written on February 10, 2021

For close to a year now, our lives have changed dramatically.  We have surfed the waves of grief, anger, sadness, fear, and confusion as our own mortality has metaphorically smacked us in the face. 

The availability of vaccines is beginning to mediate our pervasive feelings of victimhood and helplessness, and we all want to know when things will return to “normal.”  

But before we succumb to the strong urge to slam the door on 2020 and “get on with our lives,” let’s take a break to pause and reflect on how 2021 can best serve us as we honor our experience.

It’s time to explore our lives and our relationships with ourselves in new ways. The pandemic, along with the current social unrest and divisiveness, can be the catalyst for us to adopt a friendlier lens as we observe ourselves.  

Chronic painful symptoms are a signal that our mindbody system is out of balance.  Yes, it’s time to make friends with our inner critic and engage in the practice of self- awareness through the lens of self-kindness and compassion.  

Our inner critics may be loud and harsh or subtle and sarcastic, but they evolved to protect us.  The part of us that perpetuates our culture’s chronic “trance of unworthiness” really needs a chance to rest and relax.

When we respond, rather than react to our critic, we are allowing our bodies to heal. Our nervous systems begin to regulate easing the intense unconscious muscle tension that often creates physical discomfort.

Tara Brach, PhD writes about the trance of unworthiness: “I believe that the sense of not being enough is the most pervasive suffering in our society… It’s a background noise that’s always saying, ‘How am I doing now?”
…Both our upbringing and our culture provide the immediate breeding ground for this contemporary epidemic of feeling deficient and unworthy. Many of us have grown up with parents who gave us messages about where we fell short and how we should be different from the way we are. We were told to be special, to look a certain way, to act a certain way, to work harder, to win, to succeed, to make a difference, and not to be too demanding, shy or loud.” 
We grew up receiving the message that we were “less than” or “unworthy.”  And the seeds of suffering were born. We just never seem to feel okay.
This trance of unworthiness is fueled by self- blame, fear and excessive striving.  However, we can STOP, take a break, and become aware of these patterns. This heightened awareness enables us to engage in the essential self-care and self-compassion that promote optimal health and healing. 
When we simply suspend self-judgment and observe ourselves with curiosity and acceptance, we begin to unlock our truth and personal freedom and our body’s self- healing mechanisms kick into gear.
Yes, we each have the innate ability to relax into the compassion that is already inside of us. We don’t need to work at it. Simply remember that self – compassion is “a muscle within us.” Dick Schwartz, PhD
So, HOW do we relax into the compassion within us? The following quote by Toko-pa Turner is a beautiful introduction to opening our hearts to ourselves:
“…we must untangle our true values from our inherited, collective ideas of worth—and lack of worth—that have been woven into our beliefs.
To know what you truly value, you have to follow what makes you feel alive, what gives you enthusiasm, what raises goosebumps on your skin, what sends your imagination running wild. It springs tears to your eyes and gives your soul a feeling of relief. It makes you laugh with delight or weep with poignancy. It’s not always pretty, but it is wholly alive! And this aliveness will grow your sense of worth in the world and, by extension, your capacity for pleasure.”  Toko-pa Turner
And, as always, remember: YOU hold the key!