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I recently spoke with a woman who reached out to me because she was upset about always feeling left out in social settings.  She shared that she feels awkward, quiet, not sure what to do around all the other big personalities at these parties.  She doesn’t know how to join conversations that have already started (which are most…), constantly fixated in “what do they think of me…” and “oh, the way I responded to that was weird…not how I meant it…”….

 

Who has ever thought that??  Yup, I have.  

 

And here’s the problem.  When we’re doing that, we’re making it ALL ABOUT US.

So point #1. Start getting MORE curious about other people!  …Quit making it all about you. The moment you shift your focus from making yourself feel good, liked, popular, whatever…and to how you can make them feel liked, popular, funny, interesting….. It 1. Takes the pressure off you to BE so cool and 2. It makes them feel good in your presence which will *surprise* usually result in them LIKING you more.  One question I like to ask is, “What have you been working on lately?”  or “What have you been spending all your time on these past few weeks?” 

 

Tip #2.  Stop with the compliments.  

The second tip to becoming instantly more likable is to stop it with the compliments. Now this at first it may not make sense… Isn’t giving someone a compliment a good thing? The truth is, researchers found that people tend to give more compliments to people that they dislike or uncomfortable around. Therefore people who is been time with pick up on this, whether consciously or unconsciously, and as a result he makes no more uncomfortable around us. The truth about complements is, although the comments may seem innocent and sweet, they are still judgments and that person begins to recognize that you were constantly judging them, even if in a positive way. What is also tricky is that if you complement someone saying something such as, “you are so patient and sweet all the time“… Now you have set that person up for failure because they could never possibly be sweet all the time and, essentially, what you’re saying that you like about them is the fact that they are always sweet. So, does this mean that when they’re not sweet you wouldn’t like them? Just stop with the compliments and re-direct your attention to getting to know them better.

Tip #3:  Be AUTHENTIC.  One thing we often feel pressure to do in a group setting is to pretend. 

The last step to being more likable may seem obvious but it’s hard to do… It’s being authentic… Being relatable. If we are absolutely exhausted and someone ask us how we are and reply, doing great! The truth is that this kind of response is going to really break trust. People are the best readers of people. If you’re excited about something say so, and if you’re absolutely exhausted, say so. That doesn’t mean you need to get into a long rant about how your boss is a jerk and you want to leave your job. However, being honest about your situation and even taking responsibility for the solution, such as saying “I think I just need to get more sleep” can take a load off you, prevents them from feeling the pressure to solve your problem, and still allows you to speak your truth. 

 

So, there are three places to start: Quit making it about you, quit with the compliments and when in doubt, be honest.

 

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We have all been there- desperately wanting comradery or maybe our fling just seemed to drag on for a few years longer than you originally planned.

*The truth is, sometimes we simply do not see the red flags right in front of us.

Here are a few early signs that this person is not healthy for you:

They are here to save you! Wait, he sounds like the perfect Knight in Shining Armor or she is finally someone who understands your needs! How is this a problem? Run now, because you are walking right into an imbalanced relationship by putting them on a pedestal and letting them take care of you. When one person holds the power in the relationship, arguments quickly ensue. If someone wants to “help” you, or “fix” you, then they are subtly telling you that you are not “good enough” yet. If you are looking for someone to take on this caretaker role, it is time to take a good luck in the mirror.

You feel the need to save them! The reality is, sob story aside, if your crush is not financially independent by about 25 years old, this is going to be a source of conflict sooner than later. Sure, you may feel good helping them out by letting them move in with you, helping pay their debt, or updating their resume… but take a moment to think about why you have this “savior” complex. Why are you looking for dysfunction? Chances are, you are going to get just what you expected- more dysfunction. Lack of responsibility and independence is a big red flag. No thanks. You can find someone you enjoy who is also independent and responsible for meeting their own basic needs.

“I love you, already!” It feels good to have someone so head-over-heels for you! I have been there…but we all know the saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Although I have heard of a few couples who met young, married quickly and have lasted for over 50 years- I hate to break it to you but the statistics are not in their favor. If you are with someone who is trying to rush things, chances are they are either not very mature or have some serious dependency/codependency issues. People who quickly jump into serious relationships are also quick to jump out. They are impulsive- a trait you definitely do not want in a partner.

Overt or covert control-seeking. At first it feels as if they really care about you. “I just want some “us” time” or “I don’t think Sarah is a good influence on you…” If you find yourself constantly trying to adapt to their interests, people, preferences and behaving in a way you think they are attracted to, you will quickly find you have lost your sense of you. Anyone who overtly or covertly (ie. negative glance, attitude, physical rejection) tells you what to do, wear, say, think, etc. needs some serious therapy.

Passive aggressive communication. Conflicts will arise and one major way I test my couples for relational health is looking at how they communicate when they face challenges. Dysfunctional forms of communication can range from silent treatments, cold shoulders, sarcasm, non-responsiveness and stonewalling (ie. acting cold but verbally expressing that they are “fine.”) to manipulative behavior. If your crush cannot be honest, transparent and direct with you, these communication skills must strengthen before you can sustain a long-term relationship.

Poor relationships with others. If your crush does not have many close, long lasting relationships with others, it is time to do some serious investigating. Your close friends and family- you know, those people you trust and who would jump in front of a moving bus to save your life- are the best test. If they do not like him or her, I would take that very seriously. I know, “They just don’t know him yet.” Trust me, they know enough and, more importantly, they know you. I am not talking about traditional parents who “just want you to marry a nice Jewish girl.” Yes, sometimes you may differ on certain generational values, but I am talking about your mother pulling you aside and saying, “Joe, I just don’t trust this woman…” Statistically, they are usually right.

They are not available. They are still married but have convinced you the relationship is long over, or they are still admittedly grieving and old relationship, just don’t do it! As much as it might be smoothe move to serve as that shoulder-to-lean-on while your crush grieves, statistics show that the rebound relationship rarely lasts.

You are worth a healthy, balanced, mature, supportive relationship! No settling!

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“To be a spiritual warrior, one must have a broken heart; without a broken heart and the sense of tenderness and vulnerability that is in one’s self and all others, your warriorship is untrustworthy.”  Chogyam Trungpa

My heart has been broken many times, some more severely than others, but the biggest heart break came with the illness and death of my father, Cristino.

My father was a hard working contract painter who immigrated to the US from the Philippines in the 1960’s to build a better life for my family.  As a youth he endured starvation and the death of multiple siblings due to poverty and then survived Japanese occupation of the Philippines during world war 2, by hiding in the jungle.   He was a survivor.

So, when my father, the rock of the family and the symbol of comfort and certainty for me, became debilitated by multiple bleeding strokes in his brain, I was in shock.  How could this survivor, who’s only ever shown me his strength, be taken so unfairly into this debilitating state?   In no other place was there a time where loss and uncertainty made such a big impact on me.   Thanks to my strong parents, I only new certainty and grounding.  I guess I carried on in this way as if nothing would ever change.   I had a naive assumption that my parents would live forever and always be there for me even though I was the youngest of 7.

 

So when he become ill, I focused all my energy and efforts on finding a way to fix him, to make him better.  At the beginning of his illness, I would stay up all night, surfing the Internet for information about his condition.  I learned that he had developed amyloid angiopathy of the brain and studied feverishly to understand it and find out where there might be trials that he could participate in.   I asked a million questions of the many doctors who treated my father and alongside my 6 brothers and sisters asked for alternative therapies and medicines to help him.  He almost passed during his 1st massive stroke and in ICU we thought we would lose him, but then he came back and we were grateful for the miracle.

Sadly, his recovery was short lived. A few weeks later, during one of my routine visits at our family home, I helplessly watched as he experienced a more debilitating stroke that crossed the hemisphere of his brain and essentially turned him into a vegetable.   To be honest in this moment of writing about my multiple moments of heart break I didn’t realize how desperately I wanted to fix him.  I thought for sure that there would be some hope for him, but as time passed and his conditioned worsened, I watched as my father who was my greatest source of strength and inspiration could no longer hold himself up, feed himself, care for himself nor speak for himself.    His debilitated state broke my heart a little bit more every day that I saw him.  So I did what any child would do, I helped him, I spent the night in a cot next to him so he wouldn’t feel alone.  It was hard, but my heart was so heavy for his pain that I wanted to do whatever I could to ease his pain and suffering.  He hadn’t completed an advance directive so he lived in this state for several months.

When he finally passed in October roughly 16 years ago, my heart broke again.  At that time I was 30 weeks pregnant with my first baby and grieved over everything he would miss including the child that I was about to bring into the world that he would never meet in person.

I don’t claim to be a spiritual warrior, but I feel like I’ve been through some of the steps: the heart break of helplessness when faced with incurable disease, the heart break of witnessing death, and the heartbreak of grief and loss for all the time I wanted to spend with my father.  Having lived through such a big personal loss for me, I guess that means I survived too and maybe I may just be a candidate for this “warriorship” that Chogyam Trungpa describes.

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Life is seeming to be pretty anxiety fueled these days. I don’t know of any quadrants in the world right now operating under the status quo. Emotions are high, fear is rampant, and my usually rainbow filled Facebook wall is currently filled with enough bleak stories to cause a panic attack.

In life we all have our skill sets. One of mine happens to be studying and teaching how to keep your head on straight when tough things are happening. I’ll be listing them out below. Most of these you know, some may be new. They all have some serious research backing that they work IF YOU DO THEM. Sadly, reading all this won’t be enough. Doing them once, won’t be enough. In a time when the hits keep coming and the world looks really unsteady, making them a daily practice is solid mental health advice.

My family had a sit down several months ago – to acknowledge that we’re living in stressful times. That the adults and kids are concerned about a lot of things. That we’re all reading and hearing scary stories. That serious boredom and cabin fever may occur. That big feelings will happen, and anxiety makes us all want to lash out and/or shut down. And that it’s ok.

We reminded each other that it’s ok to be scared and anxious. It’s ok to be easily irritated. It’s ok to be sad and mad. It’s ok to be happy for some downtime one minute and super anxious about what that means the next. What’s not ok is taking it out on each other.

All of us, big and small, can work on taking responsibility for our thoughts, our actions and our words. Big feelings don’t undo that responsibility. And taking care of ourselves and each other, is of great importance now.

So, we talked about what’s ok and not ok with behavior. We created safe spaces and routines for adults and kiddos when downtime is needed. We talked about giving each other softness when someone is struggling, and asking for what we need when we’re struggling. We acknowledged that things may feel hard, and when they do, we’ll feel our feelings. However, we won’t indulge in despair or catastrophic thinking.

We made a poster and it’s hung on the front door where you can’t miss it. It lists individual things that help us in hard times, and daily practices that help everyone in hard times. This will enable us to remember what we can do when we feel ourselves starting to slide into panic/lack/anger/fear and help us remind each other what helps the other with love and compassion.

Sometimes making a mandatory mental health group activity is be the way to start the day. Sometimes we’ll do one after every lunch or before bed. Sometimes we all fly solo. Figuring out what I and this house of humans and pets need from day to day is an ever changing list. But if there’s anything my decades of research and experience has taught me is that we will need some strategies in our back pockets to pull from.
So, here’s my best suggestions on keeping it sane when things are looking crazy. None of these will undo the world around you. They will help you keep your sanity in the days to come.

1) Smile for one minute.
Fake it. It doesn’t have to be real. Your body can’t tell the difference and it will trigger the happy hormones to creep into your brain. Then, once your brain has happy hormones flowing through it, take a deep breath and move forward. You won’t suddenly feel elated. You will feel lighter – and that makes a huge difference in whether you respond or react.

2) Move your body.
Take a walk down quiet streets, have a dance party in your living room, go for a hike, jump up and down, do yoga, practice screaming into the abyss, whatever works for you. Obviously, don’t go to crowded places to do this (I think they’re all closed anyway). Help your partners/kids/parents do this too. You can all walk/dance/yoga together. If you have kiddos at home, the internet is FILLED with great kid movement videos (look up brain break movement videos or kids dance videos for ideas. Also, kids yoga is a thing and it’s awesome).

3) Meditate/Pray/Journal
Whatever your version of communing with the divine/your higher self/your inner being is, do it. Do it a bunch. Then do it some more. All have shown to lower stress, lead to clearer thinking, and help us keep perspective of how we fit into the cosmos.
If this is new for you, again, the internet is filled with ideas, videos, how to’s, guided meditations, etc. There is years worth of free content at your fingertips.

4) 4 times a day, find something to appreciate.
This can be super formal with a special notebook or a loose thing that you do with meals or timers. In my house, we randomly yell out that its appreciation time and everyone  has to come up with 3 things they appreciate in that moment. Sometimes the answers are profound, sometimes they’re hysterical – they always remind us that no matter what is going on there is something to appreciate.

5) Put your shields up
This is emotional/energetic not physical. If you know today you have to do XYZ, prepare for it ahead of time. Take a deep breath, remind yourself to be kind, practice how you’ll respond in tough conversations before they happen, feel compassion for all others you’ll experience, remind yourself of your exit strategy should you need one, and don’t push yourself farther then you can go. Remind yourself that you’re a being made of love and stardust and the hopes and dreams of your ancestors. You are powerful and capable. You don’t need to tap into the anxiety on the planet if you take care of yourself.

6) Really put some thought in how you want to feel and what you want to accomplish each day.
Then, do everything in your power to feel that way and accomplish those things. Use your focus. If laundry and yard work is today’s list and you want to feel peaceful while you do it, then make that happen. You can support yourself in this by putting on music or starting early. If you have to go to work and engage in the world, you may want to keep your calm and wash your hands a lot. Carry your favorite soap with you and set your phone to remind you to take deep breaths.  Whatever works for you. If you don’t start the day with knowing what you want, you can’t support yourself in that creation as the day unfolds. It is absolutely amazing to me how much a simple heart felt intention and the desire to bring it to life can alter the course of our days.

