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Life Loves You

I decided to accept a seven-day challenge given by Louise Hay and Robert Holden in their beautiful book Life Loves You: 7 Spiritual Practices to Heal Your Life. 

Yesterday was Day 7 so today I’m going to tell you all about this seemingly simple exercise that took me places I never expected…

Here’s the challenge (spiritual practice sounds nicer!):

Sit comfortably in front of a mirror. Inhale deeply. Say to yourself: Life loves you (or Life loves me), then exhale. Repeat this 10 times. Notice your response each time. Pay attention to your bodily sensations, your thoughts and your feelings. Write these responses in a journal. Be honest. And please don’t judge yourself.

The second part of this exercise is to look into the mirror and repeat this affirmation: I am willing to let life love me today. Once again, notice your responses. Remember to breathe. Louise Hay and Robert Holden recommend repeating this affirmation until you feel “comfortable sensations in your body, light feelings in your heart, and a happy commentary in your thoughts.”

Repeat this exercise for seven consecutive days.

So I knuckle down and I do it. Seven days in a row.

There are tears. And sadness. Anger makes a surprise visit.

My inner child wails. Self-worth wavers. I judge.

I witness my beauty. And I feel the love.

Physically, I experience tension in my shoulders and I struggle to catch my breath. My head aches.

I notice a panicky feeling in my chest. My insides fizz.

Sometimes I become distracted by my thoughts, by my eyelashes, my hair, teeth and makeup. Fears arise.

Ideas spring forth. I want to share this exercise with as many people as possible.

I doubt that life loves me. I hope that it does. I believe that it could…

Interestingly, I find it easier to say Life loves you rather than Life loves me. It’s as if I’m two separate people – one a wiser, more evolved, peaceful, loving being; the other a wounded, scared child who needs reassurance.

I make myself look into my eyes as I cry the tears of a frightened child who feels all alone and just wants to be loved and protected. I’m here for myself in this moment.

I have the awareness that every time I lost hope, I left myself. I promise never to abandon myself again.

I feel a fierce determination to let life love me. Gradually, this determination transforms into something gentler, something more accepting, something more loving.

I realise that I close down whenever I fear rejection. I decide to open my heart, to let in the good, to love myself and, in doing that, to let life love me.

As I gaze into my eyes, I actually become quite mesmerised. I get lost in the colours and the inky blackness of my pupils as they dilate and contract.

sharon vogiatzi life coach

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I recently started seeing an amazing guy who tells me how beautiful I am. As I stare at my reflection, I see what he sees. I can see the beauty in my eyes, the beauty in me.

By the end of these seven days, which are laden with emotion, insight and healing, I’m saying Life loves you and really meaning it. I’m also able to say Life loves me too. I feel happy, light and relaxed.

I could never have predicted what would have come up for me while completing this exercise. My inner child voiced how scared and alone she feels. So I started giving her the love, affection and reassurance that she needs.

It became clear that I regularly criticise and reject myself. I resolved to be there for myself and not to abandon myself any more.

I’m more aware of when I close off to others, to the world, to life and to myself. I’m going to give myself the love and care that I deserve. I know that I can make myself happy.

I’m happily choosing to open my heart. I can see the good in the universe. And everything that happens is a confirmation that life loves me. I just have to let life love me today. Because once I allow it, I can see it.

Since starting this challenge, I’ve been given countless proof that life loves me.

A sales assistant drops a free lip balm into my bag. Motorists let me pass. A barista draws a love heart in my latte. People smile at me.

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Image: Author’s Own

One morning, a friend gives me coffee, a Mars bar and a massage. Another friend gifts me with a red phone cover sporting a snowflake and a love heart. A loved one presses money into my hands for an upcoming trip.

And I can definitely feel the love with the guy I’m seeing. It’s in our hugs and our kisses, our texts and our glances. It flows in the things we share and the way we are with one another. My heart is so open when I’m with him and that feels really good.

This spiritual practice has shown me that I can feel this way all of the time, not just when I’m with a romantic partner. I can bring that openheartedness, warmth and affection to my interactions with other people too. And to the time I spend alone.

I greet people with a smile. I give people hugs and I’m present to what they share with me.

I listen to myself. I’m true to who I am and to what’s right for me. I’m nice to myself. And I appreciate life and all that it offers me in every single beautiful moment. Life loves me.

And guess what? There’s an abundance of love to go around because life loves you too.

Want to make sure? Try out this exercise for seven consecutive days. Enjoy. And please let me know how you get on.

self-love

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First Dates

A couple of friends recommended watching First Dates, a television series that films real first dates in a London restaurant. I’ve since watched the entire first season and it’s totally addictive.

As I binge on this hilarious reality TV show, I laugh a lot. But I also shed a few tears.

I can see the beauty in every single singleton. The daters differ in appearance, creed, age, personality and life experiences. But they’re so similar too.

They’re all self-conscious. They all have fears and insecurities. They’ve all lived through hardship, be it heartbreak, illness, loss or rejection.

And they’re all holding on to hope. Hope that they’ll finally find connection, affection, partnership and love. They all want to share their lives with that special someone.

One man, who’s been single since his diagnosis with HIV five years ago, admits: “I just want to be loved.”

This heartwarming show highlights how quick we are to judge our potential partners. I don’t like his receding hairline. I prefer women with smaller bums.

Interestingly, we’re also quick to judge ourselves. I’ll lie about my job because I don’t want to put him off. She’ll never agree to a date because of my height. I’m punching above my weight with her. I’m not as skinny as the other girls.

I believe that when we stop judging ourselves, we cease judging everybody else. When we love and accept ourselves, we become free to love and accept others.

I also believe that we get what we give. So when we give love, we receive it.

I have a friend who loves her dogs more than anything. Recently, I spent an evening at her home. One of her dogs burrowed his way into my arms. Later, he lay on my friend’s lap, his body splayed open, as my friend hugged and kissed him.

It struck me that this dog is full of love. He’s open and trusting and loving. And it’s such a good feeling to have him in your arms.

And my dog-loving friend is perfectly at ease with herself. She’s open and happy and loving. And when I’m around her, I am too.

It’s so easy to give love to a person who’s open to receiving it. And when someone gives love with unconditional abundance, being a recipient of that love feels effortless and unselfconscious.

It’s when the fear takes hold and the thinking starts and the barriers come up, that we block the love. We’re afraid to give love in case it’s thrown back in our faces.

But my advice now is to give love. Give love to yourself. To your friends and family. To your pets and your plants. To everyone you encounter.

Be yourself. Be open. Be present.

Laugh. Flirt. Have fun.

Give love. Accept love. Be love. And I guarantee that you’ll experience love.

So I’ve rejoined Tinder. Again.

P.S. When searching for an image for this article, I browsed the internet. Suddenly, I realised that I’d forgotten to type “Love” in the search bar. “Have I put love in?” I asked aloud.

Have I put love in indeed.

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Open your Heart

A dear friend sent me a link to an interesting TED talk on love and relationships given by Mandy Len Catron. The theme of love and relationships had already been playing on my mind.

After watching the clip, I confessed to my friend that I long to share intimacy and affection with someone of the male variety. I quickly added that I’m just feeling impatient and that I should simply be present.

My friend replied: “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a special connection with a man. What you mustn’t do is ever make yourself feel bad because that want is there. It’s human nature.” It was nice to read her words.

Mandy Len Catron’s TED talk came about because Mandy, in the midst of a breakup, turned to science to better understand love. While researching the workings of the heart, Mandy discovered a study undertaken by psychologist Arthur Aron 20 years ago.

The study involved having two strangers ask and answer a series of 36 questions designed to make the participants fall in love. Six months later, the participants were married.

One evening, Mandy described Arthur Aron’s study to a university acquaintance. He proposed that they put the questions to the test. And they promptly fell in love!

Mandy went on to write an article about her experience for The New York Times. Since then, she has received endless calls and emails from people who all want to know one thing: Are Mandy and her university acquaintance still together? And the answer is that they are.

This may seem like the happy ending that we’re all hoping for. But what Mandy learned from this incredible experience is that there is no happy ending. There is no ending.

Falling in love is the easy part. The challenge lies in the decision to continue loving each other through the good and the difficult times. The hard part is to allow yourself be vulnerable and to give your heart to someone who may or may not choose to love you back.

These are the parts of love that many single people forget about when we crave a relationship. We want the smiles and the glances, the cuddles and the kisses, the electricity of attraction and the rush of romance.

However, closeness with a partner can really trigger you and bring all your issues to the surface. The choice then is to succumb to the temptation to close your heart and retreat (or defend) or you can deal with these issues and expand, both as a human being and as a couple.

It’s exciting and scary to open your heart to another human being. Being loved can make you feel blissful and secure one moment and out of control the next.

life coach kildare

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Today, I told another friend about all of this. She excitedly suggested that we ask one another the 36 questions. “Imagine if we fell in love,” she laughed.

My friend and I answered all 36 of Arthur Aron’s questions. The questions encouraged us to share our life stories, embarrassing incidents, favourite memories, fears, problems and dreams. We were also invited to tell each other what we liked about one another.

Did we fall in love? I can honestly say that my heart was bursting by the end of the exercise. In truth, my friend and I already love one another.

However, this exercise highlighted how much we have in common and how much we value our friendship. Being let into my friend’s life in this way deepened my love for her. Answering these questions also reminded me of how far I’ve come, how great my life is and how wonderful I am.

How do a series of questions make people fall in love? I believe that these questions inspire you to share yourself with another human being openly and honestly. This vulnerability allows someone to get to know the real you. And this can greatly speed up the falling in love process.

I’d definitely recommend completing this exercise, preferably with someone dishy. It may just make you fall in love – with your friend, your partner, or an attractive stranger. It may also make you fall in love with your journey, with your life, and with you, the real you.

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Just Because.

As you know, I recently injured myself while exercising. What I neglected to mention was that, prior to this, I’d regularly been getting sudden pains in my head.

At the time, it struck me that I probably needed to take it easy but I just couldn’t stop. I was always on the go and I was exercising more than ever. I felt tired a lot but adrenaline was fuelling me and I thought I was doing great.

When I hurt my Achilles tendon, I was forced to slow down. Interestingly, the pains in my head disappeared immediately.

I learnt a lot from the whole episode. I recognised the need for more balance in my life. It also brought home for me the fact that I had to be able to feel good about myself regardless of what I was doing or how I looked.

I realised that it’s all in my head anyway. I could feel good one day and shitty the next. Nothing external had changed, which perfectly proved my point.

However, there’s a difference between knowing something and feeling something. So when the physiotherapist gave me license to return to exercise, I did so that very evening.

The following morning, I was dismayed to discover that the Achilles on my other foot was paining me. Yet again, I had to resort to limping.

An acupuncturist advised me to lay off exercise for a week. I needed rest. My body, in all its intelligence, had created the pain that was making it impossible to do anything but rest.

Though I would never consciously ask for pain as a learning aid, I have learnt a very important lesson from all this. I’ve been doing things in order to feel good. I’ve also been doing things to avoid feeling bad.

Of course, it’s sensible to practise healthy behaviours that accentuate the good and eliminate the bad but it’s also worth remembering that it’s best not to rely too heavily on external routes to happiness.

Also, balance is key. Interesting how both my Achilles were acting up as, without the Achilles, it’s very hard to achieve balance.

Exercise is great. Healthy eating is wonderful. Working hard and taking action is commendable. Achieving success is admirable. But leaning too far in any one direction will upset the balance and, sooner or later, you’ll topple over and hurt yourself.

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I clearly need to listen to my body when it’s tired or sore. Replacing one gym session with a walk in nature would be a good idea. I deserve to take a rest.

And so those deeper issues of self-worth, self-love and self-acceptance make themselves known. I feel good about myself when I’m busy, when I’m doing and achieving. I feel good in my body when I’m exercising and eating healthily.

And I feel bad when I’m not doing all these things. I feel unworthy of love and care and acceptance. Or at least that’s how it’s always been. Until now.

Of course, I knew I should be confident anyway. I knew I was great. I knew I deserved love and care and acceptance. But now I feel it.

The other night, I asked for a sign in my dreams to show me what I need to see in order to heal. I dreamt that I called into my parents’ house to collect a couple of things.

Nobody was home. Minutes later, my parents returned. I overheard my father sniggering to my mother: “Sharon probably came here so she could sleep during the day.” My mother laughed and agreed.

An energy rose up in me. I was about to ignore it but I decided I wanted to stand up for myself. I told my parents that they should respect me even if I was sleeping during the day.

That afternoon, the meaning of the dream dawned on me. The dream was all about me. My body had been crying out for rest but I hadn’t respected it enough to listen to its wisdom. I had ignored it and pushed it even further.

Until it decided to give me a taste of my own medicine. It injured me so that I could finally heal a deep trauma.

In its intelligence, it had injured my Achilles heels. My weakness. How I always strive for perfection just so I can give myself permission to feel good about myself.

This morning, I told my Life Coach that I need to love myself no matter what before I attract in a partner. He said that some man will be lucky to have me. All of me.

He told me that I’m already perfect. My “imperfections” are what are making me vulnerable. My vulnerability is pushing me to grow. And that growth is leading me to greatness. Which doesn’t take away from my present greatness.

So I’m listening to my body. I’m resting. I’m taking a break from high intensity exercise. I’m acknowledging my greatness. I’m believing that I deserve love and care and acceptance. And I’m feeling good just because.

life coach kildare

Flaws

After posting Wednesday’s blog, two people very close to me suggested that I could be more confident. Having made a list of the qualities I’d like in a romantic partner, I’d asked myself if I possessed these desired attributes. And I’d acknowledged that there were a few things I needed to look at.

However, I’d zoned in on the fact that I could be a better communicator. I’d actually thought I was doing quite well in the confidence arena.

But in the last few days, two people have remarked on my confidence. They’ve done it because they want the best for me. They believe that I’ve a lot to offer and a lot to be proud of.

One of these people asked me if there’s a possibility that I’m going for men who are unavailable. I reflected on my most recent crushes. Perhaps she has a point. The men I fancy are usually not right for me, they wouldn’t be good for me, or they have girlfriends.

If I want to be in a relationship, why would I lust after unavailable men? Unconsciously, perhaps I don’t really want to be in a relationship. I decided to tap on the issue.

[For more on tapping (or Emotional Freedom Technique), click here: http://www.thetappingsolution.com]

As I tapped, something interesting revealed itself. I don’t allow myself to get too close to men because there are certain parts of myself that I don’t like. And there’s only so long that I can keep those parts hidden. I’d even done quite a good job of hiding them from myself.

Yes, I have a lot to be confident about. And yes, I’m much more confident than ever before. There are times when I get it, when I genuinely love life, when I have fun and I’m in the flow.

But I’m still placing conditions on my self-love. I have to look a certain way and I have to be doing certain things. I can’t just love me for me.

Usually when I feel unloving towards myself, I retreat. I don’t want to go out or see people. Yesterday, I decided to do things differently.

I opened up to a friend. I confessed that I feel sad that I’m not allowing myself to get close to a man because of these conditions. I told her that I feel upset that I’m not loving myself unconditionally.

She advised me to love myself, including the part that isn’t loving myself. But I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know if I can.

I want to. I’m sick of this issue raising its ugly head over and over again. But I still don’t know how I can love myself anyway.

I know I’m resisting reality. I am the way I am. I also know that I can’t love somebody unconditionally when I can’t do the same for me. And I know I can’t expect someone to love me unconditionally when I can’t do it for myself.

Maybe bringing this to the surface will help. I did feel better for having shared my deepest darkness with someone who sees and encourages my light.

I know I’ll get there eventually. I’ll be okay. I’ll be more than okay. One day, I’ll break down those barriers and love myself unconditionally. Imagine how life will be then…

But for now, I give up. Not in a feeling-sorry-for-myself, life-isn’t-worth-it kind of way. But in a I-just-don’t-have-the-solution-right-now kind of way.

Today, I walk alone down a beautiful country road. I put my iPod into shuffle and enjoy the music.

The warmth of the sun settles on my skin like the softest blanket. Field chamomile makes me smile. Lush leaves reach out to something that I can’t yet see. And this song starts to play at just the right moment.

Judge Not

The neighbours who wake you at 7am on a Sunday after a drink-fuelled Saturday night. The friend/family member/love interest who hasn’t replied to your message. The person who’s pissed you off or who’s pissed off with you. Social media’s knack for igniting envy as you scroll through everyone else’s world trips, dream jobs, perfect relationships, new homes and other Instagrammed milestones and achievements, while you spend the entire day in your dressing gown, watching movies and grazing on junk food instead of working on that assignment, working out, or even just working on being a social, functioning member of the human race.

If only everyone and everything would just cooperate. Then you could finally be okay.

You believe that the source of your peace, happiness, love and success is outside of you. You hold out hope that there’s one special person who will complete you. That contract will give you security. The money will bestow upon you peace of mind. As soon as you move house, you’ll achieve serenity. The job promotion will make you feel successful and worthy of approval.

All you yearn for is happiness. Peace. Love. You judge everything outside of you for its ability to give or rob you of these commodities. And you judge every feeling inside of you as lack or confirmation of these things. But it is these judgements and labels that cause you to swing from joy to suffering. And it can be scary how quickly and easily this can happen.

When you judge how you’re feeling, you begin to battle against or struggle to hold on to the feeling, or what you perceive to be the cause of that feeling. And it is this clutching and resistance that heightens the suffering and keeps you in its stronghold.

It is in accepting the thought, the feeling or the situation that unhooks the attachment. And giving yourself love and compassion allows you to be present with whatever arises. You don’t need to get rid of the emotion in order to feel better. Allow it to surface. Notice it. Let it go. And love yourself throughout.

Peace and love come from within you. Nothing anyone else does or doesn’t do can make you feel these things. Nor can they take them away. You are responsible and you have nobody to blame, including yourself. Bring awareness to what is, accept it, give yourself love and compassion. And with grace and gratitude, keep breathing…

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Broken Windows

Since injuring my back at the gym on Sunday, I’ve had to take it easy. This means not doing my usual workout routine. And it’s been hard. I joined the gym in January and, while I signed up because I enjoy exercising and sweating and being healthy, I’ve also delighted in toning up, wearing tighter outfits and having people tell me that I look amazing. Who wouldn’t, right?

Part of me knew that I shouldn’t put too much value on my physical appearance. It’s dangerous attaching how good you’re feeling to something so transient. And another part of me told myself to relish it while it lasted. Which may also be saying something about an unconscious belief that good things don’t last very long. But that’s another day’s work (or blog post).

So, I haven’t been able to hit the gym this week and I noticed my mood dipping a little. I started wearing looser clothing as though I’d gained weight in just a few days. Another reason for feeling out of sorts was that I’d been, quite literally, stopped in my tracks. I had to accept the situation and understand that these things happen for a reason. There was a learning here somewhere (lots of lessons, in fact) if I were to cease feeling sorry for myself long enough to go looking.

Gretchen Rubin writes about the “broken windows theory” of policing, which holds that when a society tolerates minor crimes such as broken windows, graffiti and drinking in public, people are more likely to commit more serious crimes. Rubin suggests that this can also be true on a personal level. These are the signs of disorder that make you feel out of control and overwhelmed. For me, they are not leaving the house all day, not getting my class preparation done and not exercising. Rubin says that enforcing small signs of order makes us feel more in control and happier.

The theory makes sense and it’s great to get things done and to look after yourself. However, this does not mean being rigid. Sometimes, we have to let go of control or we’ll end up miserable. Life happens. We cannot base our happiness on how we think we should look or on how much exercise we feel we should be getting. If we have too many “broken windows” and those shattered panes are destroying our inner peace, we need to look at building the inner peace and self-love and to hell with the windows for a while.

This week, I’ve been watching TV series GirlsThe main character is a 24-year-old writer who’s carrying a bit of extra weight. She gets lots of men and struts around naked. The more I’m watching, the more I’m used to seeing a fleshier actress. This goes to show that the more exposed we are to skinny celebrities, the more we believe that this is the way we all should look. It’s refreshing to watch a show where the characters’ appearances are a little more normal. Even the sexiest female character has a bit of belly and often doesn’t wear a scrap of makeup. And she’s still a beauty. A natural one.

In one of the episodes, leading lady Hannah admits that she’s just like everyone else, that she wants to be happy. That she feels alone. And that she’d been trying to control the way things happened and how she was feeling. Isn’t that why we do what we do in life? To feel happier, less alone and more in control? Why we diet and exercise? Why we purchase new clothes and cut our hair? Why we study for exams and work? Why we save money and buy houses? Why we search for partners and start families?

But beneath the need for happiness, connection and control is a longing for love. And where better to begin than with yourself? Just because. No only-whens and only-ifs. Unconditional love. If you had that, you wouldn’t need to do anything, have anything or control anything. It wouldn’t disappear as soon as your job or relationship ended. It wouldn’t crumble when you gained weight or grew older. It wouldn’t elude you until you had a house and a successful career. It would be a part of you always. It is you. You’ve just forgotten. It’s already there. And it strengthens with use. Today, instead of going to the gym, I choose to exercise my unconditional love. It’s tougher than any workout but the reward makes it so worthwhile.

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