Don't get me wrong. I LOVE traveling with my husband. He's the best travel companion. We gave our relationship the ultimate test with an early-on ski trip together (and I had never skied prior!) that led to an engagement a year later and it set the stage for a life full of travel adventures as a couple.
I have always traveled. Apparently, my astrological chart confirms I was born to travel. And that I have. This rolling stone gathers no moss, for sure.
I inherited this from my father. He encouraged me to try out for one of two spots for fourth graders to go on a school trip to Costa Rica (which was still a third world country back in 1976 by the way). I had to learn Spanish, had to demonstrate I was not a picky eater and that I would respectfully follow directions. I was selected and off I went at age 10 without my parents.
Later, Dad gladly paid to send me on a trip across the pond to sing with my school choir in Cathedrals all across Europe.
He surprised me with a spontaneous trip to Germany to meet my family tree that was quite an adventure. Autobahn and all.
Before you come to the conclusion my family was wealthy I will stop you right there. We were not wealthy. Not at all. The thing is, my father believed in ensuring that my siblings and I experienced the world beyond whatever town we lived in. For that I am grateful...
Traveling with others can be a lot of fun. But there is something about going it alone... Traveling solo is good for the soul.
After my first marriage ended officially in 2004 I pulled money from savings and traveled to Thailand on a personal retreat. It was a 30 hour journey from Atlanta to Los Angeles t0 Tai Pai to Bangkhok to Koh Samui. I spent 9 days in the land of 10,000 smiles. My heart was healed and my life changed. Something about going all the way to Thailand all by myself was transformational. Once there, I met up with a small group and a teacher with whom I meditated, ate delicious meals and explored together. But it was the getting there and the returning, sitting in airports on layovers by myself that gave me time and space to contemplate my life at a very deep level.
Over the past 11 years I have traveled solo to the Oregon Coast, Sedona, Texas, Kansas, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida and Tennessee for various workshops and retreats. This year I decided to take another solo trip without any particular agenda. This time to Southern California. With all of my travel I'd never been to Southern California so I went. All by myself. No set agenda. It was my mini Eat-Pray-Love experience.
I actually had booked the ticket with intention of attending a retreat someone was hosting but the retreat ended up not being a fit for me so I decided to create my own solo retreat. Life changing decision.
I slept when I felt like sleeping often hitting the hay by 8:00 pm. I meditated with the rising sun, watched the waves roll in at the coast. I did a lot of people- watching and explored the streets of various neighborhoods in San Diego, Los Angeles and all up and down the coast between. I ate all of my meals (except one) alone. And I loved every minute.
While in LA I scheduled a private session with one of my mentors who lives there and I attended a 3 hour spiritual workshop with a teacher I've been wanting to meet in person. Other than that, I was all on my own. And it was lovely.
After a lifetime of raising children, caring for clients, attending to the needs of others, it's high-time for solo time.
When on your own, there's no agenda and no schedule other than the one you create for yourself. I highly recommend it.
But don't be surprised if being solo feels foreign at first. Give yourself some time to work through the discomfort of the unfamiliar and you will get to the other side and feel the freedom.
My final evening of my Southern Cali trip I was having a nice dinner at the bar in the hotel watching the football game and enjoying hearing the laughter and conversations around me. A woman came up to me and said, "How can you just sit here all alone?" I smiled and said, "It is glorious. You should try it!"
I returned home to Atlanta with a clearer mind, lots of inspiration, a collection of amazing photos, and a renewed energy. My soul was fed. And I will do this again. Regularly.
It stands to reason that as we grow professionally there is often an opportunity to grow personally. And as we grow in our personal lives, the shape of our professional work can often shift and change.
What happens when the two worlds run into each other?
You become friends with someone you have worked with professionally over the past year. In the beginning the friendship is sharing coffee together, commiserating over common frustrations, offering supportive insight to one another. You refer clients to one another for your respective business services. You feel excited because finally you have a friend who really understands who you are as a professional and you feel you can trust her. Prior to this your two worlds have been fairly separate.
