The last few days I have felt myself sliding into feelings of doubt and fear.
I kept trying to fight it, to bring myself back to hope and optimism. But this morning I couldn't do it. And so I didn't. I didn't get up and get to work like I usually do. I didn't read the news or listen to a podcast. Instead, I sat quietly in my chair, looking out the window.
I sat with my heavy feelings. I sat with my fear. I sat with my worries over the future. I sat with the feelings of discord and breaking apart that keep rising up around me. I fought nothing and surrendered to it all.
After awhile, I started to remember simple things that are still beautiful and perfect about this world.
Snow slowly falling over pine trees. Morning fog that makes everything feel soft and calm. Rain drops on the window. Hugs from friends. Fiction books, travel books and pretty much all books because books are the best. And so are libraries. And so are people who work in libraries. People can be pretty great.
As my feelings softened I didn't leap right from the heavy feelings to the light. I wasn't ready to jump out of my chair and shout my happiness to the world. But I had come back to my center, and from that centered place, I asked myself if sitting around all day, paralyzed by heavy feelings, is what I want to remember myself doing when I'd felt stuck while facing a challenge.
I made some coffee and thought about it more.
If my future self was looking back on me, twenty years from now, what would she want to see me doing? What will she be glad I did? What will she want to change?
As I sipped my coffee, I could feel that thinking of things I still love about this world was a positive step. It was getting me back to my inner light. I could feel that I want to focus more on what I want, rather than what I'm afraid of.
I also wanted to honor my need for rest. Fear and doubt generally come from a place of not feeling secure in myself. If I try to fight the fear, it's going to fight me right back.
It was time to pause, breathe, and remember that I am deeply loved and cared for. It was time to know that my future self would thank me for resting, because that rest recharged me enough to get back in there, dream bigger, and reach higher.
If you're feeling lost, afraid, or just overwhelmed, try this simple yet powerful exercise. Close your eyes, and imagine you future self walks into the room. What does it want to tell you? How did it get where it is? What would it want to change about the path you're on? What would it say to comfort you and to remind you of your potential?
There is a crack running through the cement in our backyard.
Awhile ago, a little plant sprang up from it. Although I know this should be seen as a nuisance, as it will only cause the cement to deteriorate further, I couldn't help but feel awe and wonder over how this plant so effortlessly brought life to a place where it seems no life should be.
I looked closely at this little plant, wondering how a seed got in there in the first place. Did it fall from a bird in the exact perfect way so as to land right there? Did the wind blow it in, knowing that below this hardened surface was fertile soil? And how did the seed grow a plant right up through the crack? It's not like it had a map to the surface!
As I looked at the crack it made me think about cracks within myself. Cracks from fear, cracks from anger, cracks from disappointment.
There is an oft repeated quote by Leonard Cohen that says, "Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in".
When I saw the little plant, I realized that cracks aren't just how light gets in, but also life, seeds, the possibilities we can't see.
What I see as a personal detriment, like overwhelming fear, is really a crack waiting to show me something unexpected and beautiful. The very thing that makes me so afraid, such as a big, scary new career step, is the very place something miraculous and transformative can happen.
To never feel afraid would mean nothing new was happening. It would mean I wasn't exploring, growing and reaching for new heights. And without that growth, which leads to the cracks of fear, I would never open up to seeds that come from places beyond me.
Just as the seed in the cement came from an unknown place in order to bring the exact plant that was meant to grow there, I too can receive unknown gifts which come in ways I cannot control or plan. But it will only happen so long as I allow myself to stop trying to be shiny and perfect. I must give myself space to crack open to my inner depths.
Fear and anxiety are some of my biggest inner blocks. But I am now realizing that they aren't bottomless voids holding me back. They are showing me hidden potentials.
Within the fear is the potential for something strong to grow. Something so hardy and centered that it would not only not be dettered by cement, it would break through it, calmly and patiently planting itself deeper and deeper, growing bigger and bigger, until that which seems bigger and harder has no choice but to cede to the beautiful, life giving plant.
The cracks of fear and anger and pain are not the things holding us back in life. They are places where the seeds of our courage and strength take root and grow, showing us the true meaning of persistence and the power to change the seemingly rigid and fixed.
Fear is something I think about a lot.
It's also something I feel a lot. Oftentimes when I tell people this, they're surprised, because fear doesn't seem to stop me from doing the things I want to do.
But I will tell you a secret. Fear doesn't always show up as a massive blocking force, like some mountain in your path. Sometimes it shows up as an overwhelming terror that says DO NOW GO GO GO. It's the fear that tells me I'm not good enough, and I must go as fast as I can because if I stop and think about that, I'll drown in my feelings of inadequacy.
Rather than asking myself why I feel inadequate, I put all my energy into outrunning the fear and insecurity.
If you move fast enough, it all becomes a blur, and you actually don't have to feel anything. You can go so fast you convince yourself of a faux confidence, which says, I'm moving and hustling so I must be doing something right!
The thing with movement is, it's not always accelerating us in positive directions. Movement does not always equal productive outcomes. Sometimes we're just racing towards a brick wall.
If you ask me at any given time what I'm doing, I've always got half a dozen things on the stove top. I'm writing a screenplay. I'm revising another one. I'm learning calligraphy. I'm learning Spanish. I'm making a meditation. I'm making another meditation! I'm writing a blog post! I'm writing a podcast! I'm doing a 30 day challenge!!! I'm tap dancing while juggling chainsaws!!!!!!
Okay, the last one isn't real. But pump me full of enough fear, and by God, I'd do it. Which is often times the exact opposite message we are told about fear. Most conversations around fear tell us it's the thing stopping us and holding us back. But for a lot of people, it's not stopping them at all. It's the thing shoving their foot down on the gas pedal, driving them 90 miles per hour through a treacherous mountain pass.
Sometimes it causes us to become workaholics. Sometimes it causes us to try a million different things in an endlessly frantic state. Sometimes it gets us travelling all around the world, forever on the go but never addressing the inner void pushing us on.
Fear has never stopped me from doing anything. In fact, it's acted like a fuel that's launched me at breakneck pace into all kinds of adventures. This probably sounds good, but it's not.
I'm not doing these things because I love myself and I'm excited about life. I'm doing them because I'm too scared to pause and ask myself if I feel worthy when I'm doing nothing.
Could I feel worthy in a state of nothingness? At this time, no. If I had nothing on the stove top, and I had to stand before you with nothing to validate my existence, I would crumble like a sandcastle in high tide. Here's the plain truth: my ambition is more often than not an armor to my inner vulnerability.
We sometimes see people who achieve great things and think, wow, that person must really feel great about themselves! And they very well might. They very well might have healthy self-esteem. But they also might be like me, needing ever greater accomplishments to prove their worthiness.
To try and feel worthy without anything but my own self makes me feel like I'm walking around naked.
My need to overpower my fear and go faster and faster only creates deeper, more catastrophic fear. Without ever resolving the core issue, I'm just lighting the fuse to my inner TNT. I am so afraid I'm not good enough for the things I want that I leap before looking, not pausing to ask why I feel insecure, and never bothering to stop and check if there's broken glass in my path. The only thing worse than the thousand cuts I get is the inner pain of always shouting down my inner voice.
Be quiet inner voice, I'm trying to be fearless, which is only making more fear, and I need you to shut up so I can concentrate on over powering all this fear and if I stop to listen to you I'll actually feel all this fear and I can't do that!
I can even be found going at the speed of light when it comes to spirituality. I read every book I can on meditation, self-help, and divinity. And then I journal, reflect, and read more. Then I meditate for hours. I do yoga. If it sounds like it'll help me to heal, I'll do it. All of it.
Except for the part where I just stop and breathe.
My inner voice is constantly whispering to me, Please, just slow down. Just pause and breathe.
Because all my fear is basically rooted in a fear of rejection, and I am now rejecting my own voice, I only end up digging myself deeper into the fear hole. I push down on the gas harder, knowing I'm going too fast, I'm losing control, and this is making more fear, and so I just go faster, until I either run out of gas or careen off the side.
It's at this point, when I've been forced to stop and rest, that I begin "self-care". But it's not really self-care. True self-care is what we give ourselves far before we ever reach the point of burn out. Self-care and self-love administered when there's no other choice is more like crisis management. Real, heart based self-care and self-love is preventative, and not done retroactively.
It's the thing you do that says, "I am valuable and I am worthy of my own love and attention. I don't have to go a thousand miles an hour to earn this nourishment. There is nothing to earn. I am valuable just as I am."
Which isn't to say you shouldn't do self-care when you've reached burn out. We all have to start where we are. But learning to value and treat ourselves with respect before our inner world is burning down is something few have mastered.
Maybe especially me.
After all my years of meditating, studying spirituality, and reflecting on my self and my path, I have come to see I am still a beginner in it all. The facade I built that made me believe I know what I'm doing has cracked and broken wide open. I have so much to learn about myself and my inner world. I have an ocean of feelings that sometimes rise up like a tidal wave, reminding me of my own power, and what happens when I use that power in self-destructive ways.
In the past, I have done things that literally made my legs and voice shake with fear.
At the time, I felt like this was a good thing. I felt like if I didn't do this, life would pass me by. But what is life if it isn't about honoring and treating our own selves like precious cargo? Bullying myself into fighting my fear wasn't life. It was exhausting. I no longer see pushing myself so hard that I want to panic as any sort of positive quality. I just see it as fear based motivation, and nothing in my life that was fear based ever worked out in a positive way.
I now choose to take action from a place of love. If I feel myself pushing too hard, I stop. If I'm tired, I stop. If I feel insecure, I tell a trusted friend (shout out to Susan and Rachael!). I give those negative thoughts space and let them know that there's no shame in having them. They are a part of me. I don't have to juggle a thousand plates in order to distract myself from their existence.
I will get where I'm going. I will get there in my own time. I will rest as much as necessary on the way there. And when I'm there, I hopefully won't collapse from exhaustion. Rather, I will rise up higher, full of energy for whatever adventure lovingly shows up next.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Liz Gilbert speak at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco. It was a conversation guided by Lisa Congdon, a fine print and graphic artist. As I post more quotes and selections from her talk, I'll be tagging them all under Elizabeth Gilbert for easy finding.
We live in a culture that really celebrates fearlessness.
All the language around fear is this very Navy Seal kind of like 'Kick fear in the ass! Punch it in the face! Show it who's boss!' It so violent. And I know that anything in my life that I have ever fought, has fought me back. Anything.
Anyone, anything that I've ever fought - it's like a rule - you punch and you get punched right back. Anytime I've ever tried to punch out fear, it roars up and reminds me quite thoroughly that it's stronger than me. And so, with fear, I approach it as a befriending.
The difference between fearlessness and courage is fearlessness is "I feel nothing." And courage is "I feel everything and I'm doing this anyway."
At this point, fear for me is an emotion where I'm like, "Hello old friend, you again? Come in, have a seat!" I just let it be there in the room.
I allow myself to recognize that the reason it's there is because evolutionary development taught us that anything that is unknown might kill us. And creativity is always unknown. So anytime you embark on any creativity, you're entering into a landscape where you do not know how it's going to end. Your fear thinks, this literally means we're all going to die in a blood bath. You could be writing a poem and your fear is like "We're going to DIE!"
And so there's a lot of tenderness that I have towards fear. I say to it, "just some trying some free verse. So far no one's died from this." But it doesn't know what it is, and so it just gets freaked out. What it needs is to be included and loved, and not fought.
The term "monkey mind" has become synonymous with worrying, anxiety, and an addiction to business. It's essentially a mind at the opposite of stillness.
Ever since I first heard the phrase "monkey mind" I disliked it. For one, it didn't make any sense to me. Monkeys are by nature playful, curious, and spirited. When I'm spiraling down in negative thinking, the last thing I associate that with is monkeys. In fact, I would rather have a monkey mind, because I'd be far more likely to go play and stop worrying so much!
As I was talking to a friend the other day, this expression "monkey mind" came up as I was about to say I was wrestling with my thoughts. Since I'm not a fan of the phrase, I got all jumbled up, and ended up saying,
"I'm wrestling the monkey!"
After I said it I began laughing. This, for me, felt like a much more apt metaphor for what I was feeling. I could see how when I'm wrestling with worry, what I'm wrestling with is something that is by nature care-free and happy.
My mind, when not engaged with worry and doubt, is naturally playful and curious. All of ours are. We know this because we were all once playful and curious children.
So when I begin obsessing over worrisome things, fighting with my anxiety, or thinking about all the things that happened ten years ago, and might happen ten years from now, I am basically grabbing a part of myself and engaging it in battle. All these thoughts want is to be set free and to be able to return to their carefree and curious state.
Now, when I catch myself wrestling with my thoughts and feelings, I imagine I'm wrestling a monkey. This always makes me laugh, because it's such a funny visual. Once I get myself to smile, I'm already feeling better.
Then I acknowledge that the thoughts don't want to be wrestling with me anymore than a monkey does. All the thoughts really want are to be set free, so they can play and find solutions in the way the mind does best - through feelings of ease, joy, and freedom.
I don't know about you, but I've never solved any of my problems by wrestling with the monkey.
The next time you find yourself obsessing over things you can't control, spiraling into negative thinking, or just feeling like you're fighting with your own well-being, imagine you're wrestling a monkey. It will hopefully make you laugh, which will break the tension. It will also put into perspective how hard it is to get perspective when you're fully engaged in the inner-battle.
In the same way a monkey would get tired if you never let it rest and always wrestled with it, so too does your spirit. Your spirit is tired. It wants to rest. It wants to let go of all that stuff you're fighting with. So just let it go. Let the monkey go. Repeat after me.
Do not wrestle the monkey.
The monkey will thank you. And since the monkey is just a metaphor for your thoughts, you will thank you. You will return to wholeness. And you will find what you need, which is so hard to see when you're neck deep in monkey fur, trying to wrestle the poor thing to the ground.
Every morning after I wake up, I tell myself the Universe loves me. I say it in my mind, slow and soft. The Universe loves me.
As I wake up more, I take some deep breaths. I then remind myself that everything in this Universe was created from one source. I remind myself that this is more than a spiritual philosophy, but a fact.
The entire Universe, at one time, was compacted down into one primordial atom.
Everything that the Universe would be was in that atom. It all exploded outwards in what we call the Big Bang, and as those original elements sped outwards they crashed into each other, creating new elements, and fusing together to become stars.
From those stars, even more fusing and birthing happened, and somehow, in stars that died billions of years ago, a chain of events began that would lead to me.
The Universe loves me.
I remind myself each morning of the cosmic beauty of this world and this Universe. This Universe that I am a part of.
I remind myself of the vastness, of the power of it all, and how it's all love. It all came from one source. It always has been love. Always will be. And all of that out there, it sees me with as much wonder, awe and love as I see it.
And then I remind myself, that every single person who walks on this Earth was created from that love also.
The Universe loves me.
And all the people with me? They're the Universe too. In the same way I look out at stars and see the Universe, what's out there can look back at us and see the Universe also. So if the Universe loves me, and people are the Universe, then everyone in this world must love me also.
The Universe loves us.
Which isn't to say everyone likes me. Nor that everyone approves of me or even wants me here. That's a different subject all together. It's only to say that within each person is a cosmic love, a love tied to the primordial atom from which everything originated. The essence of every person is tied to creation, and that creation is love.
People are love. People are the Universe.
The Universe loves me.
Then I remind myself that every tree I see, every strip of concrete, every house, every bird, every star in the night sky, it all came from that same powerful, intensely hot and mystical singular source of energy and matter.
It all came from that one source of love, and it all loves me, because it all is love. It's not that the trees and the birds choose to love me. They just are love. They were once the Oneness as much as I was. It's all love.
Love is radiating from the core of everything. It's up to me whether I decide to focus on that or not.
I used to wake up and focus on worry.
I worried about what negative things people would say. If they would like my creative projects. If they would yell at me and make me want to retreat inside of myself. I worried people would offer me opportunities, only to decide later I wasn't good enough and then rip them away. I worried about things hurting me, physically and emotionally.
I looked out at the world and the Universe and I did not see love. I saw only things to be afraid of.
When that worry starts to creep back in, I breathe in I am the Universe, and I breathe out The Universe is Me.
The Universe loves me.
It also loves you, and you are love.
Which means, because you, at your core are love, you naturally attract love to you. It's harder for you to conjure up thoughts and feelings that reject love because that's like swimming up a river. So if you aren't feeling the love, if you're feeling sad, afraid or worried, take a deep breath, and know, the Universe loves you.
Everyone and everything around you, in its cosmic core, loves you. Relax, let go and fall inwards to your core, into the love. It's already there. Breathe into it.
The Universe loves me.
When it comes to getting through tough times, particularly seasons that can feel fraught with business, family stress, money stress, loneliness, or not enough time alone, it can feel like each day is a fight to the finish.
We're relieved when it's over and wake up feeling heavy and uninspired. If you are at all feeling like you're surviving these days rather than thriving, I want to share something with you that has helped me a lot.
Whenever you feel like you JUST CAN'T for a second longer, do this: imagine you are sitting before a toolbox.
Visualize the toolbox in whatever way is appealing to you. Maybe it's shiny and new. Or maybe it's old and weather worn, like an old pirate chest. Perhaps it's ten feet tall, with multiple drawers of various sizes. Or maybe it's small with a handle, so you can carry it around. Whatever feels right to you, go with that.
Now imagine you open the toolbox and inside are all of the mental health and well-being tools you've learned. Things that have previously helped you when you were stressed. For example, here's what I see in my toolbox:
When you look at that list you might think, 'Those things are simple! I have BIG, COMPLEX problems and I need BIG solutions! None of that will help me!'
I hear you, but keep in mind, the tools that build beautiful, sturdy, long lasting homes are equally simple. A hammer and nails puts up walls. A small piece of metal puts up drywall. The tools that build homes are everyday items that anyone can learn to use.
More often than not, we already have the tools we need to build, repair, and maintain our own selves. We just don't consider that they'll work because we sometimes don't trust that if something is simple and easy, it works. But simple and easy is the whole reason these tools do work!
And if it feels as if you've opened an empty toolbox, and there's nothing in there, there's something you can put in there right now. It requires no experience, no classroom, no teacher, and no money. In fact, it's something you're doing right now! Are you ready? Here it is:
If you saw the word BREATHE and thought 'Hoswash! If breathing solved my problems, I wouldn't be on your damn website!' hold tight - I promise this tool is more useful than it sounds.
First of all, it's possible that right now you're breathing shallow and tight. When we breathe in this way, it sends a signal to the body that something is wrong. It triggers chemical responses in us that say, "We're not breathing right! Something is wrong! PANIC! PANIC! PANIC!" This in turn builds on itself, making us feel as if we're right to be afraid, because we feel afraid, and we're breathing tighter, things must be getting worse...
But if we would just take a few deep breaths, it would send an entirely different chemical signal through the body.
Deep breathing soothes the nervous system, slows down the heart rate, and immediately begins to release tension.
Deep breathing is a tool you have right now. Put it in your box and know that soon, that toolbox will be overflowing with a variety of other tools. Tools you will soon master and use with such efficiency, you'll feel like a master of your emotional and mental well-being.
So remember, whatever's happening, you got this! You've got a toolbox, there's already a helpful tool in there, and as you face new challenges, you will naturally add more. I find this exercise to be the most helpful when I actually write it down. I write TOOLBOX at the top of a piece of paper, and then list all my tools, even the ones I'm just beginning to learn, below it. Once you start writing, you'll be surprised how many things you think of.
If you're still not feeling better, and spiraling down in feelings of anxiety or overwhelm, you might want to try my Deep Relief & Emotional Healing meditation. It's specifically designed for when you can't stop intense, negative feelings. I would also suggest Surrender & Allow, which is so soothing it can also be used a sleep aid. Best of all, you can add these as tools to your already growing toolbox!
Just because a leap of faith is small doesn't make it any less important.
It may, in fact, be the most important thing you ever do. Your leap may be so small no one notices but you. It may be so small it seems you're only a few inches further than before.
But that's all it takes to shift your world.
All you are required to do is love and cherish your courageous leap, just as you would this little frog, who also makes small leaps. But to her, they are the grandest leaps of all, because they are hers, and she knows each small leap helps her legs grow stronger.
She must grow them now, because it will prepare her for when she's bigger. And when that time comes, she will effortlessly take the big, huge leaps that she can only now dream of.
I'm currently enrolled in the mindbodygreen course 'Guided Visualizations' by Emily Fletcher. I bought this program for myself, but am now an affiliate for the program, which I have linked below.
I initially began with the video to help put a person at ease when interviewing, hoping it would help ease my anxiousness whenever I have to pitch a story idea.
At first I wasn't sure if it was working, but I have been noticing lately subtle changes in how I feel. I feel less afraid overall, which I think is in part because in the visualization she says to see yourself walking into the room and knowing you belong there . This in itself caused a big shift in how I view myself and my place in this world.
I stopped playing the interview video and decided today I was ready for the one that really scares me - public speaking. Eep! I have tangled with my fear of public speaking for years. What I know about this fear is it's the fear of being seen and not being liked. On a deeper level, it's the fear of confrontation, because I'm afraid I'll say something someone won't like and they'll want to confront me about it.
When I sat down to play the video I wasn't as nervous as I expected I would be. Yes, even the idea of visualizing public speaking makes me nervous. This tells me that perhaps the first visualization was doing more than I realized.
