Battling your addiction(s)… What are you running/hiding from?

“I need a cigarette” complained the man sitting across from me, to his wife. What perplexed me about his request was that he said this amid a series of hacking coughs that seemed to be in sync with the hacking coughs of his wife! Why continue to smoke when it’s clear that it’s causing bodily harm?

The above reflection took place during a recent weekend trip traveling via a regional bus.

During my journey I ran into many other smokers. However, in the midst of me judging their addiction – I had to finally ask the question – aren’t we all addicted to something?

For some it’s cigarettes, others it’s alcohol, shopping, gambling, sex, porn, love, or even exercise. As humans we are constantly seeking for ways to fill ourselves up &/or to avoid facing whatever it is that we are running from in life!

Recently on my Facebook page I posted “No one and no earthly thing can fill me up. What a sobering and healthy thought to have! ‪#‎personalgrowth‬. That post was my public confession that I have finally arrived to an emotional, mental, and spiritual place in life where I no longer have to seek external things to avoid pain, to cope with sadness, to manage worry/stress, to redirect anger, or to chase away loneliness.

The author of the Untethered Soul, would suggest that my refusal to look outward for comfort was my decision “that [I no longer wanted] the weakest part of [me] running my life. He (Michael Singer) cautions that “if you don’t solve the root cause of the problem, but instead, attempt to protect yourself from the problem, it ends up running your life”.

So what will it take for you to finally go to the root of your addiction(s)? I know for me I had to hit rock bottom before I finally decided that I no longer wanted to be ruled by my addiction. Instead I found the courage to face my fears and go to the root of my discontent. I’ll admit that I made that decision while being racked by doubt and fear. But I refused to let that stop me, because I already saw the alternative; so I surmised – what do I have to lose?!

The gospel singer, William McDowell, states: “I’ve been changed, healed, freed, delivered… I’ve found joy, peace, grace, and favor… So, I won’t go back, can’t go back, to the way things used to be…” I share those lyrics hoping that you will ultimately make that same resolution for yourself.

Have the courage to battle your addiction (whatever it is), and give yourself a life where you truly are free! No more running… No more hiding…

Getting over the Depressive Hump

I was feeling a bit down in the dumps… It wasn’t because something tragic had occurred – in fact, my mood was triggered by the opposite. You see – I was waiting. There are a number of things that I have been waiting on… For several years it’s felt as if I’ve been a holding pattern, not making much progress and seeming to remain in the same stagnant position. I have unfilled dreams and wishes that have yet to come to fruition, which causes me to feel grounded. I yearn to fly and being unable to has beat up on my psyche (mind) and taken its toll… this is the position I find myself in.

On many occasions, I have wondered aloud to myself about the cause for my plight and wondered what could be done about it. One morning I ran across a friend’s email that said: when you’re in need you need to “call God out and make your requests known”. This email reminded me of the commonly cited bible verse – ask and it is given (Luke 11:9 and Matthew 7:7).

I also recall a similar concept being shared in the various books on the Law of Attraction. Basically, the premise is – if you want it then you draw it to you by asking for it (not only verbally but on a spiritual/energy level). Seems so simple that if you want something all you have to do is ask… But how many countless times have I suffered in silence? My pride not allowing me to make known what I stood in need of…

Have you ever been in that situation, where you’d rather “do it yourself”, “not be a burden to others”, or “not appear as weak”? I’ve rationalized these types of thoughts many times over. However, I am now starting to wonder if my reluctance to seem in need is truly a result of pride or is it based in something deeper… Could it be that on some level I have the false belief that I don’t deserve the assistance, help, &/care and consideration? I’m not yet sure, but what I do know is the age-old adage that a closed mouth doesn’t get fed! Therefore, I needed to start doing a better job of making my desires known.

So what will be my motivation to get out of this holding pattern? And how can I get out of the dumps?

Three thoughts:

  • I have to become so uncomfortable with not having what I desire that it propels me past fear so that I can go after my dreams
  • I have to remember that everything begins with thought – so if I can conceive of the desire in my mind, it is indeed possible to make that a reality
  • I have to earnestly believe that everything I desire is not only attainable but I deserve it

What’s holding you back? Is it fear? Is it doubt? Is it feelings of unworthiness?

Whatever the stumbling block, may you join me on this quest to overcome every obstacle – with the promise that on the other side of the struggle is happiness, peace, and fulfillment.

What’s Any of It Worth? Battling Depression…

I was going through a difficult time… feeling unsettled and unaccomplished. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact trigger but I knew that I was and had been frustrated for quite some time. It seemed that others had it so easy – their minor complaints appeared trite as I was fighting big issues such as what is my purpose? Why have I struggled so? Where is any of this going?

It appears that I was caught in the midst of an existential storm, that proverbial place psychologists refer to as man’s attempts to understand the cosmos. However, for me this was more than a simple mental activity. I was emotionally fighting for my existence. Desperately wanting the endured struggles, to mean something! Anything!

However, the answer never came and I was left feeling sad, aimless, and borderline hopeless. Not only was I directionless, but I was also starting to loss the battle against that little voice inside which doubts that there is a purpose to any of it.

I fell asleep defeated… when I arose my body was rested, but not my soul. My spirits were still down in the dumps. I went to use the restroom and had the impulse to hear the song Rend by Eddie James. As I listened to first chords of the melody and the beginning lyrics which state: “oh that you would rend the heavens”, it was in that moment that the tears finally came. Not wracking sods but a slow steady stream of release. After that cry, I decided to look up the literal meaning of the word Rend. The dictionary offers these definitions: 1) tearing/splitting apart into pieces, 2) to pull or tear violently, and 3) to distress/disturb the heart. The first two meanings seemed logical – but the third… the third one initially disturbed me…

Why would the distressing or disturbing of my heart be necessary? How could that ever be a good thing – a helpful thing?

However, then I recalled something that I recently read in the Untethered Soul (by Michael Singer). He discusses the idea of purifying your heart. The process of purification occurs when we allow our hearts to remain open and “to live in love [because love] feeds you and strengthens you”.

Once I fully accepted that I was asking God to open and clear my heart, I gave myself permission to feel – even those feelings of sadness and misery; hence the tears falling.

But you know what? I actually felt better once the tears came, because instead of staying locked inside to torment me – the distress came tumbling out, freeing me to later move on with my day… My ability to move forward led me to I stumble upon a quote that I want to share with you:

“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”― Samuel Beckett. This quote brought me solace as I was reminded that there was progress being made even on the days when I questioned if there was any.

As long as I continued to get back up, I was making strides.

Shed your Eeyore: Choose Happiness…

Sometimes I get into a contemplative mood and ponder – how can I attain happiness if I don’t have a template for what happiness looks like? In other words, if success begets success – then wouldn’t it make sense that happiness begets happiness?

Wouldn’t that then make happiness unattainable for those of us who weren’t born with “silver spoons in our mouths” and who have struggled and hit various “bumps on the road of life”? The pessimist in me wants to shout YES! I’m not entitled to happiness, what would give me the audacity to think that I was…

These sad or “woe is me” moments creep in at times, as if to remind me that I should never expect the awesome or impossible to occur for me. When I become overshadowed by the dark clouds of depression, I am reminded of the Eeyore character from Winnie the Pooh. I recall in a Winnie the Pooh episode, Eeyore lamenting “When stuck in the river, it is best to dive and swim to the bank yourself before someone drops a large stone on your chest in an attempt to hoosh you there.” I guess Eeyore figured that instead of waiting around for the inevitable to happen, why not take matters into his own hands…

Similar to Eeyore I too at times will reject the existence of the silver lining, attempting to find the ways to “cut my losses”. When I allow myself to sink into this pit of misery and despair, I must admit that it sometimes feels better to focus on the negative, because the negative is so familiar! On those days, finding happiness seems insurmountable!

However, from amidst a pit of despair, I find encouragement in the idea that it’s never too late and happiness is possible; even for the Eeyore in me!

In the book the Untethered Soul, Michael Singer writes that “everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything“. How is that possible? If it is the external environment that is causing my distress – how could everything be okay? Well… because I’ve come to understand that no matter what is happening on the outside, if we develop peace on the inside – all will be well…

I also find comfort in quotes such as this one by Heath Buckmaster which states: “Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don’t know how to be.” This brought solace to my torment as it reminded me that I don’t need to become anyone else to find my happiness. I just need to be me…

So where does this leave me? Ultimately two messages resonate with me about attaining happiness:

1) Happiness is tangible and possible, when I learn to accept the me – I am in the process of becoming.

2) I have to be steadfast in my refusal to allow my past of pessimism to hinder my happiness in the now.

Happiness is truly a choice, one that we must consciously and proactively seek and protect from within…

You Have What You Need…

The poem Invictus by W. E. Henley is a well-known and often cited work because of its last two lines: I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. 

A central theme of the poem is the notion of choice and self-responsibility over one’s life path. Therefore, this poem was an important piece of the curriculum during my work as a counselor for the Prep for Prep program (https://www.prepforprep.org). Prep is a program created to provide at-risk minority youth with opportunities for acceptance into and completion of studies at various prestigious institutions, of higher education, throughout the country. The curriculum developers understood that in order to “beat the odds”, these students would need to be intellectually and emotionally strong!

Although, it has been several years since I have worked with the Prep for Prep organization, the Invictus poem has never left my memory, particularly the first two lines which read:

Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole. I thank whatever Gods may be for my unconquerable soul. 

An unconquerable soul… an unconquerable soul… that means – no matter the circumstance, no matter the obstacle, no matter the challenge – that soul cannot be defeated.

These first two lines resonate with me because no longer are they merely two abstract sentences from a poem. Instead, they now describe a journey that I can personally identify with… you see I have had to face many difficult and downright overwhelming circumstances. Yet, here I still stand. Unconquerable, not defeated, unstoppable.

In the book, the Untethered Soul, Michael Singer explains that “through the ongoing journey of self-realization, you will develop a tremendous sense of respect for who you really are.” This discovery of self-respect and self-appreciation came as a result of realizing just how capable and strong I could be, in the midst of adversity. I wasn’t strong because I avoided trials and mistakes – instead I was strong because I challenged, faced, and overcame the trials – head on.

However, I will admit there were many days that I thought about quitting, but in each of those moments I found the resolve to keep going because of my renewed faith in the power of God. Psalm 138:3 states that “in the day when I cried thou answerdst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in soul”. In other words, when we cry out for help, God will answer; so cry out I did! And guess what I discovered… not only would God accompany me for the journey – but I was already equipped with EVERYTHING I needed to endure, to survive, to recover, and to thrive. How could I already have all that I would need?

Glenda the Good Witch, from the Wizard of Oz, would explain it this way: “You’ve always had the power, my dear. You’ve had it all along”

Michael Singer, in the Untethered Soul, would explain it this way: “once refocused, you will realize that you not only have the ability to find yourself, you have the ability to free yourself.”

Either way – the answer was still the same… we are each equipped to be strong, we just need to be reminded of it from time to time.

I challenge YOU. Are you up for the challenge?

As an 80’s child I recall being inundated with slogans like RIF: reading is fundamental and Knowledge is Power. I reflect on these phrases now because they remind me about the liberating power of reading.

You may wonder what has me in this contemplative mode about reading…

I sit here, traveling, and working my way through the first few chapters of a book called the Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. Thus far, the book is exploring the notion of “awakening one’s consciousness” to the realization that we are not our thoughts – just as we are not defined by, objects that are outside of ourselves. It is a very interesting point and it definitely serves as confirmation for the process of self-discovery that I decided to begin several years ago.

As I read and took notes in the margins, a thought popped into my head… it was my mother who purchased my copy of the Untethered Soul and it was that same woman who nurtured my initial love for reading. It seems my mother, from the start, was an unconscious or intuitive supporter of my emotional and spiritual growth!

During my preschool years, I recall her reading to me and then listening to me as I read books such as Goose Goofs Off and Little Miss Bossy. These two books tickled me to death, as a young girl, because the characters reflected what I had come to understand about the Donna that I was at that time: a procrastinator, who was DEMANDING. LOL!

However, gone are the days of books about demanding-ness and procrastination. Nowadays my mother is buying me books such as Why You’re Not Married Yet and the Untethered Soul.

Thank goodness my mother’s book selections have expanded – I guess to fit the ‘me’ that I have grown into. Isn’t it interesting how life, and our experience of it, will often be a reflection of what is occurring within! As if life is merely just a mirror image of our inner world. So if you want your external environment to change, I guess you should begin by changing your internal world.

We are often told to work on ourselves, but that work is often the hardest thing we’ll ever have to do! Isn’t it so much easier to complain, or to whine, or even to blame others? It is… but that route only leads to heartache, headache, and misery! We can’t change others and often (most times) we can’t change the things happening around us. So what can we change? Ultimately, the answer returns to the idea that the only thing we are ever in control of is OUR SELF.

I challenge YOU to go within… examine your heart, challenge your mind, change your thoughts, acknowledge your feelings – and watch your reality transform and expand! You may even surprise yourself and find that in the process of changing yourself – everything around you mirrors what you’ve always desired… You could wake up one day and find that you landed yourself in a place called peace and happiness.

Graduation Speech for The Eagles Network Worldwide

Good afternoon Eagles, TEN graduates, and guests

Why Me God? Was the question I wondered aloud when I opened my email to see a message from Eagle Joycelyn requesting that I share my testimony at graduation.

Why Me? When I was waiting on you God to answer other needs – and instead I was being given a new assignment.

Why Me? When I have always been a private person and yet God has consistently and persistently been pushing me to share my personal and turbulent life story

Why Me? When I have not yet accomplished all I desire, and I am still in the midst of many storms

Why Me God?

What makes me worthy to stand before your people?

But God in his infinite wisdom allowed me to query and to ponder and to second-guess for several minutes and then the quiet still voice came –

Why not you Donna?

Matthew 20:16 – “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Why not you Donna?

Matthew 19:26 – “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Why not you Donna?

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

So here I stand a vessel that was once broken, but one that God chose to fill…

I began The Eagles Network (also known as TEN) in 2010, upon the recommendation of my former dance ministry leader, Eagle Danese Turner. I attended one module (which includes a bible study and a technique class), before moving to Orlando Florida. I recall my first and only module – I was quiet and somewhat withdrawn. Too self-conscious to be seen, which is ironic because I have been dancing my whole life and as a licensed psychologist, I had spent years speaking in various professional forums. But when it came to God, I often tried to blend into the background.

I’m not a holy roller or overzealous Christian is how I would rationalize my quiet walk of faith…

But then something changed…

Life has a way of knocking you down and beating you up… So much so that it’s easy to forget who you are and that you are here with a purpose. In the space of 5 years I lost my credit, I lost my savings, I lost my income, I left my home, I left my marriage, and I even lost my hair – TWICE.

During that period of dry bones, when I was surrounded by nothing but death, I even thought about how to take my own life. But in the midst of my confusion, in the midst of that desolation, God came and found me – he dusted me off – he wiped the tears – and he reminded who I was and that I was here for a purpose. He reminded me that he was the same God who was there, in 2005, when I became the first doctor in my family, and he told me to take comfort in the fact that he didn’t intend to forsake me now, in 2011.

However, he being God and me being me… even when I was given the vision – I remained in denial about it.

But because we serve a God of completion, a God who cannot lie… here I stand not only completing this TEN program that I started back in 2010, but in the midst of this process I have learned that not only will I survive my struggles – but those same struggles will be used to speak to, to free, and to comfort another.

So, finally, after years of God trying to get my attention – I decided to heed to his call which has found me currently in the process of getting my memoir (life story) published and I was recently admitted to year I of the Eagles Institute Dance ministry school. Who would have thought? Me an Author? Me a Dance Minister?

This was never in the vision I had for myself, but God’s vision is more infinite and wise.

And that same infinite wisdom and sense of humor has placed me before you today, in 2014, – sharing my story. As if to put an exclamation to the point that no longer will I be able hide in the shadows when it comes to proclaiming the awesomeness of God. For I know there was only one who I turned to on my darkest and loneliest days.

I am grateful to The Eagles Network for reminding me that my testimony – my story is one that is to be shared. There is much that I have learned through this TEN experience, but I want to leave you with three points:

1) If you want to hear from God, learn to get quiet so that you can hear a voice that resonates with peace, clarity, and love

2) If you want God to work a miracle, just challenge him, do your part, and then step back and watch our God work

And lastly

3) Don’t store up your talents – you were given them for a reason, they are to serve a purpose for God’s larger kingdom. Share your gifts! Be a blessing to someone else and watch it in the end be a blessing to you too.

I leave you with this final point. I have shared a little of what God has called me to do. The rest you’ll have to read about in my upcoming book! But… consider this – What is God calling YOU to do?

Thank you.

Use What YOU Got! Life Lessons…

Several years ago, God gave me the vision (idea) that I would author books and further my passion for dance. I didn’t realize it then, but my quest to manifest these visions would take me on a very interesting journey! I wish I could say that it has been easy trying to accomplish these goals, however, it has not been. There have been many days of questioning, self-doubt, and frustration! Yet, despite the many struggles along the way, one message has always remained crystal clear… to not use my God given talents would be a waste! Not only would it be a waste, but it also would mean keeping myself stagnant and not fulfilling my true potential.

This idea that you have to USE WHAT YOU GOT (nope that’s not grammatically correct!), is even reflected in the bible! The passage that discusses this is called the Parable of the Talents.

Recently, I have given some thought to the Parable about the Talents. If you are not already familiar with this spiritual story, let me provide a brief description. The Parable of the Talents describes three servants who were each given weights (money) based upon their abilities. The first servant took his weight and doubled it. Similarly, the second servant took his weight and double it. However, the third servant who was given the least amount of weight, decided to not only hold on to it but he buried it in the ground! I should tell you that the third servant thought he was doing a good thing because he was keeping the weight buried – safe and sound. However, in the end we learn that the first two servants are praised for their sound judgment. The last servant is admonished for his foolish thinking.

So what’s the moral of the story? What can we glean from this well-known parable?

There are a few points that I wanted to share:

  • God gives us what he knows we can handle. So if you want God to increase what you have, do something with it! Don’t hoard in fear of having less. Success requires risk (wise, calculated risk – but a risk nonetheless!) You won’t get to the next level by doing, thinking, and being the same – you have to step out in faith and try something new!
  • Each of us has multiple abilities, skills, and gifts. Our skill-set was given to us with the intention that we’d use it and share it to make this world a better place! If we don’t share those gifts, they go wasted – as if buried in the ground.
  • When it appears that “others” seem to have more than you do, remember that we ‘reap what we sow’. So if you want MORE – you have to DO MORE! Start with what you already have and build from there…
  • Even if we start this game called life in different places (1st place vs. last place), if we use our faith in God, our faith in ourselves, and the resources we have – our potential is LIMITLESS!

Find the Love Balance… A Continual process…

There’s the old adage that relationships take work… but why is that? Does it have anything to do with the fact that we were warned by our mothers, as the Shirelles sang in 1961: Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQlImg2bm28

Maybe… But there has to be another reason…

I recently came across a picture of stick figures working to find the love balance. There they were – putting their little red hearts on the balance beams, until they were finally able to reach the point where each individual was equally invested. That picture illustrated several important relationship points:

1) Achieving balance will require the efforts and investment of BOTH parties

2) Imbalance will be inevitable, until balance is achieved

3) The process of finding balance is evolutionary – it is not a static/fixed point, which means it can and will change.

Although point #1 seemed like a no-brainer to me… I must admit, #2 and #3 did cause me to pause. Let me explain.

Point #2 points out that imbalance is a natural part of achieving balance within a relationship. So why did I find that so unsettling? After reflecting, I realized that I was hoping, in some naive way, that “the right relationship” would mean that I could avoid any and ALL uncomfortable feelings! However, not only is that impossible, I also now realize that way of existing would be limiting.

As Michael Singer explains in the Untethered Soul,

“don’t think you’d be free if you didn’t have [negative] kinds of feelings. If you can be free even though you’re having these kinds of feelings, then you’re really free – because there will always be something”.

So moral of the story, it’s important to get cozy with the idea that there will be imbalance and discomfort in a relationship. That’s okay. If both people are invested, you will work through and get to the place of balance.

Now on to point #3. That one was unsettling because it raised the idea that after putting in the hard work to achieve the balance earned in point #2, there would be moments where the whole process would have to be started all over again! Yikes! Which then leads back to my opening line about relationships requiring work.

Yes… the process of sustaining balance is a continuous one – just as the process of understanding oneself is a never-ending one. We will always need to make the conscious decision to love — love for others, love for ourselves. Each moment, of life, will beg the question of will you take the risk to be aware and learn or will you retreat into old habits and patterns?

Although I initially felt somewhat intimidated by the uncertainty involved in finding and keeping the balance in love, I now find comfort in the fact that I always have the power to choose. It is this ability of choice that leaves me feeling empowered, strengthened, and encouraged to love each and every day. And that I believe is what they call finding the balance…

Choose Consciously… What will you choose?

Relationships are a great way to learn about … your SELF! Does that sound counterintuitive to you? Did you think that I was going to say that you choose relationships to learn about the other person? Well that is actually not the case. We choose relationships to learn more about who we have been and to explore the potential of who we could be! Dr. Margaret Paul discusses this notion throughout her website (www.innerbonding.com). You can also find similar ideas in a book by Cheri Huber called ‘Be The Person You Want To Find’.

Based on this understanding that we engage with others to develop a better relationship with self, I have been reflecting on the course of my past relationships. This increased thinking about my dating patterns was sparked by a recent situation that occurred in my current relationship. I began this interaction feeling very enthusiastic and excited by our future. However, there came a day when we “bumped heads” and momentarily did not see things “eye to eye”. We maintained differing opinions and appeared at a standstill. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, whether that relationship be an intimate one, a friendship, or familial. However, that conflict, our conflict, had me questioning the future of the relationship. I even began wondering was the person I now disagreeing with, the same individual that I was so mesmerized by? It was all quite perplexing… And then… I read the following quote:

“[Your inner voice can pull] you right out of whatever you’re doing, no matter how enjoyable, and suddenly you’re paying attention to whatever it has to say”

This quote, from the book The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, reminded me that when we are conscious (paying attention) we are able to experience the fullness of life. However, when we fail to pay attention, we can slip into old habits, habits that may be destructive and leftover residue from past experiences. Just think about Erykah Badu’s song Bag Lady. Mz. Badu sang “Girl I know sometimes it’s hard. And we can’t let go; Oh when someone hurts you oh so bad inside”. If we don’t learn to put down (i.e., let go) of our (emotional) bags, then we are destined to carry them around – weighing down our present and future hopes, dreams, aspirations!

So how does this relate to my relationship? Well, there I was allowing my old baggage to impact my current interaction. Somewhere in the past, I learned and adopted the mantra that conflict = bad, conflict = destruction. As a result, whenever I even sensed conflict, I would “run for the hills!” However, thanks to all of the emotional and spiritual growth that has been occurring, I no longer have a need to run. I have learned to “relax in the face of melodrama” as Michael Singer would say. Yes, I must admit that I can be quite dramatic! J I have also learned that letting go is a matter of choice. I can choose to “take the risk to let go, rather than go with the [negative] energy” (Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul).

Two take away points for you:

  • Remember we always have a choice! Nowadays I am choosing happiness. What will you choose? What will you focus upon?
  • Even when you make a mistake (and mistakes will happen), by slipping into old patterns, at ANY moment you can choose a new path and start anew.