Monthly Archives: September 2013

Bozos on the Bus (Repost)

This is repost of one of my favorite posts on this blog. I use this concept in sessions a lot, because ALL of us feel like this from time to time. I’ve posted this several times, but it’s been a while. . .

I’ve just begun to listen to the audiobook BROKEN OPEN by Elizabeth Lesser, and it’s blowing me away. I read (listen to) a LOT of audiobooks – mostly spiritual and some “self-help”. I love doing this because they lift my day and inspire my work. But for some reason, this particular book is really hitting me where I live. No new concepts for me – but a unique way of explaining things I try to help others understand.

Here’s an example: Elizabeth speaks of Wavy Gravy (Hugh Romney) who was the MC for Woodstock and has spent the rest of his life inspiring others through humor.

One of his one liners is how we are all “Bozos on the Bus” – in other words, we are all vulnerable, human, have problems and occasionally make huge mistakes. Direct quote from the book:
“We should welcome our defects as part of the standard human operating system. Every single person on this bus we called earth hurts. It’s when we have shame about our failings that hurt turns into suffering.”

When we’re engulfed in our shame, we assume there’s another bus. One whose passengers are all thin, healthy, happy, have fulfilling jobs and are from loving, functional families. These passengers never do mean or stupid things, get all the great jobs, and generally just manage their lives appropriately – living happily ever after.

“But we are on the bus that says BOZO on the front, and we worry that we may be the only passenger on board. This is the illusion that so many of us labor under- that we’re all alone in our weirdness and our uncertainty; that we may be the most lost person on the highway. Of course we don’t always feel like this. Sometimes a wave of self-forgiveness washes over us, and suddenly we’re connected to our fellow humans; suddenly we belong.

It is wonderful to take your place on the bus with the other bozos. It may be the first step to enlightenment to understand with all of your brain cells that the other bus – that sleek bus with the cool people who know where they are going – is also filled with bozos – bozos in drag; bozos with a secret. When we see clearly that every single human being, regardless of fame or fortune or age or brains or beauty, shares the same ordinary foibles, a strange thing happens. We begin to cheer up, to loosen up, and we become as buoyant as those people we imagined on the other bus. As we rumble along the potholed road, lost as ever, through the valleys and over the hills, we find ourselves among friends. We sit back, and enjoy the ride.”

How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps

Since I just returned from a weekend of camping and witnessing my granddaughter be a “pretending flower girl” in my son & soon-to-be daughter-in-law’s “pretending wedding” for a lot of friends who won’t be able to make their “real” wedding in February, I’m busy catching up and unpacking so I can start my work week again. So, instead of taking the time to write an original blog, I decided to share one from The Huffington Post that a friend posted on Facebook that says much of what I usually say, albeit in a little different vernacular.  (Thanks for sharing Annette).

The covers of most men’s and women’s magazines have similar headlines: “Get Great Abs” and “Have Amazing Sex.”

From the looks of it, these two issues have been recycled over and over (with some other stereotypically gender-relevant articles thrown in) on every Men’s Health, Maxim, Cosmopolitan and Glamour cover since the dawn of time. In fact, I’d bet that if we could get a better translation of cave drawings, they would read something like “Grok get flat belly. Make girl Grok moan with joy.”

And we keep buying them. We keep buying this lie that these things will make us happy. I’ve had washboard abs (past tense) and I’ve had some pretty phenomenal sex. Neither one made me a better person. Neither one completed me or made my life more fulfilling.

We chase this idea of “I will be happy when… ”

I will be happy when I have a new car. I will be happy when I get married. I will be happy when I get a better job. I will be happy when I lose five pounds. What if instead we choose to be happy — right now?

If you can read this, your life is pretty awesome.

Setting aside our first-world problems and pettiness, if you are online reading this, you have both electricity and WiFi or access to them. Odds are you are in a shelter of some sort, or on a smart phone (and then kudos to you for reading this on the go). Life might bump and bruise us, it may not always go the way we plan and I know I get frustrated with mine, but here’s the thing: You are alive.

Because you are alive, everything is possible. So about those eight tips…

1. Stop believing your bullshit.

All that stuff you tell yourself about how you are a commitment phobe or a coward or lazy or not creative or unlucky? Stop it. It’s bullshit, and deep down you know it. We are all insecure 14 year olds at heart. We’re all scared. We all have dreams inside of us that we’ve tucked away because somewhere along the line we tacked on those ideas about who we are that buried that essential brilliant, childlike sense of wonder. The more we stick to these scripts about who we are, the longer we live a fraction of the life we could be living. Let it go. Be who you are beneath the bullshit.

2. Be happy now.

Not because The Secret says so. Not because of some shiny happy Oprah crap. But because we can choose to appreciate what is in our lives instead of being angry or regretful about what we lack. It’s a small, significant shift in perspective. It’s easier to look at what’s wrong or missing in our lives and believe that is the big picture — but it isn’t. We can choose to let the beautiful parts set the tone.

3. Look at the stars.

It won’t fix the economy. It won’t stop wars. It won’t give you flat abs, or better sex or even help you figure out your relationship and what you want to do with your life. But it’s important. It helps you remember that you and your problems are both infinitesimally small and conversely, that you are a piece of an amazing and vast universe. I do it daily — it helps.

4. Let people in.

Truly. Tell people that you trust when you need help, or you’re depressed — or you’re happy and you want to share it with them. Acknowledge that you care about them and let yourself feel it. Instead of doing that other thing we sometimes do, which is to play it cool and pretend we only care as much as the other person has admitted to caring, and only open up half way. Go all in — it’s worth it.

5. Stop with the crazy making.

I got to a friend’s doorstep the other day, slightly breathless and nearly in tears after getting a little lost, physically and existentially. She asked what was wrong and I started to explain and then stopped myself and admitted, “I’m being stupid and have decided to invent lots of problems in my head.” Life is full of obstacles; we don’t need to create extra ones. A great corollary to this one is from The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz: Don’t take things personally. Most of the time, other people’s choices and attitudes have absolutely nothing to do with you. Unless you’ve been behaving like a jerk, in which case…

6. Learn to apologize.

Not the ridiculous, self-deprecating apologizing for who you are and for existing that some people seem to do (what’s up with that, anyway?). The ability to sincerely apologize — without ever interjecting the word “but” — is an essential skill for living around other human beings. If you are going to be around other people, eventually you will need to apologize. It’s an important practice.

7. Practice gratitude.

Practice it out loud to the people around you. Practice it silently when you bless your food. Practice it often. Gratitude is not a first world only virtue. I saw a photo recently, of a girl in abject poverty, surrounded by filth and destruction. Her face was completely lit up with joy and gratitude as she played with a hula hoop she’d been given. Gratitude is what makes what we have enough. Gratitude is the most basic way to connect with that sense of being an integral part of the vastness of the universe; as I mentioned with looking up at the stars, it’s that sense of wonder and humility, contrasted with celebrating our connection to all of life.

8. Be kind.

Kurt Vonnegut said it best (though admittedly, and somewhat ashamedly — I am not a Vonnegut fan): “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'”

Kindness costs us nothing and pays exponential dividends. I can’t save the whole world. I can’t bring peace to Syria. I can’t fix the environment or the health care system, and from the looks of it, I may end up burning my dinner.

But I can be kind.

If the biggest thing we do in life is to extend love and kindness to even one other human being, we have changed the world for the better.

That’s a hell of a lot more important than flat abs in my book.

On Acceptance and Gratitude

In a state of acceptance we are able to respond responsibly to our environment. In this state we receive the power to change the things we can. We cannot change until we accept our powerlessness over the people and circumstances we have so desperately tried to control. Acceptance is the ultimate paradox: We cannot change who we are until we accept ourselves the way we are. When we surrender, when we’re in a state of acceptance, we relinquish the need to resist ourselves and our environment. That’s when we’re free to cultivate contentment and gratitude.

It has also been my experience that my Higher Power seems reluctant to intervene in my circumstances until I accept what God has already given me. Acceptance is not forever. It is for the present moment. But to move beyond this moment, it must be sincere and at gut level.

Acceptance

I used to think my job was to help people improve their lives.  And I guess, in a round about way, that is what happens when therapy works.  But the reality is that when therapy really works, it’s more about accepting our situations and selves as they are.

Acceptance means embracing what is, rather than wishing for what is not.  Often we can’t change our situation.  And when something difficult and hurtful has happened in our lives, we don’t have to like it, but we can’t unlive it.

The Serenity Prayer talks about understanding what we can change and what we cannot.  We have to evaluate that prior to accepting.  But once we’ve done everything we can with a reality that is painful, we ultimately have to accept it.  Then we are able to discover whatever positive feelings and experiences may be possible in that situation, and we can focus on that perspective and on gratitude for the rainbow that comes after, rather than immerse ourselves in the suffering. When we can live in the solution, rather than the problem, we become more at peace, which leads to being able to experience life more deeply.

Whatever comes, accept it. Whatever goes, accept it. The immediate benefit is that your mind is always peaceful.

 

 

What My Mother Taught Me

This blog is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Roberta Linnens Koestel.  As I write, it is the 14th anniversary of her death.

Many of my clients had parents who were sick and abusive.  Consequently they weren’t taught to be empowered as a human being – to know what choices were available – or even that they had choices.  We can’t give something we don’t have, and often our parents were victims as children themselves.  But we can learn from what we were given, if we allow ourselves to step outside and become the compassionate observer of our lives.

Often a client will say, “I wish I had another mother or father.  Why couldn’t I have a loving family?”   We all deserve to have love in our lives.  But we also need to accept the hand that is dealt.  Many have parents who were very loving, and who taught them valuable lessons.  But I would venture to guess that even those people secretly wish one or both of their parents was different in some way. Virtually no one had perfect parents.  But our parents are who they are.  They’re human with virtues and with frailties, as are we.

OK, here’s where I get “woo woo” on you again, so feel free to quit reading at this point if it makes you uncomfortable.  (I hope you will continue though, because I believe what I’m about to say can be helpful).  Many of you know I study the Afterlife extensively, so my beliefs have evolved from this education, and I’ve learned much about how I want to live my life here, today.

I believe I chose my family – contracted with their souls to incarnate together to help each other experience specific characteristics and emotions so that our souls can expand and continue to grow toward enlightenment.  For me, when I can look at life in that way, it makes it not quite so personal – I can see it as I see my granddaughter’s problems.  I know they’re very important to her at this moment, and I can have compassion for her as I attempt to help.  But I also have moved way past the playground woes of a 5 year old.  So I can see the whole picture, and the possible outcomes, depending on how she chooses to deal with the issue at hand.

From my understanding, this is how our souls look at this life on earth.  As the spirit, we are intricately connected to our everyday dilemmas, yet simultaneously detached enough to learn the lessons presented.

Back to our parents, and more specifically, my mom.  As I matured, I began to question my parent’s beliefs, as many of us do.  Most of their values (such as family, personal independence, compassion for others, a strong work ethic, etc) fit for me.  There were others that were more unconscious, but still drove their behaviors, that I silently challenged.

My dad was a farmer, but beneath his rough exterior, he was a shy, kind, gentle man.  Mom was also a good person who was active in our small community; but she was more irritable and reactive.

One message I got loud and clear from my mother was to not be “melodramatic”, which meant don’t show anger or cry in public.  So I learned very early to shut my emotions down, because it’s much easier not to show them if I didn’t feel them.  (I was in my 40’s before I actually worked through this one).

My mom also deserves much of the credit for my strong belief in inclusiveness and acceptance of others for who they are. She taught this through her own self-concern.  Although she was a generous, considerate woman, there was a pivotal situation in my life when it was clear to me that she was embarrassed, and much more worried about how others were seeing my behavior (and perhaps how she looked as a mother), than about what I might be going through at the time. I remember the exact moment I promised myself that I would always look at the effect a situation was having on another in order to understand how I could be there for them.  Not that it isn’t important to express myself if I disagree or can’t understand their feelings, but I make every effort to do that from a non-judgmental place.

Education and perseverance are important values I learned from my mom.  She was an excellent example of a strong woman. She taught in a one room schoolhouse before marriage, and when I was in elementary school, she went back to get her degree in education; going on to teach for years.  I followed her lead here.  Having quit college after my first year to get married and start my family, I went back when my kids were in elementary and Jr. high to finish two degrees.

There are other valuable lessons my mother taught me, but I think the most important was that I could do and be anything I wanted.  There were no obstacles, only opportunities.

So as I remember my mother today, I’ve used her as an example.  As I’ve learned with clients, when we actually process their childhoods, there are always more positive memories that surface than they originally remembered.  It’s just that the hurtful ones leave scars and overshadow the good. Negativity is heavy and sticky.

I believe all parents do the best they can with the resources they have available to them.  We all do.  When we know better, we do better!

I love you, Mom.  And thanks!