Monthly Archives: April 2014

My Beliefs Can Limit Me or Liberate Me

I was recently diagnosed with an auto immune issue.  (I don’t allow myself to call it a disease). It’s not that I don’t want to face reality.  The sores in my mouth and throat do not allow me that luxury.  But I know how our beliefs can dictate how we feel and manifest problems if that’s what we focus on.  (Example:  I remember hearing a story about a doctor that used to work with Deepak Chopra, who died of cancer.  Feeling healthy, he had a routine x-ray where they found a spot on his lung, and within a matter of months he was gone.  Later, as Dr. Chopra helped clean out his office, he found another x-ray that had been taken 20 years prior.  It showed the same spot.  It had not changed in size or shape.  Apparently it had been overlooked the first time, and not knowing it was there, the doctor had no health problems – until they found the spot the second time.  Once he believed he had cancer, he got sick).

When I first noticed the sensitivity in my mouth, I came up with several theories about what was going on.  I have always been heavily invested in being healthy. I wasn’t supposed to get sick. I work out, eat right most of the time, meditate and know how to monitor my thoughts to adjust my mood and belief system. I manage to stay positive most of the time. I don’t know another 64 year old who is as healthy.

The process prior to the diagnosis was an emotional roller coaster.  I stayed in denial for much longer than I like to admit.  But when some of the docs I saw thought it was cancer, it brought me back to reality.  On one hand, it didn’t make sense – I was too healthy.  But who says I’m any different or better than anyone else?  I’m only human.  Part of the human condition is vulnerability.

I usually don’t let myself worry about something until I know there’s something to worry about.  But I knew whatever was going on in my mouth was not getting better, regardless of what I did.  It’s difficult to not let yourself get frightened.

I don’t want to sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself.  I’m not the first or only person to go through an experience like this. I’ve had clients, friends & family members who have gone through much worse. Many have survived it all.  I am inspired by their courage. I study their strength, humor and sheer courage.

And I don’t mean for this to be just a blog about me.  The point I’m trying to get across is that we all become more compassionate when we’ve been there.  None of us will escape pain in this life.  We’re not meant to.  We don’t come here just for the joys – but to experience the pain and to learn the lessons it teaches us.  It’s not lost on me that I came very close to an even scarier place. I’m grateful that I didn’t have to deal with cancer.

Not that the autoimmune thing is a piece of cake!  It’s an ongoing struggle that I’m taking a day at a time.  They don’t know what causes it, but I’ve learned what foods exacerbate it – almost everything!  Some make the sores pop up and others just plain hurt to eat.  So far, I’m slowly getting better through the holistic route.  I haven’t ruled out medication, but until I’ve tried everything else – or what I’m doing is no longer working, I’ll stay on this path.

The point of this blog, though, is that If I believed this was the worst thing that ever happened to me, it would be.  But if I can see it for what it is – a wake-up call that I need to adjust my life so I can appreciate and live it to the fullest, it might just be one of the best things that has happened to me!

For today, I am grateful for the opportunity for growth. This is another chance to see if the conclusions I’ve come to in my spiritual exploration are true for me. And to see if I have the courage and conviction to allow myself to be led in the direction that will advance my spirit.

I believe that’s why we come to this life. It doesn’t happen when everything goes the way I want it to or think it should. We all learn the best lessons by facing and accepting the crappy stuff. We gain strength by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and by moving through pain.

What I say to myself and to others feed my belief about my current life situaion.  Those beliefs can limit my life to the point where I isolate and withdraw – or they can liberate me to live it as fully as possible!

 

Shutting Down Our Thoughts

In my business, it’s not unusual for clients to come in consumed by emotion, feeling stuck and unable to find their way out.

People experience emotions in different ways. Some are completely overwhelmed and taken over by the emotions. Others are totally detached from them – an effort to avoid feeling them at all. Although we all probably lean more towards one or the other of these, neither extreme is healthy for us.

As always, balance is the key – somewhere in the middle is the healthiest way to deal with our feelings. Emotions are a part of being human, but they are only part of us. If we can recognize this, and allow ourselves to feel them without getting caught up in the memories of the events that brought them on, we will be able to move forward. If we can experience the physicality of the emotion without staying in the story that is tied to them, we can usually move through the emotion much quicker than we ever imagined. THE THOUGHTS ARE WHAT GIVES THE EMOTIONS ENERGY.

Most of our thoughts just blow through our minds – sort of like the ribbons that scroll across our TV screen when we’re watching the news. We have to choose which one we’re going to pay attention to. If we choose one that makes us feel bad, we can change our mind and choose another one that makes us feel a little better.

But some thoughts have been around for so long that they seem to find a corner and set up house in our minds. These are usually those core negative beliefs we’ve developed over the years. Often they were taught to us by our parents or society, as a social meme, and we’ve fed them until they gained weight in our belief system. They eventually develop into patterns of attitudes and behaviors that usually don’t serve us very well. But because they’ve become so much a part of how we see ourselves, we don’t think we can rid ourselves of them. We can – but we have to make a conscious decision to put our energy toward different, more positive thoughts.

One way to find the middle ground in our experience of emotions is to imagine stepping outside ourselves and becoming the observer of our lives, almost as if we’re watching ourselves in a movie. This allows us to feel what we need to feel, yet remain a little more objective and in control of our behaviors. It gives us that distance to recognize and own the feelings without letting them take over our decisions.

Even though our emotions run deep, our thoughts are on the surface. Finding a way to shut the thoughts down – through meditation, relaxation, visualization or even just soft soothing music – can help calm us and connect us to our inner strength. We’re similar to the ocean. On the surface it’s often very dangerous and chaotic with huge waves and turbulence. That turbulence is our thoughts – the intellectual violence. But if you go to the ocean floor (shut down the thoughts), it’s calm, quiet and peaceful.

Expectations vs Trust

I don’t believe we have the right to expect anything from anyone. Some people have difficulty with that concept – especially in intimate relationships. They get confused with the difference between expectations and trust.

An expectation is a strong belief that something will happen or will be the case in the future or a belief that someone will or should do something. If we apply that to any relationship, it sets us up for failure. Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.

Trust, on the other hand is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. I liken trust to faith. It’s accepted without the need for evidence or investigation. However, in a healthy relationship, trust is built slowly, which does give us evidence of past trustworthiness.  A pattern is developed over time that shows one that the other is trustworthy. Those who trust too much, too soon are either confusing trust with expectations, or they are afraid to let the relationship take its normal course. Either way, they find themselves in a lot of pain they could probably avoid if they could learn to be patient and allow the relationship to evolve.

When trust is broken, it can be rebuilt, but it takes long-term, consistent effort – sometimes extreme effort – to prove trustworthiness again. Once that process has begun, then the other side must eventually begin to trust again – a little at a time. Both parties must be diligent in rebuilding trust. When that’s done, the relationship will never be the same – but it is often better.

Expand Your Perspective

When we focus only on ourselves, we severely limit how we see our opportunities.  It’s easy to become frustrated or upset when our own perspective is the only one we consider.

I have no idea where I heard this story, but it’s about a family that boarded a city bus.  All the passengers on the bus prior to their boarding had been adults, who were enjoying their rides to their destinations – in quiet conversation, reading, listening to music or just looking out the window.

But when the family found their seats, the father just sat, staring into space as his children began running all over the bus, playing games, screaming at each other as they played, and generally annoying all the other passengers.

The passengers looked at each other in disgust, as this father did nothing to reign his children in.  Eventually, one man had all he could take, tapped the father on the shoulder and said, “Hey man!  Your kids are causing a lot of chaos here and disturbing all the rest of us on this bus!  Can’t you do something about them?”

To which the father replied, “Oh, I’m sorry.  We just came from the hospital.  Their mother just died. I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”

Instantly, the attitude of each passenger on the bus changed to one of compassion.  One by one, they started engaging the children in conversation or finding quiet things for them to focus on for the remainder of their ride.  A couple of them sat with the father and  just listened to him.

They had expanded their perspective beyond themselves.  When we can see things from another’s perspective, we can genuinely take them into consideration, and we’ll gain valuable insight that will change what we see in the world – and how we react with it.