Greeting Fear

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Why do we fear what we don’t understand? Why is fear the first, easiest response?
In part, because we are wired that way. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says our brains are like velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive experiences. We are wired to be on the alert for things that seem weird or baffling in our environment. We want to believe that this will keep us safe.  But too often our fear keeps us from understanding others and it makes them feel unsafe.

This has been on my mind since a petition was circulated in my city to repeal the civil rights ordinance which was passed by the city council in August. Last night, we voted on the repeal and fear won.

The ordinance sought to “protect and safeguard the right and opportunity of all persons to be free from unfair discrimination based on real or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, martial status, socioeconomic background, religion, sexual orientation, disability and veteran status.”
It sought to “ensure that all persons within the city had equal access to employment, housing and public accommodations.”

Doesn’t that sound like a fair and simple thing?

Yet, Jim and Michelle Duggar used their money and influence with some of the local churches to launch a fear campaign targeted at just one group of individuals that the ordinance aimed to protect: transgender folks.
http://www.salon.com/2014/12/10/arkansas_town_repeals_anti_discrimination_ordinance_thanks_in_part_to_michelle_duggar/

Why did this campaign work so well? Partly because of money and influence. But mostly because it targeted people’s fear.  Transgender shakes us up.  It challenges us to accept on a deep level that you can’t figure everything out and put people in boxes. And it forces us to accept that people have the fundamental civil right to live as they see fit, barring criminal activity.

It’s perfectly possible to accept, love and support those who make choices that we don’t understand. So why does it seem like so many can’t understand that trans folks are simply being themselves? If it was really  a “choice” do you think anyone would risk losing  their jobs, families and even their lives?

I have people close to me who are transgender. I was initially a bit shocked and confused. But I have seen these people that I care about really start to live, embracing and loving themselves with full acceptance. It is a beautiful thing and I am lucky to witness it.  

Don’t we all want to be accepted for our authentic selves?  Let’s rise up to meet fear and transform it into compassion for ourselves and for each individual in our community.

Civil Rights are Not Special Rights

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I know that “There, but for the grace of God…” look.

Maybe you think you hide your disabilities better than I can hide mine. I used to think that people like you had it easier. But now I see that I allow myself more freedom than you allow anyone, including yourself.

I am forced, by my sheer physical existence to encounter strangers’ fear and thereby my own, transmuting it into love where I am able.
But I am not an angel. I get really, really tired of being patient with people’s ignorance.

Have you not felt the sting of rejection?

Do you not know what it feels like for a patronizing stranger to tell you what is best for you?
Do you know how it feels to not be able to get into a restaurant because there is “just one step?”
Do you fear that people look at you as either a miracle or a monster for existing?

I am not your inspiration.

I am not your pity.

I am not your curiosity.

I am not your courage.

I am not your freak.

I am not your scapegoat.

I will not accept your fear.

But I will offer you my love in solidarity – one human being to another.

How to be okay with What Is when you want to save the world.

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Life can feel fragile sometimes. Particularly now, we are collectively feeling pain and grief as we mourn the loss of Robin Williams.  He was undoubtedly one of the great actors and comedians of our time. His suicide by hanging brought up memories for me of a friend, who, many years ago hung himself. I found him, and stayed calm throughout the process of calling 911 and comforting his wife and other friends.
Scrolling through Facebook last night and today has made me realize that we don’t do grief very well. We want to fix, rationalize, pity or blame. But how often can we sit with the hard stuff and accept What Is? 
So I headed to my meditation pillow this afternoon after not sleeping well and a less than perfect morning.  What I found there was a whole lot of grief and anger for not being able to fix the world and take the pain away for family and friends that are suffering.  I also discovered that I had been given pain by others that did not belong to me, and that I had taken in pain, as if in penance for being unable to stop others from suffering.  I felt myself releasing the grief and the pain and the anger and became lighter as I sat with What Is. 
What Is sometimes is suffering,  but also joy. What Is simply is. It is not our job to rush in and fix the hard stuff. Instead,  we can tell our stories.  Our stories must be felt to be birthed and be told to offer solace and healing.  I offer my ears for your stories. 

You Don’t Need To Be Fixed

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You are enough. Right here. Right now. We all know this intellectually, right? Yet we read every self-help book looking for another answer.  We eat and drink and watch mindless TV,  hoping to distract ourselves from this simplicity.  We scour the internet for the latest magic cure and we grasp at achievements to prove that we are enough.
But are you ready for me to tell you five things that will give you what you are seeking?  Are you sure?

1) Be mindful
2) Have an emotional outlet
3) Move your body
4) Eat good food
5) Sleep well

Did I just shatter your world?  No? You knew these things already,  didn’t you? I thought so. We all do. So, why do we do everything but these simple things?

Well, I can tell you why I do. Maybe you’re a lot like me.  I resisted because I didn’t feel good enough.  I’m a fixer. I figured if I solved my problems,  I would feel good enough.  But I had it backward. I had to feel good enough before I could fix things.  I had to be okay with me before I could change me. 
So, let’s walk through this a little bit.  I knew I should meditate.  But I resisted. I didn’t need another thing on my to-do list that was already too long. I especially didn’t want to do it since I was sure I’d do it wrong. Yet, I beat myself up for not doing the thing I knew I should.  I couldn’t win. Finally, I got sick of myself enough that I started being mindful in moments throughout the day. Moments turned into minutes and the minutes turned into a daily practice. It was during a guided meditation one night that I felt in my body, “You are enough. Everything is okay.” It was a moment that can’t be described in words. But I wouldn’t have gotten to that experience without starting with a mindful moment.

Having an emotional outlet didn’t come easily either. My disability (mild cerebral palsy) made me fiercely independent. I always thought this was a good thing.  But I now recognize that by not letting people in to see the real me, I was keeping true connection at a distance. Journal writing and EFT Tapping,  along with finding a great online group of like-minded women has opened my heart up.

I’ve worked out at the gym, hiked and done yoga most of my adult life.  But it wasn’t until I allowed myself to connect body with mind that I’ve started to feel actually almost good about my body. I am not resisting and proving and overcoming.  I just am.

I used to think I had the food thing handled too. I was vegetarian and then vegan for twenty years, until I was pregnant with my son and got the distinct feeling that I had to eat some chicken before I passed out.  This is not to say that vegan pregnancies can’t be wonderful,  but that my lesson was to pay attention to my body and to eat what it needs.

I’m actually still working on getting good sleep.  But when I have insomnia,  I fall back on meditation.

Since I’ve established the five simple everyday things in my life, other things have followed. I find myself having actual fun. I have discovered that through forgiving myself, I have more gratitude and compassion for others. I have made really bad art and felt proud of it. I allow abundance because I see that a scarcity mindset is selfish. I ask myself,  “How do I want to feel and how can I serve?” Because I know that there is time to do what needs doing.

So, I ask you: Do you truly feel that you are enough,  here and now? Because when you do, the magic and mysteries of life open up to you.

Miracles Now Book Review

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Gabrielle Bernstein’s new book, “Miracles Now” belongs on your shelf if you need quick tips to calm and center. I received the book for free in exchange for my review from Hay House Publishers via  http://www.netgalley.com. As always, my review is solely my opinion.
According to A Course In Miracles (ACIM), which Ms. Bernstein studies and teaches, a miracle is a shift in perception from fear to love.
Ms. Bernstein’s fourth book might be her most accessible yet in terms of immediately doable exercises.  The majority of the 108 tips incorporate Kundalini meditations, which she also studies and teaches, or prayers and affirmations based on ACIM. Even if you are new to these ideas, the book makes them simple to grasp and try out.  Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tapping and journal writing are also included. There is a guided meditation available for download on her website for some of the exercises. Each tip is just a few pages long. She jumps right to why each practice helps and can be done in just a few minutes. None of the tips are groundbreaking, but they can be life changing if one does as suggested and chooses a tip or two to practice with dedication for forty days. “Miracles Now” is designed to be a handbook that the reader can grab and do anytime. This format really appeals to me because I appreciate having something I can turn to quickly to bring me back to center.
Ms. Bernstein covers the things we are all continually seeking: peace, happiness, abundance, authentic relationships, restful sleep, to make good decisions, and most of all,  to be ourselves in the world and be valued for it. She emphasizes that letting go of our need to control by surrendering to the Universe’s/God’s Plan is the way to escape the torment of one’s own ego. She quotes Yogi Bhajan, “Prayer is talking to God. Meditation is letting God talk to you.” Ms. Bernstein has given us the Cliff’s Notes on making miracles in our own lives. But it still takes faith and  dedication to believe as Ms.Bernstein does, that the guidance you need is within you.
“Miracles Now” will be available April 8, 2014. Pre-order now and you will receive three free gifts, including an online half day workshop with Ms. Bernstein this Saturday, March 22nd.

http://gabbyb.tv/miracles

“Assertiveness for Earth Angels” Book Review

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I bristle when someone calls me an angel.  One of my favorite t-shirts reads, “human.”  I have always been adamant that we are all human and we are all special, but no one is less human or more special than anyone else.  So, I approached this book with cautious curiousity. It is subtitled, “How to be Loving Instead of Too Nice.”  I figured I could benefit from that lesson and chose it as my free book in exchange for my review of it from Hay House.  As always, this review is soley my opinion.

I identified immediately with Virture’s description of Earth Angels as sensitive, naive, trusting, empathic individuals who want everything to be fair and for everyone to be happy. In fact, I tore through the book, finishing it in a day.  The big lesson for Earth Angels is learning how to be discerning and assertive.  We are people-pleasers who allow ourselves to absorb the energy and mood of those around us.  We pride ourselves on being non-judgmental to the point of forgetting to choose friends and relationships carefully.  Virtue insists that forgiving ourselves is a vital step in reclaiming our personal power, and helps the reader to do this by outlining ways to recognize toxic relationships and create boundaries with those that would take advantage of the Earth Angel’s desire to help. In reading this book, I realized that I have given my power away many times both because I wanted to keep everyone around me happy and because I was scared that if I used my power that I would get caught up in my own ego and become selfish and cruel.  Virture is clear that using power for egotistical means often results in abuse.  However, she explains that “power simply means that you honor your feelings, and have the courage to speak up about them without apology or trying to control the other person’s reactions” p 135.  Earth Angels work for God, Inc and must turn worries into prayers by asking God and the angels for help in fulfilling their earthly mission.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who has felt like they don’t know how to be a “normal” human and has ever been told that they are “too nice.”  It will  give you great peace to know that you are not alone, as well as down-to-earth tactics on how to act out of real love for yourself and others instead of playing it safe while yearning for people to like you.

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“Angel Detox” book review

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I have to admit that this is the first Doreen Virtue book I’ve read.  I received the book for free from Hay House Publishing in exchange for writing a review. This review is solely my own opinion.
This title intrigued me because I thought it would compliment my ongoing experiment in writing to my cerebral palsy and further my studies in the mind-body connection.  Plus, I am in the midst of a 28 day clean eating program,  so I had already begun much of the herbal support and food elimination that is suggested in the book.
I suspended my skepticism about working with angels and dove in.  The book is well organized and thought out.  It contains prayers to God and the angels to emotionally and physically cleanse body and mind, along with detailed suggestions for flower, crystal and herbal therapies.  Virtue suggests journaling thoughts,  feelings and questions and consulting the angels about any concerns. She also suggests asking the angels to guide food choices and steer the reader away from allergens.
I have not worked with all of the prayers and therapies,  but I have done some journaling and eliminated sugar, coffee and the top allergens (gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs and peanuts.)  I know from medical tests that I am gluten and lactose intolerant.  I am impressed with the authors’ emphasis on physical healing. There are chapters devoted to dairy, gluten, coffee, sugar, smoking and alcohol detox, as well as detox from other addictions. Each chapter walks the reader through a seven day cleanse with detailed steps and prayers for each day.
I remained skeptical about the angels until I did a cord cutting meditation with Archangel Michael.  I settled into a quiet space and asked Michael to remove any cords of fear and negative energies from my body. I felt and could see in my mind’s eye dense negative energy in my lower abdomen and low back.  I did my best to stay non-judgmental of the experience. When I felt that the cords had been released, I thanked Archangel Michael and came out of the meditation feeling lighter and clearer.
I think ultimately, it does not matter if you believe that the angels are separate entities, or a way to access your own inner wisdom.  The book helped me remember  that I can ask for help from and be supported by the universe.  That reminder alone makes the book well worth your time.

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Love in Action

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Louise Hay says cerebral palsy manifests as “a need to unite the family in an action of love.” I don’t know that I believe everything that Louise Hay says. But I read this story awhile back about a reporter who meditated and wrote letters to her psoriasis. Her illness went into remission. So, I decided to do an experiment and write about my cerebral palsy. No, I am not healed. I’ve just begun this little experiment and having been raised in Christian Science, I am skeptical.
However, I did have an epiphany of sorts. My family was not united. But that’s not important. I do have a driving need to unite people in loving action. My intention is what is important. Yet need is, more often than not, tied to outcome. But that’s tricky. We can’t control the actions of others and the more we try, the more the universe resists us.
So the real revelation for me is that I must engage in loving action for myself. I welcome others to join me.