Monthly Archives: August 2014

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 all 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.  But please know that I am not trying to convince you of anything – just to explain my view point and how it helps me). 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 (personally) have moved way past the playground woes of a 7 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 responsibility, 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 at times.

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!

Strength or Vulnerability

It’s not uncommon for people to sit in my office, feeling very down emotionally, and tell me they believe they are weak. I don’t believe our problems make us weak. We are often vulnerable, however. One of the benefits of therapy is to acknowledge our vulnerabilities. We can only become stronger when we can identify those areas – then decide how we can change them.

When we say the things that others want to hear, regardless of our own truth, or allow others or our environment to dictate how we behave, we might see ourselves as weak. As I’ve studied human life and explored my own sense of spirituality, I’ve come to understand that most of us have to go through these periods in order to experience how that feels. Our world is one where we often learn from opposites, so when we’re finally tired of feeling the way we feel when we aren’t living in our own truth, we’ll be motivated to change. That’s a process – and often a very slow one. But when we recognize that it’s OK to be who we really are, we’ll naturally be drawn to making the choices we need to make.

People respect strength, but they identify with vulnerability. Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s getting in touch with our humanity.

Strength is operating from effectiveness – with integrity and truth.

Here’s an affirmation of strength I’ve found and use: I am a valuable, important, significant being. I am here for a purpose. If anything or anyone gets in the way of my getting on purpose, I do not have to allow them to interfere. I say that with respect and kindness.

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.”

The Wisdom of Children

I’m continually amazed at the wisdom of toddlers and young children. Since our granddaughter has come to live with us, it’s even more evident to me on a daily basis that she knows much more about this Universe than I do.

I’ve read that children are still very connected to the place we all come from – until we manage to condition them out of that state. (As Wayne Dyer has said, we trust for 9 months that God is in control and will be sure the baby has everything (s)he needs in order to be perfect upon birth into this world. Then once the baby is here we say, “Thank you God, we’ll take it from here.”)

We recently celebrated 3 years of Jess living with us. Every night as I put her into the tub I ask if the water is too hot. Her response is always, “It’ll be fine.” Where she gets this sense of optimism is beyond me. In her young life, she’s had more than her share of heartache and scary situations. While she’s NOT by any means, the most quiet and well-behaved 5 year old, she is mature beyond her years in many ways – probably because she’s had some of these experiences. My husband and I do everything we can to let her know we’re always here for her, and that she is loved beyond measure. While we may not like some of her behaviors, we let her know that has nothing to do with her “lovability”.

Her resilience comes from the inside. She is funny, loves to sing and dance and make up stories that she tells in a very animated manner – not unlike other kids her age. And she still marvels at the pancake she gets at IHOP that has the bananas, strawberries and whipped cream that are shaped into a face. Even though we do spoil her, she still gets so excited at a surprise, or when she sees a squirrel scampering up a tree that she screams with joy. And she loves to run away from us when we’re walking down the sidewalk or when we’re getting ready for school, much to our frustration. But she’s giggling and squealing with delight every minute.

As adults, we become so jaded. Especially in the US, where we have so many riches that we don’t appreciate any of it for what it is. My granddaughter reminds me on a regular basis to stop and smell the roses; that being on time every place we go is over-rated, as is getting the dishes done or the house picked up.

When we get where we’re going from here, I don’t think anyone is going to meet us with a clipboard and a checklist, and say, “On August 10th, 2014, you didn’t finish the dishes!” I think we’ll look back at our time here and evaluate whether we spent our time wisely – and where it really mattered . . . whether – and HOW we loved . . . and if we took pleasure in every moment presented.
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“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” -Rumi

Happiness? It’s in the Tip of Your Tail

I believe this is an old Hindu story. I’ve heard variations of it, but this is the way I first heard it & I love what it says.

A small kitten had just returned from cat philosophy school. He was running around in circles, trying to catch his tail. A seasoned old alley cat, asked the kitten what she was doing.

“I have learned that happiness is in the tip of your tail, and I am trying to catch mine, so that I will always be happy.”

The old Tom replied: “You have learned well. I never received a fancy education, but I too have heard that happiness is in the tip of my tail. What I have also discovered is that if you forget about trying to catch it, it will follow you wherever you go.”
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My interpretation of this story: If we quit trying so hard to find something (ie, happiness, success, etc), and just go about doing what we are led to do because it’s the right thing for us and for the universe, then what we have been looking for will naturally come.