WE ARE ALL THE SAME: A Thanksgiving Day Message

The mission of Whole Women Link is to connect women together in the common purpose of healing and stepping into our true and highest selves. We feel your desires to break the false traditions, patterns, and heal emotions that are in your way of finding your wholeness! We see that we are all the same on the first base level, human. This is not to ignore that very real secondary level of difference that exists such as our privilege, nationalities, color, preferences, religions, etc. However, when we place emphasis on our primary level, that we are all human beings pursuing happiness as we best know how, we relate to each other with compassion and build a sense of connection.

Image result for nkosi johnsonThis phrase, “We are all the same,” was first presented to me in a true story about young Nkosi Johnson’s battle with Aids in South Africa in the book with same title by Jim Wooten.  Nkosi displayed wisdom beyond his years and circumstance when he discovered through his battle with Aids virus that we are connected as a human family and he gave us some powerful words to live by. His speech at a large Aids conference the year before he died at age 11 has had a deep impact on me. Nkosi states, “We are all the same. We are not different from one another. We belong to one family. We love and we laugh. We hurt and we cry. We live and we die… Don’t be afraid of us. We are all the same.” Suffering can either embitter us or draw us together with compassion on each other. We are created for joy and compassion is the key to finding it.

Here are a couple of examples of how “we are all the same” has really added to my joy and I think can add to yours:

I have tried to make it a practice to look at how often I think of myself in term of “I” or “me.” Research shows that those that see themselves as part of a whole or as “we” have more joy. I used this recently when going to speak to group of youth about how to become “shame resistant.” I found myself at first dwelling on what “I” was going to share and needing to be the expert. I then stepped back further and decided, I am a co-traveler dealing with shame as these teens do and I was just there to share in this common “we” struggle and ways “we” can overcome it.  I could then see how I was in no way special or separate from them. Separation steal joy. My sense of connection to these teens created a bridge for me to find a helpful message for “us” and allowed me to feel genuine love and connection with them. I hope and think they felt it too.

Lastly, “we are all the same” has been key in my own healing process. For many years I held a paralyzing belief that “having needs is shameful.” I picked up from many sources the idea that being self-sufficient, not needing anyone, and not speaking or acknowledging vulnerability was preferred. So much of this is false. I love the work of Brene Brown as she taught me that vulnerability and authenticity are keys to overcoming shame and stepping into joy.  We are designed to meet needs in relationships. Both independence and dependence are extremes and the balance is found in interdependence. In denying our needs we are often closed and critical of the neediness we perceive in others. When we stop using valuable energy in denying needs and instead work on accepting them it can lead to powerful avenues of personal growth and connection to others. Turns out we are all the same, we are all beggars, in need of something. As we have courage to speak our needs and seek support, we give others permission to do the same. We are then able to enter the circle of interdependence, grateful and aware of how we have been lifted, and ready to help lift another.

Image result for dalai lama“Joy is the reward, really, of seeking to give joy to others. When you show compassion, when you show caring, when you show love to others, do things for others, in a wonderful way you have a deep joy that you can get in no other way. You can’t buy it with money. You can be the richest person on Earth, but if you care only about yourself, I can bet my bottom dollar you will not be happy and joyful. But when you are caring, compassionate, more concerned about the welfare of others than about your own, wonderfully, wonderfully, you suddenly feel a warm glow in your heart, because you have, in fact, wiped the tears from the eyes of another. “ – The Dalai Lama

Beautiful words to live by…


“The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World” (2016), by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams.

“The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You are Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are,” (2010), By: Brene Brown

“We are all the Same: A Story of a Boy’s Courage and a Mother’s Love” (2005), by: Jim Wooten

Moving On to Live

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Have you ever seen someone do something terrible and get away without any sort of consequences? Even worse is when they may get rewarded or celebrated and we somehow reap a negative consequence, while they remain unscathed. Sorry if I’m bringing up a foul memory to mind. It’s ok to take a second to let it flare up, stew, and simmer down if you need. I’m going to attempt to help us take that foul stew off the stove and wash it down the drain, so we’re free to enjoy life more with the air cleared.

I recalled this stench of resentment mixed with justice recently as I’ve been re-reading a story. It’s a story in the Book of Mosiah about this guy named Amulon and his cronies, as I’ve come to call them. They were unjust men, who stole from the humble, murdered the innocent, and were beyond any crudeness or lewdness we’ve been seeing on the news lately. Not only that, they were supposed to be the government and religious leaders.

Thankfully, the people finally wised up and had an uprising, but they somehow managed to escape before the people could sentence any sort of just punishment. Fast-forward, and we get to a point where a group of the most humble and kind of the townsfolk are trying to re-settle themselves. Guess who barges in to desecrate the sweet-prairie life they’ve established? Amulon and his cronies not only butt in, but the ruler of the larger kingdom that the townsfolk settled in dubs Amulon king over their little settlement. To suggest that Amulon merely bullied these townsfolk would be an understatement.

Thankfully, for their well-being and sanity, these weren’t your typical townsfolk. They were praying folk. They were inspired to be patient, and obeyed. Then in due time, the Lord miraculously delivered them.

In some ways, despite the miraculous delivery, I’d find this story to be anti-climactic. No just-consequences are ever mentioned for Amulon. He seems to go by with a free pass. But as I was reading this story again, I stopped to observe myself. I realized that in the midst of my justice-nature, there was a vein of loathing, resentment, and unforgiveness. The funny thing is, I’ve been the one shouldering this, while those praying townsfolk who actually went through it merely moved on. The way they let the past drop off and instead focus on enjoying life reminded me of this stanza in one of my favorite poems, “A Psalm of Life”:


Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!

Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act,— act in the living Present!

Heart within, and God o’erhead!


The example of these townsfolk humbled me to consider that maybe there’s a higher law to live than merely justice alone. Grace.

To me, grace is a state where justice and compassion are held equally. Where there’s a higher hope than just punishment, but a hope that a person can be empowered to healing and freedom from their destructive state. That a past is not necessarily a future. That instead, a person can change and rise to his or her highest self. And we can hope to celebrate their rising rather than revel in their final defeat. Grace isn’t the expectation of witnessing this change occur, but holding the hope and openness that someday they will be freed from the darkness they’re living in, to be a person of light. And in the meantime, our joy isn’t capped by justice alone. We can let the dead Past bury its dead and act in the living Present. We’re free to move on and live.


Learning to Forgive Ourselves

by Guest Contributor Dr. Mark Leonard, EdD

The purpose of Whole Women Link is two-fold: First, to provide a haven for women to gain deeper levels of wholeness. Second, to link this sense of wholeness with our communities as we grow. Though this is a place for women, our lives and communities include men. Our wholeness includes our interactions with these men. We, therefore, saw it fitting to include the voice of honorable male professionals to provide a perspective that fosters the two-fold purpose we hope you gain from linking with us.

Dr. Mark Leonard, EdD, will join us this month as a guest contributor. He has a doctorate in Organizational Leadership from Pepperdine University. His specialty is in helping people and organizations achieve more and be happier doing it. His most recent work has focused on women owned businesses to create freedom without putting additional burden on families. Additionally, Dr. Leonard is happily married to his high school sweetheart, Becky. They are the parents of 4 girls and 2 boys. Their familial joy is derived from spending time with their 5 grandchildren. We believe you’ll enjoy his insights on forgiveness.


Years ago we had a very traumatic event in our family. It is too personal to share here, but it changed the composure of our family for many years. Several years after the traumatic and egregious event, I found myself holding on to anger. Even after court proceedings I found I was not happy with the outcome. For several years I harbored negative feelings that impacted my very being.

A wise friend saw my angst and kindly suggested I learn to forgive, not only those that offended us, but also myself. Without forgiveness he suggested it would “canker my soul”. He was right of course, and I worked to make amends. It did not mean I needed to forget the event; but I did need to release the anger, frustration, and sadness.

After working on forgiving the other person it was time to work on forgiving myself. Why would I need to forgive myself if we were the victims? Without forgiving myself for the anger and frustration, I could not be totally healed. The following are a few steps that help us to forgive ourselves.

  1. Love – As we learn to forgive ourselves, we grow in love. Not just towards others, but an increase in love towards self. Commit to see yourself in eyes that garner respect and love from others. If you struggle to see your own self worth, develop a journal where you track compliments and encouraging words from others. This may take practice, but as you begin to capture nice words that others say about you, you will begin to see the love that they have for you. One example I have used is to remember the encouraging words from a loving grand-parent.
  2. Commit to no harm – Just like we commit to not harm others, we can commit to not harming ourselves. Similar to physical harm, our emotional harm can leave scars that take years to erase. When you find yourself thinking ill of yourself, commit to seeing yourself with new eyes. These eyes see you for the greatness and beauty you have. Practice each day seeing what you have accomplished and record success. Even if it is small, the accumulation of success has a compound effect.
  3. Patient – Learning to forgive ourselves may take time. It is often more difficult than learning to forgive others. Don’t beat yourself up if you find that it takes longer than you hoped. Remember, you are not your actions or thoughts. Those are simply actions and thoughts, and can be changed. Be patient and willing to try again each new day.

As you focus on loving yourself and commit to not harming yourself, you will find that you will have the ability to forgive yourself. Continue to practice self-forgiveness and you will see a decrease in guilt and shame.



For “Giving” Thanksgiving

What if we approached for-giveness just as we altruistically do in being for “world peace” or supporting “animal rights”? Can we be for “giving”? It’s not being for “taking” or for “avoiding”, but making it our cause to give

Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash

something good. The initial thought about forgiveness is usually that it’s something we’re doing externally. But the deeper, more healing type of forgiveness starts with giving ourselves some love, understanding, and comfort. Then we have the capacity to share it with those around us.Sometimes during the holidays, we’re overextending ourselves in giving externally. Just like forgiveness must start internally, so does giving. In Whole Women Link, we talk a lot about mindfulness and balance. This season is a special time to exercise some of these habits we’ve already discussed so we can more fully enjoy our celebration with our loved ones.

As we consider being for “giving”, we want to apply this practically, so let’s talk about applying it this season with food. I can’t think of a more self-giving practice we do daily than eating. Let’s remember to give ourselves good things. We can go in with a plan before our get-togethers, remembering the healing and freedom we’re wanting to give ourselves. When going to a party, I always bring a bag of pumpkin or sunflower seeds with a piece of fruit because I know what I want to give: health to myself and happy bonding experiences with my friends and family. By doing this, I know I won’t go hungry and I can still enjoy the foods others have brought. If there are sweets I’m craving, I remember I’ve got my apple and I’m there to savor my time with friends. If it’s one of those times where your mother or grandma is saying, “Won’t you please try a piece?” I can accept a bite-sized portion, truly savor it, authentically thank her, and go back to my seeds or fruit after.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

I share this with my patients and help them remember their big vision of enjoying vitality of health. When we focus on giving food to ourselves to reach our full measure, there’s no guilt or shame. Instead, we’re creating habits of true nourishment. We can also give ourselves some grace when things don’t go as planned, and try again.

Holiday Invitation:

  1. Each get together, let’s remember what we really want to enjoy in the moment and long-term, like happy bonding and vibrant health.
  2. Then check in with ourselves after and see how we were able to balance those goals, cherishing those happy moments and memories.
  3. If tweaks need to be made, then we can be for “giving” that to ourselves during our next party with a more well-defined plan.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Let’s celebrate the holidays together, so share with us your ideas of how you’ve balanced this for “giving” pattern in the past or what your plans are this year. We’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to reply to this post. Have a happy, for “giving” Thanksgiving!

Forgiveness: Integrate your story and heal

The Holiday season has equal potential to bring us joy and peace or chaos and contention. This greatly depends on our ability to see and promote the good in ourselves and others.  This month we feel that the topic of “Forgiveness” is a fitting sequel to our previous topics of boundaries, self-worth, and emotional self-reliance as growth in all these previous areas lead to a need to forgive. The truth is that we are both victims and offenders in this life, no matter how hard we try to avoid hurting others or being hurt. All that we can truly control Is whether we are victims twice.

Before we are ready to truly offer forgiveness to ourselves or others, we need to “integrate” our story. That is a fancy way of saying that we need to bring what is in our unconscious awareness into our conscious awareness.  As we start being able to name our feelings and experiences, we are then prepped to tame the emotions that so often overwhelm us.  These include feelings such as distrust, pain, and protection that often stems from being injured. So often we are in an autopilot or reactive state when we feel threatened, and that brings out the worst in most of us. When we reach the point where we have integrated enough to “name” our emotions and experiences with acceptance then we can “tame” how we respond. We can say, “Even though I feel this emotion, I can love and accept myself. I do not need to be defined by my emotions and can choose whether I will continue experiencing them.”

Forgiveness is a gift to ourselves.  Once we have owned our experience, we can use the great gift of forgiveness to free us from the cycle of continued injury.  As a trauma therapist, I want to be clear that this does not mean we accept further injury or condone the actions of hurtful people, instead it means we acknowledge that we all have a story, and all offenders have also been offended at some point in their lives. All we can control is whether we will perpetuate or end that cycle, or in other words, whether we will be victims twice. You are free to see the good in yourself and others, and it is this freedom which allows you both to move forward to higher ways of relating. You are also free to pick boundaries that honor who you are and your wish to become stronger and stop hurtful patterns in which you were previously stuck.

This holiday season, I wish each of us greater peace and joy that comes from the ability to mindfully act in a way that is consistent with our best intentions. Forgiveness perhaps is the greatest gift we can receive to set us free to start anew.  Perhaps we can find the motivation to forgive others because we too have been forgiven for our weaknesses.  As we let go of the losses of our past, we will be ready to feel the joy and peace that can be discovered during this time of year.

For more information on how to “integrate” your story check out: http://www.drdansiegel.com/about/mindsight/