Tag Archives: insights

Sins of the Past

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Woman in deep thoughtYou’re probably familiar with the expression, “my past came back to haunt me,” and you likely have some personal examples related to this phrase.  While it is always good to live in the present and embrace “the power of now,” do we ever fully escape our pasts?  Can we truly be free of our mistakes and poor behavior of years gone by?

This post will focus on our so-called “sins of the past” and how they affect our lives in the present time.  I will relate personal examples pertaining to my past relationships and physical health, and do my best to provide useful insights and suggestions for letting go of regrets and repercussions from the past.

Reminiscing… Or Not?

A few months ago, I wrote about going through boxes of old mementoes in preparation for moving and vacating our storage unit.    These boxes included old cards and letters from many years ago (as long as 20-30 years back!) that I hadn’t looked at in a very long time.  While I found it both interesting and exciting to look back and reminisce, the process also illuminated some personal history that was surprising and painful to remember.

While I consider myself a compassionate and thoughtful person today, I haven’t always been so kind.  In fact, I treated some significant people in my life very poorly in years past.  I wasn’t malicious or evil by any means, but I was driven by fear and selfishness.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I suffered from depression and eating disorders for the bigger part of a quarter century, beginning in my early teens.  During that time, I was extremely self-absorbed and far more concerned with my own wants and needs than those of others.  I often had a negative attitude and I allowed my bad moods to affect those closest to me.  Suffice it to say, I wasn’t always a “picnic” to be around.

We Can’t Turn Back the Clock

As I’ve matured and taken more responsibility for my own happiness, I have become increasingly more considerate toward those around me.  Although I sometimes wish I could turn back the clock and treat my past close ones with more honor and respect, I know this is not possible.  I know I have to let go of the lingering guilt and move on, especially in regards to those to whom making amends is impossible due to either death or disconnection.

Health Hazards

My past sins also extend to the way in which I treated my body and health.  For many years, I starved myself, over-exercised, purged, and engaged in other harmful behaviors.  I pursued thinness relentlessly without much thought to how it would affect my current or future health.  When I finally emerged from my long battle with eating disorders in my mid-thirties, I believed that I was relatively unscathed in terms of my health.  Sure, I had experienced various digestive complaints over the years, but I thought those would surely subside with better eating and lifestyle habits.

Fast-forward to the present time…  My digestive tract is a mess and I’ve recently had to drastically change my eating habits in the hope of managing my conditions without lifelong medication.  I’ve suffered from migraine headaches for twenty five years and I’ve endured a variety of other physical complaints that have caused me a great deal of distress.  I am beginning to wonder to what degree my past “health sins” are responsible for the current state of affairs.

Hindsight is 20/20

As the old saying goes, “If I had it to do over again, I would do it all differently.”  Of course I would, as would many of you if you could be young again knowing what you know now.  Unfortunately, we can’t do that, so we need to make peace with the past and forgive ourselves.  But how do we do that? That’s the $64,000 question!

I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I have learned a few things along the way.  I’ve learned that beating myself up because I used to abuse my body and my loved ones hasn’t helped me to feel better.  On the contrary, my self-flagellation has only served to make me feel worse about myself and my life.  I’ve learned to ask myself whether or not a particular line of thinking is serving me.  If the answer is no, I do my best to consciously shift to a more productive thought pattern.

Finding the Lessons from Pain

One thing I’ve found helpful is to search for the lessons I can take from past experiences.  Gaining awareness and self-knowledge from painful memories can create alternate meaning beyond the regret and heartache. It can be helpful to either journal about the lesson or discuss it with a caring friend or family member (or a therapist).  It can also be fulfilling to share lessons learned with the young people in our lives, with the hope of potentially sparing them from pain.

The Perils of Self-Pity

It can be compelling to feel sorry for ourselves when we are going through challenging times.  The drive to ask “Why me?” is common, but it is not helpful.  When I had a serious recurrence of my digestive issues two months ago, I became angry, especially when I read that I didn’t fit the common profile for this disorder.  I considered myself unlucky and lamented my misfortune.  However, that train of thought only pushed me further into despair.  It quickly became obvious that I needed to pull myself from the abyss and face my challenges head on.

Blaming ourselves or feeling sorry for ourselves isn’t useful.  I’ve had to forgive myself for the ways in which I mistreated others and myself during my earlier years.  While it’s true that I may be physically ill today as a result of my misguided actions of yesteryear, I had no way of knowing I was causing myself lasting damage.  Sometimes the “whys” of given situations are immaterial.  The most important question we can ask is, “What now?”  This question puts us in the driver’s seat and propels us to take action to move us to a better and more empowered place.

We Are All Products of Our Pasts

We all have our “sins of the past,” but our past history and what we’ve learned from it is what has made us who we are today.  We are each a product of our past, sins and all.  I am happy to say that I like the person I am now, and I know that my current challenges will bring more lessons and only serve to make me stronger in the future.

I am gradually forgiving myself for the past and learning to live in the present moment, the space where all of our power exists.  All we have is the here and now, and what’s done is done.  Let’s learn what we can from the past and then let it go so that we can create a compelling and empowered future for ourselves!

It’s the Little Things…

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“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

Many hands on a globeI have always wanted to make a difference in the world.  Over the years, my vision for how I would do this has shifted, but I have maintained my desire to help others.

Lately, I have questioned how much of a contribution I’ve been making and have increasingly felt that what I do is not good enough.   A recent experience vividly illustrated the powerful truth in Mother Teresa’s simple quote.   The focus of this week’s post is on that experience, what it taught me, and how I will proceed in life based upon what I learned.

An Ordinary Evening – Or Not…

One evening two weeks ago, my husband and I went to the gym to work out.  It was like any other evening, or at least that’s how it started out.  As we were walking from the parking lot into the gym, we heard a noise…  Upon repetition, it became clear to us that the sound was a cat’s meow.  Soon, a small white cat with tabby markings was at our feet, meowing loudly and nudging us.  Her friendly demeanor made it clear that she wasn’t a feral cat, but her thin appearance was characteristic of a stray and most likely abandoned feline.   The meows were likely a cry for help, a plea for food by a cat that probably hadn’t had a good meal in a long time.

The Bystander Effect

While we stood next to the meowing cat, a number of people walked by us and appeared to be indifferent to what was happening.   Like everyone seems to be these days, they were probably busy and moving on to the next item on their lengthy to-do lists.   There is something known as the “bystander effect,” a phenomenon that explains why most people don’t rush to help those in need.  When there are many others in the vicinity, it is assumed that someone else will help.

I had read about this problem in “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell just a few weeks ago, in fact.  Gladwell illustrated his point by recounting the story of the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City.  While Ms. Genovese was stabbed to death on the street, 38 witnesses watched from nearby buildings and NONE of them called the police!

Just Another Bystander?

I realize that ignoring a stray cat is not the same as idly standing by while a woman is murdered.  However, since our gym is located at the intersection of two busy streets in a high-traffic commercial area, the chance of this small cat surviving under those conditions was not very good.  I decided not to assume that someone else would help the cat.   I chose not to walk away because it was inconvenient for me to help at that time.  I decided that I would be the one to rescue the sweet little kitty from her scary plight.   In that moment, I knew that I could do a small thing with great love!

A Happy Ending

My husband and I had help in saving the little kitty we nicknamed “Sparky.”  We were able to lure her into a carrier with canned food and a local rescue group took her in and got her spayed and vaccinated.

We were pleased to learn a few days ago that Sparky was adopted immediately following her five day hold at the shelter.  She now has a new home and a new chance at a happy life.   The fact that we were willing to step in and help saved Sparky’s life, and it didn’t take much time or effort, either.

I Make a Difference

The “Sparky experience” taught me that although I had been feeling small and insignificant in the world, I do matter and I can make a difference.   While it’s true that I have not made myself a household name or achieved a seven (or even six) figure income, I mattered to Sparky and I made a powerful and significant difference in her life.  She didn’t care that I am not successful according to our society’s definition of the concept.  I allowed myself to be guided by my heart and help a small creature that really needed my help.

Moving Forward – More Small Things…

I’ve decided to commit to doing more small things with great love, both for those I know and those whom I’ve never met.  Since I feel a strong connection to animals, I have submitted an application to volunteer with the rescue group that helped us to rescue Sparky.  I also plan to pursue other volunteer opportunities for valuable causes that strike my passion and tug at my heartstrings.  I have the time and freedom to volunteer, and will find organizations which have a need for the types of services I can provide.

I will also strive to be more open and giving with the people in my life.  I have a tendency to be withdrawn and reserved and I know that leads me to feel more isolated and alone.  I plan to review my list of contacts to see who I might want to reconnect with in the coming weeks and months.  I also plan to put myself “out there” more often so I can make new personal and professional connections.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as the old saying goes…

The Ripple Effect

I am often very hard on myself and make blanket judgments about my purpose and place in this world.  In truth, I have no idea how much I touch the lives of others in small but meaningful ways.  I am reminded of the movie “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing,” a film which explores how the lives of thirteen people intersect in the face of life’s cold unpredictability.   One of the characters had been standing on a street corner about to walk out into oncoming traffic to commit suicide.  As he stood there, he saw a woman (one of the other characters but a stranger to him) smile at him from across the street.  This simple act of kindness and generosity convinced the man that there was still hope for him and a reason to live. The smiling women never knew that she saved someone’s life that day…

We never know how much we impact others.  We can make a difference in large and dramatic ways, in smaller yet deliberate ways, and in random and unintentional ways.  The important thing to remember is that we can and do contribute to the lives of others.   If we choose to do so, we can make a concerted effort to positively influence others, but even those who primarily pursue self-serving ends still have a ripple effect on the world around them.  We all matter and we are all valuable to our loved ones, our communities, and the society at large.

Kindness and Contribution

Remember, we don’t need to commit grand gestures in order to make a difference.  We make a difference by being our authentic selves and acting from our hearts.

I close with a few quotes on the topics of kindness and contribution.

  • “Every smile is a direct achievement.” – Unknown
  • “Isn’t it amazing how often we can touch someone’s life, and enrich our own, by a very simple act? Kindness, pass it on…” – Betty, WA Community Organizer
  • “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa
  • “Be kind.  It is hardly ever the wrong thing to do.” – Unknown

Serenity, Courage, Wisdom…

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God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Woman Among Lit Votive CandlesThe passage above is called the Serenity Prayer. It is used frequently in Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step recovery programs.  It is simple yet extremely powerful.  I believe that if one fully embraces and lives in tune with the words of this prayer, he or she will live a much more peaceful and happy life.

I dedicate this week’s post to the discussion of the Serenity Prayer, as I feel it is integral to my healing project and the healing of all those who have things in their lives they wish weren’t “so.”  That pretty much describes all of us, now doesn’t it?

Can We Save Another?

There is a person I care about who is engaging in very self-destructive behavior and who is greatly endangering her health by her actions.  It is very difficult for me to see this person hurt herself the way she does, especially since she has experienced several periods of recovery that I’d hoped would be permanent.

Over the years, I’ve tried to help this person in a multitude of ways, and I continue to ruminate upon what I could do now to assist her in overcoming her internal demons.  In truth, I vacillate between wracking my brain to determine how I can help her and being so angry at her that I feel like just leaving her to the demise she seems so hell-bent upon bringing about.

The Serenity Prayer in Action

In recent days, I’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to deciding what, if anything, I can do to help this person who is very dear to me.  It was during this time that I was reminded of the Serenity Prayer.  As I repeated the simple prayer internally, I was struck with a realization.  This person and her self-destructive behavior fall under the category of “things I cannot change.”

Sadly, we cannot change other people; we can only change ourselves and our reactions to other people. Deep down, I know this and have known it for many years.  However, I find it extremely difficult to accept the cold, hard truth that I do not have the power to change another human being.  Yet, if I am to achieve the level of inner peace which I so intently seek, I must accept this reality.

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

The most powerful part of the Serenity Prayer is the last part – “the wisdom to know the difference.” As someone who has long been a “control freak,” I tend to think I have the power to change anything in my life that I do not like.   This belief has led me to a great deal of pain and misery.

