NO / YesThe reverberating NO! At some point in our young lives something happens to which we respond with a deep, powerful energetic NO! This something could be your mother walks out of the room just as you are reaching out to her or a pleasurable experience with a parent is met with some violence or inappropriate sexual response.

The experience is relevant only to the individual child. One situation stimulates a response in one child which does not even occur in the other’s world. The “what happened” is not the vital piece to know.

What is most vital to know, see and feel is the reaction to the stimulus. This reaction is held in the body and transmitted out into the world so that it generates in the world the same experience over and over again.

This is how this problem of “what happened” is solved. Until one understands this and looks for the reoccurring theme, life can feel very much like punishment. If, on the other hand, one were to be curious and interested and simply observe the overall theme of life experiences and witness the co-creation of such experiences, life will provide the clues as to where to look for the solution.

Instead what frequently happens is we feel as if life happens to us and we have no control whatsoever. We become victims or martyrs, or persecutors as a way to defend against this ongoing pain.

The way out is the way through.

Pay attention via a daily review of disharmonies. See the thread that connects the way life is defended against with the internal environment. Where do you demand that “this should not be?” Where do you point to the other and say “this proves what I have always known?” Where do you cut yourself off or aggress toward the other?

All of these are important clues to the original pain against which you defend yourself. This original pain is that of a child, but we forget that as we “grow up.” In the area where this pain lives, the child is still in control. This is why this is so frustrating. We watch ourselves throw tantrums and feel out of control, which is deeply embarrassing. The next automatic response is to defend, deny, blame, or judge ourselves for acting so childish. This only reinforces the vicious cycle. The original pain against which we are fighting is put back underground where it renews itself and grows stronger. Then the same thing happens again.

And again. Until this pain is recognized for what it really is, a child-based refusal, and allowed to be felt as the fear or sadness or anger that it originally was, it will find a way to express itself in some twisted way.

While we are living in the NO! the freedom that lies in being with life fully is beyond our ability to experience. Only by seeing this NO! can you begin to say yes. Quietly at first, because it is scary, but then more and more life opens to this positive energy, ultimately turning toward a genuine yes.


You and Me and Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Phillip Seymour Hoffman

I am the mother, daughter, sister, wife, lover of heroin addicts. This does not make me an expert, just a person with life experience.

The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman has hit hard. The usual human reaction is to try to determine “why.” If we knew we could avoid it next time. As if there is something over there that we could change, fix or at least manage so as to avoid our own discomfort. As if “they” have something that we do not, and if we figure out exactly what that is, we could irradiate that and feel secure.

As a drug addict who, by the grace of some power beyond my knowing, survived thus far, I can tell you that there is nothing different in the heart and soul of an addict. Life is difficult. It is the human condition to take this difficulty personally.

We all, to some degree or another, take what is handed to us as punishment for some wrong doing. As children, we internalize everything that occurs in our world and hard-wire the belief that we had something to do with the experience. We then find solutions to the problems with our limited minds. We believe these solutions to be life-saving, because at the time they were. We then generalize both the problem and the solution in our lives. When the pseudo- solution no longer works, we blame the other and dig deeper into our belief that something is wrong out there.

We suffer from the frustration and this deep gnawing that something is horribly wrong and if we act just so we will get the response from life that we have been searching for. This negative cycle is what kills off life.

In an interview, I heard Phillip Seymour Hoffman talk about the absolute demand for perfection in his craft. He said there is nothing like the feeling of having done his job well, and failure was both constantly imminent and unacceptable. This is the vicious cycle we all, addict or not, want to see in ourselves. This is what kills our creativity, our passion, our joy and sometimes our very selves.

The Demand that We Be Perfect

If you watch your thoughts, you might see that in the background there is an absolute DEMAND that you be perfect. This perfection might look different from person to person, so let me give some examples.

The house must be a certain way, your body must look the way you want it to look, you have to eat only certain foods, you must treat others in a particular way. You have to be kind and only supportive of your children, partner and family members. You must sleep, exercise, work, drive, celebrate the holidays, all in accordance with some law which can never be spoken, but must be followed to the letter. Does this sound familiar?

Now pay attention to the resistance you have to the particular place in your life where you feel you cannot possibly live up to the law. This is where, no matter how hard you try, you will fail.

It is impossible to be perfect. We all know this logically, rationally. Notice how you are thinking right now “well, of course!”  But, on a very deep level, the demand lives and dictates our behavior.


 We hold our imperfections against ourselves. Or, we blame the other, life, our bosses, parents, our circumstances, for our failures.

We believe we, or it, should be some other way than what just is. We make life wrong and hold this against ourselves because we know this whole process defies logic.

Sometimes, actually often, we preempt our disappointment with this lack of perfection by being miserable, annoyed, angry, irritated. We look for reasons to prove we have a right to be upset, and they are always easily found. This side-steps our responsibility in the matter.

We point to “reality” as proof that the way we are being is not our fault. And around and around we go.

There is a way out.

Life is difficult. Suffering is discomfort multiplied by resistance. Perfection lies in our ability to be with imperfection.

Watch your thoughts. Watch your deep emotional reaction to everyday occurrences. Feel where it is that you resist what is happening. Notice how you hold yourself against yourself and demand that you, or life, be some other way.

In just noticing this internal war, it loses its power. Just by being aware of the lies we tell ourselves, the truth can emerge. This truth can set you free of your internal dictator.

By allowing what is,  without the demand that it be another way, we develop the strength to change what we can and the wisdom to trust life to teach us what it is we are here to learn.

Resistance – Teacher or Tormenter

Resistance never works. And, it is human nature to resist. We want what we want, period the end. When we don’t get what we want, we look for the reason “why?” We blame life, our partners, our parents, life.

We resist not having with all of our might. We throw tantrums, usually internally, and make bigger demands on others and on ourselves which are never realized.  The not having is no longer the problem, the resistance and the vicious cycle of blame and self-pity become the block to whatever it is that we truly desire. Internally we judge, usually ourselves, and make it a personal attack that our so-called needs are not being met. The shame of the inner knowing that we are our own worst enemy keeps this process going.

The knot inside, the pain, frustration, anger, loneliness, the not being recognized, grows like a three- headed monster which then dictates our actions. This is the root of the root. This is what has a well- educated, successful, otherwise emotionally stable person indulge in insane behavior. This painful knot causes one to overeat, over spend, work too hard, and so on. This resistance to life, just as it is, is what we turn against ourselves and become our own worst enemy.

As a personal trainer, I teach resistance training. One of the first concepts I teach is that if you let the resistance control you, you have lost, and the resistance will hurt you. I also teach that to resist where you are on your path to a better relationship with yourself and your body, your resistance will kill whatever motivation you have.

Again, it is human nature to resist. So, start where you are. In resistance.

Feel the pain of not having exactly what you want right now.

Feel the frustration of the possibility that you may never have exactly what you want.

Allow yourself to accept that you may be sad about what you have done to yourself up to this point.

Allow all of it.

This allowing stops the vicious cycle. Then, and only then, is real choice available. Then the three-headed monster is no longer in charge. You are.

Yes, there is resistance – and there always will be. It is part of being human. Allow it to lead you to an inner strength.


Staying calm, staying in touch with a higher level of energy, this is where there is safety.  It is not in doing, it is not in accomplishment, it is not in having everything done and perfect, it is not wearing, doing or looking the right way. There is no right way; there is just being with anything and everything just as it is. There is no fixing, because there is nothing wrong. There is just breathing and going with the flow of life. Life is not wrong, life is not the problem, only the ways in which you have habituated holding life, and mostly yourself, but also everyone else. There really is just a flow of energy making mess, making beauty, living and dying and being reborn into another form. There is nothing to hold onto, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to strive for. There is no perfection except in imperfection. There is creativity and movement, there is growth and becoming, there is flow – and fighting that flow is a waste of precious life. The current has already been set and it is going to go where it goes.

You have nothing to fear, you have done nothing wrong, you have only missed opportunities which, if you pay attention, will come back around again and again for you to flow with. The course of your life has been predetermined on some level beyond your ability to know, beyond anyone’s ability to know. There are some things the human mind is not capable of understanding. This is life stuff. There is energy born into human form which cannot be touched by, or known of, or definitely not understood by the reasoning brain. It is something you can, if you pay attention, learn to tap into, but you cannot change it or manipulate it. It does want to be felt by you – and your life may be set up in a way to take you closer to it, which will be painful if you insist that it be some other way. There are soul patterns and other lifetimes which you currently do not remember that have in them knots to untie and mistakes to be corrected, so you may not be able to make sense of them now.



There is so much striving in our world. I am sure this is not so in countries where food and water are not abundant, at least that is what I have heard. I have not had the courage to witness this myself. But, I do know of the striving here in our country. Some would even say I sell striving: work out, eat right, look your best.

This has been the model for years in personal training. As I follow my path, I see how much pain this particular model causes. We few who are blessed with the ability to follow this model, and actually get results, are held up as a standard by which everyone else is judged. And, even more painfully, many judge themselves. The standard of looking good is much too high – in fact, it’s unachievable by its very nature.

Ironically, this very “standard” is what causes so many to fail to be the best they could be. The vicious cycle I see with some of my clients, and we all witness with our friends and family, is to try so hard for so long to do all of the “right” things according to the latest gospel of health, then something happens, or boredom sets in, or life interferes, or a loved one dies, or a holiday rolls around and we get off track, and the pain of failure is experienced again. And around and around we go. Striving for a standard we never even question. Alternatively, and this is very obvious in our culture, the majority have said “{%@k It” and just live an unhealthy lifestyle – and we all pay the consequences.

Instead of striving to be other than what we are, right now, today, what if we could find a place for ourselves in our own hearts?

What if the actions we took regarding our bodies and our lives was from a place of accepting just what is right now?

Rather than striving to some impossible ideal we have for ourselves, what if we could just let ourselves feel the pain of how we have let ourselves down, because we all do, and forgive ourselves?

Then the possibility could be to take some kind, loving action in whichever areas need attention. We try so hard to be all and do all and we lose ourselves in the mix. Find, if just for today, a place for yourself in your heart.

One of the Most Important Questions

One of the most important questions I invite my clients to ask themselves is “where are you not telling the truth?”

Most of us believe ourselves to be honest. We do not steal, we work hard, we do our very best. We compare ourselves to criminals, and because we win that contest, we jump to the conclusion that our slates are clean. But, are they?

We all have our “dirty little secrets.” We all have places in our lives where we really, honestly, are not doing our best. My invitation is to look and see where you are selling yourself short.

I lie to myself every day about how much coffee I drink. I then rationalize this lie by pointing to the research that proves that a reasonable amount of coffee is actually healthy. I hate this about myself, so I deny reality. I drink too much damn coffee. I am afraid of how tired I would be, and the headache I would have if I tried to quit.

I tell myself that if anyone worked as hard as I do, they would need to drink coffee all day too. I point to the number of times I have quit, how hard it was, and to no avail, because I am back on the stuff. I have long, dramatic stories about my struggle that would have you join me in a cup even if you are not a coffee drinker. And there are coffee shops everywhere! I would have to live on an island, alone, if I were to quit. And at least I don’t drink red bull anymore, so that’s good, right?

I used to habitually use cocaine, so I am practically a saint by the fact that now I just drink coffee. All of this talking about my favorite beverage has my mouth watering. What is it that your mouth waters for, and what lies do you tell yourself to perpetuate your addiction?

The truth will set you free. That is the promise.

The challenge is finding the deep truth that you are denying. As I was journaling this morning, which I highly recommend as a way to self-reflect, I went deep into the question of my addiction. I saw something there for myself that I have, up until now, not seen.

As a child, I experienced extreme violence in my home. I had to be constantly vigilant, or I would be in danger. Today, even though I “know” better, I am still, on some level, afraid to relax. It manifests as if my very life depends on my being hyper-aware at all times.

