Recently, I attended a retreat focused on the inner work needed to become unconditionally loving. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on my journey over the past seven years of moving from surviving to thriving. I will be sharing some of that journey here and in upcoming blogs. If you would like support on your own path, I invite you to visit my coaching page: Coaching With Myrna
Most days find us juggling too much, and just trying to get through the day becomes our goal. So, how do we become more present to those we care about the most? It starts with being more connected to ourselves and shining the light on the path in front of us. Recognizing that we cannot change the past but that we can impact our future, we need to acknowledge those moments when we need support. Asking for help, learning to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings, and making time for reflection will serve us best as we move bravely forward into unexplored regions.
Becoming aware of what is blocking or hindering us is a key place to start—whether it is limiting beliefs, a difficult childhood, a traumatic event, or habits cultivated over many years. Realizing that our parents did the best they could, we can begin to look at what is helpful from our past, and what we need to release because it is not serving our best interests. With patience and understanding when looking in the mirror of self-awareness, we can fold back the layers of who we have become to discover who we really want to be.
For me, the awareness that I am holding on to unnecessary baggage began a long time ago, but I fought it tooth and nail, always falling back into what I knew—the familiarity of “doing.” I got my value from being responsible and getting things done, even though it was often from a place of duty. But in 2015, my husband and I moved to Georgia for his work, and I found myself without all the “doer hats” that I had been wearing.
I struggled to find what I was supposed to “do.” I read many books including Who Moved My Cheese? and What Color is Your Parachute? I did a lot of crying, praying, and meditating. Finding a nearby yoga studio gave me the opportunity to become more self-aware and taught me incredible lessons about learning to be more flexible and to let things flow. Joining a community band allowed me to reconnect with the love and joy of creating music with others while playing my flute.
Having some close friends and finding a coach with whom I could share honestly and feel supported and accepted helped tremendously. Reading the Real Love books by Dr. Greg Baer allowed me to understand that in order to be heard, seen, and loved for who I am, I need to recognize that the masks that I have worn to hide the pain no longer are serving me, and find ways to uncover the real me—warts and all. I discovered qigong, tapping, inner child work, the power of small groups (both in-person and over the internet), and so much more.
A musician was approached by a fifty-year old man, asking him if he could teach him to play the trombone. The musician replied, "Sure." Then the man asked, "How long will it take?" and the musician replied that he could teach almost anyone to play in five years’ time. Startled, the man replied that he would be fifty-five years old by then. The musician replied, “Yes, you will. And how old will you be in five years if you don’t learn how to play the trombone?"
If we apply this to our role as parents, it can seem like a long journey to become the kind of parent that we want to be and that our children deserve. The reality is we cannot change what we haven't done or what we regret about our parenting choices from yesterday or last year. We cannot change the past but we can take all that we have discovered and impact the future with our children and grandchildren.
During Covid, when I was writing my book, a friend sent me a link to a 21-day meditation with Oprah and Deepak Chopra entitled Hope in Uncertain Times. During one of the sessions, Deepak spoke of the secret of finding hope—it happens when we shift our focus from the problem to the solution. In parenting and in life, most of us focus our attention on the challenge that lies in front of us.
Deepak shared an analogy:
Imagine your problem is to find a book in a dark, cluttered basement. You cannot see clearly, and you keep banging your head. If you focus on the problem, you may try to protect your head and squint harder as you keep searching through every box. If you focus on the solution, you pause, find the light switch and turn on the light so that you can see everything clearly. And then you find the book.
As a parent, we need to begin by shining the light for ourselves. We often disengage from our story to protect ourselves from the many conflicts, disappointments, and failures we have experienced. But becoming a parent is an opportunity to be awakened to the areas that need our attention. We work on growth and healing so that we can learn to fully enjoy life and be present to our child.
