The truth is that the sweet spot doesn’t exist. To move beyond shame, we have to learn to consciously feel our shame fully and eventually learn to laugh at it—and at ourselves. Happiness researcher Robert Holden points out that shame cannot continue to exist when the energy around it is lightened up with laughter. People whose lives are shame based live with the mistaken idea that the harder they are on themselves, the better human beings they’ll be. Western civilization and many religions have sold us on the idea that suffering buys us something and that we have to atone for our very existence. Our biology takes its cue from these beliefs and responds accordingly, making our physical experience mirror what we believe. Dr. Mario Martinez has studied numerous cases of stigmata, the phenomenon of bleeding from areas in the hands and feet associated with Jesus’s wounds on the cross. The wounds don’t become infected but they don’t heal, and they’re quite painful. Dr. Martinez’s cases include the famous Padre Pio, and he has even been hired by the Catholic Church to carry out his research. In working with some of these individuals, Dr. Martinez has helped them heal and recover from pain simply by offering them the understanding that suffering is not necessary in order to serve your community. Like stigmata, illness and accidents are often the result of culturally supported beliefs about the need for suffering and atonement. Unlike the placebo effect, which is the belief that good things will happen, illnesses and accidents can be a kind of cultural nocebo: a belief that something bad will happen or needs to happen. The more critical and unforgiving we are toward ourselves, the more miserable and sick we’re apt to be. The body has a remarkable ability to manifest shame as illness or physical problems, because the hurt of shame registers in the brain in exactly the same way physical pain does—and it also produces inflammatory chemicals in the body that set us up for illness. This is why, in the famous CDC-Kaiser Permanente study of adverse childhood experiences (ACE).
Fortunately, there’s an alternative. Shame researcher Brené Brown discovered that it’s possible to become shame resilient, or what she calls “wholehearted.” She says the only difference between those who are wholehearted and those who are shame based is—get this—the belief that they are worthy of love and connection. That’s it. Nothing else. Wholehearted people can be found in every socioeconomic group, and they lead healthy lives and have rich emotional connections to others. And becoming wholehearted is a learnable skill. It begins with simply accepting where you are now, having compassion and understanding for yourself, and rejecting the cultural belief that self-care is self-centred and wrong. How many of us are holding on to anger, sadness, and hurt over the false belief that we missed our big chance or someone else stopped us from living the life we wanted? Limiting beliefs can keep old, destructive emotions alive inside us like a cancer that refuses to die. Dissolve it with Divine Love and understanding the minute you become aware of it! Or spend a couple minutes each morning or evening using Gay Hendricks’s The subconscious mind is very receptive to the word expand, and that word and the feeling of expansion help you release from your body beliefs about what your upper limits are.
Letting it Out
Letting your emotions out isn’t pretty: You aren’t going to look like the flawless-skinned Hollywood beauty in a 1940s movie with one perfect tear trailing down your cheek as your moist eyes glitter with light. You’re probably going to be a ruddy, honking, snorting, sobbing wet mess of raw emotion, and so what? Let it out. It’s not frowning that causes your face to develop jowls and frown lines, but the slow death that comes from stuffing your emotions and keeping them tamped down by drinking, smoking, and worrying about what people will think of you if you’re honest with them. If you want to make your cells sick, hold on to shame and guilt. But if you want to be a goddess who never ages, release those emotions. According to traditional Hawaiian spirituality, the goddess Pele causes volcanoes to erupt because she’s enraged that she can’t be with her lover. She yearns for sexual pleasure and release, and if she can’t have it, there will be hell to pay! But let’s not forget that it was volcanic eruptions that created the islands of Hawaii—a process that continues every day. Since its eruption in 1983, Mount Kilauea in Hawaii has created more than 540 acres of new land on planet Earth. Anger can be a force for creation and positive change if you stop fearing it and start expressing it appropriately. Think of your anger as your own personal volcano—creating acres of new choices, new cells, new relationships, and new opportunities from your own bone marrow! When I was releasing my anger toward my father, I suspected my emotional release process would not only cure my frozen shoulder but free me up to let go of my fear of not being desirable. I wanted to reclaim my womanly attractiveness—my belief that I am one hot, luscious woman that any man would be lucky to be around. I couldn’t do that until I released the emotions that were holding me back. I couldn’t create my new life while I was still hanging on to anger and grief from the old one.
Exercise: Snapping Out Grief and Rage
In her Seven Sacred Steps workshops. Unity minister Jill Rogers suggests a method for releasing the intertwined emotions of anger and grief that create pressure in our cells. This is an exercise I used in my own release of anger and grief about my father. You can use it for releasing these emotions about anyone you’ve been close to. You’ll find that at the core of your anger at that person is actually your grief and rage about the fact that their heart was (or is) closed to you. To do this exercise, you’ll need a timer, a towel (a terry cloth hand towel will work perfectly), and an empty chair that you place in front of you. Set the timer for five or ten minutes, no more, in order to contain your expression of grief and rage so that you don’t become overwhelmed by your emotions—or the soreness in your arm, because you’ll be whacking a surface with that towel and giving your arm muscles a workout! Now, facing the chair, imagine that the person you are angry with is sitting there. Then start letting that person have it. As you do, turn and snap the towel against a hard surface, such as a sturdy wall, a door, or the frame around a door. Make sure that the surface can take it. As Jill suggests (and I have to agree), it’s the snapping of the towel along with the yelling that is so satisfying. Really let it rip, expressing your rage and anger at the person whom you’re imagining in that chair. Speak your truth and tell that person exactly what he or she did that makes you mad. Use the worst swear words that can come out of you! Remember, even if you have done the psychological work of forgiving this person, the child within you who was hurt is holding on to anger. It’s not your adult self who is getting healed here. It’s that angry and wounded child self who is still running your endocrine, immune, and central nervous systems. Let her have her say! After a few minutes of towel snapping, cursing, and shouting, you may be ready to declare, “I hate it when your heart is closed to me!” If not—if you’re too caught up in your rage—leave it for your next session. But don’t skip this step! When we’re really furious with someone, it’s often because we wanted to be connected to that person in love, but for some reason, the person couldn’t connect with us. Saying, “I hate it when your heart is closed to me!” acknowledges and releases grief along with the anger that you weren’t able to have the experience with this person that you wanted, needed, and deserved.
When doing this exercise, don’t try to be “spiritual” and compassionate toward this person—who isn’t actually there anyway! Don’t forgive him or her too soon. Otherwise, you’ll block the healing. Once you begin to release the anger, the hurt, and the resentment with movement and tears, you may actually be able to feel the pressure in your cells release. Tune in to how it feels in your body and energy field afterward. If the person is still in your life, notice whether you feel a shift in your response to him or her the next time you get together. Emotional release should be followed with healing work (see the suggestions that follow shortly). It should be repeated regularly until you feel a shift in yourself. But don’t think you can skip the release part and go straight to the healing. There are no shortcuts or detours around the pain. Forgiveness isn’t an intellectual exercise. If you attempt to mentally forgive someone who hurt or betrayed you but don’t release the anger, resentment, and grief, it’s like snipping off the top of a dandelion and leaving the long roots in the earth. Forgiveness is a process and it must involve emotional release that occurs in your body and mind simultaneously. Don’t be distracted by the other person’s emotional issues, which aren’t yours. Your feelings matter. Remember, this process is for healing and freeing you. You don’t have to discuss it with the other person—ever! Nor do you need that person to apologize to you. You don’t need to reconcile with or even see that person ever again. That’s not the point. You don’t want to remain angry, of course, but you have to let your true feelings arise and be experienced and expressed. Then, after you feel your grief or rage starting to subside as you do the work of releasing it, you can look at your past more objectively and sort out what belongs to you and what belongs to someone else. Forgiveness isn’t condoning what the other person did. It’s deciding to release the toxic feelings that remain and to set firm boundaries for yourself so you don’t get hurt again. Dr. Mario Martinez refers to forgiveness as liberation from self-entrapment. It is a process of reclaiming the worthiness and self-love that you inadvertently gave to the person who hurt you. Forgiveness is about loving and freeing yourself in the present. Releasing your old emotions and replacing them with loving kindness toward yourself is like climbing to a mountaintop and breathing clean fresh air.
The Pain That Ends The Pain
It’s incredibly painful when people betray you, dismiss you, or harden their hearts to you. It’s as if you have a boil that needs lancing, or a sliver that is trying to work its way out of your skin. When your body creates inflammation, it sends fluids to surround the foreign substance or object that needs to be removed, which causes an exquisite sensitivity. The pressure is intense. Blood can’t get to the area to wash out the foreign body or toxin. If you cut into the boil or pry out the sliver to release the pressure, it will be very painful at first, but then the fluids will flow, cleansing the area. Tears, sweat, urine, mucus, and blood escaping through the skin all remove toxins, which is why your eyes itch and your nose runs when you’ve got a cold. All of this can be seen as a metaphor for our need to let our emotions flow forth and wash out of us. As meditation teacher Stephen Levine says in his book Healing into Life and Death (Anchor Books, 1987), feeling challenging emotions is “the pain that ends the pain.” Intuitive Lorraine Neithardt recalled her mentor Reverend Phyllis Woodbury telling her, “My dear, the only way to heaven is through the gates of hell.” Simply allowing yourself to have a good cry can be cathartic and healing. It energetically releases stagnant emotions of anger and grief. This is why the famous writer Isaak Dinesen wrote in Seven Gothic Tales (Random House, 1934) that the cure for everything is salt water: “Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.” Movies and music that make you cry can also help you get in touch with and release your blocked emotions. A movie like Beaches or The Notebook primes the pump so your own feelings can come up and out. My daughters and I watched the 2012 movie Les Misérables, and the sequence where Anne Hathaway sings “I Dreamed a Dream,” channelling every feeling of abandonment, sadness, and hopelessness any woman ever experienced, is so powerfully cathartic that the short clip should be sold separately for any woman who needs a good cry! The three of us sat together in the theatre, awash in tears.
In fact, weeping in order to let out your feelings is crucial for your health. If you find tears welling up at an inconvenient time, I suggest you silently say to your emotions, “Don’t go away. I’ll get back to you. Please come up again.” Then, as soon as you can, get to a place or into a situation where you can let your body release those tears along with the sounds and movements that go with them. Releasing your emotions shouldn’t involve force. Just as pulling out a baby with forceps can cause damage, trying to force out emotions before you have the strength to deal with them is not wise. The body knows how to heal. You can assist a little as the head is crowning, but you have to work with nature and not be too aggressive. Don’t go digging for buried pain; gently allow it to arise. A New York Times blog cited research showing that soldiers who have suffered PTSD may avoid therapy out of fear that they’ll be pressured to talk about their trauma in detail before they’re ready to. These soldiers may instinctively sense that directly confronting deep trauma can be too painful an experience for them in the early stages of their recovery. You can also let emotions surface by doing meditation, Reiki, or bodywork such as massage, all of which still your mind and allow your body and energy field to bring to the surface feelings that need to be released. If you’re working with an energy healer or a masseuse, be sure they know that the best way to support you in emotional release is through encouragement—words such as “Good job! You’re doing great! Let it out!” are helpful. Another way of releasing emotions is through movement. Indigenous people danced, sang, and chanted for healing. Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, organized the global movement called One Billion Rising to draw attention to the fact that one in three women—that’s one billion people on the planet—have experienced being raped, sexually abused, or physically assaulted. Instead of the usual angry protesting, Ensler used a far more celebratory—and effective—approach to healing: strike, dance, and rise. She urged people to leave work, dance with passion, and rise up as one to end violence against women. What a great way to honour the joy of living rather than dwell on pain! Recognize the grief and anger, and then move your body into a primal space of healing. Singing and chanting give voice to emotions too. Sing on your own or in a choir, or start a sing-along with others. I know some women who sing old camp songs from their Girl Scout days, complete with hand motions, every time they get together. Their husbands and kids have learned to join in because they know there is no stopping the sing-along when the “girls” gather with their families. It is a celebration of the friendship and love they have shared for years, and the strength they’ve received from each other and given back to each other. Don’t you love how women—particularly sisters and good friends—tend to giggle whenever they get together?
Release and Relief
When you let any emotion flow, it makes it easier to get out of that numb state and let all of them flow. I look back now at videos of myself from 20 years ago, before my divorce, and I’m shocked by how shut down I looked and sounded. None of my feelings flowed freely because I didn’t want to face my fear, pain, or anger. I was too busy trying to keep my marriage and family together, look like a professional, and reinvent the language of women’s health for the sake of my patients, for whom I felt responsible. The burden of this was huge. When you do finally allow yourself to feel your emotions fully, you may be surprised by how quickly they move through you. They rise and subside naturally, even though it may seem you’ll never stop crying or raging when you first let your feelings surface. Look at how children will wail and tantrum but then allow their feelings to subside. They’ll sniffle and then run off to play. They don’t brood and hold on to the anger or sadness. That said, you don’t want emotions to get so intense that you end up believing you can’t handle the experience—that the tears will never end and you’ll fall into a never-ending abyss of sadness. That fear-based belief can shut you down all over again. Create a container for releasing your emotions by using a grief or anger. After a release of emotions, you will feel a sense of relief. Your muscles will relax and your entire body will feel cleansed. And you may well end up laughing. Then you can enhance the healing by further shifting your energy. I like to dance, watch a funny movie, or read something inspirational that redirects me to turn everything over to the Divine. Reward yourself for doing the hard work of feeling your old, painful emotions to get them up and out of you. After an emotional release session, you can also do an Epsom salts, mineral salt, or sea salt bath, which will relax your body and release toxins. Baths can be a marvellously soothing form of self-nurturing. While in the bath, or out of it, you can close your eyes and do affirmations or a Divine Beloved prayer. To heal yourself further, you can also do what I did with my father, as I explained earlier, and reimagine that painful scenario of your past playing out differently. I imagined dancing with my father and seeing him respond with encouragement and compliments, and imagined myself glowing with pride under his approving gaze.
How to Do a Releasing Ritual
Ritual is incredibly powerful because it gets us out of our heads and right into our bodies. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes to do this ritual. Gather a pen and paper and be ready to play some recorded music that touches your heart. Light a candle and say a prayer or set an intention for releasing your feelings. You can say something like “I invite my spirit to join me now to assist me in releasing my anger or grief concerning … (fill in the blank). I also invite in my guardian angel, my guides, my teachers, Mother Mary (or whatever Divine beings you feel comfortable calling on). For the next 30 minutes, please assist me in releasing whatever needs to be released.” Note that the words aren’t as important as your intention to be healed through the release of old emotions. Start the music. Take one deep breath and then begin writing a letter to the person who has hurt you. Pour out all your feelings on paper. After 15 to 30 minutes, read out loud what you wrote. Feel the emotions as they arise. Take time to cry if necessary. Burn the paper. Shut off the music. Thank your guides and blow out the candle. Repeat this ritual as needed. Releasing grief and rage can be like peeling an onion. There are layers. And they tend to get released one layer at a time. Humour raises your vibration and makes you feel good again, so go ahead and laugh at yourself or your situation. Crack a joke as you reach for a tissue. You can’t sustain shame, fear, and sadness when you’re laughing.You can also say a prayer, such as “Divine Beloved, please change me into someone who loves myself fully and sees how desirable, smart, and wonderful I am.” Make sure you say this out loud daily for 21 days. Affirmations train your brain and mind to feel comfortable with a new reality you’re choosing for yourself: a reality in which you are strong, able to love with an open heart, and so on. Say your affirmations or prayers with feeling until you sense an energetic shift in yourself. The shift begins inside you and then is mirrored outside of you. As I’ve heard Agape minister Michael Beckwith say, “Affirmations don’t make something happen. They make something welcome.” So true!
I also recommend the At Oneness Healing System created by Robert Fritchie, founder of the World Service Institute and featured in his Healing Yourself from Within webinars. Bob, who wrote the marvellous book Being at One with the Divine (World Service Institute, 2013), teaches the power of Divine Love to people all around the world and has spent decades documenting the healing power of this energy. To truly heal from emotional, physical, or spiritual wounds, you first need to connect with Divine Love—and this love is available to everyone, but we have to ask for it. Making this connection is the most important part of living like an ageless goddess! Bob has created a type of prayer called a Divine Love petition for just this purpose. You can learn more about his incredibly helpful program on his website, but even just doing a Divine Love petition of your own can be very powerful. Bob Fritchie’s Divine Love petitions are prayers that use the power of your spirit to connect with the Creator. Here’s an example of a petition: “With my Spirit and the angels’ help, I focus Divine Love throughout my system. I ask my Spirit to identify any beliefs I have about being unworthy or unlovable. And I ask that these be dissolved and healed with Divine Love, according to the Creator’s Will.” After stating the petition, inhale through your nose. Hold it for a few seconds. Then exhale it through your nose in short bursts. The inhale draws your energy within. The exhalation through your nose sends the intention back into the universe. Continue to be fully present in the moment, mindful of your breathing, your thoughts, and the bodily feelings that come to you after you’ve said this petition out loud. Afterward, you might want to ponder what came to you when you were doing the Divine Love petition and journal about your experience. The words aren’t important. The intent is. And when you add “according to the Creator’s Will,” you are acknowledging the biggest possible picture—and that there might be reasons for your current situation that are far bigger than your intellect can appreciate.
Practices of Awareness
Meditation, prayer, or any mindfulness practice can help you get in touch with your emotions and remain present with them so that you can release them. Sometimes if you just stay present with bodily pain and ask that it be released to Divine Love or to God, it simply dissolves in the light of your love and consciousness. The same is true of emotional pain. Buried emotions and unresolved issues can reveal themselves in dreams too. Don’t ignore any dream that produces a strong feeling in you, whether or not it’s a nightmare. Pay attention to symbols, particularly how you feel about them in the dream. Doris E. Cohen points out that women will often dream about their homes (which represent themselves) or toilets (which represent the need for cleansing when you’re feeling pissed off or in need of getting rid of emotional crap). And pay attention to the specific qualities of the symbols. If you dream of water, is the water cold? Polluted? Part of a deep mountain lake? Leaking from pipes? Full of debris floating by? The details can help you understand what it signifies. As you’re writing down your dreams, allow other images, thoughts, emotions, and impressions to arise, because they will be part of the message of the dream. She also suggests you give the dream a title, as though you were reporting for a newspaper. The title generally nails the issue. For example, you might name it “Filthy toilets and company’s coming” or “My childhood home is for sale” or “Basement floods: Everything must go.” Keep a journal in which you record your dreams. You can also record them in the voice memo section of your phone and listen to them later. That way, you can correlate your waking life with your dream imagery. Over time, themes will arise. For example, this past year, I’ve had recurrent dreams about water—rivers, lakes, bathtubs, flooding living rooms, and so on. Water represents emotions and cleansing as well as spiritual power and abundance. I have gone through a huge amount of emotional cleansing in the past couple of years, and now I can feel how this process has been preparing me for the next phase of my life. Journals can also be a great container for your feelings and help you break the habit of unproductive ruminating. They are an excellent tool for helping you reflect on your life, which is important when you consider how much pressure women are under to keep their focus on everything and everyone except themselves! I like them because you can go back to earlier entries and see how far you’ve come in processing your experiences and moving forward in your healing. I keep all my journals in the basement of my house (akin to the subconscious!). They are labelled with dates so I can easily look at what I was thinking, feeling, experiencing, or intuiting at a certain time. I also like to correlate them with astrologic cycles such as Jupiter or Saturn transits. Over the years, this has shored up my faith in the Divine and a Power and plan much bigger than I can imagine.
Release Through Decluttering
Discarding the past can take a very literal form too. Possessions carry emotional energy and constantly talk to you, so let go of objects that you don’t love even if they’re practical. If you keep that ugly dresser that your mother gave you because it seems foolish to get rid of it, even though every time you look at it you remember how your mother used to harp on you about your clothes, you’re keeping alive all of that negative energy associated with your relationship with your mother. You’re not storing sweaters in that dresser—you’re storing grief, hurt, frustration, and disappointment! Pitch the dresser and release those emotions. In fact, when you’re feeling stuck or depressed, often it’s empowering to clear out a drawer or closet, shine your sink, or even paint a room or a wall. That’s why it’s very important to let it go—along with any old emotions attached to it. Invite chi, the life force of the Divine, to flow freely through your house. Don’t create obstacles for the flow. As an ageless goddess, you deserve a home that’s a haven from the outside world, a place where you can replenish yourself. I like to use feng shui to help me create sanctuaries within my home. Feng shui is based on the idea that by using elements of nature and arranging the objects in our physical space in ways that allow chi to flow freely, we become rejuvenated. My home hugs me now after years of working with feng shui. Your home ought to be your haven too, even if you live in a studio apartment. It’s difficult to feel happy, sensual, and sexy when you’re tiptoeing through clutter or your space says to you, “Take care of others but not yourself,” or “You haven’t followed through on your intention to fit in those clothes, or worked out on that exercise equipment, or lived up to the financial success of your parents or your ex.” Who needs that in her space?
You might think of your storage areas as the “colon” of your house. If these spaces are stuffed with old, unused materials, chances are good that your body will be too. Our physical surroundings are a reflection of our bodies. And like our bodies, they require regular purging and circulation. I hired a personal organizer a while back because I had renovated a bathroom and didn’t want to move into it with all my old stuff. What started with just one bathroom eventually became a cleansing of the entire house. Yes, it was exhausting, so I devoted an afternoon at a time to purging. But within two months I finally had the kind of physical space I had always longed for: neat and organized (for the most part). I no longer come across a stash of toothbrushes I bought on sale and forgot about. I don’t feel weighed down by too much “stuff.” Better yet, I know where everything is for the very first time in my life! (I’m not kidding.) Once you’ve created a haven-like home, establish routines to keep up your beautiful, replenishing space so it doesn’t become cluttered again. If you find yourself overwhelmed by clutter, try the following exercise for restoring order within and without.
Exercise: Decluttering 101
The amount of time it takes to sort through and get rid of clutter can feel overwhelming and cause you to put it off. Here’s a great way to tackle clutter 15 minutes at a time. You have to choose a small, contained space or the 15 minutes will be up and you’ll feel you have a bigger mess than before. When you’ve finished throwing out what you no longer need, cleaning anything that’s become soiled, and rearranging the items you’re keeping, stop for a minute or two and take in how good it feels to have that much decluttering done. Repeat this process again tomorrow—and the next day, and the next. You can also follow the instructions of The Fly Lady. Walk around your home with a large bag and collect 25 items in it to either throw away or give away. When you have 25, toss the garbage and put the rest of the items in your car immediately so that they’re out of the house. Schedule a trip to a second-hand store or arrange for a charity to pick up the bag. In fact, get on their call list so they remind you to grab a bagful of things to get out of your home. To further make your home a haven and let the chi flow, bring nature indoors through nature sounds, fish tanks, natural light, plants, photographs, and window views of nature—all of which have been shown to reduce stress. Decorate your living space with natural scents and flowers, or pinecones or stones from the beach, or whatever makes you feel a connection to the Mother Earth energy of nature. Bring in the sounds of nature: you can get apps for your computer or devices that play the sounds of birds singing, waves lapping against a shore, and so on. Design your home as if it were your goddess palace, a refuge and a foundation where you can replenish yourself. Emotional release and physical decluttering open you up for living agelessly, with a renewed sense of vigour and enthusiasm. You will learn about an important part of ageless goddess living that is easier to reclaim once you’ve purged the old emotions of grief, anger, and shame: your sensuality and sexuality.