I was standing in the doorway between my office and my manager’s office when the words slipped out of my mouth.
“You do know that you have a reputation for being a bitch, don’t you?”
The look on her face quickly informed me that I had stuck a knife right through her heart. No matter the backtracking I did in the moment, or the hand written apology that I gave her the next day, there was no going back.Our relationship dropped even lower.
A year later, when I had resigned from said job due to our “oil and water” relationship, I was working with a life coach, who also happened to be a friend. During one of our first sessions together, she confided in me that when she first met me she had gone home and told her then boyfriend that she would never be friends with me because I was such a bitch.
Bitch is a word that is often thrown around in everyday language to speak of women who we don’t like. I used to use it myself, and I often hear my coaching clients use it to describe family members, colleagues, or even strangers that they have an issue with.
A few years ago another dear friend of mine helped me to rethink the implications of using the word. As a white woman, who grew up in America, I have lived relatively free of the pain of dehumanizing language, with the exception of of the B-word. My friend, on the other hand, is a black woman, who grew up in America, and as a result, has had much more experience with dehumanizing language, as have many of her friends and family. She was able to teach me about some of that pain, so that I could see how much dehumanizing language can shake a person, even if it has become part of the everyday vernacular.
Now, that I am re-reading Braving the Wilderness again, and leading the Emerge Book Circle through its teachings, I am confronted with the word again.
In Brene Brown's vulnerability, she looked at both physical and emotional safety as key for someone to be willing to step into vulnerability. Physical safety is obvious, but emotional safety was more ambiguous so she had to dive deeper and what she found was beyond general hurt feelings, and was more connected to dehumanizing language and behavior.
She says, “Dehumanizing often starts with creating an enemy image. As we takes sides, lose trust and get angrier and angrier, we not only solidify an idea of our enemy, but also start to lose our ability to listen, communicate, and practice even a modicum of empathy.”
The Nazi’s referred to Jews as rats. The Hutus in Rwanda referred to Tutsis as cockroaches. Serbians refer to Bosnians as aliens, as do Americans in reference to illegal immigrants.
And today, it is common place to refer to women as dogs.
If you are anything like I was, your first instinct might be to say, “Yes, but I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just a word that everyone uses. I am not like them.”
And that is where the slippery slope begins. Brown says, “The point is that we are all vulnerable to the slow and insidious practice of dehumanizing, therefore we are all responsible for recognizing it and stopping it.”
Unless following the lead of a client (or writing about it here) I don’t use that word anymore. I have my friend and Brené to thank for their kind enlightenment.
Perhaps you might consider doing the same.
Founder of the Emerge Book Circle
Learn. Grow. Connect.
In the first chapter of Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown, described how she tried out for and did not get selected for the drill team at her new school. When I read this, the first word that came to mind was trauma. There was no sexual abuse, or physical abuse. There was no country torn apart by war, or ethnic "cleasing." There were no terrorists, or murders either. There was a little girl, who desperately wanted to feel loved and to feel that she belonged to a team, and also within her own family.
My story has similar lines.
I am the youngest of 5 children, and I grew up in an affluent suburb of Chicago. My mom stayed at home with us, while my dad left each day for his paid work. They followed typical gender-roles of that time period.
Yet, when I was 5 our family hit hard times, and no matter how much sewing my mom brought it, it was not going to keep our family afloat and the roof over our heads. After 13 years of working at home instead of outside the home, my mom took on a second job--one that actually paid her a salary. She not only took a job outside the home, but she took one that involved travel.
So what? Your mom went back to work when you were 5. What's the big deal about that? A #firstworldproblem, just like Brené said about hers.
The trauma of this situation, and the story I created, didn't come about until a year after my mom starting working outside the home; when my parents decided that we would change schools.
I can still remember my first day of 1st grade; a new school, with a new teacher, and new friends to make. Mrs. Wilson's class. My father was the one who brought me to school that day. I was wearing a yellow and white flowered dress. My father had tried and failed to braid my hair like my mom did. It felt ALL wrong. I felt ALL wrong.
As I watched my dad walk away, I burst into tears. The adults encouraged him to keep going--it was easier that way.
I never did go in that first day. I alternated sitting or standing outside that classroom for the entire day, tears streaming down my face, mourning my old school, mourning my old friends, and mourning the fact that my mother had "abandoned me" when I needed her.
Looking back as an adult, I can see how seemingly small a moment it is in the grand scheme of world issues, but to a little girl who has spent so much of her life with her mother, this was in fact traumatic. It was traumatic, not because of the events themselves, but because of the decision that I made in the aftermath. The decision that I was not lovable and worthy. Why else would my mother leave me?
Brené wrote, "Sometimes the most dangerous thing for kids is the silence that allows them to construct their own stories--stories that almost always cast them as alone and unworthy of love and belonging."
It is a reminder to us all that trauma comes in all shapes and sizes, no matter what the circumstances.
Founder of the Emerge Book Circle
Each month, with each book, I reach out to the author and ask if they would be willing to swing by the book circle to say hello, or to give us an interview.
Most of the time I get no response, get a response that says that they are too busy, or get a response asking for thousands of dollars.
This month was different. Michael Singer, the author of The Untethered Soul, let us know that he does not do online events, but that he would answer a couple of our questions.
Here are our questions and his responses:
The Circle: When it comes to resolving Samsaras, what personal approach do you take?
MS: There are many techniques for releasing Samskaras. I am a naturopath in most things, so that is the path I follow with Samskaras. My experience is that they will come up by themselves when they are ripe to be released. The question is are you willing to let them go when they come up. Since they were generally stored with pain, they will come back up with pain. You have to be willing to handle the disturbance they create without pushing them back down. If you keep your inner “hands” off of them, in time they will release the energy they need to release and then fade away. When they are permitted to pass through, they are free to continue their journey through you. The only reason they got stuck in you is because you resisted their passing through. Once you can let them go, they have no reason to stay inside of you. Over time, you will realize that less Samskaras means more inner energy flow—more love, more passion for life, more inspiration, and a closer walk with Spirit. Eventually, you will learn to enjoy the disturbance Samskaras create when they pass through because it is “the pain the ends all pain.”
How does one withstand the disturbance of an activated Samskara—relax and release. Just relax through the tendency to resist. Just like in a yoga asana—relax and release. Just like during a deep massage—relax and release. The only difference is that with a Samskara, the entire dance is inside. The moment you feel the energy get weird inside, let go, relax, and lean away from where you see the disturbed energy. At first you may need to use positive thinking in order to keep your distance from the disturbed energy. That helps you not get sucked into it. Just replace the negative thoughts with positive ones: If the mind says, “I can’t handle this, and I don’t deserve it.” Immediately say inwardly, “I can handle this. I want to let go of this stuff I’ve stored inside. I will use this situation to free myself from myself.” You can also train your mind to say mantra. If you repeat the name of God, or anything else that is uplifting to you (like, “I can handle this”), over and over during idle moments of your life (taking a shower, driving by yourself, etc.), your mind will get in the habit of saying that. Now, when a disturbance begins to express itself in your mind, you have a choice—hang out with the disturbed mind, or hang out with the mantra. One brings you down; the other lifts you up. But ultimately, once you are centered enough to remain conscious in the face of disturbance, just relax and release. Notice who sees the disturbance, and lean back into that source of consciousness. Lean away from the disturbance, and you will be leaning into the Self.
The Circle: What inspired you to write this book? Did you write it during a particularly challenging time in your life?
MS: I always knew I had to write a book about the voice in your head, your relationship to it, and how to free yourself from that false part of yourself. I have been working on freeing myself since I was in my early twenties (1970). All of life delivered me to the writing of The Untethered Soul. As it turns out, it was written during a time of my life that was particularly challenging my commitment to let go—no matter what. If you want a first-hand account of the miraculous way that life managed to unfold all of this, read my book The Surrender Experiment — My Journey into Life’s Perfection. And if you really want to progress on this path of freeing yourself from the inner mess, I also recommend you take the online video course I did with Sounds True last year. It is called Living from a Place of Surrender -- The Untethered Soul In Action . It goes very deep into how to free yourself of your Samskaras.
I feel blessed that he gave us this to continue our learning and growth.
Founder of the Emerge Book Circle
Read. Connect. Emerge.
Today, I meditated NAKED in my own backyard.
For some of you, you might think, “So what?” but if you know me, truly know me, you will understand that this is a really big deal.
You see, for most of my life, I defined myself as my body. My value was interconnected with what my body looked like, how strong it was, how it was able to perform on the field or court, and how smart I was.
Yet, despite how my body has looked over the years, I have never loved it. When I was sporting an almost 6-pack stomach--I still didn’t love it. When I was 20 pounds heavier after 8 months of backpacking, I still didn’t love it. No matter what my body has looked like, I still couldn’t bring myself to fall in love with it. It’s like the “backwards law” that Mark Mason speaks about in "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck". The more I pursued having a perfect body, the more I felt miserable not having one.
When I was in high school I developed an eating disorder. Unlike many girls where it is as if an outside person takes over, and they don’t necessarily realize what they are doing, I was 100% conscious and in control the whole time. I essentially forced myself into having an eating disorder because I was that focused on what my body SHOULD look like, but didn’t. I reasoned that if I couldn’t be pretty, at least I could be thin. Oh, how screwed up my thinking was.
After having more cavities in one dental appointment than I had in my whole life, and a college road trip where I was sharing hotel rooms with my mom and puking in the toilet while she worried outside the door, I was sent to a psychologist.
Yes, I got over the eating disorder, but NO, I still didn’t love myself or my body. I still berated myself daily when I looked in the mirror. I still found all the faults. I still obsessed about the cellulite on my ass. I still sucked in my stomach, or flexed it in hopes that it would maybe, kind of, look a little different.
Over the years, I eventually convinced myself that I may not be thin, but at least I was strong and fit and that is what mattered.
Then I had my first miscarriage.
Despite my strong, fit, athletic (though not thin body), I was unable to grow a child within me. My body was not strong enough and healthy enough to bring a new life into this world.
I pretended on the outside that it was all okay and told myself, “This is for the best. The baby probably wouldn’t have been healthy. This is nature’s way of correcting itself,” and on and on it went. But inside, I wasn’t convinced.
My body had failed me, and I was my body.
Fortunately for me, this happened right in the midst of a deep awakening within myself. Two days after the doctor went in and scrapped out my uterus and the dead tissue, I was sitting in a large room of 100+ people for a coaching seminar program. Three days after the doctor went in and scrapped out my uterus and the dead tissue, I was standing in front of a large room of 100+ people being coached by the leader.
It was he who let me in on the secret. “I AM NOT MY BODY.”
It was something that I refer back to again and again, as a reminder that I am so much more than my body. So much more than what it looks like, so much more than how strong it is, and so much more than how smart it is.
Yet, it wasn’t as if a light was switched and all of a sudden I loved my body. It is still something that I dance with on a regular basis, but the valleys are not as deep as they once were.
I stlll prefer having sex with the lights off.
I still wear a tankini in the summer to hide my stomach and my stretch marks.
I still gaze at the cellulite on my ass and wish it weren’t there.
But I also celebrate my body too.
I celebrate my body for giving me 2 healthy children, despite being pregnant 4 times.
I celebrate my body and when I go for hikes where I feel like I can touch the sky.
I celebrate my body on my yoga mat each day as I twist, turn, and balance in new ways.
And today, I celebrated my body while I meditated NAKED in my backyard.
How are you celebrating your body?
Emerge Book Circle Creator
Read. Connect. Emerge.
I finished two books today, which is unusual in my divorced mom life. "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brené Brown moved and shifted a part of me. I have failed so many times lately in terms of “perfect”.
I also finished Eloisa James' newest book, "Say No to the Duke." Eloise brings Betsy, her heroine, to release her view of perfection in favor of happiness. Fiction met Brené's research and provided me with a strong pointed message. If it takes 10,000 hours to become a master; I am an expert in stopping myself with the negatives in Guidepost #2 – Letting Go of Perfectionism.
Brené's research leads her to state “Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance… ‘What will they think?’”
My perfection phrase almost always includes the word “Should”. Much like both Brené and Betsy, I have a great many should phrases. In fact, for as long as I can really remember “should” has been a part of my vocabulary. “I should do this because otherwise what will they think?” is what I think on a regular basis, and ruins my authenticity.
Some “should” phrases are relevant, such as I “should do the laundry so there are clean clothes to wear.” I have four children thus laundry has become an almost daily event when it is my custody time. I recognize that the clothes need to be washed; the "should" part of the laundry, though, also includes neatly folded clothes and matching socks. With two teenagers and two younger children, I recognize they do not care about the unwrinkled state of their clothing as they cram their clean clothes into their drawers, and three of the four don’t worry about matching socks.
It has taken me years to realize that my rules of clean, non-wrinkled clothes really fall into the need for approval and acceptance from other mothers. I do not enjoy the "tsk" at my perceived lack of competence. It likely is an external belief from generations ago that each of us has carried down based on upper classes having maids to press clothing, and laboring class did not have that luxury. The advantage of permanent-press clothing taken out of the drier while still warm allowing wrinkles to fall out may have altered the conscious perceptions, yet the subconscious awareness remains hidden in the background.
I "should" weed my flower beds isn’t quite as relevant to me. Some are lovely flowers and the bees and hummingbirds seem to like them. Also, I am discovering some of them would actually be good for me to use in salads, since I don’t use weed killer or pesticides in my yard, much to the chagrin of my landscape architect sibling. I also wisely chose to live where there are not strict yard codes because I know my natural look flowerbeds would not be welcome in certain neighborhoods.
In both the above cases, the “should” examples create a feeling of shame because of perceived societal rules. I know I am vulnerable to others’ judgments. Brene's discussion of life-paralysis is a perfect fit for me. She describes it as “all of the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect. It’s also all of the dreams that we don’t follow because of our deep fear of failing.”
If I look back at my life, my life-paralysis perfectionism consistently holds me back. Instead of following the passion and the plan I had for my life back when I was a sophomore at Capital University, I allowed my life-paralysis to stop me both personally and professionally.
For 20-some years, I allowed what everyone else thought I should do, what I should focus on, and what should matter to me to push my life forward. I didn’t steer my own course for fear of being vulnerable, and fear of failing is a big portion. “Perfection is addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough.” In anger, back as a 13-year-old, I yelled at my mother that I wasn’t a perfect daughter - and to stop expecting me to be as perfect as her.
In reading Betsy’s romance story, she is attempting to be the perfect model debutante. When Betsy was a 14-year-old, another girl pointed out how her mother was so imperfect that Betsy was going to be the same. Betsy’s response was to become the most model debutante – her self-imposed perfection need. Today my fiction reading met my reality and Brené's research.
The last three years have allowed me to spend time to dig deep into myself and realize that my happiness depends on my definition of needs, wants, and desires, much like Brené’s research gave her and Betsy learns via a very wise aunt. I am getting better with being imperfect and the “should” is slowly disappearing from my vocabulary. It is a habit that I am still correcting, and at the same time model for my children.
I hope that when I fail at making brownies again that become ice cream topping, they smile and have learned that life's imperfection can make life more delicious.
Emerge Book Circle Member
Read. Connect. Emerge.
In our reading of "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway", Susan Jeffers talks about how complaining is one of the many ways that we can tell if we are standing in the role of the victim, and not taking responsibility. She says, "I have been careful not to ask you to believe that you are responsible for all the your experiences in life. Rather, I ask you to believe you are the cause of all your experiences of life, meaning that you are the cause of your reactions to everything that happens to you."
One of the self-work activities that was offered to the Inner Circle Members was to bring awareness to their own complaining, as I find that complaining is often like bad breath--we only notice it in other people. I urged the Inner Circle Members to put a rubber band or elastic of some sort around their wrist and each time they noticed themselves complaining to move it to the other wrist.
It is 10:22am as I write this, and I have already moved my HOT PINK hair tie twice. Actually, I moved it twice before 9:00am, and I realized that both times I was complaining about the same thing, to two different people.
So, what was I complaining about? My children, and the fact that combined they woke up 5 times last night, which means mommy is quite tired this morning.
So, what am I responsible for?
No, I couldn't change the quantity or quality of the sleep that I got last night, but I definitely can change how I related to those facts. I could have continued to moan and groan about my children and my lack of sleeping, so that I would inevitable go through the day exhausted and annoyed, or I could take a totally different approach.
I won't lie to you and say that one of my first thoughts this morning was, "When can I take a nap?" but at the end of the day, no nap was needed because I shifted how I related to my reality. Instead of taking an afternoon nap, I went for an hour and a half walk in the forest with our dog. What a joy for both of us!
What about you? What steps can you take to bring awareness to your complaining, and how you are choosing PAIN over POWER?
Creater of the Emerge Book Circle
Read. Connect. Emerge.
Our garage is linked to the main entry to our house through a small stairway with doors on each side. A few months ago, my daughter, who is 5, decided that she wanted to climb the stairs “in the night,” as she likes to call it. Both doors are closed with no light penetrating in, and she climbs up in the pitch black holding onto the handrail. It has now become a habit, and my 2 year old son has followed suit.
Many children would think this is scary. Many children would be afraid of the dark, and wouldn’t want to do what my daughter is doing.
As I have watched her do this day after day, week after week, I have held my tongue. At the beginning I wanted to ask her if she was scared, but I didn’t. Throughout, I have wanted to praise her courage for not being scared, but I haven’t.
Do you want to know why?
Because our feelings don’t actually become real until we name them. Nothing is scary, until we say it is scary. Nothing is worrisome, until we say we are worried. Nothing is anxiety-inducing, until we say we are anxious. Nothing is stressful, until we say we are stressed.
Which means, that if I were to tell my daughter I was proud of her for doing something scary, she would then be scared.
Yesterday, I was at the park with my children and I heard a dad say to his sons, “Don’t be scared of the big kids!” In that moment, I asked myself, “Were they scared? And if not, are they scared now?”
A couple of hours later, back at home, my daughter and I walked into the hallway together and she turned on the light “because it is scary.”
I turned to her and said, “An hour ago, you walked in the stairs in the dark and it wasn’t scary, but this is scary. What’s the difference?” She couldn’t give me an answer, but I have my own--I gave her the word and the context.
The stairs between the garage and the main house aren’t scary because I never alluded to her that they were. Yet the stairs from the first floor to the second floor are scary, because at some point I told her they were. It’s the same reason she likes the hall light to be on when she sleeps--because I told her about being scared of the dark.
I think that many of her fears have come from me. My words of “be careful”, and references to “being afraid,” and my questioning, “Are you sure? It might be scary.”
One of the first lessons in the book "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway" by Susan Jeffers is to look at our vocabulary, and to make shifts in the words we use. She refers to it as pain vocabulary, versus POWER vocabulary.
Here are a few of her suggested replacements:
Change "I can't" to "I won't".
Change "I should" to "I could."
Change "It's a problem" to "It's an opportunity."
Change "If only" to "Next time."
Here are some of my own:
I am not worried, I am planning.
I am not busy, I am energized.
I am not tired, I am contemplative.
I am not stressed, I am enthusiastic.
I am not scared, I am excited.
I invite you to try some of them out and then leave a comment below to let me know how you feel afterwards.
Creator of the Emerge Book Circle
Read. Connect. Emerge.