Have you or someone you know ever been challenged with or suffered from an addiction? I have. I used to be addicted to the internet. Key words here being, “used to be.” Today I’m going to share with you my journey and the practices I used to break free of the debilitating addiction I found myself in.
Internet Addiction Disorder, also commonly known as Problomatic Computer Use or Compulsive Internet Use, effects 6% of the world’s population which is equivalent to about 420 million people. Though it’s not officially recognized as a disorder, it’s prevalence within cultures around the globe is staggering.
The most commonly observed types of internet addiction can include: information overload, compulsions, cyber-sex and cyber-relationship addictions that can come in many forms such as the news, shopping, gaming, gambling, chat rooms, web-surfing, and pornography. And let us not forget, social media feeds.
There’s no question the internet has made life a lot easier giving us instant access to a wealth of information as well as the opportunity to build and develop connections around the world, but it has also led to a lot of people spending excessive time online.
My internet addiction came in the form of cyber-relationships. The healing from my addiction initiated a journey or quest if you will, to take back my power, to reclaim my identity, my self-worth, my self-respect, and to integrate new and healing practices into my daily life.
The day I signed up to be a Premium Member on Bill O’Reilly’s website was the day my addiction began. For those unfamiliar, Bill O’Reilly is an American journalist, author and political commentator. He was the host of O’Reilly Factor, the highest-rated cable news show at the time and I watched the show religiously. Becoming a Premium Member gave me access to the message boards. The message boards were a place that members could meet, debate, talk, share, support and maybe even collaborate.
There are a host of reasons or causes why one becomes addicted to something or someone. Some of those reasons include depression, feelings of overwhelm, lack of emotional support, loneliness, anxiety, and even stress.
I’m still not sure what I was trying to avoid back then or why I was using the message boards as a substitute for life, but I honestly think it was boredom. I was bored in my job. I had a lot of time on my hands and I sat in front of a computer all day long.
In retrospect, I understand there was an unconscious need looking to be filled and I was looking externally to fill it. My cyber-relationships became a priority as I slipped further away from my integrity and my truth and my family. To this day I still actively practice the art of forgiving myself for the countless moments I missed with my family because my thoughts and energy were focused on what was going on online.
After close to three years, when the misery and unhappiness became too much to bare, when my soul was screaming out for change, when I was sick and tired of compromising myself and taking the words and actions of others personally, I made an appointment with a licensed professional. As he reached across his desk to hand me a prescription, I knew it was wrong. I knew medication wasn’t the answer. I needed something else. So I started talking to God.
One afternoon I walked into my manager’s office to talk with her and noticed a book on her desk. The book was You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. I picked it up, started thumbing through it, drilled her with questions and stopped at the local Barnes and Noble that afternoon to buy myself a copy. Here is it. Read cover to cover three times. In fact, I still refer back to this book today.
I truly believe the angels placed that book on my path for the very reason of healing my addiction to the internet. You Can Heal Your Life was the catalyst for my increased spirituality and my journey of healing and self-discovery. Two practices that were introduced to me through the book, I continue to use to this very day. They are the use of affirmations and mirror work.
Affirmations are positive statements that help people to overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. Through repetition and belief, one can re-program the mind and use affirmations to drive positive change in all aspects of one’s life. This is what I began to do. I evaluated and assessed my patterns of thought and my belief system, and I started the process of re-programming.
Here are the first lists of affirmations (and prayers) I composed and printed over a decade ago. These lists stayed in my handbag and went with me everywhere I went.
What I discovered through this practice is that I was looking to those cyber-relationships to fill specific needs. I needed to be liked, wanted, funny, appealing, needed, loved and desired. Strange thing is, I WAS, by those nearest and dearest in my real life! How did I lose sight of that?
Working in tandem with affirmations was mirror work.
Have any of you heard of or actively practice mirror work?
The primary purpose of mirror work is to reprogram the mind, develop self-love and increase self-care. A practice of mirror work can help foster and develop a deeper relationship with yourself. It’s pretty simple. You stand in front of a mirror looking deeply into your own eyes as you recite positive affirmations. Simple, but not always easy. I was in such an awful dark place that every time I stood in front of the mirror to do the work, tears would pour down over my cheeks. I was a hot mess, but I kept at it.
Those first few months I stood in front of my mirror repeating affirmations such as ….
I am needed.
I am wanted.
I am funny.
I am liked.
I am appealing.
I am loved.
I am desired.
These were basic affirmations I used. As I journeyed and discovered more about myself, the affirmations shifted and expanded to specific areas that needed healing.
Over a decade has passed since my dark days of addiction. As I reflect I feel a sense of gratitude for the experience as painful as it was. Additionally, I feel neutrality, I feel neutral, which resonates with me as healing from my addiction and the experience. The practices of affirmations and mirror work were guiding forces in the emerging of the newest and best version of my Self.
