Monthly Archives: August 2017

Acts of Kindness

I wrote this blog several years ago. It was inspired by Dr. Wayne Dyer (one of my favorite authors and a major inspiration to me in terms of my spiritual beliefs). Dr. Dyer left his body on August 30, 2015 in his sleep.

I didn’t agree with everything he said.  In fact there were times I cringed as I listened to him passionately pontificate 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.  One of the ways he did this was to share his “Scurvy Elephant” story: In a nutshell, when Wayne was growing up he saw the world a little differently than many of his contemporaries. He used to talk about how he overheard his teacher talking to other teachers about “that little Wayne Dyer;” telling them he was a “scurvy elephant.”  He went home and asked his mother what a scurvy elephant was, but she had no idea; so she went to talk to the teacher herself. When she confronted the teacher she said, “Oh, I didn’t say he was a scurvy elephant.  I said he was a “disturbing element!”

Wayne saw his uniqueness as a source of pride, and continued to stay on his own path, sharing with others about being true to themselves regardless of what others thought. I met and spoke with him on a couple of occasions and he was a very kind, loving, spiritual human being.  One of those times was when my husband and I were at his seminar in Maui.  We had gone to dinner with friends at a restaurant Dr. Dyer had recommended. As we were eating, he walked in with his family. One of our friends asked the waitress to let him know where we were just in case he would want to come say hi, but we didn’t really expect him to, assuming he wanted to enjoy a private meal with his family. Towards the end of our dinner, we were surprised to see a smiling Dr. Dyer walking toward us, saying “I heard there was a rowdy bunch back here!”  He took as much time as he needed to talk to each of us.  I privately shared some things I had learned from him that had helped me deal with an ongoing situation in my life; he gave me some suggestions, and at the end of our conversation, he hugged me and said, “I love you.”

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 his own path on earth.

I still 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 the week he transitioned, “I would say RIP Wayne, but I know you’re NOT resting!”

So as the second anniversary of Wayne’s transition to the next phase of his beingness approaches this coming week, I want to once again honor him with the blog he inspired years ago:

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 just 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 grandchildren’s presence in our lives). Then I notice that feeling of gratitude or joy; put my awareness 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 call/email/text 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; help an elderly person (elderlier than me) take their groceries to their car; or pay for the person behind me in the checkout line at the local QuikTrip.

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)

The Duck Story

There are several themes that seem to repeat themselves with the clients I see.  One of them is how we humans can keep our suffering alive by constantly re-running our past in our heads. One of the ways I explain how we don’t have to do this is the Duck Story.

Since we live on a small pond connected to a larger lake, I’ve had the opportunity to watch the ducks & geese interact with each other occasionally. I’m often reminded of this story. I can’t remember where I first heard it, but it makes sense.

Have you ever seen 2 ducks fighting? After a time, they separate, flap their wings vigorously for a few minutes – and then they’re both peaceful.  They don’t have a human mind that continues the story (of what the other duck did or said to me and how I’m never going to get close to that duck – or any other duck for that matter – ever again!  That way I won’t ever have to feel this kind of pain).

No, the ducks just go on peacefully and meet each moment and situation as it arises.

Keeping the story going – thinking/repeating in our heads (what I call intellectual violence), is what causes the suffering.  The body doesn’t know the difference between the actual event – or the memories/thoughts about the event – or a similar situation that FEELS like the original.  So it reacts the same way when it senses those feelings of pain/shame/vulnerability.  This is when we know we’ve been traumatized.  If it’s strong enough, it doesn’t even have to be conscious for us to react to something or someone that reminds us of a painful experience or a person who perpetrated pain upon us.

Sometimes, we’ve held onto something so long, or it’s so ingrained into our system that we need professional help – like a therapist who practices a method such as EMDR (see my website for a short explanation of it) or some other form of trauma therapy. If we’ve been traumatized, then it’s not just a matter of “forget it and move on.” We usually have to go back and find a way to make peace with it, forgive ourselves and any other person involved, and let it go.  If we just try to move on without going through this process, we’ll find ourselves controlled by the incident – precisely because we aren’t as lucky as the ducks.  We do have human minds that complicate matters.

But the lesson on how to prevent this with most future events is to truly live in the moment, like the ducks.  Put it out of our mind, forget the details, in order to get past the emotional hold.  We can make the choice to not let it take hold of us and run our lives.

Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is a choice.

Violence is the Crutch of the Emotionally Crippled

This blog was written prior to the incident taking place in Charlottesville or Barcelona. While those are examples of the violence I am referring to in the first couple of paragraphs, finding a way through to the hatred ignited within those individuals is a whole different thing than what this blog is about.  I send love and healing energy to all who are directly effected by these situations, and hope there will soon be an end to such extreme violence and intolerance.

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Every day we wake up to stories about some violence being perpetrated against Americans or citizens around the world. There’s also a lot of anger-filled debate about gun control/terrorism/immigration/police brutality, etc.  Instances of physical, emotional and verbal violence are happening so often that we are becoming immune to the pain they cause. These are all very complex issues, and won’t be resolved quickly. As individuals, the power we have to effect change should not be underestimated, if we unite with activist groups and manage to put people in the positions that can make a difference (as witnessed by the marches and protests/phone calls to representatives around healthcare and other issues have proven). But it will still be a long, incremental process of shifting universal paradigms to change the violent nature of much of our society.

Even though many of these incidents are not necessarily in our back yard, they all affect each of our lives energetically.  While many of the situations mentioned above are caused, or at least fueled by things like institutional or individual discrimination/lack of available mental health services/governmental policies . . . any number of factors that we should all be conscious of and learn how to manage within our own minds and actions; the aspect I want to address here is the general energy of unchecked anger that we all see more often these days – in social settings, athletic events, instances of road rage, political rallies, and on social media.

A lot of people today are SO angry that they are blinded to any possibility other than getting revenge.  It’s a typical human impulse when we perceive that someone else has hurt us, to want them to experience at least as much pain as we did. When someone is in that mindset, it’s difficult for them to understand that their anger really hurts them more than others.  Only when someone is open to entertaining the concept that there may be an alternative perspective, can he/she make a change.  No one else can make that willingness happen.

Some people seem to enjoy being angry.  There are lots of extreme posts on social media, and sometimes comments made by public figures, that fuel the fire for someone who has not developed the emotional maturity to develop the skills to manage and relieve themselves of the energy without taking it out on someone else.  You see, it’s not the anger that is the problem.  It’s the aggressive behavior that stems from the anger.

I’ve often said that anger can be a smokescreen emotion. When we feel anger, we feel a surge of energy, and it gives us a sense of power – helping us to believe we can protect ourselves.  It’s as if we’re putting on a bullet proof vest  (we often act before we stop to think that there might be arrows shooting back at us in reaction to our aggressive behavior, so until those reach us, we feel powerful).

But it’s a smokescreen because there are almost always other, more vulnerable emotions beneath the anger and aggressive behavior.  Feelings like hurt, embarrassment, shame, etc.  And most of those have probably been down there for some time, left unattended.  We may have been able to contain them for years, but as humans we aren’t built to hold them in forever. They begin to seep out, sometimes a little at a time. Since we tend to equate vulnerability with weakness, when we begin to notice these feelings, our “go-to” is usually to slip into anger. And while the stream of steaming anger may be steady, there may also be a pit of resentments inside us.  As long as it’s kept hidden, that pit becomes harder and harder, like petrified wood.

So the way many people try to deal with their anger is to use it against another or an organization with aggressive behavior, abusive language and/or passive aggressive acts.  These are destructive, impulsive behaviors.  They initially make us feel we can control a person or situation, but in the long run, they render us helpless and we eventually find ourselves at the mercy of these weapons. What we typically get in return is resentment from others, often just perpetuating the cycle of anger.  The anger takes control of us, rather than the other way around.

The only way to become invulnerable is to change our view of who or what we deem as our enemies and learn to see every instance of harm as an opportunity — as something we can use to benefit ourselves and others.

Our enemies are our best teachers, because they ignite our anger and hatred. They force us to look at our own shadow sides, which is the first step to moving past impulsive aggressive behavior.

Once we have that wisdom, we can begin to employ more effective tools — tolerance, compassion and love — and begin to reap real benefits. If negative situations didn’t happen to us or keep us from getting what we want, how would we learn humility, tolerance and forgiveness?

We should be grateful to our enemies, for they teach us patience, courage and determination and help us develop a tranquil mind.  

-The Dalai Lama

Go to the Core

All of us have challenges in our lives.  Whether or not we see those challenges as problems or as opportunities will determine our sense of self.

Our problems are all near the surface.  When we have stress or anxiety, or any number of other concerns, as all humans do, it’s because we are allowing our ego to run our lives.  This definition of the ego is  the human part of us that feeds the thoughts that make up our belief system. The thoughts we feed are the ones that gain weight and eventually become our beliefs.  It’s the ego’s job to keep us feeling less than.  It tells us we are not good enough, never have been and never will be.  If we continue to pay attention to these thoughts, we will eventually define ourselves in this way.

Therefore, our problems originate with the ego.  When we become completely wrapped up in the comings and goings of our outer life, it can quickly wear us down.  It’s my belief that some types of anxiety and depression – and certainly stress – are caused by living on the surface, and not recognizing, honoring and feeling what we need to feel at the time a situation arises — in our core.  Our troubles result from avoidance of reality.

That might sound ridiculous to those who worry and obsess about things.  They don’t believe they are avoiding anything.  They think they are trying to face it and “figure it out.” (And I know a lot about this, since I have been known to obsess a bit myself!)  But all that does is keep us in our heads (which is where the ego resides). Most of those thoughts we are feeding are the same thoughts we had yesterday, and the day before that, and will be the same thoughts we’ll have again tomorrow unless we consciously choose different ones. And I’d guess the majority of those thoughts are negative.

There is nothing to be gained by ruminating about something.  This is when we become identified with those negative beliefs.  We become slaves to our beliefs. Slaves have no choices and no personal power.

But we are more than whatever is bothering us.  If we detach ourselves from these surface issues and become a compassionate observer of our own lives (through meditation, mindfulness and self-compassion), we discover the opportunity to address the causes of our problems, not just the symptoms. Often, there is something we can do – but mostly, it’s just about an awareness of who we are at our unconditioned level of self.  That is the part without the ego attached; the spiritual/higher self that is at our core.  That part of us is connected to our Source – and to every other being in existence. When we can find that place within us, we’ll find peace.  Rather than defining us, our difficulties then give us an opportunity to move forward – powerfully.

So our troubles are on the surface – much like an ocean, which can be rough, stormy and unpredictable.  But if we go deeper – to the floor (or to our core, unconditioned self), it becomes quiet, calm and peaceful.  The answers are not in our heads, they’re in our hearts.