Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for July, 2013

The Gift of Chaos

How often do you experience chaos or challenges in your life? Have you ever thought about what purpose these events serve? Seriously, I used the word chaos for a reason. Each challenging, chaotic event allows us the opportunity for growth. It forces us to stretch by thinking about things in new and different ways. It allows us to become more flexible and develop a greater capacity to handle life. As a result we become wiser, more secure and able to see that we are stronger and more capable than we ever thought possible. Actually, viewing chaos in this way allows us to see it as a gift of growth opportunity from the Universe.

Often we look at chaos as something just to get through as quickly as possible or we put up a wall of protection around ourselves and resist thinking about what it could teach us. Resistance is the key here. The more we resist the inevitable changes often brought about through temporary chaos in our life the more discomfort we feel. The more discomfort we feel the more we are thinking about what we don’t want rather than what we do want in our lives. We may even find ourselves demanding that things be different … meaning the same as they have always been. Not only is that unrealistic it is stagnating in our lives.

Remember how important it is to occupy your mind with positives and possibilities? If you are resisting challenging events as they occur in your life you are doing just the opposite. You are occupying your mind with the negatives about what you don’t want in life rather than what you do want in life. Remember, the Universe will deliver to you whatever is foremost in your thinking – every time without fail.

If we visualize our lives through a kaleidoscope we have the power to turn the cylinder ever so slightly when experiencing chaos and accept the situation simply as that – a situation that we can grow and learn from rather than resist or refuse to accept. The saying, ‘you can run but you can’t hide’ is apropos here. We have, after all, each chosen our unique life lessons to learn and they will be presented to us again and again, in one form or another, until we learn them and move beyond the self imposed limitations that we see as security. The question then is how long will it take, how many times do the chaotic events need to surface before we breathe deeply and say to ourselves, ‘Ah, I get it, I have been in this place of discomfort before but this time I will choose to learn from it.’

Viewing chaos as challenging but necessary for personal growth allows us to truly internalize the saying, ‘All is as it should be.’

Remember the Love?

Is it difficult for you to forgive someone for a major or even minor situation that caused you to feel upset? Have you learned to forgive yourself for things that, upon reflection, you wish you would have done differently in your life? Don Miguel Ruiz author of ‘The Circle of Fire’ says, ‘ Before you learned to speak you loved and with no effort you forgave…it was natural to love and forgive…but then you learned to ‘behave’ from other people.’

Could it be that when we are drawn to the absolute innocence of a child we see and feel the unconditional love and remember, even long for, that feeling once again to surface in our own lives? Each of us started out with a clean slate. We loved, trusted and expressed pure joy in merely existing and then life began to happen to us and we internalized the messages of ‘do this, don’t do that or you are too… or not enough … and we began to create a subconscious map of reality that limited or restricted us in some way. In fact, we often become so good at accepting these messages as truth that we begin to create events and messages for ourselves which reinforce those false beliefs. At the time we may not have been able to label it but now we realize that it is fear – fear of not being just so, of not being accepted …of not being loved. As we grow and experience the difficult events in our lives without realizing it those early tapes in our minds become a stronger and stronger control mechanism that can often take the joy out of living.

The challenge is to recognize that not all of those early tapes were accurate and that we must work to correct the misinformation that we have stored in our memories. When we get to a point that we choose to look at our lives and realize that we want more – more peace, happiness and contentment we will begin the process of self correcting those early tapes. The amazing thing about the search is that we discover that what we are searching for has always been there, buried deep in the recesses of our minds, because as infants we were happy, loved and able to forgive quickly and completely. We begin, once again, to experience the feeling, long ago, of pure joy.

The next time we see a young child maybe it can trigger us to realize that the elusive butterfly of happiness that we are seeking is within us just waiting to surface once again. We do know love and forgiveness on a subconscious level and those feelings are just waiting to surface once again, in our lives.

Have a great few days!

Do You Hear What I Hear?

When we ASK others for information or their view on a circumstance then sincerely listen to their response we give and receive power from the exchange of energy. I believe the most valuable thing for a person is to be heard. We all want someone to care enough to inquire about us, show concern and ask clarifying questions about what we are doing in our lives. Yet, many times we find that they are so busy talking about their life that they forget about us! If all of us gain value by being heard it behooves us to model good listening skills ourselves and, at times, take the risk to point out to others if they are not honoring us or themselves by listening. You may be thinking to yourself, I might hurt their feelings if I comment. You may that is true but ultimately you will be helping them much more in the long run.

I am just finishing a book entitled, The End of Your Life Book Club, written by Will Schwalbe. In this memoir he and his mother are consummate readers so during her battle with cancer they formed a book club consisting of just the two of them. During each of her chemo treatments they would discuss the latest book they were reading and offer different perspectives on it. Like everything in life both age and experience can cause two people, regardless of how close they are, to have different perspectives. That is the beauty of the give and take of authentic conversations with others. Listening to what they have to say makes us more not less and gets the wheels going in our minds. We see things in a slightly more enlighten and broader view.

Schwalbe mentions in the epilogue that after his mom’s death he ‘would suddenly be seized with paralyzingly guilt over something (he) neglected to tell her…eventually (he) came to realize that the greatest gift of their book club was that it gave (him) time to ASK her things (and fully listen to her thoughts) not TELL her things.’

Whether we are living or dying the most important thing is to have someone who genuinely cares enough to listen to us. We feel more valued as a person and have the opportunity to hear our own thinking. Often, this can be one of the greatest therapies in the world. We realize that, in the far reaches of our minds, we know the answers to the more troubling things in our life when we experience the simple act of voicing the concern to others and listening to their response. It helps us clarify our next steps and we feel more empowered.

What we give out to the Universe comes back to us double fold. It sort of makes listening right up there on the 10 most important things we can do for ourselves and others. In our fast paced world, developing the skill to be an empathic listener is good for our minds and our souls.

Wouldn’t be wonderful if everyone could become aware of the significance of developing heartfelt listening skills. Maybe you can be the gentle nudge to help others consider ASKING rather than TELLING as we all live out our life lessons.

Have a great few days!

Thresholds of Tolerance

Have you ever thought about your threshold of tolerance? Are you satisfied with it or does it inhibit you as a person? Do you become upset over inconsequential things in life? Think of someone you know who just seems to be able to cope with one life change after another and keeps on going like the Energizer Bunny. What causes these people to have higher thresholds of tolerance? What do they know that we don’t know?

We can easily recognize when a situation develops that causes us to reach a point in which we say to ourselves – this is too much! Once we reach this point we find ways to reduce the negative energy and stress about the circumstance by using our own unique coping mechanisms such as anger, emotional outbursts, withdrawal, depression, excessive drinking, talking, eating, exercising – the list of possible coping behaviors are too numerous to list. The problem is that many times these coping mechanisms simply make our situation worse as they become habitual and the cycle continues.

Our thresholds were created based on the unconscious beliefs we learned early in life. We adopt our own unique coping mechanism due to our family background and experiences. Many times fears, beliefs and limitations are modeled and transferred from generation to generation simply because ‘this is the way it was done’ in our early environment. Often we don’t take the time to evaluate the lack of logic behind them. Sadly, lower thresholds of tolerance can hold us back from growing, doing and becoming all that we would like to be.

When we step back and observe our own behavior we may see areas that we would like to change. It takes conscious effort to make a change. Make no mistake this can be hard work but I would ask you to consider if you are worth the effort. I think you are worth it and more! Knowing that any change, in itself, can cause us discomfort we need to work at it, one step at a time and not give up. If we rush back to our place of ‘safety’ what we feel as safe is frequently little more than another limiting factor in our lives.

The good news is that we can change and expand our threshold of tolerance if we so desire. It takes work to examine our life and accept the fact that in certain areas we are not as …. (fill in the blank) as we would like to be. Once we recognize something about ourselves that we would like to change the challenge to do something about it is simply that – a challenge – that can be met and overcome if we truly want it badly enough.

When we begin to live life more consciously by honestly evaluating our various responses to new or difficult situations we short circuit the automatic response mechanisms developed from our past. We find, at first, that new vistas may not be as comfortable as we would like but as we continue to force ourselves out of our comfort zones we open up new, exciting territories for living. We become more not less.

It takes honesty, courage and desire to heighten our threshold of tolerance but it’s so worth the effort!

Have a great few days!

Choose Your Words Carefully

Thinking about the power and timing of the words we use can improve our lives. Words just like everything else in our world have energy. Taking the time to think through what we want to say BEFORE saying it and being sure the other person is asking for our input and able to fully listen (not stressed or feeling ill) is an important habit to develop. It does take greater mental effort and slows down the speed in which we talk – which – believe it or not – is usually a good thing. It helps us become the type of communicators people choose to listen to because they respect our thoughtful comments.

When we are upset, concerned or not feeling up to snuff ourselves we are usually giving off negative energy at the start. It is especially important at those times to think before we speak. The words we choose to use can cause the receiver to think about what we are saying and discuss things further or cause them to put up an invisible wall of resistance which, over time can become a fortress. If we continue with unsolicited advice or using words that are spoken first and thought about later, sooner or later others just tune us out whenever we begin to speak because they expect a correction or direction and are worn down by it all. They have put up a permanent wall of protection to prevent our words from negatively affecting them. Even worse, they slowly begin to move away from us because we drain them of their energy.

My grandmother used to say, ‘the less said, the sooner mended.’ When I visualize this phrase in my mind I think of a facet dripping – word by word – or conversely the same facet gushing and spraying water everywhere causing a mess which will need to be cleaned up later. Something to think about when we are bothered by something someone has said or done. Is it absolutely necessary to make a comment? Does it really matter? If so, what do we hope to achieve by making it. If we want to clarify or even correct what was said there is a way to do so gently and carefully without adding to the ‘perceived’ negativity of the situation. Remember, the particular words we choose to use in response can add fuel to a fire or calm the waters.

Frequently, the actual words we use or hear and the meaning we attach to them are not even close to the intended message. Slowly and calmly asking the person to explain further so we can better understand the message often results in the speaker even changing the words they used to help explain their viewpoint. This approach enhances communication AND respect.

Since we all appreciate people who give us a pat-on-the-back with positive ideas or comments it is important to evaluate our own word choices and communication skills to see if we are doing the same for others. What we give to others in all forms comes back to us double fold.

Try to make it a habit to listen to the words you use as well as the words used by others. Words are powerful. They can help or hurt a person or situation. Remember, it takes little thought and even less caring to be the resident critic. To me the resident critic is sort of like being in the cheap seats as a communicator. If you really want to help a person or resolve a situation it does take a little more effort to find just the right words at just the right moment to cause a positive change but is so worth it!

Greater Happiness by Expanding Your Comfort Zone

Science talks about open and closed systems. This concept has direct application to the way we behave as individuals. Whether it is a personal growth or personal suffering experience the idea of visualizing an open or closed system has significance.

A closed system is rigid and non-resilient. It has little or no interaction with the environment and does not evolve. An open system, on the other hand, is adaptable, resilient because of the ability and choice to grow and evolve.

As human beings we are a complex open system designed to grow, change and evolve through learning and life experiences. If we stretch and allow ourselves to move out of our comfort zones we are forced to handle new situations and learning occurs. We become more resilient to the ups and downs that characterize our lives. The more we experience life the more resilient we can become.

Resiliency is tantamount to confident living. Knowing you can handle circumstances in life offers a sense of well being. The trick seems to be to allow or even force ourselves to risk experiencing new situations without becoming overwhelmed with the changes. If change, in general, is so overwhelming, maybe taking small steps could be the answer.Just as an athlete trains to run a race, for example, they do so in stages. They don’t simply go out and decide they are going to run a 10k race and achieve their best time on the first go of it. They work up the strength and endurance by pushing their bodies bit by bit until they are able to perform at the level they so desire.

If we think about this analogy, the same is true of our emotional well being. Staying in our own comfort zone may help us feel, temporarily, more at ease or secure but over time our open, complex systems need greater stimulation, more experiences to thrive. There is a major difference between surviving versus thriving. Our emotional well being is predicated on the assumption that as life happens to us, regardless of the difficulty of our experiences, we will pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start once again on our chosen path in life. It is, indeed, a challenge to push our comfort zones but it is invaluable to our overall happiness.

The choice is always up to us. Pushing ourselves to experience the new and different can cause all of us discomfort and a momentary feeling of being unsure. However, after each new experience we are basically moving up the next step on the ladder to greater peace, acceptance and resiliency.

Sure sounds to me like it is worth the try! Have a great few days!

Compliments Magnify Your Energy

A true compliment causes the person receiving it to feel good. That seems like a no-brainer right? How many times have you recently received a compliment that made you stand a little taller or have a smile that was a little bigger on your face? When is the last time that you went to bed thinking about something someone said to you that caused you to feel pretty good about yourself? Heartfelt compliments are not difficult. We just need to put ourselves in someone else’s place, see their happiness with their situation, and make a comment on it. It doesn’t cost any money but reaps tremendous rewards for everyone concerned.

Conversely, we may hear someone say, ‘that’s okay for you but it is too …(fill in the blank) for me. Maybe they are talking about our house, where we live (city or rural) or our taste in clothes, decorating – the possibilities are endless. What may have started out as a feel good statement sort of takes the wind out of our sails right? It seems there are two issues here – one major and one minor. The first being that that kind of statement is not really a compliment but a judgment. That one is the major issue. We all know that judgements directed at us hurt! The second one may be a bit more minor and due to a lack of thought or simply lack of an understanding of the significance of word usage. Basically, regardless of what is said in the first part of the sentence before the word ‘but’ was inserted is really negated by using that word. Why? The word ‘but’ places a condition on everything said before it and erases the original intent. Often people get in a habit of using the word without realizing the effect.

Do we really want to celebrate the joy in what a person is showing us? If so, it requires that we truly listen to our own words and choose them carefully. Each of us can be the ‘resident critic’ that is so easy. It doesn’t take intelligence to constantly compare yourself to others. And it doesn’t take much to look for something in another person’s life that doesn’t fit your comfort zone. However, what is so wonderful about this world is that we are all on our own path, learning our own lessons and learning to celebrate the joy in life. When we accept that we are unique individuals with individual taste the heavy energy of judgment simply falls away.

I find it amazing that we can be such critics on other people’s lives. Why in the world do we feel we have the right to judge another? Maybe when a person sees another person joyful in their life it stirs an uneasy feeling inside of them and they give a half hearted compliment because they really want the joy they see in another person. Being a critic, regardless of exactly how it is said, says a whole lot more about that person’s ‘unhappiness index’ than anything else. But it still hurts doesn’t it? When we truly listen to others (and not just wait for our turn to talk) we can begin to hear value judgments about others flying around at the speed of light. The people making these value laden statements are experiencing their comfort zones getting smaller and smaller as they live out their lives. Sad to think about them in a few years.

Genuine compliments are just that …genuine… from our hearts. We are happy for the other person because we can see that they are happy. Placing conditions on our statements not only hurts others but hurts us as well. We are putting negative energy out into the Universe no matter how clever we think we are at masking it. The Universal Energy gives us more of the same because what we think about most often is like a magnet that draws more of the same back to us.

What if we made a concerted effort to become the wind UNDER the sails of others rather than taking the wind OUT of their sails? By making a concerted effort to compliment others we are changing the Universe one statement, one person at a time. Sometimes developing a more positive mindset takes work but is so worth it. The energy we bring to a circumstance by being positive just magnifies itself in our own life. It’s important to remember that ‘what goes around comes around.’

If you know of someone who might be helped by reading this blog please pass it on. Sometimes we can be a positive catalyst in the life of others when we do it from a place of love.

Have a great few days!

Are You Inclusive or Exclusive?

How comfortable are you with diversity? When we think about the Universal Energy of which we are all apart how can the diversity in others cause us fear or concern? Are we not all on a journey to learn our own unique lessons in life? Are we not all wanting the same thing? I believe each of us is wishing and hoping for others to look favorably upon us regardless of who we are and the struggles we are involved with while living on planet earth. Yet, sometimes we find ourselves viewing the habits of others and we think to ourselves, ‘well that’s rather strange.’ Let’s think again about the last time we felt uncomfortable because someone didn’t fit neatly into our own definition of comfort zone. I’ll bet a situation can immediately come to mind.

There are so many types of diversity: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic, status, age, physical abilities, mental capacity, religious beliefs, political beliefs the list could go on and on. The differences are so great that it is sometimes a real challenge – maybe even impossible – to find others that view life through a similar lens. What if the Universe designed the differences as a test to teach us something about acceptance?

Seems to me that we can look upon differences in one of two ways. The first is with acceptance and a level of respect that causes us to move beyond tolerance to actually embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity within each individual. As we observe their differences we learn from them and become wiser people in the process. Or, the other option is to run back into our own comfort zone and think to ourselves that we alone have the right or proper view of life. When people take this second approach, we can see it in their faces and feel it in their energy. Their facial muscles tighten, their arms are frequently crossed in front of them and their eyes, the window to their soul, say to us, stay away you are not like me and I am not comfortable around you. When you observe people with this mindset something sad happens as they live out their life. Their world becomes smaller and smaller. Frequently they become fearful and angry at the world in general. It is, as if, they have spiraled down to a mere point of simply existing – not fully living – but merely existing. How sad.

What if we all made it a point to expand our comfort zone in some way just for today? It doesn’t have to be a biggie but just something that causes us a slight discomfort. Discomfort can be a good thing. It can indicate an area for potential growth. The opportunity to become a wiser, more accepting human being is in our hands. We simply need to decide if we are big enough, strong enough or wise enough to become more inclusive and less exclusive. Due to free will the choice is always up to us.

Let’s take the challenge and pick up the ball and run with it today and look at another human being that is different from ourselves with acceptance and celebration. Doing so will cause us to smile when we go to bed tonight realizing that we purposely pushed our envelop of comfort and in doing so we have enlarged our lives and made the world a little better place.

Have a great few days!

Defining Normal

How many times have we thought when observing a person or situation, ‘that is not normal.’ Or better yet, how many times have we thought another person is not doing things right or correctly …according to what we judge to be so. The operative word here, of course, is JUDGE. If we are honest with ourselves, most or all of us would say, yes I do that frequently when what I see or hear doesn’t match MY definition of regular or normal. My question to you then is what do you define as normal? Do you think your definition is the only right one possible? Is there any flexibility in your interpretation of the word?

By definition, normal is stated to be ‘conforming to a standard, usual, regular or natural – a common behavior in society.’ However – and this is the biggie here – the definition of normality varies by person, time, place, situation and changes with societal standards and norms. In other words, ‘normal’ is intended to be a FLEXIBLE concept by definition. Yet we seem to define the word using a rigid standard according to what we are comfortable with at the moment. That sort of makes us judge and jury for everyone and everything in life doesn’t it? We place others unwittingly in an untenable situation because they are not meeting our own arbitrary standard of normal. Trust me on this one, they can feel your judgment and negative energy and will react accordingly. That is a rather dangerous or hurtful place to be don’t you think?

I believe defining normal is rather like defining beauty. It is in the eyes of the beholder as long as no one is hurt in the process. Each of us has a right to decide what works best for us without fear of reprisal or condemnation. It is sort of one of those inalienable rights given to us by a power much greater than ourselves.

If we allow ourselves to see the behaviors of others as ‘not normal’ that implies that something in their behavior needs to be corrected. But if we haven’t walked in their shoes and understand what they are coping with, how can we possibly believe that we are so smart, powerful or wise to determine what is normal or right for them? Could it be that what we are observing is simply a temporary or ‘normal’ state in reaction to that person’s circumstances at the moment. Could it be that they need understanding and acceptance and are just waiting to see if we are willing to get out of our own comfort zone and give it to them?

I believe that we would all be happier in our individual life journeys if we consciously worked at accepting others as we want to be accepted – without value judgments or conditions. The bottom line is that we are all seeking the same thing – unconditional love and understanding as we proceed on our paths. What we give we receive in return – no more no less.

Have a great few days!

Extend a Hand

I recently received a heartfelt letter from a woman in California who had read my book, ‘Just Behind The Door.’ I thank all of you who have had the opportunity to read the book as well as those of you who have emailed me your impressions. Losing a child, regardless of their age, or a partner, parent, sibling or best friend causes us to walk a similar path through grief. It is so important to know that you are not alone and that yes, the feelings of loss can be so overwhelming they can take you to your knees. There is nothing wrong when you momentarily feel so deeply that you question life itself. The deeper our love the deeper our grief.

What IS important to know when you are troubled about anything is that you will make it through – not necessarily totally unscathed – but you will make it through when you reach out to others for help. Regardless of the type of help whether reading about someone else’s journey, joining a loss group, working with a counselor or simply talking, talking and talking to a family member or friend about your feelings enables you to get the raw, gut wrenching hurt and fear to the surface. It may take weeks, months even years to truly heal. It’s okay – we are each on our own unique timeline in this life journey. Getting your feelings to the surface is THE critical first step in healing. At the surface there is light and with that light energy the slow, deliberate process of healing will begin.

Some might think that a person is strong if they don’t fall apart at times and show emotion. You know the reference to the saying attributed to the upper class British, ‘keep a stiff upper lip?’ Well, originally that was in reference to sewing the mouth closed of a corpse before throwing it overboard at sea. Kind of puts things in perspective doesn’t it? Show me a person who doesn’t struggle with their feelings when loss or difficult things happen in their life and I will show you a person who is sad, angry and alone.

True strength is being willing to admit vulnerability and seeking out someone to confide in who will truly hear you. Just as you can either be someone’s lifeline or anchor you can also be your own. The choice is always up to you. Being your true authentic self takes courage and by sharing your feelings it gives others the chance – the honor even – of being there for you. Those who are the happiest in life seem to have learned this lesson.

Remember the lyrics from the song written by Tommy Page, ‘A Shoulder To Cry On,’
Everyone needs a shoulder to cry on…
a friend to rely on…
you will feel better
if you let me walk with you…
by your side…
you won’t be alone…
a friend to rely on…
with you ’till the end.

Let’s show how strong we are by making a commitment to be there for others when they need us and to open up to others when we need a listening ear and caring heart. We reincarnated together, this time around for a reason and just like the links in a chain, together we are stronger.

Have a great few days!