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?
Self-Awareness and Transformational Coach, Inner Child Advocate, and Yin Yoga Teacher.