Self Love. Self Care. Inspiration

My book of poetry, "Stripping- My fight to find Me" is a story of the triumph of the human spirit. It is a story of our deep need for connection and the infinite power of love to heal.

It’s Sunita here.

I am a poet, an author, a wife, a mother, a clinician and a childhood trauma survivor. I healed when I understood that I was broken,
not a victim. I learnt that everything I needed was within me. And that my mental health and my inner life was the essence and driving force of my existence.

I now want to challenge and inspire you to move beyond your old stories so you can embrace possibility and fulfill your potential. So, if that is where you are in your life, I invite you to come visit with me every Sunday.

The conversation is honest, the topics are varied, the perspectives are from many angles, but the bottom line is always
Self Love Self Care First. I hope you will join me in a journey of discovery, wonder, growth and a celebration of our truth.

And love

Because what else is there to talk about?

Be well, Do well, Live well,

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Why "Rephrasing" Our Self Talk is a Core Practice of Self Love Self Care First, and Why You Should Try It

It's Sunita here.

Self talk.

This is a conversation we participate in around the clock. Sometimes, we are aware of our engagement in it, and at other times, it goes on without our conscious involvement. Even during our sleep, we are constantly talking, imagining, problem solving, healing and creating.

Freud was not the first to be mystified with the role of sleep in our emotional life and what our dreams meant. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud to this day remains a vital and important work in this field, despite being written more than 100 years ago. More recently, Rosalind Cartwright's work on sleep at the University of Chicago illuminates the connection between the REM cycle of sleep and healing.The Twenty Four Hour Mind is an excellent read on how she got into the field of sleep as a psychologist and a narrative of her role as a pioneering sleep researcher.

The content and tone of our self talk comes from a complex system of many contributing sources. Our childhood is the major contributor of this conversation. As is our inherent personality and ability to self reflect and edit what we hear.

How we grew up remains a big part of how we talk to ourselves. Did we grow up in an environment that was nurturing, caring, empowering and encouraging? Were our parents able to give us the confidence to overcome adversity? What were their response to our failures and their own?

For example, here are two different responses to a child getting a failing grade.

Parent 1- "I knew you would fail! You're stupid and lazy. You're never going to get this because you're a loser".

Parent 2- "Let's sit and look at this together. Maybe you need to understand the concepts better. And if you failed because you didn't put in the work, then this is a good opportunity to examine your study habits. I know you're smart and can do this. Better results next time. It's ok to fail at something as long as you learn something and progress from there. That's the important part."

What kind of self- talk do you think will develop in the mind of the child of Parent 1? How does it compare to that of Parent 2's child? 

Just imagine the  variations of these conversations that the children get over years of their life from their parents. As children, we mirror the feedback and responses of our parents, teachers and caregivers. We absorb the messages that they are sending us through their voice, tone, words, body language and even their unconscious ramblings. That is the foundation of our self talk.

Adverse Childhood Experiences  negatively impact the development of a healthy sense of self.

That results in the development of a pattern of negative self talk. It gives rise to, or perpetuates a history of trauma that is transgenerational in nature.

How we communicate with ourselves is a huge part of how we take action in our lives. The words we use for ourselves, and to ourselves, are indicative of the level of regard, love and compassion we have for ourselves.

Do your words reflect judgement, criticism, impatience, hatred, contempt, disregard, helplessness, hopelessness or despair?

In Trauma leads to Treason, I discuss how  "Attachment Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experience's, ACE's affect every cell in our bodies. The impact of such trauma destroys our sense of self that must be developed, nurtured, encouraged and be present in healthy amounts in order to be motivated to practice Self Love. When we are struggling with depression, anxiety and the many other mental and physical manifestations of  trauma, we are unable to develop the necessary Self Care skills. Not only are we unable to practice Self Love Self Care First, but we engage in treason against our being."

A dominant portion of that treason is in the warfare we wage against our being through how we talk to ourselves. The conversations we have inside our head in response to our experience of others and the world as it relates to us personally may go like this,

"He is ignoring me because he hates me. Of course, he does. Just like everybody else."

"I can't do this."

"I know I'm not going to get this job. I never get anything I really want."

"What's the point of exercising? We're all going to die as it is. And I never lose weight anyway."

"I trusted her with my secret, but she betrayed me. I'm such a loser."

'Rephrasing' may not be enough to change how you talk to yourself. You may need to work with a mental health professional to address core issues and effects of your trauma, but it could certainly start a process of becoming aware of what you are saying to yourself. 

For those of you who are just not conscious of your self talk, rephrasing is an excellent tool of changing how you think. It is a game changer, because your thoughts are the driver of the actions you take. Those actions add up to create the life that you live. So essentially, you control how you live by choosing your thoughts. 

How can we practice Self Love Self Care First through Self Talk?

By hearing ourselves without judgement, and then rephrasing our words in order to  compassionately move towards self improvement and growth. To be clear, the purpose here is not to shirk responsibility by deflecting our accountability. It is actually the opposite. It is about increasing our capacity to bear our deficiencies and failures in a positive way, without allowing them to define us. And then building our capacity to make up for those failures by acknowledging them, apologizing for them and making amends for them.

here's a simple example of rephrasing. You can plug in any sentence that you want and follow the process as illustrated in this photo.

Keep going. Practice this process. Follow all the steps. 

The more you practice rephrasing, the easier it becomes. Until one day, you are aware of all your self talk. And are able to rephrase it.

And one day, you will not need to practice. Rephrasing will become a habit. I can promise you that.

What I can't promise is that there will come a time when you will never doubt yourself or feel down. That's part of the human journey. But no matter how desolate or discouraged you may feel, you will always have the choice to get up and try again. That's where rephrasing becomes an essential tool of our battle against despair.

I end with an incredible illustration in recent history of rephrasing an experience.
"Think of the beauty still left around you", said Anne Frank.

I leave you with this challenge. 
Go through one entire day rephrasing every negative thought that pops up. 

I did, and earned this cool certificate. It means alot to me. Because I had to work very hard to be able to let go of the manner in which I spoke to myself. And I didn't do it alone. I had professional help. 

You can track your progress by checking out the fantastically cool stuff at Emily McDowell & Friends and getting this certificate of everyday achievement for yourself. Start small. Be consistent. Track your results. And don't forget to pause to party!

Good luck!

With my best to you,
And of course,
With love,


Sunday, March 8, 2020

Maybe Finding True Freedom and Happiness is the Wrong Pursuit- Thich Nhat Hanh Illuminates Why

What are you feeding your mind?

It's Sunita here.

Finding happiness is a concept that gets the press. We are taught and expected to find our happiness in people, things, jobs, accomplishments, hobbies, places and everything that connects us to them. Then why can we still feel empty when we find them? Why are we unhappy when we lose them?

Because these are all transitory and variable experiences. They are sources of happiness for sure, but can also generate great pain and suffering in our lives.

So then, what gives?
How can we find true freedom and happiness?

"There is no happiness without freedom, 
and freedom is not given to us by anyone; 
we have to cultivate it ourselves." 

These words of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, affectionately known as Thay (teacher) are simple, yet encompass a truth that is powerful and not arbitrary. By freedom, he means, "freedom from afflictions, from anger, and from despair."

Cultivate, verb
(2c) to improve by labor, care or study: REFINE
Source of definition.

Cultivation of true freedom is a process. There is a starting point, a method and a direction to follow. Every step leads you to greater awareness and enlightenment within your mind. That awareness flows not only to your own body and self, but to others around you.

You make the choice of living free.

And in that choice, you control how happy you want to be.

Finding happiness is another name for a Sisyphean task of finding an illusion. It is a wild goose chase with many disappointments and suffering along the way. And it can take a lifetime to figure that out.

Just think back of a relationship that you were convinced was going to bring you happiness. It could be with anyone in your life. A parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, a mentor, a religious leader? Let's take a spouse or partner as an example. With about 50% of partnerships ending in a divorce, how can that relationship be the model of the path to find happiness. Even the 50% of couples that stay together will tell you that freedom and happiness are not always the words they would use to describe their relationship all the time.

True freedom cannot come from any external source. You are the only one who can cultivate your freedom. 

Our history has shown us again and again how tides of good fortune for an individual, country, group of society, and even entire mankind can change in a split second. So what can one do to be free, despite one's circumstances and place in life?

"Freedom is what we practice every day" says Thay. He believes that everyone has the ability to cultivate freedom and true happiness, but it grows only when we practice mindfulness. To avoid being a victim of anger, despair and affliction, we must not feed them.

"...Without mindfulness in our daily lives, we feed our anger and despair by looking and listening to things around us that are highly toxic. We consume many toxins each day; what we see on television or read in magazines can nourish our anger and despair. But if we breathe in and out mindfully and realize that these are not the kinds of things we want to consume, then we will stop consuming them. To live mindfully means to stop ingesting these kinds of poisons. Instead, choose to be in touch with what is wonderful, refreshing, and healing within you and around you"

I challenge you to ask yourself these 3 questions today.
  1. What are my motivations and reasons for wanting to be free and happy? (hint-what's my discomfort/pain?)
  2. What poisons am I ingesting that are stopping me from cultivating true freedom? (hint-what am I doing/watching/reading/etc. to feed my anger, afflictions and despair?)
  3. What poison am I willing to stop ingesting to start to cultivate true freedom? (hint- what am I going to choose to do to take control of my life in a concrete way?)

Be Free Where You Are by Thich Nhat Hanh is a small, but solid companion

book full of profound wisdom, delivered in an easily understandable, encouraging and simple way. It will help make the process of finding your freedom a joyful one. You will feel Thay's encouraging presence every step of the way.

Wishing you freedom, lasting happiness and a joyful journey,

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Making Someone Else Happy is a Simple but Essential Practice of Self Love Self Care First

It's Sunita here.

The term Self Love Self Care First  encompasses much more than taking care of ourselves first.

Many a times, the act of doing something for someone else is the way we are taking care of ourselves. Because acts of love for others make us feel good.

It bolster our relationships, and communicates our love for those who are important to us.

When we have taken care of ourselves, we have the energy and desire to do so, selflessly for others. Our mind is settled and clear so we are able to use it creatively. We discover opportunities to put our loving thoughts into a tangible form for our loved ones to experience.

Such an opportunity presented itself to me this week. Baking a cookie care package for my daughter, who is far away was what I chose to do to send her my love.

This act of love for others is been performed by millions of moms, grandmothers, aunts, friends, and I'm sure many dads and grandfathers as well. That's because it brings about such pleasure to them while they bake. Their joy continues on through the process of packaging the delights they make, and then in the act of imagining the pleasure with which they are enjoyed, when received.

I felt like I had visited Nina while I was baking. Many memories of past Christmas seasons floated through my mind. Happy times, fun times, festive times. I felt her presence as I packed the Pecan Short Bread (Barefoot Contessea's recipe) and Swedish Ginger Cookies (family recipe) for her. I could hear her telling me a hysterically funny story about something mundane, in a way that only she can. All of a sudden, she felt close to me, not thousands of miles away. It did my heart good to bake for Nina. And I hope it does her heart good to receive her care package. It is my wish and hope that she feels waves of my love wash over her as she bites into the little pockets of love in her package. Because that will make it pure gold for me.

Once you make a commitment to honoring your relationships by being attentive to them, there are millions of ways you can do that. A few simple ideas to share your love in a way that makes someone else happy are,

  • Write a letter to them
  • Send a postcard to them while travelling
  • Read to them
  • Send flowers to them
  • Making a surprise visit to see them
  • Volunteer with them for a cause they believe in
  • Cook for them
  • And then, there is always the act of picking up the phone to say you love them

The main thing is to focus on what makes them happy- not you. Their happiness makes you feel happy and good about yourself. That is an act of Self Love Self Care First on your part. And a win-win!

SLSCF is an immense concept that has many dimensions and practices. Making someone else happy is one of it's simplest and sweetest one.

Wishing you a week of SLSCF, and perhaps baking a care package?


Sunday, February 16, 2020

Why The Practice of Self Love Self Care First is Neither Selfish Nor Self Indulgent

It's Sunita here.

We live in an amazing time where we can access the latest research on pretty much any opinion, belief or statement we read. Blogs directly link us to articles that support their content.

This is not such a blog.

This is an article based on lived experience.

I became acquainted with Self Love Self Care First (SLSCF) in my journey of healing from trauma. It was a very uncomfortable relationship, as until then, I had looked at SLSCF as a sin. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt when I even thought of putting myself first. But I slowly learned that my beliefs had not much to do with the truth, but more to do with what I had understood to be the truth.

Read on if you have thought of SLSCF as self indulgence and selfishness.

I will explain SLSCF in the simplest terms possible so you can see how it is not what you think it is.

SLSCF is about boundaries.

SLSCF boundaries do not keep others out. (Selfish, self indulgent, self defeating, self sabotage, self punishment)

SLSCF boundaries exist to protect and nourish you. (Healthy, mature, smart)

SLSCF is about your mind and your inner life, before any focus on your outward existence.

SLSCF is a commitment to act lovingly towards yourself in your thoughts. It is about not judging your feelings. It is about growing your ability and capacity to show compassion to yourself for your failings. It is about having forgiveness and mercy for yourself when you come up short. (Being human, strength to bear your weaknesses, humility and acceptance of all parts of you)

SLSCF does not give you the right to justify hurting or harming others, even if they have done you wrong. (you are still responsible for your behavior and it's consequences, even if you feel rightfully angry or hurt by someone else's behavior or actions)

SLSCF is about taking care of your body, mind and soul before any one else's.

SLSCF is a practice of taking care of yourself first so you can take care of those who depend on you. It is about cultivating vibrancy and joy inside you. It is about having the energy to tackle the many roles you have. Running on empty will get you sick, a nervous breakdown, angry, unhappy and resentful. None of these states are going to help you help others. (Giving, healthy, joyful, generous, smart)

SLSCF is not about neglecting others while you indulge in acts that you can pass off as self love. For instance, leaving a critically sick family member's bedside to go on a spur of the moment vacation. Not to be confused with the need for a caregiver of a chronically ill family member to get a break. (selfish, manipulative, neglectful)

Self Love Self Care First is about honoring your presence in the Universe. 
You deserve it.
And you are entitled to it.

The world will be a better place if you choose to practice Self Love Self Care First because you will spread love, exude joy, share enthusiasm, maximize your potential, invite curiosity, ignite imagination, promote peace and inspire others to do the same.

So the next time someone says Self Love is selfish, I hope you will set the record straight.

And in case you still feel the need of a research article or source that supports my lived experience, here's one, courtesy someone you may be familiar with. (credit:

Wishing you a journey full of SLSCF,


Sunday, February 9, 2020

Why Reassuring the Most Important Person in Your Life That You Love Them Must be An Intentional Act

It's Sunita here.

Valentine's Day is around the corner.

We have an opportunity to express our love and appreciation for the most important people in our lives. What a wonderful day!

But what if you don't have someone who exclusively loves you? What if you are alone and lonely? Valentine's Day can turn out to be a challenging day for you.

But the fact is that none of us are alone, regardless of our relationship status. 

We always have someone who is our constant companion. This person sees us through every occasion and event of our lives. Cheering us on from the sidelines when we tackle big challenges, disappearing into the background when we are being celebrated by others, and comforting us when we are deserted by those whom we trusted and relied upon.

So this Valentine's Day, I will choose to reassure this person of my love and devotion to them as well. I will commit to being there for them at all times. I will make sure that I visit with them every day and treat them with the kindness and respect they deserve. Because I have been guilty of being cruel to them, and of taking them for granted on more occasions than was fair. I'm embarrassed when I recall all the times that I ignored them, and put others above them.

But I've been doing a lot of work to make this relationship right. 

You can too.

This Valentine's Day, I will send myself this note. It is my intentional act of reassuring the most important person in my life that I love them and am fully committed to them.

And I will share this poem with myself. It is a beautiful and wise message for me on how to be in this world. It is also a reminder for me to continue to practice Self Love Self Care First. 


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself to others,
you may become vain or bitter, for always
there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals, 
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

By Max Ehrmann 
Copyright 1927

I dedicate this weeks blog to Dr. Liana Harper. 

Liana was my very first BFF. We met in Lethbridge (a small town then in Alberta, Canada where we were both born) and shared our early childhood together. Life took us on different paths, and through different places, but when we reconnected, we both found ourselves at the same 'heart place' as we were decades ago. So we are truly BFFs and prove that love is a live, dynamic energy. Liana shared 'Desiderata' with me recently and I am delighted to bring it to you.

Wishing you a Valentine's week full of love,