Interview: Patricia Spadaro

“You can look the whole world over and never find anyone more deserving of love than yourself.” – The Buddha

spadaroIn a poignant reminder of the gift that each one of us truly is, Patricia Spadaro presents her new book Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving (Three Wings Press), a valuable discussion on the importance of honoring ourselves, and in doing so, how we respect, appreciate and give birth to our best self so we can give creatively and abundantly in ways that honors others.

The author will be appearing in the Twin Cities August 12-13 to do booksigning: at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12, at Barnes and Noble at the HarMar Mall (2100 N. Snelling Ave., Roseville); from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, at Barnes and Noble Downtown at the Midwest Plaza (801 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis); and at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, at Barnes and Noble at the Galleria Shopping Center (3225 W. 69th, Edina).

Patricia Spadaro is an author and expert in practical spirituality. She has co-authored several books on personal growth, spirituality and world traditions. She also is a publishing coach, freelance writer and editor who lives with her husband and her two favorite felines in beautiful Bozeman, MT. Her work shows that the world’s great spiritual traditions share common themes that are extremely relevant to the issues of our daily lives. Her passion is to communicate the wisdom of the sages of East and West in ways that enlighten, inspire, and empower us to create practical transformation in our own lives and the lives of those we touch. She describes herself as a life-long learner who has a penchant for paradox and for collecting ancient and modern quotations that are wise, witty, and compel us to wake up.

She conducted this interview with The Edge about her new book.

What motivated you to write Honor Yourself?
Over the last several years, I found myself on the receiving end of some very interesting experiences (that’s putting it mildly) that I’m convinced were designed to teach me how essential it is to honor myself at deep levels. I saw what happened when I didn’t value myself or honor my own needs and how that compromised my ability to give the best of myself to others. At the same time, I saw other people struggling with strikingly similar lessons. In one way or another, we were all making choices that were limiting what we were capable of doing with our lives.

I started to see, more and more, that what I was experiencing wasn’t unusual at all. Many of us – men and women, moms and dads, executives and the self-employed – have difficulty honoring ourselves. But why? I realized that many of us harbor misguided beliefs about giving and receiving that keep us from being able to master the balancing act of giving to others and giving to ourselves.

Fundamentally, honoring yourself is about balancing giving and receiving in your life so you can give your best to others. I strongly believe that the world will only improve as each of us gives birth to our best self and gives our unique gifts. We can’t do that without fully honoring ourselves. So I decided to write a book to expose the false beliefs about giving and receiving that can sabotage our life purpose, our relationships, our finances – even our health. I’ve always been an ardent student of the world’s traditions and an advocate for practical spirituality, and so I also turned to the sages of East and West to find out what they had to say about this dilemma and how to move beyond it.

In essence, I wrote Honor Yourself to help people think in new ways about what I consider the most essential question we can ever ask ourselves: What can I do to honor myself so that I can unleash the full power of my creative spirit and give my greatest gifts to my loved ones, my community, and the world?

What are a couple of the most potent myths about giving and how do they harm us?
First, I should say that a myth, in the way I use that term in my book, is a half-truth, and that’s what makes it so dangerous and convincing. A myth contains an element of the truth, but it isn’t the whole truth. One very basic myth that many of us have come to believe is “It’s always better to give than to receive.” That is true in many circumstances, but is it true in all circumstances? Is it true if giving compromises your health and therefore your ability to give at all? Is it true if your giving stunts somebody else’s growth or your own?

Many of us believe that if we don’t drop everything when others ask us for help, we are abandoning them. The truth is that if we continually oversacrifice, we are abandoning ourselves. Even Mother Teresa, who was known for her unconditional generosity, talked about the need to be alone and to recharge. Kahlil Gibran once wrote, “It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” If that’s true – and I believe it is – then we have to find effective ways of staying in balance so we can continue to give the gift of ourselves.

