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My Disgusting Surrender

It’s 3.14 a.m. I am sitting in bed crying, rocking back and forth, holding myself while I am praying, begging and pleading into the dark night: please help me, please end this agony, please make this go away…

For the past year a strange skin condition has been torturing me. Red blotches of some kind of rash has appeared in different places all over my body, but worst on my feet. It itches 24/7 and oozes. My right foot is so swollen I can’t fit a sock or shoe on it so I limp around the house in my sweetie’s size 12 slippers. I can’t stop itching even though the itching makes it worse; my skin falls off in chunks exposing my raw, stinky flesh. Sometimes when I drag myself up in the morning a trail of blood from my right foot marks my floor. Big tender lumps are in my armpits, my belly, my neck, my legs and I squeeze greenish puss out of them.

No doctor or dermatology specialist has been able to figure out what is going on with me. All tests come back negative or inconclusive. They give me antibiotics and steroids. The steroids suppress everything and I feel a lot better but as soon as I come off them it all comes back with a vengeance. The natural practitioners that I see have a lot of suggestions and ideas, none of which has given any results so far.

I can’t sleep because I am so uncomfortable; the itching is intense, I can’t find a comfortable position because of my tender boils and anything that touches my skin feels harsh and hurts, even my flannel sheets. So, I am huddling in a soft cashmere blanket, rocking and crying.

During the day I get by on coffee, pain killers and antihistamines. I guide my online clients and classes through inquiry with my right foot in an ice bucket. I manage to focus on my clients and my daughter’s needs during the day but at night I kind of break down. My mind is obsessed with finding out what this condition is and how to cure it; how make it GO AWAY!

One of those awful, restless nights I hear a clear voice from within: “You wanted to learn surrender? This is it.” Everything shifts; I stop fighting and resisting. I become one with the itching and the pain, the sensations become an exhilarating ride. My heart opens towards the disgustingness of the oozing and the boils; they are innocent. My mind opens enough to question the painful, itching stories that have been running in circles in my head.

“I can’t take this anymore.” Not true! I am right here, taking it, in this very moment. And the present moment is all I ever have to deal with.

“I need the itching to go away!” Is that true? (Question 1 in The Work.) I let the questions sink like little pebbles in a pond and wait for the heart to answer. No! In this moment, now, I am fine with these tingling, interesting sensations in my body. And in the next moment and the next… My mind opens to the possibility that it may never go away and that many people, including many of my clients, live with chronic conditions that are much worse. Maybe this will be mine. Life is still pretty great, even with this weird thing going on in my body.

“I need to know what this is, then I will be able to fix it and make it GO AWAY!” Can I absolutely know that’s true? (Question 2 in The Work.) No. Even if I do figure out the cause I can’t know for sure that I can make it go away. There are many skin conditions that are chronic, uncurable, and you just have to learn how to manage them. And I can’t absolutely know that my body won’t come back to balance without me ever knowing what the cause is.

“It’s going to get worse!” Awful, disgusting, scary, painful images from all my Google searches fill my mind and I see my body completely covered in this rash thing. Can I absolutely know that it’s going to get worse? No, I can’t know anything about the future.

“I should have healed this by now!” Now I am laughing. As one of my Making Peace with Disease Class participants said: “Well, if I had the power to get rid of my cancer, I would have flipping done that!”

Last story: “I need someone to help me.” How do you react when you believe that thought? (Question 3 in The Work.) I am out of my own business, desperately seeking for someone out there to fix me. I am not able to listen my intuition, not able to help myself. Who would I be without that thought? (Question 4 in The Work.) I am back home in myself.

This is it, Helena! This is surrender. Relaxation fills me, I am pulled deep within, when I am not resisting the itching it lessens considerably, now I am resting in that which is witnessing the itching sensations. A tender love is emanating from the tender boils. The breath deepens and I am filled with gratitude and love for my beautiful life.

I am willing to continue having this condition. I look forward to continue having this condition. (The turn-around of number 6 on The Work worksheet.) It has brought a lot of beauty and vulnerability to my life. I have had to ask for help and learn how to receive support. I have shared some vulnerable things that I needed to say for a long time to some family members and friends. I have learned to be tender with myself and accept my limitations. I have expanded my capacity to stay in the present moment and to enjoy every little thing to the fullest. A cup of tea is just orgasmic! The beauty of the constant itching sensation is a constant reminder to meditate, every moment has become an invitation to take some deep breaths and look within.

