Relinquishing the Ego Aggressor

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(rawpixel on Unsplash)

Relationships are not easy. Whether it is our relationship with our mother, our spouse or a co-worker, relationships can be intense. Sometimes with only a few words said, a hot fire within us can be sparked and stoked, engulfing us in a rip-roaring blaze. Suddenly, we are pissed, angry, hurt and resentful. Instantaneously, we tuck our heart behind our imaginary shield and tightly grip our weapon. Prepared to defend and attack.

Often it takes only milliseconds to launch ourselves from open and relaxed to tense and shut down. Allow me to share a story. This morning, as my children sat colouring side-by-side at the table, I overheard my eldest daughter say something in a condescending tone to her little sister. Although the words themselves didn’t register in my brain, the hissing-sound of attack pierced into me. Instantly, I felt myself become tense. My heart hardened as it shut down. As I questioned my daughter, I could feel that I wasn’t engaging with an open heart. My shield was strategically placed over my heart and my weapon was drawn.

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(Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash)

Most of the time, most of us march through life with our heart blocked and our weapon drawn. We try to take the focus off ourselves by blaming and judging others. We judge others for having different opinions or lifestyles than us. We blame others for our perceived problems. We speak condescendingly, and we complain and gossip about others behind their backs. We tell ourselves that we are better than others. Portraying a fake confidence; a bogus sense of pride. Arrogance and judgement are our key attack and defense strategies to avoid revealing our heart. Tactics to distract ourselves from feeling our own hurt and vulnerability.

When we push and control (rather than allow and flow), we also hide our heart behind self-erected walls. When a wife demands her spouse do what she wants and when she wants it, chances are her heart is blocked. When an older sibling determines rigid rules for how a younger sibling should express her own creativity and imagination, chances are the older sibling’s heart is closed off. When a child excludes another child from play, chances are his heart is shut down. When a parent demands with an authoritarian style that their children do as they say, chances are their heart is shielded. This is not to say that a spouse is not permitted from expressing his or her wishes in a relationship or that parents should not guide their children. But when our heart is tucked behind a mighty shield and our weapon is drawn, we demand and seek to exert control. Our communication is laced with aggression. We come from a place of fear and ego, not from a place of love and an open heart.

Like most of us, I have walked through life with my heart hidden behind a shield and carrying an imaginary weapon. Prepared to fight to avoid being hurt. Fight to be seen and heard. Fight to feel validated and valued. Similar to many of us, I have been too scared to allow my heart to be open and vulnerable. But it is only when we come from fear and ego that we feel the need to fight our way through life. To defend ourselves and protect our heart. To offer ourselves an illusion of safety.

What would happen if we would surrender our weapon and toss away our shield? We would discover the essence of who we truly are: innocent, pure, compassionate love. A magnificent, radiant spark; one and the same with our divine source. We would see that our true strength rests in our vulnerability.

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(Morgan Sessions on Unsplash)

When our heart is open, we connect with others in a deeper, more meaningful way. We connect on a heart and soul level. Without a shield covering our heart, we open ourselves to fully receive love, as well as extend love to others. In our defenselessness, we see the world with genuine compassion. Like individual droplets of water in the vast ocean, we begin to see that we are all one and the same. We speak, act and live from a place of love, acceptance and gratitude. Fear and ego no longer control and dictate our thoughts, perspectives and actions.

When we have the courage to blast open the fortress walls around our heart, we experience life in a vibrant and exciting way. Life becomes like a motorcycle ride on a scenic road. We feel one with the surrounding nature. One with the wind. One with the trees. One with the ocean. One with life. One with our own vulnerability. Sometimes we lean into the corners. And sometimes we relax on an open, straight stretch. Completely present. Feeling it all.

So why do we build these fortified walls around our heart? At some point in our lives, often as young children, we experienced hurt. We learned that we were not completely lovable just as we are. We learned that love is conditional. We began to perceive our open-hearted, authentic selves as not good enough.

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(Janko Ferlic on Unsplash)

Perhaps we felt the hurt of a parent yelling at us. Or maybe we were physically hit to “keep us in line”. Or perhaps we were the target of ridicule from other children. Or maybe we felt disheartened and defeated because a sibling received the love and attention that we craved. Or perhaps we felt lonely and sad because our parents were distracted, unavailable or unable to love us due to their own pain and fear.

As a result, we developed the belief that the world is not entirely safe. That we need to protect ourselves to survive and thrive. We hardened. We built walls. We disconnected from our heart. We grew up feeling separate and alone. Struggling to feel worthy of love. Struggling to love ourselves.

Living with an open heart is a work in progress. In my experience, it requires great awareness and regular practice. Although I am very aware of when I am engaging with an open heart versus when my heart is shielded, I still react in a knee-jerk way to situations that trigger me. For example, I still find myself flipping out at my kids when they don’t listen. I still launch verbal attacks at my husband for various behaviours that drive me nuts. And I continue to catch myself quietly judging others for being rude, inconsiderate, unprofessional, unaware and so forth.

Experiencing life with an open heart does not mean that we don’t get upset sometimes. Instead, we fully feel our emotions…but without attacking or blaming. Without judging others or judging ourselves. Without closing our heart.

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(Ed Robertson on Unsplash)

Allow me to share a personal story. A few years ago, a heated situation arose between myself and a close friend. It was a situation in which two old friends came close to no longer being friends. Both friends felt hurt, betrayed and angry. Both of us had fortified walls around our hearts. And both of us were prepared for battle.

But our long-standing friendship did not fall apart. On a very tense phone call, I suddenly stopped. I stopped defending myself. I stopped justifying my actions. I laid down my shield and weapon. I spontaneously guided us into our hearts. I quietly reminded us of all the challenges we had supported each other through. All of the celebrations that we had shared. Essentially, I reminded us that day of our love for one another. Suddenly we were both in tears and peering at each other through our hearts. Not through our egos and our fears…but through our hearts. This is a beautiful example of how life and relationships can unfold when we engage with an open heart.

Heart-opening Meditation

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(Darius Bashar on Unsplash)

Create space in your week to sit in silence. Place your open hand on your heart. (Go ahead…try this now with your eyes open while you read this.) Now imagine that you are breathing through your heart. Inhale into your heart. Exhale out of your heart. And again — breathe into your heart, and exhale out of your heart. Feel a softening. Now imagine that you see or feel the wall in front of your heart opening. Maybe it crumbles into pieces or simply vanishes without a trace. Or perhaps the walls protecting your heart have a slow-and-steady style of opening. Continue to breathe. Feel into your gentle, compassionate heart.

Feel the emotions that are present. You may feel pangs of sadness or remorse. You may even feel agitation or anxiety. Whatever is present, allow yourself to feel it. With the gentleness that we use to cradle an infant, witness your emotions with compassion. Emotions are energies that are meant to move. If sadness arises, let the tears flow. If frustration arises, exhale the breath from the mouth with a groan. By feeling our stored emotions and letting them go, we are better able to feel the love that is underneath and alive within us.

Now ask yourself:
Am I willing to let love into my heart?
Am I willing to love myself?
Am I willing to surrender my shield and weapon, and walk through this day defenseless (knowing this is where my true strength lies)?

Witness your responses without judgement.

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(Kawin Harasai on Unsplash)

The next time you notice your heart hardening with blame or judgement…stop. Breathe. Soften your heart. Let go of your shield and weapon. Feel the emotions that are present. Breathe as you allow them to move through you. Recognize that blaming, attacking or judging others (or ourselves) is a fear-based attempt to keep our heart closed off. A strategy to protect ourselves…but at a great price. Offering a false sense of safety and robbing us of an authentic life.

Fall back on the assurance that true strength lies in our vulnerability. Life is more awesome when we relinquish the ego aggressor and live with an open heart.

***
To read Rachel’s bio, please click here.
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Facebook…Big Triggers, Big Gifts

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Facebook…we either love it or we hate it. And some days, we love it and hate it at the same time.

Many of us spend copious hours browsing, liking, commenting, posting, sharing, watching videos and browsing some more. A modern addiction that can be a challenge to live without. Yet, there are also a number of us who are adamant non-users, the anti Facebookers who have jumped ship…often seeking refuge in another social networking boat.

So why the devotion and hostility? Facebook gives us that warm and comforting feeling that we get from belonging to a community. A welcoming place with familiar faces. But Facebook can evoke a smorgasbord of negative emotions as well. While it can make us feel connected and positive, Facebook can also trigger us to feel a wide array of low-vibe emotions, such as insecurity, jealousy, resentment, disappointment and loneliness.

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For the most part, we appreciate seeing our friends on Facebook enjoying the beauty of life: family, travel and career success. It’s awesome to be able to connect with friends and family around the world, many of whom we might not have the opportunity to see in person. But on those days when we don’t feel particularly stoked about our lives (or ourselves), Facebook can feel torturous.

For women who struggle to conceive, photos of newborn babies and their proud parents could feel like a dagger in the heart. For those who are grieving the loss of loved ones, photos of happy families could sink them into a deep pool of sorrow. For individuals who struggle to pay the bills each month, seeing people on postcard-perfect vacations could trigger searing resentment and frustration. And for those of us whose egos relentlessly remind us that we are inadequate and unsuccessful in life, photos of friends enjoying outstanding careers and movie-worthy lives could collapse our self confidence; the feeling of failure attacking and devouring us like a ferocious tiger.

Many of us are also acutely aware of how our Facebook community perceives and receives us. If our post garners only a handful of “likes” while our friends’ posts receive tidal waves of support, it can send us into a downward spiral of feeling insignificant and unlikable. We can end up playing an unhealthy game of linking our worthiness to the number of Facebook “likes” we receive.

So what do we do? Do we abandon Facebook like a cheating, no-good lover or a two-faced friend? Do we blame the social networking hub for putting us into a crappy mood? This is what our ego wants to convince us to do. I want to offer a different perspective.

Rather than being the bad guy, Facebook might actually be a gem that helps us heal…as long as we pause to shine light on the emotions that it triggers within us.

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By allowing our triggers to guide us, we expose and shine light on the dark, hidden parts within us. Instead of denying or looking away, courageously feel into your buried emotions. FEEL your guilt, disappointment, sorrow, jealousy, loneliness and resentment. By doing so, we are able to honour these feelings and let them go.

When we let these emotions rise up and out, we free ourselves to experience a life full of peace and joy. A life in which Facebook no longer triggers us…or triggers us a lot less frequently.

How do we get there? Below are three steps to spur healing and happiness:

Step 1
The first step to healing is awareness. Get to know what triggers you. Notice when someone or something triggers you to feel frustrated, annoyed, sad, lonely, angry, insecure and so forth. Triggers are blessings. They are gifts that are meant for our healing.

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Step 2
Create time in your schedule to sit in quiet with your eyes closed. If we create space to sit in silence, our triggers can lead us to our stored memories and buried emotions. Say a prayer, asking Infinite Spirit to: “show me what I am meant to see or know to heal”. Or try this prayer: “Dear Divine, please show me the real reason for my anger, sadness, insecurity (insert emotion)”. With these words, we are asking to see, feel and heal the root cause of our pain.

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Step 3
Be open and patient. Avoid searching. Allow an image or an awareness to present itself. A memory of an event from childhood or youth might pop up. If nothing happens, that is ok too. Communicating with Spirit may take practice.

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We are often tempted to blame the people in our lives who trigger us. But by blaming others (or blaming Facebook) we remain focused on the external world and hiding from what is happening in our internal world. The next time Facebook gets under your skin, take a moment in quiet to look within yourself. Emotions are energy that are meant to move. Instead of denying the feelings that are stored within you, feel them, honour them and let them go.

With this practice and fresh perspective, we might just shift our relationship status with Facebook from “complicated” to trusted partner for healing.

***

To read Rachel’s bio, please click here.

Anger: Feel it, Honour it and Let it Go

leo-animal-savannah-lioness-55814.jpegOne damp and grey morning, I found myself at our local gym exercising next to a pretty 20-something year old. Her body-hugging workout clothes perfectly
showcased her slim physique. Her plump lips were perfectly glossed. But on this day, her perfect appearance would not stay perfect.

Similar to a high-performance motorcycle that goes from a stand still to ultra fast in seconds, this girl went from perfectly perfect to completely undone within a flash. At first, she pushed the machine’s buttons with slight annoyance, attempting to program it to her liking. Unsuccessful, she quickly became agitated and frantic. Finally, she unraveled completely and slipped into a total meltdown, shouting profanities at the unresponsive hunk of plastic. In the end, she abandoned the machine and stomped up to an indifferent employee to announce that she was leaving for a “better fitness centre”.

This over-the-top, somewhat comical event got me thinking about anger and how we express it. Some of us are volatile loose canons that zap anger at anyone or anything within arm’s reach. A hyper-active volcano that blows without warning, flinging burning lava at unlucky folks nearby. And then there are some of us who simmer about something that pissed us off, allowing it to ruin our day, devour our week or even poison our entire month.

On the contrary, some of us hold onto our anger, diligently shoving it down within us. Our anger accumulates like an overflowing basement full of unwanted junk. Stored anger, resentment, jealousy and so forth can make us emotionally unwell and physically ill.

A healthy expression of anger

Anger itself isn’t bad. It is an energy, a human emotion, that is meant to move through you. My seven-year old daughter practices a healthy way to release anger. When she is mad, she clenches her little fists and growls. Her body shakes as she repeats “I am so mad; I am so mad”. The waves of anger are almost visible in the air around her. One day, her clenched growl might grow into a fierce roar!

Up until recently, I thought I had a healthy relationship with anger. Then, one day while my husband was venting about something, I abruptly cut him off. Annoyed that I had shut him down, my husband commented that I was like a little bird that holds all of her anger in. His words flew into my heart and mind, prompting me to take an honest look at my relationship with anger.

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I discovered that I had been preventing myself from truly expressing anger. If someone upset me, I would give myself a few short minutes to vent, before quickly boarding the fast train into guilt. I would then attempt to escape my guilt by launching myself into compassion and understanding. While I busily justified the person’s behaviour (maybe they were stressed or feeling unheard), I denied myself permission to feel and release the anger that was within me.

Willing and ready to heal, I reached out to Sue Dumais (intuitive healer and bestselling author) for support. With my eyes closed, Sue encouraged me to feel into my solar plexus. By doing so, I quickly became aware that as a little girl I learned that expressing anger was bad (and so was complaining and whining). My parents did not intentionally teach me that this behaviour was wrong. Instead, I developed this belief as a reaction to the circumstances at the time. When I was young, my mom experienced some tough years when she was emotionally unwell. Little me determined that my mom needed me to be strong…and good. I desperately wanted to help my mom feel better so I held my anger.

With this awareness, I used the following technique to blast open the gates to releasing my stored anger. You may feel inspired to try it out. Kneel in front of a couch or a bed. Either rest your eyes closed or keep them open, whichever is more comfortable. Bring to mind the culprit who infuriated you. Imagine this person in front of you. Allow the burning flames of anger to grow. Breathe deep and feel into the intense energy. Now let it out like a fire-breathing dragon.

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Say whatever pops into your mind. Don’t hold back. This is no time to be polite or diplomatic. No filters. No censors. No playing nice. Let the F-bombs fly! Here is an example: “You hurt me. You selfish, ignorant #&**#!! How dare you treat me like that. You are a worthless, stupid #&*@!”

Now release this pent-up energy by getting physical. Slam the couch with your hands or a pillow. Hit it with force. Give yourself full permission to allow the energy to move and be released…no matter what it looks or sounds like.

When you feel the time is right, ask yourself “Who else am I angry with?”. You might be surprised with the person who pops into your mind. Repeat the above process. In my personal experience, sadness quickly follows anger. Be prepared with tissues. You might find yourself sobbing like a wounded child. Let it all out. This is your healing.

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Triggers are gifts for our healing

In addition to practicing a healthy expression of anger, it is important to be aware of the situations or relationships that trigger us to feel angry. Triggers are blessings. They are gifts that are meant for our healing. Until we decide to view our triggers as opportunities to learn and heal, we can expect to be triggered in a similar way again and again and again.

Take the time to sit in quiet with eyes closed. Say a prayer, asking Infinite Spirit to: “show me what am I meant to see or know to heal”. Or “Dear Divine, please show me the real reason for my anger”. With these words, we are asking to see, feel and heal the root cause of our pain.

Be open and patient. Avoid searching. Allow an image, a knowing or a memory to present itself. A memory of an event from childhood or youth might pop up. Some people may even witness an image from a past life. If nothing happens, that is ok too. Communicating with Spirit may take practice.

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By allowing our triggers to guide us, we are able to open ourselves to healing. If we create space to look within, our triggers will lead us to our stored memories and buried emotions. When we allow ourselves to feel that which is within us, we set ourselves free to experience a life full of peace and joy. Anger (like other emotions, such as guilt, sadness, etc.), is an energy that is meant to move. Feel it, honour it and let it go.

So…what is your relationship with anger? Do you zap it at anyone or anything (like the girl at the gym)? Do you banish it to the basement? Do you blame others for how you feel? Or do you simmer in your pissed off-ness for days or weeks?

Awareness is the essential first step to healing and experiencing a lighter, freer and more peaceful life.

***

To read Rachel’s bio, please click here.

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When Our Heart Takes the Back Seat

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What is the price we pay when we care more about fitting in and being accepted, than allowing our heart to determine who we are in this world? What do we sacrifice when our fear of judgement dictates who we choose to be and how we live our lives? Are we repeatedly trying to mould ourselves into a square shape, when really our natural shape is that of a diamond or a star?

It is true that we feel safe when we feel like we belong. And yes, we may feel comfort and security when we feel accepted by our peers, colleagues, family or society. But when needing to belong means silencing our heart in the back seat, are we truly experiencing the beautiful gift of life? Are we living our lives the way our souls intended?

Allow me to share a personal story. One rainy day, my seven-year old daughter excitedly came home from school and announced that the following day would be “crazy hair day” at school. That afternoon, she joyfully allowed her imagination to come to life as she created a colourful and spunky hair style. With neon-coloured twists in her hair, she left for school in the morning in eager anticipation. But within seconds of entering the school, my beautiful daughter’s face became contorted with a mix of fear and despair. To our surprise, only a small number of kids had done their hair. Tears began rolling down her rosy cheeks as she frantically pulled out the brightly-coloured coils from her hair. She was terrified to stand out. Mortified at the thought of not fitting in. Her fun and creative heart was banished to the back seat.

A deep, piercing pain seared through my heart. At this young age, our little girl had adopted a fear-based understanding of how life works. Deny what is in the heart and mould yourself to fit in. I understand my child. She is my mirror.

Sue Dumais — intuitive healer and bestselling author — often says: “What other people think of you is not your business”. I love these words. But unfortunately, the opposite has been true for me for most of my life.

As a shy school girl, I preferred to be completely invisible, than to stand out in any way. As a young teen, I was offered a ticket into the cool girls/bad boys gang. Smoking weed, boozing, getting kicked out of school and other delinquent-type activities were a small price to pay. I belonged. That’s all that mattered.

Even in my adult years, I can see how my fear of being judged has played out. For decades, my fear of not fitting in was the shot-caller CEO in charge of determining the “me” I shared with the world. I had built an attractive facade, which the real me hid behind. A desperate attempt to avoid the fiery burn of being judged. But underneath this strong and slightly abrasive facade is a more gentle, vulnerable and sensitive soul. A heart that feels most fulfilled when in service to others. But by hiding behind my carefully-constructed facade, I never fully embraced my authentic self. Never dared to truly let my soul shine.

Not so long ago, I witnessed an intriguing image while in meditation. A slumped over angel. Beautifully sketched with elegant lines. Her wings folded down, her body curled up and her face buried in her lap. I recognized this graceful angel as my soul. Shut out and cast aside, my soul had been patiently waiting for me to embrace my authentic self. To rise up and expand my wings. To soar.

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(Gaston Roulstone by Unsplash)

Immersed in a pool of sadness, I felt the grief of missing out on the riches that life is ready to offer if I were to bravely allow my heart to lead. The sorrow of not experiencing the beauty that comes from letting my soul sing.

So the question then arises, how can I expect my beautiful seven-year old to confidently own and stand in her light? To let her soul sing like a beautiful angel. The answer comes in the sentiment of a famous quote that is commonly attributed to Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Change starts within us, not in the external world. Peace starts with us. Love starts with us. And confidence for young girls and boys starts with us — the parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, and so forth.

For a moment, I encourage you to disrobe of your job titles and social labels. The numbers-driven salesperson, the powerhouse corporate director, the well-read educator, the busy parent, whatever roles you are playing…set them aside for a moment. Take off the armour that you don to march through your daily lives.

Breathe into what exists below the surface. Feel into the warmth and tenderness of your heart. Be vulnerable with me. Allow the ego/fear-based need to fit in and be accepted melt away. Know that you are more than enough just by being the real you. It is in this raw vulnerability that we give our authentic self permission to step into the spotlight and shine bright.

True confidence grows in the warm sunshine of your heart and the unconditional love of Spirit. Unwavering confidence is fueled by knowing and trusting that the Divine loves and supports you…no matter what. Let your heart take it’s place in the driver’s seat. Let your heart and soul determine who you are in this world. And watch the beautiful ripple effect, as you empower others, young and old, to do the same.

***

To read Rachel’s bio, please click here.

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