Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beware of the Shadow

The shadow is the part of yourself you want to keep hidden, what you wish didn't exist.  Everyone has one, like it or not.  Twentieth century psychologist, Carl Jung, coined the term.  In his words, "As individual attention is habitually and excessively focused on the facade of the persona, the deeper, neglected aspects of the personality continually sabotage the individual's conscious intentions."  It's not that the facade is necessarily phony, just that the outward appearances don't tell a complete picture of the whole personality.  
I used to wish that I could always be sweet and loving.  Being sweet is part of my authentic self, but so is anger and sadness, which I avoided like the plague.  Life was easier for me when I was sweet and happy, or so I thought.  Keeping the shadow hidden is like trying to hold balloons under water.  It will eventually rise because these unconscious parts of us want to be known.  The more we try to keep them tucked away, the more they will appear when we wish they wouldn't.  Anger and sadness are my shadow, and they kept popping up as guilt trips I would lay on someone who didn't please me, intense criticism of people who had "anger problems", and I would find myself getting angry way beyond what was called for by what just happened.  No matter how hard I tried to be sweet and loving, the anger would find its way out.  
The key to becoming more whole and balanced is to get to know the shadow and allow it to play an acceptable role in our lives, rather than trying to hold it down.  Anger can be a warning sign that something is wrong and can be an important motivator of change for the better.  It's important to pay attention to when we feel angry because there's something there to look at within ourselves.  It may be that the current situation is wrong for us or it might be that an old wound is being opened, providing an opportunity for us to heal.
Since we don't want to own our shadow self, we become critical of it in ourselves and others.  Someone who believes that seriousness is desirable while playfulness is not, won't allow himself to be playful.  He will criticize himself for desiring to be playful and criticize others for having too much fun.  He will likely secretly detest them for being able to express that part of themselves.  If he were willing to know and love this side of himself, he could find balance between seriousness and playfulness and enjoy a richer life.
Sometimes we try so hard to hide certain qualities, we make ourselves believe that they don't exist within us.  We simply can't see them when they show up, but they certainly affect our relationships and lives.  We all have light and dark within us.  The more conscious we become of all the parts of ourselves, the more we can live with the purpose we desire.
In his famous sermon on the mount, Jesus asks his disciples, "Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?"  Jesus' wish for us is that we take a closer look at our own experience rather than focus on the faults of others.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Clear Blue Sky

Access the soul's wisdom
        through meditation.
Lay aside the activity
        and chaos.
Push aside the worries and plans,
        the fears of what might happen.
See the clear path down the center where
        sure-footed travel takes place.
Watch the clouds withdraw,
        dispersing and disappearing.
Gone; they were unnecessary anyway.
See the clear, blue sky
        where wisdom resides.
Feel the simplicity, enjoy the clarity
        where pressures don't exist.
Know the uncomplicated truth
        behind the clouds.
The clear, blue sky has been there
        all along.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I've been feeling stuck for quite a while, as if there's an obstacle preventing me from feeling joy and peace. I know it's in my belly, because I can feel it there.  I imagine it looks and feels like a round ball, filled with emotion, stuck in my belly, waiting for my attention.  For the longest time, I felt contempt for it.  I didn't want it to be there.  I didn't want to have to deal with it.  I didn't want to feel any more difficult emotions.  I just wanted to be past it without having to go into it.  But the longer I ignore it, the longer I feel depressed and anxious.
Depression and anxiety set in when I'm not willing to feel whatever emotion is in the forefront, as if I'm numb to the real emotion, pretending like everything is okay.  I know I'll go there eventually, because that's what I do.  I know I won't stop this journey because of a little difficult emotion.  It hasn't stopped me before.  My journey through the darkness, thankfully, has been intermingled with feelings of intense joy and pure peace, and making wonderful memories along the way.
I'd been dancing around the idea of going into the stuckness for quite a while, feeling scared of what might be there.  I've begun to open up that space to see what's inside.  Now it feels like I'm gently perusing the perimeter of it, contemplating whether to go in.  The more I go into what hurts me and keeps me stuck, the more I free up space for love and joy.  So I'll go there.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Out of the Box

No more facades, no more masks.
Only the truth will do now.
No more boxes, they're too constraining.
Reality doesn't fit in there.
Only what is real now.
From this day forward, nothing less will do.
Don't expect me to hide,
I won't worry about what you might think.
I have no time for that anymore.
In the box, I might explode,
In the truth, I love my life.
I climb out of the box, look around,
See what there is to see.
Wow! A world full of wonderful, amazing things.
Where were they before?
I couldn't see them.
I will never go back.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Death Before Resurrection

Resurrection awaits those willing to die.  We must die to all attachments, identities, and limitations that our ego has built up for us, to protect us from the world in which we live.  We must forget all we think we know.  Our "truth" is only true in our minds and holds no weight in the universe.  The laws of the universe will continue to function and we will remain right where we are if we don't let go.
We want to feel safe in what we know, so we convince ourselves that our truth is our reality.  We may believe that if we work hard enough to be perfect, we will finally earn the love and affection of those who withhold it.  We may believe that we will never have the love or life we want.
Our reality changes with our perceptions.  We don't have to be the way we've always been.  We don't have to believe what we've always believed about ourselves and others and the way things work.  As long as we hold on tight to our ego fabrications, things won't change for us.  Our course will continue in the same way it always has.
When we open ourselves up to the infinite possibilities, letting go of all attachment to our old truth, things begin to change.  The truth can be turned upside down.  We can imagine a life filled with love.  Our hearts and our minds shift, making room for new beliefs, new feelings, and new actions.   The resurrection can take place.  A new self can be born, a new and purer creation. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

To Dwell or Not to Dwell

Anger is real.
Emotions are like water and need to move.  It must go somewhere.  Where it goes is up to us:  it goes out or it stays in.  When allowed to stay in, anger will fester, causing chaos in our physical body and on our emotional state.  The space left when anger is released will be filled with joy and peace if that is what we want.
When you feel anger, it's because it's there, in you.  "Dwelling" means to sit and ponder, revisiting each incident that incited anger.  This may actually cause anger to grow more toxic.  What distinguishes dwelling from moving the anger out, is the intention.  You don't have to know what to do or how to do it.  Just "intend".  Acknowledge it's existence and courageously intend that it go away.  The loving universal energy will then swoop down to help.  Your free will has just requested assistance.  Now observe and answer the call to confront, feel, release.  Observe the anger moving out.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Time for Transition

Tides roll in and back out, change the only certainty.
Ride the wave; fighting to change it, you will drown.

Emotions flow like water, always changing.
Float safely on love, for self and those held most dear.

Gratitude and humor provide a smoother ride.
Peace will inhabit where love resides.

A time for action, strong and sure.
A wave crashes back again, struggle to feel serenity.

A time for waiting, quietly observing, healing, resting.
Uncertain, unsettled, unknown.

A time for ripening, passion rests while the heart heals.
Rests and ripens, preparing to shine again.

A time to blossom. 
Let go, and let it shine.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Moving Forward

Moving forward, stopping only to rest,
Taking care not to wallow in the muck.

Shedding layers along the way,
Making room for joy.

Always more to come,
Feeling peace on my path.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Love Them Anyway

By Mother Teresa

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.

Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People need help, but may attack you if you try to help them.
Help them anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Faith or Fear?

I waver between faith and fear, like I'm sure most people do.  Even the most faith-filled among us have to fend off fear sometimes.  It's all part of the plan.  When we use our free will to recognize that we are fearful and that we cannot at the same time have absolute faith, we remember that God is in control.  This is both scary and comforting to me.  I would like to think I am in control.  It provides me with the illusion that everything will be fine because I am so powerful and I can make things happen.  That may be true, until I try to control other people, my circumstances or anything other than my own thoughts and actions.
I know God has a plan and I trust that it will be much more rewarding than my own, self-imposed version.  I am not able to see the bigger picture of the universe the way God does.  When I humble myself enough to truly surrender to the miraculous power and knowing of the universe, I feel serenity. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Seasonal Perspective

A warm spring day, a gentle breeze.
Sun in the clear blue sky, tiny new green leaves.

Lawnmowers running again.
The scent of fresh-cut grass and sunscreen.

Kids at the park, bare feet on the ground.
Laughing and running in the sunshine.

Pleasantly forgetting what I've forgotten.
Birds singing and working, preparing for another beginning.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Calm in Uncertainty

My life is in transition now, with big decisions to be made, uncharted territory to navigate through and no certain signs of what the future holds.  I spin on my gerbil wheel, trying to get one thing settled, then another from my list.  When I reach the end of the list, is that when peace sets in?
I've felt a range of emotions throughout the last few years as I have rearranged my life, from complete agony to utter bliss.  Up and down, up and down, with bliss wedging its way in more often and the painful emotions taking less and less of a hold on me.
Though things are generally looking up, I still encounter the nagging feeling like "things" aren't quite as settled as I would like.  I have to remind myself that life is just that way.  It's ever-changing.  The goal is not to get everything into perfect order and then feel peace.  It doesn't work that way.  New issues pop up constantly.  I never know what is around the next corner, even if I thought I put an issue to rest and have moved on from it.  Nope.  Here it comes again.
The calm is not ever going to be in the "things".  It has to be in me if I'm ever going to feel it.  I want to accept my circumstances as they are and feel the peace that comes with acceptance.  If I can remember that a core of peace and love exists within me and all I need to do is relax and accept myself for all that I am, with the joy and exuberance, the anger and sadness, and the ever-changing circumstances, I won't need to fret.  It's all okay and serves a purpose.  If I can accept that, I can feel calm in the uncertainty.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

You Will Not Destroy Me

My daughter brought home a book from her school library called, The Quiltmaker's Gift.  I was so inspired by the book that I bought a copy for us to keep.  It's about a quiltmaker who makes quilts for the poor and needy and a king who has ruled he shall have two birthdays every year and that everyone in the land must give him a gift on each of his birthdays.  When he finds that the quiltmaker has not given him a gift, he and his army march to her home, demanding she make him a quilt.  She told him that she only makes quilts for the poor and needy and that when he is that, she will make him a quilt.  Angry, he ties her up in the cave of a sleeping bear to be eaten by morning.  He is ridden with guilt and goes to rescue her, only to find that the woman has befriended the bear and has made the bear a soft pillow to sleep on.  The king was again enraged and put the quiltmaker on an island only big enough for her to stand on and allowed her to drown.  Again, he felt too badly and went to rescue her, only to find that a large flock of birds had flown the woman to dry land and that she was stitching small shawls for each of the birds.  The king finally gave up and with much angst, decided to give away his belongings one by one.  At first it was very difficult, then became easier and easier as he saw the delight that it brought to others.  He traveled the world giving away everything he owned, and was rewarded with a beautiful quilt.  He declared himself a rich man in the end, having experienced the joy of giving. 
There are people in my life who have tried to keep me from growing, hoping that I will give up and fall to the ground in defeat.  When I catch myself wanting to do just that, I think about the quiltmaker living purely with love no matter what others are doing.  She actually makes friends with someone who is meant to be her enemy just by being fearless and loving.  I think about myself standing tall and proud, firm in my principles, moving forward with my life despite the evil around me.  "You will not destroy me," I say to myself, and I pick myself up and trudge through whatever I need to trudge through.  And most of all, I focus on the power of love.  The strength I feel from thinking this way is indomitable.  Love really does conquer all things.  It is unbreakable and cannot be destroyed.

The Bigger Picture

Have you ever witnessed a flock of starlings in the air?  It's so spectacular.  The graceful moving and bending of the shape of the flock is hard to believe.  Every bird is flying its own way and from inside the mass it probably looks chaotic.  But when you observe the effect from outside of it, which is an elegantly choreographed dance, you can see that the apparent disorder serves a beautiful higher purpose.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Be the Captain of Your Ship

I sometimes find myself wishing I could blame someone else for how I feel or for my lot in life, but when I do, I meander along the victim end of the continuum, where I feel quite crummy.  There is a continuum on which lie the two extremes of how much responsibility we can take for ourselves.  On one end is complete victim-hood, where we feel that we are passive recipients of life's circumstances.  On the other is where we feel we are the captain of our own ship, leading ourselves through calm and stormy seas.
We create our own reality, whether we think so or not.  We use our free will to navigate through our day and if we don't pay attention to what decisions we make, then we may make them out of habit or because of old hurts, etc., and that usually causes harm.   Living consciously is to live with purpose.  This can only be done if we know ourselves well enough to understand why we make the choices we do. 
Isn't it so easy to push the blame for how we feel onto other people, institutions, or rules of some kind?  It's not worth it.  I trick myself into thinking I'm better off because the problems are someone else's fault.  If I'm so well off, then why do I still feel badly?
When I spend my time waiting for something to change, someone else to make a decision, complaining about how things didn't go my way, it feels as if my power is sealed in a jar up on a shelf.  I can only use my power if I open the jar and decide which way to go.  The emotions that go along with feeling powerful are all good and reproduce themselves as long as I remain in the captain's seat.  In those moments when I don't know what to do yet, I can use my power to maintain my confidence within the uncertainty.  I can feel good knowing that I will know what to do when the time is right.
Regardless of what happens in my life, I am always in control of myself and that is actually quite comforting, as scary as it sometimes is.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Get Real

With the divorce rate so high, we are left to search for explanations and speculate on what could be at the bottom of it.  Who doesn’t know someone who is divorced or going through a divorce?  We attend weddings and wonder and hope about the future of the couple.  “‘Til death do us part…”  Are you sure about that?  We all know how it goes:  the sweet couple is happy and excited and can't get enough of each other (the honeymoon period), then reality sets in.  Every day, huh?  You mean you're still here?  I can only be happy and joyful for so long, you know.  Each member of the couple is at least a little scared to be real.  What if she finds out I’m scared?  What if he sees that I really get upset inside when he pays more attention to the TV than to me?  Would he hate me?  Would she leave me?  I better pretend everything is okay.  I better pretend I am still happy with him.  And so it goes. 
You pretend to be who you think you ought to be to please me, and I'll help you with that by pretending that I'm happy with who you pretend to be.  It sounds exhausting, doesn't it?  It's really not much different than telling a little white lie and then telling more and more to keep up with the first one.  You suddenly find yourself in over your head and as if there is no way out.
What would happen, then, if you actually told the truth?  Would the whole thing fall apart?  How will you know?  The answer is simple.  You will only know if you try.  You already know how the pretending works.  Things will not change much while the pretending is still going on.  You can make minor adjustments that make a situation more tolerable, but until the truth is out in the open to discuss and deal with, the relationship will remain pretty much the same.
Why is it we are taught to pretend?  What's wrong with the truth anyway?  So what if I'm scared?  So I am.  Is there really a problem with that?  Somehow our culture has deemed that the most acceptable emotions are happiness and joy, and that fear, anger and sadness indicate weakness.  It seems that the popular belief is that self-confident, strong people don’t feel “negative” emotions.  Instead, they “toughen up” and smile through it.  They are considered by many to be strong if they are unaffected by petty emotions.
It’s important to differentiate between being strong and being phony.  It takes courage to actually admit that you are no better than anyone else and that, you, too have feelings that can be hurt.  Fear, sadness and anger are all healthy emotions under the appropriate circumstances.  Each of them helps to protect us.  When someone is hurting us, we may be angry.  Good.  We should be.  Then we alter our behavior to stop the hurt.  When we are grieving a loss, we may be sad.  Allowing ourselves to feel the sadness is healthier than potentially lashing out later because we have stuffed the feelings.   It takes strength to look our emotions in the face and handle them in a responsible manner.  It is phony to pretend we don’t have them.
Being aware of our emotions and dealing with them in a responsible way is how we take care of ourselves.  It is liberating to feel able and willing to express whatever true emotions we are actually feeling.  Sometimes taking care of ourselves appears selfish because someone else’s feelings may be hurt by the truth.  It’s important to take others’ feelings into consideration, but truly, we are supposed to take care of ourselves.  It is our job as a human being.  It is being responsible.  No one else can do this for us, for they do not know what we need as we ourselves do.  We know how we feel when someone else does x, y, or z.  We know we feel sad or mad.  If we do not respond to these emotions, they are left unresolved and only add to an exaggerated feeling the next time x, y, or z occurs.  This is unfair to the other person, who is left to guess how we are feeling and why we have overreacted. 
The misconception is that we might hurt someone else’s feelings by having our own, so we pretend we don’t have them and try to move on anyway.  Then comes the part where we get fed up.  However, if the truth is shared, we can attempt to come to a middle ground with each of our truths.  In actuality, both people are able to grow and live fuller lives when faced with the truth. The better we take care of ourselves, the more energy we have available to help take care of others.  If we keep pretending, no one can stop us, even if they try.  We have to be willing to be real.  It is liberating and it turns out we have more energy and love to share with others when we feel better ourselves.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Prayer, Patience, and Abundance

I have cards that have motivational messages on them, each from an angel.  You choose one randomly to discover what the angel wants you to know.  One day I chose three cards at a time.  I was delighted to see the messages Prayer, Patience and Abundance.  I felt inspired since I had been praying and patient, and was hoping for a lighter load in my life and good things to come my way.
After that, I saw the word "abundance" all around me.  I read it in books, saw it on a poster at the store, and read in several places on the internet.  I could hardly believe my eyes each time I saw it.  I have no doubt that the word was placed there for me to see.  Then for my birthday, a friend gave me a little gift.  She chose it because a year before my life was so intense that I was practically unable to discuss anything of a superficial nature.  I had told her, "I would love to discuss something as simple as curtains, but I just can't right now.  My mind is too involved in all this mess".  So this year, she chose something that was insignificant just for fun: a little glass fish with rainbow colors.  Now keep in mind I hadn't told her about my Prayer, Patience, and Abundance message.  When I opened the box, there was a paper inside that explained that the significance of the fish is that the Chinese word for fish is, no kidding, "Abundance".  Wow!
I put the fish on my kitchen windowsill and looked at it at every opportunity, each time thinking of the word abundance.  At first, I was more focused on obtaining financial abundance since I was concerned about my financial future.  Then it dawned on me one day that the message may be about abundance I already have.  I began to focus on gratitude for my beautiful, healthy children, clothes, shelter, and joy.  I don't need any more than that.
A few months later, I fell into some financial opportunities, obtained a couple great new friends and the success of a creative endeavor.  I feel tremendously grateful for all that is provided to me and how much abundance I feel in my life when I focus on what gifts I have.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

You've Gotta Please Yourself

I sometimes find myself trying to please others.  It seems as though somewhere deep inside me I feel that if I just try hard enough to be perfectly sweet, I will succeed in being chummy with everyone I know.  I understand this is not realistic.  I understand that the world is made up of all kinds of people, with all kinds of opinions and perspectives.  I'd be contorting myself into every crazy shape in order to be what all these people want me to be.  I know this because I've done it, and boy is it exhausting!
When my goal is to please others, I don't stand for anything.  I don't take a position.  Instead, I just go along smiling in agreement.  When my goal is to live up to the principals I believe in, I please myself and feel proud of who I am. 
Once I began to stand up for what I believe is right, I found that most people don't want me to give up who I am to please them.  My indeterminacy leaves them wondering what I really meant by my words.  People will sometimes stare blankly while trying to decipher my true thoughts and intentions.  That's not good for either party.  It detracts from the relationship, leaving it relatively shallow, whether a marital, sibling, employment or any other.  It's much more comfortable to conduct a relationship when you know where the other person stands and there aren't undercurrents of unspoken feelings. 
A relationship based in truth is meaningful.  If I stick to telling the truth about what I think, feel, and do, I please myself.  People don't always want to hear the truth because it often hurts; but only in truth is there growth.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Making Up Scary Stories

I alluded to this phrase in another blog post, but feel it is potent enough to stand on its own.  Unless you are authentically psychic, you don't know what will happen in the future.  Even the events of the next few minutes are unknown, despite the fact that you have planned your whole day perfectly.  Anything can happen.  What initially seems like bad news might turn into something good.  An unexpected opportunity may be placed before you as a result of a situation that "fell apart".
I struggle so often with worrying about things that may happen.  I make up scary stories that erupt fear and anxiety about things that haven't happened yet and probably won't.  I think, "What if I'm never able to make a decent salary?" or "I'll never be able to finish all these things I have to do by the end of the week."  Then my heart pounds, my mind spirals into negative thinking, insecurities and self-doubt.  I become irritable and distracted from the real goal, which is to remain grounded in serenity. 
The list of potential scary stories is endless and can be quite subtle and sometimes create a stream of negative thoughts.  The only antidote is to recall that we only really have the present moment.  How are things Right Now?  How am I doing at maintaining a positive outlook and accepting responsibility for what I can do to affect the present moment? 

Friday, January 21, 2011

I refuse to hate my life!

A friend told me yesterday that his sister, alone at a bar, sent him a text, stating "I hate my life."  She's a twice-divorced mother of two waiting impatiently for prince charming to sweep her off her tired feet and relieve her of her misery.  I have some struggles myself, worrying about selling my house in a rotten market, finding a new, suitable house for myself and my children that I can afford, and developing a career path that I will enjoy and that will net me a reasonable income.  So far, my diligent efforts have resulted in frustration.  I have had neurotic visions of my future as a bitter woman in deep depression, scrambling to make every end meet.  But then I realize I must compose myself.  If I allow my circumstances to dictate my emotions, I have lost the battle and the war.