Tag: culture

Backwards Thinking

Backwards Thinking

bffff3fc7ca8ab3fcb9ff07f7e7e1bc6The sun streamed through the kitchen window this morning, it’s warm inviting tendrils wrapping themselves around me like a lost lover. The relief I felt, the fullness of my appreciation for what I had been missing and the cavernous desire to take in as much of its energy as I could was  not dissimilar to the way I felt when my boys returned home after their first weekend camping trip, or my husband from a business trip.

I’ve become increasingly aware of the vast array of sensory healing that is available to us, and how little we are shown the way in a culture that focuses on illness and pathology more than it does on sustenance and healing.  We are taught to focus on what is wrong with us, not on the amazing power to heal and thrive that is inherent in the gift of life.

This is especially true when it comes to mental and emotional issues. Although the tide is changing, many of us are currently suffering the ill effects of a lifetime of living in an environment that neither feeds us nor teaches us how to manage our gifts and challenges. Furthermore, we were taught to ignore the very signals our bodies naturally gives us to guide us through these challenges.

In the simple example of the sun shining after three days of rain we are shown many things. My body told me loud and clear that it needs warmth, sun, and the loving sustenance of nature. It needs these things as much as it needs water and food.  If I had not been fortunate enough to be in a home facing the sun when it came out and had instead been in a cubicle facing a computer screen, a very real need would not have been met and my awareness of it would grow dull over time.

I remember sitting in many a classroom longing to be outside. I forced myself to go to work in an office day after day because that was the thing I was supposed to value, not the needs of my body, mind and spirit for nature. I told myself that cleaning my house and making money was more important than any signals my body might be sending me to the contrary.

We have it backwards. I had it backwards. When we work in cooperation with our body we do not become the unhealthy sloths we think we will become. Quite the opposite. We find renewed energy, renewed health, renewed focus and activity.  When we follow our instincts, our intuition, our yearnings and desires, we give ourselves what we need and energy begins to flow and health begins to blossom.

Coming back to my original self from a lifetime of backwards thinking and backwards living has been a long and not always easy process, but it has been a glorious one, a life-affirming one and one I would like to see everyone have the opportunity to experience.

Learning to fill ourselves with what we actually need rather than trying to fill ourselves with that which will never nurture or sustain us is a life long process. I experience hurdles and bumps and drift away from those things I’m learning to be true. The difference now, however, is that I stay true to who I am more often. I live in closer proximity to my soul self and perhaps more importantly I am learning how to get back there when I wander off.

The path I took may not be for everyone. We each have our own unique sensibilities, but we all also have an inner self that will speak to us when we choose to tune in and listen.  It is this inner guide that will lead you on your path of healing. It will lead you to exactly what you need and take you to the place where the sun will heal your hurts and fire up your energy and a sense of well-being will become more real than ever before. The abundance of life and love lives within each of us regardless of circumstances. It is our birthright. This I will always believe.

 

Our Spiritual Nature

Our Spiritual Nature

spiritual art
The Tree of Transformation
by Mary Ann Holley

My nights of late have been filled with dreams of struggle. Arguments, unease, confusion. I am going through a deep change. I can feel it happening in many areas of my life and my dreams seem to be reflecting the movement.

What’s different this time is that some of the dreams are violent. I don’t recall ever having violent dreams like these – along the line of the stuff that permeates our nation’s television and movie screens – and i t makes me wonder if something within me is reacting to the violence in the world.  When we open ourselves to the spiritual world, we may sometimes find that we react more strongly to the negative forces around us, both personally and globally.

I remember feeling the same dynamic some thirty years ago when I was drawn in a quantum leap into a deepening of my spirituality.  A series of events, a mentor, a sense of calling and a deep need to live out that calling, and the next thing I knew I was spending hours reading and meditating on the words of great spiritual teachers and heading to seminary. While my heart and soul were going in one direction, my mind and body were still very much alert and living in the everyday world and culture.

