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Unhypnotizing Your Bad Habits || Lora Cheadle

Kicking Bad Habits by Un-Hypnotizing, or Dehypnotizing, Yourself 

By: Lora Cheadle

Waking up From Everyday Brainwashing

Many people use hypnosis in order to overcome subconscious blocks and create positive change in their life. But sometimes, the faster, more efficient rout to change is learning how to becoming un-hypnotized, or dehypnotized in our everyday life. Learning how to wake, up, become conscious, and take steps to dehypnotize ourselves, is fast, easy and effective. And the resulting change can be profound!

We’ve probably all heard about subliminal messages, brainwashing, compulsion and mind control. To some degree, these phrases all describe what is simply; a hypnotic state. Contrary to popular belief, most of the everyday brainwashing that happening is not the result of some evil master-mind, potting to take over the world. Everyday brainwashing is simply the result of us living in a modern, busy, distracted and stressed-out society.

If you have a habit that you can’t seem to break, even though you really want to break it, you might not need therapy. Instead, you might need to learn how to dehypnotize yourself from your own brainwashing! You might simply need to wake up from a chronic state of hypnosis that has kept you locked into undesirable thoughts or behaviors.

How Brainwashing Works

Hypnosis is a natural state that we move into and out of about seven times a day. When we engage in any type of repetitive, or mindless activity, we tend to slip into a state of hypnosis. When we are confronted with too much stimulation, too rapid of speech, or too much conflicting information, we can also slip into a state of hypnosis. TV and radio advertising is specifically designed to induce a state of hypnosis. Religious services, bombastic political speech, repetitive exercises, mealtime and smoking breaks, also tend to put us into a state of hypnosis.

Hypnosis is not scary, evil mind control. Hypnosis is simply a state of increased suggestibility, where people are more likely to take action without critically analyzing that behavior. Although hypnosis cannot persuade us to do that which we would not otherwise do, it is highly effective in persuading us to do that which we normally would do. Hence, why it’s so easy to talk ourselves into continuing on with our own negative behaviors.

How Brainwashing Occurs

Think of everyday brainwashing like this. You are zoned out on the couch, watching TV, and a commercial for pizza comes on. The commercial has bright colors, close ups of a delicious looking pepperoni pizza, and a rapid-fire, extra-loud, announcer tells you all about the latest, act-fast deals. All the while, rhythmic music is coinciding with the rapidly changing visuals. That night, you decide to order pizza, even though you are trying to eat out less or lose five pounds.

As designed, the commercial put you into a state of hypnosis. It worked on the subconscious mind, and “suggested” that the pizza was really tasty, was a great price, and created an urgency to order it. Later in the day, when you ordered pizza, you were simply acting on the advertiser’s suggestions. You were not awake enough to critically think about the consequences of your decision, so you ordered a pizza, despite wanting to eat better and takeout less. This is what every day brainwashing looks like.

Failed Diets, Smoking and Being Stuck in Hypnosis

The same thing happens each and every time we sit down to eat a meal or smoke. Part of the reason that dieting and smoking-cessation is so difficult is because eating and smoking puts us into a state of hypnosis. We literally go out of our critical mind, and into a state of unconsciousness, almost every time we eat or smoke! We become lulled by the repetitive action of smoking, chewing, swallowing, using our utensils, cutting our food and timing when we take a drink. Our senses become overloaded with the sight, smell, taste and texture of our food or our cigarette, and bam, into a state of hypnosis we go! Just like the pizza commercial example, we become highly suggestible to our own bad habits, and we eat, or smoke indiscriminately.

Conscious thought is circumnavigated, and we are no longer aware of our sensations of fullness or our desire to get healthy or create positive change. Instead we eat whatever is in front of us or wander out for a smoke break, without critically analyzing what we are doing or why. Sometimes we are so out of it mentally, that later, we can’t even remember what we ate or how many cigarettes we had!

The solution is learning how to wake up. Learning how to dehypnotize ourselves and recognize when we are being brainwashed by our own bad habits.

How to Dehypnotize Yourself

There are several ways to go about learning how to wake up, remain conscious, or dehypnotize yourself. It’s easiest to begin with something that we do consistently, like eat meals, or smoke, so we have the opportunity to practice consistently.

Whenever we are confronted with behavior that we are trying to change, try counting yourself up, into a state of full, awakened consciousness. Begin by saying silently to yourself, or out loud if you are able, “Zero, one, two, three, four, five, eyes open, wide awake!” As you say it, do something physical that makes a sound, like clapping your hands, snapping your fingers, clicking your tongue or patting your thigh. Take a deep breath, and with a forceful exhale and consciously clear your mind and focus on being alert and present. You can repeat this whenever you sense that you are slipping back into a day-dreamy or disconnected state.

Changing up as many things as possible surrounding the activity we are trying to change is also useful. If you normally sit in a certain chair, or smoke in a certain location, move to a different chair or go to a less convenient place to smoke. Eating, or smoking, with your non-dominant hand is a fantastic way to stay conscious about our own behavior. Put the phone down. Turn off the TV and concentrate on tasting the flavor, texture and temperature of every single bit. Swallow. Take a breath before taking another bite. Notice your hunger level. All of this keeps us awake, alert and out of a state of hypnosis.

Dehypnotizing Our Way Out of Bad Habits

It doesn’t matter if we are trying to quit smoking, eat less, not bite our nails, overcome stuttering, sleep better, study more effectively, declutter or meditate consistently. Learning to dehypnotize ourselves is a powerful and effective place to start.

Wake up! Get out from under your own brainwashing and see how clear you own life can be!

Avoid Empathy Burnout through Compassion || Mary Coday Edwards

Avoid Empathy Burnout through Compassion

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

January 17, 2017

2017 brings a new year, a new start, and for many, new resolutions.

This blog on compassion completes my three-part series from the 2016 International Symposium for Contemplative Studies (ISCS; Note 1), hosted by the Mind & Life Institute (Note 2) which I attended in November.

The two previous blogs focused on staying true to yourself but yet extending loving kindness and practicing genuine concern for another’s wellbeing.

COMPASSION VS. EMPATHY – AND A HOWLING CHAIN SAW

In keeping with Mind & Life’s mission to integrate science with contemplative practices, Geshe Thupten JInpa of McGill University spoke on “Understanding the Psychology Behind Compassion Meditation.”

Compassion is a natural sense of concern that arises within us when confronted with another’s suffering and then feel motivated to see that suffering relieved.

It’s comprised of three parts: first there’s the understanding that someone IS suffering; second, we feel an emotional connection; and third, we are motivated to see the suffering relieved. And this third piece of “doing” includes the prayerful act of practicing lovingkindness toward another, of wishing the other well by connecting spiritually to our common humanity.

A significant difference between empathy and compassion is that third bit:  empathy takes us to the place where we enter emotionally into someone else’s suffering; we focus on the problem and the experience of it. If we stay in this emotional swirl, we can easily shift into “empathy burnout”.

We manifest compassion, however, when motivated to relieve that suffering; it takes on an ethical quality – a way of being.

A solution to the personal distress of empathy burnout is to shift empathy to compassion. Empathy can take a form of “feeling for” vs. the “feeling with” of compassion. 

For example, I suffered when I heard chain saws whining away in the forests in the dead of night in the poverty-ridden countries in which I’ve ived. Instead of cutting myself off from the excruciating emotional pain of an ecosystem killed and stolen, I can train my mind to move beyond my emotions to a more empowered state of “what can I do to halt illegal logging?”

And perhaps to consider the pain of poverty driving the howling chain saw.

IT CAN BE ENOUGH: THE INTENTION TO BE OPEN TO THE FIELD OF LOVE

And if because of our own pain and hurt, we cannot move into compassion, the INTENT can be enough.

Associate Professor at Claremont School of Theology Andrew Dreitcer spoke on “Practicing the Presence of Compassion: Contemplative Christian Traditions.”

Using a thousand-year-old Christian early morning practice, he led us in a process of INTENTION to be open;  i.e., when we are not capable of compassion, but we truly desire to be available to the presence of love, for ourselves and others.

First centering ourselves, he asked us to seek within us for just one word that could focus us on the intention to be open.

That word – our mantra – was then the focus of our meditation for the next 20 minutes, the idea being that then throughout the day when anger or fury arose and compassion for our fellow human beings was nowhere to be found, we could return to this word with the intent to extend compassion.

I find this process very hopeful – and helpful. Instead of throwing myself on the rocks for my lack of compassion, I can at least stay in this space of intent, knowing it is an ancient monastic tradition where it just might lead me into a “connection with an eternal, loving presence,” as Andrew called it. 

All of this is to say we CAN train in compassion. We train in order to RELEARN to relate to ourselves, others, and the world around us from a place of understanding and compassion rather than from excessive judgment.

It doesn’t happen overnight. But by me even saying I have an iota of intent, I can learn to catch myself, and perhaps begin to move into a wider place of genuine compassion – living in peace not just with others but also with myself.

_______                                                                              

Notes & Sources:

1.) ISCS “brings together scientists, scholars, artists and contemplatives to explore distinct though overlapping fields of research and scholarship, using a multidisciplinary, integrative approach to advance our understanding of the human mind.” This symposium hosted about 1,200 attendees.

2.) The mission of the Mind & Life Institute is to alleviate suffering and promote flourishing by integrating science with contemplative practice and wisdom traditions. https://www.mindandlife.org/mission

________

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.

 

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

The Truth About Your Emotions || Dorothy Wallis

The Truth About Your Emotions

By Dorothy Wallis

 

You have been told stories about your emotions that are not true.  I do not wish to call them lies because for the most part these “untruths” were unintentional.  These falsehoods have led to more suffering and pain.  They have kept you from connecting to yourself, your inner guidance and your heart. 

You have been told that some emotions are “good” and other emotions are “bad.”  You have been told to control some of them or to not feel some of them.  A name has been given to the emotions that are unwanted; they are called “negative or afflictive.”  Who would not want to push away something that is negative or afflictive?  By calling them a derogatory name, you are automatically judging those emotions as something not wanted and not valuable.

You have been taught many ways that seem harmless to push away, ignore or get rid of these emotions and yet these ways are disconnecting you from yourself. 

They are disconnecting you from your inner guidance and your ability to navigate this reality.  Instead of empowering you, some of the more benign techniques teach you how to “manage” your emotions, not connect with them.  At the worst, the methods taught are controlling and shaming.  You end up feeling that something is wrong with you for having powerful emotions. 

Unfelt emotions gather, build up inside of you and grow.  Eventually they expand into a swirling mass of unexpressed energy.  The pressure builds, shakes, rumbles and bubbles up to the surface.  Each time the unwanted bits that you don’t want to feel come up, you think, “I don’t like that, it makes me feel awful.  How can I get rid of it?”  You focus on the “goal” of eliminating it.  You may judge the emotion, shove it back down, pretend it doesn’t exist, distract your attention away from it, cover it over with a more “positive” feeling, project it onto someone or something else, or shame yourself for having it or not being able to get rid of it.  None of these methods actually change anything or bring you sustained relief.

Have you ever wondered why you have emotions that do not “feel” good?  There is a long history of demonizing these emotions.  These are seen as bad or even evil and if these emotions arise within you, you are then thought to be bad for having them.  Anger and depression are ones that top the “shameful” list.  If you believe that being angry or depressed means you are a bad or disturbed person then you are not going to want to feel or admit experiencing those states nor will you be willing to go deeper into them to understand or find out what those states are telling you.

In my experience with clients, anxiety is a monumental concern for most people.  Research affirms that prolonged chronic anxiety and stress can compromise the immune system.  Naturally, people want to be healthy and so assume that all anxiety and stress is detrimental and therefore seek to eliminate it.  There is a huge focus on getting “relief” from anxiety and stress in our culture and an entire industry aimed at ways to eradicate it.  Did you know that there is healthy stress?  Short-term anxiety and stress gives the body a physiological boost in energy providing mental alertness, increased performance in tasks, enhances creativity and motivation, and actually elevates the immune system.  Moderate exercise is a prime example of stressing the body, which increases circulation, muscle mass and performance. 

Moderate constructive stress reduces chronic stress. 

What is Happening to Your Thoughts?

Much of the adverse reaction you have when experiencing feelings comes from the belief that some emotions are negative, bad, or not normal.  You may not have realized how much your experience of emotions is influenced by your judgment and thoughts about them.  As soon as you begin to sense a “negative” emotion arising, your habitual response to it will execute.  You automatically resist being present to the actual physical sensations and feelings.  Thinking that the emotion is “bad” is an action of resistance.  You are pushing against the energy and the intensity of the sensation amplifies, strengthens and endures. The physical sensations of stress are the same whether you perceive them as negative or positive.  When you experience them as positive, you don’t resist the sensations.  You actually enjoy feeling them. 

Take a moment to feel the sensations of anticipation and anxiousness.  What is the difference?  Notice how the physical sensations of both are the same.  The difference happens in your mind and the way it interprets the experience.  When you feel positive anticipation your thoughts are filled with happy future outcomes and the giddy, jumpy sensations in your body are received with pleasure.  When you anticipate a negative future, you perceive it as anxiousness.  Your mind recalls every conceivable past memory and experience that did not work out the way you wanted or you imagine how terrible it could be.  You mind is showered with a deluge of thoughts and races between a series of bad outcomes.  You automatically retract and push against a dreaded future.  The sensations inside of your stomach and brain now become uncomfortable or even perceived as repulsive with the resistance.  As you dwell on these thoughts, the physical sensations escalate and can turn into actual physical illness.  The meaning you give an experience is derived from the mind.  Thoughts, judgments and beliefs influence your perception and alter the actual reality. 

Your Mind Cannot be Trusted

If you are in immanent danger your reactions are swift.  You don’t have time to think.  Your instinctual gut response of self-preservation takes over.  Most of the time, we are not in immediate physical danger.  In the present moment, you are experiencing something that has never happened before.  It may look or feel similar and this is when the memory bank of the past comes forward to advise you.  Past experiences and memory do not convey the truth; they only provide partial and limited information and an idea of what may be true.  Memory is not reliable nor is it accurate.  Each experience you have is flavored by your beliefs.  Furthermore, each time you retrieve a memory it is altered even if slightly.  The past can inform but never totally assess the present moment or decide the future.  If you only base your response on thoughts, you are missing out on the wisdom that your body, emotions and inner guidance offers in the present.

Why Some Emotions don’t’ Feel Good

An emotional response is often triggered when a current experience resembles a past one.  The emotion is a vibratory impulse of awareness.  The emotions that are annoying, disturbing, frustrating, distressful and painful are the ones that are warning you and sending you a message that you need to pay attention, be alert and aware of what is happening around you.  It may be something that is happening in your external environment or reality or in your internal reality.  The energy is expanding your awareness and altering your physiology toward action or inaction and offering a conscious perception we call feeling so that you can determine what to do, not do or integrate an important experience.

Your Emotional Sensory System is a Powerful Resource

The Truth about emotions is that they are ALL purposeful and very powerful.  Emotions are not some defective malfunction of your body.  Your body is a finely tuned efficient creation.  Your emotions are part of a highly developed sensory system created to navigate and experience earthly reality.  The vibrations of feeling and sensation offer unseen knowledge.  At the deepest level emotions guide you toward your highest good.

Your five senses, vision, touch, hearing, smell, and taste, take in a wealth of information.  Another organ, the heart, is constantly scanning the inner and outer environment with an enormous electro-magnetic field.  Heart Math research has found that the electrical field of the heart is 60 times greater than the electrical field of the brain and the magnetic field is 5,000 times greater than the magnetic field of the brain.  Emotions, through the exquisite vibration of feeling, transmit this sensory information to every cell of your body.  By not feeling your emotions you are casting aside a treasure trove of knowledge.

Use all of your resources.  Instead of negating your emotions, pay attention to your emotions and allow yourself to welcome the bodily sensations, you will come to know and love the incredible guidance the emotional sensory system offers.

Choice and Commitment || Jenny St. Claire

Choice and Commitment by Jenny St. Claire

It’s that time of year.  When January 1st rolled in, you were feeling confident and hopeful about your New Year’s Resolution.  Now that you’re three weeks in, how is your resolution going?  Still strong or fading?  If you don’t do resolutions, how are your intentions or goals coming along?  If you find yourself faltering, here’s your opportunity to get some insight on what could be causing you difficulty.

What you think you’re committed to doing differently could be vastly different than what you’re really committed to.  What?!?!  Say you are committed to getting more sleep, but when your new bedtime rolls around you find a reason to stay up.  It could be a great reason such as, my kids won’t go to sleep, you need to finish the dishes, or you’re really into the show you’re currently binge watching and you’ve just got to see what’s going to happen.  If you stay up rather than going to bed, then you’re not very committed to getting more sleep.

So, then, what are you committed to?  There are several possibilities.  It could be that you are committed to catering to other’s needs.  Perhaps you are committed to being busy and perpetually “doing.”  Maybe you are committed to doing what you want when you want to do it.  Or, you could be committed to feeling unwell.  You may feel entirely justified in the excuses you find to not get more sleep.  However, in this instance, you are more committed to your excuses than your resolution, goal or intention.

According to Debbie Ford, author of The Right Questions (2004), this is called an underlying commitment.  This type of commitment lives in the unconscious part of us.  It is primary and will always prevail over the other commitments you make on a conscious level.  Underlying commitments are the root cause for the inconsistency between what we say we want vs. what we actually experience.

If you take a good look at your life, you will begin to see what you are truly committed to.  Here are some common examples of underlying commitments:

-Stay safe – never take risks

-Can’t trust others – you will always be alone

-Freedom – instead of structure, life is chaos

-Comfort – you’ll drink, eat or entertain anyone that will give it to you

-Weakness – I can’t do it on my own

-Not good enough – I will sabotage myself so I can feel bad about myself

-Never letting anyone tell me what to do – even if it’s myself

-Having what you want when you want it

-Having someone else take care of you

We begin to see that the choices we make are in perfect alignment with our first commitment.  We experience an internal battle between our underlying commitments and what our heart and soul desires.  If we do not examine our primary commitments, they will always win and keep us from moving into a place of empowerment.  They keep us from the future we desire.

How do you recognize your underlying commitments?  Debbie Ford offered a practice on page 57 of her book, The Right Questions.

1.) Write down a goal or desire you have not been able to achieve.

2.) Make a list of all of the actions you have taken that are in direct opposition to this goal.

3.) Ask yourself what commitment those choices are in direct alignment with.

Often, our underlying commitments are not flattering.  Be kind to yourself!  When you originally made that commitment, it was at a time when you didn’t have the freedom of choice.  They are largely made when you were a kid, and the commitment served you for a while.  However, they begin to unravel over time.

Now you’ve outgrown that first commitment.  Recognizing it gives you the freedom to make different choices and different commitments.  You now have the ability to create a new future that is in alignment with your present time truth.

In the moments when you feel like you’re being tugged in two different directions by an underlying commitment and your soul’s desire, allow yourself to pause and ask yourself a few questions.  Following are a selection of Debbie Ford’s “The Right Questions.”

-Will this choice move me toward an inspiring future or keep me stuck in the past?

-Will this choice bring me long-term fulfillment or short term-gratification?

-Will this choice add to my life force or rob me of my energy?

-Will I use this situation as a catalyst to grow or use it to beat myself up?

-Does this choice empower me or disempower me?

-Is this an act of self-love or self-sabotage?

I invite you to be compassionate and courageous as you uncover your underlying commitments and move toward the YOU and LIFE you wish to have.


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.

Predestination, Fate and God’s Will vs. Free-Will || Lora Cheadle

Predestination, Fate and God’s Will vs. Free-Will 

By Lora Cheadle

      One of the questions asked by humans throughout time is whether we have free-will and are in control of our own destiny, or if our lives are predestined by some higher authority and we have no choice except to live out what’s been planned for us. Whether we call it fate, God’s will or destiny, the question remains; are we in charge of our own lives?

Regardless of what we believe, when we are faced with challenging situations, or when we have big decisions to make in our lives, we want to feel like we are making the right decision. But maybe our decisions don’t matter all that much? Or maybe they do.

The Free-Will to Make Decisions

When challenges happen, people seek out the guidance of friends, counselors, religious leaders or even psychics or other types of intuitive readers. When we seek the advice of others, we are attempting to gain clarity on the future, learn from the experience of others, figure out what action we should take in the present and reassure ourselves that what we are about to do makes sense to someone besides our self.

As someone who does both Angel Readings as well as more traditional therapy, I have a unique perspective because I get to see the interplay between free-will and predestination. The way I see it, life is a beautiful combination of both free-will and destiny, with some decisions being impactful, some decisions having no bearing on the outcome of a life and some decisions veering us to an alternative, but equally correct, path.

Destiny

Think of predestination like this. Pick a generic story that everyone knows, maybe a fairy tale like The Three Bears. When everyone roughly knows the story line, it is possible for a group of actors to stand up and successfully act out the play. Sure, some things are going to get messed up, the story may go off track for a while, but since everyone knows the story, everyone will work to get it back on track whenever things fall apart.

At the end of the day it won’t matter if Goldilocks sat in the chair first, ate the porridge first or slept in the wrong bed. The story still gets told and everything that was crucial to the story line took place.

If we believe in destiny, or fate, then this is a good way to view our lives. We can think of our life as having a general structure, and we can see how there are a large number of small decisions that that really don’t impact the overall trajectory of our lives. Just like the actors above, We will be nudged back on track whenever we go too far off script.

Free-Will

Think of free-will like this. If you put a group of actors on a stage without a script or a story line, and ask them to act out a story, It will take everyone a while to figure out what is happening. Everyone has to work together until a common theme is established and agreed upon. If one person fails to get on board with the others, his actions alone cause random, unanticipated upheavals leading the story awry and forcing everyone else to adapt.

Whether these adaptations serve to bring the rogue actor back in line in or force the others to create an entirely new story line, at the end of the day, a story is still successfully told. And most importantly, sometimes the most brilliant and beautiful stories are the unanticipated ones, that are created out of something wholly unanticipated and unexpected.

If we believe in free-will, we may have more control over our life in some sense, but we are still subjected to the outside forces of others, and we still made to deal with many unanticipated situations, causing us to sometimes follow paths that are not of our choosing.

The Interplay between Free-Will and Destiny

No matter what we believe, it’s the combination of following the predestined story line and exercising our own free-will that makes life juicy, interesting and fun! Without both free-will and destiny, life is either be too try or too wild. Life is meant to be lived, and it’s the combination of conscious choices and happenstance that makes it worth living!

If we take “Job A” when “Job B” was the predestined better choice, all is not lost, we adapt! We work with each other to get back on track or we create a new and different track that is satisfying to everyone involved, and our story still gets told.

Making wrong decisions happens to everyone, and surprisingly, is not that big of a deal. As long as we stay present and involved, listening to our intuition and staying conscious, we cannot make a mistakes. Sure, our final story may be different than our original story, but whose to say this new conclusion wasn’t the predestined better choice to begin with?

Let Your Intuition be Your Guide

One of the keys to staying conscious is listening to our intuition. Our intuition is like an ever-present narrator, narrating our story, helping us stay on track and nudging us back in the right direction when things get too far off track. Sure, discussing our problems with friends or going to a counselor or intuitive is helpful, but we are all equipped with our own sense of intuition.

Intuitive Readings focus on the energy of a particular person or situation as it stands in the present moment. People incorrectly assume psychic readers are able to “see into the future” or “know” what is going to happen, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! All intuitive readers do is use their intuition to tune into your intuition and to tell you what you are feeling!

Truthfully, I feel like my job as an intuitive as well as a more traditional therapist is ask the right questions and to reflect back to my clients confirm what they already know.

As complicated as it may sound, understanding the interplay of free-will and destiny is pretty simple. Let your internal narrator guide you along, try, listen, feel, remain conscious and reach out for help whenever you need it. But ultimately, trust your own heart and remember that no matter what happens, the story of your life will still reach a successful conclusion, and it doesn’t matter if that conclusion was predetermined or self created.

All you have to do is do what Goldilocks did keep on trying things until you find thing that fit “Just right!”

 


To read more of Lora’s writing, visit her website.

About the Author: Not sure what lights your fire, or do you know exactly what lights your fire, but you keep spinning your wheels? Either way, Lora’s got you covered! Whether it’s through an Angel Reading or through hypnotherapy, where the subconscious mind is brought on board with the conscious mind, working with Lora reveals your divine path and gets you chugging down the road in no time. As a former lawyer, (She knows firsthand the courage it takes to following a new path!) Lora is very straight forward and process- oriented, using modalities that that yield results. No crystal balls or goddess robes here!

Post-Election: Be Kind-but it DOESN’T mean be nice! || Mary Coday Edwards

Post-election: Be kind – but it DOESN’T mean be nice!

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

December 13, 2016

And Santa JUST shifted me to the “naughty” side, if I wasn’t there already.

An old word, “nice” appeared in English in the 13th century. It’s derived from a French word that meant “foolish”, which in turn came from the Latin nescire, meaning “Ignorant”.  By the 17th century it had evolved to signify “timid,” “fussy,” and “precise” – a far cry from our current usage meaning kind, or polite.

