Friday’s Focus—Pardoning Ourselves

Forgiving others is something we’ve been taught we should do since we were children, but it’s not until much later in life do we come across the concept of forgiving ourselves.

The ability to forgive ourselves is just as important as forgiving others. Admitting fault in ourselves is not easy. It’s acknowledging that we’re not as perfect as we want to be or at least as perfect as we want others to see us. Taking responsibility for our actions and accepting any guilt we feel is a powerful step toward personal growth. Sometimes we may not know or understand why we did or said the things we did, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still be held accountable.

When you forgive yourself, be wary about the tendency to beat yourself up about what happened. This defeats the purpose and only serves to strengthen any underlying guilt or shame you may be feeling. True forgiveness is sitting with the action and recognizing your role in the situation. If it was less than stellar, own it.

In hindsight, we can all find a thousand different ways we would have acted differently in situations, but it doesn’t mean that under the circumstances of that moment, you weren’t doing the best that you could. This doesn’t excuse the action by any means, but rather it’s understanding that we respond to situations with the skill set we have at the moment, framed by our values and mindset at that time. Cultivating self-forgiveness allows us to emerge as more loving and compassionate human beings, and by seeing ourselves and our past behaviors, choices, and words for what they were at that time, and learning from them, we can grow.

Forgiving yourself is not a Get of Of Jail Free card and in no way excuses past actions. I hope today’s focus is a reminder to include ourselves when we think about the people in our lives we want to—need to—forgive. By doing so, all of the energy that was invested in feelings of guilt, self-blame, and self-doubt, can instead, be used for more positive growth. Feeling disappointment in yourself and your actions is natural but holding onto it shouldn’t be.

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#takingitdeeper #selflove #selfgrowth #forgiveness

Making It Work and Making It Worth It–My Top 10 Best Relationship Tips

There is no shortage of articles on how to have a successful relationship or ways to save your marriage so with my husband and I celebrating 20 years together this past June, and an 18 year wedding anniversary in December, there’s a few things I’ve learned along the way that I feel can’t be repeated often enough and I’d like to share them here.

We all want to be loved and accepted, and we all want someone we can call home. Relationships are tough enough to navigate and some people need the rawness of experience to really understand these bumps in the road, regardless of how many relationship articles are written about them!

I can’t take away those experiences from people, nor would I want to deprive them of such a growth opportunity, but here are some steps I’ve learned along the way that that I’ve found to have made the road a little easier to navigate.

My Top 10 Best Relationship Tips:

1. Relationships are rarely, if ever, an equal 50/50 split for long and the rare moment it is, know that it is fleeting and won’t stay that way for long. Relationships are fluid; they are a living thing and need constant feeding to keep it alive. It takes two to stoke it so when your relationship turns to a 60/40 or 70/30 shift of balance, see it for what it is in the moment. The key is to make sure it doesn’t stay in that tilt for long, and then bringing it back into a more even flow. This is best done by being aware of your relationship and what’s happening. One of the worst things you can do is to keep score. It’s underhanded and not fair. Relationships are an everyday give and take the balance is always changing.

2. Talk, talk, talk, talk. Crystal balls tend to be in the shop a lot getting fixed and no one is a mind reader. Well, there are some people who may be, but don’t assume your partner/spouse is one of them unless they have this crazy hidden talent they didn’t tell you about. If something bothers you that is happening with the other person or in the relationship, talk about it. And when I saw talk, I mean have a conversation—don’t accuse or point fingers. Good conversation starters are “I feel that,” or “It seems to me that….”. No one can judge you for how you feel or tell you that what you’re feeling is wrong.

3. Don’t assume. If you don’t talk about what you’re feeling, don’t assume that the other person will be able to navigate your moods based on your sighs or eye rolls or door slams.

4. At least try to see the other person’s point of view. It’s said if you truly want to understand someone,walk a mile in their shoes. While you don’t need to walk a mile in your partner’s shoes to understand whatever is happening, you should at least try to be in their shoes for the situation at hand. You might be surprised by what you learn.

5. Be friends. Unless your relationship has been based on pure sex, there is something in there that got you two together in the first place. Sometimes, liking someone and being friends with them is just as important, if not more so, than loving them. While love is important, it’s that underlying friendship that I’ve found to be the core of every successful relationship and the respect for each other that is the bind. If a relationship blip becomes too hot, it’s that core friendship that can allow a work-through of whatever is going on.