The level of fear that I feel at the thought of not being this way brings me to tears. This is what I do not want to feel. This is my deep, painful truth. This is what I have to be willing to walk myself through if I really want to make a difference in my relationship to myself.

Any addiction is about having an honest relationship with your deepest self. The way in is the way out.

From my experience with other, much more life-threatening addictions, the first step is to tell yourself the truth. Then share this truth with others. There we can find a common bond, a community, a connection with others. This is what life is all about. This is the most basic human longing.


Our brains do not work with words per say, our brains interpret images. We do not recognize words written in another language not because they are not words, but because we were taught to interpret the images from our first language.

The image that we see as “ourselves” is also an interpretation which we were taught by our care takers. The particular interpretation we take on is impacted by countless factors. Our particular genetic wiring, our level of sensitivity, every single interaction with our environment from before we were even born sets in place how our image of ourselves will be formed. We then reinforce these images throughout our lives.

It is vital, if we want to make a significant change in our behavior, to recognize the image we have of ourselves. Without this there can be no permanent change. This is the missing link in weight loss, in quitting smoking, in our general health and self-care.

How is it that you see yourself? This is the most important question you can ask yourself when embarking on any new lifestyle plan. Honestly, how do you see yourself? The image is often not a pretty sight when we are brutally honest. It is sometimes extremely painful to see what we have done to ourselves through neglect, bad habits and downright self-abuse.

This negative self-image then becomes the problem, which is why most people choose not to look at themselves, and just continue to be the victims of this deadly wiring. We love to blame. We say things like “I have no will power” or “I tried and cannot lose weight no matter how many diets I have tried” or “I have bad genetics.” We point to our failures, and then live into them. When we see others who have had success, we wave it off as that they were just lucky. No responsibility is taken or given.

Where do you begin to take responsibility? The answer is to look at your self image honestly, but with compassion. You may ask how is it possible to have compassion for something you detest? Maybe it is not.

But if that is where you are, that is a starting point. See if you can just imagine the possibility of having compassion for yourself; see what that would look like. Imagine holding yourself responsible for your choices and having compassion for how hard that is for you. Then breathe into that. Feel what that feels like. Breathing opens you up to a life. One deep breath rewires your system, and a new image is available out of that.

Judgment never works. Feel how you close down around yourself when you judge. There is no life available there. By judging you, are just reinforcing the old wiring. This locks it in place. If all there is is judgment, as is sometimes the case in people with challenged self-images, just notice that and breathe. See if you can find a positive image of yourself that is true for you and focus on that. See if you can grow that image.

It is most important not to lie to yourself, to make promises to yourself and then break them. Rather, bring consciousness to the truth you feel about yourself by looking at it honestly and with even the smallest amount of love, kindness and compassion. This will slowly begin the process of developing a new image.

Real change does not happen overnight. Real change takes creating, sometimes from nothing, a possibility to live into.

There is no magic pill, but there is magic in creating yourself anew.

From Knowing to Knowingness

By Joann Brickley, Owner, Hydration Health and Fitness

Research has shown that the more knowledge a person has on a subject, the more difficult it can be to apply that knowledge to themselves. Across the board, my clients are well educated, successful and self- reflective. And yet, they have their sticking points when it comes to health and exercise. I do not teach them much that they do not already know (in fact some know much more than I do about how the human body functions). The question is not one of knowing, it is one of knowingness.

What has a person continue to smoke, overeat, not take up exercise or indulge in any number of unhealthy activities? We are the best informed consumers in history and we continue to make the same mistakes over and over. We are the least healthy of any generation in history, despite remarkable health discoveries. Health-related products abound, and yet the majority of our population is, at best, overweight.

People, again very intelligent people, fall for the latest craze, the latest gimmick, the latest magic pill that  will “fix” them. And then, when this fails, they blame the product and claim to have tried, but the product did not work.

What does work is to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep and drink water. It really is that simple. We all know that. You know that. But, what takes you to knowingness? What takes us to the place where we can actually do the right thing consistently?

Knowingness comes from an internal strength. It cannot be purchased form a vendor; it can only be grown with practice. Knowingness is an inside job. It takes being completely responsible for how our behavior, our choices, impact our lives. Knowingness is an acknowledgment of who we really are at the core of our being.  We cannot know ourselves well and deeply if we live from a place of reactivity, responding to each and every whim and fancy.

The problem can be, when we first stop and reflect, we are sometimes horrified to acknowledge our behavior. It can be embarrassing, shaming and painful to see what we do to ourselves. This keeps the negative behavior locked in place. We rationalize, point to all of the reasons why “you would drink, smoke, eat too if you lived in my shoes.” We point to how hard we have to work, so who has the time and energy to exercise? We point to how very hard we “tried.” And then judge the hell out of ourselves for failing. The judging puts the nail in the coffin. The more we “know,” the more harshly we judge.

While I know a tremendous amount about health, I believe the main reason my clients come to me, and stay with me as long as they do, is because I help them access their knowingness, which allows them to take better care of themselves.

Knowingness has no judgment. Knowingness is freedom to choose powerfully from a place beyond our conditions. Knowingness is a deep well inside of ourselves to which we can go back over and over throughout our day to replenish our souls. Knowingness is a breath of fresh air during a moment of stress.  Knowingness is not bound by any rules, or limited to being in a particular place. All there is to do is to take a deep breath and allow it, and there it is, without fail. The wisdom that we all have to make life-giving decisions lives here, right inside of ourselves, and it only takes one deep breath to access. The cost? Being willing to be with ourselves just as we are, and without judgment. One breath at a time.

What Do You Mean, I am the Only Thing that Matters?

My partner, love of my life, web designer and editor, Bill Weil, recently questioned a statement from my last article on commitment. If you have not read it, I invite you to. I would love to hear your response to the idea that you matter more than anything in your life.” You are the only one in your life who matters” does sound selfish, egocentric, maybe even narcissistic. Bill listed his children,  his president, his siblings as examples of people who “matter” as much as he does. Where am I on that list I wondered”!? Lucky for me, and for Bill! his daily actions prove to me that I am on the top of that list. But it took years of working on our relationship for me to feel this way.

You do not need to know the gruesome details of my early years, but I have spent the past 30 years recovering from a less-than-ideal childhood. I look forward to spending the rest of my life continuing my own transformation and inspiring others to live their best lives.

The first lesson I had to learn on my path to emotional, physical and spiritual well-being was that I matter. I was not given that message as a child. From years of working deeply with my clients I know I am not alone in this.

My own children, and my two ex-husbands, will tell you that I went overboard on the idea of “me first.” No doubt. But now I can tell you that I feel very secure in the fact that I matter more than anyone in my life. It is from this knowing that I can take such good care of the people in my life. My clients, my children and my sweetheart all reap the benefits of my having found a balance in this most challenging endeavor.

All day, every day, I take care of people, and I do so happily. It is my job to encourage, inspire and hold my clients accountable. I also feed them, give them water, stretch them, work on them, give them vitamins and have Healing Touch sessions with them. I celebrate their wins and help them to see the opportunity in their failures. One hour I will hold someone while they cry, and the next hour I will scream obscenities at someone for whom a soft touch does not work. I listen, I lift, I lean in and am leaned on.

How could I do any of these tasks well unless I first took care of myself? My day starts with my own self-care. Every day. This is what I teach, and this is what I practice. My self-care might look different than what I encourage others to do, but everyone has different needs, are at different levels and are going for different results.

The point is to look and see what it is that you need to feel well and be well. Then give yourself that gift. You cannot be there for others unless you know how to be there for yourself. It is impossible to give generously, and from your heart, unless you are filled up. Giving from a place of resentment, or “in order to” or as a way of proving to the world that you are a “good” person is not real giving. If you are busy trying to prove you are worthy, you might look to see if you have true self-worth.

Put your own oxygen mask on first, take a very deep breath, fill yourself up so that you can then give and give and give with joy. You are the only one who can give the particular gift you have to give.

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