I’ve been contemplating my take on the difference between protecting myself and taking care of myself. Protection is: closing myself off from experiences, love, risks, relationships, opportunities because I may get hurt or lose something. Loss and change are a part of Life, there’s no escape from it. Taking care of mySelf means: listening to my inner guidance, making conscious choices as best I can in the moment, being aware of my feelings and experiences, and making choices from moment to moment.
I take steps to set boundaries while keeping my heart open. It doesn’t always mean I won’t get hurt or things will always “go my way”. Only this way can I remain open to the Bigger Picture – what the Universe has in store for me. This way I stay open to love and what Life has to offer me.
Sometimes I get hurt, I make “mistakes”, I fall on my face, but I get back up. When I realize everything is an opportunity for growth, healing or learning, I remain open. I am taking care of my Self.
Taking care of my Self means listening to my inner guidance to notice if something “feels” off. Protection simply means shutting off my feelings all together. My feelings let me know where I am at and how I can take care of myself.
Protection keeps me closed off from Life, from my feelings, and both painful and joyful experiences.
Taking care of my Self keeps me open to the opportunities the Universe provides to me. I choose to stay open even if sometimes it hurts.
Here’s a real life, tangible example. My past couple of relationships have triggered abandonment within me.
I have choices; I can go into protection mode. “I’m not going to date, I can’t do this again” … Blah blah blah.
Or, I can look at the opportunity which is to keep my heart open and heal the abandonment that still resides within me by being present with it. I can make new choices in the way I decide to date that will take care of me. Like strictly being friends and seeing if I like the man. Any worthy suitor will stick around. I am practicing taking care of my Self and staying open. It’s a win-win for me.Top
The story, the thoughts come up.
These thoughts trigger fear.
Physical sensations, stress arises in the body
Beliefs come up about the possible consequences, outcomes.
All this is fear – none of the thoughts or beliefs are real. I am allowing fear to keep me stuck in this state of mind, and thinking that some horrible thing might happen.
I love how Cheri Huber puts it in her book, The Fear Book – something like, situations, things, fear are not to get over or to get through. The real work is to understand the process of fear. The experience of fear always unfolds the same way, only the content is different.
Once you understand the process of fear you are free and can apply this practice to any circumstance, thought, or belief fear attempts to trap you with.
Fear is what keeps us stuck. We are really only afraid of fear. Wild, right? I’m afraid of the FEAR, none of the thoughts are real. Sure, some of the things might happen, I don’t know, but what I’m really afraid of is the fear.
Understanding the process of fear is what sets me free. Fear may arise when I do new things, something outside my comfort zone or a belief is triggered. Understanding the process fear runs in my life is what sets me free.
It’s not getting over this or that, because there will always be something in Life that triggers fear. Fear is what to make friends with and understand.
Watch when fear is triggered. What is the process? Be aware. Observe the fear and sit through it by watching it and being present with it. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself. It’s a practice. There are certainly times in life where I experience “fear”. However, understanding the process of fear is liberating. Now I can see it when it tries to take over and keep me stuck.Top
Ironically, this book sat on my bookshelf for some time. I never read it; I sold it. Recently, I checked it out at the library (my new favorite place for books). Clearly, I had resistance to reading this book and the message it contained. When I was finally open to receive it, I found what a fabulous message Cheri Huber shares. She simply speaks of our conditioned minds and how to observe it. I’ve laughed at myself (my ego) many times throughout her book. I highly recommend this book for those seeking freedom from your mind.
As Bob Marley said – “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, nothing but us can free our mind.” In fact, it’s the only thing that keeps us bound. Just watch it and allow space to be created between the consciousness that IS you and as Eckhart Tolle says, “the mind made little you.”Top
By observing and breathing into the sensation in my body, I create space and allow my consciousness. I already am dissipating and dissolving the energy of the unconscious, the trauma, the thoughts, and the emotions. I am able to move into acceptance.
I observe the feeling, sensation in my body. I check in with the sensation in my body. That’s where the unresolved trauma is, that’s what triggers the thoughts, feelings, patterns and habitual behavior.
I can accept myself because I was just responding to my conditioning. Through my acceptance, my suffering ends. I am all that I am, and I am ok right now.
