Feeling Normal

A grueling dull day. Dull interspersed with uncomfortable feelings. I dragged myself out of the house in the late evening to the grocery store. I met a friend there. He said he’d had a dull, sleepy, down few days. It sounded like the depression-like state I was in.

Somehow it felt good. Just hearing that allowed me to feel normal.

I was ok! Just like that!

Why is it that its sometimes so difficult to trust where I’m at and what I’m feeling? Why is it that an explanation of my experience is necessary to justify my being okay with it, accepting it? I recall going through this on several occasions. Each time I’ve felt unsettled for a while until I talked to someone who might have suggested it was the weather. Or I’d read in a book that they were normal peri-menopause symptoms. Then suddenly, I felt NORMAL.Emerging

How refreshing it would be to feel more at ease with our experiences, trusting that we are always okay. Even with the discomforts that need attention, the changes that need to happen or the longings that beckon us forward.

Perhaps we need a change in diet or medication, a renewed commitment to routine, more walks in the woods or time with friends. There will also be times when we need to understand what may be going on for us, identify the cause of some illness or disruption in a relationship. And then we could reflect, practice Focusing with a guide or talk to a friend or professional.

We don’t need to feel other than normal. Something may just be a surprise, perplexing, something just out of the norm!

Just as we are always in process, so are our lives. What we see as interruptions are merely aspects of life’s process. Somehow along the way we develop ideas about what a smooth life process is, what is normal. Anything else is an interruption. Getting sick is not an interruption to our life, nor is an unexpected visit or traumatic experiences.

These events do interrupt what may be good and smooth and planned. They could also be a spoke in the wheel of vehicle stuck in the dung of dead habit. But truly they are just sentences in the paragraph of life’s chapters.

Why do we need to explain our own, our very own personal experiences in order to in order to honor them? Why can we not trust our life process, observe what’s going on, decipher what I need and follow through with our own inner guidance?

Let’s PAUSE for a moment:

-Are there times when you’ve felt like you need to be somewhere in life where you are not? Or you’re embarrassed to tell someone how you are doing or who you really are because you don’t fit some standard or ‘norm’? Perhaps you’ve been wise to hold back expressing yourself, suspected you may be judged. But does something in you also judge yourself? Just notice.

Take a moment to breathe into the realization that where you are is where you need to be right now. Who you are is exactly who you need to be right now. Gently allow those tentative or rejected parts of you to emerge, allowing them to feel accepted by you. Notice their beliefs about how they SHOULD be. These ‘shoulds’ could be pointing to strivings, places drawing you forward, like a parent’s arms beckoning a toddler to walk a few more steps towards them.

-Notice if you have some beliefs about the interruptions in your life. They could be pointing to the challenges that need some chewing on, introspection and support understanding. See if you can honor them for what they are, honoring your resistances AND desire to move forward.

Do feel free to contact me with comments, questions or your stories.

Mindful Connecting to Self and Other

I pause. I bring my attention inwards. I connect with that place in me where I experience peace and stillness. I feel centered and together. It’s silent there. No noise from likes and dislikes, attachments to ideas, beliefs or anxieties. No feelings, bad or good, just a sense of contentment, of completeness and clarity. I move forward in life.

I move forward in life anyway! We all do!

But often we do it while operating out of a part of ourselves, wounded aspects perhaps. Very often, we live for long periods of our lives enmeshed with aspects of ourselves, quite unknowingly.Self- and Other-Reflection

I’ve recently spent many days operating out of a part of myself that feels powerless, incompetent and rather paralyzed. It has felt like my circumstances, my own body and emotions were bigger that I am. I remembered to pause (finally!).

I acknowledged the power of my conditioning and re-committed to the practices that ground me, to some routine aspects of my life that get thrown off at these times. And I turned to others for support. I cannot and choose not to fight my battles alone. I luxuriate in the support of my sisters, friends and professionals.

Staying attuned to ourselves, staying connected to others!

PAUSE to reflect on this for a moment:

Do you recognize the sense of truly feeling connected to yourself, to that part of you that is detached from your experiences, emotions, and circumstances? Perhaps this is what Buddhism refers to as the experience the self-non-self. It is also referred to as the true self, the larger self, self in presence, or, consciousness. While one may grow in relationship to this place through meditation and silence, retreats, and perhaps in crises. Access to this place is always available to us, no matter where we are. People find activities like mindfulness practices, meditation, yoga, prayer, walks in nature, dance and journaling helpful to this end.

Who supports you in staying connected to yourself? Who reminds you to turn inwards when you feel you are losing your center, when you feel off balance? Be it friends or professionals, take time to sense who you’d like to have on your team. We can choose friends who make us feel good and loved, and we can choose friends who do that while reminding us to go inwards to connect with our strength and peace and wisdom.

Ask your friends to encourage you to tune inwards when you appear to be off balance, distraught or overwhelmed. Let them know how best you can hear their kind reminders, so they don’t sound like paternalistic, critical or judgmental voices to you. Show them how you want to be loved. These are probably the best friends you’ll ever have!

Questioning Values

I’d been working outdoors at the Zen temple longer than I planned. Seasonal allergens have been bothering me. A friend hearing how allergic I was remarked about how generous I was to put my service before myself, “A true Boddhisatva” she remarked.

She was sincere. But I was not happy with myself for knowingly doing some injustice and violence to my body that has only me to count on for its well-being. I knew I was taking a risk when I left my home that morning. But I did so want to go!

“No”, I wanted to say to her, “This is not being a true Boddhisatva”. My personal practice, my challenge has been to be more mindful of taking care of myself, something I tend to neglect. Helping others and keeping busy comes easily to me and meets some other disguised needs.

We each have our growing edges. Someone who is disorganized has organization as a goal she constantly strives towards. At the other end is someone whose daily life is disturbed because he is obsessively organized. Each has their own challenge. One person strives to be more sensitive to others while another is learning to guard against being overly sensitive to others. Each seeks their own individual balance.

Does any part of this story resonate with you?

Question Marks

We often strive to absorb values we have inherited from our familial, religious or cultural backgrounds regardless of whether they benefit. Have you also been raised with beliefs and values that seem absolute? What are your values? Are there any that are good in themselves but that have gone beyond being guiding principles, but are rather sources of distraction from your life path?

I invite you to take a look at some of your values: being responsible, caring, a good mother or father, hardworking. Consider your beliefs in the areas of sexuality, wealth, religion, environmental sentiments, or health.

How do these values guide your daily life? How do they help you? We may find that we’re either buying into values handed down to us or we’re reacting to them. Either way, we’re not responding freely. Everything has a place in our lives: food or wine, meditation, sports, work, relationships… and awareness of their role makes all the difference. Awareness of our beliefs and values puts us in charge of them, giving us the freedom to truly choose how we want to use them. Only we will really know whether our actions come from a place of freedom or habit.

Take a moment to PAUSE!

Bring to mind a value or belief that you sense has a hold over you. Could it be how you value friendships, money, or food… Notice how it influences your perceptions, feelings, relationships…

See if you can observe with no value judgments. Is this something that is helping you or has it gone unquestioned in your life. Gently ask inside: am I using this value as a guide or is it using me?

Notice what surfaces and feel free to email me with what you discover.

Exploring Our Resistance

We sometimes have a difficult time accepting people, situations and aspects of ourselves the way they are.

Resisting reality has a certain quality that feels uncomfortable. I have the image of a child pushing against a wall to make it move or banging her fists on the table, “I want ice cream NOW”. Imagine the frustration, the helplessness, the torture of wanting something that is not possible.

One would hope that caregivers would help the child in this difficult place, without either neglecting to hear her feelings or giving in to her cries for ice cream. Helping to train our children’s bodies and minds to live with less than perfect reality is one of the best gifts we could offer them. Learning to know when to push for something we want and when to let go is a skill that benefits us greatly.

When you encounter resistance, what do you do? Do you recognize it? Notice it? I know that I often do not notice that what I’m experiencing is a form of resistance. All that I may be aware of is that I don’t feel like doing something or talking to someone. I may feel frustrated about a situation or angry that I have to do something I dislike.

Let’s explore this: First see if you can put yourself in the mind and body of the child I just talked about and notice your feelings and body sensations. Notice as you struggle to push against that wall, hoping it will budge. Watch yourself as you get whiny and then loud as you desperately long for ice cream.

Take a moment to PAUSE and notice any one thing that you may be struggling with or something you are not at ease with in your life.

This could be you:
-“My teenaged child is acting out and I hate it”
-“I want my partner to want to spend more time with me”
-“I wish I did not have to work for a living”
-“I keep declining invitations to parties even though it would benefit my business if I were to go”

See if you can ease into the experience of that struggle. Notice it in a non-judgmental way. Allow the feelings to surface. See if you can describe those sensations in your body. What is it that you are having a hard time with? What’s underlying your wanting this reality to be different from the way it is?

The real reason for our difficulty in accepting something in or around us often lies hidden until we’re ready to open up and listen with a curiosity that is non-judgmental and caring. It could be that we are overworked, or feeling responsible or worried, maybe a need to feel acceptance and affection, or the discomfort of depriving ourselves of our desires and preferences.

After we discover the REAL cause of our resistance, the fear, the need, the desire; we can then be with those places in us as we would with a friend who may be grieving over a failed exam, a lost pet or the loss of a relationship.

“Yes, I know how much that meant to you”
“I know how hard it is to let go of that wish”
“I feel how scary that is for you”
“I do know what it’s like to long to feel loved”

When these places in us feel heard, they help us face difficult realities more easily. Resistances transform into forward movement.

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.

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!

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!

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!