I’ve tried to “fix” a number of people over the years – friends, family members, significant others.  Yet the truth is that there is only one person I can control or fix, and that’s myself. While it’s true that we can influence others, they have to change themselves; we cannot do it for them.

Serenity and Courage

In my current situation, now that I have the wisdom to know that I cannot change this other person, I must turn to the other two parts of the Serenity Prayer.  I must seek and pray for the serenity to accept that I cannot change another, and I must have the courage to change the way in which I interact with this person. I must stop trying to change her and do my best to love her as she is.

Yes, I feel sad that she hurts herself the way she does, but in spite of that sad truth, she has many wonderful qualities that I can love and appreciate.  I must adopt a “glass half-full” attitude and appreciate what’s right instead of lamenting upon what’s wrong. I must release my anger toward this person for her behavior and at myself for not being able to help her.

The Power of the Human Spirit

If this person decides to change, I will be there for her as I have been in the past.  I will think positively and believe in her capacity to change, as I always have.  I genuinely do believe in the power of the human spirit and the capacity for people to change at any phase of life. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.  I would have given up on myself a long time ago, because God knows I have stumbled and struggled with the same issues many times over the years.  Yet I have not given up, and I will never give up, as long as there is breath in my body.

Just as I have not given up on myself, I will not give up on my self-destructive loved one. I may have to distance myself from her at times, as it is difficult to see someone you love hurt themselves, but I won’t lose hope that she can and will change.

Still Seeking Serenity…

I do not yet fully have the serenity to accept that I cannot change others who are harming themselves. Even as I write this, I find myself wondering if maybe this thing or that thing might help steer the person I mentioned onto a more life-affirming course.  But I am on my own path of healing, and part of my healing involves letting go of believing I can mold others to my will.

I need to focus on myself and my own path and heal the things in my own life that are off balance.  I can be an inspiration and an example for others, but I cannot make them change. I am reminded of a line from the transformational passage by Marianne Williamson, “My Deepest Fear…” (the full passage may be read here):

As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Hope and Healing

A large part of my blogging about my healing project is that I hope to help others to heal their lives as I heal mine.  I hope that the concepts I write about and the insights I reveal will produce resonance in my readers and help them on their own journeys. It has been liberating for me, a generally private person, to share intimate thoughts with the world (I say the world because you never know who will find you on the Internet).  Letting go of my intense worries of the scrutiny of others has helped me to come more into my own as a person and embrace the specialness of who I am.

I am sad, but I remain hopeful.  I move forward with courage to continue my healing project and to allow others to be on the paths of their choosing, whether positive or negative. I know I cannot chart the course for anyone besides myself, so I will continue to navigate my own “vessel” and let others do the same.  As I do so, I continue to pray for serenity, courage, and wisdom… each and every day.

Six Months Already?

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Thumbs up!

It’s hard to believe, but it has been 6 months since I started “The Healing Project.” My first post was made on February 3, 2010, and outlined my quest to heal my health and my life over the course of one year.  My healing project utilizes the principles of Louise Hay and other teachers and also involves treating myself with more kindness and compassion.

Insights and Wins

Last week, upon the occasion of my 44th birthday, I posted my “Reflections at Mid-Life.” This week’s post is dedicated to sharing the insights I’ve gained and the triumphs I’ve made at the half-way point of my “healing project.” These powerful wins can be encapsulated within the following categories, each of which will be covered in the body of this post:

  • Gratitude
  • Attitude
  • Hope
  • Healing

Gratitude

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears” – Anthony Robbins

The quote above exemplifies the power of gratitude as a spiritual practice in life.  When one reflects on the many blessings which are present in his life, he is less likely to experience fear and anxiety. The practice of gratitude involves having a “glass half full” outlook and looking for what’s right in your life instead of what’s wrong.  It is definitely true that if you look for something, you’re going to find it, so why not look for the good instead of the bad?

Since beginning my healing project, I have adopted a much more powerful attitude of gratitude in my life.  I am decidedly more present to the abundance of blessings that exist in my life, and I much more readily rejoice in the “little things” which bring me joy and peace on a daily basis.  I am more easily able to live in the moment and less likely to either dwell on the mistakes and pain of the past or ruminate on the “what ifs” of the future.

One of my early posts was on “The Practice of Gratitude” and included the suggestion for keeping a gratitude and success journal on a regular basis. I wholeheartedly re-affirm that suggestion now!  I strive to make entries in my gratitude journal on most days and find that it helps me to live more in the moment and focus more on my blessings rather than my challenges.

Attitude

“Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.” – Frederick Langbridge

Closely related to gratitude is attitude.  Adopting a positive attitude in life can help you navigate your way through the many challenges which you’ll face on your life journey. I used to be a pessimist and was always waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.  I used to believe that it was better to expect the worst because that way, I would never be disappointed.  What I didn’t realize was that I spent a lot of time and energy needlessly worrying about calamities which never happened. Instead, I could have invested that mental and emotional capital in reaching my goals and fulfilling my dreams.

My healing project has involved a lot of attitudinal shifts.  I have become much more keenly attuned to my thoughts and the impact they have on my health and my life experience. My increased awareness has allowed me to question my thoughts and assess how they are or are not serving me.   I am now much more able to rapidly shift my thinking to a more positive space upon the realization that I am engaging in “stinking thinking.”  I now spend far fewer precious moments each day in a negative space and my husband is delighted that I have become a more upbeat person.

Hope

“In all things, it is better to hope than to despair.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

When 2010 began, I didn’t feel a lot of hope for myself or my life. I felt like a run-down, unhealthy, washed up “loser,” and I am not exaggerating much in this characterization.  While I was very happy to have a loving and supportive husband, I felt despondent about my many health challenges, my lack of career success and prospects, and the absence of close relationships with my friends and family members. Until my epiphany while working out one January evening, I was very discouraged and had little idea how to go about changing my course in life.

The simple acts of declaring my healing project and beginning this blog infused a thread of hope into my consciousness, and this thread has grown into a small but beautiful tapestry over the course of the past six months.  While I cannot report a completely clean bill of health, a thriving business, or a broad circle of friends, I can express increased hope for growth and improvement in all areas of my life.

I can also state that there have been significant positive changes in various facets of my life. I have revitalized some of my relationships and reached out to new acquaintances, and this has led to a few new career opportunities as well as an enhanced sense of connection with others.  My health has also improved in several key ways which I will elaborate on further in the next section.

All in all, I feel that I am on a positive path and have much more hope for a compelling future than I did at the beginning of this year.  I am gradually filling in the details and color in the vision for my future, and that is helping me to move forward in creating a more happy and peaceful life.

Healing

“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophies.” – Friedrich Nietzche

A big part of my healing project relates to my overcoming a number of health challenges which have been adversely impacting my life. Some of these illnesses have plagued me for many years, while others have cropped up only recently. Fortunately, none of these difficulties are life-threatening, yet all have been troubling to me and have affected my quality of life.

As I am a big believer in Louise Hay’s philosophy that we create every illness in our bodies by virtue of our thoughts, I also ascribed to her powerful notion that I could overcome my ailments through changing my thinking.   I made a point of shifting my thoughts from negative to positive and repeating empowering affirmations related to my health.  I have also worked on being more gentle and loving toward myself, as Louise Hay asserts that all “when we really love and accept and approve of ourselves, then everything in life works.”

I am pleased to report that I have seen some noteworthy improvements in my health since beginning my healing project.  I am experiencing far fewer body aches and pains and feel a higher level of health and vitality.  My health conditions which have either disappeared or dramatically decreased in intensity include my neck pain, my TMJ syndrome, my digestive distress, and the throat condition which I wrote about in my post titled “It’s Always Something!” In terms of the latter condition, rather than having to take prescription medication twice a day as recommended by the specialist I saw, I am only taking a low dose of an over-the-counter drug each morning and my symptoms have almost completely abated!

On To the Second Half…

As I move into the second half of my yearlong healing project, I am both excited and encouraged to continue the progress I’ve made thus far.   I am confident that I will succeed in my quest to heal myself and my life in one year. I look forward to sharing my many wins related to health, relationships, and success along the way and in February 2011!

Revisiting Loss & Letting Go

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White dove flying in the cloudsFifteen years ago, one of my closest friends committed suicide at the age of 32. The day on which I found out was absolutely and unequivocally the worst day of my life.  Time seemed to stop and I felt shocked, sad, and numb all at the same time. I cried and cried until there were no tears left in my body and I felt a depth of pain that I didn’t even know was possible to experience.

Time Heals All Wounds – Or Does It?

The tears and the sadness lasted for a long, long time, but I gradually moved past the depth of my pain and was increasingly able to take comfort in my happy memories of a person whom I felt blessed to have known.  Although I don’t know if one is ever completely “over” a loss of a loved one, I thought that I had mostly moved on after the passage of so much time.  As the old saying goes, “time heals all wounds.”  Or does it?  Surprisingly, I recently realized that I may still have quite a bit of grieving and healing to do over the loss of my dear friend.

When going through boxes in our storage unit in preparation for our recent move, I came across what I had labeled my “Joe box.” Shortly after his death, I packed away all of the mementos I had of Joe – cards, photos, etc. – because it was just too painful to have to look at them and realize that I would never see my friend again.  I have carried that box with me through a number of moves over the years, but I have never opened it. I didn’t think much about this all those times because I was also carrying countless other mementos and collections with me through my life journey.  It’s only now, when I’m making a concerted effort to downsize and become more of a “minimalist,” that I actually thought about going through my “Joe box.”  Yet, when it came down to it, I couldn’t bring myself to do it…

Exploring the Issues of Loss & Letting Go

My hesitance to revisit my mementos of Joe surprised me and I feel it bears some examination.  For this reason, I will explore the issues of loss and letting go in this post. We have all experienced a number of losses in our lives and they affect us in different ways.  Although death, particularly that which is tragic and unexpected, is likely the most painful of all losses, other types of losses also have a lasting impact on our psyches and our lives.  Included among these are divorce, romantic break-ups, deterioration of friendships, job loss, and financial loss.  Loss is an unavoidable part of life, yet some among us navigate its waters more smoothly than others.

Difficulty in Letting Go…

A friend once told me that I didn’t know how to let go of things and pointed out that I held on to people and things even when they were no longer useful or productive in my life. She was right… I would always try to remain friends with my boyfriends after we broke up and held on to childhood, school, and work friends even when we no longer had much in common.  I would keep cards, letters, articles, notebooks, and journals from throughout my lifespan such that these items filled countless boxes in my various homes and apartments.  My closets would be stuffed with clothes, some of which I hadn’t worn in years, on the off chance that I might want to wear them again one day.  The stuff continued to pile up and I didn’t even question it until recently.

My “Stuff” is Affecting My Health

When I look at my laundry list of health complaints in “You Can Heal Your Life” and examine the probable causes outlined by Louise Hay, I see strikingly similar statements over and over again:

  • Holding on to old ideas.
  • Fear of letting go.
  • A refusal to change.
  • Stuck in the past.
  • Fear of going forward.

In fact, the probable cause specified for ALL chronic diseases is “A refusal to change. Fear of the future.  Not feeling safe.” Since at least a few of my ailments may be classified as chronic, it appears that my inability to let go of the past and move forward courageously into the future is adversely affecting my health. As I’ve failed to get the message of my long-standing health issues, new ones have cropped up to capture my attention.

Clearing Out the Backlog

I didn’t really think I was stuck in the past or holding on to old ideas, but I when I was confronted with all of the stuff in our storage unit, I could no longer deny it! Of course, the physical backlog of “junk” that I’ve been carrying around for many years is not the only build up I need to address, but it’s a start!

Change can occur in any or a combination of the dimensions of our life experience:  physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. I have chosen to start with the physical in going through all of my stuff and letting go of that which I no longer need.  In doing so, I have begun to free up energy which had been tied up in holding on to so many items from the past. The storage unit is almost cleaned out and we will soon be relinquishing it completely.   This is a good first step for me in letting go of my past.

