A few weeks ago, I posted briefly on social media about finding glitter hearts on my counter and having no idea where they came from other than to think maybe they were somehow associated with the Love Summit the Vision Collective was teaching the day the hearts first appeared. The story has evolved somewhat since then.
I found the first batch of hearts on 2/8 - the day of the Love Summit. That day, unbeknownst to me, my husband Jim, who has coronary artery disease, had a major chest pain that he didn't tell me about.
The hearts continued to appear in our house for the next few days in unlikely locations. There was one in my kitchen sink. One in the entryway. One on a cutting board. One on the counter.
We had no idea the source of the hearts because neither of us had brought any into the house, and our kids are grown, so there wasn't really anywhere they might've come from. There were no Valentines flowers, cards, or gifts. So we thought, well huh, isn't that strange? I wonder where they are coming from.
My friend, psychic medium Seth Michael contacted me and said he thought maybe they were coming from my dad, who died on February 1 two years ago. Barring logical explanation, it was as good of an explanation as any.
Jim and I took a trip to Canada the week before last. While we were in Victoria, BC, he started to share with me he was having chest pains, which worried me. We went to an indigenous people's healing site near Nanaimo BC, and Jim said while there, he had a profound energetic experience and felt better than he had in months. Then, as soon as we left the site, his chest discomfort started again.
As we were passing through customs back into the US, the agents were looking for a male with a last name similar to ours, and we were detained. This was, naturally, very stressful for Jim, and he started having chest pains again. We were cleared and released after about 20 minutes when they realized they had the wrong guy. I was, naturally, extremely worried about Jim.
As soon as we were home, Jim went to Urgent Care. He was given a chest x-ray and sent home with a BP medication. The clinic promised they would refer him to a cardiologist, which they failed to do.
Last Tuesday night (which was our wedding anniversary), Jim started having major chest pains that wouldn't go away. I called an ambulance, and he was taken to the hospital. They determined he wasn't having a heart attack (whew), but was suffering from unstable angina most likely brought about by a blockage from his coronary artery disease. This wasn't our first rodeo - he's had stents before - but our local hospital was unable to do an angioplasty because they didn't have a cardiologist or a cath lab. Life in a small town.
Jim was transferred by ambulance to a hospital in Vancouver, WA on Thursday and received his angiogram on Friday. He received two shiny, new stents and was sent home on Saturday. He feels better than he has in years and suspects that his experience at the sacred indigenous people's spot in BC was a preview of how he'd feel once his blockage was cleared. It turns out he's been feeling this way for about six months (something I was picking up on and kept asking him about but he kept denying). He was in denial I suspect, because heart surgery is never fun.
My friend Kristen Gray and Seth both suggested maybe the hearts we'd found were warnings about Jim's worsening heart issues, and Kristen pointed out the hearts started arriving the day Jim had his first really significant chest pain. Saturday morning as I drove to pick Jim up from the hospital in Vancouver and bring him home, I said to the universe, "If the hearts were a warning about Jim's heart, please send me another heart." Then I promptly forgot about it because I was exhausted.
Jim came home on Saturday afternoon. We hadn't seen any hearts in a few weeks and in fact, I'd forgotten about them until Kristen reminded me. Sunday, my urge was to clean the house top to bottom and energetically cleanse the house of all of the spiritual energy associated with Jim's illness so we could get a fresh start. We even bought a new Dyson vacuum (our old one was about 15 years old) so I could suck up every little bit of lingering energy. When we were putting the new vacuum together, I found a heart next to the couch on the floor.
Then, I vacuumed the entire house, including all of the furniture, window seats, and other upholstery. The house was sparkling clean and the energy felt so much better. Exhausted from the ordeal of Jim's illness and my cleaning efforts (as well as a lack of sleep associated with late night emergency room visits and worries about a hubby in the hospital for heart issues), I flopped on the couch next to my dog, Monkey. The couch was freshly vacuumed, and Monkey was sound asleep. I was freshly showered. I looked at Monkey several times and petted her. Then, I looked away. When I looked back, there was a red foil heart on the couch right next to her where there hadn't been one before.
Just now, I got up from where I work and found another heart on the floor - moments after contemplating posting this story on my blog. I guess that was my confirmation.
It took me a while to realize I'd received my answer since I'd forgotten I even asked the question. The universe tells us things - we just need to pay attention.
I haven't blogged much recently because I've been extremely busy either working on books or traveling. The result is that there are lots of new books available - dream interpretation, crystal alchemy, energy healing, an all degrees Reiki manual, and the upcoming crystal grids books were all topics of books I completed within the past year. There's another I've completed but am not ready to tell you about yet, so keep an eye out!
Jim and I have been traveling every few months - some as quick getaways and some extended trips. Two of the places we've visited are highly sacred places to me: Mount Shasta in Northern California and Sedona, Arizona. Both are places where the energy is just different. It's healing, loving, and accepting. In fact, because Mount Shasta is within driving distance, we've been there twice in about a five month period. It's a little bit more of a haul to get to Sedona, but we visited twice in the past year and hope to return once a year or so.
Mount Shasta, California
Mount Shasta is believed to be a healing vortex, and I can definitely attest to its healing and restorative powers. The town is filled with light workers - psychics, energy healers, astrologers, and others. And although I haven't seen any, I've also heard it's a great place for UFO spotters. Legend holds that the mountain is also home to multiple highly evolved beings that live inside of the mountains and the nearby Black Butte and Castle Crags.
We like to stay in the small town of Mount Shasta at the Shasta MountInn, which is a small B&B that's the perfect, peaceful location. The photo above of the alpenglow was taken from the second story deck of the Shasta MountINN, so you can see the view is fabulous as well.
One special feature of the Shasta MountInn is its Vogel crystal healing bed. It provides a powerful healing experience. It combines light and color therapy, Vogel crystals, sound, and vibration.
I also really love that tiny town has 8 or 9 metaphysical and crystal shops as well as some of the purest water in the country. You can even visit the headwaters of the Sacramento River while you're in town and gather some spring fed, pure water that has filtered for seven years through the mountain before it forms the Sacramento River. The waters are said to be healing, and many people gather the water for drinking when they visit. The headwaters are also said to be an energy vortex where one can encounter angelic beings and gain sacred understandings.
Another healing place in the area is Burney Falls, which is located about a 50-minute drive from the city of Mount Shasta in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. Theodore Roosevelt called Burney Falls "the eighth wonder of the world," and the local Ilmawi believed it was a power spot and used it as a place for meditation and vision. The falls are fed by an underground aquifer, and they are also believed to be the home to a water sprite called Undine, who is seen emerging from the mists of the falls.
It's a quick 1/3 mile hike from the upper falls down to the base of the falls on mostly paved switchback trail, and it's well worth the short walk.
While in the area, you can also take a short 10 minute drive down I-5 south to see Castle Crags, a 225 million year old 6,500 foot tall rock formation. Legend suggests Castle Crags is the remains of the ancient civilization, Lemuria and the remains of the lost continent of Mu.
When I visit Sedona, it always feels like the mothership calling me home. Sedona has a very special energy, and it's also known to be surrounded by multiple healing vortexes. The town is friendly and filled with an eclectic mix of artists, spiritual seekers and teachers, energy healers, retirees, and tourists. It's also one of the most physically and energetically beautiful places on the planet.
The photo above is the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It's a Catholic chapel, but it is also one of Sedona's easiest to feel healing vortexes. I performed a distance Reiki healing session for a large group of people here, and it was incredibly powerful. In fact, I had my own healing experience at the Chapel of the Holy Cross last year when I was in Sedona.
I had experienced a major blood loss event and had lost about 50 percent of my blood. I was barely ambulatory, but Jim and I had a non-refundable trip to Las Vegas scheduled, so we decided to go anyway. I barely made it through the airport in Portland and actually had to pre-board the plane. At the time, I could walk maybe five to ten feet before I'd need to sit down and rest.
Instead of exploring Vegas, which is virtually impossible to do when you're as ill as I was, Jim spent each day driving to different places nearby. The first place we drove was Sedona. The chapel sits up on top of a hill, and there's not a lot of parking, so Jim dropped me off at the bottom of the hill below the chapel and went to park the car. While I was waiting for Jim, I experienced a surge of energy and walked up the hill to the chapel with no trouble at all. Suddenly, I felt incredible. I was able to not only walk up hills, but I was able to walk around Las Vegas and at Bryce Canyon (also an incredible sacred healing location) without any of my earlier issues from the blood loss. It was a profound healing experience for me, which is why I decided to channel distance Reiki from that location on this last trip.
Sedona has multiple vortex sites in and around town, although many of them (such as Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte above) require a hike to get to the very center of the vortex. However, even nearing these huge rock formations allows you to feel the energy . of the vortex, so if you're not up to hiking you can still experience on a milder level how the vortex feels. The two easiest to reach vortexes are at the Chapel of the Holy Cross and the Airport Vortex. With both of those, you can park and only need to walk up a short hill to get there, and at both the views are spectacular.
We also hiked to the Seven Sacred Pools which is on the Soldier Pass hiking trail. It's a relatively easy walk along wide, rocky trails to get to the pools, and the scenery along the way is incredible. It's about a .6 mile walk to the pools from the trailhead. The pools are a natural sandstone formation with seven pools tumbling down over the red rocks. This was a sacred site to local indigenous peoples, and it has a peaceful and beautiful healing energy to the location. To me, the seven pools felt like a place to balance and clear the energy of your 7 sacred centers, your chakras.
We also took a small, 6-seat sight seeing plane trip over the Grand Canyon. Being above the earth in such a way inspires awe for just how amazingly created this world we live in actually is, and for me it instilled awe and an understanding of how perfectly our planet has been formed.
Bryce Canyon, Utah
I visited Bryce Canyon last year on my trip to Las Vegas, and we will visit there again next spring. It's an incredibly beautiful place that was once home to the Paiute. There is a Paiute legend about the canyon that Coyote turned bad people and creatures into the rock formations in the canyon, which are called Hoodoos (also called fairy chimneys or earth pyramids).
While visiting, I experienced a profound sense of the sacred there. I believe the Hoodoos are the source of the sacred energy because I experienced a similar sensation in Oak Creek Canyon outside of Sedona, which also has hoodoos.
Finally, another place where I truly feel sacred and healing energy is on the island of Kauai. I haven't visited in a few years, but I wanted to include it as one of the sacred places I've visited. Kauai and the Hawaiian Islands are another place some people believe is the location of the ancient civilization Lemuria. And whether it is or not, to me it has an untouched beauty and sacred energy that never fails to renew and heal me.
I am frequently asked about weight and weight loss after my classes, online, and when I appear at events. Today, I realized it's not something I've discussed in my energy healing books, which is strange when you think about it because according to NIH, 2/3 of the adults in America are either overweight or obese. It may even be doubly strange I haven't talked about weight in the context of energy healing because I often write about body image and health nutrition in my other work, particularly my cooking blog and cookbooks.
At one point, I would have described my own journey as a "struggle" with weight and told you that while it wasn't something that I necessarily felt defined me, it has certainly been a lifelong issue with which I continue to contend. I have gained and lost what I can only imagine are hundreds of pounds over the course of my life, and often my self-image of the moment was tied in to how much I weighed or what size I wore; or, as I thought of it, where I was on the yo-yo. I even had a body positivity essay I'd written called "How Being Fat Set Me Free" published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book.
However, as new research has come to the fore and I've worked to heal my own spiritual, physical, and emotional, and energetic issues, how I think about and understand weight gain, overweight and obesity, nutrition, body image, and health have shifted completely. And so I want to address weight in a very honest and compassionate way based on not only my understanding of nutrition and health, but also from the perspective of energy healing. Buckle up - this is going to be a lot of information.
I want to start by saying this: If you feel weight and body image has been a defining struggle in your life, you are not alone. It is something many people ask me about after my energy healing classes or in the messages they send me. They usually ask privately and quietly, looking around to make sure nobody else can hear them. As an empath, I often sense a deep feeling of shame from them as they ask. Trust me. I get it. It took me years to come to terms with my weight and even now, when I look at pictures, I sometimes cringe because I am heavier than I would like to be.
Weight is a painful issue for many. Being overweight is one of the last acceptable prejudices in our society. I spent years seeking medical diagnosis of a condition I knew I had from physicians who were unwilling to listen to anything I had to say from the moment I walked into their office as a fat woman. It took me more than two decades to even have a doctor be willing to order the simple blood test I needed to diagnose my Hashimoto's thyroiditis in spite of the fact I knew what it was due to my family history almost immediately when I started experiencing symptoms (and I fiercely advocated for myself). No matter what my health issue was for which I sought care and treatment for nearly 25 years, the diagnosis was fat. I had a cold because I was fat. I had kidney stones because I was fat. I sprained my ankle because I was fat. A bug flew into my eye because I was so fat, how could it miss me? Try as I might to advocate for myself, because of this dismissal from virtually everyone I encountered in the medical field, I felt deeply ashamed.
I've spent years studying health, nutrition, energy healing, weight, autoimmune disease, and many other subjects. I believe nutrition, movement, health, and physical habits are just as important a part of honoring our soul's path as spiritual practices and energy healing. There is a deep, unbreakable connection between body, mind, and spirit and when we experience imbalance in one, then there are imbalances in the other two as well. The result is dis-ease: a lack of ease in the body, mind, and spirit. This is important to understand for all conditions, and particularly for issues associated with weight.
When you consider this interconnectedness of body-mind-spirit from a weight perspective, it becomes even clearer. The best way I can explain it is from the perspective of my story, which I'm sure is similar in many ways to some of yours.
I've always been a curvy girl. Even when my body fat was extremely low when I taught aerobics and competed as a bodybuilder, I still had boobs and a butt. It's just my body shape (I'm an hourglass), but in the 80s as I grew into my adulthood, curvy girls weren't fashionable. The body type back then was aerobically fit, flat, and extremely slim. Because of my body type, I often felt fat, and people often commented that I was "overweight" (I wore a 1980s size 7 which is probably about a 3 to 5 now). Media images perpetuated the message that my perfectly healthy body was somehow gross and aberrant.
Because of this ambiguity about my weight, I developed the belief I didn't deserve to eat. When I ate anything, I felt powerful shame for my weakness. And then I spent hours exercising just to counteract an apple. Perhaps not surprisingly, by the time I was in college I had an eating disorder. I mostly didn't eat. When I did I threw up and exercised fanatically. I came home from my freshman year in college the thinnest I'd ever been as a 1980s size 0 to 3, and for the first time ever, people started complimenting me on how my body looked.
And so, I developed a belief about my body and food. Eating - any type of eating - was bad and shameful. I was not entitled to eat. Think about that. I developed the belief I was not entitled to provide my body with nourishment. When I ate with people and they expressed envy at how little I ate, I felt virtuous. If I did eat something on the "bad" list and someone made a comment such as, "I don't know how you can stay skinny and eat a cookie," I was embarrassed and ashamed. I had created and embodied a pattern of thoughts that continued to plague me for decades.
I also believed that about three hours of punishing exercise a day was good. If I only did two, I was ashamed of myself. If I sat and rested, I felt ashamed. I came to believe I was no longer entitled to nurture my body and give it rest, even when it cried out for it or when it was injured. At one point, I broke my foot (I dropped a 50 pound dumbbell on it) and continued to work out on my foot because to not work out didn't seem like an option.
After college, I was certified by ACE as a personal trainer and an aerobics instructor. I worked in a gym and taught 12 90-minute aerobics classes per week. I was a competitive bodybuilder and coached a bodybuilding team, so I also spent at least 3 hours and usually more per day lifting weights. At the same time, I ate about 900 calories a day (I know because I tracked it religiously) so I could lose body fat and be competition ready. I was exhausted all of the time and terribly unhealthy, but people regularly complimented me about how I looked, how fit I was, and how thin I was. I wore a size 0.
I clearly remember the day it all changed. I was at the gym doing my normal thing when I suddenly felt something shift inside of me. As if someone had flipped a light switch, all of the energy drained from me, and I started to shake and cry. It was as if one minute I felt normal and the next minute, I felt totally unlike myself.
And then the weight started to come on. After the first 40 pounds, I went to see my doctor, terribly ashamed of what was happening. I remember telling him what my symptoms were: exhaustion, anxiety, hair loss, always being cold, brain fog, rapid weight gain in spite of the fact I was only eating about 900 calories a day and continuing to exercise as much as I could. This is what my doctor told me: "You're not a bad person because you're getting fat. Remember that. But you are eating too much and not moving enough. I think you must be underestimating how much you eat and overestimating how much you exercise." He didn't order tests. He didn't do a physical examination. He sent me home with a pamphlet on diet and offered me a prescription for diet pills, which I had the presence of mind to refuse. So essentially he told me a) I was getting fat; b) it was my fault; and c) I was either deluded or a liar about my food intake and exercise. And although I measured every portion, tracked every calorie, and counted every minute of exercise, I believed him because he was an authority and I was not.
This was the pattern for the next two decades until my weight soared to over 300 pounds, I was exhausted all the time, I had exercise intolerance, and I constantly felt ill. During that time, doctors continued to berate me for my weight, tell me all I needed to do was eat less and move more and be more honest about how much I ate and moved, and not a single one ever suggested that what was happening to me might be a symptom of something else. In most cases, I had begged those doctors to test my T3 and T4 thyroid hormones because I knew what was happening to me, but they would only test my TSH, tell me it was within normal limits, and send me on my way feeling discouraged and ashamed.
As the years went on, I developed a deep distrust of the conventional medical system in our country. I stopped visiting doctors unless it was an emergency, because I knew what they would say and how they would treat me. Most could barely hide the disgust in their eyes and their impatience. I started to work with energy healing and alternative medicine concepts and studied nutrition in depth to find out what it was my body needed. I was beginning to get a picture of health and nutrition that was quite different than any of my doctors had ever shared with me, and I knew I needed to make vital changes in my emotional, spiritual, and physical self.
Then one day I ran into a friend who had shared many similar struggles. She had a sparkle in her eyes and looked healthy and happy. She'd also lost significant weight. It turned out, she had been treated by a local nurse practitioner who didn't approach health care in quite the same way. With a glimmer of hope, I made an appointment. It was life-changing.
At my first appointment, the nurse practitioner ordered what I'd been asking doctors to order for years - a T3 and T4 thyroid blood test. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it came back abnormal, and I was finally able to receive the Hashimoto's thyroiditis and celiac disease diagnosis. She told me that my health picture was complex from years of misdiagnosis and misinformation, but that we could unravel the knot. I cried on the way home from my appointment, relieved someone had finally talked to me and heard what I was saying rather than talked at me and berated me.
With my prescription of natural desiccated thyroid medication and the elimination of gluten from my diet, I noticed a substantial improvement in many of my symptoms, and I actually started to lose weight. With that puzzle piece in place combined with what I'd learned about nutrition, movement, and energy healing, I began to make real strides in improving my health and finding a place of balance once again. It took a long time, and I had to make significant changes in my beliefs about myself as well as in how I nourished my body.
What You Can Learn from My Story
My health picture was extremely complex, and it was deeply rooted in trauma I'd experienced in my life, my belief systems about myself and food, the ways I chose to move and nourish my body, and much more. The shame I felt and my belief my body had completely betrayed me also contributed to my growing ill health and dis-ease. In my case (as in almost everyone else's case), the physical affected the emotional, which affected the spiritual, and it all looped around itself with each of these factors affecting the other to create a state of chaotic imbalance in my being. Therefore, regardless of what I did for diet or how I tried to balance myself spiritually, until I'd worked through the emotional beliefs I'd absorbed and created about food, my body, and health, I was unable to unravel the gordian knot.
As I started to unravel it, I realized my weight issue was related not only to messages I'd internalized about ideal bodies, but also to trauma sustained as a child and in young adulthood, food choices that didn't work with my body's unique needs, lack of care when my body cried out for food and rest, shame about the biological necessity of nourishing my body with food, negative messages from the medical establishment and media, and much more. My body was the outward expression of all of the pain I was holding onto. The fat created a layer of protection that I felt kept me safe from sustaining further trauma. It was only with a combination of loving care for my body, medical intervention to diagnose celiac and Hashimoto's diseases, healing nutrition, sustainable and pleasurable movement, forgiveness of self and others, deep spiritual and emotional work on body image, energy healing work, and additional spiritual work that I was finally able to gain some level of control. And for most people with overweight and obesity or body image issues, their situation may not be exactly the same as mine, but it is likely just as complex.
Managing the Physical Aspects of Obesity: It Is Not a Disease - It Is a Symptom
Here's something many of you have probably never heard from your health care providers, but it is nonetheless true. Overweight and obesity is not who or what you are. It does not define you, nor does it say anything about you other than this: It is a symptom of underlying medical issues. Obesity and overweight is not the disease. It is the symptom. Even if you're drowning your sorrows in a gallon of ice cream and two large extra cheese meat lovers pizzas every night before you go to bed, it is a symptom. I'll say it again because this is so important. Overweight and obesity is NOT a disease of its own. It is a symptom that is the manifestation of processes that have gone wrong in your body (often hormonal), and obesity researchers are starting to recognize this. Some possible causes of the symptom of overweight and obesity include:
So what can you do? There are several physical steps you can take:
Eat in a Way that Nurtures Your Body
Every body is different, so we all need to find ways to eat that work for us. However, one of the most important physical and emotional things you can do is eat to nurture your health. This involves a process of figuring out which foods work for your body and which don't. To discover this, I recommend a 15 to 30 day elimination diet (I've outlined an elimination diet in this blog post) followed by several weeks of testing various foods to see what your body tolerates well. Some general suggestions to eat to nurture your body:
Respect Your Body's Needs
Our bodies are constantly talking to us. We've just learned not to listen to them. Think about it: when we have a symptom, one of the first things we do is take a medicine to suppress it (aspirin for a headache, for example). But these symptoms are your body's signals, telling you there is an imbalance that needs correcting. When you mask the symptom or ignore it, you are discounting your body's message, which is telling you there is an underlying cause and something is wrong. When you are tired, your body is telling you it needs sleep. When you are in pain or have a symptom, your body is pointing out an imbalance that could lead to dis-ease. It's up to you to start to respect and listen to what your body has to tell you, and then to thank it for sending you clear signals.
Managing the Emotional and Spiritual Aspects of Weight
Ah the emotional aspects of weight. When you truly stop to think about what body fat is and what its purpose is, it seems almost silly body fat, the number on a scale, or the size of our ass are so emotionally fraught for so many of us. And yet, it is. We have huge emotions tied up in weight. We allow it to control us and to direct our self-image. Sometimes, we allow our fat to keep us from living our best lives. We allow our body size to define us. We believe that if there is more of us than there are of others, we are somehow, on some level, less than. And so, when we look at ourselves in the mirror or in a photograph, we cringe inwardly and send the message to our bodies, "I hate you."
With those simple three words, we do so much damage to ourselves. We hurt ourselves emotionally. We harm ourselves physically. And our spirit recedes just a little because we are disowning this spectacular biological marvel we carefully chose and gifted to ourselves when we were spirits deciding who and what we'd be in the adventure of our new embodied lives.
When we look at our bodies and hate them, we are rejecting the gift we gave ourselves out of love before we arrived as babies in our mothers' wombs.
Thought, words, and belief are powerful. Look no further than Masaru Emoto's research he laid out in The Hidden Messages in Water in which he showed just how powerfully thoughts affect how matter manifests. Look at the powerful picture of broken, muddy water crystals from thoughts like I hate you, versus lovely, ordered crystals from thoughts such as I love you. Your body is 60 percent water. Imagine how your thoughts, such as "You're ugly" or "I hate you," or "You're disgusting," affect your body, which has done nothing but love and support you from the moment you were born. If thoughts, words, and beliefs harm water, what does that energy do to you?
Don't believe your body has supported you since the moment you were born? It's a marvel. Every day your respiratory system takes more than 23,000 breaths without your intervention. Every day your feet and legs support you as you stand. Your heart pumps more than 115,000 times each day, sending the life force that is blood throughout your body. It has carried you all your life - millions of steps to get you where you need to go. Our bodies do this for us without being asked. Our bodies have always been there for us, but it's so easy to hate them rather than holding them in the awe, gratitude, and love they deserve.
There are many reasons we disconnect from our bodies. I know I did. For many years - most of my adult life actually, I felt as if I existed somewhere outside of my body - as if I hovered above it rather than inhabiting it. I had decided if I had no control of what was happening to me physically, I'd just become a mind and a spirit instead, and focus on those aspects of self. But without balance between the three, body-mind-spirit, there is no health and there is no wholeness. Even if we are gravely ill, we cannot disown our bodies. In fact, illness, pain, and bodily issues exist to force us to inhabit them so we can find balance and seek healing.
For many, disconnection from the body feels necessary to survive. For people who have endured physical or sexual abuse or trauma, it feels safer to pretend our bodies don't exist or aren't part of us. And often in the case of overweight and obesity, we pad ourselves with additional girth with the false belief we need extra size to keep us physically and/or emotionally safe. This creates only a false sense of security, however. Doing so distracts us from the true issue, and it keeps us from finding balance and true healing.
In other cases, our bodies are larger than normal to hold our generous, gigantic, overflowing spirits and big dreams. They have grown to suit us. They have grown to fit and support us. And yet, in spite of the gift our bodies have given us in this way, we say, "I hate you. Why can't you be thinner/more attractive/curvier..."
Our bodies need us as much as we need them. It is a partnership of three, and in order to live a rich, full embodied human life, we must respect this triumvirate. We cannot heal until we can look at our body in whatever form it takes with however much fat as it has on it and say with a depth of truth and gratitude, "I love you."
So how do we heal when we have internalized so many messages about our bodies for years, when we feel our bodies are a source of pain or shame, or when we truly feel betrayed by them because of what has happened to us? How do we learn that in order to be a fully realized and whole human being, we can't be a mind and spirit floating outside of a body? How do we get to a place where we can look at ourselves and truly say, "I love you body. Thank you body"?
We do the work. We delve deeply into our shadows to find the parts of ourselves that we hold in shame or pain, and we shine the light of love on them. We recognize the fallacy in the beliefs we hold about our physical selves. We speak words of affirmation, love, and acceptance towards our bodies, even when we don't believe them. We fake it 'til we make it. We wear clothes and jewelry that make us feel good. We stop worrying about what others think, throw convention aside, and clothe and decorate our bodies in ways that make us smile and laugh. We start using our bodies in ways that feel pleasurable and joyful to us. And we constantly monitor our thoughts for those fleeting messages that flit through our minds that tell us our bodies are somehow wrong, shameful, or not enough. And then, we practice gratitude with our bodies. We notice all they do for us and we take the time as often as we can to gently place our hands over our hearts, close our eyes, and say quietly and with feeling, "Thank you body."
You Have This Body for a Limited Time Only
Finally, remember this as you work on healing. You will you occupy this wonderful, beautiful, bold body for only a short time before you leave it, return to the Source, and then choose a new one for a new life. You chose this body when you were in spirit. You wanted it for a reason. It is where you reside, and for the immediate future where you go, it goes. It is here for you, and regardless of its condition, it is a pretty amazing partner that supports you even without you asking. Your body deserves your love. You deserve your love. It doesn't matter what size your body is or how it looks. It only matters how you inhabit it, how you treat it, and how much you love it for the time it is with you. So you might as well settle in and find as much joy in this lifetime as you can for as long as you have this body. It's been with you since birth, and it will always give you exactly what you need to serve your greatest good in this lifetime.
Thank you body. I love you body.
Today is the one-year anniversary of my dad's death. My family is understandably feeling sad today because he has been gone from us for an entire year.
During that year, people have generously shared memories of my dad. They tell us what a good man he was. They share stories of his humor, his compassion, his kindness, his caring, his integrity, and his willingness to help. They talk of his curious mind, his intelligence, and his quick wit. They discuss his acts of community service, his athletic feats, and how inspirational they found him.
My dad was that man. He did all of those things and more. But he was also human.
In his eulogy last year at Dad's memorial service, Rev.Gary Shoemaker started by saying this. "John Riseland was no saint, but with everything I'm going to tell you, by the time I'm done, you may think he was."
When someone dies, we tend to focus on all of the good things about that person. We romanticize them in our memories and in how we talk about them to loved ones who are grieving. We even have a saying in our culture, "Don't speak ill of the dead." I'm sure it's a respect thing, but I think we do a disservice to ourselves, to the person who has died, and to society as a whole when we immediately turn those who have passed from this realm into saints. In doing so, we strip them of their humanity.
My dad was a good man. In fact, it's likely he was a great man. He was a wonderful son, father, husband, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, friend, and human being. He is someone I've always tried to emulate. But he was no saint. He was a human being. He made mistakes, but as soon as he realized he had, he apologized, made amends, and tried to do better. He was a decent athlete, but he was also pretty clumsy. He was involved in his church and believed deeply in the power of the church to bring healing to communities, but he frequently questioned his own faith. He was open-minded but often got a little cranky in political arguments. He was compassionate and slow to anger, but trust me, he could get mad. As a teen, I personally experienced his temper each time I made a new dent to his car. (In his defense, there were a lot.) He was very funny, but sometimes his jokes were really, really awful.
My dad was no saint. He made mistakes. He was a human being. But he was also a man of tremendous integrity, kindness, compassion, and depth. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, son, uncle, and friend. He loved profoundly, and his emotions ran deep. And the beauty of all of that is this: every one of those wonderful stories people have shared with my family about my dad in the past year are true. He was all of those beautiful things in spite of the fact he was also a fallible human being. His goodness far overrode any flaws or mistakes.
And so, going into the second year without his presence in my life, I choose to remember all aspects of my dad. Because in spite of having the fallibility of every other human on earth, he chose to make goodness the overall focus of his life, and I think that's far more relatable and easier to aspire to than sainthood. My dad was no saint, but he lived a beautiful life. He was one of the best men I've ever known, and it helps me to remember that during the times when I, too, am no saint.
My dad had a lot of Clark Griswold in him. In fact, I'm relatively certain his Clark Griswold-like characteristics were so pronounced they were mentioned at his funeral. Every year during the holidays, he and my mom packed the family into our Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon (complete with moon roof and "wood" side panels) and drove off in search of the perfect Christmas tree. We hunted Christmas trees in rain, fog, snow, Nor'easters, and below freezing temps. We were dedicated with my dad leading the charge, and we drove triumphantly home with our fresh cut tree strapped to the car's ski racks. During the holidays when I was growing up, we always had a live, fresh cut Christmas tree adorning our living room in the little blue house on Broadway. One year to my sister Jenny's displeasure, it was a tree she had planted and nurtured in our yard over the years, but that's another story for another day.
Fresh cut Christmas trees were a holiday tradition I sadly didn't carry on with my family. Given how lifelike artificial trees have become in the past few decades, we've always had one of those instead. I didn't have to vacuum up needles or worry about fires like my mom did, but we never went tromping through the woods or a Christmas tree farm with the kids, never strapped a tree to the top of our car, and our house was never scented with the aroma of evergreen.
As the holidays approached this year, I wasn't certain I was even going to decorate my artificial Christmas tree. I've viewed the holidays with some trepidation this year because it is my first without my dad. Our kids are grown and don't live at home anymore and making the effort of hauling out our tree and schlepping it downstairs, digging out our ornaments, and hanging them seemed pointless and like a lot of work I just didn't feel like doing.
My dad has been gone for 10 months now, and I have coped with my grief in stages. His illness and death were unexpected, sudden, and brutal in their intensity. In many ways, it still doesn't seem real that he is gone. Yet he is.
My first stage of grieving was numbness. I had other people to worry about, work projects to take care of, classes to teach, books to write, and more. In those early months my grief bubbled up occasionally, but I was always able to tamp it down and refocus on my task at hand instead. During that stage I wrote a tribute to him, accepted and thanked people for their condolences, tried to comfort my family, dedicated a book or two to him, and congratulated myself on being okay. I was so numb I didn't realize I wasn't.
In the next stage, I started to process. I allowed my grief and took the time to acknowledge it. As I am given to do, I did much of my processing in writing with tears streaming down my face. During this phase, I also spent a lot of time doing things I enjoyed. I traveled multiple places with Jim and with friends. I went on several boats. I wrote a lot and communicated with my readers via this blog and social media. I taught a multiple classes. Unfortunately, my dog Sofie became ill and died during this time, as well. I thought I handled it pretty well.
In mid-October, I realized I was exhausted. I'd been struggling with an ongoing health issue since May when I accidentally ingested gluten while traveling (I have celiac disease and eating even trace amounts of gluten can send me into a health and inflammatory spiral that lasts for about six months). I felt drained of life force energy. I've always been even-keeled, emotionally and spiritually energetic, optimistic, and generally relaxed and happy no matter what is going on in my life, but I noticed even the smallest things sent me into a flurry of stress. My ability to cope was gone, and I felt spiritually, emotionally, and physically depleted. All I wanted to do was sleep and go somewhere to spend weeks away from all people recharging my batteries. I took some time off from teaching my classes (I will resume in January), stopped writing blogs and working on books or projects, spent almost no time on social media, and spent less time around people. There was a period in late October and early November after we returned from a trip to Nevada, Arizona, and Utah where I didn't leave the house for about ten days because I was so ill and depleted, and I felt I just couldn't "do people." I emerged briefly to attend the Port Gamble Ghost Conference the week before Thanksgiving because I'd committed to do so months ago, but then I returned home and into my self-imposed exile.
It was during this period I started to dread the holidays because there was a big, dad-shaped hole right in the middle of them. Jim's car broke down and he had to work over Thanksgiving, so I was unable to travel to be with my family. I sat home with the dogs all day on Thanksgiving and pretended it was just any other day. In fact, it's only been in the past week when I've started to peek out of my hole, get out into the world, and feel as if I am coming to life again. It turns out that while the exile felt awful while I was going through it, it was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries.
I remained unsure what I was going to do about Christmas. I still had no intention of putting up a Christmas tree or decorating. Then, I was chatting with my friend Teresa last night about old family Christmas traditions and we started talking about fresh Christmas trees and how much we loved then. In my tentative journeys back into the world, I noticed a few places had living Christmas trees, and I had been feeling a pull towards them. When I was talking to Teresa, it struck me exactly what I wanted to do for the holidays. I decided to buy a small living Christmas tree in honor of my father. If the ground isn't frozen, I will plant it on the first anniversary of his death (2/1). If it is frozen, I'll plant it as soon as I can. In this way, I feel like my dad is still a part of my holidays.
Today I went to Home Depot and was gratified to discover they had living Christmas trees. I chose a small spruce and got some tiny lights and ornaments and brought it home to decorate.
The photo to the left is my living Christmas tree tribute to my dad. The star on the top is a stained glass ornament my dad made for me. I had forgotten I had it, but when I found it I was delighted because it was perfect. (Those are my citrus trees in the background. They are wintering indoors in a south facing window where they can stay warm and get lots of sunlight).
I've written a lot about grief in 2018, and I've shared much of it with my readers. My grief has manifested in many ways throughout the year. At times I've ignored it and soldiered on and at times I've acknowledged and allowed it. I've found the times of allowing have felt more healing to me than the times of ignoring. Go figure.
I know many people are facing a holiday season without a loved one. It's an experience most of us will share at some point because death is the great equalizer. It inhabits all of our lives with the memory of those who were once with us in body but no longer are. Your grief may feel raw and fresh, or it may have mellowed with time, but times of family gatherings and tradition often serve to highlight those who are no longer with you.
However, if you can find a way to honor them in your holiday rituals, it may help. Whether it's getting a live Christmas tree and later planting it in your yard in their honor, buying ornaments that capture their essence and hanging them on your holiday tree, rejuvenating an old family holiday tradition, remembering them in prayer or meditation, donating to their favorite charity in their name, lighting candle in their honor, or something else that reminds you of them, it can help you heal. Create a new tradition for you and your family that honors those who have left you. Do something that captures their spirit and makes you smile. And as you do, open your heart and listen. You just may hear them whispering to you and realize that while they are physically no longer there, they have never left you.
My dad died on February 1 of this year. I don’t say that to garner sympathy but merely as a statement of truth. I say that because my dad no longer walks this earth, and that is my new reality.
He is not the first person I love who has died, but he is certainly the closest. His illness seemed sudden, although it had likely been around for months. In late October, he got a cold. He still had it at Thanksgiving, although his doctor assured him it was just a virus that was lingering. After the holidays when the cold was still there, his doctor grew concerned and sent him to a specialist. On January 10, he was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer and was in a severe amount of pain. No treatment would prolong his life. He entered hospice the last week in January and died after a few days. My mother, sister, nephew, husband, and I were all by his side as he breathed his last breath.
Over the past few decades, I’ve developed into a pretty chill person. Especially in the past five or so years, I’ve been an anxiety-free, happy-go-lucky, roll-with-the-punches kind of gal unless something extreme has happened. Perhaps not surprisingly, that is also the period in my life where I’ve hit my stride as an intuitive energy healer and psychic medium. Living what I believe is my life’s true purpose has smoothed my rough edges and given me a broader perspective about life and death. It’s allowed me to move into my authentic self. I’ve communicated with hundreds of spirits of people who have passed, including some I love. I’ve offered comfort to people who are mourning the loss of loved ones. So I guess somewhere in the back of my mind, I believed that when one of my immediate family members died, I would handle it with a similar level of aplomb, understanding, and even-temperedness.
That didn’t happen.
On the day my father was diagnosed, I stopped eating. I couldn’t. I tried. I’d take a bite of food and nothing would go down. I barely slept. I threw myself into work. And in my darkest moments, I was convinced I didn’t remember how to swallow. I’d try to swallow and panic would set in until I was able to relax myself enough to do it. Then, as soon as I did, it would start all over again. I was terrified I was going to choke on my own saliva. I knew intellectually these were all manifestations of anxiety arising from the stress of my dad’s illness and worry about my mom, but even knowing and understanding that didn’t matter.
By about January 15, doctors told us my dad probably had six months left. It was plenty of time, I thought, that we could get together and say everything we had to say. My sisters and I planned a weekend with my parents at the beginning of February where the five of us could spend time together as a family. In the meantime, I threw myself into my work, taught my classes, and accepted any project that came my way to keep my mind busy. During that two weeks, I wrote two books if that tells you anything about how frantically I worked. You have lots of time to do stuff when you stop sleeping and eating.
Early in the week before we were supposed to spend the weekend with my parents, my mom called and said dad was going into hospice to get his pain under control. It sounded like he would be put on some medication and return home, just as he had the previous week when he was hospitalized for the same reason. Still, in my heart I knew my dad would enter hospice, and he wouldn’t return home. I hoped I was wrong, but I didn’t think I was.
The next day, mom called and told us if we wanted to see Dad, we needed to come now. Unfortunately, my younger sister had a flight from Hawaii where she lives in a few days and was unable to change it. My older sister, my husband, and I dropped everything and headed to my hometown where we sat with my mom and dad in hospice.
My father was minimally lucid when I arrived. He had short periods of wakefulness, but he was heavily drugged and would quickly drift off to sleep. It was difficult to understand what he said when he was speaking. In one particularly lucid moment, he opened his eyes, looked at me, said, “Hi Kar,” and then asked me, “Am I dying?” I told him yes because what else was I going to do?
It quickly became apparent that even as heavily medicated as he was, my father was still in significant pain, so meds were raised to try and control it. He slipped away then; he was out of pain and still with us but not really with us.
On Thursday evening while my younger sister was still on an airplane, Dad took a turn. Something changed. His breathing was different – more erratic. We knew it would be soon, and all of us stood by his side and talked to him. We told him it was okay to go, that mom would be okay, and that we would all be okay. We told him we loved him. Well, at first just my mom and my sister did because I was overcome. I couldn’t speak the words in my heart, but then as I got my emotions under control, I was able to tell him the same thing.
After a short period that seemed like forever, something in the room changed. I felt something – someone there. I knew his loved ones had come for him. I turned to Jim, signaled this would be Dad’s last breath, and then watched as he took it. I felt him go.
My dad died. I didn’t want to let him go, but I knew we had to. Life is not the same without him, and my world is forever changed.
We lingered for an hour in hospice as they took care of Dad’s body and friends came to offer love and support. When they took him to the funeral home, Jim and I staggered back to our hotel in a daze. All the way, I heard my dad chattering at me, but I assumed it was just wishful thinking. He was telling me what he was experiencing, and I was happy to listen, but for once I didn’t believe I was actually receiving psychic communication. I just thought I was doing what I needed to do to comfort myself.
Back at the hotel, Jim left to get something out of our car while my dad’s voice still chattered in my head. I said, “I wish it was really you, but I know it’s just my mind.” And then someone physically yanked my hair hard, and my dad’s voice said loudly, “Hey! Listen to me. I’m here.”
And so I listened. What he said was between us. And in the back of my mind, I still didn’t believe I was really hearing it.
The next several weeks were numb. I went to the funeral. I took on more and more work. I taught my classes. When I tried to speak of my dad, I broke down in sobs. And when I was alone, my dad would come to me and talk. I didn’t know if he was really there; I couldn’t trust my abilities because I knew what I wanted to believe would supersede what was actually happening. I felt him visit regularly. And although I didn’t believe he was there, on the off chance he was, I talked to him. Doing so gave me comfort.
I told him that to get through to my mom and sisters, the best way was to communicate in their dreams. I told him I missed him, I loved him, and I wished I could have had more lucid time with him before he died. I had full conversations every time I felt his presence even though I was sure he wasn’t really there, but I just wanted him to be.
A few months later, I was at the Oregon Ghost Conference, where I teach and speak every year. I was surrounded by psychics, and I told my dad on one of his visits, “If you’re really here and you’ve really been coming to me, please communicate with one of my psychic medium friends and have them speak to me privately, giving me some kind of information so I will know I truly have been communicating with you.”
My friends Seth Michael and AuroA were giving a gallery reading that night at the conference. So far, nobody had said anything to me from my dad, so I thought that probably confirmed what I knew, which was my conversations with and visits from him were all in my mind. After all, my dad when he was alive was skeptical about psychics, and my abilities were a subject we just didn’t discuss much, if at all. So I had zero expectations at the gallery reading; I was there to support my friends.
I stood in the back of the room watching people getting messages from loved ones when I heard my dad’s voice say to me, “Watch this,” as Seth and AurorA were transitioning from giving messages to one person to another.
Then Seth started making a horrible coughing noise – one I’d heard before. “This man is making me feel so much pain and like I can’t breathe and he sounds like this,” Seth said, making the strangled noise again. It was the exact noise my dad made as he was in hospice dying.
“He says, ‘I gave up the ghost,’ and laughs,” Seth said. “He says, ‘I willed himself to die.’”
Seth was communicating with my father, who thought my ghost stuff was amusing and often made the joke of “giving up the ghost.”
And so, in front of a ton of people, my dad who I always thought was slightly embarrassed by the whole psychic and ghost thing communicated with me. The content of the message didn’t matter as much as the fact he was there. He was also letting me know by communicating through Seth that all the communication I believed to be my imagination was, indeed, real. It brought me comfort, and it also released something. It was the start of my true grief process.
I always believed that as a psychic medium I would handle the death of loved ones well, as my belief and understanding is people never really leave us and love never really dies, that they are there looking over us and loving us in spirit form. I’ve shared this information with many people, and I’ve felt it viscerally as I do.
But when my dad died, I forgot all of that. Or for a while, I stopped believing it. I became trapped in numbness where I felt safe. There’s not a word deep enough to describe the raw depths of my pain at my dad’s death, and it wasn’t a feeling I was willing to allow myself to experience or process. The part of me who had comforted so many people by telling them their loved ones were still there was deeply ashamed that when death became that closely personal, I somehow lacked the power of my convictions. I was angry at myself for grieving so deeply and unwilling to allow my grief because of my belief that consciousness survives death and my dad wasn’t really lost. I believed I was supposed to grieve a certain way, or that my grief should somehow be less because I could communicate beyond the veil. My pain grew sluggish and sticky. I was mired in it because I refused to allow myself to move through it since I didn’t believe given what I knew about the human soul, I should be grieving at all.
Instead, I processed in bits and pieces. I’ve had times where I’ve broken down, times where I’ve been numb, and times where for just a moment, I have a glimmer of understanding that what I believe about life after death is true. But those moments of knowing were ephemeral, and they slipped away before I could grasp them with desperate hands.
In mid-August, we gathered to scatter my dad’s ashes. We chartered a boat filled with family and friends and traveled to the San Juan Islands. On the way, we saw porpoises, and when we arrived at the spot, there was an unexpected pod of migrating orcas.
All of my life, I’ve dreamed of dolphins, porpoises, orcas, and whales. They come to me in dreams during difficult periods, and I always wake from the dreams knowing everything will be all right, and all is as it should be. So it was no mistake they were there that day when we scattered my dad’s ashes. They were there for him and from him, and they were there for all of us.
