Have you ever had the experience of wishing you had listened to yourself when you chose to do the thing you felt like you shouldn’t because there was just something that didn’t feel right? I am right there with you! So often we will have a gut feeling, a physical sensation, sometimes we’re out right physically sick, yet we still don’t trust the feeling or the thought that’s pulling us away from participating in something that isn’t the best for us.

I know that for some of you self-doubt is like a heavy cloud that seems to hang over you everywhere you go. Oftentimes, if we weren’t taught to stay connected to our inner-song, if our inner-experience wasn’t understood, soothed, or contained it is a difficult feat to overcome questioning ourselves, to silence the self-sabotaging voice.

If doubt and distrust of self seem to plague you, take a moment to breathe. Start by slowing down your breath and paying attention. Where is the hesitation coming from? Does the uncertainty feel safer than trusting yourself? Beloved, I’m here to say that you can trust your heart. Your feelings and thoughts are there for a reason, and believe it or not, this is your wisdom calling to you. Also, don’t try to revive this part of your heart alone. Seek out a competent therapist or spiritual director that can wipe the thick dust of fear and doubt from your heart so that you can listen to the authentic you. Eventually, you’ll develop the muscle to live and act in trust of yourself. PS…this is also how we become co-creators with the Divine. We can talk about that one in another post! 🙂
Have you ever had the feeling of exclusion?  Not being invited into something you long to be involved in can create feelings of isolation and shame.  Sometimes, unknowingly, we do this to our hearts. It’s as if we’ve posted a guard at the gates of our hearts, checking ID’s on the different thoughts and feelings floating around, and only giving some of them the stamp of approval to be let out, to be seen in the light of day.

Dear Ones, I know that many of you feel that only parts of you are acceptable, that only some of who you are can exist in relationships.  The idea of living authentically, in vulnerability, can be quite scary if integrating emotional life wasn’t a normal part of your experience growing up.  So many of the precious souls I am privileged to sit with on a weekly basis have a difficult time putting words to their feelings.

Well, here I am writing you an invitation! The often counter-intuitive piece to knowing yourself and your inner-life is that the more you welcome home all of the parts of who you are, the more you are able to speak your truth and share your thoughts and feelings, with grit and practice, this begins to feel more comfortable and easy than it is to hold everything tightly in. This is the other side of your anxiety, the other side of your despair. When we start talking authentically about what is happening, when we start feeling what is in the heart, we also discover what we love. And the world becomes safer, softer.
What is it that brings you joy? Maybe it’s something simple, like the weekend, or a flower that has blossomed, laughing with a friend. What is it that brings you a sense of awe and wonder? Cultivate this in your heart, guard this and protect it.

Sometimes we have to take fierce protection of the things that bring us joy. Did you know that your boundaries are a sure-fire way of guarding all that is good in your life? Boundaries are those invisible gates put up around your soul to keep in what is good and nourishing and safe, and to keep out all that would strive to hurt, injure, deplete, or steer you off the right path. Boundaries are the poles dug deep in the earth that declare you are worthy of protection.

Joy is also the thing that seems unattainable if you are in the midst of healing, or if your heart is aching. Dear One, keep doing the work. Keep reaching for and seeking wholeness. There is beauty on the horizon, the sun will rise! Be patient, remember you are beloved and worthy, and your efforts in therapy and healing will pay off and you’ll get that joy back deep in your bones.

And, by the way, can we all shout for collective J O Y that we are re-opening and seeing signs of normalcy?! Woo hoo!! Don’t forget, the biggest way to nurture joy is to serve your neighbor, to get outside yourself, and spread love. We need this more than ever. We are all healing from a very hard time in history and there is still more to do. How do you cultivate joy?

In the middle of the struggle to determine right and wrong, is often where the expansive stretch of grace and safety are found.

Dear One, do you find that you often beat yourself up with the voice that is trying to determine if you are right or wrong, good or bad, lucky or unlucky? In the midst of these polarizing pulls of psyche, is a sweet part of yourself that needs to be nurtured with compassion and kindness. This part is calling you to let go, to find freedom. This is the “field” that I believe Rumi is referring to.

Today, love yourself and others in this field of grace that stretches far. This will be the only place your wounds will be able to breathe enough to feel what needs to be felt and to actually heal. Our wounds must be met with grace upon grace.

You are not broken.

No matter how different life seems, no matter how fragmented you see life or yourself, you are not broken.

We may break bones and we may break parts of us.

But know this, you are here, your worth has not diminished.

To label yourself as broken, even unintentionally, does not do you justice. You have endured and survived.

No, you are not broken, you are beloved.

You are more than your grief.

The ailing of your grief doesn’t define you or how you are doing, this is just part of the journey.

You are surviving, you are learning, you are growing, and you are healing.