I like the definition of parenthood that I read recently: A sacred relationship that can preserve the wholeness of the child and heal the childhood wounds of the parents. If we look at the emotions that children evoke in us as awakenings or uncovering things that I need to pay attention to, this gives me an opportunity to recognize and begin to address things that I probably already had a hint about. This allows me to see what is lurking in the shadow part of me.
I have a choice. I can choose to let it overtake me and ruin my next patch of life, or I can choose to look at it straight on and see it with all its fear, untruths, and destabilizing qualities. I can let it remind me that I have work to do, we can reframe, rename, and redefine how we experience our own healing as we love and attend to our children.
Over the next weeks. I will be discussing the various stages of development that children grow through and what they need from us as their parents:
Regardless of their age, the most important thing that our children and grandchildren need is a connection of heart and relationship with us as well as seeing that we are continuing to learn and grow in our relationship with them. I believe that the parent-child connection is the core relationship that rules the world. If it is strong and solid, we have healthy men and women. If it is broken and fragmented, we have a wounded world. No matter what mistakes we made in the past, begin anew today.
If you would like some support in your parenting, check out the next parenting small group online that I will be offering on Thursday evenings beginning March 2: 7 Gifts Webinar.
There is a story of a young priest making his rounds at a local hospital. He came into the room of a woman who looked frail and clearly near the end of her earthly life. The priest asked if he could sit down and inquired how she was doing. She replied, "I've made a mess of life and the relationships with my husband and daughter. There's no hope for me--I'm going to hell."
Sitting in silence for a few moments, the priest noticed a framed picture on the nightstand of a beautiful young woman." Picking up the picture frame, he asked, "Who is she?" Smiling a little, the woman replied, "That is my daughter; she is the one beautiful thing in my life."
The priest said, "And would you help her if she was in trouble or made a mistake? Would you forgive her? And would you still love her?"
The woman cried, "Of course, I would! I would do anything for her. She will always be precious and wonderful to me. Why do you ask such a question?"
"Because I want you to know that God has a picture of you as well," answered the priest.
Through his message of unconditional forgiveness and love, the priest was giving back to this woman her ability to connect with her own goodness. I believe that worthiness doesn’t have prerequisites—love, belonging and being worthy are each of our birthrights.
Being reminded of our goodness in spite of our mistakes can help us begin to reconnect to our own intrinsic divinity and what we have to offer. Feeling forgiven is the way to open our hearts and begin to ask forgiveness from those that we have caused pain.
One way that helps me remember this is to have a mantra that I say to myself, especially when I am feeling less than lovable. My recent one is, "I am seeing and loving myself and others from God's point of view." If it feels challenging to say something positive about how you are right now, maybe begin with, "I am becoming the person I want to be. I work toward honesty and authenticity."
Come up with your own phrase--google Mantras for Worthiness or Self-Love or Forgiveness. Or create your own saying. Keep it short and write it on an index card or post-it, putting it somewhere that you will be reminded regularly. For years, I had one on my bathroom mirror that I saw first thing in the morning while brushing my teeth.
An excellent book that I read recently is "Unconditional Forgiveness--A Simple and Proven Method to Forgive Everyone and Everything," by Mary Hayes Grieco. With many stories and clear steps to follow, she addresses self-forgiveness as well as forgiving others, evil and even God. I highly recommend the book.
Albert Einstein said, "He who can no longer pauses to wonder and stand wrapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed." We live in trying times and it takes intention and presence to notice all that is amazing and wonderful in the people and nature surrounding us.
Almost every day, it seems that we can find evidence of how annoying, inconvenient, and inconsiderate people and situations can be. Travel gets interrupted because of weather. Your commute to work is stressful because of people driving recklessly, the person ahead of you in line at the checkout counter is exchanging items and asking too many questions, your spouse forgets to pick up something at the store, there is that person in the grocery store talking on their phone on speaker, your child tells you the night before that they need to bring something for a school project or a bake sale—the list can go on and on.