Of the word, Dictionary.com says “the word is used too often and has become a cliché lacking the qualities of precision and intensity that are embodied in many of its synonyms.”

As noted in my November blog on loving kindness, on the heels of our election I attended the 2016 International Symposium for Contemplative Studies (ISCS; Note 1), hosted by the Mind & Life Institute (Note 2).

Amishi Jha, Associate Professor at the University of Miami, closed our Saturday evening session saying, “Be kind – but that doesn’t mean be nice!”

The Director of Contemplative Neuroscience for the Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative, her words were intended to aid us attendees in finding our way through a new political order.

BE KIND: FOCUSING ON THE OTHER, FOR THEIR GOOD

Spiritual teachers and psychotherapists often associate “nice” with being a people-pleaser, with the need to look outside oneself for certain emotional needs to be met. In other words, if I’m nice to you, you’ll validate me in ways I’m not getting from myself. You’ll make me feel important, valuable, or worthy of love. And to get what I want from you, I will even contradict my convictions.

Being kind, on the other hand, entails a deliberate doing good to others, choosing consciously. And evolves into loving kindness – again, see my November blog. Returning to its 13th century roots, nice implies acting unconsciously – I am ignorant of my motives and perhaps foolishly waiting for someone’s approval, or to get something from him/her.

Which is spot on to our seasonal usage of “nice”: If I punch Susie, Santa will leave me a lump of coal – I won’t get the cool stuff. I don’t really care about Susie’s wellbeing, but I DO care about what’s under the tree.

Defined in this manner, niceness comes with strings attached: I will please you and make you happy in order to get something out of it.

POST-ELECTION

For me, training in loving kindness enables me to move beyond the superficialities that divide our species. Mentally, when I now engage either in person or through social media with those whose values frankly leave me stunned, I visualize that deeper spiritual commonality.

For me, that visualization is of a changing form of no specific shape, an intense sky blue color with sparkles of light, in a background of midnight blue.  There I can be kind without being nice; I can extend loving kindness to them without contradicting my own values. They are fighting battles I know nothing about in that deeper place.

By the end of our interaction, they may want nothing more to do with me – they may be unfriending me! And that’s OK. My intent is to be kind to myself also in this interaction, by speaking my truth, by showing up as me.

So, be kind – but mindfully, paying attention to your motives, but without judgment.

_______

Notes & Sources:

1.) ISCS “brings together scientists, scholars, artists and contemplatives to explore distinct though overlapping fields of research and scholarship, using a multidisciplinary, integrative approach to advance our understanding of the human mind.” This symposium hosted about 1,200 attendees.

2.) The mission of the Mind & Life Institute is to alleviate suffering and promote flourishing by integrating science with contemplative practice and wisdom traditions. https://www.mindandlife.org/mission

3.) Sources include Marcia Sirota, at http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/marcia-sirota/being-too-nice_b_9592698.html

________

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

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

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Golden Rules of Respectful Behavior || Dorothy Wallis

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Golden Rules of Respectful Behavior

By Dorothy Wallis

manners

It may seem old fashioned in this day and age to be polite.  If you want to have friends, be liked and create a fabulous first impression, it makes sense to acquire courteous and respectful behaviors.  More importantly, it is a matter of safety.  Civility has become a societal problem.  The public affairs firm, Powell Tate and KRC Research found that 95% of Americans say that civility is a serious problem with 86% of Americans reporting they have been victims of incivility.  Most of these encounters with disrespectful behavior have been while doing the normal everyday activities of driving or shopping.  Cyber bullying is on the rise as well as hostile and disturbing comments on social media sites.  Anonymity has reduced responsibility.  We are sliding into a culture where nasty, rude, intimidating, and hateful behavior is seen as “normal.”  It is anything but “normal.”  This lack of civility, care and regard for others is destructive and damaging to the well-being of every citizen and especially the young who model their elders.

 

Returning to respectful behavior is good for society and good for your own well-being.  Being respectful, polite and having good manners creates harmonious relationships and connections. We all enjoy people that make us feel seen and heard.  When people are interested in your opinions and interests, you feel valued and accepted.  When people pay attention to making you comfortable and safe, and respect your personal space and possessions, you feel their care.  A person who offers generous doses of kindness and consideration is likable, attractive and more successful in life.

The Golden Rule of Respectful Behavior is treating other people with Dignity, Consideration and Loving Kindness, and to treat Yourself with the same Regard.

 

We can do our part to turn around the demise of civility by being an example of respect.  The small and seemingly inconsequential “niceties” make a difference. The Prime Question to ask yourself is: 
What affect is my Behavior having on the Experience of those around Me? 
If you are unsure of what is appropriate or acceptable behavior be aware of the reactions and responses of the people around you.  Watch their body and facial language for cues.  Are you being excluded in some way?  Are you invited back to social gatherings?  On the flip side, how do you feel about the behavior of the company you keep?  Do they act in ways that make you feel good or not?
 
The Basics of Common Courtesy, Respect and Good Manners:

The Good: 

  • Always use Please, Thank You and You’re Welcome.
  • Be friendly and helpful; Greet people with a smile.
  • Listen attentively with curiosity, be sincerely interested in others; be considerate of other’s opinions.
  • Be generous with praise and celebrate other’s successes and accomplishments.
  • Apologize when you have made a mistake.
  • Respect people’s personal space and belongings.
  • Be Kind and Considerate; treat people with dignity.
  • Do good deeds without needing anything in return.

The Bad:  None of these actions are endearing or will create harmony.  They push people away.

  • Ignoring when someone is talking to you; silencing, looking the other way, walking away, not making eye contact or rolling your eyes
  • Interrupting (because you want to make your point or you think you already know what they are going to say)
  • Not helping someone when you have the opportunity.
  • Lack of consideration for others disabilities and frailties.
  • Using personal property without asking.
  • Invading someone’s personal space or imposing on him or her.
  • Staring or pointing at someone.
  • Asking personal or inappropriate questions; prying.
  • Gossiping is mean.
  • Profanity (It shows a lack of respect for yourself as well as others.  Tame your tongue and increase your vocabulary)
  • Being consistently Late (It is disrespectful of other people’s time.)
  • Cutting in line or not allowing a person with 1 or 2 items at the grocery store go in front of you.
  • Promoting your own agenda; pushing your opinions, bragging, or only talking about yourself

The Ugly:  These behaviors move into the abusive category and are Boundary Violations.

  • Humiliating, embarrassing, ridiculing or shaming a person.
  • Harsh criticism, insults or demeaning others.
  • Infringing on the rights of others.
  • Dishonesty.
  • Touching without permission.
  • Blaming, manipulating, belligerence, sarcasm and hostility.
  • Exposing others to illness or physical injury.
  • Patronizing; treating someone as “Less than.”
  • Calling people names: stupid, idiot, asshole, bitch, weakling, etc.
  • Yelling and screaming.
  • Gaslighting: spinning information to make someone doubt their own perception
  • Dismissive & Condescending Remarks: What NOT to say
    • You are too sensitive, you’re overreacting
    • Not now, maybe later, don’t worry about it
    • Don’t be that way
    • Calm down, relax, chill, don’t panic
    • It doesn’t matter, get over it, there’s nothing to be done about it
    • What’s your point?
    • I hear you (repeatedly)…yeah, I heard that
    • Not this again…let’s move on….let it go
    • Who knows, who cares?
    • Get used to it

Cell Phones and Electronics
The Good:  Cell phones and computers allow ease and almost instant communication and access to information.  They connect us to our global community.

The Bad:  Looking at a screen or listening to a voice does not provide physical face-to-face connection.  It is rude to ignore the person sitting in front of you and focus your attention on your phone or computer.

  • No Texting, browsing or monitoring your cell phone or computer when you are at the dinner table or engaged in a conversation or an activity with another person.  Turn off or silence your cell phone at restaurants, theaters and events. 
  • Do Not Talk loudly on your Cell Phone in public.  Do you really want everyone to hear?
  • Walking with your Cell phone and ignoring everything around you.

The Ugly:

  • Texting while Driving is Dangerous!  Don’t do it.

Driving
The Good:  Good driving habits offer safety and happy outings.  By obeying these rules you avoid bad outcomes.

  • Use your turn signals.
  • When stopped behind a vehicle see their back tires touching the road.
  • Be courteous instead of competitive when driving.
  • Leave for your destination with time to spare.
  • Watch out for bad drivers…drive defensively.
  • Don’t drive when tired.
  • Follow driving rules:  When you see a yellow light it means caution.  Don’t speed up to go through it, stop when you can.
  • Wear your seat belt.

The Bad & The Ugly:  Absolutely Dangerous actions to Avoid

  • Texting while driving or other distractions.
  • Cutting people off.
  • Driving too fast (drive the speed limit in residential areas) Yeah, it’s not okay to go 5 miles over or more where children are playing and people are walking!
  • Driving slow in the passing lane (this is also not okay.)
  • Running red lights and not yielding the right of way.
  • Not stopping at crosswalks….Stopping at crosswalks Saves Lives.
  • Swerving in and out of traffic or other reckless driving.
  • Tailgating (following too close is an accident waiting to happen.)
  • Driving high…on alcohol or drugs.

Dining and Table Manners
The Good:  Dining with others is one of the most intimately important social moments in your life.  Having good table manners enhances relationship and is respectful.  People pay attention to table manners and form opinions about you.

  • Be sociable and converse at the table.  Being present with those you “break bread with” is an opportunity to strengthen bonds and connection; it is a time to share with one another.
  • Have gratitude for those that prepared the food and take pleasure in the food you eat; it increases endorphins creating a positive mood.  
  • Eat mindfully and slowly tasting every bite; it strengthens and builds the connecting networks in your brain.

The Bad:  Not following accepted dining protocols is inconsiderate and rude.

  • Do place your napkin in your lap and use it.
  • Do not begin to eat until everyone has been served.
  • No elbows on the table while you are eating…after the meal it is acceptable.
  • Do not fill up your plate with food; take moderate amounts.
  • When passed a dish, take one serving of food and make sure to leave enough for others.
  • Don’t leave the table during the meal without saying, “Excuse Me.”
  • Place your utensils together across your plate when you are finished with your meal.

The Ugly:
If you want to be invited back….Remember to Not:

  • Double dip your bread or chips into the shared sauce.  If you need more, use a clean spoon and place it on your plate.
  • Gobble your food down….do eat slowly.
  • Chew with your mouth open or speak with your mouth full.
  • Stuff your mouth full of food or take exceedingly large bites (it is gross to watch).
  • No Noisy eating, Slurping, burping, or licking your fingers.
  • Monopolize the conversation, talk loudly or over others; allow everyone a chance to talk.
  • Reach over others (ask to have something passed to you).
  • Take the last of anything without asking others.
  • Use a toothpick at the table (do this in private…no one wants to see the inside of your mouth).
  • Drink too much and become obnoxious.

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.

Holidays and Grief || Jenny St. Claire

Holidays and Grief by Jenny St. Claire

holidays

Grief is about loss.  Many only associate it with physical death, but it is about anything that feels like an ending.  Several common experiences can be a breakup, the end of health through an illness, or losing a job.  Some unexpected examples of grief can be missing how the holidays were when you were a kid, being so busy you don’t have time to take a breath or the state of national affairs, like an election. Grief can surprise us with its depth, breadth and intensity.  Unfortunately, we Americans have been taught to avoid grief, which leaves us vulnerable because we don’t know what to do with it.

 

What can you do in times like this?  FEEL IT. 

I can hear some people thinking, “Why should I feel it when it hurts so much?  Shouldn’t I just get over it and be positive?”  Too often, we try to get rid of unpleasant feelings, especially during the holidays.  We numb out with delicious desserts, alcohol, TV, movies, surfing the internet or partying.  When you can identify when you’re enjoying yourself vs. avoiding yourself, you’ll gain greater clarity about what you’re doing, and maybe even what you need.  What are your top three numbing techniques? 

 

Recently, I was feeling really grumpy and couldn’t shake it.  I fought it for three days, only growing more and more irritable.  Finally, I surrendered to it, connected with it and asked for some insight.  My heart responded by filling with sorrow and I started to cry as my dog’s face came to mind.  She passed away last year and her one-year death anniversary is coming up.  I’m grieving!  While I didn’t feel good, per se, I at least felt some relief because I finally understood what was going on with me.  I had no idea my grumpiness was covering my sadness, and it was telling me I need to mourn.

 

With my current grief, I know I will make my way through it even though it hurts right now.  If there are any of you who are not so sure you will survive the grief, I encourage you to reach out for support.  Talk to trusted friends or family, call a hotline or therapist, or go to a grief support group.  If you would like some things you can do to help yourself, read on.

 

Connecting with Your Grief

Grief can be informative and transformative.  When you honor grief by being present with it, you may be amazed by what it can offer you.

How can you connect with your grief?  Here are a few ideas:

 

  1. Breathe – 10 slow, deep breaths
  2. Journal on one of these prompts:
    • What’s heavy on my heart is…
    • What I wish I could tell you is…
    • What I miss most is…
    • If I could change something, it would be…
  3. Be in nature – go to a place that calms, moves or connects you
  4. Move your body – walk, yoga, hike, dance
  5. Listen to a song that speaks to your grief

 

Once connected with your grief, let yourself feel.  Let yourself mourn what you have lost.  Let yourself be shaken up so you can let the old go, when you’re ready. 

Allow to rise within you what you need now.  Do you need to open your heart again?  Do you need to take better care of your mind, body and spirit?  Do you need to BE more than you DO?  Do you need to create something?  Do you need to learn to play an instrument?  Do you need to change careers? 

Grief transforms us over time.  Whether we wanted to change or not, we honor ourselves when we can accept what is.  Here is one of my favorite quotes from a book called Honoring Grief by Alexandra Kennedy:

“Our grief wakes us up to life.  We learn to hear the exquisite beauty and sorrow of being fully alive, to savor the simple moments, to cherish what’s here now.  If we can hold ourselves with compassion, we can hold others with compassion.  If we can let ourselves be as we are, we can allow others to be as they are.  We can begin to embrace life as it is in this moment and trust the flow of life as it unfolds.  Then we learn to walk the earth with wonder.” (p. 134)

If you aren’t feeling the warmth, love and connection you desire during the holidays, maybe being present with your grief will carry you there.  Remember this quote and hold yourself with compassion as you’re feeling the aliveness of sorrow.  Let yourself be as you are.  Let yourself receive the love you need…especially from YOU.  Now, more than ever.

PTSD and the Election || Lora Cheadle

PTSD and the Election by Lora Cheadle

trauma

Since the election cycle began, I’ve been overwhelmed with clients urgently needing appointments – not because of their weak constitution or their inability to see both sides of an argument, but because their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD has flared up.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Definition and Symptoms

PTSD is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either one we experience ourselves or one that we witness, resulting in:

1) Uncontrollable Memories: Reoccurring, unwanted, highly distressing memories of the traumatic event, flashbacks, nightmares, intense dreams or severe emotional or physical reactions to stimuli.

2) Negative Thinking and Moods: Feeling negatively about self and others, the inability to experience positive emotions, feeling numb, hopeless or worthless or having little interest in activities or friends. Experiencing memory and relationship problems.

3) Changes in Emotional Reactions: Experiencing irritability, angry or aggressive outbursts or behavior, experiencing overwhelming guilt or shame, feeling on guard at all times, having trouble concentrating, relaxing or sleeping and being easily startled or frightened.

How Common is Trauma or PTSD?

Experiencing severe trauma is not unusual. According to the National Center for PTSD, 6 in 10 men and 5 in 10 women experience severe trauma in their lifetime. Seven or 8 out of every 100 people experience PTSD at some point in their lives, meaning that 8 million adults are impacted by PTSD.

How the Election Causes Anxiety

Several common trauma-inducing topics have been prevalent in this election. Bullying, sexual assault, body shaming, ageism, sexism, racism and nationalism.

Statistically speaking, most Americans have been impacted by one or more of these topics and many Americans experience some level of anxiety or stress, if not full-blown PTSD as a result of these behaviors. Repeatedly having statements broadcast on TV, spoken about by friends or posted on social media that remind us of our traumatic experience means that we are being repeatedly assaulted by that which causes us pain, anxiety and PTSD symptoms and that we are increasingly becoming more and more anxious, stressed and dysfunctional.

Hateful Post-Election Rhetoric

When others say hateful things to us, they are really expressing their feelings of grief and betrayal at their hearts, traumas and experiences not being heard, acknowledged or held with dignity and respect. They are not necessarily attacking us, they are merely begging for compassion and love. And when we say hateful things, we are asking for the same thing from them.

When we share our hearts and our traumas with the world, we expect the world to listen and to validate our story. When others fail to validate us and our pain and instead support that which has caused us pain, we become threatened. We no longer feel safe, we feel that our pain doesn’t matter, that we have not been heard and that we are worthless. We feel betrayed and our PTSD-like symptoms skyrocket. Once again we are placed in the position of having to fight for our dignity and self-worth, and because we are survivors, we fight hard.

Hearing political comments that remind us of our trauma, that show to us that we have not been heard and that others do not care about us forces us to relive the worst moment of our worst day over and over again. It forces us right back int o fight-or-flight mode, and we attack viciously, which does not allow us to heal. All we need in to heal is to be heard. All we need is a little compassion.

The Anxiety Induced by the Election

This election reminded me of one of my worst fears; that being good and kind and truthful and honest doesn’t pay off and that fear, threats and coercion do, and that no matter how hard I tried to do good, I’d still lose because I am unworthy.

Watching and listening to this election, I was reminded of the big, strong, popular high school bullies who assaulted me and threatened to kill me if I didn’t give him what he wanted. I am reminded of my classmates who didn’t believe me and of the principal who told my parents that we better not get a restraining order against him because he would lose his scholarship and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for ruining his life.

When I hear people say that they support Trump, it provokes my anxiety. I am reminded of all of the fears and feelings I experienced in my traumatic situation. I feel worthless and my pain is invalidated. I hear that bullies who use fear and threats matter more than someone who tries to do good and I get afraid that I will be hurt. It doesn’t matter if it’s rational or not, it’s simply what comes out of the subconscious mind when I am provoked.

Rage is Neutralized by Compassion

This is why there’s so much rage this election. It’s not about economic plans or the military or the economy. It’s about the majority of us who have experienced trauma and who are being repeatedly traumatized by what’s being said and done around us that reminds us of our worst day.

It’s about our hearts and our stories and our belief that others may not think we deserve to exist.

For the next four years, when we see hate, let’s stop and remember our worst day. Let’s remember how it felt when somebody we trusted poured salt in our wound and let us recognize when we inadvertently pour salt in somebody else’s wound too. It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about listening and allowing each other to heal.

Let’s not question the validity of the wound or explain why we didn’t mean for the salt to hurt the wound or why salt doesn’t hurt our own wounds. Let’s just listen, acknowledge the pain and hold some space so healing can occur.

Let’s be kind. Let’s have compassion and let’s choose to hold every hurting heart that we come across. Holding hearts and having compassion don’t mean we have to agree with anyone. It only means that we gently say, “Yes, I understand, I’m wounded too and I understand that you are experiencing pain.” That’s it. That’s all it takes in order for us to all heal each other together.


To read more of Lora’s writing, visit her website.

About the Author: Not sure what lights your fire, or do you know exactly what lights your fire, but you keep spinning your wheels? Either way, Lora’s got you covered! Whether it’s through an Angel Reading or through hypnotherapy, where the subconscious mind is brought on board with the conscious mind, working with Lora reveals your divine path and gets you chugging down the road in no time. As a former lawyer, (She knows firsthand the courage it takes to following a new path!) Lora is very straight forward and process- oriented, using modalities that that yield results. No crystal balls or goddess robes here!

Loving Kindness || Mary Coday Edwards

Lovingkindness: It doesn’t mean approval of someone’s actions!

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

November 22, 2016

oving-kindness

November 9 to the 13 found me attending the 2016 International Symposium for Contemplative Studies (ISCS; Note 1), hosted by the Mind & Life Institute in San Diego – especially a gift coming on the heels of our pre- and post-election events.

And the holidays are upon us. And there’s Uncle Joe sitting across the table from you, epitomizing everything you disagree with. And you’re committed to bringing about more good in the world vs. more suffering.

Perhaps these conference ruminations will help you stay centered on your core values, as they helped me.

Richard J. Davidson, University of Wisconsin, & Matthieu Ricard, Shechen Monastery, ISCS 2016 Opening Keynote Speakers. Used by permission from Mind & Life Institute

Richard J. Davidson, University of Wisconsin, & Matthieu Ricard, Shechen Monastery, ISCS 2016
Opening Keynote Speakers. Used by permission from Mind & Life Institute

YES – WE CAN TRAIN IN COMPASSION

In his session Sunday morning titled, “Sustainable Compassion Training – Extending-care Mode of Practice,” Boston College Associate Professor John Makransky guided us in a contemplative session designed to enable us to extend loving care to others as an extension of the loving care in which we are held. This process teaches us how to “drop the level of reactivity” into a habit of compassion by finding a field of love and compassion from and in which we are all held (see Note 2 for additional resources).

 

Dr. Makransky led us through the following steps:

1.) Begin with a simple two-to-three minute breathing exercise, paying attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale.

2.) Next, try to recall one simple, loving caring moment: someone laughing with you, rooting for you – in your childhood or a very recent encounter – a memory that makes you happy when you recall it.

3.) Settle on that one such moment – recall the place, how it felt.

4.) Imagine that person is coming to you right now – not a distant memory, but be in that moment now, letting that person commune with you in your deep worth, taking joy in you, wishing you well – relaxing into that felt sense of that moment – beyond superficialities, letting those loving qualities seep into your whole being.

5.) Receive that loving energy into your whole body, into every cell, into your whole heart and mind, every layer of feeling and emotion, every part of you loved; beyond all superficial thoughts and impressions of yourself.

6.) Receive that loving energy so deeply that it can feel natural to let it come through you to those nearby and around you, like a natural impulse. It’s as if your caring figure has been communing with you, not on a superficial level, but deeply, validating your worth and dignity.

7.) Always still receiving, but now let it extend as if through a window pane, from your depths to others, to their dignity, beyond all limiting thoughts and impressions, deeply wishing them well.

8.) In this way, begin to rely on this loving energy which senses more than just limiting impressions, and wishing them DEEPLY well. Learn to trust that power or love more than limiting impressions, to rely on that.

9.) By communing and wishing well in this way, we learn to see others as we are seen, to love others as we are loved, to know others as we are known.

10.) Let this loving energy infuse your whole being – let it relax your heart and mind, let heart and mind fall open, by letting everything be in its natural openness.

I discovered that staying with the memory I evoked in Step 2 and continuing with that imagery did enable me to get beyond superficialities.

Of course, my Uncle Joe wasn’t sitting across from me.

LOVING KINDNESS DOES NOT MEAN APPROVAL

Lovingkindness, compassion, and empathy: words bandied about such that we lose their meanings. I will return to these words in next month’s blog, but some clarity is needed now.

Conference speaker and meditation author and teacher Sharon Salzberg said that lovingkindness derived from the ancient word “metta” and denoted “a heart space of inclusion.”

While it includes “a deep acknowledgement of connection [with someone], it doesn’t mean you like them or approve of them; it doesn’t demand action; it doesn’t mean being sweet, with only a sugary ‘yes’” to that which contradicts who we are.

“Compassion,” she continued, “rests on the shared understanding that we are all quite vulnerable. In life there is nothing we can hold on to” as permanent, all is always changing.

The idea behind these exercises is that I can learn to live with that paradox, of simultaneously being with someone whose actions I don’t approve of but yet extending compassion.  I can gaze upon my Uncle Joe and look deeper into his being, where I find that vulnerability of shared humanity. I may have to leave the table or gently challenge his ideas. All of this creates stress within me, and that’s when I pause, breathe, and ask my higher self what to do next so I don’t contradict who I am.

Much easier said than done, but it is a skill I can practice – for the good of myself and for the good of this cosmic space we dwell in.

Mindfulness is paying attention to your present moment nonjudgmentally, so if you felt an energy shift within you while reading Dr. Makransky’s contemplation exercise, I suggest you print it out and make it part of your daily routine.

_______

Notes:

1.) ISCS “brings together scientists, scholars, artists and contemplatives to explore distinct though overlapping fields of research and scholarship, using a multidisciplinary, integrative approach to advance our understanding of the human mind.” This San Diego symposium hosted about 1,200 attendees.

2.) Additional resources: Foundation for Active Compassion, Transformational Practices for a Better World; http://foundationforactivecompassion.org/; and Courage of Care Coalition; http://courageofcare.org/.

________

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

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

Why Kindness Matters || Dorothy Wallis

Whatever happened to Kindness, Caring and Respect?  Why Kindness Matters

By Dorothy Wallis

kindness

Have you noticed a change in mainstream cultural values regarding the way people treat others?  You may wonder what happened to kindness, caring and respect?  The election campaign has highlighted a growing acceptance of rudeness and disrespectful behavior toward others as being okay.  People are experiencing increasing stress and anxiety as a result.  Have we have forgotten the value of being nice?

