We Can Do Hard Things

JoAnn Brickley Lifting a GlobeNo one ever told me this growing up. I did, however, have the opportunity to watch my father live a life of challenge without complaint, which taught me that I could do anything. At least physically.

My father lost his leg at the age of eighteen. He spent the rest of his life proving that he could do anything, even with one leg. I didn’t realize that this was the point of his activities. I thought my dad was special. He road motorcycles, jumped out of airplanes, snow and water-skied. The only thing he couldn’t do that he tried was to sail. The joke was he could never get his “sea-leg”.

We were taught by watching that you just pull yourself up by your boot (singular) strap and we were not allowed to bitch (my father’s word). I learned well. I am strong, independent, powerful. I jumped out of airplanes, skied, was a racquet ball star. I could lift as much weight as a man ten years younger than I. I didn’t need anybody. Or so I thought.

This belief was challenged significantly when I was told I would have to have my toe fused. No weight bearing at all for three months. I was completely dependent over-night. The pain of the surgery was nothing compared to the emotional pain of having to relax into being taken care of by someone else. I was given a crash course and it was one of the best lessons I have ever learned.

I see now that while I was taught well how to function physically and mentally, I was never taught to grow emotionally. I had never learned how to be vulnerable, compassionate or caring. I had never seen anyone let their guard down and ask for help. I thought people who needed other people were weak and lazy. I was taught that anyone who couldn’t figure out how to do something for themselves was just stupid. I raged when things didn’t go my way, scared people away who had the audacity to think I needed them. If a man opened a door for me I would ask him, and this is no lie, “Do I look like I have broken arms?” I was a hard-ass.

The thing I was never taught that I could do was to allow others to contribute to me. I had to learn to ask for help; to put myself in the care of another. I learned the hard way that I could count on other people most of the time. I had to learn to risk the possibility of someone not getting it right for me, which was emotionally terrifying.

Today, I am still working every day on my emotional growth. It is a challenge to allow whatever emotions are there to just be there, without having to fix them or, worse, blame the fact that I am momentarily unhappy on someone else. I have a long way to go in this course. I set my intention every single day to allow myself to feel what I feel without judgment or blame. Emotions are hard things. I am learning I can do hard things.

 

Love Is Real

LoveOn the occasion of my 60th birthday celebration I became aware of something I just have to share and am hopeful could make a difference to you.

As any of you who have read my blogs know, I have a past of which most would not be proud. It is a miracle that I survived, quite honestly. Somewhere between my exaggeration about what I experienced and my denial of what I did there is quite a mess of a life. I have spent the past 32 years in therapy, transformational programs, going to energy healing schools, reading, and writing, all to escape my past. All, honestly, to change. All of this to be something other than what I am.

Part of me has been waiting and waiting and alternately getting very frustrated and then striving more to become the person I vaguely think I should be. I have been frantically trying to be someone who is acceptable.

The gift of my birthday gathering is that I, for the first time in my entire life, saw and felt that I already am that person. I realized that the only thing that keeps me from being who I think I should be is letting it in! As I stood in front of the people with whom I shared my birthday, I felt overwhelming gratitude and love for each and every person there. What occurred to me then, and has stayed with me, is that they love me just as I am. Now. I don’t have to change. I don’t have to fix anything. There is nothing wrong.

Love flows in and through us when our own resistance to love is let go. Some of the people who traveled far to celebrate with me have known me since my darkest days. They were witness to, and victims of, some of my most destructive behaviors. And they still love me. This was the theme of my celebration. They still love me. They love me, I realized, not for what I did (or do) but for who I am.

I allowed myself to let that love flow in and through me. I feel like I have had a hangover for the past two days. That is how foreign this allowing is to me. Today I sat with the love. Love is real. We only need to allow.

My heart is overflowing with gratitude for each and every one with whom I have had the honor and pleasure of sharing not only my one special day, but my entire life. I love you.

 

No

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.

 

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.

Flow

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.

 

Striving

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.

Louis CK – Feeling Your Feelings – Funny and Edjumacational!

Comedian Louis CK talks about the power and benefits of feeling your feelings in this brilliant segment on Conan.

Louis CK - Feeling Your Feelings

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.

Commitment Is a Function of Integrity

As a personal trainer, what I sell is “commitment.”

I also teach people how to lift weights safely and effectively, educate them about posture and healthy food choices and encourage them to drink water rather than soft drinks.

But that is the easy part for me. What is challenging is to find where it is that my clients lack integrity. Because when you lack integrity, it shows up with a lack of commitment. In defense of this, many people would point to all of the commitments they keep. Just the fact that a client walks through my door is proof of a level of commitment, accomplishment and productivity that an untrained eye would find difficult to find faulty.

People would be deeply offended by my questioning their integrity. We think that people who lack integrity are liars and criminals.

What I’m talking about is more insidious than blatant integrity issues. Two examples:

Suppose I tell you I’ll call you this afternoon. Now it’s 8:00 p.m. and I didn’t, either because I didn’t want to, or I forgot, or an emergency occurred (it doesn’t matter WHY, forgetting and emergencies don’t change the fact that I didn’t do what I said I’d do). Even if you’d let me off the hook, part of ME would still have attention on that. When I wake up from my coma, I’m going to remember I said I’d call you and didn’t. It’s going to be in my space.

Suppose you borrow a rake from me at the very end of the fall. Now it’s winter and you still have it. I don’t need it, but every once in a while I wonder if and when you’re going to return it. Meanwhile, every time you pass my rake in your garage you think, “I need to return that to JoAnn.” And these things fester. It starts with, “Oh, he probably just forgot,” and escalates to “I think that’s really inconsiderate” and eventually to, “He’s just a really inconsiderate person.”

No horrible crimes were committed. But in both cases, neither of us are “whole” and “complete.” And rather than being fully present, we’re spending some of our mental energies on these relatively trivial items. And that’s the point.

Moreover, any integrity issue for one person is an integrity issue FOR BOTH PEOPLE! If I’m getting irritable because you didn’t return the rake, that’s me getting irritable at you, rather than me being balanced and whole. So, I can be responsible to myself by handling it with you. By being the one to come to you and asking for my rake back, I’m doing both of us a favor.

And these things add up. The book you didn’t return. The angry words you regret. The messy desk. The time you were kidding but maybe you offended. The unpaid medical bill. The room you’ve been meaning to paint for years. The time you didn’t get acknowledged and resented that. It’s a wonder if we have the ability to be present at all! (Maybe we don’t!)

(The ultimate prescription, not for the faint of heart, is to make a list of every single instance where you have negative energy toward another and then identify what is the integrity issue that’s present, and a date by when you’ll clean it up. There may be 100 or more of them. Then spend the week calling everyone and cleaning it up, apologizing, and getting back into relationship. At the end of that week, you’ll be walking six feet off the ground.)

The truth is that virtually every one of us wrestles with integrity at some level, and many, many people have very low integrity, have little commitment and act like victims. If you find yourself reading this and thinking, “How dare she!” you are probably one of us.

Yes, I count myself among those who struggle with integrity and commitment. And I have spent more years digging deep inside to resolve these issues (mostly successfully!) than I have spent in the gym.

These issues separate the people for whom my program works from those who will go from diet to diet, trainer to trainer and gym to bariatric surgeon with the same results. None! But at least they “tried” and they get to point to all of the things that did not work. Best of all, they get to remain victims.

Integrity is “complete sincerity and honesty, the state of being unimpaired.” “Complete?!” That sounds virtually unattainable. But what would your life look like if you lived from this principle? I can tell you from the times I’ve experienced it in my own life, it is miraculous.

The invitation is to just look and see where it is that you are not telling the truth to yourself and/or others. What happens when you make promises to yourself and to others and then do not follow through? How do you feel when you ignore responsibilities and pretend it doesn’t matter? What message are you sending to yourself and those in your life when you do not show up for appointments or return phone calls? What relationships are unresolved, and, rather than getting into communication, you stay “right” about how you were wronged? Who are you kidding when you tell yourself that living on fast food and spending your evenings in front of the television is the American dream?

Where, deep inside of you, are you telling yourself that you do not matter? Because by doing any of the above, this is the message you are transmitting. My invitation is to live as if you do matter. Even if you do not yet feel like you do.

One day, you will look in the mirror and see that you are the only thing in your life that does matter. Your loved ones will thank you. Your commitment to yourself will enrich the lives of every single person you meet.

Next Time: What I mean by: “You are the only thing in your life that does matter.”

Friendship Forged in Forgiveness

Here is an inspiring article about two men. One man’s grandson murdered the other’s only son. They channeled their grief into healing, and now together deliver inspiring talks on forgiveness all over the world. Two-three Kleenexes recommended. :)

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