Emily began by talking about when she was nervous to give a talk at Google Headquarters, and her husband said something to the effect of, "Stop thinking of it as having only two possible outcomes - success or failure. There's a whole range of points on the scale in between!"
This shift in perspective released so much weight off of me. I could see how this more open perspective applies to so many things in life. More often than not, we do a good enough job. There are hardly any times when we do such an atrocious job that we feel we totally bombed. And yet, we approach most things with the expectation of either knocking it out of the park or blowing it in epic proportions.
And when we don't have a slam dunk success, we automatically deem it a failure. But what about all the shades of gray in between those two black and white points?
Before this, I really was fixated on two ways my public speaking (and most things in my life) would go - absolute success or absolute failure.
That doesn't leave a lot of room for growth. It doesn't allow me to start at hey I didn't pass out from nerves, that went better than I thought! It doesn't allow me to start where I am and then say, you know what, that was good enough. I got up there, I did my thing, and it was fine.
I know it's not exciting, but sometimes aiming for "good enough" is just what we need to calm our minds and stop the anxiety train. It feels great to know we nailed something and did the absolute best we could, but starting with "good enough" or even "I made it through" might be what we need in order to get to, "That was the best I've ever done!"
I'm going to try using this new approach when I feel overwhelmed by the fear and doubt that tends to creep in when I'm putting myself out there. I believe it could help take the pressure off, and when there's no pressure things tend to unfold as they're meant to.
If you'd like to learn more about Emily's course hop on over to mindbodygreen. The course is $59.99 and presented in six modules.
One of the hardest things for me to deal with in life is the things I can't control. When I can't see how something is going to work out, or I feel like I want to change another person's behavior, or I simply feel nervous about a million little things, I feel my whole body tighten with anxiety.
Have you ever planted the seed of a flower? How did you know it would grow?
The seed has no brain. No eyes. No map to the surface. There's no switch you flip that says, "And now you are in soil so you will grow!"
The seed just knows it's in soil. But what is it that understands this? Again, there is no brain. How is it the seed understands that the pull of gravity is where roots go? How does it even sense gravity? What is it sensing this with? And how does it process this and react accordingly? What if the seed misunderstood and grew sideways?
What if it didn't understand what roots are for, and it didn't absorb nutrients from the soil? Worse still, what if it came thisclose to sprouting, but it gave up because it believed the darkness would go on forever?
The idea that a seed has no idea how to become a flower seems illogical.
We know the seed's roots will grow down and it's head will reach up. We know the soil pressing upon it isn't suffocating or crushing it, it's bringing it to life. Even though we can't see it, we know it's growing, we know all is well. We know that in a single moment it will break free of the darkness and spring forth into the light. No matter how long it takes, we keep watering it, because we know there are divine forces guiding it.
There's a magic to the whole process, a magic we rarely think about, we simply take it for granted.
And yet, when it comes to our own dreams, desires and lives we lose all belief in the magic of this world. That very same divine energy that guides a growing seed permeates us too. It has to. How else could we go from being one single cell to a dynamic and complex being with a head, arms, organs and so on?
We do not live by different rules than the natural world. We aren't separate from nature. We are as natural and divinely guided as every flower on this earth. We are created from that same magic and we are the magic. It's in our DNA. It's in our life force. So why do we doubt that our dreams have their own divine forces guiding them to the surface?
When things we want don't blossom right away we tend to fall into despair and doubt. The more we doubt the more we give up on the seeds growing within us. We turn away from them, refuse to nourish them, and believe there is only barren soil within us. We neglect our inner garden and allow it to be taken over with the weeds of fear, anger and disappointment.
But it's okay. No matter how deeply they have taken root, all weeds can be ripped out. The soil can be replanted with love, happiness and excitement. And even though we can't see it happening, we will know, our dreams will blossom. We ourselves will blossom.
All we must do is trust in the divine forces that guide everything and continue to follow our intuition. Our intuition is the same thing that guides a seed's roots down and its head up. As our seeds grow within we can nourish them with positive beliefs, loving thoughts and encouraging feelings.
That's all we must do. Trust in the magic. Believe in what we can't see. Nourish the good stuff. Keep the weeds away.
And when there is that moment, that single moment, when it all breaks free from the darkness of gestation and springs forth into the light, we might take a moment to marvel in the magic. To give gratitude to the divine forces. To give gratitude to ourselves for bringing forth roses and orchids in a world that too quickly expects weeds.
This is a mantra that came to me from the Sivananda Kirtan.
Kirtan is a Sankskirt word that can be translated many different ways, but generally means narrating, praise, or reciting.
I began experimenting with this mantra in 20 minute meditation sessions. Twenty minutes for me is the ideal length of time to meditate on a mantra. It's long enough that I have no choice but to let go, because at some point I always lose track of the feeling of time and surrender to the fact that I have no idea how long I have left. It's also long enough that my mind clears and I free fall into the energy of the words.
And the words in this meditation are truly powerful. I would feel waves of energy come into me, things release, and often felt like I was falling deep inside of myself. I also felt as if the chant was truly calling in these powerful figures, particularly Kali Ma, right into the room with me.
Kali Ma is often known as the Goddess of destruction.
She is a Goddess that is swift and efficient in her answer to your prayers. If something needs breaking apart, destroying, or clearing in order to make way for the new, she is the Goddess to call on, and she will respond without hesitation. By chanting her name you will call in her powerful energy to help break up old patterns, feelings you're done with, events you're done with, and so on. She can even break apart your current reality so that you can build an entirely new one. She can also help break apart an unbalanced grip on what you perceive to be the only truth in life, allowing in more room for the magic and mystery of life that can miraculously shift everything.
Although Kali Ma is the focus of this meditation, you will also be calling in other powerful feminine forces (Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Mary & the Divine Mother). The Divine Feminine is an energy that is often over looked or considered less potent in this world. The idea that the masculine is more powerful is an entirely human created concept. Feminine energy is soft, loving and in tune with the feelings of creation, harmony, divine right timing and grace in persistence.
Feminine energy is the ocean lapping against a rock, over and over, carving through it with its gentle embrace.
Most of us tend to embrace and turn to masculine energy, even in our idea of God and divinity, because that's simply what we're used to. Therefore, this meditation will not only call in and envelope you in the divine and powerful love of the Goddesses of the Universe, but it will help to restore feelings of receptivity, flow, compassion and harmony. The divine feminine is not about charging forward and forcefully making things happen. It's about being in communion with everything, from the smallest ant to the most distant star, and allowing things to happen from that expanded place.
If you have a hard time letting go of control and feel anxious when you must trust in the unknown, this meditation will help you.
The meditation below repeats the Kali Ma mantra for 5 1/2 minutes. It's long enough that by the end of it you will know the words yourself, but short enough that you don't need to find a lot of extra time to do it. If you enjoy the meditation I would highly encourage you to try it on your own, repeating the words in your mind, for twenty minutes. Put some music on, set a timer, and enjoy the magic and power of Kali Ma and the Divine Feminine.
Background music "Adrift" licensed from Enlightened Audio
Let's play a little game of imagination.
I want you to imagine that everything you think is said back to you by... You. This other You isn't standing in front of you. This other Self, rather, is out in the Universe. You might picture this You as up in the sky, or up in the stars, or just as a big You floating above Earth.
Now I want you to consider phrases you generally think in your daily life. Specifically, phrases related to your pursuit of goals, a relationship and your well being. For example, when thinking about your goals you may often think to yourself, How will I get this?
And now this you that's out there, with complete conviction sends this right back to you
"HOW WILL I GET THIS?"
So let's say I'm thinking about my screenplays, which I love to write and often try to figure out how to get them sold. I think to myself, "How can I sell my work?"
And Me, out in the Universe, with full force sends back,
"HOW CAN I SELL MY WORK?"
Now as you can imagine, this You that's out there is the Universe responding back to you. The Universe is always - always - reflecting back to you what you put out. And this You that's out there is connected to everyone and everything else.
But wait - I don't want the Universe to be asking me how to sell my work! I'm asking the Universe, and I want it to send back the answers. So in order to get the Universe to send back, "I know what to do," then I must think that?
But I don't know what to do! But... but... but...
Deep breath. It's okay. The Universe absolutely can show you what to do, one step after another, but only when you learn how to engage its magic.
If you want the Universe to work for you then you have to put out there, "I know what I'm doing." Or even better, as Wayne Dyer says in the book I'm now reading, "There's a divine solution to every problem." Or perhaps better still, "I have everything I need. All my needs are taken care of."
I know how difficult it can be to project "All of my needs are taken care of," when we look around and see that is not the case. It feels reckless and immature and foolhardy. It can feel as if it's a waste of time, and we need to buckle up and get serious and ask over and over, "What do I do now? How can I make this work? Who should I call?"
This feeling of lack, or even perhaps desperation, gets reflected back to us by everyone and everything, because all is One. So the more we feed into our worries and try to resolve them from the mind level the more people and circumstances show up to affirm to us that Yes, things are bad, and you should be freaking out! To have the whole world conspiring to show you why you should be afraid is really intense.
But... to have the world, the whole Universe really, conspiring to show you how you're taken care of and how loved you are is equally intense, but in a positive and sometimes even euphoric way.
Feeding into our worries by focusing on them and trying to figure them out feels so natural the idea of shifting to a new way of being and doing may feel impossible. It may feel like there isn't even a choice.
But you are a being with free will, and you are always at choice. So the next time you want to begin asking, "How can I get more money?" just try, just for a few minutes, to sit with something else. Close your eyes and quietly repeat to yourself,
I have more money than I need.
Then imagine that being reflected back to you by You. Imagine that You out in the Universe is sending this message, "I have more money than I need" out to everything. And everything is receiving this message and sending back all the money in the world, because that's what you've aligned with.
This isn't something that should be an immediate shift into, oh, wow, I get it, I will never again worry or ask how to make something happen! Putting that kind of pressure on it won't allow you to grow and evolve into this new way of being.
It's a process of daily shifts, of catching yourself when you're projecting the fear, and then imagining the whole Universe reflecting back to you that fear, reminding you of how powerful you are.
Each time you stop and shift, you shift your power in a positive direction.
And so now, what is it you want the Universe to be flowing to you through every person, plant, bee, star and speck of dust? If you don't know, you can always go with All is Well, the easy button phrase that takes care of everything.
The other week I had put something out that I expected to workout and come back to me on a certain day.
Leading up to that day, I had visualized it all working out. I energized my desire with positive intentions, good feelings and an inner alignment with YES, this will succeed!
As the day neared, I decided the best way to keep the positive momentum going was to go to the float spa and hot yoga. I had it all figured out, I felt like I was finally working with my inner power, that power that comes from creating from the quantum field, from the energetic field of potentials. Before, I had always forcibly tried to make things happen in my own way and my own time.
But now I was getting it! Good vibes! Daily visualizations! Meditations! And... cue the magic!
When the day arrived I woke up with a feeling of tension. This should've been my first sign I had attached to an outcome and I was not in a state of allowing. I was in a state of controlling. But I had done my visualizing, I had felt good, so who cares! I got this.
And then... nothing happened. It didn't work out how I'd planned. As the days went on and I continued to get crickets the tension in me rose. I started to feel frustrated with everything. That damn song in the gym was REALLY annoying me. And why is it so LOUD in here??? As these feelings rose up I knew it was time to put my money where my mouth is.
If I really believe my thoughts and feelings are powerful then I had best not let these negative feelings take over.
Each time a feeling of irritation came over I repeated to myself, "These feelings don't help." Each time I judged someone because their behavior was causing me more frustration I again reminded myself, "These feelings don't help." And when I felt myself starting to doubt, to slide into the fear, I said, "This feels familiar, you think it's natural to feed the fear, like it's somehow rational, but don't do it! It doesn't help."
This is a far cry from how I used to handle things. Before, whenever I'd have negative feelings I would feed into them, feeling the need to validate them and why things were not good. I would tell other people how I felt, and in their positive intention to be there for me, we'd usually end up reinforcing how I felt and why I felt that way.
I never stopped to ask myself what I wanted to feel instead.
I knew that rejecting negative feelings made things worse, but I couldn't get past the part where I accepted how I felt. I would get stuck there. It was as if my car got a flat tire and I stopped and acknowledged the flat. But rather than asking what I would do about it, and how I would get going again, I just stood there staring at it, repeating to myself, "I have a flat tire, I have a flat tire, I have a flat tire."
This would only attract more negative experiences to me, which would cause me to cry out, "Why isn't this working!? What am I doing wrong!? Does the Universe not care about me? Has God forgotten me? HellooooOOOOoooo? Is this thing on!??!?!"
The more I spiraled down, wallowing in my own feelings, the more I would surround myself with them and see them as evidence that things just don't work out.
I would go down and down and down until it broke, and I would cry and surrender it all through meditation and yoga.
This somehow felt like I was doing it right, because meditation and yoga are healthy ways to deal with stress, right? It never even occurred to me that rather than continually cycling through a state of despair and recovery I could actually halt the process, change course and nurture prevention and inner faith instead.
Resisting the slide down became a battle waging within me. All the while, a part of me was whispering, "Just give in. Be angry. Be sad. Be pissed at the world. You'll feel so much better." But I couldn't give in, even as it began to make me physically tired. I was going to bed early, struggling to get up in the morning and laying down in the middle of the day. Giving in and letting the wave of negativity come over me felt so easy, but I knew in the long run, it would cost me so much more.
As the week ended I felt the dam breaking within me. Each morning for the past several weeks I've done Kundalini yoga. As I prepared to do my Kundalini I felt that moment of wanting to cry, to shed the tears, and I did. But unlike before, I didn't feel broken and lost. I felt a sense of release.
After, I was still lingering in the dark place. I still felt uncertain and like I could fall backwards at any moment. And that's when I really got tired of my own bullshit and wanted to shout it down.
I'm all for self love and loving kindness, but sometimes the most loving thing we can do for ourselves is to let that voice that wants to make us feel sad, afraid and lost know it's not in charge.
Behind the voice that tells us we're alone and forgotten is another voice, and this is the one I wanted to energize. This voice tells me to have faith in the unknown. It tells me how eternally loved I am. It tells me to breathe and allow myself to be surprised by love and coincidence. It's the voice that usually whispers, but on this day, it was done with that shit.
As I prepared to face down those feelings again my resolve strengthened. I wasn't giving in this time. That's when I finally allowed myself to stop being a victim of my own feelings. That's when I chose to create something different. The voice rose up and shouted over these feelings,
I CHOOSE NOT TO BE OVER TAKEN BY THESE FEELINGS!
As I did this I was amazed that I could do it. It had always felt like once the negative feelings swept in, I just had to ride that river current. But now I can see I'm not just riding the river, I AM the river. With enough determination, I can change the course of that river. I can shift those negative feelings and put something new in place.
I can actually choose to be calm even when there is evidence presenting that I should freak out, despair and shake my fist in frustration. And if I can choose to be calm, no matter what, then I can continually choose a vibration that will lead to the things that make me happy, excited and alive with a sense of connection.
As a Course in Miracles says, "I can choose peace, rather than this."
As this settled into me, and I continued to let that strong, forceful voice run forth, I felt myself shifting. I felt the darkness lifting. I was tuning into those good, positive feelings I had had before I'd lost control of myself, and even better, they were coming up naturally.
The best part was, because I hadn't allowed my own feelings to overtake me, I felt a new sense of empowerment rising up within me.
It was something I had always felt was possible, but could never reach. It's that place where I change my feelings in the moment. It's the part of me that knows that true empowerment isn't about other people. It's about knowing I can control my feelings, and if I can control my feelings, I can keep from getting lost in fear, insecurity and anger.
As I got into this newly empowered state I began to get more clear on everything. I reminded myself that just because things aren't happening now doesn't mean they won't. If I look for evidence of future magic in what's already here then I'm just shooting myself in the foot. What's here now is old news. What's coming - and something new always comes, change is inevitable - is what matters.
