The Gift of Time

The Gift of Time

Over the last month, I’ve written to you about staying in presence and through this practice radically loving yourself. How’s it going, darling? Have you been able to sink into the glorious space that is you? If not every day, maybe just a moment of each day? Have you learned anything as you’ve stayed there? Personally, in the practice of living in presence, I’ve realized that not only do I have a quality of life more aligned with my integrity, but I’ve also begun to have a better relationship with time itself. You heard me right, time. I don’t know about the rest of you,  but for the longest time, I felt as though it was my enemy. I grew up modeling my parent’s view of time, which is that there is never enough. Time was taught to me as something that was in short supply and something we were all working against. Yet as I’ve sat in presence, I’ve come to realize that time is truly the only thing that we can count on. Let me say more.

You Can Always Count on Time

I’m not sure where to begin, except I suppose where I am now and my understanding of time. You see I’m new to our relationship and the absolute gift time gives to all of us. As I’ve slipped out of my controlling mind (Ok, slipped is much too gentle of a word…) I’ve found that I had a lot of my happiness wagered on time. When I left presence and slipped into control I was hoping to create an outcome I could not see yet. I began to try and predict and influence how my future would turn out through my use of control. The control could be something as small as an email pushing for an outcome I wanted as large as trying to change the behaviors of those around me. Not cool control! Not cool. Through the belief that I could control what my life was going to look like I also believed that I needed to speed through time to get to that outcome. In looking at time this way (as a barrier to the outcome I wanted), I began to resent time.

In addition to believing that I needed to get to the future, I also brought my resentment towards time to my daily life. Time was something that there was either never enough or always too much of. I grappled with how to create a daily routine so that I would not be in a battle with time and was still left… well fighting time. I either couldn’t get everything done that I wanted to do or I was bored out of my mind. Time, I couldn’t speed it up to predict the future. I wanted and did make it the near enemy of my day. We were not good friends, time and I.

Have you ever struggled with time? Looked at where you are in your life and said, “Nope, this is not it time, something should be different by now.” Or woken up in the middle of the night with a list longer than you can imagine and think, “How the hell am I ever going to get all that done?” Or crossed everything off of your list hoping to feel accomplishment only to feel bored and alone? Then quickly creating a new “something to do,” that puts you back in the loop of waking up in the middle of the night in a panic? I know I have. It’s a maddening battle I’ve come to realize I cannot win. I’ve picked a battle with the only thing that is absolute in life; time.

Time is Here… Waiting

As I’ve become more intentional about living in presence, something radical has begun to happen. I began to start a new relationship with time. It happened slowly, as my kind teacher of time-pressed against my controlling mind. First in breaths, then in moments, now in days. Where instead of pressing against time, I welcomed it in. I held a breath against my chest, counted the exhale to match the inhale, and said hello to what is here. As I said hello to what is here, I realized that each moment of our life is here. Each millisecond on earth is a millisecond that will never be again. As I was trying to speed through the outcome of my life, I was missing my life. I don’t know about you, but that is something I am not willing to miss. Not my life, the life of my children, my family, or my friends. I don’t want to spend my time rushing away from my presence hoping that somehow my future will look different. I want to lean into the life in front of me and drink whatever delicious season I am in. And when life is not, well, delicious I want to trust that time will heal my wounds so long as I live with my integrity. Trust me, I know what it feels like to have everything falling apart only to wish life would speed up so the pain would end. Only now do I see that time was part of the healing journey, a necessary companion.

My new relationship with time isn’t perfect; I’ve just begun to realize time is not my enemy, but the only constant I can truly know will show up for me until the breath leaves my body. Even then time will go on beyond me. But in this new relationship of seeing time as my companion, I’ve been able to live in a way where I’m able to appreciate what is in front of me moment by moment of each day.

Sometimes that means making a hard decision in the moment not knowing the outcome but knowing I stayed true to my integrity. Sometimes that means burying my head in the newly shampooed hair of my children, or brushing my thumb against their cheeks and drinking them in. And sometimes it means sitting in my sorrow, tending to and befriending it to provide the care my soul needs. During this practice time wraps her arms around me and tells me, I am here. Knowing that time is here I can sink into myself waiting for the adventure of tomorrow.

Jessie Cooper

Let Love In

Let Love In

Two weeks ago I wrote to you about quieting your own mind and welcoming in a wise presence to cultivate self-love. How has it gone, darling? Have you been able to slip away from your thoughts and into a warm bath of love for yourself? I hope you have. Remember, you’re wonderful darling. As you’ve offered yourself this love have you felt what I’ve hoped you felt? Seen that at your core you are divinely human just as we all are? Flawed and imperfectly perfect. That’s what I wanted you to see, and for your inner critic to take a seat to allow love in. If you’re still practicing, then you’re doing it exactly right. This morning I laid in bed listening to a morning meditation against the sunrise encouraging my busy, controlling, mind to release into my presence and the presence of the day. Self-love and living in presence is a daily practice.

The Process of the Presence

As you become more aware of your own limiting beliefs, the stories you tell yourself, and how they craft the language of your inner critic two beautiful things happen. The first is you are easily able to offer yourself forgiveness with judgment and the next is you allow yourself to be loved.

On forgiveness, when you are able to see you are not your thoughts it becomes almost innate to offer this to yourself. In my own life, I have about a dozen critical themes that loop inside of my mind, and being able to identify them allows me to detach from them. The more I am able to give them a name, the easier I am able to identify a pattern, and offer a simple, “hello friend,” to the critic. There you are again, I see you, I hear you, and I am not you. In this practice, forgiveness comes easily. The more you name your limiting beliefs, the easier it will be to befriend, release, and forgive them. In the light of love, these limiting beliefs cannot stay.

As you move through forgiveness and honor your humanity the next step starts to become a little easier. The step is to allow yourself to be loved exactly as you are, not as you desire yourself to be. I don’t know about you, but allowing others to love me is just about the most vulnerable place in my heart. If I find another spot, I’ll let you know, but for right now that’s the soft one. You see, love, true love, is given to you on your worst days when you can barely look at yourself which means you have to let the people that love you see your worst days. That shit is hard! I have a theory as to why this is true love or love at its essence if you will. I’m not going all wedding day, Corinthians something, something on you. Or the romantic love that declares it will love you through all odds. I mean, that’s also a cool type of love, but that’s not what I’m writing about today.

My theory is this; the people who truly love you can see your innate goodness through, well, your bad days/choices and suffering. In the moments when you cannot offer love to yourself because you either did behave in a not-so-great way or are mentally suffering, the people that love you are to you the light you cannot be. They are the candle in your darkness reminding you, “darling, it’s Ok, you wonderful human, love is here.”  They come without judgment, kneel beside you, and remind you that you are not the sum of your worst days. Our damn critic is loud on those days. Those that truly love us allow us to love ourselves when we cannot so that we can in time, love ourselves again on our own. Whether it be that day, in a week, or in a lifetime. Those that love us can nurture us back to love if we allow them to.

Love, True Love

This type of love requires a deep vulnerability because it requires you to be seen, exactly as you are and not how you desire others to see you. This type of love, if we’re lucky, is given by a small handful of close friends, family members, and a partner if you desire it. It isn’t given by everyone we meet, nor should it be. This type of love requires your whole heart to be open and your heart is precious. As my therapist has told me about a dozen times, “only you get to decide who sits at your table, girl they need an invitation!” I know it’s not as fun or riveting as walking through life with “free hugs,” on your shirt and offering love to everyone you meet (not..speaking from experience or anything over here…). But, that type of love offered freely and to all cannot go as deep as your soul needs it. Sure, we can offer love and happiness to all beings on earth, but who we allow in to truly love us is an entirely different thing. This type of love took me years to honor, and today I blush at the table of love that surrounds me.

To my tribe and family who allow me to be human in all moments, who love me fiercely when I cannot love myself, who have carried me when I could not walk; know this, I am alive and well, and thriving because your love led me back to mine. I wake each day in awe that I get to do this thing called life with you by my side. I hope that in each waking moment, whether it be when your sad thoughts are floating by and life is crushing you or when life lifts you to the highest mountains, that you know I am a candle of love for you as you have been for me. Thank you for teaching me that opening my heart isn’t so scary after all.

