Author Archives: Patti Peterson

Are You Making a Living, or Are You Making a Life?

Unfortunately, as humans, we tend to live on auto-pilot.  Many of us have to have a crisis to make ourselves stop and really look at our lives and where we’re going or to appreciate what we’ve had in our lives – sometimes only after we’ve lost whatever that is.

This past several years, things have been rough for everyone. The stress level appears to be at an all-time high for most of us.  We can tend to develop tunnel vision to try to get back on track, by working harder to get whatever we feel is lacking and focusing on the powerlessness we often feel when it doesn’t produce the outcome we were looking for.  We’re so focused on “making a living” that we might be ignoring the real purpose of our existence here.

Many  pray for God (or whatever they believe in) to give them more – a new job, more money, a new relationship . . . it’s like they see God as a Big Santa Claus in the Sky who brings them gifts if they’re good.  These people operate from the concept that they lack what they think will make them happy, and something or someone from the outside has to show up so they can get it.

Some also tend to believe that if they become more spiritual, life will become easier, and THEN they’ll find happiness.

That has not proven completely true for me.  What I’ve found is that the closer I get to a higher sense of spirituality, the more difficult my path becomes at times. The tests get harder. But that doesn’t mean I’m less happy.  As a quote by Wayne Dyer says, if I believe it will work out, I will see opportunities. If I believe it won’t work out, I will see obstacles.

If my years of studying the Afterlife has taught me anything, it’s how I want to live my life – here and now.  I want to live from love in the moment as much as I can, not be too attached to any specific outcome for what I’m dealing with in that moment, and to look for the miracles and the opportunities that might not have shown themselves if I hadn’t had my current crisis.

There’s such freedom in just allowing myself to be who and where I am right now; and doing what I can for now without looking too far into the future.  A part of being me is getting outside my own head as much as I can, and really being with others as they experience their own trauma.

The more energy I put into all the what-if’s and worry about how to handle something that hasn’t even happened yet, the less energy I’ll have to deal with what comes up in the moment.  The more I worry about whether I’ll get something I really want or the more I get upset about what I don’t have, the less I’ll even notice what I DO have.  I just want to live my life today.  It’s all any of us really have anyway.

When I can do those things – stay in the moment to experience my life and get outside my own head and focus on others occasionally, that’s where I find happiness.  It’s not “out there” somewhere.

I saw this quote from Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey a few years ago.  I’m sharing the parts of the quote that represent what I’m trying to say here:

Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people . . . teach me about it through your compassion for your neighbors . . . I’m not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as in how you choose to live and give.

I hope each of you is able to focus more on the life you have right here and now, than on what you lack. I won’t promise it will always be easy, but it IS a simple concept: the abundance of the Universe is unlimited. If we live in the consciousness of Love and the awareness of our gratitude or each little miracle in our lives, more will show up than we ever dreamed possible.

Giving and Receiving

We all know how important it is to give – it’s actually good for our health. When we’re in the energy of abundance and generosity, not only do we feel good emotionally, but our immune system is healthier. In another blog, I talked about studies where one person showed a kindness to another. The serotonin level of those involved increased, as did the serotonin level of anyone who witnessed the transaction. (Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is important in mood maintenance, and is found in some antidepressant medications).

To be able to offer a piece of ourselves in some way is truly a gift – not only to the other person, but to the giver. I personally believe one of the primary reasons we are on earth in the first place is to connect with others in this way.

A book I read a several years ago also confirmed the positive effects giving has on our emotional and physical health. It was written by a young woman who had MS, and eventually became healthier after practicing the art of giving. The book was called 29 Gifts.

I took the challenge to give something to someone every day for 29 days. (If you miss a day, you have to start over). It was difficult at first to try to be creative and find new ways to give, but eventually it becomes a way of life. Ways to give show up easily and often when that’s what you’re looking for.

Recently, a client began to share with me how she performs random acts of kindness, and the joy she receives from doing so. I feel elated just listening to her!

But there’s another side that is more difficult and most of us find less comfortable. Receiving!

Our cultural values lean toward independence. We each want to feel we can manage our lives without help. But what happens when we can’t do that – when we need help? Most of us think we’ll show weakness if we allow ourselves to be helped, and we don’t want to be a burden on others.

But what we fail to remember at times like this is that, if the tables were turned, we would WANT to help the other person because it just feels good and we all need to feel the connection to others. If we don’t ask for or accept help when we need it, we’re actually denying others of their opportunity to share their love with us – and to feel that connection for which we all yearn. (As an example, those in the 12 Step Program know that it’s difficult to call a sponsor at first. We often use the excuse that we don’t want to bother them. But anyone who has been a sponsor knows that they receive so much more than they give. They do it because it helps them work their program to “carry the message”).

My husband and I recently were in a situation where we had to reach out to others in ways that were not comfortable. We were in a place where we didn’t know a lot of people, and we just couldn’t do everything we needed by ourselves. We reached out to friends and family for emotional support and we reached out to people we barely knew for some very specific and significant help. As difficult as it was, it brought us much closer to those people, and we now have an even stronger bond with them than we ever would have before.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Vulnerability is NOT weakness – it’s the core of our humanness.  It’s what brings us closer to each other and reminds us that we are all connected – that we all have many more similarities than we do differences.

Giving and receiving are BOTH important skills to practice.

Lessons from Geese

Fact 1: As each goose flap its wings it creates an“uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common sense of direction and community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership, as with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skill, capabilities and unique arrangement of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4: The gees flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the productivity is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay until it dies or can fly again. Then they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

“Lessons from Geese” was transcribed from a speech given by Angeles Arrien at the 1991 Organizational Development Network and is based on the work of Milton Olson.

The Shift from Attachment

One of the many reasons I loved Wayne Dyer’s writing so much is because he seemed to connect to some of the same lessons I’ve experienced over my life. Having been in the recovery field and having worked my own program for so many years, I’ve learned to love some of those 12-Step Slogans. The slogans are used so routinely at times that they can seem trite. But in the context of immersing yourself into the program, they can become empowering. My favorite has always been Let Go and Let God.  Just saying it, or thinking it gives me a sense of freedom from carrying the burden all alone.

Below are some excerpts from Dr. Dyer’s book THE SHIFT, Taking Your Life From Ambition to Meaning that explain his perception of this concept:

Perhaps the greatest lessons of my life have revolved around the slogan of the recovery movement: “Let go and let God” – a notion that involves relinquishing ego’s attachment to, or fear of, something. The single most pronounced attachment for most of us during the morning of our lives is the attachment to being right! . . . Letting go of an attachment to being right is a fairly simple exercise.

Most stress results from hanging on to beliefs that keep us striving for more, because ego stubbornly refuses to believe we don’t need something. When we make the shift . . . we replace attachment with contentment. Chasing and striving – and then becoming attached to what we chased after – is a source of anxiety that invigorates Ambition, but it won’t satisfy the need for Meaning at our soul level. . . .

Dyer explains that one exercise he used to let go of an attachment to being RIGHT was to say “You’re right about that” in the middle of a discussion.  If you just can’t go that far and really believe the other person is wrong, then maybe you can ease into it by saying, “That’s an interesting way to look at it.  I’ll give that some thought.”

Another practice to break an attachment is to clear out the garage, cupboards, and closets. Let go of material possessions, and practice not being attached to them. If they haven’t been used in the past 12 months, they belong elsewhere.

Something else I do is to ask myself, “am I going to be upset about this in a year. . .6 months. . . tomorrow?” When I can back up & look at more long-term effects of my interactions with other people or even with material possessions or strongly held beliefs, I usually find that my perception begins to change.  It’s often a slow process, but I am able to see situations and people from a different perspective.

This need to be right is so prevalent in our country right now, with the political environment becoming more and more antagonistic. It’s easy to get caught up in all the emotion and let it interfere with our personal relationships, if others believe differently. Any attachments we have as human beings are human obsessions.  I encourage you to back up a little and open yourself to the possibility that, at another level, they are meant to help you understand yourself – NOT TO DEFINE YOURSELF.

We are all spiritual beings who have come here to learn.  Maybe that attachment you have is part of the lesson.  ?  Only when you can truly release it, will you learn from it.

Violence is the Crutch of the Emotionally Crippled

This blog was written prior to the incident taking place in Charlottesville or Barcelona. While those are examples of the violence I am referring to in the first couple of paragraphs, finding a way through to the hatred ignited within those individuals is a whole different thing than what this blog is about.  I send love and healing energy to all who are directly effected by these situations, and hope there will soon be an end to such extreme violence and intolerance.


Every day we wake up to stories about some violence being perpetrated against Americans or citizens around the world. There’s also a lot of anger-filled debate about gun control/terrorism/immigration/police brutality, etc.  Instances of physical, emotional and verbal violence are happening so often that we are becoming immune to the pain they cause. These are all very complex issues, and won’t be resolved quickly. As individuals, the power we have to effect change should not be underestimated, if we unite with activist groups and manage to put people in the positions that can make a difference (as witnessed by the marches and protests/phone calls to representatives around healthcare and other issues have proven). But it will still be a long, incremental process of shifting universal paradigms to change the violent nature of much of our society.

Even though many of these incidents are not necessarily in our back yard, they all affect each of our lives energetically.  While many of the situations mentioned above are caused, or at least fueled by things like institutional or individual discrimination/lack of available mental health services/governmental policies . . . any number of factors that we should all be conscious of and learn how to manage within our own minds and actions; the aspect I want to address here is the general energy of unchecked anger that we all see more often these days – in social settings, athletic events, instances of road rage, political rallies, and on social media.

A lot of people today are SO angry that they are blinded to any possibility other than getting revenge.  It’s a typical human impulse when we perceive that someone else has hurt us, to want them to experience at least as much pain as we did. When someone is in that mindset, it’s difficult for them to understand that their anger really hurts them more than others.  Only when someone is open to entertaining the concept that there may be an alternative perspective, can he/she make a change.  No one else can make that willingness happen.

Some people seem to enjoy being angry.  There are lots of extreme posts on social media, and sometimes comments made by public figures, that fuel the fire for someone who has not developed the emotional maturity to develop the skills to manage and relieve themselves of the energy without taking it out on someone else.  You see, it’s not the anger that is the problem.  It’s the aggressive behavior that stems from the anger.

I’ve often said that anger can be a smokescreen emotion. When we feel anger, we feel a surge of energy, and it gives us a sense of power – helping us to believe we can protect ourselves.  It’s as if we’re putting on a bullet proof vest  (we often act before we stop to think that there might be arrows shooting back at us in reaction to our aggressive behavior, so until those reach us, we feel powerful).

But it’s a smokescreen because there are almost always other, more vulnerable emotions beneath the anger and aggressive behavior.  Feelings like hurt, embarrassment, shame, etc.  And most of those have probably been down there for some time, left unattended.  We may have been able to contain them for years, but as humans we aren’t built to hold them in forever. They begin to seep out, sometimes a little at a time. Since we tend to equate vulnerability with weakness, when we begin to notice these feelings, our “go-to” is usually to slip into anger. And while the stream of steaming anger may be steady, there may also be a pit of resentments inside us.  As long as it’s kept hidden, that pit becomes harder and harder, like petrified wood.

So the way many people try to deal with their anger is to use it against another or an organization with aggressive behavior, abusive language and/or passive aggressive acts.  These are destructive, impulsive behaviors.  They initially make us feel we can control a person or situation, but in the long run, they render us helpless and we eventually find ourselves at the mercy of these weapons. What we typically get in return is resentment from others, often just perpetuating the cycle of anger.  The anger takes control of us, rather than the other way around.

The only way to become invulnerable is to change our view of who or what we deem as our enemies and learn to see every instance of harm as an opportunity — as something we can use to benefit ourselves and others.

Our enemies are our best teachers, because they ignite our anger and hatred. They force us to look at our own shadow sides, which is the first step to moving past impulsive aggressive behavior.

Once we have that wisdom, we can begin to employ more effective tools — tolerance, compassion and love — and begin to reap real benefits. If negative situations didn’t happen to us or keep us from getting what we want, how would we learn humility, tolerance and forgiveness?

We should be grateful to our enemies, for they teach us patience, courage and determination and help us develop a tranquil mind.  

-The Dalai Lama