Looking out and falling into despair really does lead to something to despair about. But if I can choose, with all my might, not to be overtaken by own feelings, then I can get back to the trust, to the allowing and best of all, to the freedom of knowing everything is working out for me, in its own divine way and better than I imagined it would.
This is an article I originally wrote for Tiny Buddha. It was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post here.
When it comes to facing fear and moving past it in order to see my dreams realized, I was always advised to power through it. Do the thing that scares you, no matter how much it makes your heart pound. Take that step that makes your stomach knot up in tight balls. Do it, and power through, or else miss out on life.
For a long time, I felt these were my only two options. I could either have moments of crippling fear as I chased what I wanted, or I could feel like life was passing me by as I let my passions die.
One of my passions is writing screenplays, and so I continually did what I thought I should do in order to become a successful screenwriter. I called people who gave me anxiety. I put my work out to places I felt I wasn’t ready for. With each step I took, I hoped and prayed I would get more comfortable.
I couldn’t live with the constant fear I was feeling, and yet no amount of powering through was making it go away. It was in fact growing, because it felt like I had no control over it. The fear was getting larger than my dreams, and I became exhausted and eventually burned out.
I had no choice then but to take time to pause and reflect. When I did, I could see the counter-productive patterns I was engaging in.
I was forcing myself to do things that brought me angst rather than joy. The advice to power through had turned me into a bully toward myself.
Because I wasn’t doing the kind of behavior I normally associate with being self-destructive, such as constantly criticizing myself, I didn’t see my actions as being hurtful. In fact, I saw them as honoring my journey because I was chasing my biggest goals.
However, when the dust settled and I stepped back, it was very clear that by powering forward, I had left behind a crucial thing: self-love. I wasn’t listening to myself.
Because our inner world is always mirrored back to us, I always had the frustrating feeling that people weren’t listening to me.
Instead of hearing my great ideas, they would hear the shake in my voice. They would hear me rambling on because I was too nervous to be clear and concise, and they would tune out, ending the call as I would slump down in my chair, knowing I’d blown it.
Compounding this is the fact that I also wasn’t treating myself as an important person. I wasn’t honoring that the fear and anxiety was taking a toll.
This too was mirrored back in the fact that people forgot me as soon as we connected. I never got any follow-up calls after my initial pitches, which only fed into my fears more. The momentum I had going was certainly powering me onward, but in the opposite direction of what I wanted.
Once I could see the patterns, the solution was obvious. The old adage “what you resist persists” repeated in my mind.
I had to first of all accept that I was living from a place of fear. I allowed myself to acknowledge that I didn’t like being afraid all the time. This swept through me in a wave of relief, and I felt free to choose what I wanted rather than what I felt I was supposed to do.
I began cultivating and prioritizing self-love. The more I slowed down, took time to ask myself if I was okay, and returned to my meditation practice, the easier things got. What began to reflect back to me were my new feelings—that I’m important and what I do is important.
As I went through this process, I was able to stop fearing fear itself. This too helped me to reverse my momentum even further, because I was open to receiving new information. I learned how fear begins in my brain and body. Once I understood how it worked, it wasn’t this huge, abstract, and uncontrollable thing.
Fear begins in a place in the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala processes a situation and decides if it’s safe or if you need to get scared and run away. If it decides something’s not safe hormones are released in order to get your body moving and prepare you for fight or flight.
Attached to the amygdala is the hippocampus, which is where your memories are stored. These two things work together. The amygdala looks at old memories as a way of assessing a current situation. This process is meant to be helpful, but when we’re not aware of it, it can run amok and become hurtful.
As an example from my own life, one bad phone call with a potential agent had been stored in my memories. From that point onward, when I went to call someone with a pitch, my amygdala would access that memory and immediately label all related phone calls as bad, which steamrolled as I would get more anxious, have more bad phone calls, and dread any interaction.
This was my brain trying to protect me by ensuring I wouldn’t engage in something that might cause me harm or emotional pain.
Understanding this about my body and how I process things gave me a huge amount of self-power back.
It was reassuring first of all to know I wasn’t trying to subconsciously sabotage myself, but to instead keep myself safe. It was also reassuring to know where this started, because once I was aware of the root of it, I could begin untangling myself from it.
The more I began to see fear as something I could manage, the more I felt I could work with the fear rather than trying to power through it. It was then that I began to feel that thing I’d yearned for but felt was impossible to reach—excitement. I remembered why I’d started writing in the first place.
I felt excitement to share my stories and see them made into films. I felt excitement about contacting people who were passionate about film also. I remembered how good it was to feel excited about talking to people rather than fearful.
From this new, more self-love based place, I started contacting people again. I listened to my inner voice, and if something made me feel fear, I would stop. I would tune in, breathe, and ask myself if I was attaching old, unrelated memories, or if it really was my intuition trying to tell me something was amiss.
I’m happy to say people are requesting my scripts again, and I’m now enjoying pursuing my passions more than ever. I wake up excited rather than with dread. I take steps and go for things, as I did before, but without feeling like I’m stretching a rubber band that’s about to snap.
If you’re also paralyzing yourself with fear, see what happens when you put self-love first. When you believe that you’re worth listening to, and show up confident, without an energy of desperation, people will be far more interested in what you have to say.
And when you feel your fear creeping back in, instead of ignoring it and pushing through it, step back, breathe, and remember that your own mind and body have created it to help you.
When you realize it’s not some big, monstrous force that shows up without your consent—that you’ve created it to keep yourself safe—you can learn to let it go.