TIME SENSITIVE – Are you ready to choose faith over fear?

Are you a woman in your 20s, 30s or 40s who always thought you’d be somewhere else in her life by now?
A woman who sometimes wakes up and looks back or the past 10 or 20 years and wonders where they have gone – and what you have to show for all that time?
A woman who feels like your own inner voice is often drowned out by all the ‘noise’ outside?
A woman who is ready to regain clarity on what matters most to you, on what living a truly successful and meaningful life would mean for you?
If so, then my new program ‘Choose Faith over Fear’ might be for you.

Session 1 – Start from the here and now
Session 2 – What matters most to you?
Session 3 – Learning to love and believe in yourself
Session 4 – Seeing the Divine Hand in your life
Session 5 – Fears and Limiting Beliefs/Ways of Thinking
Session 6 – Surrender and Letting go of what might have been
Session 7 – Planning from the heart

 

For more information, please click here.

Falling through the cracks

We go through life. We get caught up in the details of day-to-day living. We feel the pressure of everything we ‘have to’ or ‘need to’ do. We exhaust ourselves trying to live up to the often impossibly high standards we set for ourselves, beating ourselves up when we fail to live up to the perfect expectations we had set.

Inevitably, we will make mistakes. We are human, so we will stumble and fall.

If you’re like me, though, those mistakes aren’t always accepted so easily. I say I have an overactive guilty conscience, and while thankfully that conscience and my desire to be able to look myself in the mirror often help guide me on the ‘right’ path, it is a grueling taskmaster when I feel I haven’t lived up to the person I expected and wanted myself to be.

When I was much younger, maybe around 9 or 10, I attended summer day camp. I don’t remember all the details anymore, but I do remember that there was one boy who was the recipient of some kind of teasing and mocking by a number of campers. While I wasn’t one of the children doing the teasing, I also didn’t do anything about it. And when they pulled some kind of prank on him, I think I laughed.

This was more years ago than I’m going to admit here, and I still remember that I did nothing to help, nothing to stop it. Not only that – I laughed! I don’t remember whether I thought it was funny or whether it was just trying to fit in, but to me, it doesn’t matter.

Even in my own mind, I know I was young. I know this was a long time ago, but somehow I still find myself occasionally thinking about that moment. I hope that that he doesn’t even think about it, that it is long forgotten for him, and yet I’m scared that somehow that moment left its imprint on him, perhaps even to this day.

Those ‘small’ moments matter. Enough of those small moments can add up over time, building walls and shattering hearts, even long after those moments have passed and may have been forgotten by most.

Enough of those moments of struggling, of feeling like the outsider, the ‘odd man out’, can leave a person drifting, feeling like they don’t belong.

And we get busy in our day-to-day lives. Sometimes the voices in our own minds are so overpowering and deafening, we find ourselves tuned out, struggling or unable to hear the inner cries from the hearts of the people we encounter.

Maybe they pass by the periphery of our lives, but we barely see them, so caught up are we in what is happening in our own minds, our own hearts, our own lives – which, in many ways, is human and completely understandable.

And yet they may feel like they are falling through the cracks of this world, struggling to find a place where they feel they belong and matter.

Maybe they put on a smile to face the world. Maybe they truly live with joy most of the time, while sometimes that pain threatens to swallow them from within.

Sometimes we are the ones who need someone to really see the ‘true’ us and show us that we matter.

And sometimes we are the ones who have to open our eyes and our hearts to show others how important they are to us, showing them that only do we see them, we also care – from deep, deep within.

Ever feel like your best isn’t good enough?

I stumble. I fall. I strive to do my best, but sometimes my best doesn’t feel all that good.

I want to do the right thing, but while sometimes the answer is crystal clear, sometimes it is far from it. The picture is cloudy, the right answer hidden somewhere in the fog.

I want to be a good person. I want to do the right thing – except for those moments when I temporarily feel like I don’t. Except for those moments when I wish I didn’t have to weigh the pros and cons and spend so much time and energy thinking, analyzing, evaluating.

And yet I know that one of my biggest measures of success is being able to look myself in the mirror – with as clear a conscience as possible, knowing that I did my best.

Even so, there are days when I make mistakes.

Sometimes I do things I wish I hadn’t; sometimes I don’t do things I wish I had. Sometimes my emotions are very mixed.

Sometimes the answer or the right course of action isn’t clear and I feel like I’ve failed no matter what I do. I feel stuck, uncertain.

Sometimes I wish I had handled a situation differently, even though I have no idea what I should have done instead.

There are days when I want to run away from it all, not forever, but for now.

I want to scream and cry and rage, but I know I would feel guilty and hold back.

I want to shake and rattle the world, but I will often put on a smile and cry or vent behind closed doors.

No I am not perfect. And in my more clearheaded and clearhearted moments, I feel like – I KNOW that – G-d loves me anyway, even with all my imperfections. That He knows He created me as an imperfect human being and is proud to see me trying to do my best. That when He sees me striving, even when He sees me stumbling, feeling remorse and trying again, I am still His daughter, and He loves me there too.

I have spent years trying to be ‘perfect’, pray ‘perfectly’, behave ‘perfectly’, make ‘perfect’ choices – and the results were far from perfect. Instead of feeling elevated, I felt more distant from G-d and my soul. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulder, feeling like I was letting G-d and my community down when I would get distracted, lose focus on prayer or, more generally, in life. And there are still times – and will likely continue to be situations – where I feel conflicted inside and wish I could just easily and simply do the right thing.

I put so much pressure on myself to do, do, do what I felt I should be doing, needed to do, that it became something so different from what the Loving G-d would have ever wanted for me.

And so I have learned that in many areas of life, less is more.

I’m learning that perfection is elusive, striving to do my best is much healthier and more realistic.

I have learned to be more forgiving of myself, that lapses and mistakes and moments where I knew better don’t define my worth as a person, but rather they describe what it IS to be a human being. Yes, I could perhaps be perfect – if I were a robot, if I weren’t a human being with wants, needs and feelings. Yes, I could perhaps be perfect – if I were an angel, without the conflicting and sometimes oh-so-strong emotions and inclinations.

Just like I wouldn’t expect anybody else to be perfect, and just like I love my family and friends even though they aren’t perfect, I have been learning to be more loving towards myself. Learning to be – I’m not there yet, and I have a feeling that in many ways this is the journey of a lifetime.

Choose Faith over Fear – An Invitation

Do you ever feel like your own inner voice has been drowned out by all the noise and flashing lights around you?

Do you ever feel like sometimes you are trying to meet someone else’s measures of success – instead of your own?

Do you ever wish you could live more from faith but find yourself weighed down and held back by your fears?

Would you like to refocus on what matters most to you – and do something about it, starting right now?

Then my new, small, interactive online program Choose Faith over Fear may be for you.

This program consists of 7 sessions, typically scheduled for every 2nd Wednesday evening starting mid-May.

Session 1 – Start from the here and now
Session 2 – What matters most to you?
Session 3 – Learning to love and believe in yourself
Session 4 – Seeing the Divine Hand in your life
Session 5 – Fears and Limiting Beliefs
Session 6 – Surrender and Letting go of what might have been
Session 7 – Planning from the heart

And since this is my first time offering this program, I am currently pricing it at a special, introductory rate.

For more information, please visit www.HeartandSoulLiving.com/FaithoverFear.

I would also love to discuss any questions you may have to help you decide if this program is for you.

If you have any questions, please either reply to this message or email me at elizabeth@heartandsoulliving.com.

But by the grace of G-d

We see or hear about them everywhere.

People with mental health issues ranging from mild to severe.

People addicted to drugs, alcohol or any of a number of other vices.

People living on the streets.

People who lost so much of their money.

People who never had much money to begin with and could scarcely make ends meet, if at all.

People who were the victims of a violent crime or trauma.

People suffering in one way or another.

And it can quickly and easily become a matter of us versus them.

Things like that could only happen to people like ‘them’, not to people like ‘us’.

How quickly we forget that in many ways ‘we’ are just like ‘them’ and that is but by the grace of G-d that we are not in that same position.

Some of this can be from judgment based on things that are stigmatized or looked down on in society at large.

As Brené Brown says though, a lot of this can also come from fear.

As she says, if we aren’t like them, if we are somehow ‘better’ or at least different, if we are in a more secure position, then we don’t have to be as afraid of this happening to us.

If they look different or sound different or live somewhere else, then we can act as if those circumstances could never happen to us – not because we feel they can’t but because otherwise we’d be too afraid they could.

We want to blame them because if they did something wrong that led them to deserve this, then we can pretend that we are immune.

As she writes,

One day when I was discussing sexual assault with my students, we started talking about how often victims of sexual assault are revictimized during court proceedings. I told the students, ‘The defense attorneys don’t want the jurors to relate to the victim – what she looks like, her age, her race, where she was when the assault happened, et cetera. Fearing the jurors may relate to her, the defense attorneys attack her character so that no one would want to relate to her.’ I continued, ‘I’m sure that easy to do – I wouldn’t want to relate to her, because that would mean it could happen to me too.’ (I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), p.150)

And so we judge and are afraid – and use that judgment and fear to keep us separate from people who could really use our help, or at least our compassion and understanding.

As I said earlier, it is but by the grace of G-d that we are not in that same position.

And at some point in our lives, in some way, we will find ourselves craving that understanding and support. And, when we do, we will want to find love and compassion, not judgment and distance.

One person isn’t meant to solve all the world’s problems.

But each person is meant to do what he or she can to make this world a better place.

What contribution can you make today?

Change can be excruciating

There are times in our lives when we need to make a change. Sometimes these changes will be small, baby steps. While these may help carry us forward and may be monumental in their own right, each act requires a relatively small amount of effort on our part.

And then there are times when the change is much larger. Instead of simply taking one small step forward, these changes can feel like we have to rip out something from inside ourselves to allow us to truly make and embrace the change. And, of course, this second type of change is often much more difficult and challenging to make since it may require changing not only our actions but also the way we see and some of what we believe about ourselves, who we truly are and who we would like to become.

We must be willing to pull out that part of emotional ourselves that is no longer helping us, at least not in the way we would like it to. This can lead to tears, anger, confusion, uncertainty. It can feel like we are leaving a void within ourselves, with only the hope that it will be filled by something even better and more wonderful and meaningful.

We can hold onto pain of one kind or another for years not because we enjoy it but because it’s familiar. We may not like it, but there is a certain kind of comfort that can be found in what we already know and recognize even when it hurts.

Sometimes this ‘ripping’ out can be the result of small steps. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to do something that scares the living daylights out of us or leaves us feeling open, vulnerable and scared because that is really the only way we can ever imagine being truly free.

But even when we know what we need to do, which may not always be the case, and even when we deeply feel that this will help us long-term, it’s the doing in the moment that can be agonizing. We are putting ourselves out there. We are surrendering into the hands of a Higher Power, understanding that though we each have our own role, we are drops in the ocean of the world. Maybe we cry out in prayer. Maybe we fall to our knees in prayerful and/or anguished tears. Maybe we reach out for someone to listen and offer comfort and encouragement. Maybe we look within to learn as much of the lesson as we can. Maybe we do all this knowing that this is somehow for our ultimate good though it may not feel it in the moment. Or maybe it already does.

Maybe we continue ‘ripping’ out that piece from within because we have G-d willing already found the something beautiful to hopefully take its place. Maybe that scares us more than anything because it may feel like there’s G-d forbid more to lose. We may feel like every part of us is all of a sudden full of more uncertainty. And so we reach for the stars and hope that there is something or someone that will be there to catch us if we stumble or fall. We share more of ourselves with the world and hope that they will feel it’s good enough, worthy and valuable. We put a smile on our face to hide the uncertainty, even as our hearts race within our chests. And then there are times when, try as we might, we cannot hide the tears.

We realize that all along we have been waiting to be more and more ourselves in the middle of a world that seems to want us all to fit a certain mould. And when we find that place within that allows us to step forward as more and more of our true selves, we awaken to a new reality and see that pretending to be someone or something we’re not or holding on to who we may have been once upon a time is not the reason we are here right now. Today is a new day, and we are each called upon to bring our newest, fullest and best steps to the dance that is life, flowing with the rhythm and reaching out to the Divine.

Do you listen to the whisper of your soul?

There are days when, in the quiet, you can hear a gentle whisper rising from your soul. We often drown this voice out.

Sometimes, the voice is so quiet we barely hear it and the day-to-day hustle and bustle is enough to overpower it. Sometimes the cry in our soul is so strong it feels like it may swallow us whole.

Sometimes, the voice, even when gentle, scares us to our core. If we listen and truly pay attention to what our soul is telling us, there is no ‘unknowing’, no turning back. In some of those moments, we pretend we just don’t hear. We do our best to hide or numb our emotions so that we can justify our inaction and do our best to go back to the way things were, but once our soul awakens there is no turning back. Sure, we may be able to hide it temporarily, but there is a significant cost. Pretending not to know what we know eats away at our souls, a little more every day.

Perhaps we become angry.

Perhaps we look outside to lay blame.

Perhaps we feel an inner feeling of sadness that seems to go on unabated.

But there is no simply, joyfully going along our merry way like we don’t know that we know better.

And so we open our hearts; we take a chance.

We lay it all on the line, an act that is simultaneously so beautiful and so scary we feel like our heart is being ripped out of our chests.

We panic. We are tempted to turn around and go back to where we started from.

But we know that something has changed, and while going back may seem more comfortable in the moment, there is really no ‘back’ to return to. As soon as we took that first, and then that second, step forward we became someone else, and that ‘back’ can no longer offer the same comfort it once did.

For me, there are some decisions that may take a long time to make. I am often one of those people who likes to gather all kinds of information. I input the data into my mind like the most logical computer, but for many of these larger decisions, I know it won’t be just my brain making the decision. For me, it’s like a full body experience, and though I may want to rush the decision – as I have in any of a myriad of situations – there are some things that just won’t be rushed.

The data flows through me, raising all kinds of different emotions, making me face my fears and rexamine my motivations, challenging me on what I say I believe and what is most important to me. Sometimes I run the thoughts and emotions flowing through me by someone I trust.

Needless to say, some of these decision-making processes can be quite exhausting and emotional, and I just want them to be made.

And then the answer is ‘ready’, like a toaster ‘dinging’ when it’s ready.

And then I know. From somewhere deep within, I know.

And there is no ‘unknowing’. Even when it deeply scares or excites me. Even when I’m not entirely – or even remotely – sure how it, whatever it is, will be done.

Even then, I know it’s about taking that first or that next right step, reminding myself that faith, not fear, is the force I want guiding my life.

As Brandon Bays says, ‘When you turn around and completely offer yourself into the ‘tiger’s mouth’ of your own worst fears, you will discover that your openness will turn into courage itself.’

May we all be blessed with faith and courage as we step forward to the call of our soul.