Touchy Feely

I was once referred to as “thin-skinned”. And ironically (or perhaps not), this statement threw me off-guard as I found myself asking, “Really? Am I thin-skinned?” I have always considered the opposite to be true.

Curious of the actual definition, I looked it up and read that “thin skinned” is an adjective used to describe someone as “easily offended by criticism and rebuffs”. For good measure, I looked up “thick-skinned”, which was defined as “not easily hurt by insult; callous, unfeeling, hardhearted; and largely unaffected by others.”

After reading these definitions, I concluded that most of us fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, striking a healthy balance of sensitivity while also having the ability to let things go. And while some of us may veer toward one end of the spectrum or the other, most of us would say that we are not entirely thin- or thick-skinned. And personally, I think that is good. Who wants to be considered callous, unfeeling, and insensitive? Conversely, who wants to take everything personally? No one. Most of us would like to be sensitive and empathic enough to be emotionally available to those that we care about, even if that means we are vulnerable at times. Similarly, most of us would also like to have a strong enough sense of self to know which comments or actions to take to heart, and those that we should not internalize.

Yet, while most of us would agree with this optimal balance of sensitivity and emotional resilience, we often forget this as we interact with other people. Why are we told to toughen up when something has gotten us down? Why do we pretend that something has not hurt us if it really has? Why do some of us act as if we cannot be touched by the words and deeds of others? Conversely, why do some of us seem to take everything personally? Why do some of us tend to invalidate our own feelings, or feel victimized by every slight?

Of course, the answers to these questions depend on personal differences. We all experience life differently and therefore have different interpretations of our interactions with other people. What we all seem to have in common though, is that we are all sensitive beings. We are all capable of being hurt, whether we admit it or not, and we all care about the feelings and experiences of others.

Today, I encourage you to examine your feelings, particularly those that relate to the people surrounding you. I hope that you are able to have the softness of heart to be emotionally available, and the strength and the courage it takes to be vulnerable. Too, I hope that you are self-assured and secure enough to be true to yourself, and to know when to take things personally while also being conscious of what you internalize. Know that it is okay to feel what you are feeling, and that it is equally important to be mindful of how you express and act upon your emotions. Remind yourself that you are human, as are your loved ones, and that we are all worthy of love, acceptance, consideration and grace.

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Hurt People Hurt People

If you have ever been a part of a relationship, I am willing to bet that you have also found yourself amidst an internal struggle that is, at least in part, due to something that has happened within that relationship. Something that was confusing, hurtful, or upsetting. Something that was difficult to let go of, move on from, or understand. As such, I am willing to bet that whatever it was that had caused you discomfort has also had a lasting impact on you in some meaningful way. Perhaps it has influenced how you approach people. Perhaps it taught you a valuable lesson. Perhaps it shaped you in some other meaningful way, for better or for worse. Rarely do we make it through such things without an impact being made.

Because of this, it comes as no surprise that such lesson can be quite difficult to learn. That we may be rendered incapable of embracing a lesson until we are capable of approaching the situation from an entirely different perspective. A perspective that does not focus on the hurt and is instead driven by a compassionate empathy for all that are involved. A perspective that allows us to let go of what may otherwise hard to set free.

When you take a moment to think about the implications of approaching painful circumstance in such a loving way, it is no wonder that many of us undergo a transformation of sorts as we move forward. It is no wonder that we also begin to soften, forgive, and let go of that which has hurt us in the past. I say that this is no wonder, because I believe that when we are able to approach another human being from a point of compassion, we begin to see life through their eyes, instead of through our own, and in doing so, we often gain a better understanding of their true intentions and greater insight into their deeper experiences. Rather than being convinced that we have been hurt by their selfishness or deceit, we may see instead that they were driven by another force entirely. Or, rather than looking down upon them with disappointment, judgment, or condemnation, we may soften our gaze and realize that they are coming from a place that we otherwise may not understand.

And of course, as I say this, please understand that I do not mean to minimize any pain that has been experienced, nor excuse any wounds that have been inflicted. I only mean to say that it does seem to feel better, and therefore take us farther, when we are able to invest in love and compassion and allow our pain to be transformed, rather than submerge ourselves in negative and destructive emotions.

So today, if you find yourself revisiting a painful relationship, I challenge you to consider the alternative perspective. Attempt to understand what may otherwise be unfathomable. Reject the victim mentality and let go of blame. Instead, hold fast to your optimism in humankind and have faith in what you believe to be good.

Lent 2016

As many of you probably know, this year’s Lent season begins today.  Traditionally, many of us honor Lent by making a sacrifice of some sort, abstaining from something, fasting, or removing something that we will miss during the 46 days leading up to Easter.  Ideally, the commitments that we make as we honor Lent are made with self-improvement in mind, as we look within ourselves and discover what we may do to better ourselves and our lives as a whole, which, quite often, includes eliminating something from our lives, temporarily or, sometimes, permanently.

And because the intention behind this releasing of obstacles is to better one’s self, I fully support it, no matter one’s spiritual background, denomination, belief system.  Yet, I recognize that we do not all approach this season in the same way, so I enjoy reading up on it.  And as I did so this year, I came across,  yet again, the idea of using the season of Lent as a time to release something old so that one might create or embrace something new in their lives.  And I love this idea.  I love the idea of setting the intention to give up something that no longer serves us, so that we may embrace something that does.  This idea is called a Positive Lent, which refers to making the commitment to add something into one’s life in a positive manner, rather than emphasizing the idea of foregoing something else.

In my reading, I came across an article by Reverend James Martin, who suggested that those who acknowledge the Lenten season approach the season differently this year and instead do something positive for themselves, or the universe as a whole.  Specifically, followers of this thought are encouraged to practice a “positive” Lent  rather than a “negative” one that emphasizes sacrifice and abstinence, by taking the time to do something good, or as he writes, to “bother to love”. Instead of giving up behaviors or habits that you are trying to kick anyway, why not focus on doing something positive for yourself, or more importantly, for others.

Reverend James quotes Jesus in the Gospel, saying “It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice.” So whether you are Christian or not, why not take these words of Jesus literally and bother to share the love that has filled your heart.  Show compassion and mercy to those you encounter.  Pay attention to your loved ones, and bestow loving-kindness upon them. And do the same for yourself by embracing your own goodness, and allow others to do the same for you.

…With this said, perhaps you are not ready to replace your current Lenton season with another approach, or perhaps you do not celebrate this season at all.  And if so, that is okay.  Yet, nonetheless, give this idea some thought during other times of the year, and reflect on how you might benefit from letting things go, so that you may let other things come, which, really, is the heart of this lesson.

So, if you feel moved to do so, take the opportunity that is this Lenten season, and invest your energies in doing something positive.  Be kind.  Do good.  Bother to show your love.  To yourself, and all beings.

Be Bold

“Sin boldly,” wrote Martin Luther, the German priest and theologian that is the namesake of the Lutheran denomination.

How confusing this quote seems at first glance. How confusing it is that a priest, a man of God, would instruct Christians to sin and to do so with abandon. Yet, when this quote is brought back into the context from which it was taken, it makes a bit more sense. After announcing that Christians should sin, and that they should sin boldly, Luther then instructs them to have an even bolder faith in Christ, rejoicing that these sinners shall be saved.

Being the non-traditional spiritual being that I am, however, my interpretation of this quote is a bit different. Instead of only believing that I should sin boldly, that I should have blind faith, I believe that I should live my whole life boldly. That I should live the life that brings me peace, fulfillment, and happiness.

And I think that you, my daring birds, should live boldly too.

…Take just a moment and reflect on what that means to you. When you think of living a bold life, what do you think of? Do you think of living a life that is free of fear, doubt, and apprehension? A life that is full of adventure, that is action-packed? Do you think of living life only for yourself, without any regard for others? Perhaps you think of living life as an outsider, as a rebel, a rogue. A bold sinner, even, in the words of Martin Luther.

Or perhaps living boldly means none of these things to you. Perhaps, when you think of living a bold life, you do not think of danger, adrenaline, and rebellion. Perhaps instead, you think of doing what you love, making time for play and self-care, and prioritizing your loved ones. Perhaps you think of having sound values, beliefs, and conviction. Of standing up for yourself, for others, and for what you believe in. Maybe living boldly to you means living with integrity, capability, perseverance, and grit. Of speaking your mind, expressing your feelings, and saying exactly what you mean, and meaning exactly what you say. Perhaps it means fostering meaningful relationships, with yourself and with others. It could even involve refraining from judgment, pessimism, and encouraging compassion, forgiveness, and lovingkindness. A life that keeps your heart and your mind open to new ideas, growth, awareness, and insight. Of realizing your goals, and chasing your dreams. Perhaps a bold life is one that is liberated, courageous, and genuine. A life that allows you to be free to be exactly who you want to be.

I encourage you to consider what it means to you to live boldly. Reflect on who you are and how you express yourself to the world through word and deed. Think, for a moment, about how true you are to yourself. Ask yourself what it would take for someone to water you down. How easily you can be reined in. How boldly you live your life. Perhaps, a bold life means that you are in agreement with Martin Luther, and you fully intend to sin boldly and have bold trust in your faith. Or, perhaps it means that you intend to live boldly, trusting in yourself that the life you are living is the life that is for you.

No matter what this bold and brazen life looks like to you, however, I ask you to indulge yourself. Go ahead and life the life of your dreams, and do so with courage and valor of heart. Do not apologize or excuse the person you are or who you are not. Instead, revel in your uniquebeauty and enjoy exactly who you are at this moment, in this lifetime.

Live boldly in this lifetime, for any other option is not truly living. Spread your wings as you embrace yourself. Chase your dreams, be true to yourself, and feel yourself come alive.

Laugh and the World Laughs With You

Most of us are well-acquainted with the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And of course, this is an excellent rule to follow, as it offers us sound advice as we navigate our way through life. But how many of us are familiar with Rule Number Six? If you are not yet familiar with this rule, consider the following story:

“Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing the affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts through the door in a fury, shouting and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister quietly looks up says to the young man, “Peter, kindly remember Rule Number Six.” Instantly, Peter regains his composure, restores to complete calm, apologizes for the interruption, and leaves the room.

The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again by a hysterical woman, sobbing uncontrollably and gesturing wildly. Again the host prime minister quietly says, “Marie, please remember Rule Number Six.” Much like the gentleman before her, Marie calms down, apologizes, and exits the room.

When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister says, “My good friend, I have seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Pray tell, what is this Rule Number Six?” “Very simple,” the host prime minister replies. “Rule Number Six is ‘Don’t take yourself so damned seriously.’” After pondering this rule for just a moment, the visiting prime minister asks, “And what are the other rules?”

The host’s reply? “There aren’t any.”

As most of you well know, life can be pretty heavy sometimes. Our families and friends, our work, even our own well-being require constant and attention and care. And not only do these aspects of our lives require us to tend to them, but we also need to take them seriously in order to do so. Most simply said, sometimes life is no laughing matter. And yet while it is important to take our lives seriously, it can also be to our detriment to take things too seriously, all the time. Doing so can lead to burdens or problems that may not otherwise exists, a skewed or negative outlook, and undue stress and anxiety.

Because of this, it can be to our advantage to know when to lighten up bit. Whether that means making time for play, enjoying your loved ones, or finding the humor in life, enjoying the lighter side of life encourages us to make the most of we have. It can even help us put life into a healthier perspective as we focus on what is most important, letting go of what is not, and leaving time and energy for the things that matter most, such as our loved ones and our interests and passions.

Today, I encourage you to embrace the lighter side of life. Keep in perspective your responsibilities, your stressors, and the bumps in the road. Remember all that you have to enjoy in life. And maintain your sense of humor, as it is a strength beyond measure to laugh with others and appreciate what there is to love about your surroundings.

Fear vs Love

Several years ago, in my yoga study, I was given the assignment to journal and reflect on the connection between love and fear. Our homework began with the task of taking note of the what we are afraid of as well as the things that we love.visit it

We were reminded that our feelings of fear and love come in many forms: our fear may be experienced as fright, anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity, while love may be expressed as demonstrations of emotional investment, passion, fondness, or true love itself. After mindfully noting such emotions, we were instructed to analyze our feelings to decipher what exactly our attachment is, with the intention of detaching just a bit, and thus gaining a new perspective on life or a deeper understanding ourselves.

This assignment is based on the theory that fear and love are the only basic emotions that we feel, and everything else stems from them: greed stems from a fear of lacking, anger from a fear of perceived threat, humor stems from a love of the lighthearted, joy stems from a fulfilled love of some sort, and so on. And while you may online casino or may not agree with this theorizing, my homework showed me that there is a definite connection between love and fear. That every single day we experience some kind of love. Likewise, each and every day we encounter something that we fear.

…If you take a moment to think about what that means for you personally, you will likely discover that there is a connection for you as well. And as you see fear as an attachment to something you love, you may also find that fear itself is not be so scary after all. Of course, there are plenty frightening things that may or may exist, that may or may not happen to us in our lives, but fear itself is nothing more than a feeling. It is just one of many emotions that we may feel at any given time. It is natural, it is okay, and it is useful. Fear is always looking out for our best interest. It demands our attention, warning us of potential threats, and it guides us toward safety and security.

However, because fear is just an emotion, and it is just like the rest of them, it is up to us to be aware of our feelings, prioritize them, and act on those that best serve our higher purpose, even in the face of fear so that we do not become its prisoner. So when we feel frightened, what might we do? It seems to me that before we do anything, we should slow down and acknowledge our fear. Really examine it. Take note of it has to say, and ask ourselves if that is worth listening to or if we are better off ignorning it. And then, we can make one of two choices. We can choose to do what fear tells us to do, at the risk of doing nothing.asia Lambda sensor

Or, we can remember the words of Franklin Roosevelt, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” and call upon our courage and act anyway.

Pause

Consider this passage from the book, “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach.

“In the 1950s a few highly trained pilots in the U.S Air Force were given the task of flying at altitudes higher than ever attempted. Going beyond the earth’s denser atmosphere, they found, much to their horror, that the ordinary laws of aerodynamics no longer existed…a plane could skid into a flat spin…and tumble end over end towards the earth.

“The first pilots to face this challenge responded by frantically trying to stabilize their planes… The more furiously they manipulated the controls, the wilder the ride became. Screaming helplessly to the ground control, “What do I do next?” they would plunge to their deaths.

“This tragic drama occurred several times until one of the pilots inadvertently struck upon a solution. When his plane began tumbling, he was thrown violently around the cockpit and knocked out. Unconscious, he plummeted toward earth. Seven miles later, the plane reentered the planet’s denser atmosphere, where standard navigation strategies could be implemented. He came to, steadied the craft and landed safely. He had discovered the only lifesaving response that was possible in this desperate situation: Don’t do anything… Take your hands off the controls…It counters all training and even basic survival instincts,…but it works.”

We have all been there, in one way or another. We have all faced a situation in life that has literally thrown us for a loop, brought us to our knees, or knocked the very wind from our sails. We have all experienced some situation in life that we simply have not known what to do.

When we are faced with such circumstances, it is quite natural to do everything we can to control the situation. But imagine for a second what it would be like to deliberately take our hands off the controls. To interrupt our normal patterns of thinking, feeling, and doing, and instead take a moment to pause and observe what is going in our surroundings and inside of ourselves.

And while taking our hands off the controls certainly does not solve all of our problems, it does suspend time just long enough to gaze inward instead of outward, and re-evaluate where we are, who we are, and what is happening in the deepest, most intimate parts of our hearts and souls.

When we take a moment to pause, we may not know what will happen next, but we open ourselves to subtle messages, new possibilities, and potential clarity. We develop the capacity to stop running, hiding, controlling, and camouflaging, and instead accept our immediate inner experiences.

Ultimately, we open ourselves to who, what, and where we really are…at that moment.

Now and then, considering giving yourself permission to take your hands off the controls. Find the power of the pause, and observe what is going on inside of yourself. Accept the experience that you discover, and learn, most of all, something from it.

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{YAM} Heart-Openers and Back-Bending:

These poses, hence their name, involve the opening and blossoming of the heart. Which inevitably exposes the most intimate and vulnerable parts of our internal and external self.

And not surprsingly, this can feel scary, uncomfortable.  Yet, it can also feel beautifully and incredibly naked and raw, as these poses gently encourage us to peel away our protective layers and let the magic of our hearts shine.  They force us to drop our head and mind back into the unknown behind us, expose our neck and throat, drive our chest forward, and allow our heart, soul, and intuitive gut lead the way and journey blindly into the unknown before us.

Yet, as scary as this may be, we need not move in the direction of fear, or we will forever be stagnant.

Instead, move in the direction of your heart. Let it open. Expose yourself. Be authentic, raw, and naked. Liberate yourself. Dance with life. Open up to the cosmos.

You Will See It When You Believe It

 

A belief, as defined by the dictionary, is the psychological state in which an individual holds a premise to be true. 98-367

To have beliefs, or a belief system, is very human. Our beliefs, in part, help us conceptualize the world, and make sense of our experiences. Beliefs may be based on evidence, personal values, and convictions. They may stem from socialization, or they may be deeply personal. A belief may be quite accurate as defined by reality, or it may be entirely untrue when measured by the same standard. Beliefs stem from personal convictions, thought processes, and feelings, and they vary greatly from person to person. Beliefs are not right or wrong, valid or invalid. They are beliefs. And they are deeply personal, and very valid and true to the person that deems them to be so.

Take a moment, if you could, and reflect on your beliefs. Do you tend to form your beliefs based on factual information, or are your beliefs more difficult to prove as “true”? Do your beliefs stem for your background, upbringing, peers and society, or do you hold them contrary to popular belief? Do your beliefs incorporate religion? Spirituality? Moral values?  Human nature?  Are they based on your perceptions, judgments, schemas, or experiences? How are your beliefs representative of your thoughts and feelings?

Think now, for just a moment, about how your beliefs serve you. How much do you rely on your beliefs to guide you through this world? How flexible or rigid is your belief system? Do you compare them to those of others, or label beliefs as right or wrong, better or worse? How well do you know and understand your beliefs? How much consideration do you give to the beliefs of others?

And finally, I would like you to consider what you believe to be true about yourself.

As you do this, perhaps you will become aware that your beliefs about yourself are secure, reassuring, positive and empowering. That you are able to accomplish anything you choose to do. That even while you have both strengths and limitations, you are a uniquely beautiful and  gifted individual. You have worth. You are valuable. I hope that as you reflect on your beliefs about yourself, you feel self-love, self-awareness, and self-efficacy.

But what if you do not? What if, when you reflect on your beliefs about who you are, you realize that your beliefs are quite limiting? What if you believe that you are a lost cause? That you are not good enough. What if you believe that you cannot make a difference in this world, that you are dispensable? What if you believe that you are faulted, or at fault, when things go wrong? What if you believe that love is conditional, that you must fit a mold in order to be loved, accepted, cherished?

What happens then, if you realize that you are harmed by your very belief systems?

If you come to the realization today that you are the victim of limiting beliefs, I will tell you that you are in luck. You are luck, because you have the power to change those beliefs. You are in luck because the first step to changing your core beliefs is to identify them. You are in luck because you have made a self-discovery, you now have greater self-awareness, and you are now closer to making positive changes in your life. If you have identified a belief that is not working for you, you are able to change it. You are able to combat the negative self-talk, and replace it with positive dialogue. And as you practice doing this, you will be able to shift your perspective, changing how you look at the world, and slowly but surely, changing your beliefs about yourself. And once you are able to do this, you will instantly change your reality.

Today, my cherished birds, take a moment to examine your beliefs yourself and the world in which you live. I hope you notice that these beliefs are positive and empowering. But if any part of them is not, remind yourself that they do not have to stay this way. Remind yourself today that while your beliefs do define your reality, you may change them. You may do anything you so choose to do, whether you believe it or not. You may change your reality by changing your beliefs.

Spread your wings just a bit wider today, my birds, and challenge your beliefs. Sing songs of praise to yourself and cherish your beautiful individuality. Revel in who you are, and believe that you do indeed hold the key to the life of your dreams. Believe that you may fly, spread your wings, and soar.  But only if you believe that you can.

The Silver Lining

2015 was a tough year for many.   We each in our own way have struggled with adversity.  We have experienced pain, suffering, and hardship in one way or another.

We have been put to the test, we have questioned our beliefs, and have challenged our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.  We have questioned our identities, struggled to remain well, and persevered in any way that we could.  Our hearts have ached, and our heads have searched for answers that may not exist.  We have adapted to change, overcome adversity, and done everything in our power to remain positive.  In many ways, we have felt that life has fallen apart all around us.  And in many ways, it may seem that it has.

But you know what? Whether or not we have been through tough times such as those described above, our lives have not fallen apart completely.  We still have so much for which to be grateful, so much to hold on to, to love, and to live for.  We have our friends, our families, our passions.  We have a purpose, our health, our spirituality.  We have sources of strength.  Sources of joy.  Sources of hope.  We have our lives to live.  And it is my opinion that we have the responsibility, as well as the opportunity and the pleasure, to live our lives as fully as we are able.

As tempted as we may be to reflect back on the struggles that we have been through, I believe that it is even more important to consider how things will fall back together, even after they have fallen apart.  There may have been times when we ourselves have crumbled, and yet even when that happens, it seems that things always have a way of coming together again.  Sometimes we may watch the pieces fall together right before our eyes.  Sometimes it may take us time to realize what has happened.  And other times, we must take control and put the pieces back together again.  But no matter how it happens, it seems that most things in life usually do fit back together again somehow.   They may not look or feel the same as they did “before”, and that might be painful or it may be a pleasant surprise.  Yet whatever this new picture looks like, it is up to us to find new meaning in it.

It is up to us to influence or change what we can, have the serenity to accept what we cannot, and to make the most of the gifts that have been bestowed upon us regardless of the situation at hand.  It is up to us to keep searching for the light, even in the face of total darkness, and have faith that “this too shall pass” and brighter day will come if it hasn’t already.