YOU ARE.

i-am-powerfulYou are brilliant.

You are kind.

You are funny.

You are powerful.

You are loved.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

National Suicide Prevention Week is the Sunday through Saturday, September 8-14, 2013 surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, 2013. The theme this year is: Challenging our Assumptions and Moving Forward Together. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.

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Understanding Embracing My Shadow

Many wonder how I came to the name “Embracing My Shadow”. I’ve been heavily influenced by Debbie Ford, who has since passed away. The vide below digs deeper into understanding one’s shadow.

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t…

It’s been over a month since my last post on Embracing My Shadow. I have been avoiding you… No let me be honest – actually, I’ve been avoiding myself. And I must confess that I am ashamed.

I was so excited with the momentum that was building with this movement of Shadow Lovers. I planned for a new year that was full of order and direction for the blog. You can read all about my plans here. I followed the advice of many a veteran blogger and created a schedule of blog posts. The writing had come to me so easily in 2012, I just figured that it would continue. I tend to keep my ideas in the Notes app in my phone but I felt the need to be a little more organized. I printed up a calendar and planned out my postings for the first three months of 2013. I  was ready to take 2013 by storm. I was the consummate perfectionist. I was on top of it. And then, it all stopped…

I was so excited that I forgot myself. I forgot what happens when I place so much pressure on planning and I forget what it means to be in the moment. I forgot what this endeavor was really about. I was caught in a whirlwind and I couldn’t keep up. So I did what I am prone to do when I get overwhelmed. I disappeared…

Time passes. I keep telling myself I’ll get something done. Then I don’t. Then I feel guilty. Then I put it off some more. Then I build it up to be this huge thing and I stress myself out over it. This stress impacts my entire life. I feel a tightening of my chest. My eating habits change. My sleeping patterns change. I get sick. And it generally comes back to the one thing that I am not dealing with. Does anyone else do this, or am I alone in my avoidance issues?

I used to think that this was simple procrastination, but I am learning that it goes much deeper than that. I have learned about what it means to be a perfectionist and must admit that I suffer from this personality disposition. Perfectionism, depression and anxiety create a perfect storm in my life that has led to overwhelming despair, shame and a type of paralysis that perpetuates the self-defeating thought that I am not good enough, nor will I ever be.

So I confess to you, dear Shadow Lovers. My perfectionist tendencies got the best of me and as soon as I fell off of the proverbial wagon, I had to disappear. I mean, how could I continue on when the plan had been changed? When I hadn’t lived up to my end of the bargain? When I felt like I had let myself down? Tis easier to hide…

But I’m learning that not only does this way of being not serve me well, it goes against everything I preach and teach about being authentic. More importantly, it perpetuates a cycle that harms the very essence of who I am and who God has created me to be. So I turn here, to you (and to me) and confess that I am not perfect, nor will I ever be. I over plan and fall short. I get paralyzed and everything stops. It’s time for this to change. I’m going to be honest with myself and recognize that the world doesn’t end because my plans fall apart. I am going to be more gracious towards myself. I am going to remember to live in the moment and just go with it. I am going to give myself a break. I am going to look at myself each and everyday and say, “I am enough.”

I ask that you be patient with me as I work these things out. Maybe you too suffer from some of these ways of being. Maybe we can walk together as we learn to embrace, love and care for our WHOLE selves. Maybe, just maybe, we can come to a place where we realize that we are enough, just as we are.

Love,

Me

Rediscovering My Soul Through the Power of the Pole

I have no desire to be a stripper. Many people reading this will recoil when they realize that this is a post about my experience with pole dancing. Yes, I am writing about this and am unashamed. If you are offended, I suggest you stop reading right now.

After my husband and I separated, I felt like shit. Pure and simple. I felt like a failure. I felt like no one could ever love me. I could barely look at myself in the mirror. I began to realize that this shame and hatred I carried inside truly affected how I viewed myself. What was more startling was the realization that I don’t know that I loved myself before my marriage. How could I be in the most intimate relationship with someone and not even love who I was?

These reflections actually went a step further. I was disconnected from my body – from my thoughts, my feelings and my flesh. I’ve spoken about my thoughts in another post. Embracing My Shadow deals with my feelings. But today, I want to talk about my disgust of my flesh and how this led to a massive disconnect that not only impacted my marriage, but also my identity. Believe it or not, pole dancing went a long way in helping me love what God created….

I don’t know if it begin with my history of molestation. I don’t know if it began with the teasing for looking different and being different when I was younger. I don’t know if it began with my first sexual encounters and experiences with the opposite sex. I don’t know if it was the messages I got from my father and other sources that said I must be pure, holy, and untouched and knowing that I wasn’t any of these things, at least not in the ways they meant them. I don’t know if it began with my mother’s attitude towards sex and femininity. What I do know is that there were moments when I thought that my body was disgusting. This carried over into adulthood and I’m sure it was a factor in my ongoing depression. Along with other issues, the way I viewed my body and sexuality had a negative effect on my marriage.

I feel like I was always struggling to find out who I was, what I wanted, what I liked and what I should feel. These feelings were complicated by the mixed messages from church and my faith about sex and sexuality. I’ll write more on that later….

So fast forward to six months after I separated from my husband. I was hanging on by a thread and looking for ways to deal with my reality. I was emerging from a depressive episode and was seeking forms of healing and support. I also needed to start exercising. A few friends of mine had talked about pole dancing and I was like, why not? I am not an adventurous person but I felt like it was time to confront some fears, stereotypes and assumptions. So I signed up for Pole Dancing Level 1 with the amazing PoleLaTeaz studio.

My first class I was so nervous. I arrived thirty minutes early and sat in the parking lot wondering what in the hell I was getting myself into. I finally got up the courage to walk into the studio and was immediately surprised by what I found. The atmosphere was lovely, the receptionist was hospitable, there were women who looked like me sitting and waiting for our class to begin. I took a seat and said hello to the woman on my right. I could tell that we were all nervous. The receptionist could tell that this was our first pole dancing experience. I think she could smell our fear.

When the time came, we were led back to Studio A to meet our instructor. The studio was very much like a dance studio except for the fact that there were eight gleaming gold poles that went from floor to ceiling. There were mats in the corner and the front wall was totally comprised of mirrors. There would be no hiding from myself. At all.

The first thing we did was sit in a circle and introduce ourselves. At this point, some of my anxiety began to ease. I heard stories from women like me – professional, divorced, seeking confidence, nervous about being here – and I realized in that moment that I was about to begin a sacred journey. Yes, sacred. As the instructor gave more information about the class and our curriculum over the next eight weeks, I knew that I was in the right place at the right time.

Pole dancing forced me to look at myself, at my WHOLE self. I learned to appreciate my body. I learned to not be ashamed of what God created. I learned that my body was capable of doing more physically than I ever imagined. I am 150 pounds – yes I shared that – and had to lift and swing and hold my body up. Talk about weight training!! There were days when the instructor would turn down the lights and we were told to just look at ourselves. To see who we really are and notice the beauty. I got to know this group of women who were so empowering and supportive. We created a safe place to share our deepest fears, concerns and hopes. It was amazing to see how each week, we got a little closer, grew more confident and literally shed clothing. We began as fully covered women hiding ourselves and ended as confident women who realized that one could not pole dance in sweats. Let’s just say it’s an occupational hazard and one needs to be able to have skin to pole contact in order to stay up. 🙂

The end of the course culminated in individual performances that we shared with the group. We had learned a routine but we got to choose our costumes and music and yes, even a name. I never thought I would be able to dance by myself in front of a group but I did it! I felt so empowered! The community was so supportive and I can honestly say that it was an experience I will never forget.

One day in particular stands out to me. I was at the studio working on some techniques before class and an instructor came to me and said, “You’re thinking too much. I can tell that you know the move, but you get to point of letting go and you over-think it. Just let go and trust yourself.” This advice was so powerful and I realized that pole dancing was a form of therapy for me. I rediscovered my soul through the power of the pole.

This experience was about so much more than the act of dancing. It was about learning to love my WHOLE self and learning to let go. It began a process of healing that I so desperately needed.

This might not be the thing for you. I am so thankful for this experience. My prayer is that you take a chance and do something that could transform you like never before. My prayer is that you find motivation somewhere that pushes you to embrace your whole self. My prayer is that you realize that you were made by God and that God said “It is good.”

Love,

Me