Is the word MERCY in your vocabulary? Does being merciful enter your mind on a conscious basis?

 

What does the word: MERCY mean to you?

Consider writing what words and images come to mind as you ask yourself this question. Then ask the equally important question of: How can I be merciful towards myself as a conscious outpouring of what I AM?

The truth is that you were born inherently perfect. We all have what researchers deem as an innate capacity for being merciful. In fact it is something we do as a natural outpouring of who we are. If you watch very young children, before they are taught rules around politeness and ‘socially appropriate’ kindness, these young children only know how to give compassion, mercy, and love.

A growing body of evidence suggests that, at our core, both animals and human beings have what Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley, coins a “compassionate instinct.” In other words, compassion is a natural and automatic response that has ensured our survival. Michael Tomasello and other scientists at the Max Planck Institute, in Germany, have found that infants and chimpanzees spontaneously engage in helpful behaviour and will even overcome obstacles to do so. They apparently do so from intrinsic motivation without expectation of reward. A recent study they ran indicated that infants’ pupil diameters (a measure of attention) decrease both when they help and when they see someone else helping, suggesting that they are not simply helping because helping feels rewarding. It appears to be the alleviation of suffering that brings reward — whether or not they engage in the helping behaviour themselves.

Recent research by David Rand at Harvard University shows that adults’ and children’s first impulse is to help others.

Research by Dale Miller at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business suggests this is also the case of adults, however, worrying that others will think they are acting out of self-interest can stop them from this impulse to help.

 

We intrinsically want to help – we have the hard wiring to instinctively be merciful. As adults, showing mercy becomes a decision of our thinking brain and our deliberate choice – our free will – and at times, for various reasons, we may opt out of what is such an important human ability.

How we are and how we act with others is symbolic of how we are able to be kind and loving – and merciful to ourselves. It is much easier to show others kindness, compassion, love, and mercy when we are able to readily do this for ourselves.

Mercy may be defined as: co-existing in love, forgiveness, compassion, loving-kindness, understanding, humanity, generosity, and faith.

Wikipedia defines mercy as: “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm”.

It’s within our power to punish or harm someone at any time in theory, and yet perhaps its in those very instances where someone has wronged us or hurt us that we need to be MOST mindful of practising an outpouring of mercy.

 

I hear my client tell me about all of the comments that she receives anytime she goes home to visit her Greek orthodox family living in Montreal. How their words impact her decisions and her everyday behaviours and yet she is a 34-yr old nurse working and thriving in Toronto. (She is told by friends that she looks better with a tan after travelling to the Caribbean on holiday so she admits to me that she is now going to a tanning salon regularly to keep up her glowing appearance; she is told by her grandmother that she is heavier than last visit and so she has now returned full force to the gym; her mother has always told her that to be beautiful she must wear makeup and high heels and so on the day of our session she isn’t feeling well and apologizes for her appearance – because she is not wearing makeup, nor heels. Her entire image of herself is tied up in what others say; she has not found herself and her true beauty that exists – enhanced perhaps by the makeup – but originates as who she already is. My client is one of many who look to others to establish their feelings of self-acceptance and positive affect in the words and remarks of others – and in doing so, can never be truly merciful towards herself. She continues to take the harsh comments and criticism of her friends and family – and does the same internally in her self talk – because it is all that she knows to do – and it has been the way in which she has defined herself. How many of us do this – or parts of this?

It doesn’t just happen with my client’s family, it happens with all of us regardless of our heritage, religious background and family of origin. What are the messages of your earlier life experiences that have set you up to judge yourself harshly, to be unmerciful, to be self-loathing, to deny, to avoid, to disavow – who you truly are?

Perhaps this is one reason why as teens we often rebel against our family – society – social mores – and instead look to our peer group for support and as a source of validation (as they too are experiencing the same kind of need to explore, to rediscover, and to take a stand in what they believe in). We don’t always acknowledge that we are all hardwired to be …who we truly are – what I call our AUTHENTIC self. If we have been stifled, denied, or told we must fit a certain stereotypical ideal, we learn from a young age to dishonour our TRUE self.

As a teenager and young adult, if we are fortunate enough to seek out answers and to decide what we believe in, what we feel passionate about, and what we want to do with our life, – and if we allow ourselves to dream and to follow what truly excites us, then we are making choices based on knowing our self best. And yet, we still hold many of the cultural and societal beliefs that have been so deeply ingrained, that say we should follow a certain practical plan for living our life, we should earn a certain income, we should wear a certain designer label, and that all of this is important – critical in fact – to being successful and happy. Some or all of this may very well be important – but as long as it is what we have chosen based on what is truly important to who we are – certainly none of this is wrong – as long as it is true to what is right for who we are – rather than what we tell ourselves we should do.

So its not surprising that much of the work that I do each day has its roots in helping people find themselves – and helping them uncover the truth about who they are so that they can live the rest of their life from a place of authenticity and self-honesty. When you can be honest and real with yourself and others, you free yourself to live with mercy. Maybe as you look over your definition for what mercy is, you most likely included such words as: honesty, deliberate kindness in action, compassion for self and others, loving and of course…truth.

When you can live with mercy directed towards yourself, it will be even easier to live it outwardly. This is because if you are overly critical, harsh, judgemental, uncertain, and insecure, this cannot help but come through as you look outwards at others. One might say that this is one of the reasons why we have constant conflict and war in the world. If we are not able to be merciful, to be kind and loving to ourselves and others, then we cultivate all of what is opposite: unkindness, impatience, judgement, intolerance, envy and hate.

Being merciful is how we embody true kindness and understanding. It is how we show others our compassionate nature.

The following visualization is best experienced if you can close your eyes for a few moments and take 3-5 deep breaths. Take even more breaths if you feel that it will help you quiet your mind as you go within to answer the following questions.

(And, if you would like a little more practice and a deeper experience in calming your mind and feeling a total body relaxation, please follow this link: to one of my guided meditations – perfect for taking you a little deeper within yourself.)

When you are ready to proceed let the following be a guide for what you then envision in your mind, allowing whatever answers that surface be what you reveal as your truth:

Think of a time either in the recent past or maybe a memory from childhood in which someone showed you mercy. Maybe there could have been a reason for you to have been punished because of what you did – whether it was something done innocently or intentionally – when the other person could have been intolerant, angry or blaming, but instead you were given compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and love – in effect – you were shown mercy.

Next, recall a time when you acted with compassion and mercy when perhaps it would have been socially acceptable to chastise, correct, scold, or punish. And yet you showed only mercy – kindness, forgiveness, and compassion. Recall what your experience was as you did this? How did YOU feel as you saw the face of the person, perhaps the child, the friend, the spouse, the work colleague – that you were being merciful to? Imagine for a moment how your actions of mercy felt for them?

When we are shown mercy – when we receive compassion – or as we demonstrate compassion and mercy, we experience something much more – much like a gift. What did you receive in the exchange with another? What did you receive when you were shown mercy or in being merciful?

In so many ways we have the ability to be who we truly are. When we elicit compassion and grace towards another living being we are being merciful. When we are compassionate and merciful, something remarkable happens inside of us. Something bearing truth is awakened from within.

 

The path of mercy is our path back to finding ourselves

 

Finding ourselves begins with the mercy that we can show ourselves. From here we see how easily it is to expand upon this – to allow others the gentle freedom to make mistakes, to be human, to not always do what we would do.

All world religions share in the importance of what it means to “be love”. They also share similar definitions of “mercy”, “forgiveness”, “compassion”, and “truth”. I share this because it reminds us that across all religions and spiritual beliefs, we are reminded and taught of the importance of being merciful, loving and kind.

Regardless of our religious upbringing most of us have heard the words: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12 / Luke 6:31).

Being merciful is your namesake. It is what we can offer to ourselves and one another that speaks to the truth of what are are. We are all seeking the same goodness; the same acceptance; the same attachment to one another in kindness. Showing mercy is our way to be loving – to accept others as they are – to allow for those moments when others may not always be at their best.

