Why Nurturing Yourself May Be the Key to Happiness

Did you know that along with food and water, the act of nurturing is one of the building blocks to a healthy brain?

I’ve recently come across some fascinating information in Joseph Chilton Pearce’s book, “The Heart-Mind Matrix” that I wish was common knowledge.  Essentially, Pearce says that the successful development of the human brain is based on nurturing. The brain forms into its most advanced and highest versions when a child is cared for and nurtured with consistency. When we are nurtured, we become the best versions of ourselves

I want to explain this a little more, so please allow me to nerd out for a moment.

A cucumber sprout soaking up warmth from the sun.
A cucumber sprout we’ve nurtured for two weeks, growing and thriving with constant care.

The human brain consists of three major sections which follow our evolution. The first part of the brain that forms is the reptilian brain. This is the part of the brain that is in charge of making sure we are safe in the world. It is purely instinctual and its number one priority is survival at all costs (think a reptile).

The second part of the brain that forms is the mammalian brain, which forms on top of the reptilian brain. The mammalian brain is responsible for allowing an individual to have emotions, memories, and a sense of connection with others (think of how mammals like to cuddle and connect).

The third part of the brain that forms on top of the other two parts is called the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for higher-order reasoning and thinking. The prefrontal cortex allows us to have self-awareness, think about what we are doing, ask questions like “why?” and to have morality. It is fundamentally the part of the brain that makes us human and capable of complex thought and higher order decisions.

Now, where it really gets juicy is that the full formation of the pre-frontal cortex can only happen when a person feels safe and nurtured. If a person isn’t feeling safe and nurtured, the reptilian brain goes into overdrive. When the reptilian brain is at full throttle, the prefrontal cortex can’t develop to its fullest form. The integration of the reptilian brain, mammalian brain, and prefrontal cortex is all dependent on feeling safe and nurtured.

What does this mean? It means can’t step into our highest potential as a logical, moral, evolved human without nurturing.

So many people who grow up in chaotic homes without proper nurturing get stuck in their reptilian brain and can only think about survival. This can lead to chronic anxiety or depression because the brain and nervous system are stuck in survival mode.  Isn’t that fascinating?

What is most incredible to me is that this information gives us clues about what we need in order to heal ourselves. If nurturing is the missing link in proper brain development, then we know what to give ourselves and others. We can seek out nurturing and loving relationships. And most importantly, we can nurture and love ourselves. This not only feels good, but helps us to create peace, calm, and integration in our brains and our bodies.

It turns out, that nurturing is a spiritual energy. It creates peace, healing, and integration in our brains and relationships.

If you want to evolve into the best version of yourself, nurture yourself.

If you want to help create a more peaceful world, nurture those around you.

Loving yourself and the world around you really is the way to create wholeness.

Ideas To Nurture Yourself:

  1. Get a massage, acupuncture, or facial
  2. Create a home environment that feels good to you – surround yourself in colors, patterns, and textures that feel good
  3. When applying lotion or body oil, really take the time to love yourself and nurture yourself with your own touch
  4. Get creative – paint, draw, sing – Express yourself!
  5. When sad or distressed, hold onto a pillow or stuffed animal
  6. Cuddle (with anyone)
  7. Cook a delicious and nurturing meal for yourself
  8. Buy yourself flowers
  9. Use essential oils that make you feel more grounded, happy, and centered
  10. Do some gentle exercise, like walking or yoga
  11. Put on some music that you love
  12. Hold your hand on your heart and just feel the warmth and love from your own hand
  13. Drink warm tea or take a hot bath – warmth is very nurturing

The Evolution of Compassion – How to Stop Trying to Save the World

“Strong boundaries are essential to loving and generosity.” – Brené Brown

 I’ve been thinking quite a bit about boundaries and compassion lately. As a watery empathic Pisces, boundaries have been something I’ve struggled with my whole life. It is easier to feel other people’s pain and merge with it than it is to separate myself and figure out my own needs and wants. Compassion has been easy, boundaries have not been. Thankfully, my professional and personal life have forced me into continuously working on my boundaries. What I have come to understand, is that boundaries are an essential aspect of compassion, generosity, and loving.

I see now that compassion is always evolving. Many spiritual traditions say that service and compassion are the highest virtues. I don’t quite agree. I have found that serving from inspiration is very different than serving from a place of self-sacrifice or a belief that we have to give ourselves up to get to God.

IMG_3138Right now, I think how we do compassion is evolving. As humans, I think we are here to move from self-centeredness to compassion and then to what I call, “compassionate wisdom.” With compassionate wisdom, we are able to really know and feel that everyone is ok just as they are and that there is a higher loving moving through all people and the universe at large. With compassionate wisdom, we begin to see that we aren’t responsible for making the planet ok. We move from needing to save people, take on their burdens, and over-sympathize to realizing that everything is ok, exactly as it is. We may still be inspired to serve, but we do so in a way that feels aligned and energizing, instead of depleting and forced.

Below, is my take on how compassion has evolved in each of us through our soul’s history.

Stage 1: The Young Soul

We come into the world being totally self-centered, young souls, here to explore and taste and learn. In the process, we end up being a bit self-centered. We don’t really know what compassion is. We are still learning about love and what it feels like. Our thoughts and actions are primarily based on our own needs and wants. We jump without thinking. We’re impulsive and ready to experience anything. Through time, and many lifetimes, we start to learn that our actions have an effect on the world around us. We see that our choices have consequences. We start to see that some of our impulsive actions bring pain and suffering to other people. This is when we start to move into the second state.

Stage 2: Waking up to Compassion

As we move into the next stage of evolution, we start to develop this thing called “compassion.” We start noticing how other people feel. We’ve been through enough experiences at this point to know what pain and suffering feel like and that other people must also experience pain. We move from being totally self-centered, to developing compassion for other people and beings. At this point in the journey, compassion meditations, and actively seeking how to learn how to have compassion for others is paramount. We develop our “compassion” muscle and move away from self-centeredness towards seeing we are all connected. For the first time, we begin to see the “other.”

Stage 3: Waking Up to Self-Compassion

In the third stage of evolution, we move from having compassion for other people and beings, to compassion for ourselves. We start to see that we deserve the compassion that we are giving other people. This begins to wake up self-love.

Stage 4: Developing Compassionate Wisdom

In the fourth stage of compassion, we move into compassion coupled with wisdom. We start to realize that yes, we can have compassion for other beings and ourselves but that we also need the important values of discernment and boundaries to go along with that compassion. Old souls have a tendency to get stuck in Stage 2 of compassion. They can see exactly why other people are acting like they are acting, and accept their poor behavior. They may choose relationships in which they unconsciously want to save another, because they can see and have compassion for that person’s wounds and struggles. The task of Stage 4, is to simultaneously have compassion for another individual, while loving yourself so much, that you hold boundaries. It is about loving another, but loving yourself and your right to life, love, and happiness more than you love anyone or anything else.

Stage 4 is about letting go of saving people and fully entering into your own space of self-love. In this stage, we can see other people’s struggles, wounding, and gifts. We offer our loving and service to them when we feel called to, but we stop sacrificing our own needs and well-being to help them along their path. We stop trying to save people and save the world. This is the task of the Old Soul: Loving yourself so much, that you are ready to release yourself from the role of “savior.” This is the highest state of compassion on the planet so far. In this stage, we develop a compassion so deep, that we let people have their struggles and stop trying to save them. We see that sometimes, people need their struggles and it is not in their best interest to have us go in and save the day.

Compassion becomes so total, that we love and accept all things exactly as they are, knowing that each one of us is completely and totally worthy and lovable exactly as we are now. This is compassionate wisdom.

Questions to Develop Compassionate Wisdom

Can you trust that the planet is ok, exactly as it is?

Can you trust that a higher loving is guiding us through everything?

Can you trust that even when things look dark, that sometimes the darkness is what delivers us into the light?

Can you trust other people to the wisdom of their soul?

Can you let go of saving the planet and drop into your loving instead?

Bruce Jenner and What It Means to be a Man

From Vanity Fair (July 2015):

Bruce Jenner was ‘always telling lies.’ Caitlyn ‘doesn’t have any lies,’ she saCaitlyn Jennerys.

 “If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life,’” she told me. “’You never dealt with yourself,’ and I don’t want that to happen.”

“I’m not doing this to be interesting. I’m doing this to live.”

 “I never thought in a million years I would ever have to divulge such private, intimate feelings I’ve had all my life.”

I’m reading excerpts from Caitlyn Jenner’s interview in the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair with tears in my eyes and goosebumps on my skin. She is an incredible, complex, beautiful, multi-faceted and brave woman. And what really strikes me the most, is watching this woman exemplify what it means to be a man.

Caitlyn Jenner was once Bruce Jenner, an accomplished and famous athlete. He set a world record for the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and came home with a gold medal. Bruce epitomized what being a man “should” look like. He was strong, handsome, capable, and physically powerful.

However, all the while, Bruce had a secret. He felt like, and wanted to be, a woman. For decades, Bruce kept this secret, only telling a close few. The pressure to keep this secret was so palpable, that Bruce even contemplated suicide after a 2013 TMZ report came out about his tracheal shave. So great is the shame in our society for sexual choices and preferences other than the heterosexual “norm,” that Bruce thought death was a better option than openly admitting his secret.

And yet, two years later, Caitlyn Jenner debuts herself on the cover of Vanity Fair in her full gorgeous glory.

Just for a moment, I want to thank Bruce. I want to thank him for having the courage to live his truth, in spite of the fear and shame he faced. Bruce, by living into his true identity of Caitlyn, has helped to shift what it means to be a man in this country.

I would propose that “being a man” is not necessarily being the strong, tough, guarded, emotionless, powerful and dominating character that our popular media depicts. Instead, I think that Bruce (and many many like him who are bravely but quietly living their own truths) is helping to pave the way to a new version of masculinity which is about bravely and courageously living your truth and vulnerability.

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown writes that in her research, men reported their biggest source of shame was feeling weak, defective, criticized, and ridiculed. The star athlete transforms into a soft feminine woman. The feminine energy is the epitome of vulnerability and softness – everything the masculine fears being. For this Olympic athlete to face the shame of looking like a failure, to live his truth of living as a woman, is a tremendous act of bravery.

Bruce Jenner was a real man. He had the courage to face his greatest source of shame in front of a worldwide audience. He chose to live as a woman, in a society that still degrades and demeans women for being the lesser sex. Bruce felt all of this, and still chose to live his true identity.

Caitlyn says, “If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life.”

Thank you Bruce, and Caitlyn, for helping to redefine what we think it is to be masculine. Being a man is to live your truth, in spite of the perceived shame. It is about having the courage to live in your vulnerability, and even softness. Being a man is no longer about hiding what you really feel, in order to be strong. It is about being so strong, that you can express your greatest fears and vulnerabilities. It is about realizing that bravery is not about conquering others, but living your highest truth.

Letter to an Old Soul

Dear Old Soul,

Years ago, I remember listening to a channeling by Lee Carroll, who bIMG_2227.JPGrings forth the being called “Kryon.” I don’t remember the subject of the channeling, but I do remember Kryon saying that old souls tend to have low self-esteem. He explained that because we have been embodied hundreds or thousands of times, we have seen everything. Through our experiences, we have gained wisdom, which we have innocently tried to share with others. However, much of the time, the planet has not been ready for our wisdom. This has led to some unpleasant experiences such as being made fun of, criticized, condemned, jailed, and even killed in past lifetimes.

We have been the minority for a very long time.

As a result, we’ve adopted an element of hesitation, shyness, or a reluctance to really share what we know. And as old souls, we know. We know things deep in our bellies and in our very bones. We know that power, darkness, energy stealing, domination, and violence never get us where we really want to go. We’ve tried it all before, and we have learned that all of the ways we tried to get power from others never brought us the satisfaction we truly longed for. We know that all we are really looking for is home.

As old souls, we know that the way home is through loving ourselves and others, treating all beings with respect, and taking care of the planet. We know that the way to get where we want to go comes from love and freedom, not power and control. We know that utopia comes from taking care of and nurturing each other, especially the downtrodden and the weak. We know that God (or the Universe of Spirit) is not an angry man with a beard in the sky, but rather, love. Pure, radiant, soft love. We know this deep in our cells.

And yet, we’re reluctant to share what we know. Perhaps we see that the world still needs to learn and grow, and isn’t ready for our wisdom, or is only ready for a small dose of it. Perhaps we are too afraid of having our heads cut off or being burned at the stake to share our truth. Whatever the reason, it is ok.

Dear Old Soul, know that I see you, and I love you. I honor the struggles, hardships, horrors, and difficulties you’ve faced in this lifetime and all previous ones. I see your sensitivity, your wisdom, and your gorgeous heart. I see your beautiful sparkling essence. I see your Spirit and the loving that wants to burst out of every pore. I love you, and I love your ability to love, in spite of everything you have experienced.

Dear Old Soul, you are precious and special. Your wisdom is valuable, even if it goes unappreciated. I appreciate you and all you bring to this world. I know it is hard, at times, to be here. You see the shootings, and the racism, the homophobia, the violence and the poisoning of our water and food. You feel the pain and suffering deep in your belly or in your heart. And yet, Old Soul, I remind you to look deeper. Look deeper into your wisdom. You’ve seen this before. Remember that we are here to wake up. And we are witnessing a planet that is waking up quickly and in a giant burst.

Dear Old Soul, I love all that you are. Take care of yourself, nurture yourself, love yourself. And when you feel ready – when you feel safe enough, or maybe just courageous enough – please feel free to share your wisdom with us. Not everyone will understand it, and that’s ok too. But there are those who will. There are those of us who are ready for you. I see you. I honor you.