Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Authentic Self and a Life of Love

Our purpose in this life is to grow into our fullest self. Your purpose is to be wholly you. No one else can do it. This is for you alone. The journey of growth in this is one of discovery, of who we truly are, what we desire, what our gifts are, how to love.

This isn’t a short course. It isn’t “Nine Days to the Authentic You!” No, this journey of discovery and self-fulfillment takes a lifetime. And it is full of suffering. I’m sorry, but it just IS. We have traumatic experiences, conflicts, wounds from childhood and beyond. The more we run away from the pain, the more painful it becomes. When we begin to face our wounds, they somehow lose their power over our minds.

This is the thing: truth frees us.

We are on a spiritual journey. It is a journey of discovery and the country we explore is within. There is wonder there, and fear and doubt, beauty, power, and awe. When we journey in the light, our way can seem easy. The deep ravines, however, can seem endless and filled with hazards. Our work, on this journey, is to allow the light to shine into even the darkest places within our own souls.
Marianne Williamson says that “as we open our hearts more and more, we’re moved in the directions in which we’re supposed to go. Our gifts well up inside us and extend of their own accord. We accomplish effortlessly.” My experience of this is that it is true. As my heart opens, I am guided. As I relinquish the need to control, as I live into my natural gifts, my life unfolds. This extends to every area of my life.

I tend to “hit bottom” when I am in a cycle of trying desperately to figure things out. In the fall of 2012, I was approaching the end of my job as a communicator, the result of a downsize. I’d been interviewing for positions but nothing was panning out. With two young men dependent on me, I was beginning to feel overwhelmed as the end of the year, and the end of my salaried position, approached.

My mother had died the autumn before, my dating life was getting no traction, my job was ending, and I didn’t know what to do. I was busy, busy with a job search and full of fear. One Friday I felt like I’d hit a wall. I thought, “I’ve got nothing.” I felt out of resources, out of time, out of luck. So I gave up. Completely. And I thought, “I’m going to go with that. I’m going with I’ve got nothing.”

I spent the weekend at Total Surrender Bootcamp. That’s what I called it. I started Friday and went straight through to Sunday. No socializing, no job hunting. I meditated, journaled, read Thom Rutledge’s amazing book, “Embracing Fear,” went hiking, and took naps. I worked on my fears. One of the exercises in that book is making lists of fears. Here are some things I listed as fears:
Emotional insecurity
Financial insecurity
Being unlovable
Being alone
Vulnerable in my writing
Poverty and debt

All pretty normal fears. Some realistic, some not so much. And contradictory. I’m both afraid of intimacy and of being alone!

I explored the dark caves of my heart during that weekend. By Sunday, I was filled with joy, hiking, and singing. None of my material circumstances had changed. But my interior world was transformed. Two months later, I started my own business doing spiritual coaching and intuitive guidance, writing, and teaching. I released my fears through a process of facing them and stepped into myself and I have a sense of fulfillment I’ve never experienced before.

The ongoing work with fear continues, and with it, my claiming myself in deeper and richer ways.

We spend so much time trying to figure things out. With our anxiety driving us, we think, “what am I to DO?” “Who am I meant to be?” And our minds drive us on, spinning and spinning.

When I released my mind from the need to figure out, when I completely surrendered to the wonder of “I don’t know” and “I’ve got nothing,” it was then that I began to step forward into a richer, freer life.

In addition to fear, another thing that holds us back from claiming ourselves is the need to take care of everyone else. This brings up the topic of service. Being of service to others is a wonderful thing and relates to our life purpose. But I feel strongly that service is not our life purpose. When we live as ourselves, fully who we are meant to be, service flows naturally. We don’t have to work at it or seek it out or try. Our natural gifts and talents flow, love flows and we are of service in being who we are. I have a friend who recently said to me, “I really feel that, up until now, I’ve been playing a supportive role in my own life.” This is someone who is of great service to others but for a long time, in doing everything for everyone else, he lost himself.

We just don’t have to work that hard. When we live into ourselves, our presence is an act of service.

This ultimately is about choosing ourselves. This may sound selfish to some, but it’s the only way to really come alive. Shakespeare’s “to thine own self be true” is a famous quote on this topic and widely used in the 12 step community. But the entire quote is enlightening.

It’s from Hamlet and spoken by Polonius:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

This living into oneself, leads to service of others but it also leads to true intimacy in relationships. “Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Others have an opportunity to love us for who we truly are. When we live fully into our inner truth, we end the need to do for others the things they can do for themselves. We end resentments. We learn the beauty of “NO.” We offer our true selves and nothing more. When we are true to ourselves we find that we live from a place of love. False expectations end. Obligation ends. Commitments become lighter. We find safety in vulnerability because when we show who we are and are received with kindness, we build a true relationship. When we are not received with kindness, we find the courage to choose differently.

I want to note here that vulnerability is not the same as Too Much Information. Vulnerability does not mean complete transparency with everyone. Vulnerability means boldly choosing what we share and do not share. This power of choice is profoundly different from hiding something or secret keeping.

When we live more in our own truth, we find the courage to be. This doesn’t mean we are no longer afraid.

Live your truth; watch your joy grow, as will your relationships and experiences. 

© 2014 Janet Tuck

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Releasing the Need to be Right

You’re on a spiritual journey. You can’t mess it up.
-Janet Tuck

Most of you know that I’m highly intuitive. When I work with someone, “seeing” information on their behalf, I just love it when they call me later declaring, “You know that thing you told me? You were RIGHT about that!” I love it when that happens.

But my need to be right is also a major stumbling block. My need to be right disconnects me from others and from myself. It goes straight to my need to control every aspect of my life and when I’m there, in control overdrive, there is no growth or joy happening.

This goes for both small issues and the larger ones. Fear of being wrong keeps me stuck. So I become vigilant about being right. And what I am coming to believe is this: none of it matters. Being right doesn’t, getting it right doesn’t, doing it right doesn’t. What does matter is being kind to myself and to others and the rest of it just does not matter.

Not long ago a friend was going through a divorce. Originally from North Carolina, she’d lived in California for 20 years and was seeking employment back east so she could be near her family. She’d been offered a position in Virginia, a comfortable drive from her family but was wrestling with the decision, wondering if she could find something closer, wanting to make the right choice. I can imagine her making lists of potential issues, hoping to anticipate them and prevent them from happening. I shared with her the idea that she’s on a spiritual journey and she couldn’t really mess it up. She found tremendous relief in that idea. And she made the move to Virginia. We have the power to allow our lives to unfold in an easier manner, when we end trying to figure everything out perfectly.

This ability to step back and look at the bigger picture can be a great relief. We get so caught up in trying to figure out every eventuality, anticipate what may happen, always do the right thing, spend time striving and striving and striving to be right, that we forget. We forget that we don’t really have all that control over much of anything.

I think if I can just get it right…and it is really just another way I am seeking to control things. I really love to do this with relationships. If I have a misunderstanding with someone, my go-to frame of mind is wanting to get in there and convince them of my perspective. I am the Queen of the mind conversation. I’ll roll out point after point, making my case. And there is no listening involved here. I am hugging close my own need to be right and fantasizing about how I can get the other person to do, be, or think a certain way so that I can be comfortable. It is all me, me, me. When I insist on being right, love has no space.

The thing is, though, that if I’m on a spiritual journey, so is the other person involved here. And I don’t know what their journey is about. And it’s none of my business. If they are on a spiritual journey, it’s not my job to “get them” to do, be, or think anything, no matter how “right” I think I am.

A couple of years ago I was talking with someone I know about the wonders of EMDR therapy. (And if you don’t know about it and have had any kind of trauma, please check it out: The woman I was speaking with had done EMDR therapy, with good results. I said something about my eyes moving during the therapy and she declared that her eyes hadn’t moved. To which I replied, “Well, they had to because that is how it works.” She very calmly noted that her eyes hadn’t moved and that was the end of the conversation.

Only it wasn’t. Not in my head. Being the Queen of mind conversation, I continued where we’d left off, noting that the E and the M in EMDR stand for EYE MOVEMENT! Her eyes HAD to be moving. I just knew I was right.

And then, I was sick of myself. What difference did it make? She’d had the therapy and found it helpful. I’d done it and it had transformed me. Why was I making such a big deal out of it? It didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if I’m right or not. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Only kindness matters. Kindness to myself, kindness toward others.

Being right doesn’t make me a better person, smarter, safer, kinder, or more effective. And my need to be right makes me none of those things.
Giving up the need to be right frees me to be present for my life. It frees me to listen. It frees me to understand and enjoy others, to share their experience, and beauty, and spiritual growth. They can’t be vulnerable with me to share that if I need to be right. My need to be right shuts down all that shining connection.

Deepak Chopra says that “everyone’s spiritual path is perfect.” Wherever a person is, whatever they are feeling, thinking, or experiencing is just as it should be in that moment. I don’t need to straighten anyone out or prove how right I am. All I need do is make room for them and for their experience.
If I don’t like what they are bringing to the table, I have the power to choose whether or not I expose myself to it. But I don’t need to show them or explain to them how right I am. My true “rightness” comes from showing up for my own experience: for the joy, peace, pain, sorrow, or even my own need to be right. Then I’m free to explore what it’s really about, this need to be right, and to release it.

The deep release of “rightness” makes room for what is. It is a deep surrender to truth. The truth of who you are. And it makes room for the fullness of others. This surrender allows for your fullness and all the accompanying hopes and dreams to rush in. It welcomes abundance, because you, at your core, are pure abundance. That is what happens when we release our need to be “right” and welcome who we are.

© 2014 Janet Tuck

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Forgiveness as an act of self-love

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” Marianne Williamson

I’d like to propose that forgiveness is a radical act of self-love. The act of forgiveness has very little to do with the person we forgive (unless it is ones self, and that is a whole topic for another post) and everything to do with finding personal freedom. In order to truly forgive another, we must love ourselves enough to understand how very much we deserve the freedom that comes with forgiving. It isn’t about what it does for the other person. It’s about what it does for us.

I can’t find a better illustration for this than the essay by Charles M. Blow called “Up from Pain.” It is an excerpt from his memoir Fire Shut Up in my Bones and can be found in the September 19 issue of the New York Times.

This struck a nerve with me, in a deep, deep place, because his story of childhood abuse by a trusted relative is so familiar to me. Just reading this brought back the terror and that hard knot of resentment in the depths of my gut, and the suspicion that forgiving someone something so vile is tantamount to saying, “it’s okay, what you did to me.”

The truth is that refusing to forgive keeps us stuck. Kept me stuck. It’s like Charles Blow says, “I couldn’t continue to live my life through the eyes of a seven year old boy.”

By withholding forgiveness, we hold onto resentment and this keeps us stuck wholly in the past. The person we resent has already acted, it is in the past. By withholding release, withholding forgiveness, we allow the perpetrator to act, again and again, replaying events in our minds, nursing our hurt, stoking resentment, re-wounding ourselves. We repeatedly hand over the power to the one who wronged us. We continue to give over our power, even if it is only in the mind.

Don Miguel Ruiz, in his book The Mastery of Love, addresses this issue. He writes:
You must forgive those who hurt you, even if whatever they did to you is unforgivable in your mind. You will forgive them not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because you don’t want to suffer and hurt yourself every time you remember what they did to you. It doesn’t matter what others did to you, you are going to forgive them because you don’t want to feel sick all the time. Forgiveness is for your own mental healing. You will forgive because you feel compassion for yourself. Forgiveness is an act of self-love. Pg. 169-170.

Forgiveness is an act of self-love. Can you find the courage to love yourself enough to stop the re-wounding; to stop handing over your power? I do not have the power to undo the past. I do have the power to choose to stop feeling sick all the time, to stop the endless replay loop, to choose to let go through the power of forgiveness.
For me, this was a long process. It took me, once I made up my mind to pursue forgiveness of the man who molested me, a few years to get there. With my ex-husband, it was easier, simply because I’d had more personal power to begin with in that situation. One thing that helped in each case was the practice of praying for them. A suggestion I received was to pray that my “difficult person,” as Gordon Peerman so delicately puts it, receive everything which I longed for myself. Health, financial stability, healthy relationships, peace of mind. Pray for each of these men, individually, that they might have these things. OOOOh. It was hard work. I would pray, but there, lurking in the back of my mind was the secret wish that, especially my childhood tormentor, would have disastrous relationships and financial ruin. But I kept at it. And it works. There came a time when I could release this prayer to God with all sincerity. And that was a great relief! The relief came when I began to see, to truly understand, the kind of torment a person has to be in to act out the way he had. Enter compassion. It is the pathway to forgiveness, which is the pathway to transformation.

In her book about A Course in Miracles, called A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson has a wonderful section on forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the key to inner peace because it is the mental technique by which our thoughts are transformed from fear to love. Our perceptions of other people often become a battleground between the ego’s desire to judge and the Holy Spirit’s desire to accept people as they are. The ego is the great fault-finder. It seeks out the faults in ourselves and others. The Holy Spirit seeks out our innocence. He sees all of us as we really are, and since we are the perfect creations of God, He loves what He sees. The places in our personality where we tend to deviate from love are not our faults, but our wounds. God doesn’t want to punish us, but to heal us. And that is how He wishes us to view the wounds in other people.
Forgiveness is “selective remembering”—a conscious decision to focus on love and let the rest go.

This idea of the ego’s desire to judge is what truly keeps us stuck. It’s what kept me stuck. I wanted my childhood tormentor to be pure evil, making me pure good. But the truth is that he was acting from his own hellish compulsion. His pain is not something I want or need to understand. It simply is a part of the equation. His need to control me wasn’t about me. It was about his feeling out of control, and the only solution he could find was to control others. It wasn’t about me. I just happened to be convenient. Once I understood THAT, it was much easier to forgive. His actions weren’t personal. My resentment was. It was personal to me. It was hurting me. This truth, once I discovered it, was the key to surrender and release. My ego could, in this, let go and I began to see the wound that was driving the whole situation. “God doesn’t want to punish us, but to heal us.” This is true for me, and it is true for my abuser.

Once I came to understand much of this, a process that took time, I understood the relief I could find in Forgiving.

And I encourage you. To love yourself.

Love yourself enough to claim freedom from old wounds, past hurts, long-gone betrayals. Love yourself enough to no longer allow the person who hurt you to have the power to continue to hurt you. Love yourself enough to forgive the other their own wounds, their anger, the hell they are living in. Forgiving someone who has hurt you doesn’t mean that what they did is okay. It just means that you love yourself enough to be free from the burden they placed upon you in the first place. Love yourself enough to choose freedom.
© 2014 Janet Tuck

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tend Your Garden

The world can be overwhelming. Just the management of our lives: keeping gas in the car, people fed, our jobs attended to, bills paid, taxes in, get to the doctor, mow the grass, rake the leaves, change the oil, the dentist, am I consuming enough Omega-3’s. And if that weren’t enough, we’ve got ISIS beheading people, Ebola terrifying people, Russia threatening, the environment deteriorating, pervasive sexual assault, and mean-spirited public discourse. Take a glance at all of this at once and it is a wonder any of us get out of bed in the morning. We are left feeling powerless. Where do we even begin? The feeling of powerlessness can be so huge that we end up doing nothing, further contributing to our feelings of being disempowered.

So what can we do? Marianne Williamson writes that “we’re all assigned a piece of the garden, a corner of the universe that is ours to transform. Our corner of the universe is our own life—our relationships, our home, our work, our current circumstances—exactly as they are.”

Where do we begin to tend our garden patch?

It’s always an inside job. If peace begins with me, it must begin in my own heart and mind. The thoughts I think matter. If I get caught up in stewing about what an egomaniac Vladimir Putin is, how like Hitler he seems, how narrow and narcissistic, I am contributing to the atmosphere of fear and distrust already polluting the world. I am living in fear, radiating it out into the larger world, disturbing the peace, so to speak. But if, instead, I choose to pray for and shine the light on Putin and on the Russian people, I contribute to the solution, adding to the healing of the world. Then, I’m radiating light and love all around. Perhaps it doesn’t change Vladimir’s mind today but I’m not living in fear and my loved ones aren’t exposed to my fear. I’ve changed something by tending my own little garden patch.

Yes, we are that powerful. I often encourage people to shine the pure, white light of love on others. This is a simple practice of visualizing a great column of light, pouring down over the head and body, around and through, the person. It actually does something, both when we receive this light for ourselves and when we shine it upon others. We do have the power to intervene, if we will but do it.
Transformation comes closer to home than Russia, too. We bring peace into our homes and workplaces when we focus on ourselves, our purpose, our business. When we relinquish the need to control, all kinds of magic is unleashed. Just think about the idea of transformation as tending the garden. We dig, we weed, we water. But the seeds must do the work.

Releasing the need to control others is a big part of this. One of my sons is a smoker. I’ve always hated smoking and educated my children from an early age about the health consequences of smoking. This is a kid who knows his stuff. And has since a small child. When he was four or five, I was taking both boys to the pediatrician’s office. There were three people standing outside the office building, workers on a smoke break, and he marched up to them and started explaining to them why they shouldn’t smoke. He knows. And yet he smokes. And I had to let that go. He has all the information he needs. He is making a choice and at this point it is none of my business. My choice is to not sacrifice my peace of mind by worrying about my son’s choice.

A friend of mine sent me this quote not long ago: “Worry is a prayer for chaos.” I love that. Worry is a prayer for chaos. If I choose to worry about my son smoking (and I am good at this), I will spin out an alternate story line that goes something like this: He’ll smoke for years, develop lung disease, throat disease,  and gum disease, along with chronic sinus issues. After I spin out the details of that story (think lots of phlegm and cancer), my anxiety level will grow to such a degree that I will start looking for relief. In my search to get comfortable, I’ll start nagging him, mentioning his smoking every time I see him, which will (spinning out the story again here) affect our relationship, we’ll become alienated, he’ll avoid me, start using other substances, end up homeless and dead. Even if none of these things happen, I have plenty of chaos going on between my ears and am creating my own suffering.

Best to leave him alone. And leave me alone. I don’t have to DO anything. I shine the light on him each morning and go about my business. Which is to tend my garden today.

The older I get the less I think I can do. What I mean by this is that I am capable of many things, I write, I work with clients, I teach, I tend my home, nurture friendships, love people. But I used to think I could DO stuff. Like fix things. Fix things for people. I got way too much into other’s business. I used to offer advice. Or “intervene” on other people’s behalf. Do stuff like pay someone’s electric bill for them when they were struggling. Or feed people. Or come up with solutions (that they didn’t ask for) to problems. I tend to not DO stuff now. I like the idea of bearing witness. I listen. Sometimes I have to coach myself to listen, to shut up and just listen. I really understand problems but I don’t need to solve any of them. And in this quiet restraint, I allow others’ to have their own journey, instead of imposing my version of their journey upon them. I allow others to weed their garden. I’ve plenty of weeds of my own to work on.

I do want to say a little bit about energy here. We live by the energy we allow in. If I meditate, if I get outside, my spiritual energy will be more reliable, abundant and powerful than if I do not do these things. I am more likely to worry my way to chaos if I am not attentive to my own spiritual needs. This is a big part of tending my garden. I’ve got to let the light shine on it if I am to be able to do the tending. This love energy is a thing. When we sit in meditation together, I feel energy moving around and through us. It is the energy of divine love, available to all of us, if we will but pause and allow it in. This energy calms and heals us. It is the source of peace of mind and heart that I’ve been talking about tonight. It is real. The only thing that is, actually. So we turn first to it, the source of love, when we begin to tend our garden. The garden of our heart. The garden of our mind.

© 2014 Janet Tuck

Friday, October 24, 2014

Follow your heart

Yesterday morning I received a call from a friend who was wrestling with a decision. She explained the situation and my first, instinctive sense about it was, "she already knows what to do but isn't trusting herself." When I expressed this to my friend, she confirmed it.

And I've run across this several times in the last few weeks, people doubting themselves. Why do we do this?

This self-doubt is a fear-driven thing. We fear making a mistake. We fear being wrong. We fear vulnerability. We fear not being good enough.

And the truth is the opposite of this. Whatever you are, at any given moment, you are enough. Our lives are filled with endless opportunities to learn and to create. What we call "mistakes" or "wrong" are truly opportunities. When we fear we are lacking, we are blocking our true selves from blossoming.

We fill our minds with things we should or shouldn't be so much so that we stop ourselves from becoming.

How do we move past these fears? By noticing our true desires, our true longing, our true self. What brings you pleasure? What are you good at? When do you feel afraid? Whatever pleases you, whatever you are good at, whatever interests you, whatever frightens you, that is who YOU are. Learn about yourself. Receive the truth inside of you. Follow your heart.

If you'd like help with this, I'm available. You can book a session with me and we can get started together.

© 2014 Janet Tuck