Jessie Cooper

A Wise Presence

A Wise Presence

Two weeks ago I wrote to you about An Application of Love. How at the core of each wound is a deep need to be heard, held, and loved. Since it’s been a few weeks, have you had a chance to try this? Find places or pieces of yourself that hurt and hold them with compassion? If you did, were you able to find the truth that you are not the sum of your wounds? Was your worth warm and welcoming when you arrived at the wound with love? I hope so. You’re wonderful darling.

As a clinician, I’m pretty sure I’ve given (and written) about self-care and putting your oxygen mask on first. I’m also confident I’ve written about different modalities of self-care letting you all know that self-care can look different for all of us. Some of us reset with friends, some of us need alone time, others find glory in the morning sky, and others love a red wine paired with a good soak. How self-care looks for each of us is vastly different.  What I’m not so sure I have written to you about is how we choose how to care for ourselves in the external world. It begins with first listening to our own wisdom. Many call this wisdom our intuition, I believe our intuition is our raw love for ourselves that when accessed we can extend to others. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about others today, we’re talking about you.

Finding The Space

So how do you find this deep wisdom? This mother (or father, or non-gender binary) presence that lives in all of us and wants what is best for us? Well, to start there are two things that I recommend. The first is to learn how to become quiet in your own mind. The great Glennon Doyle writes in Untamed she found her own knowing by slipping into a dark closet and sitting with herself each and every time she didn’t know what to do. I think she might have actually written her book from that same closet that is now changing anyone brave enough to read it. Other spiritual leaders like my favorite, Tara Brach, teaches us the importance of meditation and how our mind is a trance of thoughts, or a virtual reality as she puts it. In the end, both of these women, among countless other thought leaders, are pressing the importance of stilling your mind. In this stillness is a quiet presence, a quiet presence full of love for you and the world.

I know firsthand how challenging it is to quiet your mind. Trust me, I’ve got a busy crew of women up there chatting non-stop at me. In learning more about family systems from Dr. Becky I’ve begun to assign each voice an emotion as its name to identify it. I do this to acknowledge that the thoughts are simply trying to process my reality which allows me to disconnect from the thought more easily. I don’t know about you, but in my busy crew, there is one voice that can lead the rest of my thoughts into incredibly unkind territory. It’s that voice inside of me that believes if it criticizes me, it’s correcting me, and if it’s correcting me I’m going to be safe. This little voice might feel as though it has good intentions, but it doesn’t, this voice wants to separate me from my knowledge and worth. This voice led me down some dangerous roads of trying to find my worth outside of myself. I’m sharing this with you because quieting your mind isn’t as easy as slipping onto your yoga mat, burning some incense, and becoming one with yourself. I mean, that’s the end goal, but in the beginning, starting to notice your thoughts are separate from you is extremely helpful.

Identify Your Inner-Self

The second thing that I recommend is to assign an identity to your wise self that you can call upon for comfort. I’m not talking about the white clouded, big bearded God, or hot Jesus in sandals. I mean, unless that does it for you. It’s hard sometimes to find, or summon, a deep love for ourselves (please see the boss bitch that I’m sure lives in us all). For me, making a vision of a truly loving presence that wants what is best for me allows me to become still and welcome her love in. In my own practice, when I need to apply love to a wound, I imagine “future Jessie”. Future Jessie smells of Jergens (like my own mama), has silvering hair, and is soft to the touch from her aging. Future Jessie knows that life is full of hardship and that the Jessie of now needs compassion and care to forage her way through life. I imagine her as a wise mother who can apply love to any wound that needs care and attention so that I can live a life where future Jessie is living in true harmony with herself. By imagining this future me, who wants what is best for me, I’m able to see beyond the now and into the life I want for myself. A life beyond pain, fear, and doubt. A life lived in grounded confidence.

Between these two practices, the quieting of the mind, and welcoming in a loving presence I’m able to feel my worth glow inside my body. I’m able to see that love has always been there and anything in the material world dividing me from love is not worth attending to. I’m able to heal my wounds and set boundaries that allow me to sink closer into my own wisdom. The wisdom that guides my decisions in the world.

This week, why not give it a try? Name those ladies or gents at your inner table? Disconnect from the chatter of fear, lean into your wise mother (father, or non-gender binary), and allow your wisdom to wash over you as you navigate this crazy life. Remember, darling, you are wonderful. I can’t wait to see what you find in the stillness of your own presence and love.

Jessie Cooper

An Application of Love

An Application of Love

Over the past several months I’ve been writing to you about uncomfortable emotions from children, parenting, and the bruises in your heart. In reading these blogs, you’re thinking, “Okay, we get it Eeyore! Negative shit happens.” I’ve been writing about it a lot and will most likely dive into these topics again. I did spend my early 20s specializing in the reduction of high-magnitude, dangerous behaviors as a young clinician. I love hard emotions and challenging behaviors; not because of, well, the challenge, but because of the messages behind them. In my work as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, I was given the gift of knowledge. The knowledge that all behaviors have a function and a remedy if we want to invite them to leave.

Today, I’d like to flip the script (sorry Eeyore!) and tell you about what I believe the function and remedies are for our negative emotions. I would also like to plant the seed that as we intentionally offer to heal complex emotions, we can change our outlook and behaviors. That is what I want for you, what I want for everyone. I want us to know as humans that we are not the sum of our negative emotions, behaviors, and experiences. Yes, they are a part of life, but I truly believe that who we are and what we need is love. Let’s dive in.

Recognizing The Separation From Love 

In writing to you about the bravery of witnessing your pain, I’ve asked you to lean into emotions and/or experiences that have brought you discomfort so that you may offer yourself healing. I’m sure I’ve written somewhere that an unhealed wound metastasizes. In asking yourself to witness your pain, what I truly am asking you to do is to ask yourself, “baby where does it hurt?” to your brave heart.

A surgeon or doctor asks you the same question to find out how to heal your physical wounds. Similarly to physical pain, our emotional pain must be identified to know what type of wound we have and what healing words and actions it needs. The difference here is that with physical wounds the treatments will vary based on the wound. With emotional wounds, while they need to be named to heal, the treatment is always self-love and boundaries.

You see the origin of emotional wounding is an experience when we were separated from our loving presence and subscribed to fear instead. In these moments something happened that was too overwhelming to stay in our loving nature and so we left ourselves. We left to either avoid or fight the fear and pain that came to us. We emotionally ran or armored up because we felt, well, threatened. In our subconscious minds, we innately choose this response because our species is one of survival. If there is a threat, you have to get away from that threat. At least that’s how our brains have developed starting back when we were avoiding the Saber Tooth Tigers. “Danger, no good, run or defend yourself!” The tricky part about the modern human is that emotionally we still respond to perceived threats like a tiger and have to do the work to know why we even responded that way.

Reconnect With The Love

Let me say more. Our brains are that of survival, they want to keep us safe and so we have billions of ways our brain speaks to itself to protect us. Our brain doesn’t speak to our conscious mind, it goes on autopilot. As our brain sees threats, because either our body or emotions say there is a threat, our brain then creates a series of stories and strategies to keep us safe from the threat. The primary problem with this is that conscious rerouting is normally done in childhood through stories of shame instead of reality. We all have a unique pattern or story of shame that was derived from a negative experience we wanted to protect ourselves from. As this shame story took root in our mind, each time fear came to us our shame told us, “there is something wrong with you but I can protect you from this fear.” When shame takes over our narrative, love is shut out, when love is shut out it’s impossible to heal. This is incredibly frustrating because shame when embeds itself into our subconscious, layers into multiple forms, and can last from decades to a lifetime. Shame is always the scar over your wound and a separation from love. This is why love is how we heal, our emotional wounds need to reconnect to our loving nature because fear separates us.

There is a peaceful existence when we can witness our scars, and the scars we gave to others, then offer them the love they always needed. Witnessing can bring up deep moments of pain, just as we sit in that pain and allow love in, the pain will go away. As love takes over we can offer the original wound the care it deserves, the repair that will change your wiring. Offering love to your core wounds and shame stories disconnects us from fear and reconnects us to our loving nature. When we are connected to our loving nature our life becomes ours again. We become the person we always were and can choose our path with intention and not based on the fears of our past.

This work is the bravest work we can do; to face the demons of our past that hold our hurt. Yet it’s also the most healing experience you can offer yourself so when pain comes now, or in the future, it does not reroute who you are and or what you believe about yourself. When you stay rooted in love you can heal all wounds and live a life of peace.

This is my wish for you.

Jessie Cooper

What’s in the Wound?

What’s in the Wound?

Over the course of the past month, I’ve been writing to you about, well, the not-so-popular emotions. We’ve taken a journey through toddlerhood, parenting, and the danger of disconnecting from our emotional world. I’ve encouraged you to lean in, stay with your discomfort, and allow yourself to feel your divinely human emotions. Have you tried it? Chosen a moment that would usually prompt your running shoes and instead slid down next to yourself? If you have, I’m curious. How are you feeling? What was it like? What is in your wound?

I ask these questions because it is against our nature to stay in discomfort. Choosing to stay with your “negative” (ok, not jazzy) emotions is not something that is, well, comfortable. Believe me, I know. Actively choosing to both witness and stay with dysregulated emotions is nothing short of brave, because it can be painful. Yet in doing this work and approaching the pain is the only true way to know what the wound consists of that is causing this pain. It is the knowledge of what is causing us pain that allows us to first offer ourselves compassion. Through this compassion, we are able to bravely continue our journey and heal.

Diving Into the Wound

So what is in the wound? When we’ve noticed that we’re experiencing a negative emotion and choose to stay in our discomfort what will we find? I know I’ve told you to follow her before but Tara Brach’s U-Turn is the best practice I’ve found to do this investigative work. When you’ve chosen to stay in discomfort and look at your pain (wound) you’ve already done the hard work, I promise. The urge to flee from negative emotions is powerful (thanks reptilian brain) and staying with them takes active work. As you push aside all of the past coping mechanisms that allowed you to ignore the wound you are building a new neural pathway that tells your mind it is safe to explore this pain. Not just safe, necessary. Imagine yourself on Ms. Frizzle’s school bus, armored enough to go in, but curious enough to learn.

As you approach your wound what will you find? What is it that is causing the dysregulation? What needs love, care, and compassion from, well, you? I’m not going to lie to you, what you find might range from, “huh that’s annoying,” to full-blown trauma that has metastasized in your subconscious and therefore body. The wound is your wound and whatever is there are life experiences that you couldn’t, for whatever reason, provide yourself the love and care you needed at that time. That reason could be simple and you merely didn’t have the tools to emotionally take care of yourself say when you were rejected on the playground growing up. It could be complex like my own Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Each wound has a different size, origin, and healing need and yet each wound is equal.

Equal you say? How could feeling left out be equal to let’s say an Aversive Childhood Event? Well, my theory on this is that wounds should not be measured against their importance and instead evaluated to provide the treatment each wound needs. A papercut on your thumb is still going to cause you pain when you squeeze a lemon and so is a car accident. All wounds need treatment, the amount and type are simply different. Our soul needs us to look at each wound for that exact reason; to know what type of care our beautiful souls need.

Delving Into The Roots

In coming to the wound as an observer we are able to disconnect from the thoughts, “I am the sum of my wounds,” and instead shift into the mindset, “my wounds are real and need care.” As we approach our wounds the tricky thing, among other reasons, is that some of our wounds require brave witnessing of how we hurt others. This is the part of the wound that creates shame that when it goes unchecked creates harm to our brothers and sisters. The original wound (as you go deeper in this work) will almost certainly be a wound you experienced yourself that bred suffering. However, when acknowledged that wound will grow into behaviors that either hurt you or others and that shit is difficult to look at. I don’t know if there are other T-Swift fans reading but her song Anti-Hero is my current theme song for this brave work. “It’s me, hi, I’m the monster, it’s me.” We all have monsters, and we all treat ourselves and others in ways that we shouldn’t.

I do however believe that this type of wounded behavior can lessen in our lifetime from an overwhelming existence of disconnection to small hiccups easily repaired with a glass of water; a self-love glass that is. We do not have to stay in a world where we are spiraling and constantly wounding and re-wounding ourselves and others. Trust me, I know firsthand that sometimes this can feel very real as a woman who proudly wears the title of survivor. I have seen and experienced some messed up shit from other people and struggled to care for myself during that time. But what I know to be true is that when I lash out because I’m upset about how other people are treating me, I feel worse, not better.

I don’t want to feel worse; I want to feel free. That freedom only comes from brave witnessing, healing, and offering ourselves a life where wounds do not select our futures for us, we choose them for ourselves.

It’s okay sweetheart, everyone hurts, lean in and offer your beautiful soul compassion. If you’re feeling lost, gently kiss your own shoulder, stroke your own cheek, and breathe baby, breathe.