How you can be more deliberate in your practice of being merciful? Where in your daily life can this become a greater practice and privilege for you? The reason we consider in advance how and where we will do something is to ensure that it finds a place in our lives and a means by which we can be this – daily.

Think about the typical situations that you encounter – with your partner and spouse, your children, your parents and extended family, with siblings and friends, and with those you work with? How can you be merciful and any of the other words and descriptors of mercy as how you defined it? BOTH WITH YOURSELF AND OTHERS?

If you are already actively mindful of showing mercy in your daily life, ask yourself, ‘What are some different ways that I can expand upon this?” Can you practice deliberate acts of mercy even when you are annoyed, offended, hurt, and when you believe strongly that you are right and someone else is wrong?

Where in your daily life can you practice mercy unto yourself – and to others? When you do so, what would it look like? What would your inner dialogue or self talk be that would help you to remember to be merciful?

Challenge yourself to find new ways of showing mercy in these tougher moments (both to others and to yourself)and when it may seem easier to do what you’ve always done. Write these and place them where you can see your list each day. This becomes a plan that will help you to make this happen.

Close your eyes once more with the intention to give yourself a few more minutes of calm, relaxed breathing. When you open your eyes again, you are ready (with a clear mind) to answer a few more questions as you journey within to experience what it means to be merciful. (At any time, you can close your eyes even momentarily, as it will likely help you call up some of your past memories and experiences).

 

Imagine who you were as a child. Maybe it’s a memory where you can go back in time and yet you can feel right now as though you are this incredible child again. Maybe its a photo or image of your younger self that you see in your mind. However you come to imagine and envision yourself as a most incredible child, begin to paint the picture in detail of who you were based on the following questions I’m going to ask. (Please remember: If you don’t have all of the answers to these questions, that’s perfectly okay, your subconscious mind may give you more answers as you continue to think about this).

As you ask yourself: “Who was I?” take a brief pause as the answers spontaneously reveal themselves. Pause after each of the following questions to give your subconscious mind the time to reveal the answers:

What did I look like?”

See yourself in action. Ask: “What activities or games did I enjoy most?” “What used to make me laugh?” “What did I enjoy doing?” “What was I naturally good at?” “What would I think or daydream about?”

What were some of my proudest moments?” “What did others compliment me for?” “What did I dream about?” “When was I happiest?”

Next, describe your personality? “What core features, characteristics, and mannerisms made you special, unique, original?” Allow the memories to flow into your conscious mind without judging whatever you remember.

Sometimes our mind will show us the difficult or negative moments of our past. Please know that this is perfectly natural. Allow all of the memories that reveal themselves be part of your experience. The difficult moments of our life teach us much about who we are. While we may not be aware of this at the time, whatever you learned from your earliest life experiences has contributed to who you are today in ways that have made you resilient and courageous even if you may not think of yourself as so. For now, if you begin to recall any difficult or painful memories, remember that they don’t make you any less incredible.

Remember all of who you were as an incredible child.

Write all of your answers to: ‘Who was I as a child?’ including the details of how you felt as you saw yourself being your authentic – carefree, happy, curious, and courageous – self.

Now here’s a BIG SECRET that I hope you will remember. When you think about any of the behaviours or mannerisms that you have that cause you discomfort or that you do not like about yourself – these are not (nor were they ever) who you innately are.

In most cases, you learned by observing others or perhaps you were taught certain ways of being. If you think about it, any of the behaviours that you might label as ‘bad’ or wrong – stem from learnings that occurred beginning in childhood. As you reflect on all of the innate goodness of who you were as a child in your answers to the earlier visualization, see if you can remember who you were before or without any of the teachings in which you were taught to dislike, to judge, to be hurtful or mean, to be boastful and show no mercy, and anything else that causes you or others – to suffer. Who you truly are is not these things. Perhaps take one more review of your “Who was I as a child?” list right now to see if you have written anything that you were taught to believe, to act, to fear, that truly wasn’t yours to begin with. Write anything else now about who your original self really is. Allow your inner child to shine through. Let yourself feel connected once again to what you once were.

When we remember who we are, we can begin to reclaim our authentic self. Your inner child is your inner navigation point. It is your truth. Before each of us were told what “not to do”, or how we “should” behave or feel because it is somehow more acceptable, we were intuitively and perfectly being – our true nature.

Finding your way back to who you are begins with acknowledging all that you once were.

Remember all of the goodness of your inner child. Close your eyes one final time as you hold the image of your incredible self – the younger version of who you were – – hold the image of the incredible child that you see in your mind. See yourself clearly, feeling proud, confident, free, strong, and happy. Sit for a few more moments with this impression – allowing it to sink in … deeper. Feel, see and imagine all of the ways that you are incredible – both as your younger self and then….. as you are now.

Consider the moments when you allowed your adult self to be: funny, playful, thoughtful, generous, kind, honest, loyal, curious, excited, happy. When you are being any of these …are you not being your true self?

When we allow our inner child to shine through – we can be childlike in ways that are both beautiful and authentic. We can speak the words of our truth rather than hold ourselves back for fear of “saying the wrong thing” or “being too emotional”. When we allow our inner child’s vulnerabilities to show through we reveal to others our true nature – and this makes us ‘approachable’, ‘honest’ and ‘real’.

And finally, I have one more question about your life as a child?

What would have been your mantra as a child? A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat to yourself either quietly or aloud to elicit the feeling state of what you are telling yourself.

Maybe your mantra as a child was: “I can do this!” or “I’m special” or “I’m smart” Think of a mantra based on the words that your inner child would have spoken.

Allow yourself to repeat this mantra silently to yourself. Envision your inner child as you do so. Feel what you feel throughout your body. Now open your eyes again. Take a final few moments to write the words of your mantra. (Hint: Make it an “I AM” statement).

Notice how you are feeling right now.

The journey back to finding ourselves begins in our childhood with the innocent and completely honest depiction of our true self. Your homework from here is to remember all of the childlike qualities that best represent the truth of who you are. As you reconnect with your adult self again, remember these qualities and allow them to come through in everyday life. Let yourself be who you once were in more ways than you have ever been. As you reveal and relax into more of your true self, you will come to feel far more connected with your inner child again and most importantly – to feel connected with the truth of who you are.

 

 

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The debilitating truth about blame…

Blame is a powerful deflection from self-examination and self-responsibility.

 

Blame is a wonderful excuse for not needing to change – and for continuing to convince yourself that you are “right” and others are “wrong”.

 

Blame keeps you from experiencing the truth, an opportunity for growth, and the realization that no one can “make you feel” a certain way (since we often blame others for ‘how’ we feel). How you feel is always determined by what you tell yourself (aka: your thoughts).

 

Blame keeps you a prisoner of your self-induced anger, fear, and anxiety. It keeps you far removed from the closeness and connection that you could have with loved ones and others.

 

Whenever you feel the urge to blame someone or something for what has happened “to you”, look instead at yourself – with honesty and truth. What have you ‘done’ or ‘not done’ that has contributed to where you are right now? What would have been some better choices? What will you do now to make a change for the better?

 

Sometimes clients rage in my presence. They are frustrated, fed up, angry, aggressive and at times they have explosive outbursts that are difficult to contain. At the core of their outbursts is often some form of blame. They blame others or some external event for their misfortune in life; convinced that they have little or no control in whatever has “happened to them”, what situation they currently find themselves in, or what will become of their future.

You will remain in a state of angst (inner turmoil, hopelessness, and sadness) for as long as you continue to look outside of yourself for the reasons that you feel the way you do. For as long as you continue to blame, you will perpetuate negative thoughts and feelings (e.g. helplessness, anxiety, anger, resentment etc.,) rather than see a situation as an opportunity for learning and growth, and becoming more (in whatever way more translates into something better). You will continue to feel immobilized by your current situation as long as you convince yourself that others are the cause of this, and that there is little or nothing that you can do but endure, rather than take control of your life by being in charge of what you need to do to make things better.

 

One path is destructive and limiting: causing suffering, grief and despair. The other path is one of learned resilience, confidence building, and self-actualization through reliance and faith in one’s ‘self’.

