Friday, March 18, 2016

Don't Hit Yourself Over the Head With Your Gift

A wise counselor once said to me, "You can't love someone and worry about them at the same time."

Well, I was quite disturbed by this assertion because I had always been a worrier. And yet I ADORED the people I worried about. Right?

I was bred to worry. My mom was a worrier. Worry penetrated my childhood. Money worries, health worries, grade worries, worries about my parents' marriage, worries about what other people thought.

You worried the MOST about the people you loved!

It took me some time to understand what my counselor was trying to communicate. Love is a VERB. While I can generally love someone, my daughter, for example, I am not in the act of loving her when I am worrying ABOUT her.

This is not a subtle difference, for our time and energy are precious and every thought has a vibration with a consequence. When I worry about someone, I am thinking thoughts that are negative and rooted in fear. The vibration of fear is put out to the universe. Ripple, ripple, ripple.

If, however, I observe my thoughts and, noticing I am focusing on what may or can go "wrong," decide to instead visualize things going "right," this is the ripple, ripple, ripple, containing the vibration of positivity and love. More challenging sometimes than it may seem.

You have probably heard the quote, "Worry is a misuse of the imagination," by Dan Zadra. A friend of mine says worrying is, "hitting yourself over the head with your gift."

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Our thoughts have power. Our visualizations have power! Imagine what we could create if each time we had a worrisome thought, we caught ourselves and instead sent love to the object of our worry, ourselves included. I am fascinated by the miracles that result EVERY TIME I do this.

Another friend once told me, "Thoughts are prayers."

What do YOU want to pray for?

Thanks for reading. Have a beautiful weekend!

Friday, March 4, 2016

From Blame to Claim: Stepping Into Your Power

The Dalai Lama posted on Facebook that the increasing interest folks are showing in their emotions is a sign of maturity.

Have you noticed an increased interest in emotions in yourself and/or in the folks around you?

About five years ago, I came upon the "philosophy" that one's emotions are one's own responsibility. I put quotes around the word philosophy because some would stand firm in the belief that other people are the cause of their feelings. I inadvertently held this belief myself until I was gifted with the information that allowed me to see otherwise.

We have been raised in a culture of blame. It's the conservatives' fault, the liberals' fault, the Republicans' fault, Democrats' fault, the President's fault, the doctor's fault, the lawyer's fault, my mother's fault, my husband's fault, "IT IS YOUR FAULT I AM FEELING THIS WAY."

The fact is, people mess up. That is how we learn. We do our best to remain patient with our children when they make a mistake, hopefully teaching them how to make recompense and learn so they do it differently the next time. We need to show our fellow adult humans the same grace as much as we are able, knowing that the only thing WE can change is ourselves.

We can practice acting instead of reacting. We can acknowledge we are angry, sad, frustrated, etc., take a deep breath, and get to work trying to understand why without automatically blaming. We affect change by example and this takes claiming responsibility for ourselves, our part, our feelings, our thoughts, and our actions every opportunity we remember to do so. It is a practice because it takes practice.

It can be a challenge to find role models who lead and guide from a strong and secure center where blaming others has little place. Growing up in America and then traveling and living abroad, I have seen vast differences between cultures that encourage "passing the buck" and those where you have to possess personal accountability to survive. I have met people who think Americans can barely move through life without directions and must sue someone if anything goes wrong. "I got hurt. It must be someone else's fault. Now let me go find him."

Imagine a world where everybody looks inward and takes care of him or herself, claiming personal power as they step into their responsibility. I am not suggesting we live selfishly in a vacuum or blame ourselves for another's actions. I am suggesting acknowledging that everyone has a role in everything of which they are a part. If we are candid about our feelings and claim our share of what takes place, we can learn from events that transpire and choose to do it better next time, rather than unconsciously operating out of unhealthy patterns.

It can be SO HARD to claim responsibility when I am really upset and think I have been wronged. You know the saying, "Would you rather be right or be happy?" Being right is so seductive, you can ride this wave for a lifetime before realizing that the energy you get from it is at another human's expense; for to be right, someone else must be wrong.

I am amazed at how much responsibility for my state of happiness or unhappiness I have tried to put in the hands of my husband, mother, father, or any other person of the moment, before I come back to myself in the center of the whirlwind and realize only I am in charge of how I feel! Yes, people lie, cheat, steal, are inconsiderate, misleading, and judgmental. It is natural to be angry, upset, hurt, and frustrated. And I cannot change them.

I can choose to avoid them and try to hang out with folks who don't behave that way, but I have learned that people who I deem to be difficult can be just fine or downright wonderful to someone else. I am the one who is annoyed so it is MY lesson. Does that make sense? If something irritating keeps coming up for me, I believe it is a sign that I need to deal with something within ME. Otherwise, I may shed this person, but then attract another who brings up the same irritations until I get the lesson.

It has been said that the point of power is in the present moment. Our present circumstances, relationships, and emotions are all here to teach us and guide us toward states of greater ease if we face them. What exactly happened and what did YOU feel when it occurred? What needs or wants do you have that are not being met when this takes place or when another behaves this way? How would you prefer them to behave if they were willing? How might you be contributing to this behavior? These questions are at the foundation of Nonviolent or Compassionate Communication, which is a great process for communicating effectively and claiming your power.

I try my best to take the approach of, "This is coming up so I can heal it."  When I look within and learn my lesson, then the person who seems to push my buttons, almost magically...stops. Either that or I am no longer disturbed when they demonstrate that behavior. I have moved on.

Thanks for reading!

I welcome your constructive feedback.  <3

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

I Am Enough: Loving Yourself to Fabulous

I am enough.

I remember the first time this thought came through me. I hadn't ever heard or read it that I remembered, but it resonated like a bright and peaceful chord. I am enough. You are enough. WE...are enough.

All of the tools and tips I have researched, written about, studied, taught, and practiced to learn and help others learn how to be more of this or less of that have their value, yes. I would rather feel inspired than complacent any day. I am also grateful and relieved that I have grown to be gentler with myself as I strive to be a better person today than the one I was yesterday. But when I get caught up in comparisons, self-judgement, and too much striving, however, it can leave me stymied and fearful to act.

That is when I have to tell myself, "You are enough." Right now, you are good, young, loved, inspired, educated, experienced, etc. enough to go out in the world and make a positive difference. Not try to make a difference. To make a REAL difference through trying.

I feel so sad when I think about all the times I could have sang out from my heart at this or that event but didn't because I didn't think I was good enough.  Will people think that I think I am "all that" because I am singing with everything I have got?  And what if I sound badly or make a mistake?  Geez, what a mindgame! One that keeps me from trying, making mistakes, and improving, just as I would advise my children to do.

Start. Try. Mess up. Learn. Grow. Improve. Give others permission to do the same.

There is the famous quote from A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"
While I ADORE this quote and it may be true that we are afraid of success and power, what if we don't show up as brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?  Are we still worthy of being heard, sharing, TRYING, and doing our current best? 

Of course!  And yet, how many of us hold back for fear of judgement from self or others of not being fill-in-your-word-here enough?

We need all hands on deck. Our society and world needs people to give what they have got to the benefit of our planet. People need to feel safe to imperfectly share what they have to offer, to love their way through the glitches, and have support on their way to fabulous.  

I am grateful I was able to get my family to attend the school's talent show the other day, even though my kids didn't perform. It was a nostalgic and humbling joy to see kids get up on stage brave, shaky, practiced, improvised, and TRYING. For those who weren't happy with their performance, my prayer is that they give themselves big props for trying, figure out what they could do differently, and find an opportunity to do it again. For my kids, I hope it empowers them to give it a go next year.

It is people giving of themselves, imperfectly OR brilliantly, that gives me the permission and the responsibility to do the same.  To take the risk.  To produce instead of just consume. To try. And to know that even though I can always work harder, practice more, develop skills, and improve, that right here, right now, what I have to offer is valuable and worth sharing.

I am enough.  And so are YOU!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Choosing Loving Communication-A Quick-Start Guide

You may be one of many folks on the planet who believes that peace begins with the self, extends to one's closest relationships, and ripples outward to the greater community.  Being in loving relationship with oneself heals the earth!

One of the best ways to improve our relationship with ourselves and others is through conscious loving dialogue.  What do you say to and about yourself when you make a mistake?  How do you treat others when their actions result in uncomfortable feelings for you?

In 2011, I began studying a communication process called Nonviolent Communication, also known as NVC or Compassionate Communication. It was developed by Marshall Rosenberg in the sixties as a way to teach peacemaking skills, engender conflict resolution, and improve heartfelt connections with others.

Though there is somewhat of a formula, NVC is really a process of learning to have compassion and empathy for oneself and others, recognizing what each person's feelings and needs are, and in so doing realizing that it is possible for all parties to have their needs met without conflict.

Here are the basic steps in just two sentences.  Initially, you work through these on your own, prior to communicating with your partner or group. With practice, it becomes easier to use in real time.

     1.  When _________ happens (best if you stay with a specific occurrence)
     2.  I feel _________ (a specific emotion is best, not just "bad" or "good") 
     3.  because _________ (want/value/need that is not being met when this occurs).
     4.  In the future/Next time, would you be willing to _________?

If you are frustrated with your ability to connect with someone you care about or just want to effect positive change, give it a try!  This process played a crucial role in preserving my marriage during a difficult time. I believe it is a necessary tool for every human's developmental toolbox.

Happy practicing and thanks for reading!

For more information...

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life-Your first "go to" guide to further understand the process.

Phone app to assist you on the go- iGrok-This app provides a quick list of needs and feelings that comes in handy when I am unclear what feeling and/or need is at work within me.

List of Feelings-This list will help you identify your feelings.

List of Needs-And this one your needs.  :)

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Practice-Choosing Love Over Fear

My interest in consciously choosing love over fear began in 1991 when I began to study A Course in Miracles.  One of the basic concepts of this teaching is that fear is the absence of love, just as darkness is the absence of light.  As it can be a shift to think of darkness as being the absence of light as opposed to its opposite, it is a similar shift to think of fear as the absence of love.

Though most people consider "hate" to be the opposite of love, the course considers hate to be just one of many manifestations of fear.  Positive emotions, thoughts, actions, and behaviors stem from love and negative emotions, thoughts, actions, and behaviors stem from fear.

It is important to avoid using this philosophy to judge ourselves or others for being in a fearful place and instead use it to engender and encourage compassion. You may have come upon the quote, "Love me when I deserve it the least, for that is when I need it the most."

Though it can be a challenge to love yourself when you regret a choice you make or love another when they are seeming difficult, this is the work we all need to practice. Putting our egos aside, setting down our need to be right or prove another wrong and instead recognizing the true present need, which, simplistic though it may sound, is

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Choosing Health: Dancing With Dairy- Part II

Continued from Choosing Health: Dancing With Dairy-Part I

That first spring nursing I was braced, as I had been every spring since moving to Western North Carolina, to feel terrible.  What medicine could I take that wouldn't pass through my milk or dry it up?  Amazingly, after years of being a blubbering mess due to the blooming of an incredibly diverse array of local vegetation, I had NO allergic symptoms whatsoever.

Turns out, I did not have to take a thing because even when the wind blew a large cloud of yellow pollen into my face, I barely sniffled.  Wow!  All this time, all I had to do was cut out dairy, challenging as that was.

Unfortunately, after weaning I was so excited to be able to have cheese, ice cream, and cream in my coffee again, that I started consuming dairy here and there. Symptoms returned and spring was miserable, but man did that pizza taste good and I could always take Claritin!  Ugh.

After my son was born we realized he had "colic" too.   Crying for hours, throwing up, bouncing, football hold, Mylicon drops.  "Put him on the washing machine. Maybe the vibration will help."  Me knowing the whole time I was going to have to give up the yummies again.

I of course did and once again...BAM.  Different baby.  I mean, night and day.  My husband and I would tease that "On Dairy" our babies were like satan babies and "Off Dairy" they were angel babies.  The difference this change made in the quality of life of our entire family was astounding.  This knowledge was life-changing and sanity-preserving.  How many other nursing infants and moms could have these same results?  Again, I was blessed with two years of allergy-free springtime living.

Witnessing such amazing benefits, my husband tried a dairy-free diet and discovered the positive impacts it had on his health and allergies as well.  He wouldn't swear off of every molecule like I had to, but cutting back significantly minimized the amount he would have to use an inhaler in the autumn when his seasonal allergies would act up.

Why isn't this knowledge more wide-spread?  Interestingly, when we paid $400 out-of-pocket to have Sydney's blood tested for allergies (including dairy), results showed she had NONE.  We researched best allergists and went "off the mountain" to have a scratch-test performed checking for about 80 different food and environmental allergens.  The results were the same with the strange exception of cockroaches, which I have never seen up here.  No allergies.  

There is no scientific proof of anything.  The pediatrician said the blood test will only detect an allergy that would produce an anaphylactic response.  He said, "Sydney could be allergic to nothing, but sensitive to everything."  We decided not to put Michael through a barrage of testing if it was not sensitive enough to detect the problems we had experienced.

A chiropractor confirmed our results through a process called clinical kinesiology, but the gold standard seems to be the elimination diet.  Eliminate the suspect food and if symptoms go away, you have your answer.

Imagine that.  We don't need proof from outside ourselves or to pay anyone a cent.  We do, however, need to realize that we truly "are what we eat" and look here first when we have problems with our health.

Thanks so much for reading and to anyone who may have been curiously awaiting the second half of this post!  I am glad to answer any questions and please feel free to share stories of your own experiences.  Inspire others!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Choosing Health: Dancing With Dairy-Part I

It all began when my daughter was born prematurely. We had had such a harrowing ordeal that we were too exhausted and full of drugs to nurse.  My husband held my daughter's head to my breast, but we both just fell asleep.  The nurses threatened to give her formula if her blood sugar didn't go up (which they determined was low by repeatedly pricking her heel to take blood).  I said, "No, no formula."  I had read that it was full of stuff made in labs barely resembling food, and that a baby given a bottle before establishing healthy nursing can have trouble with latching.

But when I was sleeping, they gave her formula without telling me.  Her premature stomach suddenly full of formula (as opposed to a little colostrum) stimulated her immature vagus nerve and caused her breathing to stop.

Fast forward a week later when we returned home.   Sydney was obviously in pain after eating and when going to the bathroom.  The pediatrician chocked it up to her premature system.  The lactation consultant said, "There is nothing you can eat that can upset your baby."  Are you kidding me?  As an amateur nutritionist, I thought this seemed impossible, but she was the specialist and, as a new mother, I was insecure about trusting my knowledge with this tiny person's life.  I continued to eat whatever and my daughter continued to be uncomfortable and, at times, miserable.

By six weeks, she had an umbilical hernia.  The pediatrician said that it wasn't uncommon in premature infants and would get smaller on it's own eventually.  All her crying, discomfort, and misery was simply "colic."  He did not recommend my changing anything in my diet (her nursing one).

By eight weeks, the hernia was at least the size of a tennis ball on my tiny baby.  I called the lactation consultant and she said, "Well, infant can be allergic to the milk products the mother eats.  You have to get rid of every source of dairy, even the whey in a saltine cracker."  Me:  "WHAT?!  You didn't think to tell me this when I called a month ago?  My daughter could have lived in peace for the last MONTH?!"  Her:  "Well, when we tell new nursing mothers they have to change their diet, they often give up on nursing.  It is rare a baby has a milk allergy and it is more important to keep nursing."  Me:  "You couldn't have given me the benefit of the doubt?  Can't I be trusted to make the best decision for the health of me and my own child?"  Her:  "If you quit all dairy, in three days it will be obvious if there was a milk problem."

Holy crap.  Obviously, I didn't know squat about Nonviolent Communication at the time, but I was a livid mama bear.  In just three days, I was the mother of a different child.  Happy, peaceful, no "colic," Sydney's hernia began to shrink almost immediately.

After a couple of months, I got desperate for Mellow Mushroom and indulged.  BAM.  Syd was a mess.  If I had a SALTINE CRACKER she was miserable.  Distended belly, constipation, screaming and crying in pain, especially before a bowel movement.  No dairy, my baby was a complete angel, thriving as nature intended.  A trace of dairy and she became, well... is "Devil Baby" too harsh a name?

The empirical evidence was obvious, dairy was a problem for my daughter.  What I hadn't realized was that a good part of the reason it was a problem for her was the fact that it was also problem for me.

To be continued when I have more time...