Here in Colorado, it is almost time for mother bears to begin hibernating, have babies, and stay in their dens while their babies nurse and grow. Mother bears are strong and nurturing and protect their young.
Do you need to protect anyone/anything? Sometimes we need to draw on our inner strength to make a boundary, protect, and nurture what is important to us. It could be children, pets, a pet project, expressions of ourselves, or something else. What has been important to me has been making art for my own fulfillment, and helping others grow their empowerment.
In the past, when I took time and energy to take care of myself or a project that was important to me, I often noticed an undercurrent of guilt. Prioritizing myself and my work went against the ancestral and societal beliefs that I took on and inherited, such as the belief that women’s work was not as important. As a feminist, I was surprised to find these beliefs in myself, but it explained the nagging guilt and discomfort I felt when focusing on my own work.
Even with the advent of feminism in the 1970’s, these sorts of inherited beliefs take a long time to change in society and, when left unconscious, in ourselves. (Witness how women still do not get equal pay). Interestingly, I also had unconscious and sometimes conflicting beliefs around how I should be ambitious and financially very successful, and that I should work very hard in order for my efforts to be worthy of acceptance.
I am healing and changing those beliefs, and in turn, my emotional well-being and my ability to be fully present and do my work in my own way, for my own reasons, and with my own standards of success. My standards of success include helping people to forge their own path and love and accept themselves for the infinitely worthy person they are. My standards of success also include doing my work in a calm way, and balancing it with connection and laughter.
Honoring my values and doing what is important to me in my own way helps me grow into a truer version of myself. While I was writing this essay, I did some intuitive drawing and received an image of myself as a seed pod, growing fuller with seeds to deposit for the next generation of people who want to live as their authentic selves.
The seeds I am depositing include seeds of hope, seeds of vitality, and seeds of self-respect. They are seeds for living a life that is guided by love and our inner compasses rather than by outer expectations.
A friend sent me this quote a few weeks ago: “what if your markers of success were how well you slept at night? how many books you read? how easily you laughed? how much time you spent storytelling, feeling warm in the arms and homes of people you adore” – the daily rest
May we all find our own markers of success sourced from our hearts, and protect and nurture them with acceptance and respect for ourselves and others.
(With thanks to my friend Diane for sending me this quote. You can find her and her excellent work as a parenting coach at www.InfantCoaching.com)
Here is a poem I wrote in September, at the time of the Jewish New Year.
What is happening inside you? I have not built an empire. But I have grown myself up.
Are you growing yourself?
Are you allowing the sands of time to hone and refine you into your true beauty?
Can you turn to Truth as a balm, as much as it is an abrasive?
Have you listened to the delicate sounds around you and welcomed that softness within?
All the greatness of the cosmos is also part of you.
Build what you need, on the fertile patch of soil that you have, and stand tall.
People sometimes ask me what this term means. In the context of my work, a download is a flow of energy from the Divine Source that helps us be our best selves. A download can help us with feelings or can help us have greater understanding.
An example would be a download of a certain feeling that we have never experienced before, or have totally lost touch with, such as a feeling of being relaxed inside. Receiving that download would spark our ability to feel relaxed again (or for the first time). Another example would be a download of the ability to discern what is best for us when making a decision. Downloads are always very specific to what a person needs at that moment to move towards their personal goals.
Part of my work as a personal development facilitator is to tune into Source and listen for what download a person (or group) needs at that moment, ask the person for permission, and then ask Source to give the download.
A download is not generally enough, on its own, to make a huge change in ourselves. It is more of a stepping stone in our personal growth journey, but it can be a key ingredient in making the changes we want to make.
Sometimes we want to maintain peace in a relationship above all else. I used to have an unbalanced view about how to be in relationship. I thought that keeping the peace and being giving without expecting anything in return was the way to be loving.
Certainly, peace is one of the keys to a satisfying relationship and there are situations in our lives when peace is of the utmost importance, for example when we don’t have the bandwidth to deal with turbulence. But when the goal of peace supersedes love, it could create an environment where conflicts are not actually resolved and nobody’s needs are really met.
In the distant past, I knew someone who would quickly apologize whenever there was a conflict in a relationship, even if she didn’t think she had done anything wrong. She told me that she had begun doing this as a way to keep things peaceful. For her, it just wasn’t worth getting into messy conflict and possibly losing the relationship.
One time we had a disagreement and she apologized to me. At first, I thought she understood me and I felt relieved that we were beginning to move through our misunderstanding. But something felt off, and then I remembered what she had told me about her false apologizing. Smoothing things over in that way did not make for true peace, nor did it make for a feeling of safety, love, or a genuine friendship.
At another point, I was in a friendship where I gave a lot emotionally, always being very supportive and listening patiently and nonjudgmentally. I, however, did not feel seen or heard. I would get off the phone and feel drained, but I chided myself, telling myself that if I was a real friend, I would just give selflessly. Eventually I realized that in general, a healthy friendship has some measure of reciprocity. Looking more deeply, I saw that I was not being loving towards myself because I wasn't acknowledging my needs. Making my needs known was not comfortable or easy, but it ultimately resulted in more self-love because I was being true to myself.
Experiencing authenticity, safety, and love is more important to me than maintaining a facade of peace. Sometimes it can get uncomfortable while things are being worked out, but to me, it is ultimately more valuable to be in an authentic relationship.
I have found that tuning into love as my guiding light helps me know how to proceed and communicate in a way that is for everyone's highest good. It also helps me to be calm when things are rocky.
This may be a slightly different orientation than what we are used to. Rather than focusing on catering only to the other, catering just to our own needs, or trying to figure out in a solely intellectual way how to balance everyone's needs, we can cater to the love in the relationship. We can ask ourselves questions such as, “What would love have me do right now?”, or “Am I increasing or eroding love?”. And/or we can tune into our Higher Self, or Divinity, the Source of Love, for guidance. When I do that, I am led down a compassionate path to working out relationship challenges, one that is gentle, kind, and respectful to both of us.
I leave you with a poem by John O’Donohue and a blessing from me. May you be in touch with Love as a guiding force in all of your relationships.
Love in a Time of Conflict by John O’Donohue
When the gentleness between you hardens
And you fall out of your belonging with each other,
May the depths you have reached hold you still.
When no true word can be said, or heard,
And you mirror each other in the script of hurt,
When even the silence has become raw and torn,
May you hear again an echo of your first music.
When the weave of affection starts to unravel
And anger begins to sear the ground between you,
Before this weather of grief invites
The black seed of bitterness to find root,
May your souls come to kiss.
Now is the time for one of you to be gracious,
To allow a kindness beyond thought and hurt,
Reach out with sure hands
To take the chalice of your love,
And carry it carefully through this echoless waste
Until this winter pilgrimage leads you
Towards the gateway to spring.
What is your driving purpose(s) or motivation in life? What do you want to achieve? What lights you on fire? Or maybe your purpose manifests in a quieter way, such as certain interactions that bring you fulfillment, peaceful joy, or a warm feeling inside. Whatever your purpose or goals may be, have you ever had trouble reaching them?
One of my purposes is to help people realize their desired life. Sometimes in the past it felt like no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t fulfill that purpose very much. I tried to put the word out about my work, but it never got much traction.
In addition to taking outward actions, I diligently worked through any inner blockages to success that I could determine, such as the idea that I'm not good enough, etc. Still, the needle didn’t move very much. What did end up moving me towards my goals was to challenge the limitations that were handed down to me from my ancestors.
If we find we are having trouble achieving any of our personal or professional goals, we may have some ancestral limitations that are waylaying us. Though our ancestors are/were always doing the best they could, their main motivation can be to preserve the family line and keep things as they were. This can play out in quite a few ways, some of which might not align with our deepest desires or what is best for us.
For example, many of our ancestors were used to having limitations, whether it was in monetary abundance, satisfying relationships, outer accomplishments, or any other aspect of their lives. Also, through no fault of their own, they may not have been able to reach for what they wanted, so we may not have inherited the tendency or the motivation to strive for goals. Our ancestors may think we should play it safe, stay small, and be content with what we have.
If you have ever experienced a lack of focus or drive that runs contrary to your goals, an ancestral constraint can sometimes explain it. It might also cause us trepidation to move towards big dreams because it is akin to stepping into the vast unknown with no ancestral support.
Some of us want to live a simple life, fulfilling a purpose that will remain relatively unknown to others, but we have persistent self-judgment about it. Part of that judgment might stem from unconscious ancestral pressures. For example, some ancestors would want their descendants to be outwardly successful in order to prove something. They might want to prove that their subjugated culture, ethnicity, etc. is capable of more than they were able to demonstrate in the past. Or maybe our ancestors were financially successful, and simply want us to continue that pattern.
There can be so many possibilities for what an ancestral limitation might be and how it began. All of these examples are from actual coaching/healing sessions I have done. Often we are not aware of which specific ancestral limiting beliefs are hindering us until we begin to explore and uncover them.
The important thing for us to know is that we don’t have to take on these constraints. For the sake of our own fulfillment and for the sake of improving our world, we can gain awareness of ancestral limitations and change them within ourselves. These changes will then ripple out to our children, grandchildren, and all those we touch. Knowing this is a powerful motivation for me to keep evolving and growing. And we can embark on this path at any age!
I also want to be clear in saying that we have all inherited many positive qualities and belief systems as well as limitations. We only want to update what is not serving us. If you would like support in gaining awareness of unconscious ancestral limitations and upgrading them, I would be happy to help!
I offer you a blessing: may you evolve and grow in ways that are deeply fulfilling to you. And may the ripple effect be greater than what you can imagine.
Have you been curious about the term “ancestral healing”?
I remember that when I first heard it, I wasn’t sure if it meant healing our ancestors, or healing the effects of what our ancestors endured within ourselves.
I have found in my work that it can be both! Mostly however, I am focusing on the healing that my clients need within themselves, which is often a result of their ancestor's traumatic experiences, and how their ancestors reacted to those experiences (which was always in the best way they could).
Have you ever tried to change a certain issue in your life (such as a recurring fear, low self-esteem, wanting more success in a certain area of your life, problems with relationships, anxiety, etc.) and find that no matter what you tried, it didn’t fully resolve?
Sometimes that is because even though an issue seems like it’s your problem, it doesn't stem from you! It can be a generational issue, even if it’s not obvious. When I first embarked on this work, I was surprised to see how many of my and my client’s patterns had nothing much to do with us, but were inherited from our ancestors.
This is not to shirk responsibility for our own behavior. Instead, it is a process of acknowledging what is ours while discovering what challenges might have their origin in an ancestor's experiences.
I shouldn’t have been surprised at how many unhealthy coping strategies have been handed down, considering what our ancestors have been through. Go back one generation or more in anyone’s family, and we can find very traumatic experiences, such as famine, war, abuse, etc. And experiencing trauma actually makes changes in our brain and DNA that are passed down!
On the other hand, if we are here, this means that we have also inherited many positive traits and that we are resilient, because our ancestors were survivors!
The other good (or great!) news is that inherited beliefs, behaviors (such as coping mechanisms), and feeling states that are not helpful can be changed or healed.
Some patterns that have changed within my clients as a result of ancestral healing are:
I am here to say that you can do this! Ancestral trauma (or current trauma) is not a life sentence. I believe in you and I am here to help.
I was wondering about what I should write for you today. I decided to let my pen move freely on the page in order to get into a state of flow, and the idea for this essay bubbled up quickly: What is joy?
What does joy mean to you? I used to think joy was an explosion of unbridled blissful feelings. That does not happen very frequently for me! I thought I was joy-deficient. Instead, I was defining joy incorrectly (for me). I've since realized that joy can be quieter than that, and sometimes easily accessible. (By the way, the dictionary definition is "a feeling of great pleasure and happiness").
I have decided that for me, joy can be as varied as a feeling of contentment, laughter, or a sense of calm and connection. What is joy for you? And how do you access it?
For me, joy can be accessed by:
- moving my body in the way it wants, sometimes to music
- being with people I care about without expectation
- sitting on the earth and feeling connected to nature
- sipping a cup of hot tea on a chilly day, and really noticing how good it feels going down
- watching a documentary about nature or animals
If being joyful has seemed out of reach or puzzling to you, you might want to redefine it for yourself.
By the way, moving pen on paper freely in response to a question is a fantastic way to receive deep insights. I use this type of exercise, which I call "intuitive drawing", in every meditation circle, and in some of my coaching/counseling sessions
At the end of the Yom Kippur service, there is a Havdalah ceremony which includes smelling aromatic spices. The idea is to take in the sweetness of the holiday that has just passed, in order to bring it into the rest of our week. Scents can be powerful triggers for memories of what has been physically or emotionally nourishing to us in the past, or not nourishing.
To some extent, we can choose which memories to focus on. Consider which are not important any more. We can harvest any wisdom and then turn our attention away from the memories that no longer serve us.
On the other hand, what memories from the past strengthen us? When feeling down, we can remember and be inspired by our past successes. Have you had love? Then you know how and you can create more. Have you made peace in the past? Then know you can do it again.
Let’s take courage from what was good in the past, inhale that sweet fragrance, and bring it into our present and our future. May the aroma of our sweet and enriching experiences bring us peace and give us hope for what can be.
Forgiveness can be hard to access and hard to define. It is sometimes portrayed as an intention that is easily realized and has the effect of a magic wand, leaving only sunshine and even erasing the effects of years of misbehavior. For me right now, I think of it as an ability to find peace around a certain person or situation. In my experience, forgiveness has been a circuitous path.
There was a person in my life that I tried to forgive for many years. No matter what I tried, I just couldn’t forgive this individual. I read books by different spiritual authors and tried to put their philosophies into action, but nothing worked. I just couldn’t let go of the resentments that I had towards this person, not to mention the guilt (around not being able to forgive).
A few months ago, this thorny issue arose again for me. This time, I tuned into higher wisdom, and I received a new insight. I realized that I was holding onto the resentment as a way to stay connected. I was honestly surprised. I hadn’t even realized that I had any desire to be connected to this person. Certainly, holding onto resentment is not an ideal way to be connected, but since there was no other way that seemed plausible, I was clinging to it.
Even with this realization, forgiveness seemed out of reach. I tuned into my inner self and my Divine Source again, asking how I could forgive, and I was guided to something a little easier. The words that came to me were “let go”. Don’t try to forgive, just let go. Stop expecting something different from this person. Accept the way that they are and don’t expect them to change.
Thinking of my process as letting go rather than forgiving opened the door for me to find more peace. On the way, I found myself managing another turn in the road, which was grief. The acceptance of this person and situation necessitated that I relinquish false hope and face the sad truth of their unwillingness to act differently.
Forgiveness as a syrupy sweet act was not real or attainable for me. Instead, the simple message of “let go” led me to the gritty work of accepting reality, not expecting different behavior, and grief for what was and what would never be. That was attainable.
As I shifted to more and more acceptance and more of a realization that holding onto resentment was not serving me, I began to experience increasing emotional distance and peace. Though I have come a long way, my journey is not complete. But my willingness to see clearly and tend to what arises within me is growing my peace over time.
Beginning with letting go is just one way that we can approach forgiveness. It is not always the best or right way. Our individuality dictates that each of us will have a unique path, depending on countless factors, such as our own needs and tendencies and the particular situation. What I really appreciate and value is the ability (that we all have) to tune into a higher source of wisdom to guide us on our path.
In my own journey of tuning into the Divine source, and in working with others, I have witnessed that the brilliant gems of guidance that come forth are perfectly aligned with each person’s unique needs at that moment. It's not the waving of a magic wand, but it feels pretty magical to me. And more importantly, it works. These gems lead us on a path to real change.
PATRICE SPITZ, C.S.C.
ThetaHealer, Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor