Join the author as she describes her journey toward radical self-acceptance and inner revolution. Transform your self-loathing into self-love and change your negative feelings into positive ones. Take your power back with a unique Energy Management Grid that will help you to identify what is draining you while redirecting you to more meaningful and fulfilling choices. Develop a deeper understanding of where to focus your attention to live your life with passion and purpose.
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By Kerri Perisich
Balboa PressCopyright © 2012 Kerri Perisich
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy Story
A Lesson in Loss
Troy-my more-than-a-mentor, the man who had saved me from my self-loathing and encouraged me to quit the behaviors that would have brought by destruction-was dead. I found myself crying out, "Oh where did my teacher go?" "You do not understand the world of pain you have left me in." "You cannot understand how alone I feel." When he died, I was surrounded by people but still felt utterly alone in the world. My inner beauty, the beauty that he taught me to find, seemed to vanish when he left this world. I called out in anger, "Why did you even let me find this inner beauty if it could disappear so suddenly?" My only goal had been to be my truest self, and I failed at even the simplest of tasks. You have not failed, his encouragement would come back to me. "Then why do I feel like such a failure? Why is every day now full of actions I don't wish for? Why do I feel exhausted and unfulfilled?" I lost the inner bliss I had known, like she was always two steps ahead or behind me, hiding in the forest, hurrying from tree to tree. I caught glimpses, but I never caught her. At least not at first.
The first month was full of false promise. I really thought I would be able handle my daily life because I could still feel his spirit all around me. When I saw his body at the funeral I became so filled with his presence, it was as if every particle that had made up his living being was still with me. It wasn't until after 40 days that I felt his spirit leave the earth. Only then did a deep and indescribably painful feeling of loss begin to drag me down. The pain wouldn't leave me for even a second. I could be laughing on the outside, but I was always crying on the inside. I lost pleasure in every activity I once enjoyed. People occasionally invited me to activities, but I found it as difficult to say "no" as "yes." Just trying to form simple words demanded tremendous effort.
My mind played tricks on me. I could no longer intuit anything from my scrambled emotions other than despair. I felt as though everything that had been fun about my life-being free, having fun, and feeling sexy-drifted away from me one grief-stricken day at a time. The spiral took me ever downward for the first two years. I couldn't sleep well, yet everything in my body wanted to crawl into bed and stay there until the nightmare was over.
I knew that getting out and exercising would help me, so I tried it. My old exercise routine became just a whisper in the past. I only barely attempted a bike ride before I stopped and fell asleep on the nearest park bench. It hit me that this was much more than an emotional and a mental tragedy. Every day became an uphill battle. Just getting out of bed felt impossible on some mornings. At one point I convinced myself I had only 30 days left to live and started figuring out who should take custody of my daughter in the event of my death.
Beyond becoming a physical, emotional, and mental train wreck, I lost faith in myself and in my ability to live out my dreams. Without my beloved mentor, I lost sight of the point of living. The thought of worldly success seemed empty and shallow. I had plunged into despair in every possible way. I knew I wanted to live, but I felt sentenced to a life of hopeless nothingness.
Two years passed and I still derived no enjoyment from life. Every coping mechanism left me just as empty as before. I turned to sugar and caffeine to pull me through every weary day. I justified this behavior by telling myself that at least it was better for me than alcohol or drugs.
By year three I felt freed from the fear of impending death around every corner. I even experienced five minutes of real hope here and there. I fooled myself into thinking I was doing better than I really was. I had graduated from heavy despair to moderate depression, but I was far from healed. Without that spiritual coach in my life to tell me how great I was doing, it was as if two people really died that day. The authentic person I once was died with him. I was living for others because I had no clue how to get back in touch with my lost inner voice and intuitive sense.
Graduate school seemed to darken the last light that had shone inside me. I had to exhaust every bit of my energy just to pull through. I wanted great grades, and I took my teachers, clients, family and friends before myself every step of the way. After all, I did not want to face up to how intensely I had been ignoring myself over the past few years.
By year four I began to accept that I would spend the rest of my life living for others. I felt empty and out of control, bound by my addiction to sugar and caffeine. By year five I had left graduate school with my Masters, but I had a weight gain of more than 60 pounds. I decided that I had to put a stop to living for others. It was no easy turnaround. I left my counseling job which had been rewarding but ultimately far too taxing on my body and spirit. I gave up coffee. Not being a cold turkey person, this process took more than six months to complete. I added daily exercise, a routine I had stuck to for so long but abandoned when I began abandoning myself. Quitting sugar was the hardest step and required the most help. I added supplements to fight against my digestive system's buildup of candida yeast, and I called a dear friend every day to track my progress in kicking my addictive habits.
Eventually I started writing again. I was able to do this only after reestablishing my sense of personal power. I began to truly believe in myself without having to lean on anyone else. I got my life back. I got Kerri back, and she was more than worth fighting for. You also are worth fighting for. Never give up on yourself!
Aligning with Spirit
How can you catch your best self when it seems to have run off? I thought I had lost myself for good, but my great loss taught me an even greater lesson: We all must stop feeling like lost souls and take immediate responsibility for discovering ourselves anew.
Healing and aligning our lives with the guidance of Spirit is an active process. We hear the old adage, "Time heals all wounds." Maybe, but time has a way of retaining all wounds until we deal with them by bringing them to the surface. Just as we focus on physical healing when we injury our bodies, we must play an active role in our spiritual healing process. You are not going to be accidentally healed without effort on your part. The only times I've heard of instantaneous healing is through divine intervention or near-death experiences that border on the miraculous. Miracles await us every day, but if we wait passively for them we will never experience their healing power. Rather than wait around for lightning to strike, strike out on your own and take part in your own healing process!
All your actions are worth questioning. One step to the left or to the right in the wrong direction can end up costing you dearly. To avoid your missteps snowballing into disaster, get into the habit of self-examination and make objective improvements to get your life back on the right track. Practicing self-observation is like watching yourself from afar, as if you are just an observer noticing the details of your own life. Pay attention to yourself. It is amazing how little attention we pay to ourselves as we zoom through this life, falsely believing that we need to attract attention from outside ourselves. Vernon Howard, in Mystic Path to Cosmic Power, states that self-observation is your very best tool for spiritual growth. Counselors often model self-observation to their clients, reflecting back what they see as objective observers. From the position of self-observer, we are able to see ourselves in a whole new way and with a nonjudgmental perspective. Self-observation is a means to coming in closer contact with ourselves without diving so far into ourselves that we risk self-pity and hopeless despair.
Mindfulness also serves as a mode for self-observation, bringing us out of ourselves. The more we ground ourselves with an objective eye, the more naturally we will take the right action. Our power of spirit rises and speaks to us more clearly when we pay attention to ourselves with a clear focus, so clear that responding to our spirit becomes spontaneous and even effortless. As Deepak Chopra's fourth law of spiritual success teaches, by doing less we end up accomplishing more. Self-observation and mindfulness to our inner spirit become the modes by which we can act with great simplicity and tap into an even greater source of personal power.
Observing ourselves also helps us break through patterns of denial. Denial includes all the excuses and justifications we resort to after we've abandoned our true selves. Denial enables our problems to continue. I know of no one who smokes with the hope of getting cancer, or drinks and drives with the desire to kill other drivers. Yet these results are predictable consequences of such behaviors, and denial that encourages their abuse. To break the chains of denial's repetitions, do nothing more than simply and objectively observe yourself from a distance. When we watch family and friends in action, it is easy to see what they are doing wrong and what they can do to change their lives for the better. The problem is that it doesn't matter how many other people outside of you can see it; it matters only that the person who needs it the most can see it. It matters only that you see you.
If you want to see reality for what it really is, you must observe it objectively. And just as obvious as matching your friends' and family members' lives, you will be able to see the areas in your life that need changing. You will see your life as clearly as an outsider looking in. You will still have your personal denials, but they will gradually lessen as you take action to bring the denials out of the darkness and grow your spirit in the light of objective truth.
As you watch yourself, become aware of any goodness you might be preventing from getting in. Just as forest critters leave tracks and clues to their identities, your life leaves you clues as well. Say for example that you notice yourself watching too much TV. This habit drains you and becomes an energy vampire in the center of your life. Instead of judging your behavior as right or wrong, simply notice your actions. Our bodies are naturally self-correcting when we listen to them. We need only to be made aware of the problem and see it for what it really is. We will naturally gravitate toward the right path when we see the truth of the false path. If we notice that we are "watching TV" our life away, we gain the awareness of what we are missing out on. We begin seeing how the damaging effects of our behaviors far exceed their temporary benefits. Objective observation anticipates outcomes and seeks to avoid potential dangers. By noticing what we don't want, we will more easily spot what we do want. We achieve the rare opportunity to glimpse clearly into the direct consequences of our own actions and the results of our behavior as they emerge.
Transformation Through Spirit: A Lifetime of Work for a Moment of Change
When it comes to change on the level of spirit, too many of us expect a lightning rod of awareness to strike so everything in our world suddenly becomes different, new and somehow better. However, change does not come this way most of the time. Rarely does lightning strike and correct the mistakes of the past, crystallizing a perfect future in an instant of light. Those who do testify to experiencing such an enlightening epiphany seek its illumination for years, so it only seems like a sudden moment. More accurately, the process of deep change comes to us through spirit like fumbling through a game of Battleship. We cannot see the workings of our inner healing mechanisms just as we are blind to our opponent's battleship grid. At first you must make a string of guesses as to what will work. In time you seem to get lucky in locating a piece of a long battleship (i.e., you heal a specific place within you that was in pain). When you find this hit, you stay close to that one area until you've exhausted it and healed the entire location. Then, with one area of pain resurrected into wellness, you continue on in your search for other battleships freighted with pain. Once you sink them all, you feel freed from the chains of your past in the blissful liberation of an instant. A drawn-out application of healing techniques triggers a seemingly sudden moment of healing, and you wonder what ever took you so long to realize this moment. It takes time, patience, and self-knowledge to know what you are looking for, but everyone possesses the inalienable right to personal freedom from the chains of the past.
Feelings are the shadows of today's actions. What you feel sticks close beside what you think and how you act. Your feelings can become stuck inside a place of depression and negativity when you allow your thoughts and actions to create an energetic stronghold over your life. This is why fun activities can help to break a depressed mood, if only temporarily. The goal here is to challenge negative behaviors and thought patterns that afflict the emotions. Shifting your thoughts impacts our emotional state.
However, any lasting emotional shift must also happen energetically. The energetic strongholds that control our lives can make change seem impossible, and no lasting change can happen in an instant. It would be like trying to make a full stop and a U-turn after cruising in one direction at top speed. It takes time to slow down before making the dramatic shift away from the negative course. We must shift our lives on an energetic level if we hope to create the change we wish to see. We are in control, in tandem with the healing power of Spirit. We clean up our energetic prisons, one area at a time.
Because there exist four aspects to ourselves-the spirit, mind, body, and emotions-our vision for personal happiness can become murky and forgotten as we try to balance these four aspects. The mind takes the reins from the body, or the emotions drown out the spirit. It can be cripplingly easy to forget our goal to support ourselves through positive thinking when our emotions run amok. This is why it is critical that we focus on one area at a time as we approach personal transformation. Otherwise we are shooting at targets with our eyes closed. Too many desires compete simultaneously for the attention of the body, thoughts, emotions, and spirit. For lasting change to become a reality, we need to focus on one area of growth at a time. Take, for instance, the goal to improve our self-talk. This goal is too general. We need a specific goal to pursue, one that highlights the power of a specific aspect of ourselves. Shift the goal from simply self-talk to increasing the number of affirming thoughts we think on a given day, and we've isolated the goal to one area. This goal now concerns thinking, the realm of the mind. The other three aspects-emotions, spirit, and body-can rally around this goal as the mind pursues its accomplishment.
The emotions can guide the goal of feeling less depressed. To do this, your emotions seek out activities that generate a sense of fun. The body can follow the emotions' lead instead of fighting against it. It is hard to feel depressed when you are doing something you enjoy. Depression stays at home. At the very least it is slow to find you when you're busy following your bliss. This is why counseling offices often provide lists with activities suggestions. Counselors know that depression starts to fade when we get out of our ruts and stop indulging in its negativity. Isolation only increases depression. Once you've challenged your emotions to give up feeling depressed, you can challenge your thoughts. Cognitive-behavioral theory (CBT) fuels many counseling practices. CBT sessions focus on helping clients identify negative thoughts and replace these old patterns with new, empowering thought patterns. Over time, the new thoughts reinforce positive emotions and mood. The different aspects of the self work together to empower the whole person.
Is there a message your spirit is trying to tell you? Can you create meaning from depression? When people are able to find meaning from even the most unbearable of circumstances, bearing the hard times becomes more tolerable. The light justifies and purifies the dark.
Excerpted from Becoming Love by Kerri Perisich Copyright © 2012 by Kerri Perisich. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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