Le’Go My Ego!

Despite the fact that I’m just four months shy of my 39th year, I have just begun my “path to love”. At times it seems both strange and frustrating to only now be on such a journey, but I try not to allow the idea of time to box me in. Better to have begun the journey, than to live a false life without really knowing, and experiencing, love in its purest form. Now, this “path to love” that I have started isn’t so much about finding an external source of love (a partner), but about falling in love with the Self (spirit) as it is referenced by Deepak Chopra. According to Chopra, the ego is at odds with the Self (spirit):

Ego is responsible for protecting your self-image; it creates the compartments where everything undesirable about you has been hidden. What blocks love is not the presence of these shadow energies but the division of the psyche that came about when your ego started building inner walls. Love is a flow, and walls keep the flow out (24).

If Chopra’s premise is true (that the ego battles with the Self), then my inability to experience love in its truest, most pure form, has been the result of my fated attempts at preserving my “fragile” ego—which in turn is the cause of my “emotional constipation”. That being said, it’s now time to “le’go my ego”!

As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, I started reading The Path To Love: Spiritual Strategies for Healing by best-selling author Deepak Chopra when a dear friend (Sunila) suggested I look into some of his videos on meditation. While in search of Chopra’s videos, I came across the before-mentioned book title and was immediately in awe of his prolific and profound words. Recently, while reading the chapter titled “The Spirit of Romance: Tender Courtship”, the following words from Chopra leveled me.

The exhilaration of falling in love is an escape from ego, its sense of threat, and its selfishness…the ego cannot do two things: it cannot abolish fear, since ego is founded on fear; and it cannot create love, since ego by definition shuts out love. The reason the ego and love are not compatible comes down to this: you cannot take your ego into the unknown, where love wants to lead. If you follow love, your life will become uncertain, and the ego craves certainty. You will have to surrender to another person, and the ego prizes its own will above anyone else’s. Love will make your feelings ambiguous, and the ego wants to feel the certainty of right and wrong. Many other experiences that cannot be comprehended by ego apply to love—a lover is confused, spontaneous, vulnerable, exposed, detached, carefree, wondrous, and ever new. Love’s journey would be terrifying if we didn’t have passion to give us courage—the blind courage of lovers, it is often called. It would be truer to call it the blind wisdom of lovers, because the ego’s certainty is an illusion. Uncertainty is the basis of life (115-116).

The ego is at war with the Self (spirit).

Fascinated by human behavior, I took my first psychology class as a sophomore at Denison University. I continued to take psychology classes and even considered a dual major in English and Psychology, but my love of literature and writing won out. A couple years after I had graduated with my B.A. the yearning for the field of psychology haunted me and I found myself in another institution of higher learning, Marshall University, simply taking psychology classes because of my curiosity with the subject matter. But let’s get back to this business of consciousness and the battle of the Self and ego.  In an effort to fully understand Chopra’s words, we must return to our notes from “Psychology 101” where many of us learned about the three parts of the human psyche, as defined by noted psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

Pen and Paper, Please: Time for Notes

First and foremost, in The Ego and ID, Sigmund Freud explains the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness—which are central to understanding his assessment of human personality (id, superego, and ego):

The term ‘conscious’ is to start with, a purely descriptive one, resting on a perception of the most direct and certain character. Experience shows, next, that a mental element (for instance, an idea) is not as a rule permanently conscious. On the contrary, a state of consciousness is characteristically very transitory; an idea that is conscious now is no longer so a moment later, although is can become so again under certain conditions that are easily brought about. We can say that it was latent, and by this we mean that it was capable of becoming conscious at any time. Or, if we say that it was unconscious, we are giving an equally correct description. Thus ‘unconscious’ in this sense of the word coincides with ‘latent and capable of becoming conscious’…we have two kinds of unconsciousness—that which is latent but capable of becoming conscious, and that which is repressed and not capable of becoming conscious in the ordinary way…That which is latent, and only unconscious in the descriptive and not in the dynamic sense, we call preconscious; the term unconscious we reserve for the dynamically unconscious repressed, so that we not have three terms, conscious (Cs), preconscious (Pcs), and unconscious (Ucs)… (Freud, 1927)

Yes, that is certainly a lot to ingest, but I am certain that Freud’s insights about human behavior, coupled with Chopra’s insights about love, will lead us to a better understanding of how many of us have blocked the flow of love in our lives.

“We have formulated the idea that in every individual there is a coherent organization of mental processes, which we will call his ego.” (Sigmund Freud)

 

Yes, Your Hand May Be Cramping; Suck It Up…More Notes (from Freud’s The Ego and The ID, 1927)

The Ego:

  • Includes consciousness
  • Situated nearest to the external world
  • Controls approaches to the external world; attempts to avoid negative societal consequences
  • Regulates constituent processes (decision-making component of our personality)
  • Goes to sleep at night; censors dreams
  • Represses (attempts to cut off certain trends in the mind—trends that stand in opposition to the ego)
  • Is also unconscious
  • Represents “reason” and “sanity”
  • Carries into action the wishes of the id
  • Operates from the “reality principle”

The Super-ego or Ego-ideal:

  • Less connected with consciousness; preconscious
  • Represents the internal world (of the id)
  • Mediator between the ego (rational) and id (impulsive)
  • Weighs values and morals
  • Controls id impulses
  • Works to “persuade” the ego to operate at a “higher” level of consciousness–moralistic

The Id:

  • Works on an unconscious level
  • Contains passions
  • Primitive
  • Instinctive
  • Impulsive and irrational
  • Seeks gratification
  • Operates on the “pleasure principle” (Freud, 1920)

Okay, now that we’ve taken our notes and have a more insightful understanding of Freud’s assessment of human behavior, here is one last piece of information—an illustration of these systems.

ego

Alas, let’s start to merge Freud’s ideas with those of Deepak Chopra. Let me remind you, Deepak Chopra insists that the ego is at war with the Self (spirit). Let me clarify the Self that Chopra speaks of. According to Vedic tradition, the Self is:

…not the everyday self with its thoughts, wishes, needs, and drives but a higher Self that is silent and eternal…In truth you are the Self, created from the same spirit that in infinite form is called God (12-14)

That being the premise we are working from, we have to understand what this ego is all about. According to Chopra, falling in love is about journeying into the unknown and that is a “scary” place for our rational mind (ego) to go. The unpredictable nature of love stands in contrast to the ego’s desire to reason and rationalize. The ego seeks to avoid pain and does so by weighing the id impulses against the superego’s understanding of societal values and morals. Love desires for us to surrender, but the ego cannot conceptualize surrender because it does not come across as “rational”. However, “Surrender is the door one must pass through to find passion” (Chopra, 1997).

As I reflect over my most recent experience with “love”, I have drawn the conclusion that it was neither pure nor true because it was tainted with an intrinsic need to protect my heart from the “unknown” variables associated with love. If I am to truly love, myself, and another spiritual being, I must relinquish my ego. While it supposedly serves to assist me in rationalizing the world around me, there are just some things that need not be rationalized—love for instance. Chopra notes that, “Getting to true love is a growth process, and the first requirement is to become aware of when you are not being true”. We are not being true to the Self (spirit) when we allow our ego to dominate our actions in the face of love. In an effort to maneuver through Chopra’s four phases of romance (featured below), I have decided to Le’Go My Ego!

  1. Attraction–choosing a person “to be smitten by”
  2. Infatuation—“the beloved becomes all-desirable and all-enveloping”
  3. Courtship—we are “wooed”
  4. Intimacy—“Through intimacy the union of two people begins to be played out in the real world rather than within an isolated psyche”

The patterns in my “love life” have shown that I tend to get so far as the Courtship phase and then the relationship begins to crumble. I am going to venture to say that the crumbling is a result of not being true/honest about my feelings and perceptions. When true Intimacy began to surface, my ego pumped the brakes and I became fearful of sharing my Self.  My vice is my inability to communicate from the deep recesses of my heart, and this has led to many an unsuccessful attempt at love. Knowing and acknowledging this now is freeing me to experience the love that I have longed for. It is clear to me that, “The courtship phase succeeds to the extent that a man and woman can dismantle their defenses; it fails to the extent that they build new defenses together” and “Even the most intoxicating romance will not be able to overcome a history that places ego needs much higher than those of relationship” (Chopra, 1997).

Chopra on Courtship

  1. It brings together two people’s perceptions
  2. Is a tender stage where lovers decide to pursue a new reality or return to the old
  3. Is about speaking your heart to another; sharing your spirit (Self)
  4. Is a shared birth; an opportunity to exchange our innocence
  5. Where a new path (into the unknown) is created together; a path with no past
  6. Allows trust to grow despite old wounds

I know in my heart of hearts that I want a man in my life who will stand with me through the good and the bad. I cannot love and respect a man who flees at the slightest sight of danger and/or discomfort. By nature, I am a fighter and the next man I allow myself to fall in love with must too be a fighter. After all, “If survival is paramount in a dangerous world, two are better at it than one” (Chopra, 1997).

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And The Truth Has Set Me Free

It takes maturity to, “…know when to hold ‘em/Know when to fold ‘em/Know when to walk away/Know when to run….”. Kenny Rogers made that very clear in his song, “The Gambler”. For the past two and a half weeks I have allowed my past to keep me emotionally bound. Today I received enlightenment and got back my power. Before today there was a glimmer of hope regarding the possibility of reconciliation with the man who had recently captivated my heart. Today, I see our truth with a clarity that I did not have the day before.

Last night, while speaking with a dear friend, she intoned that we (women) have a tendency of thinking we are the best person for the men whose lives we enter. Her words, powerful and true, pierced my heart because I had fallen prey to such patterns of thought time and time again—including this present moment. Despite the continuous arguing this man and I had done in the “last days”, I still felt like he should return to me because he will never find a woman to love him as deeply as me. While there may be truth to the depths of my love, that doesn’t mean that I am the best woman for this man (and vice versa). In reality, the past few weeks have been a mixture of feelings. One minute I wanted the man I loved to come to his senses and call me back to his heart. The next minute I wanted to forget his name and his remembrance in my own heart. Now however, I don’t feel one way or the other. Now, I have come to the realization that the man that I had “fallen” in love with was incapable of loving me to the degree (on the same frequency) on which I was currently living.

Unable to get him “out of my system,” I brought him up in today’s therapy session. I shared with Sarah that he had sent me an arbitrary email two days ago. I went on to point out that the sight of his name in my inbox sent waves through my spirit because it felt good to be thought about. But what I had failed to think about in those fleeting moments was that his reaching out to me in the past three weeks had been inconsistent and unemotional. There were random emails here and there, all with seemingly no depth. Before I could continue to relay my confusion with E, Sarah interjected.

“What was your relationship with your father like? I know it seems out of context, but I think it will bring you some insight.”

It took me a moment to gather my thoughts before I relayed my memories. “I followed my father around like a lost puppy. If he was out tinkering with something in the garage—his motorcycle or the lawnmower, I found a reason to be out there because I wanted to be in his presence. But he was never really around. I mean, he would come home from work and we’d all eat dinner at the table together, but after that he’d be in the family room watching television—usually Westerns—I hated Westerns, but I suffered through them because I wanted to be around him. Basically though, he was always gone—bowling, hunting, fishing, out with his motorcycle group. He wasn’t really around physically; he most certainly wasn’t around emotionally. We aren’t close. In all actuality there was a time when I called him out of a sense of responsibility. Over the years however, our relationship has developed and I call because I want to know how he’s doing.”

“It sounds like you didn’t get the attention you needed from him.”

“No,” I said in a somber tone.

Sarah responded with, “You see attention [from men] as a reward.”

Eureka. There it was–the source of my dis-ease, my dysfunctional way of relating to men had been borne from the lack of an emotional investment/connection from my father. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not pointing a finger of guilt at my father. I am merely acknowledging that the dysfunctional pattern of relating is tethered to a basic need that was never fulfilled in my childhood. No one is at fault. There is no blame to place. There is only forward progression into a future where healthy relationships and ways of relating exist.

That being said, the conversation went back to E. I went on to share with Sarah how I had expressed my dissatisfaction in our relationship in an email in mid-May. I noted how I didn’t feel that he included me in his plans. I also pointed out how visits from his female friends made me feel uncomfortable and devalued. Most noteworthy was the following paragraph where I shared how I wanted to be treated.

I deserve a man who is going to consider my feelings when he makes decisions.  I deserve a man who includes me in his life, not just when it’s convenient for him, but on a regular basis—either because he chooses to, or because he makes the sacrifice to do so.  I deserve to be treated with respect, to be honored and appreciated.  I am not asking for the world, but for the “simple things”.  I deserve to be with a man who isn’t trying to maintain the life of a single man while enjoying the privileges of a committed man.  Yes, each person in a relationship should have outside interests, but you can’t be committed to someone only when it’s convenient, or when it fits into your schedule.

It was at this point that Sarah drew a diagram of how she envisioned E’s idea of a “relationship” versus what I desired in a “partnership”.

Screenshot 2015-06-18 20.38.20

E’s way of relating involved a “me” and “you” mentality. My vision of relating served as a “partnership” where WE were on equal ground. It was becoming more and more clear that E was incapable of relating to me in the manner that I desired. He was incapable of including me in his decision-making. He didn’t see me as his equal. In a partnership two people are in tandem. In a partnership there is a sense of equality. In a partnership WE supersedes “you” and “me”.

It was making perfect sense that I had been making snarky remarks in the “last days” when I asked E (the Thursday before our relationship ended), “What are your plans for the weekend?” And his reply was, “I’m going to Orlando to see a friend.” Individuals in a partnership include one another in their plans. They consider their mates in decision-making. E’s inability to ask me to join him in Orlando was a clear indication that WE weren’t operating at the same relational frequency.

I sat there with a most pensive look on my face when Sarah very casually asked me, “Why do you love him?” I thought, what do you mean? Is this some kind of trick question? She continued, “Is it that you can say ‘I love the way you make me feel or I love the way I feel when I’m around you?’”

“Hold on I said. I need to write that down.” She repeated the phrase and I allowed it to penetrate my thoughts. “Any time a man showed some interest in me I would lose all sense of control.”

“It’s because you see their attention as a reward.”

The pattern was more and more clear. The dysfunction could no longer be masked. In that very moment I knew in my heart, in my spirit actually, that E was not the man for me, and I was not the woman for him. There was no longer a need to wonder about the possibility of reconciliation. He, in his pre-formed ways of relating to women, was incapable of loving me as I desired and deserved to be loved. So long as E had a “you” and “me” perspective for a “relationship”, he and I would continue to bicker and argue over the same things. I have finally accepted him as he is. E is not a bad person. He is simply a man whose way of relating does not match mine.

I leave you with scripture that has comforted me, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8: 32). The truth is truly freeing.

Private Party

“I’m havin’ a private party/Learning how to love me/Celebrating the woman I’ve become…I felt so alone/Started to feel a little pity/That’s when I realized that I/Gotta find the joy inside of me/I’m gonna take off all my clothes/Look at myself in the mirror/We’re gonna have a conversation/We’re gonna heal the disconnection/I don’t remember when it started/But this is where it’s gonna end/My body is beautiful and sacred/And I’m gonna celebrate it/All my life (all my life)/I’ve been looking for (I’ve been looking for)/Somebody else (else)/To make me whole (ooo)/But I had to learn the hard way (ooo)/True love began with me (ooo)/This is not ego or vanity (ooo)/I’m just celebrating me/Sometimes I’m alone but never lonely/That’s what I’ve come to realize/I’ve learned to love the quiet moments/The Sunday mornings of life/Where I can reach deep down inside/Or out into the universe/I can laugh until I cry/Or I can cry away the hurt…I’m havin’ a private party/Learning how to love me/Celebrating the woman I’ve become…”—from India Arie’s “Private Party

No truer words have been sung; I am assuredly having a private party. In this very moment in time I am learning how to love me and I’m celebrating the woman I’ve become. Despite the pangs of life, I am moving into my future with optimism and love for self! That being said, it was a most ironic morning when a dear friend of mine posted the following on Facebook regarding Love Languages earlier today. Within minutes people were chiming in about their specific Love Language and personal experiences related to them.

love languages

After reading through the thread of comments, I made an observation…many people had commented that their primary Love Language was Quality Time. So I posed the following to the respondents:

quality time

Still pained over this issue of Quality Time, the following words from Deepak Chopra brought an overwhelming sense of revelation and release to me.

People who find themselves alone rarely feel any incentive to explore love. They await contact with another person or run out to seek it. Thus we become dependent on other people to make us feel totally and permanently loved.  

This expectation will, however, always be defeated, and although we blame those who failed to respond to us, who responded but then left, who stayed but then changed their minds, none of them is finally the cause of our problem. The cause is our inability to develop an unshakable relationship with ourselves. The Self is the source of love. People who live their own love stories have learned this lesson above all.

Please don’t get me wrong.   I am not proposing that we shut ourselves up in our domiciles, become reclusive, and forget about relating to others. What I am proposing is that we first get a handle on loving ourselves—fully and completely, before we open ourselves up to another being.