Here’s an exercise I do…
What do I see in another person (a mirror or reflection) that I don’t like or do like in me? What is that person reflecting back to me? It reminds me to bring the focus back on me and how I feel, which is all I ever have control over.Top
My belief has been that my very survival was threatened if I spoke my mind, spoke the truth, or was my authentic myself. To me, survival can be just getting by, not feeling fulfilled, or not experiencing success from within.
Perhaps it is as we’ve heard said by many people…”I spoke up about the giant elephant in the room that everyone knew was there, but everyone is afraid to mention, and I was shamed for it.” Or maybe, it’s the fact that I saw something and spoke it as truth…for example, if I made a statement “the sky is blue” and someone said, “No Maria, the sky is red” (ok at sunset it is). If that type of thing happens again and again, a child with that type of conditioning will most certainly doubt what they see. And that potentially continues into adulthood. One thing I know for certain, feelings don’t lie and intuition knows truth. Feelings may be exaggerated if they trigger past repressed or suppressed pain, but my body knows truth. In fact, the practice of kinesiology (muscle testing) shows the body’s energy field expands with a “Yes” answer and contracts with a “No” answer. Your body’s intelligence knows truth, trust it.
How this has impacted my life…
I felt if I expressed what I felt, thought, or observed about someone who was covering up something (whether a lie or their insecurity), that my very survival would be threatened. Love would be taken away. So I learned the best thing to do was to shut up and keep quiet. I held my voice back, I didn’t want to rock the boat; I doubted what I felt and thought I saw. I took on shame and guilt and thought it was mine. I repressed anger because I knew what happened was wrong, but I believed I was the problem. I felt unworthy and wrong.
I began to deny, block, and repress what I felt. I thought what I was feeling must be wrong and began to doubt myself and what I felt. I don’t have many memories from before being a teenager, about age thirteen. I have few memories and they are fragmented. I allowed people to manipulate, coerce, intimidate, and bully me because I thought I was the problem.
I believed love would be withheld if I spoke up and all care would be cut off. I felt my very survival depended on keeping quiet. What I felt would be manipulated or twisted. I would be told I was wrong and that I was the problem.
I believed I was deprived of love and nurturing care, and from that I learned to deprive myself. I’d hide myself. I thought I was wrong or the problem. I tried desperately to win back other’s approval, to smooth things over, to fix the “problem” I thought I created. I felt ostracized, isolated, alone, terrified. I kept other people’s toxic secrets. I felt other’s behaviors were my fault and I was responsible for them. I thought intimidation and bullying were normal. I backed down for fear of being alone, isolated, not loved, and terrified that my very security would be threatened. I merely survived. I suppressed all my self expression. My opinions about life and what I felt were filled with self doubt. I felt if I upset someone, I didn’t deserve love and they would leave, abandon me, or threaten my very security. I believe others could take what I had and I had no rights. I was powerless and helpless. I never allowed myself to express myself. I apologized or was always sorry because I thought “things” were my fault. I’ve been told so in dysfunctional relationships. I blamed myself, criticized and judged myself, for not being or reacting perfectly and upsetting someone else. I repressed anger because I didn’t think I had the right to get angry. I thought I was the problem. I didn’t trust myself. I had no boundaries. I couldn’t say no.
The good news is that I’m getting better every day. Each day, more of this pattern is revealed to me. I’ve learned and am continuing to learn as a result of all these experiences. This pattern has played itself out in my life again and again. Through my awareness, more is revealed to me little by little. I feel so much better about myself and it comes from within, not outside of myself. My life has been, as I’ve said, my journey to genuine self-confidence. My confidence comes from my ever-deepening connection to my higher power and from acceptance of what I’ve done or haven’t done in my life. As confidence grows, I accept all of me and know that as long as I continue my spiritual practice, I’ll always be taken care of. Then these messages, beliefs, and patterns I’ve learned transform into positive messages about myself. I trust what I feel and through each experience, I trust myself more. Life gives me more opportunities to dissipate the energy of these beliefs every day. And as I allow the repressed emotions to reveal themselves, as I sit with them, care for myself, let them be and fully accept them, I change and grow. Life becomes more satisfying and fulfilling every moment.
I’m certainly not saying I don’t ever feel or think these things anymore; I do, but can begin to watch them and know they aren’t me.
Life continues to bring me that which dissolves my own self-imposed limitations, thereby allowing me to be in my natural state of freedom and love as I am truly only ever bound by my mind and unresolved emotions.
