Always stars beyond.

Wishing on a star you can see is always a good idea. But sometimes we shoot our biggest plans-for-what’s-to-come so aggressively that they simply cannot sink in to these close targets. And then what?

Good thing there are always stars beyond.

It’s the farther stars, the distant ones, that we can barely see or cannot see at all, that absorb our wishes and go about their secret business of fulfilling them. And remarkably, these heavenly bodies, invisible to our naked human eye, do what they do with far more flare and extravagance than the local stars, the overused stars, the common stars, could ever, themselves, dream possible.

Inner Child. This child. You.

 

This morning, as my daughter was getting ready for her first day of second grade at a new school — the second new school in two years — I listened to her tell me how she was feeling excited, but also nervous and scared. She was afraid of not fitting in, afraid of not making friends, afraid of getting lost.

 

Oof. I’ve been there.

 

And again and again in my work, I guide people to times in their current lives when they, as babies or children, have been faced with challenges like this or, often, far more dire, that, to heal, they must encounter, find inner strength to handle, and then reframe. This is Inner Child Therapy. It is empowering and beautiful.

 

So, as a parent, encountering opportunities in the here-and-now in which I can help empower my child feels like such an amazing gift.

 

This morning, as she brushed her hair, I asked her what gifts she would give herself to help her get through the day. I told her we’d turn these gifts into colored light marbles, like magic, and they’d give her special powers.

 

She chose her marbles carefully.

 

Love was red. Individuality was blue (like Ravenclaw!). Bravery was yellow. Kindness was navy blue, (because it’s deep). And resiliency, which she called “bounce-back-ed-ness” was a rainbow rubber ball. Perfect.

 

She put her light marbles in her heart and expanded them so they could swirl through her body, filling her up. Then, I told her that she could call on any of her light-gift strengths that were now a part of her any time that she needs them.

 

Her whole demeanor changed. She was strong, ready, and, to my amazement, fearless.

 

I took her to school. Walking into the building with her new teacher and 17 new classmates, she didn’t even hesitate. She went right through the doors with a smile on her face and did not look back.

 

It was beautiful.

 

It’s not just inner child. It’s present and real child. And it’s present and real us. Next time you’re faced with an upcoming challenge, try this simple meditation. Give yourself what you need in the form of magic light marbles, then put them in your heart, let them grow and swirl, and know that you can always, always call on them when the going gets tough.

 

You have the power to handle anything this world serves up. You planned your challenges to learn and to grow. Light marbles are only small beautiful reminders of who you are and what you can do.

The Parable of the Pine

On the day of the completion of her studies to become a physician, a young woman was called to meet with the elders of the village.

“In honor of your accomplishment, we wish to give you a gift,” one of the elders said to her. “We give you this pine.”

The woman stepped forward and accepted the tiny sapling in its small pot.

“Thank you,” she said. “I’m grateful for this gift. I’ll care for it well.”

As she left the hall of the elders, the woman looked at her gift in wonder. They had called it a pine, but its leaves were broad, waxy, and smooth, not sharp and prickly. It surely was an oak. But she did not dwell on this. She believed the elders knew what they were talking about. They were the elders, after all. And it was a beautiful tree. She was honored that they thought highly enough of her to give it to her.

“Now,” she thought, “I must find a place to plant it. Trees must be planted.” But, though her studies were complete, she did not know yet where she would live. She did not know where she would work. Suddenly, she felt an urgency to settle in one place, to plant her tree.

She set off through the countryside looking for a place to plant the pine. Everywhere she went, people came to her seeking healing. Each time someone requested her attention, she gently set the tree down beside her and set to work.

“What a beautiful oak,” each would comment.

“It’s a pine,” she would say. “And thank you. It was a gift from the elders of my village. I hope to find a suitable place to work so that I may plant it and it can thrive.”

Each time, the patients would nod, understanding.

Time passed, and though the woman traveled from place to place, she could not find the perfect place for her pine. Here it was too shady. Here too sandy. Here too rocky. She would set the tree down to look at it in each place, to gauge its ability to thrive, and each time, she would heal the town’s sick, and then pick the tree up again to move on.

The tree grew. Several times, the woman, replanted the tree into a new, bigger pot. And yet, she carried it with her, always loving it, always tending to it, always searching for its perfect home.

The woman grew older. The tree grew bigger.

One day after years of travel around the country healing the sick and searching for the tree’s best home, she found herself back in her own village. She felt an overwhelming sense of sadness that she had not yet found the tree a suitable and permanent garden. She carried the tree back to the hall of the elders and set the tree before them.

“I would like to return this pine to you, my venerable teachers. I have loved it well and have kept it with me all of these years, but I haven’t succeeded in finding a suitable place to plant it, or to plant myself, for that matter.”

The elder who had spoken when they gave her the tree spoke to her again. “Why do you feel that this tree must be planted?” he asked.

“It’s a tree,” she said. “Trees must be planted.”

“Why must this tree be planted?” he asked.

“To grow and thrive,” she said.

“Has not this tree grown? Has not it thrived?” he asked.

The woman looked at the tree. It was full grown now, a beautiful tree. Its branches reached the sky. Now, when she set it down beside her to work, it provided towering shelter and shade for her patients. The sound of its leaves in the breeze beckoned songbirds and squirrels to make their home in it. Carrying it for all of these years had made her strong, and yet she could lean upon it when she was tired and it would hold her steady.

The tree had grown. It had thrived.

The woman looked at the elders in surprise. “It has.”

They nodded.

“You gave me this pine and I assumed that I must plant it. So I traveled the world looking for its place. Through the years I was so consumed with planting the tree, that I failed to notice that it was growing and strong despite its simple pot.”

“Ah,” said one elder. “This is no ordinary tree. It is not like others. This tree is special in that it is just like you. Like you, it will thrive wherever it is. Like you, it will be strong wherever it is. Like you, it will give shelter and shade wherever it is. Like you, it will be magnificent wherever it is.”

The woman stared in disbelief. She could not argue. She had the proof right beside her. The tree was magnificent. And as she reflected on her years of travel as a physician, she knew that what the elder said was correct.

“And another thing,” said another elder, smiling. “This is not a pine. It is an oak.”

“But you called it a pine all those years ago,” she said. “You said ‘we give you this pine.'”

“No,” said the elder. “We said, ‘we give you this spine.’”

The woman gasped, and then laughed, shaking her head. “And all this time…” she said.

The elder smiled at her. “The gift of this tree was perfect. It represented your backbone of knowledge, skill, and talent. It represented your gift. It represented you and your ability to stand on your own wherever you are. It represented the fact that whatever you need is right inside you, at your core.”

Another said: “It did and it does. The tree was your gift. But more, it is your gift.”

The woman beamed. She stood tall before them. She squared her shoulders and raised her chin.

“Thank you for this lesson, elders. Though it has taken me years to understand, I finally do,” she said, laughing at herself. “Now, if you will please excuse me, my tree and I must be off to attend to the sick of the village before we go.”

She bowed to them, picked up her beautiful, full-grown oak, and walked out of the hall into the light of the square, where scores of townspeople waited patiently to be healed in the shade of the tree.

Photo credit: http://www.whiteoaknursery.biz

My own words to live by.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the me of 20 years ago — about who I was then, and, sure, about how the me of now has developed from her. I do believe that the me of now is far wiser than the me of then. But I’m also, somehow, less vivid. There’s beauty in youth — in the passionate expression of self and beliefs that comes so easy when you’re young. Just as there’s beauty in the wisdom that comes from successfully navigating life up to now. Who is to say, though, that when one is older, one must relegate the gold and laurels of youth to a dusty trunk in the back corner of one’s heart? Behind scar tissue perhaps. Or just wrinkles. I want to honor the me of then AND the me of now. Because really, if I don’t choose to be the best of what I ever have been, how can actualize my honest belief that my best is yet to come?

So I sat down and wrote my own personal creed. (Yeah, I fully get that calling this a creed is a throw-back and nod to my Catholic childhood, and I’m rolling with it. This is all about honoring myself through the metaphorical ages, after all.) These are my own beliefs, based on what I have learned. They are my own words to live by and my own reminders that passion and wisdom are both combinable and ageless. You might feel a twinge of recognition when you read them. Maybe you’ll nod or sigh or even quote them to a friend. My hope, though, is that maybe they will inspire you to write your own.

  • Feel so deeply it hurts.
  • Be open to the opportunity you will always find in the risky way.
  • Read.
  • Educate yourself. Hatred is born in the dark.
  • Write poetry. In journals, on napkins, in book margins, on magazine blow-ins.
  • Paint.
  • Mix it up. Do something different every day. Even if it means, on a slow day, brushing your teeth with your left hand.
  • Be on time.
  • Do your best. Honestly.
  • Choose to be with people who want you to be the biggest version of yourself, and genuinely want the same for them.
  • Even if you know you must hurt someone else to stay true to yourself, be respectful.
  • When you have extra, share.
  • Never give up. Never settle.
  • Empower your passion. Empower yourself through it.
  • Believe that you can.
  • Nervous is ok. Afraid is not.
  • Be invincible.
  • Know in your core that you do, can, and will make a difference.
  • Your thoughts, words, and actions are powerful. Use them for good.
  • Take full responsibility for what you say and do.
  • Smile.
  • Laugh.
  • Cry.
  • Honor yourself by learning from your mistakes.
  • Keep your body strong. There’s freedom and beauty in knowing you can physically do anything you want to do when you want to do it. Lift that box. Swim to that island. Run to the top of that mountain.
  • When it’s truly time to leave, know it and do it. Whether it’s an empty room, a party, an uncomfortable situation, or a relationship.
  • Do not give away your personal power. Even in the direst of times, you choose how you react.
  • When your love is misplaced, set yourself free. Self-love, self-respect, and dignity are your own personal treasures and you have every right to lock them away from grabbing hands.
  • Your happiness is like a sourdough starter. You have to feed it daily.
  • Trust your instincts. If it feels right, it is. If it feels wrong, it is.
  • Make the active decision to not be jealous. Be gracious and happy for others and if you really want something, make it happen.
  • You have the power to handle anything this life throws at you.
  • Ask for help when you need it. But even at your most vulnerable, be discerning of the advice and the giver of it.
  • Be you. Own it.
  • When it’s your time to die, you will. Live big until then.
  • Go.

Bring in the third person.

Have you ever been stuck? Stuck in a job? Stuck in a relationship? Stuck in confusion over something that happened? Unable to get over it or snap out of it (whatever it is)?

Probably. Because we’re human. And we worry about what people think of us. We doubt ourselves. We let social expectations rule us. And then, of course, there’s the big stuff. There’s depression and loneliness and serious fear.

Fundamentally, this is the limitation of negative thought, and I see it all the time — in my clients, my friends, my family, myself.

You are your own worst enemy. You’ve heard this before. I know you have, because I’ve heard it a million times. (And since I’m only 43, that means I have heard it more than 23,000 times a year.) You are your own worst enemy.

So how about trying something new to silence the enemy? How about instead of allowing yourself the comfortable habit of self criticism or doubt, catching yourself in the act, and purposefully shifting your perspective to the third person? I don’t mean imagine what others think of you. That’s trouble, especially if you are someone who gets caught up in the fierceness of that game. I mean remove yourself from the heat of it. Get out of your head. Look at yourself or the situation objectively — truly objectively — and then be honest. Do not allow yourself to be harmful in any way in your assessment (notice I didn’t say “judgement”) of what you see. If you find yourself still being critical, take another step back and try again.

What you’ll see will pleasantly surprise you. It may even amaze you.

Instead of thinking “I am fat” when you look in the mirror, you will notice that your eyes look striking in this color and you might want to consider wearing it more often.

Instead of telling yourself “I’m impatient with my kids and am a bad mom” you might see a loving, dedicated mother who rises to the occasion to teach and love at every turn, but who is (shocker!) human.

Instead of “I must not be worthy of love” you might understand that you, frankly, deserve better (and the fact that he hasn’t called or texted has way more to do with him than it does with you).

Instead of wondering what they’ll think of you, you’ll feel the joy of doing what you love… and totally owning it.

Instead of opting out, you’ll feel psyched to opt in.

Instead of doubting your ability to do more or better, you’ll see someone with true potential.

And that brings up my next point. How often do you defeat yourself out of habit? How many times a day do you say “no?” How many times a day do you say “I can’t…”

No. I can’t. 

I have a simple philosophy that’s served me well over the years. When I’m presented with opportunity, I always say yes until there is actual proof that no is the only answer. Try it. Sure, be honest with yourself and others along the way.  Integrity is important. So “yes” might come in the form of “maybe” for a while.  But do allow yourself that third person point-of-view and go for the yes. If it doesn’t work out, fine. At least you tried. You probably learned something and gained something in the process.

And now think about “I can’t.” Come on. Is that really true? The more objective third person in you might say “I don’t know how yet,” or “I’d like to learn,” or, perhaps honestly, “I’m not interested.” But “I can’t” is incredibly self-defeating and self-deprecating. Because the truth is, you probably can. It is true that you probably can do and be far more than you think you can. That “I can’t” nonsense gets in the way. We’d all do well to eradicate the auto-response from our progress-defense arsenal.

Sometimes it’s hard when you’re caught up in the messiness of yourself to be objective, let alone positive. But it’s worth it to cease the negative habit. With practice, getting to that third-person place will get easier, and you’ll find that you’re actually, honestly, not so messy after all. And then you’ll get on a roll with that virtuous circle. Just as before when you fed in negative, you got negative; now when you feed in positive, you’ll get positive.

Yes. You can.