wisdom

When You’ve Lost Your Passion for That Thing You Once Loved

“Do it with passion or not at all.” ~Rosa Couchette Carey

If you’ve ever had a passion for something, you are probably well aware of the peaks and valleys that are natural side effects of pursuing the thing you love most.

Whether it’s music, writing, sports, fitness, or anything else, sometimes you lose sleep because the thing you love keeps you up all night, and some days you just feel tired and uninspired. There are ebbs and flows in following your passion, which is completely natural and healthy.

But what happens when the “valleys” stay valleys? Maybe you have a few days when you don’t feel excited. When the thing you once loved feels more like a job than something you look forward to doing. Then, maybe those few days turn into a couple of weeks. Maybe even a couple of months.

As time passes, you start feeling sad and frustrated. The activity (hobby, career) that once was a burning fire in your heart, no longer is. You may even begin to feel guilty for not feeling love for that thing anymore. After all, you did love that thing before. Nothing about it has changed.

You may become frustrated with yourself, wondering what’s wrong with you for not feeling excited about something that brought you so much joy in past.

What began as a strong, bright, and hopeful fire is now a much smaller flame. You try to fan the flame, attempting to make it bigger and trying harder to bring it back to its former glory. But you end up become more and more tired as it becomes clearer that the fire is dying. 

Some passions become a part of who you are. They become etched into your being, your identity, and your sense of self. So once that passion fades, a moment of panic may set in. You may feel anxiety or deep depression at the thought of no longer doing that thing that once defined you.

As a professional dance instructor, I’m thankful to say that I have been able to turn the thing I love into a career. However, I went through my own peaks and valleys in dance.

My personal dance journey has gone something like this:

Walk into a ballroom dance studio one night. No dance experience or intention of becoming a dancer whatsoever. Attend the social anyway, just for fun.

Meet a cute guy who is one of the dance hosts. Dance with others. Dance the night away. Feel happy and inspired. Fall in love with whatever this new feeling is.

Sign up that night to take ballroom dance lessons. Train in dance for five years. For those five years, forgo everything else that regular early twenty-somethings do, to focus solely on my passion.

Leave my old studio to accept a teaching opportunity at a new studio. Begin making a living doing the thing I love.

At this point, I feel happy. I don’t feel the burning passion that I felt when I was training and dancing just for myself and my own enjoyment. But it’s okay. I feel satisfaction in knowing that I am helping others to feel that same passion, which gives me a sense of fulfillment.

I continue teaching at that studio for two years. Little by little, I begin feeling drained. I convince myself that it’s “natural” to feel drained all the time, that it’s just part of the job.

Coworkers tell me that it’s “not supposed to be fun.” I try to find humor in it. I continue teaching. Slowly, I no longer enjoy it. I no longer want to dance. I no longer feel good about teaching others how to love dance when my love for it isn’t genuine.

One night, fate steps in. I visit another studio to dance socially, just for fun. Just for myself. And I meet the same cute host who made me fall in love with dancing seven years ago.

The energy in this new studio feels different. I see the dancers who are just dancing socially, and realize that some of them are better than me. I feel humbled and challenged. I feel inspired again. I know in my heart that this is where I’m meant to work.

I decide to leave my old studio, where I no longer felt inspired, to work at this new one.

Working at this studio inspires me. It gives me a new feeling of challenge, hope, and excitement, which I was missing. However, just like anything else, passion needs to be sustained from the inside—if it comes from outside factors, it can only last so long. Which is exactly what happened.

Just like at the old studio, I began to feel slowly uninspired. I wanted to be inspired. I longed to feel something. But I didn’t understand why I didn’t. I felt sad. However, this time, I didn’t deny it or fight it. I realized that I needed to do some inner work. I needed to figure out whether I should hold on or let go.

When passion fades, it can be a very difficult thing to accept. It might seem almost impossible to take step back from that former passion. You may feel a loss of identity and wonder who you are without that passion, regardless of whether or not it inspires you anymore.

But from personal experience, I can say that stepping back, even just temporarily, is one of the best remedies. When something you once loved leaves you feeling bored, stressed, or uninspired, it’s often a clear signal that some inner work and reevaluation needs to take place.

Don’t be afraid of your gut feeling. When something no longer brings you the joy it once did, it’s often the soul’s way of saying “It is time to take a break.” 

For those of you who become so emotionally and spiritually intertwined with the people, places, and activities you love most that the very thought of taking a couple of steps back sends you into an identity crisis, I am here to say that I understand. I know the discomfort.

But your soul knows better. Your inner most self knows when it’s time to create a little space.

And here’s the good news: By giving the thing you loved some space, you are allowing one of two things to happen:

One: You are giving yourself time to recharge and recover. Sometimes, this is all you need. You may have simply needed a little time off to get inspired again, and you may return back to that passion at a later time with inspiration, energy, and clarity.

Or two: If you don’t return back to your first passion, you are creating room for a new joy to eventually take its place. You’re giving yourself the opportunity to explore other hobbies and interests. And if you don’t find the “new thing” right away, don’t panic! You will. Your heart knows. It may take time, but you will be guided, once again, to that new thing.

For me, it turned out that I needed to take a different approach to my dancing.

For one thing, I needed to focus on my strengths as a dancer and dance teacher rather than compare myself to those around me. Comparison had left me with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, which, in turn, made me not feel much motivation for dancing, in general. I realized that I felt much happier when I focused on my strengths, as well as my own growth and progress.

Secondly, I realized that I needed to spend more time dancing for myself. Not teaching group classes or private lessons. Not hostessing. Just going out and dancing. When I danced for myself, I felt joy again. I felt full of passion and purpose.

This led me to realize an important lesson: You can only give as much love to something as what you currently have inside of you. If you don’t feel happy on the inside, how can you expect to make others feel happy and excited?

Self-care and balance are essential elements in pursuing anything that you love.

So if your passion is currently causing you to feel burnt out, tired, or stressed, don’t be afraid to give it some space. Don’t feel afraid to take a few steps back, breathe, and focus on something else for a little bit. Everything will be okay.

By letting go, you are allowing the universe to work its magic and fill that void—either with renewed love and energy, or with a new passion that you would’ve never imagined.

About Jamie Haas Powell

Jamie Haas Powell is a flexibility coach and Latin dance instructor. She started a movement, NJHeARTs, that combines arts and advocacy to raise awareness for domestic abuse. In her free time, she loves playing her ukulele, dancing, going to the beach, and eating tacos. You can find more of her daily thoughts at tumblr.com/blog/tinydancer725, or follow her on Facebook.

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How to Replace Body-Hate with Self-Compassion

“Loving yourself is the greatest revolution.” ~Unknown

I’ve spent most of my life struggling with my weight and trying desperately to fit the idealistic image of beauty that our culture celebrates.

As a young teen, I was obsessed with magazines and all their secrets to be prettier and have a better butt and get your crush to notice you. I see now how desperate I was at such a young age to feel beautiful. Nothing seemed to work, though, as years passed and my need to fit the ideal beauty image only increased.

In high school I learned to skip meals, and in college I learned to combine food restriction with exercise. Even then, I don’t remember being happy with my body.

Over many years my body and my weight have changed drastically. Also, struggling with depression and anxiety has meant trying different prescriptions, all with weight gain as a side effect. It’s contributed to more body changes, especially in recent years.

The more my weight changed, the harder it became to reside in my own body. I didn’t feel like myself anymore, and I didn’t look or move like I once did.

I looked back on when I was thinner and remembered that I was unhappy at that size, but now I’d kill to have that old body back.

It was painful to look at myself in photos. I started avoiding old friends and acquaintances because I didn’t want anyone to see my new body. Every pound I weighed carried shame and self-blame. My body was the enemy and I was at war.

In the midst of trying new ways to manage my anxiety and depression, I came across yoga therapy. It was life changing for me. I found that I felt better after every session, even amid a severe depressive episode. To feel a mood shift in the slightest degree was miraculous, and I was hooked.

I needed more yoga in my life and, being the academic that I am, I decided to study it. I found a local program that specialized in training yoga teachers and yoga therapists, and a new journey began.

The first thing I learned was that yoga means union. It aims to unify the mind, the spirit, and (lucky me) the body. As a woman currently waging war on her body and studying yoga at the
same time, things were about to hit the metaphorical fan.

Not too many months into my yoga studies, I found myself in treatment for an eating disorder. I had to learn, or in some ways, re-learn, how to connect with my body. Turns out there are a variety of sensations and sensitivities in the body that we can (and should) tune into.

Our bodies give us subtle cues all the time, and when I started approaching my body mindfully, I became more aware of them. For example, as I was more mindful of my breath, I noticed that I’d stop breathing when I had a difficult thought or when I challenged my body to do something it wasn’t ready to do.

My body responded to every negative thing I did to it. When I starved myself or pushed my body past its limits, it responded with headaches and overuse injuries.

Once I realized these things were all related, I began to ask questions: Why am I so tired? Why do I feel so overwhelmed? Why am I pushing myself so hard? How do I begin to recharge? How do I honor my own needs?

This body I’d been at war with for so long turned out to hold the key to healing many wounds.

