Monday, September 30, 2013

Learning to Love Yourself, Part 4

The essence of love is appreciation.  It's important to ask ourselves, "What do I appreciate about myself?"  If your answer is "nothing", you are stuck in an illusion of falsehood about your true nature.  When we really can't find anything to appreciate about ourselves, or can only find a couple of things to appreciate about ourselves, it is usually because we have received extremely hurtful rejection by others.

Too often, we then turn this rejection into a fear that the rejection will continue, so we assume that there is nothing good about us, and no one will ever accept us. We end up feeling afraid to appreciate anything about ourselves, because our real fear is that no one else will ever appreciate us either.

This is a classic downward spiral into deep depression.  If you find yourself here, you first need to identify why do you feel hurt and rejected, who are you afraid will reject you again, and of what or whom are you afraid?

If you are afraid that others will reject you, the first step is to let go of that fear.  We have no control over what other people think and feel.

The only thing we can control is what we think, feel, believe, say, and do or don't do.  This is the primary concept in mental and spiritual health and its correlate is:  our true task in life is to accept responsibility for what we think, feel, believe, speak, and act.

That said, only we can truly appreciate ourselves the way we long to be appreciated, (aside from our Divine Source, who appreciates us much more than we will ever be able to imagine in this lifetime).  So, we need to get busy appreciating ourselves.  We need to appreciate that we have life, breath, and a body.  We need to appreciate that we are able to think and feel.  If we cannot do that, then we are seriously depressed, and we need to face ourselves in the mirror and realize that we are causing our own depression, and that only we can get ourselves out of it.

So, then we need to appreciate that we can feel and think, maybe even hear and see!  We need to appreciate that we are able to use language and tools and all the basic things of life.  When we can do that, we need to progress on to appreciating our abilities:  everyone can smile!  From there, we can move up to the great variety of abilities with which people are blessed:  to sing, to play music, to create art, to problem-solve, to do math, to build things, to use computers, to play video games, to run or jump or swim or ski.  And so on.

Only you can really appreciate your abilities, whether they are personal, inter-personal, or professional.  Maybe you are a good listener - what an important inter-personal skill that is!

Whatever your abilities, please do not downplay them - they are gifts, and taking them for granted is a negative choice that does not respect the gift of life given to each one of us.  As long as you can breathe, you have a purpose for being, and your gifts are part of what you have to offer to the world.

Maybe you believe the world isn't ready for your gifts.  But if that's what you believe, give them and appreciate them anyway, and then also believe that someone will be ready for your gifts.  You are an amazing creation!  You have infinite potential!  Why not appreciate yourself?  And whatever you give for an answer there, please know that, if you do give an objection, it represents fear and negativity, and only you can choose to move past that fear and negativity.  Only you can choose to like and appreciate yourself.  If you don't, who will?  If you do, many people will!

We always have a choice: either to minimize our gifts, or to do an honest self-inventory, shortcomings as well as abilities.  If we are honest, we will find some of both.  So, please let that be your starting point, and let go of the fear of appreciating yourself.  You just might find yourself doing something that you are able to do, and having fun!

For those of us who haven't spent much or any time in depression, this all sounds basic, but please remember to practice appreciation for yourself and others at every opportunity.  May we all learn to celebrate the gifts of who we are!

Love & Light,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Learning to Love Yourself, Part 3

Often, we have difficulty accepting our own needs and shortcomings, as well as the daily mistakes we make.  (Yes, I believe we all make mistakes every day - or at least, fall short of an ideal standard in some area of thinking, believing, and acting.) Our needs may seem embarrassing to us, such as needing more sleep than the average individual, or needing glasses/contact lenses, or more deodorant than the average person.

We may feel a sense of shame over other needs.  Sometimes, our families taught us that to feel sad or depressed or to cry is bad, wrong,  or inferior (and worse, treat it as a feminine shortcoming - that's sexism at work).  So, having strong feelings, especially negative ones, may cause us a sense of shame that leads to repressing them, often to the point that we don't even realize how we feel, or it may lead us to hiding our emotions, believing that we simply can't let anyone else know how we feel or they will reject us.  We may also feel a sense of shame over our sexual needs - and yes, both affectionate touch as well as orgasmic release/relief can be considered needs from a holistic perspective.

Finally, we also may literally hate ourselves when we make mistakes, whether big ones, like committing an error at work or forgetting a child's ball game, performance, etc., or other mistakes like forgetting to pay bills, showing up late for an event that's important to a partner or friend.

When we reject ourselves like this, whether for our own neediness or for our own mistakes, it usually stems from experiences of rejection of our needs and desires when we were younger, and/or rejection of ourselves when we made mistakes while growing up in our families, or at school, or early in our work life.

If we can remember and get in touch with our thoughts and feelings and what others said to us during those times, it can help us learn to choose happier, healthier, more self-accepting and affirming thoughts.  For instance, if we grew up attending a school where a teacher shamed people who made mistakes with their multiplication tables by saying something like, "You never get these right.  You are such a slow learner!"  That belief, "I am a slow learner," may get stuck in our head, unless we manage to resist it and switch it with a positive affirmation such as, "If I study hard, sooner or later I will learn what I need to know."

Catching our current negative thoughts and beliefs is so important.  Let's say you make a mistake at work, and you feel afraid that the boss will get really angry at you.  So, you start telling yourself what an idiot you are, and you believe that about yourself, and you believe the boss will get angry as well.  Now, you have yourself rejecting yourself, you feel angry and afraid, and so, if your boss does come, you will probably experience your boss expressing disappointment in you, perhaps also rejecting your work and possibly you.

Now, as soon as we notice that we are feeling bad, we know that we have had a negative thought or belief about ourselves.  Or, perhaps we aren't really aware that we feel anxious or upset, but we notice that we've had a negative thought like "I'm so stupid."

Beating ourselves up like that is toxic to our feelings, our subconscious mind, our subtle energy system, and therefore also to our bodies, because it's all linked.  But we can stop it.  The reason we feel bad, anxious, or stressed, is that we are having negative thoughts in our heads.  The reason that we have negative thoughts in our heads is that we learned, usually from someone else, to think negatively about ourselves, or to have negative beliefs about ourselves such as:  "I always screw up."

We learned this way of thinking and feeling, so we can obviously learn to think and feel differently.  Isn't that good news?  Of course, it may not be easy, because we have to learn to notice and to change our negative thoughts and beliefs.   Loving ourselves means committing ourselves to noticing our own negative thoughts, and changing them to positive, loving, affirming, accepting thoughts.

For example, if we hate it when we get somewhere late, we may hear the voice of a relative yelling at us that we are always so inconsiderate and self-centered and we can't plan ahead and get organized, and on and on.  In effect, we internalize all those beliefs, which is what they are.  Perhaps we have a form of attention deficit disorder, which can lead to distractability as well as difficulty getting organized, which in turn can lead to ending up being late.   We may want to find out if we have some sort of inner challenge of this sort, so that we can learn ways to deal with it.

In the meantime, as soon as we notice that we are feeling bad because we're late, we need to ask ourselves what we're thinking and believing about ourselves.  Then, we need to ask ourselves, "was I being considerate of that person?"  If we become aware that we have difficulties getting organized and planning ahead, we need to love and accept ourselves for being that way, and commit ourselves to learning how to get better organized, and to begin to plan ahead when we have somewhere to go.  Next, we need to think new, more positive thoughts such as, "I had other concerns that kept me from focusing on getting there on time, but I love and forgive myself, and I know I can and will do better."

Accepting ourselves the way we are is essential to loving ourselves.  Committing to work on ourselves so that we will be the way we long to be is also imperative, or we will tend to remain in a state of feeling worthless and unacceptable.  That is not a very positive way to live life.  We literally need to learn to love and forgive ourselves, and to accept everything about ourselves just as we are.  For many of us, that can take a lot of conscious work.  Getting help through life coaching can definitely help.  We can accomplish this if we commit to becoming a happier, more loving person.  That kind of success is attainable by anyone and everyone.  And you deserve to be happy, loving, and loved!
Love & Light,

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Learning to Love Yourself, Part 2

In many cultures, there have been expressions of both the sacred masculine as well as the sacred feminine.  For instance, the well-known yin-yang symbol beautifully expresses the balance and harmony of masculine and feminine.  Often, we in the West do not conceive of these qualities as sacred, yet we can heal and love ourselves more fully when we do conceive of these qualities, both feminine and masculine, as sacred, and as part of the sacredness of Creation, or the Universe.

Yet, in Native American traditions we hear references to Father Sky and Mother Earth.  In Hindu traditions, there is reverence both for the Divine Father and for the Divine Mother.  In a long-lost (or perhaps well-hidden) gospel, The Essene Gospel of Peace, Jesus Christ referred to "our Heavenly Father" and "our Earthly Mother."

Each of us has feminine and masculine qualities within us, both the sacred maternal aspects and the sacred paternal qualities.  In Genesis, we are told that God created both male and female in God's image, and Biblical scholar Phyllis Trible points out in one of her books that the structure of the Hebrew phrases in this section form a chiastic structure, which literarily emphasizes that both male and female are required in order to image God fully.

Why do I bring this up when writing about learning to love ourselves?  Because, in our essence, we are divinity, both sacred masculine and feminine, ideally balanced and harmonized within us.  That's what this Genesis text refers to on a deeper, more mystical level, that being created in God's image means being balanced and harmonized with both the sacred feminine and masculine qualities and energies within us.  In order to love ourselves, we need to know where we are headed, so we can become aware of where we fall short.

I believe that our true foundation for self-worth is believing that, as the Judeo-Christian tradition expresses it, we are created in the image of God.  Or, as might be expressed in other religious traditions, we are incarnations of the Divine Father and/or Divine Mother.  Or, we are souls who come from our Divine Source, and who ultimately return to, or become One with our Divine Source.

In the meantime, we need to understand that, if the love from our earthly parents fell short of empowering us to learn to love ourselves when we were young, we need to take on that parental role of loving ourselves.  This is the divine task - what our Divine Source does, so we also need to love ourselves as our own inner father/self and mother/self.

That inner parent within us, (yes, I'm writing redundantly on purpose) is what we need to discover and to develop so that we will love ourselves with all the force of Divine Love - the kind of love which God, or our Divine Mother and Divine Father hold for us.

When we can love ourselves as we might wish our parents had loved us, we can heal.  For some of us, this might be difficult.  We might still feel uncomfortable loving ourselves, or we might not know how to love the way a loving father or mother loves - unconditionally, supportively, and affectionately.

For me, it was not until I had raised my own daughter and son for a few years, and was studying theology at Vanderbilt Divinity School, that I began to learn how to do this.  First, I learned at Vanderbilt that because our parents represent "who God is" to us in our early years, how our parents treat us becomes subconsciously the way we learn to believe that God treats us (or, how the Universe treats us).  Next, I realized, because of the emphasis on feminist theology at Vanderbilt, that a lot of us have issues with seeing God as a mother in part because of how we experience or experienced our own mothers.  Finally, I realized that I loved my own two children so much, that I could not imagine anyone or anything more precious to me than they are.

When I realized that the love I have for my children is the kind of love that God feels and has for all of us, I realized that some of that love for myself was missing, and I needed to learn to feel loved, and to love myself, the way I love my own children.

If you do not have children, I invite you to start loving yourself the way you wish your parents (or whoever raised you) had loved you.  Imagine yourself fully accepted, just as you are, warmly embraced, touched lovingly, adored for your delightful soul, delighted in for who you are, encouraged for who you can become, and supported in all you seek to accomplish.  Unconditional, all-embracing, warm loving feelings filling your whole being - that's how the Divine Father and Divine Mother love you.

If nothing else, hug yourself - yes, literally!  Feel the love that you can remember from anyone or any occasion, no matter how slight or lukewarm that feeling of love was, even if it was the comfort of hugging your own teddy bear!  Take a deep breath, sigh out through your mouth, and feel loved!

Love from the Divine Mother and Divine Father feels serene, calming, and peaceful.  It feels comforting.

If you still haven't gotten the feeling yet, there are some yoga-style exercises you can do to help get yourself there.  Perhaps this calls for a youtube video to demonstrate...please feel free to request that!  In the meantime, try cradling your own head, either in your arms, or by placing your hands on the sides of your head and cupping your ears.  Feel loved and supported.  Think positive affirmations such as:  I love myself.  I deserve to be loved.  Or, the famous Louise Hay line:  "I love and accept myself."   (I believe that's from her book, "You Can Heal Your Life.")

You are lovable.  You are loved - all the time.  This great, big Universe is an expression of the love of the Divine Mother/Father, and you are a wonderful, yes, delightful part of this beloved Universe.  So why not love yourself because you are just as wonderful as can be.  If you could have been any better, you would have been.  If you could be any better, you will be.  Right now, you are lovable just as you are!
May the love and light of our Divine Father/Mother grow within you,

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Learning to Love Yourself - Step One

Many of us were blessed to grow up in families that were affectionate, with parents who told us they loved us, with complements and affirmations of our being handed out freely with a loving energy that warmed our little hearts and souls.  In this nurturing environment, we grew up feeling loved, and learned to love ourselves and others, at least sometimes.  In some cases, we grew up with such unconditional love, that we learned to love ourselves and others unconditionally.

The ideal human condition would be for everyone to grow up so surrounded by love that they naturally learned to love themselves and everyone else unconditionally.  Obviously, that is not the case in the world. 

Instead, many of us grew up either without enough love, or knowing that we were loved, but not feeling it.  Some of us were perceived as obstacles to our parents' own happiness.  Some of us were objectified so that we would bring happiness to our parents, by controlling what we did, what we wore, and so on, so that our parents would feel happy.  That kind of love is objective love; being loved as someone who makes another person happy.

Many of us grew up knowing we were loved, but not feeling it.  Affection was infrequent, or if lacked the open warmth of unconditional love.  Compliments were few (if any), while criticisms were many.  Our feelings either did not count when we most felt we needed our feelings to be counted, or our feelings did not count as much as the feelings of others.  Our basic needs were supplied, but our sense of self was rarely affirmed through attention to what was important to us.  Our parents may have been too busy to pay attention to our inner thoughts and feelings.  Our parents may have been caught up in their own emotional needs and therefore unable to deal with our emotional needs.  Our parents may have simply not known how to deal with emotional needs - theirs, ours, or anyone's. 

So, how do we learn to love ourselves - fully, warmly, and forever, if we grew up in a home where loving us warmly for who we are was not quite a top priority?  

There are several basic steps that I have found helpful with myself and with clients.  

The first step is to get a photo of one's self as a small child - two or three years old.  All small children are cute and lovable in their own way.  Their precious innocence, hopefulness, and vulnerability all speak to their soul-self - that pure soul that came into this body, and this lifetime, with a purpose, with a little bit of divine being-ness within themselves.  

It is important to learn to be able to look at photos of your small child self, and see your own soul, and love yourself - your soul, your Self, very much.  The goal is to be able to feel parental love - a sense of affection and protection - for your own vulnerable soul-self, and the little girl or boy inside you that can feel wounded instead of whole.

Learning to love ourselves means seeing ourselves from the perspective of our Higher Self - what some people might call 'A God's-Eye View' and loving ourselves subjectively for who we are.  Seeing ourselves as whole beings who came into this life with potential and purpose, and desiring to protect our souls and fulfill that purpose is part of loving ourselves fully.  Feeling affection towards our small child self is important as well, for the loving energy of affection can heal some of the inner wounds we have experienced against this precious Self.  

No one else can do this for us.  

Until we learn to love ourselves fully, we feel incomplete.  Loving ourselves really is a pre-requisite to being able to love others as subjects rather than just as objects.  We'll come back to that later, while for now, I would simply like to invite you to love yourself.  If you don't choose to work at this project, your life will always feel incomplete, and your inner pains will remain and leak out in painful ways.  

Why not begin today to love yourself more than you have before?  Why not look for that divine spark within you that is evident in your small child self?  Why not realize that through the power of unconditional love, you are whole and complete and lovable, and start feeling that love for yourself right now?  
With Love & Light,

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Energy Therapy for Children and Teens

Recently, some clients brought in their two young children for an energy healing session with me.  The daughter was three, the son was four.  Children can be highly receptive to energy healing, Reiki, or energy therapy (I use all three terms for the work I do).

Parents' attitudes make a big difference.  If parents believe the energy session will help a child, the child is usually more open to receiving the benefits from the energy.  In this case, the three-year-old had just had an injury to her hand and finger which was injurious enough to require a trip to the doctor and a splint on her little finger.  She seemed worried that this might be like a visit to the doctor's, but her mom lay down on the healing table (massage table) with her, and all went well.

The four-year-old was independent enough to step on a stool and then to get on the table by himself.  He had an issue with his legs.  The healing energy can benefit any condition; although it may or may not end up resulting in a cure, starting at this young age can be really helpful for setting healthier patterns for life.  Structural issues, cellular issues, glandular issues including the immune system response, along with emotional and spiritual issues can all be addressed effectively when starting so young.

Repeating sessions weekly  for chronic conditions is recommended, and possibly even after just a few days for an acute situation.  Ongoing energy therapy on a monthly basis is recommended for all ages.

For children of this young pre-school age, little talking is likely to be part of the session, so half an hour can suffice.  For older children who will open up and dialogue with the practitioner, an hour is recommended. For Teenagers, either an hour or a 90 minute session might be required.

Energy healing brings in the energy of life to help the body heal at the cellular level, but also feeds and balances the chakras which is restorative for the entire glandular system.  Additionally, energy therapy lifts the mood, facilitates connection with one's Higher Self, and overall boosts and restores one's energy.  For children, this means that it helps them be their very best physically, mentally, and emotionally.

With repeated sessions, it can also help them stay centered and calm, especially as I have the opportunity to help them learn some self-management tools and skills.

Why not give your child the opportunity to fulfill their potential, no matter how they are currently doing in school, sports, music, or socially?  For their sake, it is certainly worth a try!

Carol Richardson, M. Div., M.P.H.
Currently available Monday-through Friday and Sunday afternoons.  Availability on Saturdays is limited to evenings for the next two weeks.

The Way of Enlightened Spirituality

Many mystical variations of different religions around the world and throughout history have shared the concept of spirituality as a way of life.  For instance, the Tao means the Way.  Early Christians were called The Way (cf. Acts 9:2).  Many people of different faith traditions consider themselves to be on a spiritual journey or spiritual path, valuing the journey as well as the destination.

How can we understand spirituality as the Way, or Tao?  One way is simply by looking at the way we live life, whether we are focused on material well-being, or focused on virtues like kindness, generosity, and compassion.  We can also look at how we spend our time.  Do we pursue pleasure for ourselves, or also pay attention to the needs of others?  Do we simply focus on making our own lives better and ignore the needs of a hungry and hurting world, or do we actively engage in making this world a better place for everyone?  Do we raise our thoughts to higher thoughts such as appreciation, gratitude, reflection, honesty, and empathy?  Do we choose language and communications that express respect, patience, reverence for life, love, and trust?

How do we go from one set of priorities and a lack of spiritual thoughts, beliefs, words, and actions to more loving and positive spiritual values, thoughts, and actions?  Being aware of our own choices, even how we think, how we believe, what we value, how we speak and act is the first step.  The second step is to become aware as we are thinking, believing, and making more overt choices.  The third step is to desire to choose thoughts, beliefs, words, and actions that are positive and loving, not just for ourselves, but for life in general.

Fourth, we need to tune into divine guidance to become more aware of The Way as it is present in front of us at each moment. Tuning into divine wavelengths provides the guidance system for The Way, or the Tao.  We will receive a greater sense of clarity and guidance when we will "be still and know that God is God," or calm down enough to connect with one's Higher Self, if you will.

Prayer is an important aspect of asking for guidance.  Visualization can be one form of prayer.  Meditation and meditative silence to listen for that guidance  is extremely helpful as well.  Prayer and meditation can form, for each of us, the GPS along The Way.  I have heard this spiritual GPS referred to as "God's Positioning Service".                                              

We also need to listen to and watch the world around us in order to be aware of what is needed in each given moment. That constant awareness of the needs of others as well as awareness of what is needed in each situation is essential to The Way.  This is an important aspect of being present in the moment, and of being mindful, just taking these lovely practices one step further and also becoming aware of what is needed. It is possible simply to ask one's Higher Self, or God, "What is needed at this time by those who are present here."                          

When we are focused instead on simply what is important to us, that is, when we are focused on our own desires with attachment to the outcome, we actually can interfere with The Way.    

Holding the intention to be tuned up as well as outward is  the first step in attaining this awareness.  Intention is everything when it comes to accomplishing things through spiritual energy.  Good intentions never pave the road to hell; it is inactivity that gets us there.

May your path be filled with the light, the love, and the laughter that abundantly blesses yourself and others along The Way.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Humility is one of those really popular personality traits, isn't it?  That is, we all love the idea of everybody else being humble instead of parading around with an air of superiority.  In the meantime, most of us have difficulty being humble ourselves.  Please let  me be clear:  I'm talking about neither false modesty nor low self-esteem; I'm speaking of true humility.

I felt really struck by awe the other day, as I was taking my almost daily walk down into Rock Creek Park.  I was looking up at the towering trees and all their beautiful leaves, just beginning to have a hint of fall color.  I realized that there are billions or trillions or more leaves in the world, billions and trillions of stars, and billions and trillions of billions of other things in the universe.

It occurred to me that, with the infinite number of amazing events and species and stars in the universe, none of us can really, honestly, know very much.  Well, maybe those who have attained God-Consciousness as taught in some Eastern spiritualities know, or are capable of knowing, so much more than those of us who merely count on the traditional rational consciousness of our relatively finite minds.  Perhaps spiritual consciousness is unlimited, but rational consciousness is, generally speaking, pretty limited when compared to the vastness of the universe.

So, why do we take such pride in what we know?  There are whole layers of the universe about which we are ignorant, or which we do not yet understand.  The best astro-physicists can hardly also be incredibly knowledgable about biology and chemistry and electronics and medicine and psychology and neuroscience and parenting and economics and international diplomacy and relationship-building and forensics and hair-cutting and skiing and gymnastics and playing all the musical instruments in existence and painting and sculpting.  You get my drift, I hope. 

We do know things, by the grace of the Infinite Creator, the Divine Consciousness which is comprehensive enough to encompass knowledge of all reality, but what any single one of us knows is really just a drop in the bucket compared to all the information and knowledge and awareness and consciousness in all the different dimensions of the universe. 

Why not allow ourselves to be humble, so that we can acknowledge our own ignorance, and then open ourselves up to a larger awareness, that is, a larger consciousness than we currently have?  Humility opens the door to allowing in Divine qualities and Divine Presence.  Humility allows us to listen to the voice of intuition and hear something beyond what we ourselves can ordinarily know.

Let's be humble, because only admitting that we do not know allows us to be open to learning.  Learning is such a delightful gift.  Expanded, enlightened, and ever-growing consciousness is even better!  Since that kind of amazing God-Consciousness does not come from ourselves, but only through ourselves, we still need to be humble before the One who does know the whole universe, and who loves it very much. That kind of humility rewards us with ever-expanding awareness, which is a delightful gift!  May we grow in our awareness every day.
In Love & Light,