You are a swan

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We all have a different relationship with our bodies. For some it’s a love-hate relationship and others struggle to look in the mirror. I still remember the first time I was told to rather wear a certain type of pants because it makes my thighs look thinner. There were (and sometimes still are) times when I look in the mirror and wished I had a beautiful skin. I can recall a time in my teenage years at school when all the girls were weighed. After that a scale changed from a measuring instrument to a judge. My relationship with my body changed from a wonderful vehicle that allowed me to participate in sport, run around and experience life to something that is rejected and not ‘thin enough’ or ‘the right size’.

In the book “ Women, Food and God” Geneen Roth accurately writes: ‘ It’s never been true, not anywhere at any time that the value of a soul, of a human spirit, is dependent on a number on a scale. When we start defining ourselves by that which can be measured or weighed, something deep inside us rebels’. I believe this is true and applicable to different aspects of our lives not just weight.

Through my journey with my body I learned that the more I let go of expectations and accept the wonderful gift of a body that was given to me. The more I was able to engage with others and the world in an authentic, meaningful and sustainable way. My energy was not focused on rejecting parts of me but rather on allowing all of me to be. This shift of focus enabled me to use the wisdom of my body to engage fully in life and not wait till self-created conditions were met (such as being a certain weight or having the perfect skin) before I can start to enjoy life.

If you look in a non-judging and loving way at yourself you will find that you are (and always have been) a swan and not an ugly duckling. That in not accepting part of your body you are denying your true story. You begin to see the true beauty of your own inner nature. You learn to love your ‘imperfections’ as they are what make you authentic.

Learning: I’m already a swan as I am now.

 Healing question: How can I love and accept all of me as I am now?

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Life and death are related.

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The recent passing away of my grandmother made me reflect on death. I realised that in reflecting on death I was simultaneously reflecting on life. Life and death are related. Contradictions and ambiguity are part of life. Death is as much part of the process of life as life itself.

Death might feel like one big loss or like a door that shuts in your face. However, if we can sit in the mystery and stay with the process it can open doors to new discoveries. Denise Ackerman beautifully writes that ‘holding the tensions of opposites in our lives can open doors to a new acceptance of things the way they are.’ Life is not just about focusing on the light or being positive all the time.

We experience death in all aspects of our lives. Whether it is the death of someone close, a relationship, a dream, a career, a business, it is important that we use death to pause and allow ourselves to mourn. In the mourning many questions may arise of which some can be answered and others not.

If we can accept that life is lived within this ambiguity of what we think we know and what we do not know, then it becomes easier to let that what is dead go. Part of the suffering lies in the not accepting and holding on. Before we can inhale we need to exhale. We need to put a period at the end of a sentence before we can start a new one.

The following wisdom of Augustine comforts me in times when I struggle with the questions of life:

Let us, you and I, lay aside all arrogance

Let neither of us pretend to have found the truth

Let us seek it as something unknown to both of us

Then we may seek it with love and sincerity

When neither of us has the rashness

Nor the presumption to believe that he already possesses it…

I do not pretend to understand.

Learning: Make time to mourn what is lost and grow in the ambiguity of life.

Healing questions: How can I learn to live with the ambiguity and questions of life?

Open up to the moment as it is

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How much do you allow yourself to open up to life? Do you ever allow yourself to experience intimacy within the moment?

Lately I’ve become more aware of how we tend to put conditions on our experiences. We unconditionally put conditions of satisfaction on life. For example, if I can retire without being financially dependent on someone I will be satisfied with my life. Or if we are diagnosed with a disorder, we tend to wonder why is my life so difficult. As if there is a specific way how life should be. Instead of accepting it for what it is we review it based on our pre-set expectations. In doing that we are judging it. This way of thinking can cause a lot of suffering.

In her book ‘Getting our bodies back’, Christene Caldwell writes that

When we relate in an unconditional way to our experience, we become accepting of it. And we can enjoy an open attitude towards it. When I accept my experience I can tolerate its intensity, I can learn from it. I can even find joy in it. In fact, I become nourished and joyful at the process of acceptance, more than at its actual content. It is that act of being with my experience that is satisfying, not the content of what is happening. When I accept myself, love is reborn. 

When we judge our experiences we can’t be fully open to what it may offer. We also can’t experience any form of intimacy. Not being able to experience forms of intimacy whether it is with yourself, with God, with the moment or life can lead to various addictions. As humans it is very difficult for us not to judge or label. The brain and Ego like to label and structure things in order to protect us. However, it is possible to learn to let go a bit more. To let go of our ‘conditions of satisfaction’ and to open up to the raw experience of the moment.

The good news is that you can start small. Try to strip yourself from your expectation and open yourself up to a moment each day. It can be a sip of coffee, a hug from a friend, a smile from a stranger, etc. As Caroline Myss said ‘The most meaningful events that have shaped our lives have, by far, been the smallest and most subtle’.

Acceptance

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Acceptance, as a noun, can be defined in different ways. For the purpose of this blog I’m interested in the definition of acceptance as a ‘process or fact of being received as adequate, valid, or suitable.’  We are constantly encouraged to improve, excel and exceed expectation. These messages from the media, our loved ones, friends and ourselves can be encouraging and motivate us to achieve our goals. But the downside is that one can internalise these messages and easily fall into the trap of thinking, ‘I am not…. good, thin, rich, fit, beautiful, smart, successful, etc.… enough’. This type of thinking can have detrimental effects and lead to a un-acceptance or even an estrangement of yourself. Robert Holden wisely indicated that ‘no amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.’

In my personal life, as well as my coaching work, I experience and see that acceptance is easier said than done. We would rather criticize than accept ourselves. After some thinking and working on accepting myself more, I want to share with you what I think acceptance stands for:

A –  Aware. The first step is to become aware of the voice of self-criticism, the judge within as Byron Brown refers to in his book ‘Soul without shame’. According to him self-judgement is based on the ‘accumulation of all the knowledge you believe you need to be successful, safe, supported, recognized and loved in this world’. Luckily this is only a part of who you are. You are not the inner-judge. You are not your thoughts or mind. You also have an inner-guide. As you focus more on your inner-guide or inner-voice you become more aware of your soul nature, your potential and how the inner-judge can limit you.

C – Compassion. Show compassion and kindness for yourself. Research indicates that humans function best when we feel loved. We can cultivate a loving relationship with ourselves by cultivating a desire to be compassionate towards ourselves. So that when we fail we treat ourselves with warmth and understanding rather than criticism. These compassionate and soothing thoughts calms the inner-critic voice.

C – Curiosity. Start to become curious about you. Explore the amazing different parts there is to you. Be curious about what is actually going on inside you? What are you thinking, feeling and experiencing through your body?

E – Enough. Embrace the fact that you are already enough just as you are. We live in a world that either focuses on scarcity or abundance. Media that always tells us what we have or who we are is not enough, we need to strive for more.

P – Practice. Accepting our circumstances and us is not something you do once. It is a daily practice. The more you practice acceptance, the more you will become aware of other possibilities to be. It is important to remain patient with yourself through the process of acceptance.

T – Trust. Start trusting yourself and the truth of who you are.

A – Allow. You have to allow yourself or give yourself permission so to speak to approve and appreciate who you are just as you are, right now. Not when you are 3 kg lighter or when you’ve finished another degree or when you have a management job or live in a fancy house or drive the fastest car.

N – Non-judgement. Acceptance can only happen if we become less judgemental with ourselves and stop believing the self-judgement. The act of judging underlies the need for everything to be in a certain way. When you become more non-judgemental you stop running away from yourself and start walking towards yourself.

C – Centredness. In order to accept oneself it is important to be able to centre your attention and connect to your inner truth. When we constantly focus our attention on others and their approval or acknowledgements of us, we become uncentred and sometimes compromise ourselves. But when we practice the ability to centre our attention we cultivate our capacity to be without doing. We slowly stop needing the affirmation of others to feel good about ourselves.

E – Embrace. Embrace your uniqueness and stop comparing yourself to others.

By proclaiming that we must start to accept others, our circumstances and ourselves more, I am not advocating that we must not want to change. Change is important but as Bryant McGill said ‘Acceptance is the road to all change’