The best way in which I have discovered to resolve them is to watch them, feel them, and let them be ok. I also talk about them with people I genuinely feel safe with, write about them, and surrender them to my higher power. Once I am able to accept them, they cease to have power over me and I am in my natural state of freedom and love once again.Top
I’ve learned about myself through the pain of loss and grief of not trusting myself. I didn’t understand my feelings. I had no way of knowing how to trust myself. I now know how, but I had some painful lessons along the way. I lost money, time, friends, dreams, and esteem. What I gained from what I learned is priceless. Because of these profound losses, I now truly know the value of trusting myself. Trusting myself comes from understanding and tuning into my feelings and my bodily awareness. When something’s off base, my body tenses up; when something’s for my well-being, while I still may have some uncertainty because of breaking new ground, it just feels right. When I’m connected to my higher power through meditation, breathing, observing, I’m taking care of myself and I building self-trust. I learned powerful lessons through tremendous loss. Because of that, I now know how to trust myself. I diminished my esteem because I’d make choices not based on my intuition, but triggered by self-doubt and listening to the advice of others. I even disregarded if it didn’t feel right. Now I know from my awareness and acceptance of those experiences what that felt like. Now, when I trust myself, things work out for me because it’s from my connection to my higher power and my confidence grows.Top
Align with inner security in life’s uncertain and unknown places.
I am beginning to feel secure and confident in who I am in ways I never imagined. I may get jolted from time to time, but I am able to bring myself back to a feeling of being centered.
I am beginning to feel secure in my pain, knowing I am moving into acceptance of what life brings to me and releasing limitations to my heart’s and soul’s intentions.
I am beginning to feel secure in not knowing and uncertainty. Knowing that God, the Universe, my Higher Power has a plan for me and is always taking care of me. If I can sit and be still in the uncertainty and not knowing what is to come, more will be revealed when I am ready.
This has been my mission – which is being revealed to me little by little. One thing I have really suffered with in my life is damaged self-esteem. I have consistently sought approval from outside sources, the people and relationships I’ve been in, about the money I’ve made or haven’t made, and the work I do.
One thing I can be certain about is people are all inconsistent, myself included. I do my best to stay aligned with my truth, but I have conditioning that gets triggered by what life brings me.
Money – I have certainly had a great deal of loss around money in the past 5 years or so, as many people have experienced.
Career – many people identify with their title, or how much money they make, as if their self-esteem is
dependent on it or their worth comes from what they do. It’s easy to think “I should be this or that title by now, …by this age I should be something other than I am, …and so on.”
I have experienced a great deal of loss of my identities in these areas. But what I have found as a result
of this loss is myself. I believe we all know in this day and age that there’s plenty of uncertainty and when we are constantly reacting to external circumstances, we can go insane!
What I have discovered through my losses is a sense of security I can never find from external
circumstances. One thing that I know is consistent is change. How can we ride life’s waves of change and
stay centered? By knowing that God is completely taking care of us.
For me, it is my unwavering spiritual practice. How I know when a painful experience comes up, it is a
blessing and not an inconvenience. I do my best to find gifts in the experience. This reveals more of me by making friends with and accepting my pain. Believe me, it’s not always easy. I have been an expert on distracting myself or avoiding a situation. The more I seem to avoid it, the worse it seems to get. It’s not that God is trying to punish me, it’s just that I’m not paying attention.
Now in life – I have an experience and pain is triggered. What do I do?
- I am aware of my experience and what I am feeling. I breathe, I write, I meditate and sit with my feelings and thoughts. I share with those I feel safe with. I participate in supportive communities.
- As I sit with the pain, I gradually move into acceptance of what I am feeling.
- I become aware of the place in between creation, the void. While I move into acceptance, I am naturally letting go of the old, going through a transformation, and the new begins to come into creation.
- This point is critical – I may still be experiencing emotional or even physical pain.
- It can feel tremendously unsettling. Energy feels like it’s whirling around me, the energy of the old dissipating and creation happening.
- This is the place where I have gotten impatient in the past – I can feel the new, but it’s not yet in physical manifestation. I may have insights; I know it’s coming. “But where is it?!?!”
- The old can be so painful, this clinging onto what is known, but I am still moving into acceptance of my feelings and experience.
- Again, it is critical to sit through this, be with this time and make friends with my pain.
Then it happens – the most incredible experience, alignment with truth, I no longer need to know what and how Life will happen. I am aware of a peace, contentment and security that are present within me (they are always there, it’s whether I am aware or not). There is no title, no amount of money in the bank, no relationship that will bring me this feeling. This feeling only comes from my connection to God, my Higher Power, my consciousness.
God takes care of me. This seemingly painful experience is beautiful. It has caused me to go deep within my pain and find the light that is already within me.
I am aware that I share my experience again and again, and it may sound the same or similar. This is because it is truly a way of life for me, my practice and way of being. I get it, I forget, I get it again. I remember, my connection grows deeper and deeper. Because this is my way of life, I now know no experience is too painful and with my unwavering knowing, I know God is always taking care of me in every experience.
I know with certainty what to do when the time is right. Until then, I sit with and make friends with the pain. My self-esteem, confidence and sense of security are not dependent on external circumstances. They come from within, from my connection to God, my Higher Power, all that is. I align with Genuine Self-Confidence.Top
Being comfortable in the void – the place in between creation – releasing the old and allowing the new – the continuous cycle of the transformation of life.
This is where I’ve always stopped myself before. In this place where the old is falling away and making room for new. It is a place of incredible uncertainty. Having been used to the “old comfy shoes” so to speak, I know how they feel even if they’re painful or have holes in them. I don’t yet know what the “brand new shoes” will be like because they have not yet physically manifested.
It can be painful standing in those old shoes and feeling unresolved emotions. It takes my focus to build awareness and move into acceptance of my feelings and experience. I have to sit through it, be present with the emotions. I am in the void, as Melody Beattie refers to it in her book called “Finding Your Way Home”.
I am not often one to quote the Bible, but the concept of the void in creation is beautifully expressed in Genesis 1.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
As the Bible says, it is the nothingness before God (consciousness) that created the Universe. There must be a vacuum of space to allow creation to happen.
It is difficult to put into words. It’s more experiential than intellectual. My Higher Power is teaching me this again and again. Perhaps it always has been, but this knowledge has come into my awareness in a deeper way, where I can verbalize it and it is somewhat tangible to me.
First, I typically have an intention in my life, whether conscious or my soul’s intention. Life brings to me an experience to dissolve my conditioning and release unresolved emotional pain and beliefs, to bring awareness and acceptance to an experience in my life.
Something in my experience triggers me. Perhaps a relationship conflict, an ending of a relationship, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one. Or it could be something I’ve been wanting – a relationship, the job of my dreams, the love of my life, an increase in income. You get the idea? Something that stirs up my experience. My heart’s desire is to have a loving relationship, but I have beliefs that contradict and limit my experience of allowing that type of relationship into my life. Life gives me an opportunity to dissolve my conditioning by moving into acceptance of it.
The process often looks like the following. A limiting pattern of mine is triggered in my relationship. My unresolved emotional and physical pain comes up to be released, but first I must be aware and move into acceptance. Please keep in mind, there doesn’t even have to be a conflict. This can all be in my head based on my conditioning. What I do is become acutely present and aware of my emotions, feel them and the sensations in my body. I breathe into them, becoming aware of my thoughts – watch them – notice them – observe them – and become extremely present. I go deeply into my pain. It can be scary at first, but that is a trick of the ego. The light of our consciousness is more powerful than anything. That is what the ego is afraid of. In my presence, I allow my consciousness to dissolve the energy of the unconscious conditioning and patterns within me. Space is created and healing occurs.
Now, I must still sit in the space, this seemingly empty void where there is nothing. What is coming is unknown and uncertain. It is a place of being. There is NOTHING to do here, sit and be still. That is one of the hardest things for the ego to do. Just watch the ego. You will know when to take action; it will be called through you. Be extremely present and aware.
In my experience, this is where I have prevented the creation of my deepest desires, my souls intentions, from coming into physical manifestation. I have acted simply out of the discomfort of sitting in this empty void.
I realize we want to know the answers intellectually and with certainty, know what is coming so that, we think, we’ll feel secure. That is a false sense of security because all of the insecure feelings are underneath the thought. When we begin to sit through the discomfort of uncertainty, we learn to KNOW at the level of our soul that we are taken care of and we don’t need to know how. It is an indescribable, unfaltering knowing within and nothing can shake it.
When I am not completely present and do not sit through the uncertainty until called to take action, my actions are from a place of fear and desperation. There is an underlying uncertainty and I feel a sense of insecurity. Only when I am completely present with my fear about not knowing do I open to knowing at a deep level. This doesn’t mean I know specifically what’s going to happen. I simply know the Universe supports me and I will be taken care of for my highest good. It will not always look as I expect it.
I can say from one painful experience after another, it is only when I can consciously be present with my pain that the gift of knowing and true inner security is revealed. And that doesn’t mean I don’t ever experience fear. I sit with it when it comes up.
I have experienced intuitive knowing that is illogical to the intellectual mind. Most intuitive people have had this experience. From being still in a place of centeredness, I know. That is my experience of true power, security and confidence, i.e. genuine self-confidence from within.
Life will always bring us problems, but it is how we look at them that makes the difference. No matter how painful they are for me, I now know I am getting the gift of deepening my connection with my Higher Power. There is no insecurity there. There is no need to know. Because I now know that no matter how messy things look, I am always taken care of.
So to summarize the practice…
- Life triggers conditioning and unresolved emotions are revealed.
- Become acutely aware and present. Feel, breathe, watch your experience.
- Be present in the void, the place before creation, sit with the uncertainty. It’s like being in the eye of the storm – the old moving out and the new is being create. Creation is happening, but we don’t see it yet.
- Take action when there is a strong impulse to do so.
- Watch the ego – it will do it’s best to distract you from this place of being.
- Allow yourself to be filled up with indescribable love and a sense of security that can’t be paid for.
I believed that expressing what I thought and felt threatened my very survival. I’ve been holding onto that message. I’m still unraveling this message through current life experiences. I now see it’s the very thing that keeps me from thriving.
I don’t have memories associated with this, just feelings. It’s not safe to express myself. I’ll be ostracized, ridiculed, embarrassed, and told I am the problem. Keep quiet; it’s the only way to keep the peace. Speaking up is unsafe; I will be threatened. The funny thing is, I realize this message no longer serves, yet every time I express more of me, more of that message is revealed to me. It’s shown up in relationships with bullies and intimidators where I back down from what I truly believed to be my truth. Or, with people I thought were “better” than me. Either they had more experience or “knew” more than me. I discredited my thoughts, feelings, my voice, my truth and most of all, who I am. In conflict, I backed down and not only took responsibility for my part, but also for the part of the other involved.
Or, perhaps I felt a lie and spoke up about it. The other person twisted the story, and I allowed myself to be manipulated into their “story”. Doubting myself again and again is really damaging for my self esteem. But from these experiences, I learned “to shut up and keep quiet, don’t reveal the truth, it’s more important to keep the peace than how I feel.”
Now I know better and am still stepping into uncomfortable and awkward territory for myself. I express myself, even when it’s difficult and doesn’t always come out in the best way. I sit through the discomfort, I watch it, feel it, and talk about it with those I feel safe with, write about it, and eventually move into acceptance of it.
Each time I do that, more of true Maria is revealed and it becomes easier. I trust my feelings more, and it becomes what already is my natural state of expression, that is truly me, before all the programming and conditioning.
Who I am is important. What I say, feel and think matters. I am important and so are you.
It’s not been easy, and often awkward at first to speak my truth, expressing myself, which means being myself when I’ve been told or believed I was wrong, or I was the problem. Every time I sit and breathe through the discomfort, it is well worth it. I am worth it.
I am free – my natural state of being, just being myself – being who I truly am.Top
I’ve learned just because someone labels themselves as a spiritual person and they’ve been practicing for a bazillion years doesn’t mean they are better or more evolved than me. In fact, ego is ego any way you package it. If someone thinks they are better than others or needs to prove how long they’ve been on the path, that is ego, no matter where it shows up in someone’s life. We are all the same consciousness in our truest form.
I’ve learned that I’m not better or less than anyone. They are not better or less than me. My latest motto is – “I’m just as good as everyone else”. Hooray!
In my experience, some of the most spiritual people I’ve come across are the most humble. They may not even say they are spiritual. They simply live their lives that way. Why? Because our consciousness is ego free. Consciousness doesn’t need to carry on about how long they’ve been doing this or that. After all, the only moment we have is now, so none of that matters anyway. Time is a trap of the ego. We definitely learn and connect more deeply over time, but that doesn’t make anyone better than anyone else.Top