Today I am less likely to take things personally, but hey … we all have off days, right? I keep tight boundaries around the time I spend online and I do my best to remain present around family and friends. The experience and my journey had gifted me the opportunity to reclaim my power, my truth and my self-respect. I no longer compromise Who I Am.
I invite all of you to be open and honest with yourself about what needs to shift in your own life. I invite you to evaluate your belief system, assess your patterns of thought, acknowledge your limiting beliefs and begin to heal. I’m not presuming you suffer from addiction, but we can all find areas of our life in need of healing. Next time you’re standing in front of the mirror, be sure to look deeply within your eyes and say something super-positive about yourself or your life. I invite you to acknowledge what’s not working, to integrate new practices, and to live the very best version of YOU!
A speech composed for my next Speaker Sisterhood Club Meeting. My story.
Imagine for a moment, a younger version of yourself. Perhaps the version of you from a decade ago.
What’s different? How are you different? What has changed? How have you changed from this earlier version of yourself?
A decade ago Shauna Gullbrand was a very different version of the person you see today. She was selfish, mean, unsympathetic, uncaring, painfully honest and lacking any filters or boundaries in her approach to others. She was, in all honesty, a difficult person to interact with. It was her way or the highway as she had little capacity to compromise.
The parts of her that could be selfless, nurturing and compassionate were tucked neatly away in dark corners of her shadow self. Those traits, to her, were signs of weakness. They were unknown. Or more so, they were values that were never introduced, taught, encouraged or supported. Ahhhhhh, the joys of childhood conditioning and patterns of thought and behavior that cycle through generations.
The Care Giver, Divine Feminine and Great Mother archetypes lie dormant within her until the birth of her sons and the coming of her spiritual awakening and heart-centered soul work.
The birth of her children awoke the archetypes and she settled into her role of mother but not much had changed at that point. She took care of her babies and raised them to the best of her ability with the tools she had in her toolbox at the time. That said, neither child could stay home from school unless they were bleeding or dying. The emotional dramas or traumas from her children were noticed yet handled with a matter-of-fact kind of attitude and OH, you’ll be fine. She was rigid in her desire to have everything her way. And it would piss her off every time her husband would be fun and loving, nurturing and compassionate with the kids when Shauna wanted to stick to the schedule or routine on how the house was run and the children raised.
Shauna began to understand, through her developed daily practices, how her words and actions had an effect on others. Her spiritual awakening brought with it the practice of self-forgiveness. She began to understand, or release the belief, that the world does NOT in fact, revolve around her. That other people had feelings too and that maybe she could start being more mindful of that fact. So she began forgiving herself for all the years of rigidity, anger, and control and began setting daily intentions to see people in her life through eyes of love and compassion.
She was certified as a Life Coach, Yoga Instructor and Integrated Energy Therapy Master/Instructor. Shauna began working one-on-one with clients and with groups of people, like the students who filled her yoga classes and her programs. In October of 2018 she received a Heart Initiation. Although she had been playing around with the energy of nurturing compassion, it still felt unreal and uncomfortable. It felt fake to her. She would preach self-love and compassion, but wasn’t truly practicing it herself. During the time of her heart initiation, Shauna experienced an intuitive insight around the need to give herself permission to nurture herself and to be compassionate toward herself. This epiphany granted her the opportunity and opened her up to the possibility that if she could be nurturing and compassionate toward herself, she could be nurturing and compassionate toward anyone. A whole new world opened up for her.
A decade has passed and Shauna stands before all of you now, a woman who is very aware of the times she slips back into the selfish child when something is thrown off in her day or on her schedule. She’s aware of the triggers and the rising irritation and desire to lash out irrationally. Shauna does her best to breathe and then maybe sit in her sacred space in order to feel through the child-like pattern of behavior so she can heal.
Shauna has been given golden opportunities to sit with either son when they need her, to listen with an open heart and with the intention to understand, ready, willing and able to nurture and offer compassion toward whatever it is they have going on in their life. From this, her relationships with her sons has grown and deepened. With it, a new level of respect.
In her classes, with clients, family or friends, she brings a message of the importance of self-love. She invites those she knows to release any and all self-criticism and self-judgement, and in their place, a sense of compassion and nurturing. She reminds herself and others, that we’re each doing the best that we can and to always be gentle toward our Self.
Shauna is currently collaborating and brainstorming with like-minded people in the creation of classes, programs and events that are focused on daily practices of love and compassion. She has begun attending networking events with the intention of reaching a larger audience to share her wisdom, guidance and experience. She sees people for the Divine beings they are, each on their own journey here in the jungles of time and space. It can still be a little challenging for her to release control and the need to be selfish. She’s working on it.
Through this transition and healing, she now has the confidence in her ability to put someone else’s needs before hers and the confidence to be soft and welcoming, like an oversized couch that envelops, swaddles, and holds you close.
Shauna holds a strong desire to make a difference in the world. She sees herself on stage in front of hundreds of thousands, she sees herself with smaller classroom size groups, she sees herself authoring and publishing a book. Her desires are to raise the vibration of individuals and collectively, raise the vibration of the planet!
How comfortable is it for you to stand naked in front of your mirror? What’s that you say? It’s not comfortable at all? You avoid looking at yourself naked in the mirror? Do you dash by and pretend not to look?
Yeah, I’ve done that for most of my life.
I’ve also been at war with my body for most of my life. That is, up until about a month ago.
When I was away at the Heart conference with my Pathway’s peeps, I had the opportunity to learn what it meant to really be kind and gentle with myself. There’s a “thing” I have about the color pink and my long-time aversion to it and a more recent embracing of it. I would often question why I never bought or wore anything pink. That is, until a major AH-HA moment, standing out in the dark of night at Essex Woods, when it hit me. I’ve been avoiding pink because I’ve been avoiding compassion for myself. I was attempting to bring more pink into my life with the hopes of increased femininity. The attempt never felt right or fit right because it wasn’t about my feminine side in the way of, “I am a woman.” I mean, there is always opportunity to increase and express the Divine Feminine but it wasn’t the color pink like I thought.
For me, pink represents compassion and love for myself. THAT, was my ah-ha moment. Though I may often preach about the need for self-love and self-compassion, I wasn’t fully embracing or practicing it. Why? Well, because I wasn’t giving myself permission to actually be kind, gentle, loving, nurturing and compassionate with my Self.
What does that mean?
It means giving up the need to be hard on myself for not measuring up to some ridiculous standard I had set in my mind. It means releasing the need to put myself down, criticize myself or judge myself. It means to stop punishing myself.
But isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? Punish myself? If I punish myself, if I criticize, condemn, judge, then I push myself to do or be more. Well, that’s all fine and dandy and I’m all about being a better version of myself, yet all of this can be done from a place of love and compassion instead of fear and suffering. The punishing doesn’t seem to be serving. It never has, never did and never will. It’s not motivating me to do or be more. It’s really just keeping me in a cycle of hell.
So I started giving myself permission to nurture and love myself. This was the key for me. To say okay …. I’m not a societal ideal size and weight but this body and I have been together since conception. This body houses my soul, my light, my Divine spark, my creativity and my expression. What if I give myself permission to start liking myself, or accepting myself without the need to criticize? What if I give myself permission to nurture myself? Or to forgive myself? What if I just say FUCK IT to judgement and in its place offer myself compassion? This was challenging for me because somewhere down the line I learned to punish myself. I believed I had to punish myself through judgement and criticisms. And let me tell you, I got really good at it.
Somewhat frightened and unsure I asked …. What if I stand naked in front of the mirror and thank my body, the lines, bumps, spots, wrinkles and all, thank it for being with me all these years? Could I give myself permission to be compassionate and nurturing even as I stood there naked, looking at myself? OH boy, that was a moment. I looked in my eyes, I looked all over my body. I wanted to run but I didn’t. It was a challenge but not as hard as all the moments leading up to this moment. I credit this to my Heart initiation, my willingness and my daily practices. For me, the feelings of fostering, growing and developing a loving and compassionate relationship with my body and my Self, far out-weigh the uncomfortable feelings of standing naked in front of a mirror.
It’s a long road ahead and for sure I have my good days and my bad days but I’m trying. I absolutely feel more loving towards myself and this is such a good thing. It’s so much lighter than the continuous barrage of hatred that was once a pattern of behavior. My plan is to stick to this and to continue sharing with you with the hope that you too will one day stand naked in front of your mirror, loving all over yourself. It’s a journey. It’s a practice. And I’d love for you to join me.
A speech by Shauna Gullbrand
February 25, 2019
Draft # 5752 (insert eye roll emoji)
Helen Keller, author, political activist, lecturer and the first deaf-blind person to receive a bachelor’s of arts degree once noted …. “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
This was my life leading up to my spiritual awakening which began for me at the age of 42. I have seen with my physical eyes the beauty and the horrors of this world, but I lacked any clear vision of my purpose for this lifetime. It was through my committed journey of self-discovery and healing, stage work, a plane ride to Russia and strangely enough, the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, I began to fully embrace the vision that is my life.
Unsure and unclear of where I was going, I started down a path. Along the way I incorporated new daily practices into my life such as mirror work, prayer, meditation, journaling and expression of my truth and individuality. I enrolled in training programs and events that spoke to me and received a handful of certifications for coaching, yoga, and integrated energy therapy. I started working one-on-one with people and with groups as I settled deeper into a role of teacher. It was during this phase of my journey when my visions began. Through my own healing birthed a desire to guide others through theirs. I was beginning to see and understand what I was good at and what spoke to me on a soul level. The vision of what I could offer my tribe, my community and the world began once I started to understand myself more deeply.
In December of 2017 I attended my first workshop with Pathway’s Institute and met my teacher and mentor, Carole Kammen. The workshop was called Personal Mastery Intensive (PMI) and let me tell you, parts of it were very intense. The moment Carole started talking was the moment everything started to click. I knew I was in the right place. We were given the opportunity to do “stage work” which meant you would get up in front of the group and do whatever. Sing, dance, cry, talk, and share. I was the first one to raise a hand and the first one up there. I remember saying something like …. “You all have to come up here and give this a try!” I continued by saying that I saw myself doing something very similar to what was going on that weekend. Que the developing improved vision!
The following day we broke out into groups and were brought into a guided visual meditation where we found ourselves on a plane to Russia. There was a bad storm and the plane was going to crash land in the icy waters off the coast of Russia. The lifeboat could only hold so many people and we needed to convince our fellow passengers why we needed to secure a spot on that lifeboat.
We came out of the meditation and one by one we stood up in front of our group (participants and facilitators) and explained or pleaded our case as to why we needed to be on that lifeboat. When it was my turn, for reasons that don’t matter here, I politely declined a spot and went back to my seat on the plane, ready and willing to let others live while I froze to death as the plane sank. Once everyone had their turn we were to stand up in front of our group again to find out our fate and the reasoning behind the decision. Needless to say I was not given a spot on the lifeboat and the folks facilitating my group went up one side of me and down the other, ripping me to shreds verbally. The only thing we were allowed to say in return was “thank you.”
It took a long time for me to process everything about the lifeboat exercise. What I discovered is that childhood conditioning, thought patterns and limiting beliefs were keeping me small, insignificant, and meaningless. I was keeping myself here in southern NH, the east coast and within the borders of the continental United States. Now I’m not making light of my community, it’s just that there’s a big world out there! I wasn’t allowing myself to imagine or visualize being powerful and influential person outside of my own borders. As uncomfortable as that exercise was, it gave me the opportunity see more clearly.
Fast forward to just a month ago. I watched the movie Bohemian Rhapsody. Have you seen it? If you haven’t, I really recommend checking it out. That movie had a powerful effect on me. I found myself reflecting quite a bit, kind of like the lifeboat exercise just not as intense. Again, there is discovery. Awareness if you will. Freddy Mercury was himself. Unabashed individuality. He knew what he was good at and he settled into that fact. He purposely created with the intention to connect with his audience through his music. He was powerful and influential and uniquely himself. For those of you who haven’t seen the film, there are two scenes of Freddy walking out of his dressing room and making his way down a hall and up some stairs to a curtain. Beyond the curtain is the stage and audience of 100,000 in attendance for the Live Aid concert of 1985. Do you remember that concert?
What I saw in my mind’s eye, in the vision of my life’s purpose, was me making that walk. I saw myself walking out onto a stage with the purposeful intention of connecting and empowering through my words either written or spoken. Not sung. Trust me when I tell you, you don’t want to hear me sing.
Unlike Helen Keller, I can only imagine what it’s like to be psychically blind. From experience I know first-hand what it’s like to lack vision. And I can speak honestly and factually about my journey which led me to embrace a more clear vision of my purpose and how I can be of service to others. I can speak from experience when I say that daily practices on a path of self-discovery leads to a vision of purpose. My vision has been awakened to my truths and the authenticity of my Self. I understand and accept with open arms what comes naturally to me and what I’m good at.
My vision is one of (red cape superhero) power and influence on a global scale. I see the creation of a program that is offered around the world. I see myself expressing MY unabashed individuality more and more with each passing day. I see some of the most expensive handbags hanging from my arm. I see a large room, I see a stage. I see myself with ass-kicking facilitation skills working with both small and large groups. I see, through my work, the spreading of consciousness and rising vibration of the planet. I see travel! Lots of it! And if I was given a second chance to get on that lifeboat, I have no doubt in my mind that I would be given a response that might sound like, “Hell yes! Get on that lifeboat because the world needs you!”
I invite you know to check in with your own vision. What do you see for yourself? What bigger, grander, more magnificent dream can you visualize?
Life is a series of daily practices.
That little nugget came to me during morning meditation and what I’ve noticed is though I preach often, I haven’t fully developed the daily practices that my soul is calling out for. I understand that in order for me to be the very best version of myself, it’s important for me to acknowledge the practices I’ve allowed to fade and the ones I want to embrace and develop.
It’s the beginning of February, the second month of the year. Let me ask; have you stayed true to the intentions you set or the resolutions you made? And have you continued to work with the energy of the word or words you chose to carry with you through this calendar year? How’s all that going for you? What steps or actions have you taken in manifesting your intentions? What new practices have you put into play? It’s one thing to think of ways to be the best version of you, but it’s a whole other thing to create an action plan, take the steps and incorporate new practices into your life.
What is your soul calling out for?
