Steps Towards Loving and Accepting Yourself

“Your problem is you’re … too busy holding onto your unworthiness.” 
~ Ram Dass

“Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~ Rumi

 

Most of us believe that to be truly loved by another, their love for us will be unconditional.

Unconditional love is a compassionate love that embraces and holds you in a person’s heart, regardless of your circumstances, appearance, conduct or beliefs. It is a love that is accepting and forgiving. It is kind. And often self-sacrificing.

A great example of this love is a client of mine, whose young son suffered a severe brain injury after a drink-driving incident (he was the driver) in which his best friend died. She cannot condone her son’s behaviour, and she is deeply saddened for him and the family of the person her son killed, but she still loves her son – not for who he was, but for all he’s ever been, including who he is now. She’s his carer, his therapist, his mum, his friend.

We all understand love like that. It’s a deep, true and abiding love. It’s the love most desired in our lives, whether from our family, friends or partners.

The one place we usually overlook when we go chasing love is the person looking back at us from the mirror each morning. And that’s because, for most of us, our love for ourselves is conditional:

“I’ll feel so much better about myself when I lose a bit more weight.”

“I hate my thighs. I can’t go on a beach holiday.”

“I can’t forgive myself for investing in that scheme. I’ve ruined our lives.”

“I’d like myself more if I could stop binge eating.”

“I’d be happier if I could just get a better job.”

“I don’t deserve that.”

“I’m so unfit. It’s disgusting.”

“I don’t have time for my own interests. There’s too much else to do.” (Said with sighs of resentment!)

Yep, that’s right. We’re often the worst offenders when it comes to loving and accepting ourselves.

Truth is, we are imperfect. And if we’re blessed to have a shining moment where EVERYTHING in our lives is magically wonderfully amazing to us and others, where we totally accept and adore ourselves, well, chances are that star will fade.

So, what are we to do?

Image from Her Campus

Image from Her Campus

No, I’m not going to have you recite positive affirmations while gazing lovingly at yourself! I’ve never found that particularly helpful, especially if you are suffering from low self-worth, anxiety or depression. Your mind will close down because you won’t believe yourself. Few of those positive words will get in and create the change you seek. You may end up feeling worse!

One of the most useful things you might start with is observing others. Go somewhere where there are lots of people; a food court at a shopping mall, a busy street, a hospital or school. Sit down somewhere comfortable and watch the world go by.

Here they are. Everyday people, just like you. Notice how few ‘perfect’ people go by. And what makes a person better or more perfect anyway? It’s almost impossible to judge a person’s life or state of mind just by their appearance.

We are what we are. And what we are is flawed.

Let’s look at some of those ‘perfect’ people…

That pretty girl is worried that her boyfriend is cheating on her, but she is doing well in school and has a terrific best friend..

The happy family who walked past are deep in debt, and the mother no longer talks to her sister, which causes her much pain, but they have a solid marriage and love their kids.

That well dressed wealthy-looking guy at the cafe has bleeding from his bowel, but he’s too afraid to go to the doctor. He has an incredibly successful career, and he’s looking forward to an overseas holiday. He drinks too much. He’s lonely and worries he may never find a partner to share his life.

See what I mean?

Look for the rhythms and stages of life. Babies, toddlers, school kids, teens, twenty-somethings, adults, families, middle-aged people, the elderly. Notice the activities and emotions you can relate to. Notice the love, and the friendship. Notice the laughing. Notice the busy-ness. Notice the loneliness. Notice the illness and the disability. Notice the stress and the sorrow.

Can you muster any compassion in your heart for these people? Can you see that, just like them, you too are connected to this flow of life?

This image from Randall Fountain

This image from Randall Fountain

If we’re lucky we’ll get to experience all of those stages of life in its glorious messy imperfection.

The more you watch the world, and see yourself as one tiny part of this wider global family, the easier it will become to be kind to yourself, realistic with yourself, and accepting of yourself.

Self love is an act of unconditional love. It arises from the awareness that we may all be individuals, but we are also all essentially the same, no matter what our gender, race or social status.

Life is one big humbling adventure. That adventure is made better, easier and kinder when we extend compassion and unconditional love to ourselves. You don’t need to be perfect to deserve your own love. Perfection is a myth. By practicing acceptance of ourselves, we find the love and compassion for ourselves will follow.

Desiderata, a prose poem of gentle wisdom, written by Max Erhmann in 1927, says it far better than I ever could:

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Saying No to Conditional Love

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“You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away. It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.” 
~ C. JoyBell C.

*Warning: Swear alert. Swears ahead.

I did something quite out of character for me yesterday.

There is someone who has been an important relationship in my life for a long time. You know the kind of relationships you just expect to endure, and to stay strong and connected. This person knew me, loved me, and was proud of me back when I was well and riding the crest of a wave of successes in my personal and business life.

The life I like to think of as my ‘former’ life. The one pre-illness. The one pre-psychic awakening.

The life I live now embarrasses the hell out of this other person. It has made things uncomfortable and awkward between us, without any kind of touchstone where we can easily connect, no matter how hard I try.

But in truth, we’ve been grown apart for a very long time, and so much of my championing and nursing along of the relationship comes from a sense of duty as much as from a place of love.

We speak intermittently. It’s been months now. I do my best to keep them in the loop of my life, so they were aware that I have been unwell. That I’m still unwell. When they called my home yesterday, Ben answered the phone because I was outside with my head in the toilet, violently ill from my lyme meds. He let the person know that I’d be a few minutes. He was politely honest about my situation.

Still, in keeping with the way this relationship has headed, the person did not ask after Ben, or me, or the farm. They talked instead of their latest achievements, and the achievements of others in their family.

When I was finally able to take the phone, this person did not ask after my health, not even in the polite way we all do where we don’t really need to hear the answer but we do want to observe social graces.

They just wanted to know what was happening with my career. Was I published yet? Why was everything taking so long? What was the hold up?

All I could do was stumble around saying that these last two years hadn’t been my finest (for those of you who don’t know, I was dying from unresponsive congestive heart failure, and then received a diagnosis of lyme disease where the treatment is saving my life but in the process making me endure the seven circles of hell) as this person insistently reminded me of who I used to be, and what I used to do. The life I had no choice but to walk away from.

For a moment I felt like one of life’s greatest losers. The shame was overwhelming. I felt so small.

Image from Midlife Rebel

Image from Midlife Rebel

I’ve been raised to be polite. But something happened yesterday. I got angry. And in that space of anger I also felt a need to put a stop to this.

“Fuck off!” I said gruffly. And then I hung up.

I shocked even myself.

But now, with some time and space between me and the big ‘hang up’, I’m feeling better about things. Cleaner.

Truth is, I still love them.

And I see the insecurity in THEM. The need for me, as part of their life, to be someone who others will judge well, and so judge this person well too.

But allowing them to heap shit upon me is not an act of self-love. Perhaps you remember that back at the end of 2013 I ran a retreat where all of us made a sacred vow – to love and treat ourselves well in 2014, to put ourselves and our needs front and centre in our lives rather than always playing second fiddle to everyone else.

I’m living that vow, and it is radically changing my world. In the best of ways.

It really is okay to say NO to conditional love. I hope that in sharing this experience, you can embrace that truth too.

Much love to you, Nicole xx

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Someone to watch over me…

A light in the darkness by crywolf

A light in the darkness by crywolf96

“It is the custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtinesses and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind; and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.” 

~ J.M. Barrie

Remember, I was telling you about the lady who came and sat on my sister’s bed when we were little? Back when I was four, and Simone was two and a half?

I felt quite afraid those nights when my sister was sick. Her skin and hair was sticky with sweat. She was so hot, and she tossed and turned and whimpered in her sleep.

