Month: May 2015

Our Thoughts, Our Choice

Our Thoughts, Our Choice

Byron Katie - The Work“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” William James

It’s Monday, but it doesn’t feel like Monday. It feels like Tuesday or Wednesday. I lost a few days last week due to a stomach virus and worked over the weekend to catch up. I’m pretty sure it will take a few days and more than a few reminders to get me back on track. Although staying on track has never been my strong suit. Structure and pre-planned discipline are ever illusive. What discipline I have, and my husband tells me I have a ton of it, is deeply embedded in my subconscious.

Work is not really work for me. I love what I do, and mostly I don’t get paid so maybe I shouldn’t even call it work.  Or, at least what I do earn from doing what I do doesn’t cover the hours I spend doing it.  I keep trying to make enough to get by without compromising my beliefs and values and intent, also a never ending challenge. Money. It’s an issue for so many of us, as I discovered from the results of the survey I sent out yesterday. (If you haven’t taken it, and have the time, it’s not too late. I always appreciate any input you’re willing to share. I’m looking for feedback before I wander off in another direction. I want what I do here to work for you.) At any rate, I am going to get into the issues around money here, soon, in a big way. So if you’re interested, stay tuned.

Before I sat down to write this morning I impulsively pulled out our new vacuum cleaner, which actually was still poised for launch in the living room where I left it yesterday. In fact, since buying this new appliance I’ve vacuumed every room in the house, often more than once a day. My whole attitude toward vacuuming has changed in a flash. It’s not that I don’t like vacuuming before, it’s just that it seemed like a never ending process due to castoffs from the array of pets that too often rule the roost. Up until now, it’s been a very unsatisfactory endeavor. It’s not like the carpets sparkle and gleam like a freshly polished kitchen floor. They just look like they should, fur free. The carpet is too old to come back to life. However, our new vacuum has changed the whole experience for me….because…it has a little red light!

The little red light comes on when it finds dirt and turns to green when it’s all clean! The first time I used it I was instantaneously smitten. I vacuum with such focus and attention on that little red light that vacuuming is down right meditative. (Or, obsessive.) Either way, it works! I can’t wait to get back at it!

It got me thinking about the power of our thoughts to influence our feelings and behavior. As Byron Katie constantly reminds us, a thought arises. It just does.  When we can become aware of our thoughts, then we can choose what follows. When we are unaware of our thoughts, what follows are feelings and actions based upon beliefs we may no longer actually believe. They are based in past experiences.  When we take the time to stop and question our thoughts, we can begin to align our thinking with our true values and beliefs.

For instance, the thought arises “It’s not Monday”. Is that true? My thoughts tell me its probably Tuesday. An external source is telling me it’s Monday and so I double check my belief. Sure enough it’s Monday. Continuing to hold on to my belief that it’s Tuesday when the whole world, including my schedule, is operating as if it’s Monday can cause me major stress. 

How about the thought, “maybe I shouldn’t even call it work”? Is that true? Of course not, I can call it whatever I like. There’s no law against calling what I do work. Chances are good, however, there was a thought that preceded that thought that was totally unconscious; A thought that came from an archaic unquestioned belief that I still hold. You can probably see it. When I dig down I come up with a few belief-based thoughts that led to this statement: 1) anything pleasurable cannot be of monetary value; 2) work by its very nature is not enjoyable, work is hard and grueling and forced upon us, work is what we don’t want to do; 3) writing is fun and enjoyable, therefore it is not work, and therefore has no monetary value; 4) work is something that one takes seriously and requires physical and mental effort alone, not reflective, intuitive, feeling abilities. You get the picture?

When we take the time to go back and find the belief that led to a thought, we can begin to get straight with our true selves. I was raised by parents who believed all of the beliefs I still hold in my unconscious. They did not see value in the me I was born to be and they instilled in me their beliefs and desires as to who I should be. I have to work constantly to strengthened my own beliefs and put aside there’s. Here’s what is true for me: 1) I believe that if we do what we love, with the desire and the practiced intention of making money doing it, then we can make money doing it.  2) I believe that work can and should be enjoyable, and that when it is not, it is still only our thoughts that make us suffer. 3) I believe work is probably an antiquated word in this instance. a better choice would be “career” or “profession”, or used with another word such as “work on a project”, that takes the bite out of it for me. 4) I have come to appreciate and value “down” time that includes deep, reflective thought, meditation, research and quiet reading as an essential part of my profession.

Williams James said it very succinctly in his quote. When we slow things down, and break them down, to get to our truest, bottom line thought in a stressful situation, we can change our thought and remove the stress. The key is to tune in and to pay attention to what it is we are thinking. My thoughts around the little red light created a whole new feeling in me about vacuuming. I’m still thinking on that one!

What thoughts cause you stress? What beliefs are associated with those thoughts?

Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is, especially in the audio version, is a valuable tool for practicing this process. I purchased all of her audios through Audible and listened to each multiple times. She does live sessions with real people as they work the process together, or “do the work” as she calls it, and it’s very instructive. Incidentally, I find my membership with Audible both immensely valuable and affordable. I only purchase items I know I will listen to again and again. I use Kindle and pre-owned physical books for fiction or impulse purchases.

Defining Life Realistically As We Age

Defining Life Realistically As We Age

Duke Gardens
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Duke University
Durham, NC

“Defining Life Realistically” is Carl Jung’s third task of his Seven Tasks of Aging. Speaking of a reality check, I can’t imagine being brought more back to earth than I have been over the last decade. Yikes! I think I’m still trying to find my balance.

When we “cling to illusions that are contrary to reality, then problems will surely arise”, according to Jung. We come into the aging process attached to so many illusions. Most of us are in no way prepared for the first intrusion of reality, whether it be the sudden death of a loved one, a broken marriage, children run amok, a health crisis, a lost job or any number of other life challenges. 

These may very well strike long before midlife, but when they occur in our youth we still believe to some extent that our life will go on forever. At midlife we very much begin to see the end and a sense of urgency descends. I was 19 when my father very suddenly and unexpectedly lost his job. He was sixty. Too young for retirement, too old to be hired by someone else in his field. He sent out over 200 resumes and received nothing. (Fortunately this is less true now.) I watched him crumble, his lifelong pursuit of a good, secure and stable life fall by the wayside. My belief in corporate America was shattered. I was able never able to recover my confidence in it and have been self-employed ever since. 

I carried forth with the illusion for the next twenty something years that I could create my own independent, successful lifestyle. I did not have to be controlled and dependent upon something or someone outside of my control. My midlife awakening was that I was wrong about that as well. I had faced endless obstacles trying to create an independent, successful lifestyle. I had encountered circumstances and events beyond my control. I had not been able to accomplish what I set out and worked so hard to accomplish, and I was running out of time and energy to keep trying.

I had been living in a dream world. I had not faced reality, and because of that I was simultaneously driven and living in a self-destructive state of mind. I had to let it go. I had to let the illusion go. I had to face reality. 

There are so many things that wake us up as we age. Our bodies are another never ending source of reality checks. Weight loss becomes harder. Building strength and endurance becomes a slower process. The damage we’ve done through fad diets, too much stress, indifference to our needs is harder to repair. We are no longer on the same track of trying to look a certain way. The illusion that we will one day, if we work hard enough, become a perfect size 6, or 8, or 10, or 12, slips through our fingers as middle age sagging and bulging and softening begins. 

This is all as it should be. A problem arises only when we cling to our illusions, cling to the idea that we can at sixty obtain the body of a thirty year old woman, that we can or should achieve complete control over our careers, that we are, in fact, not subject to the laws of the universe. Beliefs such as “I deserve, or am owed a happy marriage”, or “I have to have youthful skin at sixty” leads us to resentment, despair, anger and frustration. 