When we blame others, we are not looking at our own actions; nor taking responsibility for how we feel. Blaming external events or others deflects any attempt to examine why we feel the way we do and in turn, to examine our biased perceptions of a situation. The two most important questions that you could ask yourself when you are caught in a position of helplessness because of whatever has happened is: “How do I want to feel?” Next you need to ask, “What do I need to do in order to feel this way?”

The quickest way to eradicate blame is to be proactive – to be in control of what you will do to fix, change, or improve the situation – and to begin a path towards this. Still, how do we get caught in a cycle of helplessness about our life – and who we are? What is it that causes us to give away all of our power by making ‘someone’ or ‘something’ the total cause of our experience? ….and hence our ability to thrive?

Ask yourself: “What earlier life experiences taught me that I have little or no control over my life path, how I feel, or who I become?”

Decide to change your earlier belief system. Know that for whatever you feel and what happens is either a direct cause of your thought process or your actions (your actions perpetuate a chain of events that brings you to where you are now, as does your repetitive thoughts). Yes, events occur all of the time that are unexpected and at times, incredibly traumatic. Yet, everything in life has meaning. How you react to what happens (to you) is within your control.

The fact is that every experience is (pre)determined by how we think – and how we perceive / witness / examine / and interpret what has happened.

 

Learn to question all of what you were taught to believe. Instead, examine each situation as unique and different.  Examine your part in whatever “happens to you” including your thoughts and actions towards creating the outcome that you are living right now.

With blame, nobody wins. You end up making someone else “wrong” or “not good enough” – and judging them unfairly which affects your treatment of them. When you blame yourself, you can easily become caught up in a cycle of self-loathing rather than constructively look within to see your part in what has caused this situation – feeling – or behavior – and at what you need to do instead. There is learning in self-awareness. Blame – even towards one’s self – keeps you from focusing on proactive change.

 

If your well ingrained habit is to blame external factors or people for how you feel and what happens to you, that’s your cue to turn the finger directed outward – onto yourself. (Not in self blame but in awareness and understanding). See what it is that you have done to create your existing reality. Even when something happens that you have absolutely no control over and you did not want – you still have the power to choose how you feel, think, and live …in spite of what ‘has happened’.

I use the phrase, “This too is for good” to help bring to light the idea that everything that happens has a greater purpose and if you can believe it is always for good…then perhaps it is only a matter of time before you see with your eyes that whatever has ‘happened’ has led to something inevitably – better. For nothing is truly bad unless we make it so.

So please consider what damage you create through blame. Start seeing everything that happens in your life as a ‘teaching’, a ‘life lesson’ meant to aid and help you along your path, or an opportunity for personal growth and greater awareness.

In therapy (as in life itself), clients can become emotionally charged in a matter of milliseconds – reacting to what has just been said or asked of them long before they realize ‘why’ they reacted as they did. Clients may look to the therapist as the point of blame; as the one who said something to offend them or hurt their feelings; or perhaps is “judging them” – especially if a client is being asked to look at a particular problematic situation or behavior which evokes feelings of uneasiness, vulnerability, or shame.

In therapy, I will ask you to examine yourself in ways that you have not done before. The socratic questions asked of you are meant for you to explore your current situation and yourself specifically in a different way. Sometimes you will be asked or challenged to look at what causes you to feel uneasy, vulnerable, or shameful. The point is not to “make you” feel badly, but to examine what needs attention and change in order for you to feel better, to correct a situation or ongoing pattern of behavior, to strengthen self-esteem, and/or to heal a reoccurring conflict that is affecting your relationships with others.

Take control back. If you are blaming others or external events for your current state of unhappiness, you are giving up your control to fix a situation or improve yourself.

If you feel hopeless or defeated, or if you believe that you are resigned to the current circumstances of your life, then you need to take a closer look at where you are directing your ‘locus of control’. Do you believe that your happiness is dependant on what happens to you, or are you aware of your ability to choose your reaction to what happens (thereby being in control of how you feel at all times)?

Similarly, if you continue to rage, venting your displeasure at what you are unhappy with yet unwilling to look at your part in why you continue to feel this way, you will continue to suffer.

This inhibits emotional growth. It actually keeps you stuck in ‘reactive’ mode; quick to get fired up when people ‘anger you’ or if life throws you a curve ball (a flat tire, a bill you weren’t expecting, or when someone says or does something that hurts you).  If you are quick to react, lash out, become enraged, or go quiet in the silence of suffering, the never ending cycle of unhappiness continues. “A prisoner of our own self-induced pain” is what I call it.

Many would say that a person needs to be ready in order to make changes to their life and to who they are. Indeed this is true. Yet readiness must also exist in the desire to move out of one’s own “suffering”; to see that change and happiness is really driven by our desire and through action. We cannot blame others for the way we feel nor how we act and react in different situations. We cannot blame others for what happens ‘to us’ but rather we can examine our thoughts and assumptions – and our prevailing attitude – and be willing to seek out different ways of looking at everything.

Which brings us full circle to the practical method of therapy and its socratic questioning as a way of helping clients examine their lives and who they are – in different and more honest ways then how they have previously.

Blame keeps you in a state of suffering. Willingness to look within for what you can do to change your personal situation or aspects of yourself will always be met with answers, growth, and the freedom that comes with discovering just how much control you do have over your life and in who you decide to become.

 

 

A final note: While I cannot and do not speak for other therapists and how they approach the delivery of therapy as a modality of healing, I can say that my approach and the careful purpose of my questions is intuitively driven. When you are wholly present to the person(s) in front of you in order to seek to understand, acknowledge, and empathize their experience as best as you can by remaining engaged, and intentional in your delivery of help, you allow for a highly instinctive and organic process to unfold. While I am trained in several models of psychotherapy, my job is to ask clients questions that will help them think differently about their particular problem or issue. The idea here is that you as a client are the best source of knowledge for how to fix your situation or problematic behavior. What I simply do is help you become clear and self-honest, so that your inner wisdom may easily be accessed; and what you hear yourself say (which at times will surprise you) will be exactly what you intuitively know you need to do.

Blame me or someone else for how you are feeling and where you are in life….or look deeper within yourself. See how you got here, why you feel the way you do – and take back your personal power. Reclaim your ‘self’ by taking the steps to make your life (and yourself) far better.

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What Parenting IS…

Parenting is the most important “role” you might ever have next to living as your Authentic s e l f.  It can also be the most rewarding experience of your life if you have the means to parent in a healthy way based on your conscious intention to raise a child in a way that nourishes them and allows them to know their inherent greatness so that they can soar in life.

 

So when a client is seeking strategies and guidance to help improve and nurture their parent-child relationship, I feel blessed: I am able to help BOTH the parent AND their child (who will inevitably benefit from what new ways of thinking and being that their parent is now putting into action).

 

PARENTING IS MODELLING HOW TO BE AN INCREDIBLE HUMAN BEING

When a child acts out inappropriately, one of the most curious things I sometimes hear parents say is: “I have no idea where they learned that from?” I would just like to remind parents everywhere that ….. A CHILD IS A MIRROR OF THEIR PARENTS.

 

To ensure that your child is well behaved and well-adjusted, look to how YOU think and behave in the world.

 

If you want to improve your child’s behaviour, begin with your own. Children do (say, and believe) exactly what they see you do and say. They believe (even if it is with reservation) what you show and teach them, until some later time when they are learning and discovering ‘other’ ways of thinking and being that they may change their beliefs according what to what greater knowledge they possess.  In the meantime, your children learn by example. It’s that simple. They watch you as the parent and model what words, mannerisms, behaviours and ethics (morals and values) they observe of you. Period.

The other thing that I remind parents of: “It’s never too late to change how you are if you want your child to behave differently.”

 

Parenting has virtually no ‘formal’ training, no mandatory education, no need for writing any ‘exams’ attaining licensing, accreditation, or ongoing training. We need permits, permission, and licenses to fish, drive a motorized vehicle, or to build an addition onto our existing home – yet there are no definitive requirements needed to become a parent.  Do we perhaps prepare ourselves in the right ways for all that parenting demands of us?

