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Jesica Hanley Vega

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true self

5 Life Lessons from 2015

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Handmade ornaments celebrating peace from our most recent workshop at Retreats With Heart.

Feeling good feels good. I experimented a lot this year with simply feeling good. Regardless of circumstance, I made an effort to find a good feeling whenever I could (or as Abraham Hicks calls it “a better feeling thought”).

The biggest surprise was learning how much better it felt to admit I felt crappy. In the past, I’d tried to force myself to feel better in challenging moments, but this year I discovered the grace in simply saying “I feel like crap.”

And very often, when I felt that way, I would sit down on my sofa and not get up until I felt better. Just sit. Not meditate. Not read. Not check my phone. Just sit. And it felt really good. And I was a much nicer person to my kids and my husband too.

Doing what frightens me makes me feel alive. This year was full of things that frightened me; I led my first workshops, did my first public speaking, crowd-funded and attended The Hive Global Leaders Program , admitted I wanted a divorce in couples’ counseling (we later reconciled) and quit consuming espresso, pasta, bread and sugar (mostly). Each one of these forced me to transcend the “me” I knew and become someone new. While it was terrifying to step into the unknown – socially, personally, and dietarily – each leap released an energy, a wildness and a wisdom that I couldn’t have acquired any other way. I got to know myself on a deeper level and it was exhilarating.

Life is much easier when I don’t take things personally. That guy who wanted his money back when he didn’t like my talk? The friend who decided she no longer wanted me in her life? The family member with negative opinions about how I’ve lived my life? In the past, I spent a lot of time and energy trying to prove myself to dissenters and win back those I’d offended. But this year I finally accepted that people are going to do what they’re going to do and think what they’re going to think – because they have their own lives to lead, and their own stories to tell.

Relationships will end and endeavors will fail, and to take it all personally is to try way too hard to be the center of a universe in which I am only one part. Ultimately, it’s a relief knowing I can’t control it all and it’s made me even more grateful for what I have.

Life is even easier when I stop trying to improve, help, heal and otherwise make a difference in people’s lives. Co-dependent much? Maybe just a little. As a sensitive, caring person, it’s easy to feel responsible for others’ problems. Whether I’ve felt like I caused them, or just had the solutions that would ease them, I expended a lot of energy thinking, talking and strategizing about other people’s lives. But once I stopped, wow, it was like being relieved of a fifty pound weight. It’s still tempting, when someone is struggling or feels hurt, to turn myself inside out, beat myself up and do whatever it takes to make it right. But I’ve learned the best path is to take what responsibility is mine and give others the gift of their own.

I’m human. Of course, of course, of course, we’re all human. But there’s nothing like getting knocked down a few notches to remind me (see numbers 2 and 3) how human I am. Whether my ego is dominating me with an inflated sense of my own worth, or berating me for not being good enough, my ego has a hard time accepting who I truly am.

I am gifted in some ways, flawed in others; I can be wonderful and I can be insensitive. Just like all human beings, I am not only one thing.

A large part of becoming a loving, compassionate human being is accepting my shadow without believing it dims my light, because only then can I  accept the humanity of others. And I’ve come a long way in accepting others humanity this year as well: my kids’, my family’s, my friends and most of all, my dear and very human husband.

Is Your Life Moving Way Too Fast? Part 1

IMG_9063THIS IS THE FIRST IN A 2-PART SERIES ON CULTIVATING STILLNESS IN EVERY DAY LIFE

How busy are you? If you’re a typical adult, chances are the answer is “very.”

Here’s another question: How frequently do you spend time in repose? Listening to water lapping on the shore? Birds singing in a tree? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably “rarely.”

Perhaps you’re occupied with working long hours, or tied up with work and then busy with family. Perhaps you’ve got an active social life, filled with friends, acquaintances and engagements. Or maybe you’re glued to a screen all day: browsing the web, checking social media, and watching the latest must-see television. Whatever it is, the odds are against you spending any significant portion of your time just “being.” And it’s not your fault. Chronic Busyness is a widespread phenomenon and one that’s increasingly hard to avoid. Since the explosion of digital technologies, we are expected to be available to everyone all the time and, though that means you can get in touch with anyone at a moment’s notice, it also means they can get in touch with you.

While staying busy can feed our desires to feel important, and staying connected can assuage our fears of missing out, we actually are missing out when we cease to make time for being still. But what are we missing out on? And what are the long-term consequences of losing our connection to ourselves in favor of staying connected to everything else? I’m not speaking of the the roles we play in the world and the sense we have of being “me” – which 19th century philosopher and psychologist William James called our “empirical selves” – but our inner selves: the parts that require silence to be experienced, and demand stillness in which to speak.

There are a seemingly infinite number of terms for these inner selves, as it is a universal observation that human beings experience life as two distinctly divided entities: the “empirical” self we share with the world and the private mystery within. Without access to stillness, this private mystery – which may lack discernible qualities but which shares its essence with the whole of the universe – is doomed to remain just that: closed off and unknown. But that needn’t be the case.

Merriam-Webster defines stillness as a “state of freedom from storm or disturbance” as well as “the near or complete absence of sound.” Reading this, you may already recognize how rarely stillness occurs in your own life: how occupied you are with being busy that you rarely step outside the winds of the hurricane to stand in its eye. You may also recognize that your life, while filled with the sounds and furies of everyday crises, is nonetheless empty. And yet, you can cultivate stillness. You can temporarily release the disturbances from your mind and, rather than aggravate your own personal tempest, be the unmoved center around which all else rages. And, in doing so, you can discover a power within that is unlike any your mind – or empirical self  – can muster.

IN PART 2, WE’LL LOOK AT SIMPLE PRACTICES FOR DISCOVERING THE STILLNESS AND POWER WITHIN.

Finding The Soul Behind Your Walls

IMG_9700In the space between sleep and wake this morning, I was inspired by some thoughts about contemplation, subjectivity and the human necessity for physical and symbolic structures to represent the ineffable. Because that’s what I like to think about when I’m waking up.

It got me writing as soon as I got up, and then browsing through the internets, where I found this wonderful review of Parker J. Palmer’s book “A Hidden Wholeness” on Brainpickings.org.

Wikipedia lists Parker J. Palmer as an author, educator and activist. He’s also a Quaker and a wise voice to which I return again and again.

The physical structure which he uses to describe what keeps us from our true selves is the wall. And this is what he has to say about it: Here is the ultimate irony of the divided life: live behind a wall long enough, and the true self you tried to hide from the world disappears from your own view. The wall itself and the wall outside it become all that you know. Eventually, you even forget that the wall is there. And that hidden behind it is someone called “you.”

When we talk about things which are subjective – how we feel, what we sense – language immediately becomes a challenge. That is why these things are the domain of art and poetry: how else can we capture such elusive sensations than through symbol and suggestion?

In our rational world, what is subjective is assumed to be the unreliable inferior to its more scientific counterpart, the objective. And yet, as Parker makes clear, when we address our subjective selves, we can find who we really are.

The next questions become: how important is it to discover who we really are and are we willing to give up objectivity to find out?

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