May Cause Miracles


All you need is love.

In the past whenever I heard that phrase, I had a very narrow interpretation of it: if you had a love in your life, romantic or otherwise, that was all you needed to be happy.

But this year, I started to look at love differently. I started to look at it as a life philosophy. I looked at as something I could inject into my life on my own, moment to moment. I started to view love as the absence of fear. And I arrived at that definition by doing a 42-Day Fear Detox designed by Gabrielle Bernstein in her book, May Cause Miracles.

Honestly? It's changing my life.

I completed the workshop in February and have spent the last two months building on the spiritual work that I began during that process. The lessons I learned in those 42 days have become so important to me, so eye-opening and so sacred, that I decided I wanted to share them here. Which, naturally I was afraid to do, because it's a bit different than the content I usually post. But ultimately? It abides by the same North Star I've always had for this blog: to write about things that make me happy.

And if it makes other people happy too? Even better.

Fair warning: this post is long. Very long. And it's not as tidy or articulate as I would like it to be. Because for the first time in a while on this blog, I'm just writing my heart. And I anticipate I'll be doing a lot more of that as I continue my work of detoxing my fears!

But before I go into how May Cause Miracles kicked off a new process of spiritual exploration in my life, I think it's important to share a little bit about the backstory of how MCM came into my life.

If you've been following along with this blog since 2014, some of you may remember that in the Fall of that year I went on a life-changing retreat led by my fellow San Diegans, Amelia of Stoked Yogi, Mandy of The Zen Girl Chronicles, and Janalyn of Horizon Light Productions. It always amazes me how that trip set so much in motion for so many of us. What's even more amazing is that it's still having impact today. Cue: May Cause Miracles.

Shortly after we returned from the retreat, Mandy kicked off a book club and selected May Cause Miracles as the book she wanted to read together. She explained that it was a workshop of sorts, based on the principles of something called A Course in Miracles.

I ordered the book, started it at the end of that December and made it about six or seven days into the detox before I abandoned it. The daily journaling, the meditations, the exercises... they were kind of hard to find the time to do alone. Ryan and I have always lived in small places, but at the time that particular apartment was less than 400 square feet.

Finding time and space to be alone twice a day is hard enough without having loved ones in close quarters. I felt rude asking Ryan to leave me alone for those times or to ask him to avoid a section of our already small space twice a day. And then there was the self-consciousness of why I was asking him to do it. So I could do some hippy dippy fear detox? So I could spend time on my spiritual practice? It made me feel really dumb and so I ditched it.

The book sat on my shelf for the next two years collecting dust, but the insights I had had in just that first week were enough to keep me thinking about picking it back up again at some point. However "hippy" the Fear Detox sounded, the realizations I'd had doing it in that short period of time were kinda serious. I regularly considered trying it again, but the timing just never seemed right.

Then, after a mostly terrible year, that changed. Circumstances started to align that drew me back to the idea of finally trying MCM again. 2017 started on a Sunday (which is a day that Bernstein recommends you start the detox), Ryan and I were spending some time living apart from each other, and I knew it was time to make some changes in my personal life. I was finally ready to commit to this book and the work that it required. So I took advantage of the space and the time alone and spent the first 42 days of 2017 completing the entire workshop.

Each week of the workshop focuses on a different aspect of your life, the different ways and places that fear can show up. Meaning that every week I found a new place where I could use a little more love in my life and a little less fear.

Below are my takeaways from my entire May Cause Miracles experience. As vulnerable as sharing these thoughts feels, I share them in the hopes that this will convince others to also take on the important work suggested by MCM for their own sake. I also share it in the hopes that maybe some of my realizations will reach people who need them as badly as I did.

And who knows? Maybe this can be a space where others discuss what they've gotten out of MCM and how we can build on those lessons together going forward!

Week 1

The first week is intended to help you identify your fears, how they've "tripped you up and blocked your life's flow." The affirmation of the very first day is: "I am willing to witness my fear." As Bernstein paraphrases from A Course in Miracles (ACIM), our fears are illusions that occur anytime our ego separates us from love.

As I went through the work of identifying my fears that first week, I learned that they were pretty much identical the fears I identified when I tried doing MCM in 2014. Nothing had changed!

I had been letting those fears rule my life for years. That realization solidified the importance of completing the book this time around: those fears had taken up residence in my body and mind for two extra years because I had given up on this process in 2014 and it was two years too long.

Having completed the whole book I know now that nothing about my fear is unique. And sharing my fears here is my way of not only my way of continuing to witness that, but to hopefully remind others that they are worth addressing. Because honestly? I realized these fears were impacting my life more than I thought.

By the end of Week 1, I knew what fears I would be working on going forward, because as Gabby says, "Surrendering your fear is a moment-to-moment habit."

  • Not being "enough"/ letting others down / not being deserving or worthy. Not good enough, not disciplined enough, thoughtful enough, healthy enough, organized enough, pretty enough, selfless enough. That I'm unlovable because I'm not enough. I need to earn love by being productive, if I haven't earned it, it's not real. 
  • Not having enough time. Time to get done the things that I promised others I would (which will lead to them not liking/needing me). Time in general because I'm scared I'm going to die young. 
  • Complacency / letting go. If I let go, if I don't let my anxiety and stress drive me, will I stop being productive and become complacent? If I'm not as productive then I won't be enough for others, I won't be worth it. I can't let go and be present because of the fear that it'll somehow lead to complacency and then rejection in the future. If I forgive myself for things and let them go, what happens to accountability? 
  • Self-love. Scared to love myself because that's like admitting that it's ok to be flawed and if I become complacent or accepting of my flaws then I won't have the same incessant drive to fix them so I can be better for others. 
  • Dependence. If I depend on others they'll let me down. If I let others help me, I'll lose my independence. That I confuse dependence with love and won't recognize what love looks like.
  • Appearances / Rejection. That my actions will be misinterpreted. That I will be perceived incorrectly. That this will lead to rejection. 
  • Cancer. That I have it and don't know it. That I'm going to die young from it. That it's selfish to want to start a family since there's a possibility that I'll die young and leave that family behind. That the people I love will get it. That when I do get it, I won't be strong enough to fight it. 

In Week 1, Gabby taught me not only the importance of witnessing these fears, but forgiving myself for having them. And I realized that I needed to start bringing tools into my life that would help me continue to witness and forgive them. Some of the tools that I identified that have a positive impact on me are: journaling, blogging, transparency, running, meditation, Brewer and Banjo, adventures, sleep, yoga and healthy food. 

And to kick off the year and this process, I wrote a list of intentions for 2017 that will help me remember the goal of working through these fears:  

Week 2

Week 2 of May Cause Miracle was all about the importance of self-love, something that I obviously struggle with because it's one of my biggest fears. I reject the concept of self-love because I believe that self-criticism is what keeps me self-aware and what drives my accomplishments and productivity. If I relax my self-criticism and just accept and love myself, flaws and all, won't I stop accomplishing or being productive? Then others won't love me... so what's the point of loving myself? 

This belief system created a lot of resistance for me to this week of the workshop. But around this time I read a blog post by Courtney Carver called "A Gentle Warrior's Manifesto to End Busyness" that I highly recommend others read immediately if my productivity fears resonate with you. As Courtney says, "People can't love you for what you accomplish, they can only love you for who you are." 

It was this quote that made me realize: if I have people in my life who only love me for my accomplishments, those relationships aren't real. And part of developing self-love is weeding those relationships out. 

The next shift that happened for me in Week 2 was that by not dedicating time to self-love, I'm contributing to a larger problem that I see going on with my female peers in the world right now. ACIM says, "When we attack ourselves, we attack the world." 

There are so many women my age with the same addictions to stress and accomplishments and perfection. Anyone can see that lack of self-love manifesting itself in social media constantly. My blogger friends are constantly apologizing for not posting enough, my mom friends are constantly getting mommy-shamed for every possible move they make, my traveling friends are always beating themselves up for not being settled enough... and it seems like we're all obsessed with not being thin enough or pretty enough. 

By not loving ourselves, we make it ok for others to not love themselves and for the rest of the world to treat us poorly because that's what we think we deserve. By the end of Week 2, I realized self-love was so much bigger than me and so much more important. It wasn't about being selfish or narcissistic or indulgent, it's about generating more love in the world. 

One of the exercises during Week 2 was to write a list of things I love about myself. As hard as that was to write, it's even harder to share. But here it is: 
  • I love my interior decorating style. 
  • I love how much I have always loved animals.
  • I love that I'm brave enough to do crazy things and that my life isn't limited by my fears.
  • I love that I write and I love that I am not afraid to share my writing. 
  • I love how colorful (literally) I try to make my life.
After I wrote it, I noticed that nothing on this list is an achievement. But I don't use any of these things to describe myself to others. I tell them how many years of professional experience I have, the degrees I earned the prestigiousness of the places I worked or certifications I have. I describe myself in terms of my accomplishments, but they aren't who I actually am and they're not what I like about myself. It's creating such a disconnect and blocking me from happiness!

Most importantly, Week 2 made me realize that I am addicted to achievements because those are the only ways I feel I can get and momentarily experience love. And that I don't trust love I don't earn. All of these powerful shifts propelled me to keep going and to see the value in MCM and this Fear Detox. And I took that momentum with me into Week 3. 

Week 3

Week 3 is focused on practical exercises to help you shift your thoughts around food and your body, two things that I have struggled with my entire life. I grew up listening to my mother talk about how she hated her stomach and ever since I can remember I have hated my stomach too. And if I am lucky enough to have a daughter one day and she picks up on the fact that I hate my stomach, then I am just going to pass along this emotional legacy of poor body image and self-loathing to her.  If I have sons, it will subconsciously teach them that that's something to judge women on. 

Or. It can end with me. 

ACIM says that "Sickness is anger taken out upon the body so it will suffer pain." And that's exactly what's been going on with me for at least 20 years. I am angry at my body for not being enough and I have noticed, especially in the past 5 to 7 years that I have been constantly sick or ill or in pain. This is my anger towards my body manifesting: by the poor food I feed it when I give up on it, by partying to forget about it, and so on. 

This work that I took on during Week 3 was incredibly timely since it happened to coincide with my first colonoscopy after finding out I have Lynch Syndrome. And I wrote this in my journal: "How am I supposed to love my body when it's my biggest threat?" I resent it for making me so vulnerable, for essentially being a ticking time bomb for cancer. And so I hide it under baggy clothes and I resent it and the way I treat it is often a reflection of that resentment. 

Week 3 also coincided with Trump's inauguration which felt like another threat to my body. How are we supposed to value our bodies as women when our right to make decisions about them is constantly being threatened? When sexual violators of women's bodies are elected to the highest office in the nation and empowered with the ability to make decisions about our bodies? How is that supposed to foster a healthy relationship with the female body?

It was a tough week for me to get through, but the work I did here continues to be some of the most important work that I am doing post-MCM. I need to recommit to eating healthy, non-processed foods. I need to drink less alcohol and caffeine. I need to eat enough each day. I need to drink more water, get more sleep and get more exercise. The nicer I am to my body, the more I will combat my negative thoughts about it.  

Week 4

When I got to Week 4, I was so relieved. Finally I had reached the part of the workshop that was on relationships, something that was of utmost importance to me giving what was going on in my own... only to have Gabby throw a curveball at me: she stressed to not focus my thoughts during this week on any "special" relationship, but instead to focus my thoughts and the exercises on all my relationships.

Week 4 really drove home this message of oneness and equality and not feeding into separation. And in that manner, it made me realize that if one relationship is out of whack, they're all out of whack. Gabby also flips the script on romance by saying that if you focus on finding romance in your relationship with yourself and in your relationships with your friends, it will take the pressure off of your partner. Reducing the pressure means that you don't need people and you can love them from abundance and not from lack. 

Gabby drives home the concept that all of our relationships are assignments for spiritual growth. So I started looking at every obstacle in my relationships as a lesson: a lesson in acceptance, a lesson in forgiveness, a lesson in gratitude. When every relationship becomes a lesson, when you remember that everyone has something to teach you. When you make that your North Star for every obstacle, you are finally able to release your ego's fears (in the form of expectations of others) and generate more love. 

Week 5

In the home stretch, I'll admit, it got a little tough to stay as committed to MCM. And Week 5 was especially tough, because it was all about money, a topic that is super stressful. But Gabby's approach was not as much about financial responsibility and health as it was about believing in your own financial abundance. 

One of the first exercises for this week was to identify my specific fears about money. I thought this would be cut and dry but a few of my answers surprised me:
  • I'm afraid there isn't enough money.
  • I'm afraid I overspend. 
  • I don't know where my money goes.
  • I should be saving.
  • I'll never get out of student debt. 
  • I'm not frugal enough. 
  • I will never have enough money to keep up with my friends who are buying houses and I'll get left behind. 
  • I use money to get people to like or need me, then worry that they only like or need me for money. 
  • I need to make enough money to be independent so that I'm never letting money or fear of lack of money be a reason to feel trapped in a situation.
  • I am afraid to ask people for money they owe me because I feel like it will make them not like me or think I'm greedy. 
  • I am afraid to earn too much because I don't know if I'm that valuable. 
I didn't realize that I had so many fears tied up in money and finances. I didn't realize just how much it probably impacts me on a daily basis. And yet, there it was in my handwriting... all of these super intense fears around money, many of which were rooted in a childhood where money was a constant point of fear. If I surrendered all of these fears, if I faced the ones I'm avoiding, how much mental and emotional space would I free up each day for love?

Another thing stuck out to me during this week... this quote: "Mindfully respecting your finances is another way of respecting yourself." This is true. When I don't respect my finances (aka go further into debt or ignore financial fears), it shows up as anxiety for me. Which isn't very respectful of myself.  

Week 6

The final week of May Cause Miracles is focused on how to become a "miracle worker" out in the world. I'll admit I struggled with the term "miracle" throughout this whole workshop because it felt too religious, too hokey, and too passive... like it was only something that could "happen" to you. But I just have to keep reminding myself that a miracle is a shift in perception from fear to love. And when I remember that and acknowledge how many miracles happened to me throughout this process, it feels a little less hokey and a little more meaningful and practical. 

For example, one of my biggest miracles came after reading the last daily affirmation in Week 5: "Today I welcome infinite possibilities." After reading this I had a momentary shift: there are infinite possibilities. Things could go the way I anxiously fear they will each day, but they can also go another way: They can go well. And there is a difference between stating this and knowing it. And for the brief few moments that I knew this statement to be true, I knew I had experienced a miracle. 

Coming off of that miracle into Week 6, I felt more encouraged than ever to continue my spiritual exploration of ACIM-based meditations and exercises in order to do what I can to bring more miracles to myself and others, to turn "my pain into my purpose by spreading love and transformation." 

I wrote a list of timely fears on one day of Week 6 and here, two months later, not one of them has come true. All of that anxiety was wasted energy. And I feel like if I continue life like that, without reminding myself that fears are illusions, then I will live my life at 60%. Who wants to waste almost half their life?!

So I will continue to build on the work from MCM by first reading Marianne Williamson's "A Return to Love" and then by starting A Course in Miracles itself. And I share that because I would like to dedicate a couple of posts a month to the miracles that I am experiencing by reading these books, all in the hopes that it will help others to see that miracles are available to them as well.

I promise I'm not getting religious... but I do believe that when I am experiencing miracles, I temporarily have an abundance of love to give others. And I think that maybe they can help someone like Gabby's book helped me. 

"Miracles are healing because they supply a lack; 
they are performed by those who temporarily have more 
for those who temporarily have less." - ACIM

In Week 6, I also came to the conclusion that I don't actually know what I am punishing myself for.... I mean I keep worrying that if I love myself, I'm allowing myself to get off the hook too easily with all my flaws. But then I asked myself: what have I done, what am I doing that is so bad? That is so flawed? That I am so worried about "getting away with"? Why do I think I don't deserve peace? 

It's a good question. And one that as I enter my 30s, I feel is more important than ever to figure out. 

The best and final miracle I had in the last week of MCM was the realization that somewhere along the way I stopped focusing on fun. Towards the end of the book, Gabby says, "When you make fun your primary purpose, you will experience many miracles and be of high service to the world."

And do you know what my reaction was? When I first read this, I panicked. I thought: if I'm having fun, how will I get anything done? 

I continued the exercise around fun and I realized that not only was my definition of fun skewed, but I also just wasn't having very much of it. And that is how I ended 42 amazing days of self-reflection, facing my fears and approaching life with a miracle-mindset: by remembering and recommitting to the importance of fun in my life. So here's to a fun 2017... and beyond!

"When you intend to have fun, you have a fun life." - Gabrielle Bernstein