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Without Judgment

Last week, I completed another exercise from Louise Hay and Robert Holden’s small but action-packed book Life Loves You: 7 Spiritual Practices to Heal Your Life. 

This practice involves sitting comfortably with your hand on your heart and repeating the following question once every minute for 15 minutes: What is it like to be me when I’m not judging myself?

So I sit. I hold my hand to my heart. And I ask. And I ask. And I ask.

I’m at a loss. I don’t know, is my answer.

I realise that I’ve always judged myself. Compared. Felt less than, not good enough, unworthy.

I’ve always been striving for perfection, wishing I were different. Then feeling so bad about myself that all my energy left me and I didn’t have the motivation to change.

I closed myself off to the good that life was trying to give me and I couldn’t appreciate the good within myself.

Surely, as a child, I was once myself without judgment. But I can’t think back to a time when I wasn’t on high alert. Judging myself and attempting to mould myself into someone who could be loved and accepted.

I tried so hard to be perfect. So even as a very young child, I was anxious and exhausted a lot of the time.

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Me as a perfect child

I decide now that I can give myself the unconditional love that I was so desperately hoping for. I can open myself up to love despite my imperfections.

Instead of trying to alter myself and hide what’s “wrong” with me, I can finally allow myself, my whole self, to be loved. Why deny myself love?

Who could be so mean to snatch love away from a human being the moment they detect an “imperfection”? Well, I’m no longer going to tolerate such cruelty. And I understand that I’ve been my own worst tormentor, my own worst victim.

I rub my face. I throw my head back and I blow out years of sadness, disappointment, hurt, fear and rejection.

I’m surprised when I start wailing. The words that tumble out of me are those of an infant, a toddler, a small child.

They’re not logical and I have no control over them. I let them out. I witness. I soothe.

I choose to love and accept myself without judgment. I understand that, while I continue to judge myself, I’m going to judge others too. And this judgment creates a barrier to love, presence, forgiveness, possibility and peace.

The second part of this exercise is to complete the following sentence five times: One good thing that could happen if I judged myself less is…

I take out my journal and I write. I write about presence and beauty, enjoyment, freedom, happiness, confidence, acceptance, unconditional love and peace. I write:

“One good thing that could happen if I judged myself less is that I wouldn’t care what others thought of me. I wouldn’t try to change myself or hide parts of myself in order to be liked. I’d be me. And people would love me.”

Are you willing to try this exercise? You’d be surprised at what reveals itself!

sharon vogiatzi life coach

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Basic Human Needs

Last night, I read Marianne Power’s most recent post on the six basic human needs. Yes, it may seem like I’ve become obsessed with this woman and maybe I have. But not in a lesbian way. In an admiring, respecting, fellow-blogger-and-self-help-enthusiast way.

Anyway, I found Marianne’s post really interesting. Marianne is regurgitating self-improvement guru Tony Robbins’ work and I, in turn, am regurgitating Marianne’s work. But we’re all putting our own spin, experience and insights into it.

So here’s my take on Marianne Power’s take on Tony Robbins’ take on the six basic human needs. First of all, let me give you the six basic human needs, in Marianne’s words:

“Need 1: Certainty/Comfort
Our need to feel in control and secure.
Need 2: Uncertainty/Variety
Our need for variety, surprises.
Need 3: Significance
We all need to feel important, special, unique, or needed – some of us get a feeling of significance from our work, some do it by having a flash car or by getting a thousand Twitter followers. You can get significance by having more or bigger problems than anybody else (moi) and criminals get it by the attention they get for their crimes.
Need 4: Love & Connection
We all need love but many of us are terrified of it and settle for connection, through our romantic relationships, friendships, our pets, walking through nature.
Need 5: Growth
If you’re not growing, you’re dying – whether that’s growing your business, your relationships, your education etc.
Need 6: Contribution
‘Life’s not about me; it’s about we,’ says Tony, who reckons that giving is what life’s all about.”

Marianne suggests (or maybe it was Tony Robbins who suggested it but I can’t keep up) asking yourself the following question:

OUT OF THE SIX HUMAN NEEDS WHICH TWO HAVE YOU BEEN VALUING THE MOST?

For me, Significance has definitely been one of my biggest needs. I want to feel special and I get that feeling by writing this blog, taking selfies, getting likes on Facebook, doing well in school and college, and having men fancy me. I like to be liked. I love to be loved. And I want other people to think I’m nice, pretty, talented, funny and desirable.

Love and Connection is also high on my list of priorities. I don’t feel comfortable unless I’m connecting. I achieve this connection by communicating with others, meditating, and communing with nature. I seek connection through affection, intimacy and even technology. And through all this connection, what I’m really hoping to experience is love. Pure, beautiful, all-encompassing, unconditional love.

The next question is: WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF VALUING THOSE NEEDS?

The consequences I face are feelings of sadness, loneliness, rejection and depression when I delude myself that I’m alone, insignificant and unloved. I don’t deal well with criticism. And rejection is almost physical in its ability to wound me (hopefully not for much longer as I’m participating in this Rejection Therapy game).

In order to protect myself from the shadow side of significance, love and connection, I withdraw. I shut down. Or I try to be perfect because I convince myself that no one will love me otherwise.

Now, ask yourself: WHAT WOULD BE YOUR TOP TWO NEEDS NOW FOR YOUR LIFE TO TRANSFORM? 

For my life to transform, I have to prioritise Growth. Growth keeps you moving, learning, improving and evolving.

When I stop being so hard on myself, I can acknowledge that I actually am growing in all areas of my life. I’m attending courses, seeing a Life Coach, reading, making progress in my career, and changing the way I relate with life, other people and, most importantly, myself.

I also choose to focus on Contribution. Significance brings up a competitive streak in me. It’s all about being better, smarter and prettier. The need for significance fuels a striving to be more popular, more talented, more successful, more loved.

But life isn’t meant to be a competition. We’re all in this together. To be really spiritual about it, we’re all one.

Once I understand that, I want to cooperate and collaborate rather than compete. I want to help and share and give.

Tony Robbins says that Growth and Contribution are the needs that make you happy and fulfilled. He calls them Spiritual Needs, while the first four are the Needs of the Personality.

I actually felt chuffed that I’d got it “right”. There I go racing back to my need for Significance. But I’m aware of my tendencies now and the reasons behind them. I’m learning. There’s growth in that. And I’m sharing all of this with you guys. So I’m contributing.

Random image of my friend and I dancing on a mountaintop

Random image of my friend and I dancing on a mountaintop

Now to go off on a completely different tangent, today I remembered Marianne’s challenge to smile at strangers. I thought: That’s easy. I’m always smiling at strangers. 

Until I walked past an attractive man on a bridge this morning. I considered smiling at him but he was scowling. Cool, handsome scowling but scowling nonetheless.

I realised that smiling at strangers isn’t easy at all. I found it hard to look at this man, let alone smile at him.

I’d love to tell you that I felt the fear and smiled anyway. But I didn’t. I bottled it. But I did look at him, which is more than I’d have done before. Baby steps.

Another realisation I had on that bridge is that it’s easy to smile at strangers when they’re already smiling. Handsome, scowling men don’t invite smiles. But smiley, kind-faced people do. So I think we should all smile more.

And to waffle on for just a little longer, after last night’s post on wanting men to beat down my door (metaphorically of course), I received a random text from a man I went on a date with once. This “putting it out there to the Universe” stuff might actually work.

So, here goes… Are you listening, Universe? I would like a successful career that I love and that helps others to be all that they can be. I would like an abundant, happy life filled with peace, love, fun, laughter, beauty, friendship, enjoyment and adventure.

While I’m at it, I would like to be financially secure, own a great house, and go on lots of amazing holidays around the world. I would like health, wealth and well-being for myself and all my friends and family and the whole wide world.

And if you’re still listening Universe, I would like to get swept off my feet by (and have a healthy, wonderful relationship with) an older, available but equally smouldering version of Zayn Malik.

Even if he is scowling.

Even if he is scowling.

Image of Zayn Malik: http://www.heatworld.com

I Surrender

Something happened this week that left me feeling extremely vulnerable. Instead of acknowledging my reaction, I ignored it and hoped it would disappear all by itself.

This morning, I set off on a fairly long journey. I switch on the radio to distract myself from how I’m feeling. Just as I turn up the volume, I miss my exit. I want to cry. But that won’t do. I’m wearing mascara.

I know that my upset isn’t really about getting lost on the motorway. It’s about the vulnerability that I’m trying to suppress. Issues around love, rejection and self-worth are simmering beneath the surface.

I want to be strong and independent. But now that I’m well and truly lost in a foreign part of the country, I realise that a lot of that is fake. I’m putting up walls in an attempt to protect myself. Act like you don’t care, Sharon. Then you can’t be hurt. 

Where’s the logic in that? Is anybody benefitting from this performance? I think not. And know it’s not real. So of course I can still feel pain. I’m just hiding it from others. And while I’m feigning nonchalance, I’m disconnecting from the full potential of the present experience.

I don’t know where I am or where I’m going. I allow the tears to roll down my cheeks. I give myself permission to feel the fear, to embrace it, to listen to its voice, and to open up to what is.

As I drive into unfamiliar territory, I spot a lone tree in a large green field. I feel an irrational kind of sadness for this solitary tree.

But who’s to say the tree is on its own? Is the tree separate from its roots and leaves and branches? Is the grass beneath it a part of it too? And the air that caresses its limbs? Where does the tree begin and does it ever end?

In The Infinite Way, Joel S. Goldsmith writes:

“The wave is one with the ocean, indivisible and inseparable from the whole ocean. All that the ocean is, the wave is; and all the power, all the energy, all the strength, the life and all the substance of the ocean are expressed in every wave. The wave has access to all that lies beneath it, for the wave really is the ocean, just as the ocean is the wave, inseparable, indivisible, one. Note here this very important point: There is no place where one wave comes to an end and the next wave begins, so the oneness of the wave with the ocean includes the oneness of every wave with every other wave.”

If there is no separation, there can be no rejection. It is only my thinking about abandonment that causes suffering. In my resistance to what is, I’m floundering.

I let go. It doesn’t matter what happens. And what has already occurred is perfect too. I surrender.

A sense of calm settles around me like a blanket of sunbeams. I feel cleansed. I really am okay. I’m whole and open and connected.

I take a chance on an unknown direction and it brings me to where I’m meant to be.

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Life is an Adventure

I am lying on a plinth, receiving an energy treatment from a friend. I close my tired eyes and sink beneath the blanket, enjoying this time and space for rest.

A lot has been going on over the past few weeks. Sometimes I still find myself being sucked into the drama. Then I’m left with a bad feeling that I need to know isn’t mine.

Thoughts flit across my mind, like an overplayed showreel. Things that have happened and imagined scenarios that have not and may never play out.

As my friend works on me, I clear the energy that these thoughts have created. Instead of berating myself for thinking, I recall a piece of advice I heard on Hay House Radio and I say: “You are adorable.” 

This lightens the mood and brings myself love and compassion. I accept the thoughts without attaching to them and they continue to flicker faintly in the background.

I’m soothed by the sound of my friend’s dog sleeping in the corner. I can feel the energy moving. The heat of my busy head is lifted out and away. And in come the insights…

I realise that I want everyone to be well and happy, which is lovely and all, but it’s a heavy burden to put upon myself. If I need everyone to be well and happy then I must be responsible for helping them and fixing their problems. And if I don’t do that, I’m not being a good friend/daughter/niece/therapist.

But it really is none of my business. I have a feeling now that everything is grand. Everyone is on their own journey. I don’t need to dwell on their stuff. I am responsible for me. I can be there for them and still be me and own only what belongs to me.

I am enjoying life. I’m not going to let my thinking about other people stop me from being present and having fun.

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Photo taken by Deirdre Groves

The next insight is about love. I remember an affirmation from Louise Hay and David Kessler’s wonderful book You Can Heal Your Heart: “I don’t have to convince anyone to love me.”

If I’m feeling a lack of love, the only way to remedy that is to give myself that love. So I do.

A question that arises now is around excitement. Should I be feeling this excitement? Or should I dampen it down in an attempt to avoid inevitable disappointment? I know I shouldn’t have expectations but it is nice to enjoy this feeling.

It all comes back to being present, doesn’t it? Of course I can enjoy the feeling. I’m human. I don’t want to shut off emotion completely. I just don’t want it to consume me either, like a wildfire, ravaging everything with its seductive but destructive vermilion tongues.

The energy rises and tingles and swirls. A song builds up in me. My hips start to sway. “Life is an adventure,” the lyrics go. “Life is an adventure. La la la la, woo! La la la la.”

When I get home, I open my diary and see these words by Danielle LaPorte:

“Happiness is power. Happiness is carbonated consciousness. It wants to spill out and radiate and be articulated. And every time we downplay our joy, we confuse our synapses. Happiness-muffling numbs our senses. If you keep it under the surface too long, it just might stay there . . . a light under a bushel. Admit to your contentment so it can grow.”

I asked the question and got the answer within minutes! I embrace happiness. I don’t have to feel guilty for having it in case other people aren’t feeling it too. And I don’t have to be wary of it in case I get hurt. I am living. Life is an adventure. La la la la, woo!

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Let It All In

Remember those noisy neighbours? Well tonight, I pop in a pair of earplugs and will myself to sleep. My body is tense from the anticipation of the noise that I wish would disappear from my life completely.

This time however, instead of trying desperately to block out the noise, I decide to really go into the feeling that it brings up in me. It feels like the noise gets right into me. I want to withdraw from it but I can’t. I believe that this shouldn’t be happening and that is what fills me with rage. I wish I could wrap myself in a safe little bubble where nothing can get in but I just can’t seem to protect myself from it.

Once I’ve felt all there is to feel, I access a memory of childhood summers snorkelling in Greece. I’d spend hours submerged in this underwater haven where all I could hear was the sound of my own breathing. There was another world down there, full of peace and colour and surprises. I long for that peace right now.

Suddenly, I have an awareness. I am insisting on shutting out a part of life. I’m not allowing certain things in. And if I’m closing myself off to the noise, what else am I resisting?

I lie in bed and tentatively begin to let it all in. I am open. I am open to the good and bad, the noise and silence, the love and despair, the fear and joy. I am open to the anger and happiness, sadness and inspiration, the beauty and simplicity, the light and the darkness. Life in all its forms. Once I start allowing the noise in, who knows what other wonderful things will appear?

I also realise that the noise isn’t an outside invader, robbing me of my calm. The struggle is within me. I am reacting to this perceived injustice. I can choose how this affects me.

Rather than viewing these things as outside of me, I accept that all aspects of life are a part of me. In my withdrawal from the noise, what noise of my own am I suppressing? I am the noise but I am also the peace. And I am the love that once seemed so external and conditional.

So tonight, I let it all in. Because it’s already there. And on that conundrum, I promptly fall asleep.

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The Dancer

As part of the Life Coaching course I’m doing, I have to attend a professional Life Coach. In my most recent session, I was telling the coach about how I sometimes think unkind thoughts about myself.

He asked me to describe how I feel when I do this. I told him it was overwhelming. I moved my hands frantically in an attempt to explain. It was difficult to put into words.

He asked me where I feel it and if it has a shape. I told him that it’s in my chest, it has sharp edges and it wants to get out. He asked if it has a voice. “Yes,” I replied. “It’s saying, Let me out!”

I realised in that powerful moment that the feeling I believed to be negative is actually a part of me trying to give myself a message. It is an energy, so big and fizzing that just wants to be expressed. For as long as I can remember, I have been trying to suppress it, to abolish it. It feels so constrictive when all I want is to be free.

I sat there, full of excitement. I wanted to scream and roar and rage and beat my fists against something. I had had enough. I was like a child having been admonished by a strict parent. And this child just wanted to say Fuck off and go outside and play and sprint and front crawl through the ocean.

A recent experience came to mind. A few weekends ago, I took part in a dance workshop. As part of the day, we had to form triads. One of us took on the role of the dancer, one was the witness, while the other was the writer.

I was elected to be the dancer. The music began to play as I self-consciously walked into the centre of the room. I stood and faced my group. Then I started to move slowly. When I closed my eyes, I was able to get into the music. I could hear violins and African beats. I twirled and swayed and stamped my feet. Strong emotions moved through me and, for the first time, I understood what it was to express myself through dance.

Every so often, I’d remember that I was being watched but I was determined not to spoil my experience. I took a deep breath and gave myself the space to own this moment. I deserved it. I haven’t enjoyed something so much for a very long time.

camihlira.tumblr.com

camihlira.tumblr.com

As I relayed this story to my coach, I likened it to the times when I’ve had a few drinks. When my inhibitions relax, and I feel that lively, fun-loving spark. And right now, I was feeling a similar urgency to let go, to be free, and to embark on a wonderful new adventure.

This “bad” feeling I’ve been trying to get rid of is actually presenting me with an opportunity to transform into who I really am. It is showing me what I’m no longer willing to put up with. The feeling that once seemed anxious and overwhelming is, in fact, a taste of the magnificent burst of energy that I have been reining in with my self-criticism. This energy is full of creativity and strength and passion. And it’s there for me whenever I choose to access it.

As we finished the session, the coach suggested that the next time I think a mean thought about myself, I should tell it to “fuck off” just like the child in the image I had mentioned. I laughed and thanked him for what he had done. He told me that I had done the work, he had just been the witness. I sang the whole way home.

i-knew-youd-never-fly.tumblr.com

i-knew-youd-never-fly.tumblr.com

Blossoming

It occurred to me this morning that so much of what we do is done out of fear rather than joy. We spend a lot of our time protecting, defending, hiding, banishing and preventing.

This is evident in so many of our actions. We try to prevent illness, protect our energy, delay ageing, cover up blemishes, shy away from challenges, defend our egos, and bolt from pain (both physical and emotional).

We stock up on multivitamins, sip on Echinacea, and get jabbed with flu vaccines. We visualise ourselves in protective bubbles, confess our sins, and make appointments with Shamanic healers. We join the gym, dye our hair, pay for our faces to be chemically peeled, and inject ourselves with Botox. We cover ourselves with makeup and fake tan, whiten our teeth, and shimmy into girdles.

We judge and criticise others so we don’t have to look at ourselves. We work longer and harder so we can be defined by our job titles. We yearn for prestige and approval so we can love and accept ourselves. And we’re terrified to slow down, to stop, in case someone takes it all away while we’re sleeping.

Fear prevents us from going on that flight or that date or initiating that career move. We don’t put ourselves out there so we can’t get hurt. We close our hearts because we think we’ll save them from breaking.

But how often do we do things for more positive reasons? For the sheer fun and enjoyment? We’ve forgotten how to live, really live, and experience all the world has to offer, which is a lot!

We could be singing in the rain, zip lining through a cloud forest, or swaying in a hammock on a Caribbean island. We could be melting into a full body massage, swimming with dolphins, or scuba diving with exotic coloured fish. We could be playing with our children, embracing our older and bolder selves, or writing our first fantasy novel.

And above all else, we could be opening our hearts to love, to possibility, to life. Because the heart can never really break, it just opens that bit wider to allow the light shine through.

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