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What Anesthesia Reveals To Us About Human Consciousness: Does It Have Long-Lasting Irreversible Effects?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Anesthesia is commonly used to put people to "sleep." This article is an interesting examination of why we do it, going deep into awareness, consciousness and fear.

  • Reflect On:

    Can awareness continually exists without interruption regardless of the fact that we are not always able to access our experiences, or remember them when given Anesthetic? What is awareness? Can we really be 'awake' when we are acting out of fear?

When patients ask anesthesiologists what we charge for putting them to sleep, we often say we do it for free. We only bill them for the waking up part.

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This isn’t just a way of deflecting a question, it also serves as a gentle reminder to both parties regarding the importance of “coming to.” If we couldn’t regain consciousness, what would be the point in having the surgery in the first place? Nobody wants to experience pain and fear if it can be avoided. If the only way to avoid the pain of an operation is to temporarily be rendered unconscious, most people will readily and willingly consent to that, as long as we can return to our natural state of being alert and interactive with the world around us. We are awake and aware and that–rather than any particular conception of health–is our most precious gift.

How does Anesthesia work ?

From an Anesthesiologist’s point of view, we really shouldn’t charge for putting someone to sleep. It’s too easy. With today’s medications, putting someone to sleep, or in more correct terms, inducing general anesthesia, is straightforward. Two hundred milligrams of this and fifty milligrams of that and voilà: you have a completely unconscious patient who is incapable of even breathing independently. The medications we administer at induction are similar to the lethal injections executioners use. Unlike executioners, we then intervene to reestablish their breathing and compensate for any large changes in blood pressure and the patient thereby survives until consciousness miraculously returns sometime later.

In addition, those in my field have to contend with the reality that we really don’t know what we are doing. More precisely, we have very little if any understanding of how anesthetic gases render a person unconscious. After 17 years of practicing Anesthesiology, I still find the whole process nothing short of pure magic. You see, the exact mechanism of how these agents work is, at present, unknown. Once you understand how a trick works, the magic disappears. With regard to inhaled anesthetic agents, magic abounds. 

Take ether, for example. In 1846 a dentist named William T.G. Morton used ether to allow Dr. Henry J. Bigelow to partially remove a tumor from the neck of a 24-year-old patient safely with no outward signs of pain. The surgery took place at Massachusetts General Hospital in front of dozens of physicians. When the patient regained consciousness with no recollection of the event it is said that many of the surgeons in attendance, their careers spent hardening themselves to the agonizing screams of their patients while operating without modern anesthesia, wept openly after witnessing this feat. At the time, no one knew how ether worked. We still don’t. Over the last 173 years, dozens of different anesthetic gases have been developed and they all have three basic things in common: they are inhaled, they are all very, very tiny molecules by biological standards, and we don’t know how any of them work.

Why we still don’t know…

If you have never closely considered how our bodies do what they do (move, breathe, grow, pee, reproduce, etc.), the answers may be astounding. It is obvious that the energy required to power biological systems comes from food and air. But how do they use them to do everything? How does it all get coordinated?

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These are the fundamental questions that have been asked for millennia, by ancient shamans and modern pharmaceutical companies alike. It turns out that the answers are different depending on what sort of perspective and tools we begin with. In the West, our predecessors in medicine were anatomists. Armed with scalpels, the human form was first subdivided into organ systems. Our knives and eyes improved with the development of microtomes and microscopes giving rise to the field of Histology (the study of tissue). Our path of relentless deconstruction eventually gave rise to Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. This is where Western medicine stands today. We define “understanding” as a complete description of how the very molecules that comprise our bodies interact with one another. This method and model has served us well. We have designed powerful antibiotics, identified neurotransmitters, and mapped our own genome. Why then have we not been able to figure out how a gas like ether works? The answer is two-fold.

First, although we have been able to demonstrate some of the biological processes and structures that are altered by an inhaled anesthetic gas, we cannot pinpoint which ones are responsible for altering levels of awareness because inhaled anesthetic agents affect so many seemingly unrelated things at the same time. It is impossible to identify which are directly related to the “awake” state. It is also entirely possible that all of them are, and if that were the case consciousness would be the single most complex function attributed to a living organism by a very large margin.

The second difficulty we have is even more unwieldy and requires some contemplation. As explained above, western medicine has not been able to isolate which molecular interaction is responsible for anesthetics’ effect on our awareness. It is therefore reasonable to approach the puzzle from the opposite side and ask instead, “Where is the source of our awareness in our bodies?” and go from there.

We do know that certain neurological pathways in the brain are active in awake patients, but if we attribute consciousness to those pathways then we are necessarily identifying them as the “things” that are awake. To find the source of their “awakeness” we must then examine them more closely. With the tools we have and the paradigm we have chosen we will inevitably find more molecules interacting with other molecules. When you go looking for molecules that is all you will find. Our paradigm has dictated what the answer would be like if we ever found one. Does it seem plausible to think we will find an “awareness molecule” and attribute our vivid, multisensorial experience to the presence of it? If such a molecule existed, how would our deconstructive approach ever explain why that molecule was the source of our awareness?  Can consciousness ever be represented materially?

A more sensible model would be to consider the activity of these structures in the brains of conscious individuals as evidence of consciousness, not the cause of it.  To me it is apparent that, unless we expand our search beyond the material plane, we are not going to find consciousness or be able to understand how anesthetic gases work. Until then I know I am nothing more than a wand-waver in the operating room. And that is being generous. The magician is the anesthetic gas itself, which has, up to this point, never let us in on the secret.

What happens when someone goes “under”?

The mechanistic nature of our model is well suited to most biological processes. However, with regard to consciousness, the model not only lends little understanding of what is happening, it also gives rise to a paradigm that is widely and tightly held, but in actuality cannot be applied to the full breadth of human experience. We commonly believe that a properly functioning physical body is required for us to be aware. Although this may seem initially incontrovertible, upon closer examination it becomes quite clear that this belief is actually an assumption that has massive implications. To be more precise, how do we know that consciousness does not continue uninterrupted and only animate our physical bodies intermittently rather than the other way around, where the body intermittently gives rise to the awake state? At first, this hypothesis may seem absurd, irrelevant and unprovable. I assure you that if you spent a day in an operating room, this idea is not only possible, it is far more likely to be true than the converse.

Let us first consider how we measure anesthetic depth in the operating room. We continually measure the amount of agent that is circulating in a patient’s system, but as described earlier, there is no measurable “conscious” molecule that can be found. We must assess the behavior of our patients to make that determination. Do they reply to verbal commands? Do they require a tap on the shoulder or a painful stimulus to respond? Do they respond verbally or do they merely shudder or fling an arm into the air? Perhaps they do not even move when the very fibers of their body are literally being dissected.

There are many situations when a person will interact normally for a period of time while under the influence of a sedative with amnestic properties, and then have absolutely no recollection of that period of time. As far as they know, that period of time never existed. They had no idea that they were lying on an operating room table for 45 minutes talking about their recent vacation while their surgeon performed a minor procedure on their wrist, for example. Sometime later, they found themselves in the recovery room when, to their profound disbelief, they noticed a neatly placed surgical dressing on their hand. More than once I have been told that a patient had asked that the dressing be removed so that they could see the stitches with their own eyes.

How should we characterize their level of consciousness during the operation? By our own standards they were completely awake. However, because they have no memory of being awake during the experience, they would recount it more or less the same way a patient who was rendered completely unresponsive would. This phenomenon is common and easily reproducible. Moreover, it invites us to consider the possibility that awareness continually exists without interruption, but we are not always able to access our experiences retrospectively

During some procedures where a surgeon is operating very close to the spinal cord, we often infuse a combination of anesthetic drugs that render the patient unconscious but allow all of the neural pathways between the brain and the body to continue to function normally so that they can be monitored for their integrity. In other words, the physiology required to feel or move remains intact, yet the patient apparently has no experience of any stimuli, surgical or otherwise during the operation. How are we to reconcile the fact that we have a patient with a functioning body and no ability to experience it? Who exactly is the patient in this situation?

What can Near Death Experiences (NDEs) tell us?

If we broadened our examination of the human experience to consider more extreme situations, another wrinkle appears in the paradigm. There are numerous accounts of people who have experienced periods of awareness whilst their bodies have been rendered insentient by anesthetics and/or severe trauma. Near Death Experiences (NDEs) are all characterized by lucid awareness that remains continuous during a period of time while outside observers assume the person is unconscious or dead. Very often patients who have experienced an NDE in the operating room can accurately recount what was said and done by people attending to them during their period of lifelessness. They are also able to describe the event from the perspective as an observer to their own body, often viewing it from above.

Interestingly, people describe their NDEs in a universally positive way. “Survival” was an option that they were free to choose. Death of their body could be clearly seen as a transcending event in their continuing awareness and not as the termination of their existence. Very often the rest of their lives are profoundly transformed by the experience. No longer living with the fear of mortality, life subsequently opens up into a more vibrant and meaningful experience that can be cherished far more deeply than was possible prior to their brush with death. Those who have had an NDE would have no problem adopting the idea that their awareness exists independently of their body, functioning or not. Fear and anxiety would still probably arise in their life from time to time, but it is the rest of us who carry the seemingly inescapable load of a belief system that ties our existence to a body that will perish.

What happens when we wake up from Anesthesia?

The waking up part is no less magical. When the anesthetic gas is eliminated from the body, consciousness returns on its own. Waking someone up simply requires enough space and time for it to occur spontaneously. There is no reversal agent available to speed the return of consciousness. I can only wait. In fact, the waiting period is directly related to the amount of time the patient has been exposed to the anesthetic. At some point the patient will open their eyes when a threshold has been crossed. Depending on how long the patient has been “asleep,” complete elimination of the agent from the body may not happen until a long while after the patient has “woke.” 

By the time I leave a patient in the care of our recovery room nurses, I am confident that they are safely on a path to their baseline state of awareness. Getting back to a normal state of awareness may take hours or even days. In some cases, patients may never get their wits back completely. Neurocognitive testing has demonstrated that repeated exposure to general anesthesia can sometimes have long-lasting or even irreversible effects on the awake state. It may occur for everyone. Perhaps it is a matter of how closely we look.

Interestingly, it is well known that the longterm effects of anesthetic exposure are more profound in individuals who have already demonstrated elements of cognitive decline in their daily life. Indeed, this population of patients requires significantly less anesthetic to reach the same depth of unconsciousness during an operation. This poses an intriguing question: Is our understanding of being awake also too simplistic? Is there a continuum of “awakeness” in everyday life just as there is one of unconsciousness when anesthetized? If so, how would we measure it?

Does our limited understanding of awareness keep us “asleep”?

Modern psychiatry has been rigorous in defining and categorizing dysfunction. Although there has been recent interest in pushing our understanding of what may be interpreted as a “super-functioning” psyche, western systems are still in their infancy with regard to this idea. In eastern schools of thought, however, this concept has been central for centuries.

In some schools of Eastern philosophy, the idea of attaining a super-functioning awake state is seen as something that also occurs spontaneously when intention and practice are oriented correctly. Ancient yogic teachings specifically describe super abilities, or Siddhis, that are attained through dedicated practice. These Siddhis include fantastical abilities like levitation, telekinesis, dematerialization, remote-viewing and others. The most advanced abilities, interestingly, are those that allow an individual to remain continuously in a state of joy and fearlessness. If such a state were attainable it would clearly be incompatible with the kind of absolute psychological identification most of us have with our mortal bodies. It may be of no surprise that Eastern medicine also subscribes to an entirely different perspective of the body and uses different tools to examine it.

Certainly fear has served our ancestors well, helping us to avoid snakes and lions, but how much fear is necessary these days? Could fear be the barrier that separates us from our highest potential in the awake state just as an anesthetic gas prevents us from waking in the operating room? It is not possible to remain fearless while continuing to identify with a body that is prone to disease and death. Even if one were to drop the assumption that the source of our existence is a finite body, how long would it take to be free from the effects of a lifetime of fearful thinking before any changes that reflect a shift in this paradigm manifest? As long as we leave this model unchallenged we may be missing what it means to be truly awake.

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Full Moon In Gemini: Learning, Healing, & Inspired Action

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We are having a Full Moon in Gemini on December 11th-12th, depending on your location. This is the peak of the Lunar cycle that began with a New Moon in Sagittarius on November 26th. The energies of the Full Moon are strongest in the days surrounding it yet its astrological configurations still play a part over the following two weeks. You may also start to see its themes build up following the New Moon prior to it.

Interestingly this Full Moon occurs on 12/12 for most of the world and at 12:12am in the EST time zone. The year 2019 adds to 12 as well (2+0+1+9= 12). This can be interpreted in different ways, however, the thing that I would like to point out is that 12 is associated with completion and astrologically with Pisces which is the final and 12th sign.

This is not only the last Full Moon (and complete lunar cycle) of the year but the last one of the decade. In the Universal time zone it will be occurring at 5:12am, with the number being associated with change. This Full Moon will be followed by eclipses that are ushering in the new decade which also fits with this 5-12 energy.

Full Moon’s are a period in which we feel a push-pull between two opposing signs, in this case being the Moon in Gemini and Sun in Sagittarius. It can play out as either a conflict, integration, or some sort of dynamic playing out between the energies of both signs.

We can feel this opposition happening individually within us and/or we can also experience it play out around us with some people (or circumstances) expressing the Sagittarius side and others expressing the Gemini side. In some cases, Full Moon’s can also reflect/trigger some sort of change which may apply more in this case when considering some of the other factors mentioned in this article.

Gemini is a Mercury ruled Air sign with a strong mental orientation. It is communicative, articulate, informative, social, inquisitive, clever, multifaceted, versatile, witty, agile, and dualistic. This sign is also associated with the immediate environment, the neighbourhood, siblings, commuting, reading, audiobooks/podcasts, mail, and writing. Negatively, Gemini energy can be scattered, superficial, gossipy, inconsistent, two faced, and lack emotion.

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Sagittarius is a Jupiter ruled Fire sign motivated by passion, exploration, and beliefs. It is broadminded, freedom loving, philosophical, optimistic, visionary, expansive, aspiring, risk taking, and big picture oriented. This sign is also associated with higher education, media, sales/marketing, religion, morals,  travel, foreign lands, and other international matters or pursuits. Negatively, Sagittarius energy can be unrealistic, pretentious, judgemental, excessive, blunt, preachy, and have a hard time comprehending limitations.

Both of these signs within this polarity are about learning and communicating what they know. The difference between them is that Gemini leans more towards sharing/learning knowledge from a variety of sources while Sagittarius leans more towards developing its own perspective based on the synthesis of what has been learned and experienced. Gemini can also be more factual in comparison to the idealistic Sagittarian energy.

Full Moon Square Neptune & Quincunx Venus-Saturn-Pluto Conjunction

This Full Moon is separating from a square with Neptune which is strongest in the day leading up to it. This can be good for creative, spiritual, compassionate activities especially if they are linked  to the Gemini-Sagittarius themes mentioned above. However, this can also reflect confusion, impracticality, delusion, escapism, and unreliability.

Venus is separating from a tight conjunction with Saturn and moving towards Pluto at the time of this Full Moon. In the days leading up to this, there could have been more serious or restrictive energy around Venus ruled areas of love, friendship, money, values, or pleasures.

Perhaps a need to be more disciplined, responsible, committed, restraining, or realistic could be a theme. Obstacles, limitations, cautiousness, or endings may have also come up. This can be good for stabilizing, solidifying, building, or taking a mature approach towards things pertaining to Venus.

Pluto in the mix can add more heaviness to this energy. However, Venus makes its conjunction to Pluto in the following two days, after its interaction with Saturn. The themes mentioned above may be followed by or combined with intensity, passion, obsession, secrets, empowerment, evolution, transformation, or even some sort of purging and release. This can also be a period of revealing or getting clear around Venus issues.

This Full Moon is in a quincunx aspect to this Saturn-Venus-Pluto conjunction. This can create a disconnect between these issues (mentioned in the last two paragraphs) and our feelings or other things going on in our lives. This can also reflect challenges and irritations which may  require adjustments.

Jupiter Newly in Capricorn Trine Uranus in Taurus

On December 2nd, Jupiter entered Capricorn and will stay there for the next year. It joins Saturn, Pluto, and the South Node in which it will be making conjunctions within 2020. Overall, Jupiter in this sign connecting to these planets can be good for different types of growth around worldly goals, ambitions, structures, and towards building anything with the long term in mind. It can also bring some endings around these things as well.

Jupiter forms a trine with Uranus in Taurus which is strongest from this Full Moon until the following week with it peaking on December 15th. This can be good for learning or expansiveness towards something new, unusual, unconventional, technological, metaphysical, scientific, or perhaps even revolutionary.

It can also be connected to beliefs, travel, and other types of exploration. For some people it can manifest as sudden luck or bring some sort of freedom. Considering that this aspect is occurring in Earth signs, it can play out around material, physical, financial, or practical matters.

Mars Trine Neptune, Sextile Saturn, Pluto

Mars in Scorpio is in a trine with Neptune in Pisces in the day leading up to, and few days following, this Full Moon. This can reflect actions that are inspired, creative, spiritual, imaginative, or compassionate. Activities or efforts involving art or water may also be a theme. For some people it can be magical on a sexual level, however this also depends on how the Venus-Saturn-Pluto aspect (mentioned earlier) is playing out which can bring some heaviness to relationships in some cases.

Mars then moves towards a sextile to Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn which peaks from December 17th to 23rd. This is good for applying ourselves in a way that is practical, realistic, responsible, thorough, stable, focused, tangible, or purposeful. Efforts towards bringing more structure or building towards something may be a theme. This can help us to be more focused, overcome obstacles, making productive changes, and uncovering things to assist us in making progress.

Eclipse Season is Approaching with Neptune, Chiron, and Uranus in Transition

In the two weeks after this Full Moon we will have a Solar Eclipse in Capricorn on December 25th/26th followed by a Lunar Eclipse in Cancer on January 10th/11th. Neptune recently ended its retrograde, Uranus finishes its retrograde in a month, while Chiron is transitioning out of retrograde at the time of this Full Moon.

All of this combined shows that the period from mid-November until mid-January is a time of transitions, changes, and new developments. Eclipses can reflect beginnings, endings, and even evolutionary developments in specific areas of our lives that can begin to play out in the six weeks prior up until the six months following. (I will be writing separate articles on these eclipse, join my mailing list here to ensure that you are notified when they are published)

Planets, and other celestial bodies like Chiron, going from retrograde to direct can help us progress forward in new ways in areas connected to what they represent and how they are interacting with our personal astrology charts. I covered Neptune going direct in my previous article and will be covering Uranus going direct in an upcoming eclipse article. However, the most significant one at this point is Chiron as it is transitioning during this Full Moon phase. Its themes will be coming up more strongly.

Chiron is associated with old wounds, trauma, blockages, negative patterns, and other issues getting in the way of our potential, self-expression, and the embodiment of our highest selves. It is also associated with the solutions to our healing, awareness, and achieving wholeness.

It is about developing a different relationship with our wounds by turning them into strengths or working with them in a more positive way. Chiron is the maverick, it is unorthodox, holistic, and can bridge things together that are normally separate and are not thought to be compatible with each other.

Things To Consider During This Period

Is there anything new or different that you’d like to learn at this time? What have you been inspired to do in the last few weeks? Do you need to take into consideration certain facts, instructions, or details in order to fulfill your aspirations?

What has been coming up for you in regards to Venus issues of love, friendships, values, creativity, aesthetics, money, and pleasures? Do you need to address anything pertaining to these things? Have any issues or themes connected to your wounds or negative patterns come up? What do you need to do to heal/address this and move forward in a more empowered way?

These are just some examples of what you may be experiencing during this period; however, there may be other variations of this energy playing out. If you wish to do any sort of intentional release connected to what has come up it is best to do so anytime after the peak of the Full Moon or as it is waning over the following two weeks. The exact moment of it will be on December 12th at 5:12am Universal Time. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

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Looking for astrological insight into what is going on in your life? Or perhaps looking to better understand your life and its potentials? Get a personalized astrology reading with Carmen (author of this article) specific to you based on your exact birth date, time, and location. Click here for more information or to order. 

Holographic 2020 Lunar Calendar

An art piece and lunar calendar all in one. This calendar features moon phases for every day of the month for the entirety of 2020.

Hologrpahic foil set on a dark 11" x 11" poster makes the moon's phases shimmer as light strikes them in this unique art piece.

Buy yours here!
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11 Things Everybody Should Let Go of Before 2020 – Easier Said Than Done Of Course

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    2020 is coming up, and below are some personal transformation tips to explore and reflect on.

  • Reflect On:

    Why is new years always a time for resolutions? Can we begin taking the steps to implement resolutions on our lives that we feel inspired to make starting right now?

The new year is almost here and it’s often a time when we all start to think about what we want to change for the next year. I’ve never been much a fan of the whole cliche of changing because of the new year, but why not embrace it as a time where we can reflect at least? That usually leads to change!

Do a quick reflection right now. Do you feel like you have followed your deeper knowings and desires this past year? Have you engaged your passions much? Do you feel you got caught up in the stresses of life quite often? Did you feel judgement, negative self talk and anger were a big part of your days? Reflecting on how you’ve felt over your year and being honest with yourself about it gives you the chance to know how to adjust and move forward from this moment forward whether it be the new year or not.

I’ve found in my own life that if I don’t pay attention to how I feel, what I create, what’s playing out in my life and take responsibility for it, it doesn’t change. It stays the same, I experience the same emotions or stagnant feelings, and I don’t move forward. But the moment I decide to take it into my own hands, I see how much I’m not a victim to what happens.

11 Things To Let Go of Before the New year

1. Stop all the negative self talk – It’s first because it’s probably one of the most important. The more we talk poorly about ourselves, to ourselves or others, the more we disempower ourselves and empower all the things we wish to adjust about ourselves. Observe it, take note of it, and kick it. It’s not helping you.

2. Choose one bad eating habit and kick it! – Taking care of and fuelling your vessel is one of the most important things we can do in life to stay mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy. Pick one of your worst eating habits and aim to cut it out completely in 3 months. Whatever it might be, be honest with yourself and make it happen. Then take on the next bad eating habit in 3 months.

3. Let go of chasing ‘success’ – So often we put up goals or plans for ourselves yet have this tiny limited scope of what success is. Next thing you know we bring stress, worry and fear into the equation throughout the whole journey because we may not be totally in line to hit this pin prick point of what success looks like to us. Instead, do your best to take the steps needed to get to where you want to go, but let go of the lure of success and what it looks like and means. There’s no such thing as failure. (more)

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4. Kick the idea that you cannot achieve or follow what’s in your heart – So often we have our ideas of what we are excited or passionate about, but let it go because we think we can’t do it or because it’s unrealistic. Instead of believing every word of that, take ONE step. One step towards making engaging your passion or exploring a dream. The one step will lead to the next and the next, but you have to take the first one. Plan out that first step and take it! A quick side note to this, be sure to reflect on making sure that your dreams are actually yours, and not just what your parents, society or friends are telling you to chase and go after.

5. Let go of the idea that you should run from your problems – We often get into this mentality that we just need to “get over it.” In theory, this sounds sorta good, you move on from things that happen in the past or something to that effect. But by just forgetting about it, did we really move on? No, it gets triggered again later or lies dormant as a resented event etc. Instead, let’s face our problems and truly move past them. Journal about it, talk to someone else about it. Put the cards on the table to someone who cares about you and who can help you move past it. Pick someone who will see the bigger picture and be honest with you. You have all it takes to move past what challenges you.

6. Stop comparing yourself to others – This is a big one. So often we are looking at others and using what they have, do or are to compare it against us and make up a story. This whole game can make us sad or feel down about ourselves or it can feed our ego in a big way. Let it go, respect everyone’s journey, including your own and stop the need to compare yourself to others.

7. Stop judging others – Judging other people can become a habit and an addiction. It’s like something we can’t stop doing sometimes! Take a moment the next time you judge someone and observe it. Ask yourself why you did it, how did it make you feel? Etc. Make a conscious effort to stop. (more)

8.  Stop the blame game – Blaming and pointing fingers when it comes to our challenges or what happens to us doesn’t allow us to look at and observe how we might have created or aligned with an experience to help make it happen. I’m not saying there’s nothing others can do to hurt you, I’m simply saying take responsibility for how you feel and don’t even point blame, it doesn’t help us.

9. Stop worrying and trying so hard to fit in and be accepted –  This is something far too many of us do just to save face and not be “the weird one.” The reality is, it’s more ‘weird’ to be a version of yourself that isn’t genuine or real simply because you want to be accepted by others. It’s a choice you can’t maintain forever and the longer it goes the more uncomfortable you will feel. Be you, accept yourself, be genuine and don’t try to make others do the same when. Let it happen. Trust.

10. Let go of the need to control everything – Sometimes we can’t take a step forward in anything because we don’t know all the answers or all the variables. This is our obsession with control sometimes. Yes, observe a situation and make the best choices available to you, but don’t worry so much about needing to control or know every detail about it. Learn to leave things up to trust and knowing that things will work out as they need to. This doesn’t mean be reckless, just that you don’t need to control everything, person and detail.

11. Stop procrastinating – This one goes with everything on the list. Stop putting it all off. Whatever it may be. The changes listed above, the hobby you want to, the career you want to explore, or the thing you want to tell to someone important to you. Stop putting it off and just do it!

Holographic 2020 Lunar Calendar

An art piece and lunar calendar all in one. This calendar features moon phases for every day of the month for the entirety of 2020.

Hologrpahic foil set on a dark 11" x 11" poster makes the moon's phases shimmer as light strikes them in this unique art piece.

Buy yours here!
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Consciousness

Sympathy vs. Empathy? Brené Brown Explains The Crucial Difference

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    There is a difference between sympathy and empathy — although many of us don't realize it, in an attempt to help we may unknowingly be making things worse for our loved ones.

  • Reflect On:

    When someone is hurting, we often try to "fix" the situation. What if we just sat with others who are struggling . and allow them to feel their feelings and offer them the space to do so?

For the most part we strive to be there for our friends and family members during difficult times. However we don’t always realize that in an effort to assist, often using positive reinforcement, or comparison techniques we might actually be making things worse. Sometimes, we are unintentionally showing up in all the wrong ways for our loved ones. It’s important to know the difference between sympathy and empathy and how these reactions could either create more pain from unmet needs for those who are struggling or allow the space for a deeper connection and understanding by offering the space to others to feel their feelings.

Brené Brown is an expert on the topics of vulnerability, shame, courage and empathy. She has written 5 New York Times Bestsellers and offers us all a deeper insight to the potential for much deeper authentic connection with others and to ourselves as well. The following video contains a cute little cartoon paired up with Brené’s words describing the difference between sympathy and empathy.

Sympathy Vs. Empathy


“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” ~ Brené Brown

It’s funny how we think we are being helpful, but as it turns out we are unknowingly brushing off the feelings of others. Offering sympathy instead of empathy is similar to when we tell people to “think positive,” as it bypasses actually allowing ourselves to feel our emotions. When our loved ones are having a hard time with something, we are quick to try and fix or change the situation instead of just allowing it to be.

It’s as if we are all just so afraid of letting the pain be there, that we try to brush it off as quickly as possible. Unfortunately as described in the video, this isn’t actually helping, but providing a temporary band-aid instead. In turn, the people who are in pain often don’t feel emotionally met and can feel even more upset, even though they know you have good intentions. To be fair, for the most part we haven’t been taught these emotional skills so many of us are lacking in that department.

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The Importance Of Feeling Our Feelings

This is a good reminder to not only allow others the space to feel their feelings without trying to change them, but for yourself as well — to give yourself the time and space that you need to feel what’s happening inside of you.

If something comes up, and emotion is starting to build up inside of you, instead of grabbing your phone, eating something, or using a substance — try feeling it fully instead! It can be very helpful to label the emotion you’re feeling, i.e. I feel hurt right now.

Then feel it, feel it fully, cry if you need to, feel where it hurts in your body, do whatever you need to do to allow yourself to actually feel the emotion.It will help to process and release it, that way you won’t have to hold onto it, or store it in your body.

As a good friend once told me,

“See what there is to see, feel what there is to feel and you will heal. “

This might sound simple, and that’s because it is! It’s a lot easier to process and feel our emotions than to stuff them down and ignore them, which inevitably will cause more pain and suffering down the road.

Feeling our feelings, who would have thought? 😉

Much Love

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