When I began listening to my body’s limitations and needs, I began to change. Learning to honor my body gave me the confidence to ask for what I needed. I tuned into when I was tired or hurting, and I set up new boundaries. Taking breaks when I needed them and stepping back from certain relationships actually left me feeling more connected and capable.

I realized it was time to end the war. My body deserved peace. It deserved compassion.

All those years of struggle have left a mark on me. I still tend toward eating disordered behavior from time to time, and still find myself comparing my body to those around me. Sometimes the body-hate speech in my head can still get so loud that I can’t hear myself think.
In my recovery, I’ve realized that countering negative self-talk is key. I’ve found a few things that help, and I’d like to share them in hopes of helping someone else who needs it.

1. Every time you notice body envy, thank your body for something it does well.

This will require you to be mindful about when you are comparing yourself to others or checking yourself in a mirror. Take a moment to purposely think about something your body does that is good for you. Doing this may not create an instant change in mindset, but it will, over time, help to re-wire some old thought patterns.

Some things you could thank yourself for are breathing, talking, hearing, and thinking. Maybe thank your body for transporting you from place to place, walking, frolicking, twirling. Feel free to be creative!

2. Find body movements that suit you.

Bodies are magnificent! They are capable of doing so many things. When we tune into our body’s capacity for movement and we’re active, we feel more connected to our bodies. In those moments of connection, we are more likely to be proud of what our bodies can do instead of ashamed of how they look.

Not every person is a natural athlete, so I’m not going to insist everyone start running marathons. You know your body and you know what you’re capable of doing.

Personally, I love yoga, as all good yoga teachers do. I also love the camaraderie of running activities, but I’m a walker. I walk 5ks and am planning to participate in a walker-friendly half marathon within the next year. It’s accessible to me and I feel good doing it.

Maybe for you it’s swimming or dancing or hiking. You don’t have to be the best at it, just enjoy it.

3. Scrub your social media feed.

Nourishing ourselves goes way beyond just what we put in our mouth; it includes what enters our minds.

Nearly everyone has some contact with social media these days whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. These places are ripe for talk of new diets and weight loss before and after photos. Of course, it’s mostly full of weight loss stories because no one seems to post their weight gain to social media.

Anyway, I find it important to unfollow anything that’s unhelpful to you. If it elicits negative feelings about yourself, I beg you to consider deleting or unfollowing. Replace these feeds with more body neutral or body positive or health-at-every-size feeds. Add stories and images of successful people who look like you and who behave in ways that make you feel good.

4. Buy clothes you feel comfortable in.

I am so uncomfortable in tight fitting clothes, and I’m not present when I wear them. My mind is constantly focused on how others may be seeing me or interpreting my outfit when I’m uncomfortable in the clothes I wear.

So, I recommend going out and going shopping for a few new pieces that make you feel good. Ignore the numbers and go by how it makes you feel. Take a friend with you for support if you need it. It does improve your confidence when you wear clothes that really fit you.

5. Have honest conversations with your loved ones.

Set boundaries around diet talk. If certain topics and conversations trigger you to feel poorly about yourself, it’s important to talk to people you trust about your sensitivities. Loving friends will want to support you in this and are often really receptive.

I’m lucky to have lovely friends who are respectful of my boundaries and who are honest with me when I ask them questions about my insecurities.

I’ve asked my friends not to discuss diets around me and to avoid calling themselves “bad” for having seconds or eating dessert. Also, we agreed not don’t put our bodies down. Those things really affect me, so I’m grateful to have friends that understand that. I encourage you to find people you can trust and let them support you.

Finding ways to stand up to your own body-hate speech is so important. These little exercises may seem small, but over time can help make a difference. When we habituate self-compassion, our lives will change. Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest impact.

About Lesa Ashlea Rankin

Lesa is a lover of cats, yoga, and writing. In recovery from severe depression and an eating disorder, she believes in compassion for all beings. Human connection gives her purpose. She is a yoga teacher and in her spare time loves to walk with friends, mentor youth, and read novels. She lives in suburban Philadelphia with two cats and a delightful roommate.

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Create a Little Bit of Bliss Every Day

“Follow your bliss and let the magic of life happen.” ~Janelle Jalbert

Is there something you always wanted to do as a child, and for whatever reason didn’t do? Is there something that you have wanted to do for years? Perhaps it is something that didn’t seem practical. Maybe you felt you wouldn’t be very good at it or you didn’t have the time or the money.

You can ignore the urging, submerge it, and choose not to follow through on it. But it will show up again and again, and sometimes in the oddest places. For me it was in the toy aisle at a local department store.

Here’s what happened.

My husband and I walked into a popular department store, looking for the toy and game shelves. We wanted a board game we could play with our young grandchildren. I assume there was some kind of bland elevator music playing, but I didn’t notice it until it changed to an upbeat dance tune.

The beat caught my attention, and my feet, seemingly of their own accord, started to move to the rhythm. A minute later they started to tap dance.

As a child I wanted to learn to tap dance, but for some reason I never expressed that desire. Perhaps I was afraid of looking big and heavy in a dance costume, or feeling awkward on my feet. Whatever the reason, I never told my mother, I never took lessons.

The desire to tap dance stayed with me, most times submerged beneath school, friends and family. As a teenager I learned one tap step from a friend, Shuffle Off to Buffalo, and enjoyed shuffling and tapping just for fun.

That’s as far as I went with it. There was always too much else to do. Besides, what would I do with it even if I learned how to tap dance?

Fast forward through fifty years and there I was in the toy aisle, tapping and shuffling my feet. My husband, tolerant man that he is, just smiled at me. But my feet surprised me that day.

I’d love to be the kind of person who can just break out in song and dance and not worry about what other people think of me. I’m not. For me to dance in the aisles of a department store is unusual.

Add to that the fact that I’m a sixty-four-year-old grandmother with an arthritic knee and ankle. I danced anyway and laughed at myself.

Back home again I went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. My husband sat at the counter reading a magazine. He said something to me and I looked over at him. The words “Take a Chance—Dance” headlined the page I saw in his hand in bold letters.

Okay, I thought, perhaps my feet and the Universe are telling me something.

“Bliss is doing that which fulfills you. Action that touches you deeply and fully. Bliss is active. Bliss is…following your dreams, desires, or heart.” ~Angie Karan

The next day I searched out a how-to tap dance video on my computer. I was delighted to discover a number of them specifically designed for absolute beginners.

I chose one, set the computer up where I could see it on the dining room table, and learned the first basic steps of tap dancing, shuffling and tapping around my dining room floor in my sandals.

My inner child was ecstatic. I smiled and laughed, stamped, shuffled, and tapped.

My husband walked in, no doubt wondering what all the stomping was about. “I’m learning how to tap dance!” I beamed. He smiled, shook his head, and left the room. I kept at it.

The emotional lift I felt from just those few minutes learning dance steps stayed with me all day. I smiled whenever I thought of it.

Our bliss may come in small packages. It may look like a subtle urging that has been with you since you were a child.

It may not be your life purpose, or even life changing. It may simply be something that allows you to express the childlike happiness that is within you. Something that many adults have forgotten is there.

I have no idea what learning to tap dance is going to do for me, or where it will take me. I do know that it is time for me to allow the desire that has been within me for years to express.

These longings stay with us for a reason. It is our soul talking to us through the language of our desires.

Why does my soul want me to tap dance? I don’t know. I do know that it’s fun and good exercise, and that’s enough for now.

What is your soul telling you? Let’s find out with a simple exercise.

Gather paper and pen and give yourself a few minutes of quiet time.

At the top of your paper write, “When I was a child, I loved to…”

Complete the sentence with a list of the things you loved to do as a child.

Now write, “When I was a child, I always wanted to…”

Complete the sentence with the things you wanted to do as a child but didn’t or weren’t able to do.

How many of these activities are part of your life today?

If your favorite thing to do as a child was to create models of rockets with plastic blocks, how are you expressing your love of creative construction in your life today?

What if you always wanted to go horseback riding as a child but only got to go once, and that love of horses is still with you? Could you sign up for horseback riding lessons today?

Perhaps you tell yourself you don’t have time or money for pursuits that are just for fun. Perhaps you tell yourself that you’ll get to that later. But if not now, then when?

Life zips by us while we are busy doing, doing, doing. Allow yourself to enjoy the journey. Listen to the urgings you feel inside. Don’t wait for some time in the future when you’ll have more time, money, or more accomplished. Do what you can to live a little bit of your bliss each day.

Now, if you’ll just excuse me, I have to Shuffle Off to Buffalo.

About Holly Hidreth

Holly Hildreth Ed.M. is the author of the blog OurSoulDoors.com. Soul Doors is a blog of practical spirituality for every-day living, gathered from many different paths. Within its pages we learn together through shared spiritual lessons, stories, exercises, inspired wisdom, and that indefinable teacher within. Holly is also an energy health practitioner, wife, mother, grandmother, and life-long spiritual seeker.

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Finding Peace in the Dark Corners of Your Life

“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” ~Thich Nhat Nanh

It’s easy to feel peaceful and positive when the sun is shining and life is going your way. It’s a different matter when you’re alone, afraid, sick, or so tired you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning.

As a three-time cancer survivor, I know something about getting through difficult times. I know what it’s like to feel exhausted and hopeless, but I’ve also learned it’s possible to find moments of peace and light under the most difficult of circumstances. You can too.

Here are six techniques that help me find the light when things are tough. I hope they bring you the same sense of peace and ease they bring me.

1. Stop pretending everything’s okay.

If things aren’t going well, acknowledge it.

Stop judging yourself for feeling tired, anxious, or miserable. Instead of yelling at yourself for not being upbeat in the face of trauma or trouble, speak to yourself with the same understanding and respect you’d use to support your friends and family.

Tell yourself you have every right to feel the way you do right now, but that feelings are like the tide. They come and go. And while things are tough today, you’re tough, too. You’ve been through hard times before. You’ll get through this, and tomorrow will be a better day.

2. Give yourself the gift of living one hour at a time.

When I was going through chemo for breast cancer, I was afraid I wouldn’t have the strength to make it through the six long months of treatment. And then I came across the idea of living my life hour by hour, and that changed everything.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say it’s 1:15 PM where you are. All you have to do is focus on doing the best you can until 2:00 PM. That’s it. You don’t have to worry about what’s for dinner tomorrow night. You certainly aren’t going to worry about that appointment you have next Tuesday, or how you’re going to replace your old car.

You just have to make it through this one hour, secure in the knowledge that the next hour, and all the hours after that will take care of themselves.

It sounds simple, but living this way has seen me through some really tough days. Go ahead, give it a try, and see how this one change can make this tough time easier.

3. Focus on loving yourself.

This is a time to treat your body and spirit with fierce, loving self-care.

  • Listen to your body and give it what it needs to stay healthy.
  • Make sure you get enough rest. Go to bed early. Take a nap.
  • Take an afternoon off and do something that soothes your heart. Go for a walk in the woods, head to the beach, or read a good book.
  • Eat as well as you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get all your vegetables, or eat an extra piece of fudge.
  • Move in ways that feel good to your body. And move as often as possible. Even a ten-minute walk or some gentle stretching can improve your mood.
  • Support your health and your spirit with loving words and actions throughout your day.
  • Remind yourself all day long of how many reasons and ways you have to love yourself.

My favorite way to care for myself when things are tough is to take a warm bath or shower. I love taking time alone to nurture my body and spirit. I love to relax and let the water wash away my cares and worries. For me, bathing is the perfect way to end a tough day.

4. Get busy.

Don’t just sit around worrying, do something. Even if you don’t have a lot of energy, you can still find something small to do to make your life better.

Clean out a drawer, or a closet. Read something. Learn something. Start a project, finish a project. Knit, tinker, build, garden, write, explore, give, share.

I like to go for a walk or head to the kitchen to cook something, but it doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that you take one small action to get you back on the road to feeling better.

5. Be grateful.

Take some time every day to focus on all the wonderful things you already have in your life.

Even though you may feel you have nothing to be grateful for, I promise you, you are surrounded by an abundance of miracles. The trick is to seek out the little luxuries in your day, the moments of unexpected joy, the color, sound, and beauty of the world around you. Find them and then to celebrate them all with a full heart.

As you go through your day, look for things that feel good. Revel in things like the warmth and comfort of a quilt around your shoulders, the beat of your favorite music, the splendor of the morning sky, the juicy sweetness of a crisp apple.

See how many of these incredible things you can find. Make it a game to find more of those things today than you did yesterday. Play the game with people around you and see how this one simple activity changes your life.

If you’re still having trouble coming up with the good things in your life, complete these phrases:

I enjoy seeing…

I enjoy hearing….

I enjoy doing….

I enjoy knowing….

I enjoy being with….

I’m so glad about….

I love….

I’m so glad I can….

I’m grateful for…

I’m looking forward to…

When you start looking for, and talking about, things you’re grateful for, you’ll begin to welcome more of those wonderful things into your life.

6. Look up and breathe.

Finally, when you’re anxious, depressed, or at your wit’s end, all you have to do to instantly feel better is look up. Simply raise your gaze to the sky or ceiling or whatever is over your head. Take a moment to feel a connection to the universe.

Then draw a breath deep into your belly. As you continue to breathe deeply, feel a sense of relaxation begin in your shoulders and work its way down your spine. Feel your muscles soften as a sense of ease fills your body.

With your next inhale, repeat the phrase, “I now fill my body with peace and light.” As you exhale, feel your body soften and relax as you repeat to yourself, “I let go of the weight of fear and worry.”

Repeat until you are completely relaxed. Then take that sense of peace into your day, knowing you can repeat this technique as many times as you wish to bring this sense of peace into your heart, no matter what is going on around you.

It may not be possible to avoid the dark days in life, but it’s always possible to bring some light into that darkness and peace into your soul, by choosing acceptance, gratitude, focus, and love.

About Wendy Leeds

Wendy Leeds is a psychotherapist and a cancer survivor. She knows what it’s like to face anxiety and trauma, and she’s working on a book to share her experience and expertise. Her CD, Creating A Calm Day is available on Amazon. Wendy offers the gift of her B.E.A.R. technique for handling panic on her website, wendyleeds.com. Join Wendy on Facebook at @WendyLeedsKeepingCalm.

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The Best Question for Self-Care: What Do You Really Need Today?

“Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.” ~Arthur Schopenhauer

About a month ago I came back to my daily meditation practice after realizing I’d been pushing myself too hard, and I was amazed at how easy it was to sit, get into that groove, and just be. I expected to sit for ten minutes, but on this day, my body didn’t want to move. I was completely content in the stillness, in silence.

I have been meditating and practicing yoga for many years, and different variations of different practices feel good at any given point in time. However, this was the first time in thirteen years that I sat down in meditation and didn’t fidget, or move a single millimeter, until the time was over.

This continued for a few weeks, and I was elated. I felt like I had reached a new level of comfort in my body, of awareness of what is important, of connection to a magical inner peace.

But life is a constant ebb and flow, and after that sweet three weeks, I was back to discomfort and fidgeting beyond about ten minutes. I felt a bit bummed, somewhat jokingly thinking that my Zen super powers were gone.

But of course, fluctuations are normal. After not regularly meditating for a few months, my body was deeply craving the softness and stillness of sitting instead of pushing for five more minutes of intensity in Vinyasa flow or five more handstands. But after a few weeks, my needs shifted again. And that was okay.

Every day, every week, every season of life brings different needs, desires, and requests. To truly care for ourselves, we need to pay attention to honor them.

The How: Check In All of the Time—Regularly, Actively, and Consistently

Ask yourself, what do I need right now? What do I desire? What’s true for me today? Only then can we address the shifts inside us and show them the respect they deserve.

If you feel more tired than usual today, you may need to take a nap or at least take it easy. If you feel emotionally overwhelmed, you may need to carve out time for journaling. If you feel physically sore, you may need some gentle stretching. Or, if you feel disconnected from yourself, you may need a little meditation or some mirror work.

There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to self-care—only what’s right for you in a given moment based on what you’re feeling and what you need. So, create a judgment-free space for yourself. Be kind, loving, and compassionate to yourself, and honor your varied needs.

And remember: It’s not lazy to rest or switch an active practice for a gentle one if that’s what your body and mind are craving. In fact, this is the key energizing yourself.

We are always changing, so what we need tomorrow, next week, and next month will be different. Whether the differences are subtle or obvious, it’s undeniably true. Believing that we are stagnant in life or permanently stuck in what is presenting today serves no value.

The body, mind, and soul are constantly in flux, in growth, in evolution. When we don’t check in at least once a day about what is different and how our needs and wants have changed, we often do what we have done previously. We stick to our last best routine, and end up giving ourselves something that might have worked two weeks ago or two months ago, but doesn’t necessarily benefit us today.

When I sat down and meditated so easily and effortlessly, I was finally answering some subconscious call. It made me curious to know for just how many weeks or months prior to starting meditations again my being had been requesting the practice.

If I had been tuned in then and started meditating again when my body/mind/soul was asking for it, I could have given myself the medicine, the sweetness, that it was requesting and felt healthier and more aligned much sooner, instead of struggling through imbalance.

For months, I had simply been going too fast and trying too hard to bring the next phase of my life to fruition. I didn’t like how it felt and my intuition gave me clues to stop, but instead of choosing to slow down, I told myself this was just an intense growth season in this chapter of my life and I should keep plowing forward.

This helped me reach my external goals, but I felt burnt out, stressed, unhappy, and disconnected from myself. By the time I fully realized I needed to surrender and take the time to get still and silent, my being was begging for it. Once I honored that need, the imbalance began to recalibrate and harmony began to take its place.

Now as a daily practice, upon waking, I ask myself:

  • What does my body need today?
  • What does my mind need today?
  • What does my soul need today?
  • What is my intention keyword for today?

Finally, I write an empowering statement or affirmation to use as a mantra throughout the day.

I write down whatever answers come and then figure out how I am going to fit those responses into my schedule.

For example:

Today my body wants nurturing and sweetness, which might mean a short morning self-message or a bath with essential oils in the evening.

Today my mind wants relaxation, which could mean going to sleep thirty minutes earlier than usual, doing a yoga nidra practice, or watching something that makes me laugh.

Today my soul wants peace and joy, which might mean calling a friend to laugh together or reading a spiritual book that makes me happy.

My intention keyword today is peace. And, moving with the intention of peace throughout my day means being content with what I have, appreciating all the components of day that, continuing to come back to conscious breathing, and smiling.

The Key: Follow-Through

Follow-through is as important as tuning in and asking questions, because only when we give ourselves what we truly desire can we thrive and be the best version of ourselves.

When we give ourselves exactly what we want and need, it’s surprising just how different our day is. We care for ourselves in a deeper way, we show up for other people and our work with more presence and with a better attitude and kinder heart, and we live on purpose in the truth of what is really important in life.

Many years ago my therapist told me “Every day is a little life.”

I loved that phrase and put it on my mirror. Truthfully every day is a magnificent, magical, grand chance to create our life—a chance to give ourselves exactly what we crave; a chance to choose be our genuine, raw, bold selves; a chance to be fully alive in our skin.

Things will shift; change is the only constant. Check in every day. It’s the only way to know if you’re living each day with purpose, intuitive wisdom, and love. Give yourself what you need, what you desire, what you deeply crave. When we honor ourselves, life simply feels better.

About Alison Kate

Alison Kate is a NYC-based holistic personal transformation guide.  As a yoga teacher, hypnotherapist, coach, and ThetaHealer, she offers physical, mental, and spiritual practices customized for each client’s unique circumstances and desires. This quickly results in comfort in the body, peace of mind, and personal freedom that dynamically improve relationships, work, and overall lifestyle satisfaction. See more at: www.alisonkatecoaching.com.

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An Exercise That May Help You Make a Big, Scary Life Change

“Change your thoughts and you can change your world.” ~Norman Vincent Peale

Making a major life change, such as changing careers or moving to a new state, can be really scary.

Even if our hearts are pulling us in one direction, we may still be plagued with doubt, fear, and anxious thoughts, such as: How do I know if I’m making the right decision? What will my family think if I do this? Will I regret this?

Even after we make the change, doubts and worries can still linger.

In 2016, I was on the brink of a major life change. At the time, I was enrolled in a doctorate program in psychology. I had always dreamed of getting my doctorate. But after two semesters in the program, I realized the path I was on was making me miserable. While my advisor was passionate about his research, I didn’t feel anything close to passion.

I came to realize I wasn’t in graduate school for the right reasons. I wasn’t there because I wanted to contribute to the field. What I wanted was to win the support and approval of my family.

Once I realized that, I knew pursuing a doctorate wasn’t the right path for me. However, even though my intuition was screaming at me to leave, I didn’t trust those feelings. I fought with myself. I kept coming up with rational reasons for staying: I worked so hard to get here. I should be here. I’m smart enough to be here—I even passed the comprehensive exams in only my third semester!

But no matter how hard my rational self struggled to sway me, my inner voice kept reminding me how unhappy and unfulfilled I was.

I vacillated between leaving and staying. Deep down, I knew what I wanted to do. But I was terrified. My self-worth had always been linked to academic achievements. Without my status as a graduate student, I worried I’d feel worthless. Plus, what would my family and professors think if I left?

Soon the pull of my intuition became too strong to ignore. I decided to leave my program. While my husband was very supportive of my decision, my family was not supportive—just as I feared. I tried to reassure myself. I continually reminded myself that I had left for the right reasons: to prioritize my happiness and pursue a more fulfilling life path.

But the doubts and negative self-talk lingered. I started to believe that I was a failure, a loser. My family even said as much. A former professor was also disappointed with me.

I became so wrapped up in my doubts and negative self-talk that I lost sight of the reasons why I left in the first place.

Then serendipity hit.

For some time, I had a side project in writing uplifting letters to strangers. I would write positive messages and leave them in places I thought would be helpful, such as inside self-help books at used bookstores.

One day, while writing a letter, I suddenly got the idea to write a letter to myself, a letter reminding myself that in leaving graduate school, I was doing what was right for me—being true to myself and prioritizing my happiness.

“Dear You,” I began. I spent the next hour crafting a letter to myself. I wrote as if I were a compassionate friend writing to myself.

In the first paragraph, I briefly acknowledged my doubts and feelings.

Next, I told myself to stop being so hard on myself—I had left graduate school to do what was right for me and my happiness.

Then I wrote about why I knew graduate school was the wrong path for me. I recalled how happy I was before starting graduate school, and that my happiness rapidly declined since pursuing this path. I reminded myself that I was now free to let happiness back into my life. In the end, the letter ran to just under one thousand words.

After particularly hard days, I would read the letter. What I found was remarkable: the letter instantaneously swept away all of the self-critical thoughts I had about leaving graduate school. It broke the pattern of my thinking negatively about myself and made me see, in my own words, why what I had done was right.

Each time I finished the letter, I would be confident about my decision again and proud of my choice.

But then, a day or two later, something would trigger me to feel badly again. The negative thoughts and fears and doubts would return. In the evening, I’d read the letter again and feel confident once more.

Clearly, reading the letter was helpful in boosting my mood and confidence in the moment. So I thought: What if I started reading the letter every day? Would it help me feel better about my decision in the long-term? And so I started reading the letter every morning. It was often one of the first things I did after I woke up. In the beginning, I read it several times a day.

Reading the letter every day proved to be powerful. Within a couple of weeks, I noticed that the things that had triggered me to feel badly, no longer had that effect. Instead, when confronted with these triggers, I found myself automatically thinking about the sentiments I had expressed in my letter.

After a month of reading the letter every single day, my thought patterns had completely changed. No longer did I think less of myself for leaving my graduate program. Instead, I felt proud.

In leaving my doctorate program, I had done what was right for me. I had listened to my intuition and bravely made a move toward pursuing a more fulfilling path. Sure, I was more than capable of being in graduate school and finishing the program, but it wasn’t the right path for me, and that was okay.

And my letter had helped me stay on the path that was right for me.

Are you facing a major life change and struggling with doubt, fear, or negative self-talk? If so, writing a letter to yourself and reading it consistently may be helpful in transforming your thoughts.

Tips on Writing a Letter to Yourself

1. Acknowledge your current thoughts and feelings.

In the first paragraph, you might start off by acknowledging your current feelings or thoughts. For example, I started off my letter by writing, “I know you may be doubting yourself right now…” Reading this made me feel comforted and soothed, as if I were reading a letter from a friend who completely understood where I was coming from.

2. If you’re having trouble coming up with reassuring thoughts to include in your letter, talk over your situation with a supportive friend.

I talked over my situation constantly with my husband. I thought that my being sad to let go of my program was evidence that I was about to make the wrong decision. But he reminded me that it was normal to feel that way; after all it was a dream I had held for so long. It made sense that it would be a little sad to let that go, even if I knew it wasn’t right for me. This sentiment made its way into my letter.

3. Make it conversational.

I found my letter more impactful when it was written in a conversational way. Don’t worry so much about spelling or grammar. It doesn’t need to read like an essay.

4. Use positive words.

In her studies of the subconscious mind, Dr. Sherry Buffington found that the subconscious can only understand words that produce a mental image or picture. Words such as don’t, not, and no do not form an image or picture. Therefore, the subconscious doesn’t recognize them.

For example, when you write, “You are not weak,” your subconscious only recognizes you and weak, and interprets this statement as, “You are weak.” Yikes! That’s not at all what you meant! If you use positive words, your subconscious will recognize the words and interpret the statement correctly. In this example, if you write, “You are strong,” your subconscious sees exactly as you intend: “You are strong.”

5. Make it accessible.

I wrote the letter in a Google Doc, which is stored within my Google Drive. That way I could access it easily on my phone. This might be helpful for you, or you may prefer a handwritten letter instead. Ultimately, you want to choose a method that will allow you easy access every day.

6. Be open to revision.

I know that my letter is just right when I feel comforted and soothed when reading it. If a sentence or paragraph doesn’t have the right effect, you may need to revise it a little.

7. Read it every single day!

For the letter to help you stay the course, it’s important to read it every day—for as long as you need to.

Making a big life change can trigger a lot of fear, doubt, and negative self-talk. These overwhelming feelings and thoughts can become so habitual that you can feel stuck and unable to break free from them.

Writing an empathetic, empowering letter to yourself can remind you why making a life change is so important to your happiness and well-being. And reading it regularly can help reprogram your thought patterns and keep you on the right track.

About C. Corbeil

C. Corbeil is a writer from New England. Find out more about her at www.caelancorbeil.com.

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9 Easy Ways You Can Speak Your Truth Today

“We are constantly invited to be who we are.” ~Henry David Thoreau

When your circumstances invite you to present your true self to others, do you accept the invitation?

I think of authentic communication as sharing the unfiltered essence of ourselves with others, including our identities, feelings, needs, boundaries, and desires.

It’s taken me many years to learn how to communicate this way. I’ve written in prior posts that speaking my truth once felt like an insurmountable challenge, like rolling an elephant up a hill or finding another living being who actually likes Nickelback. (Anyone? No?)

I was plagued by inauthenticity.

I would leave conflicts wishing I’d spoken up for myself; leave social settings feeling totally drained; over-commit to obligations and under-commit to activities that brought me joy; agree to be intimate with people, only to later regret my decision; and give more than I received in the majority of my relationships.

Somewhere beneath the layers of people-pleasing, white lies, and insecurity, I knew there was a bold, confident, self-actualized woman. I wanted, more than anything, to become her.

On the journey to becoming that woman, I have learned that authentic communication is like working a muscle: hard at first, but ever easier with exercise.

As with all exercises, you don’t run the 400 meter dash right out the of gates. You stretch; you jog a lap; you warm up.

Here are nine easy ways you can warm up your authenticity muscle today to prepare for a lifetime of authentic communication.

1. Name how you feel, right now, as you read this.

“There is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying yes to our entire imperfect and messy life.” ~Tara Brach

Let’s start off on the right foot. Take thirty seconds to reflect on how you feel right now. Notice what’s going on in your heart; notice what type of tension you might be carrying in your neck and shoulders; notice how it feels to let a deep breath land in your chest.

Perhaps you’ve been operating on autopilot since the moment you woke up and reached for your phone. Perhaps you’ve stumbled down an Internet wormhole, and this is the first time in hours you’ve remembered you have a body. In order to communicate your feelings authentically, you first must know how you feel.

2. When a friend/family member/barista asks how you are, tell them the truth.

“The speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never had realized you had… And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.” ~Audre Lorde

Social convention tells us that there are only two acceptable answers to the question “How are you?” “Good” and “Fine.” This is a microcosmic example of our cultural disdain for sharing our authentic feelings. Nonetheless, the habit persists.

Remember: Inauthenticity breeds inauthenticity. Authenticity breeds authenticity. Give yourself permission to say “I’m a little sad today, but I’m hanging in there” or “I’m fantastic; today’s been an inspiring day” or “I’m so stressed I can’t even feel my face.”

Whatever’s going on for you, give yourself permission to share it. These small moments of authenticity replace the loneliness of emotional isolation with the belonging of vulnerability, and allow you to receive others’ gifts in the form of compassion and empathy.

3. If you have nothing to say, embrace the silence.

“To become authentic, we require a thirst for freedom.” ~Don Mateo Sol

As a recovering people-pleaser, I spent much of my life believing it was my responsibility to facilitate, or ease the tension in, conversations. For many years, I feared “awkward silences” the way someone else might fear spiders or clowns.

First dates, group gatherings, work parties, and girls’ nights found me paving endless roads of conversation. For every answer, I had a follow-up question, and in every second-long pause, I rushed to find a story to tell.

Eventually, I realized that my silence-avoidance only led to 1) complete emotional exhaustion, and 2) many moments where I looked back and wondered, “Why did I even say that? I don’t think cybernetics are interesting at all…”

Free yourself from the pressure to perform. Embrace the silence. Sometimes, the most authentic response is to say nothing at all.

4. When someone makes reference to a show, movie, or news story you haven’t seen, tell them you haven’t seen it.

“I have the right to say ‘I don’t know.’” ~Edmund Bourne

I warn every new friend that I am pop-culture illiterate. If you name a TV series, movie, actor, actress, or rising pop star, the odds are I have no idea who she/he/they are. (I’m pleased to report that last week, I watched The Godfather, and on my list for next week is Breaking Bad. I’m making progress in this department.)

Anyhow, in the past, when friends made reference to such icons in conversation, I often feigned familiarity to help the conversation flow more easily. These were totally inconsequential white lies, right?

I’m not so sure. White lies add up, like small bricks laying the foundation for a falsified persona. I hyperbolized my knowledge because I wanted to feel a sense of belonging. (Nothing malicious about that: we all want to belong!) But presenting a false self in order to feel a sense of belonging doesn’t generate a real sense of belonging. It simply makes our authentic selves feel less acceptable.

Tell your friends you haven’t seen the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. Liberate yourself from the impossible responsibility of being all-knowing.

5. When someone asks your preference on a simple matter, tell them the truth.

“You denying your heart’s desires is not noble. It’s a waste of some damn good desires.” ~Jen Sincero

If you really pay attention, you’ll find that your daily life is chock full o’ simple, tiny choices, like:

Where do you want to go for dinner?

What do you want to watch on Netflix?

Where should we meet?

What are you in the mood for?

In the past, my de facto response was: “I don’t care.” (Can you relate?) But by “I don’t care,” what I really meant was: “I really want a burrito, but what matters more to me is that you’re happy with where we get dinner. I would rather sacrifice that burrito and deal with less-than-satisfying pizza than bear the burden of your disappointment. So can you pick?”

The truth is, I did have a preference. It was just buried under layers of people-pleasing.

Get in the habit of honoring your preferences, even if they’re seemingly inconsequential. After all, today it’s what to watch on Netflix, but a year from now, it might be what city to move to, or whether or not to have a second kid, or what to do with your lottery winnings.

6. Tell someone you care for that you care for them.

“Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it by use.” ~Ruth Gordon

A lot of literature around authenticity and truth-telling centralizes around saying no, boundary-setting, and self-care. That’s all well and good, but true authentic communication addresses both sides of the vulnerability coin: speaking truths that are hard, painful, or have the potential to distance others, and speaking truths that are intimate, loving, and have the potential to bring people closer. Such truths are equally courageous.

When we communicate care for others, we expose the soft underbelly of our hearts. We acquiesce omnipotence over our own emotional state and give another person the power to affect us, sometimes deeply.

Today, take a moment to tell someone you care for them. It could be your mom, your coworker, or your mailman. Let that sweet heart of yours peek out from its shell.

7. Acknowledge one thing you really want.

“A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.” ~Madonna

There are a lot of things I want. I want a new blender. I want to enjoy my own company more. I want more friends. I want to make six figures. I want to spend less time working—on my business and on myself—and more time having fun.

Our desires are a critical part of who we are. They reflect our values and our identities. When we’re not in touch with our own desires, we’re susceptible to putting others’ needs before our own.

If you’ve been out of touch with your own desires for a long time, saying even one thing you want—something as life-altering as a new job or as contrived as a new blender—can be scary and revolutionary. For now, give yourself permission not to worry about how you might get it. Just notice how it feels, to really want this thing you want.

8. For fifteen minutes, be without technology. Bonus points if you’re in nature.

“If you want more time, freedom, and energy, start saying no.” ~Unknown

At our core, we humans are intrinsically creative and innovative. However, it’s challenging to summon our deepest, truest, most authentic selves when we’re bombarded with stimuli from every direction. Many of us spend hours every day merely skimming the surface of life, hopping from app to screen to notification.

In such a state, we’re not thinking deeply. We’re hardly here at all. If we’re constantly in response-mode, how can our inner selves emerge?

For fifteen minutes, sequester yourself. No phone, no screen, no TV. You can drink your coffee while staring out the window. You can sit on the carpet and stretch your legs. You can go sniff your flowers, or dive nose-first into the green, green grass. Give your mind the space to explore uncharted territory, and watch with curiosity what arises.

9. If you feel uncomfortable, scared, resentful, sad, angry, or guilty, name it.

“Don’t light yourself on fire trying to brighten someone else’s existence.” ~Charlotte Erickson

Make your way to any water cooler or happy hour and you’ll find plenty of folks complaining, comparing, and airing their grievances. But genuine expressions of hurt, discomfort, and sadness are far rarer.

Growing up, I made it my mission to brighten my loved ones’ days and hold space for their unhappiness. With time (and therapy), I realized that “The bubbly one” was a role I had assigned myself—not my God-given duty.

After so many years of tampering down my sadnesses as if they were pests, I needed to retrain my brain and body to notice my own discomfort.

Today, give yourself permission to acknowledge when you feel off. You can write how you’re feeling on a post-it note or simply whisper the words “I feel sad.”

The inner liberation that comes as a result of this simple acknowledgement can feel enormous. It removes the conflict between what you feel and what you portray to the world around you, which is what authentic communication is all about.

Authentic communication has made my life simpler. No longer do I spend precious moments juggling my false personas and my little white lies. Working this muscle has been worth every growing pain because it’s enabled me to live in alignment with my inner truth and find freedom, self-respect, and confidence along the way.

About Hailey Magee

Hailey Magee is a certified codependency recovery coach who helps women find freedom by setting clear boundaries and speaking their truth in their relationships. Sign up for a complimentary, 30-minute consultation with Hailey to learn how codependency recovery can radically transform your life and leave you feeling confident, empowered, and free. Follow Hailey on FacebookInstagram, and visit her website, www.haileymagee.com.

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It’s Not “Failing” to Leave a Toxic, Abusive Marriage

“Forgive yourself for not knowing better at the time. Forgive yourself for giving away your power. Forgive yourself for past behaviors. Forgive yourself for the survival patterns and traits you picked up while enduring trauma. Forgive yourself for being who you needed to be.” ~Audrey Kitching

I have always been an extremely glass-half-full kind of person. I always see the best in everyone, and not only the best, but also the unlimited beauty and potential. And my god, it is glorious!!

I met and fell in love with a charming man. I was on a trip to Alaska to visit a lifelong friend, and met Mr. Wonderful at a gathering. He was attentive, charismatic, and made me feel like a queen. I was hooked. We were married four months later, and five months after that I had my second daughter.

I didn’t see the red flags. Looking back, I ask myself how I could have been so naïve, so trusting, so blind. Slowly but surely, though, my world changed.

First, it was little things, like coming out to check on me at night when I was breast pumping milk, to see what “I was up to,” then there was the name calling and shaming if I wanted to dress up and go out with friends to a dinner. I wondered if other wives got called sluts too because they would wear a pretty shirt.

There came a day when it became difficult to see the beauty in myself, and in him. Everything changed that day. And it never was able to return back to how it was before. The person that had vowed to love me, to cherish me, to protect me, and be there for me, cut me to the core with words that will never be undone.

“Nobody else will ever want you,” he sneered, his eyes filled with scorn and disgust. “A mother with kids from two different dads,” he chuckled to himself. “You are a slut, a whore, a sperm depository.”

I curled up on the floor, in the fetal position, feeling as though he had stabbed me with a knife in the gut. I was sobbing, but I don’t remember hearing the sound.

“Why are you saying this?” I gasped.

“I read your journal,” he yelled, referring to an entry about my past lovers, as if that justified his cruelty.

Stress does strange things to a person. I had recently broken out in painful boils on the left side of my torso, and under my arms. They were excruciating. It hurt to lower my arm all the way down.

“You are a fat, lazy, boil-infested bitch.”

I remember at that moment shutting down. Going inward. A part of me disconnected in order to stay alive.

Days turned into weeks. I felt myself dying inside a little more every day. I became withdrawn, and as time went out it took more and more energy to smile and pretend life was normal.

Many friends didn’t understand. I remember them having shocked looks. “But I thought you were happily married?” one said, seemingly unable to comprehend the nightmare that had become my life.

I gave up trying talk about it, to explain. I felt it was my fault. Somehow I had attracted this, and perhaps somehow I could make him happy if I just did the right things and earned enough “Brownie points”—if, for example, I stayed home from social events and remained “on duty” with our baby almost 24/7. Eventually I learned there were never Brownie points. Nothing seemed to make him pleased.

One evening, he became angry with my older daughter, who was born blind in one eye, and called her a Cyclops. I remember wrapping one arm around my sobbing daughter while trying to bounce a baby on my hip. I was so exhausted from sleep deprivation and postpartum depression, it was all I could do to stay standing.

I had never felt so alone; so isolated, so hopeless.

I got the children settled to sleep and I made a choice that night that I was finished.

The next few days were a blur of his hateful and cruel remarks, as he knew I would not take him back; it was truly over. I knew I had to take a stand for myself, and if not me, for my children. They deserved better. I knew I did too, but I could not see it at that time.

It has been five years since we separated. I am resilient, and for that I am grateful.

I am still an optimist, and I still see the beauty in everyone. I take pause now, though, and I evaluate situations more carefully. My trust takes much more time to be earned now than it did eight years ago when I fell in love too fast, without knowing the real person behind the charming facade.

Many people, including my parents, were disappointed in my failed marriage. Many sent prayers that it would be healed. For a long while, I felt like a failure.

I have come to realize there is no shame in ‘failing’ in a marriage, especially if that marriage is toxic and harmful to your soul. I appreciate those thoughts and well-intended prayers, but at the end of the day, an abusive person who is not willing to self-reflect is not likely to change. The best thing to do at that point is to extricate yourself while you have the strength to do so.

Recovering from trauma takes time. It has taken a lot of courage to look at my vulnerabilities and why I attracted such a relationship in the first place. This doesn’t mean I blamed myself. I just recognized that I had a strong need to feel loved and accepted, even if I was in an unhealthy situation, because I never felt loved and accepted as a child.

It’s taken half a lifetime, but I’ve finally leaned that everything I need is inside myself. I am complete on my own.

Still, I have to work almost daily at forgiving, acting with grace, and ensuring that I am not compromising my needs or my right to be treated with dignity and respect in order to make him happy. I am still learning to stand my ground and expect respectful treatment, when it comes to co-parenting.

I will forever be grateful to the supportive network of family, friends, and a counselor who saw me through that incredibly rough time. A broken heart, shattered self-esteem, and deep postpartum depression did not disappear overnight.

With the bravery it takes to self-reflect and learn from what appears to be a very unfortunate circumstance, comes unparalleled growth. The self-forgiveness opens up opportunities for deeper self-love and self-compassion, and a much deeper understanding of my own humanness and how my past shaped me.

But with time, self-love, self-forgiveness, and self-acceptance, I am a stronger and more empowered person today in spite of that experience. I am a phoenix, transformed by the fire. I will continue to see the beauty and unlimited potential in people, and I still choose to see the glass as half full. I do daily forgiveness work for myself and choose to move forward with love and grace, honoring my journey and my experience for what I have learned.

About Angela Savage

Angela is a registered nurse, colon hydrotherapist, health coach, Level 2 certified iridologist, and cellular detoxification and regeneration specialist. She is passionate about helping people heal themselves by tapping into their innate ability to do so by supporting the body with nutritious foods and effective cleansing methods. You can find her on Facebook here and Instagram here.

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How I Stopped Feeling So Lonely and Disconnected

If I were given the chance to relive my childhood, I wouldn’t take it. For the most part, those were times I’d rather forget. I didn’t get along well in school, and family life was less than ideal. About the only thing I liked about the seventies and eighties was the rock ‘n’ roll music.

As a kid growing up in Miami, I had an Asian look about me, even though I was of Hispanic descent. Many of the kids in school asked me if I was Chinese; some called me a stupid chink; and a few just beat me up.

Things at home weren’t much easier. My parents divorced when I was in grade school. I lived with my mom and three sisters (all older and bigger than me). There were the usual sibling rivalries. So, at school I got beat up by the boys, and at home I got beat up by the girls.

I hardly had any friends. Anybody I associated with was just as much a misfit as I was. I spent most of my free time either with my head in a book or riding my bike around the neighborhood.

High school was torture. I was shy, unattractive, and under-developed. And though I was small for my age, the hormones still surged through my body. Like any other teenage boy, I wanted to be at least noticed by the girls, but it seemed like every girl was out of my league.

My whole existence could be described in two words: inadequate and lonely. I remember one day walking down the hall in school. I was so tense that I couldn’t seem to walk straight. I felt like I was a prisoner in my own body and mind. There was me, and then the rest of the world.

Things didn’t get any better as I got older. Depression began to set in. I tried alcohol for a few years, but that only made things worse. I became even more isolated.

At twenty-two, it seemed like my life was coming to an end. I didn’t know what to do. I always resisted help because I thought nobody could possibly understand what I was going through. I was wrong.

I found a group of people who knew exactly how I felt. How did I know? They told me about their feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, even though I never told them how I felt.

They offered to help me; one guy in particular, Steve, told me that I could be free from the bondage of self, and that he would show me the way. This was hard for me because I didn’t like taking directions from other people. I also didn’t want to impose on them. But Steve acted as if it was an honor to help me. I didn’t understand that.

For the next couple of years, Steve had me do written exercises to examine my past. He also gave me assignments to change my behavior. For example, he had me do volunteer work to help other people in need. I chose to volunteer in prisons, helping inmates turn their lives around, as I was doing.

Over time, I began to feel much better about myself. I was able to make friends and felt like I had a role in this world. But I still felt a bit out of place, and at times very lonely. My relationships with women were brief, more like just encounters.

Up until that point, I had heard about meditation, but I didn’t know exactly what it was. I intuitively discovered that I could relieve stress by going to the park, sitting quietly, and contemplating the things that were happening in my life. I would also take time before work and sit for a few minutes before I started working at the computer. I was self-employed at the time, selling long-distance calling services over the Internet.

One spring day in 1996, as I sat quietly at my desk having my morning cup of coffee, I suddenly found myself immersed in what seemed like pure consciousness. I had the distinct feeling that time had come to a complete stop, and I was seeing the essence of who I really was. I must have been in this state for only a short period of time, as the screensaver on my computer had not yet kicked in.

When I returned to normal consciousness, everything looked surreal and I felt completely at peace, as if all my troubles had simply disappeared. All of a sudden, my entire life made complete sense. I realized that I was never lost at all, but that all my painful experiences had served a purpose—to learn an important life lesson. The confusion was gone.

I also felt wide awake, as if I had been asleep my whole life. I now had an awareness, or a sense, that I didn’t have before, or even know that I could have. It was like I had been blind my whole life, and didn’t even know that it was possible to see. I could sense another presence in the room even though I was alone at the time. I kept looking around to see who was there, but I couldn’t see anyone, at least not with my eyes.

In the weeks that followed, I underwent a dramatic transformation, and many people noticed. They said I looked so peaceful and wanted to know why. I didn’t yet know how to explain it to them.

I now felt a deep connection with other people. It was as if they were a part of me. When I looked at them, it seemed like I could see deep inside their soul and feel what they were feeling. I could feel their joy and their pain, their confusion and their loneliness. There were many times that it brought tears to my eyes.

While I changed in many ways as a result of this experience, I think the most profound change was my ability to see that we’re all connected on a deeper level. Interconnectedness was no longer just a concept to me, but rather a reality.

Ever since that spring day in 1996, I have never felt alone, regardless of who was or wasn’t in my life, because no matter how far apart I may be from other people, I can always feel them in my heart. I have meditation to thank for that.

How Meditation Can Help You Overcome Loneliness 

While my experiences may seem unique, other people are learning how to overcome their loneliness through meditation, as well, and you can too. Meditation is a lot simpler than many people may think.

The way meditation helps you overcome loneliness is by calming your mind and emotions. Then you’ll be able to see for yourself how you’re connected with other people on a deeper level. Meditation will literally help you expand your awareness.

The form of meditation I practice, and now teach, is mindfulness meditation. Though it has its roots in Buddhism, it focuses on the techniques and leaves behind all the rituals and beliefs. There are two basic components of the practice: sitting meditation and writing meditation.

Sitting Meditation

The best way to start a meditation practice is to simply start meditating. I know I’m stating the obvious, but you’d be surprised at how difficult this can be. We often procrastinate until we find the perfect time. Don’t wait. Start now.

Find a quiet place where you can sit for a few minutes without being disturbed. Close your eyes and begin following your breath. Observe how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural. As your body relaxes, notice how you take each breath in one graceful motion.

When a distraction arises, observe it mindfully as it comes into being, then let it slip away without clinging to it. Then gently bring your awareness back to your breath. Don’t get upset if your mind keeps wandering off. This is perfectly normal. The idea is to keep bringing it back to your breath.

Start with a ten-minute session and then work your way up to twenty minutes or more. It may be a challenge to sit still in the beginning, but it will get easier as your mind settles down over time.

And as your mind settles down, you’ll likely find you’re less consumed by thoughts about being different, inadequate, or lonely, which means you’ll be better able to be present with other people and create connections from moment to moment.

Loving-Kindness Writing Meditation

Writing meditation is a technique I developed to reprogram the subconscious mind to help people achieve their goals. It only takes five to ten minutes a day, and it’s highly effective.

The practice is simple. You just copy by hand a set of affirmations, such as the loving-kindness meditation, over and over in a notebook. This will force your brain to rewire itself for new thinking and behavior. Within a week or two, you’ll find yourself acting differently without any conscious effort.

Here is a sample of the loving-kindness meditation:

May I be healthy and strong. May I be safe and protected. May I be peaceful and free from mental, emotional, and physical suffering. May I be happy and joyful. May I be patient and understanding. May I be loving, kind, compassionate, and gentle in my ways. May I be courageous in dealing with difficulties, and always meet with success. May I be diligent and committed to my meditation practice, and to helping others along their spiritual path. May my True Nature shine through, and onto all beings I encounter.

After you write this verse, write the same words again, swapping “I” for “every person and living being in my house.” Then write it again for every person and living being in your neighborhood, then again for all people and living beings in your city, your country, the whole planet, and the entire universe, for a total of seven verses.

Remember, all you do is copy the meditation in a notebook for five to ten minutes a day. It doesn’t matter how far you get. The next day, just pick up where you left off. You don’t even need a quiet time or place to do it. It’s that simple.

The purpose of loving-kindness meditation is to cultivate unconditional love for all people and living beings. Imagine the impact on your life if you truly lived according the ideals of the affirmations:

  • You’ll become more outgoing
  • It will improve your relationships
  • It will heal the wounds from your past

The reason loving-kindness writing meditation is so effective is that you’re using multiple senses to assimilate information directly into your subconscious. And once it’s in your subconscious, it will manifest in your attitudes about yourself and other people.

As you can see, overcoming loneliness is not as hard as you might think. It takes just a little bit of time for practice, and some diligence, but the rewards are tremendous. You’ll no longer feel disconnected and isolated. You’ll feel like you’re a greater part of humanity, and this can make all the difference in the world. I know from personal experience how painful it is to feel lonely. I overcame it, and so can you.

Best wishes on your spiritual journey!

About Charles A. Francis

Charles A. Francis is the founder and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute, and author of Mindfulness Meditation Made Simple: Your Guide to Finding True Inner PeaceHe is the creator of the 12 Steps of the Mindfulness Meditation Practice, and writing meditation technique. He helps people find true happiness through workshops & retreats. For more great content, visit MindfulnessMeditationInstitute.org.

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What Happens When We Compromise Our Core Values

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” ~Roy E. Disney

I got out of the car and could immediately tell that something was amiss. There were far too many glum-looking people milling around outside the building my meeting was scheduled to take place in. I worked for Yellow Pages at the time, and I regularly met with business owners who were interested in placing ads.

At that moment two burly men exited through the warehouse adjoining the office carrying a filing cabinet. A man who was carrying what looked like a paper shredder followed them.

There were probably ten men, most of whom were wearing coveralls, stood around smoking, talking in hushed tones and generally looking despondent

I turned around to look at my manager. She shrugged and motioned for me to go into the office.

At this point the veil lifted and I realized what was going on. The men carrying out the office furniture were repo men, or bailiffs as we call them in the UK. The other people outside were staff members who by now were starting to realize they were possibly no longer in employment.

I stopped in the office doorway and again turned to my manager looking for a cue that it was okay to pivot and leave, but I didn’t get one.

Instead, she nodded toward the clearly anxious business owner, leaned into me, and whispered into my ear, “Quick, get him to sign the order while he still has a desk to lean on.” She wasn’t joking and I was momentarily stunned.

I knew that the owner would probably sign because he had nothing to lose. If he went bankrupt he wouldn’t have to pay the bill. And if he managed to survive he would need to renew the advert he had previously placed with us to generate business—though he likely still wouldn’t pay, given the circumstances.

Many years ago, when I was about eleven years old, I was trying to fit in with some boys a year or so older than me.

It was near the beginning of my first year at a big, new school. I had few friends close to me because those of us who had moved up together had been split up in different classes across the entire year. As such, I was eager to please the other new boys in my class so I could feel included.

I had latched onto a group of about four others, and we were walking home from school one late afternoon.

As was already common practice, we stopped to go into a small convenience store that sold everything from fruit and vegetables to the more desirable candy.

In those days, we all wore school uniforms, and I had on a new blazer that was a bit too big for me, making me look a bit like Paddington Bear minus the marmalade sandwich under my hat.

I was wandering around the store, ruing the fact that I didn’t have any money to buy anything lovely and sweet, when suddenly I felt something heavy drop into the right-hand pocket of my blazer. I nervously looked down and could see an orange nestled neatly in the pocket.

I looked back up to see one of the other boys grinning at me. He put his finger to his lips and gently pushed me toward the door with his other hand, obviously wanting me to leave with the ‘free’ orange.

I immediately felt sick with nerves.

I’d never stolen anything in my life, and this didn’t feel good at all. Neither did the thought of my trying to put the orange back and getting caught. Or, even telling the store owner that my new friend was encouraging me to steal his produce.

I must have had guilt written all over my face because I was barely a half dozen paces through the door when I felt a large hand on my shoulder.

I spun round hoping it was my friend but deep down knew it wasn’t.

My worst fears were realized as I faced the angry storeowner, who immediately thrust his hand into my pocket and pulled out the errant orange. I was so anxious that I had to fight the urge to throw up all over the man’s shoes.

He brandished the citrus reticulata in front of my face and said, “What do you think you’re doing with this? Are you a thief? I’m going to call your parents.”

I could barely talk, I was so frightened. My fear intensified as I saw my new friends walk off laughing, obviously not in the least bit concerned by my predicament.

To the best of my knowledge, that was the first time I was introduced to core values and their crucial importance in our lives.

It was a chastening experience explaining to my parents why I’d done such a thing, after they had been called to collect me.

They felt let down, but probably more importantly, I felt I’d let myself down to such an extent that I vowed I would never allow myself to get dragged into such behavior again.

I value honesty and integrity, and I’d demonstrated neither. Of course, I had no idea at that age what core values were. I just knew something was badly amiss.

As I stood in the doorway to the office, years later, the orange stealing incident came flooding back to me in glorious technicolor. Only this time there was no desire to fit in and no need for external validation.

I was well aware why my manager wanted a signature on the order. She knew, irrespective of whether the guy would ever pay—he clearly wouldn’t—that she would still earn a financial bonus and the ‘sale’ would go toward her target for that campaign. It would be a great many months before our employer realized they were probably never going to get paid.

Enough was enough. I turned round and walked passed her, thrusting the order into her hand, and hissed, “You sign him up.”

I knew she wouldn’t. It was one thing having my counter signature on an order that defaulted, but quite another to have a manager sign off on it.

As I walked back to the car I knew I was done.

I was done with a manager who had zero integrity. Done with a company that only cared about its bottom line. And done with an entire industry that seemed interested in one thing and one thing only, generating revenue.

Prior to that day I’d had what many people would consider a successful career. I earned excellent money, won numerous sales awards, and was a team player who was always looking to help my colleagues.

From the outside looking in, I was a success.

But the problem with success is that it doesn’t have an objective definition. We define our own success, not other people. Unless that is, we foolishly allow them to.

Which would you consider a successful life: living in alignment with your values and doing work you truly believe is meaningful, or earning loads of cash doing work that leaves you feeling conflicted?

If you truly value family, should you really accept that job that will take you away on business half the time?

If integrity is paramount to your sense of well-being, should you really make false claims on your taxes or exaggerate your work expense report?

And thinking beyond work, if peace is critical to you, is it wise to get involved in petty online squabbles and neglect your meditation practice?

Commit today to figuring out your own core vales by asking yourself:

“What is important to me?”

Then, when you have an answer, follow up with the question:

“What does that give me?”

Write that down and irrespective of the answer make the same inquiry again:

“What does that (new word) give me?”

Then write that down.

And keep going until you cannot think of anything else or you start to give the same answers and end up in a loop.

Then start the process again by asking, “What is important to me?”

The reason you need to keep drilling down is to make sure you hit a value.

For example, if the answer to the original question is money, then that’s not a value. Money can never be a value.

If I gave you a million dollars under the condition you could never spend it, invest it, or give it away—you could only look at it—would you want it?

Of course not.

We all want money because of what we think it can give us. Maybe that is security, freedom, or maybe even peace of mind. They are the values.

When you have figured out your top eight or more values, the easy part is over because now you need to start asking yourself some tough questions.

Does my job align with my values?

Do my friends (for the most part) align with my values?

Do my habits align with my values?

Do my thoughts align with my values?

If the answer to one or more of the above is no, then some work is called for because there is little point knowing your values if you don’t live them.

As an eleven-year-old I didn’t appreciate core values. I couldn’t have told you that the reason I was so distressed about Orangegate was because integrity was super important to me.

I also didn’t realize the situation was exacerbated by the fact that I highly value independence and following my own path.

But, I didn’t have the excuse of youth as a forty-year-old. And I knew it.

Even though in my mind I was done with sales on that day, it took me another year or so before I finally found a new career that aligned with my most important values.

And, it would take another decade of working for myself before my income would be back up to my previous level.

Nevertheless, I didn’t care, because, even though I didn’t have the disposable income I was used to, I had something much more important and much more valuable.

And that was a profound feeling that I was successful based not upon income, but on being true to my values.

We all need money and most people like status, but nothing gives us that innate sense of peace and contentedness like living in alignment with our core values.

About Tim Brownson

Tim Brownson has been a life coach since 2005. He specializes in core values work for most of that time and now teaches it to other coaches. If you’re interested in understanding your own values and how you can use them to make better decisions and lead a happier and more fulfilled life, check out his book, The Clarity Method.

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Find Your “Rat People”: The Best Advice for People-Pleasers

Deadly Women. I like Deadly Women.

Allow me to rephrase: I don’t have an affinity for murderous ladies, and I’m also not a fan of murder as a practice. I am decidedly pro-loving people and anti-killing them. And yet I enjoy the show Deadly Women and watch it with my sister, who shares my interest in true crime, whenever I’m home.

I don’t share this with many people. Why? Because it’s weird, or so I’ve thought. Maybe it’s more that it’s tough to explain.

I wouldn’t want people to judge me or somehow think less of me because I’m drawn to documentaries and books that dig deep into the psychology of criminal minds.

I wouldn’t want anyone to assume I’m dark, twisted, and sadistic.

Why am I making this bizarre confession? I recently started thinking about the little things I’ve never publicly shared after listening to an interview with writer and designer Paul Jarvis.

As you may recall, I’m currently producing a new podcast called Next Creator Up, with my partner in many things and show host Ehren Prudhel.

This week’s interview focuses on the idea that less is often more, both in general and specifically in business. And there’s a lot of emphasis on deciding for ourselves what it means to live a successful life.

While the whole interview spoke to me as a creative person, a minimalist, and an entrepreneur, I keep thinking about this story he told in the beginning about finding his “rat people.”

Paul has pet rats, and he unabashedly shares his affection for them even though he suspects 99 percent of the population find them dirty and disgusting.

He posts pictures of them on Instagram. He’s dedicated books to them. And he could care less if some people think this is weird. Because 1 percent of the population gets it, and he’s okay with speaking to just that 1 percent when he shares his love for his rodent family.

He wrote an email newsletter about this many years back, using this story as an analogy for finding the people who’ll get our creative work, and it ended up being one of the most popular emails he’s ever sent out.

The message: Find the people who will appreciate what you do and love you for it, and ignore the ones who don’t. They don’t matter. They’d never support you, so stop trying to win everyone over and focus on connecting with the people you don’t have to try hard to please.

Be okay with the majority of people not getting what you like and what you do. In fact, don’t just be okay with it; relish in it—because it’s far better to be supported by a few who really see and appreciate you than to be accepted by many who don’t and never will.

Mind.

Blown.

If you google me you will find a lot about my work in the self-help world. If you follow the digital breadcrumb trail, you may come to see me in a particular light. And I have to be honest, I’ve wanted to be seen in that light. I’ve wanted the majority of people to like me and see me as someone who cares and aspires to help people.

It’s not that those things aren’t true. It’s just that they’re not the whole picture. I’ve unintentionally fed into a certain persona in an attempt to appeal to the majority, as this is what I’ve always done, in all aspects of my life.

I’ve tried to be all things to all people. I’ve tried to be palatable to all. I’ve aspired to be the human equivalent of pizza, because I want to be loved, and who doesn’t love pizza?

While it feels good to imagine most people see the best in me, I don’t want to be only partially seen. And I don’t want to limit what I’m able to do and create based on this narrow idea of who I am and what I have to offer.

I don’t want to forever pigeonhole myself because I only share certain parts of myself. I want to wave my freak flag high—no f*cks given—and be okay with the fact that many of you might think it’s too big, too bold, or too eclectic.

And yeah, I wrote f*cks, which I know some people find offensive. Sorry not sorry. I’m literally terrified to publish those words, but oh how f*cken liberating!

I swear, a lot more when speaking than you’d imagine if you read my writing.

I like true crime.

I read celebrity websites.

I enjoy tarot card readings, even though I don’t believe anyone can predict the future, and simultaneously write about the power of staying in the now.

I spend too much money on expensive facials.

I love an excuse to wear a costume and would be totally into King Richard’s fair and steampunk, though I’ve yet to delve into either.

And as for my creative work? I want to break through the walls I’ve built around myself over this last decade and expand beyond the world of self-help.

As you may know, I’m an aspiring filmmaker. But I also want to paint—not landscapes or anything peaceful, but weird, Tim-Burton-esque images that are more interesting and surreal than beautiful and serene.

I want to write stories about quirky people and dysfunctional family dynamics—think Napoleon Dynamite and Little Miss Sunshine.

And I also want to write a murder mystery someday, either a novel or film. Something dark and compelling and intriguing. Something I’d watch with my sister when the Deadly Women marathon’s over.

And this means I’ll need to be okay with the fact that my work will only speak to some. Which has probably been true all along; it just hasn’t felt that way.

So going forward, whenever I’m tempted to water myself down—to serve you the cheese version of my pizza instead of the vegan wild mushroom pistachio pesto with tofu chèvre—I’m going to remind myself of the following:

I don’t need everyone to like me. Just the few who genuinely appreciate me once they see me for who I really am.

I don’t need everyone to like what I like. Just the ones who share my unique brand of weird and want to tangle our freak flags for a while.

I don’t need everyone to like what I say and write. Just the ones who get what I’m getting at and would never ask me to tone it down or rein it in.

And I don’t need everyone to like what I create. Just the ones who are drawn to what I want to draw with the messy palette inside my mind and my heart.

So my rat people, where are you? And if you’re not my rat people, who are yours? What’s your brand of weird? And what do you want to do and create?

I realize not all Tiny Buddha readers are interested in creativity, but I know you rat people are out there! If you’re a creative trying to make a living off your work, I highly recommend checking out Paul’s interview. It’s jam-packed with tips and insights that can help you do what you want to do and live your own version of success.

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and co-producer of the newly launched podcast Next Creator Up, which helps people overcome their blocks and create what they want to create. She’s also the author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal and other books and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. For daily wisdom, join the Tiny Buddha list here.

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How I Found Happiness by Facing the Past I Worked So Hard to Escape

“Ten years from now, make sure you can say you chose your life, you didn’t settle for it.” ~Mandy Hale

I spent most of my youth trying to escape. From the mother who drank too much and the violent men …

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Why No One Else Can Make Me Feel Insignificant

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Significance.

A phenomenon most of us only notice once we lose it.

If you’re like me, you’ve had (and could still have) a love/hate relationship with significance. Simply …

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Why Introverts Feel Drained in Groups and How I Preserve My Energy

“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” ~Deepak Chopra

When I was younger, I was always referred to as “the quiet one.” I didn’t mind it; I knew I was much quieter than most people …

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Loving Yourself When You’ve Become Addicted to Self-Improvement

“Whatever purifies you is the right path.” ~Rumi  

I’m tired of being good. It’s time to be deliciously free.

How I wish I could say that without rushing in to assure you that I promise I’ll still be good.

The …

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Maybe It’s Not All Good or All Bad

“You are the sky. Everything else—it’s just the weather.” ~Pema Chödrön

A farmer has a horse for many years; it helps him earn his livelihood and raise his son. One day, the horse runs away. His neighbor says sympathetically, “Such …

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Why I Won’t Let the Fear of Failure Hold Me Back

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~Winston Churchill

I am scared of sharks. Often when I’m floating in the ocean on my surfboard, amazed at the vastness before me …

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What to Do If You Feel Trapped by Your Circumstances

“As long as we know we’re trapped, we still have a chance to escape.” ~Sara Grant

Talking to someone last week who had to ‘volunteer’ to return to their country of birth, a country defined by the United Nations as …

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