 

Self-absorbed 
People seem to be more impatient.  Rushing ahead whether at work, in traffic, or at the grocery store is often the main goal with disregard for one’s fellow companions.  Waiting in line or for any service is seen as an annoyance.  On the highway, people drive as if there is always an emergency.  Cutting in line, swerving between cars, not paying attention when someone is talking, and walking down the street talking loudly on a cell phone glued to one’s ear is actually rude.

Self-Serving
I am all for the freedom of self-expression and following your inner guidance, yet it seems we have misconstrued the authentic expression of our True Self with the high jacked notion that self expression means anything goes and that it is not only acceptable but admirable.  Somehow, we have come to believe that doing whatever serves us in the moment no matter what affect it has on others is a right with an attitude of “I can say anything I want, behave anyway I want, and do whatever I want and you need to accept me this way.”  This is often accompanied by, “If you don’t like it…it’s not that I need to change…you need to work on your issues.”  Yikes…doesn’t that feel yucky?

This entitled self-serving attitude is dismissive and wreaks havoc on relationships and is certainly not a way to win friends or influence people.  It is easy to see that projecting blame, anger and rage onto others does not create friendship nor does it create harmony.  It is also easy to fall into a lack of awareness of others and how your behavior or inattention affects them.  You may brush off being impolite, not saying please or thank-you as inconsequential.  Yet actions such as inconsiderateness, lack of empathy, disrespect, rudeness, insulting and offensive remarks, belittling, gossiping, patronizing, taking advantage of or intimidating people are behaviors that often inflict irreparable harm to others and poison relationships.

Why are we Mean? 
Fear 
In an attempt to protect yourself, your beliefs or to feel safe you may disregard or mistreat others in order to distance yourself from those different than you.  You may retreat into withdrawing your attention or go along with the ego’s belief that the best defense is to be offensive.  Intolerance of other’s views, opinions, religion, way of life, and taking advantage of their vulnerabilities are indicators that you are reacting from a place of fear.

Low Self-Esteem 
A misguided perception is the idea that being rude, demeaning others, retaliating or bullying means you are stronger or better than another.  It is actually a sign of weakness and low regard for oneself.  The level of disrespect you have for others reflects the level of disrespect you have for yourself.  When you diminish others, you diminish yourself.  The way to bolster your self-esteem is through appreciation and consideration of others and taking the moral high ground, which fills you with joyful inner regard and respect.

Going along with the Crowd
The need to belong is strong.  Everyone needs connection and relationships.  Human interaction is required to ensure survival and is necessary to activate brain development.  Socialization is how you learn.  So why would you engage in behaviors that push people away?  Your very need to belong is one reason you may adopt crude behavior and go against what you feel is morally right in order to be accepted in a group.

The influence of the community you live in, the people you work with, your family of origin and your social groups are all powerful forces.  Your actions mirror what you see others do.  As a social creature you tend to adjust your values to the “norm.”  So, what is the current “norm?” Have you noticed more tolerance for bad manners and impolite behavior?  Is it really okay to text at the dinner table, to not listen when someone is talking to you, to gossip, interrupt, disrespect or embarrass someone?  These actions may not seem to have much consequence in the moment yet they create distance and resentment in those at the receiving end of your behavior.  Dis-respecting, dis-approving, dis-empowering, dis-missing, dis-daining, dis-regarding, dis-engaging, dis-couraging, dis-paraging, dis-tancing, dis-crediting, and dis-heartening actions dis-solve connection.

 

When you “Dis” someone, you Breed Contempt and you Lose Relationship

 

You not only lose relationship with others, you separate yourself from your true essence.  Following what the crowd does can be a dangerous mindset.  What seems like harmless misconduct is the seed, which grows into abuse, aggression, hatred, cruelty and violence.  Not only do these behaviors undermine others, they are toxic to the person dispensing them.  Self-loathing, loss of respect, loss of identity, loneliness, lack of love and separation from oneself is often the result.

 

“A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners, lack of consideration for others in minor matters, a loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein

 

Do you want to experience happiness and make a difference in the world?  Be Kind
Everyone wants to find meaning, to make his or her life matter.  Harmony and peace propagate from everyday actions of caring.  If you genuinely want self-respect, love and connection in your life, kindness is the cure.  Kindness is consideration and concern for others.  It is the act of spontaneous generous goodwill toward your fellow humans and brethren, and toward all of nature’s creatures, including you.  Benevolence comes from the heart.
Remember the popularity of Random Acts of Kindness?  Doing small deeds and acts of kindness is powerful; they promote a sense of deep well-being inside of you as well as others.  The way to inner peace and happiness is through compassionate action.  Generously give praise, use kind words, and acknowledge people.  Be considerate of others beliefs, viewpoints, and differences.  Be present, be patient and listen with curiosity.  Drop the “Dis” and engage, approve, regard, empower and give credit to others.  Cast off your pride and learn about good manners and what behaviors promote great relationships.  You will experience more joy.  Kindness Matters!

Cultivating Gratitude || Bridget Blasius

Cultivating Gratitude

By Bridget Blasius

Retrieved from People House Newsletter

gratitude

As we enter the harvest season, we find ourselves surrounded by reminders to be grateful for the blessings we have in life.  While many of us hold gratitude as an ideal, the pressure of Holiday preparations can leave us feeling overwhelmed.  This can make it difficult to actually enjoy our celebrations.  Sometimes, it seems like the autumn holidays can speed by before we know it.  When we don’t take time to pause, reflect and breathe, we can easily forget what it is that we are supposed to be celebrating!

Some may be wondering how they can pause when there is so much to do.   This is totally understandable.   We are often taught that taking time for self-care is selfish or irresponsible.  This is far from being the case.  When we take care of ourselves, we develop more resiliency to be present for those we love.

Autumn is a season full of rich, sensual pleasures.  How much do we take them in?  To cultivate grateful presence, start by taking a contemplative walk.  Do it slowly.  Notice the blessings offered by nature in the moment.  Feel the crisp winds, and notice the brilliant colors.  Smell the rich earth, as the leaves decay and provide compost for next year’s growth.  Nature is in a constant process of renewal, and so are we.  Every breath is an opportunity to notice the beauty around us.

When was the last time you took home a brilliantly colored leaf, and pressed it in a book?  Small natural objects can provide reminders to stop and reflect.  Consider incorporating leaves into a collage or other form of artwork.  Try doing this with children.  Enjoy their laughter and innocence.  Teach them to never lose sight of this.

Offer service to those around you, but do it joyfully.  If you notice yourself feeling fatigued or anxious, give yourself a break.  Be sure to offer appreciation to yourself for the good work you may be  doing.  It is easier to appreciate others when you realize that you, too, are worthy of love.

Tell yourself this:  It is OK just to be.  Sometimes, we need to do absolutely nothing.  Try sitting on the porch with a warm blanket and a cup of hot tea.  Take a nice, long bath.  As you feel the warm water, take the opportunity to be grateful for your indoor plumbing.  There are so many things that we take for granted.  We may worry that things will not turn out the way we want, in life, yet there are so many things about our lives that are right.  Let us not lose sight of this.

At the same time, let us not dismiss any sufferings we have endured.  Let us offer gratitude to ourselves for our own strength, in getting through them, and gratitude for our loved ones who have supported us along the way.   Send out the intention that all who are suffering may have the same support.  As you do this, you may notice a greater openness, warmth and generosity within yourself.

This is the very soul of autumn, the spirit that inspires our holiday celebrations, which create the memories that keep us warm through the months ahead.  Let us light candles and welcome that spirit into our homes, as we welcome our relatives and friends.  When we truly cultivate this awareness, it ceases to matter whether our pumpkin pies are perfect.  We stop caring whether our houses are totally clean.  Perfection is not what people will remember, about our holiday gatherings.  They will remember love and laughter, which we can only cultivate through presence.  So, let’s take time to be present with ourselves, so that we can be present for those who matter most.

The Dangers of Labels and Stereotypes in Politics – and in Life || Lora Cheadle

The Dangers of Labels and Stereotypes in Politics- and in Life

By Lora Cheadle, PH Blog Contributor

label

Why do we Label Others?

Have you ever judged a book by its cover? Literally, have you ever picked up a magazine at the check-out counter based on the cover photo and headlines? Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days! Throw a Halloween Party that will Leave Everyone Cackling with Delight! How many times were the articles as amazing as the headlines promised they would be?

Headlines are labels – they are quick, convenient and are designed to grab attention and trigger action. Buy Now! Limited Quantities! Don’t Delay! Whether we label merchandise, groups or individuals, labels and stereotypes serve the same function; the ability to quickly sort information without a lot (or any) conscious thought or critical analysis.

Effects of Labeling People

Police, fire, medical and military personnel all wear uniforms so we can quickly identity the purpose they serve. In dangerous or life threatening situations it is imperative to have the ability to move quickly without having to think and analyze multiple pieces of information.

Imagine a catastrophic situation where none of the emergency personnel are dressed in uniform, and how confusing it would be not knowing who served what function and who to listen to.

On a societal level it’s good to know and honor some labels and stereotypes. Emergency personnel are good people who help us emergencies and everyone collectively defers to their authority, ensuring safety for all. Which is exactly why it’s against the law to impersonate certain people, like police officers, and why it’s so devastating when there is an abuse of power by someone in a trusted position.

What are the Consequences of Labeling People in our Everyday Life?

Being knee-deep into the election season, let’s look at the labels and stereotypes around the two major political parties.

Without the labels of Republican and Democrat, politics would take a lot of work to understand. First, we would have to have a working knowledge of each party’s platform. Next, we would have to watch each politician and see how they voted on issues and what positions they advocated. Lastly, we’d have to analyze which party their vote or position aligned with. Then we would have to keep score of each vote or position and see how often each politician went which direction.

Because this process is too time consuming to be practical, we slap on labels and call it good. If a candidate is labeled as Republican or Democrat we falsely assume that they take certain positions on certain issues, regardless if they do or not.

Quite frankly, nobody out there has a true working knowledge of both of the parties’ platforms. The current Republican platform is 35,467 words and the current Democratic platform is 26,058 words, and these platforms change at each convention.

Even if our politicians did know both platforms inside and out, it would still be impossible for them to act in accordance with that platform 100% of the time, and since many bills and proposals are bipartisan and complex, it would be difficult to analyze which percentage of their vote was in line with which sections of which platform.

The Negative Effects of Stereotyping and Labelling

This means that basically, our political labels are useless and misleading. Since nobody has a strong working knowledge of both platforms and the dedication to analyze every politician’s every move and then apply the facts the platform, we can’t determine which politician acts in accordance with which party.

Here’s a fun exercise to try. Whichever party you identify with, pretend that the labels on the candidates are the opposite of what they are. Hillary is a Republican and Trump is a Democrat. You don’t actually have to download and study your own party’s platform (although I guarantee you will be totally shocked and that you will learn a lot) but instead, look at the ways you would favor that candidate based on nothing but their label. Be honest. Your perceptions and rhetoric would change.

Can you see the ways that you would support Hillary if she wore the label of Republican? Can you see how you would support Trump if he wore the label of Democrat? Don’t pretend that nothing would change, because it would. You would give them the benefit of the doubt and find more redeeming or excusable qualities simply because of their label.

And that, is the danger of labels and stereotypes.

___________________________________________________________________

About the Author: Not sure what lights your fire, or do you know exactly what lights your fire, but you keep spinning your wheels? Either way, Lora’s got you covered! Whether it’s through an Angel Reading or through hypnotherapy, where the subconscious mind is brought on board with the conscious mind, working with Lora reveals your divine path and gets you chugging down the road in no time. As a former lawyer, (She knows firsthand the courage it takes to following a new path!) Lora is very straight forward and process- oriented, using modalities that that yield results. No crystal balls or goddess robes here!

I have a brand-spanking-new website! Please check it out at www.pyramidfusion.com when you have a moment!

Creating the New Between Pain and Suffering || Mary Coday Edwards

Creating the New Between Pain & Suffering.

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

October 24, 2016

pain

This is by no means a complete treatise on pain and suffering – just three suggestions on how to work with it.

Creating the new through pain and suffering includes the following steps:

  1. Recognizing we’re in pain, we pay attention to what our bodies are telling us, whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological pain.
  2. Sitting with it mindfully, nonjudgmentally and with compassion welcoming it as our teacher (1);
  3. Breathing into the pain, asking our intuition, our higher self, what we can do next.

Now, of pain Dan Mager says (emphasis mine): “Physical pain has distinct biological and psychological components that represent stimulus and response. The biology of pain is the signal transmitted through the central nervous system that ‘something is wrong.’ The psychology of pain is the interpretation or meaning we give to that pain signal—the internal self-talk and beliefs about it which then drive our emotional reactions” (2).

“When we resist change, it’s called suffering ….” Buddhist Nun Pema Chödrön.

As an example: Recently I hurt the tip of my index finger on my right hand – an appendage of significance, as I am right-handed.

How I did so remained a mystery. Thinking it might be an in-grown finger nail, I tried minor surgery on it – exacerbating the pain a millionth-fold. Excruciating, throbbing pain now kept me awake at night.

Since it wouldn’t bend due to its swollenness, I unconsciously held the pained finger straight out.

Not a good idea; our physical world is designed for bendable digits. Plugging a cord into an outlet meant I rammed my finger into the wall – several times as a matter of fact. And into drawer fronts, doors, and the steering wheel, leaving me in tears.

I knew I was in pain, and all I wanted was for it to GO AWAY.  

I was resisting change, and my unconscious adaptation strategy of holding my finger straight out was not working.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl.

Of the biblical prodigal son who was competing with the pigs for food scraps, scriptures say “he came to his senses” (Luke 15:17).

I too, came to mine, making this pain conscious, moving from impatience with myself to gentleness and compassion. “What can I do differently?” I asked myself – finally.

“Live in the now.” 

I was operating unconsciously, going about my day ramming my finger into non-movable surfaces. But the now, this moment, is all we ever have. The past is gone, the future is yet to be – this is all we’ve got.

Also, the now is sacred; it’s where we experience divinity. I was rushing through what I declared mundane, to move on to what I believed was “important” and hence missing the divine moment by moment.

I asked if there was anything else.

“Stop using your right hand, use your left.”

OK, that’s like a mini death – a death to my standard mode of operation. Using my left hand meant I approached life slower, more deliberate and measured – a dying to a life driven by efficiency.

But creative suffering usually includes an element of dying – and then a rebirth.

Having spent about a decade in John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul, I was familiar with the concept – not mastered it, of course, how does one get used to a continual dying to what’s so familiar? And in a dark night experience, what dies is a worldview with its treasured beliefs, attitudes, and values.

And so I slowed down, using my left hand, shifting from frustration with myself to compassion. I felt a different part of my brain light up, a different energy was released.

Suffering occurs when your ideas about how things ought to be don’t match how they really are.” Author Brad Warner 

Summarizing my process:

– I became aware of my pain, my resultant suffering, and that the status quo wasn’t working anymore.

– Instead of just living in my reptilian brain of fight or flight, I brought this into consciousness, asking my higher self what I could do.

– I experienced a death and rebirth in my daily routine:

+ it increased my mindfulness, as I was forced to pay closer attention to each moment – my now – that’s all I have, this moment, and the next, and the next.

+ in the process, I was forced to slow down in the doings, my routine, of everyday life. Again, it changed my focus to my now, recognizing the sacred.

+ doing something with the opposite hand normally used can be psychologically beneficial as well as artistic, as it engages a part of the brain not commonly exercised.

Living consciously is at the heart of spirituality. Through it we learn to take responsibility for our actions and for our own happiness, without relying on outside influences. Yes, my finger hurt. But I didn’t have to wait for it to get better before I could experience joy. After all, there’s ALWAYS something or someone out there who can and will create havoc in our lives.

“Paroxysms of pain and twinges of desire leach from universal sources. All human suffering buttons itself to the pang of wanting.” Kilroy J. OldsterDead Toad Scrolls

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Notes & Sources:

  1. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, calls this practice mindfulness and says it is “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”
  2. Mager, Dan, MSW. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/some-assembly-required/201401/pain-is-inevitable-suffering-is-optional
  3. Chödrön, Pema. Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change. 2013. Shambhala.
  4. Steele, John W., PhD. https://peoplehouse.org/services/articles/chronic-pain-as-path/

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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.

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

Getting to Know Your “Stand Up” Guardian, Anger || Dorothy Wallis

Getting to Know Your “Stand Up” Guardian, Anger

By Dorothy Wallis

anger

I have never been comfortable with anger.  It is disquieting, to say the least.  I prefer smooth, harmonious relationships, with no conflict; where everyone gets along and is accepting, even when they don’t agree.  Anger disrupts my inner peace.  It is a brash, bold, incorrigible bully with such power and intensity that it cannot be ignored. 

 

When harsh words, criticism, or overt anger is directed at me, it feels like a hot behemoth of fire blasting and scorching me with blistering speed…knocking me flat.  I am speechless and bewildered.  My thoughts disintegrate and vaporize residue from the attack of condemnation.  The result of my flattened affect is a look of stunned perplexity.  This has often caused others to ignite even more of their vitriol in my direction.  Not a good outcome.  Once in awhile, I am awake and safe enough for my defensive fight response to zing back in crass disagreement.  As you can imagine, this only heightens anger and now we are all engulfed in a swirling firestorm.

Anger takes its time to flare up from inside of me.  It smolders and burns like Hawaiian pahoehoe lava, a slowly moving flow submerged under the surface.  It twists my stomach, turns and aches as my skin heats up.  I notice the burning in my chest and the movement up into my throat.  My breath becomes hot.  Like a bull ready to charge, my nostrils flare, my eyes becomes focused and intense, and fiery energy fills my body.  Even though my body is prepared for action, my first instinct is to try to shut it down.  It takes time for me to recognize that my silence, avoidance and distancing are a sign of anger.  It may be the next day, before I realize what I wanted to speak in the moment of a confrontation.  

I had learned to control anger by suppressing it.  As a result the churning in my stomach would turn into pain, nausea and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.  At one point in my life, I kept a bottle of Mylanta on my desk at work and would regularly swallow large gulps of it to get through the day. 

It has been a lengthy, compelling journey of getting to know this formidable energy that can so suddenly dominate my being.  What I have learned is that anger demands attention and some kind of response.  It is asking for something to change.  It wants immediate action.  Stifling or quelling anger never works.  It dislikes being controlled and patronized.  This goes for the anger erupting inside of you as well as what comes at you from others.  People have attempted to contain and trap their anger for centuries, but it still lives inside. 

Held anger seethes and foments into resentment, contempt, rage and even depression. 

Projecting anger explosively outward isn’t any better.  Besides destroying relationships, it also diminishes your immune system.  It heightens the production of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and testosterone, increasing your blood pressure, risk of heart disease and heart attacks if you habitually express your anger in this way.  Both suppression and projection of anger manifest in your body with detrimental health issues ranging from insomnia, depression, headaches, stomach issues, ulcers, arthritis and skin problems to high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks.

You have a “Stand Up Guardian” in Anger

It seems this culprit causes nothing but problems.  So why do we have this emotion of anger?  Think about when it arises.  It is present, along with fear, when you are in danger and need to protect yourself.  Anger speaks loudest when you have been violated.  It arises when your values have been confronted or abused.  Anger defends your ethics and morality.  If by your standards and perspective you are treated unfairly, exploited, or your self-respect and esteem have been injured, anger will come forth to defend your honor.  Anger is the “Stand-Up Righteous Guardian” that validates your beliefs and vindicates your self-worth.  It keeps you from passively giving up and being helpless.  Anger offers an internal validation that you and your values are worthy of upholding.  It nurtures an inner sense of strength to hold and preserve your dignity increasing your responsiveness and self-empowerment.  It can bring you out of grief, despair and depression.  Its forceful energy creates heat and expansive movement throughout every cell of your body stimulating your verve for life.  You may be inspired to take action to right injustices or to make a healthy change in your life.   

What are your expectations, beliefs, values, desires, needs, wants, and what attracts you?  Anger will help you find out.  If something doesn’t turn out how you think it should or when you want something and cannot obtain it, what happens?  Anger will shout, “I lost the game because they cheated; my partner betrayed me; that reckless#### driver is going to cause an accident; she took the last piece of pie and I wanted it; I hate waiting in line.” Anger can be very self-serving and self-protective of resources and desires.  It can show you when you are being self-righteous and conversely when you are magnanimously protecting and serving others.  With inner reflection it will show you what deserves to be upheld. 

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know all about You

Figuring out how it shows up for you is part of the task of meeting and getting to know anger.  For some, its appearance is so bold and disruptive that there is no doubt that anger has surfaced.  For others, the slow burn of apathy, criticism and bitter cynicism can disguise its signature bluster.  It is good to know your own temperament.  How often do you recognize yourself experiencing anger?  If you yell, scream, shout, and rage, you know anger is there.  Anger is also present when you are irritated, annoyed, resentful, bitter, insulting, cross, contemptuous or offensive. 

What is your Current Relationship with Anger? 

Do you find it beneficial, are you unaware of it, or is it causing you or others harm?  Is it affecting your relationships? 

Your Anger Style

How do you respond when anger is present?  Do you generally suppress or project?  Do you react quickly or slowly?  Are you more passive or aggressive?  Are you assertive and reasonable?  The passive aggressive and purely aggressive reactions may help you in the short term, yet in the long run these are always destructive to healthy relationship. Your anger style is a learned response.  No matter how strong the habit you have developed, it is not fixed in stone.  You have the power of choice.  

Knowing your prevalent style enhances your ability to choose a healthier response that is beneficial for you and others. 

Passive Aggressive:

Silencing, withdrawing, being cold, manipulating, being contemptuous or resentful, having righteous indignation, holding a grudge, gossiping, being mean, taking revenge 

Aggressive:

Nagging, relentless verbal expression, obnoxiousness, insulting, intimidating, baiting, bullying, controlling, yelling, screaming, fighting, raging, hitting and causing physical harm

What to do When Anger Surfaces; Slowing down the Reaction

Breathe…always…breathe:  This allows your reasoning mind to come on board and begin to calm the intensity of the anger. 

Be Aware of the Physical Sensations

Notice the actual physical sensations in your body and where the anger originates.  Where is it located in your body? Does it move? What is the temperature?  Scan your body.  What do you sense in your stomach, your chest, your throat, your arms, you’re your head?  Do your muscles tense?  Does your face flush or teeth grind?  Are you more alert?  Does your energy expand or contract or is there a mixture with some parts of you tightening or contracting and some of the energy expanding?  Do you have an urge to confront, attack or fight? 

Be Aware of your Impulse to React

This is the moment of choice.  Pushing down anger by ignoring it or acting out anger has its consequences.  Be aware of your first impulse and choose a better response.

What is Anger Upholding?

Before responding consider what anger is defending, endorsing, supporting or vindicating.  What is motivating the anger?

Value: Is this a moral or ethical value that is important to you?  Is there an injustice occurring?  Have you been violated or abused?  What is at stake if you do or do not uphold this value?

Need: Is my need necessary for survival?  Is it giving me the energy to move out of sadness, grief, depression or a dangerous situation?  Perhaps it is inspiring you take on a challenge.

Self Esteem & Identity: When you are judged or when you judge yourself as being unacceptable, anger offers you the impetus to value and esteem yourself.  There are healthy ways to stand up for yourself.  Try to refrain from criticizing, taking revenge or attacking. 

Wants and Desires: Is my desire in line with my highest good?  Does it respect the needs, values and desires of others?  Am I being self-serving or in service to all of life?

Expectations: Do I experience anger when I do not meet an expectation of myself?  Do I react with resentment when I believe others have failed to do or act in the way I expected?  Am I angry if I do not get my way?  Can I accept and forgive when expectations are not met?

Self Righteousness: Anger is used to uphold a false sense of being better than others.  False pride feels empowering but it actually diminishes your authentic self worth.  Do I believe I am ‘the one’ with the correct knowledge and rules or that my values are the only right ones without considering others viewpoints, ethics or values? 

Past Hurt and Guilt:  Anger can be triggered when an unresolved painful situation or trauma from the past is similar to something happening in the present.  Anger attempts to bring forth resolution for our past hurts and failures.  Am I locked in the past and taking my stored fury out on the present circumstance?

 

Rather than backing away from anger, I have found that it can be a resource pointing me in the direction of what is truly ailing me.  Finding resolution occurs when there is deep reflection on the source, the consequences of reacting, and identifying what is truly important.  Conflict is still not my favorite cup of tea, and anger often is contentious, but my comfort level has increased.  Knowing that I primarily contain my anger has helped me to find it, welcome it and look it in the eye.  An honest assessment of what is motivating the underlying root of anger has enabled me to discern how to respond in ways that sustain communication and relationships.  

 

Before changing your dynamic of anger with others, you must first develop a relationship with anger realizing it is the Guardian of your most cherished values.  It is a helpful companion that offers a moral compass.  When you use this energy to inquire into the true source of what it is upholding, you can resolve much of the inner pain.  Your “Stand Up” Guardian will give you the emotional courage and strength to uphold your life, and to strengthen values and esteem, without destructive consequences.

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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.  