7) Let go and let God/Turn it over to the Universe/Serenity and Acceptance
Whatever your version of this is. Life is always bigger than us. Our interpretation and response is our only control. Our power is in knowing this. Usually we get to live in an illusion that makes us feel more in control then we are, but right now that’s all upside down. Things bigger than us, that we have no control over, are everywhere right now. Fighting against it leads to suffering, anger, depression, and helplessness. Our power is in letting go of what we can’t control (pretty much everything not us) and control what we can (us!).

8) Check your stories – The ones you tell and the ones you ingest
Your brain doesn’t know the difference between your sane, level-headed truth and your anxious worried thoughts. If you find yourself knee deep in a conversation or internal dialogue that’s feeling more and more horrible, change the subject, leave the room, take a break, do what you gotta do! Protect your poor tired brain. It’s doing the best it can to keep up, not feeding it junk food (this includes bad feeling memories, certain movies and tv shows, pessimistic people, etc.) will greatly improve the processing power it has AND your feeling of well-being.

9) Sleep and drink water for crissakes!
Exhaustion and dehydration are the leading causes of EVERYTHING as far as I can tell. I’m only part joking. Solid rest and lots of water never hurt and pretty much always help. From your immune system to your mood, these two things are possibly the biggest influencers. So, take care of yourself. Be the adult and do the basics!

10) And finally, COMPASSION, COMPASSION, COMPASSION
Everyone (EVERYONE!) is some level of stressed, scared, triggered, overwhelmed, and doing the best they can. Sometimes you’ll run into someone acting out. Sometimes that’ll be you. Resentment, shame, anger or escalation won’t help. YOU will feel better if you’re heart centered and kind to all (including yourself!). We don’t need perfection from each other, we do need kindness and understanding.

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At the end of last year I turned 47.  Ok, wow…I just wrote that down and posted it for all of you to see.

For whatever reason, we like to hide our age.  We try to avoid talking about it, we cover everything up with make-up, lasers, botox, clothes, attitude, etc.    But what if instead of hiding our age, we just owned our age.

My 8 year old owns her age.  She skips, jumps, laughs hard and argues openly and honestly with her brothers.  She doesn’t always brush her hair and doesn’t worry about it and she puts together her own multicolored mis-matched outfits every morning with a confidence that I love.  She owns swinging as high as she can on the swings.  She tells me honestly that she doesn’t understand her homework and asks for help.  She eats with intent and when eating a nutella banana sandwich she allows the nutella to stay on her face until she’s completely done with her treat.

So, as I watch my daughter and her conviction for owning age 8.  I’m going to own age 47.  I’m going to own that I feel pretty amazing and that I have excelled physically in Yoga that I never thought possible.  I own that I’ve found new thoughtful connections with friends and family that couldn’t have happened any sooner than now. I own that my body is constantly changing to keep up with me and that it’s OK.   I’m going to own that my life is different than it was 20 years ago.  I’m going to own that this life isn’t always easy and sometimes can be really hard.  I’m going to own my role as a girlfriend, a mom, a sister, a daughter and a wife and support others in addition to asking for help when I need it.  I’m going to own the grey that appears on my hairline, and the dark circles under my eyes and the bloated belly I get every 4 weeks.  Bottom line, I’m going to OWN IT ALL and then embrace it!   My life and this age and any age that you are at should be embraced with tremendous gratitude.   I know it’s cliche to say, but we do only get ONE LIFE, so embrace every part of you, own every part of who and what you are on this little earth that we live on and enjoy the simple beautiful moments of this aging process.   When you truly own all that you are, I assure you that your timeless inner light from your graceful beautiful soul, will shine brightly out towards everyone you pass.

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I found this Luna caterpillar in my garden the other day. It is huge and chowing down on my tomatoes like nothing I’ve ever seen. Usually I’m pretty hardcore about keeping the critters of the world off my plants, especially the plants I have a hard time growing. Like tomatoes.

But this is a Luna caterpillar. A big one. A near the chrysalis stage one where it’s whole mission in life right now is to eat and eat and eat and then curl up in a J, wrap itself in a blanket of it’s own making and turn into goo.

I know it will eventually emerge and turn into a Luna Moth. One of my favorite many beautiful things in all of creation.

Every time I see one, my heart expands, I sit in awe, and I’m shaken by it’s pure beauty.

So, obviously, I can’t take it from my tomatoes. In fact, I’m now thankful that those tomatoes landed there for it to find. I’m grateful that I had to move them several times to find what is clearly the right spot. I’m happy to watch it munch away on the leaves of the plant and on the green tomato I was thinking of frying up for lunch later. I’m more then happy to share the harvest and I can’t help but feel that this is a perfect moment.

A moment that in a million small ways was created by all the moments before. A moment that wouldn’t, couldn’t have happened if not for all moments before. The moments that made me move to this land. The moments that made me stay. The moments that made me want to plant things. The moments that made me want to move these plants so they could thrive. And even the moment where my dog wouldn’t pee in his usual spot so I was standing, looking at my tomatoes early this am in a way I normally don’t.

What’s extra beautiful to me is that this moth didn’t know as it was wandering around that it would find a tomato plant. Heck, it may have been hungry and freaking out that it fell out of the last tree it was in. Maybe that long climb up the planter was it’s last hope for food. It couldn’t have known there were delicious green tomatoes up there to eat. Or that the particular spot it’s in is safe from most predators. Or that I view its kind as magic, and so happily share my food with it – this gorgeous piece of all of creation.

It probably doesn’t know that when it reaches some unknown size, it’s genetic programming will tell it to start changing. This beautiful green caterpillar has never made a chrysalis before – it will have to trust its own knowing as it does this. It has to trust that it will be safe while inside. And it will have no clue that at some point, it will emerge again, completely transformed.

It can’t know that it’s kind brings me joy. Reminds me of hope, of faith, of beauty. It doesn’t know that it is sooooo close to being able to fly. To see the world from an entirely different vantage point. It won’t know that other beings of various sizes and shapes are rooting it on, grateful when it appears in their lives, and wishing it well when it leaves.

Right now, it just knows it is hungry and that tomatoes taste good.
All this reminds me of a game I like to play with myself and others – especially with things look bleaker then they should or we’re missing the beauty of the moment. I call it the What If game. It goes something like this…

What if Life, in all its glory and awe and horror and despair is actually a grand adventure?

What if there are no wrong paths or people or choices?

What if what you’re living now is perfect, where you’re going is perfect and where you’ve been is also perfect?

What if your trauma and coping mechanisms and big mistakes are all… perfect?
What if that lover that left, the job you lost, the car that someone smashed, the bills that went unpaid, the years of chaos – are all perfect?
What if all that led you to where you are now, and what if that is grand and amazing and far better then you can realize?
What if your now leads you to your tomorrow which will be, you guessed it, perfect?
What if life isn’t about money or security or your flight arriving on time or what you ate for dinner or if you lost 10 pounds or wrote a best selling novel?
What if life is actually a gorgeous adventure?
What if the entire point of it is the highs and lows, the twists and turns, the deep loves and the heartbreaking losses?
What if the brilliant epiphanies and catastrophic failures are equally amazing?
What if the act of feeling it all, of living it all, of finding your way, time after time, turn after turn, ride after ride, is actually the entire point?
What if taking the trash out, cooking dinner, or cleaning up after the kids are all divine acts of service?
What if today, centering your being in love and appreciation, or in rage and despair, both serve the unfolding of the great cosmic unknown?
What if lending your neighbor some baking powder has just as much of a ripple on the planet as curing cancer?
What if the best is yet to come?
What if your own personal and profound journey is the entire point of all of your existence?
What if it doesn’t matter if they like you, if they think you’re good looking or if they agree with your choices?
What if your journey is the point? Your feelings are the point? Your 1 in a gajillion perspective is the point?
What if other beings, in their various shapes and sizes, unknown to you, are rooting for you, sharing with you, loving you – just because you’re you?
What if you’re soooo close to flying? To seeing sunsets from treetops?
What if being wrapped in a blanket, scared and turning to goo, is actually the next perfect step in your very personalized evolution?
And what if that, in all it’s glorious and amazing unfolding, is perfect?
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Within the course of one year, around age 18, I was sexually assaulted, I moved 400 miles away from home and back again, one of my dearest friends was murdered, I had a miscarriage, I dumped a boyfriend who became addicted to drugs… and last but not least, I was introduced to my first true love (modern dance).

Needless to say, I was going through some shit.

Somewhere between losing my friend and dumping my ex, I was introduced to the chakras. From a philosophical perspective, I was going through a very existential stage of life — trying to comprehend life and death, morality, karma, and why I was even here to begin with… From a clinical perspective, I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder— dissociative, depressed, labile emotions, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, etc.

From an entirely different perspective, I was undergoing a (moderate) kundalini awakening — a spontaneous and rapid downpour of energy into my system causing my consciousness to raise, which forced me to rewrite my entire concept of reality… with various psychosomatic symptoms to boot.

I can’t remember exactly who introduced the chakras to me, but I remember being intrigued and wanting to figure out more. Like I do with most esoteric information, I consulted my dad about it and he handed me a book called Kundalini & The Chakras: Evolution In This Lifetime by Genevieve Lewis Paulson.

I was immediately entranced by what I was learning…

There is a comprehensive, yet practical framework for understanding the breadth of human experience. This framework is intricate and unveils a mystical energetic system that unifies every aspect of life experience from human physiology and psychology, to the cosmic, universal divine source. By understanding this system, a miraculous and divine mystical experience could become accessible to you, bringing you closer to enlightenment…

For me, seeking enlightenment seemed to be the only relevant pursuit while being on this planet in human form. Most enticing though was the prospect that with the use of this system, you can unlock psychic gifts, which was a childhood fantasy that all of the sudden seemed possible to attain.

Over the last 12 or so years, I’ve studied the chakra system from various points of view. My favorite teachers on this system have been Caroline Myss, Anodea Judith, and Deepak Chopra. What has been most impactful in my research was actually taking what I’ve studied and applying it to my life.

The chakra system has not only provided me a language and model for understanding my personal experiences and making changes in my life that support a path towards enlightenment. It’s also given me solace when attempting to make sense of our often deranged and disturbing collective experience. It has been a tremendous resource for me to heal, grow, and yes… awaken my own psychic abilities. Furthermore, the chakra system is a huge tool in my work with therapy and coaching clients. It’s an assessment tool that hasn’t failed me yet!

The chakra system is an evolutionary program and can be used to reprogram our lives. If we can learn this on an individual level, perhaps we can apply the same methods to our culture and environment . — Anodea Judith

I feel really passionate about sharing the chakra system with more people because it has been such a tremendous resource in transforming my own life.

What the fuck is a chakra?
Simply put, chakras are energy centers. The word chakra translates to “spinning disk” — the chakras are vortexes of energy that govern specific physiological and psychological functions. Judith describes the chakra system as “a seven layered philosophical model of the universe”. She also talks about how the chakras are spinning disks of bio-energetic activity and can be imagined as old school floppy disks (or for the youngins — sd cards) that run particular physiological and psychological “software”. This software can be updated as one’s consciousness evolves. This is a great analogy because just like a computer program that has system updates, the human system can also be reprogrammed and updated with more sophisticated processing.

I sometimes like to imagine a chakra as a record player. It has the ability to play a record — a program with various patterns of energy and information. The record player can spin fast (excess), just right (in the groove), too slow (deficiency), or maybe not at all (blocked), and the tempo effects the way the record will be heard. In other words, the rhythm of each chakra effects the way in which the physical and psychological program is expressed. Furthermore, records can skip, get scratched, get played out, become outdated, and most importantly they be changed out for new recordings.

Even though record players themselves have been around for over 100 years, new artists release vinyl all the time. There is something timeless about a record player, just as the chakra system is timeless and inherent to the human experience. Yet we can update what we listen to with fresh vinyl, just as each human being is on a unique evolutionary journey of expanding consciousness with fresh ideas and new information.

The 7 Major Chakras
There are many philosophies regarding the chakras. Some philosophies focus on four or five chakras, while others identify a much larger number of chakras connected to points both inside and outside of the physical body. Most popularly referenced is the system of seven chakras. I created this infographic to help you orient yourself to each of the seven major chakras and the psychological aspects of the human experience that they each govern.

The chakras, or energy centers, can also be understood through the physical metaphor of the areas of the body to which they are connected. For example, the throat chakra literally and figuratively governs out ability to communicate and express ourselves. Though they have not been proven to exist in the physical body, modern research is beginning to catch up with and subsequently validate the wisdom of this ancient science with research on the gut-brain connection.

“Basic Principles of the 7 Major Chakras” by Inertia DeWitt on Medium

The general flow of energy from the top of the crown downward indicates the channel of information and energy transforming into manifestations.Energy becomes more dense as you slow down, as reflected by the nature of the lower chakras. The lower three chakras relate to the earthly, personal aspects of life. As energy flows from the top down, energy is transformed into physical form in the finite world.

Meanwhile the channel of energy traveling up the spine is a process of illumination, or enlightenment. The dense, personal experiences go through a process of emotional digestion and reflection in order to spark insight and awareness. Energy flowing from the bottom up turns experience into wisdom.

Each of the stops in between the root and the crown chakra have a specific set of issues it governs, however they all work together and the quality of energy at each chakra reflects and impacts our overall health.

