improved my ability to concentrate, the tradeoffs were not worth it.  Even without the medication I was determined to get a handle on my concentration. The motivation to undertake this challenge was the realization that when I was disconnected from my thoughts I was also disconnected from my heart and life which is only real in the present moment. That inspired me to teach myself to intentionally stay present with and responsible for my thoughts.

To master my attention I first taught myself to remain connected to what I am thinking. That is, I am aware of thinking what I am thinking and why I am thinking it (emotional connection). Each time I catch my mind wandering I return my thoughts to the present.  I force my mind to concentrate on what I want to focus on rather than allowing my thoughts to disconnect me from what is going on in the NOW. With intentional effort I taught myself to be constantly aware of what I am thinking.

Second, to remain connected to my thoughts I taught myself to evaluate the reality of each thing I think – is what I am thinking real, true, important, based on fear, is my mind trying to carry me to the past or future? By constantly evaluating my thoughts I now know where my mind is at all times.

This week, begin retraining yourself to stay connected to your thoughts – each and every one of them. Yes, it is easier said than done but that mind-chatter is the first place to start mastering a mind that has a mind of its own. Do not let your mind tell you what you can and cannot do.  Allow the wisdom of your wise, loving heart to be your guide.  Be thoughtful of thinking and you will stay connected to your heart by staying connected to your thoughts.

When you know what you are thinking and evaluate the motivation behind your thoughts you will remain in control of yourself. You will stay present. You will become a master of changing negative thoughts to positive. You will create a life of love, compassion and purpose because you think about what you think while you think it.


Who Do You Love Most?

Growing up, I was taught I had to love God and other people first.  But no one ever told me what that actually looked like.  No one ever answered my question, “How can I love something or someone else if I do not love me?”  Even as a child, that logic did not feel right – it simply did not make sense that I could give what was not within me. And, what does love mean anyway? To me it seemed to be more about control, judgment, telling me how I was wrong.

One day I realized what I had been taught to believe about loving others first was not actually possible.  Yes, love is affection and caring and love is positive behavior like compassion, forgiveness, patience, responsibility, honesty, loyalty, etc. So unless I was compassionate with myself first it was not possible to be compassionate with others. Unless I forgave myself first it was not possible to forgive others. The same is true for all the behaviors of love.

By questioning the illogical notion that I had to love others before myself I came to the realization love has to begin with me. Unless I love myself it is impossible to give love to anything or anyone else. I would only be going through the motions but without genuine emotional and spiritual connectedness to the feelings. That is when I realized loving me first is not selfish, as I was taught to believe, but spiritually responsible. Today I believe God is love. So by loving myself first I am being love and that to me is what loving God looks like.

This week, focus on the self-loving action of questioning yourself about what you were taught to believe about love. Challenge the fantasy of what television, movies and media say love is.  Challenge any notion that love must be given to others before you love yourself.

One of the most important spiritual realizations is accepting that because you are taught to believe something does not make it true. And because you are taught not to believe something does not make if false. Lead with your higher wisdom and take charge of questioning beliefs that do not align with the positive, inclusive, and supportive behaviors of your heart because it is changing your view that changes you.


“When We Know Better, We Do Better”

During my fifty-seven years of life I made mistakes that hurt people. When it happened they would be angry and lecture me about how I “should have known better.” They were correct that I did know better in my head but when my behavior hurt others I did NOT know better with my heart. I since learned there is a night and day difference between our head-knowing and heart-knowing.

We get upset with people’s negative behavior because we think they should know better because we know better.
Dr. Maya Angelou says, “When we know better we do better.” She is not speaking about knowing better with our head, but developing an emotional heart-understanding by appreciating it is our actions that create our lives. So, caring how our behavior impacts others is what Dr. Angelou refers to as “knowing.”

When we know the truth that our behavior creates our life on an emotional level we no longer allow ourselves to operate on auto-pilot of a self-centered, fearful mind. Living heart-aware we assume complete emotional responsibility for our thoughts, words and actions. Why? So we do not mindlessly hurt ourselves and others.

This week ask yourself, “How will it feel?” before you say something or take an action.  Remaining mindful of how your behavior will impact you and others shifts you from knowing better with your head to doing better because your behavior is being directed by your higher and wiser heart values.  This action alone will dramatically change your life for the better and is one of the ways to love yourself.


Are you Living in the Past, Present or Future?

Are you a patient person?  Or are you impatient in a traffic jam, long lines at the post office, or with pedestrians who slowly cross the street?

Do you live fully present in the now? Or are you easily dragged from what is happening in the moment, to memories of the past or fantasies of the future?

One of the best skills you can develop is that of remaining patient in the present moment. When you think about it you realize that only when you are present in the moment are you in control of yourself. When you are present you are peaceful. When you are present you can choose to behave purposefully to create your best life.

I won’t tell you there is an easy button to retrain yourself to live patiently present in the now. Like any skill it takes practice and patience to master remaining present.  It takes facing the negative, limiting, mind rationalizations: impatience effects change and gets things done. Or, it is too hard to live in the present moment. Or, if you continue to revisit the negative events of the past you can magically find the key to changing them in the present.

Living in the past or future or what you think should, would or could be robs you of life, which is only real in this NOW moment. So, being disconnected from the present does not result in you behaving with positive purpose.  The exact opposite is true, because when we are disconnected from the present we get into trouble, create stress, worry, judgments about others, and do not create our thoughts, words, and deeds with purpose.

This week, each time your mind returns to the past, leaps ahead to the future or tries to convince you the traffic jam should be different, stop and take three deep breaths. Keep yourself in the present moment and you will learn to appreciate the immense power you have.

The present is the only time you can take the necessary actions to overcome a challenge or break a negative habit. Now is the only time you can have peace and feel emotionally connected to yourself and others. You will thank yourself for investing in yourself to live patient so you actually create the fullest and most empowered life possible.   And, remember to love yourself by being patient as you learn to remain present.


There IS a way out

During the period in my life when I suffered with depression I kept myself separate from the outside world. Day after day, I plodded along, doing what I needed to survive while on the inside I was totally consumed with my suffering. I was completely focused on how lonely, sad and miserable I was.

One day, I got tired of the drama and went for a long walk around a lake in a National Forest. Immersing myself in nature allowed something within me to shift for the entire day. I was completely surrounded by beauty and the wonders of life.  I hardly thought about my suffering, my aloneness, my depression.

While that one outing did not cure my depression, it did open the door to what actions I could take to make myself feel better.  Every day I continued to enter into the natural world.  With each outing, I felt freer and more connected to all that is alive.  Simply watching a mother duck and her babies, or a dragonfly, or the sunlight dancing on the lake brought me happiness.  It was a very good start and a wonderfully positive habit that I maintain today.

This week, remain mindful of how easy it is to feel overwhelmed if all you concentrate on is instant gratification, technology, negativity, and your loneliness. It’s easy to collapse into yourself and your problems. Simply taking time to sit in nature is often just what you need to allow light into the darkness so you remember there is a way out.


Money and Things Aren’t Everything

At one time I was about $30,000 in credit card debt. I shopped and mindlessly charged in what I now realize was a desperate and misguided attempt to fill the emotional holes in my heart. My home was filled with stuff. But, no matter how much I bought, my heart was still empty. I was exhausted from feeling out of control, like a hamster going round and round on a wheel.

It was not easy to admit to myself how far removed I had been from personal responsibility. I ignored my inner knowing and continued to lie to myself that shopping was good therapy. It was embarrassing and shocking to finally own up to the fact that I had been so dishonest with myself. Now I faced a huge financial challenge. Accepting the truth caused such a deep panic I remember falling onto the floor at the sheer impact of my situation. I was immediately filled with fear and worry.  I could not imagine how I was going to pay off all the debt.

I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and finally got control of myself. After a few days of living with the raw honesty of a new reality, I figured the only way to be free and to begin healing my heart was to assume full responsibility for what I had created.  I tore up all my credit cards and established a payback plan. When the urge to shop hit I took a walk, sat alone outdoors in the natural world, called a friend to catch up, directly addressed the negative thoughts of my past, or went to a local organization and volunteered to help others. With time, these and other self-loving actions steadily took away the need for something outside me to repair my broken heart.

Over several years I did pay off the debt and today I am debt free. Getting free of an irresponsible past was one of the biggest challenges I’ve overcome.  It happened when I became completely honest with myself. When I emotionally owned what I had created, instead of mindlessly ignoring what I did, I found the strength to successfully get off the wheel that was taking me nowhere.

Today I am truly grateful for the experience. I know now the holes in my heart could only be repaired with self-love and respect. These are two of the things I found once I had the courage to be honest with myself about being dishonest with myself.

This week look at yourself honestly. Are there aspects of your behavior that you feel are out of control?  What actions can you take right now that will stop negative behavior in your life? What actions can you take that will result in building your self-esteem and feelings of personal empowerment?


Could It Be Time to Call It Quits?