As someone who has repeatedly looked outside of herself for a source of love, Chopra’s words are TRUTH. I was constantly pointing the finger at one lover after another because he had:

1) failed to respond [especially in the manner and/or time that I desired]

2) responded for a time, but then eventually left

3) stayed in the relationship for a time, but then changed his mind and walked away

What was even more ironic was that earlier this evening I had been texting back and forth with a college friend, and this same issue surfaced. Here’s how the “textversation” went.

Me: And how are you today?

K: I’m good—I had class so it got my mind off things.

Me: That’s good.

Any communication from R.?

K: Yeah he texted me last night and today.

Just going to remove myself emotionally from him.

It’s crazy that all these years later I still love that man.

If he’s honest then he’s not ready to let anyone in

and if he’s dishonest then I don’t need to be bothered.

Either way I have only replied to him, not initiate

any communication and just need to distance myself

from him like he’s done me.

Me: I think that is very practical.

E. emailed me this morning and my response was short,

devoid of emotion.

K: What did he say?

Me: “Good morning.

Hope you had a good trip and weekend.”

K: What did you say? “Thanks”.

That’s what I would have said.

Me: “Good morning.

I had a wonderful time. Thanks.”

My exact words.

K: Games ****** play—I tell ya.

Me: Exactly. Be all in or be out.

That’s how I see it.

But it doesn’t even matter

because I refuse to be sucked back into his vortex.

K: Same here.

Me: I’ve taken back control and it feels good.

Embedded in our words is disappointment based on the actions and/or inactions of men that we love(d). But it isn’t fair to hold them accountable without taking responsibility for expecting another human being to make us feel loved. We must be our own source of love. To hold these men accountable is being judgmental because “Judgment is whatever tells you that there is something wrong with yourself or someone else” (Chopra, 1997). Furthermore, Chopra cautions that, “There can be no sense of security in your existence when it depends upon outside factors [another being], for the unpredictable changes of reality can never be controlled…As long as love is [external] pleasure, its end—a sad tapering off into indifference and inertia—is predictable.” All that being said, the TRUTH that each of us must embrace is that, “There is no one out there waiting for you. There is only you and the love you bring to yourself” (Chopra, 1997).

♪♪♪ ”I’m havin’ a private party/Learning how to love me/Celebrating the woman I’ve become…” ♪♪♪

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who’s the “Ugliest” of Them All?

“It’s like I’m a magnet for emotionally unavailable men.”

No sooner had I said those words than the revelation pierced me in my spirit. I truly was creating my own chaos. I had been entertaining my own enemy. In that very moment I knew it was time to change the landscape of my life.

In The Path To Love by Deepak Chopra, he notes, “However good or bad you feel about your relationship, the person you are with at this moment is the ‘right’ person, because he or she is a mirror of who you are inside”. I read those words just days after my epiphany. And as soon as I read them, I came back to the afore-mentioned conversation that had provided me with enlightenment.

The full weight of my dating experiences (ways of relating to men) hit me like a mac truck. My experiences were the result of my compartmentalizing my feelings in an effort to prevent a potential heartache.

This blessing of falling in love comes from spirit, but it can be blocked by ego. Ego is responsible for protecting your self-image; it creates the compartments where everything undesirable about you has been hidden. What blocks love is not the presence of these shadow energies but the division of the psyche that came about when your ego started building inner walls. Love is a flow, and walls keep the flow out (Chopra, 1997)

I had been operating at an emotional minimum and the result was my attracting men who also operated at the same frequency. One-by-one the names and experiences were recalled to my memory. I was darn-near emotionally bankrupt, and if I didn’t wise up soon, I would keep attracting men who were merely able and/or interested in committing on a surface level. For years I had built up these fortified barriers in an attempt to “protect” myself from being hurt and/or disappointed from love. As I write these words now it seems so asinine to “say” that love has the possibility to “hurt” and/or “disappoint”. After all, Chopra points out that love:

  1. Heals
  2. Renews
  3. Makes us safe
  4. Inspires
  5. Makes us certain
  6. Ousts all fear
  7. Unveils immortality
  8. Brings peace
  9. Harmonizes differences
  10. Brings us closer to God

 

If all of these things are true about love, then you can understand how ludicrous my previous assumptions about love were—having the ability to “hurt” and/or “disappoint”.

Nevertheless, in relaying my recent emotional and spiritual breakthroughs to my hypnotherapist, Sarah, we talked about my “unhealthy ways of relating to men.” Over the years I had become this person who yearned to love and be loved, but the “loving” I was giving and receiving was a fear-based pseudo-love. It wasn’t authentic because…

love can feel too personal, even for ourselves; it pokes into those compartments where our negative self-image is stored…to love another person involves opening up your whole being (Chopra, 1997)

I have been afraid to truly open up the contents of my heart. There are so many things in the there that I didn’t like, so I couldn’t fathom how another human (spiritual) being could see the ugly things within me, and still want to stick around. But like Deepak Chopra points out, we have to open up our entire being to another person if we truly are seeking love in its purest form. That means that we first have to embrace the “ugly” that resides inside us, but at the same time, not allow it to limit our love of self. After we have learned to love ALL of what we are: good, bad, and some “ugly”, we can then show ALL that we are to those with whom we want to relate—male and female.

Now that I have embarked on this “path to love”, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because I have the assurance that ALL of who I am is perfect, whole, and complete (a mantra shared with me by Sarah). This journey of mine is affording me daily opportunities to love and be loved completely, fully, and without condition. In closing, I leave you with words that have recently given me hope and peace.

Pearls of Wisdom from The Path To Love by Deepak Chopra

“You were created to be completely loved and completely lovable for your whole life.”

“In spirit you are pure love.”

“The reason you do not feel completely loved and completely lovable is that you do not identify with your spiritual nature.”

“When you find your path, you will also find your love story.”

“When you truly find love, you find yourself.”

The Morning Process: Mourning in the Morning

morning (mawr-ning) noun 1. the first part or period of the day, extending from dawn, or from midnight, to noon; 2. the beginning of day; dawn.

mourning (mawr-ning, mohr-) noun 1. the act of a person who mourns; sorrowing or lamentation; 2. the conventional manifestation of sorrow for a person’s death, especially by the wearing of black clothes or a black armband, the hanging of flags at half-mast, etc.

In a 2013 article titled, “The Sacred Experience of Grief and Mourning”, Amy Brown, a R.N. in Gynecology-Oncology shares her experience of losing patients and sheds light on the grieving process. She expands Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s linear five-stage model of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and explores the Four Tasks of Grief and Mourning introduced by Dr. J. William Worden. The task model differs as it is non-linear and the tasks may be worked through simultaneously. The new model includes the following tasks:

  1. To Accept the Reality of the Loss
    1. This first task involves facing the reality that our loved one is gone and reunion with them (in this lifetime) is impossible.

When I awoke this morning, I had finally accepted the reality that reconciliation with my once and former beloved was highly unlikely.

  1. To Process the Pain of Grief
    1. There is both physical and emotional pain involved with grief. This experience is different for everyone and is deeply rooted in attachment theory.
    2. Attachment Theory, developed by John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst, attempts to understand the intense distress experienced by infants who have been separated by their parents.

The past two weeks have been devoted to my processing (emotionally and physically) the fact that my beloved had ended the commitment. I have processed with hypnotherapy, with singing, with writing, and with talking (candidly with friends and family).

  1. To Adjust to a World Without the Deceased
    1. The three areas of adjustment after a loved one dies are external, internal, and spiritual. External adjustments involve everyday function; specifically, how the griever will adjust to day-to-day life without the deceased…Internal adjustments involve the sense of self…there will be challenges to one’s self-esteem, self-definition, and sense of self-efficacy…The third area of adjustment is that of spirituality in terms of one’s beliefs, values, and assumptions about the world. The death of a loved one can challenge our fundamental belief systems. Many people search for meaning in the loss of their loved one and in the process, they may leave their church or seek out a church or spiritual discipline for the first time in their lives.

Over the course of the past two weeks I have done my best to not “insert myself” into my beloved’s life, but more and more often I have found myself sending him emails and text messages in an effort to remain connected. Since we have never seen each other daily, I haven’t been too overly bothered by not seeing him. I have however been adversely affected by not hearing his voice. I broke down and called him last Saturday as a result. In terms of the internal adjustments I have been reciting positive confessions each day in an effort to redevelop my self-esteem and self-worth. I have also re-submerged myself in The Word in order to see myself as God sees me—which also serves to realign my spirituality.

 

  1. To Find an Enduring Connection With the Deceased in the Midst of Embarking on a New Life
    1. This task involves emotionally relocating the deceased so that the griever remains connected with them but at the same times goes on with life…When people are able to incorporate the influences, values, memories, and inspirations of their deceased love one into their new patterns of living, the transformation can be very endearing and humbling.

Because my beloved is not physically deceased, I have had to emotionally “relocate” him into a place where I cannot easily access him—out of sight, out of mind.

Not all deaths are those that consume the soul of the physical body; some deaths are those of the relationship variety. Yesterday I wised up and cut off all communication with my once and former beloved. After finally accepting the truth of his actions (inaction actually), I determined that it was time to sever ties and truly move forward with my life. In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz cautions his readers on the issue of lies as they relate to the second agreement, “Don’t Take Things Personally”:

Don’t expect people to tell you the truth because they also lie to themselves. You have to trust yourself and choose to believe or not to believe what someone says to you. When we really see other people as they are without taking it personally, we can never be hurt by what they say or do [don’t say or don’t do]. Even if others lie to you, it is okay. They are lying to you because they are afraid. They are afraid you will discover that they are not perfect…If others say one thing, but do another, you are lying to yourself if you don’t listen to their actions. If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make right choices.

Last night I deleted every email, text message, picture, and I “unfriended” him on Facebook. When I awoke this morning, I began my morning (mourning) process. After two weeks of emotional torture, I had drawn the conclusion that this man had no intentions of reconciliation. While a recent email response gave me a glimmer of hope with his “Maybe. I just need time to heal and clear my head [,] so maybe one day I can forgive;” his inaction said something else completely. When I finally listened to his actions a day later, they didn’t match up.

(Me) Your comment about forgiveness weighed heavy on my heart.

This morning I wrote an article about Forgiveness on my blog.

Here is some of what I wrote…

(Beloved)

Maybe once you forgive all of the folks that hurt you in your past

[it] may free you for your future.

Not hold all that inside.

(Me) I don’t hold any ill-will towards anyone.

If I did, I wouldn’t be able to write as much as I have lately.

(Beloved) Ok.

(Me) But have you forgiven me?

(Beloved) Most certainly.

I had been listening…but what I heard wasn’t making any sense to me. Why would someone who has supposedly forgiven me “…need time to heal and clear [his] head so maybe one day [he] can forgive”? That question wracked my brain. Immediately my mind returned to the words of Don Miguel Ruiz, “…listen to their actions”. His action(s)/inaction was saying very clearly that he was toying with my emotions and had no real intentions of reconciliation. While he may have sent intermittent text messages and random emails in the past two weeks, he had not once called me in the two weeks since pulling the plug on our relationship. And when I did reach out to him, he was emotionally distant and his responses tended to be short, vague and nebulous.

My movement through Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five-stage model:

Sunday, May 31st: Denial over the relationship’s end

Monday, June 1st: Anger and Bargaining with my Beloved

Everyday: Fighting depression

Saturday, June 13th: Acceptance of the relationship’s end

heart beat

Time of Death: 06/13/2015

Citation:

Brown, Amy. “The sacred experience of grief and mourning.” Journal of Gynecologic Oncology Nursing 23.1 (2013): 10+. Academic OneFile. Web. 13 June 2015.

Forgiveness

Today’s piece was birthed from a short string of correspondence that I had with my beloved. Though emotionally and physically estranged from one another, we have maintained communication. And as a result, I haven’t completely been able to move forward because my heart longs for this man who made the decision that we should split. That being said, I wanted clarity. I know from the past that unanswered questions have the potential to drive me crazy, so I wanted to ward off a return to entertaining old strongholds. Nevertheless, in asking questions, I have also learned that we may not receive the answer we hoped to hear. So here is the message I sent to him just yesterday. Mind you, I prayed that God would help me accept whatever response was returned, and to move forward in peace and love.

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.06

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.15

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.21

While it wasn’t exactly the response I was hoping for, it wasn’t a “no”. At the present moment I am not sure that the “maybe” I received has brought me solace or more confusion. At any rate, what latched onto my spirit was my beloved’s statement, “I just need time to heal and clear my head so maybe one day I can forgive”. Forgive.

Forgiveness seems so very simple in theory, but the reality of the action can seem insurmountable for many. I heard somewhere that forgiveness isn’t for the other person (the one who “wronged” us), but forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. I agree with this logic because when we harbor feelings of unforgiveness, it is only stunting our growth and development. All too often those we feel have done us wrong may have no idea that what they said and/or did impacted us in such a profound way as to leave us crippled or damaged emotionally and/or psychologically. Words, which have the power to uplift or destroy, have lasting conscious and subconscious effects on our psyche.

As part of my healing process, I have immersed myself in the music of India Arie, a kindred spirit. Ironically enough, the lyrics to India Arie’s “The Heart of the Matter” rose with me this morning.

I got a call today, I didn’t wanna hear/but I knew that it would come/An old true friend of ours was talkin’ on the phone/She said you found someone/And I thought of all the bad luck,/And all the struggles we went through/How I lost me and you lost you/What are all these voices outside love’s open door/Make us throw off our contentment/And beg for something more?

I’ve been learning to live without you now/But I miss you sometimes/The more I know, the less I understand/All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning them again/I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter/But my will gets weak/And my thoughts seem to scatter/But I think it’s about forgiveness/Forgiveness/Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore…

These lines capture the Sound Track of My Life. On the heels of healing from this recent break up, I do find myself missing my beloved sometimes. My thoughts are oftentimes scattered. My will to remain positive does often get weak. And I know with all certainty that forgiveness is at the heart of this matter of brokenness.

After I listened to the song a couple more times I sent the link of a live performance to my beloved. I’m not sure he understood where I was coming from, but I’ve recently decided that I won’t take anything personally. And that includes the lack of response. Afterwards, I went in search of scripture on the topic of forgiveness. Below are those that resonated with my spirit.

Forgiveness Scriptures

Matthew 6: 14-15 (MSG)

“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”

Mark 11: 25 (MSG)

“If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 (MSG)

“We certainly don’t look at him [people] that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!”

Isaiah 43: 25 (Amplified)

“I, even I, am He Who blots out and cancels your transgressions, for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Daniel 9: 9 (MSG)

“Compassion is our only hope…”

If we work with the logic that forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, then Matthew 6: 14-15 proves that unforgiveness leaves us at a deficit with God—making it impossible for Him to send us the healing that will propel us to our “next level” experience.

Likewise, Mark 11:25 is also proof that we cannot receive forgiveness of our wrongdoings if we haven’t in fact forgiven others.

In the case of 2 Corinthians 5: 17 God is calling us to relinquish our view of the “old man” who “wronged” us. He is calling us to see each other with new eyes. When I woke this morning the following prayer sprang from spirit, out of my mouth, and onto the pages of my notebook/journal:

Lord, help us to see ourselves as you see us. All too often when we look in the mirror the image we see is untrue. We see a fragmented, broken, incapable, unlovable person because of what has been said and/or done to us. But God, give us new eyes that allow us to see our [and other’s] truth—who we are through your eyes.

When we consider Isaiah 43: 25 we find the absolute TRUTH about forgiveness. God himself “blots out and cancels” the remembrance of our wrongdoing(s). And it isn’t for our sake because He says, “…for My own sake…” There you have it right there. Forgiving others is truly something we do for ourselves–for our healing, growth, and spiritual development.

And finally, in Daniel 9: 9 we find the simple solution to the “woes” of humanity, compassion. When we express compassion for our fellow man we are doing what God sent us here to do, love one another as He loves us. When we are able to extend compassion for another person we are essentially freeing ourselves from the bondages that would otherwise keep us from the greater life God has prepared for us. Compassion is a gift, like forgiveness, that we give to ourselves and to others.

beloved 3.0

Home Sweet Home

Judy Garland said it best while in character as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”

country roads

Growing up in an area known for its poverty (fiscal and emotional), I have found it difficult to express a sense of pride in my West Virginian roots (and don’t get me started on my “African-American” roots). In my travels if someone asked me where I was from I’d of course respond with the truth (however half-hearted), West Virginia, but I tended to lack the gumption to say it with any vigor. And aside from that, many people would then go on to say, “Oh, Western Virginia. That’s nice.” Of course, I would get a little flustered by their lack of geographic knowledge and typically spout out that “No, not Virginia. West Virginia, it’s a state—ironically enough, west of Virginia. It was once part of Virginia, but succeeded over the issue of slavery—or so say the history books we read in my childhood.” But it was like my words fell on deaf ears because it seemed that so few people knew about the state that I called “home.”

Earlier this morning I woke up and decided I needed a run. While I was on my way down the steep and winding hill, I ran into one of my childhood acquaintances—a girl (woman now) who used to live just two doors down from us, but who had subsequently purchased a house around the corner with her husband. When she (Misty) finally recognized who I was, we stood in the middle of the road and talked for a few minutes. It was a pleasure to hear about her life (as a married woman with kids) and about the evolution of our old neighborhood. Our conversation ended with the typically pleasantries and an invitation to stop by for a longer chat before I headed back to Florida in a few days (something I most assuredly plan on doing).

When I finally reached the bottom of the hill I put in my ear buds, turned on my ipod, and started my GPS watch. I really didn’t know how far I planned to run, just that I needed to clear my mind. As I ran past familiar landmarks, it brought back memories (some pleasant, some not so pleasant). I passed by closed houses and businesses. I ran over crumbling sidewalks, and what I saw were the continued effects of poverty. It saddened me that my hometown had become the skeleton of a once robust man. But more than anything, my run reminded me that home truly is where your heart is. Years ago I vowed to never return to West Virginia as a resident because I felt I had emotionally “outgrown” the state. However, I realized that I can always return to this place and feel the love and joy that comes from familiarity. True enough, the last time I had lived here was over fifteen years ago and I didn’t really miss the place, but I have realized that I missed the people I call friends and family.

Since returning home for a visit I have taken a few wonderful naps (and I’ve only been here a day). I’ve regained some of the appetite I lost over a week and a half ago. I have reconnected with family and friends. I have grown to appreciate my rural upbringing. I have made peace with my impoverished roots. And I have even shed some emotional baggage.

While Saint Petersburg, Florida is now my “home”, my heart will always be tethered to Charleston, West Virginia.

I can hear the voice of John Denver in the trees whispering: “Country roads/take me home/to the place/where I belong/ West Virginia/mountain momma/take me home/country roads.”

The 4 a.m. Epiphany

4 am epiphany

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” –James 1:2-3 (New American Standard Bible)

I didn’t fully understand this scripture until recently. It didn’t make a lick of sense for anyone, me especially, to respond to trials and tribulations with joy. Yes, joy. Joy God?

Joy has such positive connotations and synonyms: happiness, elation, satisfaction, and glee. On the flip side, the word trial is synonymous with tests and assessments—words that can, an often do, send school children into a tizzy (some teachers too, but that’s another post for another day). To be quite honest, it seemed utterly asinine to respond to a single trial with any semblance of joy. But trials, plural? Really? I kept thinking: God? Are you serious? How could someone who was “taking a beating”—emotionally, physically, psychologically, etc. muster up the strength to smile? How could someone find the fortitude to express elation? How in the world could someone graft the grace to be gleeful?

After enduring the pain of heart break again and again, I asked God a simple question. Why? His answer: because you’re strong. Quite vehemently I replied. What? I’m strong? Well, there you have it. So, we should “consider it a sheer gift” when we are tested because it is a sign of what God sees in us, our strength to endure. That’s right, with each test and tribulation God is testing our ability to trust in Him. And when we don’t lose hope in the midst of these trials, we are gifted the ability to endure (the next eighty-two trials and tribulations).

We were each placed on this earth for a specific purpose. God, who is omniscient (all-knowing), knew (in the beginning) which of us would be able to handle the weight of life. His omniscience is evidenced in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-29, Amplified Bible).

For it [the kingdom of heaven] is like a man who was about to take a long journey, and he called his servants together and entrusted them with his property. To one he gave five talents (probably about $5,000), to another two, to another one—to each in proportion to his own personal ability. Then he departed and left the country. He who had received five talents went at once and traded them, and he gained five talents more. And likewise he who had received two talents—he also gained two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those talents returned and settled accounts with them. And he who had received five talents came and brought him five more, saying, Master, you entrusted to me five talents; see, here I have gained five talents more. His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the blessedness) which your master enjoys. And he also who had two talents came forward, saying, Master, you entrusted two talents to me; here I have gained two talents more. His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the blessedness) which your master enjoys. He who had received one talent also came forward, saying, Master, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you had not winnowed (the grain). So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is your own. But his master answered him, You wicked and lazy and idle servant! Did you indeed know that I reap where I have not sowed and gather (grain) where I have not winnowed? Then you should have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent away from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given, and he will be furnished richly so that he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does will be taken away.

And what does this scripture prove? I’m glad you asked. Here is what we must focus on in order for us not to lose hope (and express joy) in doing good for the sake of God (2 Thessalonians 13).

  1. The all-knowing God (like the Master in the parable) knows what we can handle
  2. God gives us that which we need in order to succeed/prosper, talents (literally and figuratively)
  3. We (God’s children) develop those talents
  4. God honors/blesses us for doing His will (being faithful)
  5. God doesn’t bless us when we operate out of fear and/or doubt His power and faithfulness

As I heal from this most recent heart ache 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (KJV) brings me joy.

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God.

Live blessed because you are!

Hurt People, Hurt People

While under the tutelage of Pastor Paula White I recall having heard her say (on several different occasions) that “Hurt people, hurt people.” The two clauses are profound. The first clause is fragmented and merely describes the collective’s condition; the second clause, while independent, succinctly expresses the actions of the collective. The irony is in the structuring of the statement; people who are hurting (those who are emotionally fragmented) inflict on others what has been done to them—perpetuating a cycle of dysfunction and proving that misery does in fact love company. Sad and yet true, I have come to realize that I am in the healing stages of being one such individual.

Let me first say that I don’t think that people intentionally act out for the purposes of hurting others, especially those with whom they are closest. However, hurting others does happen in the crossfires of their attempts at making sense of their world (or the collective “dream” that Don Miguel Ruiz references in his best-seller The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom). Having recently finished a second reading of the text at the suggestion of my hypnotherapist (yeah—I’ll be getting around to her later), I have come to the conclusion that:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”—Lao Tzu

 As one transforming from the emotional hurt unintentionally inflicted upon me, I earnestly believe these practical words from the esteemed Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu. If one who has been hurt no longer wants to hurt others, it merely takes one conscious step to begin the journey of recovery or transformation.

The closing of my last post referenced Romans 12:2 and serves as a springboard for todays. While many people prefer the King James Version of the bible, I myself, prefer The Message version for it’s simplistic language. So I will share both with you in an effort to be accommodating.

“And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (KJV)

“(1) Don’t be so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. (2) Instead, fix your attention on God. (3) You’ll be changed from the inside out. (4) Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. (5) Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (The Message)

Yes, The Message version, while written in “plain English”, is longer, but is easier for me to digest and appropriate in my life. So let’s break it down.

  1. Sentence One: is imperative in its function. It is a command or request that cautions us against an uncontrolled mind and “running with the masses”. In her national best-seller Joyce Meyer notes in the introduction of Battlefield of the Mind, that:

Our actions are a direct result of our thoughts…[and] So many people’s problems are rooted in thinking patterns that actually produce the problems they experience in their lives…; [therefore] The more you change your mind for the better, the more your life will also change for the better.

All that said, we have been mandated by God to transform our thoughts in a manner that will lead us to a place of freedom and out of bondage.

  1. Sentence Two: also imperative in function, calls us to fix our attention on God. No, I wouldn’t say that our every thought should be about God (the being or spirit), but of the things of God, namely His word. I cannot tell you how much I have struggled to keep my mind on God (not so much in a literal sense, but in the sense of doing the great command—loving those as He loves us (unconditionally).
  2. Sentence Three: informs us of the benefits of such actions. In it we see the effects. If we are non-conformist to popular culture and thinking, and our thoughts are God-ward, then we shall be changed internally. And as we are being changed internally, our actions will be the evidence of those changes.
  3. Sentence Four: is a return to the imperative, and urges us to be cognizant of what God desires of us and to urgently take action.
  4. The Fifth and Final Sentence: serves as a reminder of the difference between those who are bound by their “unenlightenment” and those of us who are being transformed. With knowledge of the truth we (the enlightened) are developing a spiritual maturity that sets us apart from those who lack the knowledge to be the best version of self.

So where am I going with all of this? In the words of Bishop T.D. Jakes, “I’m glad you asked!” Today I had my first hypnotherapy session (told you I’d get around to this). It was marvelous, freeing, therapeutic and enlightening. Because I am by nature inquisitive and curious, I quickly decided that this form of psychotherapy deserved a “look-see” after I stumbled upon an advertisement in a local magazine less than a week ago. Given the fact that I have hurt people as a hurt person, I knew that I needed to make changes in my life. As one who grew up in a religiously spiritual family, I was taught at a young age to “pray about it.” But just praying about my mental and emotional dis-ease hasn’t yielded the breakthroughs that are necessary for real transformation. Yes, in years past I have made efforts at renewing my mind, but again, my previous efforts haven’t brought me to a place of sustained peace; thus my desperation for trying another alternative, hypnotherapy. Regardless of your personal belief system, I know that prayer alone was not going to get me to where I have desired to be, in perfect peace. And since faith without works (action) is dead (James 2:17), I have chosen to engage in this alternative form of therapy so that I can:

“Be the change that I wish to see in the world”—Mahatma Gandhi

The session began with us talking about the book (The Four Agreements) that she (I’ll call her Sarah) suggested I read during the consultation three days prior. I got out the journal I had purchased specifically for thoughts related to these therapy sessions, and I went to town talking about my “take aways” and the quotes that “spoke to my spirit”. Intermittently, Sarah shared her insights as a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. I appreciated her listening ear, but more so appreciated her candid honesty about the conscious act of re-reading the book about every six months. I was immediately taken aback by her statement. As an English teacher I understand the importance of rereading. I urge my students to read and reread as an act of becoming a better reader, a more conscious analyzer, but I haven’t always walked the walk. Don’t get me wrong; there are some books (You Can Pull Down Strongholds And Break Old Habits by Pastor Casey Treat) that I have read upwards of four times. I suppose I was in awe of Sarah’s statement because I have tended to pull the previously mentioned title off the shelf when “I’m desperate for a change”. Her act of purposefully rereading The Four Agreements every six months is a conscious act of continued transformation, and that has seemingly been lost to me in years past. Our talk continued as I mentioned conversations I had had with friends the past week. I told her about the notebook I’d created with positive confessions that I recite. And I even shared with her how I had allowed myself to be vulnerable in front of my students by writing them individual heart-felt letters that I distributed to them on the last day of school.

“Wow! You’ve made a great deal of progress in a short amount of time.”

“Yes. I’m serious about this. And I’m excited about it too. I don’t want to waste this experience.”

And that’s when we got down to more serious business. Calmly, she asked me the following question, “So where do you want to begin?”

I took a deep breathe; “I think the best place to start is with my self-loathing tendencies”.

While there is certainly more to the session, I will save the rest for another time. What matters most is that I have reached a place, emotionally and psychologically, where I no longer desire to hurt people with my words and actions (you know, those things that originate as thoughts), I have taken the first steps in the journey of my transformation (personal evolution). I live in the reality that this journey may not be easy; it may at times be uncomfortable and arduous. And for these reasons, I have to remind myself of wise words that I coined just a few days ago:

“Maturity is about doing what must be done despite one’s obvious desire for something less ‘confrontational’”—Me 

My transformation “cocktail” includes (Please know that I use the word “cocktail” with utmost respect):

  1. Prayer
  2. Positive Confessions
  3. Reflection
  4. Reading (and re-reading books)
  5. Hypnotherapy

Undoubtedly, our words have power and impact those around us. And as such, we are charged with spreading love and not hate with them.

“Your word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic.”

Don Miguel Ruiz

from The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom