Monthly Archives: September 2015

What is Your Truth?

This week I watched the GOP Debates.  I have to confess, I could only watch a little at a time, partly due to my time constraints, but mostly because I just couldn’t take it more than a few minutes at a time.  But as I watched it, I couldn’t help but think how we can all learn something from the candidates.  Not so much from their views on issues, but from the way they communicate their beliefs – ALL the candidates, not just those on the Right.

Beliefs are important in our culture. We have each developed a set of beliefs by which we rule our lives.  Even those who say they don’t have a strong belief system think and behave according to certain beliefs they’ve developed.

Beliefs are just thoughts we string together and think often enough for them to gain weight.  The more weight they gain, the stronger the belief.  These thoughts have developed from things our parents told us – and what we watched them do, what we’ve heard in church and school, in society at large, from our friends, and from things that have happened to us and  to others.  Thoughts are some of the most powerful energy on this planet.  (Notice I did not say they produce powerful energy – they ARE energy).  But the point is that we all think our belief is THE truth.

In social media, and on the political scene today, the extreme beliefs that permeate our society have gotten out of hand.  A difference of opinion is turned into a personal battlefield.  Everyone seems to be more invested in being RIGHT, than in stopping to listen to the other side, learning something from it and then uniting our differences to come to a better or stronger solution.

The way our elected officials and the Presidential candidates behave towards each other and use personal attacks to prove their own righteousness at the expense of the rest of us has become the epitome of this mindset.  (Donald Trump aside – that’s another blog!)

It reminds me of the ancient story about the blind men who were told there was an elephant in their village.  I’m sure you’ve all heard it, but I’m going to briefly share it here, just to make my point.

The men had no clue what an elephant was, but they decided they would go feel it because that’s the way they “see”. Each of them touched the elephant.   One touched the leg and said the elephant is a pillar.  The next touched the tail and said it was like a rope.  Then there was the man who touched the trunk and thought the elephant was like a thick branch of a tree.  The one who touched the ear thought it was like a big fan; the man touching the belly said it was like a huge wall.  The last man touched the tusk and said they were all wrong because the elephant was like a solid pipe!

As they argued about the elephant, each insisting he was RIGHT and becoming very agitated, a sighted man arrived. When they told him what they were arguing about, he told them they were  ALL right, and that the reason they each felt differently was because they had touched a different part of the elephant. When the blind men heard this, there was no more reason to fight.

Are you like the blind men?  As I said before, we all “see” life through the lens of our own experiences, thoughts, and beliefs – which lead to our own perspective. That perspective is what drives our attitudes, how we feel and how we behave.  Our focus tends to be pretty narrow.  If I’m in a dark room with only a flashlight, the things I shine the light on are the things I see, and  therefore the things that inform my beliefs.  That is my truth.  Someone else in the same room, might shine their light on other things, and consequently come to a different truth than mine.

But what happens when someone walks in and flips the switch to light up the whole room?  Then we both have access to everything in the room. Those things have always been there, we just didn’t see them all.  We each might see at least some of the same things the other was focusing on, and at the very least, we might begin to question the beliefs we had each developed and so strongly held onto.  Might the other person have had a point to their perspective?

When we can remember that we each have our own truth, based on our own experiences and values – and can learn to explain how it affects us, it teaches us to be more tolerant towards others for their viewpoints. None of us is wrong when we can see where that truth comes from.  We may never completely agree. We’re still going to have experiences that affect us strongly enough that we hold on staunchly.   But we might at least be able to begin to work together to come to a more unified sense of truth for more of us.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.  

-Marcus Aurelius

 

A New Normal

Once again, I am on my way out the door – this time to camp for the weekend.  (Camping is NOT my favorite thing to do, but the people I am meeting ARE my favorite people and there is wonderful music there 24/7, so it’s worth the sacrifice of no AC or shower unless I want to wait in an hour-long line, and questionable WiFi availability).  So once again, I have to post my blog earlier than I like to.

But as I write this, it’s September 11, an anniversary we all remember much too well.  So I’m in a quiet, contemplative mood, in spite of having way too much to get done in.  Consequently, I thought it might be appropriate to re-post a blog I wrote not quite a year ago before I take off.  This blog is about how we all have to deal with grief, and the challenge of finding our way through it in the best way we can.  Namaste.

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What grief is really about is the process of experiencing the changes in our lives and finally getting to the point of understanding that we’ll never go back to exactly the way we were. We have to embrace the changes and eventually realize there is a new normal. It won’t be the same, we may not like it as well as what we had before, but it can be better or at least as good – just different.

Grief is not confined to the loss of loved ones or relationships. It extends to any change in our lives: the birth of a new baby, an older child going off to college, a job loss or change; the list is endless. Some of these are positive changes and some are losses; some are a combination. But they are all change. This list should also probably include the huge changes that are taking place at lightning speed in all of our lives today.

When something happens like the economy change we’ve all experienced over the past several years, 9/11, the wars and militant groups that are threatening the lives of many innocent people over the world – even the emergence of new laws that allow for same sex marriage; the way we have always conceived of our world is affected. If the change is something we had hoped for and worked to implement, it makes it easier to accept.

But often, we felt a sense of safety because we thought we knew “how it was supposed to be.” Then when something happens, we may feel threatened – life as we have always known it, is gone. We try to deny it – or if we acknowledge it, we still hope/wish it will go back to the way it was. If we maintain this mindset for long, it puts us into a holding pattern. We wait it out, assuming that one day things will go back to “normal”. As this time of waiting increases, we are just existing. We miss life. We don’t experience the day to day joys – and sorrows. We just don’t experience life as it happens. We sit in depression, missing what used to be and in anxiety, wondering when it’s going to change back, so we can get on with our lives.

One example that illustrates this is people who have successfully found recovery through the 12 Step programs. They eventually realize they have grieved the “good old days” – the partying, the fun or escape they experienced as their addiction progressed, the self identity they developed over time as the life of the party, or just someone who could enjoy an occasional drink (although as addiction progresses, “a drink” is usually not the norm). And they have begun to accept that things will be different, and there will be a new normal in their lives.

Our grief process from the loss of a loved one, a broken relationship, a job, or a major social change is not different. We have to get to a place where we recognize – and even embrace the fact that things will never be exactly the same.

In his book THE TURNING POINT, Gregg Braden calls this expanded resilience. Resilience is the ability to return to normal functioning after a trauma in our lives. As Gregg explains it, expanded resilience is the ability to think and live every day in a way that allows us to thrive in whatever comes, because we’re facing reality. He goes on to discuss physiological reasons we become less resilient as we age or face traumas, and new technology that is being used to help us learn to expand our resilience. (It’s fascinating, and if you’re interested in this, I suggest you google heart math, The Heart Math Institute or www.greggbraden.com for more information).

For my purpose here, I just wanted to make the point that regardless of whether we are experiencing the loss of a loved one, or some other change in our lives, we are probably at some stage of grief. It’s important to take the time we need to mourn the relationship/things we’ve lost, and even the hopes we had for our future that won’t happen now.

But it’s also important to be as honest and open to whatever comes each day. If we continue to hold on to what was, we won’t be able to create space in our lives for what will be.

“It is not the bars that hold the tiger in, but the space between them.”

Wayne Dyer and Acts of Kindesss

Wayne Dyer

I wrote this blog several years ago.  As many of you are aware, Dr. Wayne Dyer left his body on August 30, 2015 in his sleep.  I really wanted to write a blog about how he has inspired me over the years, but I have to be realistic about the time I have available this week, and I couldn’t do it justice, but I do want to say just a few words.

I didn’t agree with everything he said.  In fact there were times I cringed as I listened to him when he was passionate about something that I felt was important for some people, but not realistic across the board for everyone.

That said, he was the first to inspire me to explore my spiritual beliefs seriously, and he taught me to think outside the box, which I challenge my clients to do on a daily basis.  (if you haven’t heard his scurvy elephant story you really should check out some of his work).

I met and spoke with him on a couple of occasions and he was a very kind, loving, spiritual human being.  At the age of 75, he had a schedule that would wear out a 20 year old because he had such a passionate calling to teach the rest of us what he was learning along the way.

I grieve him and feel the hole his presence as a human leaves in this realm.  Yet I know he is excited to be on his new adventure as pure consciousness!  As I said on my Facebook page earlier this week, I would say RIP Wayne, but I know you’re NOT resting!

Acts of Kindness

One of my favorite authors is Dr. Wayne Dyer. Because I listen to his weekly podcasts I’ve heard him talk about this study on several occasions. (I have not verified the study but I take Dr. Dyer at his word).

He speaks of a scientific study that was done several years ago, where they found that the serotonin level went up significantly when a person was the recipient of a kind deed. (Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects our emotional states, and many of the antidepressants used currently are designed to stimulate its production in the brain).

In addition, the study found that the serotonin level of the person who performed the deed also went up at the same rate. But what is most interesting is that people who witnessed the event also experienced  a rise in their serotonin level to the same extent.

While I’m not saying those on an antidepressant should quit using it and simply try to be nicer to others, I do think this speaks volumes about our society that is so dependent on pills and quick fixes.

I have used a gratitude list/journal for years to help myself get out of a funky mood, or to quit obsessing about something that I can’t do anything about. I write down one thing for which I’m grateful at that moment. (It might be as simple as “my internet is working!!” or something as huge as my granddaughter’s presence in our lives). Then I notice that feeling of gratitude or joy; notice where I feel it in my body—and just allow it to grow for a few moments before I move on to the next thing on my list.

When my day is especially frustrating or depressing, I look for someone I can do something kind for. It doesn’t have to be anything big. I send an email to someone who I know is ill or lonely—just to say “Hi, I’m thinking of you.” Or I pick up trash while I’m on my morning walk, or help an elderly person (elderlier than me) take their groceries to their car, etc.

We all know how good it feels to do something for someone else just because we want to. People are put in our paths every day who could use a hand. I challenge you to be more aware—maybe even look for the opportunity to do something for someone. Become an instrument of kindness, and see how much better you feel!

Be kind to the unkind because kindness is your nature.
–The Tao (as interpreted by Dr. Wayne Dyer)