Labels are for Jars…

 
 

Labels. We use them to order our experience. They help us make sense of our world, and orient ourselves in a seemingly unpredictable world. They provide us a sense of certainty and structure. They mediate our expectations of others and help us to formulate a sense of personal identity. These are all good things, and point to the use of labels in our lives. However, a problem arises when we become too rigid in our labelling. When the connotations of the labels we use perpetuate narrow mindedness and imprison us to a certain set of assumptions, which prevent from engaging in the process of personal expansion.

Labels themselves do not exist. They are social constructions. None of us were born with the labels we carry with us today. Rather, they have had them placed upon us, or we have placed them upon ourselves. Most of the time, they serve us well, but problems arise when labels become too rigid and narrow, for they can foster a sense of personal limitation and interpersonal disconnection. In other words, labels become problematic when we begin to see ourselves as being wholly defined by these constructed labels because we begin to fall victim to their various implications, relinquishing our sense of personal power in the process.

Let’s take for example, the label that has been placed upon me since the day I was born: disabled. Some common assumptions that come along with this label include: incompetent, helpless, powerless, incapable, confined, weak, defective, unable… the list goes on. It is true that I am disabled. My legs don’t move as fast as or work as well as those of others. I have fully accepted this as a fact of my life. However, I vehemently refuse to align myself with any of the assumptions that are typically associated with the label of disabled. In no way do I view myself as weak, incapable, powerless, or helpless. I never have and never will.

Labels require a large degree of fluidity and flexibility. They require a willingness to abandon the barriers perpetuated by assumption and a willingness to approach oneself and others with an open mind. Labels undoubtedly have their place, but when we become too attached to them and their perceived meanings, a sense of disempowerment, defeat and judgement can manifest.

Labels of the human experience are inherently limited, because they can never give you a sense of the whole picture. They can’t be taken at face value, because to do so would be a discredit to your sense of individuality and to ignore the uniqueness of each individual who crosses our path. To adhere to a label is to miss the opportunity for true connection, because they can never tell you what’s going on beneath the surface. Suffice to say, if you are looking for labels to tell you what’s on the inside, they best be left to the jars on the shelf.

Why Death is One of Our Greatest Teachers.

 

Living life with the end in mind is the most powerful route to personal freedom and authenticity.

I absolutely love the work I do. Companioning individuals as they grieve the loss of a loved one has been the most powerful, heart-wrenching, enlightening, and meaningful “work” I have done. Bearing witness to one’s stories of loss and heartache is an absolute honour and privilege, for I know that delving into the depths of one’s grief is the hardest thing one can ever do.

Doing this work has made death a constant companion. It’s ever-present reality in my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the fact that one day my life will end. At first, admitting this was terrifying. It evoked panic and a feeling of being trapped, with no hope of escape- and truthfully, it still does on some days. But, with loss comes forced reflection and subsequent insight.

It is for this insight I am extremely grateful for it has made clear to me that this life is a gift, never to be taken for granted. We are privileged to be here and to be given the opportunity to become the fullest expressions of who we are.

Here a few of the radical shifts/insights that have occurred in my life:

  • Everything is a miracle.

Living with death as an all too tangible reality renders everything and every experience miraculous. The “little things” become the “big things”, and material things lose their value. We also begin to recognize the mere chance by which we were granted this life, and as such we can see with greater clarity that we are not here by accident.

  • Gratitude expands

When we recognize life is a privilege, gratitude expands. Everything of which our life is composed becomes “thank you worthy.” We become grateful for what we have, and especially for the people who surround us. Death also allows us to become less inhibited, and simply say what’s in hearts. It becomes easier to declare our appreciation for the people we love, for we recognize that there may not be another chance.

  • Love and connection becomes all that matters.

Death makes love, and our expression of it, our highest priority. It becomes infused in everything that we do, in every choice we make, and in every interaction we have with others. It allows us to recognize that our attentive presence is what counts, for it through this attentive presence that our love is conveyed. It becomes about fully engaging with every single moment by acknowledging that time is a finite resource. We recognize that one’s time (an expression of love) is the most precious gift one can give another, for the giving of one’s life in this way, signals that the other matters-and that’s all we want to know at the end of the day anyway.

  • You are here to be the fullest expression of yourself.

Authenticity becomes fundamental. Death allows us to disengage from the (false) fear-based thoughts that so often limit us, thus allowing us to become the fullest expressions of ourselves- in an unapologetic way. We recognize that are here to learn, to teach, and ultimately, to expand. As such, living out our passion becomes essential to our personal sense of well-being.

 

Friends who Bring Coffee.

The Sunday morning hangover. Physically not feeling great, but running through all the events of the night before in my mind and thinking about how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life. Experiences had and memories made. The stuff that makes life so incredible. I turn over and look at my phone…I see a message from my soul sister- one that I have known for a majority of my life. The one who I shared a good portion of my childhood with. The one who was there for the rough stuff, the lessons learned through all those awkward times, and the countless laughs over something that really, isn’t/wasn’t even that funny (to the rest of the world anyway).  The one who just knows without asking. She asks if I want to get together.