 

How you parent is primarily how you were parented. Often unconsciously, you use the same methods and teaching styles as your parents did without realizing the cycle is repeating itself. At times, you may observe yourself saying and doing what your parents did, and perhaps what you vowed you would never do. Parenting is inevitably reactionary at times, and so without conscious awareness and deliberate contemplation, you say and do what you know is not reflective of what you want your children to learn.

 

Without conscious awareness of how you want to be as the major source of influence on your child’s future, you as a parent will likely struggle to learn from your mistakes (provided you are aware of them) rather than from deciding in advance of having children how you will think and behave in various and different situations and more importantly, who YOU are as a person.

 

If you want to be a great parent, and/or to have a better existing relationship with your child (regardless of their age), begin by making changes to how you are.  To focus on changing your child’s behaviour while you continue to do all of the things that have contributed to or caused emotional and psychological hurts, a betrayal of trust, and feelings of low self-worth – will only alienate your child further.

 

I help parents heal the painful experiences of their own childhood (of which they themselves were mistreated, neglected, verbally, emotionally or physically abused, repeatedly showered with a barrage of hurtful words, and in some instances unprotected from sexual predators (who co-existed undetected until it was too late). “Healing” means whatever is needed to help a client (parent) repair their own psychological and emotional hurts and traumas that have continued to haunt them long after the initial injustice. “Healing” means a facilitated journey that allows for a better understanding of what happened without necessarily blaming their parents or caregivers but finding comfort and safety in validating their experiences, while finding resolution through fixing, eliminating, correcting, forgiving the past in lieu of making forward strives of self-empowerment, healthy self-esteem, and reclaiming one’s childhood.*

 

*(And despite how all of this may sound difficult or daunting it really isn’t once you the parent seeks to heal your past, knowing that it will continue to affect how you parent your children if you don’t).

 

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The most significant thing any parent could do (ideally before they become a parent) is to heal their own past. To do the work that YOU need in order to heal your past begins with a close look at who you currently are.

 

Parents don’t set out to make mistakes, repeat old patterns, or continually avoid looking at themselves FIRST as an important reason for why there are problems in their parent-child relationships. Placed in an automatic position of authority, power, and having all of the right answers, parents tend to believe that “the teachings” go only one way. The truth in fact is that parents learn so much from their children about how to be a better person and a better parent, than they likely ever give their children credit for.

 

Some questions for parents to ponder:

What mannerisms and behaviours are you showing your children that you would you never want the world to see?

What situations from your childhood caused you grief, that you would never want your children to experience?

 

 

We do so much more than create life when we birth or adopt a child (“Creating life” is equally important for parents who adopt child – who is now given ‘a new’ life by being ‘gifted’ to you, AND a child that is biological to you). We instill in our children all of the fears, insecurities, self-doubts, mental and emotional instability and in some cases – genetic disposition to illness, that we suffer with.

The good news is that we can also instill in our children all of the grace, love, high moral conduct, self-esteem, self-worth, kindness, consideration, honesty, and perseverance that we are – as long as we are this.

 

And finally, consider that all children are born “perfect”. All that we need to do as parents is allow them to thrive in the world with love and positive role modelling. We don’t need to make great strides towards changing them to be more alike us, or simply different than they are if they are different from how we want them to be.

Your child is a product of you. You need to take much responsibility in making yourself a product of love.

 

It’s okay to seek help to become better  – as a parent AND as a human being…. because to do so will only give your child a greater possibility to thrive in the world than what you have taught them so far.

 

The only way we retrain ourselves to be different from how we were raised and what we learned through observing our caregivers is to be consciously aware – to realize how we are and to see that this is not an ideal way in which to be. Through conscious awareness we become what we choose to be, and we will always choose the highest ideal that we believe is possible.

To believe in more you need to heal your past and the damaging beliefs and stories that you have been told, and that you continue to believe.

As a parent, be the best role model for your child – first.  The rest is built on how you lead by example as you exhibit unconditional love and support of their healthy development.  Encourage their need to be who they are while you focus on being the best version of yourself that you can imagine possible.  Parenting is a powerful reason to want to improve who you are.

 

– Dorothy

 

I’d love to hear from you!  

What has been the two most valuable teachings that you have ‘learned’ from being a parent?

 

What’s the one piece of advice that your parent taught you that has helped you immensely in parenting your children?

 

Leave your comments for me below or email me directly at: dorothy@dorothyratusny.com

Thankyou!!!

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Mindfulness is the path to Clarity, Truth, and living as your Authentic Self

In mindfulness you experience clarity and wisdom; by honouring what “is”, rather than deceptively telling yourself how you “want it to be”.

Being “mindful” is being consciously aware of yourself; your thoughts and feelings, how you engage and interact with others, and how others receive’ your words and actions. It becomes a far more revealing way to live life as compared to listening solely to the voice inside your mind.

Leah sat across from me with tears welling up in her eyes. As clients progress in therapy, quite often their accomplishments, and the changes they make to who they are can at times, evoke powerful emotions of joy and gratitude.

Leah began to describe how she used to make every effort to avoid being with herself, and how she would be unaware and inattentive to everything around her.
——————–

Therapy is a wonderful place to examine any of the “stuff” (emotional baggage, old patterns of behaving, self-critical and negative thoughts) that continues to dominate your life – causing you to feel stuck and powerless, holding you back from living life in the full expression of joy that is your authentic nature. If you have the gentle guidance of someone who can help you discover healthy strategies, you begin to make progressive and lasting changes. The result is a feeling of personal satisfaction and feeling whole. Healing the past wounds that are still the triggers for why you react the way you do is a necessary step to eliminating old behaviours that no longer represent who you want to be. This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours in therapy dredging up the past. But you do have to examine what happened in a way that can begin the process of healing. The purpose of therapy isn’t to talk about what bad things happened. Its about examining what bad things” happened from the perspective of understanding how these events shaped who you are, and what you need to do to heal from what happened.

In therapy, you gain a different perspective – shifting your thinking from being hurt, a victim, and lost, to feeling forgiveness (towards another or yourself), empowered, and having a clear directive for what you need to do next. Therapy is about looking at old problems in new ways that you hadn’t before. This different perspective allows you to see the whole truth rather than your particular (and often limited) version of the truth.

——————–

Like Leah, we’ve all “run from ourselves”. This is precisely what all of our busyness is about. Clients often tell me that they take great lengths to “not be alone”, even when it means being with people that aren’t adding to the quality of their life.

 

As Leah explained, her experience of mindfulness caused a dramatic change in her behaviors. Being self-aware allowed her to pay attention which meant she was able to react differently in situations – beginning with more self-control and the ability to feel her “anger falling away” (her words). I thought that this insight was especially interesting since we often don’t realize that it is our thoughts and perceptions that cause our emotions (and not what happens “to us”). Anger in particular is one emotion that can seem to come out of nowhere, “causing” us to react in ways that we are later not proud of.

 

Being self-aware or mindful is like turning the lights on in a pitch black room – instantly you are able to see everything. I call this seeing what “is” rather than what we have been telling ourselves is true. And, as the old adage goes, “the truth will set you free”.

 

Practicing mindfulness brings into your awareness all that you have been ‘running’ from. It’s in seeing what “is” that you know what you need to do (to change what you don’t like). Seeing things as they are rather than how you have been convincing yourself they are, means that you will have to face some of what you have been hiding (or running) from. In the end, being honest with yourself is the only way that change can actually happen.

 

Afterword:

The word ‘Mindfulness’ has become quite popular in today’s wellness literature. To be mindful, practice observing yourself whenever possible. Reflect on situations that have happened when you haven’t been self-aware and consider what you could have said or done differently to create a different (and more desirable) outcome. Stop blaming others for what happens and take responsibility for the direction your life has taken. Remember, everything that you think about with intensity manifests itself in your life. Who and what you are currently is a reflection of your inner world. Being mindful is stepping out of the world you have created in your mind and seeing everything as it really ‘is’.

