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.

 

Living in Abundance

 

“Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday.
Realize the past no longer holds you captive.
It can only continue to hurt you if you hold on to it.
Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits.”
~Sarah Breathnach~


Do you agree with this statement:  Just because you were born a Human Being, your natural birthright is to live an abundant life? 

This would mean that physical, emotional, financial, social and spiritual well-being is your natural state.  We are designed to be happy and healthy and to experience joy in life.

You might be reading this and thinking, “Sure this sounds great, but the realities of my life are pretty far removed from it!”

·          You might be struggling to succeed in something that is important to you and feeling like you are getting nowhere.

·          Maybe you are feeling discouraged in a relationship that isn’t measuring up to the potential you once saw in it.  Or maybe you are feeling lonely and in great need of improving your social life in general.

·         It could be that your financial life is a constant struggle or your working life isn’t panning out the way you would like.

·         You might be in physical pain or feeling tired and blah, or stuck in any attempts to do something about the shape you are in.

·         Or perhaps your spiritual life may be in a state of disconnect, and you feel cut off from that important part of yourself and a connection to your Higher Power, All-That-Is or God.

If any of these conditions describe your present life, it could be that the “container” of your concept of yourself needs to be expanded.  The beliefs and frequent thought patterns that you repeat have formed this container; for some it is a tight, constricting and limiting container.

You may recognize yourself somewhere in the description, but take heart!  Even deeply ingrained patterns that we have “inherited” or more accurately learned from the people who shaped our early life, can be changed.  In other words, we do not have to live in the same kind of containers that our parents or grandparents or the culture we were exposed to prescribed for us.

For the most part, we came by negative or limiting thought patterns quite unintentionally.  And it is common to remain unconscious of them. However, we are designed in the Creator’s image, which means that we are also capable of being intentional creators ourselves! We can pay attention to the “wake up calls” that accompanies life in the too tight container, and start asking the important questions and seeking help in finding our answers.

Living a life of abundance requires us to expand the container that we live in!  In order to attract the elements of our desires and intentions, we must “live larger.” Changing old limiting patterns of thought-feelings-behavior-consequences allow for new possibilities that lead to liveliness and joy and well-being. Coaching is a real brain changer!

Hiring coaches and having mentors to work with has made a huge difference in my life.  So I completely agreed with Bill Gates when recently watching him in a TED talk about education and heard him say that everyone needs a coach.  He hired a coach to help him improve his bridge game.  He also talked about providing coaches to help teachers improve their work in the classroom, an exciting venture that his foundation supports.  

Luckily for all of us, we are seeing a rapid expansion in the applications of coaching.  What this means for you is that you can change those limiting beliefs that are keeping you from attaining your dream job, getting what you want out of your relationship, or succeeding in a business venture. Whatever it is that you want to change in your life, coaching can help you achieve that.

 If life coaching is something that you would like to explore, or if you are interested in learning more about living the Law of Attraction, I am opening a new program for working with individuals and small groups. Check out my contact information and email me or give me a call.  I would love to hear from you!

 

 

The Grateful Brain

“If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness.
It will change your life mightily.”
~Gerald Good~

 

Gratitude is a cornerstone of every major religion, and indeed a part of North American culture.  (I am thinking here of Thanksgiving Day, which is celebrated in the US and Canada). For years we have been hearing from modern thought leaders such as Dr. Wayne Dyer and Joseph Dispenza, that we have the power to create our lives anew, and that gratitude plays a key role in it.

Recently I have been noticing the work of Dr. Daniel Amen, M.D., who is a psychiatrist researching brain functioning.  He uses the modern technology of brain scans to examine the electrical activity and blood flow in the brains of his subjects.

He discovered that gratitude positively and literally changes brain chemistry.  Especially the frontal lobes and cerebellum show increased electrical activity and blood flow. The frontal lobes are responsible for judgment, impulse control and planning. When your frontal lobes are functioning well, you are making high performance decisions that serve you well.

In a study to determine the effects of gratitude, Dr. Amen scanned each subject’s brain twice. One after asking the person to focus on things in life for which she felt grateful, and another after asking her to focus on things that made her angry.  The scans were amazingly different!  Feeling grateful showed a dramatic benefit to her brain.  Blood flow and electrical activity increased in the area of the brain which would result in better decisions, focus and judgment. By contrast, angry or hateful thinking resulted in a draining or restricting of blood flow and overall brain activity!

When we are taught that fear, anger and hatred are constricting and limiting, this is more than “New Age” mumbo-jumbo. And when the ancients indicated the way to expansion and a better spiritual life, we can now see how our human physiology is directly affected by our thoughts and resulting emotions. If you doubted the truth of what you were hearing, now science has demonstrated why they are true!

When you write a gratitude list and focus on the feeling, your pituitary gland releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters that contribute to a feeling of overall well-being.  This is not just your imagination, because we now understand more about the power of that imagination.  Improving your mood leads to improved brain functioning, making it easier to make healthy decisions that will make it possible to create the life of your dreams.

Practicing gratitude is the key.

Gratitude and Attraction

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things
for granted or take them with gratitude.”
~Gilbert K. Chesterton~

Have you heard of the Law of Attraction?

Over the past few months I have been giving a lot of thought to how the lives people are living often fall short of what they truly desire.  And yet we are all creating our lives every day.  According to the Law of Attraction, our thoughts and the emotions they trigger, and the choices that we then make, bring about the reality we experience.

We can make plans or set goals for taking the necessary steps to getting on track for getting a better job, improving a relationship, making more money or losing weight.  In fact setting goals and taking action steps is an essential part of the process of change.

So why do those plans often fall so miserably short?  What causes the sincere New Year’s Resolutions to fade away like so much dust in the wind?

Maybe it’s because we are attempting to force a change in those things that are external to us.  Not that there’s anything wrong with the desire to have a better job or relationship, or more money or a healthier body.  But all the “positive thinking” in the world won’t do any good if our real underlying beliefs are saying the opposite.

The problem is this:  how can I have a healthier body or bank account or relationship if I don’t BELIEVE that I can?  Or that I don’t DESERVE it? And even though it may be difficult to see and accept that I have such a limiting belief, the proof is apparent.  My life circumstances are the accumulated effect of my choices, and my choices are based on my beliefs about myself and the emotions they create.

 No matter how much I want something, I cannot receive it if on a deep level I believe that I don’t deserve it or that having it is impossible.

Many of these limiting beliefs are unconscious, or are so much in the thread of your daily thinking and feeling that they are like wallpaper you’ve lived with for 30 years…you can’t see it anymore.  You have absorbed them from your family and your culture, repeated them, and while you are certainly affected by them, you may not be aware.

So on a given day are you feeling irritable or grumpy?  Dour and dejected?  Cheerful and optimistic?  How would you rate your energy level on a scale from 1 to 10? This “vibrational level” and your mood will give you a clear indicator that your thoughts are positive or negative.

How can you brighten your mood and bring up your energy level?

The answer may surprise you.  You can do this when you practice gratitude!

And when I say “practice” I really mean practice.  Just as you practice the piano, or practice meditation, or practice doing the New York Times crossword puzzles, this is something that you do over and over again.  Some days it may feel awkward and difficult, and other days it will flow beautifully.  However it is, keep practicing.  The benefits are amazing.

How can I practice gratitude, you ask? 

  • Begin by writing a list of 10 blessings or things or people that you are grateful for.  Yes, write it down and do it every day, preferably first thing in the morning.
  • Write why you are grateful for it.  Don’t skip this step because it will help you feel grateful, and the feeling is the thing we’re going for here.
  • Pay careful attention to the beauty that surrounds you during the day.  Feel and express gratitude for the people who serve your needs every day; notice the beauty of nature in its large and smallness; see the beauty in the face of anyone you meet. Make eye contact and smile.
  • Notice what goes right in your life and express gratitude for it.  If you have a tight roof over your head and food on the table, you have something that a lot of the world’s population doesn’t.
  • Break your habit of complaining. When you catch yourself griping about the weather, the traffic, your spouse, your aggravating kid, your job, etc. just stop it!  You may have a habitual grumble going on in your head, and it forms a dark cloud over you and keeps you from seeing the possibilities that surround you.  Furthermore it contaminates the conversations you have with others and encourages more negativity. Shift your focus again to what is going right. Don’t play “Ain’t it Awful?” with others.
  • Make an effort to hang out with positive, grateful people. You will very quickly be able to see who they are.  Avoid the ones who are always complaining about slow business, or the management or the government or anything else.  This “low vibrational” energy is contagious. Think of how you would avoid someone with a lethal virus, and take similar steps.
  • When you are being challenged by some difficulty or loss; when it seems that things are not going your way, then being grateful might seem out of the question.  But I suggest that you look deeper. Is it possible that a failure or disappointment might bring some benefit to your life? To your growth or development? If we find purpose or meaning in these difficulties, they often help us become better humans, and thus we can be grateful for them.
  • At the end of the day, before you go to sleep, review the events of your day and focus on the best parts of it. It may be something large or very small. It may have been on your gratitude list, or not. Take a few minutes to re-live the positive emotions, and say thank you.

In a short period of time, you will begin to notice an improvement in both your mood and energy level. You do not have to do this perfectly or compulsively. Just make room in your schedule as frequently as you can, and practice.  I’m telling you, gratitude will change your life!

 

Making Connection

“With That Moon Language”
by Hafiz

Admit something

Everyone you see, you say to them
“Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud;
Otherwise,
Someone would call the cops.

Still though, think about this,
The great pull in us
To connect.

Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,

With that sweet moon
Language,

What every other eye in this world
Is dying to
Hear.

 

Source:  The Gift

 

Birds of a Feather

Recently I attended a conference about how the brain forms new habits.  A fascinating topic that seems to be right on time for those of us who need to make some lifestyle changes but may have trouble staying on track and motivated.

The psychologist who was presenting new information about brain plasticity (meaning that the central nervous system is capable of changing in response to internal and external environmental messages), included some takeaway tips at the end,

One of them was a suggestion that when working on making a lifestyle change, it is important to surround yourself with people who are living in a similar way, or have achieved the goal to which you are aspiring.

A proverb dating back to the mid-sixteenth century said, “Birds of a feather flock together.”  It’s an adage that holds true today, and while they didn’t know the scientific reasons for it, it was a keen observation of human behavior.  Our brains are equipped with mirror cells, which act as an instantaneous aid in helping us mimic behavior. Like most things, this can be used for good or ill.

My three year old grand-daughter was demonstrating to me how she could run fast.  She made a point to hold her hands in a certain way, elbows bent, fingers all aligned.  I asked her mother where she had seen that, and was told that she had observed it on a work-out program that her mother uses.  Anna Grace is highly interested in running very fast, and she instantaneously mirrored the behavior of some athletes who were running fast.

We can apply these mirror cells in ways that are helpful to us.  And we can be aware of how we are also being influenced, probably unconsciously, by negative behaviors that we want to leave behind.

Did you know that your relationships are affecting the level of success that you are experiencing?  Do you know that the people whom you hang out with are greatly determining how you achieve in your given field and how much money you make?

It’s true.  Studies show that we tend to earn about the same amount of money that our friends and family members do. We also tend to have similar expectations regarding lifestyle and achievement.

There are certainly exceptions to this, and perhaps you know someone in a family that has been the family hero in exceeding everyone’s expectations.  However I’ll bet that the hero found someone or a group who modeled successful behaviors and helped make the necessary connections which enabled her/his success.

Are you also aware that your companions are influencing the way you think and therefore your mood?  Yesterday I was working with two different women who are dealing with this issue.  And they are in completely different ages and stages of life.  Lillian is a recently retired woman in her early 60′s who came to see me because she was depressed and dissatisfied with her life.  Terri is in her 20′s, working in her first “real” job.

Lillian recognized that someone who has been a long time friend is both demanding and draining of her time and energy.  In fact, lots of people in her life depend on Lillian for help and advice.  In making some decisions about what she intends for her new phase of life, she said that she needs some new friends who are positive and involved in activities that she would enjoy.

Terri, as a young adult, is grappling with a similar situation.  Most of her friends work 9-5, and their time off is spent partying and shopping.  Terri has some goals for buying her own house and someday going into business as a caterer.  She is recovering from a stint of careless shopping and credit card abuse and is working hard to pay off her debt.

So what might the company she keeps be influencing each of them?  Thinking, behavior and moods are contagious.  As humans we rather quickly adjust to what is going on around us and even behavior that would have been abhorrent to us becomes “normalized.”  I believe this occurs on an energetic level as well as a physical one.

That expression about someone “giving off a vibe” is more than new age or hippie speak.  The vibrational level that we experience as a living being, is transmitted and received by those around us.  Some people are more sensitive to this than others, but we are all affected whether we are aware of it or not.

I’m suggesting that you DO become aware of it and make conscious and intentional choices about who you hang out with.  If you have goals that you are seriously intending to meet, or a lifestyle change that you are intending to incorporate, then you must have some like-minded folks at your side.  We never make this journey alone.

 

Grace Abounds

“Each day offers us the gift of being a special occasion if we can
simply learn that as well as giving, it is blessed to receive
with grace and a grateful heart.”
~Sarah Ban Breathnach~

This year spring has come early, and in my neck of the woods we have seen it in all its wild variability.  On St. Patrick’s Day I was startled to see people walking around in shorts and flip-flops, usual attire for June.    And then two weeks later it was feeling like March again, blustery and chilly with frost warnings at night.  By that time the warm days had prompted the fruit trees and early flowers to pop open, and the geese to fly north.

On the human front I notice that many of my therapy and coaching clients are expressing  distress at their life circumstances, feeling anxious and out of sorts.  There is some urgency for changing something and it seems that we feel it emotionally, spiritually and physically.  This makes some sense to me in that even though we forget this, we are living in the natural world and subject to nature’s seasonal changes.

In Eastern medicine, the element that represents spring is Wood.  It is a time of energetic growth, and just as the shoots push upward and outward from the ground and from the tree branches, it pushes through us.  The deep dormancy of winter has come to an end and ready or not, we are pushed out of the season of contemplation.

I was listening to a client I have known for a short time who is making some difficult decisions about her marriage which one way or the other will have a big impact on her life.  She has been having trouble sleeping and eating and concentrating because of the stress of her situation.

Her situation is unique to her.  And yet there are elements of it that are familiar to me and probably to you too.  Most of us have been faced with some emotional dilemma or loss, either our own or of someone we love. We have been at a crossroads in life where the decision we make will have life altering consequences.  And we probably lost sleep over it or felt anxious and nearly undone.

How do we get through?  Most of the time we do.  I am continually amazed at the resiliency of the human spirit.   I am privileged to hear stories from clients nearly every day that remind me of this.  Challenges and hardships that seem insurmountable are somehow overcome.  Wounds heal and new strength and new skills are gained.

I don’t know about you but I count this as grace.  In other words, we are given what we need to survive and eventually thrive again.  Not because we are so clever or are managing everything in tip top form.  And not because we necessarily deserve it, as in the world owes it to us because we have “paid our dues.”

This grace may come in the form of human kindness from someone you may have not expected to offer it.  Or maybe help before you even asked for it.  Or some seemingly serendipitous happening that seems logically not connected with your efforts.

Sometimes it may be in noticing after an exhausting day that your night’s sleep has been restorative and you wake up in the morning feeling better than you had hoped.  Or when your body begins to recover when you’ve been hurt or wretchedly sick.

Thomas Moore writes in Dark Nights of the Soul that these times are rich with possibility if we are willing to mine the depths and tolerate not knowing.  The common things of daily life, if we pay observant attention to them, can provide the nurturance and relief that we badly need.  Time for silence, a cup of tea, gazing at a flower or petting the cat and appreciating the healing power of grace will get you through.  It truly is amazing.