Each night after the world was asleep the beautiful lady surrounded by the silver-blue light would come to our room.  Each night she would comfort my sister, sing to her, and talk to her in her low, sweet voice. She spoke the funny language that I found out much, much later was French.

At the end of one of these visits, when I sensed she was about to leave, I asked her why she was visiting.

“I am her Mummy,” she said to me somehow. “Her Mummy from another time. When a mother loves her child, the love lasts forever.”

She touched my hand. It made me feel so warm inside. “We are family,” she said.  “Remember that.  Family means love forever. There is always someone watching over you.”

She kissed me on the forehead. “One day you will remember…”

And then she was gone.

At the darkest times of my life I have recounted that conversation. After my grandmothers passed away, Marga in 2011 and then Nana late last year, I finally understood what that meant – to have someone watching over you. I felt it in my heart.

As my sister and I research our family tree, and connect into previous generations and our more ancient lines, I feel the weight of this love more and more.

For all of you – those who already feel loved, and those who feel lost or alone – let me reassure you. There is family stretching far back, whose lives are braided through with yours over and over again.

Some call it family, some call it ancestors, some call it soul group. It really doesn’t matter by what name we know it.  All that matters is this – the magic in this world is love. It’s the energy that follows us, sustains us, and lifts us up. It’s all around us, even when we can’t see it.  Even if we choose to believe it’s not there.

I’m looking forward to sharing more of that magic with you…

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Will you still love me broken?

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“The choice that you, as a Soul, have in relation to anything is always to be loving. Do you understand that this is the divine purpose that all of us as humans have been given – to love unconditionally? “~ John Morton

We’ve always had rescue dogs; dogs that had nowhere else to go, dogs that desperately needed a chance at life. And then we got Harry. Harry was the first dog we hadn’t rescued. He came from the same breeder we’d received our old dog, Charlie from. But Charlie was going to be put down because he was a cross-breed and the litter of pups couldn’t be homed. Harry was a puppy from a pedigree litter, and marked for sale. There was no chance he’d end up unwanted. Harry’s the dead spit of Charlie in behaviour, and we swear our old friend’s come back to us in a new body.

But take a look at the picture below.  It wasn’t evident when Harry was a tiny pup, but he has a severe overbite – his lower jaw isn’t growing as fast as his upper jaw, and it’s presenting a range of problems.

2013-01-13 09.44.49Harry’s lower canines started to drill right into the soft palate in the top of his mouth, so we had to have them pulled. It was the perfect opportunity to have him neutered as well. The poor little chap took it in his stride, and since the bucket came off his head, he hasn’t missed a beat.

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He’ll need more surgery as he gets older and his adult teeth come through. It’s a wait and see game right now. We just need to make sure that his mouth is comfortable and that his teeth aren’t going to cause pain or further damage.

Harry comes from a long line of show dogs and working dogs, and we rang the breeder to let him know about Harry’s jaw problem.  Benson offered to take the pup back and replace him with another. And then told us if we were going to knock him on the head he’d give us our money back. Knocking him on the head was Benson’s plan for our pup. A dog like that doesn’t deserve to live, he said.  No good for anything.

Harry was originally intended for another owner – a man who breeds and shows dogs, and who needs perfection. There is no doubt in our minds that Harry would have been put down for being genetically flawed.

Well, that’s not going to happen in our household. We’re all a little flawed here, but that doesn’t deem any of us less worthy of love, less deserving of a chance at our best life.

Harry’s got a forever home here with us. And he’s going to be just fine.

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Manifesting a Positive 2013 – An Invitation to Join Me

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“New Year’s eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.”  ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

New Year’s Eve. For so many people it’s a night of revelry and celebration, for some it’s a night of sheer underwhelm or expectations not met, and for others it’s just another night…

Australia is one of the first countries to see in the New Year. And Byron Bay does know how to throw a party!  But tonight you won’t find me there. I’ll be home at my farm, enjoying a quiet dinner with friends, before I sit down in meditation to welcome in the energies of 2013.

It will be a big meditation session – two or three hours, finishing with a simple fire ritual. I’ll be focussed on holding a positive intent for myself, for you, and for the world for the unfolding of this important year – 2013.

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I’d love for you to join with me, adding your energy and presence to my own. I promise it will be an easy thing for you to do.

Each year I offer up a wish for myself, and a wish for the world.  I write each of them on separate pieces of paper, and the messages I write then hold some of the shape of my meditation.  At the end of my meditation, I burn each wish, letting the energy of my hopes and prayers be carried up into the atmosphere in the heat and smoke of the fire.

It’s always been a powerful practice. And now you can be a part of it too.  Simply add your wish for yourself and your wish for the world as a comment at the bottom of this post.

Do it just like this: My wish for myself is……  My wish for the world is…..

If you’d like more privacy you can send me a message on facebook, or email me at cauldronsandcupcakes@gmail.com

I’ll print out your wishes, and add them to my own. The only person who will see them is me. (And the Universe, of course…)  I’ll hold that space for you in my meditations, and I’ll burn your messages in my New Year’s Eve fire.

I promise to hold the energy of this space (and my fire) for a full 24 hours from my own walk into 2013. That way none of you will miss out.

Together, our collective good thoughts, wishes and intentions shall help shape a 2013 that begins in love, well wishes and positive energy.  What can be better than that?

Love and Blessings to you, ♥ Nicole xx

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How to deal with Toxic People

“Toxic relationships not only make us unhappy; they corrupt our attitudes and dispositions in ways that undermine healthier relationships and prevent us from realizing how much better things can be.” — Michael Josephson

What is a toxic relationship? It’s one that diminishes you, that erodes you, that defeats you.

We all experience conflicts, disagreements and difficulties in our interactions with others. That’s a normal part of relationships, and one of the things that helps us to grow, learn patience, acceptance and better communication skills.

Sometimes relationships cause us to feel bad because we have hurt someone, or let them down. Sometimes we just can’t see eye-to-eye on something. That’s normal too.

What’s not normal or healthy are the sort of relationships that are poisonous to you – the ones that inevitably leave you feeling upset, angry, unloved, despairing, stressed or drained. The ones that leave you doubting yourself, giving up on your dreams, feeling stupid and unworthy and changing or limiting yourself because of someone else.That’s a toxic relationship.

How do you recognise a toxic person? A good yardstick is to simply use your own feelings. But here are some personalities you may recognise:

  • Look at ME, Look at ME, Look at ME. These people are self-absorbed.  They thrive on drama and being the centre of attention. They have an ability to turn everything back to being about them. You could be telling them your husband has just been diagnosed with cancer and they’ll say, “Oh my God, how terrible. You know, I knew a woman once who was diagnosed with…” and suddenly your important sharing is lost as this person plays one-upmanship, offering no true compassion or empathy. Sometimes they suck you in with pleas of needing help, but you’ll find that they are never really interested in taking action on their problems.
  • Manipulators.  These people are usually narcissists.  They are skilled at using a combination of flattery or friendliness followed by anger, judgement and put-downs if they don’t get their own way.  They see themselves as better than/superior to you.  They are Masters of emotional blackmail. They disempower you with insidious put-downs (often in front of others), insults, belittling, shaming and embarrassing. They may threaten certain consequences or behaviours if you don’t conform to a certain way of behaving yourself. At the extreme end of the scale they may suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and you may get trapped thinking it’s your problem, and that there’s something wrong with YOU, when actually it’s them with the issues.
  • Criticisers and Comparers. These people assure you that they love you, and then they try and ‘fix’ you.  You are never good enough, and they always know how you should be doing it. They have a fixed idea of who you should be and how you should behave and it will make you feel devalued and misunderstood. No matter how you try to explain yourself they can’t accept your position or choices in life. They may be know-it-alls or bullies.
  • Perpetual Downers.  These people suck the joy out of life. They are often angry at the world and down on everything. They believe that the world is against them and they have a victim mentality.  They can’t keep their promises, and life never works for them, but it is never their fault because there is always something or someone else to blame.
  • Crazy Makers.  Crazy Makers are unstable. They may be emotionally immature,  suffer from mood swings, behavioural issues, undiagnosed or uncontrolled mental illness, or substance abuse. You can’t rely on them because from day to day you don’t know how they will react or behave.
  • If it suits me.  You’re their second best. If there’s a better option, you’re always dumped. They are in this for what you can give them. There is no respect. They are insincere. You want the relationship more than they do, and they know it, and take advantage of it.
  • Abusers.  Whether it’s physical, emotional or intellectual abuse, abuse is abuse, and no-one deserves that. Get help, or get out. Or both!

In almost every situation, the best thing to do with a toxic person is to remove them from your life, or to remove yourself from theirs. It’s not your job to save them, or fix them. And you sure can’t change them – that’s something they have to want for themselves, and do for themselves.  It’s your job to look after YOU. In the workplace, report bullying, and get support.  Here are some posts that can help you work out if moving on might be an option for you:

Using Your Internal Compass to Navigate Life

Writing Your Way Out of Stuckness

Knowing When to Walk Away

People Will Be Who They Are

Are You Too Nice?

Listen with your Eyes

But what if they are family? What if this is a situation where you can’t just unplug and walk away?

The truth is, sometimes even with family, we need to cut those ties. It might be for a short time, it might be for good. A skilled counsellor will be able to help you get clear about your options. In the end, this is YOUR life, and you deserve every chance at success and happiness.

If you need to stay, here are some strategies to help you cope better:

  1. Stop needing them to be something that they are not. One of the most important reasons that we feel unfulfilled in family relationships is because we needed the other person to be different. Accept them as they are, and come to grips with that. Grieve that loss if you need to, and then look for the guidance, love, acceptance and support you’re seeking elsewhere.  Once we let go of wanting our mother to be wise, or our father to be accepting of us, or our sister to share their emotions with us, or our brother to include us, we let go of being constantly disappointed. You can get to a place of grace with this, so that you can truly understand that this is just who they are, and sit without judgement on that. Acceptance is something we all want. You can love them without liking their behaviour.  Often by getting to this place of unconditional love, the dynamics of the relationship actually start to change.
  2. Limit your exposure.  Find reasons to stay a shorter time, to end the call sooner, to avoid one-on-one time.  Meet in public places if necessary.
  3. Put on your psychic raincoat. Visualise yourself surrounded by a shielding bubble of light before you connect with the other person.  Let it all wash over you – their words and behaviours. There’s no need to change them. There’s no need to engage. Just come from kindness and be polite. Listen a lot and talk little. Direct it all back to them so that they are the one talking. Maintain your privacy and create strong boundaries.
  4. Find a relationship counsellor.  Trained professionals can give us strategies for better handling conversations, confrontations and expectations. Instead of being ‘handled’ and manipulated by others, we can move back into a position of balance and empowerment.
  5. Bless them and release them.  This doesn’t mean walking away.  It means that mentally we bless them with love, and we let go of any and all expectations and responsibilities. They become like a stranger to us. We treat them with respect, and love, but not with intimacy and deeper connection.

Your life is YOURS to live. Life is too short to waste it being someone you’re not, doing things that don’t make you happy, and spending time with people who are posionous to your self-worth. By stepping away from unhealthy relationships we make room in our lives for new, better connections. We renew our hope, restore our freedom and open ourselves to fresh possibilities. Today I’m wishing you strength, real friendships, and true love.  Bless ♥ xx

You’re not alone…

Feeling small – by Artist Jaime Zatloukal Best

sometimes

life can get you down

you can feel so small that you wonder if anyone knows you’re here

you might even wonder if anyone cares

Sad, wet and lonely puppy – Image from deliriously-angelic.blogspot

life’s burdens may weigh upon you

until you wonder how you’ll ever take another step

until you wonder if you’re cut out for this

until you doubt you’ll ever be the same

until you doubt you can ever know love, or joy or happiness again

A firefighter breaks down after the World Trade Centre collapse on September 11, 2001. Getty Images: Mario Tama

the pain of life can overwhelm you

but understand something…

you’re not alone

although sometimes it might feel like yours is the only voice

out there in the universe – close to home, or further away

there’s someone praying for you

there’s someone who cares

there’s someone holding that space of love and light and hope

there’s someone imbuing you with strength

Image from heavenawaits.wordpress.com

we are surrounded by unseen forces

angels and guides watch over us

love transcends all boundaries

Image from aloneinholyland.com

there are people we’ll never meet who wish us only good

there are hearts whose only thought

is that you be uplifted, that you know love, that you know peace

Candles lit as prayers for peace – image from prajjwal.wordpress.com

today perhaps it’s your turn to hurt

everything has its season

tomorrow might be your turn to hold that intention of love and safety for another

Image by freehugscampaign.org

we are, each of us, in this together

and together we find a way, for ourselves, for each other

today, know that I am here for you

holding that space

wishing you well

bless ♥ xx

A Joyful Heart is Magnetic to Love

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

There is nothing as radiant and attractive as a joyful heart. Joy is heart centred, and is the spiritual expression of happiness. It is centred in deep gratitude and awareness, even though it can be generated by the most simple of things.  It is all about smiling from the inside, breaking open with infectious enthusiasm and zest for life, love and gratitude and rainbow sparks shooting from your eyes, laughter and kindness and feeling abundant and benevolent towards the world…

Activity:

This is a gorgeous activity, and one of my favourites.  I call it “Bliss Bombing”.  Take yourself to a public place, like a mall, coffee shop, or a bench in a park near where people are walking by.  Sit somewhere unobtrusive.  When someone walks past, shoot a radiant shower of sparks from your heart to theirs and silently bless them with love.  You can even send joy and love from your heart to trees, animals, plants, bus-loads of commuters and overhead planes.  You might  want to say to yourself, “I bless you with love.  Know joy today.”  If anyone catches your eye, just smile.

Feel your open heart begin to tingle with energy and joy.  In that place of energetic connection look around you at the world and you will see that it IS brighter and more beautiful.  YOU contributed to that shift. It’s okay to let your face crack open from smiling!  Expect an outpouring of feel-good emotion. ♥

Journalling:

Embark on a rampage of appreciation.  Take yourself somewhere that pleases you: propped in bed on comfy pillows, a local coffee house with a hot beverage at your elbow, a park, an art gallery – anywhere that soothes and feeds your soul.  Take a moment and breathe in that comfort, and allow yourself to feel connected to your heart. Feel grateful for each breath, for where you are right now, for the time of day, and the weather, for the goings-on around you. Let the worries of the day fade away.  Say to yourself, “I choose to recommit to myself.  I choose to see the joy in life.”

In this place of connection open your journal and begin with the words, “I am aware of small miracles and wonders around me everywhere.  In fact right now there is…  “

 

Meditation:

Sit quietly and close your eyes.  Feel your heart beating.  Feel the blood whizzing around your body in your veins.  Feel your breathe coming into your lungs, and out again.  Notice how this is automatic.  Your body is healing and breathing, heart pumping, ears listening, skin feeling, mind noticing.  You are a living breathing miracle.  Feel how amazing you are.   Let gratitude, wonder and peace flood your heart.

PS – Remember to leave a comment, so you can be in the running to win my beautiful Heart Chakra healing necklace.  Details and picture here