Monday, August 15, 2016

Working Full Throttle on My Book!
     As much as I love writing articles for this blog, I've realized I'm spending too much time thinking of ideas and writing the blog rather than working on my book. I've decided to take a break from the blog so I can focus all of my energy and creative 'juices' on completing my book, Balanced Soul; 52 Holistic Practices for Personal Evolution and Wholeness. I will of course announce the launch of my book as soon as it's completed. Thank you all for your support and encouragement!  

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Transforming Your Relationship From Frustration to Appreciation
     When we imagined the great love of our lives we imagined the fairy tale. Someone who would know us, give the perfect gifts, and communicate from the heart. And if they were "the ones" we would always feel loved, understood, and cared for. In essence we would never feel bad, because it's supposed to be 'happily ever after' isn't it? The problem with this fantasy is that not only does perfection not exist, but if we lived the above scenario 24/7 we would become acquiescent automatons and not human beings. As two different people we're going to see the world differently from our significant others and will disagree sometimes. Letting go of the fantasy of "the perfect" love will release you from disappointment when your partner actually does human things like argue and whine (just like you do... yes you do!)
     Rekindling love is really as simple as learning to actively remember the qualities that you appreciate in your partner and to discover new ones. Human beings seem hardwired to remember and focus on the negative situations in our lives. It's a survival skill so that we can learn from them and not repeat them. That's ok if you are a hunter-gatherer and need to remember the shape of the berried plant that almost killed you or which area of the forest the wolves tend to congregate. But in matters of the heart focusing on the negative in your relationship and partner will only perpetuate frustration and resentment.
   One way to retrain your brain is to view certain qualities of your beloved with fresh eyes. The very qualities that differentiate you from him could also be the same traits that your friends and family see as complementary. Is she the organizer of the family and you're the laid back one who likes to go with the flow? Are you on the introverted side, but he can be more talkative and friendly and draw you out of your shell at parties? Are you emotionally high strung at times and his frustrating stoicism can actually calm you down? Opposite qualities can have a balancing effect; they temper extremes if we can learn to welcome rather than fight our differences.
     Seeing your loved one's infuriating traits through a new prism can help you to accept him as he is and not try to change him, which we know is futile anyway. You can express your feelings and respectfully ask for what you need from him (but you cannot change him.) So maybe his 'negativity' is really his belief that he is being "realistic" and wants to be prepared for possible challenges. Maybe her 'nagging' is her fear of losing you and wanting you to be healthy.
     You chose your spouse for a reason; don't let disagreements and frustrations unravel the love that is always below the surface. Get a pen and paper and ask yourself these questions: What are the deeper qualities in his heart that you love? What do you both value above all else and want to make sure that your life together reflects? What differences do you actually admire if you can view it with a new light?
     As Carl Jung noted, "What you resist, persists." It is a law of the Universe that what we place our awareness on day in and day out is what we get in life. Our perception is our reality. Try shifting your thoughts about your spouse and your relationship from fretting about frustrating disappointments to appreciating the millions of  small loving actions that you overlook daily. This more positive perspective will bring more of the loving actions. Notice them.  Notice him. Reframe your perspective and you will notice that the love has been there all along. Its' just that life has also crept in because we're human in all of our fears and vulnerability and at the end of the day that is perfection because it allows us to also be our imperfect selves.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

 Reverence Brings Gratitude

     We want to live our lives to the fullest, but that doesn't always have to mean jumping out of airplanes and rafting the Colorado river (But of course it can...) In our attention deficient culture simply paying attention, REALLY paying attention by being fully present, not only brings reverence to your life it brings gratitude. And after years of working with depressed clients I can tell you that actively focusing on deeply appreciating the little awe inducing moments in our lives can do wonders for alleviating feelings of alienation and hopelessness.
     Reverence is humbly standing in respectful awe of what is right in front of you; say a beautiful yellow and blue butterfly feasting on the nectar of a butterfly bush. I see this daily in my backyard, but how often do I really take the time to recognize the beauty and efficiency of nature. When we allow ourselves to slow down, put down our electronic devices (Ok, I took the picture, but I was in awe beforehand!) and really be present for our lives, wonderment can happen. Artists and writers do this daily, you can't create unique art without paying attention to moments others overlook. Georgia O'Keefe's paintings of a magnified bee's eye view of flowers appeared completely abstract to many viewers, but she reassured them that they could see what she sees in flowers if they would take the time to really look at them; to get down on their knees and put their faces into the flower and see what a bee sees. It's a kaleidoscope mandala that is truly mesmerizing! 
     Our minute by minute onslaught of mental chatter naturally quiets down when your senses are engaged. You cannot simultaneously worry and fret and be in awe at the same time. Reverence takes you out of your head and into life. Poignant moments can happen even during mundane tasks like your daily commute. While attending graduate school in San Francisco I saw a scene on the subway whose memory still breaks my heart open. A skater-punk looking dude was knitting (yes actually knitting with yarn) on the subway and a prim-looking elderly woman sitting next to him whom he did not know was giving him knitting tips. On the Muni. In the middle of the workday rush hour! Sublime! If I had read that in a novel I would have dismissed it as implausible, but it happened and I was paying attention and it moved me. 
     Reverence can happen any time anywhere. It's simply you paying attention to everything around you and being humbly moved by the beautiful uniqueness of the moment, you blink and it's gone and it will never come back again. Reverence for life and gratitude are dynamically interwoven; each creates the other. Appreciating the little things in life that really add up to the big things gives us a place in the universe, it helps us feel that we are actively playing in our own lives and not just watching (second-hand images from TV and the internet) from the sidelines.
     So slow down, open your eyes, your mind and your heart to what is right in front of you and allow yourself to be moved by it. You will appreciate life so much more.    

I welcome any comments or questions! Please follow my blog if you are inspired. Thank you.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Transcendent Experience

     My graduate counseling program was in "transpersonal psychology" the prefix "trans" means to go beyond something,  in this case beyond the limits of our personal experience. What I love about a spiritual focus in psychology is that we often become so bogged down in our entrenched ways of thinking and being that we limit our experiences to the comfortable and known.  And yet science tells us that our cells are forever regenerating; in essence we can become anew in each moment if we allow it.
     Transcendent experiences take us beyond the everyday, beyond what we think is possible. The paradox is that while these experiences take us "beyond" our earthly "limitations" they also encompass the depths of our consciousness. So while this expansion seems to take us beyond ourselves we also feel more like ourselves; more at home in the Universe. It's why when viewing a panoramic mountain top vista we feel both small in the context of the infinite "multiverse" and also somehow bigger because we know we are inextricably woven into that multiverse. 
     Based on what we've learned from neuroscience in the last fifty years our brains are capable of so much more than we ever realized. We may be truly limitless in our potential for higher states of consciousness, higher sensory awareness and states of meta-compassion.
     So what are transcendent experiences? Anything that expands your sense of yourself, the world, and what is possible. There is no delineation between me, you, inside or outside; you experience everything at the same time and nothing at all simultaneously. The nothingness is the Grand Void.  But the emptiness is not a vacuumous existential alienation; it is Pure Potentiality realizing itself. Experiences such as: immersing yourself in jaw dropping, head swooning natural beauty, practicing meditation with enough regularity and duration that you experience pure awareness, intentionally opening your heart to it's swelling capacity for LOVE and compassion for all creatures, moving your body to trance rhythms like a shaman, holding your baby in your arms for the first time, the possibilities are limitless. Some people rely on drugs for these experiences, but this is always fleeting and not good for your body or mind in the long run.
     Hold the intention of having more of these transcendent experiences in your life. Be spontaneous to new opportunities and keep your mind open when presented with ideas for expansion that seem far fetched. You never know when an experience could evolve your consciousness and therefore humanity! 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Cultivating Equanimity

     Equanimity is the peace that comes from accepting reality just as it is in this moment and not expecting it to be any different. How can reality be any different than it is? So is equanimity a blind resignation to suffering? No! Far from it. But we can only change those things that we understand and fully accept as reality; we don't have to like it, but we do have to acknowledge what's happening.
     In any given moment our thoughts are either raising us up to a higher vibration or they're keeping us either stuck or spiraling downward. When something is happening that feels bad or overwhelming the first thing to do is nothing (and that may be the only thing!)  Take a deep breath and assess what exactly is happening. Check in with others to make sure you understand what's really going on and not just making assumptions or jumping to conclusions. Then acknowledge whatever you are feeling, even if you think you "shouldn't" be feeling it, or that you're overreacting. Remember your feelings are always valid because they're your truth in the moment. You cannot help what you feel, but you can work on what you think and what you do with those feelings.
     Next, give yourself some mental and (perhaps physical) space by taking deep breaths and going for a walk. (Have you ever noticed how people pace back and forth when they're in distress and they have to make a decision about what to do?)  When you literally give yourself some breathing room and therefore gain some emotional distance from the situation, you can then determine what action, if any, needs to be taken. Our brains do not work well when we're overloaded with emotion (i.e.-we're freaking out!)
     Do you need to talk things over with someone? Do you need to take action to remedy or change the situation? Or can you simply change your perspective on the issue with time?  And remember, gentle soul, It's ok to make the "wrong" choice and have to remedy the remedy. We're human, it happens. Often the "mistake" can be a blessing in disguise that we can only see with time.
     Equanimity is a gift that manifests with practice. The emotional non-attachment that is sometimes needed is not an unfeeling or uncaring detachment. It is simply giving yourself some mental and emotional distance so you can make the best decision for your life or decide that you're going to be okay even if you do nothing.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Weekly Holistic Practice:
Bringing Your Shadow to Light
     In order to lead a rich full life, you want to bring the fullness of all that you are into the light and out into the world. Our shadow selves are not just those traits that we define as 'bad,' they are also aspects of our personality that have simply r eceded into the darkness for a lack of awareness and understanding.
     Shadows are the parts of us that we keep hidden because we had been given the message early on that they are dangerous, shameful, or unrealistic. The roots of our shadow begin early in childhood; traits and feelings such as anger, boldness, flamboyance, and sexuality were seen as 'bad' or dangerous and therefore repressed. Our hidden selves are not readily seen by others or even ourselves, but they have a subconscious power over us none the less. They sabotage our relationships, we miss out on success because we are not bringing our full selves to the table. We suspect that there is much more to who we are but we don't yet know how to be fully ourselves.
     When we shine the light of conscious awareness on these aspects of ourselves, the darkness not only looses its power over us, we free up vital energy and wonderful gifts that we may not know we have. Move through this exercise with an attitude of curious compassion rather than shame or judgment.  Take pen to paper and ask yourself these questions:
1. What specific qualities do you find reprehensible in others? Could you be projecting some of your own hidden traits onto them? Ex: "I can't stand people who talk a lot. But when I dig deeper into my  experience, I realize that my own voice was squashed as a child and I desperately want to get my ideas, thoughts, and feelings out."
2. What secret places, objects, or experiences are you inexplicably drawn to? What hidden gifts could you be harboring in the recesses of your scared and scarred psyche that desperately want to be given the oxygen to breathe in the of the light of day?
3. What messages did you get from well-meaning caregivers,teachers, and peers about what was and wasn't 'appropriate' in polite society? What talents and personality traits did you repress as a result?
4. What darker archetypes lie hidden within you? Could it be "the bitch" who has to fight for her power, "the golden prince" who feels entitled, "the saboteur" who claims to be helping you? These dark sides once protected us, but now can sabotage our lives by way of poor choices and passive aggressive actions. By understanding and acknowledging them we free up the energy and tools needed to make conscious positive choices. The choice to not let them run our lives anymore, the choice for healthier more life affirming actions and ways of being.
     This shadow work creates understanding and acceptance of our full selves rather than judgment and shame. Hidden gifts and ways of being are given the loving attention they have always deserved: a sense of playfulness, a voice, the ability to love freely, compassion, and creativity, the list is endless. You are only limited by your fear; and we fear what remains in the dark. What hidden treasures can you bring to light?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Weekly Holistic Practice: Expressing Your Subconscious Through Art

     Sometimes we don't have the words to express how we feel. Sometimes we don't even know what we're feeling. Art can reveal the subconscious mind beautifully. It bypasses our analytical rational minds and expresses the depths of our hearts. The following practice can reveal where your soul is on your life's journey.  With an attitude of curiosity, let yourself play and be a witness to the magic.
     Gather any art materials you have: a large sheet of paper or canvas, paints, charcoal, colored pencils, markers, brushes, a jar of water, etc. Put newspapers down on the floor or table where you will be working undisturbed. Turn off your phone and give yourself the gift of this time for you alone.  Give yourself permission to make a fun kid-like mess. (Finger painting anyone?)
     Center yourself (Practice #1.) As you become quiet inside allow any feelings, thoughts, memories, or questions about an area of your life to come into consciousness. Pick up the paint brush or pencil; letting your intuition choose the color. Allow your hand to move across the page on its own with no preconceived ideas about what you're "supposed" to be doing. Become like a little child who spontaneously creates with no self-conscious judgment of good or bad. This is about expression not masterpieces. The more raw, the more authentic. Let it fly! Play with the colors, shapes, swooshes, symbols and lines naturally. Paint, don't think!  Whatever is flowing out of you is 'right.' It may take the shape of specific symbols or themes; or it may be abstract or non-representational. All images are welcome. 
     You will naturally stop when your picture feels complete. Back away from the image so you can take it in as a whole. You are simply a curious witness, not a critic!  What is the over all mood of the picture: is it open and free or contained? What emotions are evoked from the color palette, lines, and shapes?  What could the images symbolize in your life? Use your intuition as a guide in compassionately exploring the image you created for yourself. Have reverence for your creation. Be as kind to yourself as you would to a child's drawing. What messages is the painting giving you? Journal about the feelings and insights into your psyche that this image evokes. Apply the wisdom to your life.