Our next event will be Friday, September 26- Saturday, September 27.
-Are you ready to experience calm and happiness on a daily basis?
-Are you ready to clear out blockages and feel clear and certain?
-Are you ready to experience your relationship with yourself or someone else more intimately?
-Are you ready to become your own best teacher?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time for some soulful spring-cleaning. Clear out what is no longer serving you, mend what has potential, and keep what still feels good! Join us for a workshop where women come together to share in the process of returning back to our best selves.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details or to reserve your spot
A few years ago I was traveling in Vietnam. In one of the towns I passed through, there was a caged bear. There was no sign near it explaining why it was there, no greenery, no warmth, no other animals, and no indication of anything remotely humanitarian going on. It was not a zoo and there was nothing amusing about his presence. The bear had some foam around its mouth and there was no food in the cage. There was only a dish of water, which he stepped in to get close to me as I approached him.
As the bear met me at the bars, the look in his eyes was one of the most desperate I’ve ever witnessed. He was making noises that sounded like cries. I photographed him wanting to know where I could get more information about him or how to get help. I never found answers. This image has haunted me for years. To know that there is a beautiful creature needlessly suffering pains me to no end.
Some suffering is visible to everyone. Some is visible to only a few. And some is invisible. In that Vietnamese town, I’m not sure how many passers-by saw the pain this creature was experiencing, though I’m sure many people see him every day. This got me thinking about the suicide of Robin Williams. For many who suffer with depression, the pain is seldom visible. What goes on within that person’s heart and mind, however, is much like the anguish of this bear: feelings of isolation from others, disconnection, and hopelessness. It’s a very powerless feeling for the person experiencing these feelings and for the people who love them. Each of us either knows these feelings personally or currently has someone in our lives who is experiencing depression, whether we know it or not.
In honor of someone you know, Robin Williams, or simply to practice compassion, see where you may be able to give a little love to someone whether you are aware of their pain or not. It’s unlikely to garner as much attention as the ice bucket challenge, but if we all do our part, it can effect change both big and small.
I found myself asking this question recently as it came time to fill out a marriage license. I always thought I would change my last name when I married. Then I went online to fill out the application. I felt a visceral resistance and observed my whole body tighten. It took me a few days to process what I was feeling, but I slowly started to understand.
I always feel sheepish admitting this, but the greatest thing I wanted for my life was a husband and a family. I graduated college and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted love and family. It seemed like every move I made somehow had romance on the agenda- even if it was just the dream of it. With each failed relationship, I devoured books on therapy and spirituality not yet realizing that my passion and desire was paving the way for my career and a relationship with myself.
By the time I reconnected with my now fiancé (alas, he was there all along), I still wanted a relationship and family, but the desire no longer existed so I could feel complete as a person. I had spent years crying, kicking, and clawing my way to being comfortable as myself. To marry then change my name suddenly felt antiquated and unnecessary. And maybe it is. But I knew it was important to my fiancé.
He made clear that he wanted me to be happy first and foremost, but I also understood his reasons for wanting to share his name. Call it being in love or call it being old fashioned, but I really wanted to make him happy and a part of me did want to share his name. Yet, that resistance in my body would not let me type any other name but my own on the marriage application. I felt so conflicted.
I needed to understand my own reasons for wanting to keep my name. It wasn’t a feminist desire so much as a humanist desire. I am who I am, I worked hard to be who I am, and that I turned my personal journey into a therapy practice that bears my name is very important to me. Then I started to wonder, am I still who I am without my name? The desire to keep my name was now conflicting with my desire to practice surrendering the attachment to it.
When we are attached to things, the thought of losing them can create fear, anger, grief, or contraction. As I felt into letting go of my name, all these emotions came up. Was a part of me dying? Why should I have to change my name? Why doesn’t he change his name? I still want to be Italian! I don’t want a new email with numbers! As I let myself feel all these feelings, the contraction started to pass (this took several days). And the truth was, nobody was forcing me to do anything. My fiancé had left it in my hands and was at peace with whatever I decided.
Whatever I decided, I knew it had to feel expansive and peaceful. The emotions and thoughts that surfaced regarding keeping my name were ultimately based on the fear that on some level, I may no longer exist. I would be someone’s wife, and all I had worked for in my 35 years prior would be for naught. While these thoughts surfaced in my mind, they felt so untrue in my body. They felt contracting.
What unfolded is that my desire for what feels expansive trumped everything. What felt authentic and right for me was giving in to love, not fear. The decision whether or not to change my name became about something greater than the issue of the name. It was about remembering that who I am is eternal and choosing love over fear will always be the most expansive choice I can make. Whether I change my name, my hair, my career or anything that does not truly define me, I will still be me. As I learned my first year of high school when I met my future husband, “that which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” So today, we went to the City Clerk’s office and I applied for a marriage license with my fiancé’s last name. When I walked out, I was the same person that had walked in- me.
I was cyber-bullied recently.
By the grace of God, I did not go to school when social media or the internet were what they are today. Given how sensitive I am, I would have undoubtedly gotten tremendously hurt by it.
When I write this blog, I come from the heart. When I try to think of how I will be perceived, my words sound contrived and inauthentic. So I try to write without a filter. I definitely hesitate sometimes because putting myself out there definitely feels vulnerable. But I feel that part of my work personally and professionally is to be transparent. I don’t have all the answers. I have felt and sometimes still feel as anxious, sad, or lost as the next person. But I know that the more we share the truth that we are all of it- the good, the bad and the ugly- the less alone we all can feel.
So the recently, when someone reblogged and mocked a piece I wrote about my puppy, I was really hurt. When I wrote it, I was in such a space of love, the words flew from the keyboard. I was really shocked that someone could be so nasty. I saw who the person was who griped about it. And I saw the outpouring of sweetness from everybody else and I made a decision: Go where the love is.
“Go where the love is” is probably the best piece of advice I’ve ever received. So often, we’re inclined to fight to be seen, understood, or accepted by others who just don’t get it. Fighting is an option. But the more you are secure and accepting of yourself, the less inclined you will feel to convince others. Besides, trying to convince others of our worth is just another way in which we give away our power.
The initial insult had me second-guessing myself. Am I unrelatable? Am I a bad writer? Or worse yet, am I cheesy?! The answer to all of these questions is yes, sometimes I am all of those things. It is what it is. I couldn’t not be sappy about my dog if I tried, so it’s just one of those things where some people will understand and some people won’t. I’m following the love.
I’m a big advocate of emotional independence in relationships. I know personally, and I have seen, what neediness feels like in relationships (from both sides). It isn’t pretty. It isn’t fun. And it does nothing to promote passion and intimacy. Now, that’s not to say that having needs in relationships isn’t ok. There’s a difference between the two.
Needs are natural. You may have a need for intimacy, connection, playfulness, understanding, or soothing. If you are a whole person, you have these aspects within you already. So if your partner is unable to play/connect/or soothe you in any given moment, it may be frustrating, but you’ll be ok because you have yourself.
Example: You had a horrible day at work. Your boyfriend/husband always knows just the right thing to say to cheer you up. But he’s out with his friends and can’t be there for you until later. You wish he was there, but you’ll find other ways to cheer yourself up until he gets home. Your emotional needs do not depend on him because you know how to self-soothe. He’s free to enjoy the rest of his night out and you’re free of codependency.
Neediness implies a deficit. When you are needy in a relationship, you will be looking to your partner to fill that void. It is draining for your partner and risky for you because you are dependent on something outside of yourself for fulfillment.
Example: You are feeling extremely anxious. Your girlfriend/wife is great at calming you down. But she’s pre-occupied and not paying attention to you. You don’t know how to calm yourself down so you get on her for spending too much time working/socializing/doing anything other than helping you fulfill your need to be calm. All of a sudden, your issue becomes her fault and turns into a fight.
It is important for us to take emotional responsibility for ourselves. We risk getting very hurt, angry, and disappointed when we expect our spouses/friends/lovers to be the filling to our cake rather than the icing on top. If there is something lacking in your life, see where you can find within yourself the love, acceptance, fulfillment you seek from another. Not only does this type of emotional self-sufficiency feel good for you, it attracts and nourishes relationships with others who also value wholeness.
I was watching a National Geographic show about the ‘90s. In it, the man who captured the footage of the Reginald Denny attack by helicopter recalls that moment in history when, in response to the acquittal of the cops in the Rodney King beating, the LA Riots broke out. He captured six African American men beating Denny nearly to death. Powerless, horrified and disgusted, he acknowledged racist thoughts creeping up on him and distinctly remembers willing himself not to make that leap to absolutism where one powerful incident creates or changes your whole belief system.
Most of us have suffered absolutisms in our personal lives. If you have ever found yourself saying something along the lines of things never work out for me, I always get screwed over or nobody ever cares about how I feel, you have let repetitive experiences or one powerful experience become a part of your core belief system. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, you have become conditioned to repetitive stimuli. Or in non-psychological terms, you drank the Kool-Aid. You have bought into a dangerous idea that will undoubtedly skew your perception of your life’s experiences going forward.
Several deaths in a family can result in the absolute belief that everybody always leaves me. A few breakups from a guy or girl who didn’t connect with you can lead to the belief that nobody ever sticks around for me. A critical parent growing up can lead to the belief that I’m never good enough. It takes awareness to make the conscious decision to choose to keep potential in the game.
Some questions to ask yourself are:
Is it possible that this (belief) is not entirely true? You may conclude that it certainly feels true, but that is different from something being absolutely true. 1+1=2 is true always. People always betray me is not always true. This may have happened many times, but it is possible that this can change.
If it is possible that a belief can change, then where is the potential for it to change? If the belief that people always betray me may not always be true, then how could you participate in shifting that belief? Can you use better judgment in friendships? Can you learn to speak up for yourself? Can you see where your energy may be attracting disloyal friends?
What is this experience showing me? Repetitive situations or experiences are the universe’s way of giving us abundant opportunities for growth and healing. See where you are being challenged to step out of your conditioned beliefs to keep an open heart or to heal the wound that created the belief system in the first place.
Absolutisms are often our way of trying to make sense out of experiences that have hurt us. The idea is if we can predict how things are going to go, we feel more safe and secure. The reality is that we do ourselves a great disservice when we use absolute thinking as it inevitably feels less safe and secure because it limits potential and expansion in our lives.
In case you missed the National Geographic show or were just being born in the ‘90s, Reginald Denny survived the attack. Four African Americans- Bobby Green, Titus Murphy, Terri Barnett, and Lei Yuille- came to Denny’s aid that day, ultimately saving his life. When you hear a story like this, it seems blatantly ignorant to think that six people could represent an entire race, regardless of whether or not those four people had come to his rescue. Yet, we frequently make these absolute beliefs on many emotional or societal issues. If you find this kind of conditioning creeping up on you, see where you can regain your perspective with those check-in questions and enjoy the expansiveness that ensues.
Most of us spend the better part of our lives creating and validating our worthiness or our value in the world by what is outside of us. Often, when we speak about personal worth, the defining aspects that come to mind are about externals like career, education, income, luxury items, status, where we live, etc.
If I say, “I’m Lara, I live in New York, I am a therapist, and I own a car,” what does that tell you about who I am? It tells you I pay too much in rent, spend a lot of time finding parking, and had a high tolerance for long papers and four-hour exams. Now, if I say, “I’m Lara and I am compassionate, loving, sensitive, and loyal,” that gives you a more intimate view of who I am. I am defining myself by what is within me, not outside of me.
Internal validation is descriptive of our essence or soul. It defines who we are that is eternal. Income, status, degrees, and licenses can be stripped from us. But openness, passion, determination, truthfulness and other defining characteristics cannot be taken away.
Why then do we rarely describe the essence of who we are, rather than what we do or have? One reason may be that we feel that we are unworthy the way we are. We may think we are worthy, but logic and feelings are two widely different things. We may say, “I know I’m bright, talented, etc.” But when challenged with opportunities to step into our full power, all too often we hesitate. “Maybe I’m not talented enough. Maybe I’m not good enough.”
Many, if not most of us, carry the burden of believing that there is something inherently lacking in us- that we are not good enough as we are. This feeling is called shame. The antidote to shame is compassion and self-acceptance. Acceptance does not mean that you must love every aspect of yourself. It does not mean that you condone your flaws. It simply means that you are aware of them and consciously choose to withhold your judgments and criticisms of yourself.
Self-acceptance takes a little work and discipline. Maybe you learn self-acceptance through therapy or by allowing yourself child’s pose in yoga when you need it. Maybe you learn it through heartbreak or failure. However you do it, learning self-acceptance and validation is the one kind of work that cannot be taken from you.
Personally, I worked a hell of a lot harder at accepting myself than I did writing papers in grad school. I’m much prouder of breaking through self-loathing than I am of any degrees or licenses I hold. So if someone asks me who I am, I’m going to say “I’m a wholly imperfect woman who has learned to accept her flaws and recognize that beauty dances with them.” That sounds so much truer than therapist.
“I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you’d want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. That’s what I stand for.” -Ellen DeGeneres
Me too! Happy Pride Week and much love to all the beautiful souls who have the courage to be the truth of who you are.