What new version of yourself do you want to present to the world?
What new habits (practices) do you want to schedule into your life?
That’s right. I said schedule into your life.
So often I hear people say they don’t have time for something. I don’t have time to exercise my body, I don’t have time to meditate, I don’t have time to learn something new, I don’t have time to blah blah blah. The practices are not going to schedule themselves. It’s up to you. This is where the action comes into play.
I invite you to take a look at your current schedule of affairs. What have you made a priority? How important is it to you to incorporate a new practice into your day, or week or month. Remember, practices don’t have to be daily. What matters most, is that you make the new practice reasonable. What does that mean? It means setting a schedule that is going to work for you.
I have drastically increased my mediation practice. I strive for daily, but I noticed when my husband is home, I tend to allow myself to let it slip, or I end up meditating later in the day, which I don’t like at all. I allow myself to use him being home, as an excuse. And that’s sucky. So notice the moments when you’re allowing excuses to hold back the best version of you.
Reading. What’s that? (insert laughter)
Reading is a practice that I’ve let fade. It’s an excuse, but I really love reading outside and right now in New England it’s damn cold! I mean cold! This is just another example of a practice that would aide me in being a better me! So when I think about bringing this practice back into the fold, I think 3 days a week would work for now. That’s reasonable.
I could go on and on with examples of practices and the reasonability around them, but I think you get the point I’m trying to make here.
I invite you to take another look at the 2019 intentions and resolutions you set. If you haven’t taken any action steps around them, please do NOT start beating yourself up about it. Remember, releasing all self-criticism is a practice. Re-evaluate. What’s a priority for you? How badly do you want a new practice to be your priority? Get clear, and then create an action plan. Keep it reasonable! Stick to it and let it become a new habit for you.
Invite the newest and best version of you emerge! The world is waiting!
When I was a kid, I just loved playing the board game CLUE. Do you remember that game? I remember playing game after game, figuring out who did what with what weapon and in what room of the mansion. I enjoyed figuring things out. Another activity I really loved as a kid, was playing school. More so, playing teacher. I would compose papers consisting of simple math problems or open-ended statements that would need to be finished and I remember handing these to my mother who would take them to work to photocopy for me. My friends and I would gather in my back yard and I would hold class. I would pass out the papers, be the teacher and of course, assign homework.
As my childhood progressed, playing teacher faded and the passion of the activity faded as well. I honestly don’t remember feeling as full of purpose as I did during those days, but as a kid I know I wouldn’t have been able to describe what I felt as purpose or passion. I just knew it felt good to be up in front of a group of my friends. My strengths, my natural talents or what I was good at, went unnoticed so I was never encouraged to follow, or move in the direction of what I felt I was good at. I was however, encouraged to get a good-paying job with a pension and benefits, like healthcare. Now, I’m not making light of the need or importance of a high wage, healthcare or saving for the future, nor am I blaming my parents for sending me in a direction they felt was important. What I am saying, is that I am a late bloomer. I was a tad late in attending the Passion & Purpose Party.
In the fall of 2009, almost ten years ago now, I started on my journey of self-discovery. All the detail about that time doesn’t matter much for this story, but what’s important is that I began my awakening. I started to become more aware of myself, my life, the people around me and the world. And I started to make changes. I began following what some might refer to as clues. For what felt like the first time in my life, I had the urge to do something different. I had been working in the same job for almost 20 years and you know the thing about that job, it offered me a high wage, benefits, health insurance AND a pension! But I was feeling motivated to do something else and that was when coaching started making an appearance.
Thinking back on my life, people have always come to me to talk with me about their issues or problems. Most times the conversations would end with the other person feeling motivated or inspired to do something like set a goal or make a change. I imagined coaching would give me the skills and tools needed and I was very much aware of the fact that through my own healing birthed a desire to help guide others on their own journey, so I enrolled in a coach certification program.
That was just the start. I also enrolled in a yoga teacher training program and was certified. I became increasingly interested in the metaphysical and spiritual and suddenly discovered my intense love of reading. Again, late bloomer. I enrolled in workshops and events of topics of interest and discovered something else. I discovered a voice within me that was telling me I needed to be up in the front of the audience. It was a drive to move from audience member or participant, to teacher and facilitator. BOOM! Another clue of consciousness. A PASSION-filled clue of consciousness. (I really do love word play)
The topic of this speech is passion.
My decade-long journey of self-discovery has enabled me to uncover and unleash my passions!
I am a passionate advocate for self-healing and I am filled with purpose when given the opportunity to guide someone on their journey of self-discovery and healing. I am passionate about reading and writing and know that one day in my future, I will author a book. I am passionate about using my voice and this is why I joined Speaker Sisterhood. I joined to improve my public speaking skills and to help other women find their voice and improve their speaking skills as well. I am passionate about teaching and facilitating. I lead several groups a week as well and have created and implemented a number of events.
When I took a good long look at my passions, I discovered additional ones, like the passion I have to plan, create and develop classes, events or programs. I love to implement, manage, facilitate and lead. This is where the many clues have led me. This is what I’m good at. This is what comes naturally to me. It is said by some that there is a strong correlation between what we loved to do as a child and what our purpose or mission is here on the planet. I am living proof that this is in fact, true.
I’m not entirely sure where my passions are leading me but I know it’s super-exciting and I’m truly looking forward to my future. I keep following the clues and taking the steps and I know only good is before me. I choose to move in the direction of those things that fuel my passion because I know I have a lot to contribute to my tribe, my community and the world.
As far as the game CLUE goes, well it’s clear I am a puzzle solver. I like to figure things out. I like to know the parts and the pieces and how they play a role in solving, creating and discovering. By the way, it was Colonel Mustard, in the living room, with the candlestick.
Speech given by Shauna Gullbrand on 1/7/19
Speaker Sisterhood Virtual Group led by Lenore Braun
Truth holds deep value for healing through the process of vulnerability.
Today I share with you some of my truth. Truth that surfaced through a collection of pathways while I was submersed in the teachings at the Initiating the Heart conference a few weeks back.
See the thing about vulnerability and the surfacing of truths, is it can be messy and uncomfortable. Yet it’s always healing. Always. That’s if we’re willing to do the work and invite things to bubble up.
Imagine for a moment, shutting off your cell phone and being disconnected from all technology for almost two weeks. No phone, tablet, computer, radio or television. Nothing. What might you do with this time? How would you fill your time? What, if anything, do you think you’d discover? What do you want to discover? What would you get done? Yes, twelve days is a long time. So what if you could go 24 hours without looking at your phone? What opportunity or possibility might be available to you in those 24 hours?
I had the absolute pleasure of doing just that; disconnecting from all external stimuli for 12 days during the conference. At first I thought it might be challenging but it wasn’t. I quickly understood why we were doing it and the benefits that could come from it. During the Heart conference we worked with archetypes, dreams, energy, patterns and forces, polarities, meditation, active imagination, higher levels of consciousness, ritual and ceremony, tarot, art and creativity.
Each one of us (30 in total) received an initiation of our heart center; an opening of our heart center. Directly following our initiations, we went into three days of silence and fasting. That’s right. No talking, passing notes, reading or solid food for three days. Perhaps at this point you may be wondering why on Earth I would register for a conference like this. I’ll tell you. I’ve been working with Carole Kammen of Pathways Institute for almost a year now and I know the value of the work she offers. Carole is a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and experience and learning from her has become important to me. The retreats, workshops and conferences she has provided have given me the opportunity to go deep into myself and my life. It’s depth work, or consciousness work if you will. I knew that Heart was the right next step for me.
So back to silence and fasting, and my truth.
The three days … the twelve days … all of it gave me the opportunity to discover many things about myself including this truth I share with you now.
I sacrificed my faith in myself to the god of fear and doubt.
I sacrificed my faith in myself to the god of comparing myself to others.
I sacrificed my faith in myself to the god of self-judgement.
I sacrificed my faith in myself to the god of not good enough.
False gods, every single one of them.
As this truth continued to surface, I cried a lot. (Enter the messy and uncomfortable I mentioned earlier) But to get vulnerable is to heal!
I turned to my dreams (the only one I remembered), my feelings, my body, meditation, active imagination and art which were necessary and essential guides in my self-discovery.
Through this work I remembered that I am one with God and God is one with me. There is no separation and I am made of stars and galaxies, love and light.
Going deeper still, came increased awareness that God couldn’t possibly be fear and doubt, couldn’t possibly compare itself to others or have judgement of itself. Nor could God in any way feel not good enough.
God is love, certainty, and confidence. God is comfortable in its own skin and fully understands its power and magnificence. God is understanding, compassionate and accepting. God doesn’t need to change a thing because God is good enough exactly as it is.
Well then … if I am one with God and God is one with me, then there is no way I could be anything but love, certainty, confidence, comfortable in my own skin, powerful, magnificent, understanding, compassionate, accepting and above all else … good enough.
My truth is, I have sacrificed much of Who I Am to an assortment of false gods and sadly fell into a life-long behavioral pattern of berating and punishing myself for … well … for a lot of reasons. (A whole other “truth” that surfaced during this work. Maybe it’ll be my next blog post)
My truth is, I am good enough.
My truth is, I am one with nature, you, the planet and the Universe. I am one with all. And I am good enough.
Above photo is from our closing ceremony at the Initiating the Heart conference held at Essex Woods Retreat Center in Essex MA. That's me, on my knees, fifth one in from the right.
Why do so many of us keep ourselves small and insignificant? Why do we not trust and embrace our greatness and live our lives from that position? Looking down from space, we sure are small. But I don’t think insignificant at all! I believe in what many refer to as the Oneness, the belief that everything and everyone is connected, not only on this planet, but within the deepest and furthest reaches of the Universe, all is connected. So how, I ask, can we ever believe ourselves to be anything but significant?
I am greatness.
I am magnificence.
I am made of the stars.
And you know what?
So are you.
I have spent much of my life keeping myself small and insignificant. I can honestly say that I wasn’t much of a big time dreamer or thought of myself as someone who can make a difference in the world. (Laughing) I look back at myself as a zombie, meandering through life! God I love zombie movies!
It was like I was content, settled and accepting of what was in front of me. Now I’m not saying that was bad, but what I am saying is there is so much more!
Last December I attended a weekend long workshop. It was called Personal Mastery Intensive. Great weekend. Awesome time. Learned a lot about myself.
During that weekend we participated in what was called the life boat exercise. This one exercise alone was an eye opener to my unserved practice of keeping myself small and insignificant. During the guided meditation we were passengers on a flight to Russia. Right there, first thing, I remember thinking … I’m never going to be on a plane to Russia! Every single thought of lack, limitation and smallness came flooding into my thoughts. Why???? In addition, I had to convince my fellow passengers to vote me onto the one and only life raft that fit just a handful of people. All-in-all, the exercise was thought-provoking and it motivated me to start thinking differently about myself.
The idea of coming from, trusting in, and embracing my greatness was supported a second time after reading Dying to be Me by Anita Moorjani. Have you read it? If you haven’t read it, you need to read it. The book is a detailed story about Anita’s near death experience. (NDE) She spoke at length about seeing, feeling and knowing her greatness during her time outside of her physical body. I remember the feeling of truth running through me as I read page after page of her incredible story. So I started to embrace the idea even more.
I am greatness.
As I’ve begun this new practice, I find myself becoming more consciously aware of when I slip back into my thoughts of smallness. Or my thoughts of lack and limitation, which stem from not believing in my greatness. I’ll ask myself what the cause might be and why I might be dulling my light. I think at times it’s not wanting to seem boastful around another because it might make that person feel uncomfortable. Sometime I grow smaller so others can feel better about themselves.
I mean really … who am I, dreaming ‘bout being a big star?
Who am I to want to make a difference in the lives of many?
Who am I to want to have a line out the door and around the building for my book signing event?
Who am I to want to facilitate my own weekend intensives?
Who am I to want to be on stage in front of a million people sharing words that will inspire and motivate them to embrace their own magnificence?
Who am I to want to travel to the south pacific?
Who am I to want to hire a private chef?
Embracing my magnificence has given me the opportunity to release fear, flow more easily with life and to trust that love is leading the way. With love and greatness, anything is possible. Like all those newest and biggest dreams you read above.
This is what I know; I am here to shine brightly, to be a beacon of hope for others. I know that I am not responsible for the feelings of another and when my words and actions come from a place of love and compassion, everything is right. I know the importance of big dreams and trusting in the manifestation of them. I know I am much more than this human body and mind lead me to believe. I know I am magnificent.
So what about you?
When was the last time you allowed yourself to dream big?
What are your dreams and goals?
When and how are you allowing your light to be dulled?
What needs to be in place so you can shine more brightly?
What is stopping you from embracing your own greatness?
What would your life, your world, look like if you stepped a little further into your greatness?
The past several days of my life have been a challenge. It started months ago, with little twangs of discomfort in my lower right abdomen and has since turned into raging pain and suffering. As I type, its presence is here with me as an uncomfortable reminder that shift is needed.
I’ve never been officially diagnosed but I believe I have radiculopathy, the medical term for sciatica. It started years ago on my long trips up and down route 93 during my commutes to and from Cambridge. Yet this pain has been very different, but localized in the same general area of lower back, hip, abdomen and leg. Believe me when I tell you the pain was crippling. I found no comfort in sitting, standing, lying or in Ibuprofen or Alieve. Nothing helped. It felt as if overnight I had lost all muscle tone in my abdomen and lower back and I could not move or shift without the help of my arms and hands. Could I touch my knees? Nope. Toes? Out of the question. There was just pain.
Now those who know me know that I am a firm believer in thoughts and beliefs causing dis-ease in the body but this pain was accompanied by a lot of fear and unknown so off to urgent care I went. They ran a slew of tests and found nothing. Not entirely surprised, I’m grateful my ovaries and uterus are okay and are going to stay where they belong. Still, something’s up. I’m supposed to be going for additional tests and that’s all well and good, but the reason I write this is because I believe I can find the true cause of this pain and I believe I can heal my own body.
When pain shows up, when chaos surrounds, when life throws challenge balls, there’s something we need to know. And it’s up to us to stop, assess, inquire, reflect and listen. It’s all too easy to blame others or life for what is “wrong” or for any pain that shows up. When you cast blame, you rob yourself of the opportunity to look deeper at yourself and what needs to change. That my friends, is called personal responsibility. I know, I know … scary for some.
I’ve taken responsibility and I’ve been asking my pain questions and listening to the answers. Of course I also took to You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay (Chapter 15, The List), to understand the pattern and the process of healing. The probable cause under the problem of sciatica is being hypocritical and fear of money and the future. Gasp! What? A voice inside me kicked in and said, that book is wrong! Don’t listen to it!
Here in lies a perfect example of deflecting personal responsibility. It didn’t last long though. I acknowledge and thanked the voice inside my head for its desire to keep me safe and then began the practice of introspection and inquiry.
Hi, my name is Shauna and I am hypocritical.
In just about all the yoga classes I teach, I remind students to listen to their bodies. I preach it, but do I practice it? See where this is going? I had minimal pain months ago, but I didn’t listen until it was screaming at me! It's interesting, and humorous, how the Universe threw it back at me. Ahhhh, I have to smile.
Hi, my name is Shauna and I fear money and the future.
I left a good-paying (no more room for growth/sick of working in the healthcare industry/no longer a secretary) job almost two years ago. I’m making a fraction of what I made and yeah, I do have some fears around not having enough. Yet all I have to do is stop and reflect. All my needs, (not my wants) have always been met. All my bills are paid on time and I have minimal debt. The Universe has got my back … it always has and it always will. Yet I have thoughts and feelings of lack. Hmmmmmm. I’m not sure about the fear of the future thing. I do have some fear of the responsibility of success and stepping further into my greatness and my mission for this lifetime. I also have some fear of having to go back to a Monday thru Friday job that sucks the life right out of me.
When I make the time to stop and reflect, it’s easy to see that my thought patterns and beliefs are what’s causing my pain. And I can change that! Sure it’s a little work, but it’s worth it. My pain has brought additional messages, ones I’ll keep to myself for now. Maybe they’ll be in my next blog entry.
I do however, want to invite you to take a look at your life and at your own pain. There’s a message there. What is it you’re supposed to know? What needs to be healed? What needs to change or shift? What are you supposed to learn? Ask your chaos, your challenge or your pain these questions and be open to the answers you receive. You can heal your life and you can heal your body. Start by releasing fear and then start asking the questions. Be okay with looking at yourself from an audience point-of-view. Step out of your situation and see it from a different and unique perspective. Allow healing.
With much love and light,
Last week I went on a field trip to the AMC Theater at the Loop with some folks from J.O.Y. Wellness to see the movie Walk with Me, a movie about mindfulness. The movie is a contemplative journey that follows the steps of Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh and is a rare insight into life within a monastic community. I entered the lobby of the theater with only the expectation of seeing and talking to people I know. That’s it. I settled into the cozy reclining seat and thought … okay … roll the film. Let’s see what this is all about.
The movie comes out on November 21st of this year and I highly recommend renting it. Everyone could benefit from viewing this film. If everyone in the world could practice mindfulness, the world and its inhabitants would experience greater levels of peace. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for? Peace in the world and peace within ourselves, right?
Peace is within you and you can find it by becoming more mindful of living in your present moment. You can, if you choose to do so, make everything a meditation of mindfulness. The present moment is all you ever have. You don’t have your past and you don’t yet have your future. All you have is now. Sadly, many of us live our lives attached to our past and/or by projecting fear and worry out into our future. Both of these actions take us away from now. Now is where mindfulness happens. Now is where you find your guidance, your answers, your peace and your happiness.
I really don’t want to say much of anything about the film because I want you to go into it with little to no expectations as I did. I want you to view the movie with the intention of being open and receptive to the messages that are given and the message(s) you receive. I will say however that the movie brought me to new levels of awareness about myself, my life and the path I currently walk upon. Without spoiling the film I can share with you one of the practices of the monks who live in Plum Village. Every 15 minutes a bell rings and at that moment everyone gets still and quiet. The bell is a reminder to bring awareness to the present moment. This really struck a chord with me. (Pun intended) It was an “aha” moment - a lightbulb over my head if you will.
The movie Walk With Me teaches us to slow down and breathe and this is the message I want to continue to share. Even during the most mundane of chores, even during the chaos of any given day, we can find peace. We do this by suspending all activity and by getting quiet, even if just for a minute or two. This can be a challenge for many of us given the fact we love to talk and there is always an electronic device within reach.
I’ve been talking with Jennifer Williams, owner of J.O.Y. Wellness, about ideas of how to bring more mindfulness into the studio and boutique. I feel this is a strong pull for me. I’ve already introduced the sound of a bell into the classes I teach and I’m really interested in creating new classes with a main focus on silence, meditation and mindfulness. I am super-excited about what the futures holds for me both personally and professionally and I’m excited about becoming more mindful with the people in my life.
Check out Walk With Me and keep an eye out for upcoming events at J.O.Y. Wellness. Join me in living a more mindful life!