Tag Archives: recovery

Peace with the Past – Audio

Recorded live at the Betty Ford Center in California. In this revealing hour long talk, Mandy Evans tells the story of her childhood as the daughter of a violent alcoholic father and how she made peace with her own past. During challenging times we form beliefs that we continue to live by without knowing it. Learn how break out from beliefs you adopted in your past that block success and happiness now.
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Travelling Free

How to Recover from the Past by Changing your Beliefs
During painful and challenging times we often form beliefs that block future happiness and success. We continue to live by those limiting beliefs without being aware of it. They lead us down very different paths from the ones we take when we are clearer and happier. Travelling Free is a workshop-in-a-book to help you identify and clear those beliefs, learn how to make better choices and how to tap into your natural desire and creativity.

Recover, flourish and thrive!

Travelling Free gives insight into freedom from victimization through outworn memories–to use your memories without allowing your memories to use you.”  —Deepak Chopra

“A valuable tool for those seeking peace and direction.” —Bernie Siegel

To order “Travelling Free” at Amazon:
Travelling Free Print Version
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A Personal Declaration of Independence

I’ve never been the same since that bonfire on the 4th of July. An angel gave me a precious gift — really. Then I learned such a good lesson that I sent an email about it to my friends. Like all good lessons, this one kept on teaching. It still is.

Several years ago I accepted an offer from a New England camp and conference center to co-direct their first Recovery Camp for adults. The center had offered a series of different one-week summer camp experiences for young people and adults for many years, always keeping abreast of the needs of the times. This week pledged to offer adults who were recovering from abuse, addiction, alcoholic parents and traumas of all kinds a chance to finally have a wonderful time at summer camp.

My co-leader had directed other summer camp weeks there. I knew going in that it was really his baby with me serving more as an assistant. It sounded good when I signed on. With his reputation as a dynamic, innovative leader I figured I’d learn a lot and not have to work as hard as I did when I was in charge. We did not get along. Even though we both meant well, we strongly disagreed on important issues. It got harder and harder to find a way through our conflicting thoughts and feelings as the week went along. When I spoke up, our conflict escalated. He was furious with me. When I kept quiet, I felt like a hypocrite and a coward. The daily schedule was demanding. The format was new. The material our campers had brought with them proved intense. What a bunch of challenges for us all.

I am not wild about admitting this. After over thirty years of working on my own emotional independence, I lost the vision. Though I wrote two books on the subject, “Emotional Options” and “Travelling Free: How to Recover From the Past by Changing Your Beliefs” and had taught countless seminars on inner freedom, I was melting down. My whole body hurt. I knew a little kid who used to say to his Daddy, “You hurt all my feelings!” I knew what he meant. Most of my feelings hurt. I felt like I had in grade school when kids teased me about being fat.

As I approached the morning staff meeting my most fervent desire was to make it though without crying. One of our last events was a big 4th of July bonfire and talent show. I suggested that a Personal Declaration of Independence would be apt for our 65 campers as they reclaimed their lives from all sorts of troubled pasts. To my surprise, the man agreed. We decided that each camper who wanted to would make a declaration and add a stick to the fire as a symbol of new freedom.

I’m not sure how I would have made it to the bonfire without my guardian angel — really. One of the many delightful features at the Recovery Camp was our guardian angels. At the beginning of the week, we each drew a name. We became that person’s secret guardian angel for the duration of camp. The craft room buzzed with folks making treasures for the person they “guarded”. My angel was truly heaven-sent. Each day she left special messages or flowers or some other imaginative surprise in my cubby.

On the morning of the bonfire a large bunch of tied-together sticks rested on the floor below my cubby. It was much too large to fit in the cubicle. Someone had attached a note to it. A chill passed though me. My first thoughts were of “sticks and stones” and “switches and ashes” my grandfather said his brother got one Christmas morning. Was the staff conflict even worse than I thought? Hoping it wasn’t for me, I bent down and picked it up. The note said “These sticks are so I can see your beautiful face glow even more brightly at the campfire tonight when you declare your independence.” Surely the best angel a mortal ever had watched over me that week.

Night falls. As we file along the dark woodsy path, the bonfire lights up the clearing ahead. A staff member hands each of us a small twig, about six inches long, to throw on the fire as we make our declarations. I, of course, have brought my own wood, thank you. Not one piece, but a bundle. Not small, but large no-fooling-around firewood.

The show proceeds with a rich assortment of sublime and absurd performances. As it comes to an end with roaring applause, two desires dwell in my heart; I want to be somewhere else and I want to fit in, just like a million shy campers before me. Neither choice seems available. My bundle rests beside me. My big bunch of big branches. One by one people stand up. They step forward. They make heart touching declarations of independence and add their small twigs to the fire. The moment is magical.

Across the campfire, the leader and the loyal staff beam at the campers. They really like this guy. I am not the favorite camp leader’s favorite anything. In staff meetings, he has by now, accused me of undermining him and of betraying him like no other person in all of his long life.  I feel icily alone. But I know that somewhere in the circle a guardian angel who gathered branches just for tonight waits. Person after person adds a twig to the blaze. The last call comes. One or two stragglers summon the courage to share their declarations and burn their twigs. A silent pause follows.

I stand up. My voice trembles, “I have something to say.” The co-director and several of the staff members roll their eyes and make big “Oh, damn, now what?” faces. The director frowns at me and moves his hand in quick circles with that speed-it-up gesture. Gathering courage from the campers who went before me, I say, “I have always dreaded standing out in an inappropriate way.” I hear a murmur of recognition, of ‘me too.’ “But I have the most wonderful guardian angel in the world who gave me this big bunch of sticks to burn at the fire tonight.” I raise my bundle high and say, with tears in my voice, but loudly, “So I’m declaring my independence from fear of your judgments and I’m burning my big bunch of sticks that aren’t like anybody else’s. Thank you Guardian Angel!”

Cheers rang out from my fellow campers.

It was a good lesson for me. And like all good lessons, it kept on teaching. I’ve thought of my angel and that day often. Last year I sent a short version of this story out with the following suggestion: “As we approach this Independence Day celebration I encourage you to throw a declaration on the barbie or write one down and burn it with a candle, or just take a moment to consider freedom and independence. What do you declare your independence from?”

A surprising number of people, almost everyone, responded. Some were touched, some inspired, but just as many people wrote to say they couldn’t do it. They told me about things they knew they wanted to be free from. Then they explained what prevented them from doing it.

Remembering that night and my own fear, I wondered what the big deal was. It was just a campfire gathering at a wonderful place in the Berkshires. But my own inner tyrant had tied me up in knots, inflicted my muscles with tension and pain, filled my heart with dread and pretty much paralyzed me. I looked at my own fear again. I asked myself the breakout questions.

What about those judgments was scary? It wasn’t just any old judgments. The thought of impending ridicule and scorn sent those shivers down my spine.”What about ridicule and scorn involves fear?” I asked myself. The sound of my mother’s voice came to mind and a scathing kind of irritation she expressed when I “got in her way.” The way I seemed to be in the way that summer in the mountains. “What about that sound?” I asked. I followed that fear to see where it led. Then I knew; I dreaded total demoralization, succumbing to jeers and taunts and giving up. In order to avoid that final defeat, I had skirted many issues and pulled many a creative punch. I was afraid I would lose my will to live.

I had felt so unwanted as a child, so perpetually in the way that my desire for life was very weak for a long time. I dreaded a return to that feeling. I guarded against it in many, ways, most of them unconscious, all of them limiting.

If it were not for my guardian angel and that bonfire, indeed were it not for my co-director and every single person there that night would I have had the courage to declare my independence from that particular tyrant within, even for one moment? I don’t think so.

Our founding fathers did not know what it would take or how to gain independence from the British Empire. They eloquently and oh, so powerfully declared their independence from an oppressive tyrant and began. Then they fought for years to win their freedom and ours.

Imagine the courage! Today we celebrate the declaration, not the victory which came 7 long years later. We celebrate the vision and enjoy the freedom.

What is your Declaration of Independence today? Do you need to win your freedom from an oppressive employer, an addictive substance, an abusive relationship? Or is yours a tyrant within? Does a critical voice in your mind nag at you continually? Does explosive anger destroy important relationships?

As we celebrate our country’s Declaration of Independence please take some time to reflect on the state of your personal independence. Choose something to tackle and write it down. Toss a twig on the barbie with the burgers and send it into the cosmos. Or frame it to read every day. Keep it to yourself or share it with everyone you know.

I imagine a world filled with people independent and free from hate, violence, revenge and war. And I know I have more work to do on that scorn stuff because I just caught myself wondering if you’ll think this is too mushy.

To your happiness, and independence!

© Mandy Evans 2010. Permission to reprint granted with mention of author and link to this website, www.mandyevans.com

Healing the Disaster Within

They come with great public awareness from airplanes hurtling into the towers of the World Trade Center, or the winds and floods of Katrina or Sandy. Or they may be private, like the death of a loved one or a betrayal of trust. Events far from our control come unbidden into all of our lives with consequences we never intended and do not know how to deal with.

What the events from the outside mean to us on the inside will play an important role in how we deal with them. The disasters within are as unique as each and everyone of us are. Some of us recover sooner and stronger while others of us become demoralized and never again feel the sheer joy of being alive. What makes the difference? One overlooked key to recovery from truly hard times is the beliefs we live by. These beliefs change every day as we experience new events, consider new ideas, come to new conclusions. They form the belief systems we live by. Whether we are aware of it or not, these beliefs tell us what to choose, what to fear, what to get angry about, even what dreams we dare to have.

Some of the beliefs we form when life is at its most challenging, and then continue to live by, can limit us in so many ways. These, usually hidden beliefs, limit our creativity, and our ability to receive help and experience love.

Years ago, when I first moved to California, I began to confront some of my own disasters within with the help of Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. I heard people talk about what it was like to grow up with that wild card of alcohol or drugs always ready to play itself in their family life. Memories of the violent alcoholic father I hardly knew came back vividly and painfully. But with them gradually came new insight and strength too.

I had already been working with belief systems for a long time, but only then did I begin to find and change the beliefs I had formed as a child that I still lived by. Beliefs that had made it almost impossible to ask anyone for anything. Beliefs that caused me to isolate myself just when I most needed love and support. Beliefs that caused me to try to please people I should have steered clear of.

I was so excited about these ideas and experiences, I put together a workshop called “Beyond the Past.” The insights people shared, the stories they told and the power of the exercises we did formed the basis of “Travelling Free: How to Recover from the Past by Changing Your Beliefs,”  I get moving letters from people whom it has helped to recover from painful events and move toward what they really want in life.

I wish everyone who would find it helpful could read it and do the exercises, especially these two exerpts, “Exploring the Hard Part” and “The Pain Is In the Meaning”.  They may be useful to you or to someone you know.

Exploring the Hard Part

Choose one thing that has been hard for you in your life and write it down.

Make sure it could end in “________ was hard for me” Writing your responses in that way will help you to work with them. Sometimes you’ll get a phrase, sometimes a paragraph. Keep it simple.

Here are some examples people have used in workshops: “Being overweight was hard for me.” “When I was a kid, I’d try to help my father when he worked on stuff. And you know, you loved him so much. Sometimes he’d haul off and hit me so hard I’d pee in my pants. That was hard for me.” “When my father left for war and never came back was hard for me.” “My daughter was raped and there was nothing I could do to change it or help her. That was hard for me.” “Always trying to be safe was hard for me.”

Ask: “What was hard for you about that?” Dare to question the obvious. The answers may not be so obvious. People sometimes look at me, aghast when I ask, “What was hard for you about that?” referring to the suicide of a mother or the loss of a job. On occasion an agitated person blurts out, “How can you ask such a stupid question?!” I Ask because even though such an event might be difficult for anyone, it means something different to each one of us. The question is not intended to challenge you or your beliefs. It is meant to shed light in the corners where you never look.

Do at least 5 examples in order to see the relationship between what happened and what was hard for you about it more clearly.

The Pain Is In The Meaning

Take an example from your life that you’ve been exploring.

Use your sentence from the last exercise. It began: “_______ was hard for me.” Or “_______, that was hard for me.”

Ask: What did it mean to you then?

Ask What does it mean to you now?

Again take as much time as you like to be with this question. Let the question roam around in your consciousness, your memories, your body. Notice what you find. Write down the parts that will fit into words so that you can see them.

As we heal from the disaters within we free ourselves to create new realities.

To read the full text of “Travelling Free: How to Recover from the Past by Changing Your Beliefs” order here: http://mandyevans.com/archives/travelling-free/.

Happy Journey!

© 2012 Mandy Evans. Permission to reprint granted with author credit and link to this website.