Five Invitations

“I have come to know that death is an important thing to keep in mind – not to complain or to make melancholy, but simply because only with the honest knowledge that one day I will die can I ever truly begin to live.”

– R.A. Salvatore 

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For those of you who missed my last newsletter, I’m posting it here.  There are links to articles and lots of exciting news about upcoming events.  If you want to sign up for my newsletter, you can sign up here – under ‘Stay Inspired.’ 

 

Welcome to This Way Up!

Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more on what death has to teach us about living life, news about upcoming summits, and updates about the This Way Up Audio Book! You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.

What Can the Dying Teach Us if We Are Willing to Listen?

“As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Once again I have so much to be grateful for in what my sons teach me. This time, I am grateful for both of them pushing me to explore the wonders of podcasts. Of course I have listened to podcasts, I’ve even been interviewed on several, but it’s been a half-hearted effort. On their last trip home, they downloaded a podcast app and steered me to several podcasts they enjoyed. Since then, I have been playing podcasts on every trip in my car. I’m hooked! Mind you, as most of you know, I’m an addict at heart—so everything I do, I often overdo! But at this point, I’m loving it and it doesn’t seem to be doing me any harm.

The first podcast that my sons turned me on to was an interview with Frank Ostaseski, a leader in the field of hospice and end-of-life care, on a podcast called Waking Up with Sam Harris. But actually Tara Brach is much more my style, so I then listened to her interview with Ostaseski on her podcast, Tara Talks.  I was so affected that I bought Ostaseski’s book, The Five Invitations.

I explored this concept, learning about life by listening to the dying, in my latest article on Thrive Global. The message in the book has five invitations to us based on what Ostaseski has learned from people who are dying:

  1. Don’t Wait.
  2. Welcome Everything; Push Away Nothing
  3. Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience
  4. Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things
  5. Cultivate “Don’t Know” Mind

Don’t Wait. The idea of the first invitation seems obvious.  If you are dying, you can’t wait to do things; there is an immediacy to everything.  But this has a message to all of us:

“This idea can both frighten and inspire us. Yet, embracing the truth of life’s precariousness helps us to appreciate its preciousness.  We stop wasting our lives on meaningless activities. We learn to not hold our opinions, our desires, and even our own identities so tightly. Instead of pinning our hopes on a better future, we focus on the present and being grateful for what we have in front of us right now. We say, ‘I love you’ more often. We become kinder, more compassionate and more forgiving.”

Push Away Nothing. When I think about the second invitation, that feels very hard.  My logical mind says, but what about the horrible stuff?  I don’t want to welcome the bad stuff. Ostaseski explains, though:

In welcoming everything, we don’t have to like what’s arising or necessarily agree with it, but we need to be willing to meet it, to learn from it. The word welcome confronts us; it asks us to temporarily suspend our usual rush to judgment and to be open, to what is showing up at our front door. To receive it in the spirit of hospitality. At the deepest level, this invitation is asking us to cultivate a kind of fearless receptivity.”

Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience is a good invitation for me. I often hold back, thinking I have nothing to offer here or I don’t know how to deal with this. I believe if I can’t contribute some kind of knowledge to something, then I should not contribute. I know this is from ego, that I want to look good if I’m going to contribute. But Ostaseski explains gently:

“We all like to look good. We long to be seen as capable, strong, intelligent, sensitive, spiritual, or at least well-adjusted. Few of us want to be known for our helplessness, fear, anger, or ignorance. Yet more than once I have found an ‘undesirable’ aspect of myself—one about which I previously had felt ashamed—to be the very quality that allowed me to meet another person’s suffering with compassion instead of fear or pity.”

Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things. The fourth invitation is a wonderful reminder for all of us, I think. After listening to the podcast with Tara Brach, I downloaded another app to help remind me to find a place of rest in the middle of a busy time.  The app, Insight Timer, has meditations on my phone to remind me and aid me in resting.

Cultivate “Don’t Know” Mind. The fifth invitation is a Zen flavored-invite, one that describes a mind that’s open and receptive, one that is not limited by agendas, roles, and expectations.

“It is free to discover. When we are filled with knowing, when our mind is made up, it narrows our vision and limits our capacity to act. We only see what our knowing allows us to see. We don’t abandon our knowledge – it’s always there in the background should we need it – but we let go of fixed ideas. We let go of control.”

These five invitations are a gift to all of us, supportive in our life. They invite us to continue to explore and understand what it means to be alive now; not just to cope with death, but to live.

And I whole heartedly agree with Ostaseski, they are relevant guides to living with integrity. We need to live these invitations: to be truly understood, they need to be lived and realized through action. They indeed are “five invitations for you to be fully present for every aspect of your life.”

If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to watch the conversation between Tara Brach and Frank Ostaseski. It is enlightening and inspiring!

Upcoming Summits: You’re Invited!

I am so excited to be participating in two events in March.  Each summit or master class is completely free and full of amazing information from a host of experts.

Authenticity Is Power: Get out of your own way and into success, by being yourself always!

Live online now.

Learn more and join the event.

Reclaim Your Life: Get Clear, Simplify and Do Something Worthwhile

Going live March 12.

Learn more and join the event.

This Way Up Will Soon Be an Audio Book!

This Way Up is being made into an audio book! The book is being narrated by the fantastic character actress, Janice Kent. When it is ready, it will be available on my Amazon page and I will send a special link for the book in my newsletter. I can’t wait to share this new version of the book with you!

Buy the Book!

“Author Patti Clark is a cross between Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron.”

This Way Up is a story of healing for women who yearn to lead a fuller life, accompanied by a workbook to help readers work through personal challenges, discover new inspiration, and harness their creative power. . .

Women spend so much of life nurturing and giving to others that when they find themselves alone—because of an empty nest, the end of a marriage, or the death of a partner—they often struggle with feeling purposeless. This Way Up provides a step-by-step way out of this sense of loss and into a life filled with enthusiasm, creativity, and joy.

Buy Online
 

 I’d like to close this post with a guided meditation by Tara Brach called Opening and Calming.  It is well worth the watch/listen.  It is soothing and calming.

 

Thank you for being part of this movement. Watch this space for more in the months ahead.  Stay informed about all of my upcoming events.  Sign up for my newsletter here.

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Is Love All You Need?

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”
― Anaïs Nin

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I was sitting in the seat of the car, looking out the window, pouting. The day was not going as I had planned it in my head. He should have known! He must have known how I wanted it to be, after all we were married and he should know . . . he should be able to read my mind . . .

Lennon and McCartney tell us that Love is All You Need. But in the case of romantic love, is that true?

Alain de Botton describes why we created and still live by the inaccurate, and often disastrous image of romantic love in his NYT article: “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.”

In the past, people married for practical reasons, but in the 1800s, we replaced practicality with the romantic version of love:

“For most of recorded history, people married for logical sorts of reasons: because her parcel of land adjoined yours, his family had a flourishing business, her father was the magistrate in town, there was a castle to keep up, or both sets of parents subscribed to the same interpretation of a holy text. And from such reasonable marriages, there flowed loneliness, infidelity, abuse, hardness of heart and screams heard through the nursery doors. The marriage of reason was not, in hindsight, reasonable at all; it was often expedient, narrow-minded, snobbish and exploitative. That is why what has replaced it — the marriage of feeling — has largely been spared the need to account for itself.”

Romantic Love tells us that we all have a soul mate out there and it is our task to find our one true soul mate, and we will know when we find him or her because we will have that very special feeling. Botton describes this search for romantic love in his very entertaining talk “On Love” from ‘The School of Life.’

We are led to believe that when we find our soul mate, we will never be lonely again, that person will understand us completely and practically be able to read our mind. (flashback to me in the car pouting) We will feel completely understood and loved. This love shall be one long romantic holiday . . .

 

The reality is though that what we are looking for when we fall in love is familiarity. We are not necessarily drawn to people who will make us happy, we are drawn to people who will feel familiar.

“What we really seek is familiarity — which may well complicate any plans we might have had for happiness. We are looking to recreate, within our adult relationships, the feelings we knew so well in childhood. The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes. How logical, then, that we should as grown-ups find ourselves rejecting certain candidates for marriage not because they are wrong but because they are too right — too balanced, mature, understanding and reliable — given that in our hearts, such rightness feels foreign. We marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.”

