The Calling of the Soul

Sedona Calling

Years ago I lived in Phoenix, Arizona for a little less than a year. Within that year, I went to Sedona, AZ three times. Sedona is known for its beautiful scenery, vortexes, spiritual pull, red rocks, and so much more. At least, those are the qualities that pulled me in. Sedona is a place that remains close to my heart even around twenty years later. The pictures I took on those three visits have been up in every place I’ve lived in. The pull for more Sedona has never gone away.

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Somewhere around 2003, I made a five-gallon bucket change jar covered in pictures from Sedona. My goal was to fill that jar and go back. Over the years the jar got heavier and heavier. I felt Sedona calling my soul back over and over. A hope and belief that I would get back there filled me. I didn’t know how or when, but it was a calling of the soul.

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Around ten years ago, I met a woman who became my soul sister. We have stayed on similar spiritual journeys, and we have helped and supported each other’s spiritual development through the years. From very early on in our friendship, we started talking about going to Sedona together. I wanted her to feel the energy and the spiritual and cleansing pull there. If any of my friends could understand my pull to Sedona, it would be her. No matter who came and left from my life, I knew she was the one. She would understand the pull for me and not try to lessen or taint it. She would get it!

Letting Go

Time ticked on and the Sedona trip felt farther and farther away. Now, a single mom I would remember the clarity I felt when I would go there. I wanted to feel that again. I needed to feel that again. A couple of years ago, I gave up. My beliefs on being a single mom and not ever being able to get away to go across the country took over. I figured it would have to wait until my kids were grown. I decided on finding places to go within my reach. I couldn’t even begin to imagine getting the time alone.

I got creative and started to see the draw of taking my kids on some natural adventures. I saw the benefits in my kids experiencing the wonder of the mountains, waterfalls, caves, and nature in areas north of West coast of Florida. I planned a six-week road trip (which you can read about here). I emptied my 5-gallon bucket and there was enough in there to cover all our hotel costs, since they didn’t want to camp alone in the woods with me (LOL).

We stayed on the road, with family, friends, and finally camping in the mountains with another friend and her daughter. The trip was amazing and it led to a trip the following year with a lot more mountains, waterfalls, and camping. My soul has been refreshed, but my soul’s call to Sedona was still there.

The Call Awakens

Last June, I saw a glimmer of hope that I might be able to find a way for a Sedona trip to happen. Things didn’t work out, and I just let it go. Right before Christmas, I get a call. My friend’s husband asked if I would be available to do a retreat with my friend over the summer. I so wished I could say yes. It wasn’t Sedona, but I would at least get to go on a spiritual adventure with my friend. Being a single mom, I definitely couldn’t commit to being available in the summer.

He decided to get her a trip to Sedona for a yoga and hiking retreat in March. I was so happy for her, but wait he says she can bring a friend. This is not a spiritual man. He is a very good husband who honors her spirituality by doing things like this for her. He had no idea we had been talking about this trip for a decade. When she asked me about going, I talked over the dates with my mom to watch the kids. My mom, stepdad, kids, and I all live very busy lives, so the timing would have to be just right in order to make this work. We literally looked at the schedule together and it was THE ONLY WEEK that would have worked!!

Was this really happening? My mom once came with me to Sedona, so she knew the power it had over me. She told me I had to go. The trip was in the making. As time went on, I started getting into nature more and practicing yoga regularly. I was feeling good, but there was a nagging sense of unhappiness in me that just wouldn’t go away.

I wanted to go to Sedona to feel the calling again that got me moving in a very positive direction in my life. I knew it would help me pinpoint this pit in my stomach that made me feel on edge during every parenting moment. I needed that space where my 100% focus wasn’t on being a mom and doing all the daily to-do’s that kept me distracted enough not to have to investigate this pit inside me. It’s not like I have a bad life at all. I have an amazing life. A life filled with so much to be grateful for. This is why the pit was really bothering me. I needed to figure this out. I kept trying different things, and I couldn’t get to it. Somehow I knew Sedona would be the answer.

Getting to Sedona

The middle seat, am I really going to start this amazingly wonderful journey in the middle seat? My friend is flying stand-by and I am assigned a middle seat. We get to the gate and they instantly announce that it is a full flight. Full flights don’t tend to be a good sign for stand-by fliers. We really want to believe she is going to make it on this flight, but whatever happens we are going to trust it is what is meant to be. She’s called up to the counter, and they issue her a boarding pass. We are ecstatic! Even better, she gets an isle seat in the last row.

We sit back down and decide to wait until the end to board. When we get in not only does she have an isle seat but the isle seat across from her is open too. The flight attendant lets me change my seat. The best part, both middle seats are open. On a full flight with only four middle seats open, I enjoyed reading and shifting comfortably on our direct flight to Phoenix. As I flipped through the pages of A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle, I could see how far I had come since 2009. The first of the three times I had read it through. The Last time I read the book was in 2011, it was right after I left my marriage. Perfect read to start this spiritual quest.

Driving to Sedona, I am in absolute AWE. It has been so long since I lived there, I forgot about the magic feeling that comes when seeing the brown bland colors turn to these amazing red rocks. I’m transcended; I feel no time. Every moment is one spectacular view after another. The AWE just doesn’t stop. We have a nice relaxing night enjoying our view; I’m here. My soul feels at peace.

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Yoga and Hiking Retreat

I really didn’t go in having too many expectations for this part of our journey. I knew it would be an adventure no matter how it turned out. What I didn’t realize is that I would meet an amazing group of 22 women and one man who would become such a special part of the journey we were on. I felt instantly part of the group even though this was the first time we had ever met. They were a beautiful group of people from Wisconsin. Now, how my friend’s husband found this retreat over the countless others, I have NO idea. This was my tribe.

On this part of the journey, I got to experience how transformative yoga can actually be. Through every breath and every stretch, I became more alive and open to experience the fullness of my being. My body could handle the tough climbs up the mountains with very little consequence. All the areas where toxins like to build up in my body got to loosened. Pressures of past hurts and toxic walls lightened in every movement between the hiking, breathing, and stretching my mind and body from the core. I could feel the calling of the soul. I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.image2

The conversations I had during this time were real and full of substance and discovery. I could be present for other people as much as I was for myself. I could hear their souls calling to be in Sedona too. I was fortunate enough to hear some of the amazing stories that brought them into the moment at hand. Connecting with strangers has never felt so fulfilling. I can’t not speak for any of them and because this is about my journey, I won’t mention direct encounters, but I will say each of these women had a special place in my journey from making me laugh to making me cry. The man on the journey showed me what I could do every time I didn’t need his assistance climbing into some more difficult spaces. I experienced all of me.IMG_2217.jpg

As the retreat went on, I was able to go deeper into meditations and my mindless chatter seized. I didn’t even know that was possible. Now, I finally got the importance of all the steps together. Yoga, nature, meditation, and physically challenging myself helped me release and be free.

On Our Own Amongst the Vortexes

In Sedona there is a lot of talk of energy vortexes. From my understanding, they are like little tornadoes of energy concentrated into a particular area. Twisted trees are one of the known markers for this phenomenon. In spiritual circles, people find this concentration of energy to be very powerful. May even cause miracles.

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When I was in my twenties, I went to some of the larger known vortexes in Sedona. I remember being in awe and feeling at peace. Looking back from a memory standpoint, I received a great deal of clarity while I was there and it sent me on quite the adventure in the years to come where I got to experience life in a very full way through my career. In my dream of going back with so much more experience, spirituality, and knowledge, I had high expectations of what I would feel. After going to a few and being present with the moment, I realized it wasn’t what I felt in the moment that transformed my life but what I came out the experience with. Once I figured that out, I opened my soul up even more. I gave up my expectations and could just use the time in the vortexes to pray and meditate.

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Moving on from the yoga retreat we ventured into the past. We attempted to visit places I went to on my journey before. We kept hitting roadblocks, and when I say roadblocks, I mean literal roadblocks. A clear sign that this journey was not about going back to the past but experiencing the present. We pushed on to find an amazing valley and an area known for their vortex. Amongst other things, it had a creek that ran through it, along with a beach called Buddha Beach. How could we go wrong?

Even though there was no mountain to climb, the path was not easy and there were no clear markings of the right way to go to get to the area across the creek that looked like a great place to lie down and meditate. We even took off our shoes and crossed the very cold water to accomplish our goal. Let me remind you, we are Florida girls. Cold water plus Florida girls is quite the laughable experience. We worked our way to a nice quite spot and set up our mats. Just like that, I was gone. I sunk into a meditation that took me into a place of oneness with nature. I didn’t feel any of the pulls from my body. I was an extension of the rock I was lying on.

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The next two nights we stayed in an RV. The property was known to have vortexes and it also had a labyrinth. We decided that the labyrinth was a great place to bring out our childlike selves. Being silly was needed after so much intensity. In a very clear moment, a message came through me. “Don’t let your beliefs on what you can do limit your life.” I saw how this could definitely be true, but I had no idea the revelations that I was about to have. In the next couple of days, ideas for books and blogs started filling me with such excitement that my friend (who is also my agent) and I got goose bumps. My creativity was open and running free. I wasn’t feeling any lagging negativity or walls. I slept in that RV better than I have in a long time.IMG_2302

The Final Climb: Bell Rock

I didn’t have any real expectations of our last journey. We were both really laid back about going. I figured my friend would let me know how much she was able to do and enjoy whatever the adventure brought us. The rock felt so far away from the beginning of the trail. As we started our journey, we walked and talked enjoying each moment. Before we knew it, we were at the rock.

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In a very short time, we decided to begin to climb up. There was no marked trail, so I would scout the area to see what way would be the easiest and less stressful on my friend’s and my bodies. Slowly, we kept getting higher and higher hugging the mountains side to find which spots looked the most doable. As we got higher, we would check in with each other and decide where to go from there. At one point, she knew she was done. We weren’t far from the top. There was just one more spot I really wanted to get to.

It wasn’t a hard climb and it wasn’t far from where we were. Just a steep rocky path up and I was there. She rested in her snug space next to the massive rock and I climbed quickly up to the spot I knew I had to be. I made it! I spun around in complete awe. I could see the top of the rock from where I was, but I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. I spent a few minutes there soaking it all in. Seeing Sedona from that angle was breathtaking. This was the first climb without the group. The first time I didn’t depend on someone else’s direction. This used to be the way I lived life when I was traveling the country doing seminars, but somewhere along the way of becoming a wife, mother, then single parent, I lost my confidence. I forgot my own determination and fearlessness to be me. In this moment, she was standing with me as one. I found her on the top of that rock embracing the life within me. I was amazed at how quickly the transformation happened. I was reminded, one moment in time can change your life forever!

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The trip to Sedona brought out a part of me I buried. I excitedly moved down to meet my friend with lightness under my feet, and we worked our way down. After going down a couple of dicey places, we looked over to see a marked trail. As we followed the marked trail down the rock, I realized I succeeded in finding my own way. It didn’t have to be the path that the majority of people took. It was the path I created and it took me exactly where I wanted to go. I didn’t have to follow anybody else’s journey up. I can do and succeed at whatever I put my passion into. We finished our hike then road back to Phoenix feeling a sense of peace and accomplishment. I got exactly what I needed from Sedona.

The Ranch

IMG_2381The last stop during my Arizona experience was a ranch out in Scottsdale, AZ. Even though I had lived in Phoenix and worked in Scottsdale, I didn’t have any clue this area existed. We weaved our way back through dirt roads passing horses, ponies, donkeys,  and cows along the way. Once we got to the ranch we enjoyed seeing the birds and rabbits because we hadn’t seen too many while in Sedona.

On the ranch, we got a chance to reflect a little more on the Sedona experience while enjoying a different kind of AWE. When we had originally arrived in Phoenix the mountains didn’t touch me like the Red Rocks, Appalachians, Blue Ridge, and the Great Smoky Mountains. Somehow the time in Sedona changed how I saw these mountains now. When we got to the ranch I felt the complete AWE of them. Just like I did while experiencing the rest. They were more beautiful than I had even remembered from just a week earlier. After one night at the ranch, it was time for me to go home.

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Getting Home

Getting home was quite the adjustment; back to life as a single mom. I felt so at peace in Sedona. The experience was like a time warp. Every moment was a moment to be embraced and cherished. Time, as a whole didn’t exist. In a very short time back at home, I felt this unhappiness and negative pull eating at me. How could this happen? I wanted to come back with the tools to be at peace even as a single mom. After a couple of days of feeling the chaos of parenting and pet-care, I picked back up A New Earth. Chapter three is all about the ego.

OH shit!!! The message I got in Sedona is tied directly to this moment. I really did get exactly what I needed in Sedona. The clarity in this moment became crystal clear. What was holding me back and draining me of all my spiritual energy was my attachment to my ROLE as a single mom. To clarify, when most of us hear “single mom” a bunch of thoughts, beliefs, ideas, conceptions, judgments, and feeling come into our heads. I never wanted to be a single mom, so along with all the preconceived labels and beliefs there was also resentment for having to be a mother and father; disciplinary and nurturer. I felt defeated every time something didn’t work out to give them the life I wanted for them. The chaos and messiness made it easy for me to blame being a single parent. This was the one ROLE I didn’t yet let myself be released from. Tolle says,

When you are completely identified with a role, you confuse a pattern of behavior with who you are, and you take yourself very seriously.

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Talk about pressure! I had no idea how lost I got in the role. I forgot how to just be me around my kids. I was always working and doing for them that I spent little time just being there; 100% there. I let my beliefs of being a single mom create a void inside me. The guilt of having the void made me work harder and not smarter.

The awareness I’ve gotten since then is way too much to put in this piece, so I expect you will be reading about that at a later time. All I know is in the awareness of that moment, my life has took a turn for the better at home. I’m enjoying the process more and not letting the stressful moments contribute to my “story” of being a single mom. I’m raising two amazing children the best I can. That is what matters. The rest is just a story that creates stress and unhappiness. Eckhart Tolle wrote,

To end the misery that has afflicted the human condition for thousands of years, you have to start with yourself and take responsibility for your inner state at any given moment. That means now. Ask yourself, ‘Is there negativity in me at his moment?’ Then become alert, attentive to your thoughts as well as your emotions.

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The calling of the soul led me to realize the only thing standing in my way is me. My attachments to beliefs that don’t serve me are what keep me from being my best. The awareness of this sets me free to live the best life possible.

Thank you to all the people and miracles that contributed to this enlightening trip.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff © 2018

 

Struggle: A Mom’s Tale

As a follower of love and an inspired child of God, I can reach some wonderful places inside myself. I can be a light for friends and strangers. I can show love in ways that many people just don’t understand. Being able to do all this doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I struggle. Most of all right now my struggle comes from being the best mom I can be to two kids entering into puberty and trying to find solutions and tools to combat their emotional and mental struggles that range from a hard past to a hormonal present. Having a degree in Human Development may seem helpful, but when it’s your own kids, their and your own trauma, the degree doesn’t quite work in my favor. Sometimes it seems harder because I know too much about all different mental/emotional issues and I get completely overwhelmed in questioning everything.

As a mom, I don’t want my children to hurt. Yet, they are hurting so much. I didn’t cause the pain, but I’m left here trying to figure out how to help them overcome their past, deal with a broken school system, and finding joy in their lives. I thought things would be different for them since I’m well versed in overcoming, but a child going through puberty doesn’t want to hear how their whole life can change if they just could choose to look at things differently. I thought since I taught them from an early age that their thoughts, reactions, feelings, and actions are their personal power that they wouldn’t go through blaming everybody else for the way they are feeling, boy was I wrong.

I’ve tried strategies from courses I’ve taken in using positive discipline, counting, and play therapy, none of them seem to have made any great impact on what is happening on a daily basis. I have personality quirks that don’t always align with the self-discipline some of these parenting practicing take. I’m also a single mom who does all the parenting herself. I don’t linger too long there, or I can sometimes get resentful. On most days, I’m grateful.

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Being a single mom with kids who have been through trauma has it’s own unique challenges. This doesn’t mean married couples don’t have similar challenges, but not having a partner who takes equal responsibility for a child comes with the added bonus of abandonment issues. This can happen even if both parents are active, but not together. I learned that in couple’s therapy years ago. I had and sometimes still struggle with an over attachment to time and schedules. I used to actually miss out on a lot of quality time with people due to being so attached to time, I was constantly looking at my watch and recalculating when I had to leave, what I was doing next, and how I was going to get from point A to point B. The therapist told me my obsession with time was about having something I could control. Now with my children, I try to take into account if a situation makes my kids feel unwanted, rejected, unimportant, or abandoned. I can go through tons of scenarios in my head because of my education of how each thing can affect them. Oh it is just so much fun (Laughing hard)!

I’ve met so many amazing moms and dads along my path. I’ve seen how healthy family dynamics create beautiful atmospheres for kids. I’ve also seen no matter how great a family is, no family is perfect. This is what keeps me from feeling like a failure when things don’t go how I thought they would. We are all here doing the best we can do with the information and situations we have. Parenting can be a struggle, especially the more aware we are.

One thing I try HARD not to do is judge other people’s parenting. My belief is that we are all having the exact experiences we need to fulfill our purpose. I’ve seen kids who have grown up hard become amazing advocates and voices for change. I’ve seen people who grow up privileged help and/or hurt others. No matter how a person grows up it will create lessons and blessing for the people who cross their paths. I need to focus on my part. What can I do? How can I contribute? What seeds are important for me to pass on?

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This piece is just a reminder that no matter what path we are on as a parent, we all will have times of struggle. It’s not healthy to beat others or ourselves up for not being perfect, because no one is. Our children have to have things go wrong. That is how they get tools for life. As a parent, we simply can do the best we can to protect, love, and honor their journey. I know one of my struggles is remembering it is their journey. We are here to give them all kinds of seeds and see what they do with them. We can watch them create their own garden. They may have to do some heavy weeding and even lose some of their best flowers and trees, but they will learn.

I want to teach my kids that the lessons are a necessary part of life. The trick is to learn from them and don’t become a victim of fear and pain. My hope is that they keep taking chances, making mistakes, and trying new ways to find the path that is right for the life they individually want. There is no time limit, just keep moving in the direction of a positive and rewarding life. I want them to learn not to attach to the fears that hold people back.

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I recently needed the reminder, so I thought I would put my thoughts down on paper reminding me to give myself a break, keep moving in a positive direction, don’t judge what others are doing, and I’m a good mom. I love my kids.  I’m doing the best I can, struggles and imperfections included.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff ©2018

 

 

Hurricane Irma: A Single Mom’s Unplanned Road Trip

Growing up in Southwest Florida, I’ve experienced quite a few hurricanes. I lived in Naples during Andrew, the one that did so much damage and the reports keep comparing Irma to, saying this one is much worse. In my early twenties, I lived in Oak Island, North Carolina. I stuck around for a hurricane coming right over us, my poor family had to watch and wait in panic. As a mom, I decided category three or higher; we leave.

When Hurricane Irma turned into a Category 5, I watched her very carefully. The long term projection showed where I live now on the West Coast of Florida might see the ugliest side of her; the north east corner. My exit strategy started forming, but I gave her a little time. As she came closer, the projected path started to turn east. This is when my mind started really spinning. I couldn’t stop thinking about Hurricane Charley. The models showed a landfall more north, then it took a sudden turn and many people were unprepared for a direct hit. Hurricane Andrew hit Homestead, but Naples had plenty of damage. Another hurricane came through as direct hit on the SW side then passed through and did a lot more damage in Ft. Lauderdale then where we were. Do I stay or do I go? I left when Katrina passed over our waters and watched intently because my ex-boyfriend and his family lived on the coast of Mississippi. I remember desperately searching the Internet to find out they were all safe. His dad and stepmom were those people who were always prepared. They had a hurricane room that looked like a convenience store. In the end, it didn’t matter. Katrina stripped her to the foundation. They didn’t live that close to the water. It was at least a five to ten minute drive from what I remember. Should I stay or should I go? I knew I needed to get calm and make a decision. Florida is not like many other states. If you live anywhere in the southern half, you need to make a decision fairly early. It takes me five hours or more to get to the border of Florida. When I was in Naples it took around six and half on a good day. Now add evacuation traffic; NIGHTMARE!

On Tuesday, I really was confused whether to stay or go, but staying was causing me so much anxiety. Not because of the storm itself as much as the aftermath. Flooding, food, and transportation were stuck in my brain. Now, I’m very fortunate to have a friend who lives close to Atlanta, Georgia that the kids and I stay at every summer. I knew I had a place to go outside of Florida. Some people would say, “It’s probably going to hit there too.” Yes, it is, but from where I am. I can go in any direction to escape Irma’s path. I don’t have that option in Florida. In Florida, she will come in as a category 4 or 5, but in this area, at most a category 1. That’s a BIG difference! I spent Tuesday and Wednesday studying traffic on an app for my phone. I watched accident after accident pop up on my screen. I checked on traffic through out the night on Tuesday to see if I leave in the middle of the night, could I avoid a lot of the evacuation traffic. Luckily, the answer was yes. Gas was out all over the state, so the fear of not being able to get any came into my head. I needed to get my head on straight. Stop getting into the fear and make the best decision for my family.

I struggle with decision-making when there is a lot of chaos going on. I spoke with a friend, the more we talked, I realized my gut wasn’t telling me to stay, despite many people telling me I would be fine where I was. I needed to get quiet and pray. I sat in my closet (safe from interruption), got still, and asked a direct question, “Should I leave?” I got my answer, a very loud and solid YES! A calm came over me and I knew I made the right decision. I figured there were three options:

  1. Irma would come into the Gulf of Mexico and hit us with her worse side.
  2. She would go up the middle and get all of Florida.
  3. She would go out to the Atlantic and hit somewhere further up the coast.

Being, I really didn’t like options one or two, I asked myself would I regret leaving, the answer a resounding NO. I put my thoughts in a less stressful place because I needed a clear head while I was driving. I decided I was going to go on a road trip to see friends. Wednesday, I packed the kids, our cat, and myself up and I was good to go. I went to sleep early and set my alarm for 1AM. We were on the road by 1:30AM.

The first few hours were easy. I even could set my cruise control. I saw traffic coming up so I pulled off at a full rest area. I slipped into one of the few spots. I’m so glad I did because all the rest areas after that were packed well beyond capacity with cars and trucks lining the highway. Many travellers were taking sleep breaks because they had been traveling so long. Tears filled my eyes as I thought about all the people leaving their family, friends, and homes. As a category 5 hurricane our lives as we know it may change very quickly.

Going through Georgia took the longest because it was daytime and the majority of travellers were on the road. So many unnecessary accidents along the way because people wouldn’t give each other space to slow down. I stayed next to the shoulder and had to use it to avoid an accident two cars ahead of me.

I have lived in Florida for a good chunk of my life. I lived in Naples multiple times starting when I was in fifth grade. My children were born there. I worked there. Most of all, many of my closest lifetime friends are there along with my boyfriend and his family. I knew many of them were staying and most of them were hoping the track was going to keep shifting east.

Now, as of 5:00AM Saturday morning this massive storm is going to hit at the least as a category 4 and a possible 5. Now, my home that I share with my mom and stepdad is also going to get a major hit as a 3 or 4, along with St. Petersburg area where I went to Eckerd College and met so many amazing people. This means a huge portion of my children’s and my family and friends are now going to be on the worst side of this massive storm. As grateful as I am that I got the gut instinct to leave, and that I could keep my calm on the road because I had a familiar place to go with my kids, my nerves are still on high alert.

I am doing my best to stay present, but I’m not going to lie, my head is in so many places and with so many of the people I love. I don’t know when the next time I will be able see any of them is. I don’t know how the roads will be or how long it will be before I can get home to my family and get my kids back to their normal routines. If it will even be an option.

We didn’t take much with us besides clothes, important paperwork, our electronic devices, and a handful of sentimental items. When I was looking around at what to pack, I thought this is all just stuff. If it all goes, it won’t matter. What will matter is what happens to all the people I love.

I’m happy I don’t have to make that last minute decision wondering if it’s too late to leave and will there be enough gas to get out, but my heart, mind, and soul are there with the people I love. I will be praying and hoping that I hear from them all once the storm passes. Be safe my friends. I love you.

I have been blessed with SO MANY AMAZING people in my life. I know I’m not alone. There are no right ways to feel right now. We all experience watching an event like this from our own personal angle. Our strengths and weaknesses may be exposed, but through these traumatic experiences we grow as a global community. I am not alone. My friends and family are not alone. I just watched so many people come together to help with Hurricane Harvey. I’m watching the best of humanity come out to help with the earthquake that just happened in Mexico and the fires in Oregon, Montana, and California. Even if the media hasn’t covered some of them, good people still will show up in whatever way they can; even if it is prayer. Every piece of positive energy matters and that is what needs to be focused on. Please stay compassionate and non-judgmental towards the people in it. They are all doing the best they can with what they have. It is much easier looking at a situation from outside the box. I’m guilty of doing it and I’m reminding myself as much as I’m telling you. We don’t know what the best answer is for anyone else’s situation, and we don’t have all the cards. So please, keep the energy positive and loving.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff ©2017

P.S. If you are new to the blog, pictures on this blog are from my personal adventures and taken by me. This featured Image is in Venice, FL. I really hope the pier is still there when I get home.

I apologize to any grammar police. This piece is very raw. I couldn’t focus on proper grammar. 

How I See Myself Reflects My World

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Photo Credit: Rachael Wolff

“The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others.”

-Sonya Friedman

When I was young, I went to a private school in New England. No, my parents weren’t loaded. My mom worked for the school and made an agreement in order for my sister and I to attend. My experience at the school was mine alone. Though I came from a much different background, I didn’t see other people as better than me. I could be on a yacht celebrating a friend’s birthday one day, and the next day getting dirty in the woods. My family has never been financially rich. My parents became single parents when I was about 13. Both sides worked hard to keep up with their expenses. Yet, none of that affected how I compared myself to others.

Since I didn’t judge any financial lifestyle as good or bad, I have never been a person who judged people based on financial status. Not having money caused a few hiccups in my young life, such as not being able to go to the college I wanted, but it didn’t stop me. At 20, I began to develop sales training programs for the indoor tanning industry. I had no problem picking the brains of all the successful people I could get my hands on. With no barriers I rose quickly in the industry and ended up writing a sales column in a tanning magazine and training nationwide. By the time I was 28, I had been to all but 8 states. I didn’t think anything could stop me. My confidence in my abilities got me where I was. I was constantly developing my craft and looking for newer and better ways to help people understand the goldmine they were sitting on. I don’t know when it happened, but one day I realized I was starting to become a person I didn’t recognize.

Things slowly started to fall a part in my world. I didn’t realize I spent so much time building my career that I lost sight of what drove me to do what I was doing in the first place. I didn’t want people who cared about their beauty coming out like Magda from the movie, There’s Something About Mary. What I was doing stopped being about the consumer and all about how to make people more money. I slowly started sabotaging my career.

On September 9, 2001, I moved back to the town where I spent most of my middle and high school years. Two days later, my life took a drastic turn. The horror of 9/11 hit me so deep. I couldn’t stop watching the news and reading stories about what was going on. I was still traveling for work. On one of my final trips, I flew from Ft. Myers to Boston. When I arrived in Boston there were news cameras every where. The shoe bomber took the same route as I did the day before. It became harder and harder to get on a plane. When my boyfriend gave me an ultimatum that I needed to stop traveling or end things with him, I gave up my career.

As I looked back on these events, I saw how my perception of myself changed and how it changed my world. I started to get caught up in the drama. I spent hours reading tabloids and judging others’ lives, but I only did this because I wanted to avoid looking at my own. I isolated from most of my friends and succumbed to a world of negativity. I couldn’t connect to things that could pull me up, and believe me, I tried. I really didn’t want to have my kids grow up the way I was showing them.

I had to realize that I was creating my reality, and the world outside was only my reflection of what was going on inside. Once I got sick enough of myself, I prayed, and I began to change. Friends started to show up, space for self-care appeared, and job doing what I loved was quick to follow. I became involved with my son’s pre-school and soon volunteering turned to teaching. I stopped reading tabloids and watching T.V. that promoted non-stop drama. That is also the time I found AL-ANON, The Secret, Byron Katie, Wayne Dyer, Louise Haye, Eckhart Tolle, and Don Miguel Ruiz. My personal path began to unfold.

My outside world changed the healthier I got inside. Within a few years, I moved from a chaotic home life to a peaceful one. I went back to school. I began going on adventures with my kids. I became the person, I knew was buried inside. I stopped focusing on my future and past and learned to stay present.

The power that comes from our core is strong. If we attack our lives  from a fear based place it will show us time and time again how to live in fear. If we embrace life from a loving place, miracles happen. From a loving place, I can look at all my past lessons and see why I needed them to get me where I am. If I am coming from a fearful place, I become a victim of the world, my past, and my future. It was my choice to embrace the life that I did. People could tell me a million times over, what I SHOULD do. None of that matters, we all have our own journeys and gifts to offer the world. Each gift is special in it’s own right. I can’t tell you how many books I was told I should read, guess what: I read the ones I am meant to read to bring me where I am supposed to be. I learned a great concept in AL-ANON, “Take what you like, and leave the rest.” I keep that with me in all my dealings. It is a reminder that we all have our own journeys and it is not my place to judge anyone else’s, but when I do, I know I need to look at my life instead of theirs. My judging someone else is a reflection of my inner world, not theirs.

“If someone abuses you a little more than you abuse yourself, you will probably walk away from that person.”

“The more self-love we have, the less we will experience self-abuse.”

 Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements p. 20

Learning to love myself was the key to everything. I had to stop brutalizing myself and creating a world with horrible foundation. When my negative self-talk stopped, my world opened up. It came off in layers, and I know, without a doubt,  it will  be tested again to go deeper. My reactions to others is what helps me discover what I still need to work on. When I’m ready for a lesson, it will show up. If you are reading my posts and little seeds are passed, or it ignites you to make changes in your life, it is not because of me, it is because you were already ready when you read this. Trust your journey, when you keep your focus on making your insides better all of the outsides will improve. For the parents out there, we can only give our kids what we already have inside. If we want our children to value themselves, we must value ourselves first. The quote that inspires me to continue my self-care is:

“The most attractive thing about Buddha was that he’d saved one person: himself. That’s all he needed to save; when he saved himself, he saved the whole world.”

Byron Katie,Hope Beneath Our Feet p. 190

I provided links in case anyone was inspired to dig deeper. These are the tools that keep me out of other people’s business and keep me focused on what will help me live from an inspired place. I find that it is easy to get swept up by all the negativity in the world today, so it is important that I find ways to surround myself with solutions to keep me out of it. When I’m walking or driving, I listen to audiobooks to keep my head in the right place as I go through my day. We all create our own tool kits, just make sure you understand what you are trying to build. What do you want to feel on the inside? What do you want to project to the world? If you want something from your work or relationships, how do you become that for yourself first? Let it all unfold, time does not exist when I’m present and that is the only place I can fix what is broken and distorted.

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.

 

Tearing Down Walls Isn’t Enough

“If the house is crooked and crumbling, and the land on which it sits uneven, is it possible to make anything lie straight?”

-Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers p. 254

I have made countless attempts to re-build my metaphoric house.  I would tear it all down in my head and start re-building.  I noticed the method wasn’t working.  I kept finding myself wrapped up with the same patterns with different people and unfortunately  the same results.  UGH!  I have been on a self-help kick since I was thirteen.  The first book I read to try to restore my thinking to sanity was, A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson.  I still have the book all tattered, highlighted and torn.  I have read it a handful of times and always find a new message to bring with me. I feel like all the books I have read plant seeds in my head, but they can only have an impact when I am ready to water them.

I spent years in search of some outside way to make me feel better on the inside.  I moved all over the country in hopes of finding something.  I kept finding myself in the same predicaments.  My romantic track record was a doozy, I mastered the art of unhealthy relationships.  They screamed TOXIC!  I would literally move to another state when a relationship ended.  I didn’t just do this once, let’s just say in a span of ten years I moved in and out of seven, yes, seven states.  Luckily for me, a career as a national sales trainer made the moving fairly easy.  Each place I lived, I would try to start over.

The first time I finally settled down into a relationship and truly committed myself to it, I once again did it for the wrong reasons.  I didn’t know it at the time.  Hindsight is always 20/20. I was so abusive to myself that it made it very easy to be verbally abusive to me. No one could talk worse to me than I did to myself. I had a core belief system that said I was unlovable, unworthy, and overall a waste of space.  I let the shame of all my past decisions weigh me down. It was not just that I felt like I did stupid things.  In my mind, I was stupid and worthless.

When I got married, I lost myself completely.  In my mind, I wasn’t worth being there anyway.  I dove head first into being the best mom I could be, the best wife I could be, the best daughter I could be, and the best fill in the blank I could be.  Although all of those things are positive, my foundation was based on such unworthiness that all my actions to do better and be better actually drained me.  I became a martyr.

By this time, I had read countless books with great ideas on how to be better, but nothing was sticking.  I couldn’t do the work to get myself out of my mess because I didn’t know how to become worthy of coming out of it. It wasn’t until my mom sent me a copy of the movie, The Secret that things would start to turn around.  Keep in mind, I said “start”.

After watching The Secret, I made the realization that I needed to find a spiritual connection again.  At the time, I was pretty angry with God.  Just like many people in my predicament, it was much easier for me to point my finger outward than fix the real problem, me.  Within a couple days of watching the movie, I was outside playing with my kids.  They spotted a neighbor and her daughter. We had never seen them before.  We walked down our long driveway to greet them.  It was instant!  The woman and I started talking, and it was like we had been friends our whole lives.  A short time later, we met for dinner and talked about starting a spiritual group. We actually did it!  We had a couple people come and go, but the core group was three women.  We were exactly what each other needed.  A ripple effect started happening in my life.  I kept meeting more amazing women.  I finally started to feel better and the blessing started coming.  I found AL-ANON and a job that I loved. As I was transitioning to the person I wanted to be, my relationship with my husband started to break down to the point of no repair.  Our dynamic was based on me being a shell of a person. He didn’t know what to do with the person I was becoming, and I no longer wanted to live surrounded by anger and chaos.  We outgrew each other.  He would say that I was being “brainwashed”.  I have to say, I was and boy did my brain need it.  My belief systems were suffocating me.  I truly felt alive!

Years ago, I had heard that you aren’t ready to walk away from a marriage until you can walk away without anger.  I can’t remember where I heard it, but it always stuck with me.  When I finally left, I did it without anger, and I never looked back. I left the marriage with my two children and that’s it. We moved in with my mom and stepdad, so that I could go to school, and my kids (and I) could see what healthy relationships looked like. I started attending the PEL program at Eckerd College the very next semester.  My life has been on an upward track ever since.

Hold on, that is not to say I haven’t had my share of lessons, but the benefit of studying Human Development is that I had access to a lot of great advice and observations through my next growth spurt (warning: you will hear this term a lot).  About a year after I left my husband, I decided to dip my toe in the dating pool.  This is where I learned a big lesson in not fixing my foundation before building a new house.  When I went into this new, what I call non-relationship all I wanted was someone who didn’t drink.  I didn’t focus on any other element of a healthy relationship and for now, we will just say that it was a crash and burn situation, but it was exactly what I needed to finally start to fix my foundation.

During one of my courses at Eckerd College,  Dr. Anne Geroux literally opened my eyes wider than they have ever been opened before.  She said, “You are as healthy or as sick as your partner.” WHAT!?!?! That was a game changer for me.  My thought process went into hyperdrive.  What does this mean?  I have chosen a lot of really unhealthy partners.  I have been with all kinds of addicts, emotionally unavailable, and lets just say sick individuals.  How could I be as unhealthy as all of them?  Screw this! I fought the urge to rationalize and blame her for my choices.  Instead, I chose to completely jump in and fix my foundation!

For the next year, I worked my ass off fixing my core belief systems.  I mean every day reading, meditating, and writing it out.  I was finally ready to do the work. With a combination of AL-ANON, audiobooks, school, and doing work every day to clear out my old garbage, I finally got to a place where my foundation was worthy of building a solid house on.  For the first time in my life, I have a sense of peace inside me.  This doesn’t mean that the old patterns and thought processes don’t sneak back in from time to time, but they are manageable.  I am aware of when they are there, when I am being triggered, and best of all, I have the tools to do something about it.

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Today, my life is very different.  This is what I have learned from my experience so far: If the foundation is not built on solid ground, it doesn’t matter how great the house looks. The walls will crumble and it will all fall a part. The more I thought about it, the more I saw that the foundation of fear was not stable.  It created many problems in every situation big and small.  I have watched it destroy so many peoples lives.  However, the foundation of love builds amazing things, and when the core comes from a place of love, the message is clear and our eyes are opened to a better way to live. We are all humans, we are driven by love or fear at different periods of our lives. My hope is that I choose loving action before jumping into fear mode. Fear itself is not per se a bad thing.  We will all have fears, it is a part of being human. The problem is when fear becomes our core.  I see it as the  difference between doing the right thing because of the fear of God (or a person, place or thing) or doing the right thing because of the actions of Jesus (or any other loving human being) inspire us to live a life more like them. I choose to live inspired by people who act from a loving place. Welcome to my journey…

Follow me and/or like me on Facebook.com/fromalovingplace

I hope you come on this journey with me; the best is yet to come!

Photo credit: Rachael Wolff

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From a Loving Place Introduction

The most attractive thing about the Buddha was that he saved one person: himself. That’s all he needed to save; when he saved himself, he saved the whole world.

-Byron Katie, Hope Beneath Our Feet p. 190

Hi, my name is Rachael. I am a single mother approaching 40 (and I mean within months). I’ve spent the last 4 1/2 years earning my degree in Human Development. In my first course in college I read the quote above ,and I felt like I finally learned the secret to an abundant life. I have one of those pasts that gives a long lists of reasons to be miserable, but I have chosen to not let my past to be in vain.

My life has been a series of lessons that have strengthened me and made me who I am now. My past has helped me show compassion and understanding for others who are having a hard time finding their way. It has given me space to be less judgmental and remember what it is like to struggle. Overall, my past has made me a better person. This is because I do not let shame and guilt way me down. This was a process and it cannot happen overnight. I had a friend once brought my attention to the fact that it took me over thirty years to get sick of my warped way of thinking. It takes time to undue patterns that I have survived on and built walls with. I need to take down the walls one brick at a time.

Why did I decide to write a blog? One, I want to stay on the right track. By writing, I will keep reminding myself of how blessed my life has become because of all my realizations. Two, if there is even one person out there that my journey helps, then I am fulfilling my purpose. Lastly, I love to write. I plan on sharing not only the things that have worked to make my life better, but also my darkness and how I let it stop dragging me down. I don’t know about anybody else, but for me, when I am feeling alone reading about tools to get me out of it, I can sometimes feel more alone. Logically, I know what to do and how to get me out of the chaos. The problem is that when we are down in it, logic does not apply. The connection from our emotions to logic has a short. No matter how much I have learned, I can always get to that place, and no one should feel alone there.

This blog is about how I save myself and my journey to show up to life from a loving place.