Finding Love…Cultivating a Grateful Heart

Finding Love….Cultivating A Grateful Heartstock-footage-closeup-of-a-buddhist-monk-with-orange-robe-pray-in-temple

Thanksgiving always reminds me of the importance of Gratitude for living a fulfilled and awakened life. This year what I also realized though, is that I don’t always feel grateful. I complain. I criticize. I judge the actions of others. I forget in these moments that much of what I see “out there” in the world of “not me” actually exists “in here”….that is within me. When I am truly honest with myself I admit that what I don’t like in others is actually a reflection of some part of me. Put another way, the truth is that…in some way, at some time, and to some extent….I am that too  (whatever “that” is in that moment

The Full Meaning Of  “I am That”

When I think of “I am that” I am referring to “that” as the wonderful magnificence of me…as well as the shadowy hidden parts of me. I am “all of that” in equal measure, in fact. I had a spiritual teacher who would say….if you see it, and can recognize it, then you are it. I believe this.

Cultivating Gratitude For All Of It

From this more “all encompassing” perspective, I feel called upon to cultivate gratitude in my life. I am grateful for all that I may label as “good”, as well as all that I may label as “bad” at any given time. Most of all , I am grateful for the “unifying field” that holds it all together and allows for the possibility that we can all be “at one” with one another. “Wholeness” and “Oneness” is what I seek at all times for myself and for the world

From Gratitude…Flows Forgiveness

It seems to me that from a place of gratitude, forgiveness can begin to flow easily and abundantly. Surely, if I am “that” and you are also “that” then we can forgive both ourselves and everyone else who may have “wronged” us. Actually, in fact, forgiving one is forgiving the other. Is there really any separation?

Now Love Emerges fully realized

Now is when love begins to really emerge into consciousness. It was always there but it can now be seen and felt in a way that was not possible before.

My gratitude then becomes a gratitude for the love that is everywhere present .….within and without all of us at all times.

So…Thank you, Thank you, and Thank you again

prayer of Gratitude

prayer of Gratitude

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Love….How To Reclaim Your Hidden Self

Finding Love…. Reclaiming and Celebrating the Hidden Self

Wholeness

Wholeness

I’ve recently begun a series of blogs devoted to solving the “riddle” of “Finding Love” in our lives. First I talked about “The Importance of Feeling Seen”. Next I touched upon “Daring to be vulnerable”. Now I want to talk more specifically about the part of us that often is not seen by others…the “hidden” self that feels tender and vulnerable and remains unseen unless we allow it to emerge from the shadows of our personality. In fact, the famous psychologist Carl Jung referred to our hidden self as the “shadow”. In simple terms, your “shadow” is any part of yourself that you don’t want to be seen by others…and in fact you may not even allow yourself to see it because you have denied it for so long or buried it so deep. Examples of “shadow” parts of us might be our extreme shame, or our desperate longing to be loved…orperhaps our bitter jealousy of a sister, brother, or friend.

Virtually anything can be in our shadow if its something we don’t want to “own” or admit to. It could even be a hidden talent that we are afraid to develop lest we won’t be perfect at it. Whatever the shadow is doesn’t matter. What matters is uncovering it…first to yourself…and then to another with whom you wish to achieve authentic intimacy. Uncovering and exposing your shadow is important work on the path to wholeness and, I believe essential for finding lasting love.

How Do You Know What’s In Your Shadow?

I think most of us are pretty conscious of certain parts of ourselves that we keep hidden much of the time. Who amongst us has not been jealous or envious for example? Recently I have found that it’s quite liberating to admit to my trusted women friends that I have felt jealous of them from time to time. I was amazed when I did this. When my jealously was hidden and suppressed I found it difficult to be happy for the good fortune of my friends. When I admitted envy, I could rejoice with them. I could join with my friend and we could be happy together. My jealously came out of the shadows and became an admitted part of who I am.

Now…. Look At Your Projections and Discover The Connection Between Judgment And Projection

In order to find deeper parts of our shadow selves that we really don’t want to admit to or just can’t see, we have to notice the places where we sit in extreme judgment of other people. What happens is that when we really don’t want to admit to a trait within ourselves we react strongly to that trait in another person. This very human tendency is called “Projection” and it’s a really good way to keep our shadow selves at bay. For me, a really good example was when a good friend of mine got a new car that I’d been coveting for a while, but I could not afford right now. All of a sudden I was talking negatively to others about the extreme foolishness of her buying this car. My extreme reaction was Projection. I could not just be happy for her until I admitted my jealousy and took back the projection. My projection, in this case gave me a clue about that same old hidden part of myself called envy

Know That You Are Enough

Brene Brown is a well-known “Shame” researcher who has studied the emotion of shame extensively. One of her findings is that people who are driven by the need to be “perfect” are often keeping huge parts of themselves hidden from themselves and others. What they are keeping hidden is obviously anything that does not fit the image that they are trying to project of being “perfect”. These hidden “non perfect” aspects are part of the shadow of a perfectionist. What a burden! Perfectionism becomes a problem of course, simply because it is unobtainable. Brene Brown stresses the importance of Knowing that you are enough which means, I believe owning all of the parts of yourself…the perfect and the imperfect. In her book, Daring To Be Vulnerable Dr. Brown also talks about how often all of us avoid looking at the imperfect parts of ourselves by staying ultra busy, or numbing ourselves with the many distractions that are available in our modern world. Drugs and alcohol also serve this purpose.

So…. Celebrate All Of Who You Are

So…now that you know how to find your “hidden self”, rejoice in it, reveal it, and celebrate your well-earned place in the human race. People will find you much more approachable as you emerge from the shadows, as long as you surround yourself with a trusted cadre of like-minded folks. One of my favorite songwriters is Leonard Cohen. He has a great line in one of his songs about how true enlightenment comes when a crack appears in anything that we as humans call “perfect” This is how the line goes: “There is a crack, a crack, in everything…that’s how the light gets in. That’s how the light gets in”

 

 

 

The Golden Key To Long Life And Happiness

 

Sustained Happiness

Recently there has been a proliferation of research regarding the nature of “Happiness”…that elusive state of mind that we all crave. Much of this research comes from the relatively new field of “Positive” psychology. The research methodology often involves compiling “self report” surveys from all over the world. The main question asked of people recruited for the survey is very simple. It is usually some variation of   “How happy are you, and to what do you attribute your level of happiness? Research subjects are given general categories from which to choose including health, wealth, spiritual practice, relationships with family and friends…etc. The findings after upwards of 15 years of this kind of research are shocking…but not altogether surprising.

General Findings Of Happiness Research

As compared with middle age adults in other highly industrialized countries, Americans rate extremely low on the “happiness” scale. Our rates of anxiety and depression are sky high. At the same time we have disturbingly high rates of “mood” disorder and general discontent, we also spend the most money trying to solve our “happiness problem”. Common attempts to “feel better” include buying the latest technological toy, taking exotic and exciting vacations, working on improving our bodies, engaging in numerous “self help” activities, and taking psychiatric medications. Overall these attempts appear not to be working. At the very least, the results don’t seem to last.

So…What’s Wrong With This Picture?

To put it simply…in popular American culture, many of us seem to be seeking happiness in all the wrong places. We would do well to look at the activities and values of people in other parts of the world who report higher levels of happiness…as well as looking at populations in the United States who report higher long-term levels of happiness. When researchers did exactly this, here is what they found:

The Top Three Characteristics Of People Who Report High Levels Of Happiness

  1. The happiest amongst us consistently report that they enjoy meaningful, intimate, relationships with family and/or friends
  2. A higher degree of contentment is correlated with those who have found a sense of purpose in their lives. This can be achieved either through work that is more of a “calling”, or really anything that one can feel passionate about
  3. A belief in something that is greater than the “self” also brings about a sense of peace and acceptance. Anxieties are “soothed” by this idea, and it does not necessarily mean the belief in any particular religious ideology…although it could.
  4. People who know how to re-write their life story are happier and probably have a longer, healthier life!

Importance of Relationship

The good news is that improving your relationships is something anybody can do at any time. It doesn’t take huge amounts of money unless you are amongst those who really need to work on how to connect with others. Here are some steps you might consider:

  1. Assess your current relationship environment. Does everyone you deal with on a daily basis add value to your life? If not consider gently letting go of those who do not. This could even mean changing jobs if you are forced to work in a hostile environment
  2. Consider reconnecting with people from your past. These people are like “gold” because they can help you reconnect with lost parts of yourself that can enrich your present sense of yourself
  3. Nurture your relationships every day. Don’t be afraid to be the first to call. If you find you are “working too hard” to keep something going though, this is another sign you may need to let a relationship go
  4. Don’t forget to be your own best friend. Spend time alone getting to know yourself in an atmosphere of quiet contemplation. Become curious and interested in the world through whatever “portal” makes sense to you (such as books, movies, nature) This will make you interesting to others and people will want to be around you.

Live Long And Thrive

I’m aware this is the Kaiser tag line, but I’m gonna borrow it because I like it. The longest living amongst us always report that they derive energy and the “will to live” through their relationships. As an added bonus, successful long-term romantic relationships often begin as deep committed friendships. Friendship is the fertile soil out of which intimacy sprouts and flourishes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just..be curious Good advice for the female brain

Just…Be Curious

Good Advice For The Female Brain

I’m not gonna lie….I have occasional bouts with anxiety.  It comes and goes according to its own agenda depending on the circumstances of my life, but it manefests usually as “anticipatory anxiety”.  That is to say, I am a victim of “What If” thinking…The catastrophic world of my imagination is far worse than anything that has ever actually happened. When the “bad” stuff happens,  its never what I expect or when I expect it.  Talk about being your own worst enemy!

What I have learned recently from Dr. Daniel Amen, who is a well  known neuropsychologist, is that the female brain is actually wired to encode anticipatory anxiety at a neurological level.  This can be seen in brain scans done on adult females and then comparing them to male brain scans.  Statistically speaking, the female brain “lights up” much more than the male brain in the area of emotional arousal, and emotional memory.  Female brains are actually much more active than male brains, but not necessarily in an adaptive way.  Perhaps, evolutionarily speaking, it was once an advantage for female tribe members to be acutely sensitive to legitimate threat to the tribe. She had to protect her babies.  Now, however, acute “hypervigalence” can get in the way as modern women react to “perceived threat”.  Now the threat  exists inside of us.  It has become “internalized” and our feelings of panic are easily triggered as our emotional memory “brings back up” all previous memories of times we have felt “like this”.  The neural pathways then become reinforced, and we are easily set off again.  The problem is that this type of sustained anxiety floods the body with adrenaline and cortisol and these stress hormones are harmful to our overall physical and mental health.

So, what can we do?  To answer this question I draw upon the wise words of Dr. Harville Hendrix, a theologian and psychologist, who has been working with couples for 35 years and has written the books.  “Getting The Love You Want”, and “Keeping The Love You Get”.  Dr. Hendrix suggests that we women should become curious explorers of our own psyche when we are triggered by events and find ourselves in that place of extreme emotional reactivity. When the female brain is “Lit Up”, to use Dr. Amen’s language, the part of the brain that is fired up is located in the “limbic” system, which is where emotions are created, stored, and retrieved.  Our emotional memories can be lovely memories of a time when we were happy, contented, and loved.  Emotional memories can also create great suffering, and help us stay in some very dark places. Dr. Hendrix suggests that we can interrupt the emotional suffering by simply stepping away for a moment to become curious about ourselves.  We need only ask the question:  “I wonder why I am having such a reaction as this right now?” The asking of the question moves the brain from the limbic system to the neo cortex, where thinking and problem solving take place.  We can become calm and begin to explore ourselves more dispassionately. This is much like becoming your own best friend, or therapist.  Save yourself some cash!

So, try it if you like…..Im going to