When Life is Hard and the World is a Scary Place

The world can feel like a bad place when we're alone with our thoughts.

Our uniqueness can feel like a barrier instead of our most valuable asset, keeping us from feeling connected to the world, the ones we love most, even ourselves.

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When we find ourselves unable to get away from a place of feeling hurt or slighted or misunderstood by people, or by life, we start to experience the world in extremes where every sideways glance from a stranger is a direct attack on us, and every political headline is a confirmation that the world we live in is dangerous, unjust, and evil.

In other words, we either see the world through the eyes of an ant, picking apart the tiniest details of our lives to serve as evidence of our negative perceptions, or we see the world through the eyes of an eagle, personalizing the entirety of the world's pain and making it our own.

When we feel stuck, alone, or disconnected, one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to switch our view, and in doing so, switch our mindset.

When we are stuck in ant view, we are in a place where the most minor of disturbances can feel like a monumental devastation. Think of an ant in a rush to get food back to its nest and then coming to a tiny stream. To the ant, the stream will appear to be a massive obstacle to overcome, requiring massive strength and ingenuity to make it to the other side, if making it to the other side is even possible at all.

We feel this way when life is overwhelming. A cold response from a friend that might otherwise be barely a blip on our radar becomes an excruciatingly painful wound to be picked at and analyzed over and over in a futile search for relief. We dissect the minutia of our day looking for evidence to support the fact that our lives are unfair, painful, and just plain hard.

Now think of that same tiny stream from the viewpoint of an eagle flying high above the trees. The stream may not be registered at all to the eagle, or if it is, it's in the context of whether it holds anything of value, such as a fish.

Similarly, when we can step outside ourselves and look at a painful situation from a distance, we get to a place where we can start to find comfort and connection, and ultimately, peace.

So the cold response from the friend becomes much less about what you may or may not have done wrong and much more about remembering that you chose the people in your life for a reason, that people's moods and behaviors usually have nothing to do with you and everything to do with what's going on in their own heads, and that if your friend has a personal issue with you, you can trust them to communicate that to you. Otherwise you have no choice but to conclude that all is well.

Conversely, sometimes it is better to take the ant view. When the world feels chaotic, dangerous, full of one man-made or natural atrocity after another, it helps to take a step away from our social media feeds or TVs and instead take a closer look at the world we have build for ourselves.

There are good loving people everywhere because we are all born good and loving at our core. It's very likely that you encounter people who express their goodness and capacity for love to you on a daily basis, and who give you that love freely and unconditionally in return. 

Letting ourselves off the hook, even for a short while, from taking on the world's pain and suffering isn't selfish. If we want the world we live in to be a loving peaceful one, we have to live in the world with full acknowledgement and appreciation for the love and peace that already exist. 

You can always return back to ant or eagle view at any time, but the change in perspective will likely be valuable to you upon your return. The world's problems and our own struggles are valid and important. But somewhere in between, we can find peace, if only for a moment.

And this moment is really all there is.

If you'd like to work with me on changing perspective, please email me at amy@amybethacker.com, call 973-769-2401, or click here.

The Fear When Things Are Going Well

For many, life can seem like a constant see-saw between feeling extreme gratitude and appreciation for what we have and fearing the unknown. 

It's hard to let ourselves experience fully the good in life when we're constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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When will it all be taken away from me, we wonder. 
Can I allow myself to let my guard down knowing that nothing lasts forever?

Hard things will happen. Anyone who has been alive for any amount of time knows that much. 

But think about something that is precious to you right now in your life. Something with indescribable value in your heart (a degree, a loved one, a sense of peace, for example). Chances are you went though at least some fear, pain, or inner-turmoil to have it. You wouldn't have it if you hadn't. Maybe you went toward this thing with the knowledge that it would be hard-earned but worth it. 

Or maybe it came seemingly from nowhere, an unwanted, unwelcome trespasser in your life that stretched you and grew you in ways you never would have chosen on your own.

Sometimes the fear leads us to more asking in our lives, and the asking leads to growing, and the growing leads to love. Or peace. Or joy. Or mastery. Or all of the above.

"But!" We say, "What about the people who had something unexpected happen and it didn't lead to growth, it led to the loss of a loved one, the loss of health, the loss of livelihood? That could be me too. We don't know that it will always work out for the best."

But the truth is we also don't know that it always won't. And we can't judge the journey of another person before it's over, especially from our vantage point. We can make assumptions and draw conclusions, but we really have no way of knowing what is true for someone else.

