Feeling Imbalanced? Try This.

My yoga teacher said something in class today that really made me think. We were prepping for standing bow pose, which looks like this (image source):

Before you get into the pose on the far right, it’s helpful to find your balance in various intermediate poses, like the ones on the left.

My teacher explained, “We often don’t take the time to first find our balance before asking our bodies to move.” Word.

On and off the mat, how often do we charge ahead before we’ve caught our breath or found our balance?

Oftentimes, when we find ourselves feeling imbalanced, whether that be physically, emotionally, or otherwise, we immediately seek to rectify it by any means available. Imbalance triggers fear of the unknown–we’re not sure where we stand, and we don’t like it. We might also feel ashamed that we’re not perfectly poised, so we try to rush on to step five to cover up the fact that we’re not on sure footing with step one yet.

It’s tempting to think we can just skip the foundation and bypass straight to the happy ending with rainbows and cupcakes, but getting up close and personal with the areas where we feel imbalanced has so much to teach us.

Here’s an example. Since graduating from massage school, I’ve been working to develop new skills in areas beyond the scope of my school program, and recently, I hit a wall with my self-study. I felt like my efforts weren’t having an appreciable impact on my skills and I was feeling discouraged, which led to less confidence in sessions and procrastinating with my studies.

Enter, this book:

I was reading it for an entirely different reason–not to improve my massage skills–but about halfway through a chapter on visual processing, I felt inspired to start drawing, and I decided to use my massage study ennui as the focus. Woah, baby, am I ever glad I did.

A stack of paper and a crowd of jaunty little stick figures later, I realized that I had a knowledge gap that was draining away my motivation: Specifically, I have a lot of massage facts, techniques, and other information in my brain, but I sometimes struggle with knowing when to use what, which then leads to sticking with the same old tried and true out of fear.

This became clear while I was mapping out a list of resources for each study area and, if you look in the bottom right corner, I was left with nothing but a big ol’ question mark for the “know when to apply” section:

I then asked my husband, who’s a paramedic, “How in the world do you take all of your medical knowledge and know what to apply when?” He immediately replied, “Oh, there’s the something-something protocol. They drill it into us in school.”

A protocol. Duh. Surprisingly, we’d never learned anything like that in school, so my knowledge gap makes sense.

What does this have to do with imbalance? Well, one of the things preventing me from seeing this gap (and thus being able to address it) was my fear of truly looking imbalance in the face because I was afraid of what I might find. Some of my ego’s many distractions to stall me from getting curious about the imbalance included:

  • Shame: “You should already know this. What’s wrong with you?”
  • Perfectionism: “You need to know how to do all of this perfectly…by tomorrow.” Hello, overwhelm (followed immediately by defensive procrastination).
  • Denial: “You’re overreacting. You just need to be more confident.”
  • Bravado: “Whatever! We’ve got this! We don’t need to study!”
  • And on and on it went.

It can be hard for me to admit that I don’t know something in areas that I really care about (my massage practice being a prime example), and being in a wobbly state of imbalance is a painful reminder of the gap between where I am and where I want to be. But…it’s also so much more than that. Imbalance is an invitation to slow down, take stock, and see where your foundation might be missing a brick or two so you can take the time to fill the gaps and pave the way for a more stable future.

I’m happy to report that, even though my ego was convinced exploring my imbalance was a recipe for utter annihilation, instead I now have a clear game plan for my studies, which creates a snowball effect of positive results and increased motivation. And bonus, I now know that my ego sometimes uses shame to wall off knowledge gaps, so when I’m feeling ashamed about something, I can open up a giant can of self-compassion and get curious.

When we get curious about areas where we’re feeling a little shaky (or a lot), we’re slowing down and saying to ourselves, “What you’re feeling matters. This shaky feeling, this off-kilter sensation–it matters. I’m listening. How can I help?”

And, hand in hand with our imbalance, we find our way home.

One wobbly yet curious step at a time.

Past Lives and Chipmunks

Swan reflections

Since Christmas, I’ve become acutely aware that my time with my grandma, at least in this current physical form, is limited. She’s still in great health, thankfully, but…well, she’s preparing–giving away her books, sifting through photos and letters, and making arrangements. And it’s hard. Man, is it ever hard.

Last week I read this book, and the little great-grandmother-Buddhist-nun character had me weeping.

I called my grandma and it all came spilling out: how afraid I am of losing her, is she afraid of dying (she replied “Ohh, no” and with such serene confidence that I completely believe her), and how much I love her.

We talked about the book, which led to a conversation about physics and multiple universes (all part of the story, and I don’t want to spoil it by saying more), and our beliefs of the afterlife. While I wouldn’t say that I believe in any one view of the afterlife, since I’ll hardly have definitive proof until I’m there, my spiritual path leads me more in the direction of reincarnation. My grandma, a devout Catholic, believes her future is in heaven with my grandpa, and I so want that to be true for her.

And that got me thinking…what if they’re both true? It’s not hard to believe that the universe and its workings are far vaster than anything I could conceive of, so why not?

Before we got off the phone, my grandma reminded me of one of her sayings that she uses, especially when she’s going through a rough patch, “Be happy, just for today.”

And that planted a seed. The result: This story, which is my search for peace in the possibility that truth is so much bigger than I know.

What Your Freak Outs Can Tell You

A friend recently asked, “I wonder if freaking out about little things is related to downplaying experiences that are truly damaging and scary, like trauma?”

Bingo! A light in my brain switched on.

I’ve done a lot of self-work (and continue to do work) around codependency in my relationships. One of the features of codependency is focusing on, and often trying to “fix,” other people’s issues as a distraction from looking at your own. This is usually accompanied by resentment if the other person 1) doesn’t appreciate your efforts at meddling in their affairs and/or 2) doesn’t take your advice and change what you think needs to be changed.  (And if that sounds familiar, get thee to a library or hip, indie bookseller and obtain this valuable tome.)

How is this connected to freaking out over trivial crap?

While my friend and I were talking, I got an image of my brain that looked something like this (and no, I don’t know why the ego was wearing a hat that looks like a loaf of bread; it just was, okay):

The ego has a never-ending list of things to potentially freak out about. How to choose, how to choose…?

I’m imagining the ego knocking on the door of the subconscious and asking, “Hey, how much material do you have on this particular issue?” If the subconscious comes back without so much as a post-it, the ego thinks, “Excellent, I can safely freak out about this without dredging up anything really serious.” If, however, the subconscious comes back with a stack of files larger than Trump’s megalomania, then the ego is like, “Woah-ho-ho. Shut ‘er down! I’m not going anywhere near that one!”

To use my friend’s example: Rather than freaking out about a recent incident that dredged up memories of his childhood trauma, his ego found it much safer to fixate on–and totally freak out about–the bowl of raspberries he’d eaten during his sugar detox.

“You did WHAT?! How could you! An entire bowl of raspberries!!!! I can’t even look at you right now…”

In other words, rather than deal with scary emotions that are actually connected to significant experiences, we can freak out over the little stuff that, deep down, we know isn’t that big of a deal, like the codependent person focusing on other people’s issues to steer clear of looking at her own.

To our ego this feels safer, and, indeed, there are times when it probably is. If we don’t have a good support system (internally or externally), if we’re a child, if we’re already feeling overwhelmed, or if we’re otherwise feeling unequipped to cope, it might be a good idea to postpone a potential dark night of the soul until we do have the support we need.

But as a way of life, routinely avoiding the stuff that goes deeper than the bowl of raspberries leads to major build up–emotional, mental, energetic, spiritual, and physical. Our life loses its sense of flow, and we’re losing our shit over raspberries.

The Energetic Anatomy of a Freak Out

This, then, got me thinking about another aspect of freaking out and why we do it. There are many reasons, no doubt, such as seeing our parents or caregivers freak out and learning it from them, getting habituated to the cascade of chemicals surging through us when we freak out, and so on, but what interests me here is looking at this from a spiritual-energetic point of view.

Let’s work from the assumption that we all have spiritual energy coursing through us at all times. Call it chi, prana, rauch–whatever you like. As long as we’re alive, this energy is flowing through us. We create energetic channels within ourselves based on our past experiences, and not all of those channels are equally awesome.

Some of these channels allow for a free flow of energy, some are partially backed up with energetic hairballs, and others are blocked up completely. And some of them flow quite freely, but they don’t channel our energy into pursuits that are meaningful or life enhancing (one example: addiction–lots of energy, destructive results).

On the flip-side, some of those channels are associated with using our energy in ways that empower us: they enable us to home in on experiences that are personally meaningful and to use our resources to cultivate those experiences consciously. In other words, they help us create a meaningful life.

When our energy is flowing through these empowering channels, it becomes clear that we have the ability to make an impact, not only on our own life but on the world, and as much as we consciously think this is what we want, making an impact can also feel scary, because when we’re truly working in our “zone of genius” (to use a term by Dr. Gay Hendricks), there’s more at stake. Now, we’re living from a place that really matters to us, thus making the possibility of failure much scarier.

If we fail at the office job we hate–sure, it might bruise our ego or our budget, but it probably won’t shake us to our very core. Our ego, however, is certain that failing at something that really matters is the end-all-be-all and must be avoided at all costs. And this brings us back to our original idea: Rather than allow energy to flow through deeply empowering channels that could potentially trigger fears of a greater magnitude, the ego plays it safe and keeps us busy freaking out over the bowl of raspberries.

What Can You Do?

So, if you find yourself regularly freaking out, worrying, or engaging in other common distractions of the ego, like chronic complaining, judging yourself and others, and endless planning in lieu of doing, here are three resources that can help. They’re all engaging, easy to read, and majorly transformative.

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

Playing Big by Tara Mohr

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown





Breaking the Grip of Perfectionism Through Yoga

In yoga, as in life, it’s easy to get tangled up in the net of perfection. We see someone in the “fullest expression” of a yoga pose, and this becomes our end goal. Anything short of achieving this end goal is viewed as merely a way station to getting there.

But where, exactly, are we getting to? If we really stop and think, is it realistic to assume that once we’re finally able to get our leg over our head into bendy-pretzel pose, then, for real this time, we’ll be complete?

Of course not. Because life will continue on even after we’ve mastered bendy-pretzel pose. We’ll still have bills to pay and dentist appointments. Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield’s book title captures this well: “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.”

But if we’re not reaching for perfection, what then? How do we approach yoga, and life, without the endless drive to attain some imagined end goal?

Attachment to Form

About a year ago, I was struggling with fear over starting a new business, because I was worried it might take away from my first business, which I still loved and had no intention of closing. My guides gave me a useful tool to help explore this fear and to transform it: the idea of attachment to form.

They explained that everything we perceive in the manifest world (i.e. the things we can perceive through our five senses) is a temporary form–our bodies, our jobs, that rock over there, my business that I was so afraid of ruining. Energy flows through these forms and is temporarily housed in these forms. As physical beings, it’s often easier for us to perceive the forms than it is for us to perceive the energy within them, just in the same way that it’s probably easier for you to feel your skin than your aura.

What this means is that we’re predisposed to thinking that reality consists of the form and the form alone. It’s harder for us to see that, even when the form passes away, the energy still exists, available to enliven another form. And thus, we get really, really attached to particular forms. For example, with my business, I was really attached to a specific form of experiencing the energy that was temporarily housed in my current business, and I was afraid that if that form changed, I’d lose my connection to this energy. In truth, the things that I love about my business can be experienced in a multitude of forms if I am open to that possibility.

When we become overly attached to specific forms, we often blind ourselves to the possibility of experiencing that energy in any other way, but by working on the fear and attachment, we liberate ourselves and see that we can experience that energy over here and over here…and over there, too.

What’s this got to do with yoga?

If we shift our thinking, we can see that physical yoga poses are forms. They are temporary forms in which energy can be experienced. Let’s think of down dog for a moment and pretend that the “ideal” version of the pose looks something like this (image from YogaJournal.com):

Think of this image like the container of the pose. You are not restricted, however, to only experiencing the energy flowing through this pose by achieving a posture that looks exactly like that. If you use the pose as a way to explore energy, perhaps your energy flows into your legs and you notice that you want to bend your knees. Or maybe you want to lift your heels off the mat. Or you want to feel the elongation of your spine but instead you want to drop down and do it on your mat, in child’s pose.

All of these are ways to experience the energy flowing through you in relationship to the container or temporary form of down dog. Your pose might not look anything like the one above and yet you’re experiencing that energy just beautifully, thank you very much.

When we release the belief that the ideal in our mind is the end goal and instead treat it merely as inspiration to explore, we don’t force our body into poses that might be doing more harm than good based on our unique anatomy and physiology. We don’t force ourselves into a variation of a pose simply because we were able to do it yesterday. Or because the person next to us in class is doing it. Or because the photo we saw in Yoga Journal looks so freakin’ cool.

We use the forms of yoga poses to have a conversation with our body, to learn what our energy feels like when it’s flowing this way or that, and it’s hard to hear the conversation when we’re busy shouting over it with our ideas of what the perfect pose looks like and the fear that we’re not doing it right.

Yoga can be a time to practice letting go of our habitual ways of relating to the world, a time to release the fear that if we’re not perfect, we’re unworthy. To experiment with variations of a pose and finding that even when it doesn’t match the ideal in our mind, hey, look at that–the world didn’t explode. We’re still fine.

Or it can be a time to reinforce the habits we exhibit in the world. We can use our practice to force and strive, to struggle and berate ourselves for not being perfect.

We have a choice. And no matter what we chose yesterday or five minutes ago, we have the power to choose differently in each present moment.

If you’re forcing your body into pretzel bend, even though you can feel a tweak in your lower back and you can’t remember the last time you breathed, choose now to pause. Breathe in softness and self-acceptance. Breathe out fear. Breathe in love.

Listen to your body. What’s your spine saying to you in this pose? Your knees? Your heart?

Remember what it feels like for movement to be fun and exploratory. We all did it naturally as kids and we can get it back–one breath, one pose at a time.



The Power of Quitting Cleanly

Back in the day when I was living with roommates, I was looking for a new apartment, and two of my friends and I were considering moving in together. In the early stages of the apartment-hunting process, my intuition was lighting up like a Christmas tree and I realized that, while I loved my friends, I didn’t want to live with Friend A.

Friend A and I sat down and had a heart-to-heart, and I shared with her my feelings and my need to find another living situation. I agreed that I would communicate my decision to Friend B and that I had no issue whatsoever with the two of them moving forward on the roommate plan without me. I had the conversation with Friend B, who shared that she, too, had realized she didn’t want to live with Friend A.

Here’s where things got weird. Friend B never had a conversation with Friend A. She was afraid of hurting her feelings, so she didn’t tell Friend B she didn’t want to live with her; instead, she stopped responding to Friend A’s phone calls about apartment showings and essentially stopped talking to her until Friend A took the hint and found another roommate.

Needless to say, that put a strain on their friendship, and a few months later they were no longer speaking. And I get it: I was really nervous about telling Friend A that I had changed my mind. Really nervous. And there was no guarantee that just because I talked to Friend A openly our friendship would survive.

But here’s the thing: What I have seen repeatedly in my life since this roommate experience is that there is immense power in what I like to call quitting cleanly.

Quitting Cleanly With Yourself

While it’s easy to see how this might be beneficial in our dealings with other people, I want to talk about another layer of quitting cleanly, that of quitting cleanly the intentions, goals, plans or promises that we make to ourselves.

How many times have you heard yourself or someone else running through the list of reasons and excuses why they’re not doing something? There’s obviously a lot of stuff wrapped up in not doing something, and this had me curious as to how much energy we can potentially fritter away when we neglect to quit cleanly–when we let those plans and promises bang around in our psyches, reminding us with every jostle and jolt that there’s something we’re not doing that we said we would.

There are likely many, many layers to this, but one of the connections that feels really interesting to me right now is related to a topic I’ve written about in the past: the concept of allowing things to work. I have seen in my own life and the lives of others this powerful urge to complicate things, to actively prevent things from working, while consciously expressing a desire for those very things to stop sucking and start working.

What is this about? Well, in my own life I have seen this pattern arise: It’s easier to pretend I don’t have the power to change things–to play the victim–than it is to own my power and initiate change. As I wrote about in that previous post, it can feel easier at times to “choose chronic pain over conscious change.” In a similar fashion, it can feel easier to keep putting off doing The Thing than to take a close look at why we’re so resistant to doing The Thing in the first place, and then use what we discover to make a conscious choice of how to respond to that resistance.

And other elements feed into the cycle of distracting ourselves from doing The Thing. We feel guilty that we’re not doing it, and that makes us even less inspired to look at why we’re resistant and less inspired to do The Thing. And we don’t like feeling guilty, so now we’re doing things to distract ourselves from feeling guilt.

At a certain point, The Thing becomes wrapped in so many layers of icky feelings and the stuff we do to try and distract ourselves from the icky feelings that it’s like a giant rubber band ball, and in my experience, that rubber band ball eats up a lot of energy, often under the radar of conscious awareness.

Let’s look at a common example, especially at this time of year: the goal of getting in shape and eating healthier. In my life, whether or not I exercise and what I choose to eat are only partially about the exercise and the food. Those choices are tied to so many other things, like body image, self-worth, ability to receive nourishment, perfectionism, honoring my intuition and truth, my relationship to spirit, and the list goes on.

Therefore, by treating the issue as merely a matter of scheduling time to work out or filling my pantry with healthier choices, I’m not really getting to the heart of the matter, and my efforts at change rely on finite reserves of willpower. When the willpower runs out, the healthy choices start to wither and fade.

Now, this isn’t to say that scheduling time to work out and tossing out the Twinkies aren’t important, but they’re not the whole story, and they can only take you so far. All of us have our own reasons for disconnecting from our bodies, for losing enjoyment of healthy movement, for feeling like food is our main source of comfort, etc. And those reasons get to the heart of the matter.

How does this relate to quitting cleanly? Oftentimes, we use resolutions as a way of armoring against the heart of the matter. They’re like saying to ourselves, “I don’t care why you’re hurting, why you’re craving sugar, why it doesn’t feel good to go to yoga–you’re going anyways!”

We’re rejecting the parts of ourselves that don’t “fit the bill” and match up with who we want to be, but those parts don’t simply go away. Instead, they get cut off from our life flow and banished to the basement, and they become like ghosts, trapped in repetitive loops of thoughts and behaviors. In short, those rejected aspects can be powerful drivers of habits, and generally not the habits we’re trying to cultivate.

How do we change this? By accepting those rejected parts, which I’ve written about extensively here. One of the ways we can foster that self-acceptance is by giving ourselves permission to quit cleanly. If you’re feeling massive resistance to going to yoga, rather than making up a million excuses why you “can’t” go, press the self-compassion button and invite the resistance within you to share its experience. Why does it feel resistant? Is it afraid? Angry? Depressed? Something else entirely? Really open up to hearing what that resistance has to say. Treat your resistance as an invitation to know yourself more fully and to love yourself more fully.

If, after doing this process, you feel inspired to go to yoga, off to yoga you go, but if you just aren’t feeling it, allow yourself to quit cleanly. And make it explicit, even if you’re saying these words only in your mind. “I am feeling really resistant to yoga right now, and that’s okay. I am making the decision to quit cleanly the goal of going to yoga every week this month. I can revisit that plan later if it feels inspiring, but right now I am quitting cleanly.”

Take a deep breath, and let it allllllll out. Allow yourself to feel some lightness, some openness, some release.

You are your inner sovereign. You don’t need to be held hostage by plans and goals or anything else that no longer light you up.

You have the right to make choices.

You have the responsibility to make choices.

With every choice, you take back a little more of your power. You unravel the rubber band ball, and rather than allowing that energy to remain trapped and tangled, you are now able to channel it into more enlivening things, which, funny enough, might end up being that yoga class you felt so resistant to but that you now have the energy and the desire to attend.

You can spend your precious life force walling off how you really feel and what you really want, or use self-acceptance and the power of quitting cleanly to dismantle that wall and reconnect with your power.

When we allow ourselves to feel how we feel, and we honor and invite those feelings to teach us, we’re saying to ourselves, “My feelings matter. I matter.”

And what better way to move into the new year?

A Radical Perspective Shift for the New Year

What is an archetype, and, perhaps more importantly, why should we care? I like exploring the etymology of words, and Google tells us that “archetype” comes from the Greek arkhetupon, which means “something molded first as a model.” Like a prototype, essentially.

If we move to the world of Jungian psychology, we take this idea into the realm of the psyche. Jung understood archetypes–these prototypes upon which other things are based–as residing in the collective unconscious, which you can think of like a huge soup pot of information that we’re all swimming in, even though it resides outside of our conscious awareness in ordinary, waking life.

I like Wikipedia’s description of Jungian archetypes as “inherited potentials which are actualized when they enter consciousness as images or manifest in behavior on interaction with the outside world.”

Say what, now? In other words, when these archetypes are floating around in the giant soup pot of the collective unconscious, they exist as pure potential. So, for example, we have the archetype of the Mother or the Saint or the Victim floating around in our collective soup. Each archetype represents the sum total of the potential that the Mother or the Saint or the Victim represents–all the different ways that we could express the energy of the Mother, the Saint, or the Victim in our own minds; in our interactions with others; in art, like movies, myths, and books; and so on. And these are just three examples–there are countless others. There’s an archetype for Love, Power, Justice…and the list goes on.

So, why does this matter in our lives? Well, you can think of these archetypes as the universal paint palette. We all have access to the full set of paints, but how we use them (or don’t use them, as many of us paint with a limited set of colors), dictates the ever-evolving painting that is our life. It dictates whether we experience our life as a puddle of muddy colors or a multi-dimensional masterpiece.

I love this definition of archetypes taken from a fascinating novel, The Seed Collector: Archetypes are “every possible shape an ego can inhabit.” And because our egos are typically front and center when we’re interacting with the world (and when we’re interacting with ourselves), the shapes our ego inhabits defines how we experience life.

In short, our relationship to these archetypes is mega important.

How to Work with Archetypes

All right, so now what? We know the archetypes are super important, but what are we supposed to do with this information?

I’m glad you asked. There are enough answers to this question to keep us busy for multiple lifetimes, because you can explore your relationship to the archetypes through magick, therapy/psychology, religion, ritual, meditation, bodywork, tarot, astrology, etc. But I want to leave you with a very powerful exercise given to me by my Guides. You can explore this exercise in meditation, in journaling, and while you’re going about your daily life. Combine all three approaches and you’ll be treated to rich insights that can propel your personal growth like you wouldn’t believe.

Recall the last time you fell in love or in lust with someone. Really try to put yourself in that space where you couldn’t wait to see this person, where your thoughts were consumed by them, where you felt electric and alive in their presence.

Give yourself time to really embody this experience. And if you’re in this place right now, lucky you! This exercise will be even easier for you.

Now, identify one quality that you perceive in the other person that really lights you up, a quality that you really, really love about them. If this is someone from your past and that love is now in the past tense, recall back to the honeymoon stage and identify one of the qualities that made you fall for this person.

Do you have a quality in mind? All right, now imagine yourself in a situation with this person when they are exhibiting this desirable quality. If it was their sense of humor, imagine being with them as they’re making you laugh. If it’s their ability to listen, imagine being with them as they’re listening intently to what you’re saying.

Staying in the scene, shift your focus internally and take your time as you home in on what, in you, is being activated by the other person’s amazing quality. Perhaps their sense of humor activates in you a feeling that life is fun or safe or enjoyable. Perhaps their ability to listen activates in you the feeling that you’re interesting or smart or worthy.

If you’re visual, you can imagine this quality in them traveling in the form of colored light into your body. See what happens when it enters your energy field. See how you feel. Do any images or memories come to mind? Any thoughts or sounds ? Any physical sensations?

When the experience feels complete, write down your impressions and ground and center yourself in the present.

Dancing With Archetypes

Okay, so what just happened in this exercise? One of the most common ways that we interact with these archetypes is by projecting them onto other people and events. While there are a host of reasons, depending on your views, as to why we do this, my personal experience leads me to believe that one primary reason is it feels safer and more manageable to perceive these qualities as “out there.” If they’re projected onto another person or situation then they’re not our responsibility, and we don’t really have to do anything about them.

When we’re falling in love with another person, I believe that one of the reasons this experience is so intoxicating (beyond the potent cocktail of chemicals flooding our bodies and brains, of course) is that we are able to project all of these idealized images onto the other person, and in that honeymoon stage, we selectively filter out anything that might contradict this ideal. We’re able to take this ideal we hold in our minds and believe that it really exists in the world in the form of our beloved.

These idealized images, though, have very little (and at times, absolutely nothing) to do with who the other person is; they have much more to say about who we want to be. Notice, I didn’t say who we want the other person to be but rather who we want to be.

When I met my husband, I wanted to feel safe and secure, not only because this is a pretty standard human desire but because my past was anything but. My internal world felt like a chaotic brew of fear and instability most days (and my external world was a mirror of this internal state), and I wanted to find my safe harbor in the storm. The calm amidst the chaos.

And so, I projected that stability and calm onto my husband. He was the rock in the relationship.

Until he wasn’t. My husband, of course, is human. He can’t always be stable and calm, nor should he have to be in order for me to feel stable and secure within myself. He’s his own person, not a projection of who I want him to be. Or, more to the point, who I want to be but am afraid to own.

By projecting the qualities of Safety and Stability onto my husband, I absolved myself of the responsibility to activate and cultivate those experiences for myself. And herein lies the trap of projection: Sooner or later, the repository of our projections reveals themselves to be a person in their own right, someone who exists far beyond the bounds of our ideals, and the illusion shatters.

Where we become stuck is when we assume that this is the fault of the other. They’re such a jerk. They aren’t who I thought they were.  To paraphrase Joseph Campbell, when the honeymoon period ends, we often snatch back our precious projections from our partner and go off to find someone else to project them onto.

When we begin to recognize what we are projecting onto the other person, which the above exercise helps to uncover, we can then ask ourselves, where is this quality lying dormant in me, yearning to be awakened? In my example, how can I create my own sense of Safety and Security, rather than expecting my husband to create that for me? For me, the beginning of that journey toward self-activated Safety and Security involved therapy, meditation, journaling, spending a lot of time in nature, and yoga–all done with the intention of getting to know those parts within me that felt unsafe and insecure and welcoming them back home.

When we take back our projections, we are then able to see other people as people in their own right. I’m not sure that we can ever get to a state completely free of projections (while we’re physical beings leading human lives, at least), but my experience says that the more projections we reabsorb and integrate, the more empowered we feel, because we’re owning our ability to interact with and channel these archetypes ourselves. And we are better able to love others for who they are and not merely for their ability to mirror back the qualities we want to see in ourselves.

The Button Pusher Technique

Here’s one more dimension to this practice that is truly life changing: Not only do we project desirable qualities onto other people and situations, we, of course, also project undesirable qualities, such as Selfishness, Pettiness, Hate, and Anger–all of those archetypes that feel like a hot potato we can’t wait to pass off to someone else.

In the same way that we can take back our desirable projections and reintegrate them so, too, can we own the projections that are less than desirable. A powerful way to start this process is to use what I call the Button Pusher Technique.

Imagine that you have a giant console of buttons inside your head. If you’ve seen the movie Inside Out, you have a ready-made visual. In order to feel anything, we push buttons on our internal console. Here’s the key: We are the ones doing the button pushing. No one else has the ability to climb inside our heads and wrestle the console out of our control. If a button is getting pushed, you can know, with 100% certainty, that the finger on the button…is yours.

Let’s say I’m talking to my dad and I feel like he’s uninterested in what I’m saying and, by extension, uninterested in me. For most of my life, I would feel one of two things in this situation: unworthiness, which spurred an almost manic need to figure out how to be what I thought my dad wanted me to be so I could then be the object of his interest, or rage, which felt so overwhelming that I would start to shut down emotionally and feel hollow and…adrift is the best word I can think of.

In either case, I experienced this as my dad pushing the Unworthy Button or the Rage Button, when in fact, there I was, standing at the console, pushing buttons.

There’s an important distinction I want to make, and please hear me on this: Taking back your projections does not mean that the other person is this pure, innocent saint who can do no wrong and we’re simply projecting any perceived poor qualities onto them. This line of thinking tends to lead to resisting the process of taking back our projections, because it feels so unfair that the other person isn’t “on the hook” anymore, and/or putting up with shitty behavior because we think everything the other person does must just be our own projection.


When we take back our projections, we do this in order to see ourselves and other people more clearly, and what we see with this added clarity might, in fact, be that the other person is acting like a turd and we don’t want to be around it anymore. Perhaps we see that we’re being a turd and we need to clean up our act with a huge helping of radical self-acceptance. Either way, we become clear on what is ours to deal with and what is the other person’s domain.

The archetypes are universal sources of immense power, available to each and every one of us. The more we explore our personal relationship with these powers, the more we are able to channel them in effective ways. We’re able to paint the picture of our life with more brilliant colors, and in so doing, we feel whole and integrated.

We’re no longer scattering these powers around us, projecting them here and there and hoping that other people and events will be the way we want them to be in order to maintain our relationships with these powers.

We bring the powers within.

We cultivate those archetypal relationships from the Inside Out.

And we reclaim our wholeness.

How Self-Acceptance Makes You Energetically Stronger

the missing piece

One night, about a month ago, I asked my Guides a question before bed. I’ve been intensely exploring my relationship to money, something I’ve written about quite a bit already on my other blog, from different perspectives. Whereas before I was feeling the strain of perpetual brokeness, I’m now enjoying more financial stability than I ever have in the past…and yet my old money relationship habits still crop up, and there’s a very real sense that the subconscious agenda is to bring me back down to a level of brokeness, because it feels more “comfortable.”

And so, I’ve been searching for a reframe, a new way of relating to this internal conflict that will allow me to be both financial stable and feel comfortable with that.

But back to the dream. Before bed, I asked my Guides to show me the next piece in changing my relationship to money, and here’s what happened…

In the dream, I was watching a group of people eating at a picnic table. They all had large holes in their bodies in various places, and as they ate, the food slipped right out of the holes (very similar to the concept of the hungry ghost in certain forms of Buddhism). And when one person would talk, their words would enter the hole of another person who would then turn red with rage or blue with sadness.

My Guides then began to speak, and they said, “Too often, you expend effort trying to control these universal flows of energy, like money (think of all of the self-help materials designed to help you manifest or attract what you want). This is very difficult. Instead, your efforts would be better spent increasing the strength and integrity of your container. Those universal energies don’t need your help to flow; they do that just fine on their own. Your challenge lies in how you relate to that flow, which you do, in large part, through your vessel, your container.”

This brought to mind a teaching by the Reiki Master Hiroshi Doi, speaking on the universal nature of Reiki: “The sun gives out its energy equally to all beings but not everyone benefits equally. If one believes that sunlight is bad for his health, he closes the door to refuse the sun, although the sun is still sending energy to him. If we set up limitations with ourselves, we will receive limited benefits.”

So, too, we don’t have to earn these universal energy flows, but it is possible to lock them out, and when we forget that we hold the key and have the power to open the door at any time, it’s easy to adopt a story of, “These energies are passing me by because I’m unworthy,” and then we spend all this time trying to exorcise the aspects of ourselves that we deem unworthy, only to feel even less connected to the universe, because we are disconnected within ourselves.

The Power of Your Container

My Guides went on to explain that energy, like the energy of money, will take on many of the qualities of the container it’s in, so if my container has woven into its structure an association between money and the feeling of being manipulated or the fear of manipulating others, then it’s no wonder I don’t want to contain that energy–it feels gross! And more to the point, manipulation is one of those qualities deemed unworthy by the inner judge, so I’d better not associate with it, lest I, too, be judged as unworthy.

My Guides further explained that things like learning how to budget and other practical aspects of money management are important, too, but their successful implementation still depends on those structures’ ability to contain. If they can’t contain, as soon as energy starts to flow in, those structures (e.g. the budget) get washed away.

So, what does this containment look like? In large part, it comes down to being able to sit with what is, and in this context, what we’re referring to by what is is typically feelings–being able to sit with whatever feelings arise in response to life. When we aren’t able to sit with our feelings, we do a lot of things to distract ourselves, and those things are usually the habits we’re trying so very hard to break: compulsive eating, shopping, self-criticism, judgement of others, spending hours on Facebook, you name it.

If you think about those distractions, it’s interesting that we often conceptualize them, in some form or another, as a drain on our energy. “Man, if I hadn’t spent three hours on Facebook, I could have…” or “If I could just stop tearing myself down, I’d be able to…” In a very real sense, this inability to sit with our feelings is an indication of energy flowing out in an undesirable way–in other words, of “holes” in our container.

In the month since the dream, my Guides have given me more information in meditation, dreams, conversations, and books, and the tipping point was finally reached this morning when I made the connection between this ability to contain and something else I wrote about recently: radical self-acceptance.

Container Yoga

How do we increase the strength and integrity of our container? Through radical self-acceptance.

In that previous post, I talked about self-acceptance as a way of expanding our view of who we are. The more we accept about ourselves, the bigger our self-view becomes. Combine this with the underlying assumption that you are already whole, that you have simply forgotten that you are whole, and self-acceptance becomes a way of continually seeing more and more of your innate wholeness. A way of returning to the knowing that there’s nothing broken about you; you have been and always will be whole.

Let’s bring this together with the concept of building a strong container.

Think of one of the dream picnic goers sitting at the table with big, gaping holes in their body. Let’s think about how those holes may have gotten there. Yes, some of them may be due, in part, to the actions of other people, but I strongly believe that the greatest damages we incur are the ones we inflict on ourselves. Even when other people are involved, how we internalize their actions are more defining than the actions themselves.

So, if we focus on the holes that are self-inflicted, what might that process of hole making look like? Well, the opposite of radical self-acceptance: self-rejection.

Let’s get overly literal and imagine that there’s an aspect of yourself you don’t like, and it’s residing in your right hip. At first, you might do things to distract yourself from being aware that this aspect is there, but eventually (or quite quickly in response to more traumatic triggers, perhaps), you reject that aspect of yourself. You deny its existence. If energy flows where attention goes, this area is now cut off from your attention, and the flow of energy trickles. Is it such a leap, then, to see how, over time, this area of your energetic field could cease to exist–a hole could be formed–through continual rejection and lack of attention?

Now, this calls into question our idea that we’re already whole and that we cannot lose this state of wholeness. If that’s so, where does the energy that was once in the hole go? I think that the energy doesn’t “go away,” it simply gets pushed to another layer of reality, what, in psychological terms, we’d call the subconscious. It’s still part of our being, it’s simply residing in an area that we don’t have conscious access to, and thus we have this nagging sense that something is missing, that something is wrong with us.

As Jungian analyst June Singer writes, “Wholeness can only be achieved when nothing is left out.”

So simple, yet so mind blowing.

If we long to remember our wholeness, we don’t get to choose which parts of ourselves are acceptable. They all are.

We don’t get to choose which parts of ourselves are worthy of love. They all are.

And to respond to the common fear that self-acceptance will lead to inner anarchy, that our bad habits will simply take over and lead us to ruin, I offer this passage from a wonderful book by Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting:

“Imagine the situation: A child is yelling, obviously upset, and when she quiets down her daddy lies in bed with his arm around her and reads her a Frog and Toad story. In response, the proponent of conditional parenting exclaims, ‘No, no, no, you’re just reinforcing her bad behavior! You’re teaching her that it’s all right to be naughty!”

‘This interpretation…reflects an awfully sour view of children–and, by extension, of human nature. It assumes that, given half a chance, kids will take advantage of us. Give ’em an inch, they’ll take a mile. They will draw the worst possible lesson from an ambiguous situation (not “I’m loved anyway” but “Yay! It’s okay to make trouble!”). Acceptance without strings attached will just be interpreted as permission to act in a way that’s selfish, demanding, greedy, or inconsiderate. At least in part, then, conditional parenting is based on the deeply cynical belief that accepting kids for who they are just frees them to be bad because, well, that’s who they are.”

Trust in your innate goodness, and entertain the possibility that the aspects of yourself you have deemed “bad” are simply feeling rejected and don’t know how else to get your attention.

Rather than fearing they will overtake you if you send even the slightest bit of love and acceptance their way, explore what happens.

See for yourself. Feel for yourself.

Wholeness can only be achieved if nothing is left out.

The Power of Radical Self-Acceptance


I was out hiking with a friend who was going through a tough time, and as she was getting things off her chest I couldn’t help but notice how harsh she was being with herself. “If only I would do this, “If I could just do that,” “I don’t know why I can’t just do x, y and z already!”

As we talked about this self-judgement her fears surfaced, and they were fears that I could very much relate to: If I stop pushing myself, all of my vices will crawl out of the closets and overtake me. I have to be vigilant.

I had a strong sense that accepting those parts that she was most afraid was the key to my friend’s (and my own) healing, but I couldn’t fully articulate how that process might work. The fear that acceptance of our vices would lead to defeat by those vices was still too strong, so I decided to meditate and ask my Guides for clarity.

When in doubt, get the meditation cushion out! 😉

My Guides explained it like this. Imagine that you are a round dinner plate (stay with me; this will all make sense, I promise). By your very nature, you are already whole and complete; there’s nothing missing from you, there’s nothing broken.

Many of us, though, only accept a part of ourselves. So imagine, now, that there’s a sandwich sitting on part of the plate. The sandwich represents what you’re willing to accept about yourself: the “good” parts; the parts that ensure people keep liking you, that you keep liking you. The problem is that you now only see one part of yourself–the sandwich–and you forget that you’re the whole dinner plate.

Somewhere, deep down, you remember that feeling of wholeness, though, and you want to get it back. You sense that there’s something missing, so you go about getting fancier bread for your sandwich and better toppings, but you still can’t shake that sense that you’re not enough.

Where we get stuck is thinking that this sense that we’re not enough is an indication that we really aren’t enough, when it’s simply a sign that we’ve forgotten that we’re enough. The dinner plate’s still there; we’re just not seeing it because we’re busy trying to perfect our sandwich.

Imagine, now, that you are willing to accept those parts of yourself that aren’t so easy to be around: your judgement of self and others; those times when you’re not feeling compassionate and you’re feeling downright spiteful (we all have them); and any other part of you that you think might elicit shame, blame, or judgement.

With each of these qualities you see and accept, you are widening your vision of who you are. You’re no longer just the sandwich, you’re the sandwich and a little bit of the plate over here…and over here…and a little more over here. Before you know it, those shadow aspects you’ve been spending so much energy trying to disown are the very means through which you are able to see the whole dinner plate: your innate wholeness.

We have to trust that we won’t devolve into awful people when we start to accept ourselves.

We have to trust that, at our very core, we are acceptable. We are worthy.

We have to trust that the parts of ourselves we have rejected are integral to our return to wholeness; they’re not trash to be thrown away.

We have to trust ourselves.

And the paradox? Those things we have been trying for years to change, to get rid of, the moment we begin to accept them is the moment they begin to change of their own accord.

In our fear, we locked them up in cages and then wondered why they never got better. Would you flourish in a cage?

Let them out.

Welcome them home.

And come home to yourself.

Fear of Missing Out


Every year on my birthday, I do an in-depth tarot reading to gain clarity on the most important lessons from the past year and guidance on the lessons that will be most prominent in the year ahead.

One of my major lessons came in the form of the Hermit, and in the deck I chose to use, The Wild Unknown Tarot, the Hermit is depicted as a turtle with a lantern on its shell:

wild unknown tarot hermit

While this card carried many messages for me, the one I want to focus on here is the lesson of patience.

This tied into an experience I’d had in meditation earlier in the year when we were deciding whether or not to buy a particular house. I saw the turtle on the sidewalk in front of the house, slowly, slowly, slowly making its way up to the porch. When I tried to help it along by picking it up and carrying it, the lantern fell off and the scene went dark.

When I try to force solutions, I lose sight of my inner guiding light.

This led to more meditations, journaling and self-inquiry around my relationship to patience, and I began to see a number of threads emerging:

  • I recognized that I have considerable will to get shit done, and while this can be a wonderful asset, it can also accelerate me towards goals that, deep down, I don’t actually care about, and sometimes I disconnect from what I truly want when I’m more concerned with crossing things off my to-do list.
  • I began to see a pattern: When I felt impatient, I would whip out my will and move things along, and there was a predictable side effect. The outcome was either something I didn’t feel all that enthused about or fulfilled by, and often changing my mind at that stage took even more work and time than simply letting things move at a natural pace to begin with.
  • I also noticed how judgy I could get in that head space. If I perceived other people as preventing me from whipping along at an accelerated rate, my thoughts tended to be, er, less compassionate toward them.

And underneath all of this activity, I finally began to reach what was at the core: fear. Fear that, if I didn’t pounce on this opportunity, I’d blow it.

If we didn’t get this awesome house, there’d never be another house quite this awesome.

If I didn’t take this class, I’d have a critical, irreparable gap in my knowledge.

Dramatic much?

Well, that’s the voice of the ego. Every choice, no matter how small, is a matter of imminent life or death. [dum, dum, DUM!]


It was time to tell my ego to chill the eff out.

As I sat with the fear, I also noticed something else: In that space when I was trying to force a solution, what I was really trying to do was to regain a sense of power. In those moments I was feeling disconnected from my inner power (my lantern), and in an attempt to get it back, I would exert power over external situations.

Contrast power over something versus empowerment: power within. When we’re not plugged into our inner power, we often try to replicate that feeling of power by being extra controlling with external circumstance, or even extra controlling with ourselves (think: addictive behavior). But control does not equal true power.

In meditation, one of my Guides helped me narrow in on one aspect of this control-patience-fear dynamic to work on right now: My perception of time. When I’m feeling like things are moving so damn slooooooooooow, she said, “Time is relative. You control how you experience time.”

With these words, I felt a deep peace wash over me, and I sat in silence for–well, I don’t know how long; I wasn’t keeping track of time. It became so clear that my perception of time was instrumental in my experience, something we have all intuitively felt. Contrast the experience of time when you’re with someone you love, engrossed in fascinating conversation, versus when you’re stuck in traffic.

My intuition is telling me that regaining the knowledge that I have a choice–I get to choose how I experience time–will help me reconnect with my inner power in those moments when I might otherwise be tempted to find that feeling through controlling behavior.

My new mantra: “Things are unfolding at just the right pace. What perfect timing!”


Your Personal Grail Quest, Part Two


This is an excerpt from a book-in-progress, Crafting Your Personal Grail Quest, which is a guide to discovering and living your soul’s purpose.

In Part One of this series, we talked about how to use the tarot’s Major Arcana to determine your location on the Grail Map. We then learned how to take the information from that Major Arcana card and formulate it into a lesson, which serves as your current focal point as you go through daily life, looking for clues and synchronicity. Again, if all of that is new to you, catch up with this post.

Prepare Your Tarot Deck

Today, we’re going to go further and use the tarot to identify new ways to embrace and learn this lesson. For example, let’s say your lesson is learning how to be more grounded. For this next step, you will separate out all of your Minor Arcana cards from the rest of the deck.

If you recall, the Major Arcana cards are numbered zero through twenty-one, and they typically have names like Death, Temperance, the Lovers, etc. When you separate out the Majors, what’s left is the Minor Arcana and the court cards. Remove the court cards, which are the page (or princess/daughter), knight (or prince/son), queen, and king, one for each of the four suits for a total of sixteen cards. You’ll be left with the Minor Arcana: four suits (cups, pentacles, swords, and wands–or some variation on these, depending on your deck), each with ten cards for a total of forty cards.

As you shuffle this stack of Minor Arcana cards, ask how you can best embrace your lesson. Focus on receiving this information as you shuffle. Then, choose a card. The card you draw indicates how best to embrace the lesson you are focusing on right now, the lesson you derived in the last step from the Major Arcana card.

Interpreting the Card

Using our previous example, let’s say your lesson is learning how to be more grounded, and when you draw a Minor card, the detail that sticks out is a shiny, bright coin that someone is picking up off the ground.

Use the process outlined in the previous post to interpret this in a way unique to you, but here’s an example to get you started: Perhaps money is an issue for you, and specifically, feeling like you never have enough contributes to your sense of being ungrounded.

A possible interpretation, then, is that it’s time to focus on the flow of money into and out of your life to fully embrace the lesson of being more grounded. Getting even more detailed with the card imagery, the act of picking money off the ground could suggest that you are letting money fall out of your pocket, so to speak, and it’s time to start collecting that wayward cash. Go over your bank statements and actually look at where your money is going. Maybe one little book from Amazon here and another book there are adding up more than you think.

Begin to think of money as a tool to enhance or detract from your sense of grounding.

When you’re tempted to buy another book, maybe you check in and see if spending this money right now will make it harder to pay your rent–and do you really need another book when you have ten unread ones already? This isn’t about extreme self-deprivation, it’s about making more conscious choices around spending, and specifically, exploring how your spending choices affect how grounded you feel, not just in the moment but also in the long term.

In addition to looking at the practical, budgetary side of things, I would encourage you to go deeper.

Meditate on the connection between money and feeling grounded in your life.

Journal on it.

Ask questions before bed and make note of your dreams.

Chances are, there are deeper themes playing out in your spending habits, and this self-inquiry will lead to rich insights. Remember to pair these insights with real-world action, too; it’s not enough to simply meditate on money issues while making zero changes in the physical world. But when you pair the inner and the outer work together, get ready for your life to change!