Monthly Archives: November 2018

Remembering Your Choices During the Holidays

If you find yourself getting more stressed as the season continues, here are a few things to keep in mind.

CHOOSE to stay in the present rather than dwelling on past experiences and traditions that place high expectations on you and others.

CHOOSE to keep a sense of humor about it all.

CHOOSE to take a break occasionally and do something different — like taking a walk, deep breathing, or calling a friend who will understand and not judge you.

CHOOSE to avoid major life changes during the holidays. If at all possible, this is not a good time to move, change jobs, or begin or end relationships.

CHOOSE to keep a running list of Gratitude — helps the attitude. There is much to be said about counting your blessings rather than stewing in your sorrows.

CHOOSE to start a new tradition this year. If your family isn’t healthy for you to be around, find something else to do that you enjoy — sleep in, take a short trip, read that book you haven’t been able to find time to get to — or just spend time with someone you enjoy being around. A change of scenery can be especially helpful – fewer reminders of the negative past experiences. And if you go somewhere you’ve never been, you have to be more in the moment just to find your way around.

CHOOSE to take one day – hour – minute at a time. We can get through anything for a short period of time, easier than thinking in terms of “forever”.

CHOOSE to remember that we have choices in how we look at things.

Best Wishes for a great Holiday Season!!

Preparing for the Holidays

This time of year can be stressful in so many ways.  Some love spending time with family, but it can be stressful shopping and managing all the extra holiday events and obligations.  Others might have toxic relationships with family members and dread the time they feel compelled to spend with them.  Still others either have made a conscious decision to NOT spend the holidays or any time with family.  And then there are those who don’t really have family to connect with or their family is geographically too distant.  But even if your stress is not around family, it’s just a busy time for most of us, and the weather is often not cooperative, which can make it even harder.

By this point in my life, I’ve learned to not ascribe too much meaning to holidays. That doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate, or that there isn’t meaning for me there, but rather that it’s just another day – and if I need to honor or celebrate the meaning behind the label, I can do that regardless of the day, or in a way other than is traditional.

I’ve also learned to prepare myself for holidays and other days when I will be with family members that push my buttons.  Even if I don’t have time for lots of quiet and meditation prior to a holiday, I can still do several “stopping meditations” throughout the days ahead.

A stopping meditation can be done anywhere at anytime, regardless of how busy we are.  It’s simply stopping whatever we are doing for just a moment and putting our awareness on our breath or body – or picking up an object to focus on it, noticing it’s weight, texture, color, etc for a few seconds to minutes out of the day, several times a day.  (I set my alarm on my cell phone to remind me).  It’s amazing how powerful those few seconds can be in calming and slowing our lives down. It’s most powerful when used in conjunction with sitting meditation and/or walking meditation, where we deliberately take a walk, with the purpose of focusing on a specific experience.  But  when we don’t have the luxury of extra time, at least we know we can find serenity within the storm for a few seconds at a time.

When I’ve been successful at slowing things down, I give myself more space to respond to people or events, rather that react impulsively.  I’ve found that when I’ve prepared in this way, even when a family member tries to get to me, I’m not as available for the fight. I have more capacity to make the choice not to involve myself.  (We can’t have a power struggle if both of us  aren’t struggling!)  😉 And, gratitude is much more accessible when I am in charge of the choices.

Regardless of how you do it, I hope you find peace, joy, freedom and gratitude wherever you are this coming week and in the weeks to follow.

Namaste

So Much To Do

The title of this article has been my life story for years, and I know I’m no different from most of you.  I’m supposed to be “semi-retired,” but just yesterday, I said to my husband, “Our lives are not supposed to be this complicated at this age!!”  In the past, I over-committed myself to the point of exhaustion.  Currently, I’m really not doing it to myself as much, but there are issues to deal with in our lives that we can’t control, that just take a lot of time and energy.

So, as I continue to do what has always worked for me to stay centered – exercise, meditation and eating healthy MOST days, I also am using the stress-management tools of setting priorities and boundaries, and putting more energy into those things that have deadlines – or that are really more important (like my family).

This blog has always been a priority for me because it keeps me in touch with people I haven’t seen for a while and others I’ve never met, but find interesting and like-minded.  Each week as I ponder what I should write about, I think to myself, “I don’t have time to write a blog this week!”  Then I sit down & just start writing what’s going on inside, or about a theme that has come up with clients in the recent weeks.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to let myself be overwhelmed by all I have to do.  I stop thinking about how much there is to do, and start getting it done!  Feeling overwhelmed is just a state of mind that I choose.  Or I can choose to let it go.

The older I get, the faster time speeds by – and the more difficult it is to remain energized and focused.  But rather than panic when I feel deadlines creep up on me, I can make each moment meaningful.  Each moment that comes is an opportunity to experience something fully.  That experience isn’t always pleasant – but if I allow myself to feel it instead of turning it into anxiety, it is always authentic.

That’s how things get done; moment by moment, step by step, one day at a time.  Small tasks added to one another build into larger, more fulfilling accomplishments.  And those accomplishments build into a more fulfilling life.

However, while getting things done feels good, we are not our accomplishments.  Doing things, especially if they make life better for ourselves or others, is important.  But the people I know who have found the most fulfillment in their lives understand that it’s more about “being” than about “doing.”  Understanding that simply as human beings, we are worthy of love and respect is a concept that often escapes us.  I see friends and acquaintances who seem hyper-focused on accomplishments – constantly trying to learn the latest techniques or making more money so they’ll be able to afford more stuff. We need to really examine why we feel the need to compulsively “do.”  While neither of the above examples is necessarily bad, and it’s fine to want to improve ourselves and our skills; when we do it compulsively, there’s a sense of insecurity we are trying to avoid dealing with; and we are missing the point that we are OK just the way we are.

And on the other side, I see a lot of people beating themselves up because they DON’T do the things they think will help them be a better person.  Perhaps they are more honest with themselves about their insecurities, but they are also people who are wonderful, just as they are.  They’re just approaching those insecurities from a place of shame, which only continues the cycle of compulsion and perfectionism, as opposed to one of abundance and fulfillment.

What keeps life from feeling so overwhelming? 1) Accepting things as they are presented 2) Taking things a step at a time 3) Resting between the steps and asking for guidance before we move on to each next step 4) During those resting points, acknowledging that I am a piece of the loving energy that created this life. And appreciating that, as such, I am LIKE that loving energy because I contain the same elements (just as each drop of water contains the same chemical makeup as the ocean). When I can do these things, even if the outcome isn’t exactly as I had hoped, I’m able to look back at the originally overwhelming task with pride and gratitude for the opportunity.

And then I can remind myself that I would have been just as worthy if I had consciously chosen to not do it at all!

Assume the Feeling of Your Wish Fulfilled

If my clients are an example of the rest of the country, a lot of people are really stressed as things heat up in our national midterm elections. Many, who were depressed after the 2016 election are anxious and fearful about the outcome of this one. And I think we’re ALL sick and tired of feeling like the whole country is divided into two completely different camps, who can’t find any common ground.

As I consider what to say to help some of them relax a little, while still honoring their perspective on things, I think back to how I learned to pull myself out of a state of negativity. And this morning I heard a seasoned activist answer a question about what she would say to those who are feeling overwhelmed by it all.  What she said is similar to what I learned years ago.

This is not a direct quote, but she basically said: I want people to imagine how they would feel one morning to wake up and be excited to start the day; to go outside and wave and smile at their neighbors and feel as if we all have at least one thing in common – that we are all citizens of this great country and we can live together and work together to make it better; that we can have hope again.

🙂

Over the years, I’ve had conversations with many clients about how we make changes in our lives. Here’s the Gospel According to Patti (which is just the belief I’ve developed based on my subjective observation of clients over the years).  Sustained change can only take place when we change the way we perceive ourselves and our lives. When I was working in substance abuse programs, I could usually tell when a resistant client was going to be successful in the program. They eventually began to change their appearance – cut their hair, started to wear business clothes or took more pride in the clothing they chose and started to carry themselves with a little more confidence. They often weren’t even conscious yet of what they were doing, yet it was visible to the observant eye.

An even more important step is to be able to imagine the outcome we want – and to begin to believe that it can happen. Wayne Dyer often shared this part of a quote by Thomas Troward:  The law of flotation was not discovered by contemplating the sinking of things . . .

The point he was making is that things don’t change if we continually tell ourselves it can’t happen – or “I could never do that”. If we want to be able to have enough money to pay our bills, for instance, we first have to imagine that it’s possible! If we continually tell ourselves, “I’ve never had enough money” (or “I can’t get a job that pays enough”) so I have no reason to believe that I ever will,” then we probably won’t. And, to be fair, because of the environment we grew up in, sometimes we’ve never even seen that thing we want. (In another blog, we’ll spend more time on the importance of a perception of abundance as opposed to one of scarcity).

In order to begin to KNOW it’s possible, sometimes we have to be creative and curious – to look for evidence that it really IS possible. A while back, I saw an interview with Trevor Noah, who grew up in a bi-racial family in Apartheid in South Africa. Because one of his parents was white and the other black, they each had different privileges according to their law and he grew up in an area that was lower income. Because he seldom got out of his own neighborhood, his mother purposely drove him around the upper-class neighborhoods so he could SEE what was possible.  Otherwise, he might never have been able to know that some people live differently. Another similar example I’ve seen in my practice is when literally everyone in the family and social circle drinks excessively. When my client, who has developed problems because of his/her drinking, looks around, he/she literally believe ALL people drink in the same way.  Visualizing a life of sobriety and recovery is not a concept they can even imagine.

So when we catch ourselves doubting if something we want to accomplish will ever happen, we can just say two words: “It’s possible!” For me, that puts me on the path of looking back at all the things I have already achieved in my life and a feeling of gratitude for those experiences. Then I begin to visualize what I want to be – (and this part is important).  It’s not just the visualization – but actually FEELING how I think it will feel when what I want has arrived! I go to that visualization and feeling state every chance I get for days. weeks – or more (fine-tuning it a little each time I visit it). This eventually leads me to the belief that I can. That’s a much better feeling place than “I can’t” – and I want to feel good, so I stay there as long as I can.

A final step is to begin to act “as if” we already have what we want.  As an example, when I was in my Master’s Program, as an intern at a substance abuse program, I walked into work my second day there – to the news that one of the counselors had died in his sleep the night before!  As the “extra body” in the agency, I was thrown into facilitating groups and seeing individual clients I really wasn’t ready to manage.  I had NO idea what I was doing.  But I soon realized that, just before I walked into a group or session if I visualized myself being confident and knowledgeable, I seemed to get by and clients appeared to believe me. Because I still felt totally like a fish out of water, I told my supervisor one night, “You guys act like I know what I’m doing here!”  His response: “YOU act like you know what you’re doing!”

So once we’ve done what we can, we have to come back to that state of feeling as if we are already where we want to be. Granted, we have no control over what others do, or (for instance) how they will vote in this election, or how those elected will govern. But we CAN determine how we each will respond to whatever the result is.

In the case of the election, this translates into *getting involved*. If we feel helpless and hopeless about a situation we see happening, doing something that feels like it is moving in the right direction, together with other like-minded people, can lift our spirits, help us feel more connected, and raise hope and energy to continue – even if the results are not what we wanted. We’ve seen lots of people who have never been active, volunteer this past couple of years to try to move things in the direction they want to see our country go.

A final, very important part of this process is that what we want needs to be in alignment with our own value system. In my value system, if what I want is for someone else to be blocked or harmed in some way, or otherwise does not line up with Love, then it’s probably not going to happen – or if it does, it will not feel positive or accomplish my goal in the long run.  But as long as it aligns with my sense of equality and respect, what I’ve found is that, not only do I accomplish or receive what I want; often it is so much more than I could have imagined, regardless of what others are doing or what is going on around me.

. . . it is absolutely imperative to learn how to assume, in your imagination, the feeling of already having and being what you desire. Assume the feeling of the wish fulfilled. -Dr. Wayne Dyer