Tag Archives: Body Mind Spirit

The Pursuit of Happiness…Sadness, Fear, Guilt & Anger

tinybuddhaThe pursuit of happiness can leave us feeling miserable. This sounds a little odd given I’m posting on Independence Day, but hear me out.

Our right to happiness is so engrained in our psyches, it’s the basis of our Declaration of Independence: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. It’s the theme of our life’s purpose. It’s the right we own as Americans. Happiness, happiness, happiness. It’s the 21st century zeitgeist. Type the word into Amazon.com and you’ll get 20 pages of recently published books about “obtaining” this emotion. These books tell us we can earn happiness through business success, wealth, meditation, life coaching, positive thinking, changing our lives, having more money, having less money, on and on.

Take a moment and ask yourself, what happiness means to you. Formulate it in one sentence (go ahead, I’ll wait). Can you do it?

Happiness is not a bad thing. It’s the working hard to obtain happiness that creates confusion. Like gerbils running on a wheel to “catch” happiness, we’re condemning any other feelings. We see those emotions as getting in the way of our one-size-fits-all happiness that will solve all problems. We cannot heal when happiness is a goal. We cannot see what’s in front of us when we refuse to look away from our quest for bliss.

Every single day, people walk into my office suffering from anxiety. At the core of this state of being is avoidance of feeling more difficult emotions. They’ll do whatever it takes to keep from the discomfort of sadness or anger; staying too busy, dissociating, drinking heavily, complaining about others, binge eating. They say, “I just want to be happy.”

But, we can’t just be happy. We’re complex beings. Our emotions are our soul’s response to life’s situations. Sadness tells us we’ve lost something. Anger charges us to set boundaries. Fear sends signals we’re vulnerable. If we ignore these, we create despair that sits in our psyches and – one way or another – will demand attention.

How do we pull from other internal resources if we refuse to notice what’s occurring within ourselves? Our wakefulness, our willingness to be present to what’s happening in the moment helps us be whole. Psychologist and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction pioneer, Jon Kabat-Zinn, refers to this as living our full dimensionality. In his book, FULL CATASTROPHE LIVING, Kabat-Zinn states:

Since no map completely describes a territory, ultimately it has to be experienced for us to know it, navigate within it and, benefit from its unique gifts. It has to be inhabited or, at the very least, visited from time to time, so we can experience directly, firsthand, for ourselves.

If we let go of and become present to what’s within us, we release the exhaustion of pursuit. One of the main principles of Mindfulness is acceptance. If we’re sad, we’re sad. If we’re tired, we’re tired. It’s then we develop self-compassion because we know how to meet our needs.

Allowing this full dimensionality is how we create our new reality. it is not a feel good pursuit as much as it is noticing and making space for the “negative” feelings without them dominating our every thought. It’s awareness without pursuit.

Artwork courtesy: Tinybuddha.com

The Pull Toward our Soul

boatA lodestone is a naturally magnetic mineral. When combined with metal, these two objects are drawn to the magnetic pull of the North Pole. No matter where you are on earth, the needle of a compass will point north, directing you towards your intended destination. To this day, despite our amazing scientific abilities, geologist can’t explain exactly why this connection works. It’s still very much a mystery – an accepted mystery, but a mystery nonetheless.

The same mystery lies deep within us all as we make the journey back to our Soul. Just like the lodestone and metal are attracted to the pull of the North Pole, our spirits have a natural pull to a higher frequency – some deep essence of truth that leads us when we listen to it. Every time we feel there must be something “more” out there for us, when we feel off course, or when something inside just doesn’t feel right, our inner compass is telling us we’ve lost our way.

The draw toward our guiding principles is already in there. Yet, when we continue to repeat old, destructive behaviors, deny our pain or when we don’t take the time to identify what our needs are, we’ve muddled the needle’s direction. When fear overrides any other vision, we can’t see where we should be headed. Our simple, natural compass starts feeling like a complicated GPS system with directions written in another language.

Yet, if we would only step back and let the simplicity of the needle correct itself, we could find the way back home. By purposefully doing less, reclamation can be accomplished. Thomas Moore in his classic, CARE OF THE SOUL,  refers to this paradox of Soul work;

It’s not easy to observe closely, to take the time and to make the subtle moves that allow the soul to reveal itself further. You have to rely on every bit of learning, every scrap of sense, and all kinds of reading, in order to bring the intelligence and imagination to the work. Yet at the same time, this action-through nonaction has to be simple, flexible, and receptive. Intelligence and education bring you to the edge, where your mind and its purposes are empty. 

No matter how each of us defines what and where that spiritual place of origin is – what their truth is – the fact remains, we’re drawn to seek it. We crave the connection to ourselves so deeply that we’ll go to great extents to find it, even outside of ourselves. This leaves us with addictions or giving our power to others whom we feel have the answers. Humans are full of dichotomies. We have everything we need to understand the right path for ourselves and yet we don’t listen. We bend our compass to point away from our magnetic pull because our ego decides we want to go in another direction.

This knowing is not a community knowing, though there’s a component of the collective in it. The knowing of our Soul speaking to us and guiding us toward the things we need to do in order to grow, utilizes what Jung calls the collective unconscious. Symbols, energy, archetypes all connect us to an ethereal family. Like a lost first language, if we listen, it will come back to us. Moore says;

Observance of the soul can be deceptively simple. You take back what has been disowned.

Another way to look at this is, our knowing is our soul. If we turn away from what we know to be true, we’re turning away from the deepest essence of our being; the God-given light in all of us. That is the compass which will guide us in all things and get us through our storms.

Sending Energy The Old-Fashioned Way

16l Johannes Vermeer (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1632-1675) Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window 1657I wrote a letter to a friend the other day because it was the only way to contact her. I was complaining to myself that an e-mail would be faster and then it occurred to me that what I was doing was sending my very metaphysical friend my personal energy. I changed the negative thought and reflected on loving energy. What better way do we send energy to someone than through our touch? What a lost art, not just in taking the time to write our words but in taking the time to send our intentions.

In our fast paced life, it’s much easier to fire off a text or e-mail. Yet, what energy are they receiving? Ours? The rest of the world’s? The person who wrote the html programming?  I don’t have many friends left whom I can even imagine sending a letter to, but I would like to try to be more purposeful about it. Even a card with a note has this energy attached. We have touched it. We have chosen it. Our feelings for them are carried in the paper and ink.

This energy became very apparent to me during a dirty Santa session with friends last Christmas. I chose my gift on the table based on the flow I saw emanating from a bag. It turned out to be a hand-knit scarf (which was subsequently stolen by another friend). This was the only handmade gift that year. The idea that of all the gifts on the table this one was beaming, stayed with me. This was confirmation to me that the intention of our energy embeds in the things we touch. This is what we do when we send a note or gift forward. We’re sending forth a piece of ourselves.

 

 

Body: Breaking the Shame Cycle through the Lower Chakras

images4EQRC8AAIn the Tantric form of Yoga, the body is seen as the highest instrument to express spiritual awareness and consciousness. For thousands of years, yogis have understood how to use the physical to connect to the spiritual. They apply movement, chakra energy and sound. The deeper the engagement with body, the deeper the union with Spirit.

In my work with women, the disconnect between body and soul is heart breaking. This detachment, more often than not, starts because of trauma. It then manifests into eating disorders, dissociation, self-harm, and negative body image which continues the cycle. Even traumas that aren’t as overt as rape or molestation have a huge affect on a human being. The signals that a woman’s body doesn’t meet expected standards wears on the psyche and cultivates shame. These messages come from culture, but they also come from home – which is a more profound influence. Family members who struggle with their own denied issues slap their burdens on their children and carry it forward for generations.

Too many women consider their bodies an albatross they’re forced to bear. They see only fractured body pieces and rate them based on how they compare to other women’s parts. Who can blame them? It’s human to want acceptance. We survive through groups. When we’re young and scared, we’ll do anything to belong.

Young women who don’t see themselves as mature enough to set boundaries with older men are easy prey. They’re made to doubt their discomfort level when men leer, make suggestive comments or violate their space. They’re told this is a compliment, not a threat. Drugging women to use their bodies to get off has become, as one twenty-year-old put it, “part of what my generation has to deal with.” When they’ve been knocked out by a roofie and wake up hours later, they usually fear the social repercussions so much that they don’t report the assault. Eventually, this trauma manifests into PTSD and incapacitates them.