I was a senior in college,  although little older than most at twenty-five, and it was a Friday night. My roommate and I decided to go see a movie that had just come out.  Going to the movies back then was a very different experience than it is today.  We didn’t have a choice of fifteen movies. There was only one, and it generally stayed around for a very long time. A new movie was a much bigger deal and more of an event.  “Death Wish”, with Charles Bronson, was getting some buzz, though I can’t say I read anything about it before going, so we set out to take it in.

I only made it half way through the opening scene. I was so horrified and repulsed by what I witnessed on the screen that I got up and left. My roommate came running after me wondering what the heck had happened. We’d been friends for several years, and she knew I was not particularly naive, or underexposed to the darker side of life. I was a New Yorker, for crying out loud. I spent many a weekend wandering the streets of Manhattan with friends, from Times Square to 42nd Street. We saw it all. This time, it was not what I saw, but how I saw it, that was different. I was not separated from it. It was happening to me and I was repulsed by it as if I had been actually present at or participating in the crime.

I didn’t understand what was happening to me then, or how to handle it, any more than I understood how to handle a similar experience when I was fourteen.  A week at summer church camp had drawn me deep into the center of my spirituality. It was profound, life altering even, and yet, when I returned home, I didn’t have a clue how to share what I had experienced with the people in my life or how to keep the change alive by incorporating it into my every day life. I blamed myself, but really, in spite of being a church goer in a church going family, I didn’t have the tools, or the support to actually guide me in living out of what I only sensed to be something very real and very powerful. I did not have a guide of any sort, within or without of the church, to teach me to manage something so undefinable yet all-encompassing. I was trying to bring a symbolic understanding of life into a very linear, literal world. I find it astounding that as a society we’ve chosen to spend so much time, effort and money educating the minds of our children, but have done nothing to guide and nurture their spirits.  Even organized religion has fallen down on the job choosing to mandate more often than moderate.

As I stood in the lobby of the movie theater that night, I sensed that a new perspective had a hold of me. Again, I did not know how to speak it into the world — the real, every day world and I’m pretty sure Jena was as perplexed by my behavior as I was. I told her I was sorry and that I’d be happy to wait for her if she wanted to go back in and watch the rest of the movie.  I didn’t want to ruin the evening for her, but I just couldn’t watch it. She said she wasn’t all that into it anyway and we went for ice cream instead.

I’ve never gone back and watched that particular movie, but I’m pretty sure it’s tame by comparison to what is on our many screens today.  What I have come to understand about my experience is something that warrants attention, both on an individual level and a cultural one.

I believe that human beings are spiritual creatures by nature. A creative, loving force lives within each of us. Some call it God, some call it our soul or Soul, others Source without source, or the divine.  We are creatures who think symbolically and we understand intuitively, that there is power in a name. It is not surprising that we seek a name that feels right to us, one that is congruent with our beliefs. Whatever one calls it, it is the essence of what it means to be a human being, it is what I call our spiritual nature, that thing or force that fires our passions, erupts in love, and drives our richest, most meaningful creativity.

Our freewill, however, allows us to choose where we focus our passion, the creative force we hold within us. Therefore, we can just as easily choose to direct it toward something finite or evil, as toward something infinite or benevolent. A third option, that I believe to be most prevalent today, is the choice which is actually the denial of choice. We don’t know what to do with our spiritual nature so we do nothing.  We don’t know how to handle it, or what it looks like, or what to do about it, and so we push it aside. We neglect it. We ignore it. We bury it in day-to-day detritus.

The longer we neglect it the duller our awareness of its importance and power becomes. Our spiritual nature will always exist, but our sense of spirituality is deadened and dulled in much the same way that a neglected child loses interest in life and becomes despondent and unresponsive. We fire ourselves up by focusing on superficial concerns and we live with our ego as our guide. This choice is ultimately our own, but in a world devoid of spiritual guidance, such as that once offered in abundance by organized religion, we are easily stymied and at a loss as to how to help ourselves.  Managing the spiritual world, particularly when we live in a cultural that is so potent with its antithesis, is no mean feat.

Organized religion has become irrelevant to the masses, and nothing, as yet, has replaced it.  We have spiritual gurus popping up like daisies, each with their own brand of theology,  each gathering their own band of followers. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but having a viable spiritual guide or community in ones own neighborhood is rare. We don’t know who, or what, to turn to or to trust.

There’s a great divide between the spiritual and the cultural. Is it any different from the past? I really don’t know. What I do know, is that in the here and now, there is a great dearth of spiritual guidance for the individual, and spiritual leadership with integrity is in short supply. It’s no wonder we find ourselves adrift. It’s no wonder as a culture we become increasingly secular. We know we have outgrown the guidance offered in the past, but our mistake is that we think we need none now.

This is not an issue that is resolved easily for anyone and so I will offer no answers here. Just food for thought in what in my mind is a very pressing question. I welcome your thoughts and reactions.

The Body, Mind, Spirit Connection – Day #7

The Body, Mind, Spirit Connection – Day #7

Artist Pino
Mother and Daughter
by Pino

Our modern culture has, in my opinion, a tendency to pull things apart into quantifiable pieces.  Our society has become so complex and diverse that our drive to understand and manage it, has led to habits of thought that compartmentalize.  We judge from a distance what we do not know or understand personally. Science, medicine and business view the individual through the lens of this type of judgment. Our natural state of connectivity and free communication between is disrupted.

We are not just our minds and what we can achieve with them. We are not just our bodies and what we can do or attract with them. We are not just our spirit that can thrive independently from the body that holds it, or the mind that directs it and connects it to the world. We are all three at once, perpetually interacting,  supporting,  and balancing. If we mistreat one, we mistreat the other. If we care for one, we are care for the other.

When women objectify their bodies, manipulate, control, abuse and defy their physical needs, they lose touch with their spirit, their guide, their life force in a way that can be profound. They use their minds to support this endeavor and in the process, taking it away from more important, valuable and creative pursuits.

I was reminded of this today when Crystal led me on a guided imagery meditation. Over the last week I have been so focused on what my body was, and wasn’t doing, on the new food regimen and making sure I was doing all of the right things, including keeping my food journal and taking the right supplements at the right time, that I did not give enough attention to my spiritual/emotional needs. I did not address the issues that were arising. Through the guided imagery I was able to call back my spirit and to find balance once again, which will only enhance the process of healing.

A healing and wellness regimen, to be effective, takes into consideration all aspects of who we are, and listens to the voice of each. Each has unique wounds to heal. Each has unique wisdom to offer in the support of the other.

STATUS

Body: As I mentioned yesterday, I was reeeaally wound up, mentally and physically, while at times feeling extremely weak and anxious. Crystal suggested that this was likely something to do with my body cranking up to start working right again. (I’m hoping she will join me here to give the more educated version of these things, but in the meantime….) She told me to add an apple with almond butter for my afternoon snack (Yippeee!!!) and humus, nut crackers and dark chocolate for my before bed snack. The former I had in the house and savored every little bite of it and within twenty felt considerably better. I did the same for my night-time snack. The thought of eating chocolate also scared me to death. I was afraid if a bite in my mouth I might eat the entire bar.

Mind: Clarity. Haze lifting. Wow! I can think again.

Spirit: I am learning to feel safe again…slowly. Striving to see my fears as the illusions they are, to nurture, care for and embrace the sad and lonely child within me, and to tend and care for the hurting, broken woman who would rather curl up and die than hurt another minute.

Day #1 – I’m a Coward

Day #2 – The Morning after the Night Before

Day #3 – There are No Words

Day #4 – Coming Full Circle

Day #5 & #6 – Hyped Up and Nowhere to Go

Self-Actualization….Really??

Self-Actualization….Really??

CherI was up later than usual last night. It was one of those sleepless nights. I don’t usually watch TV when I can’t sleep, but I had it on in the background for company while I worked on my laptop, and David Letterman came on. My curiosity peaked when he announced that Cher would be joining him, so I kept it on.

I have no idea whether or not the show was current or a re-run, as I rarely watch Letterman, but it was at the very least “recent”.  Cher, born in 1946, is 67. Cher, according to the blurb on Wikipedia is an “American singer and actress. Recognized for having brought the sense of female autonomy and self-actualization into the entertainment industry (the italics are mine).

Her entrance: Sitting high above the stage in a swing, wearing short shorts and fishnet stockings, properly posed with legs crossed, Cher was lowered to the stage with some sort of fanfare in the background. Letterman walked over to greet her and ushered her regally to a waiting chair. Her hair perfectly coiffed, her face frozen in place with something of a smile etched into it, she had not one visible wrinkle, blemish or expression mark.

I watched the interview for the next 20 minutes in utter shock, disbelief and profound sadness. Perhaps, not really shock, or even stepfordvdisbelief,  as there’s far too much of this going on in Hollywood to be surprised, but definitely sadness and very real disappointment. Cher is an icon for women of our generation. She has power and presence and incredible power at her fingertips. What is she doing with it? “Autonomy and self-actualization” are not words I would even put as close as down the street with Cher.

To my way of thinking, self-actualization is “real”; it’s truth, honesty, transparency, integration, transformation, evolution of body mind and spirit from a life time of living. Cher, self actualize? Not on your life. I don’t want to hear about show business or even business as being the reason, or the explanation behind the choices she made to show up on national television in some kind of senior citizen rendition of the Stepford Wives. Ironically, her new album is title “Closer to the Truth”. From where I’m sitting she couldn’t be further from the truth, as I see it.

We all evolve at our own rate and in our own way. As women in the 21st Century we each struggle with our relationship with our culture’s obsession with youth and it’s utter refusal to value, or even acknowledge, an aging population. And yet, every day I see women fighting and winning the battle; making inroads and broadening perspectives. Many are in the public eye and are wearing the battle publicly. I think of Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Tina Turner, Judi Dench, Betty White, Angela Lansbury, Valerie Harper; or Hillary Clinton, Maya Angelou, Condolezza Rice; or Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Martha Beck, Byron Katie, Caroline Myss, Louise Hay, who are not so much in the public eye but having their impact.

We have a choice, each of us. We can choose to participate in self-actualization as I understand it, or we can choose a Stepford Wive’s version of aging.

Keeping Up Appearances

Be Who You Were Born to Be

Be Who You Were Born to Be

As we get older life takes on new texture and color. Sometimes it’s dark and disturbing. At other times it’s richer than we ever imagined. Our focus sharpens. Things that once were paramount in importance suddenly seem silly and frivolous. Other things, that we previously put on the back burner, take on a new sense of urgency.  Making the shift into this new “mindset” is not always smooth. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself slipping back and forth between the two. Old habits of thought don’t go away quietly!

Social obligations are just this type of problem area for me. I enjoy people. Each and every one of my friends and family add a richness to my life that would not be possible without them. They give me love, spark my creativity, make me laugh, allow me to feel less lonely in my craziness. But, I am by nature an introvert and a loner. I enjoy solitude even as at times I fear loneliness. Over the years I did not allow myself sufficient time to live in my own world, think my own thoughts, explore my own imagination.  I forced myself to “act” in a more culturally acceptable manner and I hounded myself for not being better at it. Consequently, the mean girl in my head beat me up regularly.

At midlife a major shift occurred and for the first time in my life I began to embrace who I was and let go of all of the external expectations that I had allowed to guide my life. At first it was a great relief. It was exciting, even thrilling to suddenly give myself permission to be me. As time went on, however, old patterns of thought began to rear their ugly head. Social obligations would arise and the old fashioned knot in my stomach did as well.

It is my believe that the universe works very hard to keep us vigilant. There is no time for complacency. A lesson not completely learned warrants a reminder, don’t you think? For me, when old patterns of thought crop up, sooner or later, I know I need to wake up to the fact that I have to practice saying “no” again. I have to exercise my right to be me, more overtly, even if only as a reminder to myself that who I am is important and that the external cultural does not have power over me.

If and when something similar happens in your life, use it as a reminder, a kick in the butt, an opportunity to grow stronger in your conviction to be you.

Here’s to being exactly who we were born to be! No more, no less!

More on this topic:

Getting It Together After Fifty

Are You Still Pretending to Be a Younger Version of Yourself?

Perfectionism & Aging