How hospitable are you to yourself? Does your inner self feel safe to reveal itself to you? Are you able to believe that all your emotions - even anger, hurt, envy, and other 'negative' feelings come bearing a gift for you?
This episode is the second half of a two-part conversation I have with experienced soul guide and spiritual companion Edwina Yeow . We discuss what it means to become a safe space for ourselves.
Share this episode via this episode page.
Contact Edwina Yeow.
Blog Post: From Shame to Freedom
(00:01:43) - How can I stop being self-critical?
(00:11:35) - Beginner tips for self-hospitality
(00:15:37) - Befriending negative emotions
(00:21:09) - Unconditional self-acceptance
(00:30:18) - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act.
- As you listened to today's episode, what struck you? Does something resonate particularly strongly with you?
- At this point in your life and in your journey, how safe a space are you to yourself?
- How hospitable are you to your own emotions and the physical sensations that your body may feel?
- Notice the emotions that are surfacing in the course of your daily life. Pay attention to just notice, not to do anything about how you feel, but to just notice them.
- Allow whatever thoughts, judgments, criticisms that might surface almost automatically to be contained. Give permission for the feelings to just be without criticising them
Other episodes that would help you understand and apply the lessons in this episode:
- Ep 21 Safe Spaces For Becoming (with Edwina Yeow)
- Ep 7 Be Curious, Courageous & Compassionate with Yourself
Article: Loving Your Inner Enemies by Alison Cook PhD
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EP 22 | BEING A SAFE SPACE FOR MYSELF (WITH EDWINA YEOW)
Have you ever found it challenging to be welcoming to every part of yourself?
Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host, Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax and listen on to Becoming Me.
Hello again, dear listeners. So, this episode is the second half of the conversation I had with Edwina. If you haven't yet listened to episode 21: Safe Spaces for Becoming, I invite you to go and listen to that episode first because this episode is a continuation from that one.
After talking about what it means to have safe space for ourselves in this interior journey, today's episode talks about what it means to become a safe space for ourselves – what does it mean to practice hospitality for ourselves, which is also a really important aspect of making the interior journey. So, without further ado, I hope that you will kick back, relax, and enjoy, another rather laugh-filled conversation between Edwina and me.
[00:01:43] HOW CAN I STOP BEING SELF-CRITICAL
Ann: Okay, welcome back, Edwina! Thank you for coming for a continuation of our conversation on safe spaces.
Edwina: Hi, Ann! It is good to be back. And hello again to all the listeners.
Ann: So last time, we spoke a bit about what the concept of a safe space is, and what it would feel like when we are in a safe space and we ended off with you saying something about how, when we are in the presence of someone who is a safe space for us, that person can actually model for us what it's like to be a safe space for ourselves. So, for this conversation, I thought we could unpack a little more; this whole thing about being a safe space for myself.
Ann: Maybe I could begin by sharing a bit of the struggle that I had doing this – which I am pretty sure a lot of listeners who are listening to this would be able to identify with. And maybe you, in your role as an Anam Cara; as somebody who accompanies people, can respond and say, you know, what/how do I respond to myself when I think this way.
When we talked about safe spaces being a non-judgmental space; someplace where we can just be ourselves and not be afraid of being criticized, something that was very much a strong part of me and still is – there’s this part of me that would be thinking: how is it okay not to be self-critical?
How is it okay to just let myself be whatever I want to be, or feel however I want to feel? Is there not a standard here to aspire to, you know – even this whole thing about the journey into authenticity and wholeness; there's always a part of me that kind of feels like there's a goal.
Right. So, how do I get there by just being – you know? So, I often struggle with that, you know, so, and then I ended up not being able to be a very safe space for myself because it's almost like even without anyone around, I feel like I have to perform. So, what would you say to someone who feels that way? How can I get past that need to do better; strive?
Edwina: This is how life is in Singapore!
Edwina: I think we're all kind of wired that way.
Edwina: So, we want to be the best – the best version of ourselves. If we want to even do this inner work well then there needs to be some kind of benchmark; how will I know I've hit it and shouldn't I be trying harder to get there.
But the problem with this approach, when we talk about the interior journey and the process of becoming who I am, we have to take into account not just the mind, but also the heart, the gut, the spirit. So, there are so many different components that make up the person that I am – and all of this resides in the body.
So I need to be able to pay attention to all these different aspects if I am truly to become who I am, and not just an evolved mind – you know? So, I come from the Catholic tradition as well, and in scripture, we are told that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. It does not say that we are a fearfully and wonderfully made brain.
Edwina: So, you know; so, our bodies are wonderful. Our spirit, our mind, our heart – every aspect is wonderful, and every aspect carries gift; is a gift. And each aspect has its own wisdom that is available to us too, in our journey of interior growth and evolution, if you like.
Ann: I think what you just said reminds me of why it is that we also need someone else other than ourselves to journey with us – because when I was listening to you say that, I said: wow! That's really wonderful and it’s beautiful. And I do believe that – I want to believe that, but when I'm left on my own, it's sometimes really hard to remember that that's true. There's another script that is stronger than that.
Edwina: Well, it's also because we, in our culture, we have been used to giving preference to the mind.
And so this is our default approach – even to ourselves; therefore, so is not very surprising that it will automatically, by default, go into critical judgment of performance, and how I am doing in my journey, instead of accessing all the other areas, you know – in the other parts of me, which also offer wisdom.
But it's a matter of allowing and giving permission to the rest of me to also have say, to honour the rest of me as equal to the mind. So, it's not about downplaying the mind, but raising the status of the rest of me; body, spirit, heart. And according each aspect, its own honour.
Ann: Yes. I think. It's good to remember at this point, that this journey into authenticity and wholeness, so that emphasis on wholeness, I mean, both come together: is a journey of integration – and that integration is an integration of these various parts of ourselves as well, right? And them coming together, all being honoured, and eventually, I guess, finding a way for each part to play the role that it's meant to play. So that as a whole, we can – the phrase that comes to mind is: be more real.
Edwina: Be more real, more really who we are.
Ann: Yes, be more real, and more really who we are – and not just a role, we're not as playing a role…
Edwina: …and not living as what we think we should be.
Edwina: But what I am truly created to be, in my being, with this body, with this spirit, with this mind, with this heart, in this particular time and place in history – this is me and this is the gift that God gives me to be.
Ann: So, there is a very fundamental change or difference in presupposition. I just want to highlight it – what you've just said: when we lead with our mind or very much the culture that we're used to, we think there's something that we should fit, right? That our lives should fit a certain paradigm; let's say, to be useful. And even usefulness is measured in a specific kind of way, right? – Productivity.
Ann: This interior journey needs us to really shift the whole way of “operating” – if I may use that word, because it presupposes that if we learn to listen to our lives, that there is a wisdom, as you said, from the various parts of ourselves coming together; there's a wisdom from our body. There's a wisdom that comes from our heart, our spirit, and our mind, that they could tell us, if we'd learn how to listen – who we are, or who we were created to be. And that picture could be very different from the picture that we were given in our formation, in our growing up, of the ideal, you know; the ideal person, ideal woman, ideal man, that we are supposed to be – or even the ideal Catholic.
Ann: I mean, both you and I are Catholic, we know that's something we really struggle with sometimes. It's almost like a picture of a ideal, you know – faithful, spiritual person or Catholic look-like. And so, we need to be able to step back from striving to meet these external standards, right? – And to listen.
Edwina: Yes, because there isn't a single sort of mould for all of us to be – sort of cast from; we are not cast from the same mould. And so, each of us, in our own lives, have a very specific, unique identity, which is different from everybody else's.
And so, if we don't listen and we don't learn to listen to what our lives are saying to us; what our bodies are saying to us, what my spirit is saying to me, what my life is saying – then I might just miss the one thing that is mine to become and to do in the world.
[00:11:35] BEGINNER TIPS FOR SELF-HOSPITALITY
Ann: So, when we are starting out, and it's still far from second nature to know how to just listen to our lives, how can we begin to practice hospitality to ourselves? Would you have any beginner tip? How to begin to be hospitable; to welcome ourselves, so that we will feel safe to reveal, you know, ourselves to ourselves.
Edwina: It's a good question. Perhaps it could begin just by paying attention; just being attentive, you know? It's how would you welcome somebody at the door? First you need to know there is somebody at the door. How will you know there is someone at the door? When they knock. And then you can decide if you want to open the door, then you decide if you want to let them in.