The cruel ways people have treated others over sex is part of the dark shadow of human history. It doesn’t only apply to women, however, statistically and traditionally women (and young girls) have experienced a higher percentage of sexual trauma. As long as cultures continue seeing through the lens of a dominant/submissive gender, this abusive entitlement will continue. These scars run deep and leave a shadow not just on a person but on a whole society.

In healing emotional and physical traumas, it’s important to consider how our etheric body energy has also been affected. Trauma does not just affect memory. Our chakras have also been altered. With sexual trauma, our first two chakras, the root and sacral chakras, have suffered the biggest blows. The root chakra manages the energy of physical-care, grounding and survival. The sacral chakra energy reflects issues of self-worth, how we see ourselves in relationships and how we engage sexually. When someone has suffered physical and sexual violations that affect our first chakra, they’ve also been emotionally molested which alters flow of the second chakra.

Chakra flow damage comes from either restricted flow or tears that create excessive flow. Root chakras that are torn open tend to cause problems in the area of excess such as binging, hoarding, or over-spending. If the first chakra has been restricted, those behaviors show up as restriction of food, money, possessions, high anxiety. Both affect the way we’re able to care physically for our Self. Sacral chakra excess shows itself in codependency, no emotional or sexual boundaries. Sacral chakra restriction shows itself as fear of intimacy, rigid boundaries, sexual anorexia or asexuality.

Many times, when one chakra has been damaged, another chakra will overcompensate. It’s not uncommon for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to develop psychic abilities because – when the orange chakra is torn – the third eye tends to open wider. When the root chakra is closed, our solar plexus or crown chakra can go into overdrive.

Reiki and re-connective work are some ways to help the etheric healing process. Yoga with an experienced practitioner can release the emotional pain that our bodies absorb. Regular sessions with a licensed therapist who understands trauma releases emotional pain. It’s a real benefit if a therapist also does some of the physical processing. If a therapist is trained in modalities such as EMDR that facilitates neuroplasticity in the brain, trauma can be release. Some grounding techniques used to prepare a client for trauma processing also assist in the healing of disrupted body energy.  The deeper a person goes into the physical healing process as they heal emotionally, the deeper they’ll be able to reconnect to who they are and find the balance between their physical and spiritual Self.

 

Mind: That Great and Terrible Wonder

images9QTLBV1MthinkThe brain is a filter that helps us make sense of our world. This organ, compared to all others, is the most mysterious, immeasurable organ in our bodies. We can love without a spleen. We can express feelings if we have an artificial heart. We can understand our meaning in the world with one kidney. We can’t do any of these things without our brain. Without a brain, we can’t have interpersonal relationships. We’re incapable of self-reflection. We can’t identifying what we feel. The function of the brain goes far beyond the reasoning process. The brain truly is the link to our Soul.

In the past decade or so,  research of the brain has yielded some fascinating insight. Scientists now understand from what regions of the brain energy flows, what hormones and chemicals are released to affect mood and what type of circumstances affect brain function. As a therapist who works with traumatized clients, this information has been invaluable in helping facilitate healing on emotional as well as energetic levels.

Through studies, the question of “how?” can now be answered. However, the question “why?” may never be determined.  Scientists cannot pinpoint the exact source that stimulates neurons and creates brain functioning. This is where the mystery of universal energy has to be accepted and embraced – perhaps even revered by those who seek to measure it.

This universal energy source is Soul energy. It affects every aspect of our multifaceted Self.  It charges our muscles with movements. Soul energy manifests feelings. Its power motivates us toward personal growth and healing. If listened to, Soul energy will guide us. Its force is wisdom and truth and stillness. Its intent is reconciliation with original Divine energy. The combination of Soul energy and brain are what I refer to as the Dimension of Mind.

It’s from the Dimension of Mind we first become aware of our feelings. These feelings bring us into the realm of relationships. The delicate symbiotic dance we perform through our interactions with others is one of the gauges by which we can understand ourselves. As Daniel Siegel states in The Developing Mind, the ability of one mind to perceive and then experience elements of another person’s mind is a profoundly important dimension of human experience. This dance can keep us alive, help us fall in love, or make the right career choices.

Mind reflects our awareness and our state of being. It provides us with the ability to notice what arises in us. It can get in our way and keep us from everyday functioning or it can release its limitations so we can connect to the universe. Mind is not only about an emotional connection with others, it’s the choice we make to live fully awake. Mindfulness practices are intended to still the constant chatter that thinking creates because our brains can get ahead of the rest of us when we’re not careful.  Mind Nature in Tibetan Buddhist practice is considered the universal existence. Mind creates happiness or suffering depending upon the person’s awareness and how they choose to use their thinking. The ordinary Mind (sem) is the one that creates duplicity, jealousy, pettiness, anger, aggression and many other states of discord. The aware mind (Rigpa) is the awake mind. Rigpa is present to the moment which brings us full connection to the Soul.

Our Soul seeks wholeness and has a need to connect to its Higher Source. It needs Mind’s assistance to accomplish this. Through an inner dialogue with symbols, we also connect to our world beyond the five senses.  Dreaming, visualization through meditation,  daydreaming, the use of art, form and movement are some of the ways we stay connected to the world beyond facts and figures.

Our preverbal existence (10,000 years or more ago) used the images  brought forth through Mind to connect with each other. Our more recent verbal society developed reasoning  skills which prioritized exterior facts as our primary communication. Our brains can handle both, but we’ve been taught in our modern world to value the tangible over the experiential. As a result, Mind wants to find answers to everything. It wants to measure, adjust, explain its way out of the subjective. It’s learned to stir dissent in our Self, to tell us everything about ourself is wrong and incomplete. This process has created inner conflict and is leading us down a road toward depression and anxiety that still again, our brain wants to reason us out of.

We’ve forgotten that brain doesn’t run the show and that it’s just one of many factors that complete the Dimension of Mind. Yes, brain is the steering wheel but not the whole vehicle. We can’t drive the car without it, but it can’t hold us hostage, either. Our brain and our Soul need to remember to work in conjunction. Both need to negotiate and sometimes our brain needs to slide out of the driver’s seat and let Soul steer for a while.

 

 

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The Art of Negotiating Boundaries

SCAN_PIC0001smallThe difference between living a life of happy engagement or miserable chaos rests in how we apply boundaries. In my work, I hear clients speak about boundaries all the time. However, when it comes to applying them they seem confused. A lot. So, here’s a primer.

A boundary looks a little different for everyone. A perfect metaphor is a fence. Some fences are higher, some are lower, some are more open, some are harder to scale. Boundaries are meant to protect, ensure, define. What a boundary is not is a fortress wall that blocks out everything. Nor is it an open puddle that anyone gets to run through. We’re responsible for setting our own boundaries. When we expect someone else to do it, we’ve pretty much violated ourselves.

Boundaries fit into two categories: outer and inner. The first is easily understood because outer, or physical, boundaries are a tangible concept. Physical boundaries include setting limits around your body, your possessions, your personal time, your work and living space. It also includes your etheric space. Etheric space is your physical or auric energy that expands beyond your skin and bones. It’s the unseen yet often felt “circle” that feels penetrated when someone you don’t know stands too close.

People have no right to touch you if you don’t want them to. They have no right to steal your things, tell you to do something that hurts you or make themselves at home if you want them to leave. They also have no right to drive your car without your permission or go through your desk drawers at work. These examples of boundary violations are pretty obvious. What’s not so clear is how to enforce the boundaries.

Inner boundaries are harder to assess because we can’t physically touch them. As a result, those boundaries get horribly dishonored – by those who possess them as well as by those who offend. This more dubious concept of boundaries bewilders people. It takes intentional work to first identify them and then to learn how to effectively set a limit.

What makes up the world of inner boundaries are your feelings, thoughts, beliefs, spiritual experiences, creativity, memories, fantasies, hopes and dreams. Yet, many people aren’t connected to theirs. We can determine where our body ends and another’s begins, but if we don’t know what we feel, believe or want, how can we know if we’ve been infringed upon?

Violations of inner boundaries range from emotional abuse – if the behavior is purposeful – to clueless insensitivity. Name calling, commenting on someone’s body, passive-aggressive behavior, withholding attention or affection, mocking and mimicking, adultery, raging or intentionally distressing people are some examples. Enmeshment, which is when someone wants to know your every waking thought or feeling and tells you how to think or feel, is a massive inner boundary violation.

The initial work to establish inner boundaries is to take a few steps back and develop a loving dialogue with yourself. Exploring your inner world and being able to identify the difference between your thoughts and feelings is important. Stating your dreams, developing your beliefs based on your sense of integrity, allowing yourself to visualize your future, all this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s extremely useful to do this work with a licensed therapist if you’re struggling, because more than likely there are influencing factors keeping you from committing to your individuation.

Defining if a boundary has been violated is about the ability to measure your discomfort level. If you’re okay with a house guest staying a few extra days, that’s one thing. If you’re desperate for time alone but find it’s easier not to tell him, then you’ve lowered your boundary threshold. Only you are able to determine what that threshold is. Is it a mild inconvenience or total violation? Saying “no” is not a bad thing. It may be a last resort after you’ve politely stated having a guest three more days doesn’t work for you, but it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a person who respects your time, energy and space. When you respect yourself, so will others.

The gauge when enforcing an inner boundary is much like enforcing an outer boundary. Again, it’s about measuring your discomfort level. How do you feel about what that person said or did? What in you is unsure, even though you feel horrible right now? We can state that we expect better treatment from them. Whether they choose to give it, is out of our control.

Part of setting a boundary is to establish a consequence that you’re willing to follow through with. That consequence can’t be something hurtful to the other person or infringe on their integrity in any way. So, if you say to your spouse, “If you choose to ignore me the whole day after we argue, then I’m hitting you over the head with this frying pan!”, then you’ve completely overstepped his boundaries and are the violator.

A consequence is something within your control that sets a limit. It also must match the boundary infraction. “If you choose to ignore me the whole day after we argue, then I choose to go shopping and have dinner with my friends.” You can’t control if he choses to stonewall you, but you can control how to get your needs met in other ways.

It’s also very important to explore why you allow your boundaries to be manipulated. Are you afraid the other person won’t like you? Do you fear you won’t be heard or that you’re not worthy of being listened to? Boundaries don’t keep us from being intimate. It’s exactly the opposite. If we establish a boundary with someone, we’re negotiating with them. This requires engagement and exploration of the issues around the boundaries. We’re showing the other person we respect them enough to negotiate and more importantly – we respect ourselves enough to be negotiated with.

The Miracle of the Inexplicable

005I’ve owned a lot of plants in my life. They come and they go. Some bi-annuals fade away. Some house plants have been inadvertently killed due to my busy schedule. The one plant that’s been a constant in my life for the past fifteen years is my night-blooming cirrus.

This is a Gift Plant. It’s cuttings were given to me by a neighbor. I’m on my second large container that holds its colossal greenery. This plant is hardy. Indigenously, it grows on the ground in the tropics. It’s singular flowers bloom once – at night between dusk and dawn – then they’re gone. Forever. Never again will I see the same blossom. There will be more to come. I never know when or on which side of the plant another will grow. If I’m blessed, and I have been, there will be more than one at a time lurking beneath the heavy foliage. So, I have to pay attention.

When the stems of the bloom slope down from a leaf, letting me know the phenomenon is about to happen, I’ll stay up late that night. Like a mid-wife excited about assisting in the birth of the next miracle coming into the world, I watch in wonder at a process I’ve seen over and over. I shoot a million pictures and text anyone who wants to see. The scent of the flower is concentrated. If the plant were in the house, every room would be filled with this ineffably orangey-musky smell. The bloom is white. It’s larger than the size of a man’s fist. Inside is another, tiny bloom. Like something otherworldly, this miniature star extends outward into the moonlight, heralding the nocturnal insect that’s supposed to come and steal its nectar.

The soul of this plant seems deep and meaning-seeking to me. This is the Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha or Mandela of all plants. It’s exotic, yet hardy. It’s majestic, yet not particularly pretty. It stands above all other flora and stays consistent with its purpose. It spreads its large leaves in an outward reach. I handed out some cuttings at work and they’ve remained happy by themselves in an empty glass or rooted in water. If a leaf cutting is slipped into mud, its tendrils spread and grow another plant with very little help. If I were to give the cirrus a personality trait, I’d say it’s indifferent in that pleasant way where it enjoys company but doesn’t need it to thrive. To me, it’s also the greatest metaphor I know that reflects the inexpressible spiritual moments in our lives.

You know those moments. Like the time a passed loved-one manifested at the foot of your bed to say hello (or good-bye), or the time you felt yourself in your sleep talking to your ancestors, or the time you know you saw little people sitting in the trees smiling down at you, or the time you felt the presence of God so strongly in your body you couldn’t speak, or the time you astral-travelled to another planet and woke up terrified yet wishing that could happen again, or the time you heard a loving voice behind you, yet no one was there. Those moments. Those singular moments we’re both terrified of, yet exhilarated by. Those are the moments that remind us we’re just one tiny carbon-being among a larger, unfathomable universe that’s beyond our comprehension yet, we feel so knowingly tied to. Those moments.

Sometimes we sleep through those moments, figuring there’ll be another bloom later on. Sometimes we stay up all night fascinated by the miracle of the inexplicable. Sometimes we explain them away because our mind can’t understand what happened. Sometimes we fear telling anyone because the community we’re tied to may expunge us, yet when we do share, we realize they too have had those moments. Some of us spend every waking hour attempting to get those moments back. Yet, like those elusive and hardy blooms, they come when they come. We just have to open to them when they happen.

We can look for them. We can ask for them to happen again. We can cultivate our lives to increase the probability of them. They will come again. Painfully, they will also go. Though in their coming and going, they leave something behind. They leave us with a reminder that we’re connected to something bigger and that something bigger is here for us. They leave us exhilarated by the miracle that is our life. They also leave us humble, because we can’t really explain how or why. If we want to stay open to them, we’re forced to just accept them. This is the hardest part – accepting something we really can’t understand. Yet, it’s in the acceptance of these mysterious experiences that we feel our Soul. Those moments leave us open to probabilities. They free us, for just a while, from the mundane routines in our lives that can keep us numb and forgetting the bigger picture.

Perhaps if we become like the cirrus, open to engagement, yet comfortable with just being, we can feel the inexplicable rhythm of those moments more regularly. Perhaps we can allow them to run their course, accepting the gift of their presence and their loss. 012

Thoughts verses Feelings

imagesfeelingsheart

“Give me the feeling that comes with that thought,” I’ll say to a client.

They stop, look perplexed for a moment, then say something like, “I can’t believe he would do that to me!?”

“That’s a thought,” I say. “Give me a feeling.” The client looks more perplexed, the frown deepens and they shake their head. Sometimes they lean closer and look at me like I might be a little crazy. So begins my lesson on feelings verses thoughts.

We all get stuck here. It takes real effort differentiating the two, but it’s really important to do this. Our thoughts, and the feelings that follow, work within a millisecond of each other. They’re so closely intertwined, we can’t see the pattern. Yet, distinguishing between the two is the difference between constant engagement with conflict and illusions or peace.

One is made up in your head. The other is the energy that arises in your body as a result of what you made up in your head. Do you see the difference? A thought is made up in your head. The feeling is in response to the thought and carries different energies through your body. Many times, neither of these reflect the truth.
The reason I use the simplistic term, made-up-in your-head, is because a majority of our thoughts are based upon our own versions of reality – the lens by which we see the world. That lens has history to it, because our brain is using past references to pull forward a schema it understands so it can stay in control.

You might think because your spouse slammed the door too loudly that she’s mad at you. If you stay with that thinking, feelings burst forth based on how you felt when your parents argued and slammed doors. Now, what kind of feelings rise up inside you? Anger, fear, sadness, guilt? Suddenly, you’re back in that place where parents were shouting and throwing things and you’ll respond accordingly to your wife. This is the illusion.

The narratives we make up (say it together), in-our-heads, cause all sorts of problems. If you challenge your thought and investigate why the door slammed, you might find the poor woman standing with a handful of groceries and having to use her foot to shut the door. Or maybe the wind slammed it shut. Or maybe she was so happy to be home from work that she pulled the knob too hard.

There’s a third part to this breakdown. It’s the emotion that occurs as a result of the feeling. Our language uses emotion and feeling interchangeably, however there’s a difference. Within that millisecond we talked about, where a thought occurs and a feeling is felt, we also respond. That’s emotion. Emotion is the rejoinder to the feeling, be it a smile, frown, yell, or freezing in place. This process feels so natural, it’s hard to imagine there’s a pattern at all. Though seeing this pattern can help us change ours. If we observe our usual process and not engage in it, we break the illusions that were driving us.

It’s also important to remember that a person or situation evoke a thought. If we can grow more aware of what’s occuring around us, we can pay closer attention. We can then slow down and observe what we’re thinking. In Buddhism, the way to peace is through the Eightfold Path. The first four of these eight are; right understanding, right thought, right speech and right action. If we’re to understand outer stimuli evokes us, then we can be aware of the thoughts and feelings that arise, and not speak or act in harmful ways.

The most damaging aspect to this is when we stay convinced that our thinking is the only truth. Then we cling to the feelings and emotions that flare as a result of that illusion. We rationalize our choices out of shame and maintain the attitude of the victim. This way we don’t have to reflect deeper on the nasty words or actions we spew onto others. We justify and spread hurt and darkness.

If we’re willing to acknowledge that our truth is subjective, then we’ll be more willing to notice what stimulates our thoughts, feelings and emotions. We stop engaging in blind ways that keep us running in circles with no clarity. In this way we spread light and we allow our own light to  burn brighter.

Emotions: Mirror, Mirror, go away!

imagesWUOG13IYI lost a dear friend last year. Not to death but to illusion. Her perpetual absence has me mourning her. Some days, I wake up and think about what we shared over the years and my heart aches. Sometimes, those memories leave me angry. Always, I doubt myself and wonder if I had only done or said something differently, would she have reacted the way she did? I send loving energy her way and imagine her calling me. I think of calling her and saying, “okay this is ridiculous, life’s too short not to talk this out!”. Then I remember her last words to me – not spoken, but written in an angry email that wiped out six years of friendship – and I can still feel the seething quality to the words. So, I keep from making the call.

“Who says that to someone?,” another friend says to me. She gives me her sage-like glance, “you know when someone calls a person those things, it’s because it’s a problem they can’t deal with within themselves, right?”

I know. Lordy, do I know. I’m a therapist, after all. I talk about ego defenses and shadow sides all day long. Yet, somehow, when the table’s turned and I’m on the receiving end of someone else’s disowned stuff, it hurts. It hurts because, the truth is, my friend was right. I am those things at times. I’m those things enough that I can’t write down what she accused me of being. I also know that it’s my stuff – in all its uneasiness and embarrassment – that shrieks back at her. It stands formidable like the wicked witch’s mirror reflecting the wrinkles and blemishes she’d rather kill for than acknowledge.

Our struggle with the personal shame of disowned feelings is never more apparent than within our interactions with others. Our psyches are drawn to those who echo our perspectives. The traits we admire in others, are the traits we possess in ourselves. The nuances of our mindset and the way we feel about ourselves is always reflected in the people we choose to be around. We manifest our private circles this way.

Inconveniently, we’re also drawn to those who possess the darker, less examined aspects of our Self, and this can sometimes be the same person whom we think hung the moon. Insecurity, selfishness, fear, manipulation, self-loathing, uncertainty all attract like. We may think we’re attracted to powerful people because they’re “fabulous” and we feel special around them, yet the shadow side of powerful people is a fear of powerlessness. The darker the shadow, the more troubled the relationship. The addict is drawn to the codependent. The narcissist to the anti-social. The unconscious aspects of Self work in mysterious, sometimes contradictory ways. As we attract the familiar, we are unknowingly disowning the negative traits and placing them at the feet of the other.

In his classic work, Love and Will, Rollo May argues that love and will are the conjunctive process of being. Combing love and will is a reaching out to influence others; molding, forming, creating the consciousness of the person we love. This is only possible when we’re open to the influences of the other. Love must first follow. Because without love, will becomes a form of manipulation:

The interrelation of love and will is shown, furthermore, by the fact that each loses its efficacy when it is not kept in right relation to the other; each can block the other. Will can block love. The overemphasis on will, which blocks love, leads sooner or later to a reaction to the opposite error, love which blocks will. (pg. 276)

If we’re willing to look in the mirror, to see ourselves without the illusion of what we want to present to the world, then we can accept the wrinkles. We can also see the spark in our eye, the great smile on our face and the smoothness beneath our aging. We can embrace all parts of our Self no matter the discomfort. We can – at the very least – be open to the possibility of growth.

Our higher Self knows instinctively that having to face our issues regularly is the only way to resolve them. Our ego – what we prefer to see in the mirror – rejects all that’s unattractive. That unattractiveness may come in the form of another person who’s holding up the mirror to us. Sometimes we reject the whole person no matter how much love we have for them, because our will not to see is stronger than the engagement of acceptance.

Will blocks love when we’re not feeling complete. Fixations on another’s flaws are those infantile aspects of Self. When we decline to acknowledge them, we don’t have to take responsibility for them. If we can allow ourselves to be sidetracked by the ineptitude of another, we can delay the journey that may take us deeper into our own healing. May says we can’t change unless we’re willing to open to the influence of the other. In this case, it’s looking deeply into the mirror then asking, “What in this mirror drives me to want to kill?”.

The Spirituality of the Obvious

 

1014244_533912696706563_727841077_nOnce in a while we get a signal – a really big signal – that comes in subtle packages as a way to remind us that Spirit is with us wherever we go. The problem is, we rationalize it away and lose a great opportunity to connect.

If we’re lucky, the spiritual energy around us will stay determined and press on, making it so obvious they’re reaching through our dense atmosphere to touch us that we have no choice but to listen. These experiences don’t come often. Anyone on the spiritual path or who has lost a loved one wants them. We wish and hope for a tangible meaning. A message. A sign there is a greater connection than what we experience on this earth.

Yet when these things do happen, we sometimes get scared, stubborn or doubtful and will them away.

My big Duh moment happened on a hot, July day in New Orleans. I was spending a weekend with my friend and we were determined to have a mini-spiritual retreat despite the lovely distractions of her family. My friend is an intuitive/medium and so am I. Because we live in the bible-belt (and because I’m also a licensed therapist) I keep this under wraps in my everyday conversations. Having like-minded souls to commune with is greatly sought after when you’re in our position.

This day, we were enjoying the energy manifested by our conjoint meditations and readings for each other and were spending the afternoon on her porch creating spirit paintings. Spirit painting is something I made up one day as a way to allow my Guides to work through me. I meditated, asked to see colors and images, then went to town  on my canvas with heavy brushes and paint. The result had been more than I could imagine. I intended energy flow for myself – to break down ego barriers so I could engage deeper during meditation. What I got were soft images of faces and forms. Some I had already seen and communicated with. Some forms were not so human. Some were faces I had not seen before. The fact that they had shown themselves just by me pushing paint around, was affirming. I was on the right track.

I wanted to show my friend how to do this. That day, we set up our workspaces. I meditated for her and she meditated for me. Then we picked up our brushes and colors and started to paint each other a picture. Within a few minutes, a yellow Monarch butterfly rounded the corner from the front of the house. It came on to the open porch and fluttered between my canvas and the door. Cute! The little butterfly had lost its way. I went back to pushing the paint around and was startled when the butterfly came between me and the canvas and hovered. My heart beat wildly. I stilled. I ‘d never been so close to a moving butterfly before!

“He must love the colors,” I said to my friend. Then the butterfly disappeared, back beyond the house. What a nature experience.

The butterfly returned less than a minute later. It flew the same course, between the wall and my canvas, and ended up in front of me again. It fluttered in place right under my chin. It felt as if he was looking to see what I was doing. It stayed for a good fifteen seconds (while I held my breath!). Then it left. Again.

Twice?  We glanced at each other.

A little wide-eyed, we laughed. We wanted this to be a special message. We were attempting to reach further spiritual heights that day. But, we also wondered if this was a fluke. Were we attempting to put meaning to something that was just happenstance? Like the energy worker who believes he can will the traffic light to change, or shift the winds. Was this our petty will? Were we making something out of nothing? It was, after all, Summer. Things were blooming. Butterflies abounded.

Before these doubts finished processing in my head, the butterfly was back. I halted. My friend picked up her phone. A third time? Really? It came once again, along the same path, looping around to my right and ending up – flutter, flutter – between me and my canvas. Another fifteen seconds or so went by again before it left.

Three times. Cool.

By the fourth time the butterfly visited, we were tense with awareness. Not so much a fluke anymore. My friend snapped shots from her phone, attempting to follow the little guy around the porch without scaring him off. A long while passed. The message was clear as he intentionally hovered in front of me. Pay attention!

We were listening. Especially by that fifth time. The energy was serious now. Unbelievable!  Something bigger than both of us was revealing itself and we’d be stupid not to listen. By that final swoop, the butterfly seemed to know he had gotten through. He turned and flew away, hopping along the flowers as he went. Who, what or why this happened is still a mystery. Maybe we’ll never know. But we listened. We just knew this was an event to be trusted and like so much that has to do with Spirit, never questioned.

(we grabbed our phones as fast as we could and the buttefly stayed around long enough to let us take its picture!)