Archive for August 2016

Rejoicing with Chaos || Mary Coday Edwards

Blog 8: Rejoicing with Chaos!

final chaos pic

August 30, 2016

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards.

“When the persona is gone, chaos remains. To know that has a magnificence,” said John Heider (1).

Persona literally refers to the mask worn by actors in ancient Greece – the characters they played in their performances.

Our own persona, or mask, begins to form in early childhood in order to adapt to the desires and expectations of parents, teachers, and peers. Children quickly learn that certain behaviors and attitudes are acceptable and will win approval while others may earn punishment. These suitable qualities are then woven into the persona, while what we perceive to be unsuitable gets sent to the basement of our unconscious, stored away in the dark, which Carl Jung called the shadow.

And our ego has a vested interest in keeping this mask intact, as our ego has spent decades perhaps protecting us from what it perceived could harm us, and the persona plays a valuable part in ensuring that safety. Unfortunately, that safety also required the ego to shut out valuable pieces of our true selves.

Now, I do believe ego gets an undeserved bad rap as it’s because of the ego that consciousness arises; i.e., as we begin to wake up to our true selves, our ego is that part of us that reflects on what is arising from within, that necessity within that is calling us to incorporate that which we have denied, have relegated to the shadows; that which is calling us to return to our true selves, our essence. Jung used the term “Personality No. 1” to refer to our outward, adapted personality, and “Personality No. 2” to refer to our true essence buried under the layers.

This persona can begin to crack and fall apart at any point in our lives. In last month’s blog, I wrote how the path of growth includes bumping up against the scary unknowns, which are designed to wake us up.

“ … chaos remains.”

About chaos theory, physicist John Polkinghorne  says that “… there are many complex systems [in nature] whose extreme sensitivity to the effects of very small changes makes their future behavior beyond our power to predict accurately”(2).

A few ideas regarding this annoying inner and/or outer chaos: first of all, our psyche, our unconscious, can be sending up through dreams, synchronicities, and shifts in our moods and our body VERY SMALL CHANGES and we just need to be paying attention, mindfully.

We don’t have to go through life-altering, heart-rending circumstances for what appears to be random chaos to emerge. 

Ruth McLean, in the first verses of her poem Awoken exquisitely describes living with her chaos:

I awoke, one morning,

from shades of sleep,

to find my world had changed …            

 

The ground on which i had always placed my feet,

had subtly shifted with the darkness.

 

The firm beliefs and solid suppositions

that ordered my daily decisions …

had evaporated before my eyes …

 

… caught and helpless,

uprooted and airborne,

I existed …

 

dangling in space

between the old

and the new …

 

one eye was fixed with longing to the past

   the other,

 

with an urgent expectancy,

to what might lie ahead …

 

Next, this chaos is temporary, if we can go with the flow, if we can just allow it, staying with the experience non-judgmentally.  

Lastly, part of staying mindfully with chaos is like the theory: we must remember that there’s a good chance our future may look drastically different from our present – if only in our outlook. 

“…To know that has a magnificence.”

But KNOWING this, PERCEIVING this, that this chaos is a result of personal growth and subsequent transformation, has a MAGNIFICENCE, has a SPLENDOR, has great light, a brilliance.

Metaphorically, this perceiving brings the light of understanding into our circumstances. It does NOT mean that now life is good and I have great wisdom as to what’s going on and what the next step in my journey is.

But we DO know that this seemingly random chaos in our lives has meaning, has purpose, and that we can work with our ego, our persona, and our unconscious to bring out more of our true essence, Personality No. 2, to life every day, that we can truly give the gift to the universe of who we are.

So while we’re stumbling around in the dark, or up on that plateau where the path is difficult to find, keep in mind that magnificence of chaos!

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Note 1: 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.

 

Note 2: Polkinghorne, John. Quantum Theory, A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, New York, 2002: pg. 68

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About the Author: Rev. 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.

Much Ado About Fear || Dorothy Wallis

Much Ado about Fear:  Regaining an Inner Sense of Safety

By Dorothy Wallis, featured People House blogger

fear

Fear gets a bad rap.  When it strikes, it zaps you with an instantaneous jolt of alarm so powerful that nothing else registers but the feeling of sheer panic.  Your body screams, “I could die, I could be harmed, I am in danger.”  All of your senses and bodily functions are corralled into doing just one thing….to get you away from whatever is the source of danger.  With lightning speed Fear propels you towards Safety. 

It is the body’s most protective emotion. 

Without fear to prevent you from harm, your body would not be able to function optimally.  It may not be able to survive, which means it could not house your consciousness.  Your body dies, your consciousness is eternal.  You experience fear through your body, your essence self knows no fear.  Your body uses fear to keep itself alive for your consciousness to experience the highest expression of life. 

So, why does fear get such a bad rap?  

The physical sensations are purposely unpleasant and often downright tormenting, all consuming and distressful.  Fear gets your attention.  Breathing, heart rate and blood pressure ramp up and muscles are energized as hormones and neurotransmitters race through the body.  Most of your brain is on hyper-alert while your rational brain, the cerebral cortex, is bypassed.  Your brain automatically retrieves its database of sensory and feeling aspects of similar past experiences and beliefs about the situation or people involved.  These memories are the story of the past.  They do not include rational assessment or discernment about the present situation.  Confusion, befuddlement, knee-jerk reactions, and even paralysis are not uncommon stress reactions.  Deep thinking is not as important as fight, flight, or freeze for immediate survival.

It is not really the warning flash of fear that is problematic; it is the aftermath of anxiety from not feeling safe that puts you into a state of hyper-vigilance and stress engendering ongoing fear.  The threat may be gone but the thoughts of uncertainty about your safety keep pumping those hormones and neurotransmitters throughout your body energizing the fear.  A delicate balance exists between the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin to regulate the fear response.  Vasopressin increases anxiety as a precursor to fear activating a defensive response, while oxytocin increases the processing of social information with attachment and bonding to those one feels safe with.  Conversely, oxytocin acts to distance one from those felt as a threat and actually increases anxiety to unpredictable threat.  An example of oxytocin in action is the proverbial “Mother Bear” protecting her young.  She is attached and nurturing to her cub and ferociously defends it; you don’t want to get in her way.

 

An Inner Sense of Safety is Essential to Calm the Fear Response

The nurturing and feel good bonding that arises from the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin are activated when one “Feels Safe.”  Feeling Safe reduces the alarm system of fear releasing oxytocin, which then eases stress and creates a sense of harmony and connection.  The “social” hormone promotes attachment and relationship in turn improving your social skills, and fosters a sense of belonging, trust, generosity, optimism and tranquility.  If you no longer feel threatened, then naturally your body balances and reduces the stress response.  It is the Inner Sense of Safety that is essential.  Only when you feel safe will increased levels of oxytocin reduce anxiety. 

 

Living in a World of Change and Uncertainty

These days, many people are experiencing an increasing sense of anxiety and stress.  Our world has become a global community with challenging issues as differing beliefs and needs intersect.  With instant access to news around the world, there is heightened awareness of violence, disruption, conflict and uncertainty.  Every day, we are bombarded with terrifying news of war, hatred, death, environmental degradation, health risks and economic collapse.  Not exactly themes that promote a sense of safety and security.  Viewing and hearing about events that you have no control over and seemingly occur anywhere and at any time can induce tremendous anxiety and fear.  Your body reacts as if it is in present danger, always alert to what might occur. 

Life is not static nor is it “safe.”  The challenges of globalization and interdependence are not going away.  All of life grows and evolves.  Your relationships with people change through time; loss is inevitable.  You will experience ups and downs, pain and anguish, insecurity and vulnerability as well as joy and laughter.  Fear will arise.  Change is certain.  You know that living in a state of constant anxiety is unhealthy, so how do you adapt to uncertainty and the unknown?  How do you calm your mind, regain balance and attain a sense of safety?

 

Perception is Powerful

A sense of safety or vulnerability is an inner perception.  From the perspective of the body, feeling safe is being free from harm or injury; you do not anticipate being hurt or threatened emotionally or physically.  Being vulnerable is the sense of your susceptibility to being physically or emotionally harmed, damaged or attacked. Your body’s initial reaction to threat is the sense of being vulnerable setting off a cascade of biological stress and defense responses.  In other words, when you feel vulnerable your body automatically begins a process producing anxiety and stress. 

Because the reaction in your body is so powerful and automatic, you often feel powerless to calm the fear.  It seems that fear overtakes and overwhelms you, which is why it gets a bad rap and why there is resistance to fear.  Are you really Powerless?  What if you possessed an inner force capable of responding to and befriending the fear instead of succumbing to pure reaction? 

The most potent and powerful force at your command is your Conscious Awareness.  Using awareness you have the ability to be in tune with your body’s natural ability to harmonize, balance and feel safe.

 

Inside of you there is a place of stillness and calm that can only be touched through Conscious Awareness

 

Accessing a sense of Inner Safety through Conscious Awareness

If you are in imminent danger, fear will do its best to protect you in the outer world.  Even so, you cannot control all of the outer circumstances of life.  Your inner world is your private sanctuary and dominion where you have the greatest opportunity to create a deep sense of safety and security.  Inside of you there is a place of stillness and calm that can only be touched through Conscious Awareness.

Touch communicates through a highly sensitive and often subtle language.  It conveys beliefs about whom or what is perceived as safe or not.  When you touch the inner realm of sensation, feeling and beliefs with awareness, you open to a deeper sense of self and your relationship to vulnerability, safety and security.  Most of the beliefs you hold generate conditioned habitual responses.  You are not your thoughts, beliefs or emotions.  Yet, when sensations or emotions arise, you may find yourself so enveloped in them that you believe they are you; you identify with them.  “I am an anxious person…it is impossible for me to feel completely safe…I will always be afraid of____(fill in the blank)…it is part of my nature, I cannot change nor do anything about it.”  Bound and tied to this limited persona of yourself, how could you ever feel safe?  From this view, there is no way out.  You become powerless to fear, anxiety and any emotion or belief you identify as being you.  The true reality is that you do not feel safe inside of your own body.

 

Finding a Safe Haven in the Inner World of Your Body

Your consciousness has the ability to step outside of identification with thoughts, feelings and sensations, which allows you to observe them without judgment.  As you touch the inner realm through conscious awareness, you develop an intimate relationship with the mysterious world of your body.  You become aware of how sensations and emotions rise and fall, you observe the never-ending rambling of thoughts and how your body expands or contracts in response to people and outer circumstances.  Without judgment, you touch the sensations of fear and anxiety.  Just as safe physical touch promotes the flow of the nurturing qualities of oxytocin, so does touching the inner realm of your body with the safety of non-judgmental awareness.  Magically, the power of touch softens your preconceptions and offers a soothing balm.  You discover you no longer fear sensations or emotions and experience them as divine messengers guiding you towards well-being.  You get in touch with your beliefs and the power to choose.  Empowered with awareness, you find comfort in the rhythms of your body.  This feeling of safety and benevolence deepens your trust in life connecting you to the wellspring of wisdom.  

In the sacred temple of your body, there is an inner sanctum sheltering the gateway to the magnificent essence of your soul.  In this place, you are free from all fear.  Within you is a place of refuge greeting you with a safe haven of tranquility.  When you meet this pearl of your essence, you find a peace that surpasses all.  Grounded and centered in your being and having tasted this realm, you will return again and again as nothing can keep you away.  As all travelers know, the first step on any journey is the desire to discover the unknown and be willing to begin.  Are you ready?

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Dorothy Wallis is a former intern at People House in private practice as an Individual and Couples Psychotherapist for over five years as well as an International Spiritual Teacher.  At the forefront of the consciousness movement for over thirty years, she is grounded in practices of meditation, family systems, relationships, and emotional growth.  Her work reflects efficacious modalities of alternative approaches to healing based upon the latest research in science, human energy fields, psychology, and spirituality. 

 

She is a leader in the field of emotional consciousness and the connection to mind, body and spirit.  Her compassionate approach safely teaches you how to connect to your body, intuition and knowing to clear emotional wounds and trauma at the core.  The powerful Heartfulness protocol empowers your ability to join with your body’s innate capacity to heal through holistic Somatic, Sensory and Emotional awareness.  

Selfishness vs. Self-Care | Jenny St. Claire

By: Jenny St. Claire, featured People House blog contributor.

selfless

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How many of you grew up hearing, “Don’t be selfish” or “It’s better to give than to receive?”  As children, we take these messages to extremes.  We start believing that to have needs or to receive at all is not OK.  Or, we buy into the idea that giving to, or pleasing, others is all that is acceptable. 

It’s important to look beyond these two polar opposites so we can create the greater freedom and nurturing that can be found in the middle.

 

What is the difference?

Imagine there is a spectrum:

selfish

Selfishness can be described as being so concerned with one’s own interests that one becomes blind to the needs of others.  I’m sure we’ve all met at least one truly selfish person in our lifetime.

At the other extreme is selflessness, where one gives very little attention to one’s own needs.  When someone is selfless, others come first to the extent that he or she may be unaware of their own needs.  Indeed, they may think it’s bad to have needs or to give to themselves.

Truly, selfishness and selflessness are two sides of the same coin.  At some point in life, something happens where you notice your needs aren’t being fulfilled and you have to decide how you’re going to get them met.  Some people decide to fight for them and exclude others to do so.  Others get their needs met by people pleasing in the hopes that they will be taken care of in the process.

Self-care is a place in the middle.  It is where you are aware of both yourself and others.  You consider both sets of needs and find a way to do what you need in order to fill yourself back up first.  A classic example comes from the airline industry when they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first in the case of an emergency.  If you take care of yourself first, you are better able to help others.

To some degree, we have all of these aspects within us.  We’ve all had moments of selfish pleasure, moments of selflessness martyrdom, and moments of presence and awareness that allow us to take good care of ourselves.

What’s important to notice is where along the spectrum you spend most of your time.  How well is that serving you?

 

Why is this distinction important?

 

If you are on the selfish side, how would it benefit you to open your awareness to others?  If this makes you feel like you have to fight to get your needs met, take a moment to consider when you felt like that in the past.  Perhaps there is an opportunity for some healing to take place.  Ultimately, you will find that you create deeper relationships by showing care and respect for all.

If you are on the selfless side, you may never notice you’re tired even when you’re dragging your feet.  You may be so focused on pleasing others that you are not aware of the quiet seething inside because your wants and needs are always put on the back burner.  What would it feel like to find ways to care for yourself as well as others?  Could you give that to yourself?

If you find that others are getting mad at you when you’re taking good self-care, it could indicate that you are shaking up the status quo.  Others may have liked you the way you were, always attending to their needs.  They may try to convince you that you are being selfish!

If you cling to the messages we took to extremes in childhood, you may have demonized being selfish and idolize selflessness.  This can skew how you perceive your own actions.  You may take one tiny step toward self-care on the spectrum and think that you’ve landed yourself deep into selfishness. 

 

What’s next?

 

It’s time for a reality check!  Take off the guilt or denial glasses and see more clearly where you are on the spectrum.  Consciously choose what action best honors you, while also keeping in mind other’s needs.  The attitude with which you carry out your self-care can actually show how much you care for others.

Assess where you are on the spectrum.  How often are you there?  Where would you like to be?  How can you be more aware of other’s needs?  Where can you be more compassionate with yourself?

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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.

Let the Earth Bring you back to Balance || Ashley Koe

By Ashley Koe, Guest People House Blog Contributor

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erthing

What if you could improve your sleep, lessen inflammation and make healthier choices more easily….all for free!? These are just a few of the many benefits of Earthing. Earthing is one of the many free tools that I continue to recommend to many of my clients. Yes, as an Energy Intuitive, your feet talk to me. They even share what kind of Earthing they enjoy and if you have been doing it or not. And most of the people I see have feet who are yearning, sometimes screaming, for more Earthing. And heck, if the athletes in the Tour de France are using it and seeing incredible results, why shouldn’t we?

What is it? Earthing is the scientific re-discovery that connecting with the earth on a daily basis brings us back into balance: mind, body and soul. We humans are positively charged and continuing to accumulate more free radicals – hence why it can be so easy for us to lose our temper (read: road rage), keep getting sick (read: anything that ends in ‘-itis’), and more! The Earth is negatively charged and therefore naturally able to take what we need to release and ‘recycle’ it.

We are literally naturally designed to be connected with the earth on a regular basis!

How do you do Earthing?                        

1) Take off your shoes, 2) put your feet on the Earth for 10-30 mins. That’s it!
Some notes: yes, you must have a clear connection between you and the earth, no plastic or rubber (no shoes), or concrete layer blocking it. Socks or a blanket is fine for those with sensitive tootsies or if you want to do some whole-body Earthing.  Types of earth: dirt, grass, sand, salt water, boulders. Want double Earthing? Time to take that vacation to the ocean! Sand and salt water, it’s no wonder people feel so great when they come back from their beach trips!

Run your own experiment

Now take a moment to really think back to when was the last time you touched the earth with your bare feet for more than 10 mins? Has it been a while? Days, weeks, months or even years?

Over the course of history, the more disconnected we have become from the earth (shoes, beds, cars, concrete, hi-rise buildings) the more dis-eases we have acquired. Arthritis, cellulitis, even heart dis-ease is inflammation! Additionally, chronic inflammation can lead to a whole other list of dis-eases, including hay fever and even cancer.

Before you start Earthing, write down all the things that are going on physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually and rate them from 0-10 as to how much they interfere in your life. Then start Earthing and notice if it shifts, how much it shifts.

 

It’s time to re-connect with the earth. It keeps us grounded, centered, balanced and healthy. As an Energy Intuitive and Certified Reiki Master Teacher, this is one of the most fundamental healing modalities out there. I hope to work with you soon and talk with your feet to see how much Earthing you have been doing! J  

And remember, at People House we are fortunate to have fabulous backyard with some lovely grass for Earthing available for you there as well!

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth