When You Fall into Despair and Abandon Yourself

Elie Wiesel - AbandonYou need pleasure; this is a fact of life. How you get this pleasure is irrelevant when you are just a child; you have to get it anywhere you can. When your home is a war zone, war becomes pleasurable.

At some point you have realized the folly of this tactic and have strived and strived and strived to find another way, with some success. And, when life fails you, which it does because it is life, you resort to your old ways. War.

It is easy to find an enemy. “They” are everywhere. Human beings, in all of their imperfection, give you plenty about which to hate, complain, attack, perseverate. This energy system takes on a life of its own and travels the well-worn paths of your system.

The fact that you now “know better” makes the ammunition more brutal. You hate with a new passion. You have abandoned yourself and you know you are the cause of your misery. This has you ramp up the attack of the other.

The words you have learned to soothe yourself seem to inflame the situation. They do not ring true.

Meditation feels like torture. Another reminder of what a failure you are, what a farce all of this is, how there is no real solution.

A “real” tragedy occurs somewhere in the world. You look around and see the many, many blessings that have been bestowed upon you, and you wail in even deeper despair. The fear that, if you are not grateful for what you have, then it will all be taken away, has you pray even harder, more feverishly.

Your prayers are met with an emptiness that feels so real, familiar, painful. You have convinced yourself that you were a fool to have believed, even for one moment, that you could be different.

Resigned, you go cold. It doesn’t matter; nothing does really. We live, we die, the earth is being destroyed, what difference does it make? Get what you can while you can.

The face of Elie Wiesel, peering out from his bunk in the concentration camp, comes to mind. A roar from deep within clears your muddled brain. The courage to live a full life requires something of you. It is not just handed to a random person here and there like a lottery ticket. The courage to face your selfish, pathetic, scared, demanding, hateful self and carry on with kindness, compassion and forgiveness is the work.

Spirit travels on the vibration of feelings. All are welcome. The pain, hate, love, loneliness, courage, powerlessness, longing, fear, vulnerability, each has its place at the table. It is only when we abandon ourselves that these expressions of life stop moving through us and become the vicious cycle of hopelessness.

The key is to stay open, no matter what shows up. A child has to defend against pain; this is a matter of survival. It is our work to grow ourselves up by experiencing the feelings we told ourselves we could not tolerate. This is where life has gotten stuck, frozen, unable to grow.

The freedom to allow “even this,” and not recoil, brings a new energy, creativity, curiosity, faith and willingness to live life on life’s terms.

First Separating

All is one with the ocean, the consciousness. We are all here to see that we are not separate by first separating. It is painful only to the degree that you believe the lie that you are not of life. You are life doing what life does. Create.

Separation II by Edvard Munch, 1896, lithograph

Human beings are here to witness consciousness separating itself from itself. The greater consciousness is on the path as well. The path being to see, witness, experience oneness.

By not rejecting anything in yourself or others, by loving the parts of you that, until now, you have kept hidden – as if you could hide anything from life! There is no hiding your thoughts. Thoughts are energy. They exist as vibration and ripple out into consciousness, where they become form. The thought is the masculine. The feminine births whatever experience has been created by the thought.

It is vital to see, witness, allow your thoughts so that you may clear them, not make them wrong. This internal war of right and wrong, better and worse, good and bad, constantly vying for attention, is what is to be healed.

The great Spiritual Laws are working constantly. Your mind does not yet know them all; they are more of a feeling than a knowing. When you are not resisting life in anyway, you are one with life. When you are not reacting, and therefore creating, from your negative belief, you are one with life. When you are not rejecting part of yourself but also not buying into the lies you tell yourself, you are one with life.

Your feeling body Knows Truth and Reality. Your brain does not. Your being recognizes itself when and only when you are One. You then feel clear, without judgment – a deep sense of peace exists. This is true even when outside circumstances are not to the liking of your personality.

Stay with this peace, as best you can, take non-rejection into your day. Pay attention when you feel yourself tighten against what is wanting to be felt today. You are loved. Stay with this peace. As best you can. You can trust this, it is obvious. You continue to leave this at your door; your path is to bring it down the mountain.

With great love and appreciation
JoAnn Brickley


Defended Child PeekingThe defense mechanisms with which we operate today were established in childhood. We actually quite needed them as children. A child, with the emotional and psychological development of a child, could not possible withstand some of the pain inherent in being human. The defense is, truly, life-saving.

As we “grow up” these defenses become established and we begin to recognize ourselves as and through them, rather than as part of us which may or may not serve our highest good. At some point, our higher intelligence may begin to whisper.

We begin to see that one aspect of our lives or another seems to repeat the same negative cycle over and over. Self-responsibility begins to dawn.

It is here that some get stuck. We do not want to be responsible! “It is not my fault, I had a horrible childhood and this is just how I am!”

Guilt comes in to play, just as we begin to know that we are actually responsible for our own lives. Rather than suffer this guilt, or heaven forbid, to do the work to see who we really might be under our defenses, we learn to rationalize our behavior and wind it ever deeper into our nervous system. Self-hatred, fear and anxiety about being found out all wear away the courage that it takes to merely stand in ourselves and be willing to witness ourselves as we really are.

The undefended self is miraculous! We are all, at our core, loving, vulnerable, alive beings, searching to be expressed and connected. It is only the fear of the child, and the demand from the child that life be perfect, that inhibits our true nature.

Feeling the remorse that is natural from realizing a mistake made is a pain that sears through and leaves the heart open. Guilt is a prison from which one can never escape.

Yes, we all make the mistake of identifying with our childhood wounds. Some very brave souls are willing to simply see and relax around this misidentification and begin the process of reclaiming what has always been there, waiting for us to see.

Me Versus the Other

Catty ChatingSomeone looking on would have assumed I was having a lovely time. I was, on one level. Underneath, however, I was seething. A simple comment, one not in line with my experience and belief system, turned this woman into an enemy. I had never met her before. The conversation was light, non-political or religious; she simply expressed her opinion about something that I did not agree with.

Rather than stand up for myself, I made a joke and moved on. That is what it looked like I did. Internally, I started picking this woman to pieces. Every single thing she did annoyed me. I built a case against her.

When I came home to my sweetheart and shared my evening out with him, what had been a mostly a lovely night, I had turned into a nightmare. All I could think about, talk about, was this woman! The thoughts kept me up late and woke me up early. Because I am working a transformational program, I knew something was off in me, but I couldn’t see it. The more uncomfortable I was with myself, the more wrong I found in her. It was brilliant! Brilliant because I can see now, thanks to my willingness and my studies.

Instead of standing up for something that was important to me, I made a joke and let the conversation drop. I could not stand that I did that, so I made her wrong. I built such a case against her that I could not experience anything else. I had separated from myself – and then chose to separate from the other.

This is what human beings do. This is the underlying cause of violence and racism and war. It is difficult, in the face of another, to stand strongly in one’s self and allow the other the same freedom. It is difficult unless one is willing. The problem is that we get a charge out of the negative pleasure we feel when attacking the other.

This charge can be much stronger than the whispering voice of a higher consciousness. In the light of day, I feel the presence and connection that is truth. I see how I made the mistake of not holding onto myself.

That is all that happened. More than likely, I will never see this woman again. I will, however, be in many, many more situations where I forget to hold onto myself. This habit is strong in me, as it is in most humans.

It is our core work, to hold into our own truth, and not make an enemy of the other who may have a different truth. This can be accomplished in the most mundane situations as a practice.

Hold onto your own truth, and be willing to hold it lightly. Go in peace. So simple. So difficult. From this place, joy and true pleasure are available.

Forever Overdue

Overdue Library BookSome days I feel like a long overdue library book – and the fine is doubling every day. Once again, half way through a chapter, I put myself back on the shelf and go back to work. Long days, barely a weekend, no real rest, never catching a breath. The anxiety builds, but I don’t notice. I am too busy to notice.

Headaches are a daily occurrence, but I just pop a pill and call it a day. I blame them on the bad Pittsburgh air. Funny how the air isn’t so bad when I take a rare day off. I have spent more time lately frantically trying to get everything done. Who among us ever gets everything done? To this point, I wrote most of this blog while sitting in the Liberty Tunnel.

I remember, occasionally, to be grateful.

I preach health and well-being for a living. I have a very successful business. I’m my own boss, living the American dream. I have a beautiful home, a wonderful partner and am mostly healthy. I look the part I play in this life of mine.

By most accounts, I am a lucky person. I live in a country with amazing material opportunity. I won out in the genetic lottery pool – I am thin and fit and have great hair. I work out and eat right. I look like someone who really has it together. The missing piece is that I all too often feel like I don’t. A big part of me still feels like a phony – and that anything less than perfection is unacceptable.

What I most want to teach, I am still learning. What I yearn for is to return myself to myself more regularly. Without a relationship to the self, nothing else really matters. Fitness level, nutrient intake, core strength, the size of your biceps, mean absolutely nothing if done without soul.

I write regularly, as any of you who read my posts know (thank you, by the way). Over the summer, I experienced a writer’s block. My most recent post about neighborly pain took weeks to complete. It only occurred to me this morning (sitting in traffic) that what was lacking was my connection to Self. Once again, I’d gotten caught up in life – the doingness of life rather than the beingness. It happens. This is why it is important to have in place a way of returning yourself to yourself.

For everyone, this habit will be different, and the way we return ourselves changes and morphs naturally, as do all creative processes. This is not something to be taken for granted, because it then loses power.

Prayer, meditation, writing, walking in the woods and spending time in my yard with my beautiful landscaping are just some of the ways I return myself to myself. Other people play music, draw, write poetry. Still others paint or ride horses. It is not the doing of these things that is important; it is the allowing of life force to flow through your entire being that enriches the soul.

This practice, whatever it is, does not necessarily have to be time-consuming. Nor does it have to be done perfectly, or even well. It is, however, vital for the quality of life.

When I have myself in my own arms, life becomes rich again. I am not just a drone, going through the motions. I am touched and inspired by humanity. I find meaning in my job and am truly grateful, rather than just saying the words I know I am supposed to say.

My life is my creation if and when I am willing and able to be responsible for that – or pay the fine again and again.

Thank you all who contribute so richly to this book of mine.

Neighbors in Pain

Child learning to ride on his first bikeMost of us think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, but we are actually feeling creatures that  think. – Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

As I was making a deposit at the bank last week, I struck up a conversation (as is my habit) with the young black man who happened to be the teller that day. It was a miraculous meeting of two people who, on the outside, seemed to come from two different worlds. In response to my question about his life, he shared his dreams with me. He was working full time and going to school to be a businessman.

What kind of business, I asked? His dream is to own a youth center, as his grandmother did. But first, he explained that he is working toward his MBA so that he can be a role model to other young men. He went on to explain to me that where he was from there were no role models.

As he continued to share his dream, he lit up. He shared how there was no place in his neighborhood for young people, particularly boys, to talk about their feelings. The result of having no outlet for feelings, he further explained, was drug use and violence. He told me this as if I wouldn’t understand (at least that was my interpretation). He said, “Imagine if a young man was really lonely and he was at the youth center and just happened to sit next to another lonely young man. They could talk about how they feel, and they wouldn’t feel so alone anymore!”

He continued to share with me his excitement about making a difference and how that was all that was important to him.

I left the bank moved to tears. I wanted to share with him that, where I came from, there weren’t any places to share your feelings either. I wanted to tell him that this is a universal pain. I wanted to say that while I did not resort to outward violence, I did resort to drugs and alcohol, and that I still suffer from an inward violence of self-loathing and judgment. If I had been able to be vulnerable, if I thought that he would believe me for one second, I would have told him that we are not that much different, we just hide our pain differently. He told me how the guys from his neighborhood had to act tough. I could have explained that I was told to act nice. Both are false.

Most all of us were raised by emotionally-crippled parents. We were told, with action, words or attitude, not to express our feelings. We were made to feel bad and wrong, sometimes even in danger, for expressing our outrage, our frustration, our fear and anger. We all learned to numb our deepest fears and hurts. We were taught to mute our cries of pain. There is no place in any neighborhood where immature emotions can be tolerated so that they can be heard, forgiven and released.

Immature emotions are as natural as making mistakes when first learning any new mental task. Expecting a child to understand that screaming at the top of your lungs is not the best way to ask for what you need, without any kind, supportive methods in place, is like expecting a child to learn to ride a bike with no instructions whatsoever, all the while punishing her for falling.

Imagine if, every time you made a mistake, fell down, tried to figure out the whole 2+2 thing, you were concerned that love would be withdrawn if you made an error. Yet, this is how it is with emotions. As a consequence, no matter what your neighborhood looks like, you learn to act on top of child-consciousness-based emotions. After a while, the truth of how you feel is so muted with your “act,” you don’t even know how you feel anymore. Underneath the act that you believe to be “who you are,” there is an undercurrent of “something is wrong.”

This feeling rarely goes away, but we usually are not present to it until there is a major crisis – or even a very minor trigger. At these times it seems like the crisis or trigger is the problem.

If you are willing to watch yourself, be curious, with no judgment at all, you will begin to hear the childish wailings. We were all hurt as children. Everyone. These hurts, unless they are felt, expressed, and released with no judgment, still dictate how we respond to life. This pain, when left underground, interferes with our natural creative and intuitive abilities.

The fear of having love withdrawn keeps us from ever truly loving. We keep ourselves safe out of the fear of being hurt again at the cost of our very lives. All of us. No matter the neighborhood.

I Want More!

Spoiled brat saying, "I want more"Why are we never satisfied? Why do we always want more? The day to never end. More dessert. Watch one more TV show before going to bed. More love and attention from family and friends.  It’s never enough.

Moreover, as a child … and carried into adulthood, these cravings are responded to with an attitude of “what is wrong with you?!” Or “why aren’t you just happy with what you have?” Or, “if this isn’t enough? Maybe we will take away what you do have and see how you like that!”

In my early years, the seed was planted that to want more meant I am not good. In childhood, not being good (loveable), at least in the younger years, was the worst of all punishments. Withdrawal of love is equal to death in a young child. If physical violence or threat of punishment is part of the system, the child is left with a sometimes subtle, but always present terror. If these feelings are not recognized and walked through, they are left unexpressed and therefore continue to impact the adult.

The feeling of wanting, desiring, being excited about, reaching for more is thwarted. There may not be any conscious thought about this phenomenon, just a discomfort, a gnawing feeling of being dissatisfied. Something is missing, but what? Guilt may kick in – everyone knows that it’s important to be grateful for the blessings of a comfortable life. There are children starving in the world, and countries at war. We think it’s unconscionable to be angry about not being satisfied. We secretly fear that we don’t even deserve what we do have. We’re ashamed of the audacity to want more. Still, there is this feeling in the pit of the stomach that something is missing.

Depending on one’s particular defense system, this feeling shows up as pouting, anger, manipulation, neediness, drug use, over-eating, gossip, shopping. It could be a subtle, but not-acted-out, energy of dissatisfaction. This feeling can be so prevalent that it just feels normal. Of course I’m not satisfied – that’s life.

We go on, back to work, hoping that someday we will find the key to happiness. We struggle in our relationships, blaming our partners, friends and family for our dissatisfaction. We work harder for more money, thinking that will fill the hole. We travel, shop, read, distract ourselves in any number of ways, all the while wondering why is this not enough. And, meanwhile, life is passing by.

If you’re like me, you have read books about being here now, and know this is the key to ultimate satisfaction. Yet so many of us still return to “now what?”  And the guilt returns. I must not be doing it right. I try to be here now, and now I want MORE.

If what is here now is experienced on top of “something is missing” the energy of this missing interferes with our ability to be present. Step back into the energy that is there, underneath the demand that it be different.

You can’t get enough of what you don’t really want. The secret to being here now and being grateful and fulfilled is allowing the feelings of “not enough” and “this isn’t it” and “now what” and “something’s missing.” And then returning yourself to the present.

Allow the child to express all of the disappointments and hurt of childhood. Hold this pain gently and without judgment. A child always wants more; that’s the nature of a child. If this feeling is not allowed for, it is pushed down and twisted into that black hole in the gut that is never filled. By simply allowing, with no judgment, the child feels heard, understood and loved.

Being loved and accepted is our fundamental longing. It is our nature. Fill yourself up with love and kindness. Be gentle with your wanting.  Our true desire, to be loved and accepted for everything we are and everything we are not, can only be satisfied through allowing what is.


Happiness Requires Flow; Flow Requires Acceptance

Waterfall McConnells MillIf challenging feelings are simply allowed to be felt, instead of resisted, the entire body lightens. Sometimes immediately.

The natural energy of every feeling itself is always fluid. It is only our resistance, the locking down against the fear of experiencing our feelings and emotions, that causes blockage.

More challenging feelings and emotions, like depression and rage, have a dense quality to them. But they still move. It is only our resistance to these feelings that causes blockage in the form of tension, tightness and heaviness – which we experience as suffering.

Different emotions move at different levels of fluidity. Take anger, for example. Although perceived as one of the most negative emotions, when anger is true, it moves through the body with a quick and precise energy. It is only when we resist the anger, perhaps due to guilt, blame, shame, fear, etc., that it becomes a problem. However, when anger is simply expressed appropriately, the body becomes light and expanded, comfortable.

Difficult things happen in all of our lives. No one is spared. A death of a loved one, an accident, a betrayal, the loss of a job or damage to a precious belonging. These are the harsh realities of life. They cannot be avoided.

When they do occur, if the sadness, or anger or grief is simply felt in the body and allowed to be expressed appropriately, the body will let go of the energy. And then something else can come in. We can return ourselves to joy, bliss, new possibilities.

This is our birthright. We refuse this because of our childhood-born perception of all or nothing. In this way of thinking, everything is always 100% right or 100% wrong. And there is a profound impatience. If I can’t have it now, I don’t want it at all.

The child in us experiences any negative emotions as wrong and unfair. Why should I ever have to be unhappy? We feel picked on, unfortunate, doomed by fate. We compare ourselves to others and believe what happens to us is worse than what happens to them. These childhood-born habits of perceiving the world keep negative emotions locked in our bodies.

It is the demand that we be happy all of the time that causes most of our unhappiness. It is our childish, immature refusal to allow for what is that keeps us from our greatest joy.

Energy Stored in the Body


healing energy

Although our minds believe our bodies to be fixed and static, in fact, we are comprised of energy – living, breathing, expanding and contracting energy. Every thought, emotion, belief, attitude and experience is stored as energy in the body.

While extreme energies like hatred and love are more easily felt, all emotions, feelings and attitudes have a particular vibration. These are stored in the body, beginning at conception. The feelings thoughts and beliefs we gather as we grow up become who we believe ourselves to be. This wiring feels very real, just as our bodies are real to us. Some of the thoughts and feelings that we have about ourselves are life-giving and supportive, but there is not a human being alive who does not also have very destructive thoughts and beliefs. Even birth itself is a violent, terrifying ordeal. Then childhood, no matter how well done, is filled with disappointment and hurt feelings and misunderstandings from the point of view of the child.

This imprinting is hardwired into our bodies. The way we hold ourselves in our posture, the way we feel about ourselves internally, and much more, are determined by this wiring. The hurts and fears of childhood do not just go away on their own; they must be felt and purposefully released. Otherwise, like any energy, they continue to work on us without our knowing. Trauma, abuse, abandonment, trust issues, and so on are all stored in the body. These experiences do not need to be relived over and over again, they just require being felt and let go. This is our true work.

There is no way around this. Other emotions, such as love and acceptance, also live in our bodies, but it is part of our human conditioning to hold onto the more life-threatening emotions and feelings. This wiring was vital for our evolution. We needed to remember and know in our bodies where danger lurked in order to avoid it. It is now important to remind ourselves, consciously and intentionally, that we are safe, that we are loved, that we have much for which to be grateful.

Of course, sometimes we will be in actual danger, or someone may threaten us, lie to us, and so on. Having felt our past wounds leaves us in a place to respond more powerfully and appropriately. Moreover, if we are clear about who we are in the present and not constantly reinforcing old injuries, our energy systems can feel imminent danger.

If we are connected to our own truth, we recognize truth in the other. It is usually our old injuries that we refuse to look at or feel again that get in the way of feeling connected to the other.

Not having felt our past wounds leaves us in a near-constant state of defense. In this state, the energy we put out is like a force field that keeps us (we believe) safe. It can be quite scary to imagine life without this defensive energetic force field. But living behind that mask is far worse.

I set the intention, on a daily basis, to feel into the truth of who I really am, through my feelings, not around them. It is both challenging and rewarding. The alternatives are anything but rewarding; for example, living in a drug-induced fog, or the fog of consumerism, hatred, addiction, etc. of any kind.

Resistance to feeling our feelings, causes a block in our system. Life cannot flow through such blocks. True emotions are like a wave, they come and go. Yes, there is an impact on our being and on our mind, but it is fluid.

If you watch a baby, you will see the constant flow from happy and wanting connection to rage and then to contentment. Babies do not have the distinction good and bad. They just allow themselves to feel whatever is there.

In childhood, we are taught things like don’t be upset; it’s not appropriate to be angry; and, even that there is danger associated with too much happiness. Our minds then learn to control the energy of what was once free-flowing emotion.

Negative emotions have a particular feel to them – they are more dense. Add resistance to this density, and tension is created – tension that is stored in the body and causes pain, tightness, illness. This dense block is also felt by the other. We yearn for connection, but stand before the other with a dense block which defeats our greatest desire.

Practice experiencing how various emotions feel in your body. Practice sitting and being with whatever comes up emotionally. Allow the feeling to pass without any judgment.

We are feeling creatures. It is both a blessing and a curse that we then also have judgment. There is absolutely nothing innately wrong with any particular emotion even though some feel pleasant while others are challenging. If consciously seen and felt, emotions will shift on their own. It is only our resistance that keeps them stagnant – which is the root of most of our pain.


Self-loathingSelf-loathing. I had a full dose of it yesterday. Thankfully, it was not I who was indulging this time, but rather a good handful of clients. Self-loathing is a tough one. It is hard to penetrate as it is held onto quite tightly.

You can’t argue with self-loathing. You can’t heap accolades on someone to try to help them counter it. Self-loathing only increases when met with resistance.

Self-loathing is fundamental to the human condition and I believe does more damage than any other habit. We all suffer from this condition to one degree or another. As a defense, some people are much better at hiding self-loathing with a “happy face” or acting superior, but scratch the surface and there it will be.

Each of us indulges in the practice in our own special way and is triggered by our own individual circumstances. Some parade their self-loathing around as if it is who they are. Others do everything in their power to cover it up. It is very slimy, hard to describe, difficult to pin down. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, it slips away and then turns up again when you least expect it. It has ultimate power when not recognized as being in control.

Unfortunately, we cannot transform something about which we are unaware. The invitation is to watch and feel into when this very particular energy takes over. Because that is what it does. Self-loathing has super-villain qualities. When you least expect it, it high-jacks your brain and controls your every move.

Then, it feeds on your reaction to it. This vicious cycle becomes a life-force of its own. The vicious cycle can be stopped anywhere, but first it must be seen and felt – this insanity of doing the same thing over and over and then hating yourself for doing it.

Some approach this by desperately trying to stop the doing (eating, smoking, yelling, not exercising). But because self-loathing is in control, this rarely works.

Another option is to watch the self-loathing. Don’t even think about changing it, just watch it. You will be amazed by the resources it has at its disposal. You will admire its endurance and ability to mutate on the spot. It keeps going and going on with no sleep. It loves junk food. It can kill a relationship and keep on moving until you have no friends and your family barely tolerates you. It can simultaneously spoil any vacation and reduce your chance at a raise.

Watch and be amazed! Although it has super-villain qualities, self-loathing is not a villain. It deserves some credit! I promise you, it will not be going anywhere, so you may as well become friends. Then, just like with any friends, some compromise can be discussed. You can set up a dialogue. Learn more about one another. You can choose to spend some time with it, consciously and intentionally wallowing in its powerful energy. This conscious lack of resistance will allow it to dissipate.

Self-loathing is a primary condition of being human. That is all it is. We give it its power by resisting it, which is its source of energy.

Embrace your humanity – it’s not going anywhere.

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