Blog.

We Are All Children.

The sheer beauty of the human soul never ceases to amaze me. Let us always remember that although we live in adult bodies, and are plagued by seemingly unrelenting responsibilities that come with living a grown up life, we are all just doing the best we can.

When we take away the guise of adulthood, we are all children searching for what every child searches for- love, acceptance, and belonging. And like every child there are times we feel scared and alone. There are times when we just need someone to care for our needs and not expect anything in return. There are times we need to be hugged and reassured.

Let us remember that regardless of the credentials we have acquired, the positions we hold or the external success we have attained, each of us is human first. We are all vulnerable despite how much we try to hide or deny it.

And so, let us each strive to connect with the child within each person we meet. Let us strive to reassure that child, comfort that child and meet that child with unconditional love and acceptance for that child is innocent- only doing the best that he/she knows how to do. The child is in a process of learning, growing and evolving. Let us remember that and we shall practice true compassion, holding at the front of our minds that all behavior is a reflection of love or a reflection of a deep yearning to be lovingly embraced and witnessed by another.

It’s Always Courage.

Reaching out for help is never weakness but always courage. Asking for help is a vulnerable thing to do because it requires you to expose your humanity in a world which often equates stoicism with strength. Strength is not about being stoic. It is about giving yourself permission to feel whatever it is that you are experiencing even if you are over come with fear at the thought of doing so. It is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway, remembering that a person who is able to hold your story will simply hold space for you in which you can explore your thoughts and feelings without attempting to offer a solution. They will offer you their compassionate presence as a means to validate and normalize your experience and simply stand in the fire with you as you move through your journey.

Your story is sacred and deserves to be received with the utmost care.

It Starts with You…

 

 

A few nights ago, I was out for dinner with a friend and I ran into a woman who I met before but who I did not know well. We had seen each other around town so we had formed enough of a connection that we greet each other with an acknowledging head nod and a wave. While I was eating and talking to my friend, she approached us and introduced herself. We spoke about the fact that we seem to know each other without really knowing each other. Then came the question that always inevitably arises when I meet someone new: “What happened to you?” I tell her that I was born prematurely which meant that my lungs weren’t fully developed and as I tried to breathe, I acquired brain damage as a result of a lack of oxygen to my brain. I explain to her that I am very fortunate though because my brain damage has only impacted my ability to walk. Following my answer, she said “But you seem so happy” to which I responded “I am. I love my life.” And I really do. I am so grateful for the life I have been gifted, and I am even grateful for the disability I have been gifted. I regularly say that I know at the very core of my being that this was no mistake. I have become the person I am today because of it. Living with a disability has gifted me a sense of perspective. It has helped me find my purpose.

What stood out for me though, was her initial response: “But you seem so happy.” Although I know her words were in no way ill intended, it reminded me that as human beings we need to practice checking our assumptions at the door, if we really want to connect with another. We have to be careful to examine the pre- conceived notions we carry, if we are to ever move toward a true sense of equality within our society. Why is it assumed that because I live with a disability that I am bound to be unhappy? Letting assumptions rule only serves to reinforce stigma and drives disconnection.

Changing the world really does start with each and every one of us. Check your assumptions at the door, and open the space for people to teach you about their experience, knowing that the vastness that is the human experience can never be contained to a series of labels and assumptions.

By suspending judgement we free ourselves and others. Here’s to radical openness and ever abounding love. It starts with you. Never doubt that.

The Power of Imperfection.

When people ask me about my disability, I am quick to tell them that it has afforded me many lessons, and that even if I could change it, I wouldn’t. But it wasn’t until last week, while I was sitting in a meeting with my supervisor, that she asked me to identify the specific lessons my disability has granted me. Up until that point, these lessons had remained undefined. They were abstract, yet they had a strong presence in my life, for I feel they had guided the many choices I have made. So, as I was sitting there, and as she waited intently on an answer, I stated “imperfection.” Imperfection, and the necessity of it in our lives, is one of the most profound lessons that living with a disability has taught me.

By definition, my body is imperfect. As much as I could try, I will never be able to hide the way I walk- my legs always have, and always will, move differently. My body will always be imperfect, and it was in the process of truly accepting this, that my lesson was found.

If you were to look for words synonymous with “imperfection” you would most likely find words like defect, deficiency, blemish, fault, weakness, limitation, and so on. Words slanted with negativity which tend inspire feelings of “not good enough,” shame, and self-judgement. Words and feelings that foster disconnection, separation, and which give strength to the fear that often makes us retreat and isolate. But here’s the thing: Imperfection comes with being human. We all have unique imperfections, visible or invisible. Imperfection is inexorably intertwined with the human experience. It is universal, shared, and normal, and it is by truly recognizing this, that the negativity we often associate with imperfection is dissolved, and it becomes devoid of its power to keep us small. Instead, imperfection becomes the basis of personal authenticity and connection- it becomes abundantly powerful.

When we recognize that there is nothing inherently wrong with our imperfections (because we all have them), we grant ourselves the freedom to love ourselves for our imperfections. We embrace ourselves fully and allow ourselves to just be, because we recognize that imperfection is the birthplace of beauty, unique perspective, and creativity. Fearlessness is inspired because we give up our preoccupation with “looking good.” Risks are taken, days are seized, and our lives are lived without hesitation.

Becoming fearlessly unapologetic about our imperfections also fosters connection. Being open and honest about our perceived “flaws” makes us relatable. When we are open about who we are, the mistakes we’ve made, and the struggles we’ve endured, we unconsciously give others permission to open themselves up too. It lets people know that they are not alone. Empathy thrives because we become aligned in our likeness. We feel unconditionally accepted and embraced for our imperfections, and true compassion is cultivated.

Imperfection isn’t to be denied or shamed, because there isn’t anything wrong with it. It is to be celebrated and embraced. So… give up the pursuit of perfection that confines you- it’s not attainable. Give yourself permission to accept yourself for your imperfections- they are what make you real, and it is what makes you real, that makes you loveable.

 

 

  

The Practice of Fearless Compassion.

 
 
 

We are often told, either explicitly or implicitly that we must be “better than” and that life is a fight. A fight to be perfect. A fight to outshine. To outdo. To get ahead. To get to the top. After all, we are often implicitly told that it is only through this fight to outshine that we earn the right to feel valued and worthy. The notion that we are not good enough as we are is perpetuated, and the idea that we come to this world as empty vessels void of worth is fostered. Consequently, we often dedicate ourselves to the idea that we must spend our entire lives proving to ourselves and others that we are deserving of love, acceptance and belonging, putting us on a perpetual chase that makes us fearful, separates us from others and paradoxically moves us away from that which we yearn for most. It can lead us to make inauthentic choices, betraying ourselves for the sake of attaining approval of others, because we begin to believe that approval is the same thing as unconditional acceptance. And yes, this pattern can work for a while. It works until the cost outweighs the benefits. Until the burden of confinement and restraint of self becomes too much to bear.  Until we get tired. Until we realize that we only get one life and that it is not be wasted devoting oneself to the constraint of self-judgement and harsh self-criticism. Until we realize sacrificing ourselves to fit our perception of society’s ideal simply isn’t worth it.

Enter fearless compassion. Compassion is a radical and courageous choice. It requires that one suspends the confines of hierarchical thinking- doing away with the notion of separation and disconnection. Inherent in the practice of compassion is the notion of equality. It requires that we devote ourselves to the notion that we are all worthy love, acceptance, belonging regardless of the various filters through which we often judge ourselves and others. The filters of social standing, socioeconomic status, ability, level of education and so on, make no difference, because at a core level we are the same. It requires us to do away the ways that we are conditioned to measure our worth and settle with the fact that worth is inherent in ourselves and others. Ultimately, it requires us to settle with the fact that this fight we have devoted ourselves to for so long is an illusion. We don’t need to fight because we already have what we are so desperately fighting for. It’s okay to disarm and to devote yourself to your truth, because as you do so, you will give others the permission to do so as well.

For me, fearless compassion is about:

Owning your authentic truth: Embracing yourself completely, recognizing that what makes you “different” is what makes you awesome. You are the only you on this planet and you were given this life with the sole purpose of becoming who you are. You have gifts to share and lessons to teach. You bring value to this world simply because of who you are.

Vulnerability (Courage): Settling with the fact that you are imperfect and that others are as well. Imperfection is synonymous with being human. We are all fallible, and fragile. Life itself is an act of vulnerability. It asks to risk, to fall, to fail, to make mistakes and then to get up each day and do it again.

Unconditional acceptance: Detaching from the outcome of the many risks that we take. Knowing that if we fail that’s okay. Our failures do not define us. Our mistakes do not define us. Recognizing the pure courage that is tied to each and every risk we take, and that this courage is worthy of praise alone.

Openness: Practicing unconditional openness toward all of our feelings, regardless of the fear they may evoke, remembering that all feelings are okay. We are not supposed to be happy and joyful all the time, and subscribing to the belief that we are only serves to perpetuate judgement. It’s about allowing your experience to be what it is, remembering that they only path to happiness and contentment is through an acceptance and experience of all feelings, not through the denial of the ones that are uncomfortable to sit with.

Recognizing innocence: Recognizing that at our core, we are all just doing the best that we can. We are all tender beings. None of us come into this world with a guidebook. We are all just learning as we go, all striving to be heard and to feel that we matter. We all make mistakes and do things that we’re not proud of, but that does not make us bad.

As cliché as it may sound, self-love is a crucial component to loving others. If we don’t extend compassion to ourselves first, it is almost impossible to give to others, because it becomes act of judgement rather than true compassion. If we don’t recognize that we are the same as every other person on the planet, it implies that we don’t see ourselves as equal. Rather, it implies that we see ourselves as different and disconnected, and feeling this way can pull us into the trap of helping others to ascertain a sense of self-worth which can imply subtle judgement rooted in hierarchical thinking. However, once we recognize that we too need help from time to time (and that this is totally okay), extending compassion becomes a radical act. An act of radical openness, vulnerability and fearlessness. It signifies a willingness to sit with another person in their pain while simultaneously holding yours in your consciousness, using it as a means to connect and foster empathy. It signifies that we are willing to extend compassion to each and every person who crosses our path, always remaining cognizant of the fact that we never know what’s going on beneath exterior.

Compassion is a fearless choice. Compassion is a courageous commitment to recognizing the beauty that resides within each and every person on this planet, including ourselves.

Compassion is love in its rawest form.

 

 

     

 

The Problem with Self-Improvement.

 
 
 

Truth be told, I am not a fan of the idea of self-improvement. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that striving for personal growth is a bad thing. It is most definitely not. In fact, striving for growth is what fills our lives with hope founded in possibility. To know that there is always more to come, untouched avenues of ourselves to explore, and endless opportunities to expand, is the fuel of life. It propels us forward, and inspires a sense of personal contentment grounded in the prospect of the sweet unknown.

The problem then, does not lie in the notion itself, but in the language we use around the concept personal development. Here’s why: to “improve oneself” implies that there is something that needs to be fixed. It implies a movement away from wholeness and into fragmentation. It implies lack, and can perpetuate thoughts like “I am not good enough until I ______________.” As a result, we can become easily transfixed by how far we still have to go. Feelings of disempowerment manifest, because the space between who we are, and who we want to be appears as far too vast and thus, impossible to cross.

Welcome self-judgment and criticism. Welcome hopelessness. Welcome perceived limitations. In other words, welcome all the things that keep us stagnant, and prevent us from going where we desire to be. You see, the problem with framing our personal growth as an act of “improvement” is that it places us behind the eight ball, because we start our journeys from a place of disadvantage.

Clearly then, the process of personal evolution requires a compassionate reframe- a movement from a mindset of lack and fragmentation to one of abundance and wholeness.

So, the question becomes: how can we engage in the process of personal growth more effectively?

By recognizing how far we’ve already come. By noting our successes and strengths. By celebrating our individual uniqueness. Ultimately, by recognizing that as human beings we are already whole, and perfectly imperfect, and that this perfect imperfection is enough.

Plain and simple: There is nothing about anyone us that requires improvement.

When we really and truly resonate with this notion- that we all start our personal journey as whole, and perfectly imperfect beings- pursuits of personal growth resound more deeply. We are better able to wrestle with and contemplate the various lessons available to us, because when we are starting from a foundation of personal empowerment, we are better able to weave these lessons into the patterns of our lives so that they effectively align with who we desire to be.

More simply put, our personal authenticity flourishes when we recognize that our job is to not improve but to evolve.

Self-evolution is not a timed process. It occurs naturally- when you’re ready to truly feel and absorb the lessons available to you. The pressure comes off.

Welcome self-compassion, kindness, and unconditional self-acceptance. Welcome graceful forward movement. Welcome contentment and fulfillment.

Welcome your best life.

I Just Want You to Know: A Story of Anticipatory Grief.

 
 
 
 

About a year ago, as I was sitting with my grandmother watching my grandfather, her husband of 57 years, take his last breaths in hospice care, she asked me why anyone would ever want to do this work- caring for people in their last days of life, as she found it utterly depressing and void of hope. My answer to her was quickly and easily given: “because it’s about love.” It’s about free-flowing, unbounded gratitude, raw vulnerability and pure courage.

Hanging in the balance between present reality and future uncertainty, between “have” and “have lost” unites us. It breaks the walls of fear which often surround us and allows us to shed our protective masks. We begin to fearlessly stand in what’s real, unapologetically, for time adopts a new sense of significance when we recognize that it truly is finite.  All things felt, but never said rise to the surface and are expressed with a sense of urgency. Hugs are given. Connection is fostered and love shines brightly.

When I talk to people about my experience of watching my grandfather’s health rapidly decline over a period of about six months, I don’t deny that it is one of the hardest things I have experienced. It was a time wrought with fear of what was to come. I spent many nights worrying about what he was feeling, and how I was to continue living my life without him. At the same time though, those six months were abundantly powerful, because alongside the fears and sleepless nights was a new sense of meaning. Each interaction we shared, we both recognized, was a gift. We were able to have the conversations that we would not have had otherwise, without any sense reservation. Vulnerability was brought to the table in a very real way.

Those six months were about living in the space of fearless authenticity which arose from us both feeling that we were given the permission to engage in those conversations. But here’s the thing,the idea that we need to be given permission to be authentic, and courageously vulnerable with those for whom we care the most, is false. The all-important and life-altering conversations which only seem to happen when time is of the essence, need to start happening without an underlying reason, and without feeling as though we need to be given permission. They need to start happening simply because the people who fill our lives are to be cherished. We need to start letting life unite us, for it is far more fragile than we often care to admit.

So go ahead and be generous with your words of love and gratitude. Tell people what they mean to you and how they have impacted your life. Say “I love you” just because you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Element Found in True Kindness.

 
 

Taking a moment to ponder the notion of kindness typically evokes associations like generosity, acceptance, love, respect, goodness, compassion, tenderness, understanding, softness, gentleness, sympathy and so forth. What it doesn’t usually evoke though, is the concept of detachment. The concept of detachment (at least in my experience) tends to get a bit of a bad rap. It tends to be associated with coldness, being uncaring, aloof, disengaged, apathetic etc.

However, I am of the belief that detachment is the often missed element in the practice of kindness. To me, detachment signifies liberation, empowerment, trust, and underlies one’s ability to be fully present and engaged with another human being.

Detachment means doing away with the agenda, doing away with “you should” and ultimately doing away with the slight undercurrent of judgement that can often underlie expressions of kindness (with the best of intentions of course). Detachment means taking your personal investment out of your attempt to help a fellow human being. Because here’s the thing, when helping someone is laden with a pre-set agenda (i.e. “I know what will help them because I have been there before and they should listen to me”) it becomes about the needs of the helper not the needs of the one who is reaching out for help. It fosters a hierarchical dynamic in which the person reaching out for help may feel that he or she will disappoint, anger, or upset the one they have reached out to if they do not follow their advice.

Supporting someone from a detached stance allows the person to “just be” without being burdened by the additional weight of expectation. It’s about investing a sense of trust in the other person, and allowing space for them to “forge their own path” instead of providing the map for them. It’s about being a non-judgemental witness and companion on their unique journey, feeding their sense of power, inner strength and resiliency in the process. It’s no longer about fixing it for them, but about helping them uncover the internal resources they already possess. Helping someone from a detached stance then, shifts the helper’s focus from problem solving in the immediate sense, to becoming a vessel for the person’s empowerment in the long-term…and that is pretty powerful stuff, for it is through becoming mechanisms for one another’s personal expansion that we’ll begin to shift the consciousness of the planet, and create a kinder world.

When Gratitude is Detrimental.

Gratitude. I am all about it. For me, it is an intentional, daily practice. On those not so great days, it takes me out of the negative spiral that often manifests, and helps me to reframe and refocus. It allows me to stand back from the “negative” happenings in my life and extract the lessons and insights. Gratitude helps me to evolve, expand, and move ever closer to the person I want to be in this life.

Gratitude is the foundation of clarity.

Intentional gratitude is incredibly powerful and transformative, and lies at the crux of authentic wellbeing, if appropriately timed.

The transformative power of gratitude can only take root if correctly placed on your path of self-evolution.

If misused, gratitude can be hugely detrimental to your growth. It can block you and keep you in an insincere self-space. The problem with gratitude arises when it is used to mask the impacts of painful life events.

Something utterly devastating has just happened to you. You feel like your world is falling apart. You’re hurt, overwhelmed, and in pain, and it’s terrifying. You don’t know what to do with your feelings. You don’t want to tell anyone for fear of appearing weak. You don’t want people’s pity, so if you do reach out, you skim the surface of what you’re experiencing, and slap it with a “I should be grateful though, it could be worse”, severely downplaying your current internal reality. And so, gratitude becomes the new name of avoidance, resistance, denial, self-betrayal, and self-criticism.

This “gratitude” promotes a hierarchy of suffering, and fuels the notion that human suffering and pain is to be classified. We use it to measure our worthiness of receiving love and compassion from others, isolating ourselves as a result, often deepening our pain.

As powerful as gratitude is, it needs to come after giving yourself the permission to simply be with your internal reality, because it is calling to be seen, heard, and deeply felt. There is no such thing as a hierarchy of suffering. Your pain is worthy of attention because it is real for you- it doesn’t come with conditions.

Give yourself permission to surrender to what is, and gratitude will unfold naturally, for authentic gratitude is a by-product of a healing heart.

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.