BlissFor many years, I’ve been carving out sacred family time to visit my mom and stepfather up in the rolling farmland and sleepy village of Bliss, Michigan. Sweet traditions circle back around each visit including making my great grandmother’s homemade borscht (cold beet soup) recipe, canning sweet pickles, and gathering herbs and vegetables from my mom’s abundant garden.

I always enjoy several visits to one of my favorite “otherly places” on the shores of Sturgeon Bay. Beach walks, invigorating swims, sunsets, afternoon naps and french pressed coffee make up little pleasures while staying at a private little cottage where my grandmother once lived. But it’s the time with my mom that is the most precious.

This year I treated my mom to a day at the Bay Harbor Inn for a spa treatment and some mama and daughter sacred self-care. After a glorious Swedish massage and European facial, we relaxed in overstuffed down filled chairs drinking herbal tea and nibbling on a fresh bowl of ripe and sweet blackberries and strawberries. We were totally relaxed. I loved witnessing my mother receive this kind of 1st class nourishment. We reminisced about our lives, funny memories, sad memories. We discussed the twists, turns, and glory of motherhood and my biological father (her first husband), who passed away last November. Our sharing was wrapped in love, laughter, and some regret. Our day at the spa, followed by the gourmet lunch we shared while overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan, will forever hold a special place in my heart.

My mom will be 74 this month. I always think of her (remember her) in her early 40’s around the time I was coming of age. My time with her in Bliss opened my eyes to the fleeting time we have left on this Earth together. From that day forward I promised to call her more often, pray for her more often, and visit with her more than a few times a year.

During our time together, I realized that this gorgeous mother of mine is still carrying all of the “sins of her past “ and that no amount of absolution from the Catholic church, or living as a generous, compassionate, and loving woman has been able to free her from the cage of guilt and regret. She, like so many of us often experiences a continuous loop of worry and shame about unconscious choices made in her past before she learned not to make them. This loop of suffering terrorizes us again and again if we don’t learn to let it go and move on.

Part of healing the wounds we carry is learning to forgive ourselves and others, so we can release the weight of shame and guilt. We all deserve to digest our colorful or troubling past experiences so we can open ourselves up to more joy, abundance, and a lighter way of being. When we become attached to living in the past and try to measure up to perfection or sainthood, we will always find ourselves in despair and come up short.

Another observation made during our visit was how much of our time was spent telling tired, old stories that upon completion of our afternoon together I chose to put to rest once and for all. 

Sweet memories are one thing to call up, but hashing up sorrow and stories about my father have run their course. I no longer need to revisit the sadness around the loss of my first love or the fear around my mom being diagnosed with cancer or the unsafe environment I experienced while visiting my dad when I was young. The time had come to let my parents (and myself) off the hook. Time for a new chapter.

Sturgeon Bay

When our afternoon came to completion, I changed into my bathing suit and went off to Sturgeon Bay for a swim. It was 92°F with super high humidity that afternoon and I was ready to cool off in the big water. I made my way out to my favorite sand bar and kneeled in the water, closed my eyes, and let the waves wash over me. 
In that moment, I released a big part of the shame, guilt, and suffering I no longer wished to carry forward. In the mirror of my mother’s reflection, I knew exactly what I needed to do and opened my heart to receive healing from the pristine Lake Michigan waters.

If you feel weighed down by guilt and shame and you want to stop suffering, I recommend you practice the following exercises…

Begin Journaling. Journaling is a therapeutic way to get everything you’re feeling out of your body and on the page. Everything you feel guilty about. Everything you carry. Write about your wishes for healing and forgiveness. Please don’t judge yourself or edit your words. Just get let the words pour out through the pen and on the page.

Check your Expectations –  What standards you’re trying to live up to? Are you trying to be a saint? If you’re trying to be perfect, you may need to remember that you are human. If you were raised in an environment that made you feel small, I invite you to bring this information to the surface. Allow yourself to identify some of the benchmarks you may be trying to measure up to for validation. For instance, when I was younger, I craved validation from my father. I thought if I was a good enough athlete, student, and business woman etc., My father would be proud of me.

Practice Sacred Self-care – I invite you to start practicing self-compassion and sacred self-care when you start to feel low, unworthy, or overwhelmed. Go for a swim, take a walk, take a warm bath or shower and wash those feelings down the drain. Call a friend. Listen to upbeat music. We all have days when we feel small when we feel like it’s all too much. When you remember these feelings will pass, you can move through the experience with a better understanding that you don’t need to remain stuck.

If you are craving powerful exercises to help let go of guilt and shame, you can find several practices within the Sacred Heart Teachings digital program. I’ve created a free Sacred Heart Healing Report that includes a powerful forgiveness exercise, guided meditation, along with what you can expect if you choose to move through the program. You’re welcome to check it out if your intuition is telling you to liberate your precious heart. You can claim your gift at

Be good to yourself. Your old story is not the only story.



About Shann Vander Leek

Shann Vander Leek

Shann is a Transformational Leader, Award-Winning Podcaster, Best-Selling Author, Voice Over Talent, Podcast Coach, and Producer. She lives in the village of Suttons Bay, Michigan with her beloved husband and mouthy old cat. This Goddess Shines!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sue Kearney Oct 5, 2016, 1:50 pm

    Beautiful, Shann, and hella sacred. Thank you for sharing your cleansing immersion in the waters with me. Sharing it now with my tribe….

    • Shann Vander Leek Oct 14, 2016, 3:23 pm

      Sue, “Hella sacred!” LOVE IT.
      Thank you for sharing and for your love and kindness. XOX

  • Laurie Seymour Oct 5, 2016, 4:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing this important journey, Shann. So much love!

  • Lea Tran Oct 5, 2016, 11:28 pm

    Thank you, Shann. I loved reading about how Lake Michigan helped you to release what was no longer needed.

  • Barb Parcells Oct 6, 2016, 10:55 am

    Great post! We can all write a new story!

  • Peggy Oct 7, 2016, 7:33 am

    Beautifully written and so powerful. I saw you wash away your old stories in the lake. I see you Shann. I see your beautiful bright light. xxoo