Another dangerous myth that I talk about in Honor Yourself is “I’m no one special – what I do doesn’t matter.” You may have bought into the myth that “I’m no one special” because you have accepted another untruth – the myth that you must have a high IQ or a recognized professional skill to qualify as “gifted.” Some of us subconsciously believe that our ability to give and our right to receive is defined by the letters that follow our name. Yet the labels that others give us, positive or negative, are never the essence of who we are.

I once met a woman in the waiting room of a doctor’s office who was so cheerful that I couldn’t help but tell her how wonderful she made me feel. She leaned towards me and whispered excitedly, “I believe it’s my job to uplift everyone around me. I show up at work in the morning and I try to make everyone who steps through the door of the office a little brighter.” She wasn’t being egotistical or prideful. She simply knew who she was and why she was here. She had found her own voice and knew what her life purpose was. Whenever we offer the gift of who we are within our circle of influence, no matter how small that gift seems, we make our greatest contribution to the world.

Why do many of us have a problem with receiving from others – and how do we overcome that?
Some of us are awesome givers but not very good receivers. We don’t ask for support. We don’t admit to others or to ourselves that we need any. We don’t even like to accept compliments. One reason for that is that we’ve bought into the insidious myth that “if I can’t make it on my own, something is wrong with me.” We think that asking for support means we are weak. Yet, the truth is that seeking support is a sign of strength.

We forget that even the brightest stars in any field of endeavor have always needed their coaches and cheerleaders. Where would the heroic hobbit Frodo Baggins be if his friend Samwise Gamgee hadn’t stuck by him through thick and thin? How far would Helen Keller have gotten without her faithful tutor, Anne Sullivan? How could Michael Phelps have earned his eight gold medals and an Olympic world record without teammates to help win those stunning medley relays?

One of the greatest lessons we can learn in the inner art of giving and receiving is that asking for support is healthy. It means you believe that you are worthy of receiving. Not only that, but seeking support in making the best decisions in your life is an act of love – love for yourself and for those who will be impacted by your choices.

If you tend to tackle all of life’s challenges by yourself and have a hard time asking for help, keep reminding yourself to act on these two truths: First, seeking support is the loving thing to do and the strong thing to do. And second, whether you need help with a project at work or in making a major life decision, know that people are more willing to help than you might think. If the people you approach cannot support you right now or are not willing to help, it doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy. It just means you haven’t found the right supporters yet. Open your heart and you will.

What is the paradox you speak of with regard to balancing what others need with what we need?
Paradox is at the heart of the inner art of honoring yourself. A paradox involves two elements or truths that seem contradictory, but are both true. The seeming opposites are two sides of the picture that are both needed to complete the circle of wholeness. We need both day and night, masculine and feminine, movement and stillness, right brain and left brain. In the same way, to live a fulfilling and healthy life, we need to embrace our duty to give to others and to give to ourselves. We can’t do either well unless we do both in balance.

We meet the paradox of giving and receiving all the time as we struggle with questions like: Should I spend more time with my family or building a career – and can I really do both? Do my children need more freedom or more control? Is it better to collaborate or compete, to manage or to mentor? The list goes on and on.

At its core, the paradox of giving and receiving deals with that overriding issue that challenges so many of us: How do I balance what others need with what I need? In order to give to others, do I really need to give up myself? If we want to live fully and authentically, we have to learn to live on both sides of the paradox.

Please share with us a story from your life that relates to the delicate dance of giving and receiving.
Part of the dance of giving and receiving involves letting go, honoring endings, and making room to receive. Nature does abhor a vacuum. Whenever we create one, it will be filled. I’ve learned that when we want something new to appear in our lives, we often have to give something away.

At a critical time in my life, when I had lost a job and was going through a period of intense challenge and trial, I found myself in a cycle of cutting back, letting go, and giving away. I cleaned out my closets and donated bags of clothes to the Salvation Army. I chopped away at overgrown bushes in my yard. I got down on my knees and ruthlessly pulled weeds from my garden. I even cut my hair shorter. I offered more of my time to work with a nonprofit organization. It was a difficult time for me but a healing one. It signaled the end of one season of my life and the beginning of another. Those physical actions were just the outer manifestation of what was taking place within me – clearing out the old and getting rid of clutter so I could see more clearly and make room for new growth. Slowly but surely, I created an open space, which allowed wonderful opportunities, new friendships and needed changes to appear in my life.

What does it truly mean to “honor yourself”?
To me, honoring yourself means that you are respecting, appreciating and giving birth to your best self so you can give creatively and abundantly in ways that honor others. The key to honoring yourself is not simply to enjoy a well-timed bout of pampering yourself, although that’s a nice and necessary thing to do from time to time.

To honor means to respect, esteem, recognize, dignify or ennoble. In order to respect, esteem and ennoble ourselves, much deeper remedies are needed, ones that empower us to be authentic, to be our true self.

There are many facets to the art of honoring yourself. Four of the major ones, which I deal with in my book, are: honoring your inner needs by getting back into balance physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually; honoring your heart by giving to others in ways that matter; honoring the endings that naturally come into your life by learning to release regrets; and honoring your own voice by finding and celebrating the unique gifts you were born to give.

How can we teach or model this honoring of ourselves to our children?
There are so many ways to teach our children how to honor themselves, and they all start with modeling, by our example, healthy habits of self-respect and respect for others. One habit in particular that is vitally important is allowing others to express themselves without shutting them down, invalidating their feelings, or trying to tell them how they should feel.

We all need the freedom to find our own interests and passions. If, instead, we treat our children as miniature versions of us (or of who we always wanted to be), we’re simply creating the conditions for a real identity crisis. There’s a story in my book about a young teenager who was smart, polite and always perfectly behaved. His parents and teachers knew he was destined for great things. But a year later, he made a sharp 180-degree turn. He went from getting straight As to failing all his classes, from total obedience to total rebellion. His parents were in shock. Without realizing it, their very precise expectations had left their son no room to breathe – no room to figure out what he liked and what he wanted. They had created a time bomb, and their son had to explode, and with enough force, to break out of the mold and discover himself.

Guidance is necessary and helpful in life, and we all need it, but ironclad expectations only close us down. As children and adults, we all need space, free from the clutter of other voices, to hear what our own true voice is leading us to do.

What did you learn about yourself during the writing of this book?
It’s so true that we often teach what we most need to learn! With all the topics I’ve taken up for the books I’ve worked on, I’ve found this to be the case, and this one was no different. The process of writing this book was a huge exercise in committing to honoring myself and my talents. It took an extraordinary commitment for me to set aside the time and space to work on giving birth to this book. It didn’t just happen; I had to make it happen. So, working on Honor Yourself was like shining the spotlight on all my avoidance mechanisms, fears, and self-doubts that wanted to wreak havoc with my self-esteem and keep me from honoring myself and my gifts.

In particular, I saw how easy it was for me to hide behind sacrifice, a pattern I talk about in the book. It was so much easier for me to jump to attention when anyone needed my help than it was to draw boundaries and settle down to my task every day. Figuring out why that was true has been life-changing. Awareness is always the first step to real change, so seeing my own self-defeating habit patterns, as hard as that was, was eye-opening and enlightening.

What one daily tip can you offer our readers to help them better honor themselves and stay in balance in their lives?
I think one of the simplest and most effective ways to honor yourself and stay in balance is to ask: “Where am I on my to-do list today?” Sometimes we go for days without so much as a five-minute slot devoted solely to nourishing ourselves. And then we wonder why we feel tense, upset, grouchy, or depressed. I recommend asking yourself each day: “How am I feeling right now? What do I want and need today to feel and do my best?” And then slot in time for a specific nurturing activity. It can be something as simple as taking a quick break to meditate or listen to a relaxing piece of music. It can be playing with a child or pet, renewing yourself spiritually with a favorite practice or ritual, or simply closing your eyes, doing nothing, and taking a long, deep breath.

Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving is available at Present Moment in South Minneapolis, and inquire at your favorite bookstore. For more information on Patricia Spadaro, visit www.PracticalSpirituality.info, and to contact the author, email info@PracticalSpirituality.info.

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