Monthly Archives: April 2014

Crash

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Last week a woman was reportedly killed when she slammed into another car on the road. Authorities believe she was posting to Facebook how much she enjoyed the song “happy” at the time.

Yesterday I started to put a flash drive in my computer. It didn’t seem to want to go initially so I gave it a little extra push. It went in. And the screen went black. The computer would not turn on again.

This morning after I dropped my son off at school I was sitting at the entrance to my subdivision waiting to turn in, waiting for several cars to pass. The entrance is just after a blind curve. In the rearview mirror I saw a car coming around the curve very quickly fighting to slow down and avoid hitting me. Fortunately, I was awake and had a little extra room so I rolled forward a bit to give him more room. I noticed after he came to a stop he appeared to be picking things up from the floor board that had obviously fallen due to his abrupt stop.

Please don’t misconstrue that I think my two events are remotely comparable to the first tragedy. But the common link is that in the first two examples the intended plan not only failed, but it ended future plans in a flash (no pun intended regarding the computer). Fortunately for all, in the third case I was alert and present.

We all have in mind a strategy, a goal or a destination. We develop a path or a plan to get there and we can see it in varying degrees. We don’t normally work into the plan a provision for the crash, car or computer. But unfortunately, we often don’t take the time to be mindful in order to work in the provision for it not to happen.

What would have happened had the woman thought about the fact that she was driving and it was more important than letting her Facebook friends know about her musical preference?

What would have happened had I stopped and thought that it is not normal for Flash Drives to have such difficulty entering a USB port?

What would have happened if I had not been paying attention this morning at the entrance? Or if the other driver had been?

There is a saying “there is never enough time to do it right the first time, but there is plenty of time to do it over again and again.”

The art of Mindfulness is about slowing down, noticing the nuance of the ordinary both within and externally. It is a practice that must be cultivated to be effective. It is not only something one does, but something one is or becomes.

Is there anything you are neglecting or taking for granted simply because you are not aware? If you knew that your lack of awareness would cause it to change drastically for the worse, what would you do differently? Imagine playing the tape forward of the undesirable outcome. Then play it a second time in slow motion with a posture of mindfulness. You still have that opportunity.

The Places that Scare you

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I had a boss when I was about 18 years old who gave me the following advice: The best thing that can ever happen to you is to get fired.

I can’t say I’ve had that joyful experience, but I certainly understand what it meant. Simply, that once you’ve been fired, and you survive that, you quit working in such a way as to “avoid firing” as your primary motivation and guide. Instead, you begin to work focused on what is the job about, how can you be good at it, how can you enjoy what you do and so on.

Fear is an insidious and debilitating worm. It crawls into places that we may not even know about and sits waiting to call out the shots with a megaphone. While this is of course indicative of other maladies as well, I’m going to use eating disorders as the metaphor to illustrate a point.

Ive had the experience more than once (or a hundred) times, where I’m working with someone who is terrified at the prospect of gaining weight. Perhaps they are already at the upper end of their comfort zone, or potentially even emaciated when this discussion occurs. I’ve learned its universal, regardless of one’s size because its about the fear, not the size. And the fear is always extremely heavy.

So I say “you need to gain some weight to get beyond this”.

The other person looks at me like I could not possibly be any more stupid or insensitive.

See here is the deal “I am not trying to get the person to “gain weight”. I’m letting the person know that their constant fear of what will happen IF/WHEN they gain weight has a death grip on them and it is filling every waking moment.. and for some a bit of their nocturnal dream world as well. And because of that death grip, they are not able to use their energy in other places of their lives. So when I say gain weight, what I’m really saying is go to the place that scares you and learn that you will and can live in that place- you might not enjoy it – but it won’t kill you- and you might find it isn’t nearly as scary as you thought it was-or even as terrible- but if you don’t like it, you can still change it- but not not because you’re terrified of it-

This is usually when the other person says “I’ll just stop thinking about it”. Bzzzz- wrong answer- here’s why- try this little experiment. If I ask you to not think of any four letter words for one minute- I’m pretty sure you will come up with a list of at least 20 in no time. It’s how our brain works- Tell us we can’t do something and the brain kicks into high gear going to work to figure out exactly how to do what we told it not to.

So if you tell yourself to stop thinking about it…. You’ll only think of it more. The way out is through, not around.

How do we get a kid to learn that they aren’t going to die by sleeping alone at night with the light off? Remember, from the child’s perspective its terrifying. We know otherwise. So we tell them the words but it isn’t until they actually sleep through the night, and wake up on the other side there is any measure of convincing that takes place.

Gaining weight in this scenario is about losing fear. It’s about telling the fear that it cannot continue to have a death grip on you.

What form does your death grip have? Money? A job? A relationship? How would you enter into the place that scares you? What might be possible in your life if you didn’t have that fear?

 

 

 

The toilet paper up or the toilet paper down? That is the question.

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Without taking space to debate that here, I’m pretty sure there are legitimate arguments for both positions. Each of us grows up with a story of the way we think the world should operate. We are exposed to a plethora of sources and experts who make some minor adjustments on those stories with each passing day, but even those sources are subject to interpretation by our own sense of what is correct.

Couples of course have to negotiate these things on a day to day if not minute to minute basis. Parents have to do this with their children. Employees with employers and so forth. Every time we come into contact with another person, there is the potential for conflict or harmony depending upon the degree of disparity between our stories of truth and our insistence to hold on to them.

With any relationship, it is important to remember a couple of things.

First, once you unite, the integrity of the relationship itself takes precedence over the integrity of the individual. Sorry- it’s in the contract. Sometimes you have to be willing to give at the individual level in order to sustain the relationship. Note the word sometimes.

Second, remember the other person has a legitimate set of reasons for holding an opinion that may differ from yours. More can be gained by trying to listen to those reasons rather than focusing on the end result.

Third, you can dump this partner and try again, but chances are high that you will have other differences with the next guy or gal. That may not be enough of a reason to stay in a relationship in and of itself, but at very least, its important for you to spend some time trying to understand what you cling to before repeating it somewhere else.

And finally,

Is there something you can learn from not doing it your way? Is there a chance to grow that you are avoiding by staying in the safe zone? Is there a gift you can give to another who needs this more than you do right now? Do you need to let something go in order to get something so much more? There are great players- but there are great coaches behind them, whose names we might never learn.   Sometimes, it is more valuable to be in the backseat so someone else can shine… even when you’re sure you are right.

 

Happy Easter

Easter

What does it mean to you? Perhaps it is a time of great religious contemplation or absolutely nothing- When I was a kid I remember that my mother often bought each of us a solid chocolate rabbit.  She worked in restaurants and was able to purchase these from a wholesaler making them more affordable.  It would literally take us months to consume them and it often became a kind of game between my  brothers and me.  I’ve eaten my ears… My head is completely gone… and so the race to finish would carry on.

When my own children were small Easter looked like hiding plastic eggs around the yard or going to a Community Easter egg hunt.  The giant and imposing rabbit walking around usually scared my son’s,  and they were consoled only by the colorful plastic ovals filled with candy.

Whether or not you have a religious attachment to the day, Easter is still a day embedded with message of promise yet to come.  Whether it’s unwrapping a chocolate bunny, opening a surprise filled egg or the blossoming of redbuds and spring flowers, there is something of jubilance on the horizon.  Whatever is yet to bloom for you, I hope it is filled with joy, happiness and child-like wonder.

Another excerpt part 2

As promised, this entry includes a diagram to help illustrate the practical application of the theoretical concepts I described in the previous blog entry.

 

This diagram is by no means intended to be complete or universal, although some of the items listed actually are fairly universal.

 

Remember, our infant in the crib experiences an overwhelming sense of panic (annihilation) and screams.  Our current self can experience a reactivation of those feelings, or “wake up” or engage that infant self, by events happening in the here and now.  For example, maybe a friend doesn’t call me and I was expecting, even counting on hearing from them today.  Perhaps it activates old feelings of abandonment or shame.

Even though I can feel the emotions of my young child self or even infant self, the adult in me won’t allow me to start screaming in the room, because I know there will be consequences of behaving inappropriately.

 

So I turn to act out the frustration by using something.  In the earlier blog I used food.  It could also be alcohol, drugs, sex, overwork etc.  The symptom language can change but the concept is consistent.  My sense of self has disintegrated or fragmented here by having my multiple “parts” competing with each other.

Recovery or healthier living is based largely on the concept of healing that split and having the parts work together more cohesively.  This requires that my adult part work on behalf of my child parts.  It also requires that my child parts feel safe enough to inform my adult parts accurately.

I have listed out some basic categories of self care.  These are colored orange.  What you choose to prioritize may be somewhat different and so I have created purple spots that are blank to show that more items could be added in to complete this picture.  Other suggestions might be family, pets,  spirituality or finances to name a few.

I worked through the diagram for some, but not all of the orange categories.  Had I worked through them all, I would have drawn a green and a yellow box for each as I did for the completed ones.

The green boxes indicate how the orange item is helpful to the adult part of me.  The yellow boxes signify how the same action is helpful to the child part.  They can sometimes overlap.  The key differences, however is that the adult part usually benefits from the literal result of the category, while the child self, benefits from the symbolic or relationship securing aspect of the act.  It’s more about security or safety and reassurance from our child self.

 

I hope this illustrates why someone might read a self help book- feel better for a bit and then abandon a healthy choice even though it rationally seems like a good practice.  Usually it’s because they are trying to appeal only to their adult self, while still ignoring the needs of the child part within.  So, it’s not simply the act of “doing” the types of things listed, but making a commitment to the child self about why you are committing and then applying the consistency of follow through.

“I’m choosing good relationships because I want you to see how terrific of a person you are reflected back to you.

“I’m going to try starting the day with an affirmation so that I’m in the right frame of mind to take good care of the value that is you today.

“I’m going to try and maintain this schedule of structure so you will know that I’m going to be available and not too scattered all day long to hear your needs.

 

These are only a couple of examples to illustrate this internal dialogue that needs to accompany the actions.

 

I hope this is clear and useful.. I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions for clarification.  Clicking on the picture should enlarge it for clarity.

blog entry jpg

 

another excerpt

Another excerpt:

Although this came from a session revolving around eating disorders, the reality is it is far more universal.  Therefore, I’m going to try and make this more generic, and a little more theory based.  Keep in mind, however, this is an excerpt, and is therefore, an abbreviated explanation.

 

The precipitating idea for this discussion was fear.  Specifically, it was the underlying fear that resulted in someone choosing a binge.  I pressed, as I often do with the questions, then what… then what… and so on.  Usually that takes us to the point where a person has no more words- just an awful feeling.  (nice of me isn’t it?)

But I’m not sadistic- that stage, most often, I believe is representative of a very primal fear.  It is the fear of what the literature calls “annihilation”.  Simply stated, the infant isn’t capable of thoughts like “gee, if mom doesn’t get back here soon with something to eat I’ll just die”.  Rather, it’s a cease to exist- which generates a terror that we all know from watching an infant as a “blood curdling scream”.    As we grow, we learn to suppress the urge for one of those screams, or to be more accurate, suppress the scream.  However, the urge can come out in a myriad of ways that look like an automatic or even compulsively driven urge towards an addictive or bad habit, even when our “adult mind” is unsuccessfully saying stop.

We choose the behavior as a way to soothe that primal tension even though it is present for us in our subconscious rather than conscious mind.

Conscious level:   I had a bad day at work-à I feel tense and uneasyà I reach for M &M’sà I feel calm.

Uncs. Level1:  I had a bad day at workà I feel anxious- what will happen to me, what if I lose my job or do something awful, what if I can’t provide for myself, how will I live, what will become of me,

Uncs. Level 2 (deeper still):  I am a tiny little being unable to provide for myself and dependent on a world/system/mother that is not here to soothe me-à  I will cease to exist.

But now that we are in fact, NOT an infant—we reach for something to soothe that feeling before it can reach our conscious level, and because it has become automatic for us.

When we later try and analyze what has happen it may sound something like this:

I had a bad day at work-à I felt tense and uneasyà I ate M &M’sà, but I don’t know why I keep doing that.  Sure, they tasted good at first, but then I wasn’t really tasting them, I was just shoveling them in until I felt sick and I wished I hadn’t done that.

This illustrates the circular nature of the unconscious addictive pattern:  I feel bad—I do something to feel better in the moment— that something makes me feel better for a moment, but then much worse for much longer— I feel bad—repeat-

 

How does therapy help?

Therapy helps primarily in three ways.   First, therapy is a place to identify the pattern, and illuminate the context in which, the terror (or fear of annihilation) originated.

Second, therapy is a place to strategize new coping skills, practice them and evaluate their effectiveness.

Third, and most importantly, the relationship that develops between the client and the therapist fosters confidence for the client which begins towards the therapist, and then is transferred to the client’s own internal voice.  Once secured, the client can rely on that internal voice to guide, and more importantly, soothe themselves.

Stay tuned- In my next post I will provide you with a diagram to help illustrate this content more clearly, as well as, provide you with a practical application of this theoretical concept.

 

Grrrr

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My blog today begins with a message from my 4 year old self.  I’m cranky, I’m disappointed, the world is unfair.  I did not get my way and I’m not happy about it.  I have been active in my local school board election, supporting a long shot candidate and she/we lost.  People are stupid.  The world is stupid.  I’m going to move to a country that I can’t pronounce the name of and live happily ever after, surviving on natural berries and weaving my own clothing out of the fibers I pick up in the wild.

Fast forward the time machine to my adult self.  Yep, I’m still disappointed.  I don’t even think angry as much as I’m just plain disappointed.  The election loss was not about a personal candidate, but about an agenda and a philosophy chosen, which is different than the one for my family.  But not everyone thinks the way I do.  Namely about 17000 people who voted differently.  I can take a hint.

So now what?  I can try again next time, toilet paper the house of the winners, or move to another district, country, universe.  Or, I can live today just like I did yesterday.  My world hasn’t changed.  I still have the same goals, hopes and aspirations today that I did yesterday.  It’s merely that one of the paths I had hoped to travel down has a “no entrance” sign posted in front of it right now. I think it also has a “no loitering” sign as well, which means, time to let go and move on.

But this post isn’t really about an election- or my mood as much as it is about a way to look at how does one let go and go with a plan b?  I am reminded of one of my very favorite books of all time “Life is Good” by George Dawson.  If you haven’t read it, consider doing so.  George is a black man, grandson of sharecroppers.  As a young boy he witnesses a tremendous injustice and his reaction is similar to the one I started this blog with (although a bit more mature).  But his father instills a wisdom in his son that remains with him throughout his lifetime.  “Life is good and it’s only going to get better”.    The book is a telling of events throughout George’s life that, illustrate his father’s message into a reality.

So today, when I get cranky, I have a list of things I have to work at remembering:

-I have a family I love dearly

-I live in safety, I have a roof over my head, a job I love, food in my belly, friends that are loyal and giving

-I am healthy as is my family

-my life is good… and it’s only going to get better.

-and even this- I moved to this place largely for these schools.  Agree with them or don’t agree with them, they continue to provide an education for my children.  But it is not the only education my children will receive.  I always have the option, as do they to supplement or change that course.   More importantly, my children’s education is one tiny piece of my world- and their K-12 years are actually only a small piece of THEIR world-   Put it in perspective-  it doesn’t deserve this much energy or focus.  Look at the bigger picture.

So, this is my plan B:  working on staying in my adult voice, broadening the perspective, and most of all switching to a posture of gratitude and connection to something larger than me as being in charge of the world.  On that note- I hope you have the same kind of wonderful day, that I’m going to work towards having.

 

 

quiet time

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If someone asks you to think of your “happy place”, where would you pick?  For me, it is almost always running my hands through the silky curls atop my youngest son’s head.  And fortunately, he is still young enough that I get the chance to do this in real life, not just in my mind.  I think of it almost like a meditation.  And it goes something like this…

Look at him

He is so beautiful

This moment is so perfect

Wow, I’m here, being with him right now

No, don’t think about it, just do it

Its great

It’s great that I’m here just being

Wait, I’m thinking about it again, I’ve left being to thinking

Think about him, be with him

He is beautiful

I wish I could stay in the moment

 

And so it goes when I try any form of meditation.  I want to be “in the moment”- but I leave the moment to think about being in the moment.  Productive?  Yes and no.

I used to think meditation was the state of being absent of thought- just being still and void of thought and distraction.  But I have learned that’s not really how it works—at least not for me.  The real benefit I have learned from meditation is that it’s a place to practice bringing my mind back to the still and the quiet, if only for a second or two at a time.    But the act of bringing my mind back itself is a useful skill that I can apply at other times in my day when I get distracted from what I want to be doing.

I walk into a room looking for my keys.  I notice a glass on the counter.  I start towards the glass and hear myself say “not now- just look for the keys”.

I want to sit at my computer to write, and an email comes through catching my eye- “focus on your writing, the email can wait”.

I’m cooking baking and following a recipe and my kids come to tell me about something non-urgent-  I  stop and listen to them.  Oops- last week that resulted in my forgetting to put the eggs in to the muffin batter.  They didn’t turn out so well.  I wish I had used meditation.

There are a million distractions around us every single second. The choice to follow them… or not is up to us.  Carolyn Myss calls this the act of “calling your spirit home”.  Although we have a culturally prescribed proclivity towards doing several things at once, our brain can only process one at a time.  Forcing it to do more is not good for us.  The way to focus on a single track at a time is simply to practice. So pick your happy spot and visit often.

Run to Nebraska

I used to love watching movies, but since having my kids, I haven’t seen many that aren’t animated.  It’s hard for me to justify in my mind the time to just sit still for two hours when there are a million other things I could be doing.  But this weekend I indulged in the movie Nebraska.  When I saw the academy award lists, the description intrigued me.  I had not spoken with anyone who saw the movie, so I had no recommendation to watch.

Let me start by saying I LOVED this movie.  I watched it by myself (while making cards).  I fully intend to watch it again and get my husband to watch it with me.   But this post is less about a movie review and more about why I loved it and who I think would also enjoy watching the film if you haven’t seen it already.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but it’s basically about a man who decides to take his father on a long road trip to claim a sweepstakes prize.  Along the way they stop in the town where they used to live, and where relatives still live.  Everyone in the town has some sort of reaction to the man and son.  The father is also suffering from some dementia and is an alcoholic.    But the real essence of the movie for me is the relationship between the son and the father.  While dad is looking for his sweepstakes earnings, the son is looking for a way to love his father and in the end is clearly successful.

At the start of the movie the son seems to be operating from a scared child part of himself.  He wants to do the right thing, but he really doesn’t know what the right thing is.  He is lost, and reactive.  But he works towards finding his courage by taking a leap of faith, even when others tell him that, doing so is a stupid idea.  His character develops throughout the film, and clearly by the end he has become a man.  He responds to his father actively out of a sense of love and generosity.  There was for me, such a confident sense of him operating out of pure and selfless love.  Love for his father, love for himself of knowing he was doing the right thing at the right time.  And in so many ways, I suspect it was the first time the father ever truly experienced it, but its highly unlikely his father really absorbed the effort.  The best part is, that didn’t matter- the son still did it.   He ended the story with being able to see his father as a dignified man, rather than a pitiful drunk.  Talk about the power to create our own reality.

While the circumstances are not remotely the same, watching the film reminded me of my last day with my own mother.  I knew she was days if not hours (as it turned out to be) away from death.  That morning when I went to be with her she had not eaten any of her breakfast.  I pulled out some chocolate and said in a singsong voice like one does with a child “I have chocolate”.  I remember still how her face lit up like someone had just given her a magnificent gift.   In truth, she could only nibble on a little bite.  But for a brief moment, she and I were able to bond in a sense that the world was exactly as it should be and all was well.  Sometimes, that is the most magnificent gift we can give to another person.

Don’t underestimate the power that you just being where you are at any particular moment might provide for another person walking the earth.  You might think you just held the door open while the person walking through sees that someone finally noticed they needed help.  You might think you’re just chatting about the weather, and the other person felt invisible until that moment.  I realize this probably sounds trivial.  But remember, I have the experience of listening to the person who describes to me feeling unseen, unheard, undervalued.  I hear the stories of people who tell me what it is like when they receive a kindness, even from a stranger and how it impacts their world.  So my observations are not merely a Pollyanna wish of what I think could happen in the world.  They are informed by years of sitting in the same chair.  And if just a random act has power, think of how much more powerful you are by actively reaching out.

 

“We are treasure chests with more jewels inside than we can imagine.”
? Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha