The Emotional Detox: The Practice of Letting It Go by Heather Goodwin

Dear Friends-

I am thrilled that today one of my favorite gurus and friends, holistic health and behavioral specialist Heather Goodwin is taking over the blog to write about letting go. (Be sure to check out her previous posts about vitamin D and another about perfect parenting. I know you will enjoy them both!) Heather’s post reminds me that letting go truly is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Take it away, Heather!

XOXO, Elaine

Confession time. I’m a control freak. To the point where I try to control my control. Only to realize that my control of my control makes me more out of control! There’s a saying that reads “what you resist persists.”  So I’ve got to stop controlling my control, right? Add it to the list! Am I alone here? Come on my friends, ‘fess up!

Many of us learn the fine art of control very early on. It truly can be a survival mechanism that we may have needed to manage challenging roads as we journeyed into adulthood. But, like all good things, it’s time for it to come to an end. It’s time to let go! In fact, there’s something very liberating about airing out your dirty, stinky laundry, almost like a cleansing squirt of Febreeze for the soul! Let’s call it an ”emotional detox.”

All ancient wisdom teachings urge their followers to “let go.” C.S. Lewis, the famous Christian author encapsulates the necessity of letting go when he says, “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” And in his song “Moonshadow,” good old Cat Stevens, an Islamic convert and my favorite 1970s musical guru, says it best, “And if I ever lose my legs/I won’t moan/and I won’t beg/Yes if I ever lose my legs…I won’t have to walk no more.” Ancient Jewish wisdom urges parents to understand the tremendous blessings of the proverbial “skinned knee.” Let go of the back of the bicycle seat, parents, and let them fall!

Speaking of parenting, I was recently talking with a fellow type-A mama bear who is also desperately trying to walk the path of release. We laughed at the oxymoronic juxtapositions in our personalities and desires. I shared with my friend this quote by Florida Scotts Maxwell, ”No matter how old a mother is, she watches her middle aged children for signs of improvement.” I vow, right here, in front of you all, in black and white, to learn to let go before my precious controlled kids are middle aged.

Sounds good. So, what’s my plan? Well, it’s a bit wysiwyg and might not be what you expect for an emotional release, but in my own journey to loosen my grip and let go of my control freak ways, life has thrown the ultimate in my face. Challenged me to my core. Revealed the ”holy grail” of emotional baths. It’s taught me that the best way to gently walk the path of least resistance is to daily practice the fine and sometimes painful art of forgiveness. Yes, my friends, forgiveness.

I’d like to challenge you to try on this notion of forgiveness and perhaps consider a “forgiveness detox” for 2017. Why? Because you are worth it. Anne Lamont, American novelist, says it best. “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” Often times the source of our pain, the person or event that hurt us, has no idea we remain captive in the toxicity. Sometimes, they don’t even care. WE are the ones being “poisoned” by our resistance to let go. Forgiveness is a soul-level cleanse for ourselves.

Before we get started, I want to mention a powerful notion called “the collective consciousness.” This occurs when more than one person engages in a transformational practice. The results are contagious and exponential. So let’s jump on the “peace train” together, knowing that collectively we create a healing synergy, whereby our new whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Although our collective intention to heal increases the power of the practice for our greater community, the intention behind the practice of forgiveness should remain solely for you.

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Wondering how to start? Here are some steps on the forgiveness path to nudge you on your way:

  1. Choose a person or an event in your life that you are ready to let go of, ready to release, ready to forgive. Or maybe one that you are still white-knucking. Who or what is it? Write it down or speak it to your heart now.
  1. Honor that forgiveness is not a condoning of what the person did or what happened. Give yourself full permission to remain protected. So say or write down this: “I can forgive and I can release __________ without condoning what happened and without ever allowing it to happen again.  I forgive as a compassionate gesture toward me.”
  1. Make peace with the fact that unlike most habit changing tools, forgiveness practice does not have to be quick, and sometimes it takes more than 21 days! Right now, say or write this “I give myself permission to forgive in my heart and to allow my heart to take as long as it needs to make peace with the grief and all the toxic emotions that no longer serve me. But today, I make a choice to let go and heal.”
  1. Say this prayer daily. It is inspired by a sacred forgiveness tradition shared with me by my dear meditation teacher, Caren. “I lift up _______________and release him/her. I ask the innate intelligence of my body to find any remains of hurt and pain residing in my being at a conscious or unconscious level and let it go. I choose to invite the freedom of forgiveness now and forever.”

