The Art of Allowing Part I

Have you noticed that when it comes to “life lessons,”  when you forget one, that somehow you get a sort of cosmic thump on the side of the head as a reminder that you need to pay attention?  That is how it seems to me, at any rate.

Last spring I was cashing in on a generous offer from a friend to come to her spa for a treatment called Healing Touch.  Despite being in serious need of some TLC, she reminded me repeatedly of her offer before I finally surrendered and arranged the appointment.

This made no rational sense because at the time I was really at a low ebb; drained and in a gray mood. I don’t like to think of myself in these terms, but I was burned out.  Physically I was vaguely symptomatic, but not sick enough to warrant going to the doctor.  She obviously recognized my state of being far more clearly than I did.

She showed me back to the massage room, and asked me to sit on the table.  She bent to untie my shoes and remove them, and I nearly bumped heads with her, trying to take them off myself.  She calmly said, “It would be all right for you to allow someone else to take your shoes off for you.” What a concept!

This is what I mean when I say “cosmic thump on the side of the head.”  After the session was over, and I was feeling relaxed, calm and then increasingly rejuvenated, I reflected on that small exchange. How many times had I turned down offers for assistance assuring the person offering that I could manage it myself?

The winter before when my friend Denny called me to offer to drive over to shovel the snow from around my car, I objected at first even though I was recovering from the flu and in no shape to go shovel snow! Surely I could hire the kid across the street, and besides, what if he hurt his back again? Denny was more persistent than I was, and arrived despite my objections.  Afterwards we enjoyed a chat over a cup of coffee, and I felt truly grateful for his help and his friendship.

So what’s the problem?

Probably like many of you, I was taught that it is better to give than to receive.  And socialized as a female, the expectations of caring for everyone else rather than oneself were greatly reinforced. In fact to say no, was selfish and not at all nice.  And lord knows that good girls are nice. In my work life I have met many men who are burdened by the same internalized message.

Like many great spiritual lessons, I think that one has been poorly understood.  I don’t think it means that receiving is selfish or wrong.  In fact nature herself demonstrates that there is ebb and a flow to giving and receiving.  The ocean waves come in, and they also go out.  The farmer prepares the soil, plants the seeds and after the sun and rain of the growing season, harvests the crop. 

In our human affairs, the cash flows in and as we pay our bills, it flows out. We can quickly see in this case that we are in trouble if we are giving and not receiving.  But the same is true for our relationships.  We share our thoughts and feelings with friends, and we also need to be quiet and allow them to do the same.   Speak and then attentively listen.  Help when they need it and also allow them to help us.

It’s an irony that what we secretly desire the most from friends and family is for them to attend and care for us.  But we may find it difficult to relax and fully allow their attention and help.  What is this about?  I think that when we are in a position to help others, we have a sense of being in control.  Or at least we feel more powerful or capable.  To stand by and allow someone else to take off our shoes means to be vulnerable.  To open our hearts and truly allow another human being to offer his thoughts or her love means being vulnerable.  We cannot control what may be coming our way.

What if it hurts?  What if it stops?  What if I don’t understand it?  What if I come to count on it and it goes away?  Sometimes it is a challenge to believe in the abundance of love in the universe, as well as an abundance of everything else we need and want.  We are so conditioned by our culture to feel fear and a scarcity of what we need.  Our habits of thought are initially shaped by our parents’ fears and reinforced by the hysteria of mass media and entertainment that we pay to watch.

Although we desire abundance and love and well-being, we end up resisting them when we can’t believe that we deserve them, or that they even exist. When you take a good look at your life and understand that what you see is the result of your beliefs and practices, your resistance to allowing what you desire will be apparent.

However, we can choose to become conscious of those beliefs and thought habits.  Through practice we can replace them and the behaviors that result, with healthier ones.  We can be helpful to others and also allow for our own rest, replenishment, nourishment and support.  There is plenty for all of us.

 

The Law of Polarity

Years ago, during my former life as a junior high English teacher, I worked with Miss Briggs, the school librarian. Miss Briggs was a bit of a colorful character, as her name might imply.  She was a woman near retirement age, a dedicated smoker (this was back in the days when teachers were allowed to smoke in the faculty room) who absentmindedly held cigarettes in hand while she talked, and hesitant to interrupt her, we would watch as the ashes grew long and fell all over the place.

She had a little dog named Queenie who came with her to school and spent the day out in Miss Briggs’ car, and Miss Briggs would periodically take a break and go out to tend to her.  Miss Briggs had a dry sense of humor, and her story telling would often be followed by a remark that has stuck with me over the years.  “Life is a snare and a delusion.”

I have to admit to having at times repeated her statement in a spirit of sardonic humor to my children’s complaining. And sometimes to my own complaining as well. There are times when indeed, life does seem to be a snare and a delusion.

Recently I have been reminded that while life certainly seems to present a lot to complain about, that everything contains its opposite. Meaning that while it is true that we may have a number of irritating or taxing things occurring in a day’s time, that we are also living lives that are blessed and bountiful.  It just depends on where you want to place your focus.

Polarity is best defined as the presence or manifestation of two opposite or contrasting principles or tendencies.  In language, it is positive or negative character.  For example, light vs. dark; acceptance vs. denial; love vs. fear; inner vs. outer. In physics, polarity is the positive or negative state in which a body reacts to a magnetic or electric, or other field. I think that both definitions are important and relevant.

They are important concepts because we must acknowledge that both qualities exist within a thing.  You cannot hold a pole for instance without seeing that there are two ends to it. Even the earth has two opposing poles which are a part of the same entity. You can’t get rid of one without destroying the whole thing.

Let’s get back to the matter of perspective, or the qualities that we focus on. Can you believe that we magnetically attract the people, experiences and situations into our lives depending on what emotions we are vibrating or sending out?

This may be a matter of our selective vision or perception or belief.  If I begin my day in an angry mood and am not aware that my moods are the creation of my own thoughts, which in turn evoke my emotions, and instead think that I am angry because my neighbor has once again let his dog poop on my lawn, I am likely in for a “bad day.”

On my way to the office, I will encounter every idiot who doesn’t know that his car is equipped with a turn signal. I will wonder what my boss’s problem is because she is obviously feeling cranky. And I’m likely blow up when my kid has left his bicycle blocking the front sidewalk.  Life is a snare and a delusion!

There is an alternative that I know is a happier and healthier one.  When you observe your mood, stop and listen to your thoughts that have brought those emotions about. You are talking to yourself all the time, and if you tend to see the glass as half empty, that ongoing monologue is not pretty!

You don’t have to lie to yourself or be delusional, or wear a happy face mask to appear to be “positive.” It won’t fool anyone, and pretending will only prove to be an additional stress and strain.

Instead, remember the Law of Polarity. Yes, the dog poop on the lawn is there, and you need to do something about it. Yes, the world news is unrelentingly frightening.  We get sick sometimes, and even people that we love get sick and die. We will grieve those losses. But everything contains its opposite.

There is also new life springing forth all over the place.  There are babies being born; the beautiful cycles of nature are surrounding us; there are those that we love and those who love us; there are people truly doing good in the world, and if we care to we can join them.

We can become empowered by taking responsibility for our moods and perceptions. We do not feel awful because the world is an awful place!  We feel awful because we are focused on what is lacking and are thinking thoughts that frighten us!  This is just a bad habit!  Stop and look around you. Notice that you are surrounded by abundance and that you have the power to envision and shape the kind of life you desire.

If you would like to learn more about this universal law, and others as well, or if you are interested in getting some coaching with developing your life vision, click on the Contact Page and send an email to arrange a coaching assessment and initial appointment.

Creating: Seeing what Already Exists

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” 
~Philip K. Dick~


At the beginning of every new year I hear a running argument about whether making resolutions for change is a waste of time or not. Cynics will maintain that their “good intentions” to lose weight, stick to a budget, etc. is useless because they usually last less than a week.  The more optimistic types will at least plod along, sticking to the practice of resolving or intending to make changes in what is important to them.

Research has found that there is power in clarifying intentions and resolving to make change, regardless of the time of year. In other words, if you intend to make a change in your life and are clear about what that will be like, you are much more likely to succeed at it than if you don’t.

Let’s consider this is a broader way.  As I have pointed out in previous posts, you are creating the life you have whether you are intentional about it, or not. This thought can be a little disturbing if you are unhappy about how things are. It is far easier to point the finger of blame at someone or something else. No need to run through the usual list of excuses; I’m certain that you have heard them all and likely at some point have used them yourself.

Instead I’d like to learn to be a more effective creator, and hopefully you do too.

An essential skill to learn and master in creating the life you desire, is to assess reality, or to see clearly what already exists. This sounds deceptively simple. Just open your eyes and look!

Several years ago I took a course in the fundamentals of drawing at the local art association. Having a life-long interest in art, I have always admired artists and had a hankering to create art myself. And so I arrived at the first class with sketchbook and tools in hand, eager to learn. What I soon discovered was that it is difficult to draw with my hand what my eyes are seeing!

Just as musicians are trained to hear music accurately and to identify it, artists are taught to draw what they see and to do it clearly. In a similar way, we need to develop the skill of viewing reality objectively. You may find this surprisingly tough to do and it may make you squirm. For many, seeing reality is uncomfortable.

We often are taught to view reality in certain ways that our parents, religious and ethnic groups and society in general, prefer. We get messages such as, “Our family always….,” or “Americans are….,” or “Methodists are…” You can insert whatever group name applies. As individuals, we may have gotten messages that we are the smart one, or the pretty one, or the athletic one, or the one who is difficult to get along with. Until we become conscious of it, these hidden beliefs form a kind of lens through which we see reality. Facing this bias and seeing through it can be uncomfortable at first.

If you are in a problem solving mode you may lie to yourself or rationalize the situation in order to feel better. Well meaning friends and family may help you with this, supplying justification or excuses for why things are the way they are. Of course this is not helpful.

What really does help is to ask for some expert assistance in objectively measuring the present situation. If you want to feel more energetic and healthy, then make an appointment with your doctor for a check-up. You may justify your level of blood sugar by saying that you celebrated too much, and that it isn’t that bad. But the numbers from a blood sample will give you a realistic picture. Or rationalizing about your bank account numbers will give way to a realistic picture if you work with a CPA or planner.

Yes, you will have to endure some discomfort.  Deal with those emotions of fear, anger or sadness by writing about them, talking to someone you trust or using EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). Then take the realistic information you have gathered, touch base with the end goal that you established, and get ready to take action!

You must see clearly what your present situation is and then compare it to where you desire and intend to be. Doing so will be a big boon to energetically moving forward with effective action!  This will move you toward your goals in creating the life you desire. Don’t waste more time. Do it now!

 

Thanksgiving Wishes

It’s getting late on the night before Thanksgiving. My daughter and I have been having what has become our own tradition of some crazy holiday cooking. We both enjoy cooking.  I prefer the alchemical process of cooking, grasping the concepts and principles, then often flying by the seat of my pants. She is an excellent baker because she understands the more exacting science of baking and follows recipes to the tee (yes, sometimes I lack the patience). We make a good team. And we have a lot of fun.

Each Thanksgiving and Christmas we are bouncing back and forth between the inspirations of old favorites and also untried recipes and the gorgeous pictures accompanying them, and trying to rein ourselves in from creating an impossible and stressful job. We have had some stellar successes as well as some equally harrowing (and now funny) results.

The best part of it is keeping each other company and chatting while we work. It is an echo of my memories of my mother and grandmothers working together in the kitchen, and occasionally asking us kids to help, but mostly trying to keep us out from underfoot.  Such scenes are being carried out in kitchens and dining rooms across America and probably in yours.

This year my Thanksgiving reflections are bittersweet.  A dear friend is losing her courageous and unflagging battle with cancer, and thoughts of her of much on my mind and in my heart. Needing to shift my focus from anxiety and despair, I have been writing in my journal about the many gifts of our friendship, and how much knowing her has enriched my life.

It seems that holidays and the memories they bring up, remind us of those family and friends that we have loved and lost. And yet the ways in which they have touched and shaped our lives will never be lost. Nor is the love we still feel when we think of them. I believe that love ultimately is Divine, and everlasting, even though the human form may be gone.

The thing I love most about Thanksgiving is the obvious: it is a time of gathering with others and regardless of our particular religious beliefs and practices, we express our gratitude. By now of course we know that gratitude is one the the best things we can do for our health and the well-being of our relationships.

So despite the challenges that you may have experienced over the year, my wish for you is that you will spend the day in the company of people you love. And that you will reflect on the gifts of your life and to simply express your thanks for them. And if you actually write the list, I hope that you will find it astonishingly long.

SAD: Tis the Season

Recently in our neck of the woods, we have had a great break in the weather. After weeks of heat and humidity (which I find nearly insufferable; and I break my vows not to complain about it, usually within the hour after making them), we had a terrific thunderstorm. The next morning dawned bright and beautiful with low humidity and very moderate temperatures!

By now we have had a whole week of this blissful weather. Families are back from their vacations, the new school year is well underway, and my friends who are football fanatics are happily following their teams. I noticed that the foliage is just beginning to pick up a tinge of yellow and red when I was driving home.

Although I was sorry to see a sign at the farmer’s market that said “the last of the summer peaches…and cherries…and plums,” fall is my favorite season.

The only hitch in this is that the daylight is getting noticeably shorter. It was nearly dark when I left the office last evening. And much darker when I got up this morning. This used to be something that I lamented because it meant the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as “the winter blues.”

It took years for me to figure out why I hated winter so much. Odd since there were so many great things about the season. One fall I was listening to a seminar on clinical depression, when after hearing the instructor going through the (very familiar) list of symptoms, a gong went off in my head and I was amazed to realize that I was depressed!

Although there are some variations in the number and severity of symptoms, here they are:

  • Sleep disturbances.  Some people have disrupted sleep, and others can hardly drag themselves out of bed in the morning.
  • Problems concentrating which some people experience as a sort of “brain fog.”  Difficulty being productive at work.
  • Appetite disturbance, often with carbohydrate craving and weight gain.
  • Irritability and sometimes crying spells
  • Low mood sometimes accompanied by anxiety, and low energy level
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Less interest in socializing and a tendency to isolate

Children and adolescents may differ somewhat from adults in their symptoms. Often difficulty getting out of bed for school and a lowering of grades may occur. Like adults, they often have problems concentrating. And often they suffer low energy and self esteem.

Research is ongoing at the National Institutes of Health, and the evidence is not yet entirely clear as to the effects of the light on the functioning of the brain, as well as the cause of SAD. But it does seem clear that full spectrum light which comes in through the retina, and varies with the seasons, is the determining factor.  Sunlight is full spectrum light, but the artificial lighting that we live with at work and at home is not. (Tanning lights are NOT full spectrum, nor are they safe for the skin).

What is recommended for treating SAD is using a light box, which is equipped with specially developed, safe (no UV rays), full spectrum tubes. I have found the best source for these light boxes to be The Sunbox Company at www.sunbox.com.  The founder of this company was the original designer who worked with NIH for a good treatment option for sufferers of SAD.

By now I have been using my light box for 7 or 8 years.  Starting sometime in September (when I notice the brain fog closing in) until late March, my morning routine is to sit in front of it at my kitchen table for 30 minutes.  It is about a couple of feet from my face.  I read, write in my journal and drink my morning coffee.  Often the cat joins me by jumping up on my lap. It’s the only time he does that when I’m at the table, so maybe he needs a little cheering up too.  😉

If you recognize some of these symptoms yourself, I highly recommend using the light box. Other things also help, such as exercising, especially outdoors and in full daylight. You can visit the website to get more information at www.sunbox.com.  Their customer service is friendly and prompt, and their newsletter full of good information.

 

Tuning In Turning Off


Recently I was reminded of a stress reduction technique that Dr. Andrew Weil recommended in his book 8 Days to Optimal Health.  I was bringing a client back to my office from the waiting room, and as she rose from her chair, she tossed the news magazine she was reading back on the end table. “I guess I’m addicted to reading this stuff.  Before I start, I know I’m going to be aggravated by one thing or another!”

She had come to me for help with her anger and some decision making, and she appeared to be stressed and, well, angry.  Many of us experience what I call “normalized stress,” which is a state we come to accept as somehow unavoidable and inevitable.  But I’m here to say that stress is no laughing matter, and we certainly can reduce it and avoid the triggers that cause it.

Even though stress is as common as dirt, and I sometimes suspect is a point of pride for those who push themselves, fill up their schedules with busy-ness and working over time, it has a bad effect on our health, our sense of well-being and on our relationships. In short, stress is a problem worth tackling.

The suggestion that Dr.Weil made was to go for a week without listening to, watching or reading the news. A radical notion that I passed on to my client.  She had no interest in doing that, even though she predictably got angry every time she looked at the news.

If you live in the U.S. you are being bombarded by news leading up to the general election in November.  Regardless of your political affiliation, there are plenty of controversial, frequently mean-spirited and plainly factually incorrect messages being directed at you through any media you might tune into.

Recently my beloved local public radio station changed its format from classical music with periodic news, to a constant news and commentary format.  I still am a fan of NPR which comes the closest to a balanced presentation, in my opinion.  But I sure as heck do not want to listen to people analyzing and talking about what is going on in the country and in the world all day!  Frankly, I find it stressful.

Years ago after reading 8 Days to Optimal Health, I did a news fast.  And after that time I stopped watching network news, which I am certain has been good for my health.  The problem with it is that it comes in sound bites, designed to be alarming and provocative, with little or no real exploration or explanation. And there is no action to take.

I have noticed that even the weather is frequently presented as if we are all in the utmost danger…maybe.  So when it’s all strung together, you see something alarming that you can’t do a thing about, interrupted by commercials, often for drugs that are designed to calm you down or lift your dampened spirits.  What’s wrong with this picture?

So if you are finding yourself stressed and angry or even irritated by what is being dished out as news, I invite you to give yourself a week to turn it off.  Create some space to maybe listen to some music, or an audio book that is entertaining or pleasurable. If you are up for something really radical, try listening to the silence interrupted only by your own breathing.

 

Clean Up Clean Out

There is something about seasonal changes in general, and the approach of fall in particular, that inspires me to launch a general clean up.  Maybe it is an effect of formative years which were lived according to the academic calendar, which always feels like the true beginning of the year.  Or maybe it’s a more primal urge to clean out the den before I’m sequestered in it for the duration of winter. Whatever the cause, the urge seems irresistible.

The process began in the kitchen and has proceeded through most of the other rooms and closets until I arrived at the place which has the biggest mess:  my home office.  This is the room which seems to attract the extraneous I’ll-decide-what-to-do-with-this-later odds and ends.  Paper especially seems to just drift in there somehow, independent of any conscious decision making on my part.

Yes I know that there really isn’t some magical magnetic force at work, and that I am solely responsible for it.  The cat doesn’t read and has never received a scrap of mail that I know of. He has contributed a modicum of fur to the mix, but not to the growing and occasionally shrinking supply of books that have been on every horizontal surface in the room.  I say shrinking supply because, like a secret drinker hauling out the empty bottles, I had a serious talk with myself and donated several boxes of books to the local library.  It didn’t hurt too much and there was no blood loss.
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