SELF-LOVE AND ABUNDANCE

Excerpt from forthcoming book:
Psychotherapy and Healing
Aligning Body, Mind and Soul with Self-Love, Mindfulness and Mindlessness

What is self-love? The best way to know if I grasp something is if I can teach it to someone else. It took me a while to understand how to do that with self-love. The first time I became aware of the concept of self-love was when a friend asked me to look into a mirror and tell myself: “I love you!” At the time, it felt extremely uncomfortable and trite. I did not feel tears or sadness. I did not feel that I did not love myself and needed to learn something. I was blind to what I was missing. I had a disconnect with self-love. But I knew how to love others. So I taught by example; by showing how I love the person who wanted to learn self-love from me. But it wasn’t enough because then people relied on me to feel loved, but not on themselves. I needed to use words to pass it on.

The second time I was hit by the concept of self-love was at a time when very little money was coming into my life. That led to a divorce, foreclosure and bankruptcy and not being able to live close to my son. I felt unsupported and scared and terribly lonely. I did not trust anything or anyone. I kept trying to create businesses without success. Not knowing where to turn for help, I did a labyrinth walk trying to get some clarity about my financial affairs. Before the walk the facilitator had us draw a card at random. Each card had a different word on it. We were to think deeply about what we wished an answer to and draw a card. The card I drew had the word LOVE on it. I did not understand. I needed money. I needed to be able to afford a roof over my head and pay for food and child support. I was crying for help inside. I did not know where to turn. And this is all the universe could give me, a card with the word LOVE on it?

Self-love is about learning to be true to our self no matter what others might say, or what others’ reactions might be. Self-love is about risking to tell one’s truth in a relationship even if it means potentially feeling or being rejected. Learning about self-love requires time alone outside of social pressures to learn what is natural and spontaneous to us, and also to learn what it is like to live with our self – with our mind and thoughts, and with our body – to learn to love who we are because no one else is there to love us. Self-love is learning to turn loneliness (fear) into aloneness (contentment).

Self-love can only happen if we let go completely of the need to be loved by others. That need is neediness and puts people off. They may shy away from us as a result. And that need limits love, consciously or unconsciously, to receiving only love in the way that we think we want, not in all its abundance and exuberant fragrances. Without self-love we control and constrict the way Life flows in us. We create lack and misery. By letting go of that need, we free others to love us, in their own ways, without expectations on how that should look like. In turn, we allow the world to give us infinitely more than we knew was possible.

What is your identity?

In psychology courses you learn about identities such as Age, Disabilities (mental or physical), Religion or spiritual identity, Ethnicity, Socioeconomic status, Sexual orientation, Indigenous identity, National origin, and Gender.

The acronym is ADDRESSING. We have other identities such as which groups we identify with (vocation, hobby, and also vegetarian/vegan/omnivore for instance).

We were asked to fill out our own ADDRESSING identities and I realized that if I answered factually it did not feel like me. So I also answered from a feeling perspective. I realized I did not feel any association with being born in Belgium but I identified much more with the East Indian culture (food, spirituality and in particular yoga and the teachings of the masters of the far east).

When I tried to answer the gender identity I realized I did not feel 100% male or female. I felt something like 60% male vs 40% female. But being forced to specify the percentages still felt uncomfortable. I talked with a transgender professor and she said that a lot of trans feel that way and that they even go beyond this by not forcing the % male-female to add up to 100%, it could add up to anything we feel is right for us.

That was a new opening in my thinking. And then I could say I feel 70% male and 40% female for instance.

But then I realized I really have more than one perception of myself. I have the perception of the human being for instance and the perception of that part of me that is pure awareness. My awareness as I experience it has no gender and no sexual identity. It feels more real than my human body and my mind because it is indestructible; itcannot die and cannot get sick or hurt. As a human being I sometimes experience the no gender thing. It is not like being fluid, it is a form of transcending identities.

I asked myself what was the purpose of identities such as those psychologists like to play with because my awareness/soul does not experience any of them: no age, no disabilities, no religion, etc… Then I realized that the purpose of identities experienced in the human form has to do with learning to love oneself and therefore others. It has to do with learning every aspect of compassion. Then when we are as compassionate as is possible there is no longer a need for any identity. We become expressions of love in all its infinite forms.

Human beings are evolving toward the recognition of being spirits first. It is therefore not surprising that as a species we are going through an explosion of traditional identities.

