Monthly Archives: June 2011

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 that’s why we are on earth in the first place.

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¬† 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.

The Three Stages of the Forgiving Process

The goal of holistic health is to seek a BALANCED RELATIONSHIP between my Higher Power, others and myself. If this balance is broken, then our relationships are wounded. Forgiveness is the Great Equilizer.

Stage 1) I rediscover the humanity of my “self” and the person(s) who hurt me.

I tend to filter the image of my villain through the gauze of my wounded memories, and in the process, I alter his/her reality.

I tend to see the villain as a “bad person” whether the villain is someone else, or me.

The acceptance of myself within my human limitations allows me to begin to let go of the pains of my wounds so that I can learn to integrate my brokenness into wholeness.

Stage 2) I surrender my right to get even.

If I am the one who was harmed, I may have the tendency to feel “righteous” or “entitled” – somehow more deserving just because the other harmed me.

Forgiving surrenders the right to vengeance, it never surrenders the claims of justice. I will always have to live with the results of my actions. I continue to seek vengeance against myself when I continue to use and abuse my body with unhealthy practices.

To accept my own personal responsibility is considered to be the first step in claiming the justice of being human. I can then learn to accept myself for who I am – a valued human being in the sight of my Higher Power.

Stage 3) I revise my feelings toward the person I forgive.

At first there is an overwhelming sense of hatred for the one who has wronged me.

Over time, however, these feelings of hatred begin to turn into understanding and affirmation of my humanness. The feeling of good-will is likely to be weak and hesitant at first, therefore I take courage for today.

Intimacy

One of my college professors used to say: True intimacy is standing emotionally naked in front of another person.

According to Marianne Williamson: True intimacy is communication that comes from who and what we truly are at the core. Real nakedness is to say what we really feel without feeling embarrassed. A lack of communication is a lack of intimacy. In our society, we tend to believe sex is intimacy – because we think it will bring us closer to another person. But what sex actually sometimes does is block communication. MW says that we get to know each other and communicate, connect and then say “let’s have sex to become truly intimate”. But what’s really happening is that as we begin to get to know each other, we unconsciously believe “if I continue to communicate at this level, I might say something I don’t want to reveal about myself, so let’s have sex instead.”

This is not to say that the physical/sexual part of an intimate relationship is never an expression of true intimacy. It can often take that connection to an even deeper level, but we need to be honest with ourselves as we move in that direction. If we work on becoming more authentic within ourselves, we can become more comfortable in our own skin. That will lead to being more open and honest with each other and intimacy will happen more naturally.

Feeling Included

I attended my first Gay Pride Festival last weekend. I have wanted to go for a long time, but it never fit into our schedule. I was hoping to go this year any way, but it helped that our friend, Chely Wright, was asked to perform at the Pride Festival on Sunday evening here in Kansas City. (For any who aren’t familiar with her, Chely is the first openly gay Country performer. She came out in May of 2010).

I have also become involved in Chely’s LikeMe organization and have been asked to sit on the local advisory committee for the new LGBT Community Center, The Lighthouse. It’s to be the first of many centers she hopes to open across the country. Being from the Kansas City area, she wanted the first one to be here, because she grew up unable to find anyone like her in her small hometown of Wellsville, KS. Her goal is to make it easier for others to find self acceptance through education about our similarities, rather than our differences, and through access to the resources they may need in that process. We also plan to provide education and services to their families and the public, as well, to enhance the practice of inclusion for all of us. To understand more about Chely and her “breakdown that led to her breakthrough”, I highly recommend her memoir, LIKE ME.

Today, I want to comment on my experience as I walked toward the festival to work in the LikeMe booth. I should probably preface what I’m about to report by telling you that I’m married to a real bearded Santa, and he looks the part year-round, so it’s not uncommon for us to get lots of stares in public. So to be fair, people were probably looking at him, more than at me. But, for whatever reason, walking down that street was not a comfortable feeling. I’m sure it was all in my own head. I knew there were other heterosexual people there. I knew some of them, and even stopped to talk to a couple on my way to the booth. But somehow, wearing my green, LikeMe T-shirt, it seemed at the moment like I was advertising – “look at me, I’m different”.

I’ve had many LGBT friends and clients over the years, whom I’ve known rather intimately, and I’ve always felt I “got” what most of them have experienced throughout their lives as they have gone through their own process of self and public acceptance. I’ve said that I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be to constantly receive the message that you are so different from other people, and to feel like you just don’t fit in anywhere. I empathize deeply with anyone who doesn’t feel like they fit in. I think we’ve all had at least brief experiences that can help us relate to that feeling of isolation, if we allow ourselves to connect with it. Belonging is one of the most basic of human needs.

I know this experience was only a glimpse into what others have experienced their entire lives. But it was enough to convince me even more that what I am doing by getting involved and speaking up is not only a positive thing, it’s necessary!

I grew up on a farm outside a tiny town in Central Kansas. It was the most “straight, white” experience you can imagine. As a child, my family knew one black family, and they were the only blacks I remember even seeing until I was in high school. There was also one Mexican American family in our small school. I don’t know how old I was when the concept of homosexuality even penetrated my awareness.

But most of my adult life, many of my best friends have been black, gay or lesbian. I don’t know why – I’ve wondered if it was because I have nothing but respect for the courage they’ve had to muster just to live day to day. I’m also drawn to the wicked sense of humor most of them have developed (possibly a good coping mechanism). At any rate, I used to think it was enough to just love them unconditionally. Since Chely came out, however, I’ve become aware that it’s not enough. I’ve become much more vocal and have called my legislators on LGBT issues, such as DADT.

So, as Oprah would say, I had an “Aha! moment”. But the best part is that once I got past that brief “so this is how it feels” feeling, it was exhilarating! I was happy to be there, enjoyed meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones. And hope I will help in some small way to obliterate the segregation that’s been the norm for way too long.

Needless Needs

You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by making the most of this moment. If you feel any fear or apprehension, learn what it has to teach you and then move on beyond it.

Much of what holds you back is based on your fear of losing something or your desire to acquire – something you do not really need. Let go of your need to need so much, and abundance will flow in to fill the space those needs are now using.

The needs you’ve devised for yourself can be very comfortable. And yet their comfort keeps you confined in a narrow, limited corner of life.

Choose to break free of the needs that you don’t really need. Choose to let go of the cravings, obsessions, habits, worries and anxieties that do nothing but hold you back.

Remember that you’re capable of quickly learning, adapting and thriving in new and different situations. There is a world of boundless opportunity just a few steps outside your comfort zone.

When you find yourself feeling that you need something, stop, step back and ask yourself if you really do. The more of those needless needs you can leave behind, the faster ahead you will go.

-Ralph Marston