Thursday, April 29, 2010

Putting An End To Guilt

I left work early on Monday because I was experiencing some physical pain. As I walked home I felt overcome with guilt, even though my pain was legitimate. I felt guilty because I’ve been putting myself above work recently, taking time off to deal with a pinched nerve or an illness or whatever, and I didn’t feel like I “should,” or that was the “right” way to do things.

Last week I wrote about taking care of the self, which I obviously believe in otherwise I wouldn’t have left work early, but the guilt, oh the guilt, that’s another story.

I have an ex-Catholic daddy and a Jewish momma so guilt is practically second nature to me. This is not to say every Jew or Catholic lays on the guilt but it certainly was the case in my household. (By the way, I’m not blaming my parents because everyone is the victim of a victim. It’s how they were raised and what they know and I don’t fault them in the least. But I can choose to not make guilt a part of my life.)

Guilt is a kind of coercion into certain behavior because if you feel bad you’ll act a certain way, the thinking goes. For instance, if I feel guilty about leaving work early, I won’t do it again. Except that’s not really true. I felt guilty but did it anyway, so in essence guilt is useless. Guilt only makes me feel bad.

Underpinning guilt I think are “shoulds” and “should nots.” As I walked home from work on Monday a litany of “shoulds” filled my head: “I should have stayed at work. I should have pushed through the pain. I shouldn’t have left. I shouldn’t be doing this. I shouldn’t take so much time off,” etc. I felt guilty because I wasn’t following my shoulds.

Louise Hay says in “You Can Heal Your Life:”
"I believe should is one of the most damaging words in our language. Every time we use should, we are, in effect, saying “wrong.” Either we are wrong or we were wrong or we are going to be wrong. I don’t think we need more wrongs in our life. We need to have more freedom of choice. I would like to take the word should and remove it from the vocabulary forever. I’d replace it with the word could. Could gives us choice, and we are never wrong."
I quite agree. What I’m realizing is there are no “mistakes,” only choices. There is no right or wrong, there is no perfect, there is no one way to be. Only choice. Only possibility. In essence guilt gives me the opposite message. Guilt tells me there is a right way and a wrong way and if I choose wrong, look out because the world is going to end and no one will love me and I’ll die alone in a shack in the middle of the woods and God will hate me forever and ever.

Oh wait.

I’ve felt guilty about many, many things, and as of yet the world hasn’t stopped spinning. I think it’s safe to say my acts of “wrongdoing” will not result in a catastrophic end to all humankind. So you know I don’t have to feel guilty anymore. In fact, I choose to not feel guilty anymore because instead I recognize my life is open and uninhibited. I recognize there are consequences for every action but fundamentally everything is a choice. Some choices I may like better than others but everything is a choice nonetheless. Thus “guilt” and “should” can vanish like vapor -- I’d rather live in peace and harmony if you don’t mind.

I dream of a world where people recognize all the freedom to their lives. A world where people understand life is a series of choices and there are many ways of doing things and seeing things. A world where people give themselves a break and follow their intuition no matter what others say. A world where people take care of themselves and each other. A world where we live together in peace and harmony.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Taking Care Of The Self

“It seems that when some people talk of compassion, they have the notion that it entails a total disregard or even a sacrificing of one’s own interests. This is not the case. In fact, genuine love should first be directed at oneself – if we do not love ourselves, how can we love others?” – The Dalai Lama
Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a right to take care of myself. Sometimes I feel like everyone else’s needs are more important than mine, should come before mine. Sometimes I feel like it’s more important to keep my boss happy than it is to keep me happy.

What ends up happening is I run myself ragged trying to do for others, sacrificing myself for others, and then I get knocked flat by an illness. I wear myself out to such a degree I’m forced to take care of myself because my body demands it. And if I do take care of myself? If I do stroll into work half an hour late because I’m so tired I can barely stand? Well then I feel guilty. “I should be at work! I shouldn’t be sleeping in like this! My boss won’t like it! He might fire me!”

My guilty feelings probably stem from fear. From fear if I don’t keep everyone else happy something bad will happen. If I don’t keep my boss happy he’ll fire me. If I don’t support my friend she’ll drop me. But I don’t live in a fear-based world anymore. If those things happen the relationships probably weren’t for my highest good anyway. This is not to say I advocate becoming completely selfish and self-centered – because I don’t. I’m advocating balance and compromise. Balancing my needs with the needs of those around me. Of finding a win-win solution. Because if I continue to subjugate my needs it leads to illness and resentment and that’s not good for anybody.

In writing this post I’m not chastising myself so much as re-prioritizing. As the Dalai Lama says, “If we do not love ourselves, how can we love others?” If we do not take care of ourselves, how can we take care of others? I’m finally recognizing I deserve to take care of myself. I deserve to make myself priority numero uno, even if that means making other people unhappy. Even if it means ruffling a few feathers. I don’t intend to upset my boss by coming in late or leaving early, but if I do, that’s really ok. I come first. My job is just a job. It’s not my sole reason for living. That’s not to say I’m ungrateful for my job or disregard it, but it’s time to strike a balance.

I dream of a world where we all take care of ourselves. Where we balance our needs with the needs of those around us. Where we know it’s safe to take care of ourselves and not only that but we know we deserve it. A world where we understand self-love also means lovingly taking care of the self. A world where we understand when we take care of ourselves only then can we take care of others.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Patience Equals Serenity

“I beg you…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer…” – Rainer Maria Rilke
A friend of mine gave me a magnet with Rilke’s quote on it years ago because she knows me so well. I know I wrote about God’s timeline a month ago, but this week I’m deepening my understanding of patience and how it affects me.

This week I’ve been taking stock of my life and I see just how frequently impatience crops up. I’m noticing how impatience is the root of much of my misery. For instance, take this morning. Nestled in my bed, dreaming about foreign lands and new friends I heard a loud, incessant beeping, and it wasn’t my alarm. The noise came from a parked car in the lot below my window. My first reaction was, “Ugh! That car alarm is so loud and obnoxious! Surely the parking attendants will rush over and turn it off? Surely they’ll respect the fact there are some people still sleeping?” No. They did not rush to turn off the alarm. They did not rush to do anything. Instead they let it beep and beep and beep.

Where does impatience get me? Feeling frustrated, irritated, grumpy, annoyed, angry, pissed off, and pretty much every other synonym you can think of. Where does patience get me? The complete opposite.

My second reaction to the car alarm going off came from the serene place in my brain. My patient side said, “It will stop eventually, don’t worry about it.” Because here's the thing, my impatient self thinks, “The car alarm is going to go off forever! I’m going to hear this car beep for the rest of my life! I’m never going to be able to sleep again!” Really. In my mind, if something doesn’t happen immediately it’s going to last indefinitely. In my mind if the parking attendants don’t shut off the alarm NOW the alarm will never cease.

I guess I’m saying this week I’m learning just how much impatience affects me. Just how much it keeps me boxed into a small, ego-centered place. How impatience veers me off the God path. The path where I recognize everything happens for a reason in my best interest. The path where I know my deepest desires will be fulfilled eventually. The path where I understand everything blossoms at its own right and true pace. Patience gives me serenity, keeps me calm, keeps me aligned with my higher power. Patience keeps me humble and open to whatever’s in the best interest for all parties involved. I’d like to remember that. And I’d like others to remember it as well.

I dream of a world where we all feel patient and calm and centered. A world where we understand there are greater forces at work in our lives and those forces understand what’s in our best interests. A world where we know timing plays a key role in things and it’s better for us to leave it to the infinite loving force that guides all of creation. A world where we align our wills’ with God’s, recognizing patience is a key element. A world where we feel at ease knowing all is well in our world.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I used to believe I had to “conquer” my fears. I used to be of the mindset I had to squash doubt flat, or wrestle with my other issues until I won. That I had to assert my will and come out the victor. I realized a while ago that’s not the case at all.

In January I wrote a journal entry I’ve been meaning to share but haven’t yet:

Jan. 27, 2010
I realized tonight this fear is not mine, it doesn’t belong to me. I’ve been trying to take ownership of it. To claim it. To bust through it. To work around it. But it’s like a blind man getting caught tangled in a cloak. I’ve been trying to chew holes in it and rip it apart, but ultimately can’t get rid of it until I just take it off, recognizing it doesn’t belong to me. Because it doesn’t. There’s no use in trying to work with or tame fear – it can’t be tamed. Only released. It was never mine to begin with. It always belonged to God so I give it back to its rightful owner, where God can transmute it into love. That was never my responsibility. My only job was to let it go, to surrender.

While that particular journal entry was about fear I think it can apply to anything and everything. I don’t ever really “work through” my issues so much as release them. Some people would say to me, “Yes, but Rebekah, the only way to get rid of a fear like public speaking is to just go out and do it. Take a class and practice.” I would say let’s take a look at what’s really going on. What happens when we practice something like public speaking? We decide it’s not as scary as we thought. Because we’re doing what scares us, we realize it’s not so bad. We release the fear in our mind. So again, the point of power, the point of change, is in the mind, not the action.

Whenever I talk about surrender and release someone invariably says to me, “Yes but you still have to do stuff. You can’t just sit around.” Sometimes I think we confuse surrender and avoidance. Avoidance is fear-based. When I avoid something it’s because I’m afraid, I don’t want to do it, whatever. If I were to say, “I surrender my fear of public speaking,” and then refuse to speak in public whenever I’m given the opportunity, that’s not really surrendering the fear, is it? That’s avoidance.

Surrender means to release, to let go, to no longer fight. When I surrender fear and doubt I release them to love. I give them to infinite love. I no longer wrestle with them using my ego, or the willful part of me. The part of me that thinks I handle everything by myself, the part of me that thinks I am separate from everyone and everything else. Essentially the part of me that disconnects from all-pervasive love.

When I surrender, when I release, when I let go, I transcend all those issues. I transcend my little “I” and my little “I” issues and instead remember all is love. Instead I remember I am love incarnate.

I dream of a world where instead of “working” on our issues we just let them go. A world where we remember we are divine, magnificent beings and our true nature is love. A world where we see ourselves for who we really are – embodiments of love. A world where we transcend all that is unlike love and live in a place of peace and harmony.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sitting With It

I had/have a pinched nerve. On Tuesday I woke up with a searing pain. My neck and upper shoulder hurt so much I almost cried as I walked to work – the strain of my backpack was too much to bear. I am very much the type of person when something doesn’t feel good I want to be out of it as quickly as possible. What can I do to make this better? What can I do to make this go away?

On Tuesday I kept taking breaks to stretch my neck and shoulders. I ducked into an empty conference room and started doing every yoga pose I could think of to target that area. At the time it helped, but the pain got progressively worse as the day wore on. I couldn’t even hold my head properly it hurt so much at the end of the day. I went to a Passover Seder that night and had to have the person on my right pour me some grape juice because I couldn’t pick up the glass Knudsen’s bottle. I tried doing everything I could to feel better because I sure as heck didn’t want to feel the pain.

On Wednesday I saw my chiropractor and she (ironically) said to me sometimes it’s best to just sit with the pain and let it be what it is. Let the pain move through the body, to rest, and just to let it be. So I did and now I feel better (of course).

I feel like my reaction to my pinched nerve can also be applied to other things. To emotional pain or sorrow. If I’m feeling sad I don’t want to feel sad, I want to do EFT and affirmations to feel better right this minute. I want to get myself out of my funk as quickly as possible. What I’m learning though is in order to release that stuff, first I have to accept it. For instance, spraying dog poop with perfume doesn’t get rid of it – the perfume only masks the smell for a little while. I have to acknowledge my pain first before it can vacate the premises.

I think I like to brush past the non-happy places as quickly as possible because a part of me thinks I can’t bear the pain. It seems like too much. There’s a great quote I stumbled across last night I think fits in with this really well:

“Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond the pain.” – Saint Bartholomew

I don’t really have so much to say here except I’m finally letting myself sit with my emotions and physical discomforts. Instead of immediately reaching out for something to “make” me feel better I’m allowing myself to feel fully. To take it in so it can leave. Because it’s only when I fully acknowledge something that I can truly face it head on. It’s not until I say, “Yes, there is some poop on the carpet,” that I can clean it up.

I dream of a world where we are at peace just where we are, and we accept our good knowing all needs and desires will be fulfilled. I dream of a world where we allow ourselves to be, to feel, to accept. A world where we know it is safe to do so. A world where we allow states to move through us like clouds billowing in the sky. A world where we recognize we can handle anything our higher power throws at us. Because we can.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.