Most people are looking for the same things in life: expansion and growth. Peace, joy, and a sense of inner and outer love. They want to live with authenticity, integrity, and sovereignty. We can't judge the paths that get them there.

We can only reflect on our own path and see that things are ultimately always working out for us. 

Look back on your own life and see the truth of that statement. Maybe the difference between devastation and abundance in life is nothing more than perception.

 

If you would like to talk more about the connection between fear and growth in your own life, call me at (973) 769-2401 or email amy@amybethacker.com or simply click here.

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How to Cope With a Divorce You Didn't Want

I was recently invited to collaborate on an expert panel and share some insights on how cope with divorce. Here are my best tips:

Remain openhearted.

When our hearts are broken, our instinct is to protect ourselves by closing off to prevent further injury. We become angry and fearful, and we may lash out or shut down, which only makes us feel more helpless and more in pain.

This is the opposite of what is needed to maintain connections to people who can support us, grieve as much as needed, and move forward as peacefully as possible.

Discover your wholeness outside the relationship.

Let go of the need cling to the illusion of control by blaming yourself or your spouse. See what aspects of this unwanted situation you can find gratitude in.

For example, there may be places in this relationship where you lost sight of who you are and what you really want out of life.

The ending of the relationship may be an opportunity to rediscover who you are outside the context of the other person.

Give yourself everything you thought you needed from your spouse.

Don’t allow the divorce to lead you to believe you are somehow messed up or unworthy of love.

Don’t use it to come up with examples of all the ways you’re not kind, lovable, and desirable. Use it instead as an opportunity to come to a new understanding with yourself that your essence is innately lovable.

Demonstrate this to yourself on a daily basis by learning to love yourself without condition and engaging in a process of radical non-judgment and self-discovery.

You can read the full article here: How to Cope with Divorce

#Write It Down

My latest publication is in Learn Evolve and Thrive. I was asked to be a contributor for an expert panel on 11 Powerful Techniques and Practices to Cultivate an Abundance Mindset and I wrote about the power of journaling in cultivating abundance in your life. Below is my contribution, and you can click the link above for the full article.

How do you cultivate an abundance mindset?

#Write it down

Putting pen to paper can give us a happier, more intentional, more meaningful life.

Our thoughts create our reality and when we journal, we are able to consciously take control of the power of our thoughts. This helps us to manifest more of what we want in our lives such as abundance, peace, and joy, and to process, heal, and ultimately let go of what we want less of.

Here are some ways to use journaling to bring more abundance into your life:

Write down all the good that you already have.

Starting and/or ending each day with a gratitude practice is one of the simplest and most powerful things you can do to bring more of what you want into your life. This can be a simple list of what went right during the day, things or people you are glad to have and know, or anything else that feels positive to you.

Tracking the good shows the universe that you acknowledge and appreciate what good it’s flowing to you in the present moment and that you welcome more of it.

Having trouble getting started?

Keep it as simple and as general as you need to to get yourself into a positive mindset about the all the abundance you currently have in your life.

For example:

  • Did you wake up and breathe this morning? Plenty of people would give anything for the opportunity to wake up one more day.

  • When you woke up, did you open your eyes and see the world around you? The gift of sight is a precious one.

  • Do you have a roof over your head? Consider how much more unpleasant your life would be if you didn’t!

CHALLENGE: Spend 5-15 minutes each day for the next week making a gratitude list. At the end of the week, journal on what positive changes you have seen as a result of this simple practice.

Process the things you are having a hard time letting go of.

A journal is a great place to make sense of emotions that are overwhelming us and to become aware of thoughts and feelings that are holding us back from what we want in life.

Writing down the difficult parts of our lives gives us much needed clarity. It helps us heal ourselves as we go within and give loving attention to the places that are hurting and in pain.

In doing this, we become able to let go of the things that once had so much power over our lives and to move forward with a clear mind and a softened heart.

Use your journal to practice nonjudgmental curiosity in order to understand your hurt and pain more deeply and with less inflammatory thinking.

CHALLENGE: Spend an 30 minutes to an hour writing about one situation that has been weighing heavily on you.

  • Who is involved?

  • What about it is triggering for you?

  • What would you like the situation to become?

  • What would need to happen for you to be happy or find peace with the situation?

  • Since you can only change your own thinking and actions, what steps can you take today, independent of any other person or circumstance to start to heal?

Move forward in your life with intention.

Your journal is your place to dream big. You can use it to discover what you really want out of life and what would allow you to be the fullest, freest, highest version of yourself.

But we can’t get from where we are to where we want to be without a plan.

Your journal is the place to let go of the limiting thinking that holds you back. It allows your intuitive mind to explore the places that your rational mind says you can never go.

Note: aim to strike a balance between gratitude and peace in the present moment and the desire to continue to grow and expand. Journaling gives you space to both dream big and love what already exists at the same time. The more you are able to merge both sides of this coin, the more abundance your present and future selves will experience.

CHALLENGE: Take as much time as you need to complete the following exercise:

Imagine that it’s five years from now and you are living the life you were dreaming about today. Describe in detail what an ideal day would will look and feel like for you when this happens.

Some areas to consider:

  • What are the dominant feelings you have throughout this ideal day?

  • Who is in your life and what are your relationships like?

  • How do you spend your time?

  • What are your surroundings? Where are you located?

  • Is your ideal day structured or open-ended? Or a combination of both?

  • What smells, tastes, sights, and sounds do you experience as you move through your ideal day?

  • What is your mindset?

Journal on these questions until you have a very detailed description.

Mark the page in your journal and come back to it periodically. As you review it, allow yourself to experience the day in your mind. Let the feeling-tone of gratitude to be gently present as you do this. Practice feeling and knowing that you already have it. In your mind you already do!

 

9 Signs of a Highly Sensitive Woman: Do You See Yourself In This List?

Many of my clients are highly sensitive women. They go through their lives hearing the same cliches: 

"You're too sensitive. Lighten up."

"You always take things the wrong way!"

"Oh, she's just shy!"

"Why can't you go with the flow?"

What it Means to Be Highly Sensitive

My main goal in working with highly sensitive women is to help them realize they aren't terrible people or tragically flawed. They are simply part of the 15-20% of the population who are genetically predisposed to be more aware of and affected by subtleties in their environment, inclined toward deep reflection and rich inner-experience, and more easily overwhelmed by what's going on around them.

Being highly sensitive is not a personality flaw or a choice. It's in fact a genetically inherited way that the nervous system functions and it affects everything from the most important relationships to how much coffee it takes to become completely wired.

In a world where being outgoing, attractive, easy going, and open to new experiences is considered to be the most desirable of traits for women, highly sensitive women often feel shamed and isolated by their sensitivity.

Are You a Highly Sensitive Woman? 

Highly sensitive women tend to have the following traits:

  • Extremely in-tune and aware of the details and subltleties in her environment, especially those that affect the senses such as the smell of someone's perfume, the sound of a coworker crunching on carrots, or a minor shift in light or temperature in the room.
  • Easily overwhelmed by a lot going on around you.
  • Easily affected by other people's moods or energy.
  • Feel re-energized by withdrawing or isolating yourself when you feel overly stimulated.
  • Worry about making mistakes, being less than perfect, or forgetting things.
  • Seen as sensitive or shy as a child.
  • You are very intuitive.
  • You love to research, think about options, and reflect.
  • Physically sensitive to things like medication, changes in diet, caffeine, or alcohol. 

More Alike Than Different

Being highly sensitive can make you feel like you're completely different than everyone around you, or that you'll never be understood -- by yourself or others. The truth, however, is that being overstimulated doesn't feel good for anyone.

Unrelenting loud noises, impossibly hot rooms or unruly crowds can make anyone feel uncomfortable.

Highly sensitive people just have a different threshold for where that point of discomfort begins.

All people take measures all day every day to maintain a comfortable level of input from the world around us.

We pick up our phones to decrease boredom. We end a conversation when it becomes too upsetting. We take a scratchy sweater off to decrease physical discomfort. We eat ice cream to feel the pleasure of coolness and sweetness in our mouths.

The Positives

Though being a highly sensitive woman can be seen as a negative thing -- especially in today's culture which values hyper-masculinity, rationality, and logic -- being highly sensitive can actually be a huge strength and asset.

Highly sensitive women will fight for what they believe in. They are generally aware of and concerned with issues such as social justice, the environment, and human rights. They want to make the world a better place and put out ideas to make it happen.

They generally make choices and take action based on creativity, imagination, and conviction.

They tend to have a talent for sensitive language and making others feel safe and loved.

Because they like to look at all angles of an issue, they are insightful, able to see the connections between seemingly unconnected things, and able to get to the heart of the matter.

What Highly Sensitive Women Need

Highly sensitive women are like orchids: they can bloom with incredible complexity and beauty given the right conditions. 

If you're a highly sensitive woman, it's crucial to create an environment that works for you and allows you to feel and be your best self. 

Here's What That Looks Like:

  • Learn what makes you feel overstimulated and then take steps to avoid it when possible.

Practice saying no without guilt to events or situations that you know are going to be too much for you. If your friend invites you to a bar and you know it's going to be loud and crowded, suggest another way to spend time together, like going out for coffee or meeting at your house, and let go of the obligation to be all things to all people.

  • Learn to recover from overstimulation when it's over. 

Sometimes overstimulation is unavoidable. If your baby is crying, you're going to stop what you're doing and figure out what's wrong. This may result in minutes or hours of screaming directly in your ear.

When that's over, have a plan already in place to decompress. That may mean sitting alone in a quiet room for a few minutes or calling a friend to vent or watching an episode of your favorite TV show.

Whatever works for you is fine, just know what it is and be ready to go and do it as soon as possible.

  • Get information about your sensitivity.

Most highly sensitive women love information, and love to understand themselves more fully and deeply.

Books like The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive In a World That Overwhelms You by Elaine Aaron and Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain are great places to start.

Talk to friends or family who are sensitive like you, and if you don't know any, look for Facebook groups or even hashtags that will connect you with like-minded women.

  • Look at your past with an understanding of your sensitivity. 

That time you exploded at your partner at the mall: was it because you were being unreasonable or was it because you had been surround by noisy strangers for hours?

That time your teacher called you shy in front of the class: was it because you really didn't like talking to people or was it just that you preferred to spend your energy talking to people you felt a true connection with?

Counseling can help you look at your past actions with fresh eyes and a deeper, more compassionate understanding of who you are.

  • Increase your sensitivity to your own needs and dial down your sensitivity to others.

Remember that our society tends to praise sensitivity in women mainly when it leads to "unselfishly" caring for others. But caring for others all the time while putting your needs second or even last will ultimately end in resentment or burn-out, and then you're of no help to anyone.

Be selective in who you give your time, energy, and attention to. Don't waste it on office gossip or your overbearing mother in law and then have nothing left for the people you really value, or even worse yourself!

While it generally brings highly sensitive women great relief to understand and define their way of experiencing the world, understanding is no substitute for therapy in identifying and healing the wounds that can come with it. Highly sensitive women can be at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and trauma due to the intensity that they experience both positive and negative events and emotions in their lives.

If you suspect this might be the case for you, email me at amy@amybethacker.com or call 973-769-2401 to set up a free phone consultation.

 

How to Deal With the Difficult Person in Your Life

Dealing with a difficult person in your life? Here are some ways to cope:


1. Realize that you are never going to feel peace when you are in the mindset of needing to justify yourself to someone else.

2. Remember that someone else’s opinion of you is never personal. They’re just treating you as they would anyone who represents whatever it is you happen to represent to them.

3. Be okay with the fact that not everyone will see you for who you authentically are, and you don’t need to spend time worrying about it. Don't waste valuable time and energy explaining yourself to someone who is never going to get it.

4. Use your feelings to guide you to a place of balance. Luckily, unlike the opinions of someone else, our feelings are one thing we can actually control.

If you're looking to feel joy and inner peace, focusing on the part of your life that you're not happy with is never going to help you to reach that goal - no matter how justified you are.

5. Use your thoughts to guide your feelings. Many people think that when they feel better, their thinking about the situation will improve, but the opposite is actually true: your thoughts create your emotions. This is good news because it means you have the power to improve your situation all the time - it’s all a matter of focus.

6. Look at the situation and see if there is any room for gratitude and appreciation. You might not like most of it, but is there any part that is positive? Focusing on the positive aspects doesn't mean you're ignoring the negative. It just means you're choosing peace in the moment!

New Article: When Life Feels Hard and Unfair: 4 Lessons That Helped Me Cope

My latest article appears in Tiny Buddha. It's a very personal account of the unexpected lessons that came from my family's experience with the NICU.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Below is a reprint. You can find the original article here.

 

“Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.” ~William James

Two years ago, I gave birth to my second daughter via a planned C-section at thirty-seven weeks.

My first daughter had been born via emergency C-section after seventeen hours of unmedicated labor. I had very much wanted a natural, intervention-free birth. Due to a number of issues, the surgery was so complicated that I was told it would be dangerous to ever go into labor, much less have a natural birth ever again.

Of course, this was devastating for me.

Still, I went into surgery on the morning of my daughter’s birth with hope and excitement. My second pregnancy had been extremely difficult and I was glad for it to be over. I was still heartbroken that I would never get the chance for a natural delivery, but at the same time there was a piece of me that was a bit relieved the decision had been taken away from me.

My second C-section proved to be even more complicated than my first. The surgery went at a snail’s pace as the doctors tried to navigate the extensive scar tissue created by my first C-section. The spinal anesthesia made me unable to feel myself breathing even though I was breathing just fine, and I panicked and repeatedly questioned whether I was suffocating and going to die.

Still, pictures of me and my daughter in the recovery room right after the birth show me smiling in a highly medicated but contented glow.

It was a few minutes after those pictures were taken that the nurse noticed there was something wrong with my newborn’s breathing. It was labored and staggered. The medical team decided that they would take her to the NICU to make sure everything was okay.

In my post-surgical stupor, I didn’t think much of it. I figured they would observe her for a few hours and she would be back in my arms by the time I made it out of recovery.

I was wrong.

My daughter spent the next ten days in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) with a diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension secondary to transient tachypnea. She was kept alive by various tubes and machines, and I got a crash course in C-PAPs, oxygen monitor readings, and feeding tubes.

I wasn’t allowed to hold her for the first five days because her situation was so precarious and unstable.

I knew it was extremely serious when her NICU roommate, a baby born three months early, was wheeled to another room because my daughter was going into crisis every time someone turned on a light or spoke too closely to her.

It killed me to watch her covered in tubes and machines, unable to hold her, much less breastfeed her. I stood by, helplessly pumping milk every three hours and putting her life in the hands of the NICU nurses, who were clearly angels sent directly from heaven.

I struggled with massive guilt that my body had failed me in my first childbirth experience, leading to the mandatory early C-section and all of its complications for my second daughter. I also felt guilty every time I left the NICU to spend time with my older daughter and every time I left my older daughter to go to the NICU.

I was angry. Angry that this happened. Angry with myself for not appreciating how much worse it could have been when I was surrounded by parents and babies who would be spending months, not days, within the NICU’s walls.

Despite the severity of her condition, my daughter’s story was one of mighty strength and resilience, and she left the NICU with no lasting complications—a major blessing for any NICU baby.

My story was one of lessons learned: how to forgive myself, how to let go of what I want to be and embrace what is, how to truly live in the moment, and how to practice unconditional gratitude. Most of all, I discovered new depths to the meaning of the word love.

Though it took me spending ten days with my daughter in the NICU to learn these lessons, they are universal and certainly don’t require a crisis to integrate them into even the most mundane aspects of our lives.

I share them with you in the hopes that if you’re dealing with pain in your life, you will bring to it the knowledge that while the pain may be unavoidable, the suffering is always optional.

Here’s what ten days in the NICU taught me:

Focus on the present.

For several days, my daughter’s condition seemed to get progressively worse before it got better.

This made it very easy for me to get lost in a never-ending maze of what if’s, each more terrifying than the next.

And yet, when I forced myself to focus on the moment, somehow things were always manageable.

Yes, she was hooked up to a lot of scary and unpleasant machines, but she was surrounded by a nest of soft blankets, and for all she knew, she was still in the womb.

Yes, she turned blue when she cried, but the nurses and doctors always got things stable quickly, and with no drama. They knew what they were doing and I knew I could trust them.

I learned quickly that the future was a place where the worst loomed both possible and probable. The present was a place where my daughter was safe, loved, and receiving some of the best care the world had to offer.

If you find yourself in the middle of a crisis, you probably feel like you’re trapped in a whirlwind that’s pulling you in so many different directions, you’re having a hard time figuring out which way is up.

Instead of picturing yourself as powerless against the chaos of the situation, try thinking of yourself as the eye of a storm. While chaos may reign around you, the present moment is always manageable.

Remember that while the future seems scary with all its unknowns and possibilities, the future also doesn’t exist yet. All we have is this moment. And in this moment, there can be peace.

Gratitude is always an option.

When you’re in a place like the NICU, it’s not difficult to embrace gratitude. Everywhere I looked were babies and their families in situations far more dire than ours. I met parents who would be in the NICU for months, who had years or possibly lifetimes of lasting effects of premature birth and other complications to deal with.

And then there were the parents whose baby would never get home, whose entire life would take place within the NICU walls.

Gratitude helped me process my guilt and anger. It’s impossible to be angry and grateful at the same time, and so I would spend hours sitting next to my daughter, writing lists of all the things to be grateful for in this situation and imagining that my positive energy was surrounding her and helping her heal.

When you feel like you’re drowning in guilt and anger, take your sense of internal power back by sitting down somewhere quiet and making a list of every positive aspect and every reason to be grateful for the situation that you can find.

You may find that it’s hard to get started, but once you do, I guarantee you’ll find a sense of peace that no one and no situation can take away.

Wanting life to be fair is a major block to peace.

I have never suffered from the delusion that life is fair, but even as an adult, I have occasionally suffered from the delusion that it should be.

My daughter’s time in the NICU freed me of that childish fantasy.

I quickly realized that as long as I believe the universe is doing something unfair to me, I am giving away my power. And when I give away my power, it’s not the universe that’s being unfair to me, it’s me that’s being unfair to myself.

I couldn’t change the fact that I was a mom with a baby in the NICU. What I could change was the kind of mom I was going to be for my daughter when she needed my presence and my peace, and not my indignation and my anger at the world.

Was I going to be a mom who fell apart when something happened that I felt was unfair? Or was I going to be a mom who felt her feelings but didn’t allow them to determine her ability to be her best self in any given moment?

The choice was always mine.

As easy as it would be to feel powerless and therefore become powerless, I knew that this time, the stakes were too high to do that. My daughter needed me and I needed me to be the best version of myself.

Fairness is a fluid thing, and I came to realize that I had the power to stack the “fairness” greatly in my daughter’s favor by letting go of “unfair” and empowering myself with thoughts of love and gratitude.

If you feel that something unfair has happened to you, ask yourself these questions: Do I want to use my limited energy resisting reality, causing myself pain in the process? How could I use that energy in a more constructive way?

You may be surprised at what you come up with.

We can’t always see the whole picture.

As painful as it was to watch my daughter struggle physically and not be able to hold her or comfort her in any real way, I had to admit to myself that I couldn’t say for sure this experience wasn’t intentional from the perspective of her soul.

Who was I to say that her soul didn’t pick a body that needed intensive care for the first ten days of its life on purpose because it had a larger plan that I had no capacity to understand?

The truth, I realized, was that I couldn’t possibly understand how the universe works and why seemingly bad things happen to innocent people. I could say for sure that all of the difficult, challenging, and painful experiences in my life—this one included—had ultimately made me a stronger, wiser, and more peaceful person.

So how could I see my daughter’s experience as all bad?

If you’re struggling, consider the possibility that you don’t have all the information needed to make an accurate judgment of the situation. Realize that there might be more to it than meets the eye. This doesn’t require you to hold the same spiritual beliefs I hold; it just means considering that sometimes life’s hardest struggles end up being blessings in disguise.

If you’re like me, doing this will help you to look at the situation with less interpretation and indignation; with less inflamed thinking and aversion. In other words, it will give you more peace, and with peace comes your ability to be present with the ones you love.

Sometimes you have to let go of what you wanted so you can focus on doing what’s needed—and so the pain can let go of you.

I wanted to love my newborn my way: by holding her in my arms, cuddling and kissing her, and feeding her from my breast.

These were not the ways that she was able to receive love in her first days of life, and so I needed to let go of my desires and focus on the ways I could love her given the present circumstances: by pumping milk for her to receive through a feeding tube, touching her arm with my finger, praying for her, and giving her unconditional loving energy.

Loving my daughter without boundaries, without my own preconceived notions of what that love should look like, required keeping my heart open at the exact moment I wanted to close it. I wanted to prepare for the worst, to problem-solve and plan. I wanted to control the situation in any way I possibly could.

But I also realized that doing this would cause me to dissolve in a puddle of fear; to close myself off to the opportunities that existed right in front of me, in that moment, to love my daughter.

And so for her sake, I learned to surrender in order to keep my heart open and keep her surrounded by the presence of love.

If you find yourself clinging to how you wanted things to be, ask yourself if this is limiting your ability to do what’s needed. Your current situation might not be what you wanted, but it’s more likely to improve if you accept what is, show up fully, and do what you need to do to be your best self regardless.

As I write this today, my daughter’s second birthday, I share with you the lessons I believe she came into this world knowing: that love, truth, peace, and inner happiness are always available to us no matter what happens in our lives.

What have the painful or traumatic events in your life taught you?

New Article: What it Means to be a Wild and Free Woman

My latest article, What it Means to be a Wild and Free Woman appears in Emerging Women.

In this article, I discuss how a state of living out of alignment with our true nature can lead to feelings of being stuck, closed off, and out of control.

You will learn what it means to live within your true nature as a woman and how to live with more creativity, meaning, and authenticity.

Enjoy!

If you would like to learn more about working with me to live with more creativity, meaning, and authenticity, call or text 973.769.2401 or email amy@amybethacker.com to set up a free phone consultation.

 

 

60 Minutes to Your Best 2017

As 2016 comes to a close, I am taking some time to take stock of the year and to set my intentions for the new one.

For me, resolutions feel a bit arbitrary and simplistic. I can decide that I want to meditate every day or that I want to publish a certain number of articles, but the question of whether these things will actually make me happy still lurks in the background.

Instead, I like to use the end of the year as a time of reflection and intention setting.

I see intentions as being more about how I want to feel and who I want to be, as opposed to what I want to do or achieve.

To get started, I typically journal on the following questions -- I invite you to take an hour to journal on these questions as well and I guarantee it will be one of the most valuable hours you spend as the year winds down:

What worked for me this year?

What attitudes, beliefs and mindsets helped me to live my life with greater intention and in greater alignment with my core values? This is the time for me to celebrate and appreciate all that has gone right.

For me, this includes having a consistent morning practice, getting very clear about what I want my life to look like vs what I believe it should look like, journaling to my intuition whenever I'm not sure about a decision, and spending a lot of time in nature.

What didn't work this year?

Where did I stray from intention and love by following fear or chasing perfection? What mindsets didn't serve me? This is my time to reflect on lessons learned and carry those lessons with me into the next year.

For me, this includes falling prey to others' ideas of what my life should look or feel like, staying in a place of overwhelment instead of moving to gratitude -- especially during some big life transitions that took place this year -- and falling away from my morning routine when I'm stressed.

What lessons did I learn from what did and didn't work this year?

I learned to be careful in discerning whether I'm following someone else's dream or my own. It's easy to believe that because a certain path worked for someone else, it will work for us. Unfortunately, it's rarely ever that easy.

This year, it really hit home that for me, following someone else's path will always lead to frustration and overwhelm.

I learned that it is crucial to continually work on loving all parts of myself -- event the parts that I believe "need work."

I need to remember that the truth is we are all born whole, perfect and complete and unless I love all parts of myself AS IS, I am denying the truth about myself.

I learned that self care is a spiritual practice for me. It helps me connect to my innermost self: my soul. And in doing so, I connect to all of humanity and all of the universe.

I learned that movement is essential in all areas of my life. This includes physical movement, of course, but also creative movement.

I realized that I really don't feel like myself unless I'm creating something at all times.

This can be something tangible like a new article or blog post or a watercolor painting done in conjunction with my five-year-old, or it can be something a bit more amorphous like a subtle shift in mindset.

I am a creative person, and I don't feel whole unless I have creativity in my life in some form on a daily basis.

Finally, I learned that challenges are opportunities to grow -- not obligations and not burdens. Change is inevitable and pain is often inevitable in life as well. Suffering, however, is always optional.
 

Luckily, the choice is always mine.

The most important part of my new year's journaling is to reflect on what an intentional life will look like for me in the next year. Naturally, this is something that is constantly evolving, but getting it down on paper before the year starts gives me a fresh jumping-off point to consider what it is I really want in this moment in my life.

Here is what I have so far for this year:

An intentional life would mean loving myself, being connected with God [my word for the concepts of love, peace, and intuition], and living life by the direction of my most deeply held values. 

It would mean feeling good physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

To practice love with myself, my family, and everyone I come in contact with throughout my days. 

To never let myself get to a place where I don't feel free -- something that only happens when I'm not operating from my intuitive nature.

To get rid of all the "shoulds" that come from fear.

To continue to find ways to serve others with joy.

To be present with my family and to slow down by only doing the things that are truly meaningful to me.

To be in a constant state of freedom, joy, love and unrelenting peace and to continue to loosen my grip on perfection and fear.

What will your best year look like? More importantly how will it feel? How can you carry with you and honor all the lessons learned in 2016 and continue to build upon your personal growth and expansion? I invite you to reflect on these questions in the coming weeks and create with intention your best year yet!

With Peace,

Amy

PS- If you are interested in working with me to dive deep into your intentional life in the new year, I'd love talk! Call me at 973-769-2401, email amy@amybethacker.com or simply fill out the form here for a free consultation.

 

 

 

Two New Articles

Have you seen my latest articles in Hey Sigmund and Tiny Buddha?

In my article,  The Truth About Self-Compassion, I discuss:

  • what self-compassion is,
  • why it is such a powerful process,
  • how your thinking effects others in surprising ways,
  • and simple ways to practice self-compassion in everyday life.

In How We Can Stop Judging Others and Ourselves, I talk about the lesson in self-compassion I learned in line at the grocery store with my kids. I also discuss how to look at a situation with love when you are feeling anything but loving toward yourself or the other person, and the simple way to re-frame your mindset no matter what the situation.

Check them out and I'd love to hear what you think!

If you want to read more of what I write, subscribe to my email list HERE and stay up to date on my latest blog posts and articles as well as unique content not published anywhere else.

If you live in New Jersey and are wanting therapy or coaching to explore how to bring self-compassion into your life, email me at amy@amybethacker.com or call me at 973.769.2401. I look forward to connecting!

All About Your Intuition

Our intuitions are our birthright.

Intuition is a gift we carry with us all our lives. Though we sometimes lose touch with it, we can never be completely cut off from it.

Our lives are proof of its existence. Our existence is a mirror reflection of its.

When we are connected to our intuition, we are inspired, creative, we know what we must do next (not should do next).

When we are separated, we feel stuck, alone, directionless.

Intuition is a part of ourselves that we can develop a relationship with over time, at any time.

As we hone that relationship, we learn to trust ourselves. We develop a deep, inner knowing about when to hold on and when to walk away, when to speak out and when to keep our boundaries.

In other words, we own what we are and what we are is whole.

When we are out of touch with our intuition, we are cut off from our natural instincts: the ones handed down to us by generations upon generations of women.

This happens when we become consumed by a culture that values the end result, not the journey; the rational mind over the emotional, the liner over the cyclical.

And yet we can never be fully cut off.

Your intuition is the voice that says "this way" or "turn in the other direction and run!"

It is the voice that urges you forward when you think you have nothing left to give.

Our intuition comes from both the past and the future to find us now, here in this moment and to quietly urge us to a new frontier of love, joy, peace, and freedom.

How does your intuition communicate with you?

New FREE Guide:

Free Guide: Three Smart and Simple Ways to Ditch Habits That Don't Serve You and Invite More Joy and Confidence into Your Life

In this guide, I go deep into how to recognize when a habit is no longer serving you and ways to peacefully let go of the habit and invite more joy and confidence into your life in the process!

Find out how to do the work to discover what it is you're protecting yourself from feeling, create a healthier relationship with your habits, and discover your own true path to peace.

You'll learn:

  • How to discern when a habit is not working for you and why this is a crucial step in releasing what no longer serves you.
  • Specific tips and tricks to maintain your new habit even when the going gets tough.
  • The way to approach a "bad habit" with compassion in order to peacefully release it.
  • Plus: BONUS 11 page workbook with exercises and eye-opening questions to help you deep dive into your habits and find solutions that work FOR YOU!
  • Limited time additional bonus: FREE mini-session with me to review your workbook and discuss next steps in your journey!

Click the button below to have the guide sent straight to your inbox!

New Article in Psych Central: Warning Signs of Perfectionism (and How to Fix Them)

Perfectionists believe that there is no such thing as "good enough." There is either "fail" or "don't fail." Perfectionists never feel successful because there is always more to be done, more to be improved, more to "fix". In my latest article, out today in PsychCentral, I discuss the warning signs of perfectionism and how to fix them.
You'll learn:

🔺How to let go of judging yourself and others with compassion and grace.


🔺Why perfectionists often feel disconnected from their feelings and how to get connected on a day to day, moment to moment basis.

🔺Why perfectionists tend to have an all or nothing mentality and how to start living in life's gray areas.


Click the link below for the full article!

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/09/04/warning-signs-of-perfectionism-and-how-to-fix-them/

If you want to learn more about working with me to drop your perfectionist mindset for good, click the button to set up a free consultation:

New Article in The Daily Positive: Why Mothers Don't Have to be Perfect

Thrilled to have my first article on The Daily Positive: Why Mothers Don't Have to be Perfect!

This article is all about what happens when we try to be perfect as mothers: we lose ourselves and our children lose us. In it, I discuss the dangers of being too perfect and what to do instead.

I'd love to hear what you think!

For more information about my services and to schedule a free consultation session, please click the link below:

New Article in Elephant Journal: "Why Inexperienced Men can make the Best Lovers"

I'm thrilled to have my latest article, "Why Inexperienced Men can Make the Best Lovers" in Elephant Journal!

In the article, I discuss men, women, and some surprising truths that I've discovered in my last decade as a counselor.

Learn how each partner can take responsibility for a satisfying sexual experience and the dos and don'ts of connecting with your partner no matter what his or her level of experience is.

If you would like to learn more about working with me or to set up a free phone consultation, please click the link below.