As you begin this forgiveness journey, congratulate yourself for exercising the courage to release, for reaching for your soul’s harmony. There is great freedom in letting go. There is renewed energy when we no longer have to micro-manage the toxic emotions. The liberation of forgiveness brings a lightness and a true cleansing.

The gentle and wise psychologist, Jack Kornfield, shares a story that has impacted me greatly. He reiterates Lamott’s suggestion that is it WE who are poisoning ourselves by not forgiving. He tells of an American ex-prisoner of war who met a fellow ex-prisoner of war years after the Vietnam War. The first POW asks the second, “Have you forgiven your captors yet?” The second POW responds with forced strength, “No! Never!” The first POW looks at him and says, “Well, I guess they still have you imprisoned then, don’t they?”

May you find deep inner healing as you practice these four simple steps, knowing that your forgiveness practice not only bathes and frees your own soul, but through forgiveness, you can heal our world.

Heather M resizedHeather M. Goodwin, MA, HHP

As the Director of Heights of Health Mind Wellness Division, Heather empowers adults and children with proven life-transforming tools and interventions. Her multi-disciplinary approach is rooted in the recognition that physical issues cannot be separated from emotional, social, spiritual, and psychological influences and the whole person must be taken into account to achieve optimal whole-person health. Heather’s mindfulness and behaviorally-based approach leads individuals to make sustainable choices that bring life-changing outcomes within reach.

Heather holds a master’s degree in education and is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner. Heather has served as a teacher, a district-wide behavior specialist for a large urban school district, as a lead associate in one of our nation’s top consulting firms and later as the director of behavior programs for an innovative publishing company located in Colorado.

After 20+ years in the educational, behavioral and holistic health fields, Heather remains a requested national speaker and recognized behavior specialist. Heather happily resides in the Houston Heights with her husband, Mike and their two awesome children, Sophia (10) and Nicholas (7).

Follow Heather Goodwin and Heights of Health on Facebook.


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You Are Kind

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Dear Friends —

It’s a crazy day. It’s the holidays and by all accounts everything in my life feels out of control. My schedule is packed with meetings, in-store events and personal obligations. I show up to work in my yoga gear today as I cannot gather up the energy to shower and put makeup on. I sit down at the design table and tell my team I’ve got forty-five minutes to eat and answer any urgent questions they have before I have to leave again to get ready for the in-store holiday party I am attending that night.

I grab my phone and quickly order from my newest favorite app, Favor. It’s a dream come true. Basically, you are three clicks away from having any meal in Houston delivered to you in the next twenty minutes or so. (Wish I’d thought of that!) I order my lunch and as we are in the middle of discussing the daily to-dos, my phone rings. I don’t recognize the number but I answer anyway, which is unusual for me. I immediately hear a stressed out voice, “Hi, this is Jonathan, your Favor delivery guy. I’m at the corner of Woodway and Sage. Do I turn right or go straight? I can’t find the front of the building.”

Since it’s the holiday season, these folks are extra busy running around town doing “favors,” feeding hungry, stressed out Houstonians. I calmly said, “Oh. Okay, I can help you. A lot of people get confused by the same thing. Just go straight through the light, turn right into the parking lot and park your car out front. Turn on your hazards and run up to the third floor. I’ll have someone meet you at the elevator. Sound good?” There was a long pause and he said, “Yes. Thank you so much.”

I hung up, and we went back to our meeting. Calley, our newest design team member, got up from the table and graciously offered to meet him at the elevator. All of sudden, she walked back into the design room with a huge smile on her face and said excitedly, “The Favor delivery guy wanted me to tell you that you were the best customer he has ever had.” “What!?” I said surprisingly. She replied, “Yes, he said you were so nice and he appreciated you taking the time to explain how to get to the office.” Well, I sat there dumbfounded. I giggled a little to myself, ate my lunch and went about my day not thinking too much of it.

Until later…

Before my event, I had a video shoot with Channel 11 to promote Houston hosting this year’s Super Bowl. I felt honored to be asked and was excited to be a part of the Super Bowl host committee campaign. As I arrived at my store to begin shooting, the producer walked up to me and said, “Before we start, I just have to tell you something.” I said, “Okay, what?” And he continued, “I have been doing this many years and have never dealt with such a nice group of people. Your store people have been so friendly and accommodating. Your marketing director has been wonderful, and you just walked in with a huge smile on your face. I just had to say something because this isn’t the norm. Unfortunately, kindness is a scarce resource these days.”

Well, there it was – my “ah-ha” moment for today’s post.

As I reflected on these two exchanges, I began to think to myself: I had no agenda. I didn’t think about being extra nice. I was just being me. I started to realize that kindness creates more kindness. It’s a ripple effect. I was kind to the delivery guy. The delivery guy was kind to Calley. Calley was kind to share her enthusiasm with all of us. Kindness multiplied!

From an early age, we are taught to be kind, yet be kind with conditions. Be sensible. Be practical. Don’t get taken advantage of.

How many times have you heard: don’t give a homeless person money, give them food because they will spend your money on drugs. So let me get this straight, every homeless person out there is a drug addict seeking cash to get their next hit on your dime. Cynical, are we? Could it not be the case of a human being making a poor choice or being the victim of an unfortunate circumstance that lead them to lose their home? Negativity bias tells us that people will let us down and that’s  just the way the world works. Or is it?

Why has kindness become scarce? Why are we on the defensive? Why do we presume negative outcomes?
I believe we are taught that kindness requires a certain reaction and that our kind efforts are to be rewarded, almost like an instinctive cause and effect situation.

This example always gets me — thank you notes. (If I’m being completely honest, I’m not the best at thank you notes. So maybe I am writing this to feel better about myself. Be kind because it is Christmas and indulge me!)

Obviously, acts of gratitude and giving thanks are important. The words “I’m sorry” and “thank you” are probably the most powerful four words in the English language. I guess that what I take issue with is that being kind has come down to playing a game with an agreed upon set of rules. Some of us literally keep score and seek acknowledgement of our kind actions. But true kindness is altruistic.

So let go (There’s that phrase again!) of receiving external validation for your kindness. It’s amazing how freeing that can be. Be kind because it is the right thing to do. Period. There is nothing random or sensible or practical about being kind. We all need to put our Emily Post books away. (I mean no disrespect towards Emily.) Kindness is not a rule book or a strategic business plan. It cannot and should not be rationed. It’s not a material gift. It’s not a note.

Kindness is an act of offering, an offering of yourself, the best version of yourself. Kindness takes courage, self-awareness, vulnerability and faith. Kindness is showing up with presence – I see YOU. I hear YOU. YOU matter.

Mark Twain wrote, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

What if our natural default mode as human beings was to be kind? I wonder what would happen. How many arguments defused? How many hurts alleviated? How many wars prevented?

Be kind everyday because you are kind. Anything else is untrue.

Merry Christmas,
Elaine


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I’m Free!

alcohol-aluminum-barbecue-barbeque-126304Dear Friends —

You know the kind of sick where at first you think, I’m not getting sick and then before you reach for the bottle of Advil, you are REALLY f***ing sick. Well, that is what happened to me this week.

It all started at an early evening yoga class last Thursday night. Midway through the class, I realized I was not able to move my body. I’m not sure why it took me so long to tune into this humbling fact, but I guess as yogis would say, I wasn’t fully present. I was going through the motions pretending to do yoga — exactly what you are NOT supposed to. My mind was full of future obligations — Christmas shopping, work commitments, you know, end of year sh*t. Again, a total yogi no-no!

When the mind wanders, the gurus often suggest, without judgment, bring awareness back to the breath. I tried that a couple of times, and instead of practicing non-judgment, my mind was saying, what the f**k is wrong with you? Why can’t you move your body? Why aren’t you embracing this yoga moment? Downward dog felt like downward dying dog with severe hip dysplasia. This was when it hit me. I was in the first phase of grief, the grief of getting sick — DENIAL.

I head home. Take a long shower and get into bed thinking, I’ll feel better tomorrow. Tomorrow arrives and I’m full-on sick — runny nose, aches and pains, get-out-the-humidifier type of sick.

I’m quickly ushered into the second phase of grief – FULL ON ANGER. Or as I like to say, I’m pissed off. I immediately jump to fear mode — really? Seriously? The week of Christmas I get sick? Please GOD, no! I’ve got so much to do! This can’t be happening to me! PLEASE, NOOOO!!!!

Well, as fate would have it, I remain in bed for the next two days. I don’t really begin to feel much better until Monday afternoon. I was invited to a holiday get together at a close friend’s house that night. I was excited to see everyone and catch up, but if I was being totally honest with myself (not my best quality!) I knew I shouldn’t go. I was still feeling very weak and not 100%.

As luck would have it, my good friend texted me late in the day and said, “Are you going tonight? Can I pick you up?” I stare at the text for a good thirty seconds and an intense internal negotiation begins. Of course I can go. It’s a small gathering. I won’t drink too much. (I didn’t pull out the “I won’t drink at all” card, I’m not that far gone!) I’ll leave early and it will be totally fine. Yadayadayada.

I jump in the shower with a renewed sense of self. I’m empowered. I’m clever. I’m social. I’m cool. I’m feeling alive again. I’m a woman on a mission! (Bey would be proud.) Yep, you guessed it — I am now in the third phase of grief –BARGAINING.

We arrive at the festive gathering and I can’t deny — I had a great time catching up with old friends, laughing so hard my throat was on fire, discreetly coughing – you know the way we teach our kids to cough — elbow up to mouth hoping no one realizes I’m sick kind of cough.

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The enemy.

The party gets a second wind and I realize it’s 11:30 pm. I’m in awe over my stamina, almost cocky. I see my phone light up with messages from my husband, “Where are you? Are you okay? You said you were coming home early.” I laugh it off and think, what a lightweight! It’s Christmas, jackass. I’m living it up down the street with my friends sick as sh*t. What’s the problem? I text him back the vague, yet informational “Be home soon.”

I instantly receive back a simple “?” Well, that said it. My husband is naturally a man of few words but I know when only a punctuation mark shows up as a response to my text, he’s pissed. It’s his passive-aggressive way of saying: “F*ck you, come home.” Thank God we have been married so long and I can read between the lines.

At that moment, my friend motions to me that it’s time to go. I get in her car and ask her, “How many glasses of wine did I have? She softly says, “Well, E, I know you were drinking the Santa Margherita and there were two bottles when we got there and they are both empty now.” I ask, “Did anyone else drink that bottle with me?” And she sheepishly replied, “I don’t know.” Her lack of knowledge revealed the truth — I’m drunk. I’m sick. I hate myself. Needless to say, the ride home was silent.

I get home, shower, cry a little, and crawl into bed next to my sleeping husband. I start to pray. Please God, show me mercy. Your Holy Son turned water into wine. He gets me. Show me grace. PLEASE GOD. I fall asleep.

I wake up around 3:30 am feeling like death. My heart is racing – too much wine. I’m sweating profusely –  too much wine. My nose is stuffy. My head hurts so badly it feels like there is a brick between my eyes. My body hurts, even my hair follicles hurt. I feel like Scrooge being tormented by the ghost of SICK. I sit in my bathroom and cry which just made me feel worse, of course.

In the morning I awake to the next phase of grief — DEPRESSION. It’s official. I’m depressed. I’m ashamed. I am beating myself up that I went to the party. I am back where I started — feeling worse than I did after yoga class. I decide right then and there to be perfectly still. I begin to breathe and before I know it, I fall back asleep. I wake up three hours later and I see a small amount of light peaking through my drapes. I sit up and I start to breathe a little easier. I take a sip of water and say to myself, I am going to be okay. I need to forgive myself and let go. (Oh, there’s that phrase again.) I realize I am now in the final phase of grief –ACCEPTANCE.

I feel better. I am letting go and accepting what is. I sit up, grab my phone and see that I have spent a full week expending my precious energy negotiating with sickness. Hmmmm I think to myself, why did I make this so difficult? Why was I in such resistance to what my body was telling me?

So, what’s the moral of the story?

I guess it’s pretty simple. If you are sick, then BE SICK. I’ve been talking about letting go all month. I realize I’m not practicing what I preach. I’m holding on to the idea that I can do it all, that I can be everything to everyone, that I can be super human. Well, I’m not. You’re not. The silver lining in all of this is being sick allowed me to stop, to listen to my body, to take inventory. I was able to dissect the essential from the non-essential, to see the truth.

My Let Gos:

  • My Christmas cards are not going out before Christmas day.
  • My friend gifts will not be dropped off at everyone’s doorsteps this year.
  • My kids will most certainly be receiving fewer gifts under the tree than usual. (I truly see this as a blessing.)
  • My nieces and nephews who live out of town will now be getting new year’s gift certificates.
  • I’m not hosting Christmas dinner this year. I can’t and I won’t.

What if we allowed ourselves this grace everyday? What if we didn’t expect so much out of ourselves? Could that be the very reason I got so sick, trying to live the unattainable life of meeting everyone else’s needs but my own? What would that life look like?

Well, I can tell you I’m just now getting my first taste of it and it feels really good. I’m still here. My kids are still excited about Christmas. And, all the people I was sure I disappointed seem to be just fine with the new me.

Breathe in. Breathe out. I’m free.

Now where’s my Santa Margherita? Not all behavior needs to change — it’s time to celebrate!

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

XOXO,
Elaine


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