good omens - angel demon

Accepting Humanity

My friend and talented author, Nan, introduced me to the Good Omens series based on the book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The video series has been my go-to escape during The Big Time Out we have all been given. It is funny, brilliant, and very insightful.

One of the main lessons I learned through the Good Omens series is that we are neither inherently good or bad, we are just human. We have days where we can act like perfect angels. We have other days where we make choices, say things, or act in a way that is purely demonic. In truth, however, we are neither good nor bad. We are just human. This concept has helped me accept myself, and others, at a deeper level than I had been able to before.

Most of my life, I tried to be that angel. Acting perfectly. Striving for more. Looking for recognition. And I completely ignored where I was a demon. Saying the wrong things to the wrong people at the wrong time. Allowing my own fears to self-sabotage my dreams. Attacking others to keep from falling into my own insecurities. Until recently, I thought one day I could be all angel. Now I have come to accept that I will always be part angel and part demon. This acceptance helps me feel so much more comfortable in my own skin. I embrace and accept my full humanity.

Good Omens - angel and demon

This acceptance of myself, has also helped me accept others. What if I met you on one of your demon days? Is it fair to think that how you acted on your worst day, is who you are all the time? Or what about the times when all we see of someone is angel and then are devastated to see their dark side? No one is perfect all the time in all ways. Having unrealistically high expectations for another – or ourselves, only leads to disappointment.

In a snippet of talk by Ram Dass, he adds another facet to the idea of self-acceptance. Ram Dass responded to the question “how do we love ourselves more”, with an answer of “why we need to accept ourselves fully”. Ram Dass was pointing out what I do so well, judge. I judge myself. I judge others. I judge the actions of society as a whole. But judging does more harm than good. Judging separates us. It is natural to notice our differences, but to attack or demean another, or our ourselves, because of the difference leads to separation and hate.

What is interesting to explore is what we are using to judge. Who sets the rules and the measuring stick? When I was younger, I judged myself against the super-skinny models of the 1970’s, to which I would always lose. As I changed careers, I judged myself against others’ success and notoriety. I have even judged myself against others’ spiritual depth. In all these instances, I had to first decide by which scale to judge myself and other people.

Ram Dass gives a nice example of when someone is in a forest, they just enjoy the trees. Unless they are a lumberjack and have a scale to judge trees, the forest walker only sees the beauty of the forest as a whole or the uniqueness of a single tree. The person does not judge each tree as too crooked or too short. They just are. Which begs the question, why do we judge ourselves and others? Why can’t we accept ourselves and others as we are? Why do we feel we should and have the right to judge ourselves and those around us? Are we not just trees in the forest of humanity? By judging ourselves and others we are missing out on the absolute beauty and peace of acceptance and understanding.

What scale do you judge yourself and others by? Where did you learn and agree to that scale? How do you feel when you judge? Self-righteous, better-than, superior or fearful, lacking, and victimized? How would your experience and life change if you no longer judged, and just accepted people as they were?

le boat boating

Loving Life’s Imperfection

Back in the day I had a, thankfully, short-term obsession with Tyra Bank’s America’s Next Top Supermodel contest show. What I loved was how the judges looked at a super-tall, super-thin, super-perfect woman and focused-in on her one flaw. Perhaps it was an oversized mole, a gap in the front of their teeth, or a slightly crooked nose. I know what you are thinking. “How dare these judges focus on the minor flaw of these otherwise amazing specimens of female beauty!” But it is not what you think. The judges did not focus on the flaws to criticize them. They focused on the flaw because it was what made them interesting, unique, and memorable. It was their imperfection which drew our eye to them. It was their imperfection which made them truly beautiful. Over the years I have hung on to this premise to help with my own issues of accepting my body, and over time bit by bit I have accepted the skin I’m in. What I have been noticing lately is how my expectation of the perfection of life is also not achievable, and how the imperfection of life is also the thing that makes life interesting.

Almost 20 years ago, my husband and I had an amazing honeymoon. We visited four European countries in two weeks. What is interesting is when I think of our trip, I don’t remember the amazing meal we had in Grote Markt Brussels Belgium, the five-star hotel we stayed at in London, or touring the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. What first comes to mind is “Brugge Kaput”; two words that both ruined our day and made for the most memorable day of our honeymoon.  My husband and I love boating so part of our honeymoon included a four-day trip on the canals of Holland in our own houseboat. Much of this trip was an adventure like realizing the first river we had to cross was the busy Amstel filled with enormous container ships, learning how to navigate using a guide all in Dutch, and running across unexpected points of interest like the Belgium witch-trial museum.  Out of all of these adventures, the first thing I think of, the first thing that comes to mind about our entire honeymoon is “Brugge Kaput.”

le boat boating
Le Boat boating tours

We were on the last day of our houseboat adventure. We had just spent the last hour floating past idyllic farm fields and came into the last town and the last bridge before getting back to where we rented the boat. We had planned to spend a quiet evening anchored in the large lake nearby then returning the boat the next day. Throughout the journey we had come across bridges and locks, learning to honk our horn to alert the attendant then pay a few guilders for the attendant to let us through. We came up to the final bridge, honked, and waited. And waited. And honked again. And waited. This went on for quite some time before the grumpy old attendant showed up and talked on and on in Dutch. (side note: all the guidebooks we bought said that English is common in Holland. It is not. English is common in Amsterdam but not in the small towns we were visiting.) The words we caught were “brugge” which we had learned meant “bridge” and “kaput” which I learned from my German father which meant “broken.” The bridge was broken.

We finally understood that the bridge was down but should be working the next day. We went into this tiny, tiny town to find a phone to ask the boat rental company what to do. Option 1 was to go back the three days we had just traveled. Option 2 was to wait it out. We decided to wait it out, but not to stay in this town which seemed to consist of a broken bridge and a small store with the phone we used. Although we were tired from traveling, we decided to sail back the hour or so, past the now monotonous farm fields, to the larger town we had seen on the map. What a great choice!  The town had an actual marina and included in the small fee was the use of bicycles. We road into town, explored the shops, almost got hit by a bus, and had an amazing day. The next day, we once again motored past the same really-boring-now farm fields we had passed twice before. Out of everything we saw and experienced on our trip, I wouldn’t change this adventure for anything.

Next time you are having a bad day, next time your best laid plans are ruined, breathe. Find the beauty in what is happening versus what you wanted to happen. Look for the silver lining and be in the moment to enjoy the wonder of what will unfold.

judges gavel

Accepting Where You Are

“Now that I am trying to change, I don’t like who I am.”

At some point, many of my clients say this or something similar. When they finally see a new way to be, but are not yet capable of acting that way, they begin to attack themselves.

judges gavel“I am a horrible person.”

“Being this way is bad.”

“It is wrong to act like this.”

These thoughts are natural, but not helpful. There are some very simple ways to begin accepting who you are so you can move into who you want to be.

See the Truth

When I work with individuals who are trying to lose weight, the first step is for them to truly see and accept where they are. Yes, they may have twenty more pounds than they would like, but that is the truth of the situation. If they constantly think they should be different than they really are, no changes can be made. We must first accept where we are before we can make changes.

Stop Labeling

We are often our worst critics. We will tell ourselves how bad, wrong, or horrible we are. This is also not seeing the truth. When we belittle ourselves we are judging ourselves based on our perception of right and wrong.  Judging also makes us stuck. We feel a powerless victim to the label. Instead, reframe your actions as being helpful or unhelpful. This frees you to make changes.

Love Your Shadow

We all have positive and negative aspects. Sometimes a positive, like being a Type A, can become a negative when it is out of control. See yourself as a whole person with shadow and light. One cannot exist without the other. Know your shadow and work to manage it instead of sentencing yourself to unhappiness because you have a shadow.

Celebrate Your Progress

Take a moment and see where you started. Yes, you may not be where you want to be, but how far have you come? Celebrate what you have already accomplished and be grateful for your progress knowing that there is more and better to come.

Melissa Heisler, Stress Reduction Expert

Shadows

The other night I saw the movie The Year of Living Dangerously.  The movie uses Wayang Kulit, a style of Indonesian shadow puppetry to symbolize the battle to balance good and bad in the universe.  In the movie, the character Billie Kwan uses theses shadow puppets to talk about higher ideals.  “In the West, we want answers for everything. Everything is right or wrong, or good or bad. But in the [shadow play] no such final conclusion exists.  Look at Prince Ajuna.  He’s a hero.  But he can also be fickle and selfish.  Krishna says to him, ‘All is clouded by desire, Ajuna, as a fire by smoke, as a mirror by dust. Through these, it blinds the soul.’”  Our shadow is the dark side of ourselves. 

Balance is an oft discussed topic with my clients.  I agree with Billie Kwan in that the West wants clear unwavering definition.  You are either Right-wing or Left-wing.  You are urban or rural.  A concept is either right or wrong.  There is no wiggle room.  There is no gray.  The West has a desire for the absolute.  But there is no absolute in life.  We are not one thing.  Like Prince Ajuna we can be a hero one day and selfish the next.  We can be giving in one situation and stingy in another.  We are not one dimensional beings.  We are multifaceted.  Life is multifaceted.  Life is balance.  If there was only sunshine, the crops would die.  They also need the rain.  All of nature needs the balance between black and white, good and bad, light and shadow.

The peace of life is not found in labeling and adhering to absolutes.  Peace is found by navigating the delicate balance between light and dark.  For example, many of my clients are open-hearted givers, which is a very admirable trait.  But if they give without end, if they give in every situation in every moment of every day, they become depleted.  There is a balance needed between giving and receiving.  Many of my clients have a hard time with this concept because they label giving as good and receiving as bad.  They believe if they do not live completely in the good then they are bad.  But as the recently departed Debbie Ford often professed, “Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow. The caterpillar will become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you’re not. You will no longer have to prove you’re good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to life in fear. Find the gifts of your shadow and you will finally revel in all the glory of your true self. Then you will have the freedom to create the life you have always desired.”

Look at your own battle and balance of good and bad, light and shadow.  Can you embrace your shadow in order to become whole?  Can you find the benefit of your shadow and the weakness of your light?  Can you see how they are both needed?  What shadow in your life are you running from?