6. Listen. And I mean really listen. Don’t listen for the other person to stop talking so you can add your point of view. Listen to what is being said and also, what is not being said. Some people don’t know how to articulate their feelings or are uncomfortable stating how they feel so they’ll tend to imply what they’re feeling. If you don’t understand, ask the person to clarify.

7. Allow the other person to be just that—their own person. Give them room to breathe. You may not always understand why they do something but each of us is on our own path and must learn to live our own lives, which includes making our own mistakes. Support them, don’t judge them, and don’t get together with someone because you think you can change them. Relationships are not pet projects. If you really feel the need to change the other person, you need to look to yourself instead or else, you shouldn’t be with them in the first place.

8. It really is the littlest things that mean the most and help keep things fresh. A cup of tea when it’s not asked for, a random chore done for the other, and even notes left for each other to find. My husband and I leave notes for each other all the time, saying anything from I love you to Have a great Day! We leave them all over the house or in places we know the other person will be looking in.

9. Tell the other person how you feel about them every day. Let them know that you’re thinking about them or just wanted to say hi, instead of using the call or text to remind them about some errand that has to be done or to vent about the kids.

10. Forgive. Whatever it is, forgive. As hokey as that may sound, I’m a big believer especially having been on the receiving end of forgiveness more often than I should have been! Unless you can say with utmost certainty that you would never do whatever it is they did wrong, or you really don’t want to be with the person anymore and don’t feel that your relationship is worth fighting for, then forgive. You can get mad and you don’t have to like or agree with whatever was done, but the only way to get past the inevitable relationship bumps and grinds, and move on and grow is to forgive.

Relationships can bring you to the heights of ecstasy and drop you to the depths of despair. They can be the bane of our existence or the only existence we want to live for and ultimately, a mirror of ourselves. I hope that my experiences here have given you pause, and will help enrich wherever you may be in whatever relationship you’re in and help you take things deeper.

Changing the Rules of the Game

Whether we realize it or not, every day, in any given situation, we teach people how to treat us by our reactions and where we set our boundaries.

No matter how much we’d rather believe that the way we’re being treated is the other person’s fault, it takes two. If that other person is so bad, why are you allowing it? That’s right–allow. To see how we teach others to treat us is not always so obvious and it takes a chunk of honesty to recognize it.

Praying situations away or praying for people to change doesn’t work. You might as well accept that now. Believe me, I’ve done it for far longer than I should have. Then, when nothing changes, what do we do? We blame the situation or the other person for our misery. It can’t and isn’t always about the other person. How about you? What are you doing that is enabling the situation to continue or the person to continue to treat you that you find so problematic?

If nothing is changing for you despite pleas and prayers, and wishful thinking so hard and deep on every star you wish upon, that they fall in your lap from the powerful pull, it’s time to look inside yourself.

What is your story? What are your rules and boundaries that are no longer working for you? Take any corner of your life and note spaces and people where you feel things aren’t going the way you want or think they should. Is it really because of them? When it seems like no matter what you do, nothing is changing, then that’s the time to take an honest assessment and start making shifts: Rewrite the rules, change your reactions, and move some of those boundaries while removing others.

By changing your reactions and your expectations, and by default the way you treat others, you will teach others how to treat you. We’re all saints and sinners with good days and bad but no one is exclusively one or the other. Be how you wish to be treated. Be the kind of person you want to attract. This isn’t giving in or giving up who you are, but it is giving up control instead. It could be giving up what we thought we wanted. It is giving up what is really the dream of someone else in our life. It is giving up of that perfection we are told we should all be.

You’d be surprised at how much our expectations and reactions get in the way of how we really wish to be treated and get what we want out of life. If you’re not happy with a relationship, maybe it’s not that you need to seek a better mate, maybe you need to be a better mate yourself. If you feel you’re not getting the respect you deserve, maybe you haven’t shown enough respect for yourself. If you don’t care, why should anyone else? If you want something then say it, shout it, go get it! If you don’t, the other person is not a mind reader and it’s not their fault that they couldn’t inuit your desires. No one walks over you or gets away with anything you don’t allow them to.

The good news is, we all have the power to change the game. To change our game—reinvent it. Too often we think that we can’t because we’re either too scared, have feelings of unworthiness, or maybe it never occurred to us that this is something we could do. We are all capable of amazing things and the bottom line is that no one else but you has the power to make the changes to your script. And yes, change can hurt those involved but without making the change and taking the chance on hurting the other person, you end up only hurting yourself and is that really a sacrifice you want to make?

Sending love and good vibes to the moon and back and wishing everyone a bottomless cup of coffee, chai, or whatever it is that will get your week going to a great start!

 

Defining Ourselves

I read something the other day that asked how do we define ourselves? The article went on to say that it was another way of asking the Mother of All Questions: Who Am I? I became intrigued with the idea of how we define ourselves as the underbelly to that Master question.

Throughout time, philosophers and religious seekers have asked the question, Who Am I? Depending on what religious or philosophical texts you read, there are many answers, but general agreement seems to be that we are not who we think we are in this physical manifestation. We are more: We are an extension of the Universal energy (or God or whatever your name for it is) that brought us to be born in this human body in the first place.

Personally, I experience this connection—this extension—in my deepest meditations, yoga practice, or when I sit in Nature and in balance with what’s around me. In those moments, the truth of oneness becomes undeniable.

If you asked me to define myself, I would rattle off that I am a wife, a media project manager, a yoga teacher, a writer, and a daughter. In reality, those are labels of the things I do and are to others. They define my roles in society and my abilities but they do not define me. Labels are made up and so are the associations with them. I don’t believe labels define a person. I believe that moments do. If you take any defining moment in your life—it’s in those moments that we reveal who we are and our true nature.

The defining moment for a firefighter battling a blaze reveals his courageousness in his desire to save people. The defining moment for parents reveals themselves as love when they stay up all night nursing a sick child. The defining moment for a lover reveals selflessness when he puts aside his own desires when he sees his partner in need. Even defining moments that at first glance reveal something negative, really aren’t. Taking it deeper, even a person caught stealing is not a thief. Yes, per the label he is, but the defining moment of theft reveals that he is a fearful person. Someone who is hurt and in need.

We need to be careful here also of mistaking our reactions to events as tells to who we really are. When we are pressed in situations, most of us react until we learn not to. Don’t take that reaction to be the answer to who you are. Take it deeper into what’s behind that reaction.

These defining moments can come to anyone at any time. They don’t need to be earth-shattering life events. They can be simple, and small, but hugely profound in their reveal. I found myself in my own defining moment recently when I was practicing Yoga. I was having difficulty keeping a balancing pose, so in a third attempt, I yet again, renewed my intention and shifted my focus. As my foot came up against my standing leg and my arms rose above my head, my thoughts suddenly shifted to “I am love. I am love. I am love.” With each repetition, my pose became surer and straighter. That single moment was a defining one for me. So who am I? Lots of labels, and lots of things to many people and yes, I am an extension of the universal energy, and I am also love.

Who are you?

 

Wondering About the Seven Wonders of the World

Question for this Thursday—and no peeking!

What are the Seven Wonders of the World?

How many did you get? If you are able to name them, good for you and I bow to your memory! But if you’re anything like me, coming up with anything beyond one or two was a struggle. The only one I could readily name is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and my husband could only name the Taj Mahal. Together we were able to remember the Great Pyramid of Giza, but after that we just stared at each other.

Curiosity got the better of me so I did a little digging and discovered that there are not just the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (and sometimes an Eighth), but there are apparently other “Wonders” as well: Seven Wonders of the Modern World, Seven Natural Wonders of the World, New Seven Wonders of the World, Seven Wonders of the Underwater World, Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, and Seven Wonders of the Solar System, and many other Wonder lists that aren’t relegated to the number Seven. As a matter of fact, a Google Search of the Seven Wonders of the World resulted in 33,800,000 hits (!!).

For those of you like me, who couldn’t remember the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (also known as Seven Wonders of the Classic World), here they are:

The Colossus of Rhodes
The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Later historical lists included more “contemporary” sites such as the Taj Mahal (the Wonder my husband came up with) Stonehenge, the Colosseum, Great Wall of China, and Cluny Abbey. Maybe they were added because the only one left from the original list is the Great Pyramid of Giza!

Many of these lists are subjective and were created from the public surveys and compilations guided by groups such as The American Society of Civil Engineers, CNN, New 7 Wonders Foundation, USA Today newspaper, New7 Wonders of Nature, and CEDAM International to name a few.