Edwina: So, in the same way, if I would like to begin this journey of coming to know who I am, I need to pay attention, and I need to listen out to what is happening in my body. Let’s say, if I want to pay attention to my body, I might just start by being curious about how my body is feeling. Maybe when I wake up, before I get out of bed, I could just do a check-in on my body.
“Hello, good morning. Head, how are you feeling?” “Oh my god. I just want to sleep some more” – or, you know, it could be that. And it’s like, yeah, you're feeling really tired still. And to just notice – no judgment, it's just like: Oh, you're feeling tired. Yeah. That's it. No whipping them up. No “You've slept enough” you know? No. Nothing.
Just noticing: how my shoulders’ feeling, how's my neck feeling – and just honouring that, and noticing; yeah, it's a bit stiff, you know? Yeah. And “Oh, it's really comfortable under the duvet, and the rain sounds so nice falling outside” – I really just want to sleep, you know? And just noticing without criticizing or saying: tsk tsk tsk; an idle mind is the devil's workshop – you know, something like that. You know, it's just to notice: yeah, body, this is how you’re feeling today – Thank you for talking to me.
So, it's just recognizing, tuning in, and paying attention – that could be one way. Another way could be, if something happens, I could check in with my feelings: How am I feeling – if I have access to that. Maybe I'm more aware of the thoughts that come into my head like: Oh! That was really stupid – you know?
Or, you know, how can they do such a thing to me? And then if I can, at that point, but if not, later in the day, when I do have space for myself; is to take time and to just check in with my feelings and maybe be curious and ask, what is this feeling? Maybe I think it's – I might be surprised to find that actually it's not anger, maybe it's grief; maybe I'm feeling really hurt.
Edwina: And I have time to acknowledge I was hurt. And not to fix it, but just to acknowledge – this is answering the knock at the door. It's to just notice and to honour: I see you, I hear you.
Ann: Sometimes, the person that's knocking the door is not very welcome. As in, like, for yourself, you may not feel very eager to open the door to that visitor.
[00:15:37] BEFRIENDING “NEGATIVE” EMOTIONS
Ann: I think for a lot of us who are making this interior journey, we all know some kind of version of self-loathing or, you know? And in particular, when we're talking about welcoming emotions, there are some emotions that are easier to welcome than others.
Edwina: Oh yes.
Ann: So, since I have you here, and we're talking about hospitality, maybe we could say a little bit about how do we befriend our emotions; especially the ones that we've been conditioned to shut out, right?
Ann: So, in each of our lives, perhaps, we have been conditioned that certain kinds of emotions are – we even give a certain, maybe, moral colour to it. Like anger is wrong, anger is evil. I should not be angry. Only nice, positive feelings are welcome, and emotions of jealousy, envy, anger, hatred – I mean, sometimes, especially when we do this interior work, some of these negative emotions can really surge up even stronger than before, maybe because we've been burying it for so long, right?
Ann: Yeah. So, how can we begin to open the door to these visitors from within us that we don't like, or we’re not used to interacting with.
Edwina: Yeah. You know, you remind me of me, when a knock comes on my door and I stealthily creep up to the door, and I put my eye at the peep hole just to see if I really want to open the door to this person who's knocking. And it's perfectly normal to have this kind of wariness and carefulness when it comes to something like emotions because we do need to be careful what we let in.
But when it comes to emotions, from my experience, every emotion is friendly, even though it's visage may not be. And even though we may have been schooled, as you say, to suspect or block or do away with certain emotions because they're uncomfortable or they make us feel bad, or they have a certain moral colour, as you say. But there is nothing to fear because all emotions are friendly, and they have a gift for us. If we listen, they become overwhelming only when they are repeatedly repressed.
Now, it's like someone who really, really needs to talk to you – and the more you shut them up, the more they will try to get your attention because there is something for you that they have to deliver. So, they become overwhelming only when they are repressed, suppressed, blocked, ignored – which is not what you do with someone who comes bearing a gift.
So, what happens when we meet anger at the door, let's say. You don't have to open the door and usher them right into the master bedroom – you don't. You can open the door and stand at the threshold and look and see anger for what it is; to just acknowledge the presence of anger on your doorstep. I think this is the first step in honouring the emotions that have been triggered.
All emotions come up because there is a message for you. There is something that your inner-self needs to show you about who you are; what's important to you. Everything has a gift. So, anger might just tell me that “Edwina, you really wanted to get that top job” and somebody else got chosen instead of you.
You really, even though you made out that this was nothing to you, if you, you know, it didn't matter to you whether you got the job or not, but anger is telling you – actually, you really wanted this job. And why? Because it means that you are important; that your work matters. Maybe it's something that “for you, Edwina” – it means that my work is recognized, and I am therefore, worthy. Now, but if I did not acknowledge anger at my door, I could go on pretending to the world and to myself that, yeah, this job didn't really mean anything to me, you know? Yeah, and I'm really happy this other person got it. Yeah – great job. But the truth is – I wanted this job, and it was important to me because somehow my self-worth was measured by whether or not I got this job.
[00:21:09] UNCONDITIONAL SELF-ACCEPTANCE
Ann: And it's okay if that's the way I feel, right?
Ann: I mean, I just want to bring that up because sometimes I think, again, maybe this is from my both the cultural and the faith aspect, you know – it was like, I need to be somebody that's very okay and happy for other people when they succeed. I should be humble. I shouldn't be, you know, so hung up on being acknowledged.
Ann: I know, let's say, my intellect tells me: know my worth is not measured by this kind of acknowledgement, but the reality right now for me, like my anger tells me; this is how I feel.
Ann: This is how I want to be valued, and it's okay.
Edwina: Because unless we know where we really are, how can we grow? Because we don't know where we are starting from. We think we are at a certain level, but the reality, if we were to really acknowledge it, is something else and it might be further away from the “goal” that we want to reach.
Edwina: So, honesty and claiming my place; where I really am now – in this now, is critical if I want to grow in self-knowledge, understanding, and become who I am given to be.
Ann: And that in essence, is part of what means to practice hospitality for ourselves, isn't it? This – I just want to acknowledge that it is really difficult, especially when we're starting out, to even be able to be honest with ourselves.
Ann: Like speaking for myself, I needed to feel I was doing well in order to feel okay with myself.
Ann: And so, I really did need more experiences of someone else being that safe space for me; telling me – you know, giving me the experience that it’s perfectly fine that you are where you are. I see you and I value you and I love you. You know, not for being better than where you are now. But you know, it's fine. So, yeah. And I just wanted to, I guess, say that it's not something that is easy to begin with, but that's kind of what we're hoping to move towards in practicing hospitality for ourselves.
Ann: Right, that in time we can say this to ourselves: Oh…
Ann: …this is where you are. I still love you. I accept you. You know, we're on this journey – there's no hurry to have to make it to the next stage or next level.
Edwina: Yes. I think that is exactly it – because of this culture that we are so used to; where the ideal or the goal is the thing we celebrate, and the achievement of the goal is what we celebrate, we very seldom lord the process and the immense courage that it takes to be honest about where you are at any point on the journey, and the amazing grace actually, that you are there. So, we don't honour and celebrate the steps along the way enough because our focus is, most of the time, on the finished product. But this work is a lifelong process.
Ann: Yes. And for, I mean, and this whole podcast is about celebrating that process, really. It's “becoming me”; it's not “I’m me”. I mean, I am, but I mean, it's not like, you know, I'm the “finished-product Me”, you know. It's the whole process of becoming and exactly celebrating and honouring how much courage, and honesty, and compassion, and all that, you know, we need to be able to show ourselves.
Edwina: Yes. Because it does take an immense amount of courage to open the door, to acknowledge what's knocking on the door; whether it be feelings, emotions, becoming aware of inner judgments, criticisms, or maybe long held beliefs – and confronting them with compassion and gentleness, and maybe offering an alternative point of view, something that is more in sync with who I really am, and with the truth of who I am.
Edwina: It takes an immense amount of courage. And so, anybody who embarks on this kind of journey, you are amazing already – because this journey is not to be undertaken by the faint-hearted; it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Ann: And you and I both speak from our own experience.
Edwina: Is it comfortable?
Edwina & Ann: No!
Edwina: Is it worth it every time?
Ann: Yes. Yes.
Edwina: But – I’d just like to pick up on something that you had said earlier about, this is why we do it with others. We don't ever undertake this kind of work alone. Because we just can't – we can’t see ourselves. We do need somebody else to reflect, model, and to be a safe holding space for us so that whatever's within may emerge and be received.
Edwina: And then we know where to take the next step. And I like this particular quote from John O'Donohue, again, who says that the friend, the Anam Cara, the safe space; the one who offers the safe space is the one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you. And so, if you have a companion like this to undertake the inner journey, all of that is possible – all that it is, maybe beyond your imagination right now; of who you are and all you can be, and all you are invited to become, is there for you.
Ann: And I would just like to also put it out there that everything we just said; that we've talked about – the extent to which we can offer that grace and hospitality to ourselves is the extent to which we may be able to offer that same hospitality to another person.
Ann: Yes. And which is why it's so important that we know when we are looking for people to, let’s say, accompany us, ourselves, that a person that has not yet come to be able to hold that kind of hospitality for him or herself, would have a very hard time offering it to us.
Ann: And as we make this journey and others may come to us and ask us, or invite us to journey alongside them, that's also a good thing to bear in mind; that we must always put the priority as our own inner work, because the extent to which we have meet the journeys; the extent to which we can hold honest and hospitable space for another.
Edwina: You can only walk with another person where you have walked yourself. If not, it will not hold.
Ann: Thank you so much for that, and for this conversation, Edwina. So, if someone were to be interested to look for you to be that safe space for them – because this is also what you offer, how might they be able to reach you?
Well, they could email me at email@example.com or they can contact me through the email link on your website, at Parrhesia (https://www.parrhesia.sg/edwinayeow).
Ann: Yes. Okay. So, all right. For the listeners who may not be aware, Edwina is actually listed as a collaborator for now – she's the only person listed as collaborator on my website; which is a different website from Becoming Me. This is the Parrhesia website, which I will put in the show notes for this episode.
So if you are looking for Edwina to hold space for you; would like to check out or understand a bit more of what she can do for you, you can contact her from my website or from her email, which I will also put in the show notes for this episode.
[00:30:18] PRAXIS: LISTEN. PONDER. ACT
Ann: So, Edwina, what do you think we could offer in terms of praxis prompts for this episode? My first prompt is always: Listen – for them to listen and to pay attention to, you know, what comes up. Actually, you know, the praxis prompts are precisely – has always been precisely an attempt to get people to begin this exercise of practicing hospitality, right? So, dear listeners, now you know why I've been giving you these praxis prompts all along without telling you why.
It is to get you into the habit of listening to what's coming up. So, the first prompt is always that: Listen – listen to what emotions were evoked when you were listening to this episode. Was there anything in particular that resonated very strongly with you?
Ann: Two: Ponder – I invite you dear listener, to ask yourself this question: at this point in your life, and in your journey, how safe a space are you to yourself? How hospitable do you feel that you are to your own emotions, and to perhaps the physical sensations that your body may feel? How good a host are you at this point?
Edwina: Three: Act – perhaps you could just take time in the coming days to just notice the emotions that are surfacing in the course of your daily life. Pay attention, to just notice; not to do anything about how you feel, but to just notice them. Allow whatever thoughts, judgments, criticisms that might surface almost automatically to be contained – give permission for the feelings to just be, without criticizing them. Just notice.
Ann: Thank you, Edwina. Thank you so for joining me on the Becoming Me podcast and for sharing your experience, your wisdom.
Edwina: Thank you, Ann. I had fun!
Ann: That's great to hear. So, maybe next time we'll get you back again, because there's so much to talk about; about this interior journey.
Edwina: Indeed. It would be my privilege.
Ann: Okay. Thank you! Thank you, dear Anam Cara.
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction no matter how small those steps might be. And no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin.
The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at becomingme.sg and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, Happy becoming!
Soul Guide & Founder
Edwina has been guiding, companioning and encouraging spiritual seekers for over 25 years. She has a Masters of Arts (Theological Studies) from Broken Bay Institute, Australia, a Masters of Social Science (Counseling) from Edith Cowan University, Australia, and is a certified Labyrinth Facilitator from Veriditas. Edwina also trained in retreat giving and spiritual direction at St Beuno’s Jesuit Spirituality Centre, Wales.
Edwina is the founder of Anam Cara Ministries and a sought-after soul guide in Singapore. She is known for her unique, interdisciplinary, whole-person approach to soul tending which helps people of different ages and backgrounds to enter the holy ground within and encounter Christ.
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