Monthly Archives: October 2016

Embrace ALL of Life

Years ago, when I was going through some issues with my family, I went to my mentor. He shared a story that has stuck with me since.

He began by telling me how much he loved tomatoes. This seemed strange to me & I wondered what that had to do with my family problems, but I trusted him, so I listened. He went on and on about how he fixed his tomatoes, what foods he ate them with, etc.

Then he told me that the tomatoes he bought in the grocery store were pretty good. He knew they were grown in a greenhouse and because they were protected from the harsh sun and wind, and storms that were common in the town where we lived, they were nice and red and round – and they seldom had any other marks on them because they were also protected from insects and other varmints.

At that point, he began to brag about the tomatoes he grew in his own garden. They grew in his back yard, had to weather those storms and hot sun and wind that we often experienced during our Kansas summers. His tomatoes were not always perfectly round, and they often had spots from the small animals eating on them. But their color was a much richer color of red and they were so much more juicy and flavorful.

What he was telling me is that sometimes life sucks. (That’s a clinical term). ;) We all have to face the elements of our particular environment.

We aren’t usually able to protect ourselves or our loved ones from going through the sucky part of life. We try sometimes – by helping too much when someone we care about is having a problem that they could (or need to) handle themselves. Or we keep ourselves so busy (or drink or get involved in some other compulsive behavior) so we don’t have to feel the pain of some loss in our own lives.

Even if we do manage to prevent ourselves or loved ones from going through the problem, it will come up again – and we (or they) will be less prepared than if we had begun to develop the skills we needed the first time.

But if we do allow life to unfold as it is, face it head on and realize we don’t have to orchestrate it, we’ll learn valuable lessons and develop our emotional muscles so that the next time, we’ll not only be more aware and ready to deal – it might not hurt as much as it did before.

And when we get through it, we’ll have a strength, a sense of accomplishment, and a confidence that will lead to a higher level of peace. (Going through that part of life might look a little chaotic at times, and not as “pretty” or controlled as it looks from the outside when we manage to avoid it. But the colors will be much more vivid and the taste, juicier and more full of flavor!!)

So embrace all of life – the good flavors – and the sucky stuff.

Don’t Take Your Life so Personally

(I wrote this blog during a time of crisis in our family a couple of years ago.  The situation we were dealing with at the time continues – not as acutely – but it is an ongoing opportunity for growth).

My family and I have been going through a really rough patch recently. The specifics are not important. What is important is what we do with it.

I have been receiving many messages of thoughts, support and prayers from friends all over the world. It’s overwhelming just managing the replies at times. But aside from the obvious feeling of love that is flowing in, it’s also therapeutic. As I answer their questions and explain my feelings, it helps me untangle all the intellectual violence going on in my head.

My spiritual study and practice has helped me understand that life is not something that is being done TO me. Rather, for each of us the situations and relationships we find ourselves in are most likely chosen by us and our loved ones before we incarnated. Maybe not the specific situations, but the general theme of our lives. We orchestrate these so that we can each learn and propel our souls to a higher place.

Knowing this helps me back up and look at all the minutia of my life from a different perspective – a more impersonal one.

Saying grief and pain are impersonal may be a little misleading. Each experience of loss or pain is unique, and in that way, VERY personal. Every person who goes through a painful situation must feel it and heal it in his/her own way – and no one else can really KNOW how (s)he feels because of the uniqueness of that person’s relationship with the other person/situation. However, the fact that everyone has or will go through similar experiences is what makes it an impersonal, universal experience.

Here’s my understanding – and once again, for some of you this falls in the “woo woo” category. While I certainly respect your beliefs, and am in no way trying to win you over to some other side, I hope you can be open to this as a possibility, because it can be a helpful way to look at our lives.

Case in point: For my soul, it was a calculated choice to allow my essence to come into the family and life I have now. And we agreed to this journey together in order to help each other work on specific lessons. We can’t know exactly how it’s going to show up or how it will turn out, because we do have free will as humans, and the choices we make at each juncture determine the direction in which we proceed.

From this perspective, what I know about my current situation is that I need to approach it from Love. As I face each choice, I need to ask myself, “what is the most loving way to handle this (for me and for my loved ones)?”

As I was writing this, I came across this excerpt from Carolyn Myss. She explains what I’m trying to say so much more eloquently than I can:

. . . A broken heart qualifies as a small thing precisely because it is such a core, universal experience, and even if you resist healing, part of you will begin of its own volition. That is the nature of life: to heal the body and spirit back to a state of balance. Understand that the healing mechanism itself is not personal. A broken leg will start to heal as soon as it is set, regardless of your feelings. The same is true of your emotional self. After a certain length of time, you have to work at staying depressed, sad, and mournful—unless you’ve been exceptionally traumatized. Everyone experiences heartbreak, and although our own individual heartache may feel devastating, it is not unusual. This is not meant to diminish individual grief, but rather to reposition that grief within an impersonal or archetypal vantage point.

I’m going to be very honest here. Right now I’m vacillating between trying to be loving and wanting someone to pay for their actions – to experience the pain I feel. All I know is that I want this to be over. But I have a sneaking suspicion that if I don’t go the route of Love, it will take longer. From the loving perspective, I can release the specific outcome I want and allow peace for all of us to begin the process of healing.

Regardless of what your life experience is right now, I send you Love and Light and I hope you, too, can find the loving perspective from which to live.

My Beliefs Can Limit or Liberate Me

In 2014 I was diagnosed with an auto immune disease.  For a long time I didn’t allow myself to call it a disease – not that I didn’t want to face reality.  The sores in my mouth and throat didn’t allow me that luxury.  But I knew how our beliefs and words 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 died of cancer who used to work with Deepak Chopra. Feeling healthy, he’d  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 worked out, ate right most of the time, meditated and knew how to monitor my thoughts to adjust my mood and belief system. I managed to stay positive most of the time. I didn’t know another 64 year old who was as healthy.

But 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 deal with 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.  I’d had a breast biopsy years before and never felt fear.  I knew everything was OK, and it was. But this time what 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 bravery in how they approach life every day.

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 have to face distress.  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 disease is a piece of cake!  It’s an ongoing struggle that I still take 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.  I first chose to get better through the holistic route.  But eventually it became clear that I also needed medication.  The medication gradually got me back to feeling relatively normal, although the side effects of it are almost as difficult to manage as the disease itself.  It’s caused pretty severe anemia at times, making it difficult to find the energy to work out or even to make it through a typcial work day.  I’ve had to cut back on my client hours in order to have the energy to be present for all my clients.  And I have had symptoms of another auto immune disease recently, that (according to the specialist I saw) were possibly caused by the medication also.

The point of this blog, though, is that If I believed this was the worst thing that ever happened to me, it would be.  I still do my best to work out, meditate and eat right, although it’s not as easy as it once was.  But if I can see it for what it is – a wake-up call that I needed 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!

Today, at age 66, I am grateful for the opportunity for growth. This was 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 the pain.

What I say to myself and to others feeds my belief about my current life situation.  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!

What We Resist Persists

One of my favorite quotes is “What you fight you strengthen and what you resist persists”.

I’m sure we’re all guilty of fighting things in our lives — things that are problematic or worse, such as  a health problem, an addiction, or even a political issue about which we feel strongly.  I’m not saying we should not tackle those issues – just that the energy we put towards them makes a huge difference.

I’m not well versed in physics, but I do know that our physical world exists in polarities. Every physical form, no matter how thin has a front and a back. There has to be a “down” before we can conceive of “up”. Before we can even imagine appreciating good health, we have to have had some experience with poor health or pain. You get the picture. So when we strengthen one pole, the other is also strengthened.

The “war on drugs” is a good example.  When that concept was declared; access to, sales and the use of drugs only increased. Or bring it closer to home. Remember the last argument you had with a loved one. The minute one of you became defensive about something the other said or did, that person probably became even stronger and louder. Your defensiveness just strengthened their response.

I’m not saying we just avoid what upsets us. That, too, strengthens the opposite. The more we hold something in, the more it builds up and the more upset we become – eventually multiplying into something very hard and dark, and hurting us (and others) even more.  It’s a matter of pay now, or pay later . . . with interest.

So what do we do instead? We need to make peace with it – whatever “it” is. That doesn’t mean we have to like it.  My process is to accept that it exists; then I sit quietly and remind myself to allow it to be what it is. (To me, just using the word “allow” gives me a sense of peace.  I no longer have to put the energy towards fighting it). Then when I choose the action I’m going to take, it will come from a place of love and consciousness, rather than from a negative energy that will only strengthen the thing I want to eradicate.  And sometimes, depending on what it is I’m focusing on, it won’t disappear.  But I can learn to live with it in peace. That, too, often makes is less painful.

In the 12 Step program we talk about “surrender.”  I truly believe that only when we accept what is, can we actually change it. Again, in some cases, we won’t rid ourselves of it, but we can still manage it. It’s a much simpler path to change.

Loss of Love

The loss of a loved one is possibly the most painful experience any of us will ever have. Recuperating from such a loss is a long, difficult journey. In fact, we’re never the same. And we’re not supposed to be. One of the purposes of lost love is for those remaining to re-examine who they are.

We develop an identity around a relationship that is separate from our own personal identity. We become comfortable with how we see ourselves within that context and it gives us a sense of “being” that wasn’t there before. That doesn’t mean it’s healthy to feel like we “need” another person in our lives to be whole. (That’s a whole other blog). I’m talking about the connection between two or more people that bonds us – as a couple, a family, friends, etc that becomes an entity separate from the individuals involved.

This identity gives us strength – a frame of reference for how our life is going to play out. When a part of that entity is taken away, it literally rocks our world, and initially, we don’t know how to proceed.

When I think of this process of coming into a new sense of Self in a loving relationship, I remember watching one of my granddaughter’s favorite movies with her – The Velveteen Rabbit. Shortly after we watched the movie, I came across this passage in the book DARING GREATLY by BrenE Brown. She quotes the toys in the original book – it’s a beautiful reminder of how good it feels when we know we’re loved:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Those of us who have experienced grief know all too well the pain that comes along with losing someone we care for deeply. The temptation is often to close off our hearts so we don’t have to experience this pain again. But that’s where the lessons are – in the love and in the pain.

If we don’t allow ourselves to completely experience each relationship, we are not fully alive. As difficult as it is when the loss comes, it somehow makes the love that much more precious.