Neale Donald Walsch said that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Personally, I have experienced a lot of truth in this over the years, though I’ve come to realize something really important within the statement. Life hums along regardless of whether or not we’re pushing to stretch ourselves. I believe that what he really meant was more fantastical than that. The life we came here to lead – one that is ever expansive and magical – is what occurs when we edge ourselves beyond our comfort zone.
Right now I’m on a flight to Costa Rica with my friend and colleague, candida expert Elicia Miller. As we were taking off, I got a bit teary. I experienced this moment of reflection in which I saw myself a mere five years ago, struggling to get by in a job that was unfulfilling, scared of the future and knowing deep, deep down that there had to be more. More what…I wasn’t quite certain, but I knew that I didn’t come here to be frightened of life’s offerings or stuck in a situation that seemed overbearing and stagnant at the same time.
Progress was slow for me at that time because I was still unwilling to really test my boundaries; I felt safe hugging the borderline of my existence, which was riddled with perceived limitations.
Slow motion forward to two years later: I stumbled into a Jennifer Pastiloff workshop through my yoga studio and it was like the rug was pulled out from under me, only instead of falling, I performed a flip and landed in a whole new layer of existence. Years of digging deep and doing lots of healing work that had yet to coalesce all crumbled in an instant. I experienced a white light moment in which I finally understand on a deep-down, cellular level that if I wanted things to change, I was going to have to really do things differently.
I started that day. I vowed to do one thing a day that scared me, whether that was opening a piece of mail, making a phone call I was avoiding, trying something new for dinner, or enrolling in a new program of study. Every day I pushed the limits of what I thought was possible for me. I challenged myself to act in alignment with what I truly wanted for myself.
It was scary and there were times that I kicked and screamed my way through it. I cried a lot. I processed a lot. But I also laughed a lot – deep belly laughs that rocked my soul from the inside out. It was hard and it was precious. It still is.
And now here I am, almost three years later to the date. I am successful in my healing practice and I work with clients and colleagues who are so amazing that it blows my mind on a daily basis. I get to share love, Spirit, healing, and joy with others and I feel more connected than ever. Every day is more expansive and full than the one before it. I and my life are not without challenges, but they don’t stop me anymore. In fact, they push me to uncover and explore the woman I came here to be.
I’m flying high over Central America right now. I’m leading my first retreat and I couldn’t be more excited about the direction my life is heading. Almost every step through this Break Free from Candida retreat planning process pushed me to overcome apprehensions and fears and I did it. I felt the fear and I did it anyway.
As I look forward in my life these days, I see magic and mystery, and I feel a great, insatiable curiosity.
This week’s reflection was slow to come to the surface. It’s been percolating just below it since Tuesday, when I was given some insight during a meditation into the ways in which I hold back from love. And then, as often is the case, the messages began to pop up all around, little placards on my board of life showing me how to continue to open just a little more to love’s complete embrace.
It has always been much easier for me to give love than to receive it, and I’ve been noticing lately where I’ve been holding back. It may be through a hug or a touch or through a subtle pulling away (even if just for a moment) when someone wants to get close. Regardless of how it presents itself, it’s me tensing to the love that another wishes to share with me.
I started to follow this thread for myself (I’m a big advocate of playing detective with ourselves) to see what could unfold for me. I saw a few patterns pop up and realized that I don’t want to be limited by those outdated reactions that may have had an important role to play in the past but that no longer serve me.
As I was deep in the process of mulling through all this, Meggan Watterson (for more of her goodness, click here) posted this lovely quote:
And I started to think…Why does a “broken heart” have to be a bad thing? Isn’t a broken heart one that has actually been cracked wide open? What if I could nurture my heart that is showing me where I’ve felt pain in the past back into feeling the love that preceded the pain? What if I could fully understand that just because I’ve had painful experiences doesn’t mean that I should miss out on the opportunity to know love in a new and more expansive way?
I have a tendency to give until I’m depleted, something that I’ve been working on for years now. I’ve made a lot of progress through awareness and good energy hygiene. But could I allow myself to be fully nourished by the love of others as well? What if I could open myself up like a flower to the sun and just allow myself to soak it in? This love that I’m taking in could help to recharge me and revitalize me. It could lift me up, which is one of the things that love most likes to do and one of the reasons that I adore sharing my love with others! This is not taking at the expense of another; when the emotion is pure and two-sided (or more-sided) there is no imbalance. Instead, it serves to elevate and elate.
In my musings, I realized that this is precisely where the thin line between detachment and pulling back becomes apparent: When I pull back, even a tiny bit, I deny myself and the other person desirous of sharing love with me of a full and complete experience of the beautiful intensity of unbounded and unchecked love. If I can give myself fully to the experience and yet remain detached from any expectations of what that person’s actions may or may not be in the future or what that love should look like, then I can find a space of enjoying the affection without fearing its removal. The truth of the matter is that if someone else chooses to withdraw love, however that is expressed – whether with integrity or not – it is no reflection of who I am. I am still me, standing here and strong, just like I have been for 45 years now.
I believe with all of my being that we came here to experience love embodied, both divine and physical in nature and everything in between. I want to connect through the heart space at every turn imaginable and ask, truly, “What would love do?”
I love that the ancient Greeks identified many words for love. The love I feel for the woman at the bank (agape) will not be the same as the love that I feel for my partner (eros) or that which I feel for my son (storge). With a deeper understanding of what love is and a desire to fall more into it and then stay there, I can explore the many facets of it and feel enriched by them rather than threatened. With this in mind, perhaps the most important form of love then is philautia, the love of self, for when that is intact then truly all of the rest falls into place.
So perhaps then I can come back to: Where am I withholding love from myself? Not receiving love from another is to withhold it from myself. Love wouldn’t hold back love because it is scared of love. Love embraces love and trusts that we can take care of ourselves and that we can trust and know ourselves in the process. Love would have us remember that through love, all is love, and that just by mere virtue of being here, as individual embodiments of the Divine, we are all worthy of love in all of its expressions.
Really doing love, making it a true action verb, means to fully engage on both sides of the giving and receiving scale. I’ll leave you then with one of my most favorite quotes ever from Jen Pastiloff: “When I get to the end of my life, and I ask one final, ‘What have I done?’, let the answer be: I have done love.”
Fear was like this three-headed monster that hung over me for most of my life. When I look back at my youth and my early (and even into mid-) adulthood, most of the memories that I do have (I’m missing many) feel heavy. As an empath, I felt everything and I had no language to understand it. I didn’t know that it was Mary’s anger, or the cashier’s pain, or my friend’s frustration that I was feeling, I just knew that I was feeling crushed by a need to take care of everyone and an overwhelming fear that I would never be able to do so and that I would somehow be hurt in the process.
The fear grew and grew until it encompassed just about every area of my life. I was a straight-A student afraid of failing, an all-star athlete afraid of not making a goal or hitting a handspring on the vault. When I discovered alcohol and drugs in high school, the pressure finally felt relieved. I felt like I could say, “Fuck it!” without caring as much what that really meant. I began hiding behind a wall while simultaneously building it higher and higher. I still performed well, but even that just became bricks and mortar for the sealing of my self-imposed limitations.
I was terrified of putting myself out into the world in a real way, of being vulnerable, of feeling more than I already felt. I was so, so scared to feel. It was too much and the thought of failing in anything that was a true expression of who I was felt too scary to even attempt. I stayed small, safe, hidden. I deflected, projected, and pushed.
I had many mini-turning points towards becoming courageous, beginning with sobriety. Committing to not drinking or drugging on a day-to-day basis was huge and it gave me a glimpse of a different possibility, one in which I could actually be awake in my own life. Lots of energy healing helped me to start peeling away the layers of self-deprecation that I had layered on over the years and gave me a glimpse of my potential. It also helped me to shift patterns around past trauma that were contributing to my fear.
After a workshop with Jennifer Pastiloff, I decided to do one thing every day that scared me regardless of whether that one thing was to open a piece of mail, accept a phone call, or tell someone I loved them. Every time I felt scared, I asked myself if I could do it anyway, despite the fear. Almost always the answer was yes. Sometimes I had to put a thing or two on a back burner and do something a little less frightening that day instead. And eventually – though honestly it was relatively very quickly – things just didn’t have the same hold over me anymore. What happened was that I built a faith muscle that showed me over and over again that no matter what came to pass, I was okay.
This shift in perception allowed me to move fully onto my path as a healer and coach, and it was what now allows me to help others to do the same. I have had to say “yes” over and over again. Sometimes it is still hard. Sometimes I need a friend or a colleague to see the fear in my eyes and remind me that I am ready and that I can do it before I can jump. And sometimes I take things really slowly because it just feels better to do so.
Originally, the meaning of the word courage was, “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” I love this. When I tell my heart, I feel good despite the fear that may have been there. And when I tell my heart by expressing the most authentic me that I can out in the world, my heart expands and fills with even more love that can be shared.
Finding our path and shifting onto it is an act of courage and perseverance. It asks us to open ourselves up fully and completely in a way that allows us to express our gifts in the world without fear of judgment or failure. It demands that we be vulnerable and trust.
I have found my edge. My comfort zone has space for discomfort now and is ever-widening. I am myself on the other side of fear – not without it, but not within it either. It no longer defines me and it no longer tells me what I can or cannot do. It has become a guidepost and when it pops up, I know that I have to step up. It’s not always easy, but it is always rewarding.
I remember when I woke up, that sensation of feeling like I was falling down into my skin. For me, it happened not long after sobriety, and it was like a veil was simultaneously lifting as my body expanded outward in a way that allowed me to feel my skin for the first time.
It tingled and I think my feet touched the ground for the first time in my life. I don’t remember if I laughed or if I cried, and most likely it was both. I do know that it was overwhelming in the sweetest way imaginable. I actually liked the way it felt, even and in spite of the fact that I didn’t know what to do with it.