Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Chicken or the Egg?

Chickens cg

For years, a man feared having a heart attack. He worried often about it in his daily life. When he did eventually have one, was he foretelling his future? Or did all the energy he spent on the worry about it lean his life more strongly in that direction?

When a teenage girl got an image of her friend falling down the stairs, she emailed me. She'd had a fight with her friend and was so angry she feared she may have caused her friend to fall. She asked me if she made her friend fall, or if this was her natural intuition showing her an upcoming event?

Anyone who has worked with awareness knows our mental landscape and the beliefs we carry affect how our lives unfold. When we dwell on the negative, it makes our outlook more cloudy. When we take time for the joys in life, our outlook becomes more sunny. In a study with children who had tummy aches, researchers had the kids use imagery and imagination to help them feel better and it worked.

Yet, as we work with awareness, we also discover how life tends to nudge us in the best directions for our well-being. Our ability to be open to life's messages and go with that flow can give us a heads-up when we need it. Our intuition opens up. We see stuff we would have otherwise dismissed.

So, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did the man's concern about his heart bring about the heart attack, or was it a prediction of events to come? Did the teenager's vision predict her friend's fall or did she cause it?

I don't know.

First published September 2017 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Expectations and Assumptions


(With apologies to Tom)

Expectation kicks us in the backside every time.

If I expect Tom to take out the garbage in time for the truck and he doesn't, my expectation isn't met and I get annoyed and then mind kicks in to try to manipulate the circumstances and find a solution to the "Tom not getting the garbage out on time" problem. 

It's what many of us automatically do. If something is wrong in our outer world, we try to fix the problem so that outer world matches our expectations. But the real problem isn't whether or not Tom puts out the garbage on time, it's the fact that I don't want to accept that he may not. The real problem is, "I don't want this."

Seeking a solution to the "taking out the garbage" problem rather than the "I don't want this" problem is easier and more comfortable for me. Seeking by itself is a pleasurable activity. Finding resolution feels good. I can let my mind take up the whole thing and make it into an intellectual exercise, see if I can get all my ducks in a row.

But it doesn't solve the real problem, the "I don't want this" problem. That's real world stuff. Emotions. Discomfort. The stuff that's really going on, not the stuff in my head.

The real world stuff is the fact that I may not be able to rely on Tom to put the garbage out on time – regardless of his good intentions, regardless of my good intentions, regardless of my efforts to make it happen.

In the real world, when I have expectations, they are often not met. Life isn’t perfect. Neither are we, we’re just human.

So, then I have to decide if I am willing to live with that less than perfect garbage thing/Tom thing. It’s a tougher choice because it challenges my worldview. It takes a bit more work.

But life doesn’t go more smoothly because it meets our expectations, it goes more smoothly when we drop those expectations.

For me, choosing to turn “I don’t like this,” into “That’s life,” is a much happier choice.

First published August 2013 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Rhyme Time

Aura a11

Healing works best when done with a sense of trust, joy and even playfulness. Years ago I had friends watch the healing energy around me when I was doing a session and they gave me feedback about when it was good and when it seemed to collapse. It was at its best when I maintained a playful, joyful and easy state. Worry, thinking too much, or taking it too seriously all brought the energy down. Sometimes with a thump.

This is not to say healing isn't serious, but it is to recognize and acknowledge that the serious intention and compassion can co-exist with trust, joy and playfulness.

Some days when I do my healing sessions, it's easy to fall into that playful, joyful state. Other days it is harder. So I have a few tricks I use. One is rhyme time.

I take a few breaths to put my attention in the moment, in my body, in the place. I go through my usual steps of paying attention to the temperature of the air and the sounds around me. Then I bring in gratitude. I notice what's around me that I am grateful for. Little things are just as important as the big stuff: This is when I use rhyme time if my mental energy is still a bit too active.

Here's an example:

One July morning, while outdoors, I thought, "Thank you for the summer breezes." Hey, I'm a summer girl, what can I say?

Then I asked myself what else do I feel grateful for - something that rhymes with breezes? Trees (sort of.) "Thank you for the treezes," a silly thought that lightened things right up.

Then I wondered what else rhymes? "Thank you for the sneezes." I love that rush/goosebump feeling after a good sneeze.

Then I'm good to go. A little silly goes a long way. It's from that place that I move best into prayers and healing.

First published August 2017 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Being Patient With Myself


I saw a pic the other day that was timely. Two men stood quietly and patiently above an upset toddler in a shop. One is the father of the little girl, and the other the father of the father. The two of them were smiling lovingly at her, waiting her out - supporting her without needing to change anything. The dad said, "My dad always let me feel what I needed to feel, even if it was in public and embarrassing. I don't remember him ever saying "You're embarrassing me!" or "Dont cry!" It wasn't until recently that I realized how paramount that was for my own emotional development. Our children are learning and processing so much information and they don't know what to do with all of these new feelings that come up. I try to remember to make sure my daughter knows it's OK that she feels deeply."

It was timely because I'd just made up a new card for my Joyful Intentions: "Today I will be patient with myself," and it came up that day in my own Sunny Day reading. I stopped when I read it and thought about these two patient men. My efforts to stick with a healthy eating regime had been failing in the week or two before and I was feeling stressed and helpless about it. The card reminded me that despite my best efforts, life tends to cycle. I am more helpless at times than I like. Just like a crying child, I need patient support at times like these - support without a need for anything to be different.

I recall being patient with my own daughter when she was a toddler. It may have seemed easier for me to support her than it is to support myself. After all she was just a kid. I tend to expect more from myself. Yet before I can fully be patient with others, I may have to admit my own humanity. I may have to believe it's okay for me to feel helpless that I can't seem to stick with the program. It's okay to feel embarrassed when I put my foot in my mouth, or when I fail to hear what someone is saying. It's okay for me to feel afraid or overwhelmed or sad or disappointed.

Just like the toddler, I'm just a human being, being human. There are forces greater than me at work. When I can accept this and drop the struggle, I can accept my failures without feeling defeated and my successes without feeling triumphant. Without the added weight of self-impatience, I have more room to to catch my breath, to catch up with the cycles I'm in, and work with rather than against, that flow of energy. Some inner tension uncoils. The pressure eases.

Being patient with myself is a way to support who I am without needing myself or my life to be different.

The timely pic was here.

First published July 2017 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Enjoying the Day


When I'm busy, I get destination-oriented. "I have to finish this newsletter before I can read the book." "I need to weed the garden before I can sit down." It probably arises from childhood. We needed to learn to be responsible. We couldn't play until homework was done, or the dishes were done. Fair enough. Dad was a good example of responsibility. I used to watch him push the lawn mower long after he was too tired to continue, yet he did anyways because it needed to be done.

What he didn't teach us was that we could be content while doing the dishes, or homework, or shovelling the snow from the driveway. All I saw in him at the time was sweat rolling from his forehead, the tension in his face, and the satisfied plunk into his chair once the lawn mower was put away. He didn't look happy in the doing, but in the finishing. All he saw was the destination.

Enjoying the day is about letting myself be content with the mix of things I have to do, and the time it takes to do them: work or play. While it might feel good to reach the front of the line at the shop, I can enjoy the wait by watching my breath or listening to the voices around me. Even as I approach the deadline to get out a newsletter, I can find elegance in the language and take joy in the sharing. While fixing the kitchen tap may be mandatory, I can enjoy the pleasure of problem solving and working with my hands while I do.

If a necessary activity is difficult or painful, I can find joy by pacing myself. Dad didn't do that much. For him it was all about being able to rest afterwards. I think he was afraid if he didn't do it all at the time, he wouldn't finish it. Lately I've been resisting weeding the garden because of arthritis pain. So rather than let it become stupid, I take a kitchen timer with me. I can do 10 minutes. In fact I can do 10 minutes each morning after my prayers. So that's what I have been doing this week. Knowing that the job is not going to be painful makes it a lot easier to laugh at the black-flies trying to bite. It makes it easier to stop and enjoy the exquisite beauty of a tulip. Or the green scent of a May morning. And it brings enough joy to the doing that I know I'll be up for it again tomorrow morning. Or maybe even this afternoon.

If a necessary activity is frustrating, I can find joy by stopping long enough to get out of my head and back into the present moment or by laughing at how absurd it's become.

Enjoying the day means being where I am wholeheartedly. There is joy to be found all day, not just in those destination moments, whatever life gives me. I can be contented as I struggle to put up a bird feeder, as I unwind in the tub, as I rush to be at the appointment on time, even as I recover from bad news.

I need to remember this though. I'm a lot like Daddy - I tend to push past my limits so that I can bask in the glow of a job well-done. Especially when I'm busy, it helps to settle back into my body and notice what's going on around me. Then I can enjoy the day.

First published June 2017 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

What Will I Try?


I forget what started the whole thing. I even forget who it was. I caught myself grinding away mentally at someone while driving to Alliston for groceries. It was probably the local councillor. Sometimes just driving past his house reminds me of the day he stood in my living room and called me a liar. Seeing something juicy to latch onto, my mind kicked in. "How dare he!"

Mind examined the insult from all angles. 'Poor me' to 'I'lll never vote for him' to 'I wonder if this is about unfinished business?' I didn't realize how tense my shoulders were getting until I stopped for the traffic light at Mansfield.

All that analysis may seem like it's productive, but it's not really. It's just a way for mind to perpetuate the mental activity. Mind loves to hear itself think. And it rarely takes the rest of me into consideration. Mind didn't care about my tight shoulders. It didn't care how this thinking led to frustration, helplessness, anger.

I took a breath and relaxed my shoulders as I waited for the light to change. I didn't want to think about this guy. It just riled me up. So how could I put all this mental activity to good use? What will I try?

I could do tonglen. Maybe, but I only go to it when I really feel overwhelmed. This isn't that serious. Maybe a lovingkindness meditation? It's true I wish the guy well. But I still don't want to think about him.

I could feel all that mental energy hanging around nearby, just waiting for me to pay attention to it. I took another deep breath.

Right. The breath.

It helps to have a single simple thing I can do, something I can rely on when things are just a little bit crazy or when things are downright awful. One simple thing I can do any time, anywhere.

For me, it's my breath. No matter where I am, I have my breath. I notice my belly rise and fall with each breath. Even just a couple of breaths can bring me back into the moment.

Oh yeah, that's right. I'm on my way for groceries, driving my dear old Jeep.

Now that I've used my breath to quiet that mental activity and bring me back into the moment, I can turn to a lovingkindness meditation or an empowering breath meditation, or whatever suits me at the time. Today it's a gratitude meditation. The sky is blue. I look at the new fenders on the Jeep and see what a great job the boys did. I think I'll cook supper on the barbeque tonight.

Life is good.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Doing Laps

If I say, "I have only 5 more laps to go," then I am thinking too much about the ease of it being finished.
If I say, "I can't do this many laps," then I am thinking too much about my shortcomings (as compared to some idealized expectation).
If I say, "I hate this," then it will never get easier.
If I say, "I love this," but really hate it, then it will never get easier.
If I say, "How does this feel?" and pay attention to what is actually going on in my physical body, then I can assess constantly and make any changes needed.

Doing laps isn't about buying in to what's going on in my head or emotions, it's about how it is today, or on this specific lap, and taking joy from the doing -- like being a kid and exploring with a sense of curiosity and joy.

First published May 2017 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.