Thinking about all of these Wonders inspired me to create my own Seven Wonders of Renata’s World. I’m not a time traveler or a world traveler and these wonders aren’t all man-made, or all natural-made but they are Wonders to me nonetheless. In no particular order of Wonder, here is my list:

The strength of a tuft of grass or dandelion to find the spot to push through and grow in between cracks of cement
The power of thunderstorms
The grace of an ocean wave
The depth of feelings of relief, acceptance, and gratefulness when forgiving and being forgiven
Falling asleep curled up in your lover’s arms
A Parents’ hug
Falling in love

If you were to list Seven Wonders in your world what would they be?

Blogging From A to Z: Insatiable

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Trying to find something to watch on television the other night and looking for the next thing to graze on as we channel surfed, I wondered why I was looking for more—more entertainment, more food. Why was I feeling so insatiable and not just about TV and food? I knew I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.

On the whole, we have become insatiable in our food, entertainment, and possessions and have become a group of voyeuristic zombies constantly seeking to become fulfilled with the latest he said she said he wore she’s dating gossip. Why do we care? I know I really don’t but I keep going back. I keep going back to my email, feeling insatiable that I may have missed something someone said. I keep finding ways of making and saving money because I feel insatiable in my fear that there is never enough.

We have become insatiable in almost every corner of our lives from feeling that there is never enough of well, everything from food (just look at the increase in portion sizes) to activities (how much after school activities can we cram in for our kids or for that matter, after work and weekends for us adults?). Some would call it greed, but I think it’s more than that. I think we are searching to fulfill a need.

When did we start chasing our own tails looking to fulfill that need and, what exactly is that need? I got tired of always looking for the next whatever and so I started asking myself, why. Why do I feel insatiable with food today? Ah, I’m really bored or I’m feeling fidgety. Why do I feel insatiable about not having enough downtime? Ah, I stayed up late watching that movie on Netflicks last night, and well the night before was a new episode of NCIS, and I agreed to write another article for that magazine.

I realized that on a deep level I was using all these thing to try to fill areas in my life that I was unhappy with. I clearly saw that I was causing my own distractions and insatiable feelings, which were being driven by a need for simplicity and a craving for life choices that were more aligned with my soul and not my ego. In order for me to take this deeper, I had to drill down with bare bones honesty toward myself about myself in my head and my heart to get to this point of recognition and it wasn’t always pretty but the results and realizations are now at least true.

What are we trying to fulfill? What is insatiable for you and why? Taking it deeper one breath at a time.

 

Blogging From A to Z: Grace

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I wanted to use the word grace for this post but it is a hard for me to talk about it, to really be able to convey what it is and means to me.  Maybe it’s just because I like the way it sounds and I like the way I feel when I say it or think about it.

The classic Webster’s definition of grace is quite clear and easy to understand:  divine assistance, or virtue, from God; behavioral skills used in polite society; an attractive trait. To me, though, the word itself has always seemed Big and Sacred. Words just don’t seem to do it justice in defining it and it’s so much more then Webster’s effort.

There are some words in our English language that evoke feelings or emotions regardless of their definitions. For example, think of the words giggle, sunshine, peace, enchant, lullaby, sigh, and then you have the other end of the spectrum with snarky, pus, or shrill. Didn’t you feel a twinge with each word? To me, there is something soothing with the word grace. I can almost hear my soul sigh even as I write about it here. Words have the power to evoke an emotional response, and grace is one such word for me.

Grace is innate goodness. It is silk against my soul. It is a smile radiating love. It is pure acceptance with arms outstretched to hold me. It is an opalescent cloud that wraps itself around me. It is Divine and Divinity. I can just weep at its power and emotion. What words give you a hug from the inside and hold your breath even for a moment? I’d love to know what words make you take it a little bit deeper!

 

Blogging From A to Z: Forgive

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The Bible talks about it.
Buddha preached about it.
Don Henley sang about it.

Forgiveness is a tough one and one of those Top Ten’s in life that tags everyone at some point.
To forgive and to be forgiven are two edges of the same sword.

How can you forgive someone who’s done you wrong?
You just do.

How do you forgive a betrayal?
You just do.

How do you forgive a lie?
You just do.

How do you forgive any sort of transgression?
You just do.

If you don’t during your lifetime review, how will you forgive yourself?
You won’t, but you need to find a way and move on. You just took it deeper.

 

 

The Art of Being Human II: The Flip Side

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to say no? And I don’t mean the “Because I said NO!” kind of no. I mean the, “No, I’m not going to be able to X, Y, Z.” “No, I’m not going to take/bring/cook/fill in the blank.”  We don’t want to disappoint the ones asking but we seem to think of nothing of disappointing the ones doing—ourselves! Whether it’s a parent thing, a friend thing, a spouse thing, a daughter thing, a work thing, or any other kind of thing, it really doesn’t matter what the situation is where we say yes instead of knowing that we really mean to say no.

No is a strong word and saying it can be empowering but also scary. It should never mean that we failed ourselves or another person when we say no, sometimes even after having said yes and changing our mind.

Agreeing to something we don’t want to do isn’t always intentional. There are circumstances when we say yes, and we mean it at the time, but sometimes things change and that’s when the conflict comes in of changing our answer. Occasionally we say yes because we don’t want to disappoint the other person or we feel strongly that it’s important to keep our word, but when whatever you agreed to do is more for the benefit of the other person than for you, it becomes a disservice.

I’ve been saying no to people and things more frequently recently as a matter of self-preservation from crazy schedules and admittedly, some self-induced commitments, but it hasn’t always been easy. I still find it difficult but what I recently became aware of was that no matter how uncomfortable it may be to say no, it is okay to doThat soul whisper in my ear of “it’s okay to say no” one morning not that long ago, when I was thinking of a decision I needed to make, caught me off-guard and stopped me short. I never thought I needed to give myself permission to say such a simple word, but really, it’s more than about the one word. It’s about granting myself permission to do be in true alignment of my beliefs and heart. I strongly believe in keeping one’s word, but I feel just as strongly in keeping true to myself.

The ego wants to be the king/queen of the prom and will agree to anything that will get them that crown for being the good girl, the savior, the reliable one so it will always say yes. Next time you say yes, ask yourself who is saying Yes– your heart or your ego?  By saying no, we can take the lead in the dance.

Realizing this and recognizing the power of choice has shifted things enormously for me in my heart, my head, and of course, my schedule! I feel freer in saying yes, and by the same token, saying no. The next time you are asked to do something, I urge you to think for a moment of your answer. The choice is yours of course, but I hope that if “no” is really the answer you want to give, then allow yourself to do so and notice what happens within.

As I write this, I’m reminded of the lyrics to the song “Time to Change” that was sung by Peter Brady in the 1972 episode from the Brady Bunch show. Peter is approaching puberty and his voice begins to crack but with a smile on his face, he loudly sings:

“When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange
Move your heart to where you’re gonna be.
Sha na na na na na na na, she na na na na.”

So go ahead–Let your voice crack and let your soul sing:

“Sha na na na na na na na, she na na na na”—NO!

 

Holding the Space for the Right Voice

This morning, I decided to name my inner critic Stu mainly because he stews about all sorts of things that he feels I should or should not be doing, feeling, tasting, seeing, and well you get it. So first off, apologies to anyone really named Stu.  My choice is no reflection on the name itself, only the ogre behind it.

I had been feeling irritable for the past few days, not quite able to put my finger on why (or more likely, not being able to decide which one thing was really behind my biting comments). My frustrations all came to a head this morning with the simple act of trying to clip a barrette in my hair. This normally easy task almost put me in a fetal position on the floor, because apparently even this one ordinary act couldn’t be accomplished without a struggle.

I finally got it clipped, adjusted my hair, when I heard the voice: “Eh, you made it look too flat now. Face it, just not a good hair day. You’re head’s going to be too cold. You need a haircut. You need to lose weight.” I looked hard into the eyes of my self in the mirror and out loud said, “Knock it off.” And so Stu was born, or rather named.

I had a chat with Stu on my drive in to work today, and I found it helpful to have named my judge and jury; my inner critic. It’s helped me focus my rebuttals to one voice rather than the chorus of “should’s” and “shouldn’t’s” that started to drown out my other creative “inside” voices.

So Stu has quieted down some, I think more from shock that I have identified him, and caught on to this inner critic, and that he can’t hide as a witness or shadow anymore. We all have shadows and we all have witnesses, and yes, we all have Stu’s, but they cannot hold the same space at the same time. What’s important for me is to make room for the witness to hold my space for my creativity, my divinity, and my own perfection, and not my insecurities and my shortcomings.

Now, if I could only send Stu out to shovel the snow we’re supposed to get, I’ll be happy!