Botton adds:

“The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”

For a relationship to last, we need more than that out-dated version of romantic love. So what do we need to make a lasting relationship? Well for one thing, we definitely need good communication. The day out with my husband would have turned out a lot differently if I had communicated my vision for the day instead of assuming that my husband should just know.

But aside from good communication, science is showing us that lasting relationships come down to two things: kindness and generosity.

In Atlantic Magazine’s article ‘Masters of Love’, psychologists John and Julie Gottman describe their work. Together they have studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. From the data they gathered, they were able to separate the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages.

The masters felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. Whereas the disasters were in a state of ‘fight or flight’ even when they were not fighting. It’s not that the masters had a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

“Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird. The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that. People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper.”

Gottman explains that masters have a habit of mind in which they scan the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes. And it’s not just scanning the environment, it’s also scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or wrong; criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.

The Gottmans have found that contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them will eventually kill the love in the relationship. On the other hand, kindness glues couples together. Kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated. Kindness makes us feel loved.

So if we are looking to live happily ever after together, we need to ditch the antiquated version of romantic love and move forward in the spirit of kindness and generosity.

I’d like to close this post with the video by Alaine de Botton that I mentioned above.  It is well worth the watch, both amusing and insightful.

 

Let me know your thoughts on romantic love and what makes a relationship withstand the test of time.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Healing Shame and Finding Well-Being

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”

― Brené Brown

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My reaction was similar to many other people I know when I first saw the hash tag ‘MeToo’ on twitter and on Facebook. I thought ‘Oh another hash tag on social media . . . Ho hum.’ But then in less than an hour, my wall was full of #MeToo from female friends on Facebook. Little did I know at that point how much Actress Alyssa Milano’s post would impact me personally. So personally in fact that I decided I had to get public with it on Thrive.

Of course, what we now know is that Tarana Burke, a native of Harlem, New York, was the original creator of the Me Too movement over a decade ago, before hash tags and social media. But it was Milano’s post, on October 16th that impacted me.

When I saw the original post, I felt vaguely uncomfortable, but ignored it. It wasn’t even when I saw my wall flooded with #MeToo that I really understood it’s impact. It was only later, over coffee with a friend, that it hit me, the full magnitude of how this related to me personally.

What #MeToo did, was to open up a huge, previously taboo, conversation with other women. Looking back at myself in my 20s, I was a ‘party girl’ and a bartender. I had a lifestyle that ‘invited’ that kind of behavior. I had convinced myself that I had deserved and been ‘responsible for’ the intimidation and harassment that I experienced.

Early in my own personal recovery process, I took full responsibility for my actions and my past behavior . . . full and total responsibility. And thus the shame lived on. I first read about this topic in John Bradshaw’s  ‘Healing the Shame that Binds You.’ Yes I read the book and yes I talked about the concept. But still, said the little voice in my head, if you hadn’t been that drunk, if you hadn’t put yourself in that situation… I still believed that I was responsible for the treatment on some level because of my own behavior.

What I discovered through conversations with other women is that there are a lot of us who still blame ourselves for what happened to us. “If I hadn’t been that drunk” and “If I had been wearing a bra” and “If I hadn’t been so stoned” then that wouldn’t have happened. And most of us have kept that bottled up inside of us, continuing to blame ourselves for our own ‘reprehensible behavior.’

This campaign has opened up the conversation, opened up the willingness to look at the behavior, not with shame, but with a desire to share the story. We are comparing notes and listening, and we are realizing that we are not alone.

There are so many layers to this problem. Looking at the culture of misogyny and who is in the position of power that enables this to happen. I’m aware of this and of course we still have so far to go. But today, I simply want to express gratitude, gratitude that even after so many years of recovery and therapy, these conversations have helped to heal a part of me that remained buried for over thirty years. I am writing now to say thank you for what was not just another ‘social media craze’ but instead was a catalyst to heal. Healing through deep and nourishing conversations with other women, initiated by a simple comment, ‘Me Too.’

I’ll close with a clip from John Bradshaw

 

 

I’d love to hear how the #MeToo campaign impacted you, or how shame itself has impacted your life.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Life can be hard – but shift happens

Some people think that it’s holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it’s letting go.

―Hermann Hesse

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We are experiencing a lot of pain out there at the moment.  A lot of women that I hear from in workshops and via email are going through hard times right now.  Children leaving home, friends and children suffering from addiction, dealing with divorce and all sorts of physical and emotional pain.

An article I wrote, Bouncing Back after Divorce was just published in Thrive Global, Arianna Huffington’s wonderful online resources.  Although the topic is bouncing back after divorce, the content, I believe, can be useful in coping with a lot of life’s painful events.

The messages are about taking care of YOU, loving yourself through the pain.  It’s not always easy to do, especially as women, we seem to have a hard time doing this.  But we can move through the pain, shift does happen!

The coping strategies I talk about in the article are ones that I talk about a lot on this blog:

  1. Get Creative
  2. Re-wiring your brain and paying attention to what you think
  3. Happiness and well-being
  4. Love yourself first
  5. Gratitude
  6. Paying attention to Distractions
  7. Paying attention to Inspiration

These coping strategies really do help, read about what you can do, starting right now.

We don’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how to act and learn from these events. Shift really does happen.

I’d like to close with a TED talk about surviving divorce.  But like everything else, the coping mechanisms described by Dr. David Sbarra, are applicable to most ‘What Now’ moments. One of his biggest suggestions is getting enough sleep – always really great suggestion!

 

I’d love to hear how shift is happening for you.  I love learning from all of you.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Happy 2017 – A Year for Cultivating Gratitude

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
― Thornton Wilder

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Happy New Year! I think the general consensus is that 2016 was a rough year for most people, on so many levels.  But in this post I don’t want to focus on politics or difficulties, but instead on cultivating gratitude. A new year is the perfect time to be cultivating gratitude and a renewed focus on what you appreciate. And 2017 is in particular a great place to start because from a numerological perspective, 2017 is a “one” year. (In short: 2+0+1+7 = 10 = 1+0 = 1.) Numerology looks at time in nine-year cycles, in which a “one” year begins a new nine-year cycle of creativity, learning and growth. It is a time of intentions and planning for the next phase. The intentions and foundations you build in 2017 can help shape the upcoming years. A “one” year is the perfect time to set intentions and goals for yourself.  It’s an important year to take time for yourself and clarify the direction you want to travel. And a perfect time to focus on gratitude for what you have.  My new years message talks about this and about the importance of silence in your routine. You can read more about that here in my newsletter.  And if you want to read more about the science of silence, you can read about that in my article in Thrive.

Cultivating gratitude is so important as we enter 2017.  Psychology Today defines the benefits of gratitude as:

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to, for example, a consumer-driven emphasis on what one wants. Gratitude is getting a great deal of attention as a facet of positive psychology: Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, gratefulness—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.

Another good reason to cultivate gratitude is:

“Your experience of life is not based on your life, but what you pay attention to.”

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And when you pay attention to what you are grateful for, that becomes your experience. It becomes your experience that life is good and full and wonderful.

I have often quoted Melody Beattie here but it is so appropriate, I have to do it again.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

 

In Japanese Psychology, on a wonderful site, The ToDo Institute,  seven principals for cultivating gratitude are given:

  1. Gratitude is independent of our objective life circumstances
  2. Gratitude is a function of attention
  3. Entitlement precludes gratitude
  4. We often take for granted that which we receive on a regular basis
  5. Gratitude can be cultivated through sincere self-reflection
  6. Expressing gratitude, through words and deeds, enhances our experience of gratitude
  7. Our deepest sense of gratitude comes through grace, with the awareness that we have not earned, nor do we deserve all that we’ve been given.

If you are looking for a way to focus on gratitude as 2017 unfolds, I suggest getting a ‘Gratitude Journal’ – and start by just writing down 3 things you are grateful for every morning before you even get out of bed. And if that feels too hard, then just think of 3 things you are grateful for before you get up. That’s a great start!

If you are feeling more ambitious, I can suggest a wonderful course on Daily Om! It’s a new course I have authored and it’s available here.  The course is offered with the option of selecting how much you want to pay. No matter how much you pay, you’ll be getting the same course as everybody else. Daily Om believes that people are honest and will support the course with whatever they can afford. And if you are not 100% satisfied, they will refund your money.  So what have you got to lose? It’s a great way to start the year.

I’ll close with a YouTube clip describing the course so you can get a better idea of what it is about.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you cultivate gratitude and it’s impact on you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Forgiveness

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
― Anne Lamott

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Really exciting news – Arianna Huffington, renowned founder of Huffington Post, has launched a new venture called Thrive Global!

Thrive Global’s mission is to end the epidemic of stress and burnout by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance both well-being and performance.

Recent science has shown that the pervasive belief that burnout is the price we must pay for success is a delusion. We know, instead, that when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, creativity and productivity improve dramatically.

Thrive Global’s three interconnected core components are: corporate trainings and workshops that bring the latest strategies and tools around health and well-being to organizations; a media platform that serves as the global hub for the conversation about well-being and performance with an emphasis on action; and, an e-commerce platform that offers a curated selection of the best technology and products for well-being. Together, the three components create an integrated platform that empowers people to make sustainable changes to their daily lives, going from knowing what to do to actually doing it.

Thrive Global is committed to accelerating the culture shift that allows people to reclaim their lives and move from surviving to thriving.

It is an amazing site and I urge you to check it out and if you are so inclined, sign up for their newsletter.  It’s helpful and healing.

I was honored to have an article about Forgiveness in their inaugural edition. And I’d like to share it here:

As we enter the holiday season, many of us will be joining family members and friends that we may not have seen in awhile. Time with family often dredges up old resentment and anger for a lot of us. And especially with the divisiveness of the past election, this holiday season may be rife with tension for many. When I think about the resentments I still carry around, I try to remember that forgiving those people I’m still angry at helps me, it’s for my own healing.

But I believe a lot of us get stuck on the idea of what forgiveness actually means. Forgiveness is defined as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether you believe they actually deserve your forgiveness. Remember the act of forgiving is for you the forgiver, not the person you are forgiving.

Forgiveness does not mean that you gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offence against you. It does not mean forgetting nor excusing what has been done. It does not mean you have to reconcile with the person or release them from legal accountability.

As Anne Lamott puts it: “Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare.” Forgiveness is for the forgiver. It brings the forgiver peace and hopefully freedom from anger.

I love Jack Kornfield’s definition of forgiveness:

Forgiveness is, in particular, the capacity to let go, to release the suffering, the sorrows, the burdens of the pains and betrayals of the past, and instead to choose the mystery of love. Forgiveness shifts us from the small separate sense of ourselves to a capacity to renew, to let go, to live in love.

Ok so forgiveness is for the forgiver, but why should we do it in the first place? What’s in it for me? Here are a few great reasons. The Mayo Clinicexplains that letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Higher self-esteem

We may accept that forgiveness is a good thing to practice in general, and can actually be good for our health, but how do we go about it? What exactly do we do? Fred Luskin is a pioneer in the science and practice of forgiveness. He offers us nine steps toward forgiveness:

1. Understand how you feel about what happened and be able to explain why the situation is not OK. Then discuss it with someone you trust.

2. Commit to yourself to feel better; remember forgiveness is for you and no one else.

3. Remember forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to reconcile with the person who upset you; it does not condone the action. In forgiveness you are seeking peace for yourself.

4. Recognize that the distress now is coming from the hurt feelings and physical upset you are currently suffering, not from what offended you or hurt you when it happened.

5. At the moment you feel upset, practice stress management to soothe your body’s fight or flight response. Take a deep breath.

6. Stop expecting things from other people that they do not choose to give you.

7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you.

8. Remember that living well is the best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving power over you to the person who caused you pain, look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you. Put more energy into appreciating what you have rather than attending to what you do not have.

9. Amend the way you look at your past so you remind yourself of your heroic choice to forgive.

So if old resentment and anger is dredged up this holiday season, or if new frustrations and resentments emerge, remember letting go of the anger and practicing forgiveness is for your own peace of mind. Try taking a deep breath and walking away. It’s for your own good.

I’d like to close with a video that I love. It is worth watching again and again. A video by Jack Kornfield called The Ancient Heart of Forgiveness.

