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.

 

You can’t go back in time

You can’t go back in time. You can’t change the past, no matter how much you might want to.

You can’t make different choices years ago or make a different decision at that fork in the road from way back.

You can’t undo a broken heart or stand up when you bit your tongue.

You can’t listen to that inner voice when you ignored or dismissed it.

You can’t be the person you were then, before all the experiences you’ve had since.

You can’t delete all those moments when you beat yourself up, being so hard on yourself for being less than ‘perfect’.

You can’t undo all those things you did or didn’t do out of fear, all the times you knew better but went ahead with it anyway.

 

But you know what you can do?

You can look back on all that time and all those experiences and learn from them.

You can start seeing how the different puzzle pieces of your life fit together.

You can see which were the healthy, positive choices and commit to making more of them in the future, starting right now.

You can see which decisions didn’t serve you, looking at what led you to choose them in the first place and what you can do to minimize them in the future.

You can see the value in all those experiences, even if at first they may have seemed like a waste.

You can resolve to let yourself open your heart wide, maybe wider than you ever thought possible, in love, caring and compassion, even if it scares you because you know the more you care, the more you are putting on the line. But you do it anyway because what scares you most of all is a life without love and connection.

You can learn how to speak up. You can resolve to stand up for what is right.

You can pay attention to that inner voice, learning the signs of what it is trying to tell you. Is it like a rock of despair in the pit of your stomach? Is it butterflies of excitement? Is it a headache or tightening chest? You can discuss your feelings and options with someone you deeply trust.

You can recognize that no, you can never again be exactly that person you were years ago, but you can look for the value in all that has happened and everything you’ve learned since then. You can recognize that sometimes those lessons will be easy to find, sometimes oh so difficult.

You can learn to love yourself, forgiving yourself for all the ways you may have sabotaged or hurt yourself or others.

You can choose to live and make more of your decisions from faith.

You can surround yourself with people who lift you up and help you see the beauty within. You can do the same for them, sharing a kind word to lighten the load of someone else.

You can allow yourself to let go of the walls and masks that stop you from truly connecting with those around you.

You can allow yourself to love and be loved, maybe even more deeply than you ever thought possible.

You can recognize there’s a purpose to it all, even if you don’t fully see how it all fits together right now.

And you don’t have to do this alone.

Light in the darkness

One doesn’t have to look far to be surrounded by visions and sounds of fear, pain, doubt and uncertainty. Watching the news or even just looking at the front page of a newspaper or headline on an online news site can easily make us feel like there is no point in bothering at all to try make the world, or even our small corner of it, a better place.

But, at the same time, as the negativity seems to accost us at every turn, there are people leading with their hearts in their day-to-day lives, in the work they do and in the love they share with the world.

There are women raising their voices, tired of hiding behind a mask they never wanted in the first place.

There are women committed to connecting deeply with the souls of others and helping them stand up in their unique place in the world, overcoming the self-doubt that has been holding them back.

There are people whose hearts are such shining examples of true beauty and strength that they are an inspiration to be around and spend time with.

There are women who are so tired of feeling like who they are isn’t good enough that they are sharing their ‘imperfections’ with the world, showing everyone that you don’t have to be perfect to be loved, worthy and valuable.

There are people who are tearing their hearts open, despite the fear and doubt, allowing their love to flow forth and allowing love to reach those dark corners they once thought to be unlovable.

There are people committed to treating others with respect even when strongly disagreeing.

These people may not always make the front pages. They may not make the headlines, but they are a veritable force for good in this world that sometimes feels like it has tilted off its axis.

Just among the people I personally know are the following (and this is just a small sampling):

  • A woman who helps others lovingly and craftfully share their stories with the world through the written word
  • A woman committed to helping women connect ever more deeply with their true inner selves and is now organizing a group of feminine leaders as powerful examples of what women can do
  • People who help others face the limiting beliefs that have had free reign in their minds for far too long
  • Women who help others achieve a healthy weight by focusing on true nutrition and nurturing, looking at the emotional side of weight that doesn’t revolve around pounds on a scale or calories on a plate
  • Women connecting other women to offer support, resources and, perhaps most importantly, community
  • People who offer that kind word of encouragement just when you need it most
  • People who make you feel safe in their presence just by being themselves, letting you be open and vulnerable while still feeling comfortable

And I could go on.

Yes, there is darkness in the world. It would be very hard to deny it or pretend otherwise.

But there is also light and people committed to shining ever brighter.

What light would you love to shine in the world?

What is getting in your way?

And if there is any way I can help, let me know. I would love to be a sounding board for you! This is a topic I can talk about all day long J.

Welcome to 2017 – and my wish for you

Welcome to 2017 – and my wish for you

Imagine a ball of light so powerful, it is infinitely brighter and stronger than the sun.

This light illuminates the entire world, its rays reaching even into the deepest and darkest parts of the earth.

The light shines on every single person, though not everyone will always see or feel it.

The light sometimes seems so bright and sometimes as dim as the dimmest candlelight, maybe even sometimes so dim we don’t see it, but, even then, the light is still there.

The light shines in rays, like the sun breaking through the clouds, surrounding you in hope and possibility.

With this source of power, anything is possible.

With this source, the darkness is illuminated.

This source, this power is G-d. It’s His love and His mercy, His power and strength.

The rays are like His love wrapped around us every day, including now as we enter a new year and a blank canvas.

The backdrop is fresh and new, and it is up to each of us to do our parts in the creation of the intricate, beautiful and exquisite masterpiece.

May you stop hiding behind the doubts and questions about your self-worth and value to recognize your gifts and strengths and the contributions that you are uniquely suited to bring to the world.

May you recognize that even when you stumble and cry tears of frustration, you are not alone.

May the incessant voice of self-doubt be replaced by a voice of encouragement and hope.

May you put in your best efforts and have faith that all will unfold as it should, when it should.

May you pull back the mask that you have used to hide your true self, seeing that there are people who will love you just as you are.

May you see that though you, like everyone, has room for improvement and that this is a journey of a lifetime, you are so worthy of love right now.

May you set your own standards of success, choosing to live a life of meaning and fulfillment instead of striving to live a life that is successful in the eyes of others but not your own.

May you live a life where you can look yourself in the mirror and not be crushed beneath the voice of a conscience that won’t let you rest.

May you shine your light brightly and lovingly.

May you see the Divine Hand in your life and know that though it may sometimes seem like all is a random coincidence that that we are just leaves blown in the wind, there is a purpose behind it all, behind the joy and the sadness, behind the success and the stumbles, behind the laughter and the tears. It is not in vain. None of it is in vain.

May this be the year where you choose to truly start living from a place deep within.

May this be a year where you challenge yourself to be your best.

May you learn the lessons of your past, being uplifted and not weighed down by them.

May you choose faith over fear and surround yourself with people who do the same.

May this year be a blessing.

Elizabeth

Forget resolutions. Try this instead.

The beginning of a new year has traditionally been a time where many people set resolutions. Lose weight. Exercise more. Stop one bad habit or another. Start a good habit.

Some people start the new year full of excitement and thoughts that this time will be different, and, for some, it is.

For many of us, however, it often doesn’t take more than a few days before the resolutions are forgotten or cast aside with the frustration of ‘falling back’ into the same old, same old. Habits are called habits for a reason; they become the habitual way we do something, and it can take concerted effort and support over an extended period of time to really make a change. In addition, sometimes resolutions are set because we kind of want them or feel we should want them. This ‘sort of’ wanting something is likely not sufficient motivation to keep going when we are tempted by our old habits or the road gets challenging.

What if you set an intention that better reflected what you truly want?

What if you could increase your focus for the new year without the need to set any half-hearted resolutions at all?

This technique is one I learned a few years ago and have applied since: setting a theme or phrase to set your direction for the coming year.

For me, this theme has helped guide decisions, sometimes consciously and sometimes subconsciously, reminding me of what is important to me.

Connection.

Faith in action.

Surrender.

Just to name a few.

And the word that jumps to mind for me for 2017?

Truth.

Real, deep, raw truth.

Not sugarcoated. Not diluted.

Not wrapped in social acceptability.

Not hidden, not centre stage.

Not truth that is popular today and gone tomorrow.

Not a truth to be held lightly, as I was once instructed in a training class.

Just Truth, with a capital T.

Divinely given Truth. A Truth that speaks to my soul.

And a desire from deep within to help others connect to their Truth as well.

Does having this focus mean I will never be led ‘astray’, never pulled towards things that don’t align with who I am, who I want to be?

If only…

I am human and will inevitably find myself torn between two competing options, probably a number of times.

Having this focus, though, will hopefully allow me to return to my centre, my soul, more quickly and more easily.

So as we approach 2017, I now ask you:  What word or phrase would you like to be your theme for the coming year? What will be your guiding principle, the foundation upon which you would like to make your decisions?

What will help you when you are uncertain which choice to make?

What would help you return to your centre, in a way that matches up with the person you are and the person you are striving to be?

Once you’ve decided on your theme word or phrase, put it where you will see it and be reminded of it frequently, like on a sticky note on a mirror, in your wallet, etc.

You can also use this theme to set more specific goals as well, goals that are very important to you and that you are committed to pursuing, even when challenges arise along the way.

I’d love to hear your themes, so I invite you share them below. And besides, sharing them in writing will help you internalize your theme even more!

Time to follow my own advice

I believe in love.

I believe that we are meant to stand up for what we believe in, even when it’s unpopular.

I believe that we should be our true selves in a world that frequently tries to convince us to be anything but.

I believe that we are all human beings and, by that virtue alone, are worthy of love, respect and acceptance.

At the same time, I can love somebody as a person and still believe that their beliefs and/or behaviours are wrong…and people are often afraid to use the word wrong. It can feel self-righteous and judgmental, even when it’s coming from a place of humanity while being true to one’s own values.

Anybody who’s been following me for a while would likely not be surprised to find out that I am an observant Jewish woman who learns and holds by the Truth in the Torah, the Jewish Bible.

This Truth teaches me so much. It teaches me compassion for other people. It teaches me to grow and learn from this journey of life, striving to improve myself as I go.

It teaches me that nothing is random, that there are no coincidences.

It teaches me that I am here for a reason, and I am meant to strive towards my potential and work towards the purpose throughout my entire life – as you are meant to do in yours.

And it teaches me right and wrong.

I see many people who have beliefs that are fundamentally different from my own.

And I see so many people who feel so empty trying to fill that void with something that seems like a fun, good idea at the time. Alcohol. Drugs. Shopping. Overworking. Distractions of one kind or another, distractions that will keep them from thinking about that big, empty-feeling hole inside.

I see them searching, seeking, grasping at something to add an enhanced sense of meaning in their lives.

I long to connect with people who are searching for that something more and show them there is more in this life. And no, I don’t want to convert someone to my way of thinking. That’s not my purpose and definitely not my place.

At the same time, I have been so reluctant to fully share myself and my message with the world out of a fear that some people might take my encouragement to be true to yourself and not let society dictate your actions to promote and condone behaviours I believe are wrong.

And so I’ve held myself back. I’ve spoken up…but only partially. I’ve spoken my truth, but not as deeply or as broadly as I would like to. I’ve been afraid of coaching someone and then having our relationship be a catalyst for something I wouldn’t feel comfortable condoning.

In short, I haven’t taken my own advice. And it’s time that I do – which is the reason for this post.

I don’t need everyone to agree with me.

I don’t need everyone to believe what I believe. I don’t expect everyone to.

At the same time, I need to speak what is true for me. Not doing so as strongly as I would like has been eating at me, heart and soul, a little more every day.

Have I found ‘the answer’? Hardly.

But sharing these words with you today is a huge part of it for me.

Are you struggling to find your place, balancing your beliefs in a world that at times can seem far away from it?

Do you relate to the words I’ve written?

Then I would love to hear from you as we navigate our way through this life! You can comment or send a note to me at elizabeth@heartandsoulliving.com. Looking forward to hearing from you.