September 19, 2017

How I Overcame Abuse: Self-Acceptance

This week, we continue our series with Greg Reese, who delves into what is means to accept ourselves and what we gain access to by doing so.



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In part 1, Dispelling the Victim, we looked at the trappings of ego identity, and at the vital importance of releasing blame so that we can become proactive in our own personal growth.

In part 2, Being the Witness, we learned an ancient art of self-observance. An art that we can practice in any and every moment to gain valuable self-knowledge. Once we begin seeing through the mind’s fanciful projections, we will start to see ourselves as we truly are. And when we do, we won’t like everything that we see. We will want to change our self, which is a healthy desire, but change takes time. This sort of work likely takes a lifetime. This is where we find the need for self-acceptance.

Here in part 3, we will look at the value of cultivating a strong practice of self-acceptance.

As we become more practiced in the art of being the witness, then we will better understand the workings of our own mind. After observing its different aspects, we may pronounce the ego to be the trouble maker, and come to see it as some sort of illness. Some even exclaim: “death to the ego”. This, however, is a common ruse perpetrated by the ego itself in an attempt to evade capture. It will be quite happy having us chase our own shadow, so long as we don’t quiet the mind and accept responsibility for our actions.

The ego is not the trouble maker. It is not bad, nor is it our enemy. It is a personal faculty of the self that we must operate lest we fall to its chaos.

"The ego is a lot like a dog. When you get a new puppy and take it home, it's all over the place. And if you neglect to train the puppy, it will piss and shit all over the floors of your home, and tear apart everything within its reach. By never establishing yourself as the boss, it will become the boss. And since a dog is not equipped to rule a human home, it will grow into a neurotic animal.

The dog is not bad, and it could be your new best friend. It just needs to be trained.

I needed to keep my ego on a tight leash, but I also needed to occasionally allow its indulgences. To completely refuse it would be extreme, and I needed to love and accept my entire self unconditionally."

~ Sex Drugs and Om: An Autobiography of an American Yogi

We often make the mistake of seeing the things that hurt us as being negative, and this type of thinking is short-sighted and divisive. If we come too close to fire, it will burn us. This does not mean that fire is a negative force, but rather, it is a force that we must respect.

The ego is also a force that we must respect. It is always calling us to formulate strong opinions of what is good and what is bad, and we can easily allow it to knock us into unhealthy extremes. It is all subjective, and finding a balance becomes paramount to having any control over our life.

Everything is made up of the same polarized stuff. Within each of us exists both the positive and the negative charge. This is called yin and yang iChinese philosophy. Two opposing forces that are inherently interdependent. One giving rise to the other which then gives rise back again in an endless symbiosis. It is perhaps the very motor which produces the spark of life.

As the Witness, we detach from taking things personally so that we can see our self as we truly are. This is precisely the same state of consciousness we want to ply in order to garner self-acceptance. Un-attached as the Witness, we can see past our expectations of how we think we should be, and accept ourselves as we truly are.

"The goal of Un-attachment is taught in most Eastern religions, and I began to better understand it when I replaced the word attachment, with the word expectation.

It wasn’t pursuing my desires that caused unhappiness, it was having an expectation of their outcome. Things would always turn out to be different than the way I expected, and this would invariably cause disappointment and a feeling of failure. Learning how to always keep an open mind, and expecting nothing, was vital to understanding sustained happiness.

There is another popular teaching in Eastern religions; Renunciation. I never liked the word because I used to think it was about ignoring our desires and saying no to all worldly things, which made no sense to me. But I learned that this understanding was incorrect.

Renunciation was not about turning away from worldly desires. It was about realizing that you don't own anything. Nothing is yours and nothing lasts. Renunciation was about not clinging to things. It was about learning to appreciate whatever comes your way, pain or pleasure. It was about taking things as they come, letting them go as they pass, and always being present.
I was ready to trust my higher-self, and that's what renunciation and giving up expectations was all about. The ego chases after things, clings to them, and expects a certain outcome. Whereas, the higher-self has them delivered by the divine, enjoys what is given, and releases what is taken."


~ Sex Drugs and Om: An Autobiography of an American Yogi


Self-acceptance is very much like forgiveness and surrender. It is letting go of our own resistance.


When we truly choose to accept something, then we experience the state of mind known as surrender. I have manifested strange magic with this. Aspects of my life that tormented me for years became immaterial when I let go, surrendered, and accepted them. It is a great power to wield.

This entire process could be described as love. To love something is to see the good in it, and thereby come to appreciate its form. This is what we want to do with everything we find within our self. We want to see the good in every part. 

This requires us to come to an understanding.

For example:

While being the witness, we may observe that we treat certain people unfairly. And we may begin to feel contempt for our self. But upon further self-analysis, we realize that we treat them unfairly because they remind us of someone who hurt us years ago. The behavior was initially created to protect our self from injury, but it has also become an unconscious prejudice. We don’t want to act unfairly, but we can now appreciate its causality.

Ignoring our flaws will make feral burdens of them, weighing us down like sickness. But with acceptance; we can calmly acknowledge them and bring them into accord with our conscious desires. Over time, we can begin to enjoy a rich life of purpose.

When I first began being the witness and seeing myself as I truly am, I felt as if I had wasted years of my life allowing my ego to drag me through unneeded suffering and sorrow. But upon further introspection, I could see its great purpose. The ego was teaching me as it led me along its dark tumultuous paths. It was not all for naught.

When I failed to choose the clear cut path, my ego would drag me through brambles and thorns. And through the bloody pricks and misery, I always came out the other side with more knowledge. I do believe that they are working together, both ego and higher-self taking me to the same place. One goes the easy way and the other goes the hard.

There is a voice within us that is quietly guiding us along our path. If we follow this path, we realize our true purpose and come to find contentment and joy. But a legion of temptation and distraction haunts our mind and longs to lead us astray. This is the game; to tame the wild ego and fearlessly follow the quiet voice within.






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Greg Reese was born in Vallejo, California, raised in Cleveland, Ohio and now lives in a yoga ashram in Virginia. Since leaving High School, Greg has been a carpenter, musician, filmmaker and writer, as well as a saw-gunner in the US Marines. At the present time, he works in the audio-video department of the yoga ashram.

Having been a writer of poems and essays all his life, and having had such a uniquely unusual life so far, Greg decided to write a book about his experiences. Sex Drugs and OM: An Autobiography of an American Yogi, is an enlightening, entertaining account of how he elevated himself beyond suffering with yoga and meditation, and found sustainable happiness.

Greg is busy writing his first novel, plans on moving to Hawaii, and writing several more to come.

His favorite quote comes from Robert Anton Wilson, and sums up his feeling about belief - “Only the madman is absolutely sure.”


September 13, 2017

How I Overcame Abuse: Being the Witness

This week, we continue our series with Greg Reese, who shares a strategy for detaching from ego so that we can witness our reactions and behaviors, gain insight, and access change.



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In part 1, Dispelling the Victim, we looked at the trappings of ego identity, and at the vital importance of releasing blame so that we can become proactive in our own personal growth.


By concentrating on our breath, we began to quiet our thoughts. Fighting a thought only entangles us with it even more. So we surrender, allow the ego it’s thought, and avoid engaging with it as we observe it pass by and fade away.

As our practice improves, we learn how to manage the mind, and it begins to surrender to our will. We begin to experience the blissful peace of a quiet mind.

This is where we want to take notice of something extraordinary. Here in part 2, I will attempt to illustrate the practice of Being the Witness. This is the ancient method I used to overcome the destructive patterns which wreaked havoc in my life for years.


“If you observe your mind carefully, you may notice that there seems to be an aspect of your consciousness that quietly observes everything. It seems to exist in the background, and unlike the ego mind, it never judges or criticizes anything. It simply remains the silent witness. This aspect of our consciousness is known in some traditions as The Witness.

When we see things from the perspective of the ego mind, then we get caught up in all the drama. We get lost in the story because the ego is part of the story, it takes everything personally. But when we shift our perspective to that of the Witness, and observe ourselves from this seemingly outside point of view, then we can observe exactly how we are behaving.

It seems that many of us have come to identify ourselves as being our ego. And this is exactly what the ego wants. It wants to be in charge. It tricks us into thinking we are the name, the body, and the personality. But the teachings of all religions, and all spiritual and occult traditions say something different. They all teach that we are not the body, and that we are not the mind. They claim that we are a spirit which is incarnating a human body, and operating the ego mind.

We could look at it like a board game. For instance, in a board game, we need a game-token in order to play. Without it, we cannot interface with the board. So in this game that we call life, Earth is the game board, and our body/ego is the game-token.

The benefit of being the Witness, is that we gain knowledge about ourselves. It's like you’re an anthropologist, studying your own personal human game-token. And the more I came to understand mine, the more control I had over it, and the better I could play the game.”

~Sex Drugs and Om: An Autobiography of an American Yogi


The process of shifting our identity to the Witness takes practice. It requires a good habit of quieting the mind and self-observance so that we can become aware of the different aspects at play within our own mind. 

In my own experience, upon deep introspection I became aware of a physical-mind, an emotional-mind, a higher-mind, and a witnessing-mind. The witnessing-mind is what we are after. It is the part of us that is always silent and observing. By quieting our thoughts, we can tune in and focus our awareness upon this witnessing-mind. And the more we become aware of it, the more we become the Witness. 


To keep things simple, we can categorize the other aspects of the mind as the ego. And the unrestrained ego wants all the attention. It will try dressing itself up as the witnessing-mind to steal our focus, but will eventually give itself away by breaking the silence. The Witness is always quiet, and so calming the mind is crucial to becoming aware of its presence.

The more we become aware of the witnessing-mind, the more easily we shift our perspective there, and become the Witness. And when we cement this into our practice, we no longer think of things as happening to me, for we have separated ourselves to a certain degree. We gain the advantage of seeing ourselves objectively. No longer blinded by the emotions that come with ego identity, we begin to see ourselves as we truly are.

There is a trendy new phrase coming about as of late: trigger warning. The word trigger is referring to the experience we have when we uncontrollably react to something and get emotional. Being triggered, is when we unconsciously react to certain words or stimuli.

For example:

Imagine a woman who was broken-hearted when her last lover had an affair with a ballet dancer. A year later, a different man that she is dating invites her to the ballet. As the word ballet passes through her mind, her emotions are triggered, chemicals are dispensed in the brain, and she gets angry. So angry that she starts a fight with her new lover. What could have been a happy moment with a loved one has now turned hostile and ugly.

A word triggers a painful memory, which triggers an emotional response, and we react. This is not good. We want to be in control of ourselves, and if we are uncontrollably triggered by words, then we have no self-control.

Being triggered is not an enjoyable experience. It leaves us feeling powerless and weak. But when we are triggered while observing our self as the Witness, then we can clearly observe the experience, come to understand it, and gain the wherewithal to change.

Being triggered while observing myself as the Witness is what changed everything for me. The growth was so rapid that I started looking forward to getting triggered, so that I could dispel more of the clutter, and continue to improve my life. If the goal is to live our life without ever getting triggered, then getting triggered is perhaps the only path to get there.

It would seem that this is what the mythos of slaying the dragon and taking its gold is all about. When we face our inner fears, then we reap the golden treasure of liberation.

“But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom.”

What we have ended up with are symptoms, and with an objective state of mind, we can study these symptoms and gain self-knowledge. Which is exactly what we need to strip away all the clutter that keeps us from experiencing our true nature.

“I have noticed how proficient we all are at observing and criticizing others, which isn't much of a useful skill. But if we turn this focus inwards towards our self, then it becomes extremely useful. To do this effectively, we need to learn how to be the Witness.

If we think we are the game-token, then it’s too painful for us to find flaws. Because we take it personally, and our feelings get hurt.


I couldn't see the hard lessons that were being shown to me with Crystal, because I thought that I was the game-token. I identified with it so much, that it hurt me to see its imperfections.

But all of that changed when I stopped seeing myself as the person, or as the ego, or the body. When I shifted my perspective to that of the Witness, then I began to see things objectively.

What I saw was a wounded and malformed person. Malformed like a crystal that didn't grow in perfect conditions. Conditions were not perfect, the world is chaos, and so it adapted as best it could.

By studying these malformations, I was able to learn how to better love myself, how to better manage myself, and how to better keep my life in balance.
And the best part of this whole process, is that once I began to see things objectively, the negative programs of the mind began to break down and dissolve.

All I had to do was become present, shift my awareness to the Witness, and observe the self. Knowledge and understanding then came naturally. The game-token adapted, and began to heal its own wounds."


~Sex Drugs and Om: An Autobiography of an American Yogi


When we aren’t disorientated by the emotional reactions of getting triggered, then we are able to see things more clearly and learn a great deal about ourselves.

I used to repeatedly end up in relationships with angry and abusive women. When I was identified as the ego, then emotions muddied my thoughts and these negative patterns ran their destructive course unnoticed. I remained ignorant to my own behavior. A victim. And change was not an option. But after observing myself as the Witness, I was able to recognize the negative patterns, and clearly understand them.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this process, is that the growth happens on its own. All we have to do is identify the disorder, and surrender. When we do this, then something inside of us makes adjustments on its own, and growth happens.

We will be looking more at surrender in part 3, Self-Acceptance, but for now, we can always practice bringing our awareness to the present moment, quieting our thoughts, and being the Witness. It may take years to achieve this, but the end result is freedom from our past and the ability to be fully present.




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Greg Reese was born in Vallejo, California, raised in Cleveland, Ohio and now lives in a yoga ashram in Virginia. Since leaving High School, Greg has been a carpenter, musician, filmmaker and writer, as well as a saw-gunner in the US Marines. At the present time, he works in the audio-video department of the yoga ashram.

Having been a writer of poems and essays all his life, and having had such a uniquely unusual life so far, Greg decided to write a book about his experiences. Sex Drugs and OM: An Autobiography of an American Yogi, is an enlightening, entertaining account of how he elevated himself beyond suffering with yoga and meditation, and found sustainable happiness.

Greg is busy writing his first novel, plans on moving to Hawaii, and writing several more to come.

His favorite quote comes from Robert Anton Wilson, and sums up his feeling about belief - “Only the madman is absolutely sure.”


September 3, 2017

How I Overcame Abuse: Dispelling the Victim

This week, I'm so pleased to introduce you to Greg Reese, survivor, overcomer, and so much more. In part one of his series this month, he explores the impact that denial and secrecy have on the healing process. He also shares some tips on how to quiet the mind so we can release the victim mentality.



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I went through most of my life unaware of the abuse I suffered as a child. Having no idea why I was so disturbed and angry at the world, I resigned myself to thinking that I was crazy, which slowly sank my heart into years of cyclic depression and angst. At the age of thirty-three, I began practicing meditation. 
And five years later, I remembered what happened to me when I was a child.

The experience of recovering those memories felt strange and exotic. As if I had always remembered, but subconsciously chose a deep state of denial. For the following eight years I worked towards finding peace and absolving myself of the past, and I can say most gratefully that I succeeded.

After writing about all of this in the book, Sex Drugs and Om, I realized that what caused the most damage to my being was the denial. Far more destructive than the initial abuse, the years of denial manifested a deeply seated self-loathing that lured me into abusive relationships and destructive dramas. So miserable was it, that when I finally remembered the cruel event, all other emotions came far second to the exuberant joy of knowing that I was not crazy.

A wound must be addressed for it to heal, and we cannot tend to what we are in denial of. There are taboos in our society. Unspeakable crimes that we collectively agree to keep hidden away where they are doomed to fester and spoil the spirit from within.

In the book, Trauma and Recovery, by Judith Lewis Herman, the author writes that:

“The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable.”

The author claims that:

“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom.

If we break a bone or get sick, then society shows compassion and wishes us well. Recovery can be strong and swift. But if we are raped or molested, then society will not hear of it. It’s unspeakable, and society has no patience for such things. We are left to suffer alone and ashamed with our unspeakable ills.

When society renders our injury unspeakable, our role as victim is evermore naturalized. First victimized by the initial perpetrator, and then repeatedly victimized by our own family and community as they silence us from uttering the unspeakable crimes committed against us.

I have always had a habit of speaking very openly about my personal life, and I have shared in many personal conversations that I was abused as a child. More than half the people I share this with tell me that they were also abused as children. More than half.

It seems to be a highly relatable experience, and yet, it is rarely ever talked about. This is what allows the cycle of abuse to thrive. If we could shed light upon it and dispel it from the darkness, then things might look quite differently. But wishing that things were different will not bring results. Wishing that the external world will change is the futile fantasy that keeps us firmly planted in the victim state of mind.

As Above, So Below. Perhaps the most informative four words ever written. 

Everything is made of the same polarized stuff. Equal parts light and dark. Good and evil swirling together in their infinite dance of life. We all have the capacity to be the victim, or the villain. It is in all of us.

For millennia, we have all collectively created the rules of our society. And upon close examination we come to realize that the concepts of right and wrong, for the most part, are not universal. The community sets the ethical standards based on the collective aversions and desires of the people. Different cultures have different ethics.

Everyone has an opinion, and these opinions have nothing to do with being right, or being wrong. They are simply opinions. It would be foolish to think that our opinions are right when practically everyone else’s are uniquely different.


We live in such a convenient and comfortable society that we can easily forget the fact that we are part of the animal kingdom. The world is a jungle, and the impressive amount of order that we have instilled upon it is impermanent and precarious. The victim cries out for justice, but there is no external justice other than that which the majority decides.

I have come to believe that identifying as a victim is a trap. When we identify as a victim, then we renounce all power to recover. The victim is helpless.

As a victim, we expect the world to adapt itself to our suffering. And this is an impossible dream. We become so consumed with anger, self-righteousness, and self-pity that we lose sight of the courage and humility needed to look within our own hearts and learn from our own plight. We are all given obstacles to ignore or overcome. If we ignore them, we fail to evolve. And if we go within, we can overcome them and find true justice.

So how do we go within?

Seeing our self as the victim is a symptom of ego identity. The great Yoga master, Sri Swami Sivananda, taught:

“I’m not the body, I’m not the mind. Immortal self am I.”

This is the root of our liberation. When we identify our self as the spirit which animates the body and mind, then we stop taking things so personally and begin looking after our self as we would a loved one. When we identify ourselves as something higher, then we realize the responsibility we have to our physical, mental, and emotional selves.

This is a personal journey, one that we must take alone. We naturally find friends with similar paths, but never with quite the same as our own. We must cultivate the ability to follow the guidance from our own heart.

In my own experience, it was meditation that allowed me to see things differently:

I was becoming aware of a connection that I had within me, a line of communication between myself, and something greater. You could call it intuition, a soul, or a spirit. But I will call it my; Higher-self.

I used to think that I was my mind, but this was changing. I was now beginning to think that my mind was merely a component of my true self, just as my body is. I’m not exactly sure what this mental component is, but I will call it my Ego. I no longer knew who or what I was, but I knew that I wanted to follow the guidance of my higher-self.

The higher-self was quiet, and the ego was loud, so the trick was learning how to hear the higher-self through all the mental noise of the ego. And this required quieting the mind.

I knew in my heart that my own personal journey as an aspirant was ultimately about learning how to do this. And I knew that the reason for this was because my higher-self had a plan for me. It had truth. But in order for me to see that truth, I would need to silence my ego. My ego had been in control for most of my life, and it wasn’t letting go without a fight.”  

This is where the journey begins, learning to quiet the mind’s noise so that we can go within. Perhaps the easiest way to begin, is by concentrating on our breath.

Sitting comfortably, we can focus our full attention on our breath. This is not easy, and we soon realize the great challenge before us as our mind desperately attempts to distract us. It whispers to us, screams at us, and adapts to our every defense. Fighting it only makes it stronger. Our best strategy is surrender. When we realize that the mind has quietly dragged us away with a thought, we can gently smile, let go of the thought, and bring our awareness back to the breath. There is no reason to get frustrated. Each time we catch ourselves drifting away, we have yet again awoken ourselves from the sleepy spells of the mind. And the more we practice, the easier it gets to stay present and awake.

The more we sit and focus on our breath, the more skilled we become at quieting our thoughts. And as we quiet our thoughts, we begin to find our path.

If you desire peace and health, then please try this practice over the next few days. 

Next week we will delve into the mental aspect known to many as The Witness.



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Greg Reese was born in Vallejo, California, raised in Cleveland, Ohio and now lives in a yoga ashram in Virginia. Since leaving High School, Greg has been a carpenter, musician, filmmaker and writer, as well as a saw-gunner in the US Marines. At the present time, he works in the audio-video department of the yoga ashram.

Having been a writer of poems and essays all his life, and having had such a uniquely unusual life so far, Greg decided to write a book about his experiences. Sex Drugs and OM: An Autobiography of an American Yogi, is an enlightening, entertaining account of how he elevated himself beyond suffering with yoga and meditation, and found sustainable happiness.

Greg is busy writing his first novel, plans on moving to Hawaii, and writing several more to come.

His favorite quote comes from Robert Anton Wilson, and sums up his feeling about belief - “Only the madman is absolutely sure.”


August 22, 2017

The Art of Active Healing-Part IV: Empowerment

In this week's post with guest blogger, Jillian Short, we conclude by exploring how healing can be an act of art and creation!

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During this four-part series, we have touched on Denial and how this normal reaction served to protect our bodies from damage, allowing us time to safely process. We moved on to Persepective and how our sense of wellness is tied largely to the way we feel or think about a circumstance or situation. Last week we looked at Purpose—how we actively bridge the gap between our past and our future.  All three of these—Denial, Perspective and Purpose—are progressive aspects within our healing process.

Every one of us are living with befores and afters. We are living in the present, yet daily we must deal with the fallout of what was before.  Sometimes we forget that each day is an after—a sequel that hasn’t happened yet.  Our healing journeys—our todays—are not hopelessly fused to the traumas we experienced in the past. Each new day is a separate entity. As a fellow survivor of abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety and disillusionment, I speak out boldly on this subject, and only do so with compassion and understanding. 

This week we are approaching the idea of Empowerment as it pertains to our past abuse and our ongoing healing.  For today, rather than thinking of healing in a passive sense, I want us to look at the idea of healing as an active, hands-on, cooperative and powerful ART

“Empowerment” is just a fancy word for harnessing the power we already have. This is where the idea of Art comes in—again. Merriam Webster defines “art” this way:  

art
√§rt/ 

noun

Skill acquired by experience, study, or observation; the conscious use of creative imagination; Something that is created to express important ideas or feelings;
The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power;

There is strength in facing your own pain and asking hard questions…and being willing to do the work to find the answers. There is power in honesty, straightforwardness and telling it like it is—first to yourself.  The long-quoted verse says it so perfectly, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32).  The word “shall”, in the original Greek, is progressive.  It’s literally saying “Continue to know, to learn, to grasp, to embrace TRUTH…and this truth—that which you are grabbing hold of—shall set you free.”

The decision to embrace the truth of your worth is powerful—and totally crucial to your wellness.  Even just the desire to want to—that may be all you have to give right now.  If that’s all you have, take it and run! Grab hold of it! The turning point in my life came at an incredibly low point.  There were no trumpets or bolts of lightning.  In reality, it was a quiet time of true agony. But in that lowest of moments, I came to truly accept the truth. The truth that I was created beautiful and worthwhile. I am unique. I am worth fighting for. I have so much to share with the world. I was born on March 30th because that was my special day. I was given specific—special—tools to use in my life to create a masterpiece. My masterpiece!

Viewing healing as an art takes all the passivity away—all the feelings of being out of control—and allows us to mentally see ourselves holding our own paintbrush. To see our own worth.

Mental images (such as this) are so important for survivors of child sexual abuse/trauma! When we purposely fill our minds with positive images, we are actively counteracting the bad memories that are chaining us to the wall. These negative memories are holding us captive—and it’s time to change that!!


My life-canvas (and yours) is comprised of many colors and tones and shades. I choose to firmly hold my paintbrush and daily make a conscious decision to envision the beautiful person I see inside my soul. This isn’t about conjuring up power. This isn’t about acting or pretending. This is about accepting myself and allowing myself to be who I was created to be. 

I want to make sure we fully grasp this. I purposely used the word “accept” here (please go back and read the last paragraph again) because we already know the truth. We already have incredible ability and strength within us!  We really have no idea how much we are capable of!  How much we already know! We have no idea just how impactful our lives are—and can be!!

Do you see how true “power” has nothing to do with those people who hurt you?  They have no power over you.  You’ve allowed them to hurt you long enough. It is time to rise up out of the debris of debilitation and begin to breathe again.

Let’s face it.  This debris surrounding us isn’t exactly pretty! As we begin to rise up out of our trauma and pain, we are often bombarded by the reality of our “fallout”. This in and of itself can be enough to slap us right back down into it again.  This is where ART comes in to play.  Each day, each moment, we have the same choice.  Sometimes our past hurts more than others.  Sometimes bad memories surface and crowd in—but this does not change our worth.  It does not alter who I are.  And today—again and again—we have the choice to choose truth.

Choosing truth is just that. It is a decision to be right where you are. Sometimes truth means you need to stop and take a deep breath and say, “ouch, this hurts.” Never ever put yourself down for your feelings!!! They are real.  Consciously make the decision to affirm your feelings.  Then, after allowing yourself to hurt (or be angry or whatever feeling you are dealing with), make a decision to believe in who you are

I found the strength to breathe deeply and allow myself to live again.  That’s what I had been missing!  It was the absense of truly LIVING. I had been existing, just hoping to make it through another day.  As I was able to actually embrace my own worth—as my Creator intended—I began to see my past differently.  I began to see many wonderful and useable tools hiding within my “debris pile”!  I realized over time that the fire had only refined my tools—not destroyed them!!

As I began to rise in strength, much like the phoenix, I was able to see my inner beauty and purpose.  And without even realizing it, I was now living out the essense of empowerment.    I  was actively creating my after


You are not the pain of your past. You are not broken. You are not the actual debris.  The debris and brokenness may be all around you, but YOU are the artist. You are here for a reason.

“The pearl is the oyster's autobiography." Federico Fellini

Living on purpose starts from the inside and flows outward. Truly the most important decision you will ever make is that of shifting your heart toward the idea of Purpose—choosing life and worth—and this begins from the realization that you are here for a reason—and that you matter. What will flow from this is EMPOWERMENT.  







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As a very young child, I was subjected to sexual abuse until I was seven. When I was twelve, my parents and I went to Micronesia as missionaries with Evangelism Missions Inc. I loved it! I learned the language, embraced the culture, and eventually became interpreter for our mission church. My abuse became a distant memory—buried and unaddressed.

Years later, still deep in the clutches of my church affiliation, I married a man who was physically abusive—with the church’s backing—under the doctrine of “Biblical Patriarchy”. Then the unthinkable happened. I discovered my children were being sexually abused. My world crashed around me.

I wish I could say I was strong and tenacious. I wasn’t. The knowledge of my children’s abuse filled me with such pain I could barely function. Guilt engulfed me. How could this have happened? I’d been abused myself—Shouldn’t I have been able to recognize the signs? This trauma triggered my own unresolved past, resulting in PTSD and severe anxiety disorder. The lack of support from our friends—especially within the church—astounded me. We were told to forgive and honor our abuser. They strictly instructed us to be silent, even telling us not to press charges, stating that “speaking out about our abuse gave the church—and thus, Jesus Christ—a bad name”. He only served an 18-month sentence. After his release, he was brought back into church leadership.

I left my toxic church—and my marriage—and began the slow, upward path toward recovery. My children began to truly heal. I was amazed to learn more about Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and its effects on us as adults. I surrounded myself with life-changing resources—and positive support.

Today, I am a court-certified translator/interpreter, co-owner of a real estate investment company, and the founder/CEO of Always a Voice®. I am the International Spokesperson for Stop the Silence® and an Advocate/Ambassador with the CSA Survivor Force, a national media outreach group under Stop the Silence®/NAASCA (http://www.naasca.org/StopTheSilence/ or https://stopthesilence.org/csa-survivor-force/). I have a degree in Counseling/ Biblical Theology and use my experiences to offer hope and encouragement to other survivors.

I am happily remarried and my family is thriving—more than I would have thought possible! My children have gone on to use their own voices through music, dance, art, education. Some are directly fighting against sex-trafficking and child abuse.

My passion and goal is to empower those who have no voice--or those just finding their voices--and to raise awareness on how to better recognize signs of abuse and how to combat precise issues/problems relating to the “fall out” of trauma. My next book, “This Little Plight of Mine©” (late 2017) speaks out against what I now define as “Church-Sanctioned Abuse©”.

I am committed to use my voice (through media, newspaper, and radio), on a global level, to stop the silence and perpetuation of abuse and trauma “one person, one dream, one step, one leap at a time.”



August 15, 2017

The Art of Active Healing-Part III: Purpose

In this week's post with guest blogger, Jillian Short, we explore some practical ways to become "purposeful" in our healing.

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We’ve spent the last two weeks discussing the art of active healing. We touched on Denial and how this normal reaction serves to protect our bodies from damage—allowing us time to safely process. We then moved on to focus on Persepective, keeping in mind that so much of our wellbeing comes from how we feel or think about a circumstance or situation. Both of these—Denial and Perspective—provide physical aspects to our healing.

Just as other bodily symptoms/reactions are present with any illness or condition, in the same way our bodies answer our Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with symptoms, reactions and responses. We can google “Diabetes” and read how to actively take charge of the management and treatment of this disease. We can readily learn how diet and exercise can prevent Type 2 diabetes from progressing and developing into Type 1—or worse. Through research, we now know that applying a holistic approach to managing diseases/illnesses can help create a much more successful outcome.

In our culture, we really aren’t taught to take an active role in the care of our mental, spiritual and emotional health. We are taught from childhood to supress and hide our adverse experiences—and the normal symptoms associated with our trauma—as if exhibiting our trauma somehow translates out to some innate weakness in our lives!! 

Oftentimes we find ourselves years down the road of life before we finally come to the realization that we actually matter. That our feelings matter. That our physical wellbeing is connected to our emotional health—or lack thereof! And this is the time to decide how we are going to move forward into an active partnership—bridging our physical self and our emotional/mental/spiritual self

It is during this season of awakening—the season of shedding the skin of our Denial—that we often experience our greatest onset of symptoms and “issues”. With proper perspective, we can make a choice to view this season in our lives as productive and necessary. We are literally taking back the ground that was taken from us—and it is time! 

Accepting—realizing—that our symptoms (and reactions) have been normal responses to our trauma is the most important healing step we may have ever taken! This realization may be accompanied by a feeling of liberation and freedom—or you may find yourself incredibly emotional and sad. Sad for all that has been lost. 

It is imperative that we grasp the idea of “rehab” and what that means/looks like. Let's imagine this scenario: an Olympian runner loses both his legs and is not expected to walk again, let alone run.  But more than anything he wants to run again, so he decides to go for it with all his heart. He puts the huge, nearly impenetrable goal of competing again in the forefront of his mind, and now he eats, sleeps and breathes his goals—his purpose. He begins to measure everything he eats. He writes out his goals. He hires a specialized trainer. He puts pictures of runners all over his house--on his fridge, above his toilet, in his car. He sits in bed at night and reads running magazines. He lifts weights. But more importantly he plans and anticipates his SUCCESS.


Successful rehab and treatment is always accompanied by hard work and "pre-commitment". We must choose to surround ourselves with strength and wholeness—to hunker down and do whatever is necessary to be well and happy. The first step in that direction is giving yourself permission to be happy. Especially for survivors of child sexual abuse, it's easy to believe we are not worthy to be truly happy. Guilt holds us back. Our memories chain us to the wall of indecisiveness. Growth seems to elude us, mostly because of our fear of change, our fear of responsibility and our fear of success. And strangely, sometimes it's just more comfortable to stay anchored to our excuses, fear and/or indecision.

During my awakening stage, I found it very helpful to write in a journal. I bought a new notebook that was small enough to easily carry with me in my purse. I actively wrote out my thoughts, plans and goals, lists of changes I wanted to make, verses, quotes and poems, letters to God (sometimes angry, sometimes full of hope and faith) and my exercise and diet goals. This is a practice I continue to embrace to this day.

On a practical level, here are a few “on purpose” steps you can take to help achieve mental balance and happiness:
  1. Join a positive support group
  2. Seek a coach or therapist you feel comfortable with
  3. Remove negative friends/family members from your sphere of influence
  4. Go through your list of TV shows—break free from any that are trashy or negative.
  5. Make a list of movies/books that bring back the happy “child” in you. Go on a quest to watch/read each one you can get your hands on!
  6. Begin an exercise regimen—including time for quiet walks and peaceful deep breathing!
  7. Commit to healthy eating—and throw in some great ambience whenever possible! Candles, a gorgeous view…and every now and then, enjoy a perfect dessert with someone you love!
  8. With the help of your doctor, decide to take active inventory—and active control—of your medications.
  9. Take steps to gain control over any addictions or dependencies you may have acquired. You deserve to be whole and well.
  10. Get up earlier—or go to bed earlier. 
  11. Reclaim your faith!
  12. Hug your loved ones!
  13. Give forgiveness a chance. At this point, you are only hurting yourself by allowing “them” to retain their hold on you. You deserve happiness—and they don’t have any right to control you! Not anymore, and not ever again! 
  14. Rejoice in your freedom!
  15. Look yourself in the eye—in the mirror—and be proud of who you are. Promise yourself that you will begin to care more deeply for your health. Make a choice to celebrate the things about yourself that you can’t change.
  16. Remove negative talk from your vocabulary. Speak the words you would say to your own child. Words of hope. Words of empowerment and confidence that they can "be whoever they want to be" or "achieve whatever they put their mind to".
  17. Reach out to others! Find a community outreach program or activity that interests you and get involved. You have no idea how much of a blessing you could be to someone else! Your past experiences will be a huge source of blessing and encouragement to those you meet! 

Viewing your healing as purposeful rehab can be very empowering. And that is exactly what this is. REHAB. You can’t go back and undo what happened to you. There is no magic to completely erase the painful memories or the fall-out of your abuse. So viewing your healing as rehab—learning to successfully readjust your life and re-route your thought processes—is crucial to your wellness. 


Living on purpose starts from the inside and flows outward. The most important “next step” you can ever take is that of shifting your heart toward the idea of Purpose—and this begins from the realization that you are still here for a reason—and that you matter.  






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As a very young child, I was subjected to sexual abuse until I was seven. When I was twelve, my parents and I went to Micronesia as missionaries with Evangelism Missions Inc. I loved it! I learned the language, embraced the culture, and eventually became interpreter for our mission church. My abuse became a distant memory—buried and unaddressed.

Years later, still deep in the clutches of my church affiliation, I married a man who was physically abusive—with the church’s backing—under the doctrine of “Biblical Patriarchy”. Then the unthinkable happened. I discovered my children were being sexually abused. My world crashed around me.

I wish I could say I was strong and tenacious. I wasn’t. The knowledge of my children’s abuse filled me with such pain I could barely function. Guilt engulfed me. How could this have happened? I’d been abused myself—Shouldn’t I have been able to recognize the signs? This trauma triggered my own unresolved past, resulting in PTSD and severe anxiety disorder. The lack of support from our friends—especially within the church—astounded me. We were told to forgive and honor our abuser. They strictly instructed us to be silent, even telling us not to press charges, stating that “speaking out about our abuse gave the church—and thus, Jesus Christ—a bad name”. He only served an 18-month sentence. After his release, he was brought back into church leadership.

I left my toxic church—and my marriage—and began the slow, upward path toward recovery. My children began to truly heal. I was amazed to learn more about Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and its effects on us as adults. I surrounded myself with life-changing resources—and positive support.

Today, I am a court-certified translator/interpreter, co-owner of a real estate investment company, and the founder/CEO of Always a Voice®. I am the International Spokesperson for Stop the Silence® and an Advocate/Ambassador with the CSA Survivor Force, a national media outreach group under Stop the Silence®/NAASCA (http://www.naasca.org/StopTheSilence/ or https://stopthesilence.org/csa-survivor-force/). I have a degree in Counseling/ Biblical Theology and use my experiences to offer hope and encouragement to other survivors.

I am happily remarried and my family is thriving—more than I would have thought possible! My children have gone on to use their own voices through music, dance, art, education. Some are directly fighting against sex-trafficking and child abuse.

My passion and goal is to empower those who have no voice--or those just finding their voices--and to raise awareness on how to better recognize signs of abuse and how to combat precise issues/problems relating to the “fall out” of trauma. My next book, “This Little Plight of Mine©” (late 2017) speaks out against what I now define as “Church-Sanctioned Abuse©”.

I am committed to use my voice (through media, newspaper, and radio), on a global level, to stop the silence and perpetuation of abuse and trauma “one person, one dream, one step, one leap at a time.”




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