It is easy to take the nature that surrounds for granted--the colors of the leaves in the fall, the beautiful flowers blooming in our neighbors yard or the incredible colors painted across the sky at sunset. We also forget that people are impressive, amazing individuals created in the image of God. Pearl Bailey, actress, singer and author said that people see God every day, they just don’t recognize him. If you haven't seen the entertaining short video, "Eating Twinkies With God," watch and share it with your family. www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9N8OXkN0Rk&t=5s
Recently, I watched the movie, "My Octopus Teacher" about Craig Foster, a nature documentary filmmaker, naturalist and founder of Sea Change Project. This project is a community of scientists, storytellers, journalists and filmmakers who are dedicated to the ocean. Their work is motivating scientists, policymakers, and individuals to engage meaningfully with nature and protect our oceans.
For Craig Foster, the ocean and one particular octopus changed his life. He went to the ocean originally because he was overwhelmed and stressed out. He went every day, swimming without a wetsuit or oxygen tank because he felt it would be a barrier to interacting with the ocean life and he discovered an amazing world underwater with a unique and curious octopus that befriended him. The movie is both a gorgeous wildlife documentary and a moving tale of how a man in crisis found joy, wonder and purpose through immersion in nature and a remarkable relationship with an octopus. I highly recommend this movie as a great family watch.
Awe is the feeling we get when something moves us, maybe it stops us in our tracks and enables us to feel truly alive. Research shows that awe and wonder can decrease stress and anxiety and increase positive emotions and overall satisfaction in our life. The practice of wonder can engender greater compassion for others, build brain health, a sense of more expansive time, and the recognition that there are greater forces at work within the universe. It also helps us to feel greater support and increases the likelihood that we will help others.
When was the last time that you said to yourself, “Why is this happening to ME?” It could have been when your spouse forgot to pick-up the items need for dinner. Maybe it was when your young child spilt their drink for the third time that day or drew on the wall with a permanent marker AGAIN. Or you got into the car to go to an important meeting or appointment, and you realized your teenager or young adult had returned the family car on empty once again.
Some months ago, I had such a moment at the gym. After swimming and sitting in the hot tub, I took off my swimsuit before taking a shower and hung it on a hook so that it wouldn’t drip everywhere. Coming out of the shower, I found my swimsuit sitting on top of the trash can! Someone had decided that they needed all four of the hooks in the shower area and had moved my swimsuit out of their way. I have to say that I overreacted, saw myself as a victim of this “horrible” injustice and said some less than kind words to the woman who had done this.
Fortunately for me, I had just finished participating in a program, Radical Wholeness, which helped me reflect on and get some perspective on my response. I gained many things from this ten-week online course. But one of the presentations that struck me the most was “The Four Levels or Stages of Consciousness.”
Based on concepts by Michael Beckwith, Spiritual Director of Agape International Spiritual Center, the founders of WholeHearted—Heather Thalheimer, David Young and Sarah Oben—incorporated “Levels of Consciousness” into their program Radical Wholeness. I have summarized my understanding of these four stages below. The key is to begin with awareness of where I am in a particular area of my life, to accept and love myself at the place I am at, and to allow acceptance, love, and patience to guide me in making progress. (See a diagram of the four stages below.)
To Me: At this stage, we experience life as happening to us. We may feel like a victim, things are other people's fault. We blame others or ourselves but feel that we are powerless to change what is happening. To shift to the next stage--By Me--we must let go of blaming others and seek to take ownership of the situation.
By Me: This is a building stage. We can learn new skills and see results from our efforts. We look at a situation and ask ourselves, “How can I change this?” We begin to realize that I have something to do with the problem, so I have the power to solve it. Problems can now be seen as opportunities. It can be challenging work, but we can be successful. We may not experience great happiness or peacefulness at this stage. To move to the Through Me stage, we must let go of control and surrender and recognize that we need others as well as God/Higher Power.
Through Me: This stage is one of recognizing that there is something greater than myself that wants to flow through me. Surrendering to needing others, needing God helps us to relax and open to possibilities and our own creativity. We can become co-creators in our life. A sense of trust and connectedness occurs. To move to the next level, we need humility to experience being connected to all of life.