Comedy for a Cause || Craig Freund

“Comedy for a Cause”

by Craig Freund, ACP Internship Graduate and People House Private Practitioner

 

comedy

“Every time you are able to find humor in a difficult situation you win.”

-Anonymous

Why comedy for a cause? Well, what does a nosey pepper do? Get jalapeño business. Okay okay, cheesy I know, but the point is… that humor and laughter in general is one of life’s greatest blessings. Often, humor creates the space to better cope with difficult experiences or with our own misfortunes. During my time as an undergraduate student, while hoping to enjoy a nice meal in the dining hall, I jumped up into a stool seat. Suddenly I found myself on the floor and realized that the chair had collapsed beneath me. With the attention of the entire dining hall, I flushed red with embarrassment, I noticed my pals tearfully laughing at my misfortune and soon I found myself laughing with them. This moment had the potential to be one of the most embarrassing moments that I’d experienced, however with some light-hearted humor, it quickly became one of the funniest moments of my life. In this moment and with the help of some humor, I was able to transform uncomfortable embarrassment into joy and laughter.

Obviously we can’t laugh at everything, but laughter can really help us through a wide variety of struggles. It might be helpful to find humor during embarrassing moments, parenting struggles, uncomfortable silences or even if your mood just needs a little boost. You may have even heard that laughter is the best medicine. Laughter eases tension, tackles stress, boosts the immune system, releases endorphins, inspires hope and creates social connection. By actively seeking out humor in our lives we can truly elevate our mental health and improve our life experience. But that isn’t all. Laughter and particularly comedy can also become an excuse for the kind of fundraising that greatly benefits our communities.

On Sunday, November 13th at 5pm People House is hosting The Gift of Comedy at the Bug Theater. Headlining this event will be the hilarious Kristina Hall, a professional comedian with over 30 years of comedic experience. Kristina will be joined by therapist comedians Katie Mason, Elan Benami and Josh Medley as they combine forces in an effort to not only make you laugh, but also to raise funds for People House’s Affordable Counseling Program. If you’ve not heard of it, the Affordable Counseling Program provides quality and affordable services to those that might not otherwise be able to find the mental health support that they need. In fact, this program provided over 4500 affordable counseling sessions in 2015. So, on November 13th at 5pm, your laughter and The Gift of Comedy will truly be Comedy for a Cause. If you’re looking to boost your mental health, have a good belly laugh and/or contribute to a great cause, then The Gift of Comedy at The Bug Theatre is for you! Finally, if you’ve never experienced live stand-up comedy, this is a great opportunity to giggle till you cry and get that abdominal workout while skipping the gym for the stand-up stage, all while supporting your community.

Get your tickets at: https://peoplehouse.org/thegiftofcomedy/

goc-whats-new

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.”

 -Charlie Chaplain

“Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.”

  -Mark Twain

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About the Author: Craig is one of the many exceptional Private Practitioners working with People House. With over 4 years of experience as a Mental Health Counselor working in residential, crisis and hospital settings, Craig is a wonderful addition to the People House community. Craig is a gentle, compassionate and genuine person who works to tailor his therapeutic approach to the specific needs of each and every individual. He enjoys working with a wide variety of individuals with various life experiences and personal interests. He is also a graduate of People House’s Affordable Counseling Internship. For more information or to contact Craig, please see his therapist bio.

Intuitive Self-Care and Separating the Needs of the Body, Mind and Spirit || Lora Cheadle

Intuitive Self-Care and Separating the Needs of the Body, Mind, and Spirit

By Lora Cheadle

self-care

 

Taking good care of ourselves requires more than just an occasional mani-pedi or treating ourselves to new shoes, a massage or a girl’s night out.

Taking good care of ourselves requires us to listen to ourselves and to really hear what our bodies, our minds and our spirits are asking for on a separate and intuitive level. When we practice intuitive self-care and take care of our bodies, minds and spirits separately, we become a happier and healthier whole. There’s a lot of focus out there on integrating the body, the mind and the spirit, and while it’s true that we function best as fully integrated beings, in order to truly integrate all facets of our beings we need to begin by separating the three components of the self and learn to intuitively listen and respond to what each part needs.

     The body itself is an organism. All organisms are biologically hard-wired to preserve themselves. Our bodies have a multitude of self-preserving reflexes, instincts and behaviors, and it’s completely natural and desirable for the body to preserve and protect itself. Bodies can experience cravings when they are running low on various minerals, such as iron or other nutrients. Pica is the term given to pregnant women who are deficient in certain minerals and crave things such as mud, dirt, plaster, ashes or who have the compulsive need to lick the walls. Physical cravings help us eat the kind of foods that our bodies requires to sustain themselves. On the flip side, when we eat something toxic, our bodies react by vomiting and ridding themselves of the offending substance.

     Our bodies also know how much and of what kind of food they can digest at a time. If we eat something that is difficult to digest, our bodies may tell us to stop by sending us an “I’m full” signal, but if we eat foods that are easy to digest, we may not feel full as quickly. Similarly, depending on our activity, hormonal, immune and stress levels, there will be times when we are more or less hungry. The intuitive wisdom is there; it’s just that we lose touch with it. As children we may be told to “clean our plate,” or that we “don’t have to like it, we just have to eat it,” which teaches us to override our bodies intuitive wisdom. As adults, making decisions for ourselves for the first time, we waltz into life feeling like naughty little children whose parents are out of town. We make one bad choice after another simply because we can, and we are rarely encouraged to get back in touch with our intuitive wisdom.

Add in the demands of a modern life with careers and families, where we are relegated to eating on an arbitrary schedule that had nothing to do with the needs of our body, and our body’s intuitive wisdom is quieted and ignored.

     Our minds and our spirits have the same kind of intuitive wisdom that our bodies do, telling us exactly what they require in order to flourish. When we listen to and respond to these three, distinct voices, all parts or us remain healthy and fulfilled, but when we ignore our own intuitive self-care wisdom, illness, injury, depression and other problems manifest.

     When we are not practiced at separating the needs of the body with the needs of the mind or the spirit, we misinterpret the signals we receive and we end up feeding the body what the mind and the spirit are asking for. The mind, just like the body, is a self-preserving organism that craves what it needs. Minds need stimulation, comfort, love, excitement, growth and development. When faced with a difficult or a sad time, the mind might crave sweetness, comfort and love. Instead of reaching out to people or situations that provide the mind with sweetness, comfort or love, we misinterpret these signals and we attempt to feed the body what the mind is asking for. We ingest sweetness, comfort and love in the form of mac and cheese and ice cream. We don’t physically need mac and cheese or ice cream, what we need is a good dose of mothering and a time-out from adult responsibilities, but because we aren’t hearing and responding to that which our mind truly need, we attempt to fill ourselves up with as much sweetness, comfort and love as we can by ingesting mac and cheese (a symbol of comfort and love) followed by ice cream (sweetness personified).

     Do we need a bit more spice or bite in our otherwise dull lives? We may crave spicy foods, salt and crunch. Feeling stifled at work, a lack of stimulation being home with toddlers or craving a project to sink our teeth into? When we don’t listen and respond to what our minds and spirits are telling us they need, we eventually start eating whatever it is our minds and spirits desire! Are we craving those gooey cinnamon rolls because we have just run a marathon, our muscles no longer have any glycogen stores and we are on the verge of passing out, or are we craving them because we are unfulfilled in our current position at work and we want something juicy and gooey to sink our mind into? Are those licorice sticks giving us something to chew on because our mind has something to process that we are ignoring and refusing to process?

     Our bodies, minds and spirits are filled with intuitive, self-care wisdom and when we are connected enough to listen and respond to what they tell us they need, will are happy and healthy on every level.

But if we don’t listen, or if we misinterpret the signals, we set ourselves up for subpar health and happiness. This is intuitive self-care, and this is the ultimate goal. Separate the needs of the body from the needs of the mind and the needs of the spirit. Stay present in every moment and learn to listen and respond to the needs of the body, the mind and the spirit, remembering of course, that there’s always room for a mani-pedi, new shoes or a nice massage

self-care-image


About the Author: Not sure what lights your fire, or do you know exactly what lights your fire, but you keep spinning your wheels? Either way, Lora’s got you covered! Whether it’s through an Angel Reading or through hypnotherapy, where the subconscious mind is brought on board with the conscious mind, working with Lora reveals your divine path and gets you chugging down the road in no time. As a former lawyer, (She knows firsthand the courage it takes to following a new path!) Lora is very straight forward and process- oriented, using modalities that that yield results. No crystal balls or goddess robes here! See more on her website.

Shame || Mary Coday Edwards

Blog 9

Shame: What’s it all about?

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards.

shame

Shame. Common to the human experience, we’ve all experienced it, at times so excruciatingly painful that we seek desperately a hole to fall into, the proverbial wish for the ground to open up beneath our feet in order that we can hide our shame, or what we are ashamed of.

Shame resilience depends on being able to move through shame experiences with self-compassion (after all, how many perfect people do you know?), authenticity, and courage. Getting there, however, requires mindful discernment between shame and its cousinly emotions: embarrassment, humiliation, and guilt, so some definitions are in order.

Embarrassment is a response to something that threatens the image of ourselves (our persona – see last month’s blog), that we’d like others to believe about us. Sources of embarrassment fluctuate based on situations and who we’re with.

For example, nothing like realizing after you’ve been speaking to someone for 10 minutes that you’ve had a nose hair blowing in the breeze; if our persona’s projection is for perfect hygiene, we’ve obviously fallen below the bar, it’s beneath our projected image. If we can use compassionate self-talk, reminding ourselves that we’re certainly not the first ones to have longish nose hairs peeking out, we can move beyond the experience with humor.

If your mother’s 65 and shows up at your engagement party in a mini-skirt and go-go boots, it may cause embarrassment to you if you think it falls short of a family image of class and sophistication.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt

And then there’s humiliation, what we feel as the recipient of a shaming attack by someone else. It consists of an incident that demonstrates a relationship of unequal powers, of experiences of power and powerlessness, where one is in an inferior position and unjustly diminished. Brene Brown uses this example of the difference between shame and humiliation: A teacher is handing back papers and one paper doesn’t have the student’s name on it, and publicly the teacher announces that the student is stupid. With healthy self-talk, the student will be humiliated and embarrassed, but will tell herself, “That is the meanest, most nasty teacher ever. I don’t deserve that.” If the child’s self-talk is, “Ugh. He’s right. I’m so stupid, why do I keep forgetting to put my name on my paper. I’m so stupid.” That’s shame.

“Shame is a soul-eating emotion.” Carl Jung

Segueing onto unraveling shame and guilt, the easiest way to remember is the following: Guilt says “I did something bad”; shame harangues us with “I AM bad.”

Guilt focuses on our behavior. Guilt feelings have to do with ethical or moral principles that we believe are necessary to be a “good” person that we have violated: I did something I shouldn’t have, or I didn’t do something that I should have. Generally speaking, guilt can be a positive, healthy response, when it’s used in a manner to correct something that was indeed wrong.

However, often these principles have come down to us through various authorities: our parents, religious leaders, or our teachers. Perhaps they’ve become laws to our consciences, an authority within our psyches and as we age, need to be re-examined to see if these principles translated into values are still serving us.

If rocking the boat was not allowed in any form for a child, then challenging bullies or an abusive status quo can bring about feelings of guilt when an individual on a personal growth trajectory knows leaving said abusive situation is the next step that’s required. These guilt feelings can quickly slide into shame, if the inner authority continues its tirade against boat rocking of any sort, AND throws in the “truth” that those who do so are bad people. In this case, one is led to believe that they deserve their shame.

Shame washes over us even if nothing external occurs, whereas its cousins pop in for a visit over external circumstances.

Adults who as children were abused, neglected, continually criticized, abandoned, or mistreated internalize the message that they do not fit in, that they are inadequate or unworthy.

Shame then arises when our self-image is doubted or under attack. Me writing this blog is a classic example.

If I believe I am a font of wisdom, and the way that is proven is by how many “likes” and/or “comments” that I receive on Facebook by admiring fans, when that falls short of my expectations, shame eats at my soul. In other words, when I need everyone’s approval to bolster a sagging self-esteem, if my self-worth is tied into needing others to say positive things about me, then “You are a Failure! You are a Failure!” screams at me when, in this case, I fall short of the 1.5 million positive comments I need.

Until we can shift our abusive self-talk to that of compassion toward ourselves, we will continue to believe shame’s message that we are unworthy.

So – pay attention to the emotions running through your body. Ask yourself when these painful encounters occur: Is this shame? Embarrassment? Humiliation? Guilt? Sit with them, breathe into them, and practice self-compassion, non-judgmentally. Embrace your experiences with gratitude; these are your teachers!


Sources include:

Works by Donald Nathanson, Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self; and his on-line materials.

Jacoby, Mario. Shame and the origins of self-esteem: A Jungian approach. 1994. Routledge; London.


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.

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

 

Developing An Internal Sense of Safety || Dorothy Wallis

Developing an Internal Sense of Safety

 Much Ado about Fear (part 2)

 fear-pt-2

“Anxious, stressed, scattered, I can’t concentrate and can’t sleep through the night.  I am not in physical danger, but I just never feel safe.”  The aftermath of fearful situations or the uncertainty that the world is not a safe place can leave you shaky, unsure and on edge.  You have lost a grounded sense of security.  How do you develop an internal feeling of safety?  You may wonder if or even believe that a haven of serenity exists inside of you, but when fear arises you may wonder how to get past the fear.

In “Much Ado about Fear, part 1,” we found how fear initiates a natural visceral response to a perceived threat whether there is an actual threat or not.  The fear response instantaneously activates a protection mode of fight, flight or freeze to keep you safe from harm.  Even when your physical body is no longer in danger, you may experience lurking fear in the form of anxiety.  Only when you truly believe you are safe will your body calm down. 

Developing an internal sense of a permanent peaceful place within provides a knowing of inviolable safety and trust.  This sanctuary is found by moving into and beyond the transient experience of fear.  Yes, that’s right, touching the fear.  It sounds challenging because it is such a change from the way you may have previously related to fear.  For the most part, you have been taught that fear itself is dangerous and territory that you do not want to touch.

Here is the practice.  Move through it at your own pace and be aware of the feelings that arise.  Being Consciously Aware opens you to the experience.

How to Begin: Getting to Know Fear

Meet fear with the feeling of being welcomed into its home and getting to know it.  Approach this part of yourself gently and slowly; take your time.  Fear is an energetic expression of your emotional body to warn you.  You are entering the unknown.  It may be uncomfortable and much resistance may arise.  Open to fear with curiosity, spaciousness and a sense of discovery. 

Become consciously aware of your response to fear and approach fear as you would a supportive relationship.

Be Aware of Your Natural Tendency to Turn Away from Fear

Naturally, your impulse is to turn away.  The desire to not feel fear is normal because it is a feeling of not being safe.  You retract from feeling the physical sensations of fear in the same way you use to get away from danger.  You may fight fear by “toughening up,” suppressing and controlling the sensations, flee by distracting yourself or ignoring the sensations, or numbing the fear with drugs or alcohol.  All of these engage you in a battle against your own body and against yourself instead of addressing the cause of the fear. Your longing to not feel fear makes you more afraid and insecure.  You can’t fight, run away from or freeze fear into submission.  If you attempt to control it, it returns again and again as anxiety and grows louder.  Fear is a warning siren.  The only way to turn off a smoke alarm is to pay attention to it and physically connect with it.  It is wise to run out of the house to get away from fire, but running away from the alarm to stop it from ringing won’t work.

Be Willing to Touch the Fear with Compassion and Love

Approaching fear with a willingness to experience it with love for what it is protecting creates a new relationship with this part of you that is exquisitely designed to safeguard you.  A great benevolence and caring are at the heart of fear, which deeply cares for and protects you.  Underneath the desire to protect is immense love and compassion for yourself and others.  Touching fear with your Conscious Awareness transforms your understanding of it into an aspect that is known.

Allow Yourself to Experience the Physical Sensations of Fear

Have you ever been fully present with the physical sensations of fear?  Your reaction to fear is rapid and instinctual; it happens so quickly that you probably have not paid much attention to your bodily sensations.  Overcome your habitual tendency to not feel and your desire to not be afraid by choosing to discover this part of your being. 

Enter with Love. 

As fear arises, place your awareness on the physical sensations in your body.  Fear is a vibration of energy.  Notice where the energy is located in your body and where it moves.  Allow your curiosity to discover the subtle qualities.  What are the textures, temperature, sounds, smell and color of the energy?  Biological changes activate your body to protect itself.

Some of the physical sensations you may encounter are:

  • An abrupt, all encompassing movement of energy in your chest and throat
  • Your heart beating faster….your breathing becoming more rapid
  • Blood vessels constricting to shunt the blood around your body to your core, arms and legs
  • At the same time, you may get a cold flash or even trembling as the blood moves away from the skin and into your core
  • Your perception and awareness of what is around you increases
  • You become very alert and focused with increased clarity
  • Your sensing ability expands spherically far out from your body
  • You have a deep instinctual desire to get away or hide
  • You may have a sense of contraction, tightness or shrinking
  • Clarity diminishing when flooded with fear and panic

You will have your own unique experience of the sensations.  Notice what happens to you in different circumstances.  As you learn about your automatic responses make different choices in how you relate to fear.  Do you panic or react with more fear?  What happens when you choose to relate to fear with compassion and kindness?  How does your experience change when you know you can regulate your response?  You cannot eliminate fear and it would not be wise to do so but the more you get to know fear and gain confidence and trust in your ability to choose your response, the more you develop a sense of safety and security.

Stay Present, Connect, Inquire and Listen for the Underlying Truth

Once you have connected with the physical sensations of fear, and gain some skill with your ability to touch it, observe how the energy changes.  The intensity shifts, it comes and goes, and you have a greater awareness of its impermanent nature. 

Staying present with the fear, take a deep breath and increase the depth of your compassion and caring.  Love invokes a profound state of clarity.  Connect with the energy that is guarding and protecting a part of you.  Fear protects your body and your loved ones and also protects your values, beliefs and parts of yourself that you find unacceptable.  Often what keeps you from inhabiting a place of safety is your fear of what you may discover inside of yourself.  Inquire deeper within and see if what you care about protecting is still necessary or true for you.

Is it a belief I hold that is not in alignment with my authentic self?  Is this an essential part of myself?  What else may fear be protecting?  Is it hiding a disowned part of myself?  Is there something I fear even more than keeping the anxiety?  Am I holding on to a belief that I am innately bad, unworthy or unlovable?  Do I fear what I desire most: receiving love, intimacy, abundance, or relationship with God or Spirit?

Uncovering the emotional truth that fear has been protecting leads you into an awareness of your story and an exploration into your true self.  Look at how many times you have walked into fear.  What strengths and attributes have carried you through rough times?  What parts of you adapted?  Somehow, you have survived and that speaks of your resilience.  A sense of freedom and empowerment results from regaining disowned aspects of yourself and finding out that your essential nature is good, capable and wholesome.  Honor and appreciate your authentic self; allow the unfolding.  An internal sense of safety is a journey and is built from the recognition of your authentic power and trusting that there is an unwavering well of support and guidance within.

___________________________________________________________________

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.  

 

developing-saftey

Fun is the New Apple || Jenny St.Claire

Fun is the New Apple

By: Jenny St. Claire, People House Blog Contributor

 

self care and apple

Self-Care is a buzzword that is thrown around a lot. I find it is often given lip service, but not carried out on a regular basis.  Why is that?

Do we all suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out)?  If we say yes to taking care of ourselves, are we saying no to something else that sounds much more productive or exciting?

Whatever life looks like day in and day out, it is important to take a moment to notice what we actually need to care for ourselves.

BORING!

Most people I’ve asked who talk about self-care usually only reference three things:

  • Getting a massage
  • Going to counseling
  • Taking a bath

Those are amazing things to do for yourself!

But, what if those were the only three choices?  Even if you add getting enough sleep and eating well, how would that feel over time?  Confining?  Dull?  Boring? 

No wonder people aren’t making self-care a bigger priority!

Fun Factor

Fun is more than something we do.  It’s also a way of being. 

Remember the last time you really had fun.  You were probably smiling, relaxed or exhilarated, laughing, engaged and really present.  Now, try to imagine doing that same thing while also being lost in your thoughts, grumpy or striving to achieve.  The results would probably be pretty different if you were being something other than fun.

The old saying “Use it or lose it” definitely applies to our ability to be fun.  As we grow into adulthood and adopt the social rules of how to be a grown up, we have a tendency to set aside fun in favor of getting things done, being busy, and generally trying to make it through our hectic days.  Under the new operating system of “being an adult,” how has your ability to play and have fun been affected?

Why does this matter?

I’m sure you can relate to how draining getting through your day and week can be.  If you started with a full tank of your essence and wellbeing in the morning, how much of your tank did you use by bedtime?  Half? All of it?  How many of you have been running on fumes for a while?

If your tank is running low, how do you fill back up again?

If you like baths, how much of your tank does that fill?  How about a massage?  Let’s be real about what actually brings you back to a full tank.  It’s not the things we do once a month or once a week that are going to help us feel nourished.  It’s the things we do every day, sometimes several times a day, that really keep us going and make it a fulfilling ride.

This is where fun comes in, both in being and doing.  Make it a practice.  Seek it within yourself and your life.  It might be an attitude of adventure, discovery or always asking “what if?”  Maybe it’s a moment of shared laughter.  Maybe it’s a solo one song dance party.  Fun is available to us in every moment, no matter the task, if we allow ourselves to be open to receiving its restorative qualities.

Remember the last time you had a good laugh.  The kind where your face and stomach hurt, or you snorted.  How did you feel afterward?  Full?  Sated?  Connected?  All of these qualities of fun are directly related to self-care.  Fun is an overlooked element of caring for yourself, which is why it’s important to build it into your day.

Every day.  Several times a day.

Smorgasbord

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you had a whole smorgasbord of choices when it comes to fun and caring for yourself?  Then, you could pick something that would fit your mood, time, and need on any given day.

To broaden your view of what is possible, I have borrowed the work of Sarah Jenks (www.sarahjenks.com) who has categorized many ways to have fun. Here are some ideas:

  • Pleasure (five senses)
    • Massage
    • Delicious meal
    • Fragrant flowers
  • Romance
    • With significant other
    • With yourself
  • Friendship
    • Cultivate and nurture
  • Entertainment
    • Concert
    • Movie
    • Comedy Club
  • Adventure
    • Moves you just outside your comfort zone and gives you a bit of a rush
      • Ziplining
      • New Haircut
      • Trying something new
    • Space and Tuning Out
      • Sometimes we just need to BE
      • Be in nature!
    • Education
      • Learn something for FUN
        • Language
        • New recipe
        • Instrument
      • Creativity
        • What is creative to you?
          • Finding a new way home
          • Sewing
          • Making a collage
          • Building a new garden

Fun is the New Apple

They used to say that an apple a day would keep the doctor away.  With the pace of our lives these days, an apple isn’t enough!  We need to take a deep breath and check in with how we are doing.  Then, based on what we discover, we need to nourish ourselves in a way that our whole self is replete.

Take stock of your life and notice what’s missing.  If you’ve got the basics of your well being covered and you still feel like something is lacking, could it be fun?  Do any of the categories above speak to you?  In what big or small ways can you add elements of fun to your life?

____________________________________________________________________

JennyAbout 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.

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!

_____

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

_____

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!

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.

Living Consciously| Spirituality in Daily Life || Mary Coday Edwards

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards

People House Featured Blogger
mindfulness
As I mentioned in my first blog regarding contemporary spiritualityno one institution or religious practice owns its definition. Spirituality does seem to imply, however, a two-way search: We seek for a connection with something greater than ourselves and at the same time, seek through self-knowledge to live a fully human and integrated life.

How can we do that? Mystics and poets through the ages stress being mindful – to paying attention to your NOW. After all, that’s all any of us have! The past is gone and our future hasn’t arrived.

All we have is this moment. And this moment. And this moment.

Yes, we make plans, but we hold onto them lightly. Our NOW holds the seeds to the future; this is where inspiration hits, where creativity manifests itself, or when answers to life’s challenges break into our consciousness. When we’re ruminating over the past or anxiously planning our future, we miss those revelatory moments.

And speaking of life’s challenges: They are designed to increase our consciousness.

As humans, we automatically have ideas and beliefs about the world and these determine what is important and what is not important to us. This is our worldview or world picture, the way life is and our place in it.

When our worldview isn’t serving us anymore

Often our worldview lies unconscious and unchallenged – we’ve just soaked up what our parents told us or our culture through its various delivery points, such as advertising, social media, TV, Hollywood, government, education, or religion.

Gordon D. Kaufman says,

“A worldview or world-picture is working well when (1) it performs the indispensable task of providing communities and individuals with order and orientation in life, that is, when it is able successfully to organize and interpret the experience of women and men in such a way that they can come to terms with it and life can go on; and when (2) this orientation provides sufficient meaningfulness and motivating power to enable them to continue to struggle even against serious adversities and troubles, indeed catastrophes” (Note 1).

Life’s challenges are intended to wake us up, and by paying attention to our assumed values, beliefs, and attitudes, the Universe presents us with opportunities for to examine our unchallenged way of life. Having lived all over the world with so many people of so many stripes, I’ve had opportunities aplenty!

 

Letting life change us – before we explode!

My journey began in Peshawar, Pakistan, about 25 years ago when I set off to look for universal values. It was also when, at the time unknown to me, cracks were forming in my own worldview. Unaware that these cracks originated deep in my soul as shifting tectonic plates, I spent a long time holding them together with duct tape before I would recognize them as the gifts they were and allow them pull me apart.

Through these past five blogs, you have been the recipient of my resultant changed interior landscape, my upheaval.

I learned to delight in mystery: Blog 2.

picture

Anak Krakatau, Indonesia, taken by Edwards.

 

While living in Pakistan, I was ready to jettison the God baggage, but what I realized was that I wasn’t throwing out God – just the metaphor/model that I had embraced in my late teens, when I joined the Jesus Movement.

A metaphor is used when we don’t know what something is in order to give it some sort of meaning that we can connect the concept to.

Life, as well as every religion’s scriptures and/or holy books as well as science, uses metaphors and models to explain the ineffable. I had God in my worldview, and my metaphor/model wasn’t serving me anymore.  Someone has said that the God we believe in must be compatible with the way in which we understand the fabric of reality.

However, a downside of living with mystery, with uncertainty, can be a weak character, one who takes a stand for nothing. If nothing is completely “right”, then why study? What is the good?  What is justice?

 

Which takes us to Blog 3: Critical realism as a guide to the real.

The meaning of truth is correspondence with reality, but what is reality? We have a pretty good idea, for example, of what’s in an atom – otherwise I wouldn’t be typing on this computer, but not an absolute. We have an inkling also of spiritual realities. Although their experiences are not as easy to duplicate, all of us can relate to some of the spiritual nuances revealed by generations of seers, mystics, poets, and artists.

Therefore, we have a form of realism, in that some aspects of the world are accessible to us, but it is a critical realism because our scientific – and spiritual – constructs are also reflections of the imagination and intuition of our human minds; they are extrapolations.

Consequently, based on the fabric of reality shown by quantum physics, I live my life as if my efforts mattered (Blog 4: The physics of prayer: choosing mystery). At a subatomic level we live in an observer-influenced world.  Compassion for sentient beings might indeed make the world go ‘round – including compassion at a distance.

 

And translating this all into action – why should I care? Why should I exhibit compassion?

Blog 5: Values, Morals – and Quantum Ethics. Because we’re all hitched together, as John Muir wrote in 1911. Father of our national park system, Muir spent time with and in nature and sensed those interconnections just when Einstein’s Nobel Prize winning discoveries were beginning to disturb existing worldviews.  Relationality, inclusive patterns and interconnectedness appear to be deeply imbedded in the fundamental structure of our physical world. Elements in a system adjust themselves to other modifications and system laws develop.

For up to 4,000 years various versions of the Golden Rule, “Do not do unto others as you would not want done unto you”, have appeared in nearly every religion and ethical tradition.

And this was before the Internet, so these great intuitive thinkers for the most part came up with this with little interaction amongst themselves.

In summary – and speaking as a critical realist – mindfully practice your spirituality, comfortable with mystery. 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.”

Be grateful for everything; circumstances wake us up so that we learn to bring all of ourselves to every life event, we show up as ourselves.

This may mean drastic changes to your worldview. Embrace them, mindfully, living the question of “Where is this taking me?”

And tentatively perhaps, base your values, ethics, and decisions on an interconnected world where your efforts matter.

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Note 1: Kaufman, Gordon D. In Face of Mystery, A Constructive Theology. Harvard University Press, USA, 1993; pg. 47.

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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.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes|| Craig Freund

By Craig Freund, Affordable Counseling Program Intern
New posts every other Tuesday

superhero

“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

                                                                -Nancy Rogers

 

In my time as a student, mental health counselor and therapist I’ve come to learn firsthand that there is most definitely a great deal of pain in this world. This pain comes in all forms and can stem from events of the past, of the future, as well as from the trials and tribulations of our everyday lives. From a young child who has experienced unspeakable trauma, to the hurting middle aged man that has bottled his depression for years, the work of helpers and healers is never ending. In spite of this pain, every day, countless people do amazing, incredible, wonderful things for their fellow man.

These helpers and healers are made of something truly courageous as they hold hope for the hopeless, make space for the hurting, speak for the speechless, fight for the weak and care for the forgotten.

 

With the hardship that our therapists, case managers, nurses, doctors and counselors confront day in and day out, there is nothing quite as amazing as seeing someone heal, find their power and regain an authentic sense of self. In this way, the emotional burdens that our helpers and healers regularly experience are very much an honor, blessing and privilege. However, with the inherent dangers associated with compassion fatigue and secondary trauma, this work is not for the faint at heart. These helpers have pushed their comfort zones to the max and through the heat of emotion, chaos and their own experiences, have found themselves refined as diamonds in the rough of adversity.  

 

These helpers and healers are often composed of the strongest, most compassionate, most resilient hearts and souls. Often these healers have experienced their own pain and through their experience are able to pass along some learned intrinsic strength. In lieu of their strength and in the face of true empathy, the hurt can be shared and tears may be shed. Our helpers and healers fight through the pain, just as they encourage their client to do the same.

In the midst of uncertainty and with a sense of true purpose, day in and day out, these healers fight for recovery and encourage healing often in an abyss of hurt and heartbreak.

 

As we recognize the important, irreplaceable role that our helpers and healers have in our communities, it seems important to appreciate these brave souls. It becomes ever more apparent that not all heroes wear capes and that these everyday heroes most definitely deserve some credit. To all the trauma warriors, courageous counselors and hopeful healers… this one’s for you. Thank you for all that you are and all that you do!!!

 

If an effort to further foster resiliency for our helpers and healers… check out these supportive resources.

 

http://www.compassionfatigue.org/

 

http://www.proqol.org/

 

http://rekindlesolutions.com/

 

“No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another. Thank You!”

                                                                                                                 -Unknown

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About the Author: Craig is one of the many exceptional interns working in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. With over 4 years of experience as a Mental Health Counselor working in residential, crisis and hospital settings, Craig is a wonderful addition to the People House community. Craig is a gentle, compassionate and genuine person who works to tailor his therapeutic approach to the specific needs of each and every individual. He enjoys working with a wide variety of individuals with various life experiences and personal interests. For more information or to contact Craig, please see his therapist bio.superhero

Which YOU are you Feeding?|| Lora Cheadle

By Lora Cheadle

wolf

 

Although there are several versions of this old Cherokee Legend, the basic story is as follows:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

 

As a hypnotherapist, fitness trainer and Intuitive Angel Reader, I am called upon to assist people with change; in particular with releasing old habits and creating new, healthier habits. It doesn’t matter if those habits are dietary, exercise related, spiritual, mental or simply plain old garden-variety habits such as nail biting.

We are quite simply, the sum of our habits. The habits that we nurture and feed are the habits that grow.

This morning I was doing an Angel Reading for a client and the Angels asked her which self she was nurturing. Was she nurturing the broken, wounded person she was trying to heal and move away from or was she nurturing the perfect, infinite, self inside that she wanted to embrace and become? She had spent years learning, healing and processing all that she had been through and this message made it clear that continued focus on her old self constituted nurturing and feeding of the parts of herself that she no longer needed to feed. Her desire was to be healed, whole, free, healthy and happy, but very little of her daily actions or thoughts nourished or nurtured that part of her. She was so focused on what she didn’t want that she wasn’t able to nurture and grow all that she did want. She had been feeding the wrong wolf.

Which wolf are you feeding? What are you nurturing and growing in your own life?

Do you want to be deeply intuitive, spiritual, in touch with nature or do you want to be quick thinking, decisive, energetic and successful? Do you want to feel vibrant and powerful or calm and centered? Do you want to look like an executive, a nurturer, a super model or a loving grandparent? How you want to look, act, feel and be is up to you. We all have different roles, purposes and desires and it is up to us to live our lives exactly as we see fit. I had one grandma who relished the stereotypical role of grandmother letting her hair go gray, wearing house dresses and keeping her glasses pushed down to the tip of her nose from age 40 on. I had another grandma who was young and vibrant with dark brown hair, hip clothing and involvement in pop culture until she passed away in her 80’s. They nurtured what they wanted and they became the wolf that they fed.

With summer around the corner, everyone wants to get in shape and lose weight. Imagine how you want your body to look and feel. Now, which body are you feeding, your current body or your intended body? How many of your daily thoughts and actions support your old body and how many of the support your intended body? As I sit here munching on a cupcake as I type my blog, I am aware that this action of sitting and eating does not support the body that I’m envisioning for summer! Although I will work out later and although I will have a healthy dinner, every action and thought still counts. I am aware of which body I am feeding.

Many of us are surrounded with difficult people or challenging situations and we desire to be the voice of reason or to at least not feel the impact and drama of other people’s situations. So, when we are confronted with challenging situations, which wolf do we feed? Do we give in and bitch to our co-worker? Do we respond in a way that fuels the fire and increases our angst? Or do we feed our calm, centered, peaceful self and react with compassion, peace and love? When my children or husband pushes my buttons I know that my response will set the tone for the rest of the interaction.

I can feed the part of me that wants to be right, I can feed the victim in me or I can feed my higher, spiritual self. We are the sum of our actions. Are you nurturing the person you want to be?

Step back and take a look at the many wolves in your own life. Which ones are you feeding? The answers just might surprise you!

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About the Author: Not sure what lights your fire, or do you know exactly what lights your fire, but you keep spinning your wheels? Either way, Lora’s got you covered! Whether it’s through an Angel Reading or through hypnotherapy, where the subconscious mind is brought on board with the conscious mind, working with Lora reveals your divine path and gets you chugging down the road in no time. As a former lawyer, (She knows firsthand the courage it takes to following a new path!) Lora is very straight forward and process- oriented, using modalities that that yield results. No crystal balls or goddess robes here! See more on her website.

Values, Morals – and Quantum Ethics | Spirituality in Daily Life || Mary Coday Edwards

Water-500x250

By Mary Coday Edwards
People House Featured Blogger

Every spring I do battle against cheat grass, an invasive plant species which grows quickly, sucking our meager moisture out of the ground.  Meanwhile, the native grasses and plants slowly making their annual appearance wither and die due to lack of moisture.

IMG_4971

And when the native plants go, so do the insects, butterflies, reptiles, bees, and small mammals – in short, our ecosystem – that depend on the cyclical flowering and subsequent nutrients produced by this local ecosystem.  Cheat grass lives long enough to kill everything else, whereas all year round native grasses offer protection, shelter, and food, as well as maintain the stability of the soil, keeping erosion at bay. When the cheat grass dies after its brief reign of destruction, it leaves only dirt which is blown and washed away.

Other than poison – which also kills off an ecosystem – the only way to effectively remove it is to pull it out by hand, ensuring that the thick, matted root system comes with it.

 

“All things are bound together. All things connect. What happens to the Earth happens to the children of the earth.” Chief Seattle

 

This annual garden scenario divulges much about me:

-My values, which are defined as my principles and my judgment of what is important: i.e., diversity and a healthy ecosystem.

-My morals, defined as reflecting what I believe to be right or wrong: cheat grass’ bullying behavior is wrong and thus everyone should pull out the cheat grass! (This has now become a moral imperative for me – which I’d like to impose on all my neighbors.

-Lastly, my ethics. Ethics examine and give a reason “why” behind my moral imperative. I’m calling this quantum ethics in this blog, as my why is based on what I believe quantum physics is telling us about the fabric of reality, focusing on interconnectedness based on the EPR (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen) Effect.

The EPR Effect posits a reality where at the subatomic level, the universe is in relationship. Physicists use various terms to express this concept including mutual entanglement and interconnectedness. Einstein referred to this entanglement as “spooky action at a distance”. Physicist John Polkinghorne calls this interconnectedness a “… deep-seated relationality present in the fundamental structure of the physical world” (1).

Austrian quantum physicist Anton Zeilinger claims that we can build an ontology, or a way the world is, of relations, and that “one consequence of this entanglement is that relations are more important than individuals” (2). In other words, we shift from focusing on the individual to focusing on the relationship between individuals.

Not random, but participating in patterns

Out of quantum physics have developed system laws, where elements adjust their properties to those of the others; none can be modified without causing a modification to the others. Ian Barbour said that the being of any entity is comprised not just of its individual parts, but primarily by its relationships and its participation in more inclusive patterns (3).

Indigenous cultures, mystics, seers and poets have long known this as the fabric of reality.  Rebecca Adamson says, “The indigenous understanding has its basis of spirituality in recognition of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all living things, a holistic and balanced view of the world.”

Philosophers extrapolate from this interconnectedness, saying reality consists of events and relationships rather than of separate substances or particles.

However for centuries, the Western worldview has been in the grip of classical physics, where the scientist – and everyone and everything else by association – was seen as separate from its surroundings.  In other words, Asia’s disappearing Aral Sea, fed by the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers whose waters were siphoned off to irrigate cotton in the desert so we could purchase unlimited t-shirts, wouldn’t impact us living on the other side of the planet. And it has, of course, in the form of desertification, localized climate change, and subsequent starvation and refugees.

And what about the nonphysical world? How does our lack of compassion and love – our meanness of spirit – impact our own energy and the life around us?

 

Orphaned ship in former Aral Sea

Orphaned ship in shrunken Aral Sea

The mystics and poets have spoken of this for centuries. In this last century, scientists have proven it. For me personally, it’s a daily spiritual exercise to mindfully  remember that “In nature [of which I am a member of], nothing exists alone,” as Rachel Carson wrote (4).

 

Hitched together with the bees

But our postmodernism society views any truth as suspect, as a process of social construction, and therefore, reality/truth is defined by those with the social power. Be skeptical of what I’ve written. However, as a critical realist, for me there’s enough evidence via the physicists and mystics to support an interconnected world, one built on relationships. This is a piece of my ethics, this helps inform my daily choices.

And because my compassion/love is so imperfect, this ethic also serves me when I’m in the grip of my selfishness and self-centeredness. It’s in my best interests to pull out that cheat grass and keep those bees pollinating my food supply.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Einstein’s Nobel Prize winning discoveries were just beginning to ripple upon humanity’s consciousness. Ahead of his time, John Muir, father of our national parks, penned in 1911, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

In other words, I’m hitched together with the bees.

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Note 1: Polkinghorne, J.C. Quantum Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002; pg. 80.

Note 2: Zeilinger, Anton. “Quantum Physics: Ontology or Epistemology?,” in The Trinity and an Entangled World: Relationality in Physical Science and Theology, ed. John C. Polkinghorne. Grand Rapids, MI; W.B Eerdmans Publishing, 2010), 35-36.

Note 3: Barbour, Ian. Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2000; pg. 175.

Note 4: Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring.  Houghton Mifflin, 1962; pg. 51.

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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.

Men and Psychotherapy|| Craig Freund

By Craig Freund, Affordable Counseling Program Intern
New posts every other Tuesday

men and psychotherapyJPEG

 

 “Some men turn away from all this cheap emotion with a kind of heroic despair… But this too can be an error. For if our emotions really die in the desert, our humanity dies with them.” 

 

Thomas Merton

 

 

Despite modern stereotypes associated with talk therapy, this practice was once a predominantly masculine career choice. From the forefathers of modern psychotherapy including Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers and Albert Ellis, the practice was once limited almost exclusively to male practitioners. During the early development of this field, gender inequality was very much alive, just as it is today. However, overtime there has definitely been a shift not only in the practice, but also in the proportion of male and female therapists who facilitate the healing process. This modern day gender imbalance may be both a symptom and a contributing factor in a cascade of problems that significantly impacts the greater population and the male population in particular.

 

In the world of mental health, the male population represents nearly 80% of deaths by suicide, furthermore men are much less likely to seek treatment than their female counterparts. This shocking statistic can certainly be attributed to gender stereotypes and culturally reinforced gender norms. These factors are only further represented by the minimal number of practicing male psychotherapists. While an ongoing feminist movement continues to strive for gender equality in regards to women’s rights, men continue to suffer the consequences of restrictive gender stereotypes and gender roles. For men, it is often culturally unacceptable to experience, express and discuss certain emotions. Furthermore, it is generally considered faux pas for men to seek help for emotional or behavioral issues. In fact, when men do not adhere to culturally preferred gender roles they can experience social rejection, loss of status, as well as fewer opportunities in work or with potential mates. Instead, men often bottle or repress their emotions leading to destructive behaviors or even suicidal actions.

 

Recognizing this growing concern, www.mantherapy.org has implemented a humorous campaign in an effort to make psychotherapy more approachable for men. This campaign applies a masculine perspective in examining mental health issues that are more specific to the male population. Despite the clear benefit of this campaign, it will require an ongoing effort by those that truly care about the men in their lives to alleviate the stigma that men often experience when expressing emotion or seeking treatment. If you have concerns for your husband, father, brother or son, ask the tough questions, normalize their experience of sadness, grief or anger and encourage them to take a look at resources like Man Therapy, or even to seek support from a mental health specialist.

Starting a conversation can certainly save lives, however this is only the first step towards ensuring psychological wellness for the men in this world. 

 

In an effort to further address this collective cultural issue, it is important to reflect on how this cultural norm is reinforced. Young men are raised to be tough and are either directly or indirectly taught that expressing emotion is a sign of weakness. Young men are taught to seek out independence rather than relationships and can be stifled in regards to their emotional development. In an effort to address this ongoing cultural issue, we must take a look at how we are raising our male children. Rather than overtly or even covertly reinforcing the suppression of emotion, we must teach all children that it is okay to experience and express emotion. We should encourage children to label their feelings and to talk about why they might be feeling what they are feeling. By enabling our children to develop some degree of emotional intelligence, we can increase a cultural capacity for emotion regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal relationship. In turn, we can hope that issues effecting the male population including substance abuse, domestic violence and suicidality will be on the decline.

 

As we deliberately challenge what has become a devastating cultural norm, we can hope to increase the number of male mental health professionals that might help to further address a variety of patriarchal problems that seem to run in every family. Furthermore, by encouraging a cultural shift we can hope that male clients might further seek treatment from a professional whom they are most comfortable working with. It is true that a strong male who is capable of modelling appropriate emotional expression and regulation can very much encourage other men to follow suit.

 

Various cultures in the history of the world have thought that tears were a sign of masculinity and strength. It was thought that tears reflected that a man lived by a code of values and cared enough to show this by experiencing emotion in various circumstances. It is very true that vulnerability requires courage, it seems that a man who is capable of expressing emotion might be that much more comfortable with their own masculinity. As I reflect on various positive male role models in my own life, I have great admiration for those that have had respect for emotion and were capable of expressing feeling.

 

Despite this, it is true that the tough guy stereotype dies hard and it might only be through a collective effort that our culture can strive to improve the mental health of the men in this world. 

 

If you or a man in your life is struggling with behavioral or emotional issues, encourage a conversation, validate/normalize their experience and encourage them to seek help from a qualified mental health professional. As with emotion itself, therapy is not a purely feminine domain, therapy can very much take on a no bull shit, tough love perspective that is interwoven with genuine understanding and unconditional positive regard. If you have specific concerns related to men’s mental health, find a therapist that is familiar with and specializes in men’s issues. Finally, check-out some excellent supportive resources such as man therapy or the good men project.

 

“If a man does not know what port he is steering for, no wind is favorable to him.” 

-Seneca

 

www.mantherapy.org

www.goodmenproject.com

Reconnecting with Your Inner-Child and Remembering How to play!|| Lora Cheadle

By Lora Cheadle
New posts every other Tuesday

playing

Why is it that we hear so much about our inner-child? After all, we aren’t children anymore, so why do we care? Much of our subconscious programming develops from childhood and regardless of whether our childhood was a nightmare or a glorious dream, as adults it benefits us to be able to know where our programming comes from so we can live our lives as we’d like to live and not be encumbered by outdated childhood beliefs or trauma.

Although some inner-child work can be heavy and dark, this exercise is about focusing on the positive aspects of our childhood and reconnecting with the pure, creative joy of play.

This work is begun by taking a field trip or two. An actual field trip is best but a virtual one will do in a pinch. This is a field trip to a place that you enjoyed as a child. Whether it’s a toy store, a park, the beach or a library, take an hour so reconnecting with something that you enjoyed as a child.

If you loved toys, plan a field trip to the most captivating toy store you can find. It can be a big chain store or a tiny boutique as long as it sparks excitement in your soul. The idea is to find a toy store that reconnects you to the feel of how you used to play. First, go to the section with the toys that are the most familiar to you. If you loved dolls, go to the doll section. If you were into games, peruse the games. Look at the toys, pick them up and notice how they feel in your hands. Smell them, listen to the sounds they make and remember how you played with them. Can you imagine taking the boat in the bath tub with you now? Would you sail it around and create a story line in your head or would it be a struggle to remember how to play and what to do?

Once you have thoroughly played around in a section you are familiar with, move on to sections that are new to you. If you were never into sports, check out the sporting goods. See if there is anything there you are curious about trying now. With fresh eyes, wander around the whole store, imagining how you could play with these different toys and exploring all there is to explore. Pretend you are a kid who has just been given a million dollars to spend in this store. What would you buy? Imagine that you have no other obligations and that your only job is to play with as many toys as you can. What all would you do? If you are really enjoying this, feel free to treat yourself to a doll or a Lego set so you can spend some time actually playing. No matter what you choose, connect to the joy, relaxation or creativity you felt when you played.

Another way to go about this assignment is to visit a park, a playground or the beach and to play on the equipment, kick a ball around, splash in the surf or build sandcastles. This is especially nice because it puts you outside in nature and it’s got the added bonus of being a physical activity. Jump rope while chanting some jump rope songs in your head, play jacks, draw with sidewalk chalk, blow bubbles or go down the slide. Anything works as long as it gets you happy and excited!

As you play, notice what comes up. Is it difficult for you to relax? Do you feel silly, bored, like you are wasting your time, or does it make you happy? Is the whole concept of play difficult for you? Why? Don’t try to change your feelings, just notice them. Notice the voices in your head as you play. Are they yours, “this is silly, I don’t understand this” or do you hear your father telling you to “grow up and do something productive with your time” or your brother telling you that “only babies play with dolls?

Many of us have unresolved feelings or judgment around play and this exercise helps get us in touch with those feelings. Playing requires us to relax and let the creativity flow, and until we can allow play back into our lives, we remain out of touch with the creative flow of the Universe.

After going on your field trip, you might remember being six and wanting to be a princess in a tower. You might remember being thirteen and wanting to be a rock star or you might remember a lifelong desire to be a mermaid. The feasibility of your dreams and desires is irrelevant. What matters is letting your heart and soul connect to the glorious flow of universal possibility and the allowing our dreams to take flight.

If you remember things that brought you joy, but you have no idea how to bring being a mermaid into your life, don’t worry! This inner-child work is about enjoying the magic and trusting that all will be taken care of. Relax, play, love, laugh and stay connected to all that makes you happy. Inner-child work doesn’t have to be dark and deep in order to be successful, sometimes we simply have to allow ourselves to play.

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About the Author: Not sure what lights your fire, or do you know exactly what lights your fire, but you keep spinning your wheels? Either way, Lora’s got you covered! Whether it’s through an Angel Reading or through hypnotherapy, where the subconscious mind is brought on board with the conscious mind, working with Lora reveals your divine path and gets you chugging down the road in no time. As a former lawyer, (She knows firsthand the courage it takes to following a new path!) Lora is very straight forward and process- oriented, using modalities that that yield results. No crystal balls or goddess robes here! See more on her website.

A Shout Out to Mom || Craig Freund

By Craig Freund, Affordable Counseling Program Intern
New posts every other Tuesday

CF mom day

With Mother’s Day rapidly approaching, it seems only fitting to take some time to reflect on the all of the wonderful things that our mom’s do for us. But first, it might be helpful to determine what exactly is a mom. Let’s face it, growing a person must be hard, and a mom, well she was the person that grew you. In fact, before your heart beat on its own, your mom’s heart beat for you and in some ways that same rhythm still beats for you today. Although a mom isn’t always the one who gave birth to you, a mom is always the one who gave you life. A mom is someone who nurtured you, cared for you and taught you how to be in the world. In fact, it has been said that biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.

It truly seems that a mom is so much more than the miracle of childbirth, a mom is true unconditional love and the tenderness of unrestrained positive regard. 

Where would we be if it weren’t for our maternal figures? For starters, no one has endured pain for you quite like your mom, from morning sickness, to the pain of childbirth and even an upset stomach from worrying about your teenage antics, mom taught us that we always deserve to be loved. If it weren’t for your mom, you might have forgotten your manners, never learned the importance of a clean home or of good personal hygiene. Mom taught you that, “sugar catches more flies than vinegar,” and today, you know that to be true.

Can you imagine how bitter the world would be if it weren’t for a mother’s love… I’d rather not.

And really, its not just that they love us, but its how they love us. From the way she read the voices in Are You My Mommy by Dr. Suess, to the way she tucked you in to bed at night, a mother’s love knows no bounds. You may have heard that a mom can lift a car from crushing her child and if this doesn’t convey the strength of a mother’s love, I don’t know what will. According to the late great Kid President, because of the self-less strength of a mother’s love, we know that we were “made from love, to be love, to spread love.”

On this Mother’s Day, I hope you take the time to thank the maternal figures in your life.

Let them know how much you really appreciate them, whether it be through a card, a phone call or a few flowers, let them how they’ve deeply impacted you for the better. Mom most definitely deserves some credit. So, with a grateful heart, I’d like to thank my mom… thanks mom for your enduring love, despite the good times and the bad. Thanks for teaching me how to be a kind, caring and capable person. Thanks mom for always working hard and for demonstrating the true definition of strength. A mother’s love is priceless and can never be repaid… but on this day I say, Thank You Mom!

Mom-

For all the times that I forgot to thank you

For all the special little things you do, 

For all the words that sometimes go unspoken, 

I need to say, I love you, Mom… I do.

I love you for the way you stop and listen, 

And for your kind support throughout the years,

For teaching me the meaning of compassion, 

And sharing in my triumphs and my tears.

And, if at times, I may have seemed ungrateful,

I want to say, I truly hope you see,

That nothing you have done has been forgotten,

And day by day you just mean more to me.

-Unknown

 


About the Author: Craig is one of the many exceptional interns working in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. With over 4 years of experience as a Mental Health Counselor working in residential, crisis and hospital settings, Craig is a wonderful addition to the People House community. Craig is a gentle, compassionate and genuine person who works to tailor his therapeutic approach to the specific needs of each and every individual. He enjoys working with a wide variety of individuals with various life experiences and personal interests. For more information or to contact Craig, please see his therapist bio.

Finding Community: Reflections on a Conference Experience || Craig Freund

By Craig Freund, Affordable Counseling Program Intern
New posts every other Tuesday

If you were one of the hundreds of counselors, psychologists and social workers to attend the Colorado Mental Health Professionals Conference this past weekend, you were privileged to an incredible experience.

Through the collaborative efforts of multiple professional membership associations, one of the countries largest mental health conferences did not disappoint.

From Dr. Irvin Yalom’s keynote interview to the wide variety of breakout sessions, it was truly wonderful to witness the strength in community that this profession requires. Psychotherapy can most definitely be considered an art, one in which the finished product is never displayed, sold or advertised. Because of this many psychotherapists have a tendency to feel isolated in their work, especially those that work in private practice settings. It seems that this conference truly overshadowed the sense of isolation that is often inherent in this work. Instead, an opportunity for support, networking, learning and friendship was offered as a much needed refreshment to the difficult work that psychotherapy entails. 

With over 100 breakout sessions offered, professionals were afforded the opportunity to witness and learn from a diverse group of practicing mental health specialists. It is certainly safe to say that the quantity and variety of these breakout sessions was astonishing; ranging from video game addiction, to how diet impacts mood and even how utilizing heroic myths can facilitate therapeutic growth in adolescents. These learning opportunities justified the hefty price tag that a conference admission required, especially considering the many continuing education credits that attendees may have accumulated. While these learning opportunities were quite impressive, these were only the tip of the iceberg.

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Attendees were offered the opportunity to touch base with agencies, professional associations, group practice organizations, treatment facilities and educators. This allowed for professionals to meet with potential employers, strengthen their professional networks and even to simply touch base with old friends. Keynote presentations from inspiring leaders in the field of psychotherapy were found to be both rejuvenating and encouraging. From the infamous wisdom of Dr. Irvin Yalom, to the humor that can facilitate advocacy in the Man Therapy campaign, these keynote presentations did not disappoint. 

In a field of helpers and healers, where compassion fatigue, secondary trauma and burnout are prevalent issues, the extent to which this event created community is truly monumental.

Community allows for much needed support, empathy and professional insight in the difficult work that we do. Furthermore, a united community has the strength to influence legislation, bolster advocacy efforts and become evermore effective in helping those that require the support of a caring mental health professional. It becomes increasingly evident that this gathering of caring professionals not only benefits attendees, but more importantly this benefits our communities as we become more effective and better supported in the work that we do.

It has been said that our strength will grow through community and in this instance, the strength of our community has the power to strengthen the hearts and minds of many.

Considering the positive impact that this event has had, those that organized/sponsored this event most definitely deserve some kudos. If it weren’t for the leadership of participating professional organizations, we may have missed the opportunity to gather in support of one another and our community at large. With this being said, to all of the organizers, sponsors, presenters and attendees… Thank You! And for those of you who may have missed out, I would strongly encourage you to make it a priority in the upcoming year. 

 


 

About the Author: Craig is one of the many exceptional interns working in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. With over 4 years of experience as a Mental Health Counselor working in residential, crisis and hospital settings, Craig is a wonderful addition to the People House community. Craig is a gentle, compassionate and genuine person who works to tailor his therapeutic approach to the specific needs of each and every individual. He enjoys working with a wide variety of individuals with various life experiences and personal interests. For more information or to contact Craig, please see his therapist bio.

Spirituality in Daily Life: The Physics of Prayer – Choosing Mystery || Mary Coday Edwards

By Mary Coday Edwards
People House Featured Blogger

Before you scoff, roll your eyes, and close this blog, hear me out.

While living in Mexico, I was a member of a motley online discussion group with members who had too much time on their hands. When group member and retired economist Norm ended up in the hospital with a life-threatening health issue, Catholic Art Professor Darrell wrote Norm that he was praying for him.

In addition to online eye rolling, that phrase released a barrage of harsh and cold-hearted criticisms at Darrell from the agnostics and atheists of the group.

Many of us have left the traditional religions of our younger selves. Prayer conjures up images of an old white guy with a beard, whom we diligently hoped to placate/coerce in order to keep the bad things at bay and get the good things we wanted. 

And I understand that need, the need to turn to something, especially in times of desperation. When I lived in Tanzania, a drought hit the region. We could see the thunderous rain clouds billowing and building in the hills around us, so close it was if we could lasso them and drag them to our patch of rapidly dying crops and cattle. I knew it was illogical, but I was ready to slaughter a chicken against the tire of my car if that would nudge those rain clouds our way.  Could I dance a certain way that would move the gods and hence draw the rain? (Note 1)

ME

Rain dances aside, my reality is informed by ideas from quantum physics.  I don’t purport to understand the math behind the theory; however, renowned physicist Ricard Feynman is quoted as saying, “I think I can safely say that no one understands quantum mechanics”, so I know I’m in good company.

But through studying and contemplating the implications of quantum ideas, my reality now includes an interconnected universe, full of potentialities and one where my efforts matter, as I mentioned in last month’s blog.

I will refer to three concepts from quantum mechanics (QM) in this blog (Note 2):

Neil Bohr’s Principle of Complementarity;

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle; and

The EPR Paradox (or the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox)

Bohr’s Principle of Complementarity grew out of the understanding that light can behave as a wave or a particle – both of which are mutually exclusive. Scientists choose an experiment to show that light is a wave or one that shows light is a particle. And it’s not known what light may be doing when it’s not forced to behave one way or another. The scientist no longer stands outside what he/she is observing (classical, Newtonian physics) but the scientist becomes part of the experiment; this is often referred to as an observer-influenced reality.

In addition, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle sheds some light on the subject. It is impossible to measure simultaneously both position and momentum, which are fundamental physical attribute of a sub-atomic particle – only probabilities can be known. Due to the particle’s minuteness, any attempt to measure the location will change its velocity.  

The verdict isn’t in yet – is this a reflection of the limitations of our measuring devices (Einstein)? Or is it ontological, fundamental aspects of nature (Werner Heisenberg)? Philosophically, Heisenberg and others suggest that these probabilities of QM refer to tendencies in nature that include a range of possibilities (within the limitations of that entity being studied). More than one alternative is open and there is some opportunity for unpredictable novelty. And of QM, Heisenberg said what we observe is not nature itself, but rather nature exposed to our method of questioning.

An easy example – stress. Medically we now know that stress can make our bodies really sick. On a sub-atomic level, what’s that doing to our cells? And so we do make choices; i.e., am I going to let my anger make me ill or am I going to do something constructive about it, such as exercise, which alleviates those chemicals that are throwing my  cells into havoc. We talk about genetic tendencies – for example, there is a genetic tendency for alcoholism but choices can still be made to mitigate that tendency. In other words – there’s potentiality in those cells – but it isn’t determined yet – the future hasn’t been decided.

In addition, from the ERP Paradox ideas have emerged implying action at a distance and quantum entanglement, as well as system laws that are not derived from the entity’s individual parts.  

All we need is Love

So back to Norman – his cells were running amuck. Darrell was obviously feeling compassion for a suffering Norman. Who knows what sort of “divine” energy – and energy is what keeps all of our parts moving – may be represented in that compassion that is coming from somewhere within Darrell.

Therefore, Darrell’s prayers: Can they have an “observer-influenced” effect? And if so, then what impact did that energy have on Norman’s body?

Or are we humans so limited in our vision of reality that it only includes that which our physical senses detect? And other ways of “knowing”, such as intuition, don’t exist? And that we can’t influence the “energy” coming off of our own person?

My guess is that Darrell, out of his compassion, wanted wholeness, health, and recovery for Norman, a noble and a good thing.  But other distresses were also at work in Norman’s body.  Maybe that range of possibilities within Norman’s cells/entire system had been reduced, compromised.

A definition of compassion includes entering into someone else’s suffering.  Not only is that a powerful value, but it keeps us human. And we humans have a lot more power/energy/life than we give ourselves credit for.

And this compassion we feel: is it Divine Love moving within us? At our deepest self, have we tapped into the Universal Being, this holy spirit which permeates all? Again, as I noted in last month’s blog, this is my “as if” function, which isn’t based on magic, but on how our universe appears to be operating. My efforts DO matter in an interconnected cosmos.

_____

Note 1: During the height of the Cold War, when the United States and the USSR competed for world dominance, left-leaning Tanzania experienced a devastating drought. The administration of then President J.F. Kennedy sent boatloads of food to the starving nation. Therefore, when I was there in the 1990s, although groundwater supplies were easily accessible, the people were waiting for the U.S. government to come to their rescue again. This is also an example of aid gone wrong.

Note 2: Many books are available explaining the ideas behind QM in a non-mathematical format. John Polkinghourne’s “Quantum Theory, A Very Short Introduction,” is a good place to start.


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.

The Power of the Puny or how the Meek Shall Inherit the Earth || Lora Cheadle

By Lora Cheadle
New posts every other Tuesday

LC 4

Rome wasn’t built in a day. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! We have countless phrases in our culture that remind us that the way to succeed is to take small, consistent steps over time. Yet when we talk of physical, mental or spiritual or growth for ourselves, we tend to talk in terms of great gains. We talk of the people who lose 100 pounds and compete in marathons. We talk of former prisoners who find enlightenment through the prison yoga program and go on to dig wells in Africa. In short, we talk about the miraculous. Consequently, when we think of growth for ourselves, we think in miraculous terms. We will get into bikini shape by June. We will read and understand Chaucer. We will contemplate the teachings of Jesus and we will never, ever lose our temper again.

And sometimes we do. But sometimes we have laundry and kids and bosses and spouses that take a lot of our time and attention. Sometimes we are just worn out living or we just want to relax and have some fun.

That’s where the Power of the Puny comes into play.

 I like to think of it as how the meek (me) shall inherit the earth (whatever it is I want) and I instantly feel empowered. Mini-moves done consistently over time add up to big changes.

Even though it doesn’t sound very sexy to say that you walked around the block last night, even though it’s way more exciting to brag that you summited a fourteener, walking around the block every night after dinner gets you a lot further than periodically summiting a fourteener.  

Since I’m a mom, pregnancy is my favorite example of how small steps yield big results. Every day the baby grows such a tiny amount that it’s barely discernible, yet in nine months an entire human has been formed. Day to day, both on the inside and on the outside, not much seems to be happening. The changes are so gradual that nobody really notices at all, but at the end of nine months, everything is completely different! The same is true for whatever it is you wish to accomplish. Mini-moves, taken consistently over time, yield phenomenal results.

Say you want a bikini-body, or say you want to be able to sit in a full lotus position or do 10 full push-ups. Every day do something that moves you closer to that goal. Not something earth shattering, but something. Swap out one unhealthy food choice and replace it with a healthy one. Do one 15-minute block of exercise. Stay in lotus position 30 seconds longer than you normally do while pulling your legs in a bit tighter. Hold yourself in a plank position, do micro bends with your elbows or do push-ups with one knee bent and one straight. You don’t have to train for an hour, just do something.

Mini-moves done consistently over time add up to big changes.

Are you ready to overcome a certain fear or phobia that’s been holding you back? Do you want to be able to put your head under water or fly without fear? Practice something every day, whether it’s actually getting in water or simply imagining, visualizing or pretending that you are dunking your head under water. Watch videos of flying in an airplane, visit an airport or write affirmations. It doesn’t matter what you do, it just matters that you do something!

Craving a spiritual connection or a wishing for a deeper understanding of self? Pray. Even if it’s only for two minutes while you wait for the light to change. Meditate while you wait for you pasta water to boil. Take five conscious breaths every time you visit the restroom. Read a daily affirmation. You don’t have to finish a whole chapter, meditate on a mountaintop or be involved in Bible study in order to grow spiritually; you simply have to take mini steps, consistently, over time.

Don’t forget to make it fun and reward yourself either! Put a gold star on your calendar every day that you do something that nurtures you and your dream. Team up with a friend and reward yourselves with a visit or a coffee date after so many days of consistent behavior. Tell people what you are doing and ask for them to support you. Not only will you increase your chances of success, but you might motivate them too!

Not that there’s anything wrong with dreaming BIG or taking gigantic steps if you are able to.

Dream as big as you want, tackle big things when you are able, but always remember the Power of the Puny!

Remember that an elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time, and focus on consistently doing things one small step at a time.

 


About the Author: Not sure what lights your fire, or do you know exactly what lights your fire, but you keep spinning your wheels? Either way, Lora’s got you covered! Whether it’s through an Angel Reading or through hypnotherapy, where the subconscious mind is brought on board with the conscious mind, working with Lora reveals your divine path and gets you chugging down the road in no time. As a former lawyer, (She knows firsthand the courage it takes to following a new path!) Lora is very straight forward and process- oriented, using modalities that that yield results. No crystal balls or goddess robes here! See more on her website. 

6 Ways to Get Affordable Mental-Health Services

Here is a great post from Michelle Andrews published on U.S. News on affordable mental health. You can access the original article at http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/on-health-and-money/2009/04/15/6-ways-to-get-affordable-mental-health-services


Times are tough. Everywhere you look, people are stressed out, anxious, depressed. But at a time when addressing some people’s mental-health problems may be even more important than ministering to their physical aches and pains, two thirds of primary-care doctors say they have a tough time getting mental-health services for their patients. Doctors in a new Health Affairs study said several factors, from a shortage of professionals in some regions or in some specialties to problems with insurance coverage, make getting mental-health services challenging. (The study data came from 2004 and 2005, so chances are it’s even more difficult now.) “It’s a big problem,” says Ted Epperly, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, who says referrals are toughest in rural areas and the urban inner city.

There are no easy answers. Safety net organizations are feeling the pinch of increased demand and funding shortfalls. Meanwhile, if you’ve lost your job and your health insurance, you’re most likely struggling with funding shortfalls of your own. But here are options that you (or even your doctor) may not be aware of:

1. Mental Health America, an advocacy organization with over 300 affiliates in 41 states, works with people to connect them with affordable mental-health services in their communities. Click on “local MHAs” on their homepage to find services in your area. “We spend an enormous amount of time helping people navigate the system, doing problem solving,” says David Shern, the group’s president and CEO.

2. Community health centers. Currently operating in more than 7,000 locations nationwide, these centers got a $155 million boost under the economic stimulus package to add another 126 centers. In addition to primary-care services, they are increasingly offering mental-health services. Fees are charged on a sliding scale based on income. Find a center in your area here.

3. Community mental-health centers. These centers serve Medicaid and other low-income patients. State income limits vary. Click on “find a provider” here, and call to find out whether you may qualify.
4. Employee Assistance Programs. Many employers offer a limited number of counseling sessions and referrals to mental-health professionals through an EAP service. For some people, this may be all they need. “A short-term intervention may help someone develop the flexibility they need to deal with the problem,” says Lynn Bufka, a psychologist who is the assistant executive director for practice research and policy at the American Psychological Association.

5. Churches, synagogues, and other places of worship. Clergy members are trained in counseling, and their services are generally free.

6. Group therapy. Many therapists offer group sessions, which are often a less expensive alternative to traditional one-on-one counseling. You can find a psychologist in your area here through the APA or through U.S. News‘s Find a Therapist search engine.

Remember, one of the best—and most affordable—ways to manage stress and anxiety is by taking care of your physical health. Get regular exercise, stick to a healthful diet, and get enough sleep. Although job and other worries may ignite cravings for all kinds of unwholesome mood modifiers—gin and tonic, anyone?—try to steer clear. And remember: Even if you don’t get professional counseling, discussing your troubles with friends and family can help make problems seem more manageable. “Just being able to talk, there’s therapy in that,” says Epperly.

Check out recent posts on using meditation to help reduce stress, the new COBRA subsidy that may make it easier to hang on to health insurance after a layoff, and on expanded mental-health coveragefor kids under the new SCHIP law.


 

People House offers therapy on a sliding fee scale, with rates ranging between $20-$50.  We use masters level counseling interns in our Affordable Counseling Program. To see a full list of all of these therapists click here

A Look at Codependency || Craig Freund

By Craig Freund, Affordable Counseling Program Intern
New posts every other Tuesday

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As inherently social creatures, relationships are an integral aspect of our daily lives. From various relationships, we gain information about our surrounding environments, receive support as well as validation in our personal experiences and can even find a sense of purpose in our engagements with others. It is true that some of this should come from an internal sense of self; however, relational experiences greatly influence our self-perceptions and emotional experiences. When relational experiences aren’t positive or helpful, we are more susceptible to negative self-perceptions, which in some instances may contribute to mental illness. Those that experience isolation and a lack of connection often struggle with feelings of loneliness and depression. If this need isn’t met, we might look to unhealthy or addictive behaviors as a means of coping with the associated difficult feelings. Similar to a hunger pain, loneliness is a signal that something crucial to our survival is absent. It has been thought that our large brains, language skills and emotional intelligence are all tailored to navigate complex interpersonal relationships.

After all, what is the point of having group relationships if we are unable to share ideas, support one another and problem solve together.

As a species, we have evolved to survive by functioning as a group, making interpersonal connections is crucial to our happiness and ability to thrive. Many social psychologists would agree that relationships are our greatest source of happiness, while they may also be our greater source of stress when those relationships are absent or in distress. Despite our knowledge of the importance of relationships, we often stigmatize our innate need and genuine care for others. In a culture that places a high priority on independence, the term codependency gets a bad rap, all despite a universal and inherent need for interpersonal relationship.

The truth becomes that we are all codependent and that this can actually be a healthy aspect of the ways in which we strive to meet our needs.

Think of your family and closest friends, most of us have emotional reactions to their struggles and consequently possess a desire to offer care, as well as support during these times. Similarly, when we experience pain in our own lives, we often turn to our closest allies for support, advice, or consolation. As we can see, some degree of interdependence is necessary, healthy, and often helpful to our ability to survive and thrive. Despite this, there are times when codependency can become problematic. The true question becomes, when is codependency problematic?

The term codependency has become somewhat of a buzzword. It was originally brought into focus in regards to partners in relationship with alcoholics or addicts. The role of the codependent in these relationships relates to the ways in which they might enable the alcoholic to avoid the negative implications of their addiction. For example, the enabling partner might call the workplace of the alcoholic claiming he/she is sick. Or, the enabling partner may stay in the relationship despite the alcoholic’s inability to contribute emotionally or financially. The enabling partner strives to maintain the relationship despite their own suffering as a result of the alcoholic’s inability to be accountable to their behaviors and responsibilities.

Codependency becomes a point for concern when an enabling dynamic further facilitates the problematic behaviors of an involved party.

Additionally, issues with codependency arise when this dynamic fosters the suffering of another, or prevents involved parties from being capable of meeting their individual needs due to overextending themselves for others. Another indication that relationship dynamics may be unhealthy relates to a lack of mutual, genuine and empathic care. If you find yourself consistently overextending yourself for your partner, you may benefit from more closely examining these relationship dynamics. Signs and symptoms of unhealthy codependency: 

-You’re constantly playing the role of caregiver. 

-You consistently require approval, recognition and validation from others. 

-You fear abandonment and loneliness. 

-You feel guilty when advocating for yourself.

-You stay in relationships with hurtful/unhealthy people.

You might be wondering why would someone remain in such an unhealthy relationship. The reason for this often lies within the individuals’ sense of self. Often, unhealthy codependent relationships stem from the enabling individuals negative self image. They may feel that if they do not overextend themselves in the relationship, that they will become lonely, or that they aren’t worthy of a healthier relationship.

The broken sense of self derives validation from the dysfunctional relationship.

Codependency becomes unhealthy when it prevents the individual from advocating for themselves in the relationship. This relates to a certain fear of losing the relationship simply because they also have needs. In this way, the unhealthy codependent continues to find themselves in unsatisfying relationships where their needs for connection and genuine care are not met. These maladaptive relationship strategies perpetuate the core belief that the individual is not worthy of a healthy and satisfying relationship. Generally, these unhealthy codependent relationships impair personal growth and elicit a great deal of emotional, as well as psychological pain.

We all possess a need for social connection and support, with this, we are all to some extent naturally codependent. However, certain unhealthy relational dynamics greatly contribute to interpersonal distress and emotional suffering. You may have heard the old adage- if it hurts, don’t do it. These words of wisdom most definitely apply to our relationships. If you find yourself continually in a relationship that leaves you feeling used, hurt, and taken advantage of, then it may be beneficial to take a close look at a possible unhealthy codependent situation.

It’s important to remember that you deserve a healthy, balanced and supportive relationship.

Why you ask? Well, because… you are enough just the way you are! We are all entitled to our own happiness, with happiness and relationships so closely related we all deserve healthy, supportive relationships. If you find yourself in an unhealthy codependent relationship, although it may take a great deal of courage, there is a way out and that first step can most definitely lead to a more satisfying interpersonal situation. It is possible to limit enabling behaviors, advocate for your needs, set clear boundaries, find healthier relationships and regain a positive sense of self.

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Finally, if you feel that you would benefit from some support in improving your relationship dynamics, a qualified psychotherapist may be the key to more satisfying relational situation. Most importantly, never forget that you are enough and you deserve happy, healthy relationships.

 


About the Author: Craig is one of the many exceptional interns working in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. With over 4 years of experience as a Mental Health Counselor working in residential, crisis and hospital settings, Craig is a wonderful addition to the People House community. Craig is a gentle, compassionate and genuine person who works to tailor his therapeutic approach to the specific needs of each and every individual. He enjoys working with a wide variety of individuals with various life experiences and personal interests. For more information or to contact Craig, please see his therapist bio.

The Most Dangerous Moment: Marie’s Story || Janet Ferguson

By Janet Ferguson
Guest Blogger

 

It was right around 3 a.m. on October 28 when the phone rang in my dorm room. “They’re calling all of us to the sorority house. It’s an emergency,” the voice on the other end of the line said. I honestly, to this day, can’t recall who called me or any of the details of what was said in the hours after that. But, I can tell you what I learned, what’s been written in the papers, and what friends shared.  And I can tell you how it impacted my world view, how I advise friends, and what I do in my work with clients.

It was 1988. Articles, classes and workshops about teen dating violence and relationships weren’t a “thing.” Facebook didn’t exist. The hashtag #ThatsNotLove meant absolutely nothing (http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/24/health/teen-dating-abuse-thatsnotlove-one-love-foundation/). I was in college. Guys were either nice or not nice… there wasn’t a lot of nuance or discussion around the psychological profiles of other students. We didn’t talk about “emotional or psychological abuse,” “controlling relationships,” and certainly not “narcissistic abuse.” We just dated someone. Or we broke up with them.

In this case, that choice meant life… or death.

Marie Pompilio was just 18, a freshman at Northwestern University, the college I had already attended for more than 2 years. She and my little sister had recently joined the sorority to which I belonged. Peter Weber, Marie’s 20-year-old boyfriend of 8 months, was an honors student, studying engineering at the University of Illinois, Chicago. According to many reports, he had been demanding of Marie’s time and was very jealous of anything that took her away from him. Marie just wanted to dedicate more of her energy to her new school and new friends.

Her mother Anne (now deceased) said that Marie had called her the evening before we all got that 3 a.m. call — around 6:30 on October 27. “She told me Peter was coming over and she was going to break up with him.” Friends reported she told them her plans, as well. And that was the last anyone heard from Marie.

The next call Marie’s mother “received was later that night from Peter. He said that he’d had an argument with Marie and her keys had fallen from her hand just before she jumped out of his car a couple of blocks from her sorority… Weber returned to Marie’s dorm room at 10 p.m. to drop off her keys and surreptitiously gather a ring and other mementos. He told Marie’s roommate that Marie would likely be spending the night with a friend.” (source: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1990-10-07/features/9003230492_1_clothing-peter-weber-police-station)

Her mother reported her missing a little after midnight. Weber, in a move that would later astound and horrify everyone, joined the family in the search for her.

Her body was finally found the next evening two miles from campus — “lying face down beneath a bush near an alley. Her clothes had been torn from her body and her throat and hands had been deeply and repeatedly slashed.” Later, Weber, “who outweighed Marie by 65 pounds, said he had accidentally strangled her in self-defense after she attacked him wildly during their argument. He’d later removed her clothing, he said, and cut her throat in an effort to conceal the accident and make it appear that she had been sexually attacked.” He was convicted of first-degree murder in 1990 and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was eligible for release in 2005. I have been unable to find any information about his release or whereabouts. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1990-07-27/news/9003030256_1_peter-weber-murder-or-involuntary-manslaughter-prosecutors)

What does a young college student DO with this horror… a crime so shocking that took away the life of someone who, just yesterday, had been so vibrant and energetic, full of excitement for her bright future?

As I said earlier, I don’t remember much about those days. I’m sure I was in the same fog of shock that many others were in. I think I remember counseling being offered. I hope some students took that suggestion. I did not. I remembered it. But I had “gotten over it.”

Until I realized I hadn’t.

In 1991, a work colleague and I had become close friends, taking lunch and smoke breaks together from our downtown Denver high rise office. We often talked about our dating woes and, one day, she told me that she was planning to break up with her boyfriend that night. I freaked. “Do NOT do it somewhere where you are alone with him!” I demanded. She was horrified, “He would never hurt me! He’s never done anything like that…”

It was at that moment that I realized my entire worldview had changed when Marie was murdered. I had met my colleague’s boyfriend. He was quite lovely. But, I remembered that, just a year before, Iliinois Assistant State`s Atty. Sander Klapman said of Peter Weber: “He’s intelligent. He’s good looking. He’s a killer.” I realized that I truly believed… and still do… that ANYONE can snap. Anyone. Mother Theresa? Sure. The Pope? Yup. YOUR boyfriend or husband? Absofreakinlutely!

I read about and hear the same story over and over again. Man kills girlfriend. Man kills boyfriend. Man kills wife. Wife kills husband. And when does it happen? AT THE MOMENT OF BREAKUP. And family, friends, colleagues, neighbors all say, “But, he/she was so nice/successful/well-groomed/helpful/perfect/funny/well-spoken/gregarious… he/she couldn’t KILL someone!” Ya. Ya they could. Leaving an abusive partner may be the most dangerous time in that relationship. “Women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving than at any other time during the relationship.” (source: http://www.dvipiowa.org/myths-facts-about-domestic-violence/)

Now, it’s the one message I am VERY clear on with clients…and friends.
“He’s sending me threatening texts messages.” Believe him.
“She says I will regret this.” Believe her.
“I need to go back to the house to get a few things.” Take a police escort.
I tell them WHY they should believe it. I tell them her story. Marie’s story… The story of The Most Dangerous Moment.

Then, we plan. Carefully.

Click here to create an interactive Safety Plan: http://www.loveisrespect.org/for-yourself/safety-planning


 

Sources:
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1990-10-07/features/9003230492_1_clothing-peter-weber-police-station

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1997-11-06/news/9711060069_1_weber-marie-murdered

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1990-07-27/news/9003030256_1_peter-weber-murder-or-involuntary-manslaughter-prosecutors


Janet’s counseling style is Client-Centered/Systemic. When working with children, she uses a  combination of play therapy, solution-focused therapy, trauma-informed sensorimotor therapy, and attachment theory. When working with couples, she primarily employ Gottman’s marital principles and Sue Johnson’s Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT). With all clients,she uses narrative theory as her foundation and she is always conceptualizing using a systemic, multi-cultural lens.

Janet’s Specialties:

  • Couples/relationship counseling: Couples, friends, traditional relationships, non-traditional relationships, LGBT, etc.
  • Family therapy
  • Emotional, verbal and/or narcissistic abuse
  • Adolescents
  • Children
  • Trauma and abuse victims, PTSD, C-PTSD
  • Adult children of alcoholics

To find more information on Janet you can go to her website www.jfergusoncounseling.com

Domestic Violence

Spring Cleaning Part Two– Cleansing/Loving our Bodies|| Lora Cheadle

By Lora Cheadle
New posts every other Tuesday

My last post was a short and sweet post on spring cleaning with a twist. The twist was to make your surroundings pleasant to you by keeping only that which made you happy, whether that was minimalistic and bare or comfortably full. My premise was that since we take care of what we love, the words cleaning and loving ware interchangeable, and spring cleaning really meant spring loving. This post takes that concept and applies it to cleansing our bodies by doing that which shows love for our bodies.  

spring loving part 2

 

Like I said previously, I’m not going into the specifics of why it’s important to cleanse our bodies, nor am I providing you with details of what to eat, for how long or why. Volumes have been written about cleansing and there are many different theories and directions available on line. What I want to do is provide you with a slightly different perspective about cleansing and loving our bodies.

Everything we eat, drink, breathe or put on our skin is absorbed in our bodies in some way.

We are truly products of our environment and everything around us and everything we interact with literally becomes part of our bodies in some way. Unfortunately, we have little control over many aspects of our environment and it’s exhausting and expensive to monitor every cleaning product, personal care item, and food and beverage item we ingest. That’s why we need spring cleansing with a twist.

Spring cleansing/loving our body means doing what feels divine and wonderful and cutting out that which feels negative, bad or unhealthy.

It’s not about some program to be followed for a prescribed period of time or cutting out anything in particular. Your personal preferences are your personal preferences and nothing is right or wrong. Take some time and notice what feels good to you and make changes based on that.

Do cleaning products make you feel ill? Do they make your hands dry and cracked or your lungs and eyes burn? Then get rid of them and find an organic line that you adore. Does eating meat make your stomach feel full and heavy? Then quit eating it or reduce the amount you eat until you figure out how much sits well with you. Does alcohol or soda make your mouth and sweat sticky? See how it feels to drink sparkly water with fruit instead. Does your soap, lotion or shampoo make you itch or feel clogged up? Invest in a line that doesn’t.

Make changes that make you happy and that honor your body, don’t worry about somebody else’s program.

It doesn’t matter if you buy a water filter and improve the quality of your water, if you cut out meat, dairy, wheat, caffeine, sugar or alcohol or if you start using organic cleaners or personal care items. What matters is that you notice what feels bad and you stop doing it. Notice what feels good, healthy or what makes you happy and start doing that. 

Do what makes you feel good and stop eating/drinking/using/breathing anything that doesn’t. It’s that simple!

 

 

 


About the Author: Not sure what lights your fire, or do you know exactly what lights your fire, but you keep spinning your wheels? Either way, Lora’s got you covered! Whether it’s through an Angel Reading or through hypnotherapy, where the subconscious mind is brought on board with the conscious mind, working with Lora reveals your divine path and gets you chugging down the road in no time. As a former lawyer, (She knows firsthand the courage it takes to following a new path!) Lora is very straight forward and process- oriented, using modalities that that yield results. No crystal balls or goddess robes here! See more on her website. 

Fostering Positive Emotion || Craig Freund

By Craig Freund, Affordable Counseling Program Intern
New posts every other Tuesday

A great deal of psychological and self-help literature is largely focused on how to deal with unfortunate life circumstances and associated emotions. Similarly, therapy often focuses on working with traumatic past events or challenging negative thought patterns. Even in conversation with our close friends we might talk about how to deal with depression or how to manage our anxiety. All too often it seems that we hope to find wellness through discussing these negative details. However, a more recent and deeply profound movement in the world of mental health has been dubbed positive psychology.

Positive psychology is the science and research of what it is that makes people happy.

Fortunately, pioneers in this domain of mental wellness have made important discoveries. We’ve come to learn that we can intentionally work to foster positive emotions in our daily lives. While it is certainly necessary to work with traumatic experiences or to discuss the deep sadness of a depressed state, it is also important to understand that as we move through negative emotions we must replace these with positive more helpful emotions. As we overcome depression or work through anxiety, we must also work towards promoting the development of positive emotion in our everyday lives.

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When it comes to fostering positive emotion, we must deliberately engage in activities that bring us joy and happiness. With this, fostering positive emotion occurs with purposeful attempts to improve our emotional well-being. This seemingly sensible step towards wellness occurs where common sense meets intentionality. In general, we are aware of certain environments, activities or individuals that promote positive emotion within ourselves.

By taking our understanding of activities that we love and by actively engaging in these activities, we take a simple understanding of the things we enjoy and apply this to promote positive emotion within our life experience.

This is certainly easier said than done, especially if you happen to be in a depressed or highly anxious state of mind. By keeping this principle in mind and by taking even small steps to engage in these positive activities, the hope is that the light will eventually outshine the darkness and that any unwelcome emotions will be transformed into a more enjoyable life experience.

The first example of potential avenues for fostering positive emotion is with positive activities.

This might range from cooking a meal, painting a picture, cleaning your home or even staring at the clouds. Although the most effective positive activities will certainly vary from one individual to the next, everyone likely has a collection of these sorts of activities and if you don’t, compiling a list of positive activities may be the best place to start. Along with this, exercise is one way in which we can foster positive emotion in our lives.

A great deal of research has shown that exercise releases neurotransmitters that promote feelings of well-being. Additionally, when we exercise we often feel positive for engaging in an activity that we know is beneficial for our health. These first suggestions for fostering positive emotion in our lives may seem fairly obvious, but by intentionally utilizing these to foster positive emotions we can begin to experience wellness.

Another activity that can be used to foster positive emotion is humor; you might watch a comedy, look up jokes or find some humorous videos online.

Laughter or any expression of humor is a natural way to ease tension, relieve stress or to simply feel better.

As I’m sure you’ve experienced, a good belly laugh can really lift the spirits. By actively seeking laughter and by finding humor in simple everyday quirks, we can take an active role in fostering positive emotion in our lives. Imagine feeling down and in the dumps, then while watching your favorite comedian you begin to laugh and find yourself relieved to be feeling less depressed. This is a simple technique for fostering positive emotion known as opposite emotion action. With this technique we simply identify how we are feeling and identify an action that would allow us to feel the opposite.

In another example, if you’re feeling low, possibly related to a poor self-image, you decide that an opposite emotion action might be to get a haircut. By engaging with the opposite emotion action we are better able to foster the positive emotions that we’d like to have more of in our lives.

Yet another well researched and empirically validated technique for intentionally fostering positive emotion in our lives is the practice of gratitude.

We all have so much to be grateful for, we can be grateful for the ability to make choices, for basic necessities, for loved ones or even for beautiful weather.

Regardless of what it is that we are grateful for, counting these blessings on a regular basis will foster positive emotion in our lives. We all have certain characteristics that we can be grateful for and by reminding ourselves of these characteristics or attributes we can further foster positive emotion.

sending-gratitude-to-the-universe

By taking advantage of positive self-affirmations, we can experience the positive emotions that often come with a healthy self-image. For example, one exercise focused on promoting positive emotion, is to make a list of self-affirmations, this might range from a reminder that you are smart, funny or at the very least unique. If you’re having difficulty with this exercise, check-in with a positive or supportive friend or family member for ideas. Once you’ve got a healthy list of positive self-affirmations, put them on separate slips of paper and place these slips into a jar. Anytime you’re feeling down, pull an affirmation out of the jar and remind yourself how blessed you truly are. These affirmations can also be incredibly helpful to deliberately challenge those negative thoughts that can creep into our consciousness.

Finally, when engaging in activities that are intentionally directed at fostering positive emotion in your life, it is helpful to bring a mindful presence to each activity.

By being fully present with each exercise, we are better able to take advantage of all that each activity has to offer.

Intentionally focus on every detail of the activity, notice your own emotions and pay close attention to the positive emotions as they begin to arise. Although each technique for fostering positive emotion is certainly powerful, it’s possible that you may be feeling so stuck that you are unable to engage in these or that the positive impact is fleeting at best.

If you find yourself in this situation you may benefit from some time with a psychotherapist. A trained psychotherapist can help you to overcome anything that might be preventing you from fostering positive emotion in your life. In summary, take charge of your life, become a happier more joyful person and intentionally work to foster positive emotion in your life.

 -Be Intentional

 -Engage in Positive Activities

-Opposite Emotion Action

    -Express Gratitude

    -Find Humor

    -Utilize Self-Affirmations

    -Challenge Negative Thoughts

    -Reflect & Embody Positive Experiences 

 


About the Author: Craig is one of the many exceptional interns working in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. With over 4 years of experience as a Mental Health Counselor working in residential, crisis and hospital settings, Craig is a wonderful addition to the People House community. Craig is a gentle, compassionate and genuine person who works to tailor his therapeutic approach to the specific needs of each and every individual. He enjoys working with a wide variety of individuals with various life experiences and personal interests. For more information or to contact Craig, please see his therapist bio.

Spirituality in Daily Life: How do we Know, What we Know to be True? Critical Realism as a Guide to the Real ||Mary Coday Edwards

By Mary Coday Edwards
People House Featured Blogger

My reality includes an interconnected universe, full of potentialities and one where my efforts matter.

How do I justify these claims of knowledge of what I believe to be true about reality?

How we think the world IS determines our actions in this world

For example, ancient cultures supposed the earth was flat. Based on that reality, drifting off in your fishing boat from the coastal area was a scary undertaking. Not having Google Earth, these cultures depended upon their regional experts for exploration guidance.

What is your mode of truth seeking, your theory of knowledge, in other words–your epistemology? Table 1 lists three categories (1):

Table 1: Three Broad Epistemological Theories

Epistemology Its Path to Reliable Knowledge Ultimate Authority
Religious Revelation Revelation: either through direct experience (mysticism) OR in a received tradition (scripture & culture) Divine reality
Scientific Materialism The scientific method tells us what is; matter is the fundamental reality of the universe Science
Postmodern Relativism There is none. Truth is a process of social construction; cultural power determines truth & thus behavior. Scientific rationalism is under suspect as it is seen as another form of social domination.

There is none. Postmodernism speaks againt all grand theories and metanarratives. Truth is just the dominant cultural pattern.

I use all three, and all tempered with critical realism (see Table 2)–but more of that further into this blog.

Personally, I am deeply suspicious of any worldview or world picture that claims to be the absolute truth. However, there are not enough hours in the day and years in my life to understand everything well enough before I can make a decision as to what is truth and subsequently, how to live my life.

About 25 years ago I did venture forth on that quest in typical quixotic zealousness. I was sitting at my desk in Peshawar, Pakistan, planning how we were going to feed the thousands of Afghan refugees returning to a war-pocked Afghan countryside (this is pre-Taliban and post-former USSR days), and I was looking for an absolute value.

ME 3.22

Greening fields, Istalif, Afghanistan; near Kabul

The Green Revolution had come to Afghanistan. We were increasing crop production through the use of modified seeds which required substantial increases in pesticides and fertilizers, and our European donors wanted agricultural projects that reduced or prevented groundwater pollution.  At the time, we couldn’t see a win/win solution.

Looking back on it, I now know it isn’t either/or, but and/both

At the time my Afghan colleagues and I chaffed at this clash of values between East and West, this “colonial imperialism”. We came around of course, as polluted water supplies aren’t supportive of a healthy population (think Flint, Michigan), but I soon hit the moral philosophy books, looking for an apex ethic that would guide my actions. In my naivety, I wanted something that would always be right, in all situations.

Only to find out that there really isn’t any.

But what I did discover rocked my world.

The As-If Function: Critical Realism Opens Us Up to Further Discovery

Physicist/theologian Ian Barbour says the meaning of truth is correspondence with reality (2), but reality is inaccessible to us. As I mentioned in my previous blog, we still don’t know what the inside of an atom looks like (3). But if the scientific community had waited until we knew with absolute certainty how an atom’s quark functioned, we’d still be using rotary phones.

Therefore, we have a form of realism, in that some aspects of the physical world are accessible to us, but it is a critical realism because our scientific– and spiritual–constructs are also reflections of the imagination and intuition of our human minds; they are extrapolations.

John Polkinghorne speaks similarly, saying critical realism is a means to bridge the gap between what we can know about entities to what they actually are and regardless, requires a metaphysical choice (4).

This is living with–and loving–mystery. Only a tiny fraction of the physical universe can humankind understand, let alone explain. The same is true of my spiritual universe; I have limited intimations and experiential glimpses of its vastness and potentialities

However, if I waited until I could live this life with absolute certainty–what I set out to do when I left my desk in Peshawar– I’d be living a life uncommitted to anything. I’d want absolute certainty of the goodness or rightness of any system, set of rules, or ideology. I’d be paralyzed with immobility.

By committing myself to the world picture outlined in my opening sentence, I also open myself up to further discovery. Scientists commit themselves to models and then allow their imaginations and intuition to carry on their creative, scientific endeavors, to see other connections.

Therefore,  I elect to live my life based on critical realism’s as-if function: I live my life as if the world is interconnected, as if it’s full of potentialities, and as if my efforts matter (see Table 2). This does not translate into a shifting reality based on last night’s pizza. I, too, rely on experts to help me navigate my world, but I choose carefully those whom I tentatively follow. Hallmarks of worthy guides are those with humility and acceptance of mystery. These guides dwell among the mystics and poets, spiritual organizations such as People House, and the scientific community.

In the blogs following, we’ll take a look at spiritual concepts emerging from the world revealed to us through quantum mechanics. They are foundational to my as-if realities. Until then, as I encouraged in my previous blogs, pay attention through mindfulness practices to what YOUR reality looks like!

Table 2: An Epistemology of Critical Realism

Epistemology Its Path to Reliable Knowledge Ultimate Authority
Critical realism The “as if” function; a leap of faith, bridging the gap between what we can know about entities vs. what they actually are. None, but courage & humility to take a chance with limited knowledge, knowing we may be completely wrong.

Note 1: Grassie, Billy. Quaker Epistemology: Towards a Friends Philosophy. Presentation to the Friends Association for Higher Education at Haverford College, June 24, 1995. Also, keep in mind these are broad philosophical sweeps which obscure many differences and distinctions of knowing, such as psychological, moral, spiritual, biophysical, and aesthetic.

Note 2: Barbour , Ian. Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997:110

Note 3: The atoms subatomic construct cannot be directly observed, but based on theories we’ve developed amazing technology, such as this computer I’m typing on, my cell phone, and information available at my fingertips due to the internet.

Note 4: Polkinghorne, J.C.  Belief in God in an Age of Science. New Haven: Yale Univeristy Press, 1998:53


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.

Spring Cleaning Part One – Cleaning/Loving our Surroundings|| Lora Cheadle

By Lora Cheadle
New posts every other Tuesday

Spring is almost here, which means it’s time for spring cleaning! We take care of what we love, so as far as I’m concerned, the words cleaning and loving are interchangeable. To keep things simple, I’m doing two brief blogs on spring cleaning; one on cleaning/loving our surroundings and one on cleaning/loving ourselves.

spring loving

Why are these blogs going to be brief? Because there have already been volumes written about how to clean your surroundings and how to cleanse your body and there’s nothing new that I can provide. A Google search or a trip to the library will provide you all the information you need about how to clean out or cleanse. What I want to do is provide you with a slightly different perspective about cleaning out.

Everything around us provides us with sensory input. Everything we see, hear, feel, taste, smell and intuit provides us with information. Our brains, like any computer, have limited capacity. Quite simply, the more unnecessary information we fill our brains with, the less room we leave for important information.  Having stuff around you that you don’t love distracts you from what you want to accomplish by taking up needless brain room.  

No, you don’t have to be a minimalist, but you should surround yourself with stuff that is peaceful and pleasing to you. We all prefer different types of surroundings, sounds, lighting and scent, so take some time to figure out what works best for you.

Go through the five senses and think about what brings you joy and makes you feel harmonious and happy.

Sight: Lighting, windows, color, piles of stuff, neat stacks, baskets, drawers, clutter, plants, etc.

Sound: Silence, ambient sound, classical music, music with a heavy beat, lyrics, etc.

Smell: No smell, fresh clean scent, floral, candles, incense, food, etc.

Touch: Hand cream for dry skin, pens or pencils that feel good to the touch, temperature, hot, cold, etc.

Taste: Water, fresh mouth, mint, gum, coffee, sugary, etc.

Your personal preference is your personal preference, nothing is right or wrong.

Take some time and notice what feels good to you and make changes based on that. If you feel stressed walking into a sterile room, add plants or color or pictures or something that makes you feel peaceful. If clutter stresses you out, clean out, organize or find baskets or drawers to hide away all that stresses you out.

Cleaning out doesn’t necessarily mean throwing stuff away or donating it, (although those are wonderful ideas!) but it does mean cleaning out everything in your surroundings that stresses you out and don’t bring you joy and peace.

Love it or leave it, it’s that simple!

 


About the Author: Not sure what lights your fire, or do you know exactly what lights your fire, but you keep spinning your wheels? Either way, Lora’s got you covered! Whether it’s through an Angel Reading or through hypnotherapy, where the subconscious mind is brought on board with the conscious mind, working with Lora reveals your divine path and gets you chugging down the road in no time. As a former lawyer, (She knows firsthand the courage it takes to following a new path!) Lora is very straight forward and process- oriented, using modalities that that yield results. No crystal balls or goddess robes here! See more on her website. 

Finding Balance Through Embodiment || Christina Valastro

By Christina Valastro, MA
New posts every other Thursday

Welcome back to the discussion on achieving Balance in our lives.

As I think about balance, I think about things being fairly even in terms of Mind, Body, and Spirit. What would it take to feel like you’re experiencing balance in each of these areas?

If time and money were not factors, you might imagine waking up leisurely, sitting in silence for meditation or prayer (Excellent, balanced Mind & Spirit), then making a nutritious smoothie for the commute off to the gym (Great! Balanced Body, done) before you step into the rest of your virtually carefree day.  All righty then, nice little daydream, or maybe on the weekend, but would it be possible to get some of those bases covered more regularly? What’s the benefit?

First, let’s define what it means to embody:

1. To give a concrete form to; express.

I like the sounds of expression and something being tangible, otherwise it sounds somewhat abstract doesn’t it? Here’s another definition:

2. To embody something is to have a direct contact of something, in other words a practical knowledge of something which has been applied to your experience.

For the sake of contrast, let’s consider what it’s like to be less than embodied. Have you ever gotten to work and realize you don’t recall anything about your commute? That’s an example of not having an embodied experience of driving; being on auto-pilot, the individual pieces of the commute were missed. While this certainly can be a good coping skill, it doesn’t provide a complete experience. No judgment here, trust me, we’ve all done it.

Now, how is this important to having balance in our lives?

Because having finely tuned or concrete awareness of our entire being allows us to feel and express ourselves more fully. We can inhabit our bodies, express who we are as individuals, and engage in life with more purpose. Feeling more connected to the way our minds and bodies function can allow us access to deeper levels of experience. It can also help us recognize when we’re out of balance and need to make some adjustment.

People dancing and jumping, having fun being embodied!

What kind of activity would be enjoyable and useful to cultivate this kind of awareness? What are some of the things that make you feel most alive? What lights up your senses physically? Is it skiing, cycling, dancing, fishing, walking in nature, music? What lights you up mentally and emotionally? Is it reading, being with other people, learning something new, hugging a loved one? Ironically, when we immerse ourselves in our passions, we lose ourselves, we are “in the zone” of the event and it’s often when we’re most connected to our core being–our soul. This is one form of embodiment: being in touch with various aspects of our self, as they are being expressed.

Taking time to sink deeply into our lives relieves our minds from thinking about the future or past and brings us sharply into the present moment.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or exotic to encounter either; a few stretches or feeling the weight of our body in a chair can provide a respite from the busy-ness of the mind or the day. Try it! Embrace your senses for a moment. Just feel the breath coming into your nose, scan your environment, look closely at the shapes and colors you see, feel the tips of your fingers as you rub your hands together. Drink it all in. Allow yourself to witness the experience as if it were the first time you’ve sensed it. Does time slow down a little? Did you disengage from your ordinary experience and notice something on a deeper level? Did you lighten up a little, take in a bit of wonder? Like any other habit, it takes practice to gain mastery. Perhaps if you don’t have spacious mornings you could attempt to feel some kind of inner movement within your body and give your mind a moment to gear up for the day ahead. This could kick-start your day and remind you of your own vitality–way before you get to the office—and maybe even move you closer to the balance you desire. Tune in to your inner landscape because what’s inside you is ultimately your engine, so why not rev it up?! 


About the Author: Christina Valastro is a former intern with the People House Affordable Counseling Program. She is currently working in private practice. Her style of counseling is both intuitive and productive. She encourages positive change through self compassion, reflection, and the use of humorIf you find yourself wanting to step more fully into your potential, therapy may be a great support. Life gets heavy for all of us at times; we don’t have to carry the burden alone.

Soul Savvy Psychotherapy
1-970-541-1033
christinavalastro@gmail.com

Empathy in Everyday Living || Craig Freund

By Craig Freund, Affordable Counseling Program Intern
New posts every other Tuesday

In our everyday lives we engage in a multitude of social interactions that can often include moments of frustration, both with others and ourselves. You may be cut-off in traffic and become angry, or you may become frustrated with yourself for forgetting to pay a bill on time. Regardless of the source of your frustration, these difficult feelings as a reaction to everyday challenges are certainly unwelcome. Although these feelings may be communicating important information about each situation, it is unhelpful to allow them to overshadow our daily lives.

If we allow these difficult moments to get the best of us, we become increasingly vulnerable to the unavoidable stressors in our daily lives and consequently we open the door for symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Instead of embracing this downward spiral, we can choose to respond differently to these everyday interactions. By bringing awareness to these reactions, we can work to respond in a manner that will enable resiliency in our lives. So, what is the secret to empowering this form of resiliency? The secret lies within ourselves and specifically with our ability to respond empathically in difficult situations and circumstances. 

Empathy can be defined simply as the ability to truly understand the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others. As with all emotions, empathy has evolved in our affective experience for interpersonal reasons that better enable our survival. As social creatures, complex interpersonal relationships are key to our survival and empathy empowers our ability to navigate our social environments. Empathy is also often recognized as the foundation of morality; if we better understand the perspective of others, we are more able to behave in socially appropriate and compassionate ways.

Although empathy is most often used to understand the perspective of others, we can also apply this when interpreting our own individual experience. 

As we’ve discussed, increased empathy can mitigate feelings of anger, frustration, or even betrayal in social situations. But many people consider themselves to be their own harshest critics, and this self-criticism often leads to negative conscious (or unconscious) self-talk. Over time, this self-criticism can spiral into symptoms of depression or even anxiety. By having greater empathy with ourselves, we can have more compassion in regards to our situations and life circumstances. Empathy is not only an important interpersonal tool, but it enables resiliency and distress tolerance in our individual experiences.   

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In a world where technological interactions have replaced face-to-face, interpersonal contact, true empathy has been thought to be on the decline. This is most definitely discouraging, especially when considering how powerful a greater sense of empathy can be. Not only does empathy have the potential to improve our interpersonal experiences by offering a greater understanding of one another, but it can improve our own emotional response to difficult situations. With this in mind, a great deal of psychotherapists believe that empathy can be extremely therapeutic and healing. When we believe that others truly understand our pain, we no longer feel alone in our difficult experience. When we understand what has brought us to our current situations, as well as how we can react compassionately and empathically in all situations, we foster resiliency in ourselves and those around us.

In this way, a more universal effort to foster empathy in our daily lives has great potential to create healing where there is pain and to foster peace where there is chaos.

This is certainly a bold statement, however, if we better understand others, as well as ourselves, the need for anger, aggression, fear, disappointment, and frustration becomes exceptionally unproductive and unnecessary. As the benefit to fostering empathy in our daily lives becomes ever clearer, following some simple steps can help us better apply this abstract concept in our lives: 

-Reflect
-Embody
-Relay
-Act 

First, it is important to reflect on empathy. Anytime we are confronted with a difficult situation and may consequently be presented with undesired feelings, we are offered on opportunity to reflect on the situation in an empathic manner. Ask yourself, what is happening and what thoughts am I having? How do I feel about this and how do others involved feel about the situation? Why do I have these feelings, how does this impact my core beliefs and value system? As we reflect on these questions, we are better able to understand the situation and we open the door to listen for what the situation may be communicating.

The next step in fostering empathy in any given situation is to embody the process. This can be done by attempting to sit with and breathe into whatever feelings may arise, all in an effort to be present with those feelings and to listen for what they may be offering. In this step it can also be beneficial to embody what others may be experiencing, think about what they could be feeling and where they might be feeling it. How does the embodied emotion feel in your body? By sitting with presenting emotions from an experiential perspective we gain the ability to truly understand what is happening not only for ourselves, but for others as well. With this second step, we are well on our way towards fostering empathy in our daily lives.  

With reflection we’ve achieved a greater cognitive understanding of the given situation and with embodiment we’ve achieved a felt experience of the situation–we are now ready to relay our empathic understanding. This step is especially important when striving towards greater empathy in interpersonal situations.

When we relay to others what we understand about their situation, we are able to validate their experience, as well as clarify our own understanding of the experience.

When we relay our understanding, we also create an opportunity that allows for a conversation about the shared experience. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, often when we discuss our experiences and feel understood by others, we can begin to feel better ourselves.

After we relay our empathic understanding and engage in any necessary conversation, we are then prepared to act on our more empathic perspective. Acting on our empathy may include treating others or even ourselves with greater respect, or this may lend to more pro-social, compassionate behaviors, both in relation to others, as well as with ourselves. 

Finally, as we more clearly see the benefits of fostering empathy in our life experiences and as we begin to understand the steps we can take to encourage empathy, we must also grasp boundaries in relation to this concept. It is important to keep in mind that empathy is meant to be experienced in the present moment. If we begin dwelling or ruminating on the difficult experiences of others, we may begin to retain feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration. However, if we are able limit our empathic attunement to specific interactions, and especially to what is happening in the present moment, we will be better able to obtain the benefits of empathy without experiencing the difficulties that can come with overextending our emotional minds. 

So remember… be gentle with yourself, be kind to others, become the catalyst for a more compassionate and peaceful world. Reach for empathy in the present moment–reflect, embody, relay, and act. If anything has the potential to create peace within ourselves and the world at large, that thing is empathy.


About the Author: Craig is one of the many exceptional interns working in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. With over 4 years of experience as a Mental Health Counselor working in residential, crisis and hospital settings, Craig is a wonderful addition to the People House community. Craig is a gentle, compassionate and genuine person who works to tailor his therapeutic approach to the specific needs of each and every individual. He enjoys working with a wide variety of individuals with various life experiences and personal interests. For more information or to contact Craig, please see his therapist bio.

Age and Health: We Are What We Believe || Lora Cheadle

By Lora Cheadle
New posts every other Tuesday

Here are the facts: In the 1950‘s we learned that 98% of our atoms are replaced annually. We learned that these new atoms come directly from the air we breathe, the food we eat and the liquids we drink. A decade later we learned that the individual cells of our bodies are replaced every 7-10 years. Some cells, like our skin cells, turn over even more rapidly than that, and some cells, like certain brain cells, never turn over–but on average we get an entirely new body every 7-10 years. Combine this knowledge with the power of our beliefs and suddenly we can change the way that we choose to age.

What does your culture tell you about people “of your generation?”

How much of the baby boomer’s retained youthfulness is due to their healthy lifestyle and how much of it is due to the fact that for the past 20 years they have been hearing–and believing–that their generation is not aging, and they are breaking a multitude of age-related boundaries. Are baby boomers able to stay younger longer simply because they believe they can, and because they are consciously creating “younger” cells?

Will Gen X-ers all die young, of obesity related causes because of the terrible food they’re ingesting in mass quantities, or because they have been told since age 15 that they were going to be the first generation to die younger than the previous generation? Or will they eat poorly because they believe that they are going to die anyway, so it doesn’t matter? Would they consciously take better care of their bodies if they believed that they would live for a much longer time?

What do your family and friends tell you about people “your age?” If you are being told to slow down and take it easy, that you “aren’t as young as you once were,” then you will probably age more, and suffer more age related maladies than those who are constantly being told of their youthful vitality and strength.

What do you tell yourself about your own age and quality of life?

Of course we have DNA that does not change. We all suffer illness and injury and we will all die at some point, but the fact remains that no matter how old we get, we are still constantly being renewed. No, we cannot increase the rate of cellular turnover, or instantly change the quality of our new cells, but we can work to create the kind of healthy and strong cells that we desire.

First, and most obviously, we can create healthier cells by breathing clean air, eating real food, and drinking pure water and other liquids. Nutrition and exercise matter, and quality nutrition provides quality building blocks of our cells. There is no way to get around this. Secondly, remember the power of your beliefs and consciously decide what kind of cells to create.

Your intention matters, and as long as you are creating new cells anyway, you might as well create exactly the kind of cells that you want!

Challenge yourself to come up with two or three beliefs you have about aging. Do you believe that you will get wrinkles and gray hair? Do you believe that your joints will ache and your body will get stiff and sore? Next, figure out what causes those problems and how you can counteract them. Conventional thinking is that thinning skin and flattened out cells contribute to wrinkles. Therefore, your job is to counteract this process by creating plump, round skin cells, like this:

Begin by checking into the skin’s renewal process. All day long you lose skin cells. Every night when you wash your face, you sluff off dead cells and new ones come up from the dermis to take their place. Next, consciously imagine, visualize, or pretend that you “see” these new cells being created. In your mind’s eye, create round, plump, healthy cells that create smooth and healthy skin. “See” them deep within the skin’s dermis, and watch them as they slowly come to the surface and replace the old, thin and flat cells. Tune into everything that you are putting in your mouth as well. Are you ingesting things that promote the health and vitality of these new cells, or are you ingesting things that will create unhealthy, thin and flat cells? Garbage in, garbage out, or are you giving your body the highest quality building materials available?

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With or without your conscious effort, just about every cell in your body is in the process of being renewed. By 2023 you won’t even be you any more, as most every cell in your body will have been completely replaced. You will have a completely new body that can be almost anything that you want it to be. So, who are you going to be? What are you creating? The choice is up to you!


About the Author: Not sure what lights your fire, or do you know exactly what lights your fire, but you keep spinning your wheels? Either way, Lora’s got you covered! Whether it’s through an Angel Reading or through hypnotherapy, where the subconscious mind is brought on board with the conscious mind, working with Lora reveals your divine path and gets you chugging down the road in no time. As a former lawyer, (She knows firsthand the courage it takes to following a new path!) Lora is very straight forward and process- oriented, using modalities that that yield results. No crystal balls or goddess robes here! See more on her website. 

Buddhism, Spirituality, and Dependency || Jason Polk

By Jason Polk
Guest Blogger

Recently I attended a six-day Zen meditation retreat, or sesshin in Japanese, which included the celebration of Rohatsu, December 8, said to be the day that Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, came to his great enlightenment.

As a couple therapist and student of attachment theory, I cannot deny what seems to be inherent contradictions of this spiritual path and current research on healthy dependency. For one, Siddhartha left his home, his wife, his newborn, his parents, and his duties as a prince to go alone on a spiritual quest. Accounts also say that he left at night and did not say goodbye to his wife or see his newborn son. Secondly, in the Buddha’s last discourse he said, “Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge.” This is in contrast to attachment theory, which states that we are fundamentally dependent on others.

Attachment theory states that a significant portion of our mind and personality is shaped by what we received or didn’t receive in terms of emotional attunement from our parents (Wallin, 2007). As Stan Tatkin (2011) writes, we only know about love by being loved by someone else, and we are not born self-loving or self-hating. We are taught these by others.

When we are securely attached to someone, we form one physiological unit and our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing, and levels of hormones in our blood (Levine & Heller, 2010). Also, when we are dependent on another, our partner has the ability to regulate our emotions and manage us when we are down, as well as amplify our positive feeling when we are up (Flores, 2004; Levine & Heller, 2010; Tatkin, 2011).

Ironically, being dependent on someone provides us with more confidence and ability to achieve things on our own.

This has been called the “dependency paradox” because the stronger your secure attachment is with your partner, the more resources you have to explore and take risks in the world on your own (Levine & Heller, 2010).     

However, the Buddha and other spiritual practitioners have been able to regulate their emotions and find peace on their own – by sitting alone in silence. This seems to turn attachment science on its head, as the Buddha found liberation by not depending on anyone and by leaving his family.

Is the Buddha right? Is the way to ultimate peace and liberation by being an island unto yourself?

If we examine his life further, we can argue that Siddhartha was not entirely an island unto himself. His story has it that he sought after the spiritual teachers of his time soaking up and mastering anything they had to offer. He also had friends when he was a wondering ascetic. The Buddha’s enlightenment story says that they left him when he starting eating food. Thus, they must have been close friends as they all were on a shared quest – denouncing the world together in hopes of enlightenment. As the story goes, these old ascetic friends were the first people the Buddha found to teach after his enlightenment. So was the Buddha completely an island unto himself?

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Even if you say yes, we can argue that the Buddha was an enigma. Buddhist monks and laypeople of today usually have intimate (non-sexual) relationships with their teachers and often have weekly private instruction with them. The Buddha, however, was not a Buddhist to begin with, and had no Buddhist teacher to help him. Past and current Buddhist monks and laypeople also have had the sangha (community of practitioners) for support to help with the epic task of facing the ego.

Furthermore, the Buddha did not stay alone in deep samadhi after his enlightenment, but found his former friends to teach. He taught for forty years and had close, intimate, mutually regulating relationships with his students, including his successor, Mahakasyapa. In order to have a successor, the Buddha would had to know not only him intimately, but also his understanding of his teachings. The Buddha also formed a large sangha, which could not have continued without the help of fellow monks. So the Buddha relied on others for support before and after his enlightenment. We contemporary practitioners, too, couldn’t walk the path seriously without the support of teachers and sangha.  

This contradiction highlights the fact that spirituality can be used to justify our lonely cultural ethos of self-reliance, which does not have biological basis.

In couple therapy, I have heard one partner say to the other, “You need to be more spiritual, because you are irrational!” From the recipient’s point of view, this may sound like, “You need to get better because I can’t handle you when you are like this, and I am not willing to help you!” Telling your partner they need to be more spiritual is like telling them they need to see a therapist. For some partners this may be OK, but others may hear that they are not up to your standard and ultimately are not your problem.

Being an island unto yourself can be used to dismiss the biological need to connect with others. It can also be used to justify passing the buck and not taking responsibility for your partner’s well-being, as you two are ultimately in each other’s care. If you are not in each other’s care, then what is the point of being together? Two islands living together? That doesn’t sound like a satisfying relationship.

Just as dependency liberates, ego attrition (spirituality) also liberates and brings you closer to your dependent, intimate partner. As your ego settles, you have more ability and resources to focus on others, especially your partner. You become more attuned to your partner’s needs, and thus the relationship grows stronger, benefiting both partners mutually. Past relational insecurities can be alleviated with a secure base, and this base gives both partners more confidence in the world. Knowing that you are in each other’s care, this creates a positive cycle in which spiritual practice leads to deeper intimacy, which leads to deeper psychological resources, which lead to deeper spiritual practice.

As the Dalai Lama said, “It is important to to understand how much your own happiness is linked to that of others. There is no individual happiness totally independent of others” (as cited in Mitchell, 2014, p. 164).


References:

Flores, P. J. (2004). Addiction as an Attachment Disorder. Boulder: Jason Aronson.

Levine, A., & Heller, R. (2010). Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help

You Find — and Keep — Love. New York: Penguin Group.

Mitchell, M. E. (2014). 32 Easy Lessons in Metaphysics and the Science of our Mind. Bloomington: Balboa Press.

Tatkin, S. (2011). Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style

Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.

Wallin, D. J. (2007) Attachment in Psychotherapy. New York: The Guilford Press.


About the Author: Jason Polk specializes in substance abuse, anxiety, trauma, and couples therapy. He believes in mindfulness and meditation as means for promoting general well-being, as well as means for transcendence and realization, and that we are happiest when we have healthy connections in our lives. Jason’s goal as a therapist is to help you appreciate your life and examine if anything is getting in the way of healthy connections. A favorite quote from a former mentor is, “It’s a good life if you let it.”

Jason is trained in EMDR and the PACT model, which that has been shown to help couples move towards a healthy mutually-satisfying relationship. Jason also offers drug and alcohol assessments for businesses and courts. Find out more on his website.

Be the Change || Craig Freund

By Craig Freund, Affordable Counseling Program Intern
New posts every other Tuesday

Life. Life is full of ups and downs, along with a great deal of uncertainty. Despite this, one thing is for sure: change is constant. Habits change, finances change, careers change, our bodies change, and even our relationships change.

Understanding that change is an inevitable and integral part of life, how can you better promote positive changes?

You might be hoping to change some uncomfortable emotion that you regularly experience, you may want to quit a bad habit, improve relationships, or even obtain career goals. Regardless of what you desire to change, lasting change can be hard to come by. Despite this, by working with the necessary parts, we are better able to work towards change and most importantly towards change for the better. So, what exactly are these parts?

1. Identifying the Problem
2. Anticipating the Change

3. Taking Necessary Steps
4. Reinforcing Positive Change 

The very first step in working towards change is identifying a problem. What exactly is it that you would like to change? In most situations this requires some degree of uncomfortability, which is required to be motivated to change. With this, our emotions often communicate important information about our life situation. You may be sad because you’re lacking a certain interpersonal need, you may be angry because you’ve been mistreated, or you may be anxious because you’d like to excel in a particular situation. Regardless, these uncomfortable emotions are communicating that change may be necessary; these difficult feelings are often letting you know that you’ve got a problem. If you listen closely, your emotional life will offer insight as to what may need to be changed. Once you’ve identified the problem, or the thing that you’d like to improve, you are prepared to take the next step in working towards change. 

Soyou’ve listened for what it is that you’d like to change (if you didn’t already know)–you can now begin to anticipate the change. This might include some personal reflection on what the change might look like.

How would you like to feel differently or what exactly will it take for you to begin to make these changes a reality?

While you begin to make plans in regards to upcoming changes, it is also helpful to anticipate any barriers that may become present along the way. Change is often an uncomfortable process… you may have had certain behaviors, thoughts, or feelings for a long time. If you’re hoping for different results, you must try something new. In this sense, change can require us to step outside of our comfort zone, all in an effort to experience and identify more helpful ways of living.

the the change

A helpful practice can be to anticipate how you want to/will behave differently in various situations and under a variety of circumstances. If you’re hoping to lose weight, you may want to plan your meals in detail, anticipate how you might behave differently in social dining situations, and/or for how you might cope without stress-eating. Or, if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, you may want to anticipate the ways in which you can foster positive emotions in your day-to-day living.

In order to be successful in our efforts to achieve positive change, we must make plans while anticipating any thoughts, feelings, behaviors, or barriers that will need to be overcome. 

You’ve identified what you’d like to change, you’ve planned, as well as anticipated, a variety of scenarios, and now you’re ready to take the necessary steps towards change. Beginning these steps can require a great deal of courage, especially because you may be leaving the comfort that often comes with familiarity. Helpful coping strategies for dealing with any uncomfortable feelings that arise will be important. You may want to enlist the helpful support of family and friends.

Being upfront about the changes you’re hoping to make will open the door for others to offer encouragement, or even suggestions, for navigating this difficult process.

While taking the necessary steps and following through with the anticipated process, it is helpful to keep the big picture in mind. Remind yourself of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and where you’re going. In keeping this perspective, remind yourself of the benefits associated with the change, remind yourself how good you will feel when you accomplish your goal. While taking action towards change, it is also important to be patient with yourself; change does not happen overnight and losing sight of this process can be discouragingTake a deep breath while you remember that it is important to keep everything in perspective. 

After following through with the necessary steps, you will begin to see some of the results you’ve been working towards. Now it’s time to reinforce the changes that you’ve made. This can be done after taking small steps or when big changes happen.

Reinforcing better allows short term change to become lasting lifelong change.

This can be done quite simply–you can reward yourself with something special or you can allow yourself to truly experience the many positive feelings that come with good changes. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished, notice how you are feeling happier, calmer, and more confident. Intentionally being present with these feelings will naturally reinforce all that you’ve worked so hard to accomplish. In this final step in working towards change, you have the opportunity to reap the rewards of your efforts. While reinforcing the changes you’ve made, you might begin to notice others working toward similar changes. As with most things, positive change can be contagious and the efforts you’ve made will pave the road for others to also improve themselves and their life situations. According to Gandhi, you should “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” By working to improve ourselves, we can better strive to improve the world around us.

Lastly, if you find yourself stuck at any point in this process, reach out to a psychotherapist and get the support you need to discover positive change and wellness in your life.


About the Author: Craig is one of the many exceptional interns working in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. With over 4 years of experience as a Mental Health Counselor working in residential, crisis and hospital settings, Craig is a wonderful addition to the People House community. Craig is a gentle, compassionate and genuine person who works to tailor his therapeutic approach to the specific needs of each and every individual. He enjoys working with a wide variety of individuals with various life experiences and personal interests. For more information or to contact Craig, please see his therapist bio.

Spirituality in Daily Life: Reject the Box – Not the Mystery! || Mary Edwards

By Mary Coday Edwards
People House Featured Blogger

In last week’s blog, I mentioned three items relevant to this week’s:

1. Staying present to your current experience: basically, HOW is your NOW?
2. Not only does this NOW hold valuable information, it’s also where we experience Oneness with the Universe, Divine, Higher Consciousness, Gaia, Brahman, Ultimate Reality, Goddess/God, non-God, Light, Love (space limits the ways this concept is expressed), and
3. Spirituality seems to imply we are seeking a connection with something greater than ourselves.

So, combining those three items, did you experience anything when you read that last phrase of No. 2, words I used to describe the ineffable, the unexplainable, the Mystery? Did any of those limiting words cause a reaction within you? In your body? Is one of your emotions screaming at the edge of your consciousness? Did you stop reading at that point? Or is one rising gently, peacefully? Did a past memory surface, pleasant or unpleasant? What did I leave out that feels important to your experience? Do you believe that some of those words/images are just flat out wrong?

I encourage you to bring your awareness to WHAT you may be rejecting and WHY.

No one can tell us exactly what – or who – this Ultimate Reality really IS. Mystics and poets down through the eons have described their own experiences and thus have given us intimations of what this Reality may look like, but at the end of the day, all these terms are metaphoric variations.

A metaphor is used when we don’t know what something is in order to give it some sort of meaning that we can connect the concept to.

Feminist Christian theologian Sallie McFague says that to think metaphorically “… means spotting a thread of similarity between two dissimilar objects, events, or whatever, one of which is better known that the other, and using the better-known one as a way of speaking about the lesser known (Note 1, pg 15).

Scholar Ian Barbour first studied science and then religion, eventually drawing comparisons and differences between the two, in particular how both used metaphors, models, and paradigms to explain the unseen (Note 2). Barbour says that “Religious language often uses imaginative metaphors, symbols, and parables, all of which express analogies” (Note 3, pg 119).

Models & paradigms: Helpful, but not the same as Reality!

Some of these analogies evolve into models. For example, Western Christians are familiar with the metaphors of God as father, king/conqueror, to the point where the Divine is restricted to this patriarchal-defined reality, leaving analogical language behind. In parts of Latin America, the model of God as Liberator informs reality.

But the New Testament scriptures are replete with other metaphors, such as God as the woman seeking her coin. Although that is mentioned in the same Bible verse as the parable of the good shepherd, how many stained glass windows do you see depicting God as Woman seeking her lost coin? Or Jesus as a Mother Hen, gathering up her chicks under her wings (Note 4)? Neither of those metaphors even made it to model stage.

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And this is not just true of Western Christianity; I’ve seen and experienced this pattern repeat itself all over the world. Every religion, every sect, for the most part, has definite ideas about Ultimate Reality, leaving little wiggle room – in other words, little room left for Mystery. It’s the mystics who shatter the walls of their respective boxes.

Barbour goes on to explain how a model can then crystalize into a paradigm. A paradigm, whether in science or religion, includes metaphysical assumptions and captures the imagination of its adherents. In the process, a paradigm defines reality, determines what sort of questions can be asked, and what sort of tools are used to analyze this reality (Note 5).

“Doubt frees us from illusions of having captured God in a creed.”

We have inklings of this Otherness, but our words anthropomorphize this Otherness. When we say, “God is Love,” our human ideas, images, and definitions of love immediately surface. Whatever negative or positive attributes we associate with love are now imputed to the God we defined as love.

When we reject “God”, what we might really be rejecting is the metaphor, the model, or the paradigm presented to us as the only or primary version of Ultimate Reality.  Perhaps it was imposed upon us in our childhoods and it no longer fits our experience. Our world picture changes as we grow and change.

Additionally, if you’re reading this blog, you’re either my good friend or relative, and/or you’re interested in growing spiritually. As noted in last week’s blog, spirituality conveys the idea of living peaceably with ourselves, with each other, and with our natural environment. The global battle for religious supremacy still rages among us. Thinking metaphorically vs. in absolutes (OUR absolutes) about the Divine opens up a space of humility within us where we can cultivate kindness, gentleness, and compassion for our fellow travelers.

Barbour says that, “Doubt frees us from illusions of having captured God in a creed” (Note 6).

So does thinking metaphorically.


Note 1: McFague, Sallie. Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982, 1987.

Note 2: The atoms subatomic construct cannot be directly observed, but based on theories we’ve developed amazing technology, such as this computer I’m typing on, my cell phone, and information available at my fingertips due to the internet.

Note 3: Barbour, Ian. Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.

Note 4: Luke 15:8-10; Matthew 23:37

Note 5: For more information on metaphors, models, and paradigms, see Barbour, Religion and Science; Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative Study in Science & Religion; Harper & Row, 1974; and Kuhn, T.S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions; University of Chicago Press, 1996 ed.

Note 6: Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative


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.

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth