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The Ugly Duckling

Tragic panorama.

By Helen Woo, Author of SELF-AID – Inspirations to Turn Struggles into Success

I am the ugly duckling. There are three of us – and I am always the odd man out. I am different from my siblings.

I want to be like my sister. Heck, I want to BE my sister. She’s older, she’s prettier, she’s taller, and she’s smarter. She gets all the attention. She’s perfect. My sister can do no wrong.

I like being a girl, so I don’t want to be like my brother – except I know that if I was born a boy, I’d get special treatment all the time.

I am seven years old, maybe eight, and I want approval so badly. I am proud and happy to carry the groceries on our way home from the market. We have no car, so walking is our norm.

I’d willingly help out in the kitchen every chance I could. I craved love and I wanted approval so desperately. Oh, please, please, please “Let me help you – let me make you proud. Please give me a chance.”

When I am nine years old, I am told to stop being outspoken. I need to stop expressing myself. I must keep my emotions to myself, I must keep my thoughts and wishes hidden. I should not express myself. I am a Chinese girl. I should “speak only when spoken to.”

I am now in the sixth grade; I think I am 11 years old. I look into the mirror, I smile into the mirror, and I brush my long, dark hair. I say to my reflection and affirm to myself:  “I am NOT ugly. I am pretty… I am a pretty girl.”

I am a teenager now, 14 years old and just about to turn 15. I am told that even if there were funds available, it would be my sister that they would send to college/university. It doesn’t matter if I bring home mostly A’s and a couple of B’s. I still am not worthy. I do not deserve a paid education.

Throughout these years, I am told that I will not succeed. I am told that I am unfortunate because my sister got the good looks of the two girls. I am too short and too skinny; my voice is funny because it is too low and raspy. I am no good. I am the bad egg. I can relate to a book from my early childhood.  Little did I know that in the end, the “Ugly Duckling” would turn out to be a beautiful swan.

I am 15 now. I have been raised with the belief that I am the black sheep of the family. So why not act like I am? The boys are looking at me now. They think I’m cute. Wow, I am cute! Not only that, but they tell me that I have a “good personality.”  Nice. People like me; I am thrilled. There is no longer a need for me to compete with my sister. There is no need to try so hard and please everyone at home. However, I am still longing for their love… and approval.

I now start my rebellious phase. Trouble, here I come. I am a troubled teen like many, and I am involved with anything and anyone that is off limits to me. My excuse is that nothing I do makes a difference anyway, so why not test the limits. Ultimately, I do feel remorseful for my actions and I repent.

I am 18 now, and I want out. I feel restricted and confined to a place where I cannot be myself. I cannot speak out, and when I do, I am always wrong anyway. Nothing I do gains approval. I want my freedom.  I want to express myself!

In a nutshell, growing up in the traditional old school, old culture-style home, I was told that I was too expressive and certainly too talkative. I was reprimanded for laughing too often and too loudly in public. I was told to contain myself and be aware of my body language. I was told to speak with my hands by my sides and to be still. I was told to speak only when spoken to and was discouraged to initiate conversations, as that action would be considered a display of bad manners. These requests were not easy, but I could at least honor them in public when with my family. However, when I was on my own, at school or elsewhere, I laughed, I jumped, I hugged, I felt passionate, and I felt free. I finally felt as though I loved myself.

Mostly, I wanted to love myself because I kept thinking to myself, who would love me if I didn’t? My friends, uncles and aunts and grandparents thought I was special. They loved me.

Outside of my immediate family, I realized that other people accepted me. They enjoyed my enthusiasm. They wanted to be with me. Even strangers thought I was a “fun and happy” person to be around. They enjoyed my laughter. I guess I was happy. I was happy because I felt freedom with them because I could be myself.

Though I recognize the bond of family, I also realize that they are not the only people who are important in my life. Whether bound by blood or by friendship, it is human nature to connect deeply to those who want to be with us and see the best in us.

Self-esteem grows immensely when it is nurtured by love and acceptance. I am grateful for the positive influence and guidance in my life. I am able to build my self-esteem through the people who were meant to be part of my journey to self-love.

Today I love and appreciate myself for who I am; for I am a swan.

SELF-AID

S= SELF AID — One step at a time…  We start by recognizing that we can improve, that we can get well, and that we can be better in every aspect of our lives. Self-Aid is necessary, as we cannot help anyone until we first help ourselves.

E = ESTEEM — With self-esteem and confidence, we also find strength to be able to face life’s challenges. This is the beginning of achieving success.

L = LOVE & LAUGHTER – Self-love is vital to our existence. Self-love enables us to give and receive love. LOVE is the main ingredient to finding happiness and positivity. Laughter makes us happy, laughter keeps us healthy. Laughter is more contagious than a cough or a virus. Laughter benefits us in more ways than one. Scientifically proven, laughter helps us emotionally, physically, and mentally. Without a doubt, laughter is the best medicine.

F = FREEDOM — Letting go of anger, pain and resentment gives us the freedom to experience happiness. Forgiveness allows us to live in the present and not in the past. Therefore, we can grow and move on and find true contentment.

A = ATTITUDE — A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. A positive attitude exudes beauty and creates happiness.

I = INTEGRITY – Integrity is the key ingredient in our character… it gives us harmony with our body, mind and soul. Staying true to ourselves is the foundation for living a balanced and good life.

D = DREAM — We each have a dream. If we put our thoughts into action, we can LIVE our dream. Starting today, we are in charge of our own destiny.


Helen Woo is the author of SELF-AID – Inspirations to Turn Struggles into Success, a key to opening up the reader’s heart and mind to reframe his or her life from lackluster to luscious – much as Woo had to do for herself. After setback after setback in her life, Woo created the concept of SELF-AID–an acronym that stands for Self-Aid (self-help), Esteem, Love/Laughter, Freedom, Attitude, Integrity, Dream. SELF-AID – Inspirations to Turn Struggles into Success allows readers to be inspired and uplifted by the very quotes that ultimately turned her life around. Each quote is followed by one of her unique “Wooisms” – the ideal way to interpret the quote to engineer a shift into a higher and better way of thinking. The book provides Self-Aid for anyone to lift out of their doldrums or depression and move into a life filled with joy, peace, gratitude and prosperity. Woo is an emerging speaker, writer and leader, who brings a welcome ultra-positive perspective to everything she does. For more info, go to www.SelfAidwithHelenWoo.com

How to Repattern Your Brain and Revitalize Your Life

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An Excerpt from Becoming Aware by Lisa Garr

The setting of the championship race was certainly picturesque: Castaic Lake, a reservoir formed by the Castaic Dam in the Sierra Pelona Mountains of northwestern Los Angeles. Action scenes for movies and TV are often filmed there because of the gorgeous but rugged natural terrain, and this is where I arrived for the state championship. I was in second place overall, but this was the last race and counted for double points. I was focused in on my goal of taking the title.

It didn’t matter to me that when the race started at eight in the morning, it was already a searing 95 degrees. Or that this particular year, they ran the course in a different direction than they had run it in previous years, which would entail far more climbing for the racers. About 5,300 feet of steep uphill biking was in my future during the 21-mile course.

Hours later, the win was in my reach. The race was three laps, and in the previous two, I’d always passed the first-place girl on the descent. Jon had taught me how to descend, and I was fearless about it. On the third lap, I spotted her right before the descent began, and I knew I’d pass her on the downhill and get to the finish line first.

That was the last thing I remember.

All of a sudden, I woke up at the bottom of the hill with pine needles stuffed into my jersey. My helmet was sideways on my head and cracked in several places (although I didn’t know that at the time). I wanted to climb back up the hill, but the pine needles were so thick that I kept slipping.

Another cyclist saw me struggling to get up the hill, stopped, and said, “Are you okay?”

Later, he told me that I was trying to get back on my bike and just kept falling back down the hill. All I remember was pedaling and watching that girl in front of me. Eventually, doctors would tell me that memory loss is retroactive, and this is why I don’t remember the actual fall or trying to scramble back up the hill. I assume that I passed out when I was pedaling due to dehydration-I thought I’d been drinking plenty of water, but it must not have been enough for the heat. I blacked out and fell down a mountain.

What happened next was the most important thing to ever happen to me.

Somehow my body finally dropped to the ground, and I started to float above the entire scene. I was hovering over my body, which was down below me. I could see people surrounding me, but I couldn’t really tell what they were doing. Instead, I could tell what they were feeling. Some of them were feeling like they were on-purpose in their lives and put here to be emergency medical technicians. Others were off-purpose and wanted to do something else-one wanted to be a painter. I knew that one of the female medics had romantic feelings for one of the male EMTs, but she was too afraid to tell him. I could feel their thoughts, their desires, their unmet needs, but I couldn’t hear their voices, as there was no need to do so.

The place I was in was magical. It was vast and pure, with a type of expanded consciousness that I had never experienced before in my life. It was beyond words. I don’t even know if there are words that can explain the level of consciousness I experienced. No words could explain something that is much more expansive than anything I’ve ever known here. I once looked out over the cliff at the great Grand Canyon, and this feeling was even vaster than that experience. When I ask myself why now, I know the answer. This was a place of complete, unconditional love.

There are no conditions of any kind in this state of pure expansion. There are no boundaries; no pain; and no past, present, or future. It is all of those things at once: the past, present, and the future occurring at the same exact time. It is actually a state of all-encompassing awareness rather than a “place.” It just is.

I can’t report that I saw a white light, nor did I travel down a tunnel according to the classic depiction of a near-death experience (NDE) as defined by Dr. Raymond Moody. All I felt was vast consciousness, and anything that came into my awareness was instantly manifested in front of me. I thought of Asia, for example, and Asia was in front of me. I’m not specifically sure why Asia came into my awareness, as I’d never been there; however, it is the best way I can describe how everything was immediately in my realm of awareness, without borders. Even the most remote place I could imagine appeared in my limitless sphere of consciousness.

I was definitely not creating this in my mind, as I was the furthest from analytical thinking I had ever been. I was purely experiencing this peaceful state. I felt so serene and wanted for nothing. There were no unmet needs, hopes, or goals. There were no desires, as everything was present at that moment.

What I would find so interesting when I would look back on it was the absence of pain in that state. What I know now is that all discomfort is created in the mind. I had no feeling of pain after my accident-in fact, I couldn’t feel my body at all. Now I see bodies as beautifully intelligent sacs of fluid and bones, encapsulated by the boundaries of our skin. Don’t get me wrong, because I love our human bodies and know that they are amazing creations, but I also know for a fact that we are not our bodies. We are pure expanded consciousness.

Back at the mountain, one of the EMTs was asking, “Are you Jon?”

“Yes,” a familiar voice said.

“She has been saying your name. She has been asking for you.”

I saw this silver cord, luminescent, pure, and bright, attached between Jon and me. It was like a light beam connecting us. I saw the connection, and knew that it was something quite significant.

At that moment, I jumped back into my body, which felt very confined and small. I looked up, and my eyes met Jon’s. I didn’t have the ability to speak because my body had been throwing up. These wonderful medics kept turning my head to the side so that I wouldn’t choke on my own vomit. Even though I couldn’t form any words, I marveled that I could communicate in a new way.

I spoke from my eyes to his eyes. And it was one of the most powerful and complete communications I had ever experienced.

It only lasted seconds, and then I left again, returning to this beautiful place of expanded consciousness.


Lisa Garr is host and producer of a popular syndicated radio show called The Aware Show, heard in the Los Angeles market on KPFK 90.7 FM or on KPFK.org along with a Hay House Radio show called Being Aware. Lisa also hosts a series for Gaiam TV called Gaiam Inspirations. Her bi monthly Summit series is one of the largest on the Internet. And topping it off, she is a weekend host on Coast to Coast AM, syndicated in over 500 stations around the world. Her new book Becoming Aware (Hay House) helps readers transform their lives by showing how she applied 15 years of these experts’ lessons to her own life as a businesswoman, wife, and mother. Learn more at www.becomingawarebook.com.

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Finding Your Flame of Courage

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An Excerpt from If Joan of Arc Had Cancer
by Janet Roseman

Living with a diagnosis of cancer immediately suggests the expectations of vulnerability — physical, emotional, and spiritual. This perceived vulnerability can actually be an asset, and throughout the twists and turns on the path, you can transmute the meaning of vulnerability from something less than into something more than. By its very nature, cancer cracks open the portals of life, from “what was” to “what is.” During this journey, there are no set rules to follow. You are unique and not only have opportunities to make life-changing 
choices about treatment, but can rethink the types of emotional and spiritual support you need, discarding what no longer serves.

Each person on this journey has her own perspective and place of attention. The laws of physics dictate that any focus or object of attention requires energy. In this case, I am suggesting that this energy can be attentive to the spiritual and psychological components of healing — components that are fundamental to the cancer journey. The mysteries of the human being are boundless, and from my professional and personal experience, I believe that a diagnosis of cancer or any serious illness can offer the opportunity for travel on the mystical path. This sacred path is highly personal and distinctive. It is a Divine opening for discovery and can happen when one’s heart is pierced to the very core. Maximizing one’s challenges and tragedies for benefit is the essence of learning for all of us. This education can assist you in accessing an interior wisdom that can elevate your health challenges to become a force for your greater good, and during the process, activate consciousness and guide you to the discovery of the courage inside you. Many people with cancer are keenly aware of this mystical quality and have discovered that cancer also presents a transcendent aspect inside the illness. These opportunities are not confined to a particular stage of cancer, because healing has many faces.

Cancer can be revelatory and contains elements both of destruction and transmutation. The sadness of the body, and the frustration, anger, and rage at even having a cancer diagnosis, are all healthy and genuine responses, especially when one is initially diagnosed or in treatment. Expressing these emotions can be quite healing, and suppressing them undermines the therapeutic process. It is important to find a safe place for this expression, and the exercises offered in part 2 of If Joan of Arc Had Cancer, the Gateways, can provide you with that safe forum and give you permission to authentically feel without following the prevalent philosophy that you need to always be strong and fight.

Often when you surrender and give yourself permission to experience and express the full spectrum of emotions — negative, positive, and everything in between — the opportunity for a catharsis is available. It takes a courageous person to be willing to name and explore all of her feelings. However, when you give voice to true feelings, you may discover that the perceived “negative” feelings no longer possess the same power over you. The emotions you have held captive can be heard and consequently can flow through you without getting stuck in your body or psyche.

Joan of Arc knew the importance of expressing her emotions, and throughout her trial, she continued to speak of her visions, convictions, and faith in God. She adhered to her own honorable code even when she was oppressed. Her flame of courage was her strength and commitment to herself even when others were invested in her destruction.

Your flame of courage has a voice that often speaks. It is revelatory and may ask you to reclaim your personal power even when you think it is lost. Cancer requires the fight of an unfamiliar battle (or a returning battle) with a personal sword and shield, and asks you to pay attention to what you may have previously overlooked. It forces us to be attentive to our bodies, our relationships, and our emotional terrain and examine all of the details, to strip us down to the core, which is full of beauty.

The Art of Wabi Sabi

The Japanese have a beautiful word for this consciousness: wabi sabi, a concept that allows the discovery of beauty and is considered an art form. The best and most poignant description of wabi sabi that I have found is this: “the simplicity of wabi sabi…as the state of grace arrived at by a sober, modest, and heartfelt intelligence.” And the best explanation of how to achieve wabi sabi that I’ve read advises, “Pare down the essence, but don’t remove the poetry.”

This invisible connective tissue of all things, wabi sabi strives to recombine all of the elements into a form that has deep meaning. Wabi sabi is often described as the art of imperfection. The triad that forms wabi sabi is simplicity, tranquility, and naturalness. These core aesthetics can easily be a philosophy for women with cancer. Simplicity, by its very nature, implies the paring down of what does and what does not serve, not only in art, but in life. It is the simplicity of choosing what is most useful: physically, spiritually, and emotionally. The act of clearing out what is no longer needed, to form something new, is required. What could you choose? Tranquility provides us with a reassuring curative, and often an accompanying sense of contentment, no matter how our outer life appears. It can also offer a pronounced clarity. Joan’s visions and spiritual vows provided her with an invaluable sense of tranquility amid the chaos of her trials. My mother’s tranquility lived in the majestic panorama of surrender — surrendering to her feelings. The measure of her courage was often found in her vulnerability and her willingness to express that vulnerability without fear. Naturalness suggests authenticity without artifice. Joan’s extraordinary poise, and even sense of humor, during her trial were natural for her. Everyone has their own core of authenticity, though rarely do people reveal that core to the world.

Wabi sabi is the natural transformation and evolution of all things that contain not only “beauty,” but imperfection. I believe this beauty resides in the imperfections of who we are, whether we have a cancer diagnosis or not. Wabi sabi celebrates the dents, the rough edges, the scars, the wounds, the blood, the pain of cancer with all its devastation, and allows them to reorganize into something splendid. I fervently believe that these so-called woundings are actually where the beauty resides. Joan of Arc would have embraced this philosophy, for she lived wabi sabi by finding honor in the darkest of places. Can you?

Excerpted from the book If Joan of Arc Had Cancer. © Copyright 2015 by Janet Roseman. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com

An Excerpt from If Joan of Arc Had Cancer by Janet Roseman

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