Coming to terms with what is, in a culture that wants us to believe we can have and do whatever we desire, is a challenge. It is, however, our challenge to embrace as we age. It is our task to take on and, it is in our best interest to do so. When we ignore this task and cling to our illusions we remain stuck and unable to step into the awakening of our inner life. 

What have been your wake up calls as you age? How have you navigated them? Are you aware of other illusions still needing attention?

Task 1 Facing the Reality of Aging and Dying

Task 2 A Life Review

Mothers Letting Go

Mothers Letting Go

Mother's Day

“The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent.”  Erich Fromm

Many of us are in the phase of “letting go” of our role as mothers. The hardest part is often where allowing our children to be independent and make their own decisions conflicts with our need to protect, guide and love; when our children cut the strings and pull away. We feel the loss acutely, and yet, that is our job. We must set them free to make their own mistakes just as we have made our own.

We must never forget, however, that they will always need the love and acceptance of a mother’s love. When we set the example of unconditional love they will grow a mother within themselves that carries them far beyond the length of our years and our presence in their lives. Holding them loosely in our hearts through the years of growing independence gives them a safe haven in a storm when they need it while allowing them to grow into the adults we long for them to become.

When our children no longer needs us, we must grieve and let them go. Still, we must never forget that our role as mother never ends. We need never stop sharing our mother love. We only need turn our attention elsewhere. Children needing love spill out of every crack and crevice throughout the world. If we look carefully, we will see the unloved child in the cashier at the grocery store, the grumpy mailman that always messes up our mail, the young woman whose husband abuses her, the little boy acting up in church, and in face after face of those we encounter briefly or every day. The wounded children of the world need the love of a mother to grow strong and whole. If your heart is full of mother’s love and your children no longer seem to need it, let it spill over on the world around you.

Download your copy of my book, Finding Hope today, as my gift to you. (Offer expires at midnight tonight. 5-10-15.  I think you’ll find a little extra strength, guidance and hope between the pages that may just take you through the hard moments of “letting go” to a new place of acceptance and outward of expression of mother’s love.

Happy Mother’s Day!

A Life Review

A Life Review

Fleurs - Jean Claude Papeix
Fleurs – Jean Claude Papeix

When my mother was in her nineties, she became obsessed with telling me stories of her life. I heard about people, places and experiences that she had never shared with me, or perhaps anyone, before. I understood her need to go back and revisit her life in light of Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development. The last stage, “Ego Integrity vs. Despair”, he considered the stage when an individual developed the virtue of wisdom. He contended that during this stage an individual reflects on his or her life and makes a determination as to whether or not it was of value. Their conclusion leads them either to despair and to the belief that their life was wasted or to the conclusion that life was meaningful and of value to society. 

Mom often repeated the same story again and again, almost word for word, as if she had been rehearsing it for a lifetime, but needed to share it one more time, to make it “right”, or make sense of it somehow. It was clear to me that she was struggling to reach a place of acceptance and affirmation. Many times she ended her stories with the wrap up, “It’s been a good life”.  I worried whether or not she actually believed this affirmation as she was so prone to despair throughout her life. 

Now, as the years add up for me, I have already begun to see this process taking place. I am thirty years younger than she was at the time. Had she been thinking about these things for some time, but had never been able to quite resolve the conflict?  Or did I start the process early? Or perhaps, is there another way to look at it.

Carl Jung’s second task in his Seven Tasks of Aging is a “Life Review”. Life tasks seem to arise on cue in most individuals, but we still have the choice as to whether or not we accept the challenge. We decided when and how to step into, and engage, the process in order to be prepared for the next step the task must be taken on.  We learn from a life review as we wrestle with our mistakes, our regrets and disappointments and realign ourselves with our beliefs and our values. Perhaps that is why memoirs are such a popular genre these days. People have more time and freedom to take on this lengthy review process.

we all begin the process before we are ready, before we are strong enough, before we know enough; we begin a dialogue with thoughts and feelings that both tickle and thunder within us. We respond before we know how to speak the language, before we know all the answers, and before we know exactly to whom we are speaking.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves

More by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

It is in the process of a life review that we find our answers. Through participation in the tasks of aging we grow in wisdom and become increasingly congruent. it is important to remember that though we are called to undertake these tasks, it might be better to think of them as on-going processes.  We learn and grow when we embrace them, but they ebb and flow, sometimes urgently calling us, sometimes slipping out of sight for a time. Rising to greet the urging when it appears rather than shying away from it will enrich our lives as we age. 

Have you begun the task of a “Life Review”? What have you discovered?

Manifest Me – One Year Later

Manifest Me – One Year Later

writer, freelance writer, poetI began this blog a little over a year ago. It’s hard for me to fathom how far a person can travel on the inner journey in such a short period of time. When going through change and upheaval it seems, at times, interminable. The thing I’ve noticed over the years, however, is that real change takes time, not to mention serious commitment and focused attention. When we dabble in change nothing really happens. On the other hand, if we dive in hook, line and sinker with plenty of support and guidance, deep, lasting change can occur.

When I decided to start this blog, I only had a vague idea of what I was meant to do here. I knew intuitively that I needed to be more honest in my writing – to write more from my heart and less from my head, but beyond that I didn’t have a clue what that would look like.  I lived my life in the shadow of so many things that were not me. It was time to dig deep and find the courage to excavate and express the real me. The universe, or God, or whatever exists to see us through these things, always shows up to meet such desires and yearnings with exactly the thing we need. Crystal was the angel that delivered the goods in this regard. She knew where to lead me and what to do to give me the support and direction I needed.

If you’ve read my posts here over the last year you know some of what has transpired and some of what I’ve learned along the way. For me, it’s been an experience that continues to spin in ever-widening circles and there is still work to be done – but there will always be work to be done – always a deeper level of awareness that we can attain – a higher consciousness we can continue to aspire toward. That is the true joy of living. Knowing there is always a richer, deeper, fuller life experience ahead of us – and as time goes on, I have found it is most often an inner experience that we crave.

Over the last year, on a practical level, with Crystal’s guidance I have been able to change my eating habits. I have been gluten, dairy, sugar-free much of the time, striving always for better than 80% free. I’ve increased my level of exercise and as a by-product lost 20 lbs. Crystal insisted that I not focus on my weight, and I didn’t. It’s always been a lost cause for me. She repeated again and again, that when we are aligned physically, mentally and emotionally with our true selves, the weight will come off.

More importantly, my brain is clear, I’m managing my PTSD better and better all the time.  I feel centered, anchored and happier more often and I have made great strides in developing resiliency.  I’m learning to ask for support, to allow myself to have support when it’s offered, and to give myself what I need when I need it.  In turn I have more to give to others.  I’ve learned to listen to myself more carefully, to follow my intuition more often and to trust that I know who I am. Is life perfect? No, and that’s okay. It’s not supposed to be. I do believe, however, that we can feel better than most of us do, most of the time.

It’s time once again to raise the ante. Manifesting Me requires reaching just beyond our comfort level as often as we can. Manifesting Me requires owning who we are as clearly as possible, lining up our insides with our outsides, not hiding behind masks, facades, or mental constructs. It requires being fully present within and without.

The next step on my journey is to raise the ante on my outward expression of true self. I am taking on this challenge by continuing this conversation more openly on my website: DorothySander.com. It will be me owning my experience in body, mind and spirit – in the world. It will be me saying what I think and feel without hiding behind an artifice or an idea. There, if you follow me, and I hope you will, you will find more of what you found here, more about what I have learned and am learning as time goes on. You will find guidance as I discover it on things such as overcoming trauma, the body/mind/spirit connection, developing deeper levels of self-awareness, and more on my own spiritual journey as it unfolds.

I hope you’ll join me there and/or add your name to my mailing list below to keep apprised of new posts, workshops, book reviews, and more. I value your presence in my life. Your experience informs mine as much as mine may inform yours. We have so much to learn from one another and so much love and support to offer one another. Please join me and thank you for being with me here throughout the last year.

Dorothy

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