Making the Connection

Back to Joe and the issue of loss… I realize that I need to push myself to go through that box. I need to allow myself to do whatever grieving is left to do so I can move forward in my life.  Of course, I do not need to throw everything away or forget a person who meant so much to me.  I can and should always remember him, but I should remember him with joy and a light heart instead of sadness and angst.

Up until a few years ago, I would always feel intense sadness on the anniversary of Joe’s death.  I commented on this to a friend and she said that if I wanted to honor Joe, I should do it on his birthday, not on his “death day.” Wise words from a wise person!

Facing Things Instead of Avoiding Them

I believe it’s important to face things in life instead of avoid them. There are a number of issues from my past that I have been avoiding for years.  Some of them are so buried that I don’t even know or remember what they are, but as I progress with my healing project, I am uncovering different layers of my psyche and addressing whatever accompanying challenges arise. I didn’t realize that I still had grieving to do over Joe, but now that I have unearthed that reality, I must face it head on.

Celebrating a Wonderful Person & A Powerful Bond

I have decided to go through the “Joe box” on what would have been Joe’s 48th birthday this September.  I will celebrate his life and our relationship and remember the close bond that we once shared.  I will revisit the loss of someone so very dear to me, release the sadness of his absence from my present day life, and embrace the powerful truth that he will always live on in my heart and in my memory.

Closing Quote

“I joyfully move on to new levels of experience.  All is well.” – Louise Hay

“I Should…”

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I Should...This post discusses the concept of “should,” as well as my insights from completing the “I Should” exercise from “You Can Heal Your Life.”

It is my intention to complete at least one exercise from Louise Hay each week and to share my experience and what I learn in this blog.   These posts may be combined with the weekly lesson, or they may stand on their own.

Louise Hay presents an exercise in “You Can Heal Your Life” which is focused on examining our internal “shoulds” and how we can create a more empowering inner dialogue.  The exercise begins with writing or typing “I Should…” and completing the sentence in as many ways as come to mind.  Here are a few of my “shoulds”:

  1. I should be more productive.
  2. I should make more money.
  3. I should get a real job.
  4. I should get up earlier.
  5. I should dress nicely more often.

Why Should I?

The next step of the exercise involves reading each “should” aloud and then asking, “Why?”  The responses to this question reveal where a person is stuck in his or her beliefs and self-imposed limitations. Here are my responses for the statements above:

  1. To get more done, to make myself useful, to justify my existence (re: productivity).
  2. That’s what a person is supposed to do, especially if she’s not a mother; it’s the right thing to do; to take the burden off of my husband (re: making more money).
  3. To make steady and good money, to feel more worthy and necessary, to feel more grounded (re: “real job”).
  4. Most people get up early, to get more done, to feel like less of a “slacker” (re: getting up early).
  5. I have lots of clothes in my closet, to look better, to take more pride in my appearance (re: dressing better).

Should – A Damaging Word…

Louise Hay feels that “should” is one of the most damaging words in the English language.  Every time we say “should,” we are in essence telling ourselves that we were, are, or are going to be wrong. Louise doesn’t believe we need more wrongs in our lives and that, instead, we need more freedom of choice.  She recommends that we replace the word “should” with “could,” as “could” gives us choice instead of making ourselves wrong.

I Could… Why Haven’t I?

The final step in the “I Should” exercise is to go back to each “should” statement and re-write the sentence, this time starting off with “If I really wanted to, I could…” and then asking, “Why haven’t I?” Here are my responses to that follow-on question:

  1. In truth, I am quite productive.  I have some days that are better than others, but so does everyone. I tend to be too “all over the map” and that impinges upon my productivity.  I need to focus more on what matters most and then I will be more productive.
  2. The main truth is that I don’t have to make more money.   My needs are met, so I don’t have to take on work that I don’t want to do.  I have very high standards for the work I will do and will likely need to lower them in order to make more money.
  3. I want to be passionate about what I’m doing.  I want to like what I do.   I also enjoy having variety in my work and many “real jobs” don’t allow for the variety – or the freedom – that I so greatly desire.  I think that instead of focusing on a job, I need to focus on pursuing my passions and working through the fears that hold me back from doing that which most lights me up.
  4. I don’t like to go to bed early and I do better on 7 or more hours of sleep per night.  If I get up by 7 a.m. each day, that is early enough.
  5. I do dress nicely when it matters.  If I am working at home, it’s fine to wear what’s most comfortable.  When I go out, I dress appropriately for my lifestyle.  I don’t usually go out dressed like a slob unless I’m going to the gym (and even then, I’m dressed suitably for the activity at hand).

From Should to Choice

The responses to “Why haven’t you?” often reveal that we’ve been beating ourselves up for something we never really wanted to do or that wasn’t our idea in the first place.  In many instances, the “should” originated with someone else, such as a parent or other powerful adult.  Alternatively, it may be based upon a firmly entrenched societal belief.  My belief that I should get up early is in line with the standard 8-5 job concept which is prevalent in our society.  Since I worked in the corporate world for so many years, I came to associate getting up early with being productive or worthwhile.

One of the benefits of examining our internal “shoulds” is that once we become aware that our “shoulds” originated elsewhere and they aren’t serving us in the present time, we can choose to release them.  As Louise Hay says, the power is always in the present moment.  Awareness can lead to power and choice.

Releasing or Reframing My “Shoulds”

In examining the “shoulds” which I presented in this post, I have chosen to release two and reframe the other three. I decided to release “I should get up earlier” and “I should dress nicely more often” because I realized that I was basing these edicts upon the beliefs of others.  For my life and what I’m up to, I get up early enough and I dress sufficiently well.

For the belief, “I should be more productive,” my reframe is to focus more on what matters most in my life and to center my productivity efforts on those items.  I don’t need to do more; I just need to do the critical few things which will make the greatest difference in my life.

In terms of “I should make more money,” I have decided that I do want to earn a higher level of income, but that I am committed to having that income be derived from work that matters to me.  My empowered action will be to pursue income sources in writing and designing websites for businesses and causes which inspire me.   I don’t need to “get a real job,” but I would like to determine a way to make a reasonably steady income while engaging in interesting and challenging work.

Valuable Insights Lead to Empowering Possibilities!

The “I Should…” exercise provided some valuable insights for me and enabled me to release some long-held limiting beliefs.  I can now move forward with some empowering possibilities for the things I could do.   I’m sure that I will still be confronted by the “tyranny of shoulds” from time to time.  In fact, this subject is of such great interest to me that it will be the topic for another upcoming post…

I encourage you to look at the ways in which “should” adversely impacts your life and to determine if there are any “shoulds” that you might wish to release. I look forward to embracing life from the space of “could” and enjoying more choice and freedom!

Hope, Inspiration, and “The Biggest Loser”

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I am a long-time fan of the reality show, “The Biggest Loser.”  I’ve watched all but one of its nine seasons and I frequently find myself in tears as I watch this truly inspiring show.  Last night, as I watched the penultimate episode of the ninth season, I was moved to write about my appreciation for this show I’ve come to love.

The four remaining contestants all went home for a month, where they trained to run a marathon while continuing to focus on losing weight to vie for the title of “The Biggest Loser” (and the accompanying quarter million dollar prize).  Two of the contestants were still close to a hundred pounds overweight when they left the Biggest Loser Ranch.  Yet, they all returned and finished the marathon!  The final two marathon finishers ran across the finish line hand in hand, and I bawled like a baby while watching this touching moment.

Moved to Tears

Why was I brought to tears last night?  Why am I brought to tears by this show virtually every week?  Because “The Biggest Loser” exemplifies the power of the human spirit, the power we all have within us to overcome our greatest challenges and triumph over adversity.  The shear fact that four individuals who were close to death’s door from the side effects of obesity only six months ago were able to finish a full marathon is inspiration at its best.

I have always been a champion of human change and an advocate of the sentiment that change is possible for all who seek it out.  Here were four people who had veered extremely far off the path of health and well-being.  I’m sure there were many people who knew them who had written them off as “lost causes.”  It wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to write off 31 year-old Michael, who tipped the scales at 526 pounds at the age of 31.  Likewise, who would have thought that 27 year-old Ashley, who smoked and drank heavily and weighed in at 374 pounds, would have turned her life around?  Yet, both of them did, as did their co-finalists Koli and Daris.

Lessons from “The Biggest Loser”

Why am I writing about “The Biggest Loser” in The Healing Project?  Well, some of you may feel that it’s too hard for you to change.  After all, you’ve been the way you are for many years and you may feel too far gone to turn it around.  You’re stuck in your ways and you feel little hope of becoming unstuck.

I know how that feels, as I’ve felt that way myself many times over the years.  I may not be obese, but I’ve certainly had my share of struggles around weight and food, plus I’ve grappled with a number of other addictive issues in my life.  Yet, as I watched those four formerly obese people cross the finish line after running a marathon, I was filled with hope and inspiration.  If they can overcome their challenges, why can’t I?  Why can’t all of us?

It may not be your goal to lose over a hundred pounds or run a marathon, but I’m guessing you have your own challenges that are equally as daunting.  I know that when I think about overcoming my laundry list of health issues, I feel overwhelmed and discouraged.  But if Michael, Ashley, Koli, and Daris can run a marathon, I can restore myself to full and vibrant health, as well as overcome the other challenges included in my healing project.

Be Inspired, Believe in Yourself!

Let yourselves be inspired!  Believe in yourselves. There is hope for all of us to heal all of our ailments within and without.  Let the chorus of “The Biggest Loser” theme song guide you…

“What have you done today to make you feel proud?”

Do one thing, however small, each day to inspire yourself, to move yourself forward toward your goals, and you will get there!

Facing Our Fears

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Irrational Fears…

Most of us have fears which could be considered irrational.  We can be deathly afraid of things which really cannot hurt us.  Some of these fears impact us in fairly minor ways.  For example, if you’re afraid of clowns, you may avoid the circus, but this fear likely won’t impact you to any large degree.  Likewise, if you are terrified of thunder but live in an area where it rarely even rains, you won’t have to face your fear on a regular basis.

Fear Makes Our Lives Smaller

Other fears really do have the effect of greatly limiting our life experience.  Our lives can become dramatically smaller as a result of our fears, whether rational or irrational.  Many people are horrified at the thought of public speaking.  In fact, this fear often places above the fear of death in many surveys.   There was a ring of truth to Jerry Seinfeld’s joke that most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy at a funeral!  While it’s true that we can all flub a presentation and appear foolish as a result, is this really a fate worse than death?

I’ve been a member of Toastmasters for six years and I have seen the look of abject terror on the faces of guests and new members when they have to get up and speak for the first time, even to just say their names and answer a simple opening question.  Some of these people are able to overcome their speaking fears, while others let those worries stop them and we no longer see them at meetings.

I used to work with a woman who remained stuck in a dead-end job because moving to the next level would involve her giving presentations.  She was so terrified at the thought of speaking in front of others that she preferred to remain in a job which gave her little joy or fulfillment.

Lying to Ourselves

We often tell ourselves that our fears aren’t that big of a deal.  We lie to ourselves and say that these worries aren’t really limiting our lives.  Yet if we really look within, we may realize that we are indeed avoiding situations and opportunities so that we don’t have to face that which we fear.

Facing My Irrational Fear

I recently decided to face a fear which is not only irrational; it’s so ridiculous that I am embarrassed to write about it and thus “out” myself for being so silly.  Yet this blog is about healing myself and helping others to heal, so I will banish my embarrassment in service of the lesson!

As I’ve mentioned previously, I suffered from eating disorders for much of my life and was dangerously underweight on and off for a number of years. I used to be victim to the tyranny of the scale and would weigh myself on a daily basis (or even several times a day).  I would allow the number revealed by this electronic device to dictate my moods and emotions and would make it mean significant things about my character.  If the number was low, I was a strong, disciplined, and acceptable person.  If the number was high, I was weak and disgusting by comparison.

How a Win Became a Fear

As I recovered from anorexia, I gave up weighing myself because I found it difficult not to attribute meaning to the three digit number displayed by the scale.  I considered my abandonment of scales to be a great win and a powerful sign of my healing.  However, over the years, I actually developed a deep fear of the scale and would steer clear of weighing myself at virtually all costs.  I would even avoid going to the doctor for fear that I would be asked to step on the dreaded scale.  When I absolutely needed to visit a physician, I would either ask not to be weighed or I’d weigh backwards and request that they not tell me the number.

I recently realized that I had become just as much a victim of the scale by fearing it than when I used to step on it habitually.  I had again let this otherwise benign device dictate my moods and my behavior!  I had let a number – or the fear of a number – mean something about my worth as a human being.   Rationally, I know that I am so much more than a number, that I am a person of infinite worth, as we all are.  I also know that my weight is my weight regardless of whether or not I know the number.  Avoiding what’s so doesn’t make it not so…

A Powerful Decision

I decided a little over a week ago that this had to stop!   I decided to face my fear and weigh myself, something I hadn’t done in close to 2.5 years… As I prepared to step on the scale last week, I found myself shaking and filled with trepidation.  But you know what?  Even though I wasn’t thrilled with the number, the experience wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be.  I actually felt much better about myself for facing a fear and my life expanded a bit from the act of doing something which scared me. I know that the next time I weigh myself, it will be easier, and eventually it will hold no more fear for me than brushing my teeth!

Do That Which You Fear

It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

  • How much more aliveness would we experience if we heeded the words of this wise woman?
  • How much bigger would our lives be if we no longer allowed our fears, rational or irrational, to stop us?

Here’s something to try… Make a list of everything that scares you.  Write down the big things and the small things, the significant and the trivial.  Then decide which fears you are ready to wipe out.  If tackling one fear each day seems like too much, how about one per week or one per month?

By starting “The Healing Project,” I set the intention to heal myself and my life in one year.  I now understand that a big part of my healing lies in facing my fears, in exercising my strength and my power. I am stronger than I think I am – we are all stronger than we think we are!

Closing Quotes

I will close this post with three powerful quotes, the first of which I’m sure you’ve seen before (but which bears repeating!):

  • “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson
  • “Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.” Marilyn Ferguson
  • “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it.  I want to have lived the width of it as well.” Diane Ackerman

Missing Tile Syndrome

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Today’s post focuses on a concept introduced by author Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  I highly recommend this book as a concise and extremely informative book on the often elusive subject of happiness.  Dennis presents a number of life-changing philosophies in his book, but one of the best is the concept of the “missing tile syndrome.”

Imagine this Scenario…

Ceiling TilesImagine that you are in a dentist’s office having your teeth cleaned and are thus focused on the ceiling above you.  As you glance around the room, you notice that one of the ceiling tiles is missing.  Although the majority of the ceiling is pristine and perfect, you would likely be transfixed upon that one missing tile for the remainder of your visit.

As human beings, we have a tendency to focus on what is missing instead of on what is present.  That is fine for ceilings, as they can be perfect.  The danger is when we apply the same focus and filter to our lives…

Even if we have a wonderful and full life, there are always areas which we feel can be better.  The positive side of this is that we continue to focus upon learning and growing and bettering our life circumstances.  The downside is that we may end up obsessing on that which is missing to such an extent that it detracts from our happiness.

Examples of “Missing Tiles”

A few examples will help to illustrate this point…  I had a friend who struggled with infertility issues a number of years ago.  She lamented to me that everywhere she went, all she saw were pregnant women and babies.  I also knew a divorced woman who would venture out on the weekends, only to notice couples kissing and holding hands all around her.  These two women were so completely focused on what they didn’t have, a baby or a partner; they felt as if they were the only ones in their respective positions.

I can think of a few personal instances of “missing tile syndrome” in my life.  I mentioned my obsession with straight, sleek hair in a previous post.  I used to feel that every woman I saw had beautiful, frizz-free hair and that I was the only one around who struggled with managing coarse, frizzy locks.  Similarly, I have often lamented my thick hips and thighs and felt they were out of proportion with the rest of my body.  When I would be out and about, all I would see would be slim-hipped women with model slim legs.

Focus and Gratitude…

Of course, not all women are pregnant, not everyone is coupled up, and not all women have sleek hair or slim thighs.  However, when one is suffering from “missing tile syndrome,” the focus is only upon what is lacking, not on what is present.  When we focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right in our lives, we are generally less happy as a result.

As I’ve mentioned previously, gratitude is one of the primary keys to happiness and well-being. If we look for what’s right in our lives, we will surely find a number of things to celebrate.  Similarly, if we look for what’s wrong, we will be guaranteed to find those missing tiles.

Dealing with “Missing Tile Syndrome”

Awareness of “missing tile syndrome” is a first and powerful step, but Dennis Prager offers some additional suggestions for how to effectively deal with this problem.   He suggests that you do one of the following things in regards to your missing tile:

1. Get It

If you determine that your “missing tile” is absolutely essential to your happiness, you can find a way to get that which is missing in your life.  For example, if my friend with the infertility issue was unable to have a child of her own (fortunately for her, she was finally able to get pregnant…), she could have chosen to adopt a child.   Although her initial desire was to give birth to a child, adopting a child would have given her what she dearly wanted, a child to love and to raise.

2. Forget It

Although this option may not seem feasible, it is a viable solution in certain cases.  There are some missing tiles which cannot be gotten.  Dennis Prager wrote about sharing custody of his son with his ex-wife following his divorce.  Whereas he had previously gotten to spend each and every day with his child, that was no longer the case after his marriage ended.  He found himself seriously missing his son when they were apart, but he couldn’t change the fact that they now spent less time together.  Consequently, he had to dismiss the desire to be with his son all the time and instead focus on making their time together as enjoyable as possible.  When they were apart, Dennis would keep busy doing other things he enjoyed and he gradually came to accept the new situation.

3. Replace It

Sometimes, we are not able to get the exact things we want in life, but we can discover a viable replacement with which we can be satisfied.  A somewhat trivial example may concern a man who is fixated on buying a new Porsche but doesn’t have the money to make such a purchase.  This man may choose to either buy a used Porsche in good condition or he may end up purchasing a domestic sports car at a lower price.

A more serious example of replacing a missing tile may involve a woman who wanted to be an Olympic gymnast but never made it to the upper echelons of competition.   This woman may choose to open her own gymnastics studio or become a coach to young children.  By doing one of these things, she can still pursue her great passion for the sport even though her initial goal was not reached.

Personal Conclusions

Let’s get back to the personal examples which I mentioned above.  After my trauma following my recent attempt to obtain straight and sleek hair (see the post “Perspective and Appreciation”), I have decided that I need to forget about getting this missing tile.   I am choosing to accept the reality of my hair and to be grateful for what I have.  If I find myself feeling sad about the hair which I do not have, I will focus on the aspects of my appearance with which I am satisfied.  I will reflect upon my positive qualities and be grateful for those blessings instead of thinking about the “missing tile” of perfect hair.

The same is true for my thighs.  I have done all I am willing to do to make them slim and muscular.  I work out regularly and I eat well, but my thighs have not assumed the desired shape.  Since I am unwilling to pursue liposuction or extreme diet or exercise measures, I feel I need to forget the “tile” of perfect thighs.  I choose to focus on the fact that my legs are strong and effectively carry me through life.  I also choose clothing which puts less emphasis on my thighs and more emphasis on the body parts which I more readily embrace.

Self-acceptance and gratitude are key in terms of dealing with “missing tile syndrome.”   Be grateful for your blessings in life and put your focus there.  Work on accepting yourself and your life as they are, and stop lamenting your supposed “flaws” to the detriment of your happiness and inner peace.   Although I know these topics will continue to surface as I proceed with my “healing project,” I will close with the ever famous and always powerful Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

May we all live in peace and serenity and embrace our life challenges with courage and wisdom!

Uncovering Our Hidden Beliefs

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I recently completed an exercise on beliefs from Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”  The exercise was straightforward and consisted of sentence completion for nine topics.  The objective was to uncover hidden beliefs which may be holding me back in certain areas of my life.  In this blog entry, I will share some of the insights that I gained from completing the beliefs exercise.

The topics which were explored in the beliefs exercise were:  Men, Women, Love, Sex, Work, Money, Success, Failure, and God. For each word, I wrote the various thoughts which popped into my head.  I tried not to think too deeply about the “right” or “best” answers for any of the topics.   I spent about twenty minutes uncovering my beliefs and then took some additional time to review my answers and look for insights or “aha moments.”

Some Surprise Beliefs…

For some of the areas, there were no surprises.  I knew that I had issues regarding Work, Success and Failure, and I will be writing about those topics in a later post.  I also knew that my feelings about Love and God were basically positive in nature.   However, the biggest surprise for me in doing the beliefs exercise related to my feelings about men and women.  I learned that I have basically positive feelings about men and a lot of not so positive attitudes about women.   Because I am a woman, my attitudes about my own gender bear some exploration…

My Beliefs About Women and Men

Here are a few of my statements about women:

  • Women can be catty, petty and mean.
  • Women aren’t nice to each other.
  • Women can be too obsessed with appearance.
  • Women have fewer advantages in life.
  • Women don’t know what they want.
  • Women are too picky.

In contrast, here are some of my thoughts about men:

  • Men have more advantages in the world than women.
  • Men have more fun than women.
  • Men are easier to get along with than women.
  • Men generally feel better about their bodies.
  • Men are not to be feared or hated.

If I read the above statements and didn’t know any better, I’d think they were written by a man!  I was definitely surprised to learn some of my hidden feelings about men and women, but what does this all mean?  I am still processing this information, but here are some of the insights I’ve gained thus far…

Beliefs About Women – Or About Myself?

Many of my statements about women were more about myself than about women in general.  I am picky and unsure as to what I really want in life.  I have a tendency to be obsessed with my appearance and I am often not very nice to myself.  I can be catty, petty and mean, particularly towards myself.  While I have many advantages in my life, I sometimes don’t appreciate what I have and times, I feel guilty for the privileges which I enjoy.   I question whether or not I deserve to have the many benefits with which I’ve been blessed.

I sometimes feel as if I’m not a “normal” woman.  After all, I’m not very maternal, I’ve never really wanted to have children, and my domestic skills are sorely lacking.  While I enjoy being pretty and feminine in terms of my appearance, I have often tried to develop more masculine personality characteristics.  I have believed that I should be more career-driven than is my natural tendency, especially since I was lacking the drive to bear and raise children.  I beat myself up on a regular basis for not achieving the societal vision of success, a goal which men traditionally feel more pressure to reach.

Strength – Masculine or Feminine?

While I know a number of strong women, I think I’ve always associated strength more with the masculine than the feminine.  Unlike many other women I know, I do not fear or distrust men.  I find that I easily build rapport with men and in general have positive feelings about them.  Before I got married, I had more male friends than female friends.

The women with whom I have bonded tended to be other women who don’t fit the traditional female mold.   I feel that more traditional women don’t “get” me and sometimes look at me as if I have two heads.  At times, I feel judged by other women for the choices I’ve made in life, particularly the decision not to have children.  I do not begrudge their decisions, but I feel that they begrudge mine.

Next Steps for Me

Of course, I don’t know that any of my suspicions about other women are true.  We often project our own beliefs onto others and are frequently unaware that we are doing this.  The Beliefs Exercise has helped to open my eyes regarding my beliefs about women.  Now that I am aware that some of my beliefs are not empowering and don’t really serve me, I have a choice and some additional work to do.  I need to decide what I want to believe about women and about myself.  I choose to adopt more loving and empowering beliefs about women in general and about myself as a woman.  As this process evolves, I will share my new insights, as well as the ways in which I am growing and learning in this area of life.

Follow-On Questions for Readers

  1. What are your attitudes about men and women?
  2. Do you find that you have more positive attitudes about your own gender or about the opposite gender?
  3. In what ways do your attitudes about men and women positively or negatively impact your life?
  4. Are there any dis-empowering beliefs which you would like to release?

I encourage you to take some time to explore your beliefs about Men, Women, Love, Sex, Work, Money, Success, Failure, and God.  Powerful change begins with awareness.  As Dr. Phil says, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”   The Healing Project is all about self-awareness, empowerment and positive change.  Although some insights can be painful, they often serve as a springboard toward growth.