There was a time I refused to take the actions I knew were best for me and for everyone concerned.  So I stayed in a relationship long after the lessons I needed to learn were over. I was stuck by the excuses that I could somehow make it work, or get the other person to change, or that I could not break the commitment I made. I bought the fear and guilt based rationalizations until the day I realized I was suffering and everyone around me was too. Not just because of the negative relationship but because we were not taking the actions we knew in our heart were best.

Too often we stay in negative situations for all the wrong reasons. If we know it is time to go then we need to honestly look at the excuses, fear, and guilt we are allowing to stop us from doing what needs to be done.  We must also remember that our actions serve as examples for others.  Do we honestly want the people we say we love to continue to endure what we are enduring? Do we want them to put aside self-love and respect because they do not have the courage to love themselves more by removing themselves from a negative situation? Do we really want to show them how little we respect ourselves by choosing to remain in our suffering rather than choosing to free ourselves?

Often we think we are wrong for leaving or giving up. We need to remember that when a relationship has run its course, we know it beyond doubt in our heart.  What makes us wrong is not leaving the relationship, but continuing to subject ourselves to the negative, to the suffering.

This week remember that loving yourself and others is courageously doing what you must even if that means taking yourself out of a relationship. Yes, moving on hurts. But the pain is bearable knowing that doing what needs to be done to end to your suffering will be best for everyone involved. Even if the other people involved do not change, you have changed yourself by bringing a higher level of awareness to the situation. You have refused to continue to make negative contributions to a relationship while calling it love. That is leading with your heart.


Releasing the Hurt from Being Hurt

Have you considered that holding onto resentment against those who hurt you in the past is allowing them to continue having power over you in the present?

The people who hurt, mistreated, or ridiculed you have moved on or remain oblivious to the harm they caused.  There is no good that comes from you keeping the pain of the past alive. Take your power back by letting go of what you think they would have or could have done different.  Let go of the idea they should have known better just because you know better.

Accept the fact that people are at different levels of emotional awareness and responsibility. People who hurt others are passing on unconsciousness, which is what they know. Until they have the courage to question their behavior they will not “know” there is a better way.

This week, love yourself more than how you were treated by people who did not have the awareness you do. Since you know there is a better way, let go of the anger and resentment that is only hurting you. Forgive them for they did not know what they were doing so you must do what they could not.  And, if you are continuing to endure mistreatment it is time to begin loving yourself by setting boundaries.

Here is an exercise from my upcoming book that will help you to forgive:

Go to a quiet, comfortable, and safe place where you will not be interrupted.

Think back to the times when you were hurt by the actions of others. Write each instance on a separate sheet of paper.

When you are finished, put them into a bag.

Find a safe place to burn the papers, such as a fireplace, outdoor grill, fire pit, or a clay saucer that is placed on a concrete or dirt surface away from things like leaves or dry grass. As a precaution, have a bottle or two of water handy.

Take one paper out of the bag, and read what you have written. Remember the event, not as a victim of it, but as the powerful person you are now. Feel whatever emotions and feelings naturally come up. Then imagine you are a colander, and allow your emotional attachments to that event of your past to pour out and wash away.

Once you have felt the memories of this event, light the piece of paper on fire, and envision the pain of that event being burned up. See the person who hurt you standing in front of you. As the smoke rises from the paper, envision that any anger and resentment you still carry toward him or her is rising, leaving with the smoke.

I welcome you to repeat the same release affirmation I used, or you can write your own: “I accept this happened and that it is okay to be angry. I also accept I cannot do anything to change you or the past. Your behavior was not my fault, and I am not condoning your actions. By forgiving, I no longer allow you the power to continue hurting me. I am reclaiming power over my life and my thoughts. You are no longer welcome on my journey.”

Repeat this process with the other pieces of paper.


Halloween, My Dad and Forgiveness

I was five years old when my dad stole a tiny piece of my candy corn. After making the Halloween rounds with mom, I sat at the kitchen table with my haul laid out before me. Deciding to open my favorite treat first, I placed each candy corn neatly on the table. Starting from the left with the largest piece I continued by size until on my right was the smallest one. It was my favorite and I was saving it until the end.

Without warning, my father swooped into the kitchen, grabbed my tiny favorite and ate it.  I burst into tears. He dropped to his knees, wrapped his arms around me and asked what was wrong. I told him the tiny one was my favorite. He said he took the smallest one because he wanted me to have the big pieces.

The next day my dad brought home two packages of candy corn. We sat across from one another at the kitchen table lining up each piece. After all the pieces were laid out, he gave me the smallest one from his package and I gave him the largest one from mine. Fifty two years later the memory of that exchange with my father is still a sweet treat within my heart.

This week, be thankful for all the pleasant memories you have of your life.  Feel gratitude because by concentrating on the positive you will create more positive.