Believing you have a new friend you can really trust, you let your professional persona relax. And so does she. You decide you can trust her and you share with her in confidence a struggle you've been having with a common colleague. You allow yourself to be vulnerable. She responds with support and you feel safe. You share more. Then it's her turn. You listen to her vent and provide supportive suggestions. This goes back and forth a few times.
Then the tide turns.
As you share more and more you begin to see aspects of each other that begin to feel a bit uncomfortable for both of you. You noticed some subtle raw edges in her comments and perhaps she sees the same in yours.
One day, when you were very busy with your clients, she blows up at you angrily accusing you of not being a real friend because you didn't respond to her texts as quickly as she needed or expected.
She then proceeds to accuse you of being insincere and tw0-faced.
You feel shocked and attacked. At this point you could allow yourself to angrily retaliate. You could explain the reason for not responding... but instead you decide to retreat. You walk away without saying anything in response because you are just shocked and confused.
The thing is, she comes from a family that yelled and screamed at one another as a normal course of working through things. For her this was normal between people who care about each other. For you it felt like nothing short of personal attack and in your world is not the way people who care about each other behave.
After a few days, you decide to reach out to discuss things calmly but it's too late. In her mind your retreat was an unforgivable insult and her part of this was just the way people who care about each other express themselves honestly.
The greater trouble here is that you and she are still colleagues. You have to find a way to grow from this and preserve your professional status.
You have stepped into an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. Here are some practical steps you can take in this scenario:
- Own your part of the conflict. Offer a sincere apology for your piece without any comments that are attacking or defensive. Don't expect her to respond as you hope. Just do it so you will know you have done all you can do.
- Leave some breathing room. Space and time are the great salve. Come back to it after you've both had a chance to sit with it.
- Be clear about the roles you and others play in your life. Too much cross-over between personal and professional is exactly what led you to this awkward situation as it is.
- Be discerning as to whom you share your dirty laundry. Everyone has dirty laundry so there is no need for shameful hiding rather be very selective. And maybe don't dump out the whole basket all at once.
- Ask yourself how this experience can help you expand in your ability to feel compassion for self and others. Try to see things from her perspective. Understand there is a root-reason for all behavior and look for the soft-spot.
- Find ways to support her professionally even if the personal friendship has been damaged.
- Be kind, polite and respectful no matter what. Even if you never discuss what happened and you never grab coffee together again, aim for opportunities to show her you are still a good person and a reliable professional.
- Avoid talking to others about what happened. The last thing you want as a professional is to be seen as a gossip. If you need to process aloud, find one long-trusted confidante, a therapist, a spiritual mentor or a private coach. Otherwise, zip the lip.
- Look for ways this experience can help you grow as a professional. Perhaps there is a silver lining of divine wisdom here that will lead you to develop a new program, training or write a great blog article.
- Take it to the meditation cushion. This is a golden opportunity for personal growth. Ask yourself what parts of yourself have been illuminated by this experience that you otherwise were overlooking. Practice introspection and personal responsibility minus self criticism and harsh judgment.
There is time and space to keep separate our professional and personal paths in life but there are times when they cross. As sticky as it might get, it is a wonderful opportunity for growth all the way around.
For those of us who naturally "have a lot of words," (a.k.a. motor-mouths, chatty-cathys,) this can be a very important lesson in life. I know it has been for me.
For anyone who has ever been in couples counseling and for those of us who have graduate degrees in clinical psychology or counseling, the idea of "active listening" is just a concept until practiced and honed.
I can remember as a teen and young adult, the feeling of clamoring to respond, get my point across, express my opinion so much so that I missed half of what the other person was saying. I see it with clients when I am providing relationship counseling. I understand the sensation of compulsion to be heard, to express.
I have found there is even greater value in being the holder of space, marveling at the power of the space between words.
Learning how to listen deeply and hold space for another person is possibly one of the most profound experiences of this human life. It requires practice to rewire the brain to be ready to talk less and listen more.
Here are some tips for developing this deeper listening practice:
- Make a decision to set aside your own agenda and really listen to what someone is expressing. Be conscious with your mindset first.
- Envision creating a big bubble of space around you and the person to whom you are listening. Deem this bubble of awareness sacred space. Allow it to assist you in staying focused.
- Put away your phone, tablet, computer or any other distractions.
- Face the person, turning your chest and face toward the person you are with.
- Breathe. While they are speaking consciously breathe and allow yourself to just be as you take in what they are saying.
- Watch their face and body as they talk. Sometimes this tells you more than their words.
- Suspend all judging thoughts and temptation to analyze, respond, react. You will notice these thoughts bubble up. Just send them to the side and stay present.
- Be a compassionate witness. Allow yourself to feel what they seem to be feeling. Allow your heart to be open. Stay soft as you watch and listen.
- When they finish expressing. Take a deep breath and nod gently acknowledging without words that you hear this person. Let there be silence. Don't rush in to respond.
- Take a few more moments to notice how it feels to just listen and hold the space.
- When time and space has been held, ease into responding with softness and affirmation of what you hear them expressing. It's not about whether you agree with what this person has said. It's about you being present and just listening.
EXTRA CHALLENGE: Set aside one day to focus on being the listener and the holder of space all day and set aside the need to talk or express. This will help you to really begin strengthening your deep listening muscle.
In 1997 and 1998 I had the honor of studying with Haleakala (Dr. Hew Len), a Kahuna and psychologist from the Big Island, Hawaii. I was very fortunate to be connected with a relatively small and quiet group of healers and spiritual seekers in Atlanta who often gathered to meditate together. Haleakala traveled to Atlanta to meet with us and to teach us the ancient Hawaiian practice of Ho'oponopono and his program he called Self I-dentity.
The practice is based upon the theory that all of humanity is connected because we all come from Divine. In essence, we are perfect and Divine. The theory of Ho'oponoponono (which translates to English to mean "moving from darkness to light") is that each and any one of us can and should take 100% responsibility for all the ills, pain, suffering, cruelty, anger in this world because we are all connected and by doing so with a reverent ritual on a regular basis we can clear the negativity, transmute that which is dark into light and correct all error.
The practice of Ho'oponopono is a practice in humility and willingness to lay down the egoic part of us that wants to feel separate from and better than others.
Dr. Hew Len worked in a mental hospital on a ward of dangerous mentally ill patients. He did no therapy with them. He simply practiced Ho'oponopono and as a result the entire ward was healed, transformed and rehabilitated.
He taught us that greed and arrogance are at the root of all human suffering and he gave us that difficult pill to swallow: Each of us must take 100% responsibility even if the error appears to be someone else's behavior or problem.
He challenged us to step up to the plate. Who among us is willing to do this work? It's tough. It requires complete surrender of egoic need to be noticed, to be praised, to be special. It requires an ability to be very humble. To love unconditionally.
This sounds an awful lot like the example and teachings of Jesus, Mother Theresa, and the Buddha. I think we are onto a Universal Truth here...
I have noticed in a few Facebook groups and a few online programs that address personal growth that Ho'oponopono is being referenced but I'm not sure how much of this practice people really understand so I thought it might be helpful for me to share a bit more about what I learned from Haleakala.
An excerpt of what Haleakala shared during an interview:
"The central point in Ho'oponopono," says Dr. Hew Len, "is that all of the problems, stresses, and diseases that one experiences begin as replays of old negative emotional memories. Being residents of the cosmos, we all share in a common pool of old negative memories. Using the cleansing process of Ho'oponopono, one is able to petition the Light within to transmute old woes and replace them with divine peace. The key to the beginning of the cleansing process is self introspection. The question to be asked is: 'What is going on inside of me that is manifesting the problems?'
If I'm angry that anger will manifest as cancer or something. If I want that cancer to go, all I have to do is shift my thought. And the way I do it is through a process of saying: 'I'm sorry. Forgive me for whatever is going on inside me that causes me to perceive that which is not working for anyone.' Once I say 'I'm sorry, please forgive me,' then the Light will actually shift that thought-form. Only the Light can do that. It will take anger and purify it and neutralize it. Then it will release it and there is nothing left there. The anger will disappear. And then it does something extra. Once there is release and an emptiness, the Light will then put in what is right for you.
Ho'oponopono is a path of repentance and forgiveness. Before I can be forgiven I have to be repentful. You don't find too many people around here being repentful, because the opposite of repentance is blame. The opposite of being repentful and forgiving is not being 100% responsible. And without that I cannot make this cancer disappear. This is a manifestation of my thought. But if I shift my thought and allow it to be transmuted into Light, this thing will go. And when this thing goes, some new creation will come in. Through just being responsible the Light immediately gives you what you need and you'll be inspired."
When we notice feelings of anger, fear, resentment within ourselves toward another person or situation, we can practice Ho'oponopono.
When we notice tragedies, atrocities, war and wide-spread suffering we can practice Ho'oponopono.
Here is a brief summary of the practice of Ho'oponopono that I have learned from Haleakala personally I would like to share with you.
A daily Ho'oponopono meditation exercise
As a foundation, on a daily basis practice this meditative breath exercise morning and night:
- Sit up in a comfortable position in a quiet place free of distraction.
- Create a mudra (hand position) of the infinity sign by bringing the thumb an index finger together on each hand linking the loops created. (left thumb and left index finger touching and the bring right index and thumb inside that loop and have tips meet there). Rest this position in your lap.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe in the count of 7.
- Hold breath in for 7.
- Breathe out to the count of 7.
- Hold out for a count of 7.
- Repeat this cycle 7 times.
- Rest in the void created and meditate here for a while.
The great value of this breath meditation is that it leads you out of intellect where arrogance and greed grows and takes you into the void of no thinking where the Light of Divine is ignited. It is soothing, healing and sets the stage for the practice of Ho'oponopono.
Here is how to practice Ho'oponopono:
- Acknowledge feelings, thoughts, actions that are of anger, fear, illness, suffering in yourself and others.
- With great reverence, silently repeat the four phrases breathing in between the phrases with reverent pause: I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.
- Repeat these phrases really feeling deep reverence for the power of these phrases.
- Repeat the phrases aloud as well for the vibration of the sounds of these words carries great healing.
- Repeat until you begin to feel a sense of lightness and clarity, even if subtle.
A more complex prayer practice is as follows:
I am so sorry for anything I, my relatives or my ancestors have done to cause you, your relatives and your ancestors harm. Please forgive me. Please forgive all of us. I see you as a perfect aspect of Divine and I love you. I thank you for what you are teaching me.
Other Ho'oponopono visualization rituals for preparing and clearing at day's beginning and day's end:
Every morning imagine you can connect with the little child inside of you. Everyone has one. Ask your little child, "What would you like for me to pack in your backpack for your day?" Imagine what your little inner child needs. Envision providing that little inner child with everything he/she needs for the day. It's a beautiful ritual of self nurturing and honoring.
Every night before you go to bed take all of the troubles and worries you have or others have that you are aware of and imagine pouring them into an Indigo colored bowl that hangs over the mouth of a great, hot volcano. As the heat of the volcano rises it heats all those worries and troubles until they turn the color of ice blue and eventually white vapor - they are transmuted.
The power of Ho'oponopono is to step out of and away from BLAME and step up to the plate. We step away from the notion of separateness and engage the belief that we are all one family whether we like it or not and all parts of the Whole.
I live in a region of the United States that is often called "The Bible Belt" because the predominant religion in the South is Christianity. I am deeply familiar with the Christian religion having been raised in the Church and having been very active with volunteer service for and with the Church all my life.
My own personal spiritual growth took me along a path of expansion beyond the religion of Christianity (not abandoning rather augmenting) to a far wider spiritual journey that touches every aspect of my work as a therapist, life and wellness coach, teacher and writer.
This article is about Universal Love - though I will reference Christ's teachings. This article is for all of humanity and is not intended to incite divisive debate rather to invite coming together on the subject of Love.
I have worked with a lot of clients and students who have been deeply wounded by the Church, by people who mis-use and even abuse Christian teachings. Many of these people have subsequently turned and want nothing to do with the path of Christianity. I teach classes that include theories and perspectives from the philosophies of Buddhism, Taoism, Universalism, Unity and I observe a path of Yoga which means "to unify" and practice "mindfulness" in everything I do (defined as paying very close attention to present moment without judgment). All of this, for me, fits WITH the essential teachings of the great spiritual master, Jesus, as well.
It is human beings, human doings who often twist and pollute the good teachings many religions are based in. It is important to dig for the essence we can all agree upon in order to elicit this powerful resource called Love - especially now in the face of terrorist attacks and violent warfare, tragedies and atrocities, hate crime.
I feel strongly I have been given a task and that task is to meet my clients and students where they are and help them discover - or rediscover - the path of Love. Depending on where someone is in their spiritual journey I use different words, different ways of understanding but it all boils down to this resource we call Love.
Regardless of where you are with your personal religious and/or spiritual leaning, I believe anyone can agree that if we read the teaching of Jesus we will see very clearly the message was all about the path and power of Love.
From the gospel of John 13:34-35 Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Upon examining the measure by which Jesus demonstrated how to love, let us consider the stories of compassion for the lepers, the adulteress and the prostitute whom he took under wing - the very outcasts of society.
That by itself pretty much says it all. So what is Love? And what is love not?
Love is patient not impatient.
Love is kind not cruel.
Love does not judge and condemn rather seeks to understand.
Love is humble, understanding none of us knows everything.
As human beings having human experience we are all connected as one collective humanity.
We all have the option and responsibility for our own choices, actions, behavior AND to set firm boundaries around the human behavior of others as needed. That is to say we can choose to use the resource of LOVE without allowing for abuse and violence.
Interestingly, though we DO need to set and hold to boundaries around human behavior, Love knows no boundaries meaning it can travel to, from and between us WHILE we say, "This behavior is something I can no longer accept."
I believe the source of Love does melt "un-love" (hatred, anger, rage, fear)) even though un-love can be quite stubborn! Fear (un-love) and all destructive emotional energy that comes from fear is like gravity and it is quite like addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, - it is dense, dark energy that has a gravitational force of pulling humans down and making it hard for them to see or feel love and light.
Though we can not can not rescue someone who does not want to be rescued and we can not pull people to Love when they do not wish to be pulled, we can actively use this resource of Love to help.
And it's actually quite a simple practice.
We need not use words to communicate Love necessarily. We simply CHOOSE in any given moment to follow a few practices:
- Before words come out of your mouth or through the keyboard, check in and ensure they are coming from Love and not anger or fear - EVEN WHEN SETTING NECESSARY BOUNDARIES.
- If you slip up and say or write something unloving - return to source of Love and apologize sincerely and forgive yourself.
- Stay humble. Let's not take it upon ourselves to correct others' unloving behavior. Stay focused on just being loving and extending love.
- Choose kindness even in the face of cruelty.
- Be actively kind every chance you get. Hold the door for someone. Smile. Be patient. Ask if you can help.
- Send wave of love to others - especially those who are angry, hateful, violent. Simply set the intention to send waves of love and envision literally waves of love and light flooding them and lifting them and dissolving, melting away the un-love.
- If you are a praying person, say prayers from a space of love for others to receive love and remember their true essence.
When you see someone in that dense, dark energetic pattern of angry, hateful behavior, sometimes the most powerful thing we can do is flood them with love even when we need to walk away and maintain physical distance.
Love is a verb. We can take action to be loving every moment of every day.
Love is a noun. We acknowledge Love is a form of powerful energy we can employ and draw from.
Love is a choice. We must intentionally CHOOSE to be loving and come from love even in the face of anger, hatred and violence.
Love melts away un-love. This is where faith comes in... believing in the power of Love and leaning into it habitually can bring beautiful shifts and changes, smoothing waters and improving relationships.
And remember, you are a human being having a human experience which means you will falter. We all do. Simply return to Love again and again. It's not how many times you drift away that matters rather all the times you return.
Whether you are a psychotherapist, a massage therapist, a life coach, a Reiki Master, an accupuncturist, intuitive, medical professional or any form of helper - you are a healer. You are here in this life of yours to facilitate the process of healing for yourself and others. You know this down in your bones. Now... how to build business with clarity and authenticity around our healing abilities?
Healing work is something all human beings will do at some level at some point in their lives. People NEED professionals to assist and facilitate this process of healing whether it be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.
So why do we have such hang ups when it comes to building business as a healer?
Because we are often afraid. Afraid of tainting the sacred nature of our work by tangling the sacred with sales and marketing. Afraid people will misunderstand what our intention is. Afraid of being rejected. Afraid of failing.
Though building business as a healer can feel like a jungle, you can move beyond these fears and experience a rich and fruitful life, attracting and serving plenty of your ideal clients while balancing your own self-care.
I was so thrilled to learn about a very special retreat taking place in October specifically for healers. My colleagues Keri Nola and Lloyd Burnett are seasoned and experienced healers who have long been able to strike a beautiful balance between honoring the need for self care and healing the healer with building successful, authentic business.
What I love most about what Keri and Lloyd are doing is they are helping healers go beyond fear by holding a sacred space to explore those fears and step into the fullness of who you ARE as a healer. Sometimes what we MOST need in order to build business as a healer is to be held in a space of deep understanding and non-judgment in order to clear and transcend that which holds us back from shining brightly.
Going beyond fear requires softening in around the fears we have. Bulldozing over our fears is not the answer. That's why we often get stuck as healers trying to build business providing healing service. We are not acknowledging the essence of the fear-based thoughts, feelings and energy we carry. When we are able to gently honor our fear, we create space for it to dissipate.
Building business as healer requires a higher level of self care and personal spiritual work on an ongoing basis. It helps to have a jump start and this retreat in October might be just what you need...
By bringing together healers from all over the world, Keri and Lloyd are creating a sacred community where we can learn together how to raise the vibration of the work we do in the world by going deeper into our inner wisdom and moving away from reliance on business strategies taught in various training programs.
When we as healers do our own personal work of going deeper and integrating all that we are, tuning into the higher calling for what we are here to do, we naturally and easily are able to develop a business that reflects that same level of authenticity.
I am excited to share with you about the Healer's Retreat in beautiful San Diego, California that will take place October 23-25. During the retreat Keri and LLoyd will help you to go deeper in order to "get lighter," so you can return to home and work with a renewed perspective lining up your business with your soul's purpose so you can attract and serve the clients you most wish to serve.
As a long-time retreat participant and retreat leader myself, I know first hand the POWER of dedicating time and space to retreat, renew, reevaluate, refresh as a healer myself. I can attest to how one weekend can completely shift and change the course of your life when you allow that dedicated time and space as sacred.
If you'd like to learn more and join Keri and Lloyd for the Healer's Retreat, go check out this page and take a look. Check in with your deepest intuition to see if this feels like the right time and opportunity for you as a healer.
I have been so enthusiastic about this retreat I asked Keri and Lloyd if I could help spread the love and share the opportunity with as many other healers as I can. I signed on as a partner to help them spread the word and share the love and each time someone registers to attend the retreat using my unique partner link, I will receive a portion of your payment for which I am deeply grateful.