By Stephanie Syd Yang
Learning to embrace myself has taken time and practice. As I mentioned in the previous post, I work with people to help them access the spaces within themselves to transform suffering and move into more embodied expressions of wholeness. Here are the two other guiding principles of my healing practice, along with exercises that allow me to live them and embrace my power.
2. Personal healing transforms lives, families and communities
Some years ago, I thought that working with and for organizations that supported reproductive justice and women’s leadership would feed my spirit. I entered into this work wearing big, clunky, rose-colored glasses. When they fell off – and they did – it made a loud crash! I assumed that if a space was feminist, it would naturally be inclusive. Growing up in harshly patriarchal spaces (Chinese culture and evangelical Christianity, to name a few) I craved a space where people could be different, where we could share leadership and where women would be able to speak up and be heard.
What I learned, however, was that in organizations and movements, we were quick to point fingers outside ourselves, looking for external sources of our pain. But we rarely looked within to examine how we were wounding ourselves and others. There was so much talk about how “women lead differently,” yet that is not what I experienced. I saw hierarchy, nepotism, ageism, racism, refusals to share power, lack of support for each other, and a culture of overwork. It was heartbreaking. I eventually left that world in search for something more aligned with values I held in my heart: equity, shared power, interdependence, accountability and honesty. Because I could dream it, I knew it had to exist.
Stepping back, I noticed that often what was happening within organizations was the playing out of dysfunctional patterns that mirrored those of the people involved. Perhaps because of my family history, the one that I most often hit up against was co-dependency (a reliance on others / things external for validation and meaning that serves individual ego) as opposed to interdependency (a mutual relationship that serves the collective good.)
While I had these criticisms of the leaders and the organizations which failed to create the internal spaces where the staff could bring their whole selves, I felt completely irresponsible myself to stay involved with organizations if I didn’t do more personal healing. So I stepped out and stepped way back, spending many years (and the bulk of my savings!) intensely on my own healing and spiritual growth. I thought I had to “find” my self, and yet, my biggest a-ha moment along the way was realizing that my wholeness had been with me the entire time. I just had to notice and step in.
Try This: Draw two circles, one on each side of the same sheet of paper. On the first side, write down all the negative and challenging things you tell yourself in the center of that circle. Be honest and gentle with yourself, at the same time. When you are spinning in self-doubt, what do you say to yourself? When frustrated, how do you speak to yourself? Include as many as you can to fill the circle, then stop. Do not write beyond the lines.
Now, consider what you have written. How often did you use the verb “to be”? When we use the verb “to be” we are spinning magic, calling things into being. To say “I am not enough”, is actually calling that statement into being. Perhaps you are simply feeling like you are not enough? Let’s practice being precise with our word choices.
Turn the paper over and on the outside of the circle drawn there, re-write what you wrote on the other side, but this time, avoid the verb “to be”. Examples might be: “I hold in my body.” “ I feel unlovable”. “My body expresses trauma,” etc. Allow your experiences to simply be that – experiences. Allow them to separate from you as they dissolve in their impermanence. This practice of shifting up HOW we talk to ourselves is a simple way to begin releasing the limiting belief systems we hold.
Finally, within the center of the circle on the 2nd side of the paper, write the words “I AM”. Just like the universe IS, you absolutely ARE. What do you choose now to call into being – for yourself, your family, your community? What do you choose to call into being for the world? This is your wholeness – both your humanity and your divinity. Everything is interconnected. Take this image with you throughout your day as a reminder of who you are choosing to BE. We can be who we say we are. Use the verb wisely!
3. To heal is to release joy; to release joy is to connect with the Divine in each one of us.
Whatever healing means for each of us, it is a powerful key to unlocking the joy that resides within each one of us. The more we release the more we are able to connect to the Divine, which is the All that Is. We are all a part of something bigger than ourselves. This is our Wholeness, this is our Power.
Releasing more joy into our lives is also about reclaiming love for ourselves. Given the societal, familial and other external messages we have received, it isn’t always a simple task to love ourselves. However, it’s impossible to love others if we don’t love ourselves.
It also isn’t easy to love oneself given the messages that many of us have received over our lifetimes. We also can’t achieve social justice without people and organizations filled with love – because justice is love. The path to self-love is through challenging ourselves – with love. The solutions are nestled in the questions. Through intention, attention, and practice, we can learn to dance again with the joy and abandon of a well-loved child.
Try This: Take a piece of paper (the larger the better) and fold it in half, lengthwise. On one side, write out what you love to do. On the other side, list out what you are good at. Be bold! Write down everything – from the silly to the profound. Now, draw lines between those two lists to and see what these connections unveil. Now, explore. What new ideas has this inspired? What new directions can you take in your life? Where might you try on something new? Take a step and see where this path might lead. This can help you explore your deepest desires and strengths, which will help you unlock more of your joy.
As a mixed race, queer person, I have learned what it means to navigate life on the margins, tight-rope walking the edges between identities and worlds. I know that I am not what other people imagine me to be. And I know that I can re-imagine myself, I can re-claim the wholeness of who I have always been. I bring these sensibilities into my practice with others, helping them to re-imagine their own wholeness back into being. Each day I offer gratitude to be of service in these ways. I have found my calling. I am standing proudly in my power.