As Me: This level is experiencing that we are at once a unique individual and at the same time, part of a greater whole. Through this awareness, we experience fusion between the individual and the whole--we cannot ignore the wellbeing of another because we are one.
It is important to understand that growth through these stages is not linear, moving from one to the next sequentially. Instead, we move in and out of the various levels. In different areas of our lives, we could experience two or more of these stages in the same day. If this article piques your interest, I invite you to check out Radical Wholeness, a ten-week online Journey. I have included some information below about the course.
Registration for the Fall program is now open at beingwholehearted.com. The group meets Wednesdays, September 7 – November 16, 8-10 pm EST.
Through Radical Wholeness You Will:
• Discover a new way to love yourself.
• Experience wholeness through becoming aware of the ways you have separated from yourself, others, and your environment.
• Gain learnable, usable, and sustainable practices to experience a new and more satisfying way of living.
• Meet other people who want to be part of a heart-centered community.
More than half of the 40,000 people who participated in the BBC’s Touch Test in January 2020, a survey conducted in 112 countries, said that they did not receive enough physical interaction—an arm around the shoulder, a sympathetic touch, or a long hug. And this was before COVID-related lockdowns had taken effect. This condition now has an official name: touch starvation.
It has been said that the sense of touch can be up to ten times stronger than our other senses. Some may think that touch starvation sounds too “touchy-feely.” But there is strong science that backs the biological need in all of us. Dr. Lina Velikova, a researcher in Bulgaria says that touch and cuddling increases our levels of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and decreases levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. These very hormones effect our sleep, cardiovascular system and even our mental state.
Dr. Velikova says, “Cuddling activates our parasympathetic nervous system, bringing feelings of calm and ease while settling feelings of anxiety and sadness.” Since blood pressure is often linked to stress, reducing stress is helpful to lower blood pressure. In addition, oxytocin has a protective effect on the heart.
Most of us do not realize how essential physical touch is in communicating our care and love to our family members. Part of the power of touch is that it does not involve any words. Body language is more genuine and harder to fake. Giving a hug implicitly communicates trust and safety in ways that we cannot speak.
The science also tells us that there is actual power connected to touch. People who get regular hugs are less likely to get colds. Reaching for someone’s hand or holding them close can reduce physical pain. It also supports better sleep and digestion.
Think for a moment how often you touched or hugged your family members in the past week. Of course, not everyone appreciates a bear hug, so we need to be sensitive to the needs of others. Perhaps a gentle pat on the hand or arm accompanied by some loving words are what will be appreciated. Or maybe it is a back, head or even a foot rub. Offer to help apply lotion on someone’s overworked hands.
There is even a National Hugging Day created in 1986 by Kevin Zaborney. The next one will be on January 21, 2023. You can find out more about it here: nationaltoday.com/national-hugging-day/ But don't wait until then. I challenge you to get practicing with your own family members and friends now. Think of all the benefits and be creative.
A few weeks ago, I was with my three- and one-half-year-old granddaughter--I have the privilege of spending time with her each week and giving her parents a break. It was a warm day and I had on shorts. She asked me, "Nan, what is that ouchy on your leg?"
Looking down at the permanent purplish mark on my leg that she was gently touching, I replied that it was from an injury from a long time ago that did not go away. Her concern was obvious as she asked me if it hurt, how did it happen and did I need a band-aid.
Thinking about this conversation after I was back home, I realized that I do not remember how I got this permanent bruise--the medical term for it is an ecchymosis. It means that I got hit on the leg hard enough for it to bleed under the skin, leaving a permanent mark. I have, in fact, two of these on my right leg with no memory of how they happened.
It made me think about how much I have no memory of in my life because I was focused on whatever task I was doing without really being present to those around me and even what I was experiencing. For the past seven years, I have been making effort to become more present to the moment.
There are practices that I have discovered that help me develop self-awareness and presence in my daily life. About seven years, I began practicing yoga. Initially, I joined a yoga studio because it was within walking distance from my house, and I wanted to get exercise and develop more core strength. But I also realized that it helped me to stop my busyness and focus inward. I have a yoga mat in my office area to remind me to stop and spend some time practicing each day.
Meditation is also something that I highly recommend. Meditation is a tool that combines awareness and mindfulness practices. It is known to reduce anxieties, body fat, chronic medical situations, depression, dementia, loneliness, and stress. It also improves one's attention span, sleep, positivity and overall peace of mind.
There are numerous apps that make it easy to access a meditation whenever we want. Some that I use are Insight Timer, Tapping Solution, Mind Valley, and Headspace. These have both meditations for free and for a fee.
Finding a meditation practice that you feel connected to is important. For some people, walking in nature with the intention of connecting to the beautiful surroundings is the best method. Taking moments out of your day to simple close your eyes and take deep breaths reduces stress and helps to reconnect with your inner self. Another possibility is to take time at the beginning or the end of the day to reflect, meditate and journal. Qigong is form of moving meditation with many health benefits. One that I have practiced is Wisdom Healing Qigong: www.youtube.com/c/MingtongGu but you can search for practices online and in your own community.
If you think that meditation isn’t for you, check out this article that gives even more ideas and options. tinyurl.com/5d5x7vnh Try out different methods of bringing more awareness and presence into your life to find the ones that resonate the most with you.
Currently, I am combining gardening with my meditative practices. I used to buy plants for my back patio and forget to water them. Now, I am actively working to create a beautiful space where I can relax, meditate, breath and enjoy the fragrant flowers and the vibrant hummingbirds. How well my garden is doing is my litmus test for how I am doing with including presence and self-awareness in my own life.
In her book, “The Conscious Parent—Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children,” Dr. Shefali Tsabary says that to be more effective in relating to our children, we need to be willing to face and resolve issues in ourselves that come from the way we were parented. She states that, “In fact, it’s my experience that the relationship between parent and child exists for the primary purpose of the parent’s transformation and only secondarily for the raising of the child.”
Think for a moment about a recent time that you were triggered by something that your child did or said. If you are not familiar with the term, getting triggered is an intense physical or emotional reaction to an event or interaction. Maybe that trigger comes from your two-year-old refusing to get in her car seat after a particularly stressful outing to the grocery store. Perhaps it comes when your preteen screams, “I hate you, you never understand me” or your young adult child returns your car on empty or forgets your birthday.
Regardless of the cause, the reality is that the things that trigger us almost always connect back to wounds and unmet needs of our inner child. Instead of blaming our children for our emotional reactions, we can use this opportunity to recognize that we are uncovering or awakening something in ourselves that needs our attention as I wrote about in my blog a few weeks ago. www.coachmyrna.org/coachmyrna-blog/triggers-and-awakenings
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of helping my son and daughter-in-law while they became first-time parents. It was amazing to be able to support them as they discovered all the joys and challenges of caring for a newborn. However, at one point, I found myself becoming angry and at first, I couldn’t figure out why. As I examined my emotions, I realized that it had to do with not feeling valued or appreciated. Could it be that I was jealous of all the attention that this beautiful child was getting? If so, where is that coming from?
As I explored more deeply, I realized that this was an opportunity to revisit a book that I had been reading, “Recovering Your Inner Child.” Author Dr. Lucia Capacchione says, “Without awareness, we automatically repeat the kind of parenting we received as children…However, if we do not like the way we were parented, we do have a choice. We can change. We can re-parent ourselves…Recovery of your Inner Child is the way to begin anew and heal your life.”
If you are intrigue to explore this topic more, I encourage you to:
“Healing happens when we open the door and invite the Inner Child to come out and be a part of our lives.” Dr. Capacchione
Is there anyone in your life who seems to fly off the handle at the slightest perceived insult? Do you know anyone who throws verbal barbs and biting accusations your way any time you try to engage in conversation? If you have vital signs, the odds are very high that you do.
Success with occasionally angry people… as well as the chronically ticked-off variety… involves remembering these three essential truths:
The first truth reminds us that we maintain our personal power only when we choose to separate ourselves from the other’s anger. Empathy provides a powerful tool for accomplishing this. That's right! When we perceive the other person as hurting… rather than as obnoxious… we are far less likely to find ourselves being triggered by their ire.
The second truth reminds us that ears are mightier than the mouth. Some people remain angry and confrontational regardless of how well we understand their point of view. Most, however, calm significantly when they see that we care enough to listen.
The third truth reminds us that thoughtful, sincere questions cause others to think. Examples include:
In our audio, Putting Parents at Ease, we describe how teachers can apply these skills with difficult parents. One educator relayed his surprise at how well the skills worked with his adult son:
I was ready to use the skills I learned with the parents of my students. I wasn't prepared for how well they worked when my 25-year-old son blasted me for saying "no" to a loan. Instead of us fighting over the phone, we ended the conversation with some mutual dignity.
In his book “Tribes” Seth Godin tells the story of the Balloon Factory and the Unicorn. The people who work in the balloon factory are timid and afraid of pins, needles, porcupines and other sharp objects. They don’t like sudden changes in temperature either.
It wasn’t a bad place to work except when the unicorns show up. Usually, the balloon factory folks shush the unicorn and are able to shoo him away. But sometimes, the unicorn wanders into the factory anyway. That’s when everyone runs for cover as explosions occur right and left.
Godin uses this story to talk about change—the balloon factory is the status quo and the unicorn represents the impetus for change. However, I think that this story can be applied to how we deal with our emotions. Most of the time, we go through life trying to be nice and helpful, keeping our anger, frustration, fear and sadness under wraps. But sometimes, someone says something, and we pop just like a balloon.
In the world of therapy and healing, this is referred to as getting triggered. Triggers are anything that reminds a person of a previous trauma or painful situation. In more extreme cases, it is referred to as PTSD or posttraumatic stress disorder and usually involves experiences from wars, disasters, and horrific crimes.
However, Greg Baer, author of “Real Love and Post-Childhood Stress Disorder” says that most of us suffer from a form of PTSD because we experienced numerous traumatic events through our childhood and beyond. From early childhood, our brains are literally molded by love and when we are misunderstood and not loved unconditionally, Dr. Baer says we gather many minor hidden wounds. Most of the time, we are initially blind to the injuries they cause within but overtime, they can become troublesome and even unbearable.
Recently I became aware that I have a trigger around not being acknowledged. Somehow, as a child, I did not feel recognized for my own unique gifts and talents. My parents were loving parents who were overwhelmed with trying to balance work, church, community and family and as the oldest, I felt that I had to play the role of the responsible daughter who downplayed her own feelings, ideas and wishes. How many times have I reacted badly--allowing my balloon to pop--with my husband, my children, my friends when I didn’t feel appreciated or acknowledged without recognizing that I was connecting back to childhood pain?
I am realizing that being triggered isn’t something to be ashamed of or to keep hidden. Rather, it is an opportunity to become aware of my need to healing. I would like to conclude this post with an excerpt from an article by Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farm www.beccastevens.org/
“I would like to test the word ‘uncover’. Something happens that ‘uncovers’ something in me. That something awakens something I already knew deep down, and this something has allowed me to see what was lurking in the shadow part of me. This uncovering gives me the opportunity to see it. It has been uncovered for me. I can now choose to put it aside for a bit, I can choose to let it overtake me and ruin my next patch of life, or I can choose to look at it straight on and see it with all its fear, untruths, and destabilizing qualities that I carry like precious pearls. I then asked, “What other words are out there waiting for us to use them to aid in trauma healing?” Some of the great words that were offered were: disruption, stirring, alert, and awakening…It reminds me that as we do the work, we can reframe, rename, and redefine how we experience healing.”
If you would like support on your own journey of healing, connect with me here: Contact Me