“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
One of my favorite things to do each year is to look back through my children’s annual photos. It always amazes me to see how they have grown and changed from year to year. It brings back memories to look at them when they were younger and to see how they continue to grow and develop. It is easy to see the physical changes that occur, but the changes in who they are becoming is what is fascinating. We are not static creatures. Every day we grow and change. We are continually evolving and we have opportunities each day to expand and challenge ourselves. Mary Morrissey has said that some people truly live 99 years, while others live one year 99 times. As I work with my clients I often ask them how long they have been repeating the same patterns. Many of them are able to recognize that although the characters or the places may be different, they are in the same interactions over and over again, having the same arguments, having the same fights. When I ask about them, at first they often blame the people around them. It is all of their bosses who treat them unfairly or it is a string of significant others who just don’t do their share of the work in the relationship. As we go through their list of the other people who are all to blame, many of them are able to begin to recognize that they are the one who has the issue. I feel that we all have things we are meant to learn and experience during our short time on this planet. For some, we have to master patience, so life will give us ample opportunities to practice patience until we are able to develop that skill. For others it may be compassion, so we are given opportunities over and over again to work on our compassion skills. Whatever it is we are meant to develop, whether it be forgiveness, hope, self-discipline or positivity, we will be given people and experiences in order to hone and develop those skills that we most need to work on. When we are struggling to get along with someone, we can look at the other person as an angel in disguise. Instead of being here just to annoy us, they are here to help us grow and practice what we are meant to experience. Nelson Mandela has said that the person who was sent to prison would have never been able to be president of his country. He had to grow and change through his experiences in order to develop the gifts he was meant to share with the world. It is through our interactions with difficult people or going through challenging life events that we are able to stretch our comfort zone and grow into a new person. Buckle up, it is time to evolve!
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.” ― Maya Angelou
This week I sat with several clients as they had to make extremely difficult decisions. There wasn’t an obvious answer for any of them and all of them felt like it was a no win situation. Sometimes in life there isn’t an easy choice. None of the options we see currently seem to be the right solution and it is easy to become frozen and just say, I’m not going to decide and I’ll just let it all play out. I was told when I was a child that if I had a decision to make I should write up a pro and con list and go with whichever list is longer. What I found when I actually took that advice was that it didn’t work. I could easily come up with the list, but even though there may have been 10 things on the pro side, the one thing on the con side seemed to have just as much weight. It wasn’t that easy. Our brains are marvelous tools, but they don’t tend to help very much when we have a big decision to make. We get lost in over-analyzing and critically thinking about tiny details of each possibility. It becomes almost impossible to make a decision and so we put it off. What I have found is that more often than not, I knew the decision that had to be made. I just didn’t want to allow myself to know the decision, because I didn’t want to do what I would have to do if I decided. My brain does a great job at trying to convince me that I don’t know what to do, when in my heart I know. I have now began using a different method to make difficult decisions and it doesn’t make them any easier, but I regret far fewer of them. Instead of going into my head for the answer I go into my heart. I get quiet and ask myself how I would feel if I chose option A. Then I focus my attention on my body. The pit of my stomach is usually a good place for me to pay special attention to. I try to tune in to see if I get a light and open feeling or if it is a dark and constricted feeling. I then ask myself how I would feel with option B. Sometimes I know right away. If it is something I have been avoiding, my brain will kick into action and tell me all the reasons why it doesn’t make logical sense to go with that option. Often times it is right- it doesn’t make any logical sense, but that doesn’t mean it is the wrong choice. In life we have to take risks. Sometimes it feels dangerous to take a leap of faith when we don’t know where we are going to land. Those surprises are often times where we grow the most. When I don’t get an answer right away I sit with it for a day or two. If nothing comes to me by then I set a date and time within the week to make my decision. At that time I decide to decide and go with it. There are no wrong decisions in life. Whatever decision we make we are going to learn and gain clarity on what we do want. I find that often we get paralyzed because we feel like once we make a decision we are stuck for the rest of our lives with that decision. That is not the case. There are always other choices that can be made farther down the road. Look at the decision as an experiment and know that at a later time a different decision can be made, but once the decision is made commit fully to it. Allow the universe to know that you are stepping out and spreading your wings so that you will fly when you take that leap.
“There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.”― Maya Angelou
How many lies do we tell ourselves? Really think about it. That voice that is constantly chattering away has a way of spinning things around. It comes up with some incredible lies. It tells us things like, we aren’t good enough, someone else is better than we are, that there isn’t enough of something, that we will fail at what we are working on, that we caused something bad to happen, and on and on. Sometimes the thought train of lies carries us off and before we know it we are starting to believe that those thoughts are true. So how do we get off the train?
Over the past few weeks I discussed the image of our ego being a cage and the authentic self as being within the cage. There is a big question that can open the door of the cage and help us stop the train of lies. When we ask ourselves if those thoughts are actually true we begin to crack the door open. This is not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes we get thoughts stuck in our head and we have all the evidence to prove that the thought is correct, so we don’t even question it. There are facts that tell us that we don’t have enough money, the time isn’t right, we don’t have the education or we just aren’t able to do it. Our brains pull up all kinds of evidence to prove that it is right. It will remind you of the time in second grade when you tried something new and then everyone laughed when you failed. It will bring up every time that someone was better. It will tell you to look at your bank account to prove that you will never be able to have or do what you dream of. But here is the big question. Just because those facts are there, does it mean that what you are envisioning can’t happen? Just because you failed in the past does it mean that you are destined to always fail? Instead of allowing the past experiences to become the cage that keeps us stuck, asking ‘what have I learned from these experiences?’ pushes us to the truth that we can have and do something different in the future. When we feel as if we have failed and the thought that ‘I can’t do this’ comes up, continuing to ask the question, ‘is that true’ digs down deeper and deeper into the actual truth. The actual truth is that we are limitless. The actual truth is that we are more then we realize. As Marianne Williamson says in her book, A Return to Love, “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?”
“Honestly, I’m not a big person in terms of religion, but I really believe in nature. I feel like anytime you see anything beautiful in nature that’s the closest I’m ever going to get to God or a sense of a higher power.” -Sara Rue
Working in the addictions field leads to many discussions about spirituality with my clients. The Twelve Step model is based on opening up to a higher power and while there are some clients that this resonates well with, others struggle to understand what a higher power means to them. They often note that even though a broad definition of higher power is encouraged and that definition can include anything outside of themselves, they struggle to see how something like a tree or someone they admire or even the group itself can be a higher power for them. To understand this is to go back to the cage example I discussed last week. We have an authentic self that sometimes gets locked in a cage by our ego. When the cage door is open and the authentic self is able to connect, that to me is spirituality. Moments of deep connection, whether it be in nature, when looking into a baby’s eyes, during quiet meditation or a moment of deep intimacy with another person are among the most spiritual experiences we can have. We can interact with nature or a baby, but if the cage door is closed we lose our ability to truly connect. This is a significant point. When I come home from a busy day at work and my son is talking to me there are times when I hear the words he is saying and I respond, yet my mind is still busy thinking about the comment a co-worker made or something that happened. Although we are talking and communicating, there is minimal connection. When I become fully present and listen openly to what he is sharing there is a significant difference in the interaction. There is a deepening in the moment and the connection can be felt. This is a spiritual moment. Sometimes we aren’t able to recognize that our cage is shut, we think it is open, but yet become frustrated, feeling isolated and misunderstood. That is a good indication that we are in the cage of the ego. Opening the door of connection between our authentic self and anything else is a spiritual experience. We can feel the difference in the quality of the connection when we touch in to the authentic level. This is sometimes defined as a spark or a deep knowing or even a sense of peace and calm. Although it is hard to describe in words, it is a connection that is felt and sensed. Due to prior experiences, the ego may not open the cage door very wide or even to other people, so for some people developing a sense of connection with nature or pets can feel safer. When someone finds that they can be calm and peaceful when sitting in nature, that becomes their higher power. They have found a place where they are able to connect with their authentic self. The more we are able to experience deep connection and go into the authentic self, the more we are able to expand that connection to include other places, people and the world around us. As our connection with our higher power opens the door to our authentic self, we become healthier. We all have a higher power, so take some time to connect with yours today!