Understanding the Chakras and Health

Defining Health
Renowned researcher and psychiatrist, Daniel Siegel, defines a healthy system as one that has differentiated parts that are linked together and work in harmony. He defines the mind as “an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy within and between”. Meaning that the mind does not exist in your brain. Rather, the mind is something we experience internally within our own system, and relationally between people and things outside of us. When he says within, he means within a given system, and between meaning that the mind exists between differentiated systems as well. In other words, we all exist within “the mind” and the mind can be understood as a field of consciousness. Furthermore, each individuated person, each unique system, is interconnected.

Ok that was a lot of jargon so let me put it this way…

Optimal health is maintained when individual parts of a system have a unique job, have a viable connection with the other parts of the system, and are all working together to create harmony.

Let’s imagine the DJ analogy a bit further to make sense of how the chakras and a healthy system can be understood. Imagine an overzealous DJ is spinning 7 unique records simultaneously to create a symphony of music live! One record plays bass samples, another drums, guitar, piano, vocals, horns and strings. The DJ has to keep everything movin and groovin in harmony; if even just one record is out of time it creates dissonance. Dissonance reveals an imbalance in the system, i.e. negative behavior, stress, pain, illness, etc.

You are the DJ, each record is a different chakra programmed to express specific information, and each record requires monitoring and regulating in order to keep things flowing simultaneously — just as all of the components of the human experience require monitoring and regulating in order to stay balanced and aligned.

So … Now What?
If you are going through some major shit, and you believe you are going through your kundalini awakening, you can spend years reading all of the books out there on chakras (I’d be happy to share my reading list). You could also watch a ton of YouTube videos. Or you could look for a mentor to personally guide you through your journey. I also created a real basic guide to understanding the chakra system if you want to get the cliffs notes version 🙂

I primarily refer to the works of author Genevieve Lewis Paulson, medical intuitive and author Caroline Myss, and therapist and author, Anodea Judith. Judith’s book Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self is paramount for anyone wanting a comprehensive and digestible understanding of the system in a modern context. Furthermore, I draw parallels between my understanding of the chakra system with my studies in psychology, particularly research done by self-psychologist Ernest Wolf and renowned psychiatrist, Daniel Siegel.

Inertia DeWitt holds an MFA in Dance, MA in Counseling Psychology with an Emphasis in Depth Psychology, and a certificate in Somatic Psychology. Among many things, she provides holistic, integrative coaching services to clients in the U.S.

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Everyone experiences stress and trauma in their life at one point or another. These experiences can affect us for a fleeting moment or for a lifetime. Our methods for dealing with stress are most often an attempt to survive the suffering. Generally speaking, these methods are mental or behavioral efforts that help us manage emotions by escaping or avoiding the stress, self-soothing, and/or stoping the stressor altogether.

From childhood into adolescence, we adopt various approaches for dealing with the stress in our life. Typically we pick up these strategies from our family, cultural examples, and cultural norms/expectations. They can be direct replications of behavior (parents yell when stressed, so child learns to yell) or indirect responses (parents yell, child learns to hide or withdraw). Many of the methods we use as adults are established in our youth, and because of that, they are often limited to the developmental abilities of the age we learned them.

As adults, we are often confronted with the limitation of the coping methods we learned in our youth and are presented with the choice of finding more sophisticated approaches to match our maturity. In order to live at optimal health, you need to equip yourself with a wide range of tools including coping mechanisms, self-care practices, and deeper corrective methods.

Here’s how I see the difference.

Coping Mechanisms

Ok so…… You experienced a trauma or are enduring a stressful phase of life. The trauma or stress deeply effects you and in order to survive it, you pick up some habits that make you feel as though things are more manageable. For some this looks like withdrawing and isolating, for others this looks like staying busy. Coping mechanisms are the broad umbrella of methods used to endure stress, including the deeper healing practices of self-care and corrective work. However, I generally define coping as any effort taken to ease immediate suffering — coping methods are the things you do to manage your discomfort in the moment.

By nature, coping methods help distract us from the difficulty or pain so that we can focus on other priorities. It is extremely important to have methods to cope with immediate stress, because processing deeper emotions related to stress or trauma is not always appropriate or possible in the moment. There are always life responsibilities waiting for you — as a parent, an employee, a student, etc. It is equally important to be mindful and honest with yourself about the efficacy of your coping methods.

There are so many different ways people learn to cope with stress and some approaches have more risk factors associated with them than others. For example a lot of people cope with stress by leaning on a substance or practice that numbs the senses or stimulates pleasure, e.g.: smoking, drinking, sex, binge eating/eating comfort foods. Another example is self-harming (cutting), which tends to provide a sense of relief from pressure. In the moment, these examples serve the purpose of mitigating the pain/suffering; they help us relax or forget about our troubles, but over time can have negative impacts as well.

All coping methods serve a purpose, I think it’s important to honor the coping mechanisms you’ve learned along the way. They have, in one way or another, kept you alive and well. It is important though as adults to become more mindful of the short and long term impacts of the coping methods we use, and take responsibility for expanding our repertoire with more skillful and effective coping tools.

Self-Caring

Alright so… You experienced some trauma in your life and you realize that you have been allowing your energy to drain in negative relationships, work environments, and other situations. You realize that some of your coping mechanisms have negative impacts too, or that they don’t really help you anymore. You have a deep desire to take better care of your self because you realize it’s up to you to make this a priority. Self-care is pretty much anything that you do to meet your own needs and nurture yourself. For me, self-care is the way in which I tend to my own wellbeing physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Self-care is how we refill our spirit. While coping gets you through the moment short-term, self-care helps you build your capacity to endure stress over time.

The concept of self-care is really starting to take hold in mainstream culture and it’s absolutely amazing! It’s a huge step forward towards the betterment of our collective society. As we learn to see individual self-care is vital to our wellbeing, the whole of society also adapts to this culturally.Self-care as a practice and a cultural philosophy is revolutionary. In a society that teaches you so many ways to mistreat yourself, others, and the Earth, to care for yourself is a radical act of rebellion.

Practicing self-care lends itself to developing self-love and it also teaches us how to be more empathetic. When you begin to care for yourself you develop the capacity to recognize when other people are doing their best to take care of themselves too. You can also recognize when others are not taking care of themselves and how their behavior/energy is a reflection of how well they are caring for themselves.

Even still, self-care can be misunderstood and misguided at times to. Take for example the concept of treating yourself. Maybe you shouldn’t #treatyoself when you are financially unstable. Maybe a more skillful approach to self-care is to save your money; paint your own nails instead of getting the manicure. Maybe it looks like a walk at the river instead of charging the credit card for a weekend in Vegas. I’m jus sayin… We all need to have fun, but at what cost? We all need to feel good, but there’s a difference between genuine nourishment and doing things that feel comforting but cause harm.

Obviously, this is just an example and isn’t meant to be taken as a rule. The thing about self-care is that it’s subjective — you and only you will truly know what kind of care is best for your wellbeing.

Correcting the Issue

Ok so… You experienced some trauma in your life and now, as an adult, you are realizing that some of the ways you learned to survive that trauma are no longer serving you. You’ve improved your coping mechanisms to be less harmful longterm but you’re tired of distracting from the underlying issue instead of resolving it directly. You even started to integrate more regular self-care practices into your routine like eating healthier, getting into nature, going to yoga or getting regular massages. Nevertheless, you still find yourself struggling with the residual grief from challenges of the past.

If coping mechanisms help us mitigate immediate stress, and self-care is refueling ourselves so that we have more stamina to endure stress, correcting the issue is looking to find the root source of our stress.Sometimes we make efforts to change our coping mechanisms and practice self-care, and still find ourselves in familiar cycles of abuse and stress. Sometimes we can be living a healthy lifestyle and still be suffering from the residual traumas of our past.

Correcting the issue could look like leaving a negative work environment, setting boundaries in unhealthy relationships, or rewriting your internal dialogue to make your self-talk script more positive. Instead of a drop in yoga class, you may enroll in a more extensive 10-day meditation or yoga course. You might start therapy to process the residual grief of past stress and trauma. For the most part, I think people understand coping mechanisms and self-care as physical or behavioural methods. For me, correcting the issue is about going deeper into the layers of mental and emotional patterning that drive behavior, to relinquish what is no longer useful, and upgrade to new and improved strategies for maintaining our own wellbeing.

Self-care is a huge jump from simply coping with stress to growing your capacity to manage stress. Meanwhile, correcting deeper issues is about healing the wounds of your past in order to move forward more freely. Instead of coping with an open wound, correcting outdated patterns is like finally bandaging the wound and tending to it until it starts to scab and mend. To me, healing simply means tending to our wounds.

You’re still going to experience triggers over time, some wounds remain feeling fresh even after years have passed. Correcting the issue has more to do with coming to terms with things, processing the emotions that were stuffed down, and repatterning our thoughts so that we can regain our stability and health. Correcting the issue does not mean that your wound magically reverts to having never happened. Breaking your leg, setting the cast, and going through physical therapy doesn’t give you a brand new bone… the bone was broken and now it’s mending. You continue to tend to the wounds throughout your life, coping, caring and correcting the methods that no longer serve you.

Thanks for reading!

 

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