Letting Go of Happily Ever After

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I stopped trying to find “happily ever after”. I learned to understand that it belongs in those one to two hour fairytales that I watch on screen. I realized, I didn’t see the person in front of me when I was focused on the unpredictable forever. I would create a story of how a partner should be. He should react this way, when I do this. He should buy me flowers. He should choose me over fill in the blank. Why can’t he be more like that? Just writing this ties my stomach in knots. I should-ed these poor men to death.  I have no idea how they could say I was needy…choke, choke, choke. My expectations were completely out of whack with reality.

I didn’t know any of them. I knew who I wanted them to be, to fit into what my fantasy of “happily ever after”. I didn’t want any of them for who they actually were. You wouldn’t blame me if you knew some of them, but I wanted to be in that fairytale where the woman saves the man (hold on a minute, laugh break). I had no idea how ugly this tale turns out in reality. Even though, I have plenty of examples of healthy relationships around me, it took me years to break free from the toxic formula of my mom and dad’s relationship. They both went on to have healthy, beautiful, and different kinds of relationships.

My dad and my “other mother”, were together for 21 years until his death. I remember being in my teens or early 20’s when they explained to me that they were happy now and they enjoyed each other’s company, but if it ever came to place where they didn’t, they would set the other one free. They didn’t want a piece of paper telling them they were tied together, their souls told them that. They exchanged rings and committed to each other, but not legally. I have never been against marriage; I know many wonderful, healthy married couples. This touched me, because it fit them perfectly. What I realized, they didn’t focus on the fairytale; they focused on the moment in front of them.

My mom stayed single for a very long time. She spent a lot of time working on herself to ensure she wouldn’t repeat the old and unhealthy patterns of her previous relationships. When she met my stepdad, she was perfectly happy and content living the way she was. She wasn’t missing anything. They were two whole people. I am fortunate to see them on a daily basis and watch how they communicate with love after 18 years. Do they have their disagreements? Of course, but they don’t use the past as a weapon. They stay present, and work their way forward together.  They maintain their own individual identities. They are just as strong together as they are when they are apart.

Seeing the three different relationships of my mom and dad, dad and “other mother”, and mom and stepdad helped me to see relationships operate in different ways. It helped me to not judge other people’s relationships and compare them to mine. Each relationship comes with its own lessons meant for the couple in the relationship. Two people come together for different reasons. I realized that two people could make a toxic couple, but can go off to have healthy relationships. Sometimes, it is the toxic relationships that help us appreciate the healthy ones.  I know I had to go through all my relationships to learn who I was and what was right for me. It took quite a few, but I am grateful for every one of them. Each one allowed me to dig a little deeper and learn a lot more about the person I was, and the person I wanted to be.

For a long time, I hid from my own challenges by finding partners I viewed as sicker than I was. We would both be on a path of bettering ourselves, but I would feel like I was ahead of them (BIG LAUGH). I had no idea, I was as sick as they were. I would stay in a relationship until, I was truly in a place that didn’t match their energy. When I gave up “happily ever after” and started focusing on what was in front of me, I naturally had a healthy relationship come into my life. I have slipped into brief periods of letting other people’s fantasies of our relationship get into my head, including my children’s. When I do that, it doesn’t feel right, and I stop focusing on what is right for us. I’m happy, I’m aware enough to catch myself in other people’s stories of who they think we should be. I know it is not ill intentioned, I know they speak from a place of love and what feels right for them. It doesn’t mean I have to attach to it. If I get angry, insecure, sad, excited, I’m attaching to it, and it means I need to look at what truly feels right for me. Some elements may stick and others may not.

The relationship I have now, is right here and right now. That is what works for us. We are happy and we enjoy each other’s company. In the almost two years we’ve been together, we haven’t called each other a name out of anger, and we communicate when things aren’t sitting right in our heads. We give each other space to be individuals and support each other’s dreams. We definitely don’t agree with everything, and we are very different in the way we do things. The difference, we respect each other’s differences and laugh about them a lot. To me, it is so much better than a “happily ever after” illusion. I see him, and I love him. He is not expected to be anyone else in my head. Do I know if this love story will last forever? No, and that’s ok. I know it is here now. I know, I’m happy now. I know, I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Today, I let flowers bloom. I know they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing, without any expectation to be something different than what they are. Appreciate the differences in others, learn from them, and figure out what is right for you. When two flowers are meant to bloom alongside each other, they will. Notice,  in nature each has their own space to grow separately, each needs a healthy root system, if not, they smother each other. Then, neither flower/plant/tree has space to grow, and they both struggle to survive.

The energy we give our own roots is important to how we will share space with others.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff

 

 

People Act Differently Based on the Strength of Their Inner-Worth

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People act differently based on the strength of their inner-worth. If we are reacting to someone else’s negatively, it means it is time to work on building up our own. Treat yourself kindly; you are your greatest strength.

Our lives shine when we can:

  • Look at people’s actions from different perspectives- Love is kind. If someone is not acting from kindness, what is going on? Are they really mad, hurt, sad, or confused by me or by what’s going on inside them? If I reacted to their actions from a loving place, how would that look? How would I feel?
  • Question how we are choosing to see things- Are you looking at the situation from a love or a fear based angle? How are some other ways I can see this?
  • Check-in with ourselves when we react to other people’s behaviors- Why am I feeling this way? How does their behavior reflect on me?
  • Look at what is happening to us from different perspectives- Lose a job, relationship, or suffer an injury: Maybe there is a lesson that will lead you to a life greater than you ever imagined. Open yourself up to learn from it and see what happens.
  • Love ourselves wholeheartedly!

With love, peace, and gratitude,

Rachael Wolff

What We Tell Ourselves is Our Reality: Time to Take Our Power Back

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We create the world we live in. Yes, we are that powerful. It all starts with a stream of thought and where our focus is. How is it that twins who grew up in the same household can go off to lead such different lives? How is it possible for some in poverty to break down the barriers and rise up, while others fall? How is possible for some people to find the love, careers, and lifestyle they want and others struggle? How do some people feel like victims of the world and other feel like participants in the journey?

It all begins with the messages we feed ourselves.

  • How do I use my words?
  • Do I speak in the positive or negative more?
  • Do I focus my attention on stories of successes or stories about tragedies?
  • Do I see possibilities or obstacles?
  • Do I question my reactions to others?
  • How do I judge myself?
  • How do I judge others?
  • How do I participate in life?
  • Do I work hard or smart?
  • Do I try to lose weight or create a healthier lifestyle?
  • How do I treat myself?
  • Do I put more values in others than I do myself?

These questions only tap the surface, but how we answer each one dictates the life we are creating. Old patterns of thinking take time to break. Some of these may have come from the generations before you. Investigate your current beliefs and break free from the past ones that hold you back.  Here are a few ideas on how to improve the life you are creating:

  1. Make  lists to change your thinking to a more possibility focused outlook. I have used it for love, work, family, spirituality, self, money, and school. I am amazed in the changes  every time. When I can make a list of all the positive things I want my life, I know what I am working towards.
  2. Write a Letter the God of your understanding,  a friend, or a family member like you already have what you are wanting in your life. Pick on area to focus on so that you can give it your full attention and energy. Go through the feelings of having it in your life. Use ALL your senses. This will help ignite every part of you in the process. Make sure to write about the details of how things look, smell, taste, sound, and feel. Create scenes where you can use each sense. If you can’t see the life you want, you are giving away your power to create it. Remember to leave it open to be better than you can even imagine. This will give it space to grow above and beyond.
  3. STAY AWAY from focusing on what you don’t want. If you know there are certain qualities that aren’t appeasing to you, focus on the ones that are their opposite. Instead of focusing on losing weight, quitting smoking, or ending toxic relationships focus on the actions of a healthier lifestyle. You don’t want to see the excess weight, the smoking, or the unhealthy relationship. What does the opposite look like to you.
  4. Expand your tool box. How do you plan on staying in this positive mindset? What books will help you focus on the life you want? What exercises will benefit this life the most? How do you need to change your eating habits? What videos would you like to see on-line (If you haven’t been introduced to the world of Ted Talks check them out). We don’t have excuses anymore, it doesn’t matter how our life looks to anyone else. It only matters what you want your life to look like.
  5. FEEL! Covering pain with outside substances will only accentuate the problem and keep you farther from the solution. When we allow ourselves to fully feel the joy and the pain it will help move us to a better place. When we use things like drugs, alcohol, or other people to cover up what is going on. It lays stuck creating diseases, illnesses, and despair. It steals our hope, joy, and power. I’m not saying not to enjoy a cocktail or a companion. Just don’t use them as a tool to cover up what you are really feeling.
  6. Allow yourself to grieve the losses of the old life. This is the life you have lived for a very long time. It will take time to release it. It will happen in stages and you may feel the loss of the walls of protection you put up around that life. Be gentle with yourself. What I have noticed is I will create a situation with another person, where I find myself facing that part of me. Patterns keep repeating until we are able to fully release what is keeping them there. See the opportunity to learn and the progress you have made.

    “If we do not suffer a loss all the way to the end, it will wait for us. It won’t just dissipate and disappear. Rather, it will fester, and we will experience its sorrow later, in stranger forms” -Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open p. 99

  7. Record your progress. Even when you have a bad day, which you will, find something in it to contribute to the life you want for yourself. Notice as much as you can to be grateful for in each day. Take charge and put your energy into where you want to go while being grateful for what is already here.

Photo Credit: Rachael Wolff

Spirituality and Religion From A Loving Place

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(4) Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant (5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (6) it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. (7) It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(8) Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. (9) For we know only in part, and we prophecy only in part; (10) but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.

-Corinthians 13.4-13.10, Harper Collins Study Bible (Student Edition) p. 1950

Do I act from a place of love or fear? Do I treat myself in a loving or fearful way? Do I believe in a Higher Power out of love or fear? Is my Higher Power a loving all powerful being? Does my religion conflict with my beliefs? Does religion embrace or separate? Where do I fit in to it all?

These are some of the many questions I’ve asked myself throughout the years. I have had the pleasure of sitting through many wonderful services through a handful of different religions. I have also sat through services which preach fear, separation and judgment. The amazing thing is they could be within the same designated religion. How can religion be interpreted so differently? I have studied different theories and interpretations looking for what rests true in my heart. I have looked, observed, and studied people’s interpretations of their spiritual and religious paths. I do my best to leave my judgments at the door, but nothing puts my walls up faster then hearing about a God to fear or who creates fear in others. My vision of the Divine is in the verse above. Anything that contradicts that is not part of my spiritual path.

These are my observations. This is my path. Yours may be different and that’s Ok. I’m not here to push my beliefs on any one else. I’m not here to say I’m better or worse than you. I’m not! I don’t think your beliefs are better or worse than mine. I honor many different belief systems because they give me many opportunities to see love in action. That, for me, is what spirituality is all about. I love hearing about how other people’s religions help them be a better person and reach out to others. I know they are embracing what is right for them by the love and passion that they exude through action.  Here is what I’ve seen on my path:

How we feel about ourselves reflects the the spiritual world we create.

When we don’t show ourselves love before we choose our beliefs in a Higher Power and/or religion, it becomes easy to focus on the fears of the religion instead of the spirit of our Creator. The more love we give ourselves, the more we have to give to the Creator. Jesus was all loving, to all people. He didn’t pick and choose. That is what I focus on. That is the path I am proud to follow, the path of loving action. His love was healing. Love is healing! Since I come from a loving foundation, I focus on all the loving acts I see. I want to follow those paths because of the power of that love. I have noticed when people come from fearful and judgmental places they will talk to me about the fear, shame, and sin of mankind. They will focus on being afraid of their God’s judgment. They will feel shame for being human. I see a lot of separation. I want to make sure my plate is clean and my love is pure. Judgment separates me, and I want to be connected.

The power of prayer crosses all religions.

The most beautiful thing I have ever witnessed is the power of prayer. The beauty of prayer is that anyone can do it. It is not limited to any one religious practice. Prayer is a true spiritual practice. When people of all religions get together in prayer amazing things happen. Prayer is sending loving energy into to the world. Prayer connects individuals, communities, and the whole world. People can come from all walks of life and discover the power of prayer.

I once read a book called Transforming Fate into Destiny by Robert Ohotto. This book changed how I prayed and saw prayer. In chapter 4 he describes ego prayers vs. soul prayers in a way I had never heard before. It helped me to learn how to pray more effectively and to let go of my ego. Pages 57-67 were pages I have taken with me. I didn’t connect with the whole book, but I am so grateful to have read it just for those pages. I trusted that I was supposed to keep reading. I knew I was connected to the Divine. I prayed for answers; I got them. We all have that power!

I believe that the Creator of all is bigger than any human mind will ever understand. 

I find it fascinating when people tell me that there is no other interpretation, but the one they believe. All these books that explain religions are interpretations. Each one has had the hands of human on them. Each one has had to interpret words that may not have an exact definition. Pieces are chosen and denied based on humans. Each Pastor, Minister, Priest, Rabbi, Imam etc. are all interpreting from their belief systems. They are all doing the best they can to get clear messages to pass onto their congregations. They are still human and do not belong on pedestals. Each may have a beautiful message of love, what a shame to miss them because we don’t think there is anything to learn from other spiritual paths. If we believe in something from the core, it will not change, but it may grow, strengthen, and expand.

Good travelers leave no tracks. Good words leave no trace. Good counting needs no markers.

Good doors have no bolts. Yet cannot be forced. Good knots have no rope but cannot be untied.

In this way the Sage always helps people and rejects none, always helps all beings, and rejects none. This is called practicing brightness.

Therefore the good person is the bad person’s teacher, and the bad person is the good person’s resource.

Not to value the teacher, not to love the resource, causes great confusion even for the intelligent.

This is called the vital secret.

Shih wei yao miao

-Tao Te Ching Lao-Tau Translated by Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo (#27)

My spiritual path does not separate me from anybody else. It doesn’t make me better or worse. When I am not loving myself and others, I am denying my spiritual path. I become separate and alone. I choose to live there as little as possible. Yet, I still do choose it when I am in my humanness and judging others and/or myself. I have accepted that nobody is perfect. I can’t expect that of an individual, group, country, world, or religion. I know that everyone who comes into my life has a reason for being there, and I choose to learn as much as I can from the experiences in order to grow on my path.  Another person does not have to believe I am going home to my Creator; I believe it, and I will live following actions of love all the way home.

“If they are illusion, then I also am illusion, and so they are always of the same nature as myself. It is that which makes them so lovable ad venerable. That is why I can love them. And here is a doctrine at which you will laugh. It seems to me, Govinda, that love is the most important thing in the world. It may be important to great thinkers to examine the  world, to explain and despise it. But I think it is only important to love the world, not to despise it, not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration and respect”

-Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha p. 147

 

 

Give Yourself the Love You Deserve

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“Thoughts are like data programmed into a computer, registered on the screen of your life. If you don’t like what you see on the screen, there’s no point in going up to the screen and trying to erase it. Thought is Cause; experience is Effect. If you don’t like the effects in your life,  you have to change the nature of your thinking.

Love in your mind produces love in your life.”

-Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love p. 24

I was scanning Facebook, and I kept seeing articles and memes about love and relationships. I saw very few on being in-love with ourselves. No relationship will cure a lack within us. Believe me, I have tried. It always ended the same way, and I kept repeating the same cycle for a long time.

If we have an expectation of someone else, it is usually because we are not giving ourselves what we need.

When we don’t take care of ourselves spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically, we start taking it out on those around us. We expect them to do what we are not doing for our own well being. If we respect ourselves, the people we are with will have no other choice than to respect us too. Why? We won’t allow otherwise. Our boundaries of how we will let someone treat us will become crystal clear, and it will not be done with force.

If we find ourselves having to use force, we still have work to do. Something inside us is still feeling insecure. Our energies will only attract like energies. If we keep attracting wonderful people to our lives, it is because our energy is aligned with theirs.

If we keep attracting people who we feel hurt by, it is because we are somehow hurting ourselves. How do we change this? How do we make our already good relationships even better? How do start attracting the relationships with family, friends, and significant others that we want?

We have to nurture our relationship with ourself. Yes! Be the very person we want to see in someone else. This is not just a throw-a-way line. Many people think that if we are nice to others, we should EXPECT that in return. NO! We can’t expect others to do anything, but what we can do is EXPECT that of the way we treat ourselves.

Self-love creates healthy boundaries for all relationships. We put out an energy that tells people how to treat us. We will not accept people being cruel to us. We will be able to walk away from the situation in a loving way. This doesn’t mean we will walk away from a person just because they are having a bad day. It means that their behavior won’t eat at our foundation. We will not let their thoughts about the world alter our loving core. If they are hurting we will be able to give them love, because we will know that their hurt is their journey.

We won’t even attract cruelty anymore. There is a energy force field that surrounds loving energy and it only grows and expands. Will we have bad days? Yes! Will we slip into old behavior patterns? Yes! Will we be given new lessons that we didn’t even know we had coming? OH YES! The kinder we are to ourselves during our slips tells us how far we have come and how much farther we have to go.

If we can’t treat ourselves as special as we want someone else to treat us, there is a problem. It will keep coming up until the lesson is learned. Taking the plunge with ourself doesn’t ensure that we will all the sudden meet our life long partner, but it does mean, we can enjoy the relationships that are presented to us. The lessons will be softer and recovery time will be shorter.

I have been amazed what a year of truly being committed to myself did for me. When I started treating myself right, I was able to give more of myself to others. The best part, I don’t hold it against them. If you want to read my personal journey about this please read my post, “Discovering the Meaning of Love”. All I know is that when I invested the time in myself, my world changed.

For those of you who want a more substantial love life, I invite you to have a love affair with yourself. Do something nice for yourself. Treat yourself as good as you are willing to treat the people around you.  Make it special! If you can put the effort into someone else, you can definitely put the effort into you. Visit me on Facebook and tell me what you are doing for yourself. Enjoy the love affair. This is a relationship worth investing in!

I’m Not Stupid After All: School Testing and Self-Worth

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The divergent thinker has considered the problem from all angles and made connections between the question and each of the potential answers. He has now spent four times as long on the question as the person who is tuned to think convergently, and his likelihood of choosing the “right” answer is still no better than chance. Instead of eliminating some of the answers to improve his chances of making the correct choice, his divergent thought processes have brought all answers into the realm of possibility.

-Shelley Carson, PhD, Your Creative Brain p. 128

I have always loved learning, but all through high school felt stupid. The feeling came from taking multiple choice tests. I don’t remember when my anxiety around these tests began. I didn’t realize how bad the experience was on my self-worth until I was an adult.

I had to study more than many of my peers. I took notes on everything in order to get it. I had to practically memorize the material to get an 100% on a test. I realized, if I could focus on the material in the book, I could get an A on the test. When other people were doing dance and sports, I had to spend that extra time taking notes on what I was reading.  I used to pray for essay tests, because I knew I could get an A without a problem. I used to run out of room because of the amount of details I could provide. I didn’t understand why I had such a problem with multiple choice. Come SAT time, I was a complete mess. When I didn’t have specific material to study my anxiety would take me to a shameful place. My self-talk was brutal. My hair twisting and pulling increased to a level where I’m surprised I have hair today. What was it about these tests? Why couldn’t I figure out the right answers?

When I was an adult, I realized  I also had a fear of filling out forms. I was so scared of answering a question in the wrong way. I wanted to be honest and accurate, but I found myself wondering do they mean this, or do they mean that. In order to be a pre-school teacher, I had to take courses filled with multiple choice tests. I remember being told that many people don’t pass them the first time. I can’t tell you what that level of pressure did to me. Luckily, by the time I got to the test I was grounded in my spiritual path and I prayed that I would be able to pull the knowledge from my head as needed, and thankfully I did. Yet, I still went through the constant questioning in my head during almost every question. I just kept trying to remember the words that the books used. I still felt stupid. Why weren’t the answers black and white? I knew the material well enough that the tests should have been a breeze.

So, why did I feel so stupid when it came to multiple choice? I wasn’t going to understand that until I was around 37 years old and back in school. Eckerd College is known for their strong writing program. The Program For Experienced Learners (the program I attended) held us to the same high standards as the residential students. I loved it there. The classes were small, professors were available, lots of writing, and very few multiple choice tests.

The answer finally came in a course called, The Creative Process, taught by an amazing professor. I knew I would love the course just by the title. Once I met my professor, I knew I was in for a big ride in self awareness. The reading materials for the course were eye opening, but one in particular would help to heal years of pain and anguish over my fears and anxiety around multiple choice tests and filling out applications.

Your Creative Brain (This is a link to the website): Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life by Shelley Carson, PhD.was the book that would give me understanding about brainsets and where I was most comfortable. The book explains all the different brainsets, then has a little test to show the reader where her/his personal comfort level is. The best part is in the next chapters she gives the reader exercises to strengthen the different brainsets. Based on the test, I was most comfortable in the connect and absorb brainsets. This made perfect sense to me. This has been my strength in my personal and professional relationships. It was what made me successful in sales and marketing. It is the power behind my creativity. It is the reason, I am driven by the connections I make with humans, nature, and animals through love.

How could this gift cause such anguish in school? 

“Convergent thinking is the type of thinking you do when you access the contents stored in your brain (including knowledge and memories) to come up with the one correct answer to a well-defined problem.”

-Carson, Your Creative Brain p. 125

OH! Multiple choice tests are based on convergent thinking. Now, everything is starting to make sense. I don’t fit into the mold of this type of education, wait a second… My son is completely immersed into the testing world, and he is having the same struggles and feelings that I did. He is an A/B student who is feeling frustrated, stupid and lost in the school system. I’m so glad, I have been educated enough to help stop the negative cycle that I have lived with since I was a child in school.

I have broken many of the negative cycles that came from the generations before me. It can take a long time to heal old wounds. I still feel my stuff come up when my son is discussing school, and it is a challenge to try to figure out what is the best thing to do for him. I need to approach him and the educational system from a loving place, but sometimes the how is hard to find.

I have watched many groups try and fail to change the educational system. I have read the research that is being used to fight the system. I have listened to countless parents and teachers who know that all this testing is not good for these young developing brains. The tests keep coming. Little changes keep happening, but I feel like we are still left with a lot of misunderstanding. Some teachers don’t know how to spot convergent and divergent thinkers and that makes a huge difference in how a child will absorb material. We are still focusing on the broken system. The negative energy is feeding the beast. What if we collectively could put our focus on what we did want to see in schools, instead of what we don’t? I still struggle with this one. I know the answer comes from a loving place, I just don’t know what it is.

My son was lucky enough to have an amazing third grade teacher. She made the time to really look at him as an individual and figure out how he needed to look at the material in order to be able to see the correct answers. She helped me to see that it was possible for a divergent thinker to work with these tests. There are so many  kids, parents, and teachers who don’t know what is going on in these students’ brains. How do we get this information out there in a way that it is not done through angry messages of what we don’t want to see anymore? How do we not shame people for not knowing any better? How do we inspire change through loving actions? 

Finding out about the different brainsets and how they contributed towards different areas of my life has been priceless. It has helped me gain understanding about myself and others. I finally know, I am NOT stupid. I actually have a beautiful gift of a divergent mind, and its because of this gift that I am here now. I figured out that the things I negatively labeled myself with are actually the very parts of me that I love the most.

We All Have Our Own Journey

Why do we feel it necessary to judge others’ journeys? I find it so easy to get caught in this web. When I can pull myself back from it, I can see a better way. I choose to embrace my own journey!

When I put the focus back on me and see that I’m only emotional triggered when someone else’s story hits too close to home, I’m set free. In this place, I can heal my old wounds. I can take responsibility for my thoughts, feelings, and actions. My power returns back to me.

I have gone through a lot in my life. I could have chose the bitter, victim of the world route and many people would rationalize my decision. I chose a different way. I chose to keep getting up, learn what I needed to, and move on. This is my journey.

It took me a lot of work, spiritual guidance, and loving support to get me where I am today. I had a lot of challenging lessons that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but they gave me exactly what I needed. Because of that, I can’t deny someone else’s journey is any different. We are all going through exactly what we need to for our personal journey.

Some of the most heart wrenching stories have the most to teach. We are all created different, we need to have different stories too. We need all of them to make this planet thrive. We can’t expect others to live according to our own path.

We will only ever leave impressions that may help others figure out their own path. Loving actions can plant seeds, ignite passions, and create positive energy around a situation. All judgments do is make a person feel worse and bury themselves deeper in the pain that is holding them back. If a person is leading a lifestyle that is hurting her/himself or others there is a shame cycle running through them. Shaming them feeds that cycle. They will experience consequences for their actions, they will pay the price, but we can help them by not keeping them in a prison of thought.

When we focus on our own journey, we can be a light for others. We don’t have to push our beliefs on them. We just need to show them by how we choose to live.

I’ve learned to help others  and myself by asking more questions. They, just like me, may get defensive when someone is approaching the buried truth. That’s a good thing, as long as I allow them to have their reaction without filling myself up with the defensive energy too. That is when the situation can get out of control. I keep reminding myself, this is their journey. I also remind myself when it’s my journey and that I don’t need to take all the advice that is given to me. I don’t have to get angry with someone for giving me advice either. It just means someone cares and they are doing the best they can with the tools they have.

My mom is a great example of a person who is really good at uncovering this through questions. She is one of the few people who can reach my hot spots for growth. I feel safe enough to react in my defensive way, come back, and understand what I was covering up. I’m very lucky to have her. By example, she has taught me to do the same thing.

Once I changed, so did some of the people around me. My circle of friends is amazing!! We are all very supportive of each other’s growth. I have this, because that’s where I put my energy. I don’t jump down into other people’s holes and I don’t expect them to jump into mine. I sit next to the hole and wait for them to tell me they would like a hand getting out. My solid foundation of love can only help them if they use their personal strength to pull themselves up. People only come to me when they really want change.

I also have learned not to take other people’s journeys personal. They need to go through and repeat their lessons as many times as it takes for them to figure out their own way. I am here to give them seeds of hope. It is their choice whether to put them in the ground and let them take root. The same goes for me, when the roles are reversed.

The most important lesson for me was to embrace my own journey. I know, I can only give what I already have inside. If I spot something in someone else, it’s because I have it in myself too. The best part about that is it includes the good stuff.

We are capable of embracing the light or the dark inside us at any point in time.  The dark has a lot to teach, I like to make sure that even in my darkest spots, I embrace the candlelight to have a foundation for love to guide my way. The better I talk to myself, the quicker I will get through the dark spots.

Embrace your own journey! It’s worth focusing on. You are worth it!

Discovering the Meaning of Love

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“My negativity was as destructive to me as alcohol is to the alcoholic. I was an artist finding my own jugular. It was as though I was addicted to my own pain.”

-Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love p. 9

Coming from a divorced home, it is not uncommon to have problems with intimate relationships. If there are challenges such as mental illness, addiction, workaholics, chronic pain, relationship issues, and/or financial struggles, whether a family is together or not, it can still contribute to problems with intimacy. No matter what the situation is, when there is trust and connection issues from childhood it tends to spill over to adulthood.

It is common to work our past issues out through our current relationships. I learned to effectively communicate with my mom in my teen years. My mom and I learned the language of speaking to each other in “I feel________ because_______” terms. We went to group therapy, which was a powerful tool. It helped me break the blaming cycle early on.  after I was able to step back and heal some of the old damage, I was able to heal, repair, and develop many positive female relationships without any added drama. I’m surrounded by those relationships today.

I tend to see the majority issues in two areas, with my kids and with men. My kids offer me so many tools in self exploration. They tend to show me the best and we will say “works in progress” on a daily basis. Before having kids, I promised myself I would get my act together before they became teenagers. My mom’s transformation had a giant impact on my life, but it was very hard in the early years because she had to put most the focus on her in order to be better for my sister and I in the long run. Her transformation began when I was around 13, so it left a lot of doors open for learning the hard way. I wanted to get a head start, I’m definitely a work in progress. Staying present is one of my biggest challenges in parenting. All I know is if I am present, I can hear their needs clearly.

As for men, when I was young, I would cling to the attention of them. I wanted to be loved so bad, but I had no concept of what love really was. My definition was warped and twisted. I thought boys wanting me sexually was healthy attention. I thought I needed to chase them and that sex equaled intimacy. I made a lot of unhealthy decisions in my quest for love. I even hurt other girls and women because I truly had no self-worth to think about how my behaviors would affect them. I would get jealous of what other girls/women had. I acted out accordingly.  I made a lot of amends in my late teens and early twenties.

I used to obsess about the romantic movies wanting that kind of Hollywood love story. I loved words, if a guy could say the right things, I would fall to his feet.  I had a string of short-lived relationships because I found that after the 6-month mark things changed and the story ended. The romantic words became less frequent and there was little to go on. I used to joke that the first person I lasted over 6-months with: I would marry. Guess what, I did. The problem was, I still didn’t know what love truly was. I didn’t know the effects of emotional abuse and how it masked itself as love. Before I became a mom, I went to a seminar about parenting. I learned the importance of language when communicating with children, and how saying things like, “You’re crazy”, “You’re stupid”, and “You’re lazy” labels them as a person and has lasting psychological effects. Changing the language and making a point not to label and make a comment such as, “You are acting silly” changes a lot. Now, take that to intimate relationships, how is it any different?

As important as words can be in this way, I had to learn that words mean nothing if there is no loving action behind them. Sweet words followed by fearful actions are a pathway to abuse, whether it is emotional or physical. It is not just abuse given or received to another person, it is the abuse we do to ourselves. Understanding my fears keeps me from acting them out on the people I love. Ignoring them and/or denying them is a time bomb waiting to go off.

When I was ready for a lesson in love, the door opened and I read a verse that I have seen and heard a million times:

(4) Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant (5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (6) it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. (7) It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(8) Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will com to an end. (9) For we know only in part, and we prophecy only in part; (10) but when the complete comes, the partial will com to and end.

-Corinthians 13.4-13.10, Harper Collins Study Bible (Student Edition) p. 1950

My house built on a foundation of fear crumbled to the ground. This was so much bigger than my problems with intimate relationships. It was a wake up call to how I treated myself, children, life, community, and world. When I started to believe in these words and concepts my life had a new purpose. They were not just words on paper anymore, they had life. They were everything that was right and wrong in the world. I started seeing oneness and becoming a lot more aware of ideas and groups that used separation as a tool to judge others. I found my judgements were all personal reflections and that love truly wasn’t about being right. That included the old concepts I believed about myself.

Am I going to always have the presence to act out of loving place? No! I’m human and far from perfect. I will be challenged time and time again. Will I do my best? Yes! Will I stop beating myself up when I fail? Yes, because that is an act of love. I only continue the cycle of fear when I keep the hate, fear, and self-loathing going. I choose to stop the cycle. Louise Hay has great table calendars, which help change the way we talk to ourselves. I have multiple days posted on my bathroom mirror, and I have made lots of gifts for friends with the past days (I just can’t imagine throwing them out). I find working with them in creative ways helps to keep their messages present within myself.

I knew, I wasn’t going to find this kind of love in another person until I could start to be this for myself. This wasn’t a small task, it took a lot of unlearning. This is not an overnight project, the more walls we hold onto the longer the process takes. I already had a head start with the work I had been doing. The journey and discovery is well worth the time I put in.

“Live in a good place. Keep your mind deep. Treat others well. Stand by your word. Make fair rules. Do the right thing. Work when it’s time.”

-Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Translation: Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo, #8

Leave room for mistakes, because they leave us with more opportunities to grow from a loving place. Peace to ALL!

If you want to come on this journey with me, visit me on Facebook and/or follow my blog.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff

A Better Life Begins With Gratitude

 “What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.”

-Oprah Winfrey

I’m always amazed how fast positive changes start to occur when I focus on gratitude. Years ago, I started a gratitude journal. During my darkest days I would be grateful for having the ability to walk, see, hear, and smell. I would be grateful for having a roof over my head and clothes to wear. In the beginning, it was hard coming up with new things every day. What was important is that I kept doing it, and I kept it aligned with positive energy. This meant no negative statements, such as I’m grateful I wasn’t…, I’m grateful he didn’t…, all these statements attract the negative. The focus is on the lack of something. This exercise is about what IS there. That is where the magic exists.

I quickly realized that the list got easier to write. I would seek out things to be grateful for. This is how I found my appreciation for nature again. When I was a kid, I loved being outside and exploring my surroundings. When I lost my way, I stopped going on adventures.

I forgot about the beauty of a sunset and a sunrise. I forgot how it felt to be out in the woods in awe of my surroundings. All the pictures you will see on my blog are ones I have taken. Those are my personal moments that I’m sharing with you. Seeing those pictures reminds me to stay grateful to the beauty that is a part of me inside and out.

Before the end of my marriage, I started a gratitude list and made sure to put my husband on it every day. On days that I was really angry, I would dedicate a whole page to him. I did this because I didn’t want to be led by anger/fear. When I did leave, I did it in peace. I knew from a loving place, it was the right thing. I have never looked back or regretted my decision. I’m grateful to him for helping me dig deep to discover the person I am meant to be.

I took a course at Eckerd College called, The Creative Process. We had an assignment called a “Mudball: Thirty-Five Days of Creativity”. For 35 days we had to commit to a creative activity. I chose to draw a picture, add a quote, and write 5 things I’m grateful for. The good times kept rolling in. My mind was clearer, my heart was fuller, and I was happy and content with my single life.

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Since the time of the assignment, I have had many blessings come my way. I may not be rich financially, but I am truly abundant in everything that matters. I have attracted so many wonderful things to my life all by focusing my energy on what I already have. I even found a relationship that was worthy of me giving up my single life.

Starting January 1, 2016, my kids and I started a gratitude jar. Every night we write about things we were grateful for that day. They write three things each, and I write 5-10. This blog was one of the positive outcomes that came from me focusing on my gratitude. I find that being in gratitude gives me more energy to focus my love and creativity in all the right places.

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Christie Marie Sheldon’s Love or Above really helped me to understand the importance of staying in the energy of love and gratitude. Her CD series did wonders for me.

See what From A Loving Place is up to on Facebook.

Get your daily dose of gratitude on Twitter @Wolffspirit9

Read how you can be apart of it all A Month of Gratitude.

I hope you will join me by investing in your best energy. Let’s spread the attitude of gratitude.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff

 

Embrace the Breakdown

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When I was 17, I struggled with severe depression.  I could send myself into a tailspin within seconds. It got so bad that I agreed to be admitted into a hospital to get help. I used to believe that it was only going to get worse, and that there was no hope in my future.  There was a period of time that I’m surprised I survived.

This was the time frame that I learned to embrace the breakdown. Like many others, I used to do anything I could to avoid the breakdown, but learning to embrace it made me see breakdowns as good things. I wasn’t going to hit an emotional bottom. I was going to break through a barrier that was holding me back.  It is empowering to be in charge and  head down a downward to have a break through. I say I’m getting ready for a  growth spurt. The bigger the spiral, the bigger the growth spurt.  Learning this skill did not keep me from experiencing dark times, but it helped me see that the dark times would pass as soon as I got what I was meant to get out of the situation. A lesson could take a day, month and sometimes longer. It really depended on how stubborn I was being and how tight I was holding on to the problem.

Growth spurts are what I call my emotional break throughs that lead me to better places. I  usually have something great happen after one of my breakdown to break through episodes. After I embrace the breakdown, which is feeling all the feelings that are going through me. Sometimes I am hit with a lot, all at once. Those are my category 4 hurricanes. Next, I look at the situation from other perspectives. I’m not going to lie, I had a great role model for this part. We lovingly refer to my mom as “Pollyanna”. She modeled the skill of looking at things from a much brighter and less sinister angle. I remember getting so annoyed when I wanted to stay in a bad mood. Eventually, I came around and realized it wasn’t that bad. It’s funny watching my kids’ reactions when I do it to them. The best part is, they have now started to keep me on track too when I slip. After that, I look at the lessons in what’s causing me stress, anxiety, and/or depression.

In my early thirties, I was introduced to the work of Byron Katie. A friend gave me a CD series called, Making Your Thoughts Work for You By Dr. Wayne Dyer and Byron Katie. I had already done a lot of work on this, but her methods are truly amazing and easy to use. There are tons of videos out there of her work. Her method is brilliant. She even has an easy to use worksheet on her website. Katie’s way of looking at a perspective is a tool I use on a regular basis when I get triggered by anybodies actions or words. For the parents out there it is a great tool and a great way of life to teach children. It gives us great tools to see our children clearly and teaches them to take personal responsibility, while not getting caught up in what my mom calls, “awful-izing”. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but just like anything else it plants a seed.  When they are ready, it will grow.

Another thing that works for me was suggested  by my first sponsor in AL-ANON. She said to stand on a chair and look at the room from a different angle, then do your daily routines in a different order. My favorite was to change the order I put my foot in my underwear. I had to literally put a note in my underwear drawer to remind me to get out of my head and make different choices. I’m in my head a lot! I am one of those people who have to do a lot of work to get out of my head. I love hiking off-trail to help me with that one. When I have to pay attention for sticks, snakes, and direction, my mind stays clear!

I have worked with a lot of people on the topic of personal growth and I can share a couple of observations about what has kept myself and others in the vicious spin cycle longer.

  1. We try to run away from it using people, places, or things. I have used the busy world of doing, relationships with my children, family, and friends to keep me distracted from looking at myself. I have seen others use excess alcohol and drugs. In my experience, it never works to solve problems. Create problems, YES! Solve problem, No! I learned that when I feel over emotional about something I avoid alcohol completely or keep it to one glass of red wine in a relaxing environment. The relaxing environment part is essential.
  2. There is something about the chaos that makes us feel comfortable. Here’s an example: I used to be in a relationship with a lot of yelling and name calling. I was always on edge. I never knew what was going to come next. The reason it was comfortable to me is because it was what I experienced as a child watching my parents’ relationship. There was a normalcy in it. It took a lot longer to break that pattern than it did others. I had to consciously study healthy relationships and surround myself with friends in healthy relationships.

I’m sure there are other reasons, but for me, these are the ones that always stand out.  Don’t be scared to feel everything that comes up. This can take time. This is not a quick fix. If it doesn’t work, go deeper. In the beginning for category 4 breakdowns it would take me a month or longer to get through it all, and some days were downright ugly. As I have practiced the skills and have learned to spot warning signs, I can tend to get through the process in about a day. But, not all the time. Around three years ago, one of my breakthroughs was from a failed relationship that was a carried pattern of many failed relationships. I had tried before to go deep, but it obviously wasn’t deep enough. I had to deal with childhood shame that was buried deep down. That took a lot of time and tears to get through. If there is shame involved, face it. If there is guilt involved, forgive yourself. If there is anxiety involved, get present. Anxiety comes from fears of future, and future in not predictable (at least for most of us). If there is anger, forgive them. Don’t forgive for the other person, forgiveness is personal. Repeat the mantra, “Breakdown to break through, breakdown to break through!” I will share my break through reading list soon.  First, I have to do some digging.

Most importantly, treat yourself kindly from a loving place. It has been said many times by many different people, “We are our worst critics.” We are all doing the best we can with the tools we have been given. You deserve love and compassion just as much as all the people around you.  Cry, scream, let it out! Stop running and embrace the breakdown.