As my older sister and nephew poured his ashes into the water where the orcas swam, the ashes made a beautiful pattern in the sea. And I did something I was unable to do at his funeral. I allowed myself to feel the depths of my grief and I cried. I told my dad good-bye, and I let him go. And underneath, I felt something else, as well. I felt gratitude I’d had my dad for 52 years and for the father he’d been, and I knew I never truly would have to let him go because he was a part of me.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, nor is there a time frame or normal behavior. Regardless of what you believe or what you know, when someone you love dies, it is intensely personal. It doesn’t matter if you can communicate with spirits, if you believe in life after death, or if you believe your loved ones remain with you even though they are no longer physically embodied. For quite a while, I was unwilling to allow the grief to touch me because I didn’t believe I had a right to it given what I knew to be true about the nature of the universe. But as I tried to go about life as usual, my dad kept creeping in, and so did deep sadness at his passing. Eventually, I came to a place where I could either choose to suppress it and live my life in a state of numbness, or I could lean in and allow myself to experience it fully so I could move on. I wish I would say it was a conscious decision I chose the latter, but it wasn’t. The dam burst and I was unable to continue with the numbness because it dishonored all that my father was to me. It also dishonored the authenticity of my own feelings.
And so I grieve. I miss my dad. I know he is safe. I know he is well, and I know he is with us, but he is not physically here. But even in his death, my dad is still teaching me things. When he was alive, he taught me to always have an open mind. By giving me Raymond Moody’s Life After Life when I was a teenager, he set me on the path to my life’s true purpose. By his own curious exploration of the universe, he set the example that made me feel comfortable pursuing my own curiosity, and even though we ultimately arrived at different conclusions about the way things worked. Without his example, I would never have come to be where I am now.
In his death, my dad remains my teacher. He shows me it’s never too late to learn; you can even learn things after you die. He shows me I can’t avoid grief and sadness, and my feelings are never wrong and should never be denied. And he shows me that what I believe is, in some form true – or at least true for me. When our loved ones die, their bodies are no longer there. But their souls – those live on. They move on to new adventures and possibly even new bodies, but their love for us leaves an indelible imprint on our lives, hearts, and souls that can and will never be erased.
The drama club photo in my high school yearbook from my sophomore year horrified me. In the photo, everyone is smiling nicely at the camera - except the girl sitting front and center. Her eyes are sparkling and her mouth is open wide in laughter. That girl in that photo was, of course, me, and when the yearbook came out I could barely stand to look at that page because it was, I thought, not a pretty photo. But it sure was authentic. I'm a laugher from way back.
Of course, it wasn't the first or the last image of me laughing in photos. When there's a photo taken, I'm frequently the one with my eyes squeezed shut and my mouth wide open or my teeth bared because I laugh a lot. And over the years I've come to think differently about my image in photos where I'm laughing. Is it a prettily posed selfie showing all of my best angles? Nope not even a little. But it is a true representation of who I am. I love to laugh; I believe it is the joy of my soul bubbling up and overflowing. So if you see photos of me or spend time with me, be prepared to see my eyelids and my uvula (that thing that hangs down from the roof of your mouth) a lot.
There are reports of people healing illnesses with laughter and medical professionals tout various health benefits, including stress release, boosting the immune system, relieving pain, and improving mood.
But I love laughter more than anything because it makes me feel good. Laughing brings me into the moment. Regardless of my mental state before I started to laugh, as soon as I start i feel fantastic. It brings me joy, and it connects me to others.
Most of my closest friends over the years are people I can laugh with. On a recent road trip to Northern California with my friends Kristen and Kasci, we spent a lot of the hours we logged in the car laughing. My family is getting together this weekend to remember my dad (and scatter his ashes), and much of our time will be marked with laughter.
Last week, Kristen, Kasci, and I piled into Kristen's mom van and took a road trip to Northern California. Our ultimate destination was the haunted Preston Castle in Ione, but somewhere along the way we decided on a side day trip to see the Winchester Mystery House (also haunted) in San Jose.
In Nia we have a concept called "beginner's mind." Essentially, it means approaching something you already know as if you know nothing, and it's a way to enhance your practice, your experience, and your learning.
Beginner's mind isn't a new concept. In fact, it's an archetypal energy represented across cultures and systems of symbolism: In the tarot it's represented with the 0 major arcana card, The Fool; in Jungian archetypes, it's The Innocent; and in I Ching, it's represented by the #4 hexagram Meng, which may be translated as Youthful Folly or Inexperience.
This archetype is highly represented in symbolic philosophical systems for a reason: It offers a way to view the world with new, fresh eyes, and it suggests an opening of the mind so new, creative thinking can find its way in. In all symbolic systems, this archetype represents the unlimited potential that lies before us when we enter beginner's mind.
It's easy to get stuck in fixed patterns of thoughts and beliefs about the world around us. We are so accustomed to seeing the world one way that our mind closes off to the possibility there is another. In fact, scientific studies have shown that when we are focused on one thing and a change is made right in front of us, about 50 percent of the people studied actually fail to notice the change. When referring to visual phenomena, this is known as "change blindness," but it can happen not only visually, but when we are focused on fixed perceptions and beliefs, as well. Other studies show that people with deeply held beliefs (such as political, philosophical, or spiritual beliefs) will actually dig more deeply into their stance when presented with evidence the opposite is actually true. It's how we deal with cognitive dissonance - by rooting more firmly into what we think we know, regardless of how much evidence we are presented to the opposite. There's a great book about this topic called Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) that really delves into this phenomena; I highly recommend it.
The tendency of the human mind to get stuck into one pattern of thought and perception keeps us from truly exploring the world in which we live. Our beliefs and perceptions are so powerful and strong they create our reality. For example, if someone believes they are sick and focuses on that thought long enough and hard enough, eventually their body follows suit because the power of the belief in illness brings about the physical state that matches self-perception. This is the partial basis behind the Law of Attraction; what we believe and what we focus our attention on becomes our reality.
That's why it's so important to tap into the archetypal energy of The Innocent, The Fool, Beginner's Mind. When we see things with fresh and innocent eyes, we drop our preconceived notions, and the world around us just may surprise us. Being in beginner's mind enhances our experience. It allows us to fully experience the beauty around us and opens us to new possibilities. Someone we thought was a jerk may, in fact, be lovely. Something we thought was boring may be fascinating. Something we thought we didn't like might turn out to be wonderful. We might learn something new about a subject we thought we already knew. And, we can open up to new ideas that can change our lives and possibly change the world.
One of the best ways to step into beginner's mind is to be in the moment and allow. Look at the world around you, even if it's something familiar you've seen thousands of times, and try and spot something new about it. Hear with your heart when you engage with others. Reach out with your soul as you journey through life. Allow for the possibility of fresh, new ideas, feelings, relationships, and thoughts. When you catch yourself thinking the same old thing, stop and ask yourself, "Is that true? How can I possibly know it's true? Could something else be truer?"
I encourage you to engage with the world as The Innocent. See it with fresh new eyes in every moment, and your life will instantly change.