Take a moment to remember something familiar that you love. Be it a person, a view, or something you love to do, and remember that the joy you have in that, shapes you, too.
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Grief is complex, a myriad of memories of joy, some now met with fear; moments or injuries unresolved, all that was spoken and unspoken, and the ache of not having the person or the relationship to return to.
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This is grief. It is a journey, a process with many ups and downs, shape-shifting often. Take your time. Go slow, open it up when you need to.

All of us have grieved in this past year, and sometimes now languishing. We will get through this. There is an ending point, a lighter space, light that gives life.
It seems as though the worst has already happened.

But then what is this we’re left with?
Grief has been seemingly inescapable in this season.

C.S. Lewis so easily relates our experience of loss into words. This, that we are left with is grief. It so closely resembles fear, and in a way it is. A fear of living a completely different life than we’re used to.

There is something missing and our minds are hardwired to find patterns and associations. Our brains are attempting to look and plan ahead with the lack of something it has known for so long. It is acknowledging and relearning the truths and realities around us, and this is inevitably exhausting.

I hope you can take comfort in knowing that we are all doing just that, adjusting to a life we weren’t prepared for, lacking things we had come to rely on.

You have not fallen behind, you are in the process of grieving.

Beloved your struggles are real, the weight may be heavy, but you are still so loved.

Do not hesitate to reach out to a loved one, or make the decision to bring someone along on your relearning journey.
As I write this, my chest feels heavy. I’ve always embodied my feelings, do you do that, too? Feel everything not just at a heart level, but experience it all in full body, mind, and soul? This has been a year like no other. I feel confident in saying we have all experienced grief or loss in some way this last year.

There are different forms of grieving. And while grief can have similar patterns, it is also a very individualized journey. Grief is the feeling that shows up when we lose something or someone important to us. Grief is the response to loss.

Just look at all the we’ve lost this last year! Some of you have lost more than others, but we’ve all felt it at some level. Places that we love to frequent with our friends-shut down. Jobs lost. Economic stress that fuels relational strain; our kids struggling with depression and loneliness, they are grieving, too. And then, there’s the grief due to mourning a loved one, and there’s a good chance that Covid was involved. This is all bereavement, and it is not easy.

I lost my Dad to Covid-19 in January. Sometimes there are no words to describe what losing someone from this earth can feel like. In my case, it was sudden, and unexpected. I know so many of you also lost someone to this awful virus. If you’ve lost someone this year, or really at anytime and they meant something to you, I invite you to just simply write their name in the comments below. There is power in verbally honoring those we loved.

Beloved, take all the time you need to heal, to grieve. There is no time limit in processing loss, and many times it is layered, and deeply complex. If the relationship or thing, or person you lost held a complex relationship with you, give yourself extra grace, all the extra that you need…a lot of love to yourself.

And lastly, allow yourself to feel. Oh, how we get so afraid of our feelings, but trust me, they will lead you to a lighter, more peaceful heart if you remain authentic. As my wonderful associate Serena recently said, “Allowing myself to feel has been grounding for me.” Beloved, it will ground you, too. Don’t avoid your heart, come near what is real. We’re going to survive this together!
Taking time to heal does not make you weak.

In fact, this is what is necessary in order to remain strong.

This season has been hard and exhausting.

Now is not the time to simply ignore our wounds.

Do what you need to do, in order for you to come back ready, to come back whole, renewed. Whether this is stronger than ever, or an acceptance of your tenderness, an invitation granted for the gentle places. This is the only path to true strength.

Take a walk, call a friend, close the laptop, put the phone down, take the day off, or even the next ten minutes off. Reflect. Listen. Relax.

You are worthy of healing and, beloved, this includes the time it takes to do so.

I’m not sure what you feel when you look at this picture. For me, I soften a little looking at it because I imagine the person holding the flower to be wrestling with a longing. It reminds me of pulling one petal at a time out of a flower when I was younger, singing along, “he loves me, he loves me not,” until I came to the last petal in aching hope that I ended on “he loves me.”

This flower, and the song, reminds me of Advent. The waiting, the wonder, the expectation, and perhaps, the hesitation to believe in the promise of hope fulfilled, or to continue to guard the heart because to hope again may lead to being let down again. However, whether this season of Advent is held as myth or literal for you, I believe there is a gift in the story for all of us.

A baby in a manger represents such vulnerability, total dependence. May we wrap up this chaotic year with regard for the vulnerable places in our hearts, with loving attention. This holiday season, be compassionate towards the parts of yourself that are in need. Take time to slow down for a few moments, and with mindful awareness, remind yourself that you matter, more than you can imagine, and that you are so loved. This is the remaining petal on the flower. Happy Holidays, Everyone!!
Annie