I hope you’ll take some time to watch this powerful video. I’d love to hear your thoughts about forgiveness, and how you manage to forgive those who have hurt you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Heroes and Role Models

“Now you get to tell it, because then it will become medicine – that we evolve; that life is stunning, wild, gorgeous, weird, brutal, hilarious and full of grace.
– Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is my favorite author.  There I’ve said it.  I struggle to say that because there are so many amazingly wonderful writers out there. But really, it’s true. Lamott never fails to bring me to tears and to laughter, usually within the same paragraph.

The first book I read of hers was Operating Instructions, A Journal of My Son’s First Year. I laughed til I cried, and I hadn’t even had my own kids yet.  And then after I gave birth to my son, I read it again, and I cried even harder.

I follow her on FB, and she doesn’t disappoint, even though she just sort of writes stream of consciousness there. A couple of days ago she wrote this post.  I loved it so much I sent it to a couple of friends, and they both loved it too. But I want to share it with you too.

I have recently been going through my own bouts of what she terms  psycho doing-ness and achieving-ness. And it’s always nice to read about someone else going through that stuff:

Nearly twenty years ago, I arrived at a fancy writer’s conference, in what were some of America’s most majestic mountains, where I was looking forward to meeting a great (and sexy) American director, who’d given a lecture the day before. But he had already left.

There was, however, a letter from him, to me: to not-all-that-well-known me. It began well enough, with praise for Bird by Bird, and gratitude for how many times it had inspired him when he got stuck while writing screenplays. He singled out my insistence on trying to seek and tell the truth, whether in memoir or fiction, and my belief that experiencing grief and fear were the way home. The way to an awakening. That God is the Really Real, as the ancient Greeks believed. And God is Love. That tears were not to be suppressed, but would, if expressed, heal us, cleanse up, baptize us, help us water the seeds of new life that were in the ground at our feet.

Coming from a world famous director, it felt like the New York Glitterati was stamping it’s FDA seal of approval on me, and my work.

Unfortunately, the letter continued.

He wrote that while he had looked forward to meeting me, he’d gathered from reading my work that many of my closest friends and family members seemed to have met with traumatic life situations, and sometimes early deaths. So basically, he was getting out of Dodge before I got my tragedy juju all over him, too.

I felt mortified, exposed. He made it seem like I was a sorrow-mongerer, that instead of being present for family and friends who had cancer or sick kids or great losses, I was chasing them down.

And I flushed in that full body Niacin-flush way of toxic shame, at being put down by a man of power, that had been both the earliest, and now most recent, experiences of soul-death throughout my life.

My clingy child was drawing beside me, What did I do? You can’t use your child as a fix, like a junkie. That’s abuse; plus it won’t work.

Well, duh–I fell apart, on the inside, like a two dollar watch.

I had stopped drinking nearly 15 years before, stopped the bulimia 14 years earlier, and so did not have many reliable ways to stuff feelings back down. Also, horribly, my young child, two thousand miles from home, upon noticing my pain, clung even more tightly. I wanted to shout at him, “Don’t you have any other friends?”

What I did was the only thing that has ever worked. After finding a safe and stable person to draw with my son, I called someone and told her all my terrible fears and feelings and projections and secrets.

It was my mentor, Horrible Bonnie.

She listens.

She believes that we are here to become profoundly real, and therefore, free. But horribly–hence her name–she insists that if we want to be free, we have to let every body be free. I hate and resent this so much. It means we have to let the people in our families and galaxies be free to be asshats, if that is how they choose to live.

This however, does not mean we have to have lunch with them. Or go on vacation with them again. But we do have to let them be free.

She also knows, and said that day, that Real can be a nightmare in this world that is so false. The pain and exhaustion of becoming real can land you in the an abyss. And abysses are definitely abysmal; dark nights of the soul; the bottom an addict hits.

And this, she said, was just a new bottom, around people-pleasing, and the craving for powerful fancy people to approve of me. It was a bottom around my psycho doing-ness, my achieving-ness.

She said that because I felt traumatized, and that there had been so much trauma in my childhood, and so many losses in the ensuing years, that the future looked like trauma to me.

But it wasn’t the truth!

There was a long silence. (Again: she listens.)

Finally, I said in this tiny child’s voice, “It isn’t?”

Oh, no, she said. The future, as with every bottom I have landed at, and been walked through, would bring great spiritual increase.

She said I had as much joy and laughter and presence as anyone she knew and some of this had to do with the bottoms I’d experienced, the dark nights of the soul that god and my pit crew had accompanied me through. The alcoholism, scary men, etc.

She said that what I thought the director had revealed was that I am kind of pathetic, but actually what I was getting to see, with her, and later, when I picked up my luscious clingy child, in the most gorgeous mountains on earth, was that I was a ral person of huge heart, laughter, feelings and truth. And his was the greatest gift of all.

The blessing was that again and again, over the years, we got to completely change the script. Thank God. We got to re-invent ourselves, again.

But where do we even start with such terrible days and revelations? She said I’d started when I picked up the 300-pound phone, told someone the truth, felt my terrible feelings. Now, time for radical self care. A shower, some food, the blouse I felt prettiest in. Then I could go get my boy and we could explore the mountain streams.

Wow. We think when we finally get our ducks in a row, we’ve arrived. Now we’ll be happy! That’s what they taught us, and what we’ve sought. But the ducks are bad ducks, and do not agree to stay in a row, and they waddle off quacking, and one keels over, two males get in a fight, and babies are born. Where does that leave your nice row?

I got about five books out of the insights I gleaned from our talk. I still have a sort-of heart shaped rock my son fished out of a stream later. Sadly, this director’s movies have not done well in the last twenty years. Not a one. And all of his hair has since fallen out. Now, as a Christian, my first response to this is, “Hah hah hah.”

But Horrible Bonnie would say, Now you get to tell it, because then it will become medicine. Tell it, girl– that we evolve; that life is stunning, wild, gorgeous, weird, brutal, hilarious and full of grace. That our parents were a bit insane, and that healing from this is taking a little bit longer than we had hoped. Tell it. Well…okay. Yes.

I want to close with a great video clip:

Hanging Out with Anne Lamott – Point Loma Writer’s Symposium By the Sea 2014.

 

I’d love to hear about your favorite authors and your role models.

And as always thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Insights from 2014

Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it.
Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin.

– Hermann Hesse


One of the things I love about starting a new year is making intentions. One of the intentions I usually make is to pay better attention. Which means that for the first few weeks of the year anyway, I’m paying closer attention to life, being more mindful in what I do. Wish it lasted longer than just a few weeks, but baby steps, right?

And along with intentions for the year to come, I love to look back on the past year and see what insights I’ve gained. One of my insights from 2014 is that I always feel better, more connected when I’m paying closer attention to the present moment. Another insight from this year is how much better I feel – body, mind and spirit – when I’m alcohol free.  So once again, I’ve decided to abstain from any alcohol for awhile.  This is not a new behaviour for me. Alcohol and I have quite a history. This isn’t a typical ‘New Year’s Resolution’ – this has been coming for quite awhile, I’ve been alcohol free for several months now. It just feels like alcohol doesn’t fit within the context of who I’m becoming.

I like reading the articles that come out in the new year about the ‘bests’ of the year that has passed.  And I love learning about other people’s insights from the previous year. So it’s no surpise that my favorite article is from The Greater Good Website.  Not only do I love that site! But the article combines those two things, the best of and insights gleaned. The article is based on the annual list of the top scientific insights produced by the study of happiness, altruism, mindfulness, gratitude – the science of a meaningful life. The article –  The Top 10 Insights from Science of a Meaningful Life in 2014  – is wonderful. It’s well worth reading the whole article, but for those of you who like things put in a nutshell, here you go:

  1. Mindfulness can reduce racial prejudice—and possibly its effects on victims.
  2. Gratitude makes us smarter in how we spend money. (Makes us better in all we do!)
  3. It’s possible to teach gratitude to young children, with lasting effects. (see the video within the article on the GG website)
  4. Having more variety in our emotions—positive or negative—can make us happier and healthier.
  5. Natural selection favors happy people, which is why there are so many of them. (So Be Happy!)
  6. Activities from positive psychology don’t just make happy people happier—they can also help alleviate suffering.
  7. People with a “growth mindset” are more likely to overcome barriers to empathy.
  8. To get people to take action against climate change, talk to them about birds.
  9. Feelings of well-being might spur extraordinary acts of altruism
  10. Extreme altruism is motivated by intuition—our compassionate instincts.

Each of these points is explained in depth in the article and is based on studies done in 2014.  As I said, well worth a read, helping us all work toward leading a more Meaningful Life.

I’ll close with a lovely short video about gratitude –

The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude

 

 

I’d love to hear about your insights from 2014. Or some of your intentions for 2015.

And as always thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Be kind to yourself – it’s good for you!

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

 

– Buddha


Why is it that we are so often our own worst enemy? Why do we all find it so hard to be kind to ourselves. Why is it that so many of us cannot accept the simple truth that you yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.

I just had a long conversation with a good friend of mine about this.  We both agreed that it can be an absolute nightmare to live in one’s head.  We always seem to be our worst critic.  On the heels of that conversation, I read a great article and watched a really helpful video on a wonderful site I’ve mentioned several times:  Greater Good.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D believes in a healthier way of relating to oneself.

The relentless search for high self-esteem has become a virtual religion; and a tyrannical one at that. Our competitive culture tells us we need to be special and above average to feel good about ourselves, but we can’t all be above average at the same time. There is always someone richer, more attractive, or successful than we are. And even when we do manage to feel self-esteem for one golden moment, we can’t hold on to it. Our sense of self-worth bounces around like a ping-pong ball, rising and falling in lock-step with our latest success or failure.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to self-esteem that many psychologists believe is a better and more effective path to happiness: self-compassion

So what exactly is self-compassion.  Neff describes it as having three components:

Self-Kindness vs Self-Judgement

Common Humanity vs Isolation

Mindfulness vs Over Identification

There are several video clips by Kristin Neff that are all worth watching.  I’m attaching this clip as a wonderful introduction as to why self-compassion is so important to all of us. Because as the Dalai Lama reminds us:

If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others, you will not be able to love others.
If you have not compassion for yourself then you are not able to develop compassion for others.

 

I’d love to hear how you show yourself self-compassion.

And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

What is ‘Wrong’

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”

– Leo Tolstoy


When I watch the news or read the paper, I think I can be forgiven for becoming somewhat distraught. The world is in such a fragile, sad place at the moment.  And after discussing this with my sister Karin, we both agreed that being “sensitive” women, open to the energy of the world around us, can be heart-breaking.  What are we doing to this planet? What are we doing to one another? Why is this happening?

And going a step further, what can we do about it?  On a large scale, it feels as though one small, insignificant person can do very little.  It all feels too big.  But that feels ‘wrong’ – I have to do something, even on a small scale.  One thing that may not seem significant on the bigger scale, but I feel is very significant, is too keep “cleaning up my side of the street.”  To stay clear and communicate through my own trials and tribulations to come out the other side.  I had a confrontation with a good friend.  It felt awkward and hard and it brought up a lot of old stuff for me, old childhood shame and feelings of being ‘wrong’ and bad.  My immediate instinct was to lash out at her, but I knew after years of therapy and my own work, that that was ‘wrong’. So luckily, this friend has also done a lot of her own work, so we talked, we communicated through it.  It was not easy or comfortable or fun, but it worked.  We worked through it, dug below the incident to what it brought up, in both of us, and got through it.  I still have some work to do around my own behaviour, but the communication through the difficulty, shattered the small prison of shame that I was sitting in.

This one small incident may not seem significant, and maybe it’s not, in the big picture.  But it was huge for me for a couple of days. And no I’m not saying that if we could all communicate better then everything would be peachy keen, but on a smaller scale, if people communicated better with each other, and were willing to be real with one another, I think the world would be in a lot healthier state.  But then again, I always have been accused of being a Pollyanna.

The short clip I want to close with may not seem to fit with this post, but I feel like it does, and I really liked it.  A short TED talk about Philosophy in Prison. I enjoyed the construct of ‘wrong’ – and more importantly it reminded me of my son Lukas who is studying PPE (Philosopy, Politics and Economics) and who has been away in Edinburgh studying for the past 10 months, and I miss him terribly.  So when I saw this clip, and I thought of Lukas, I smiled. So I wanted to include it here. After all in this very small universe that is my blog, I get to make the rules!

“The great thing about being the only species that makes a distinction between right and wrong is that we can make up the rules for ourselves as we go along.”
― Douglas Adams

 

 

I’d love to hear from you about how you handle ‘wrong’ in your life.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.