see your truth, know your truth, live your truth: acceptance & letting go

@ Weston Nurseries of Hopkinton, MA ~ Photo by Sofia Reddy ~ To me this statue symbolizes the introspective work we must do to understand and live our truth. The plants sprouting from the head symbolize the growth we experience when we seek to understand and accept our own reality.

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”  – J.K. Rowling

Reflection:

I was doing the warrior pose in yoga class when our teacher uttered the words “see the truth, know the truth.” I found myself then silently uttering the phrase “and live your truth.” This was several years ago at the beautiful grounds of the Yoga at the Ashram in Millis, MA. I was going through an existential crisis at the time and felt overwhelmed by several stressful chain of events including my husband’s illness and job loss coupled with the responsibilities of a demanding job and raising a young child. I was at a loss and yoga practice helped me to feel grounded, stable and strong. I went to some Kundalini yoga classes too, which involve a lot of coordinated body movements and intensive breath work. It was so cleansing and renewing. It was an amazing experience and I feel grateful to the teachers who showed me how to safely work through all my past and present adversities.

J.K. Rowling‘s quote really resonated with me because she speaks to the most important steps of the healing and recovery process – understanding and acceptance. Recovery is a lifetime endeavor and we are always (in my opinion) healing from various types of losses, stressful experiences or maybe even traumatic events. One does not need to have a mental health diagnosis to benefit from healing from various difficult and painful life experiences. This is part of our shared journey as human beings living on this beautiful planet.

One of the important lessons in all my years of therapy (both as a therapist and as a client) is the practice of acceptance and letting go. Marsha Linehan who created the dialectical behavior therapy program for clients experiencing difficulty with emotion regulation teaches what’s called “radical acceptance.” There is also a book by Tara Brach, meditation teacher and Buddhist Psychologist, entitled “Radical Acceptance” that speaks poignantly to this concept. It’s about accepting this moment, this reality, just as it is, without harsh judgment towards self, other or the experience. It involves breathing and letting go, over and over and over again. It involves self-forgiveness and forgiveness of anyone who you have experienced as hurting you in any way, whether covertly or overtly. It involves being present in mind, body and soul and allowing every single feeling you are experiencing to safely run its course without fighting, resisting, denying, avoiding or blaming.

I love how Brené Brown, social worker, researcher and story teller, explains the function that blaming serves -“it’s a way to discharge unwanted negative emotion.” Blaming is a waste of time because it only takes you further from your truth and it is a way to distract from our own inner experiences. It also just fuels feelings of powerlessness because we can not change others, only ourselves. When we turn the focus inward then the difficult work of acceptance and letting go can begin. As Dr. Brené Brown says truth is never comfortable but it’s not a weakness. We can only grow from allowing ourselves to experience vulnerability, safely.

Guided self-reflection:

Take a moment now to say these words out loud at your own pace: With each breath in I breathe in acceptance and with each breath out I let go. I let go of what’s no longer needed. I let go of resentment, anger and blame. I let go of unrealistic expectations. I let go of the need to control others and focus on my self-care. I let go of what’s no longer serving me in the best, healthiest way possible. I let go, let go, let go.

With each breath in I breathe in love and acceptance. I breathe in forgiveness and hope. I breathe in encouragement and strength. I feel worthy and I belong. I breathe and sit. I sit silently and breathe. I accept myself – all of myself – just as I am in this very precious moment.

Today’s Practice:

Try practicing the mantra above for 20 minutes. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Play soothing music in the background or just allow silence. Put on a timer if it helps. Feel free to use your own words as they come to you. Repeat calming and soothing phrases that help you feel empowered and strong. Even if at first you are not sure you believe them, keep repeating them while breathing out any doubt, negativity, or false guilt. Let it all go. Life is happening in this very moment, and the only way to move forward is to let go, one breath at a time.

May your practice go well. May you access your inner strength and courage to live your truth. Many blessings to you and your loved ones, Sofia

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Holiday Meditation

Mercy Center, Burlingame, CA photo by Sofia Reddy

Mercy Center, Burlingame, CA photo by Sofia Reddy

Christmas is right around the corner! Whether you celebrate Christmas or another holiday, this guided meditation will help you to tune out the stressors of the holiday season and tune into what makes it special and meaningful for you. So, take a few minutes out of the busyness of the day to refocus on what really matters to you. Remember, a few minutes of down time now, will make you more energized and productive later. So find a comfortable place to sit down and close your eyes…Merry Christmas!

 

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Positive Challenge #3: Find happiness in the here and now.

Hershey Gardens, Hershey, PA Photo by Sofia Reddy

Hershey Gardens, Hershey, PA
Photo by Sofia Reddy

There was a woman I knew who was never satisfied. No matter how much wealth she accumulated or how many loving people she had in her life, she was never happy. This woman had difficulty with giving and receiving unconditional love. She always had a scowl on her face. She complained about anything and everything. Nothing was ever good enough. It got to the point where she alienated everyone around her and she created the lonely life she had always feared having. The most challenging part of trying to help her was that she refused to see that she had the power to change her life by changing her attitude and perception of what true happiness is about.

Happiness is not about material wealth or the number of achievements we have acquired. It’s not about wearing top designer fashions or obtaining approval from others. It’s not even about how many friends we have on Facebook and how many of them give us a thumbs up on our posts.

Happiness is always found within. When we love and accept ourselves unconditionally we can experience true happiness. It won’t matter how many material possessions we acquire or how many diplomas and awards we have hanging on our wall.

Most of my joyful memories involve spending quality time with my son and husband. When I conjure up images of shared experiences with loved ones, I feel joyful. In this moment, I can focus on what is happening, right now. I can breathe and notice my body taking in nourishing oxygen. I can choose to focus on joyful memories. It doesn’t mean I stuff painful ones, but I can simply notice and feel, without giving in to the impulse to numb or escape. I can be.

Being in the here and now, compassionately, is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself. It helps you explore what is going on in your mind and heart. It gives you insight and wisdom. You can discover who you are and what might be causing your feelings. You can then choose to respond in a loving way.

Today’s practice: Find a comfortable, quiet place, and sit or lie down. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Take 3 deep breaths, inhaling in through your nose, exhaling out through your mouth. As you exhale, notice the stress and tension melt from your body. Focus on your breathing. When negative thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them as such and let them go, as easily as they came. There is no need to focus on them.

After you have reached a place of calm, steady breathing take some time to acknowledge what brings you peace and happiness. What do you have in your life right now that brings you joy? Who are the people you trust and inspire you? How does it feel to focus on these thoughts?

When you’re timer goes off, take your time and get back into activity slowly. Now take this practice with you throughout your day.

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Self-care strategy #23: 3 tips to create a sanctuary from the work week

A pink lady slipper at Noanet Woodlands, Dover, MA

A pink lady slipper at Noanet Woodlands, Dover, MA photo by Sofia Reddy

Amazing things start to happen when you mentally and emotionally separate yourself from the stress of daily work life. If you’re like me, you probably spend an average of 40-50 hours per week working. Now add an average of 10 hours per week commuting, and you’ve spent about 60 hours out of your 112 wake hours per week working. You now have 52 hours left for the week. How do you use this time? After running errands, taking care of the house and kids, or any other obligations you have that doesn’t leave much time for decompressing or relaxing, does it? Every hour you commit to something is precious time and uses up your valuable resources (time and energy). No wonder many people I know, including myself, often feel tired and drained! We go back to work on Mondays wondering where the weekend went.

Your time is valuable. Use it wisely. Make every moment away from work and other obligations matter. Giver yourself the gift of time. Here are 3 tips to set healthy work/life boundaries:

  1. Set aside time on the weekend for yourself to do what you WANT to do, not just things you HAVE to do to. My favorite part of the weekend is going to my weekly acupuncture or yoga class, walking with a friend, or just getting up before everyone else does so I can work on my writing or read something fun. 
  2. Go on a day trip with your family and take lots of pictures. You don’t have to go far and you don’t have to spend a lot of money either. We love this time of year in New England. We find there’s always somewhere new to explore that’s just within driving distance. I always bring my camera so I can capture some of our finds, like the beautiful orchid featured here. This photo is from our hike at Noanet Woodlands in Dover, MA. It was a great day spent with good friends. We later had a picnic under the shade of a tree. It’s one of the highlights of my spring so far! Note: try to focus being fully present in the here and now when you’re on these excursions. Don’t think about the to do list waiting for you on Monday. It will get done!
  3. Think of an end of the day or work week ritual that will help you transition from work mode to personal life mode. After work I mentally tell myself I’ve “clocked” out and therefore I’m no longer being paid to think about work. If there’s something on my mind I write it down and note what action I want to take the next day or week about it. When I get in the car I leave work behind. There are some days that’s harder to do, but the more I practice, the better I get at it. My favorite thing to do now is listen to audio books. Friday night there’s a free wine tasting at our local wine shop with appetizers and good company. Think of something you can do that you look forward to at the end of the day or week.

What are some end of day/week rituals that you do? What’s the highlight of your weekend or time off from work? How are you with work/life boundaries? Would love to hear…

 

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Positive challenge #2: Take a 5-minute stress break. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

A moment of sanctuary in California

Step 1. Stop what you are doing. Step 2. Take a deep breath in letting your abdomen fill with nourishing oxygen, and exhale all that carbon dioxide out through your mouth. Notice the tension leaving every muscle of your body. Step 3. Repeat 3 times.

Notice how you feel? What sensations do you feel in your body? It’s important for us to take mindful breaks like this throughout the day. Taking deep breaths and releasing all the stress and tension with each exhale can refuel you throughout the day. Don’t forget to breathe!

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