She comes over about an hour and a half later, with two coffees in hand, and we spend the next hour talking, like we hadn’t seen each other in years. There is an ease to it, and a comfort in the feeling that neither of us has to be anybody but who we are. Pure and raw authenticity informs our interaction, as it always does. There is an unconditional acceptance of the other that lies at the foundation of our friendship. There is a knowing that even if one of us was to screw up that the other would be right there saying “I got you.”

It got me thinking about the independence myth that seems to inform our society these days…the idea that we must be completely self-reliant, and self-sufficient or otherwise run the risk of being seen as weak or “needy.” The idea that dependence is inherently bad, and that if we depend on others it means that we have failed. It can make us feel that we can’t reach out, even if we desperately want to or need to, for fear of the judgement that might be laid upon us, or for fear of the judgement that we might lay upon ourselves.

But here’s the thing: humans are not wired for complete independence, and to buy into the notion that we are, is to significantly truncate the size of our lives. We thrive on connection. We are literally wired for it. The need for a sense of belonging is as essential to our wellbeing as food and water is.

We need to be dependent to be independent.

It is only through cultivating and maintaining connections with others that we are truly able to commit to what makes us shine. It is through knowing that we have people in our lives in front of whom we can show our authentic selves that we are truly able to risk, and reach beyond our comfort zone. We need to know that we have certain people in our lives who are 100% behind us to facilitate our personal expansion. Without having these people, the risks become too big and too fear provoking, because we run the risk of being completely shattered and deflated if the outcome is not favourable. We need these people in our lives to remind us that a failure or a mistake has absolutely no bearing on our worth and that we are still just as inherently valuable and lovable as we were before we fell on our face.

Life is not meant to be a solo journey.

If you’re about living big, seizing the moment, and living a life of greatness, nurture your connections. They will enable you to shine.

PS:  A note to express my deepest gratitude to all those in my life who have helped and continue to help me be the best that I can be. I love you all deeply, and am immensely grateful to you for accepting me exactly as I am without expecting anything else. You all have supported me in making necessary changes in my life, and have given me the courage to reach beyond what I thought possible. Thank you for being champions of my growth and success, and it is my deepest hope that you feel that I am the same for you. xo

Fearlessness: Deconstructed.

 
 
 
Fearlessness. I am all about it. I write about it. I speak about it. And, I try, the very best that I can to live it. But, when I talk about being fearless, I am not talking about the absence of fear, nor am I talking about the denial of it. Actually, I am talking about the embrace of it. To me, fearlessness is all about sitting with and facing fear- understanding that the experience of it is part of being human.
 
 
Fear is not inherently bad. We need it in order to survive and thrive, because without it we would have no way of identifying threat or danger. It protects us- it is needed, normal, and healthy. However, fear becomes problematic when it begins to take on a life beyond our control. When it begins to control each and every decision we make, and thus, prevents us from living life with the zest that we would like to. It can dominate our deepest yearnings by blocking us from fulfilling them, which ultimately truncates the size of our lives, keeps us small, therefore often leaving us with perpetual feelings of dis-ease, dissatisfaction, and discomfort.   
 
 
“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” – Les Brown
 
 
But here’s the thing: discomfort is really the name of the whole game. Discomfort will be present in the act of submitting to our fears as well as in the act of embracing them. It’s simply a matter of choice. Discomfort can either function as a mechanism which keeps us small, or a mechanism which allows us to push, embrace, and ultimately shine…and that is what fearlessness is. It is the understanding that we can give discomfort the power to foster growth and personal expansion, and that often, it can be used to serve us rather than to hinder us.
It’s simply a matter of going deep with the discomfort of your fear, and looking at it for what it is.
 
 Asking yourself:
 
 
·         Am I in any real danger here?
®     Could I get seriously injured or die doing this?
®     Am I putting others at risk?
·         What am I really afraid of?
®     Failing
®     Looking stupid
®     Making a mistake
®     Disappointing others
®     Disappointing myself
·         What will it mean if I fail, look stupid, make a mistake, disappoint myself or others etc.?
®     That I am unlovable?
®     That I am not good enough?
®     That I am a failure?
®     That I am worthless?
·         Is this really true?
 
My best guess is a resounding NO. It’s not really true that you would be unlovable, worthless, an outright failure, or not good enough if you failed at something, made a mistake, looked stupid in front a whole bunch of people, disappointed yourself or others etc. You would in fact be just as lovable, worthy and awesome.
 
 
Don’t let your sense of worth be defined by external factors. Understand that your worth is constant and inherent, and welcome true liberation of self. Welcome an increased willingness to grow, expand, evolve, and risk.
 
 
Embrace your fear. Your life is waiting.