Sometimes, when I'm struggling with my sense of self-esteem, I begin to think of my accomplishments, good things I've done, positive things people have said to me, and so on. I was doing this tonight as I thought about who I am and where I'm at in life. I was navigating waves of doubt and insecurity.
Who are you to feel important in this world? What have you done to earn that?
And then I wondered... why do I feel I have to think of what I've done or am doing in order to feel my existence is valid and worthy? Have I ever felt a wild flower needs to prove it belongs in this world?
Just think of it - you are walking through a field and suddenly you come upon a glorious yellow buttercup. It has brightened the field and thereby brightened your day. Even better, nobody planned for this flower to be here. It arose from a mysterious and far-reaching chain of events that is part of the ongoing web of Earth life. The fact that you crossed paths with this flower is quite literally a cosmic miracle.
As you gaze upon this flower, do you wonder what it's doing with its life?
Do you wonder if it's actually earned that sunshine it is so freely soaking up? Do you ask yourself if this flower truly deserves, above all other existing and potential flowers, to be pulling in nutrients from the earth? Has this flower done anything special to be worthy of your attention and praises???
I mean, who does this flower think it is!
It would be strange and even depressing to put all of that on a flower, which is valid and important simply because it exists. We intuitively know this, and we allow this knowing to extend to all of the natural world.
We do not question if a moose is living up to its potential. We do not wonder if that hawk soaring in the sky is trying to find its purpose in life. We just know that they are here, and we are so glad they are.
Even the mosquitoes, which literally feed off of other living things, they actually do the opposite of contribute or work hard or share loving kindness, are things we know that do not have to ask our permission or approval to be. We are free to swat them to their death, but don't expect that mosquito to apologize to you or anyone or anything about who it is and what it's done (or not done) with its life. The mosquito knows what created it is something beyond you, and therefore, it owes you no explanation, not even a "thanks for the blood!"
And how wonderful to know that is true of you and I also.
We are also a part of the natural world, even if it seems our world has somehow removed itself. This separation is only an illusion.
Your body is nourished by the the water of the earth. The food you eat, which creates your body, was grown in this planet's rich, musky soil. That sunshine that is so vital to all of plant life is vital to you also. You are a natural part of this world, and whoever you are, wherever you are, the only person you must explain yourself to... is no one.
You are valid because you were created and you exist. You are a wildflower in the sea of stars we call the Milky Way.
You, with every breath you take, are deserving and important. You are a gift from a higher consciousness, and that divine, mystical energy is a part of you right now. It may seem your life is as random as a leaf on a tree, but the thing is, no leaf is random. Each leaf ensures a delicate balance is achieved on each branch.
Sometimes, I will feel that I am valid because I believe in kindness. I boost my self-esteem by reminding myself I am a loving person.
But even this is putting parameters and limits on what is important in this world. Who am I to say anger and angry people are less valid than I? And what about sad people? I used to be the saddest of them all. I was so depressed I scared the people closest to me. Would I, even for a second, consider that version of myself less valid, less worthy of the sunshine that radiates down? Of course not. Not even for a millisecond.
The same is true for other people who I don't always believe are acting in ways I wish they would. There are people who hurt me deeply in the past, and those very people were some of my biggest catalysts to get me to ask deeper questions, to seek what would ultimately become a path of meditation, curiosity and expansion of consciousness. I cannot say they are less worthy or less valid in their journey than I.
They are the leaf on the opposite side of the branch.
We may grow in opposite ways, but we also seek a certain harmony, a certain balance, a certain cohesion that often exists in a greater understanding than I usually look at them with.
And so today, I ask you to try, for the whole day, not to validate your existence.
Do not feel you must justify who you are or where you are. Wherever you are, there you are, and thank you for being there. You don't need to win awards or promotions or even be considered a good person in order to feel perfectly content about being there. All you must do is turn your face up to the sky, feel the sun upon it, and know that what you feel and how you feel about yourself is between you and your cosmic creator.
In my guided meditation Expect Miracles I ask you to start looking for miracles everywhere in your daily life.
The more you see miracles, the more you will believe in them and the more they will show up. It's using the basic Universe principle energy flows where attention goes. When you think about something, and you feel good about it, it makes an energetic connection in the quantum field, which then manifests that thing in your physical life.
In other words, get excited about the miraculous nature of life and your life will become miraculous.
Asking you to start looking for miracles everywhere can seem like a high order. Who in this world of struggle and conflict sees miracles all the time? All of us. It's simply a matter of changing your perspective. Miracles really are around us all the time, so long as we're willing to see them.
For real? I mean really. I'm just sitting here drinking my coffee. How is that miraculous?
The real question is, how is not?
Let's imagine you've just gotten a cup of joe from your favorite coffee shop. You're walking out with a paper cup full of piping hot dark roast. Let's take a look at that simple paper cup that's so magically holding your liquid from sloshing to the ground. And I do mean magically. Do you know that the atoms that compose you, me, cups, everything, never touch each other? That's right, it's an illusion. Between every single atom is an imperceptible cushion of space.
The fact that the cup appears solid, and that your hand holding it appears solid, is one of the miraculous illusions of this world.
How does this happen? When atoms reach a certain point, they are no longer attracted to each other, but start to experience repulsion. The closer they get the stronger this repelling force is. Which means the more you try to force them together the stronger the force is pushing them apart. How strong? Stronger than any force we're capable of producing here on this Earth. Which means that two of the most microscopic building blocks of life area capable of exerting more strength, more POWER, than the strongest person alive.
The smallest pieces of this world contain power. That in itself is rather miraculous. You are created of those pieces. You are created of billions and billions of powerful atoms, atoms which are working in their own divinely intelligent and miraculous way to keep you together - or at least, seemingly together. Let's not forget those atoms like their space.
So this cup you have is kind of amazing, and we've barely scratched the surface of its fascinating makeup.
If you collapsed the empty space of a cup and somehow overpowered those powerful atoms, the actual dense matter of your cup would be less than a fraction of a grain of sand.
Along with there being space around atoms, there is also space within the atoms. Around each nucleus, electron and proton is also space. A lot of it. The world is much less dense than it appears. We just take for granted that the way our eyes process reality is the whole story.
It's not. Far from it.
Now we're starting to understand how wild and strange your cup is. But we should go deeper. Let's consider the material that makes up the cup and take a look at this paper receptacle. Paper's not special, right? Okay it's got that weird space between the atoms thing going on, but beside that, it's just paper.
Is anything just anything? Where did the paper actually come from? It didn't just appear as a cup in the coffee shop.
It had to start as a tree. A tree has a protective layer of bark, which acts like your own skin, protecting its interior from the outside elements. It also has a system of veins that run sap up and down it in order to nourish the tree, much like your own blood system. A tree is a living, breathing part of this world. It's not just a tree.
But how do we even have trees that can be turned into paper? Where did the first tree come from?
In 2007, tree stumps that were 385 million years old were uncovered. Trees have been living and evolving on this earth longer than any human ancestor. A lot longer. About 379 million years longer. When you stand before a tree, you stand before something that connects back to a time that we know almost nothing about. The trees connect back to the mysterious and miraculous birth of life as we know it.
There's more to it than that. Trees are grown in special harvesting places called managed timberlands. The logs are shipped to sawmills for processing... oh but wait, that's not simple either. What are the trucks made of that ship the logs?
What about the person who drives the truck, the person who can never be again and was never before? That special person who is them self a cosmic mystery.
The tires for the truck had to be made, the metal was made somewhere. All of these separate parts of the earth turned into a truck, so that someone could ship logs to a processing plant to make paper.
And then there's the wax that lines the cup, which has its own mind boggling story of how it came to be. Nothing in this world is simple. Everything is connected to everything else. Those trees that make the paper? They were nourished by the water that cycles through the sky and earth, by the soil that has been on this planet for billions of years. When you hold paper, you hold something that is connected to all of time and creation on this planet. It's that amazing.
To say that the entire world conspires together to make a little cup that holds your coffee would be true. If that isn't miraculous, I don't know what is. Not to mention the fact that we've already established the cup itself, with all its space filled atoms, is miraculous in nature.
And that's just the cup. We didn't even get into the coffee inside of it. When you sip coffee, you sip something that is only made possible by a complex and fascinating series of events. It's something that passed through the hands of people half a world away, was shipped by fuels that came from inside the earth and was brewed by somebody who is made from the same materials as the stars in the sky.
Everything in this world can be looked at in this way. Including you. Maybe even especially you.
There are miracles all around us. Life is the miracle. You are a miracle.
It's often just a matter of change in perception to see how miraculous this life and world are. Why not take a moment and marvel at what's happening all around you right now? As I said in the beginning of this blog post, that which is like itself will be drawn to itself. Think about miracles, notice them, and notice how your life changes.
"Before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, I shared my mental health issues publicly for the first time. It wasn't easy to admit I wasn't perfect. But opening up took a huge weight off my back. It made life easier. Now I'm opening up again. I want people to know they're not alone. So many of us are fighting our mental health demons now more than ever.
The thing is -- and people who live with mental health issues all know this -- it never goes away. You have good days and bad. But there's never a finish line. I've done so many interviews after Rio where the story was the same: Michael Phelps opened up about depression, went into a treatment program, won gold in his last Olympics and now is all better. I wish that were the truth. I wish it were that easy. But honestly -- and I mean this in the nicest way possible -- that's just ignorant. Somebody who doesn't understand what people with anxiety or depression or post-traumatic stress disorder deal with have no idea."
- Michael Phelps
The above quote is from a recent article Michael Phelps wrote for espn.com. To read the full article go here.
When I came across this article, I felt a sense of relief and self-love wash over me. Although I work hard at loving myself and my own mental health journey, sometimes you just need to hear someone say, "It's okay. I get it."
While this website is all about healing, both individually and as a collective, I haven't said much about my own healing journey. I often see other speakers and writers putting their own stories out there, raw and gritty, and sharing their full truth. It always makes my heart drop a little and I feel like I'm failing. I feel scared and weak and like my self-love is a sham.
Of course, the truth is much more complicated - deep down I do fear parts of me are unworthy of love, but at the same time, acknowledging I'm not ready to share them is it's own form of self-love.
One of the main reasons I don't like to go deep into my mental health is because it began so early for me. As I was learning the stigma around mental health, I was also learning that I was one of those people. I didn't know why I was filled with anger, sadness, and uncontrollable anxiety. I only knew it was considered abnormal and was something to be ashamed of.
I worked hard to "fit in" and act nominal, which only caused all that I was suppressing to come out in explosive ways. I became self-destructive, which grew into more feelings I needed to suppress, which led to more smothering, which spiraled on and on until my family insisted I seek professional help.
I began therapy when I was 22, and I was so sure this was something I would be shunned for I didn't tell anyone. A lot has changed since then, and I am so grateful to all who speak out to normalize mental health. Things are changing, and the change is thankfully picking up momentum.
I'm now 38, and the landscape outside of me has changed in infinite ways. But the landscape inside of me hasn't yet caught up. I have not yet untangled all my deeply rooted associations between anxiety/depression/anger and shame/weakness/exile. Because of things that happened when I was younger, parts of me still fear I will end up alone and rejected if I share my full self.
I hope to one day love myself so fully, and so completely, that I can share all of me without fear.
And to give myself a little nudge in that direction, I will share a story I've never told before. When I was about 10 years old I had a friend over. She was playing with a flute I had and I got mad she wouldn't give it back. I became so enraged I hit the flute and smashed it into her mouth.
As soon as I did it I felt ashamed. When her lip began to bleed I recoiled in horror at my self. I couldn't believe I'd lost control like that. I couldn't believe I'd hurt my friend and made her cry. Later, when my parents found out from her parents what I'd done, my parents yelled at me. They reiterated to me what I had already told myself - there was something wrong with me, I was a horrible person, and I deserved the shame that was eating me up inside.
I understand now, on a rational level, that the adults guiding me (who both had anger issues) were sending me confusing messages. I was being told one thing - your anger is bad - while being shown that their anger is normal and acceptable. However, on an emotional level, all I see is what I did wrong.
The parts of myself that are hardest for me to shine a light on, the ones that line my gut like oil, are not the ones about what happened to me. They're the ones where I'm the person who caused the pain. They're the ones where I lost control. Where I lashed out, physically or verbally, before I could stop myself. And where, later in life, I turned that buried anger on myself.
They're the ones where I can't give forgiveness because I don't think I deserve it.
But I'm trying. I'm pulling at that thread, and eventually, the whole inner monologue of shame and guilt will unravel and let go. And what sweet relief it will be when it does so.
I am currently reading The Artists Way and on chapter 6. This chapter is all about rediscovering a sense of abundance. Two of the tasks were to find five flowers or leaves I loved, and then to find five stones or pebbles.
I really thought this sounded silly and was putting it off. I didnt believe I would feel more abundant by going through the yard and picking up leaves.
But as I went around this morning, drinking my coffee, admiring how the light changes with the rising sun, listening to the birds, I felt quite happy. I loved noticing all the colors and how each little bud really is a gift from nature. I felt a genuine sense of delight as I bent over the soil and looked for abundance in the earth around me.
As I collected my garden treasures I thought of how the author says we will often think a task we are given is silly and pointless. This is because we are so conditioned to disregard the delicate joys of life and to focus on the big, heavy problems at hand.
I now have my colorful collection of leaves and rocks on my desk. I cannot say this solved any problems for me or changed my situation at all. But for a moment this morning, I did forget everything and held a soft pink petal as the wind caressed my face. Small miracles. That's all I got right now.
I am wishing you your own small miracle today and everyday for the rest of this week.
For this new week, I ask the Creator of the Universe to guide me to my highest potential.
I ask the Divine source that created mountains that reach to the clouds and flowers that bow to the wind to imbue me with love and guidance.
I ask the Divine source, the source of all that is Holy and loving, to fill every breath I take with relief and rejuvenation. I ask my Creator to breathe with me, so that I may breathe with the power of the Universe.
For this new week, I ask my Creator to help me to breathe out my fear and to breathe in inspiration and strength. I ask that my mind and body be saturated with courage and healing with every breath I take.
I ask, that for this new week, not only may I be blessed in unexpected ways, but may I also be a blessing to others. As I feel myself align with the infinite wisdom and mystery of the cosmos, may I radiate that magnificent healing energy out to others.
For this new week, I ask to be comforted when I am hurting, held when I am tired, and reassured when I am scared. I ask for my Creator to remind me of its infinite love for me, and I ask this with the knowing that the moment I ask, I am heard and help is on the way.
This visualization was recorded as Episode 21 of my mini-meditation podcast. If you prefer to listen to it rather than read the text, click the button below the image!
Take a deep breath
Visualize a white light pouring down into the top of your head
It melts down all through your mind
It melts through worries and concerns
It melts through self-doubt and insecurity
It melts through stress and fatigue
May you be well
May you be loved
May your loved ones be well
May you find all you need for good health
May you receive all you need at this time
May you find yourself surrounded by love and compassion
May you release stress and find your inner strength
May you be well
May you be loved
May your days be filled with support and positive energy
For all you are going through right now, I am sending love and blessings.