Monthly Archives: April 2015

Cinderella is a Spiritual Story

I’ve posted a couple of other concepts from Marianne Williamson’s book – The Law of Divine Compensation. One of my favorite sections is where she compares the story of Cinderella to how abundance is available – and right in front of us – if we can just allow ourselves to be open to it, rather than look through the lense of lack. The excerpt is below. I think it’s brilliant (And it helps me feel better about allowing my granddaughter to watch all the princess movies). 🙂

While reading Cinderella to my daughter when she was growing up, I was always struck by the deep wisdom that’s in the story. The Fairy Godmother didn’t order a new dress out of a catalog; she transformed Cinderella’s rags into a ball gown. The Fairy Godmother didn’t order a limo; she turned a pumpkin into a coach and mice into horsemen. Whatever Cinderella needed, the universe took care of it.

Cinderella’s purity of heart called forth the Fairy Godmother— that is, the spirit within— and the Fairy Godmother called forth everything she needed. The Fairy Godmother’s wand? True, loving thought. The light her wand casts onto things? True understanding. The magic she works? The miracles that result. The Fairy Godmother didn’t have to order a dress or call out for a car because the universe miraculously transformed existing material. That’s how the universe operates: whatever already is, is the platform for what could be. Cinderella, despite her circumstances as a servant, had the mind-set of the miraculous. And so miracles came to her.

In one video of the story, Cinderella becomes upset after her stepmother and stepsisters have gone to the ball. She’s on the driveway crying, when the Fairy Godmother finally appears. Cinderella exclaims, “Oh, Fairy Godmother, I thought you’d never get here!” to which the Fairy Godmother responds, “Oh, that’s not true, or I couldn’t have come.” How metaphysical is that!

Our souls are Cinderella, the ego is the wicked stepmother, and the Holy Spirit is our Fairy Godmother. Each of us has a “wicked stepmother,” i.e., ego mind, seeking to obstruct our good. And each of us has a “Fairy Godmother,” i.e., Holy Spirit, working miracles to fulfill our heart’s desire whenever our attitudes are pure.

According to A Course in Miracles, “Miracles are everyone’s right, but purification is necessary first.” There is only one category of impurity that keeps miracles at bay, and that is lovelessness. The Fairy Godmother didn’t appear to the stepmother or the ugly stepsisters, because their thoughts were mean. They had plenty of material resources, but they did not have love in their hearts. Thus all their plans came to naught.

PURITY OF HEART, then, is the miracle-worker’s greatest engine of wealth creation. There are three spiritual steps involved in the metaphysical transformation of lack into abundance: (1) be grateful for what you already have, (2) clean up whatever you need to clean up, and (3) allow yourself to want what you want. The three together are a powerful brew.

–Williamson, Marianne (2012-11-27). The Law of Divine Compensation: On Work, Money, and Miracles.

So what does this have to do with emotional health? EVERYTHING! If we believe we are in a world of finite resources and have a negative attitude about the economy or the people and situations we encounter, then we’ll remain victims of our environment forever. But if we know that anything we need is at our fingertips, if we come from a positive, loving place in attitude and actions, then we can take personal responsibility for moving forward.

 

How to Support the Grieving

This is the first in what I hope to be several blogs about being there for someone who is grieving.  I can’t count the times I’ve heard about (and felt) “the look”  of pain that we see on others’ faces when they know we are going through something difficult, but have no idea what to do or say.

The loss of a loved one is something we all know we will have to experience at some point in our lives.  We also will all know someone else who will lose a close loved one and might need our support.

The first thing we need to understand is the difference between comfort and support.  To comfort means to make feel better.  To support means to hold up, help or to advocate.  There’s a huge difference between the two.

In addition to understanding these concepts, we need to know the difference between sympathy and empathy.  Brene Brown says it best:  Empathy fuels connection.  Sympathy drives disconnection.  A sympathetic verbal comment is often not going to help.  A connection will.

Sympathy and comfort can both give a sense of condescendence.   Empathy and support feels like the other person is joining with me.  As Brene says, if I’m stuck down in a hole and the other person is showing sympathy or trying to comfort me, they’re still up on top looking down on me.  They may offer a few well-meaning suggestions, or try to help me look on the bright side of the situation, but I’m still alone in that hole.  (ie, “I’m so sorry your husband just died, but at least you had 25 wonderful years together,”  may be true, but what I’m probably thinking at the moment is “Why can’t we have more wonderful years together?”).

But if I’m stuck in that hole and the other person climbs down there with me, puts their arm around me,  just sits there with me, or even says, “I don’t even know what to say, but I’m here” then I’m still in the hole, but I’m feeling a little less alone.

It’s really difficult to see those we care about hurting.  Our instinct is to try to make it better in some way.  But we have to accept that it is THEIR hurt and we can’t take it away.  Only they can eventually get to a better place.  If you are so uncomfortable with watching someone else deal with grief, that’s more about you, and you need to find a way to work through that on your own.

What the person needs is support, and there are numerous ways to do that.  First though, you may need to understand a little more about grief itself.

It’s impossible to predict exactly how your friend or loved one will grieve. Grief at its core is complicated and devious. One of the prominent grief theories tells us that grief moves through stages (denial, bargaining, anger, depression & acceptance), but not everyone experiences grief in that way.  Even if they do encounter some or all of these stages, they don’t happen in a nice, neat linear timeline. The depth, direction and timing can be unpredictable.  It tends to come in waves – and often when we least expect it.  Grief will vary from person to person.

The immediate days after the death can be overwhelming, especially if it was sudden or unexpected. In the first days, a griever will often focus on the specific issues around planning the service, dealing with personal affairs, supporting family members also affected by the loss, processing and trying to make sense of what has happened, and just putting one foot in front of the other.

As time progresses, the effect on the person may depend on who and what they’ve lost, their belief about death, their relationship to the loved one, and their individual ability to cope with it.  There are a wide range of responses and emotions associated with grief. Some of these are shock, numbness, sadness, despair, loneliness, isolation, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, hopelessness, irritability, anger, increased or decreased appetite, fatigue or sleeplessness, guilt, depression, anxiety,  aches, pains, worry, frustration, detachment, isolation, questioning faith, etc.  (While this list looks long, there are others – and there’s no way to anticipate which or how many the griever will experience).

For many people, this is the first time they will experience such shifts in mood, fluctuating emotions, and feelings of loss of control. This can be disorienting, and it will take some time to find a sense of their “new normal.”

For all these reasons, it’s hard to know what to anticipate. The best advice is to be patient, keep an open mind, and anticipate needs based on what you know about the griever.

Here are some other things to remember when supporting someone in their grief:  No two losses are the same. The grief experience is as individual as both the relationship between the griever and their deceased loved one and the griever’s response to the loss.  Maybe you have suffered a similar loss or think you understand, but no one else can ever truly know how the griever feels.

Keep in mind that what’s comforting to you may be creepy to someone else.  Just as every
loss is different, so is every griever. We all have different strengths, weaknesses, coping
mechanisms, and belief systems. Take what you know about the griever into account and decide whether a suggestion is appropriate for them. If you do offer suggestions, do it gently with the knowledge that they may disagree.

I seldom offer advice to anyone, even if they ask for it – because it’s not my decision!  What you can do, is to give several options for them to consider.  Know that you may offer support and the griever may choose not to take it. Or they may just not be capable of making any decisions right now!  Understand and accept that your desire to help will not always be compatible with their desire to be helped. Some people are not open to talking. Some people prefer to be alone. Some are unwilling to accept help. Some ask for advice with no intention of acting on it.  Accept that up front and don’t let it frustrate you.

Remember, this is NOT about you.  It’s about sitting with your friend in their pain, and allowing them the space to find their own way through the grief experience.

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.

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

As Christians celebrate Easter today, it’s a time to reflect on what the day represents, regardless of our belief system.  We know Jesus died on the cross as an act of pure love.  Christians believe he arose from the dead as proof that there is life after this episode we are experiencing here on earth.  While LOVE is the point of it all, I want to focus today on the “act” part.

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.  Money has been tight and 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 the “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 study of 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.

A quote from Cory Booker of New Jersey was posted on Facebook by a friend recently.  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 wish each of you a Blessed Easter and hope you are able to experience it in Love.