Mom Guilt is Real: Let that Shit Go…

Being a parent is beautiful, exquisite, and painful. It challenges you and fills your cup and sucks the life right out of you again. It is a journey full of ups and downs, unconditional love, growth, pressure, and joy. A huge amount of that pressure, we place on our own shoulders. We establish unrealistic standards of perfection surrounding our ability to parent and believe that everything we do must be a manifestation of the fact that we love our kids more than anything in the world!

The cleverest parties, stylish clothes, perfect pictures, well thought out lunches, fresh spring water that I collected myself infused with organic cucumbers that they drink on the way to their private lessons for their select league. The standards that exist today are impossibly exhausting. My kiddos will be plugged in to activities they love.  I will encourage them to drink water. And…they will most likely have lunchables or crustables in their lunch box. Not for every meal, but for packing lunch on a Monday morning, damn straight. Many of you reading this might cringe at the reality of sending processed foods in my kids lunches, I ask you to understand that I choose the battles that I face. I know where I succeed as a Mother and I know what standards will set me up for failure. I seek health and fulfillment for my babies: physically, nutritionally, emotionally, spiritually, socially, etc. etc. etc.  I also seek this fulfillment for myself and my husband.  As a result, there are some areas where I simply cannot pretend to seek perfection. Choosing my battles and firmly prioritizing my parenting values leads to me existing as a more fulfilled mother. I must remind myself daily to approach motherhood with my intuition and my experiential wisdom, meaning I know my heart and I know my babies, and (because of this)  I will make choices that I feel will best serve my family. This looks different for each parent and each child. We are all incredibly unique — hand crafted with our own gifts and flaws and passions.  I challenge you to use those gifts and passions in your parenting style.

Now…let me pause for a moment, as a social worker I have had the unfortunate opportunity to witness the reality of neglect and abuse. There are children that are not cared for adequately and who are put in dangerous situations at the hands of their parents or caregivers.  This is NOT wisdom or intuition. This is more often mental health, addiction, brokenness, or just evil. I am never condoning neglecting your babies.

Which leads me to a topic that I refer to often in my practice…guilt vs. shame.  And a bit further than that, helpful guilt versus unhelpful guilt.  Let me use some examples to help make the differences between helpful guilt, unhelpful guilt, and shame easy to wrap our minds around.  I am going to use my own life experiences with these feelings because improving myself has been wrapped up in distinguishing between thesefeelings and living a less shame filled existence.

Helpful Guilt:

Yelling. Man I can yell. I have a sharp tongue and a temper. The further out of touch I am with my inner self, the less I pray and meditate, the less I sleep, the less I take care of myself…the more I have a tendency to yell. Some mornings are rough.  I can be short with my spouse and super irritable with my babies. If I sense a level of helpful guilt in the moments, it can help me turn the morning around. When I yell at Rad for saying “Momma I need to tell you something” for the 2700th time in the last 15 minutes and his response is, “I just wanted to give you a hug.”  I feel the ache of immediate guilt. I need to slow down, take a breath, and hear my babies.  They need to listen, demonstrate respect, have manners, etc. but I can also take pause and let them have a voice even though I may have pressed snooze 7 times and am in a frantic rush.  I believe in the power of sincere apologies as a Mom. I am flawed…TRUTH. I do not want to project my struggle with perfectionism onto my children, so when I make a mistake I want to own it with grace. I take a moment to speak rationally and calmly. Then, ideally, we can all move forward in a better manner.

Unhelpful Guilt:

Ok…this morning has come and gone. I yelled. I apologized. We loved on each other and had a good rest of the morning. However, I cannot shake seeing the disappointment on Rad’s face when I yelled. I am allowing myself to believe that he is still sad, just sitting there thinking about how Mommy yelled. He probably thinks I am a terrible Mom. I robbed him of a fun and relaxed day, because every 3 year old boy just sits around over-analyzing his interaction with his Mom from 7:00 AM right?!? WRONG. He has moved far beyond that moment. He knows he is loved. He loves Mommy endlessly. His day is awesome. I need to let my irrational thought process and over-analyzation go. It is just masochism to be that unrealistic about the impact of a brief moment.

Shame:

Now this is where it gets real. Rather than feeling guilt over a mistake or irrationally dwelling on a decision I made, shame is about questioning my worthiness. Shame leads us to question who we are, what we bring to the table, and can impact our core identity and values. Guilt is about what we did. Shame is about who we are. If I allow myself to believe that I am a terrible person. If I journey down a path of self-loathing and genuinely questioning my capacity to mother my babies, I am entering into a shame storm. I talked about my latest shame storm in my blog on struggling with authenticity. Shame is heavy and hard hitting. It gets you in the gut, heart, and soul. It can rob you of confidence and passion. We must not allow the comparison trap of parenthood turn into something that makes us question our worthiness.  We have flaws, but we are and always will be worthy of love and belonging. We are tethered into the fabric of this world and we have purpose.  The National Institute for Clinical Application of Behavioral Health has a chart that perfectly separates guilt, unhelpful guilt, and shame:

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I talk about self-kindness often. I believe, as parents, we must be kind to ourselves and live in a space where grace pours out freely.  There is not one thread of my being that believes that we were called to judge one another or to make other people fighting their own battles feel like they are less than because their unique experiences and values make their rhythm look a little different. What I know about my journey in mindfulness, self-care, authenticity, self-kindness, and as a mother is that when I learn to see each human as someone who is carrying their own torch, winning their own war, or overcoming their circumstances RATHER than someone who is doing life better than me…I have way more compassion and grace. Compassion and grace not only for them, but for myself.  Let’s cheer each other on people! I do not want to be the exact same kind of mother or parent as you…I like being unique. I want my kids to be proud of dancing to the beat of their own drums. With standardized testing, strict routines at school, and the comparison traps that kids face with social media…let’s challenge ourselves to not put our own baggage on their already overloaded shoulders. I want my kids to feel more of my joy and less of my need to be a visually perfect parent.

Social media will not be my standardized test for success in parenting.  Fostering kindness, compassion, empathy, bravery, and confidence in my babies will be my standard for success.  You are all doing an incredible job!!! Your babies feel loved and cared for…do you? If the answer is no, I encourage you to give yourself some grace and let your unrealistic standards for yourself go. Let that shit go. The world is crazy enough, you need to be nice to yourself.

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Peace, Love, and Laughter,

Megan

Finding Your Tribe: The Struggle and Significance of Seeking Connection

I find understanding the body’s reaction to stress, depression, anxiety, intimacy, etc. fascinating but, also, necessary. I am of the opinion that if we wrap our minds around the nuts and bolts of our thoughts and behaviors then we might have the opportunity to feel more in control as we experience certain thoughts and behaviors. What if I told you that there is a physical reaction to friendship? Genuine connection and the ability to share, vent, and connect with authenticity can promote oxytocin production. Building connections with other people helps us to achieve a higher level of happiness and relaxation.

First, let’s briefly discuss the depressed brain. Serotonin, oxytocin, and cortisol are vital to our emotional regulation. Serotonin is the “feel good” neurochemical, oxytocin could be called the connection or bonding neurotransmitter, and cortisol is directly related to stress.  A depressed brain has increased levels of cortisol, decreased serotonin and oxytocin, and demonstrates dysfunction in the hippocampus and amygdala. The hippocampus is responsible for holding memories and controls cortisol, the amygdala facilitates emotional responses. The depressed brain releases cortisol at higher levels which can increase the size of the amygdala and, in turn, disrupts our ability to regulate our emotional responses and also hightens anxiety and fear. Due to the level of anxiety, irrational fears, sleep disturbances, etc. isolation becomes a natural reaction to depression. You can feel increasingly insecure and anxious about interactions, you are lacking in bonding chemicals, and you probably lack the energy to pursue social interaction. Unfortunately, isolation simply promotes the cycle of depression.  Creating opportunities for human connection can serve as a meaningful coping skill to manage feelings of depression.  Oxytocin is released when you feel bonded or connected. Interaction with a good friend, hugging someone you love, breastfeeding your baby, intimacy with your partner…these are all great ways to promote oxytocin production in your brain. Oxytocin supports serotonin and helps to calm hyperactivity of the amygdala.  Oxytocin can help to deter feelings of depression.

So back to friendship…I have found that as I transitioned into career, marriage, and family mode I have struggled to achieve a healthy balance when considering human connection. I find myself in ruts where my priorities seem to be centered on my to-do lists. Task oriented and productivity focused, I miss out on opportunities for connection.  Rather than snuggling my babies for 10 extra minutes, I get up and do the dishes. Trying to find intimate moments with my hubby becomes increasingly difficult as we achieve new milestones with our growing and involved children.  But the area that I found myself neglecting in the most severe manner was friendship.

I think about my college years when my friends made my world go round. I had multiple dear and precious souls who were seemingly attached at my hip. These relationships were formative, defining, and memorable. When I think back on moments from these years, there are consistent human connections that drive how these memories flood back into my brain. The food we ate, the perfume my friend wore, the bars we went to, the apartments and homes we lived in…I remember the people in these memories far more vividly than the places and details. And sensory encounters with familiar smells or sounds help me go back to these moments of vulnerability and connection often.

The struggle that I (and I am sure many of you) face in the midst of juggling career/marriage/parenting is finding this level of connection in my friendships today. Nothing can replace those defining years of transitioning from a child to an adult…but how can we achieve oxytocin promoting connection and vulnerability as adults?

Prioritize Friendship

Make a point to foster your current relationships and build new friendships. Who would you call for an impromptu coffee date, a concert, a trip to the local winery, or just to chat about life? If you cannot think of someone, perhaps finding your people is something you could make time for. Trust me, I have allowed insecurity and fear keep me from building relationships with people in my adult years. I tell myself all the reasons why someone would not want to hang out with me:  they already have found their circle, they will judge my worldview or parenting style, I will judge their worldview and parenting style, they might think I am not __(choose your insecurity of the day)__ enough. However, I have found that often times the people I fear reaching out to happen to be just as hungry for connection and if they are not and reject you …they are not right for your life anyhow.  The morale of the story is you must promote your own social life. Make a point to set aside time to connect with adults who remind you of your identity outside of the many hats you juggle.

Call your friend. Schedule lunch, dinner, drinks, coffee, or a phone date. And if you have a difficult time justifying adding these times to your calendar…remember that it is literally good for your brain. These connections and this time building your relationships promote oxytocin and helps deter or fight depression and anxiety. Consider it part of your self-care regimen.

Find People Who Promote Your Vibration

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”
C.S. Lewis

I recently shared a quote on my Facebook page from Lalah Delia that says: “The way you consistently treat, think, and talk about others is your vibration.” I think there is so much truth to this, what energy are we emitting? Are we spending our days talking negatively about people or are we nourishing our minds with conversations of dreams and ideas? Are you lifting ourselves with positive self-talk and sending out good vibes and thoughts to those around us or are we sinking into over-analyzation, insecurity, anger, or resentment? Do you vibrate with positive energy and light for others to breathe in or do you suck the life out of the room?

Evaluating our own vibration and choosing to surround ourselves with people who help us achieve a level of authenticity is life-changing. Choose to surround yourself with people who encourage you to be a better version of you! Choose those who demonstrate compassion, empathy, vulnerability and allow you to do the same. Choose to spend time with people that allow you to feel light and shiny when you leave their presence rather than wondering what you could have done better to improve that connection. I hope you have experienced the moments where genuine connection reminds you that you are not alone…there are people out there who dance to the same rhythm as you; you just need to find them.

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Authenticity and Trust are Musts

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”  Brene Brown

I have absolutely been in situations where I try (with everything in me) to force friendship. I laugh at things that are not particularly funny, I keep quiet about reactions that might ruffle feathers, and I find myself walking away from these encounters wondering what is wrong with me. I over-analyze why it did not go well and why I do not feel connected to them. Sure, you have off days and tough interactions sometimes…but I genuinely believe that finding people who you naturally connect with is necessary. It is so affirming. I love having those friendships that allow me to settle in, react honestly, and be the truest version of myself.

Vulnerability requires a level of trust.  If I have been hurt or betrayed by someone, I am less likely to reveal my inner most thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Forgiveness is beautiful and possible…it may just take time. Simple tokens of consistency and concern prove that I can trust people in my life. I continue to work on my ability to demonstrate intentionality and consistency in my relationships, because I know the value of what Brene Brown would call “Marble Jar Friends.” (Check out the video embedded at the end for the perfect anecdote to understand the meaning of Marble Jar friends.)

I am lucky to have these relationships in my life. These authentic friendships also benefit the hopeless people pleaser in me…I do not have to work hard to please these people, because they are MY people. They are such shining and refreshing lights in my life.  I will choose to continue to foster the friendships that I have found and be open to new people who could come along and impact change in my heart, mind, soul, and life. Thank you to my tribe for being MY people…I hope that I am worthy of the love and light I receive from you and that I am sending the good vibrations back to you!  xoxoxoxoxo

 

Peace, love, and laughter,

Megan

 

 

 

The Influence of Attitude

Have you ever stopped to acknowledge the energy you bring into a room? When you think about the meetings you attend, your group of friends, the people you work with, or your family can you identify the “influencers?” Who sets the tone for interaction? What attitudes and behaviors impact the ability to effectively communicate and sustain enthusiasm for whatever interaction you might be in the midst of? I am sure these questions have you thinking of the people who either inspire or snuff out excitement. Do you have someone in your life that can immediately impact your state of mind or opinion? Perhaps you are an influencer. What I find so interesting is that the power of influence can create positive and sustaining impacts or it can drag now productivity and contentment. How do you begin to assess your capacity for influence and create opportunity to be more inspiring, guiding, and swaying in your approach to relationships and teamwork?

Dictionary.com defines influence as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.” Synonyms for influence include – inspiration, guidance, effect, sway.  There is no question that our attitudes, thoughts, decisions, behaviors, etc. create a ripple effect. I use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) often when engaging with clients who struggle with negativity, poor self-image, lack of meaning in relationships, and for many other scenarios. Simply put, CBT helps people recognize the impact of their thoughts on their feelings, their feelings on their behavior, and their behaviors on their thoughts.  We discuss methods of Thought Stopping and breaking the cycle of destructive thought processes.  In my experience, adding the concepts of mindfulness into this conversation is helpful.

A mindful person is increasingly aware of their destructive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as they are occurring. A distracted and disengaged person can get stuck in a cycle of negativity before they realize it. Mindfulness not only helps to increase awareness of where we are physically and emotionally from moment to moment, it strengthens your brain’s ability to create emotional control over situations. Your brain is better equipped to redirect your negative or destructive thoughts if you are engaged in the practice of mindfulness. The Betari Box method describes the manner in which – your attitude has the potential to impact your entire team, family, department, organization, etc.  We can affect or be affected by the people that surround us. My attitude impacts my behavior which impacts your attitude and then, in turn, your behavior which can either drive home my anxiety, negativity, or resentment OR it can redirect my thoughts. The beauty in both CBT and The Betari Box lies in the ability to end cycles and create a rebirth of positive, rational, and productive thoughts, feelings, and actions. Drawing in your awareness to your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to others increases your chances of redirecting these destructive cycles.

When we focus on our ability to impact and influence others, there are a number of things to consider. I believe that checking our intentions is always vital to the success of influence. Authenticity and good intentions carry us quite the distance in the art of building meaningful connections. Once we have established that we have good intentions as we move forward in effort to create change or influence people…we need to build rapport. In the Psychology Today article, “The Art of Influence,” the author states that “Divining someone else’s motivations requires empathy.” Understanding the motivations and desires  of the people we are connecting with (or even better sharing those motivations) creates connection and common ground. To accurately assess what drives someone, you often have to develop an understanding of where they have been and what they might be in pain from, in fear of, or grieving. Empathy provides affirmation and, again, connection.

In another article I came across while I was digging into the idea of influence, The Subtle Art of Influence, the author states “To elevate the relationship to that level [of influence], focus on three activities: listening, offering help, and building trust. Try to see things from their point of view, and look for common ground and opportunities to share each other’s expertise.”   The common thread in all of these articles and pieces of advice is connection. Human connection.  Relationship building. We stand to have a greater influence when we work on building genuine and meaningful relationships with people.  Sure we can temporarily motivate, “light a fire,” intimidate, or belittle people without connection but to create opportunity to inspire or have an effect on their character or development…a connection is necessary.

While I was writing this post, I had my Madeleine Peyroux station on Pandora playing. The Julie London song, Sway, began to play. At first, I giggled at the coincidence. But then I paused to listen to the words.

Like the lazy ocean hugs the shore
Hold me close, sway me more
Like a flower bending in the breeze
Bend with me, sway with ease
When we dance, you have a way with me
Stay with me, sway with me
Other dancers may be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will see only you

It is natural to be influenced by and to influence others. Just like the flowers in the wind or the tides impact on the beach…we, as humans, naturally have an impact on each other.  The connections we build can change our worldview, impact our resiliency, harness our focus, or adjust our willingness to trust. I am sure you can recollect moments where you felt so connected to someone (romantically or otherwise) that time slipped away and background noise diminished. Connection is powerful. We can influence one another’s decisions and experiences. Imagine just changing the way someone feels about themselves in a given moment and how that feeling can stick with them and impact their self-image.

“Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open hearts and minds.”  David Deida

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I believe that we have the capacity to not only decide HOW influential we can be, but we can choose to make this influence positive and uplifting. Acknowledging the responsibility that comes with influence challenges us to keep our attitudes, judgements, words, and behaviors in check.  I know that my responses to situations and people have been greatly impacted by my ability to experience these situations and people AS THEY HAPPEN. Being present and aware transforms my reactions and my ability to control my emotions.  HelpGuide.org has a great article on the Benefits of Mindfulness: Practices for Improving Emotional and Physical Well-Being that says:

By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others.

I encourage you to continue to work a mindfulness practice into your daily life. Deepening connections and building emotional resiliency are both vital to our ability to influence and decide how we are going to BE INFLUENCED. Decide to shine and inspire today.

Peace, love, and laughter,

Megan

 

Being a Mindful Mom: The Total Truth

I have not written as much this past week, my life has been jam packed. Saturday in particular was crazy busy. Softball, birthday parties, wedding. Each event too far from the previous for any level of convenience. Early to the softball game, late to literally everything else. Food on the run. Changing clothes on the run. Making plans for childcare on the run. We hustled through almost every step of the day. We forgot to get a gift ahead of time and thanks to the late ball game…I had my kid hand the newly 4 year old cash for his present, nope not even a card. I had to make the struggle filled choice of being an additional 10 minutes late or settling for no card, no gift, and a mere 35 minutes late. Yup, not my finest moment. My kids made it to the super cute zoo party and got to feed the goats and eat the monster cupcakes. Half of Maya’s cupcake landed right above my left boob, and it was black icing so you could barely see it right?! Between the cash, the icing, and the half hour late arrival…I am pretty sure people are envious of how much our family of five has it together. Like who wouldn’t want to be us? But…we laughed, we explored, and we made memories. We may have seemed like a mess but we showed up to enjoy the moments and we showed up for the sweet family that invited us.

I have zero doubt that as the kiddos get older, our lives will become increasingly insane. More games, more parties, more jam-packed weekends. More moments that may or may not make people question my competency or ability to plan ahead or just my overall presentation. My daughter will not always have a bow on her head; my son may WILLINGLY and with my consent wear 2 un-matched shoes; my house will not always be pristine; and there will be some weeks where fast food or cheesy tortillas happen more than once, or twice, or however many times is necessary for us to survive that particular moment of life. I may not be the most organized and I may continue to pile up things in the garage waiting for a free weekend with the right weather to have a garage sale. My kids may get to school right before the bell rings 90% of the time. But I will show up for them, love them deeply, and try my best to teach them about joy in the present moment which is hard to do in the current world of distraction and constant stimulation.

Becoming a parent brought a great deal of self-criticism to the surface. Sometimes I add more to my plate than I should. Sometimes our schedules seem ridiculous, but I want to show up.  I want to create fun memories with my babies and teach them how to show up for people. I have this fear that writing a blog focused on mindfulness will send the false image that I am always at peace, always in control, and that I have mastered the art of being a mindful mommy 24-7. This is so stinking far from my reality. I may or may not drop the F bomb in front of my children and I lose all the chill from time to time. I have a temper and I get overwhelmed and I get tired and I do not take care of everything I need to each day. I think my husband may have courageously uttered the words, “Where is your mindfulness now?” the other day.  These are all the reasons why mindfulness has been so necessary for me, why self-care has been so meaningful for me, and why the willingness to be authentic has been so refreshing and freeing for me. I do not want to feel shame for the many ways in which I fall short on a day to day basis. I want to pour into my children and husband, but also been incredibly honest about MY needs. I want to walk alongside other mothers, fathers, women, and men that recognize the need for more truth in our lives and less judgment. I want to empower my children to love themselves and release the need for perfectionism. I want to achieve the balance between building meaningful connections and people pleasing. Seeking joy, experiencing moments of peace, spreading love and kindness, and honoring the worth that each and every one of us bring to the table has encouraged me to share my thoughts in this forum.

Being a Mindful Mommy is, perhaps, the opposite of achieving perfection. It is about recognizing your limits, being authentic and speaking truth about your needs and desires, and taking moments to dive into self-care. To adequately achieve these things, we must be in connection with ourselves. We must quiet the noise and check in with our bodies, hearts, and minds.  We need to risk being 5 minutes late to let our kids LITERALLY smell the roses and we should totally join them. We need to breathe in our surroundings and stop missing out on the beauty of each passing moment. The gluttony of busyness can be all consuming and I am so personally guilty of this sin, but I have recognized that missing out on the beauty of BEING PRESENT is not worth being 100% consumed with tasks, duties, and distractions. It is necessary to collide with the reality of the numbing nature of busyness. Perhaps we are running from shame, fears of inadequacy, lack of intimacy in our relationships, depression, etc. Filling our days with to do lists provides distraction from the battles we genuinely need to face and conquer. Brené Brown says “When you numb your pain, you also numb your joy.” This is a tough truth to face, but the healing that can emerge from confronting the dark parts of your story that you insist on running from can lead to exquisite joy and refreshing peace.

I am not sure that I will ever have a moment in which my plate is completely empty…but that is exactly what makes my ability to seek out the quiet moments to allow myself to be still even for just a few moments each day so valuable. I have challenged myself to breathe in my surroundings, relish in joy as it happens, and call a time out when I feel myself becoming overwhelmed. Each of these challenges looks different for each of our unique lives, but I ask you to join me. Be present. Be mindful. Be authentic. Confront your fears. Release the expectations of perfectionism, release the desire to people please, release the belief that you need to be all things to all people…be present and enjoy what is immediately around you before this moment is gone.

Peace, Love, and Laughter,

Megan 🙂

Understanding Our True Self

I am currently participating in a 21 guided meditation through The Chopra Center. This particular meditation, “Shedding the Weight: Mind, Body, and Spirit” is a collaboration between Deepak Chopra and Oprah. I am on day 7 and loving it. Oprah and Deepak talk through the concept of balance, lightness, and shedding the heaviness that interrupts our joy, self-kindness, self-awareness, and wakefulness on a day to day basis. Today they spoke specifically about the role of self-care in the pursuit of balance and lightness. The most beautiful parts of my journey with mindfulness have been the moments that allow me to acknowledge (with kindness) parts of me that previously led to insecurity or discomfort. In today’s words, Deepak shares that self-care must be about “inclusion rather than denial or rejection.” Self-kindness is not about pretending we are perfect or allowing ourselves to continue on unhealthy or inappropriate paths. Self-kindness is wrapped up in loving ourselves enough to grow and acknowledging our areas needing growth without judgment. The Centering Thought for today is “My true self leads me to an inspired life.”

Let’s explore ways to understand our true selves. The first step is awareness. Awareness of our bodies and minds helps to guide us to a deeper level of understanding about who we are, what needs we have, and what speaks to our souls. Clearly…mindfulness and meditative practices are a key step to achieving a heightened level of awareness. Implementing practices that encourage us to press pause on our hectic and fully consumed lives to come into a moment of stillness and peace in effort to acknowledge where we ARE in the MOMENT helps us find presence and understanding. There will not necessarily be an AH-HA moment when it all clicks and your questions about who you really are will finally be answered. It is more visceral than logical in my opinion. The questions, fears, experiences, trauma, heartache, failures, etc. all muddy the waters that separate us from remembering who we are outside of our habits and experiences. I think Deepak says it best:

We are the thinker behind the thought, the observer behind the observation, the flow of attention, the flow of awareness, the unbounded ocean of consciousness. We spontaneously realize that we have choices, and that we can exercise these choices, not through some sheer will power but spontaneously. Through meditation, we gradually bring harmony, laughter, and love back into our soul and, in the process, rediscover our unconditioned self, which can never really be lost.

Life can leave us feeling lost. The busyness of the day can leave us feeling numb. Our habits, addictions, and fixations can lead us to a place of shame and discontentment. We so easily exist in a place of unbalance. When we quiet the noise and distractions both literally and figuratively…we get closer to rediscovering the parts of us that get lost though our worldly experiences. I encourage you (with everything in me) to pursue a practice that encourages these moments. There are so many methods, outlets, and guiding points to get you there. From The Stop Method I previously introduced, to the Body Scan Meditation, Yin Yoga, to The Chopra Center Guided Meditation and a million other resources…find a mindfulness practice that fits your lifestyle and personality. The benefits are uncanny. Not only do you achieve increased balance emotionally and spiritually…your body can achieve a greater sense of balance. The impacts of chronic stress can be relieved. Studies have shown that mindfulness slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, provides relief for chronic pain, lowers cholesterol, reduces the level of stress hormones and toxins in your system, enhances immunity, and so much more. I had multiple influences in my life’s journey that encouraged this practice. I was resistant and stubborn. I told myself I was “bad” at meditating and got stuck in a place of judgement rather than opening my mind to this opportunity. Now that I have been able to reap the benefits of practicing mindfulness, my only wish is that I had been open to this lifestyle sooner. I was craving the stillness. I needed to get back in touch with who I was underneath the baggage of my past and fears of the future.

When I think about the idea of TRUE SELF, I think about children. I am surrounded by my own dynamic and vibrant children so often that they are often on my frontal lobe and in my thoughts. Children are brave, joyful, excited, non-judgmental, and decisive. They are inspired. They are hungry for life experiences. I want to not only get back to the parts of me that laugh out loud and dance without hesitation; I want to inspire my children to cling tightly to their true selves. I want them to be less jaded and influenced by the outside world. When I struggle with committing to my self-care and mindfulness practices, I remember the inherent value that this journey has provided me and my family.

Outside of mindfulness, there are some other fun ways that I have gotten to know myself more and obtained a deeper understanding of what makes me tick. One of my favorite practices (in my personal life and in my counseling practice) is the Meyers Briggs Type Inventory. I was able to take the full version of this inventory in graduate school and taking this test was such a meaningful moment for me. Not everyone wants to invest in the cost associated with the official inventory, so the alternative is the 16personalites.com. This is a brief quiz that will let break down different components of your personality and provide you with 5 letters that make up your personality type: Mind (how we interact with our surroundings,) Energy (how we see the world and process information,) Nature (how we make decisions and cope with emotions,) Tactics (our approach to work, planning and decision-making,) and Identity (how confident we are in our abilities and decisions.) Taking this test provided me with a great deal of insight into how I engaged with others, where I get my energy from, why I view the world the way I do. I definitely recommend taking some moments to head over to 16personalities.com and giving this test a go! I think you will find it both affirming and encouraging. It is nice to recognize the unique components of your personality in the type you fulfill and it helps you feel connected and understood. Clients always ask, “Did I get a BAD personality type?” And I always respond, “There is not a negative type. The world goes around with all kind of kinds. Our purposes, preferences, and personalities are unique and suited to our purpose. We can always grow and learn to engage our strengths in a purposeful way, but there is no BAD personality.” I happened to be an INFP and have been each and every time I take the quiz. The accuracy is mind-blowing. I LOVE to search INFP on Pinterest to find new quotes, articles, and comparisons that speak to me or make me laugh. Try it out and tell me your thoughts.

I encourage you to take the time to gain a deeper understanding of yourself, your personality, your values, and your true self. Self-care is dependent on inclusion. To obtain balance, live out self-compassion, and live our best lives…it is necessary to have self-awareness. Be inspired by your truest self today. Life out your dreams and pursue your goals with the inspiration of knowing your inner self. Release the expectations of others, fears for tomorrow, and shame from yesterday…actively pursue an understanding of who you are in the truest version of yourself.

 

Peace, Love, and Laughter,

Megan