We live in an exhilarating time of human evolution! I LOVE it!

CREATING THE VILLAGE WE WANT

There are probably an infinite number of options to create the village that we probably all seek…. as many as there are human beings and we probably each have to find our own which is related to our individual purpose in this life.

Here are some guidelines I came to: We need to shed our old self, embrace our higher self, and create from our higher self.

1) Letting go of victimization/neediness as victimization/neediness creates loneliness, not a village. We do this by realizing that it is our ego that is reacting to situations and then using the victimization/neediness feelings to control its environment. But there is another reality the ego does not see: We are free and abundant and loved no matter what… so we need to let go of (or challenge within us) the ego interpretations… it creates a difficult reality.

2) Embracing our own sense of self whatever comes: pain, hurts by acceptance and letting go, not holding onto them (which is what the ego does), and also by tuning in to (or remembering) joy, happiness, peace no matter the circumstances and remaining connected to the sensations in our body as we do this because that is how the past trauma/hurt is released.

3) Creating from our higher self means:
a) Understanding where others are coming from without thinking it is against us, because it is not, even if it feels like it. Remaining true to our self, honoring our self — meaning finding our love light and doing what we have to do and/or what we want to do from that place.
b) Let life be life and play with it.

Suggestion: Watch the movie Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1986 or 1987) or read the book. It is very inspiring to watch the lead character, a black man sold into slavery, and the grace and integrity with which he chooses to live his life. It may give you insights into how you want to approach your journey!

RELAXING INTO FEELING SATISFIED WITH SIMPLICITY

I took care of my neighbor’s cats while they are away. I shoveled their front porch and stairs to the front porch. Put some food and unfrozen water for the potential outdoors stray cats, in the back, by the rear door. They are caring that way. Simple things.

As I do these things, I look at my life caring for some people who are disabled, or older, or helping with yoga classes and psychotherapy, and getting a sense of satisfaction with what I do. I find I am letting go of the burden of fearing there is something more I need to do that I can’t put my finger on… the burden that I am supposed to be doing more. I did not know I was carrying that feeling around dutifully.

Before coming home to my neighbor’s cats, I had spent the night at a lady’s home because she needs 24/7 presence and care. As I was helping her get ready for the day, I helped her sit up on her bed, I noticed that, as usual, she couldn’t hold herself up. Her back is very stiff as though she is trying to push away from something. That stiffness prevents her from being able to sit up on her own and stay seated. She needs someone’s support.

This time instead of just working with her being that way, trying to help her dress up in all her stiffness… I thought of giving her a hug while rubbing her back like a gentle massage. She embraced me back. She started to relax. I felt her body melt in my arms. She breathed better. After 30 seconds or so, I started taking her pajama shirt off and started dressing her and I noticed she was holding herself sitting up as if it was normal for her. She was relaxed. What a glorious morning!

It is like the Zen teachings: carrying water, chopping wood. It is OK to live simply, smiling at the chance to breathe another breath and to smile at people and at life, smiling with people and with life.

THE PRESENT MOMENT – WHY IT MATTERS

Yesterday I was asked to help out a couple. The man was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease 6 years ago. But a year ago became more difficult for his wife because he stopped recognizing her. She had a bit of an accident in the morning and needed help caring for him.

When I met him he was watching TV not really knowing what he was watching except for what was on the screen and what he heard in the moment and for 1 minute or so. He did not foresee a murder was about to take place, but he was able to see that he was mistaken and it happened after all. I experienced him as a jolly easy going man. I helped him to the bathroom and then helped him to bed. He kept looking for her but she had terrible pain and needed to rest sitting up. She wasn’t used to letting anyone else care for her husband. At one point he told me he was looking for his wife as he tried to come out his bedroom one more time. He clearly meant the woman who cares for him every day. He looks for her guidance, for her presence eagerly. And when she tells him what to do, he says “Okay!” almost jokingly, like a man who has gotten used for his wife to be bossy. She was surprised he knew who she was. She also took his teasing her as a personal resistance to her… not as a teasing husband.

Her experience of him was that he was unhappy. She told me she gave up on her own happiness: “It is a choice you have to make!” I saw that she was unhappy but I did not see that he was. So I asked her what she meant. What she had experienced of him before the disease was a man who took charge where ever he was, at work or at home, constantly improving things or leading others to. He no longer did that. He was just being, but she saw it as being unhappy.

