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Unnoticed Efforts

Persistent in weeding a particularly weed friendly patch in the garden, I wondered: no one may ever notice that anything has been done in this area. They just see the strawberry plants growing strong and healthy.

We often fail to notice or give ourselves or others credit for the efforts, the energy and the hours that go into the weeding we do in our lives that enable us to be healthy and loving beings. We could have failed a class, let the garbage collect, splurged on ice cream, yelled out that angry thought…. but we didn’t. We often fail to notice the value of all the things we do or don’t do that takes some mindful effort on our parts. What we do overlook may be a clean house, completed homework, kind words or a healthy body.

Critics of the Obama administration tirelessly point out all that is not yet right and perfect with the country. How many of us pause to consider the disasters that have been prevented by careful actions taken, or the ‘band aid treatments’ that have been replaced by more far sighted actions to steer our nation towards the well- being of its citizens and a global movement forward.

I invite you to take a moment to PAUSE and reflect.

Recall all the ways you’ve been putting in efforts to live well, live happy and live true. Perhaps it’s making a conscious choice to be happy each morning or to eating well or helping around the house. Perhaps it is asking for help to learn or heal. There’s will power, humility, generosity, love, letting go of your way… so much that may have gone into that simple act that you do, but perhaps only you know what it has taken before it turned out right!

Allow yourself to really notice and rejoice when you recognize each effort to curb what might otherwise have made you a less than lovely you… to yourself and to all those around you. Notice the many tiny ways you create your life and your experiences! Notice your sincere intention, your choices, your efforts to follow up on the choices and the effects of those choices. If you have not reached the ‘just noticeable difference’ mark, just know that you will.

I have no doubt that when you become more aware of how much effort goes into who you have made of yourself and your life, you are much more likely to re-consider each criticism you levy towards another, and you’re much more likely to wonder about the efforts put in by others even when the results are not apparent.

Do email me if you like with comments, questions and your stories.

Is This Right for Me Now? Life Without ‘Shoulds’

We are constantly inundated with the latest research and professional opinions about what’s good for us, what we should do or be or have. We see television ads that overtly or subtly communicate how much better and easier life could be for us if we only…. we can always allow ourselves to be lacking in some way.

Marshall Rosenberg, in his book “Non-violent Communication,” refers to the word “should” as a violent word that “many of us would have trouble imagining how to live without it”. What if we did let go of all the ‘shoulds’? And all the externally directed solutions to our difficulties? How exactly are we to know what’s right for us: the right decision, the right partner, the right food or medical providers, or the right career?

One sure way that I know of is consulting with our inner Guide. Seeking this guidance includes and is much more than what our rational or emotional faculties can offer. And we have a way of accessing it. We can run anything that we are unsure about through that place that loves and knows us more profoundly than anyone else can.Life Without Shoulds

If you want to know if something is right for you, see if you’d like to try this:

-Just PAUSE for a moment and bring your attention inwards, taking a moment to become quiet (this may be crucial to separate yourself from all the activities of the day, your biases or the external voices about some issue that may be bombarding you).

-Bring to mind the idea you are wondering about into that quiet place(that interaction, that decision….)

-Just take it into that quiet place and step back (so those parts of you don’t feel pressured to produce answers. Feeling pressured delays or blocks truth-seeking)

-Notice how your body responds to the idea -This may come to you through a feeling of relief in your body, like a dropping of your shoulders. Or you will perhaps notice your stomach muscles tensing a little in response to the suggestion you are offering inside.

Check and see if these could mean a “Yes” or “No” or perhaps a “Maybe”.

Please note that you may not feel a strong body sensation. Be attentive to the little shifts in your body that may be indicative of the direction you seek. At the end, step back and see if you have a better sense of the issue you were attending to. It may feel different now. I have found this way to be reliable for myself and in my work with clients. This is a skill that develops with practice and guidance. Let me know how you fare at your attempts. Should you have any questions or comments do call or email me.

Getting to the Roots

I loosened the soil with a garden fork and tried a gentle tug. Some soil came apart and revealed more of the root system. I dug deeper and wider, careful not to break the root. A little later I was able to shake the soil loose from a whole length of root and pull the weed out completely. My partner looked pleased, “No more of that one will show up again”.

So it is with us. With ease we can remove the appearances of weeds in our lives- apparently harmless in themselves but they keep us from the fullness of life and growth, they keep us from the spaciousness we need to expand into our fullest potential.

Sometimes our weeds are the uncomfortable emotions which we try to run off (literally!) and feel better on the endorphin highs. Sometimes they are physical pains where Advil or Tylenol comes to the rescue. Often they are squabbles with loved ones or colleagues. Here we have a wider range of creative solutions: sucking it up, controlling the other, blaming, analyzing, or walking off stage!

I know of these responses well as I’ve used them all! They’ve screened the REAL issue from me, in some cases for years. All those temporary measures have only served to keep me from the freedom and joy that I could have experienced.

Are we getting to the root of our problems?
How often do we reflect on what’s REALLY going on?
Have we experience the aha of getting to what the issue is really about, even if it not resolved?

How about a moment of PAUSE when something’s bothering you! Make some time to do this little exercise. When you are in a quiet space, just invite your body to show you a sense of what’s REALLY going on with regard to something that’s bothering you:
-Be prepared to just wait and see what shows up, perhaps through a seemingly random memory, images, a body sensation or words. Just take your time.

(Your inside place does not need pressure to produce clear answers).

You might consider this to help you if you’re stuck:
-Imagine your life without this problem.
-Perhaps there’s some reason you still need this problem to be around.
-Maybe something in you is uncomfortable or scared. (Be warm and gentle with the scared place. But Do acknowledge it.)Being curious about what’s going on (not judgmental) takes us a l-o-o-o-o-ng way to loving and accepting ourselves and relating with our problems with greater ease.

These root extractions are not always painful. They often just call for a loving awareness of what’s really going on, and then when the time is right, a letting go.

Any noticingor wondering you’d like to share?
Respond below or send me an email.

Happy weeding!

Desire and Discomfort

Our lives are always in flux, each moment
Bearing elements of past experiences
and seeds of limitless future possibilities.

Many sincere meditation practitioners unintentionally dismiss or diminish the arrival of desires and discomforts too quickly. They may appear as distractions from the present.

One may try to focus one’s mind during meditation practice. At other times it may be wise to allow what arises on one’s consciousness to be there. A desire, a longing, a dream… they are real parts of our lives. How we relate with each experience is up to us. We can choose to be consumed by it, deny it or allow ourselves to listen to and be guided by it. Desires could take the form of wanting a bicycle, longing for more ease in a relationship, or a sense of financial security.

The same goes for discomforts: they are a real part of our experience. We can lean into each and choose to resist it or bear it, pay it some attention before it passes, or really seek it’s guidance before it leaves. Discomforts could be experienced as bodily feelings, worries, anxiety or a distaste of one’s job.

Just paying attention to the realities of our hopes and longings, our pain and discomfort can often be the most powerful source of guidance for us!

With the awareness of a longing or desire comes something in us that move us forward as well as parts of us that hold us back. If we welcome both these apparently conflicting places in us to have their say, we can find ourselves moving in a direction that feels right for us.

Can you take some time today to PAUSE and sense if there is a discomfort or pain in you waiting to be acknowledged?
Is there a longing, or a dream?
PAUSE with whatever arises giving each one just the kind of time and caring attention it needs.

Gently allow yourself to notice…. Some desires and discomforts may just need to be noticed before they make their way out of your life. Others may point you towards something that needs to change, be done away with or embraced. Stay curious!

For more information or help on HOW to stay curious and allow your discomforts and desires to guide and instruct you, see www.focusing.org or www.joyadcruz.com

Just Sounds

In my meditation class at a women’s prison we recently meditated with sounds. I told them about the time someone honked at me when I needed to take a left turn on a street with no lights or stop signs, when traffic in the opposite lane was heavy. I usually get pretty tense and panicky. This time I looked in the rear view mirror, scanned the situation and then I just registered “sound” (of the car horn behind me) and remained unaffected. I moved when it felt right to.

A woman came into my next class beaming.
She said excitedly “It worked”.
“What worked” I asked?
“The sound meditation!”

She had tried our sound meditation practice once when trying not to get sucked into the situation around her. Then she knew she could use it again and again. The unpleasant sounds in prison: officers’ commands, inmates arguing, words of anger and bitterness, gossip spewing all over… it’s hard to be unaffected. In the midst of this negativity and suffering she like my other students try to practice meditation.

This student was able to hear these otherwise annoying voices as “sounds”, consciously detaching from their meaning, filtering them (along with all the judgments that followed from her own mind about those people)out of her space since she did not need to engage with them. She noticed herself smiling her way through her day, drawing suspicious or curious looks from other inmates who thought she might be losing her mind, asking her if she was ‘okay’.

My students are learning to how to engage in and respond to their environment. They are learning how to decipher what needs their attention and how to filter out what does not need their attention, what brings them down, what throws them off from their internal space, and what they need to protect themselves. They are learning to tune and play their minds like rare instruments in their care.

Can you see your mind as a special musical instrument, one that you can care for, enjoy and master? This instrument begins to be your partner through life, responding to your touch.

You may want to try consciously listening to sounds around you.
Pause to allow yourself a few minutes away from everything else that could use your attention.

Close your eyes as this may help you to hear better.

Listen for sounds around you. Slowly expand your hearing to sounds further away, and then to those in the far distance.

Move from sound to sound. Avoid lingering on any one sound.

Also avoid identifying the sounds… that may take you into a thinking mode
Focus rather on the quality of the sounds.
Notice their quality: tone, loudness, timber, pitch…
Are they harmonious, melodious, harsh, or smooth?
Just notice.  Savor each sound!

Once your set time is up slowly bring your attention to your body and open your eyes.
What did you notice? Any surprise observations? Do you feel any different in your body from when you started the exercise? Did you enjoy the exercise?
Share your experiences!

Inherently Needy

“Judgments, criticism, diagnoses and interpretations of others are all alienated expressions of our needs”.
Marshall Rosenberg

Pause a minute to take this in.
Consider someone you have recently been judgmental or critical towards.
Bring the incident to mind. Notice how it felt inside you. What led up to your feeling this way?

I realized how detrimental my attitude towards my own needs was when I’d sometimes hear myself talk to one I loved dearly.  I cringe as I remember how over the course of our relationship I grew increasingly judgmental, critical and dissatisfied. I was ashamed of my own needs and even more so when I’d hear that I was ‘too’ needy!

Many of us in trying to learn to be independent adults and have healthy relationships have learned to be embarrassed by our neediness:  we try to deny, dismiss or disguise our needs. That does nothing to satisfy or transform them.  Notice how easy it is to acknowledge some of your needs and not as easy to admit to others.

Truth is,  we are inherently needy creatures: from the moment we are conceived… and every day of our lives. We are by our very nature interdependent.  No one escapes this aspect of our humanity. Our lives would be much smoother if we started by just accepting this fact!

Without accepting this we cannot begin to meet our needs. Paying attention to our needs is often about listening to and validating their existence.  Perhaps something in us wants to feel in control, something that feels just overwhelmed, envious or jealous. Allowing what is already there to be there exactly the way it is is the beginning of its transformation. “Whenever something in us feels loved it awakens to its own healing” writes Kevin McEvenue in Whole Body Focusing.

Pause here a moment!
Bring to mind a time you were critical or judgmental.
Allow yourself to ease into that memory a little, holding it at a distance that allows you to look at it without being sucked into it. Just be curious.  Was there something that you sense you needed?

Perhaps it was a part of you that needed to be acknowledged: It hurt, was scared or tired. Perhaps it was a need to be right, or in control of your situation. Maybe it was about being known and accepted…  by yourself or maybe someone else. Maybe it was one part of you needing to fit in with others while another part of you needed to hold your own, both real and requiring your acknowledgement in order to help guide you.

It sometimes takes a conscious pausing and introspection to become clear about our real needs. Being open and ready to explore non-judgmentally makes this process shorter and sweeter. Perhaps what may first sound like “I need a walk” may after some reflection appear to be more like a need time to be alone. The walk is perhaps your answer to how that need can be met. If we express our needs unclearly, we may soon have to deal with someone pressing to go for that walk with us and then have the task of saying “No” while perhaps trying not to hurting their feelings.  Perhaps it is exercise that you need and not being alone. That would change how you might communicate your need.

Begin to pay attention to your discomforts, the feeling of lacking something, a frustration, restlessness or an envious feeling. Pause and sense the underlying need trying to pop its head out to be noticed.

Try it!
Let me know what you discover.

Becoming aware of your needs is just the beginning. Communicating your needs to others when necessary is the next step.

Click here for Marshall Rosenberg’s simple and very effective system to make gentle and effective requests of others.

More about the difference between needs and wants in another post!

When Anger Knocked… I Opened the Door

“I had a moment”, a Focusing student recently told me “when I was feeling so angry. I changed it to ‘a part of me is feeling so angry’ and just like that it was gone.” She ended with “Wow!”

This speaks to the power of acknowledging our feelings exactly the way they are, not denying them or giving in to them, just putting them in perspective.  Our emotions don’t always disappear that quickly. When we realize they are part of our larger experience and give them due attention, they can be our guides.Open the Door

Their wisdom may come to us in the form of words, feelings, or images. The skill in deciphering their message lies in staying away from what we think the emotion is all about.  Perhaps it’s something in us that is tired and needs us to slow down. Perhaps it’s about some part of us that gets us into trouble and needs our attention. Maybe it’s a need that longs to be fulfilled or a word of caution about something.

Then just as we would listen to a child, we try to rest our attention where it needs to be and allow what emerges to come through. Having told of its fear or pain or longing the emotion may leave, sometimes for good.  Try it the next time something comes between you and being fully okay.

Pause!

Try to sense what’s really going on.
(It seems to help to bring your attention to the middle part of your body. But perhaps you already have a bodily sense somewhere: a tension, a tug a pain).

When you have even a vague sense of what it feels like say inwardly:
“Something in me feels….” (It may be a feeling word or an image word that only makes sense to you, like tight or yuck or blah or gooey!)

Then stay with that experience for a little while. Perhaps it will go away. Perhaps it will get a little stronger before it goes away. It could even yield an insight or a concrete action you need to take in your life.

Welcome your guests as Rumi suggests in his poem “The Guest House”!

“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!”

And feel free to write me about your experience or questions.

On Valentine’s Day

I muse:

Along with the delightful colors, sounds and bargains of the day, there sometimes comes the grief of a lost love, the longing for a partner or the sadness of being in an empty relationship. Perhaps we’ve been through all of these experiences in our lifetime.

But aside from our romantic love relationships, there’s us, ourselves.

How often do we pause to allow tender feelings towards ourselves, really love and cherish who we are:

ALL of who we are,

the whole package: caring, selfish, adorable, annoying, poetic or practical.

There’s no one who CAN know or care more for ourselves than we can.

And we have a lifetime in this relationship!

Can we find it in our hearts to sing to ourselves in the words of The Seekers:

“It’s a long long journey, so stay by my side…

For I know I’ll never find another you”.

Here’s the song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ga9Bs4fzSY

Feel free to respond with your questions, comments or stories!

Pausing to Take It In

I’ve dreamed of starting my own practice doing what I love; working to see people stand strong in their uniqueness, wanting to embrace everything about themselves: their looks and styles, abilities and disabilities; people secure enough to make it safe for others to be themselves. I want to guide people to their own wisdom and inner resources.

I allowed the apparent stuckness in my career to lead me to a workshop on Starting Your Own Business. Weeks later I was applying to register my business, Life Rhythms. That was exactly a year ago!

I pause to reminisce. Memories of holding fast to a vision, meeting a variety of challenges: the decisions, the waiting, and the changes. Each memory brings a new, sometimes subtle set of sensations: a gurgle, a spaciousness, a tightness. I stay a while with each before I allow another memory to slip in. I drink deeply of this time of remembering. In stopping to be with an unpleasant taste I am surprised. It’s not so bitter after all! And the good one tastes more delicious.

How often do we PAUSE to really take in an experience in all its richness?

Try it! For just 30 seconds.

PAUSE.

Allow the fullness of this moment to receive your full attention.

Notice your thoughts, notice if there are any feelings lurking around.

Make room for the sensations in your body…

RELISH the experience… for it will pass, pleasant or unpleasant IT WILL PASS.

Try it!
– when someone thanks you for something. Pause, breathe, take it in.
– when you feel the cold wind whip around your ears, sense what that’s like.
– when you’re sad or mad or worried: just really observe the experience in your body, allow yourself to pause enough to feel it and describe it.

Notice what happens! Perhaps you’ll be surprised too!

Do feel free to share with me your comments, wonderings and stories.