Judgmental or helpful?

"You can eat the kale, drink the alkaline water, take the supplements, do pilates or hit the gym, but if you don't deal with the stuff going on in your heart and mind, you are still unhealthy."

Does this image (to the right) feel judgmental to you? When I re-shared this image from a friend’s Facebook feed to my own recently, for the most part it received numerous “likes,” which I’m assuming came from those who perceived this image similarly to how I perceived it. But, the image also received a comment from one friend saying, “I struggle to accept when the ‘enlightened’ tell others they are less than, rather than accepting all wherever they are on their path.”

My friend’s statement had an impact on me because it is always my intent to be nonjudgmental and accepting of everyone, regardless of where they are on their life path. However, when I considered my friend’s comment, I could see how, with the image’s all-caps lettering and in-your-face tone addressing the reader directly with the words “you” and “your,” the message could possibly be perceived as pointing a judgmental, non-accepting finger. However, that certainly was not my intent in posting the image, and I don’t think it was the intent of whomever created the image in the first place.

Another friend shared a different perspective that, “If you really take in this image and its message at face value, there is nothing about it that is intrinsically judgmental or belittling. So, if someone takes offense to it, it’s possibly because the message is hitting home for them in some way, pointing to something within themselves that is calling to be looked at, and the reminder makes them uncomfortable.”

So, perhaps it all comes down to perspective.

Pointing a finger

To me, this image is certainly pointing a finger, but it’s not pointing a finger in judgment, rather it’s pointing a finger as a sort of wake-up call to an important truth that many people may be overlooking. 

As another one of my friends pointed out, perhaps the message would have seemed less judgmental if it had been worded in the first person, such as, “I ate the kale, drank the alkaline water, but until I dealt with the stuff going on in my head and my heart I was still unhealthy.”

Emotional and physical well-being are intrinsically connected

In any case, this message is one of the core principles in the arena of “self-help” and “self-improvement.” It’s rooted in something modern medicine is becoming more and more aware of, that our emotional health and mental well-being can directly affect our physical health. 

Emotional issues that are shoved away and left to fester often eventually turn up as physical ailments. They will usually pop up in our lives in other ways before they turn up in our physical bodies, however, and it’s up to us to see them, to listen to them, and to process and learn from them as best we can.

The stuff of life

From a more spiritual-multidimensional perspective, this is truly the stuff of life. We all have the likely potential to carry with us “emotional baggage” from challenging experiences and events in our lives.

Often, these events took place in our formative years, the years of our childhood and adolescence. For some of us, the events may even be centered in our experiences at birth and/or in our infancy. And, for others, perhaps we’re even dealing with issues we’ve brought into this life from other existences before our birth into our present physical body. That could be what’s often considered to be “past lives,” or for some, even “parallel lives.” [The subject of past lives and parallel lives, and whether or not they’re real, is fascinating, but I’ll leave that for another post.] Or, it could be something that’s been handed down to us by our ancestors, the “vibration” of a way of being that has been running in the family for generations and has been passed on to us.

Great purpose

Whatever the origin of our emotional issues, however, from a broader perspective encompassing the totality of our life journey and our even larger journey of existence, all of these occurrences of “emotional baggage” are there for our learning, for our evolution, for the expansion of our understanding about who and what we are, and about why we are here. 

In my own life experiences, including my personal discoveries as well as through my own spiritual-multidimensional realizations, it’s become all-too-clear that every trauma, every challenging “negative” experience, every event that might have made me want to turn away and run for cover, happened with great and profound purpose, and each one holds within it the potential for learning, expansion, and transformation. These events don’t happen randomly.

Great gifts

Now, that sounds like an all-too-often poorly used cliche, “everything happens for a reason.” And, yes, all that I have learned points to the core principle that everything does, indeed, happen for a reason. However, it is not my intent to use that statement as a means of dismissal, or as an excuse to subvert understanding, compassion, care, or assistance for anyone who might be experiencing hardship due to their own life events.

If the statement “everything happens for a reason” is ever used, it is ideally only used in a spirit of acknowledgement that there is something larger going on in our lives than what meets the eye. That our lives and the events in our lives are not random or meaningless, that there is great, important purpose in every occurrence under the sun (and beyond!). When we approach issues with this sanctity, this reverence, and also with compassion, love, patience, and gentle care, the issues themselves can turn into great gifts of understanding, of learning and knowledge, that can foster deep personal healing and evolution for those involved. 

Unmatched opportunities for self realization

Yes, this is the stuff of life! We’ve all got our own “emotional baggage,” and it’s there to be dealt with. Shoving it away, running from it, ignoring it, blaming it on others, only make it bigger. 

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” – Pema Chödrön

In fact, when things are shoved away, avoided, or even hidden in our subconscious, they usually have a way of appearing to grow larger, usually simply because our avoidance of them has built them up to seem much more ominous than they truly are. Often, these issues, while they may be scary at first to look at, and challenging to face, can be processed and resolved in a surprisingly short time. And the healing and learning that can flow from them can be remarkable and life-changing.

This learning can bring so many gifts. It often allows us to see how these hidden-away issues have colored our lives and the way we interact with the world. For example, it can show us why we have reacted to things in certain ways, or why we might keep encountering the same kinds of dysfunctional relationships, or why things have unfolded for us the way they have. Or, in other cases, answers and explanations may not come for they may not be necessary for healing and learning to take place. But, in nearly every case, there is a profound sense of relief and release, as though a great weight has been lifted from our shoulders.

Right-side-up again

Some might fear that dealing with our inner emotional stuff could turn everything in our lives upside down. But, that is rarely, if ever, the case, as I have observed in my own experience and in the experiences of people I have worked with in various processes that shine the light of transformation where it is needed most. 

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brené Brown

Where life is upside-down is in the state of leaving these things untouched, in continuing to shove them away, in ignoring them and hoping they will just go away. They won’t go away; they’ll keep surfacing wherever they can until we look at them and allow in the wisdom and healing that they hold for us. And if we don’t let them in, if we don’t deal with them, sooner or later, they all-too-likely will show up as physical illness, or possibly even as an “accident” that affects our physical well-being, for that may be the only way they can get our attention. 

A signpost

So, yes, this image is pointing a finger. But it’s not the middle finger, it’s the index finger, acting as a signpost to personal awareness, to self realization, and to the rich opportunities for transformation that we all carry within us.