Jeff Brown, as seen on, read on Good Morning America, heard on CBS, ABC.Au, NPR & New Dimensions
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  • Testimonials

    • Elizabeth Lesser, Author of Broken Open, and Co-Host Oprah's Soul-Series radio
      "Anyone who has ever tried to write about the spiritual journey knows how hard it is to find words that are big yet humble enough, serious yet light enough, full of drama and awe yet also stripped down and naked. This little book pulls it off. Jeff Brown has a most marvelous way with words--you think you're reading a joke, and it turns into a profound realization. Or you're following a complex thought to completion and suddenly it blossoms into a song and dance. I love learning about life and truth and love and purpose through the wizardry of Jeff's words. I think you will too."
    • Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Bestselling author of The Invitation
      "Jeff Brown stirs the soulful imagination with words that encourage, challenge and remind us what we are and why we are here. His aphorisms- soulshaping nuggets for the journey- come from the heart of his experience. Enjoy!"
    • Katherine Woodward Thomas, bestselling author of Calling in "The One" and co-leader of the Feminine Power Global Community
      "With great wisdom, depth, humor and warmth, Jeff Brown's brilliant offering pierces through the veil of pretense, and brings us to our knees before the refreshing alter of authenticity. His musings manage to offer both an elevated, delightful and invigorating perspective as well as gift us with a grounded, solid pathway home to the most true and tender parts of ourselves. A heartwarming and heart-opening read, this beautiful little piece of art rekindles an almost childlike faith in the possibilities present, while reminding us to do the very real work to actualize them."
    • Philip Shepherd author of New Self, New World
      "This book is fabulous- provocative, encouraging, and blazing with a clear-eyed truth that bows to no icons, only to the sweet, clear song of reality itself. There are enough sparks of wisdom in this book to ignite a blaze in the soul. Exhilarating, compassionate, in-sightful, these truth-soundings will vibrate in your being long after you have put them down. This is the kind of provocative companionship I cherish."
  • Order Soulshaping Here

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  • Testimonials

    • Ram Dass, Spiritual Teacher, Best-selling auther of BE HERE NOW
      "Soulshaping does an EXCELLENT job of demonstrating how we can listen to and follow our soul's guidance in the midst of life."
    • Seane Corn
      International Yoga Instructor and Spiritual Activist
      "Soulshaping is a beautiful story of one mans spiritual journey that reveals the inspiring, yet often humbling, path of growth and self-transformation. Jeff offers us a raw, honest and humorous glimpse into the exploration of self, while also imploring us to celebrate the opening of the heart and the awakening of the soul- no matter where we are directed, what is revealed, or who shows up. I Highly recommend this book."
    • Tama J. Kieves Best-Selling Author of "This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love (How One Harvard Lawyer Left It All to Have It All!)"
      "This book is role call for the soul. Jeff Brown is the kind of writer that invites you to swim in gasoline and then provides a match. This is no self-help book. THIS IS A SUMMONS FROM THE MOUNTAIN TOP AND FROM THE TRENCHES. I am so grateful for Jeff Brown's journey, his absolute genius in writing, and the journey we are all on at this time."


Jeffrey and his mom long picMy Mother passed away this summer. I always imagined that there would be more time for us to heal the rifts. I was wrong. She died at 76, in the same harsh way that she lived- dizzily falling to the ground and banging her head, while alone in her apartment. She was a remarkable woman, both in her capacity for overcoming and in her absolute refusal to be awakened by her challenging life experiences. She fought for her right to live with a tremendous ferocity, and then put all of her energy into self-distraction after claiming victory. If she had channeled the energy that she used to uphold her emotional armor into personal transformation, her awakened consciousness would have lit up the world. She was that powerful.

I did tremendous amounts of therapeutic work on the relationship over the years. I somehow knew that I had to, both because the emotional debris was obstructing my path, and because I didn’t want the impossible nature of the connection to haunt me. And yet, despite my most genuine efforts, I fell prey to the most common occurrence after losing a parent: self-blame. Death gives us new eyes, and sometimes the lens is hazy. It’s always amazing to me how quickly we can forget the reasons that we were not close to someone, after they have died. Suddenly they were saints, suddenly we didn’t try enough, suddenly it was all our fault. If only we had called them more, if only we had sent them gifts, if only we had forgiven their actions, if only we had taken them to that one medical specialist that would have saved them from themselves. On and on it goes, yet another opportunity to shame ourselves, as though we alone were responsible for the state of the relationship, as though we alone were the crafters of their pain and misfortune, as though their issues and patterns did not exist before we came into being. It’s quite a thing the way that ancestral shame finds a way to perpetuate itself. It’s quite a thing.

I spent the summer inside of this inner narrative, paying attention, trying to understand where it comes from within me. The most obvious answer- internalized guilt from a shaming family- didn’t quite explain it. I had done enough work around the relationship to know its impossibilities, to know that I had done my best. It had to be something else. And so I stayed with the narrative, and then it dawned on me. My mother is no longer in her body-suit. She is no longer emotionally threatening. She is no longer difficult to relate to. She is more vulnerable than I have ever known her. And through these eyes, it’s easy to glorify her. It’s easy to feel safe with her. She feels saintly, kind and accessible. She feels like someone I could easily love and connect with. And it is therefore easy to blame myself for ‘neglecting’ her. After all, she is non-threatening and harmless. She is finally quiet. But it isn’t real- not even close. Because when we were both in these body-suits at the same time, a deeply loving relationship wasn’t possible. There was too much pain in the way, too many issues and differences. And her armor was still intact, armor that she had developed through her life to shield her from emotional risk. In fact, our real-time relationship was a true reflection of its inherent impossibilities. There really was no way in.

It’s important to remember this after someone close to us goes, particularly someone we had challenges with… There was a whole world of events, experiences and choices that led to the state of the relationship. All deeply real. All embedded in our cells as memory. All in the way of healthy connection. As glorious as we may imagine them after they have gone, that was simply not the way they were when they were struggling down here on Mother Earth. They were human, and so were we.

Until you lose a parent, you are somewhat asleep on the path to awakening. Trust me on this. It’s a whole different world after they go. This is true whether you are close to them, or not. The preparation work you do before they go, may be the most important inner work you ever do. Left to its own devices, the shame game postscript will obstruct and distort a real healing—a healing that is rooted in the reality of the dynamic itself. Better to do real work around this before the parent dies, if there is anything that is unresolved in the dynamic itself. Clearly, there is no perfect preparation- I will continue to work through these issues for years- but there are ways to soften the blows. I offer these suggestions, in the hope that they will be of service to you…


If one or more difficult parent is still alive, and if there is enough safety to bridge to them, do all that you can to connect to work through and express anything you are holding. This includes unhealed grief, unexpressed anger, unresolved experiences. Anything that feels incomplete or unsaid. Leave no stone unturned in your efforts to heal and come to terms with the past. If you can bring them into therapy to deepen the process, do so. If not, find any way that is available to you to express what is true for you. Anything that will help you to understand the dynamic and to be liberated from the toxic aspects of the relationship. The focus of this process is not on forgiving them for their actions. It may well happen organically, but the focus here is on healing your own heart and coming to terms with what you have been through. To make sense of the effects that their messaging, availability, and ways of relating may have had on your ways of moving through the world. And, if necessary, forgiving yourself for anything that you mistakenly blame yourself for within the dynamic.