Because of her sense of loss she was bitter and angry with him, sighing when he did not remember what she had just told him. I could see her side. But I could also see she had not adjusted to his new life and his new experience. She was stuck in the past.

From where I stood, without knowing his past, he was just a jolly easy going man, joking around with his wife, needing her to keep telling him what to do… he’d done enough of telling others what to do for a lifetime.

LOVING ONE’S ENEMY, NOT WHAT YOU MAY THINK!

Did a labyrinth walk this morning with my friend Jennifer. It was covered with snow so we could barely see the outline of the path. Jennifer had done it before so she had a little idea before starting. We started with a prayer of intention. And then we trusted. At times we had to clear the snow with our boots to see where the outline of the path was, and we made it.

Insight #1: The path ahead may not be clear, but it is not as difficult as it may appear. (At least that’s what the message is for me right now!)

Insight #2: As I walked I felt my love for a dog I once had who I had to let go when I moved to the city. I had had some tantrums with him because he loved his freedom and escaped and that strained my relationships with some neighbors who were afraid for their dogs. But now I felt the love I had for him as clear as light I felt how I missed him as a being. Not nostalgia, not sadness, just a caring. So I knew I always love even if I don’t feel it. Love is like the sun that may be covered in clouds from the earth’s perspective, but is always there… So I love but may not be aware of it because of clutter. When I clear the clutter, I can feel the love, toward people or pets (even from the past), and it is not that I love them now, it is that I remember the love I kept hidden from myself.

Corollary and food for thoughts: We always already love our enemies… the problem is not to try and love them… the problem is that we have some clutter to clear up and that has nothing to do with our enemy, only with our self!

Feeling Bad / Feeling Good

Every moment we have a choice to feel bad or feel good. Happiness is just taking advantage of that choice.

When I feel bad and don’t know how to feel good, I ask myself what is so important that I can’t let go of feeling bad.

Depression is rampant in the USA. It is one of those things one can feel powerless about, and is a good state to practice this on. What is so important that I’d rather feel depressed? Well it requires some inner work no doubts, I know from experience helping people with long term depression. But let me reassure you, depression is not a personality disorder, nor is it caused by chemical imbalance as our culture seems eager to believe. Depression causes that chemical imbalance. Depression is simply the result of giving up or not remembering who we really are and if we started this at 3 years old… we have it as a running tape within us… it may not be easy to remember why we started it… but it is important to search so we can reclaim our sense of self and be free to see that we have a choice so we can embrace it.

Blessings!

GOD

Saying God doesn’t exist is like saying unconditional love does not exist. There is no difference. God is like a combination of unconditional love and Universal Consciousness at the same time, but once you experience one of the two, the other one is right there with it; they are inseparable.

I once did not believe in unconditional love. Then one day I asked life: “If there is such a thing, I want to experience it!” Two months later I experienced it. I could not stay in that space, but the time it lasted felt so awesome I wanted to stay in it forever. When I asked how to get back there, the answer was: “Stop worrying!”

I have come a long way since then but I am nowhere close to being in the space of unconditional love all the time. I have experienced that awesome feeling a few more times after that. So one thing I know for certain, it exists, and it is worth giving up every addiction, every belief, or every desire, that is in conflict with its quest.

If you are atheist or agnostic it is because you don’t believe in the God that has been presented to you. I don’t blame you. It is healthy to be skeptical. I have heard of people asking God to show him(her)self to them… without experiencing anything different in their life. And thus felt they got some kind of confirmation that God does not exist. The problem is that you cannot experience unconditional love with your intellect, so you have to be willing to have an experience that is not intellectual…

I am not saying anyone has to believe in God. But why hesitate at the possibility of unconditional love? Why give up on it before trying?

I am pointing this out because it matters. We live in a world in which people in power operate as though they have given up on love. And it is a difficult world to live in for that reason. A lot of people end up with mental illnesses or homeless because love is not a priority.

Oh! It is not an easy quest. Giving up is easier.

INTUITION IN PSYCHOTHERAPY

At first she had reached a point where she was falling asleep. I suggested her little inner girl was angry but was not letting anyone see it.

She woke up suddenly in tears, and came out the kind of anger that had not been given permission forever… tears flowed and so many insights on how the abuse had misinformed her understanding of love and disrupted her whole life. As I was listening I was thinking to the intensity that human drama can reach. I was realizing if we only saw that we are spirits we would not get caught up in the drama and be so hurt for so long by other people’s misguided behaviors… but we don’t know and it gets so messy and so messed up and childhoods are stolen away, broken to pieces…

I let her get through it all anger and tears and coming on her own to revisiting her life. Then, at a moment of quiet, it just came out of me. I said: This is an incredible human story. So very intensely and horribly human… but you are not human, you are spirit.

At first she was taken aback a little, like I was dismissing her experience. “But I am human!” she said. “Yes, ” I reassured her. And I added, “and you are a spirit having that human experience.” She had heard that before. But she felt a little shaken both by the experience of feeling that particular anger so deeply for the first time and then by having the reassurance of feeling her emotions be swept from under her to see her life suddenly from a different perspective yet again: what if she saw the whole thing from the perspective of her spirit?

I was afraid I had spoken too soon about her being spirit.

This morning I saw her completely transformed. She told me she went out after getting up, a bit after sunrise, and did not realize how estranged from nature she had been, her spirit completely starved. She said my words had woken her up to her spirit again and she felt how much she craved to reconnect with nature…. perhaps even thinking about moving to the woods or at least to the country… That deep an experience!

Wow! How speaking the gentle truth at the right time can move someone to unexpected realms so quickly!

Thanks spirit for guiding me to help out where I can. I love working with you all!

Life is miraculous!

BODY – MIND – SPIRIT

What are the Roles of the Body, the Mind and the Spirit?

The Mind

Let’s start with the mind. When I lead groups and ask people what they use their minds for, I get the following answers:
1) I use my mind to be creative and solve problems
2) I use my mind to organize things
3) I make decisions with my mind

In these answers, there is an implicit acceptance of our mind as the highest source of knowing. When I say it this way many people then say that their spirit is the highest source of knowing. But how often do we ask our mind to quiet down so we can hear our spirit? Too often people tell me they cannot quiet their mind down and their mind seems to run the show… There is a sense that they have absolutely no power over this situation and they give up the fight… When we let the mind run the show of our life we tend to create agitation, resistance, stress, and chaos. I don’t believe that is the life we each want… but we often feel trapped in it…

So there is this notion that we need to listen to something wiser than our mind, to listen to our spirit… but how to do that when the mind is so busy taking the whole space?

Our mind is useful. But it uses the past to make decisions and to think about things. It does not have access to new information unless we give it new information. Einstein used to say and I paraphrase: “We don’t solve new problems with old solutions!” But that is all the mind can do!

The Body

And what is the role of your body? It seems all we know about the body is it serves to experience pleasure and pain, and to move us places. We want pleasure and we try and avoid pain. When we do this we split ourselves off from our body… and the result is we cause suffering. Here’s how it works. The experience of pain in our body is what it feels like when the energy is trapped. The energy does not get trapped on its own. We contract because of the fear of pain. In contracting our physical body, we block energy and create the pain we were trying to avoid. The body becomes a memory of all the things we have blocked and that is what causes diseases and aging. There is this notion that problems come as a natural cause of aging. I disagree. It is not aging, It is the accumulation of energy trapped inside that causes problems as we age.

The solution lies in acknowledging our body’s experience physically. As we do this by accepting and feeling the physical sensations in our body, we release pain, and insights come that help you grow as a human being. These insights never become available otherwise and they are not accessible to the mind until the body is paid attention to.

Yoga is one way to help release these blocked energies is a safe manner. Meditation alone can cause imbalances,

The Spirit

The spirit is your connection to everything. It is you… and so much more than you have experienced as a human being. When we have not experienced our spirit, we do not know what we are missing. It is like living a life as a pauper and having never seen wealth. But once we have seen wealth, we can no longer ignore it… it changes how we see our self.
Our spirit is a source of inspiration and when we access it, we bring new material to the mind, so we can learn to question old tapes and find meaning and joy that we did not know or had forgotten about. It shifts our perception of our self and our purpose in life. We open to contentment we did not know was possible.

Stress as a Symptom of a Need for Integration/Wholeness

We cannot just work with the body or the mind or the spirit separately. It is our responsibility to help them relate to each other. Somehow, as we do this, we realize that we are the ones who have caused the separation in the first place. And at a deeper level, they are not separated… so we spend energy recreating the separation every moment… That is the source of our stress and fatigue!