Archive for July 2016

Walking the Path of Transformation || Mary Coday Edwards

Blog 7

Walking the Path of Transformation.

journey

July 26, 2016

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards.

After a long and arduous hike, this sign greeted me at the top of the spreading, wide plateau. I chuckled at the understatement: such an apt description of our lives at times!

BLOG 7

Let’s say we’ve done the first half-of-life work: we’ve developed our skills and talents through training, education, and experience. Perhaps we’ve found a partner to walk with us and we’ve had children or the equivalent.

We may not have met all of our goals, but life’s good – onward and upward!

Then – bam. Something shifts within us, life seems to go dull, or we hit a roadblock with our personal or career goals. We think we know what we ought to be doing next, but it isn’t happening. Perhaps a death or sickness stops us.

We don’t like this shift – we want it to go away, we want to return to how things were. We work harder, using our standard mode of operation to get what we want and to avoid what we don’t want.

We start reading self-help books; we talk to our close friends and family members; perhaps we make an appointment for a psychotherapist, or a spiritual counselor.  “Am I depressed?” we ask. “Do I need a pill to make me feel better?” or “What am I doing wrong?” (1)

Or worse – we abandon our commitments because we believe moving to Nepal will solve all our problems. Our psyche has important information for us and all we’re doing is prolonging and increasing the agony when we believe changing our circumstances will make us happy. 

Outward changes may be required, especially if you are in an abusive relationship, but those decisions will be made in full consciousness.

“Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost,” wrote Dante, in The Divine Comedy

In other words, the path becomes “difficult to find beyond this point”.

“Relax!” I tell folks when they come to me, frustrated and hurting when they find themselves on this plateau with no discernible path. I also tell them:

  • It’s normal. Years ago when I was lost in the weeds, a saving piece of wisdom came to me through the writings of Carl Jung: “The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting it go.” In other words, what got you through the first half of your life won’t cut it for the second half. And these “halves” aren’t cleaved at the same age for everyone. There is no magic age when life seemingly falls apart.
  • Breathe, practice mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, says mindfulness is “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”

In other words, pay attention: pay attention to your dreams, write them down; pay attention to your moods, welcome them as your teachers; pay attention to your body, where’s the stress, the anxiety, and if possible, what’s the source; stay with the discomfort, live the question: “What next, higher self?”

And look for synchronicities in your life. The NOW holds the seeds to the future; when we’re anxious about that future, or have a pre-determined idea of what it should look like, or when we’re remembering our glorious past, we miss those seeds.

At one stage of my painful unknowing, I sought out a Buddhist Roshi/Catholic priest looking for answers to what my next step ought to me.

His advice? “You’re right where you’re supposed to be.”

That’s not what I wanted to hear. 

  • Listen to your inner wisdom. This is why we practice mindfulness. John Heider (2) says that very early on in the study of human nature there came about the concept of something like a higher self, or essence, as part of the psyche. This inner wisdom has your best interests in mind. By practicing mindfulness, we learn to access and listen to that inner wisdom. Heider believed that it is in this higher self that healing and growth occurs.
  • It’s your path of transformation. This usually nets me a look of disbelief – just short of a sneer.

Abraham Maslow as well as Jung referred to this as a self-actualizing principle driving the process in order that we become everything we potentially were created to be. This self-actualizing principle, higher self – whatever one chooses to call it – wants all of you to show up to all of life. It wants to become the best me I can become, that wants to grow, that’s eager for life.

This especially includes getting to know those parts of your personality that you’ve ignored, disliked, discounted, or swept under the rug with the hope that no one would notice the lumps.

“Unraveling external selves and coming home to our real identity is the true meaning of soul work,” says Sue Monk Kidd.

It isn’t that we now disavow the strengths developed in our youth and young adult stage. Again, referring to Jung, if extroversion defined us so far, it’s time to look for that within us that seeks solitude or meditative practices. In my case, I depended on my head to lead me; I needed to listen to those wise intuitive urges from within, parts I had barricaded myself against.

It’s not to say that we ever “arrive” as our psychic depths are vast. What we sense is that we’re now operating out of place of wholeness. And this wholeness doesn’t look the same for everyone – it will be based on all those bits of us we excluded.   

If you stay with this calling, this drive emanating from your deeper self, one day you’ll notice you’re on kind of a path. You’ll know it not because it’s announced itself with a large, flashy neon sign, but because of that gentle, calming, inner peace.

It’s an exciting journey, to show up as we truly are. This is the gift we give to the Universe – ourselves!

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Note 1: This is not to dismiss the reality of mental illness and the beneficiary aspects of medication; if mental illness is suspected or has been diagnosed, a trained psychotherapist/psychiatrist is recommended. In addition, a physical is recommended in order to rule out any physical disorders.

Note 2: John Heider, among other things, studied and helped direct long-term programs at Esalen Institute, taught at the Menninger Foundation of Psychiatry, and directed The Human Potential School of Mendocino, California. He is the author of The Tao of Leadership.

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About the Author: Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.

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Here is a list of other blogs Mary has written for People House:

When Friends and Family Disapprove || Dorothy Wallis

What Happens to You when Your Family or Friends Disapprove
By Dorothy Wallis

disapprove

 

Conflict is difficult for me.
Life has taught me that my desire for everyone to get along and be in harmony is an almost impossible expectation. I especially struggle when family members show disappointment and criticize my choice to do something, be with someone or be somewhere that goes against what they desire or want. It feels as though I am being torn apart and made to decide between my life and the people I love. No matter what choice I make someone will be hurt. In the past, guilt would tear at my heart and eat me up. The pain would muddle my thoughts and hold my energy hostage. I could not be fully present to my own needs. It created a “No-Win” situation for my family, my friends and me.

Does this dynamic sound familiar? Have you ever struggled with family or friends competing for your time or not approving of your choices, beliefs or ideas? It may be your choice of activities, career, friends, relationships, or the lifestyle you desire that does not meet the approval of what others want or expect for you. How do you navigate the demands of family, friendships and your own desires? We often underestimate how much we value the acceptance and approval of our family, friends and peers. Disapproval can leave you feeling confused or guilty about your choice of whom you love or whom you spend your time with. It can undermine your ability to trust your decisions and even affect your self-esteem.

Frenzied Fracturing
Reactions of those close to you may range from criticism, resentment, anger and condemnation to the “silent treatment” and withdrawal when you make a choice that differs from theirs. Some may gossip to others about how they cannot understand your actions or choices, how irresponsible you are or berate you for not following what is expected.

The backlash stems from their attempts to assuage their own hurt and fear and reel you back into what helps them feel safe and right.

Of course these reactions feel controlling and manipulative because they are. Humans have an instinctual impulse to belong to ensure safety, security and connection for survival and emotional well-being. When you move into unknown realms or make choices that do not include the beliefs or desires of your family and friends, it often disturbs their sense of attachment and security. Emotional pleas, manipulation and outbursts to change your mind or direction are attempted in order to reconnect and bring you back into the fold.

The concern of your relatives and friends may seem like an expression of love and care and in fact, they may love you deeply and want the best for you. Yet, when your choices, decisions and ideas are disparaged and unheard, it certainly is not a loving response; it is experienced as disrespect, an attack and often as abuse.

“Their disapproval buried me in disappointment and condemnation diminishing and devouring my sense of self. Voiceless, I shrank in confusion. Guilt crept in and I questioned my judgment. At the same time, another energy arose to push back; I felt anger.”

Your reflex to protect and defend your self-respect and autonomy arises and it is difficult not to become defensive or react with anger. To keep the peace, you may fall silent, withdraw and seethe inside with hurt. After awhile, you realize that you are caught in a reactionary dynamic that is not getting anyone back into harmony.

Time to Look Inward
The first step in finding harmony with others is to discover what is going on inside of you. The deeper truth is that your need for connection and relationship is bumping up against your need for autonomy and self-determination. You are gripped in internal conflict and confusion because these two are both primary needs. The desire for approval is linked to your need to belong. There would be no conflict if you did not care.

“Personal autonomy is the desire to determine our values and live the life we choose without control by others.”

When caught in this conundrum begin by recognizing what each of these needs is saying to you. Find the Emotional Truth by asking yourself: “What are my emotions expressing?

What is your “knee-jerk” reaction when emotions arise?
Do you react with anger, blame, feelings of guilt or shame? These first reactions are telltale signs that something deeper is going on inside of you. None of these reactions will resolve your differences with others.
• Do I fight back, get angry, run away, become stubborn, pout, shut down, go along to get along or please others, withdraw, silence, sulk, criticize, blame, get mean or retaliate?

How much of the following emotions relate to your need to belong and to be loved? How do they relate to your need for autonomy and self-direction?

Do emotions of guilt or shame arise?
• Am I afraid of the consequences of choosing, believing or thinking something different?
• Am I afraid of not being liked or accepted?
• Do I believe there is something wrong with me or that others will reject me in some way?
• Am I afraid that I am making the “wrong” decision?

Does anger arise? Anger speaks to the need for protection.
• Do you feel emotionally or verbally attacked? Have your boundaries been violated?
• Do you feel obligated to go along with others even though you disagree? What are the consequences and benefits of going along?
• Do you feel manipulated or controlled?
• Are your values being attacked or not acknowledged or considered?
• Look underneath the anger; do you feel hurt?

If you feel hurt, what is underlying the hurt?
• Do I want to be understood?
• Do I want approval or support for my choices, beliefs, ideas and decisions?
• Do I want to be accepted for who I am?
• Do I want to belong and am concerned that I will be left out, rejected or abandoned if I don’t go along with what others want or think?
• Do I feel invisible or unheard?
• Do I want to be respected and loved?

Embodying your Emotional Truth brings Freedom
When you have clarity about the Emotional Truth of the situation, you are able to see what is causing your internal struggle and ease the pain. You are able to weigh your desire for acceptance and belonging with your need to be true to your inner guidance and discern what really matters to you. With the knowledge of your real feelings and desires, you can take appropriate action in healthier ways to remain connected. There is a greater chance for harmony and resolution when you are centered in your authentic purpose.

And…you know what, more often than not, I have found that when I have reconciled my own struggle for my need to love and belong with my need to follow my heart’s direction, the conflict does melt away. I am able to reach out from a place of compassionate caring, respecting my own emotional needs and boundaries with a willingness to listen and respect other’s viewpoints. I may be uncomfortable when those I care about are hurt, disappointed or react. What I recognize is their fear of losing connection and control and their need for love and understanding. Remarkably, when I allow others the freedom to decide what is important for them without the need to change them, I gain greater respect for myself and the strength to move in the direction of my truth.

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www.TheDorWay.com
www.Heartfulnesspath.com

Too Busy for Wellness? || Jenny St. Claire

By: Jenny St. Claire

People House Featured Blogger

time

A friend asks for your help in moving.  Your sweet kiddo wants to play a game.  Your partner wants to go for a hike. One of your favorite co-workers wants to go for a walk.  What’s your response?

“Sorry, I’m too busy.”

“You want me to WHAT?”

“I’ve got SO much going on I can’t possibly add something else.”

“I don’t have enough time.”

“Yeah, right!”

“Maybe when my schedule isn’t so full.”

How many times have you found yourself saying something like this, or at least thinking it?

Saying no to others is often a mixed bag of desire and overwhelm.

 

You want to see them, but your gut is clenched with all the pressure of what you have to get done.  How often do you deny others the gift of your time and company?   If you’ve found a way to say yes, awesome!  If not, is it worth it?  Is getting something else off your never ending checklist worth the price of missed time with a loved one?

What if the person you keep saying no to is yourself?  You’ve been meaning to go get that mole checked out for a year now.  Even though your tooth has been killing you for a week, you put off going to the dentist because you just can’t get caught up at work.  In fact, you’ve been working on the weekends for the past six months trying to get a handle on things.  Your body is sore from sitting too long seven days a week and you’re so irritable from having no kind of break that every little thing sets you off.  Perhaps you’re drinking 6 more cups of coffee than usual because you’re exhausted. How often do you put yourself on the back burner?

“Busy” is a Status Symbol

If you ask anyone how they are these days, it’s likely that 80% of the time you will hear, “I’m SO busy!”  Isn’t that weird?  I’m sure you want to know how they actually are.  Happy, sad, frustrated, brimming with excitement??  When did we start replacing how we are feeling with a commentary on our productivity?

It used to be that becoming a partner in a firm, getting tenure at a school and having enough money to buy a nice car and house were signs of success.  Now, being busy has become a new sign of value in our society.  Sure, it’s overwhelming, but if you look closely, most people puff up with a sense of pride.  If they are busy, they must be important, and therefore worthy!

so busy

Is that how you want to rate yourself?  What’s important to you?  Are you living up to your own values?  Is being so busy you don’t feel how badly your body hurts, or have time to think, or notice that your spouse needs a hug worth the supposed value it will bring you?

We need to start shifting the idea that productivity is the only thing that brings us value. 

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we started high fiving each other every time we did something to care for ourselves?!

What is Wellness, Anyway?

Most people immediately think of physical well being when the topic of wellness is broached.  Our health is certainly important; however, wellness is ultimately defined by each individual. I think of it holistically, believing it involves the whole person.  Here’s a brief breakdown:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Emotional
  • Financial
  • Social
  • Community
  • Spiritual

What else does wellness mean to YOU?

Get Creative

Too busy for wellness? I say, “BULL!”  It’s important, so you’ve got to make it a priority. Better to make time for it now than to let things escalate into a serious issue, and then you’ll have to make a priority (those times are not fun!).

If we tried to bring every area of wellness into perfect balance right away, we would totally hit overwhelm!  Review your definition of wellness and see what aspects are calling for your attention first.  Pick one or two and let that become your wellness focus.

Get creative!  Make a list of at least 10 ways you could fit your wellness focus into your daily life.  Fill your list with both sensible and crazy ideas.  The purpose is to open your mind and world to make room for your wellbeing.  Then, talk to your family and friends and ask them for an additional 10 ways you could make time.  In fact, include ways you can address your wellness with your loved ones.

The small amount of effort you put into this exercise will reap you big, long lasting rewards!

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About the Author: Jenny is one of the many phenomenal interns working in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. With over 15 years of experience as a Spiritual Counselor, 4 years as a teacher of meditation and energy work and 2 years as a Wellness Coordinator, Jenny is a wonderful addition to the People House community. Jenny is a gentle and reflective soul who is committed to inspiring her clients to reconnect with themselves, find meaning and create positive changes. For more information or to contact Jenny, please see her therapist bio.

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth