Recently I had the privilege of leading a grief group for a local church. Those in the group experienced all types of losses – some of which they have continued to carry with them for years. Suffering can be the most powerful energy force in the Universe if – and only if – we use it as an instrument for change and process our loss fully.
When we experience any type of loss we question ‘Why me?” Maybe the real question is “Why not me?” Loss comes in so many forms – death, divorce, career and location change, empty nest, medical conditions that alter lifestyle – the list goes on and on – it is something that everyone of us will deal with in our lives. It is an equal opportunity employer. Yet we often remain woefully unprepared to handle the roller coaster of our emotions. We are guided on how to live by family, friends, school and church but rarely helped in learning how to handle loss. What is normal? Will I survive? Will this pain in my heart ever leave?
The average length of time that society gives us to grieve is two to three months and then we are expected to move on. Seriously! We know from research that the deeper our love the deeper our grief. For some it takes years to heal. Yes, we can heal but we will never quite be the same. Loss takes a piece of our heart in it’s wake.
When we try to ‘keep a stiff upper lip’ and move on without fully processing our loss it is like eating bad food…anything else that you eat after just doesn’t set quite right. If you find yourself stuck in grief try to find someone out there that you can talk with…the emphasis is on you talking and them listening.
A poem by Leslie Delp published in New Freedom, Pennsylvania basically says it all…
I Need to be Heard
I need to be heard…
Please don’t tell me how YOU feel!
I need to be heard…
Please don’t try to comfort me by telling me, “You’ll be better in time.”
I need to be heard…
Please don’t try to pacify me by trying to ‘top it’ with a hurt of your own.
I need to be heard…
Please don’t look away when I mention that precious name!
I need to be heard…
Can’t there be anger among sadness and misery?
I need to be heard…
Meet me where I am and LISTEN to me…
Until I don’t need to be heard anymore.
‘Just Behind the Door’ is a book I wrote on loss that has offered hundreds of folks hope amidst their sadness. It may be of help in working through grief and is available through Amazon. Another book, Grieving Mindfully by Sameet Kumar helps us breath deeply and mindfully at the times when you need it most.
Have a great few days!
The importance of maintaining balance in our thinking cannot be overstated especially when it comes to love. The saying that love is blind is real. Differences are viewed as exciting, clever even precious. Over time, however, we may start to see those differences in a more critical light and get to a place of judgment and assumption and find ourselves feeling a bit off or emotionally unsure at times…all from the result of our overactive minds. Take a moment and think about the last time you jumped to conclusions about your loved one only to find out later you were 100 percent wrong. You allowed yourself to become both judge and jury and decided their behavior was, at best, uncaring. When you found out ‘the other half of the story’ and realized your assumption was in error it was embarrassing right? Yet, we all do it until we decide in our hearts that the love we share is bigger and more important than any petty grievance and way too important to be questioned even for a moment.
Fear is the culprit behind the lack of balance in our thinking. When you find yourself perseverating about something it comes purely from fear. Ask yourself what evidence you have to fear…most often than not there really is none. Yet, we can often imagine a million and one ‘what if’s’ while we let our minds run wild. Fear can be a wedge in even the strongest relationship.
Time to regroup. Time to stop judging and start appreciating, honoring and loving yourself and the special person in your life without fear. Are they different from you? Absolutely! Is that a good thing? You bet! When you judge you are saying, in essence, that they should be more like you! Really? Their differences make them who they are…the person you fell in love with…and that’s a beautiful thing. Do they always respond in a way that makes you comfortable or happy? Probably not. But truth be told they could probably say the same thing about you. I know that may be hard to believe but trust me on this – it’s true. We all have our idiosyncrasies.
When you truly love someone, unconditionally, there is no room for judgment or assumption. You see past their humanness. Your love embraces their whole being including any ‘shortcomings’ that you may attribute to them. In fact, the thought of shortcomings, in itself, means a judgment has taken place. You didn’t fall in love because you wanted a mirror image of yourself right – well hopefully not! Individual differences can add texture, color and depth to a relationship.
No one likes to be judged. It taps into a primal fear of insecurity and can close up our hearts as a form of protection. When we remember that we are all a loving being of the Universe that grows and blossoms from love the answer is quite clear. Slow down your thinking, trust and believe in the relationship and watch in amazement as it deepens even more over time.
Have a great few days!
In this busy, busy world we often try to do more, faster and better and can get to a point of physical, mental or emotional exhaustion. We know there is more to life and long for something that will bring greater peace and enjoyment. I have often talked about the practice of Mindfulness in which slowing down, even momentarily and taking a few deep breaths and exhaling slowly to regain a sense of greater calm really works. It may sound deceptively simple but it truly works.
Could it be that since we are inundated with a million and one self help books that we don’t have time to read that we just give up and continue to accept that life will never be any different than it is today? Well, let me make it easier for you.
In addition to the practice of Mindfulness how about adding one simple idea. A word… not a goal, affirmation, lengthy intention but simply just one word that is something you desire more of in your life? Words such as balance, trust, love, acceptance, gratitude, health, excitement, generosity and opportunity (the list goes on and on) are but a few words that can make a big difference to your overall well being. The easy thing about this is that you don’t even have to perseverate on which word you want to choose. Simply put the idea in your brain about selecting a word and let it just roll around in your thoughts for a few days. The absolute perfect word just for you will pop into your conscious thought and you will say….yes, that’s it! That’s what I want more of in my life. Once you decide on a word and you take that momentary deep breath to relax or calm down a bit let your special word come into your awareness. When you are driving, cooking, or working and you mind momentarily wanders think of your word. Keep that special word with you for 6 months even a year and just let it remind you and the Universe of what you most desire.
You may be thinking that it sounds to easy to be true. Well it does…but it isn’t! Until you try it you won’t know how powerful this approach can be. Try it for a week or two and just experience the difference. You will find that among all the noise and distractions of life the word you have chosen will bring you back to your true north.
Greater peace and contentment in life is actually not as hard to obtain as we may think. In our fast-paced world of today we need simplicity not complexity when we are trying to improve our lives and focus and calm our minds. Give yourself the gift of simplicity by breathing deeply and thinking of your special word. This approach is a gift you are giving yourself that will simply and easily keep on giving back to you effortlessly.
Try it – you’ll be so glad you did!
Have a great few days!
When you woke up this morning what is the first thing you thought about? Let me guess, were your thoughts racing as you reviewed all the things you wanted to accomplish? You may have even noticed that before you could even engage in one thought another one popped into your mind and interrupted the flow of the first one! Many people are so busy thinking, thinking, thinking and trying to see how much they can get done or checked off their list that they forget to feel and appreciate the simplest of moments and the beauty of the journey.
Think about it another way – this is July 9th, 2016 and there will never be another July 9th 2016 in your entire lifetime. Once it’s gone it’s gone. When you think about it that way it makes this moment, this day even more significant. When you go to sleep tonight will you reflect on the positive things that happened today or will you start perseverating on the million and one things facing you tomorrow and start building up stress in your muscles? If so, you may even need something to help you get to sleep as quickly as possible so that you can jump up and start all over again tomorrow. Is that really what life is all about? Is that how you truly want to live?
How would you choose to be remembered – as a person who couldn’t slow down or a person who brought their whole self to the experience? The first example is of a person who radiates stress and accommodates rather than appreciates others and believe me people know it. The second is a person who brings a calm, positive, productive energy to what they are doing. We want to be around them because we feel more valued in their presence.
The amazing thing is that we get just as much done when we take a deep breathe and ease into the day. In fact, our days go even smoother. We don’t misplace our keys, spill our coffee or run late to our first appointment because we have taught ourselves to breathe deeply, focus on one thing at a time and move in a more deliberate fashion. Each task and each moment, regardless of how mundane, offers a deeper significance to us. There is an art to becoming fully engaged in living. It is not something we are taught in school or even at home but we can learn it over time and it’s so worth the effort.
If you’re catching a plane there’s no time to loose. I get it. But for most things in our daily life it is not that critical if we choose to take two or three more minutes to engage our full attention to what we are doing yet it reaps great rewards to our emotional well being. You may be thinking – yes but this task is so redundant – I’ve done it so often that I can do it with my eyes closed. Maybe true, but do you really want to go through life with your eyes closed? Life can be as stressful as we choose it to be. Does it really, really make a difference if something takes a bit longer to accomplish if you gain a deeper appreciation along the way?
In mindfulness training we are first taught to listen to our bodies. When we are moving or thinking at warp speed it results in stress in some part of our body. Listen to your body it will tell you when you are pushing too hard and forgetting to focus on the moment. It’s kind of amazing that when we don’t recognize our emotions our bodies kick in to help us ‘feel’ the message that is intended.
Just breathe in deeply, hold it for a few seconds and exhale slowly. Try to do this a few times each day as a beginning practice and especially when you are feeling overwhelmed or super stressed. Today is meant to be part of a life journey not a fast trip to your local 7-11 Quick Stop!
Have a great few days!
Dan Millman wrote in his book, ‘Way of the Peaceful Warrior’ the following, “The world was peopled with minds, whirling faster than any wind…addictions – used to distract from a chaotic inner life…the parade of regrets, anxieties, and fantasies…If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want you suffer.” Millman is pointing out that our minds wander and careen instantaneously though thoughts of yesterday – around regrets such as ‘I wish I would have, could have or should have,’ and thoughts of tomorrow often with the accompanying idea that ‘I’ll be happy when…’ – conditional happiness. But true happiness isn’t conditional and when we allow these types of random, chaotic thoughts to occupy the precious space in our brain we miss the moments of today. Moments that will never be repeated. Just look at the time right now and think…you will never get this moment back again. So how are you going to chose to spend the time you have on planet Earth?
When we lose our keys, misplace a bill, or forget an appointment it’s because we were not fully present at some point. Trying to do or think about multiple things simultaneously – ultimately results in less rather than more. No matter how smart we are we are still human and can’t divide our minds into separate screens like you can on a computer monitor and expect positive results …it just doesn’t happen that way. Think quality not quantity here. We can’t multi-task our way though life, trying to get more and more accomplished as we check off the one hundred and one things we did today without losing an essential part of ourselves and our relationships with others. Life becomes simply…what’s next. Often we get to a point where we are physically and mentally exhausted or overwhelmed with life. No wonder…we were so busy doing we forgot to be…
Being happy – truly happy in life requires that we engage in whatever we are doing. If we are talking to someone it means not letting our minds wander but giving them our full attention. Showing we care enough about what they are saying to fully listen is honoring them as human beings. I’ll bet you do that with the special people in your life what about others? When is the last time you really looked into the eyes of a sales clerk at the grocery store as they were checking out your food items. They are coached to say something like, ‘have a nice day’ but how often do we respond in kind or offer a thank you in return? They are human beings just doing their jobs yet are so often dismissed in our attempt to move faster and accomplish more. In the work setting as well as in our personal lives the greatest compliment we can receive is when someone says ‘I always feel valued, that you truly care. You make me feel like I am the most important person in the room.’ Being engaged doesn’t take more time – just focused awareness. Why not bring your total self to the equation?
That’s what the practice of mindfulness is really all about and it is amazingly simple. It doesn’t cost anything and yields great personal benefit. It starts with slowly taking a long deep breath and exhaling slowly thinking only about that breath. As thoughts push into your mind (often at warp speed) just let them pass by and go back to thinking about your breathing. If you try your best to practice this calm breathing technique for even 3 to 5 minutes a day you will experience less anxiety and stress and feel more in control. As challenges pop up you will find yourself taking a deep breath before deciding on your next step. This process is all about responding calmly and deliberately rather than reacting quickly and pays great dividends. With practice you will be amazed at the increased depth of your awareness. Don’t be surprised if others begin to comment …they will notice as you begin to respond with a renewed sense of calm in your demeanor. And just think..it all starts with simply closing your eyes and breathing. It doesn’t get any easier than that right?
Have a great few days!
Again, again and again … the U.S. has experienced a mass shooting – with an AR-15 assault rifle. As we know this is not a rifle for hunting or personal protection but for assault – mass killing – to seek and destroy human life. What are the commonalities of these mass tragedies? Mental and emotional illness, hatred of certain groups of people, availability of these type of weapons…yes, yes and yes. There are many things, unfortunately, we simply can’t fix which must be left up to family, friends or even employers to address. But there are some things we can do – if we have the strength of character and take the time to let our voices be heard.
Did you know that even suspected terrorists on the FBI’s no fly watch list can BUY a gun in the US? Seriously, that’s all kinds of stupid! In fact, according to the Government Accountability Office between 2004-2014 over 2000 people on this list actually bought guns. Legislation has been introduced to stop this practice but many of our legislative members have refused to support it – can anyone say, ‘Bought and paid for by the NRA? If you hear someone say the list is not accurate…it’s because they haven’t done their homework lately – duplicate names existed soon after 9-11 but it has since been check, rechecked and checked again and now includes birthdate, passport info and more. So that argument is a non started.
Speaking of the NRA – another little known fact – only 10% of the 75 million gun owners in the US belong to the NRA yet somehow that organization seems to have a devastating and disproportionate influence in the House and Senate….hmmm…makes you wonder why doesn’t it? The majority – well over 90% of citizens in our country support gun legislation but somehow our representatives – people we elected to represent us – have chosen to ignore our views. Is it time for a new slate in November?
Granted, we can’t fix this complex problem of mass killings in the U.S. with only one or two solutions such as gun registry, or replacing our represeantaives but not to take ANY steps to address it is beyond asinine it’s ludicrous!
Many of my family members and friends are responsible gun owners. They are not hoodwinked into believing conspiracy theories or worried about ‘having their second amendment rights comprised’ they are too smart to drink that kool-aid. The NRA relies on this repetitive (and highly emotional) message to keep its power … and the mass killings continue.
For anyone who is offended by this post today…I simply can’t apologize. As I read the list of names of the 50 individuals who were doing nothing wrong but just trying to enjoy life I shudder. They were cut down in the prime of life leaving their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers to grieve. Their deaths will leave an indelible mark on those who loved them and our country.
Are we going to wait until someone we love is killed in school, at work, a movie theatre or night club before we choose to do something? Must grief knock on our door before we say ENOUGH!
I believe we are better and smarter than this and will choose to use this latest tragedy to finally have our voices heard. We will – we must – bring common sense back to our country. I pledge to speak my mind not to offend but to educate. Those 50 people deserve nothing less and will not have died in vain. They died, in fact, for a purpose higher than themselves.
Did you know our brains are wired toward negatives? When are ancestors were living in caves survival was the only game in town. Food, shelter and protection from outside threats kept them always on high alert – after all to relax could have meant certain death. Today, we all know some people who choose a negative mindset and it’s just plain exhausting to be around! Their default mode seems to be one of seeing their cup as half empty. Often that’s manipulation to get attention. You can’t really change a person who has lived their life choosing the ‘poor me’ syndrome. But, fast forward to 2016 – most of us now realize the tremendous importance of having a more positive mindset on our overall physical and mental health. Yes, we have to work at it at times but there is something we can do almost effortlessly to enhance our positive mindset.
A big one is to listen to our own word choices. Words are energy plain and simple – either negative or positive. When we allow ourselves to think in negatives or absolutes and use only a few choice word to vocalize our feelings it can keep us locked into viewing things negatively. Words such as awful, catastrophe, blowup, fight, or falling apart just to name a few sends an immediate message to our brains. Rather than using these type of words what if we started using words such as challenging, difficult or my favorite ‘an opportunity’ when a difficult situation presents itself. Words either serves to empower us to think of a way to address or improve something or serve to give our minds the message of being overwhelmed.
In goal setting it is said that words trigger emotions on a subconscious level that result in beliefs, attitudes and ultimate behavior. What we think or say really does have a tremendous impact on our lives. Becoming aware of the words we use are the first step to a more positive mind set.
A perfect example is before us. I try to be informed during important events but have chosen to stop listening to any candidate on T.V. whose words just wear me down! The constant barrage of threats, fear and hate in speeches have taken its toll on our population. Hateful words have instigated brawls, riots, name calling and served to instill fear and hopelessness in many. When people feel they are being encouraged to act out or have nothing to lose they often reduce themselves to the lowest common denominator and can become a danger to themselves an others. The more we allow these negatives to infiltrate our minds the more upset, depressed or overwhelmed we become.
In contrast, the uplifting words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” or Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never, never give up!” begins to put in perspective the power of the spoken word – and just think… we can choose right here right now to bring more positive energy into our lives – and it all starts with something as simple as the words we choose to use.
Have a great few days!