Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday's Heart 4, Hidden Love

To Love onself is to struggle to rediscover and maintain your uniqueness.
From "Love" by Leo Buscaglia

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Circle of Feelings

Today I woke up in a funk and set off on my walk to see if I could shed some light on what was going on. I performed one of my meditative walking exercises I call Circle of Feelings. In it I allow my feelings to surface and experience them without judgment. This helped considerably today and I came away with some information that I thought was worth sharing.

Basically I notice that there are 4 BIG feelings: Joy, Anger, Fear, and Sadness. The four main feelings each act as umbrellas that cover most other feelings which fit under one of the umbrellas. For instance, under the umbrella of joy we might feel love, under the umbrella of anger, we might feel jealousy, under the umbrella of sadness we might feel grief, and under the umbrella of fear we might experience depression. But basically the four feelings of Joy, Anger, Fear and Sadness seem to capture the essence of feelings.

Joy is the feeling we strive for and would like to live in the most. Joy is a positive and uplifting feeling. Joy makes our heart happy. When we feel loved we feel joy, when give love we feel joy. We like being here.

Conversely, anger, fear, and sadness are heavy feelings that we would prefer to exclude from our day to day experiences. They feel negative, overwhelming, and burdensome. So we often try to pretend these feelings don't exist. The thing is, they do exist, they are part of the human experience and we can't really get rid of them, but we can bring them into balance.

How do we do this? It is actually easier than we realize--and joy does play a part in helping. When we experience a negative feeling, we must simply honor it by acknowledging its presence, allow it to have its ''voice," then release it. Negative feelings may feel overpowering but they don't really want to take over, they want to be released. However, a negative feeling can't be released if you deny it's there in the first place.

Negative feelings come to teach us something, they act as guide posts reminding us to journey on bravely and be who we are. They hold power only in their message--to feel. When heavy emotions, like anger, fear, or sadness are simply acknowledged they do not need to take over; they are "heard." They are just a part of us, not who we are.

I think the one exception to this is joy. I think joy is who we are because when we are joyful we love more, we laugh often, we breathe easy, we feel well, we are at peace. Joy is like the mother of all feelings and it can support us when the other feelings need to be expressed. Joy can hold a loving space so that when heavy feelings come up, we can feel them but still feel balance. Joy is the happy reminder that, "this too shall pass."

So let's investigate each of the heavy feelings for the purpose of balance and flow.

Flow, 2011


What is anger really but a feeling that comes from being discounted? When we feel unheard, cast aside, disrespected, unimportant, we feel angry. Sometimes if we watch this happen to someone we care about we feel angry too. The problem with anger is, we are not taught to speak up for ourselves, or to simply speak the truth when we feel discounted, and so we bury our anger around not being heard.

This happens once we start school. As children we are taught not to disagree and not to express our opinions, but instead to cast our ideas aside and allow the authority figure in charge to make all the big decisions, even if we feel they are wrong or unfair. If we do speak up, or disagree, we are labeled and we are shamed or punished.

But burying anger just causes a bunch of accumulated anger to burn inside of us, acting as fuel. We begin to expel the fuel by becoming chronically angry even when a situation doesn't call for it, or we begin to have anger ailments, anything from acid reflux to chronic headaches. When if instead, in the moment we feel cast aside, unheard, or misunderstood we spoke up and let the anger have a voice then released it, we would be done with the anger. Hence, no anger build-up! It is just an emotion that came along to remind us to speak our truth.

Sometimes we don't even have to speak it, especially if we are in an unsafe place to do so, but we do have to acknowledge it, and then release it.

Fear comes from feeling too overwhelmed. When there is too large a task in front of us, or too complicated a task, or even too many tasks, we can get overwhelmed and become fearful that we cannot accomplish this trial before us, that it is insurmountable, we are incapable. This could be in the form of parenting, schoolwork, traveling, illness, letting go, trying something new, or change. But burying the fear and pretending it doesn't exist doesn't really help. That’s when inertia can set in. We can begin to become avoidant. The best way to deal with fear is to acknowledge it, give it a voice, a voice that can ask for help if it needs some, and then take action. Sort the fear into parts, take steps. Once a step is taken fear will begin to dissipate.


Sadness is tricky, we can sometimes feel shame if we have a lot of it, and this can cause us to pretend we aren't sad. As we get older we are discouraged to show the natural sadness that comes up. The only time sadness seems acceptable is when we are grieving a death, and even then we aren't given a huge amount of time to be sad--family, friends, coworkers, become frustrated if we stay there too long and try to cheer us up. But sometimes we just have to feel the sadness.

Sadness can feel like a burden if we are discouraged from expressing it, we shamefully bury it, but if we consciously choose to let our sadness in, let it be felt, it will not need to overcome us or feel burdensome. It is just another emotion in our spectrum of emotions and one that I think makes us feel most human. With sadness comes vulnerability and opening up.

Each of our feelings need to be honestly felt and honored. Feelings are honored when we take an action around something we need to do to express the feeling. Expression can be very individual and can come in many ways. Once a feeling is truly felt it can be released.

I have a dear friend who has experienced a huge loss and she is grieving. Part of the way she is honoring her sadness is to build sadness time into her days. She takes herself in her pajamas to movies where she knows she will feel sadness. She takes herself to dinner and sits alone and reads. She is one of the healthiest, most well-balanced people I have ever met.  I believe this is because she allows herself to be honest about, and feel, all of her feelings.

Joy is not the absence of anger, fear and sadness, it is the acceptance of them. We are truly joyful when we are whole and we are whole when we allow all of our feelings to be expressed truthfully and freely. When we can do this, no heavy feeling needs to dominate or become chronic, each are simply free to show up in the moment and be released.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday's Heart 3, Self Love

The Door to my heart opens inward. I move through forgiveness to love. 
I give myself the gift of freedom from the past, and move with joy into the now.
-Louise Hay

When I wrote these words in my first post of the new year: This year I chose the word love for my theme because I thought that by handling every encounter, every issue, every person that comes my way, from the point of view of love, I will just be in win-win situations all year long. I knew that I would be challenged to follow them. Each week since writing this story, the challenges have presented themselves.

I got through the first challenge fine, I quickly reminded myself to come from the place of love and it worked.

Then soon after, when the next challenge came, I found I wasn't feeling the love. I think the difference was the first time I directed the love to myself, the second time I was feeling guilty like I needed to do something loving for another, but had forgotten to add myself to the equation. I have to remember, first have self-love, then the love will spill out toward others. When I only do for others, at exclusion of self, then it's not going to work out. In my story I wrote these words also: But most of all I realized that I needed to give a particular person my love, a person I had been unkind to more often than I would like to recall, a person who I had trouble forgiving, a person who seemed worthy in theory, yet always turned up last on the list, hardly ever gotten to: me.

Here's to self-love first.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday's Heart 2, Open Heart

In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities.
J├ínos Arany March 2, 1817—October 22, 1882, Hungarian journalist, writer, poet, and translator.
 Miracle of miracles, I set out on my walk today with camera in hand, and an open mind, to make a 'Monday heart' in the abundant snow we were gifted with three days ago. I was instantly drawn to snapping photos of the delicate forms of snow covered branches. I snapped the above photo of branches that hovered above my head as I walked beneath them. As is my habit, I checked the photo after shooting it and discovered the heart shape in the center, can you see it? This certainly speaks to the above quote, doesn't it?

It seems appropriate that my second heart in my Monday heart project is on the day we celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday. I have included his I Have a Dream speech here for those who would like to listen.

Monday, January 9, 2012

One Word, Love

This year the word I chose for my theme is LOVE. I am very encouraged by this. I feel clever for choosing this word, how can I have a bad year if LOVE is my word?

I chose my first "theme word" for the new year two years ago after reading The Call, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. In it she suggested we focus on a single word. She writes, “So ask yourself this: If I could say one word to the world, if I knew the world was listening attentively and would to the best of its ability follow the directive this word sent out, what would that word be?”

That year I chose the word "open". I was beginning the year by hosting a monthly dream circle and teaching classes on art and dreams at my city art gallery. I wanted to be open to receiving those who were meant to come my way, and be open to exploring ideas around building this practice.

The second year I chose the word "close", to remind myself I can have boundaries when necessary. I found while trying to remain open the year prior, I shared deeply and personally and sometimes felt tread upon by insensitive people when I did not expect it.

This year I chose the word love for my theme because I want to handle every encounter, every issue, every person that comes my way, with love. But most of all, I realize, I need to give myself love.

Inspiring author, Anita Moorjani says that if you love yourself, you will end up giving love to others automatically. This sounds like a no-brainer, just love me, and the rest will follow. I'm in.

Here is how I envision this year of self love to go, I see myself visiting places, doing activities, being with people, wearing clothes, eating foods that make me feel good. I will be honest with myself about what I am feeling in each moment, as much as I can, and from these feelings I will derive the people, places and things that truly make me feel happy, energized, creative, joyful, content...this equates to self love to me. And I will not judge when I do or do not feel these positive feelings, just notice then proceed, or, if need be, stop. My "open" and "close" themes have helped me with my understanding of this as well.

Since having this love theme in place, magical and spontaneous things have started to happen already, to support my decision to love myself. The world has been listening attentively.

I went to the bookstore looking for a desk calendar, something I love to do in January when they are half-off. And what did I find buried, but a calendar of hearts? Fifty-two different hearts made from 'stuff'. For instance, the first one of the year was fashioned of party blowers, and mini champagne bottles and confetti, then photographed. Upon finding this I felt so sure  my inner radar of love was working spot on. I quickly made my purchase then zipped to the car and opened it to find this little story: Page, the artist, makes a new heart each Monday, in honor and memory of the love of her life, Madalene. When she first met Madalene she would make Madalene a heart each Monday and leave it on her doorstep. Sadly, Madalene passed away of ovarian cancer the year they met, but Page still goes on making the hearts for Madalene.
 In honor of this loving tradition, created by Page, and my love theme, I am going to make a heart every Monday this year too. I will feature each right here.

Today is Monday, and this is my first heart, and the best thing is that my first heart is on my birthday. :)

When we give our self permission to love our self, the world wraps us in a big ole hug and breathes a sigh of, "Thank you."

You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. Buddha

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It is Good to Fail

failure: noun

1. the nonperformance of an assigned or expected action

I have been thinking a lot about the subject of failure.

Last year brought some failures with it. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact some of the failures have turned out to be good.

I have come to realize that sometimes by just going with the flow, letting things run their course instead of trying to be in control, a greater plan unfolds. When I can allow things to just happen without judgment or panic, I can focus more on being on course as opposed to steering furiously down a path that probably isn't going to make things a whole lot better anyway.

Sometimes what makes things better is being the best me, right where I am planted, as opposed to seeking loftier ground when I am uncertain. I liken this to building a house, if I don't have a strong foundation, then the stories built upon it will be unstable.

It is futile to fight failure when we have tried everything and nothing is working. Failure teaches us some of the truest lessons. It knocks down our defenses, causes us to reflect and take inventory on what is important.

We can't really know our self until we decide to just be with our true self--failures and all--no covering up. Covers are masks. Failures bring us to the truest places; the vulnerability of failing awakens us from a state of being on auto pilot.

Sometimes things that we think are failures, turn out to be our greatest gifts.

Case in point: the middle school years. From a parenting point of view they have been a huge challenge. In fact, on any given day, I can honestly say they have sucked. I have drained my battery many times trying to navigate a course that definitely has an undercurrent that I do not feel stable in. Many days I would think I was preventing failure, as I read the daily computer-generated reports of my son's missed assignments. I would then make the proper follow up emails to teachers, then schedule meetings, and try to share my point of view as a parent, desperate to come up with some sort of plan to keep my son on track. But I felt alone in a  system that was already put in place and would remain in place, regardless of my sons needs. Deadlines were deadlines, I was told  test scores were high enough, so he didn't qualify for help, late work piled up, no exceptions would be made.

Performing these tasks took so much energy, brought so much stress, it has literally made me sick. I short-circuited. I was placed  on proton pump inhibitors (acid reflux medication) for  three months to heal a bout of gastritis.

I blamed coffee, my doctor blamed 'middle school'. She listened to me spontaneously unload school stories as if they were just unimportant side notes, while at my visit to address weeks of nausea. She told me this stress was the direct cause for the acid increase in my gut.

I took the reflux medicine home, read the slew of disturbing side effects, took them anyway, and set about to heal. After three days of worse gastric disturbances, and with a holiday party to attend, I decided not to take one the next day, vowing to return to them the following. But I did something different that day too; I listened to my gut, quite literally. I ate what made me feel good, drank what felt right and by the next morning I was feeling better. This happened again the following day so I didn't medicate that day either, now almost a week later I am feeling better than ever, without the medicine.

You know what else my gut told me? It told me to give in to the failure, failure to control my son's destiny. Let him fail if he needs to, it may be a necessary lesson for him. He needs to find his own way, I heard my gut say.

But my failure became my success. Because now I am no longer drinking acidic coffee the first thing in the morning, I have returned to the gluten free diet I am healthiest on, and as I walk daily I listen. I listen to myself. And I hear myself say, "Let go, you are on the right course, just stay with it and love yourself along the way. The rest will fall into place."

You know what? Releasing the pressure of fighting the inevitable, the necessary, has freed me up to be a far better mother. Who can live under the stress of going against the grain day in day out? And as if to prove my point, my dear friend, who has been following my every twist and turn, with the support of a saint and the insights of a sage, called me a few mornings ago to tell me about this dream she had of me:

She awakens within her dream, startled, looking out the window of her bedroom onto the (actual) river that runs along her home, she sees me on the water. I am at the edge of the rushing waterfall in a tan mini-van, getting ready to go over. We make eye contact and she stares at me in disbelief as I fly down the massively flowing fall. When I get to the bottom, I look up at her and smile, pumping my fist as if to say, "I made it, and I meant to do that."

The Actual Waterfall