Who Are You?

 

You have a body. But you are not your body.

You have thoughts. But you are not your thoughts.

You have emotions. But you are not your emotions.

You have a family. But you are not your family.

You have friends. But you are not your friends.

You  have a job. But you are not your job.

You have a bank account. But you are not your bank account.

SO WHO IS THE AUTHENTIC YOU ?

For some of you, it will take years, maybe even a lifetime to unearth and discover the real you.   But don’t give up. This is your most ardent mission; your most sacred task.  Do not consult your external Self, your body, do not heed wisdom from your thoughts and beliefs, do not always trust your emotions for they can be in flux and in turmoil, do not look to your family or friends, do not judge your authentic Self by what you do, or how much money you make.  Your Authentic Self is not found in the stars or the deep sea.  It is found within–inside; that place that is only yours, that place called your SOUL.  What should we do once we find this place?

Love it. Accept it. Enmesh yourself in it’s glory. Celebrate it and let the JOY bubble to the surface and touch everyone around you.  Your SOUL is alive, on fire burning with possibility and potential.  It wants to play! It wants to learn! It wants to love! From the very beginning, it has always been about the journey, not the destination.  All experiences including the pain is worthwhile. It was all necessary—ingredients that made you YOU!  So wherever you are is fine.  Pick yourself up–and trust your inner guidance system. Go to your SOUL.

Two thousand years ago, Socrates declared to his students that the unexamined life is not worth living.  Plato brought Socratic wisdom to the world in his writings. What this old master was trying to teach his students is that if we don’t meet, know, and love our Authentic Self, our SOUL deteriorates. Life will have been a waste.  Another master, St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo from 396 to 430, one of the Latin Fathers of the Church and perhaps the most significant Christian thinker after St. Paul said it this way: “Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever; and take care of your soul as if you were going to die tomorrow.” 

Why Men Need Therapy

I run men’s Intensive therapy weekends because I have met far too many men at my Couples Retreats who are brilliant but who just don’t have the necessary emotional intelligence to succeed at relationships.  Men’s brains are hard wired for action, not emotion.  Add to this the stigma of male vulnerability, and you have a lot of  men repressing their feelings, or worse, medicating themselves for depression or anxiety.  In order to cope with stress and with life’s messy problems, (aka “marriage”), men need to become more aware of their emotions and communicate them to their partners.  If you or a man you love answers “yes” to 3 or more of these questions, you/he would benefit greatly from my Wise Warrior Weekend.

  • Are you emotionally blocked making it difficult to have rewarding relationships?
  • Do you have difficulty sharing your feelings even with your spouse?
  • Are you quick to anger and frustration?
  • Have you suffered stress or burn-out in the past two years?
  • Do you suffer from depression, anxiety or mood disorders?
  • Are you suffering from a bad divorce or marriage break-down?
  • Have you been betrayed or cheated on?
  • Are you grieving a death or loss?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping?
  • Do you have a negative relationship with your parents and/or siblings?
  • Do you feel isolated, alone and disconnected from people?
  • Are you unhappy about your work and feel you need a career change?
  • Did you suffer abandonment as a child?
  • Were you raised by alcoholics or parents with other addictions?
  • Are you suffering with shame or guilt?

Benefits of a Women’s Retreat

Women’s Inner Faultline

A lot of women at first glance seem to cope well with the demands of life. They’ve learned to juggle their many roles and responsibilities but what people don’t see is the fault line on the inside that puts pressure on everything else. This faultline may be an abusive past (or present), grief over a death or broken relationship, burnout, loneliness or spiritual emptiness. Today’s modern woman is constantly under pressure to do it all, be it all, and make everyone happy.

Women Brains EXPAND

Add to this the fact that she is biologically programmed and psychologically wired to “expand” her awareness to take care of others, to worry, to juggle, to give and give. This expansion translates to overwhelm and exhaustion. She may be a multi-tasking genius, but at the end of the day she often feels alone and empty. When she doesn’t stop to fill up her own cup, she can get angry and lash out at the very people she loves the most. Then she punishes herself with guilt and remorse. This negative cycle can be repeated for years wreaking havoc on her health and happiness.

Time away in nature where she can focus on herself is not only necessary, it is critical for a woman’s emotional and mental health. A woman’s retreat can heal a heavy heart and re-focus her priorities. In many cases, it can lift the fog and get her excited about her future. Women need other women and sharing their stories together at a retreat can sometimes be all she needs to grow into a more confident and happy version of herself.

Not All Retreats are as Personally Transforming

Mind you, not all women’s retreats are the same. Some are merely escapes, time to shop, eat, drink and party. This is fine if this is what you’re looking for, but if you’re interested in something more transformational, holistic and educational, then I invite you to check out my Take the Step Intensive for women.

BENEFITS of Attending My Women’s Intensive: Who It is Designed For

• If you have unresolved issues with CORE people
• If you are “leaking” anger and irritation on those you love
• If you have experienced divorce or other painful endings
• If you’re feeling alone, anxious or depressed
• If you need clarity about your marriage or career
• If you have experienced any kind of trauma as a child or as an adult
• If you have experienced emotional injuries like infidelity and betrayal
• If you want to heal a heavy heart from guilt, shame and fear
• If you want to forgive yourself for past mistakes
• If you want more passion, vitality and purpose in your life
• If you want a deeper spiritual connection

Why You Should Take Time Out for Renewal and Personal Growth

Stephen Covey’s best habit in his international bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was Sharpen the Saw. You can’t cut wood with a dull saw. You can’t be the amazing wife, mother, leader, person you were meant to be without taking time out for you to learn, regroup and reset. Investing in your personal growth will not only transform you into a happier, healthier and wiser person, but it will inspire other women (including your daughters) to do the same. When we fill up our cup, we become kinder and more loving versions of ourselves.  We can embrace all of life’s lessons with an open heart and courageous Spirit.

 

The Sacred Marriage: Vulnerability & Courage in Modern Times

The following is the Introduction to my new book, The Sacred Marriage: Vulnerability & Courage in Modern Times

Be drunk with Love, for Love is all that exists.  —-Rumi

What is a Sacred Marriage? 

It is a deep, loving romantic connection of honour and reverence. It is a mindful appreciation of the brilliance, beauty and perfection of our partner.  It is sacred in the sense that there’s a consistent feeling of gratitude for the gift of their friendship.  Partners in a sacred marriage do not run away from difficulties—they courageously battle the occasional dark nights of the soul with dignity and grace. Both partners take responsibility for their happiness, both want to grow, and both want to rise up and create a higher vibrational union of mind, heart and soul.

A sacred marriage is not perfect but it can endure the tumultuous ebb and flow of modern life.   It can even transform the ordeal of raising kids, job loss, illness and death of loved ones.  All good marriages are resilient. On the outside, they appear to bounce back from setbacks and adversity, they can raise a family and be great contributors in their communities. But not all resilient marriages share a sacred bond. There is something altogether different about a sacred connection. It is a Soul connection—and we mammals are looking, seeking, craving this emotional nourishment.  Some have it and some don’t and one of the reasons many don’t is because they don’t have the necessary self- awareness skills to be emotionally honest with their feelings.

Communication is the Glue–But not all Communication Fills Your Cup:

Most experts say that communication is the glue to all good marriages.  But is it? It’s not just any communication. You need to know what to share and how to share it.  You need a certain amount of self- awareness. When was the last time you were really present and shared your innermost fears, worries, desires, hopes and dreams with your significant other?

This type of communication couldn’t be further from practical reality for most couples who work outside the home and are raising children.  And herein lies the problem. Couples communicate the logistics of every-day life, the who, what, where and why of what needs to be done, but they fail at communicating their innermost thoughts and feelings—their authentic spiritual Self.

We “Die” at 40 and We`re Buried at 80:

One reason is that we are emotionally and spiritually empty. We don’t know who we are. We don’t have the self-awareness and mindfulness skills.  Even if we did, as a society we don’t make it a habit of opening up on a regular basis. We do in the beginning when love is fresh, but as routine sets in, we feel we know everything we need to know about our partners, so we lose the ability to practice true intimacy.  Besides, there is no time and there’s always so much to do. We are so burdened with the demands of daily life that there comes a time that a part of us just checks out.   “Most die at 40,” says best-selling author Og Mandino. “And then they’re buried at 80”.

As I write this, I am at a yoga ashram in the Bahamas—people from around the world come to practise classical yoga here but also to meditate, take courses, and deepen their self-awareness and the art of detachment.

There are many karma-yogis who live here 4-8 months at a time.  Some are single and some are divorced. Some left corporate jobs and traditional living. Some battled illness and found their way here. When life doesn’t work, you either give up and keep taking the drugs or you seek.  The people here are seekers.  They want something more; they want a spiritual way of relating to the world and each other. They are on the self-awareness path.  And it shows. When the Swamis smile, they radiate peaceful presence and love.

Modern Life Chews Us Up & Spits Us Out:

Modern life chews us up and spits us out and it does the same to our marriages. Relationships suffer under the pressure of two people working and raising children, balancing work and home life and juggling our many responsibilities. There is no time to dig for our authentic Self. We’re too busy doing, accomplishing, reacting to the day’s events.  But alas, without the peace that comes from a deep knowing and loving of Self, we cannot connect with the Self of another in a profound and lasting way.

Most of Us are Not Emotionally Fit for Relationships:

The second reason we don’t communicate the “right stuff” is because most people are not emotionally intelligent.   Their emotional muscles are extremely weak.  They are emotionally ignorant, numb, or broken.  Childhood wounds and the valleys of life can sometimes bruise us so bad, that we shut down and lock up the feeling Self in a tomb hoping that what is out of sight will also be out of mind.  For men, feelings represent weakness and to be a real man in our culture, there will be none of that.  Some men at my marriage retreats are actually shocked that they even have feelings. They didn’t know.

This systemic shut down of emotion is the primary cause of marriage breakdowns.  Emotions are energy in motion. When we stop the emotional river from flowing, we build dams, and create dead pools of water.  These pools or ponds are lifeless and stale and they represent our feelings. There is no Spirit, no life force—we are in survival mode. We flatline. We fall asleep to the beauty that is life and start taking our relationships for granted.

WAIT! You may be thinking, “we connected at the heart level when we first met”.  We were best friends– intimate and close as two people could ever be.  That energy, that feeling is what made us tie the knot—our expectation was that for better or for worse and despite the hailstorms of life, we would always feel this way about each other.”   WRONG.    Good marriages, like good gardens, need consistent nurturing.

Over 2500 Couples Have Attended my Couples Retreat:

For over ten years, I’ve been leading my Relationship Renewal Retreat, an intense marriage retreat focused on emotional healing, energetic repair and creating resilience.  I created it after years of requests from my female clients who had graduated from my women’s intensive and wanted something equally transformational for their relationship.  Right about the same time, university researchers were telling us that “talk therapy” or traditional behavioral therapy especially for couples did not work and that an emotions-based approach was the ticket to creating lasting change.

Since creating the pilot in 2006, over 2500 couples have taken my program.  And couples keep coming, some sent by therapists, family and friends, others by google. They arrive broken and blocked, hoping for a miracle.  The transformation  that occurs during the retreat is  nothing short of miraculous. I knew I was onto something after just a few retreats.   I was discovering first hand and through personal experience what university researchers had discovered in the lab–that emotions-based therapy was the solution for helping couples in crisis.

Amazing Results at My Couples Retreats:

99% of the couples who complete my weekend retreat tell me my program was “life changing” and “exceeded their expectations”.  Approximately 80% of the couples in crisis completely heal.  Some of the testimonials I have received are so over-the-top amazing that often people will doubt their validity. It’s only after they complete the program themselves that they confess their doubt and apologize.  Some couples who have been going to therapists for years can’t quite understand how we are able to cover so much ground in one weekend.

Being trusted with very personal stories from strangers is one thing but watching them transform their relationship right before my eyes is one of my life’s greatest honours. The couples come from as far away as the Caribbean, Alaska, Northern British Columbia, Florida and the Maritime provinces and everywhere in between. People report feeling different afterwards—awakened, grateful and more loving towards their partner. I remember one gentleman in particular who was so skeptical, he was convinced that I had put some happy pills in the water! When you unblock the emotional river in humans, they can realize their highest Self and engage in magnificent and nurturing relationships.

In this book, I will share with you what I know about emotions, romantic love and bringing the sacred into everyday communication. I will also share what I’ve learned not only from the courageous men and women I’ve been privileged to meet, but also from my 35 year marriage to my best friend, Santo.

Relationships are an Ordeal:

Finally, if this book found you because you’re in crisis or at a crossroads in your relationship, I want to say this: When our love runs deep, life can get messy and unpredictable. But that’s okay—what if I told you that relationships are an ordeal and that the “mess” was part of it? What if I told you that your pain is necessary for the growth of your soul?

We humans seek spiritual communion, the kind that can only be found in romantic love.  Our unions can touch the center of our joy but also the core of our sorrow. Divorce or separation is sometimes necessary—but often it is an escape from feeling the valley of the heart.   If you have the courage to stand in the fire with your partner, to look in the mirror and honour all of your feelings and not run away, not deny, and not medicate, then you have the wondrous possibility of overcoming the past and transforming your present.

May this book bring you hope and direction.

(The picture in this blog is of me and my husband on our 30th wedding anniversary)

7 Tips to Nurture Your Intuition

bridge 4 Thank you to all who attended my Goddess Club workshop this week. What a wonderful turnout and so much amazing ENERGY!! Everyone loved the topic of Intuition!  For years, I have had requests for my notes, or a synopsis of what was discussed at these monthly workshops by people who couldn’t attend. While I can’t do the interactive exercises with you here and you certainly can’t benefit from the personal touch of meeting new people, I can, however, share with you a portion of what was discussed in the hopes that it brings value to your life.

Intuition is called the “6th sense”- but did you know that intuition is your ability to plug into your Source and connect to the Spiritual Grid where the answers you seek are at your fingertips? How often have you felt alone, confused or disconnected only to ignore that spiritual tug or emotional knot in your stomach? Everyone has intuition and like any skill, you can make it stronger! Intuition is the Master Key that unlocks spiritual wisdom and creates new possibilities in your life. Here are a few tips for you:

  1. Spend time in nature. Green spaces enhance your connection to the Spiritual Grid. Research shows that problem solving abilities were doubled after spending time in nature or staring at trees in a forest!
  2. Think of a question or problem and then open up one of your favourite books at random. Notice where your eyes go. Sometimes, it’s a sentence, or a paragraph that will inspire us, and most times, all we need is one word, or phrase that hits the right chord and gives us a somatic message via goosebumps!
  3. Pay Attention to the Goosebumps or the Spiritual Chills: When you’re connected to something bigger, i.e. the Spiritual Grid, most people get confirmation in the form of physical sensations. Your intuition is working! Pay attention to these moments because they happen all the time!
  4. Meditate. The more you connect with your higher energies, the stronger your connection to your intuition. There are many types of meditation these days. Don’t make it too complicated. Shutting your eyes for 10 minutes and taking a few deep breaths is all you need to start! Make it easy.
  5. Escape the Daily Routine. Do something out of the box, something you wouldn’t do. This change in your cells will signal new energy at the soul level where lives your intuition.
  6. Guess Who? When your phone rings, or you get a new text, pause and try to guess who it might be. See if you can pick up the vibes in the energetic field.
  7. Act on it! We get intuitive flashes all the time, feelings, hunches and thoughts, but we rarely act on them. For example: Next time someone you know flashes in your mind, reach out to them right then and there! Next time you get a hunch to turn right or left while driving, do it. Next time, you decide to change your mind at the last minute and be spontaneous, follow through. Our soul is communicating to us all the time, but we’re often too busy to listen. Pay attention. Be aware to your inner world, and you’ll see that this connection and intuitive ability will not only grow, but will amaze you and bring more meaning to your life.

 

Let Your Emotions Flow Like a River

Flowing 11 flowing 111There are many therapies out there — different approaches aimed at helping people become more effective and less fearful. What I’ve learned is that good psychological health comes down to emotional energy and whether this energy inside you is positive and moving or negative and stuck. I like the metaphor of the river with flowing clean water vs. the murky pond or swamp filled with rocks, debris and sludge. The point is not to avoid the difficult emotions but to find a way of expressing them and moving them out of your heart, brain, body and spirit.  This is essentially what I do at my retreats — help people empty their ponds of dark emotions such as anger, rage, shame, guilt, anxiety, insecurity, etc. At a rational level, we understand that bad stuff happens. People die or fail us in other ways. But emotionally we may not come to terms with some of life’s betrayals and injustices. These wounds accumulate in the pond wreaking havoc on our health and our relationships. Not only that, this dark energy chokes our creativity and our life force making us feel victimized by life rather than empowered.

If you feel “stuck” in your life, it could be because you’re stuck emotionally.  If you’re overwhelmed with anger or sadness, it could be because your swamp is too full of hurts. It’s time to let it flow out of you. Men are typically more emotionally constipated than women. It’s not their fault — we socialize men this way. We tell them that “feelings” are not masculine. Some of us figure out that it’s our emotions that are not working but what do we do? We pop pills. Drugs are temporary solutions and eventually they can even turn against us.  This is why anti-depressants come with warning labels.  Others seek counselling or coaching. It does help but sadly it takes a long time to empty the swamp just by talking about it. Some “old” wounds like shame, for example, are very stubborn.  You need a magical pump that forces shame and other toxic emotions to the surface in a loving way and then helps it flows out of you like a river.  You’ve got to feel it, to heal it to let it flow.  I have created an emotional healing process which I practice with couples but also at my intensive retreats for women and men.  I have witnessed first hand the transformation that can occur in people when they express and release the emotional debris in their ponds.

You might be thinking if these emotions are old and repressed, why bother them? Just leave them alone.  Let sleeping dogs lie. Researchers report the harm toxic emotions like anger, shame and anxiety do to our health.  Not only that, but these emotions hijack our rational mind and our behaviour.  They ruin relationships because the dark emotions in the swamp cause us to feel “triggered” by what people say and do.  And sadly, the people we love the most, we end up pushing away because of our negative emotional reactions to them.   For example:  Let’s say you had a controlling mother who made all your decisions. She was loud and abrasive and domineering.  Whenever anyone tries to tell you what to do, this memory gets activated and you react negatively.  I believe that “hell” is being triggered by everyone all the time.  “Heaven” is taking nothing personally. Other than a Buddhist monk, who can do this? The answer is that anyone can learn to do this, just as the Buddhists do with their intensive practice.

The key is to make sure your emotions are flowing like a river. Ask yourself: Who pushes my buttons and why? What angers me? What shuts me down? We spend millions of dollars acquiring knowledge for the mind, yet we resent it when we have to spend money for our emotional well-being. If your heart is stuck in the black swamp, weighed down by forgotten hurts and betrayals, it can’t feel love, joy, or passion.  We are mammals. We need to attach to people but with a heavy heart, our attachments are fraught with problems and unnecessary triggers.  And so we lead lives of quiet desperation—hoping for that moment of inspiration, the smile from a stranger, the hug from a child that lifts our heart, albeit only temporarily, to higher ground.

Rainer Maria Rilke said that our greatest work — that which all other work was but preparation — is to love.  But I believe there is something more foundational for modern men and women — our greatest work is to empty that swamp of hardened and toxic feelings until it flows clean and pure like a river into the sea of love.   Helping people with this has been my life’s purpose and passion.

“Cry if you need to, it’s  good to cry out all your tears, because only then you will be able to smile again…”  
―Paul Coelho, Like the Flowing River

   flow1     

Redemption: Wipe the Slate Clean

Heart in skyMy friend’s 90 year old father, Charlie is on his death bed.  He was a hard man in his younger days, bossy and aggressive, and my friend hated the way he treated her mother who died ten years earlier.  Still she confesses, “I massage him several times a day. I shave him, feed him…I am giving him everything I’ve got.”  She has taken some of his favourite plaid shirts and turned them into bags that she can take to the grocery store after he passes.

Another friend called me yesterday to tell me that her husband, Bill has stage 4 lung cancer.  It has been devastating news for her and her 20 year old daughter.  “He doesn’t want any fuss made, no flowers or visits”, she says. “He’s stoic about it all. He’s accepted his fate.” “Yes”, I reply, “but have you?” “I don’t know Grace”, she sobs. She explains that she doesn’t know whether to fight the cancer and research alternatives to save him or whether to let go and enjoy whatever time he has left with her.

People are dying.  Time is up.   What is life anyway, I find myself thinking.  A classroom.  We need to learn as much as we can while we’re here. About Love. About Relationships. About Forgiveness. Sue has been estranged from her mother for over twenty years. After working on her childhood issues with me, she is finally ready to open the door to her mother.  That’s progress. That’s the classroom of life–learning to forgive; restoring love and goodwill; letting go of fear; and silencing the Ego.

Redemption.  This is the word I want to offer you in 2014. This is what our world needs right now. Redemption—an opportunity to heal, make holy an ancient hatred.

“I really wish that my mother would appear to him in a dream,” my friend writes me in an email. “He is not certain of her love and forgiveness. Hell, I’m not certain she has forgiven him!”  Your mom will be there to greet Charlie”, I write back. “There was love between them once—that memory doesn’t fade even after death, even with all the hurt.  Love is the most powerful force in the Universe.  At the spiritual level all is forgiven. It is only Love that remains. Your mother will be there to greet her Charlie with open arms.

According to the dictionary Redemption is “an opportunity to repair and restore; to free from captivity; to release from blame or debt.” All of us carry hurts. And then we put those who hurt us in jail.  Release them. It’s time. It’s a new year. Wipe the slate clean in 2014.

 

Grace Cirocco
179 King Street
St. Catharines, ON
L2R 3J5 Canada
Telephone: (905) 688-0868
Fax: (905) 688-2788
grace@gracecirocco.com