If you have been on the spiritual path for more than a minute (translation: oh, let's say, a year), you are going to really "get" this.
D'you see this picture here?
.Yeah. That one. The one that makes you feel either really inspired to stretch your wings and shed your doubts and fears, or makes you want to throw things at the computer screen because you're sick of seeing images like this because you haven't yet managed to shed your doubts and fears, and it feels like a punishing pipe dream!
For me, I've shed some doubts and fears, and I'm walking through some more. It's called being - oh God, no, don't say it!!!!!! - HUMAN! Aaaaaargh!!!!!
God forbid you should be human. At least, if you're on a spiritual path, you're not supposed to be human. You're supposed to be "perfect", or at least trying damn hard to be. Laughing at the foibles of the human condition! Being in the "witness" state, which means you are no longer touched by anything! Seeing everything so clearly! The Perfect Human!
So, my story: When the spiritual path jumped up and grabbed me by the throat, I had already been very spiritually inclined, but I hadn't known much about the spiritual "isms" that littered the ground around me until I moved to Boston, where it all began to reveal itself to me: New Age theories, Hinduism and the Guru path, channeling, Edgar Cayce, Louise Hay, healing, boundaries, inner child work, Buddhism and chanting, and - later on in my path - New Thought, Abraham Hicks. I've probably forgotten as many as I've mentioned!
So, fresh-born from the requisite human start of a wounding childhood (because no one escapes something that gives you the baggage necessary to fund your therapists' children's education), I found myself dazzled by the spiritual wealth of healing promise aaaaaaaaall around me! I went through each of them like a sugar addict goes through candy corn at Halloween.
I applied each one of them to my life as one would apply a small band-aid to a large wound; inadequately.
Too stubborn, smart, and determined not to do so, I started to question. Everything.
...and so forth.
It took me years and years and years to realize something very basic about spirituality as it is shared in my American culture: the way that we practice our off-beat, non-ordinary spirituality - even when it is "New Age" or reflects any kind of out-of-the-box perspective - is that we overlay it with our parental perfectionism. We "should" on ourselves. Like any "good" student - any "good girl" or "good boy" - we apply the very same lessons from the rest of our lives: to model what we are being shown...in all the wrong ways.
Perfectionism run amok.
I'm not that spiritually high that I can claim some exotic and enviable mode of realization; but I can tell you that what happened is that some time after I fell down and went "boom", I came to my senses. Boom = My money, gone. My partner, dead. My sense of grounding, kaput. And it was then that I said to myself, "I'm finished. I'm done with workshops. I'm done with listening to teachers. I'm done with thinking that there's some kind of answer out there that will save me from this life of mine that is all screwed up! All I can do...is stop. Just stop. Not know. Wait. Be what I am: down and out."
I was down, and I was out. It was anything but pretty; that kind of thing only looks romantic in the movies because in the movies you know your heroine is going to be able to get back up and succeed in a very Rocky-like-fist-pumping way, because Hollywood has to sell those movies, so they won't give you a sad ending!
But you can count on down-and-out to give you some seriously real shit: you start realizing that no amount of "positive thinking", "affirmations", no Abraham YouTube videos, no amount of praying is going to help you if all you feel is terror. So, there you are: you and your terror, facing each other in dark hallways.
And in that moment, you are on the path.
"But wait!" we say. That path isn't supposed to look so scary! It's supposed to be light- and love-filled!
It is. That's something you have to learn to embrace. But you will never get there in any real and grounded and integrated way as long as you - like I did - hang onto spiritual perfectionism, kicking yourself for being human, imperfect, and sometimes a fuckup, just like the rest of us.
You're beautiful. You're a pain in the ass. Just like the rest of us.
And that's where the healing begins.
So I fell down, I couldn't continue to live in the Bay Area - that place is not a place to live, but to visit; it's ridiculously expensive, and emotionally not the Midwest - so I turned to Facebook, asked for help, and people gave it. They got my butt home to Ohio, where I fell down for about a year, imperfect as hell, and broken down like a rusted engine laid for 50 years in a barn.
Right hip bone-on-bone and needing a hip replacement.
Scared and shocked to find myself in the state I was in.
Out of answers.
Determined to stop beating myself up and find answers in new ways.
Determined to find the *@#^ PATH!!!!! In other words: that way of living that would be reasonable, right, grounded, true, and full of the kind of light that doesn't take me off-planet, but keeps me. right. here.
I didn't have a choice but to take. one. step. at. a. time.
I did choose to allow both my emotions and one spiritual truth to be present simultaneously. What was the one spiritual truth? That that which is spirit is not only here and now - not only not something I have to "earn" or "be worthy of" - but that it is me. So, somewhere amidst the anguish, or the rage, or the grief, or the shame, there is also That Thing.
I took one step at a time with that knowledge in mind, heart, and practice.
The story is a long one, but I'll spare you. I'll give you the bottom line. Taking one step at a time is GOLD. It's not historically been my go-to thing to do in my life. I'm REALLY good at vision. I can see so far down the road to what is possible from my gifts. But taking one. step. at. a. time...I sucked at it.
I don't suck at it now! And guess what? Without all of the spiritual isms - that spiritualitis-perfectionism nonsense - I can actually see and appreciate the unfolding miracles of my daily life:
Just. taking. each. step.
It's my choice. It's not an easy one all of the time, for sure, but it is the one that feeds me. The choice between spiritualitis, or one imperfect, intuitive, practical-as-hell step at a time.
The story never ends...
Are you a good girl? Then you are supposed to be successful.
Are you a good girl? Then you are supposed to be financially set.
Are you a good girl? Then the rules that are "supposed" to work for everyone are supposed to have worked for you too.
Are you a good girl? Then if the rules that are supposed to work for everyone didn't work for you, you have done something terribly, terribly wrong, lazy, screwed up, and you should be set straight.
Are you not a good girl? Are you in a tough situation?
Are you not a good girl? Does the fact of your situation(s) make other people uncomfortable?
Are you not a good girl? Does the fact of your situation(s) bring out the preachy and judgmental in others?
Let me tell you something:
Life has a way of kicking the shit out of you.
Whether you go through illness, personal loss, poverty or a bad turn in the road, it is no one's place to judge you or try to teach you how to do it better. You are not heir to the shame they want to place on you. Reject it. Reject it.
The only type of person you want to listen to is the person who sits down with you and in all compassion and openness wants to hear exactly what happened, how it happened, and how in the world - and if - they can help.
All other people can be invited - by your non-good-girl self - to bugger off.
The question is whether or not you would like to expand that strength.
The question is not: Can I be a strong person. Because you already are.
Where does your expandable strength lie? It lies in places like communication, attitude, spiritual practices, personal qualities, personal interests, beloved hobbies, and beloveds…and probably many, many more.
And still we fall into “But I can’t!”
How do we get to “I can!” in the middle of “I can’t!”?
(1) Don’t deny that you feel so down. Remember, the more you push against something, the bigger it grows. So you don’t want to push against “I can’t!” It has done its job: it has said to you, “Here’s what you’re feeling, and you need to do something different.” So don’t shoot it. It’s just the messenger.
(2) Invite something into your experience that feels good, the way it feels good to feel alive. I am not talking about drugs, or drink, or excessive food, or whatever else it is that we use to numb ourselves out from the pain of relentlessly listening to the messenger (see #1 above!). I am talking about inviting something into your experience that makes you feel a kind of alive relief. For the spiritual: a song, an affirmation, a book that reminds you of Who You Are. For the practical: an activity – gardening, problem-solving, taking a walk – that reminds you of Who You Are. These are just suggestions. The point is that you want to invite something in that eases the feelings just by virtue of being there. You are not doing anything other than inviting in the healing.
(3) Sit back. Let yourself take your face out of the problem and sit back. The messenger and the healer will do what they do. The messenger will get its message: “Yep, we hear ya!” and you can focus on finding answers in ways that are kinder, more expansive, more unexpected (that’s the fun one!).
What does it mean to be strong? It means to be willing to find your strengthening moments in unexpected ways, from exploration, from curiosity – finding out what makes you feel better, feel stronger, and in a gentler way.
Her Masculine Wing was the Wing of Doing, Striving, Persevering and Accomplishing, and she knew how to use that Wing extremely well. The bird was a very good student. She had lived a very long time in the company of birds that were gifted at Masculine Wing use, and she had learned that Doing, Striving, Persevering and Accomplishing were applauded, and were very good survival skills in the company of these birds.
But the day came when she she noticed that she had been tending to fly in circles, far, far more than she flew straight ahead. She looked at her Masculine Wing and saw that all of the Doing, Striving, Adapting and Persevering seemed to be working against her. Instead of feeling like she was surviving, she started to feel more, and more, and more trapped. Less alive. Less vibrant.
One of her bird friends said to her, "Why don't you use both your wings? Maybe you'll fly straight ahead that way!" and the bird thought to herself, "What a grand idea! How do I do that? I know! I'll use my Masculine Wing to activate my Feminine Wing!" and she began to Do, Strive and Persevere her way toward Accomplishing the use of her Feminine Wing.
She became very upset when that didn't work!
So she redoubled her efforts! She tried harder still. But for all of her striving, she could not seem to activate Allowing, Self-Care, Self-Kindness and Letting Go. Defeated, she sat down and said, "Oh, I give up. I'm a loser. I can't do anythingright! I've tried and tried, and nothing works! I must be stupid."
Suddenly she realized that she was being really mean to herself, and that it felt really bad. She thought, "Well, I don't deserve to feel this bad! It's not my fault that I don't know what I don't know! Poor me, beating up on myself - that's not something I'm going to do right now. That's not helping! I know I'm doing the best I can. I know I'm a good bird." And she started to cry out of compassion for herself.
At which point her Feminine Wing started to flutter at her side.
She gasped and wiped away her tears so that she could look at the site of this new sensation. "What is happening?" she asked her Feminine Wing, and it seemed to respond, "You are allowing!"
"But I don't know how to do that!" the bird objected.
"It is not something you do. It is something you feel and intend. And it requires patience, and gentleness, and curiosity, and not-doing!"
Well, now the little bird was very confused. But she did very much like the way she felt when she was not-doing. So she spent some time each day, not-doing - letting herself do the unproductive things she loved to do, like sit among the leaves in a tree, just to be surrounded by green, or roll in the grass, which smelled so beautiful and cushioned her tiny body. And as time went on she became utterly fascinated by the way that her Feminine Wing was growing stronger without her doing anything!
It made no sense to her at all!
Until the day she felt the impulse to fly again. To try again. She first thought, "Oh no. If I rely on my Masculine Wing and I Persevere again, I'll just go in circles!" But the impulse to rise again into the blue sky was too much to resist. So, with a sigh of resignation, the bird got to her feet and prepared to fly.
To her amazement, both wings lifted together, simultaneously, in graceful arcs of movement, lifting her upward with a feeling of grace and ease she had never before felt in her life.
She pushed forward into the current of air, and then let go and allowed it to carry her, and pushed forward into again the next current of air where she again let go and floated along in the air, moving ever toward where she wanted to go!
It felt miraculous! She felt free! She felt both in control, and surrendered to these marvelous sensations and this air-borne journey, the likes of which she had never before experienced!
And then she understood: She needed both wings to make her journey. She needed both to push and to allow. She needed to love herself, and the striving was to remember and to practice that. She needed to accomplish, and she needed to be gentle with her own efforts.
With this new awareness in her mind, the bird smiled, and sailed forward into the open sky.
To learn to balance your wings, come to www.GoodbyeGoodGirl.com and sign up on the Home page to download "The Five Strengths of Feminine Power". Contact Lori at email@example.com with any questions about private coaching, public talks, and workshops.
“It’s not what you call me, but what I answer to.” ~African proverb
If you need to be strong, and think that you are not, you will struggle with yourself.
If you need to yield, and think that you will be at risk if you do, you will rigidify.
If you need to speak up, and think that you are not the one who does that, you will wither.
The only thing that ever keeps you locked into thinking you are a Good Girl is your taking that as your Identity. It is not your Identity. You are the strong, yielding, vocal one that sings your unique song openly and expressively. I know this because I know where all of these qualities come from, and it is somewhere beyond the limits of your mind, and yet well within your ability to sense.
Who are you?
Whoever you know yourself to be...dare to expand that definition!
“I wanted love so badly.”
“I thought he was the one.”
|“I don’t know why I stayed with him so long.”
“I don’t understand how he could have hurt me so, when I loved him so much!”
“I didn’t know how to live without him.”
I spent many heart-wrenching decades aching and yearning very romantically for The Love of My Life. And I spent those decades also feeling absolutely self-hating, because clearly I was undesirable in some deep and uncontrollable way! How many nights I cried, feeling simultaneously sorry for and disgusted by my own self. That is not so romantic.
I know that this kind of suffering continues for women of all ages. I know I was not alone. Not being alone, however, didn’t stop the ache.
It was other things that did that. It was taking that reluctant step into my own care and love for myself, in active ways. It was being disappointed over and over again by the quality of my relationships, and realizing that perhaps I needed to reconsider where I stood in what I was attracting - and accepting - into my life!
“What we must each strive to know is that we are not beggars.”
What we must strive to know is that the more we give honor and respect and love to ourselves, the more we will recognize - and eschew - its opposite when it is offered to us.
What we must strive to experience - in every way we can - is the love, acceptance, support, compassion we think we most want from a partner…
from each other, and from ourselves.
You are not a beggar. You are a Goddess. You are a Gift. You are the DNA of Spirit itself. You have been disrespected and hurt and taught to think that you are less-than. But it’s a lie. Find the pathways that work for you to experience mercy and respect for yourself. And then watch it spread to how you approach your love life.
You deserve no less.
Want to experience yourself as strong? Join the Goodbye Good Girl Community by signing up at www.GoodbyeGoodGirl.com, and get notified about online gatherings and events.
and our hurt, mostly - I believe - because we think we will stay safer from any repeat performances.
I have heard the forgiveness stories, and they are powerful. They attract me. I like what they say they deliver: freedom from attachment to the hurt, freedom to grow and live freer. That sounds really good to me.
When my partner died in 2013, it was a mess. His family hated me - always had, and now was their opportunity to let it all out - and during the last month of his life, he sided with his daughters' mean-spirited and incorrect assessments of me. They negated my 13-year relationship with this man, and he - out of his fear more of their anger than alignment with my love - allowed that to happen. That was intensely painful.
Needless to say, when he passed, there were post-death blame-fests to endure. Or were there?
They were his daughters (in their 60's), and they too were in pain about his ill health and his oncoming transition). And I found myself once again under attack, accused of financially manipulating my partner. Would that I had been that type! Would that he had had enough money for me to even have that thought in my head! Woe is me - he was not much more financially well-endowed than I!
In any case, I was finally at the end of my understanding rope. Pushed to the verge, in grief about my loss, I screamed at one of these women that if she couldn't be respectful of me, she could FUCK OFF. And I yelled it. Loudly. So loudly, I sometimes wonder if she could even hear it - it was probably so distorted through the cell phone's lousy sound system. Still, I know she got the message.
I worried about that anger. I called spiritual friends. And to a person - to a woman - they all said it was about time I had said something. Forbearance had gone too far.
There is something that a lot of us women do - and when we are spiritual women we do it to a degree of unnecessary madness - and that is to try to be so understanding, so nice, that we don't permit ourselves our anger, our right to speak up, our right to say NO! By doing so, we are not permitting ourselves our humanness! Our very right to be human!
Isn't that amazing?
A friend of mine told me just last night that she had rather recently in her life learned that she has the right to say "ouch" when something hurts, emotionally. When she is mistreated, disrespected, blamed, shamed.
So, in our collective psyche, somewhere, anger is not allowed.
Which is why, as fierce girls, we have to reclaim it. We have to be allowed to say "ouch".
As for me, after my partner died, and after I got rid of his abusive family, I spent no fewer than 6 months yelling at him, and at them, using words you don't - as they say - use in church. I knew that I needed to say my truths! I knew I would never ever be able to tell these people what I really thought, and I would never ever convince them that they had been cruel.
But there was one person who could hear it, and that was me.
None of my words, none of my emotion, was thrown into a void. I felt and heard my partner's responses of apology from the other side. And I told him exactly what I thought of him.
Is this forgiveness?
It is. In an odd way, it is. It is at least the precursor. If I can't allow myself to be human, to say "ouch", to say "No you may NOT abuse me!", then I can't be complete and whole. I can't have forgiven myself for denying myself the opportunity to be a 360-degree woman, a 360-degree human being.
Now that I have had my say, now that I have gotten some distance from the heat of the experience, now that I understand that forgiveness is not about saying "hey, it's okay you hurt me", but is instead about allowing myself not to cling to that energy, now I can work on forgiveness.
The minister, Rev. Linda, at CSLGC, gave us this forgiveness prayer to say, 21 times, for 21 days, and whenever we really need to just feel even a little bit better:
_________, I love you, I bless you, I forgive you, and I release you to your highest good.
When you use it, don't forget that you can even use it on yourself.
And by the way, where violence is not preferred nor recommended nor applauded, anger is most certainly allowed.
You can contact Lori at support@GoodbyeGoodGirl.com for talks, coaching and workshops.
Forget guns, and Bruce Willis movies, I love Bruce Willis movies, but forget about 'em, because that is not what strength is about.
I heard two things today that just made me feel hope; a kind of hope I haven't felt in a long time. A hope that strength is in fact being redefined, despite humans' best efforts to keep it a power-over situation instead of power-with.
First, I saw the video that showed that the Pope had detoured on his way to a working-class Roman neighborhood, and stopped, unexpectedly, in a shanty-town to bless and connect with the people there. They were so happy to see him, and he walked among them without even a hint of ego; he was one of them, and he knew it, even if possibly they did not.
Second, I learned that President Jimmy Carter, who has just been diagnosed with cancer, is devoting the rest of his life to women's rights.
So, the Pope first: This man demonstrates a courage to buck all of the norms of the largest business - yes, the church is a business - on earth. He has ticked people off by being compassionate, outspoken, and anything but rigid in his views. He takes tremendous heat for being incredibly christian (small "c") his approach to the world, rather than clutching at outmoded, damaging rules from another era. THAT IS STRENGTH!
President Jimmy Carter...all I can say is "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" Thank you for having the cojones to speak up on our behalf!
We have heard so much lately about the crucial matters of rights for African Americans, and we have turned a corner with gay rights that would have been unthinkable ten years ago. And through all of this, as I have supported, and spoken up, and celebrated, and grieved, and raged, something has been in my mind:
When is it our turn?
You may say that the fight for women's rights is done - we have them, you may say - and you would be dead wrong.
That we still have people like Trump saying that you "can't rape your own wife", is a travesty. It is a small proof of a huge reality: just as the African American lives in a different country from the secure white man, so too does the woman. It's just a lot quieter. And that has to stop.
There have to be voices raised, and truths told, and the strength needs to be gained to say what we think and feel and know what we know, even if it goes up against our Good Girl rules of being "nice" in order to be "liked".
The hell with "liked". We have to want something else far, far more than "being liked". We have to hunger for it. We have to be introduced to the experience of it, and we have to become addicted to it so that we will stand up for it as Gandhi stood up: in persistent insistence because nothing else would be tolerated. What am I referring to? The right - THE RIGHT - to be authentic, visible, powerful, and to be respected for that authenticity, visibility and power, rather than punished with violence that is physical, emotional, and televised. Every single day.
This is why I started Goodbye Good Girl: To give women the experience of having their voices, their strength, and the community to be visible, respected, and safe.
The second question was "What is the one thing that you wish you could really say to your clients, that you never ever would?"
Awesome question. I have used it often with my entrepreneurial clients who get stuck in marketing-speak, and have trouble just gettin' real and saying what it is they truly wish to communicate about their passionate and person reason for being in business!)
So, what was the one thing I would want to say to my women clients? I have to admit, my answer was a bit - er - impolite, but I'll clean it up for you. I wanted to tell my clients to stand up! Stop putting themselves down and seeing themselves as less-than in relation to men!
[An aside here: There's something super powerful about being impolite when you are creating something new (an idea, a business, a chosen response, a new understanding about yourself!) that is creatively freeing and absolutely necessary. So I encourage you to be impolite in expressing - to yourself - what it is that you really wish you could say or do or be. You too can clean it up later, for others! But always keep the impolite version for yourself.]
The third question Bill then sprang on us was: "Well, given the answers to these two questions, what would be the name of your business?"
And I had it instantly. "Goodbye, Good Girl." And when I stood up and announced it, everybody cheered! We instinctively know what it means, don't we? It means a longed-for freedom from "behaving", from feeling "stuck" in shoulds and ought-to's.
It took me a few more years to put together everything I want to share, but the basics have never changed: I want The Goodbye Good Girl Project™ to speak to the emerging power of women, and the challenges we face in walking into that power, which is a place most of us have never really gone before.
Lori Ellen Kirstein is a motivational speaker and writer, a professional actress/singer, whose mission is to empower women to know their Strength, to express themselves, to define themselves in empoweringly truthful ways, and to have a nourishing, powerful impact on the world, individually and together.