But I also found a deeper reservoir of strength and determination within. Some nights I just said: Fuck it! I refuse to let myself be controlled by this condition! I am going dancing with my sweetie tonight! I would squeeze my swollen, oozing feet into my high heel red boots, take a double dose of painkillers, drink an energy drink, smoke a joint and for two glorious hours dance the night away with my sweetie at the Crazy Horse Salon in my rocking home town Nevada City! I gave it my all until I couldn’t anymore and then Hubert would drive me home fast to put my feet in an ice bucket and take more pain killers! The next day my feet would be worse-but it was worth it!

After my “disgusting surrender” I was truly at peace with my condition, it could stay or go; either was welcome. (I call it disgusting surrender cause the whole rash/boil thing was so unattractive, ugly, stinky and gross.) As life would have it; once I was fine with it, I did find an Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist that actually cured me. My wonderful witch gave me really weird herbs and dried little snakes (!) to make tea out of and that, together with a super cleansing diet and acupuncture slowly, slowly helped my body to come into balance. We think my body may have been cleaning out a build-up of my HIV meds. I don’t know if that’s true, seems like it could be.

What I do know to be true is that this condition came in as a deepening spiritual teaching in my life. I learned so much and it gave me an opportunity to literally put my feet up and forced me to meditate a LOT as it was the only way to not go completely crazy. It opened me to even deeper levels of compassion and understanding for my all my clients with chronic and painful conditions. I thought this condition was wearing me out and came to realize that the only thing that gets worn down when you are sick is ego. Your identity of who you believe you are gets worn down, so a new fresh you can sprout!

I learned that surrender is easy when you sit at the feet of some spiritual guru in some beautiful ashram, in the arms of the love of your life or during a Yoga class when you are completely healthy. Real surrender happens when you soften up, open your heart and mind, to that which you believe you really don’t want. And as you open to it, who knows what shifts and blessings might occur.


To learn more about my classes around disease:

To learn more about The Work of Byron Katie:

Praise and Blame for Helena ~ learning how to receive feedback through inquiry.

It was the first morning of the 2019 Scandinavian Summer Camp for The Work of Byron Katie at Mundekulla Retreat Center; a perfect Swedish summer morning with moist grass and green birches swaying. I had a peaceful, silent breakfast with my friends. We had a staff meeting planned right after breakfast to make sure everything would run smoothly when our participants arrived. But first I had to visit the lovely composting toilet.

I walked back to the seminar room where we had met the night before but no one was there. Hmm, they weren’t in the dining hall either. The Sun Hall! Nope, empty and quiet as a monastery. Oh, right, last year we had the staff meetings in that little cottage, I went out there. Empty. The Sanctuary in the horse meadow? No, no one there either.

-Oh, I know! They are over at the Kreativum hall setting up for Katie’s live video appearance this evening! I ran over there, breathing heavily. Mundekulla is a big retreat center! Not a single person in sight. The Hay Loft? Nobody there either. The entire staff of the Summer Camp had vanished into thin air. Were they all out in the forest marking the morning walk trails?

I gave up and walked back towards the seminar room and sat down by some bushes and started my own planning meeting for the session I was guiding later that afternoon together with Nayano, my dear soul sister and fellow Certified Facilitator.

Voices! People!

-Man, I dig Helena’s style; if she doesn’t feel like coming to a meeting, she doesn’t come! one staff member said to another; they both laughed. I jumped out of my bushes and joined in their laughter. I was delighted to laugh with my friends and happy I could provide some joy.

-That’s true, but I was actually trying to get to this meeting. Where were you guys???

(Reaction in the past: Defense, self-pity, fear, shame! Oh, my God, they are joking about me! I have done something wrong! That’s awful; what is everyone else saying?! I tried my best but I could not find you guys!)

-We’re meeting in the new office between the Sun Hall and the seminar hall!

Aha, well, I had never been in that part of Mundekulla and had no idea we had an office there for this year’s camp. (Since I had missed some meetings…) I wandered up to our staff office from a back staircase I hadn’t noticed before. I was cracking up realizing I had been right on the other side of that small corridor and it had been so quiet because they were all meditating.

But some of the other staff member were not laughing. One was very frustrated and upset with me about several things. I first I tried to offer some info…”I didn’t know we had this office this year” and then I got quiet. I noticed it was more important to hear my friend. I listened. I took it in. I moved closer. I could understand the frustration with Helena. Another staff member chimed in: “Yeah, the story is building, Helena, that you don’t really want to be part of a team.” Yep, I could find that too.

(Reaction in the past: self-pity, victim hood, crying, defense: I was trying to find you guys! I looked all over! No one told me where the new office was and I just got here late last night, and I am jet lagged! I travel way farther than any of you guys! So, give me a break!)

Frustrations were vibrated and heard. I had some of my own. Solutions were found; perfect planning happened and then we moved on to have a wonderful first day of Summer Camp. As Katie says: Without a story you can’t have a problem, only solutions.

Later during the opening ceremony of the Summer Camp one participant said to me: “You are so crystal-clear Helena; did you know that?” I honestly answered no. I sat with her with her story about me; sharing some crystal clarity, it was lovely. Another participant said: “I came to the Summer Camp because of you Helena.” I was glad for her sake that she was glad and I hoped she wouldn’t disappoint herself with her high expectations.

(Reaction in the past: puffed up ego, smug, the spiritual “better than others” identity active; Wow, I am so crystal clear! Feeling elevated that some participants had such high thoughts about me.)

A few days later while I had my day of presenting The Work a participant came up to me in a break and said: “I just want you to know that you don’t need to apologize for being up here, Helena!” I had inserted what I thought was a bit of humor into one of the practices I was guiding and she had experienced that as me not being in my power and apologizing for myself. I noticed that I was surprised and curious that she would see me that way. And, good to know, that my little joke could be taken that way! I had spoken it as an attempt to not make things too serious or “spiritually correct” and maybe that was not necessary. I was grateful for her comment.

(Reaction in the past: Internally: Scoffing, attacking, upset, righteous: Why would I need to apologize for myself?! I am a Certified Facilitator and have been in the Work for 20 years!!! I know my stuff!! Outwardly: I would have tried to explain myself in a spiritual, nice way to this person; that it was a joke and that I really could not find what she was saying, so it must be her projection….)

Praise and blame. Praise and blame of Helena. I noticed that none of the feedback moved me out of peace and presence. It didn’t move me from the center. Before inquiry that simply would not have been possible. Before inquiry I had an identity to defend, an image to hold up.

Not that I don’t care or pushed the feedback away like: ”Whatever, I don’t give a shit what other people think of me!!” (Another defensive reaction from the past.) In fact, I noticed I cared more deeply than ever about the other person’s frustration or joy, and it wasn’t mine. I was available to help if I could or to enjoy their joy without taking credit for the source of that joy.

I notice, after questioning all the underlying beliefs about who I am, that the attachment to this persona, Helena, is much looser and more spacious. It’s more of a noticing: aha, today she did that, and she said this. Oh, she really made a mistake there! Wow, she really did a good job with over here! And something bigger is holding this dear woman/being as she tries her best to travel the meandering paths of this life.

As Katie says: You’ll begin to discover for yourself that The Work is equally powerful when the one you’re judging is yourself. You’ll see that the “you” you judge is no more personal than everyone else turned out to be. The Work deals with concepts, not people.

I suffered from a very harsh inner critic my whole life so I have used The Work on my self-critical beliefs a lot. And the result of doing that for years is very different than what I originally imagined. I thought I would be filled with self-esteem, have a sense of “I can accomplish anything,” never make any mistakes and feel perfect and whole in myself. I thought I would experience the opposite of self-criticism once I had undone the self-judgments; self-boosting or self-bravado.

And something much more beautiful opened up. As the old self-critical stories began to drop my true Self was uncovered. A kindness beyond measure. A relaxed beingness. An innocence. A sense of fun and adventure as I watch the “Helena-movie” play out. Nothing to defend, nothing to pretend. This (Helena) is held in love and being lived by a very beautiful energy.

In this process I noticed that all self-critical stories led back to a set of core beliefs that I had attached to during childhood. Those core beliefs were short, simple sentences spoken in a child’s language and in my native language, Swedish. Together they formed a tight web that built an identity that I called me; an identity that I kept adding proof and more stories to, to hold the original one’s in place.  My favorite belief was: “There is something wrong with me” and that one had been in there, like a computer program that just keeps running in the back ground once it had been installed, from the time I was able to form thoughts.

I questioned that belief using the 4 questions of The Work of Byron Katie over twenty times. I went back in time to memory bubbles from my childhood and did inquiry with my little girl. I went back to my shame filled teenager and did The Work with her. I questioned it in the present whenever it would pop up. I questioned it in future fear scenarios; “I am going to do something wrong!” Until mind just could not hold onto that belief anymore; it just popped! And now I can remember with compassion how painful it was to believe that thought.

I am deeply grateful to have learned through my training as a Certified Facilitator to receive feedback, any feedback, as a gift. As a way to learn more, a way to join rather than defend and separate. When there is no one left to defend, life is so much easier. My previous inability to receive feedback created a lot of problems in my life; for example, it was a major part in the failure of my two marriages. My husbands could never say anything to me because I was too fragile and insecure; anything they had a problem with I had to defend against. I had to hold up the image of being perfect because it was too painful to drop into what I truly was believing about myself.

I see this play out in our society and in politics; instead of hearing someone’s feedback and looking into how it could be valid, politicians, all the way up to Trump in the White House, and people in leading positions defend and attack like toddlers in a sand box. “They are just trying to discredit me!” “It’s a conspiracy against me.” “They hate me.” ”I haven’t done anything wrong!”

What could anyone call me that I couldn’t find at some time in my life? If you say a single thing that I have the urge to defend, that thing is the very pearl waiting inside me to be discovered.  ~Byron Katie

I would love to guide you through this journey of uncovering your true Self. Check out when my next Uncover Your True Self 6-month Inquiry Online Program starts. I take max 8 participants in one group to keep a sense of intimacy and so that I can a lot give personal attention to each participant. It is deep, radical work and we are having so much fun unraveling the madness of the ego.





Old People Are Ugly – Is that true?

Old people are ugly – is that true?

When I visited my mom last summer at her Alzheimer’s care home the staff exclaimed: “You look so much like your mother!” (My mom is in Sweden and I can only visit once a year so several of the staff members had not seen me before.)

I am ashamed to admit that for a moment I felt slightly offended…”Whaaat? I look like my mom!? But she is so, you know,.…oooooold! I don’t look like that…” my mind objected as I looked at my mom’s eighty-eight-year-old white hair, grey teeth and wrinkled up face. My vanity definitely took a hit!

That comment unraveled a deeper layer of beliefs around aging and “old” people. I felt awful and embarrassed to admit, even to myself, that I still held onto some youth-obsessed cultural beliefs around aging and beauty. And I was glad I noticed that; it showed me what to work through next.

I wrote a list of all the ugly, demeaning thoughts I uncovered about old people:

Aging is not sexy.

Old people are unattractive.

Old people are ugly.

Wrinkled up skin and flabby flesh cannot be beautiful.

Once you are old, that’s it; you have lost your looks.

And I also noticed the thought that my mom, who was very gorgeous in her youth, had lost her looks.

Old people are ugly-is that true? Yes! Can I absolutely know that’s true? Hmmm…, No, that is just a thought I have attached to, a judgement.

How do I react when I believe that thought? I look at old people through the filters of these ugly, unattractive thoughts and that is how I perceive aging/old people. It became clear to me that there is no way I could perceive beauty in aging with these beliefs. You can only see what you believe. The thought creates separation from old people in general, and my mom specifically.

Who would I be without that thought? My heart opened and I could be present in the situation and be glad that the staff connected me with my mom. I am happy to look like this sweet lady who have endured so much. Without the thought there is no comparing young versus old, there is just being and witnessing life in the moment; seeing my mom and the other guests at the care facility with love and kindness.

Over the next few days, as my sweetie and I visited my mom every day, and I continued doing inquiry on the thoughts from my list, my whole perception changed. Being with the unconditional love that poured out of my mom sure helped that process as well and I began to see her as cute, dignified and beautiful. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. I began to live the turnaround: Old people are beautiful. What are some examples of that?

I would pick an old person on the subway or in a cafe’, indirectly gaze at them without staring, and look for examples of beauty. I would find one thing at a time until mind opened and then whole person would appear as beautiful. It was so much fun. I would Google Image aging people and just sit and meditate on their faces and bodies.

I realized I never judge old trees or aging in nature, on the contrary; I love aging in nature. The flower stalks that dry and become ornaments, the shape of all seed pods, the graying tree branches that shine like silver, the gorgeous pattern of the bark of old trees, not to mention fall! Which is all the leaves aging and dying, returning to Mother Earth. We took walks in nature (and we would bring my mom along in her wheel chair) and I would on purpose look for examples of beautiful aging and silently bless them.

My (ego’s) thoughts about old people are ugly! Yep, that is the only place anything ugly ever existed! So glad I dissolved that!

If you judge your own or other people’s bodies, join me for this upcoming 6-week online exploration, starting April 18, 2019. We’ll question and dissolve judgments about our bodies and release the harsh, limiting cultural beliefs around beauty. Only for women for now, sorry brothers. I may run a class for men in the future since men suffer as much as women under this oppression.

Link to My Body My Temple Class: