Category Archives: Loneliness

Let Bygones Be Bygones

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a woman also attempting to cross. She asked if they could help her. The junior monk, in keeping with his vows never to touch a woman, ignored her request for help and crossed to the other side of the raging river. The senior monk carried the woman on his shoulder, forded the river and let her down on the other bank. The junior monk was very upset, but said nothing. As they continued on their journey the senior monk noticed that the junior monk was suddenly silent and enquired, “Is something the matter? You seem very upset.” “As monks, we are not permitted to touch a woman,” the junior monk said. “How could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?” The senior monk replied, “I left the woman a long time ago at the river bank. However, you seem to be carrying her still.” This begs the question: What baggage are you carrying that you should have left behind a long time ago?


The arrival of spring is a good time to do some mental and emotional housecleaning and to finish up unfinished business from the past. You can start by doing an inventory of old grudges you still carry, like the boss who kept you from getting that much needed raise and that much deserved promotion, the friend who never paid you back the money you lent, or the person you love who broke your heart. Your unwillingness, or inability to let go of past hurts stunts your spiritual and emotional growth and can cause stress that may lead to physical illness. Carrying old grudges weighs you down and keeps you stuck in the past. Dwelling on past grievances is a form of emotional and mental clutter and keeps you from getting on with your life.

Don’t let life pass you by. Forgiveness is an important step toward letting go of past offenses. It releases you and the other person. It creates opportunities for new possibilities either to form new relationships, or to transform the relationship with the person you feel has wronged you. If you have unfinished business with someone you need to release forgive him first and then let him go. If you need to reconnect with someone so you can begin again forgive her first and then push the reset button.

Forgiveness doesn’t happen all at once. It is a process that requires regular and consistent practice. If you are having difficulty forgiving someone who you feel has wronged you, start the process by forgiving yourself. Admit it, most of the time when someone has done us wrong, we not only blame them for the wrong doing, we blame ourselves for not being smart enough to have avoided the offense. “How could I have been so blind?” “Why didn’t I see that coming?” “What I should have done/said instead was…” Instead of blaming, shaming or criticizing yourself for something you wish you hadn’t said or done, or wish you had done differently, try forgiving yourself using this four-step process

  1. Identify what it is you feel you’ve done wrong or neglected to do right.
  2.  Allow yourself to feel the remorse that comes from having done something you regard as wrong or neglected to do differently.
  3.  Promise and mean that you will never do it again.
  4.  If you do it again, repeat the first three steps of the forgiveness process and then don’t do it again. Forgiveness is a recursive process, not something you do once and for all.

As you practice forgiving yourself, you will discover that it becomes easier to forgive others. Don’t be like the young monk whose rigid adherence to a rule blinded him to the senior monk’s kindness. Leave the past where it belongs, in the past. As Jack Kornfield reminds us, “Forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past.” Practice forgiveness. Step into the present moment. Let bygones be bygones.


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Looking Back

An Akan proverb, or the Sankofa tells us “We should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward.”

It is hard to believe that the close of 2013 is just weeks away. I feel like this is a good time to circle back and highlight some thoughts I’ve shared over the past 12 months. I chose past writings that speak to some of the holiday ups and downs most of us experience in hopes my words will bring you greater well being and, as always, continued growth! Enjoy…

As far as I know my father never once stepped onto a yoga mat. Yet it is through his example that I learned what living yoga off the yoga mat really means. It’s about attitudes and actions that keep you focused, calm, and non-reactive in the face of life’s challenges. It’s about doing what’s right, not what’s easy.

Lt. Colonel Frederick L. Parker, USAF

Lt. Colonel Frederick L. Parker, USAF

He did this throughout his military career by valiantly fighting, at his own peril, for freedoms that were not always granted to him, because it was the right thing to do. He demonstrated courage by standing up for and insisting on equal treatment for all, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. He proved that obstacles are overcome by committing to relentlessly following your purpose, no matter who or what opposes you. He demonstrated that living life heroically means living life authentically and facing your fears head on, everyday, with an open heart.

leg up framed-_MG_2724To live life fully we are called to live a life of service to others. Ask yourself each day upon awakening, what difference you want to make in someone else’s life. It doesn’t have to be a monumental difference. It could be something as simple as offering a listening ear to a friend in need, making a phone call to someone you’ve been thinking about, or running an errand for a neighbor.

web_b_MG_6940Do not let limitations or barriers keep you from pursuing your dreams. No achievement comes without obstacles. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and continue moving toward your goal. Remember no effort you make goes unrewarded. Keep looking for a job if you’re unemployed. Keep applying to schools until you’re admitted. Finish what you start. Don’t give up.

b-edit_MG_6892-1For many of us doing has become more important than being. Even though we long for rest and relaxation, these are needs we tend to ignore. We have to talk ourselves into the practice of slowing down and being still. A culture of doers, we have places to go, people to meet, things to do. The only thing we think we can’t do is nothing.

b_MG_8295The problem with carrying around a secret is that it can be toxic, costing you peace of mind, happiness, even your health. Keeping secrets interferes with your ability to be yourself, and to be intimate with others. It doesn’t matter what your secret is; keeping secrets is a form of dishonesty that causes harm to us physically, psychologically and spiritually, and sometimes causes harm to others.

Yoga teaches us that truthfulness is a guiding principle of our practice both on and off our yoga mat. We learn that by shining a light on the hidden places within ourselves we can safely avoid their stress-related consequences. Even though the thought of revealing a secret can seem scary, once you take that first step, it gets easier.

october blog“Go to your room!” “Sit still until I tell you to move!” “You need a time out!” For those of us who grew up hearing these words when we misbehaved, is it any wonder that as adults we have an aversion to being still, to being quiet, or to being alone? When stillness, time-out, and alone time are used as forms of punishment, how likely is it that we would look forward to, much less be able to delight, in stillness?

grayweb-edit_MG_4513Contentment should not be confused with complacency, which is a state of stagnation, or no growth. Rather, contentment is a sign that we are at peace with our circumstances, and ourselves. Being content does not mean that we have to settle for what we don’t want, whether it is a toxic relationship, unbearable living conditions, or inhumane working conditions. Contentment starts with accepting reality as it is, not as we want it to be. Accepting reality can lead us to make the necessary changes that result in an overall sense of well-being.

Contentment is not the same as happiness. We all face difficult times in our lives. But it is possible to find contentment even in painful circumstances through acceptance of the situation. In the case of a devastating illness, loss or other unwelcomed circumstance, we may go through various stages of emotional turmoil such as denial, anger, and depression before we reach acceptance. But it is possible to find contentment and inner peace, even then….No matter what your circumstance, there is always the possibility of living life more fully.

Contentment is the ability to appreciate how much you have, rather than how much you want.

b-edit516Change is risky and can be accompanied by sadness, fear, regret, anger, and disappointment. If you stepped on a nail, it would obviously be painful and you would want to remove it. But before it feels better, removing the nail hurts, sometimes more than staying on it. Truth be told, there are times when we’d rather adjust to and accept a familiar hurt than risk the discomfort of change, even if the change we face leads to something better. But you can’t “put the past behind you and move on” without saying goodbye to what you are leaving.

There is wisdom to be gained by reflecting on change, its inevitability, and how to gracefully accept it. The ability to embrace change is an essential part of living. Accepting the pain that sometimes comes with it is fundamental to the embrace of life itself. Where there is life there is change. Without change there is no growth and no life. To align with life, we must become one with change and “go with the flow.”

 The Rune of Termination and New Beginnings
“The life you have been living has outgrown its form, and must die so new energy can be released. May you undergo a death within your self. You are always free to resist, but remain mindful that the new life is always greater than the old. Prepare then for opportunity disguised as loss.”


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The Art of Soulful Living

Ponder the soul; for it is the source of all our inspirations
for material, mental, and spiritual success. ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

When the Peace Corps sent Susana Herrera to teach English in northern Cameroon, she was ecstatic. In her book, “Mango Elephants in the Sun,” she describes how she wanted to blend in to her adopted village, to drink deep from the well of the spirit of Mother Africa – and to make a positive difference.

edit_MG_7112The villagers, however, regarded her as a rich privileged American tourist, a nasara (white person) who had never encountered hardship and suffering. The women in the village stared at her in silence when she went to the village well to pump water to fill her bucket. They laughed at her when her foot became entangled in her sarong causing her to trip and fall as she tried to balance the water bucket on her head. When she attempted to break the ice by engaging the village children in play, they ran from her screaming in fear. This was not the experience she expected.

Susanna didn’t want to be an outsider, but she could not have felt more isolated and alone. As she watched the village women sitting in their sacred sister circle, she noticed her neighbor Clotilde, also an outsider, arriving at the well. Clotilde had made friends with the women and had become a part of their daily lives. Intrigued by their acceptance of her, Susanna watched closely as Clotilde greeted each of the women asking, “Jam bah doo nah?” It means, “Are you in your skin?” or more accurately, “Is your soul in your body?” They respond to her enthusiastically exclaiming “Jam core doo may.” “Oh yes. I am in my skin. I am alive and in my skin. My soul is in my body.”

edit_MG_7008Each of us, like Susanna, has a need to belong, to feel a part of a community. We long for connection with others. It is natural. Being an outsider can cause us to feel the pain of alienation so we sometimes sacrifice our aloneness to be with others, trying to fit in, even when we are not welcomed. Although the circumstances vary, each of us at various times in our lives has had to confront our sense of isolation. As painful and scary as it can be, experiencing your aloneness can teach you how to enjoy the pleasure of your own company ~ how to welcome and fit in with yourself. Embracing aloneness teaches you how to sit through the discomfort of loneliness so you can get to the other side of it and realize it didn’t kill you. Embracing aloneness teaches you how to be in your own skin and prepares you for being in healthy relationship to others.

Sitting with our aloneness requires courage and begs the question, “How do I live in my own skin? How do I live with myself as an autonomous being?” Rabbi Tamara Kolton teaches that loneliness should not be avoided because it is the soul’s longing for itself. Loneliness, she says, is a sign of spiritual hunger pains.  It is the longing for connection not just to others; it is the invitation to come home to Self. Learning to cherish and enjoy your solitude rather than fearing and avoiding it allows you to actively begin to know and like yourself. It gives you time to think about how you want to be treated by others and time to practice treating yourself the way you want others to treat you.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert says that during her “Eat Pray Love” journey being alone prepared her for meeting her soul mate. Rather than avoiding her aloneness, she decided to treat herself like she was her own amazing boyfriend, taking herself on great dates, offering herself words of comfort, and asking herself everyday, “What do you need, dear one? What can I do for you?” She says she had the time of her life just being with herself enjoying the pleasure of her own company.

That is our work as evolving human beings. Before we can create optimal relationships with others we have to create optimal relationships with our Self. How? Learn to love your Self. Spend time alone with your Self. Loneliness is the opening to step more fully into your Self, into your Soul. To be able to enjoy aloneness we need to learn to endure loneliness, to go deep into it, and make friends with it.

When we miss the company of a friend, we reach out. We don’t hesitate to call, text, e-mail or visit.  So the next time you feel lonely, before you distract yourself by seeking the companionship of someone else, eating another cupcake, going shopping and spending money you don’t have, turning on the TV, or reaching for another glass of wine, put in a call to your Soul. Instead of reaching out, reach in and ask your Self, “Am I in my skin? Is my soul in my body?” Sit in your aloneness until the answer is “Yes, I am alive and in my skin. My soul is in my body.” And when that answer comes you know you have come home to the most important company you will ever keep – your Self. This is the art of Soulful living.


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Light on Secrecy

Do you want to know a secret?
Do you promise not to tell?”
The Beatles

Whether it’s an embarrassing story, a secret crush, or a family skeleton, each of us needs someone to confide in. Yet some truths seem so deep and dark we keep them hidden from everyone–our parents, our spouse, our siblings, a best friend–hoping no one will ever find out about them.

b-web ready_MG_4403

The problem with carrying around a secret is that it can be toxic, costing you peace of mind, happiness, even your health. Keeping secrets interferes with your ability to be yourself, and to be intimate with others. Hiding parts of your personal history takes energy and is stressful. Ongoing stress poses a health problem due to increased hormone levels that cause inflammation and compromise the immune system. These are some of the reasons keeping secrets is a dangerous practice.

While growing up, Doreen was embarrassed by her mother’s behavior on more than one occasion. Doreen’s mother was an alcoholic. At times she could be sweet, loving, rational and fun. At other times she was volatile, emotionally labile and depressed. She was unreliable and her behavior was unpredictable. Doreen loved her mother, but was ashamed of the way she acted when she was drinking. She never knew what to expect and so as a child she never invited friends to her house, a habit she continued into her adult life.

Although she was ashamed of her, even as an adult Doreen felt protective of her mother. She didn’t want anyone to judge her or her mother negatively, so whenever conversations about childhood would come up among friends, Doreen would change the subject. She didn’t want anyone to know about her mother’s drinking. But keeping this secret locked inside made it impossible for Doreen to ever feel truly at ease in her friendships, leading to chronic anxiety and bouts of loneliness and depression.

It doesn’t matter what your secret is: hiding debt, telling or concealing a lie, secretly eating, covering up physical and sexual abuse. Keeping secrets is a form of dishonesty that causes harm to us physically, psychologically and spiritually, and sometimes causes harm to others. Yoga teaches us that truthfulness is a guiding principle of our practice both on and off our yoga mat. We learn that by shining a light on the hidden places within ourselves we can safely avoid their stress-related consequences. Even though the thought of revealing a secret can seem scary, once you take that first step, it gets easier.


When you’re preparing to be open with others about a secret you’ve been harboring, a good first step is to be honest with yourself. Journal, write a poem, draw a picture or even write a song about the secret. When you feel more comfortable about sharing the secret, try role-playing what you’ll say with a trusted friend before you reveal the secret directly to others. If you don’t feel comfortable divulging the secret to someone you know, seek help from a professional who is obligated to maintain confidentiality.

When Doreen could no longer tolerate feelings of loneliness and isolation, she sought counseling. Being able to share all that she felt about her mother’s alcoholism helped her to become more comfortable in her own skin. She realized that by trying to keep her personal history a secret, she was actually repressing other parts of her self. Years of holding her self back caused her to lose touch with who she really was, undermining any chance for lasting joy and deep happiness. By sharing her secret in a safe place with a safe person, Doreen learned to be more open with her friends. She began to talk more freely with them about her past when it came up. To her surprise no one held any of her past against her. In fact, they seemed to like her more for her openness.


Here are some suggestions that can help make sharing your secret a positive experience:

  • Choose someone who is trustworthy, a good listener, open-minded, nonreactive, and nonjudgmental.
  • Choose a place where you have sufficient privacy and a time where there are no distractions.
  • Choose someone whose loyalties are not divided and who will not feel the need to tell another friend or his or her spouse what you’ve shared.
  • Keep in mind that therapists and clergy are sworn to maintain confidentiality so long as your secret doesn’t involve doing potential harm to yourself or another person.

Remember what matters most is not your secret. What really matters are the friends and family who still love you once you share the truth with them.


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That’s What Friends Are For

The beauty and the peril of friendship is that it’s a relationship that is totally voluntary. No strings attached. Unlike those relationships that bind us by blood, duty, obligation, and love, we choose our friends. The only bonds in friendship are mutual attraction and a shared desire to be in the relationship.


Friendships come in infinite varieties: yoga friends, misery loves company friends, Facebook friends, fair-weather friends, bosom buddies, work related friends, party friends, work out friends, and many more. There is no one size fits all friendship. We attract friends into our lives for all kinds of reasons and sometimes only for a season. But whether they last a season or a lifetime, our friendships help us grow.

Juanita and Sarah had been best friends for more than 25 years.  They met in middle school and attended high school together. Even though they attended different colleges they stayed in touch, visiting each other as often as possible. Once they graduated they went their separate ways each living in different cities. They corresponded, talked on the phone, and saw each other whenever they could. Because they were emotionally close, geographical distance never threatened their relationship.

Juanita said Sarah was the closest thing to a sister she had ever known. They were inseparable. They stood up in each other’s weddings, hosted baby showers for each other, mourned the loss of loved ones together, and supported each other through serious illnesses and even through a divorce…without a doubt they were best friends forever.

When Sarah told Juanita in a late night phone conversation,  “You haven’t been calling me as much as you used to, I guess I can’t count on you anymore.”  Juanita thought she was kidding. True, since she had remarried and taken on the responsibilities of a blended family, she had not been as available to Sarah. But what about all the times she had gone out of her way to be there for her; like when Sarah got fired from her job, or when she was diagnosed with lupus, or when her father died? It slowly began to dawn on Juanita that the friendship had become lopsided. When Sarah was in need Juanita had always been there to help. Now that she was not as available, Sarah put the relationship on the line.

Their relationship had always seemed balanced because Sarah was needy and Juanita needed to be needed.  Juanita was a giver and Sarah was a receiver. We tend to think that if a giver ends up with a receiver there is balance in the relationship – but this is an illusion. Two people out of balance do not create a balanced relationship. Eventually the one who needs to be needed asks for support, or the one who likes to be given to has something she wants to offer. When that happens it throws things off. If you’re not mindful, the shift in dynamics can threaten the friendship.


Instead of relying on our friendships for balance we need to balance the ability to give and receive within our own personalities.

There is a certain energy that attracts friends to each other. Opposites do attract. Like magnets we tend to attract those who possess traits and qualities we would like to possess, or traits and qualities we are unaware we already possess. Needy people tend to attract people who love to give but who have a hard time receiving. Those who love to give tend to attract those who love to receive but have a hard time offering their gifts and talents to others.

To grow, each friend needs to become more like the other. Over time, if the friendship is working its magic, and you are making the effort, you will start to change. But here’s the peril. When you change even if it’s for the better, and your friend doesn’t make the adjustment, the balance shifts and you’re out of sync with each other.

So how do we restore balance when this happens? First of all try not to put your relationship on the line. It can be a deal breaker. In a dynamic relationship nothing stays the same. In order to sustain a friendship there has to be mutual interest and attraction as well as a willingness on both parts to maintain the connection.

When the dynamics of friendship change we have to make certain adjustments. Instead of trying to relate in the same ways you always have, if you’re like Sarah you may have to give more and ask for less. If you’re like Juanita you may have to give less and ask for more.

Can your friendship survive the change in circumstances that life inevitably introduces or that personal growth brings? Do friendships last a lifetime? What is true friendship anyway? Why is it so difficult to let go once we realize we’ve outgrown a friend? Is it really okay to end a friendship that’s gone bad or one that has stagnated?

I would love to hear what you know about the answers to some of these questions and to hear how your friendships they have helped you grow.


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