Of particular importance is doing anything possible to humanize your lens on the difficult parent. To see them for who they really are. To walk inside their shoes. Again, you don’t do this for them. You do this for yourself, both as part of a valuable healing, and so that you will be less likely to glorify them after they are gone. The more you see them in their humanness, the less likely you are to forget what you were dealing with later. The more you understand where they come from, the less likely you are to blame yourself for the limitations of the connection. One of the great ironies of our relationships with difficult parents is that they can be held on a kind of primal pedestal, often more elevated than loving parents who gave their children what they needed to individuate and become adults. Through a healthier lens, loved children can often see their parent(s) more clearly. But those of us with a difficult parent are often trapped at an earlier stage in our development, still waiting for the elevated parent to reach down, pick us up and give us what we need. There is an aloofness and confusion in the dynamic that can keep them somewhat elevated, and this projection can become a recipe for our own self-abuse after they die. Because we don’t really know them, we carry forward the childhood belief that we must be to blame for all that happened or, at the least, that they would have loved us if we were worthy. To avoid this shame trip, do all that you can to see them for who they really are while you have the chance, so that you are less likely to up-frame and mischaracterize them later. This includes understanding the context they emerged from, the choices they made with respect to their own path, their patterns with respect to connection and vulnerability, their unactualized dreams and unresolved memories. The bridge from stagnation and self-blame to empowerment and self-love lies in our ability to see the parent(s) for who they really are; to take them off their primal pedestal and recognize their human limitations. This is certainly not easy- the hungry child-self clings to fantasies- but it is so very necessary.


If the difficult parent is not available or open to a healing process, then work on the relationship nonetheless. We don’t need a willing counterpart to work through the effects of a connection. If you can afford it, work with a therapist on the many ways that the relationship has landed within you. Clear emotional debris. Become conscious of the connection between their hurtful words and actions and your own issues and beliefs. Work determinedly to shed any internalized negativities, patterns of self-blame, ancestral shame. Confront and fully name the ways in which the dynamic has lived itself out in your daily life. Centuries of survivalist conditioning have made it difficult for many parents to live up to a healthy standard with respect to their children. As a result, many of us are left with a negative imprint of their unconsciousness, carrying it forward often without realizing it. Fully confront and name those imprints, in an effort to liberate yourself from the parental ties that bind. Of particular value are body-centered psychotherapies, both because they allow you to connect in more deeply with the repressed emotions, and because they have developed techniques that are effective at moving them. Talk therapy can be very effective, but it can also concretize our issues and challenges if the process becomes too cerebral. In other words, excessive analysis perpetuates emotional paralysis. Whatever you do, be sure that your therapeutic process supports the excavation and release of the feelings held in the body itself. This will lead to a more thorough, sustainable transformation.

Because the parent is not available for process, it may be more difficult to develop a deeper understanding of who they are and the context they emerge from. To help with this, do all that you can to dialogue with their friends or other family members. Anyone who can help you to understand the pressures they faced, the childhood they experienced, the messages they internalized. And look at old pictures if they are available. Work with them in an effort to clarify your lens. In addition, devote some time to studying the era that they lived in. All too often, we forget that the ways that a parent behaved were consistent with their times. Like us, they were embedded in and influenced by particular ideas of gender, child-rearing, duty and obligation, religious perspective. It can be especially helpful to spend some time watching films, reading old newspapers and magazines, to develop a richer understanding of the limitations and relational patterns of their generation. You don’t do this in an effort to excuse their behavior- you do this in an effort to understand their context. Again, the more you can understand where they were coming from in their relationship with you, the less likely you are to personalize the state of the connection after they die. We go back in time, in order to move forward more freely.


Whether you are doing this preparation work in the presence or the absence of the difficult parent, it is important to remember that resolution of the relationship is not always possible or even desired. The bridge between you may be destroyed, or you may be dealing with an impossible person, one who is simply incapable of doing the reflection work necessary to heal the rifts. If the latter is the case, accept this without continuing to come back for more disappointment. I have a cousin who hated his father, but went back every day and sat with him for hours, hoping and waiting to finally get the attention he craved from early life. He never got it, and by looking for it in all the wrong places, actually perpetuated his own stalled development. Only after his father died did he begin to look for it in those who actually valued him and to begin the work of learning how to validate himself from the inside out. Until we accept the limitations of those who cannot love us, we cannot embrace the willingness of those who can.

In addition, it is also important to remember that resolution doesn’t always look a certain way. Sometimes it is soft and kind. Sometimes it is choppy and erratic. Sometimes accepting the impossibility of the connection is the resolution. And sometimes the resolution is accepting that it was perfect, despite its impossibilities and challenges, because it carries us to the shores of our own empowerment. I think about my relationship with my Mother. She was a difficult person, but she gave me great gifts, somehow balancing the just right tension between worthy adversary and protective mother. For many years, I bought into the idea that we had to find our way to a perpetual peace, that our ultimate resolution had to be smooth and tender. But why is that? Why must resolution look a certain way? Perhaps the connection was exactly as it was meant to be, in order to bring me through to this awareness, this form of expression, this balance of vigilance and tenderness. Perhaps she gave me the exact gift she came to bring, and that is the resolution right there. Perhaps…

However we look at it, it is clear that the more deeply we can work the material around the relationship, the less likely it is that we will beat ourselves up after the difficult parent is gone. The more likely we will be able to grieve our loss healthily, without obstructing our own process. And, in this way, we break the cycle of shame and abuse that has carried forward from one generation to the next. We set the stage for a new way of being. We heal humanity forward. And perhaps we heal it backwards, as well. With every clearing of our emotional debris, with every foray into a kinder way of being, we heal the collective heart. So many of our familial and karmic ancestors had little opportunity to heal their pains. They just carried them with them, not realizing that there was any other way. When we heal, their spirits surely breathe a sigh of relief. We heal them backwards, while healing ourselves forward. We heal in unison. That healing begins in the trenches of our own transformation.

A former criminal lawyer and psychotherapist, Jeff Brown is the author of Soulshaping: A Journey of Self-Creation, and Ascending with Both Feet on the Ground. Endorsed by authors Elizabeth Lesser, Oriah Mountain Dreamer and Katherine Woodward Thomas, “Ascending” is a collection of Jeff’s most popular spiritual graffiti — quotes, soul-bytes and aphorisms frequently shared in social media. He is also the author of the viral blog Apologies to the Divine Feminine (from a warrior in transition) and the producer and key journeyer in the award winning spiritual documentary, Karmageddon, which also stars Ram Dass, Seane Corn, David Life, Deva Premal and Miten. He has written a series of inspirations for ABC’s Good Morning America and appeared on over 200 radio shows. His third book, Love it Forward, was published on Valentine’s day, 2014. His 4th book, a higher consciousness love story called An Uncommon Bond, began opening hearts in the spring of 2015. His next book- Spiritual Graffiti- will be published in December, 2015. He is also the owner of Enrealment Press and the creator of a new online school, Soulshaping Institute, which launched in February, 2015.

You can connect with Jeff’s work at:,,

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Comment from Cate
Time November 10, 2015 at 8:24 am

Thank you. Thank you. This has helped me as I face the inevitable with my parents. Thank you.

Comment from Alex Andrea
Time November 10, 2015 at 9:16 am

You covered everything and more in this. My mother died in January and my grieving was done in 1998 after 5 years of trying to communicate with her about the abuse. Being the first daughter, you’d think she would cherish me, but her denial was so strong…stronger than she could break through. I did break the cycle and did understand both her and my father for the way they were raised. The work was done with a therapist and in accepting that they were not able to change, I left them to live in truth and openness, etc. and while they were my parents, they were also strangers in the end.
Writing this feels strange to me. I don’t know you other than through your writing and you are so intelligent and can articulate so well. And after reading this, I had a brief thought that I was in denial somehow because my grief and my thoughts on both their deaths was just another person(s) gone.
Enough said, thank you for your thought provoking articles. I do like to hear things that shake my brain!
And my thoughts go to you for the loss of your mother.

Comment from Cat
Time November 10, 2015 at 9:56 am

Family Systemc Constellation work is an amazing process that unwinds the wounds of/from our familial lineage that we carry subconsciously……very powerful. I had a very challenging relationship with my mother as well, and have been able to make leaps into clarity and peace thru constellation work. I’ll venture to say that more than likely her lineage had some big trauma(s) upstream……I’m sure there are some very good facilitators your way. It’s a feeling not a head process. Would love to share more if it moves you……❤️

Comment from Cheri Evans
Time November 10, 2015 at 10:48 am

Forgive me for saying this but you spend so much time in your head….I don’t believe it has to be that complicated. I had the parents from hell and did my best work in the woods venting the pain and emotions. Perhaps there are people out there that need to understand with there minds…but it is so exhausting….where it is the most exhausting is/was in therapy. My story is to much for most people, so I wait until the next piece wants to be experienced…

Comment from Karin Meira
Time November 10, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Hi Jeff!
Thank you so much for writing the above.
I have a difficult living father, who himself had an impossible now dead mother… I gave my own son a now/recently dead extremely difficult biological father, plus the ugliest and scariest ex-stepfather. …drama on top of drama…
I have one question to you, if I may: how can I myself be less of a difficult parent to my son? I have always tried to be aware of these perpetuating cycles and do constant work on the subject. Any tips you could share, please?
Best regards,

Comment from Kim
Time November 10, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Thank you SO much for this article. It comes at a perfect time for me as my “difficult” father is critically ill and must undergo a highly risky surgery this coming Friday (13th Nov 2015) we all recognise that he may not come out of the anaesthetic. I am fortunate that I have been able to do some of this emotional work some years previously, but during his 11 weeks in hospital I noted how easily he was still able to “push my buttons” thankfully for me I have been doing a lot of emotional healing this last 6 months with the Angels and in particular Arch Angel Metatron, this meant I was able to stand back and investigate why I was getting my buttons pushed and get perspective on cause & effect. I really feel that this article is the final piece in my zigsaw – I am ready now for whatever transpires this coming Friday, I am free . with loving thanks x

Comment from Jackie
Time November 10, 2015 at 4:54 pm

This turned up on my Facebook time line and it couldn’t have appeared at a better time. I am completely estranged from my father. We haven’t spoken for over 18 years, not in any father/daughter capacity. There is no reason for this, that I’ve ever been told. I have argued shouted and screamed at my youngest son but we are very close and I love him implicitly. I’ve never really argued with my father, not to the point of recalling a particular incident. He just threw me out of his life because I no longer suited his purpose and he no longer needed me to keep in touch with his family (my grandparents, who are now dead). When his distancing of me began, I failed to notice, my children were young and my life was busy. However it has always been me who made the effort, me who used my holiday times to visit him and his new family, me who made the phone calls and me who put up with his bad tempers. I forgave him after all, he’s my father.When the relationship had completely disappeared and at a point in my life where I needed support he turned his back. In December last year I was told he was dying ( I have no idea if he’s even alive) so I wrote to him and I expressed my hurt and anger. I wrote that his unforgivable attacks on me and his subsequent ignoring of me has also hurt my children, who simply don’t know him. That they have been taught how not to behave, that they too have been penalised by him. I felt better but the little girl inside hoped and prayed he would pick up the phone or get in the car or even just email and say he was sorry. He hasn’t and so I’m left with this enormous gaping hole in my life, terrified about the inevitable loss of my mum who has never turned her back and the constant feeling that I must have done something wrong, because absolutely no one I know or have known would dream of treating their children in this way, for doing nothing, no crime, no affair, no bad behaviour, nothing. I have been mentally preparing for his death and going over everything. Sometimes the jigsaw fits together and other times the pieces float over each other. I don’t think the feeling of ‘could I have done more?’ ever goes away you just get better at shifting the thought. I suppose the other consideration is that this also part of an ageing process in much the same way as wishing you’d made different decisions when bringing your own children up?

Comment from Joanne Dupuis
Time November 10, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Thanks, as always, Jeff for sharing this deeply personal experience. I can relate to it on many levels. I was able to work through quite a few things with my mother, and develop a healthier relationship with her, as two adult women, prior to her death and I am eternally grateful for that.

My experience was much as your suggest – discovering who she was on a human level versus as my mother. I saw how very difficult her life had been and was able to understand her behaviour based on those elements. I did my own work in healing myself.

As always, I am truly grateful for you and your beautiful work my soul brother!

With Love xox

Comment from Annie
Time November 10, 2015 at 6:17 pm

I appreciate your resonating words as they help me to untangle my own journey with my difficult mother who died 2 years ago. The sting of glorifying condolences magnified the shame I felt for being deeply relieved at her passing. She has been a formidable teacher as I continue to tenderly heal forward. Thank you.

Comment from Barb Duchene
Time November 10, 2015 at 7:05 pm

I had to print this out to read over and over again. I went thru years of therapy about parents and I am so glad I did. You are brilliant! I have all of your books and I just wanted to thank you for this gift!! I can feel it came from your heart and it wasn’t easy to do, your work will serve to heal many people for years to come. May God Bless you my friend!!

Comment from L.L.
Time November 10, 2015 at 7:41 pm

I needed to read this. THANK YOU. My 78 yr old disabled mother and I have this same predicament. I am trying to heal. It is hard. Every day I struggle, but these types of writings help me more than words can say.

Comment from Amy
Time November 10, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Thank you so much for this! My relationships with my family of origin have been tense and fraught for many years. My biggest unresolved relationship and where your words really hit home is with my only sister. She and I developed a rift 7 years ago when I left my then-husband. I was prepared to stay good and mad at her for a long time, assuming we had time to work things out eventually. But. She developed leukemia and despite a stem cell transplant (our brother was a match) she died 6 months after diagnosis.
I’ve succumbed to many of the traps you describe here. The temptation to blame myself is strong. I love your reminders that the issues in the relationship were real and to focus on her humanness rather than elevating her to a pedestal.
Blessings to you on your path of continued healing.

Comment from Shylene
Time November 10, 2015 at 8:27 pm

my step father died a few days ago .. we had a very hard relationship.. I had years of therapy of all help re-pattern myself, my heart etc..
we never healed in our body suits.. he wasn’t able to go there..
now .. more healing is happening..
more releasing, learning .. clearing..
so hard still …. so very hard..
your writing here helped me today..

Comment from Karen
Time November 10, 2015 at 9:09 pm

Thank you for this. I have an unawakened parent who is completely incapable of any reflection. I have some small idea of how he is a product of his times and parentage. There is no one left who can deeply help me understand his personal dilemmas and trials but your writing eases and helps me heal myself. I am so grateful.

Comment from Rachna
Time November 10, 2015 at 10:53 pm

Namaste Jeff,
My Maa died last Tuesday tha same way yours did. And like you I too had conflicting issues with her. I think I started preparing myself when I read your posts dealing with the death of your mom. I knew I will face emotional shame and will regret my behaviour. But surprisingly, I am doing great. All thanks to you. I pray for both our moms and for both of us. Lots of love to you and to your mom.

Comment from Jan
Time December 27, 2015 at 4:35 am

This is helpful not only on a personal level but also on a professional level as I am an event planner and have the honor of planning Celebration of Life events. I will also share this with someone who definitely has a unique niche and that is writing eulogies for people are in the exact situation you’ve written about. She helps write “eulogies” for people who have a very hard time finding nice things to say about their family member who has passed away. She has a tremendous sense of humor which really goes a long way to help anyone out during difficult times.

Thank you for your insight. I will continue to follow your work!


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