Meditation practice is all about learning mindfulness. Not only will you reap the benefits of meditation, but your practice deepens your ability to live mindfully in all of your waking moments.

 

For guided meditations to help you develop mindfulness, please visit my Youtube channel  https://www.youtube.com/user/DorothyRatusny

or you can upload free guided meditations at anytime on soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/dorothyhelps

 

 

 

 

 

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Self-Acceptance

 Self-Acceptance: The transformational step between ‘Who you Are’ and ‘Who you are …Becoming’.

by Dorothy Ratusny, M.A., (C).OACCPP., PhD. (Candidate)

Self-acceptance is the acknowledgement of who you are. From here you use conscious intention and deliberate action to move you towards who you are willing to become.” – Dorothy Ratusny

 

After you read the blog, please check out the link at the bottom for a Guided Meditation that will allow you to experience what it means to truly accept yourself!

Self-acceptance is the ability to love and appreciate who we are even as you continue to seek change, personal growth and transformation. It is your ability to see yourself with a level of self-honesty that conveys heightened awareness and absolute truth. Self-acceptance is the antecedent to change and growth. It implies that you are aware of and able to acknowledge all of who you are even when there are aspects of yourself that you wish to change or let go of.

 

Who we are is fusing of multiple elements – all in a constant state of flux – that become (largely through our deliberate will) all of the greatness we believe is possible. Through self-acceptance we see the aspects of our self that we wish to uphold as well as those aspects we wish to become. Becoming all of who we are capable of is not possible until we are ready to admit honestly to our self, who and what we are.

Begin by acknowledging the qualities and characteristics that you admire and appreciate about yourself most. Your willingness to write these on paper brings a deeper level of awareness – a sense of ‘reality’ to what is otherwise – a grouping of ideas you hold in your mind. Self-acceptance builds esteem and self-worth whenever you are willing to acknowledge all of the good that you are.  Out of self-acceptance you acknowledge the less favourable parts of you: your intolerance for others’ differences, for judging others unfairly or for being unkind or purposely hurtful as a reaction to someone else hurting you. 

 

Self-acceptance is about willingness to see yourself as you are. Out of self-acceptance comes positive change – personal growth – knowledge – and feelings of empowerment and self-worth as you choose to embrace new thoughts, behaviours and core beliefs to replace what once was.

I teach the notion of self-acceptance with clients as a rite of passage (‘a stepping stone’) that takes them from unawareness or at times self-denial, to intentional transformation. One of the benefits of having someone you can trust mirror back to you what they are observe and witness of you, helps you to connect the dots as to ‘why’ you do what you do, and ‘how’ you can change. This allows for a greater ease to which transformation happens.  When we are able to acknowledge and understand with clarity, the significance of our thoughts, the core beliefs we hold, and how our behaviours affect us and others, we can confidently step forward into who we want to become. This of course, is helped greatly when we are given the right tools, guidance, and support for making positive change happen. 

In this way, self-acceptance is an important catalyst towards self-transformation and wholeness.

 

Use the following sentence stem exercise to help illicit the unconscious (and largely hidden) aspects of yourself that you do accept. Repeat each sentence stems at least 6-10 times, allowing yourself an opportunity to delve deeper into your psyche, and pay attention to what it feels like to acknowledge – and accept these aspects of who you are.

I accept that I am…

Next ask, “What do I not accept about myself?”

(If you don’t accept certain aspects of yourself, does this mean you are in denial of them?)

Choose to be self-accepting of the parts of you that are less likely to change and recognize that everything else is within your power to become better – if you choose.

Remember that self-acceptance is also the kindness you choose to acknowledge and speak inwardly and aloud.  When we actively practice self-acceptance as intentional kindness directed within, we further anchor our positive feelings about our self and this encourages us to continue to be this.

A final thought…

Through self-acceptance we elevate our awareness to live out of our free will choice. We can choose to act from a place of authenticity – to be loving kindness – or we can allow our ego to be in charge. Acting out of our ego-mind, our thoughts (and our reactions to our thoughts) are fear-based and do not represent who our ‘self’ truly is. ‘Self’ as defined by eastern philosophies is the core essence of who we truly are. Our core self (our soul consciousness) is pure, loving, and always truthful. Self-acceptance is one mechanism that guides us to choose how we will be.

Sat Nam everyone!

Please check out my Guided Meditation on Self-Acceptance that will transform how you feel about yourself.  It’s so very beautiful and powerful! Please give yourself some time in quiet to take it all in and feel free to do it often.

https://soundcloud.com/dorothyhelps/self-acceptance-a-guided

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The Secret for Getting “Unstuck” in your Life…. 3 STEPS for What You NEED TO DO

I nor anyone else cannot make you do what you need to do. If you find yourself flailing, feeling ‘lost’, unproductive, uninspired, anxiety-ridden, waist deep in self-sabotaging behaviours, the way back – the easiest route you could possibly take involves believing in yourself; and in making the ordinary – extraordinary. Ultimately, you must find a way to own up to what you are doing.

It’s called an Awakening.

And it can’t happen unless you are prepared to look at yourself with stark honesty and truthfulness. Stop telling yourself that you are justified for being this way and move beyond what you have always done.

I find that clients shift their reality when they are made to look at themselves truthfully. In those moments when I speak candidly and honestly with them, if often triggers several uncomfortable but equally relevant emotions: shock (that someone has found them out), sadness, self-pity, shame and at times …as their psyche seeks to quickly defend their ongoing behaviours (which they’ve built their current life around), they may also make bold excuses for why they can’t do what they know (even if they won’t admit it) is the ‘right’ thing. This by the way, is how you hold yourself hostage.

How long have you been adrift? Caught up in the stories that you tell yourself and why you can’t do something? For example: ”It’s too hard”, “I’m in too much pain”, “I don’t know how”, “I don’t have the time”, “I don’t have the motivation”, “I feel lost”, “I don’t know what to do”, “I’m afraid of doing the wrong thing” etc, etc. Whatever statements you cling to, whatever set of “untruths” that you have adopted as your beliefs, take a closer look at them now. Even when what you are telling yourself SEEMS true….it never truly is. Everything that you do or don’t do is based on what you tell yourself and what you have chosen to believe.

 

With every excuse you make (and there will always be more than a hundred reasons why you remain stuck and feeling unfulfilled), KNOW that the time comes when you can no longer function this way. It may take months, even years of constant repetition of your ‘untrue’ stories swirling around in your mind, or any number of self-sabotaging behaviours and unhealthy habits, all reinforcing whatever “stories” you tell yourself.

OR… You can decide one day that you will chose to think (and act) differently. Just remember, it only has to be one different thought that leads to a new behaviour…. for you to see what you are really capable of.

An awakening is a moment of truth. It is examining your inner dialogue and the actions that follow and then ‘waking up’ to see that you have not been living honestly. You have convinced yourself of whatever limitations you hold because for whatever reason, this (you have convinced yourself) is EASIER than doing the necessary WORK to fix or change your existing behaviours. It doesn’t need to be me in a session of therapy to help you by pointing out what you already know – but keep avoiding. For most people, it means getting to a place where it becomes intolerable to function at all before something ‘gives’. (And this by the way is very sad to watch). As creatures of habit, we thrive in the comfort of knowing our misery – even though we feel awful and hopeless.

The idea is to be motivated by the search for pleasure rather than staying in the pain of what we know so well. If you’re still feeling a strong need to defend your position of inaction right now, consider any of the iconic people (Mahatma Gandhi is one) who have been subjected to immense physical and emotional pain and who have chosen to thrive inside their mind – directing their thoughts to what they hope and look towards, rather than the suffering and misery that surrounded them.

Awakenings occur when you are simply honest with yourself. (Not rocket science – just truthfulness). When you are willing to state the facts rather than hide behind what environment you have constructed that allows you the facade of being safe – protected from the world or your previous failings at seeking change, . Ask anyone who has overcome a personal hardship and they will tell you that it was perseverance that made it possible for them to overcome; perseverance and belief – and never looking back. Awakening is a reality check – but only as you remain humbled to its truth – the truth of what “is” and not what you keep telling yourself.

 

Inspirational quote by Gautama Buddha (563 BC-483 BC) on earthy

 

3 STEPS to getting yourself unstuck and moving in the direction of what will heal and support you in life:

1. Admit honestly (write it down so it’s real and starring you back in the face) what you NEED TO DO DIFFERENTLY in order to be the change you say you want. (Step Two will test you to see just how badly you want “it” and how willing you are to stop living in the untruths you have surrounded yourself with.

 

2. With discipline, and yes, even though it may be emotionally or physically painful at times to move past what you’ve been convinced of for so long – FOLLOW THE ACTION STEPS you have listed in STEP ONE and SEEK HELP from either a professional who has proven they know the journey because they have lived it (so ask them if you’re not sure!).  You need to feel confident that they will give you additional tools and strategies while keeping you accountable to the goals you have set making it possible for you to see the change happen.

 

3. Never Stop.

As much as change feels overwhelming for many people, if you attempt to avoid it you will return to being fearful and deny the unavoidable path of constant growth. Regardless of your age, life continues to be filled with new experiences, teachings, and wonderful new opportunities if you remain open and look for these.

 

Now get started!

 

namaste everyone!

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Just Begin…. Rules for Getting started and not waiting for your Dream to “happen”

 

How much of your life is “spent” waiting for something to happen? Are you waiting for just the right moment to begin something new? To be who you really want to be? To take charge, to do more, to change something important in your life?

 

Do you need to wait? 

 

Much of the time we have enough knowledge that we can begin now. We actually don’t need anything at the moment except the pure intention and the ideal of what we are wanting to co-create. I say “co-create” because an interesting thing happens when you begin to move towards a goal or dream – as long as you hold the highest intentions for it – (that it is not out of greed, nor lust, nor ego), but a true and deep yearning for creating – manifesting – something more or different, your deliberate actions and the truth of those actions (e.g. why it is so important to do so, how come you want this change to occur) moves you in a direction toward it at precisely the same rhythm as the universal law of attraction brings it to you.

 

Try for yourself and see. Have you ever begun to make something happen and found that your steps have equally or more been matched by events and situations that seemed to unfold perfectly in order to help make your vision a reality?

 

Begin. Take the first steps towards what you want most – even if you don’t know how it will all come together just yet. Begin. Hold the deepest desire for cultivating this in your heart as you move in a direction towards it. Just begin.

 

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Manifesting an Ideal Relationship

I used to wonder how it would ever be possible to heal – improve – specific relationships.  After all wouldn’t doing so require the full commitment of both people?

With BELIEF and the commitment to realize (no matter how long it may take) what it is you want most…truly anything is possible!  Most of the time, when we fail to see the fruits of our efforts, its because we have given up (we have stopped before what we wanted has manifested completely!)

 

With belief you can manifest anything!  (In fact, what you desire most ends up being true because of such a strong resolve you have in making it a reality – even when at times its a reality only in your own mind!)

Consider that the one thing holding you back from having the relationship  (e.g. love, friendship, sibling, parent-child, etc) of your dreams is simply how you perceive it.  The other important factor is the amount of belief you hold in making your ideal relationship – a reality.  (This INCLUDES the effort and work that is required to propel you towards what you want most – making it happen!)

 

Most of us focus on the problem.  We become lost – caught up in the negative aspects of our relationship, and focused on the flaws of the other person, rather than the solution – and what we want the relationship “to be”.

 

We can manifest the most incredible ideals for anything in life….but the moment we begin to focus on the problems, we direct our focus and energy on these, perceiving (and even making them) to be bigger than they really are.  We also lose sight of what is “good” and “working well” and most important “how” we want to improve our relationship further.

FYI:  The other thing that we can do is minimize the ‘real’ problems (e.g. abuse, neglect, deceit, infidelity etc.) and convincingly ignore these in the “hopes” that they will somehow ‘improve’ on their own.

 

In the first example, we are more likely to ‘give up’ on our ideals for a healthy relationship, deciding that it simply isn’t possible to have what we want.  In the second example, we ignore and make excuses for the “real” problems rather than end the relationship and seek our ideals for a healthy relationship elsewhere.

 

Important to remember, manifesting your ideal relationship may no longer be possible with the person you are presently with.  In some cases, a relationship will not be able to improve because one of its members simply doesn’t have the same desire (or ability at present) for it to be different (better).  For a relationship to progress and develop: to strengthen, deepen, and transform in a way that takes both people to a new level of understanding, respect and love, both have to share a similar desire – and to focus on this desired outcome as they do the ‘work’ of making it so.

In all relationships, when both people share similar ideals – i.e. and if they both believe – without doubt – in the possibility of the relationship to reach new depths of love and intimacy, and levels of honesty, openness, and closeness – it will happen!  (It can also happen even if only one member of a relationship desires and believes in this – but as long as there is effort made towards this  – AND OF COURSE…that the other person remains open to the positive efforts they see are being made.  One partner’s positive efforts is often a catalyst for a relationship improving – if both members truly desire this).

 

So, what have you been manifesting?  Are you looking at the ways in which you may have an even more incredible relationship with those you love?  Or are you focused on what’s wrong, missing, or the ‘water under the bridge’ (old hurts and resentments of the past)?  Either direction will subconsciously bring you that result.

 

Make it possible to have what you want by defining it first – either in your mind or in written form – detailing exactly what you want your relationship to be.  Next, consider what you are willing to do toward accomplishing this.  Let your thoughts and ideals be the road map and your actions be the ‘tangible’ ways that you make your ideal relationship possible.

You may be surprised at first as you begin to see your relationships transforming.  Notice even the simplest ways in which you have been able to contribute to making your relationship “better”.

Sometimes (like in my case) your efforts won’t fully be materialized for YEARS!!  During this time, it may seem easier to throw in the towel, to stop believing, to give up the idea that you could ever have the kind of relationship with someone that you’ve always wanted.

Just remember… You have any relationship (providing that the other person is as deeply invested in deepening and strengthening the relationship – by first BEING / LIVING / the ideal for HOW you want the relationship to be.
For example: if you wanted a more open and honest dialogue with a family member, you need to begin by first modelling this behaviour, directly ‘asking’ for the same in return (forthright communication is such a pivotal component of healing and nurturing relationships) and providing examples of what this ‘looks like’ for them.  You also need patience and fortitude to overcome the preconceived ideas you have about what the other person is capable of – as well as persistence and BELIEF that EVERYTHING YOU DESIRE MOST is possible.

 

In the end, no matter how long it may take, perhaps you will be (like I was) both amazed and grateful at how it was possible all along – just as long as you remained focused on the positive behaviours (that you are responsible for), PATIENT (you may see results instantly, but it can also take years!), and constant in your BELIEF of the outcome you want most!

Namaste everyone!

 

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Giving “Thanks” for CHALLENGES: Thanksgiving 2013

 

Recently I led a Group Meditation on the topic of ‘giving thanks‘.   I can think of no greater way to move with ease through the challenges that any of us face than to accept them with gratitude.

 

When you welcome any “challenge” (hardship, problem, etc) with acceptance and gratitude, you no longer feel powerless against it.  By choosing to embrace this ‘challenge’, and to view it as an important part of your current life journey, you begin to embrace what teachings the challenge holds for you.

 

Once you master what teachings the challenge offers, it then becomes a life lesson that you own, allowing you to draw from the expertise and knowledge you would have gained from it.  

 

Consider what other privileges and opportunities you have been seeing as problems or challenges.

See your challenge with readiness and be grateful to embrace how you will be moved to grow and change because of it.  Trust that whatever self-awareness, new behaviours, and transformation occurs is exactly what you need as you go forward in life.  

grateful

Give yourself the ‘challenge’ of seeing, visualizing, and imagining the solution to your “problem” situation.  Hold the vision of your future ideal, how you wish to be, what you want to accomplish, and how the challenge might be best ‘fixed’ or resolved.  This is how you stay focused on the positive outcome while you set in motion what actions are required to get you there.  

 

BEING THANKFUL simply allows whatever challenges you are still working on, to become manageable and possible rather than overwhelming and impossible.

 

Remember that you are only continuing to experience the same or similar challenges until you have mastered them.  This is inevitably how we evolve as human beings.

 

Namaste everyone!

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A Note about Sadness

In a world were so much focus is placed on our outer appearance, the state of what physical objects we own, how we look and appear to others, what others see; and what we wish to see of our self, there is less of a need to acknowledge and honour what is within. Working to find our unique path in life; one that allows us to feel a sense of promise, hope, and fulfillment happens only as we are aware of our heartfelt desires; those gentle and yet sometimes fierce inner urgings that tell us to take a certain path; to try this new thing, or to go in search of a particular new experience.

 

 

Feeling attuned with your inner self means being aware of this place deep within you. Your sadness, and any other inner anxst or turmoil are often visible reminders that there are things beneath the surface; inside your being that need attention.

 

Sadness can often be the result of some past life situation – perhaps unresolved.  A general low level of sadness that seems to be there whenever you find yourself in moments all by yourself, can have very different meaning for you.   The main point is to no longer attempt to cover or deflect the sadness (or any other emotion you may be feeling) and instead step in ever so further. The point of looking at any emotion to explore and uncover its root origin allows us to have information- to have knowledge about why we feel the way we do and to address the underlying root cause.

 

Sometimes you will find yourself feeling sad for no real reason. The sadness comes from your train of thoughts and whatever you were thinking in those recent past moments.  Uncover your thoughts to see how your thoughts influence your overall mood state.

 

Sadness like any other feeling has an underlying purpose. It is there to reveal what may be missing, unhealthy, unsatisfactory, or disturbingly wrong with a present life situation. Sadness also comes out of our choice to focus on a particular life situation without truly empowering ourselves to discover what we need to do with it. We remain lodged in the feelings of sadness and replay the conversation or event rather than contemplate “What can I learn from this?” or “What would I need to feel at peace (happy, content, healed, etc) from this situation instead?”

Let your heart (your intuitive source) point out some real possibilities and begin to imagine yourself following the path toward them. Contrary to any previous thought, you do not have to remain sad; sadness is a feeling that is the result of “something” and not a resting place for our state of being.

 

The next time you glimpse even a fleeting sense of the feeling of sadness, consider what you are guided to do instead. Feel the sadness but decide whether you will choose to remain here; whether you will make sadness a regular experience or whether you will acknowledge it as simply an emotion that calls on you to attend to its for purpose – it is always a feeling that requires further exploration and examination.  Likely your decision to explore sadness will allow for some positive action that moves you toward feeling an entirely different set of emotions after all.

Namaste everyone!

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A DAY in Celebration of Fathers….

There are many definitions for who and what a ‘father’ is.

In organized religion, “Father” (theologian, priest, Padre) is the term used to refer to a person who performs and oversees a sanctioned sacred ceremony. “Father” is also the name for a higher power – e.g. “God the Father” (the first person of the Holy Trinity). Biologically, a father (a male parent) is someone who has co-created a child.

As a transitive verb: “to father” is to beget, bring forward, make something new; and to accept responsibility for.

 

*Check out the origin of Father’s Day at the bottom of this blog*

 

We likely expect a great deal from our Father. After all, they have taken on this role willingly and eagerly, right? This means that they should know what fatherhood is all about and consistently “know best”. Of course, fathers are not perfect….nor can we expect them to be.

 

Perhaps I offer a different viewpoint simply because as a Psychotherapist, I am privy to hearing the less than positive experiences clients convey about their own fathers, husbands, and father-in-laws.  I hear how these men have come up short; “have not spent enough time with their young growing children”, “have been absent”, “verbally (emotionally, or even physically) abusive”, “manipulative”, “irresponsible” and the like. (And ‘Yes’ I do hear the “good” stories; but predominantly I am called upon to help with the ‘less than ideal’ realities others live with).

 

Just because you have co-created a child doesn’t mean you automatically become a great father. Indeed, the title ‘father’ like any ‘title’ is one that requires consistent effort, learning, patience, understanding, discipline, forgiveness, and so many other traits that typically require more “work” than you could ever have imagined.

 

 

Just yesterday I heard ‘a father’ scream at the top of his lungs (so loudly I wanted to find cover as far away as I could get to) at “his” 6-yr old son because the young boy was “not listening”.

 

 

I don’t hear people claiming that parenting is an easy ‘role’, yet it is a role that challenges any adult male to come to terms with their own demons, to take responsibility for their choice to co-create, and to ‘make peace’ with their family of origin issues (including their own relationship with their male parent).

 

Fatherhood should you choose that ‘role’ is one that requires the commitment first to be your very best self. Fatherhood (and similarly Motherhood) are very much among the most challenging ‘responsibilities’ you will have. For most people, the role of parent is a great character builder; teaching us to think of the well being of others and in cases, to put others’ needs first before those of our own, to love unconditionally (even when our child does not act lovingly toward us), and to allow ourselves to be stretched and moved to grow beyond who we once were.

 

Fatherhood is a significant and life altering role – primarily in the first, formative years of a child’s development, and then, hopefully as your child grows, you recognize that your role as a father changes. You become mentor, guide, counsellor, and also friend. There will be a pivotal moment in your child’s life where you really aren’t practicing the ‘practical’ role of father as you once did. If you can let go of your need to attach too much of your self-worth to your title (and this usually goes hand in hand with making less demands of your now adult child (or children), and simply enjoy their company); you will likely see the fruits of your labour, and enjoying the forever changing relationship that exists between parent and child.

 

Success in fatherhood isn’t always ‘getting it right’, but being willing to learn from your past behaviours in order to be different – and of course –”getting it right” going forward.

 

 

Clients who report to have the most loving relationship with their adult children are those who enjoy them; without continuing to micro-manage details of their life.  Fathers who truly embrace their parental role realize that love is the only true requirement of them – particularly as a child grows up, becoming their own adult.

 

As a father, consider giving up any and all needs to be ‘perfect’, ‘all knowing’, and ‘right’ (including the need of your ego to prove yourself so), and instead let the experiences of your role as father: teach, shape, challenge, and aspire you to being your greatest version of yourself.

The role of father does not imply perfection, nor wisdom.

 

Rather it is in a man’s ability to be open to learn from their life experiences as ‘father’, to learn from all that their child ‘demands’ of them (because children are among life’s great teachers even when they do not realize they are being so), and from their ‘duties’ as caregiver, role-model, and mentor – that ultimately they experience the wisdom and grace of what teachings they have so perfectly been given.

 

Become a great father by being willing to change, transform, and grow through examining your ‘behaviours’, your character traits, vulnerabilities, and existing belief system. Deciding to see yourself honestly will then influence how you choose to be different. Consider how you want to teach, model, mentor, and offer guidance so you can be the great father you aspire to (and especially in those most challenging moments).

 

This isn’t a new message I’m relaying. The message is worth repeating because so many men idealize the “role” of father when indeed one’s ability to be ‘a great father’ to anyone begins with your ability to first be a great human being.

 

Some practical suggestions if you are contemplating fatherhood or …reflecting on aspects of your present role as a father that could be better:

 

Begin with a simple list of behaviours and character traits that you believe would make you a great father. (Noting that some of these may be what you already possess). Next, make a second list of any behaviours and personality traits that you know would benefit you as a person– without attaching yourself to any roles here.  Even if you don’t initially know how you will accomplish your changes (which is what clients initially say), trust that by imagining the new actions that would support your new ideals, you begin a path toward becoming different. Change doesn’t happen without working toward a new outcome. Making self-improvements always has a positive spill-over effect to how you are as a …. brother, husband, friend, uncle, boss – and any other role you choose to be.

Notice the similarities of both lists.  Hhmmmmmm  

Now…begin moving toward the changes in small steps.

And finally….A father doesn’t have to have produced ‘off-spring’ to be a great father. I know this first hand.

Namaste everyone!

 

Did you know?

The idea for an official Father’s Day celebration came to a married daughter, seated in a church in Spokane, Washington, attentive to a Sunday sermon on Mother’s Day in 1910. This was two years after the first Mother’s Day observance in West Virginia.

 

The daughter was Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd. During the sermon, which extolled maternal sacrifices made for children, Mrs. Dodd realized that in her own family it had been her father, William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran, who had sacrificed-raising herself and five sons alone, following the early death of his wife in childbirth. For Mrs. Dodd, the hardships her father had endured on their eastern Washington farm called to mind the unsung feats of fathers everywhere.

Her proposed local Father’s Day celebration received strong support from the town’s ministers and members of the Spokane YMCA. Newspapers across the country, already endorsing the need for a national Mother’s Day, began carrying stories about the unique Spokane observance. Interest in Father’s Day increased.

 

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson and his family personally observed the day. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recommended that states, if they wished, should hold their own Father’s Day observances. He wrote to the nation’s governors that “the widespread observance of this occasion is calculated to establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children, and also to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”

 

It wasn’t until 1972, sixty-two years after it was proposed by Mrs. Dodd, Father’s Day was permanently established by President Richard Nixon. 

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This is WHY they say… ‘Ignorance is Bliss’

Some would say that the process of therapy is about getting help with a critical life situation or problem that you’ve been struggling with on your own for some time.  

And yet, I always explain when asked ……. the fundamental purpose of therapy is to help clients see themselves (and their life situation) clearly – accurately – truthfully.

 

It’s actually quite common for a client to attend only a session or two (yes that quickly!) and have a pivotal, life changing … “Ah ha” moment.

Self-awareness doesn’t only happen ‘in’ therapy, but whenever someone is willing to look at a situation (or their self) with different eyes – or in many cases with severe honesty – and the intention of seeing things from a different (and more accurate) perspective.  And yet to admit the truth (particularly when it means revealing a flaw or problematic behavior) to yourself is a difficult thing for many of us.

 

There are many times in our life where we know exactly what to do, but yet don’t do it.

 

Being open to seeing a situation, a behaviour, or a way of thinking with honestly, requires that you see it as “it is”.  No doubt it’s easier to sugar coat the truth, to make excuses for your own (or another’s) actions, or to tell yourself that “it’s okay” in an effort to deny a gnawing feeling that you have when you know deep down inside that what you’ve just told yourself is “okay”, is truly not.

 

Recently a client had finished a series of counselling sessions with me.  Her actions in the workplace (reprimanding her staff “with aggression”, ‘mothering’ rather than ‘mentoring’, using sarcasm and passive-aggressive behaviours rather than dealing with matters directly and calmly) made her a candidate for receiving therapy as part of the necessary requirements of her conditions of future employment.

At the outset of therapy, it felt as though nothing I was saying was reaching her.  Sylvia (not her real name) appeared to be actively defending her behaviours, as well as denying some of the accusations made toward her.

 

Fast forward a few sessions and I gratefully began to see the results  (the payoff) of Sylvia’s struggles to see what I was attempting to show her.

 

It is when we first take responsibility for SELF and for our ‘own’ actions, that we become “awake”.

To be awake is to be able to see yourself and all of your thoughts, feelings, and actions with clarity and truth.

 

In a moment of ‘awakening’ we forever change.  There is a shift that occurs deep within our psyche that acknowledges what we have done, who we have been, and how we have viewed the world up to this moment.  When we awaken we “evolve” – we transform.  As our eyes open to seeing ourselves both as we are, and how we have been – it is like turning a page in a book.  We see and recall details of the chapter we have just read, but we are now looking forward to the next chapter in front of us.  (At any time, we can go back and reread parts of previous chapters – much like how we benefit from reviewing, reflecting on past behaviours, and reminding ourselves of where we have come from).  The idea here is that our awakening begins first with awareness – recognition – and acknowledgement.  

Enlightenment comes out of your willingness to live in that new found awareness.  It is the gift of living “awakened”.

When you look at a situation in order to examine, dissect, and understand it, there is usually an underlying and often overwhelming need to have things be “okay”.  Observe your self first.  Truly it is only your own actions that you can change so this should be your focus and not the actions of others.  Be willing to see your ‘mistakes’, to note where you could have behaved differently, and to imagine what other outcomes (within your own control) would have been more helpful.  Be willing to see your imperfections not from a place of harsh judgment but as a way of learning – and of observation as a means towards positive change.  

As an adult, we don’t have the same level of input from caregivers, teachers, and positive role models (e.g. older siblings who have done ‘good’ in the world) that can guide us.  As adults, we forget that we are not infallible nor have we mastered all of the “right” behaviours.

 

When you begin to see yourself honestly, you will likely also experience a barrage of distinct emotions.  For example, sadness, remorse, disbelief, shame, regret etc for what has transpired, and for what you are willing to take responsibility for (even if just quietly to yourself).  

 

This stage is important since it is in ‘awakening’ to yourself completely that change happens.

As you move into another ‘way of being’ – or as I refer to in my upcoming book: ‘WISDOM’, “a return to your true self” – you cannot help but see the world differently.  For example, the exact same behaviours in others in light of your new found clarity (your awakened state) can no longer be overlooked or denied.  The world around you may initially not appear so bright or pretty with your ‘new’ eyes.  It can (and often does) leave one feeling despondent, depressed, even hopeless… and wondering how much better it really is to see the ‘truth’ (hence the phrase: “ignorance is bliss”).  

Seeing clearly at times means big changes for how someone lives their life.  It isn’t unusual for a person to change careers, release a relationship, change their lifestyle (e.g. become vegetarian) as a result of their awakening.  None of these changes likely occur without careful thought; you realize that you no longer can continue living the same ‘lie’ – the same incongruency that you once did.  

 

And remember, the changes you make from an awakened state even while difficult at times, while always improve the quality of your life (and reveal your natural state of happiness).

 

So how do you exist in your new non-blissful state of truth?

You actually need to feel uncomfortable, let down, and at times even betrayed (yes indeed…. betrayal is a keen motivator compelling you forward to take care of yourself).  For Sylvia, it was returning to the same workplace she had left two months earlier, except that now she saw everything as it was.

In those first two weeks, she experienced other staff resistant to helping her integrate back into the team.  She noted colleagues were hesitant to share updated procedures, and a Manager who appeared to be ‘playing’ multiple sides at once, telling her what he thought she would want to hear rather than the ‘whole’ truth.

 

Seeing everything ‘as it is’ means that you need to observe with a strong resolve of  “detachment”.  You can become easily distraught in the ‘half-truths’ or unethical behaviours.  Choose instead to focus on being your best, rather than attempting to change everyone around you.  Realizing that what she saw all around her was no longer acceptable meant that Sylvia no longer wished to stay on in her job. 

 

Envision the great things that YOU will do with your life.  It would be sad to allow all that you now see “cloud” your life by being negatively affected.  See the truth but remember – its not your job to ensure that everyone is behaving well.  Allow others to be who they are without needing to change them.

Be aware and awake – focusing on what good you will bring to your own life.  To be distracted by all the ‘wrongs’ that you now see would take away from what your new clarity has in store for you.  Pay attention to your heart’s yearnings….and the signs and messages that you see pointing you in a new direction or challenging you with a welcoming opportunity that you can feel excited about.

The message below is a little strong…but there’s ultimately truth in it… and …it does make you think 🙂

Namaste everyone!!

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It’s a CHOICE! How to make a LASTING life change.

I was speaking several months ago to someone at my gym.  He is a retired ‘snowbird’ who spends half of his time in the GTA and half of his time in his home in Florida.  I noticed that his gym workouts consisted of the same sort of routine; even using the EXACT ‘same’ stairmaster each time he was in the gym.

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Repeating similar behaviours means that you hold the same types of thought patterns.  Thinking the same (or similar) thoughts is not how change occurs.

A brief conversation with this gentleman revealed he wanted to lose 20 or more pounds.  His “Florida lifestyle” was largely unhealthy – eating much processed foods and often eating out with little activity.  I remember listening to him carefully before suggesting that his behaviours were ‘a choice’.  Regardless where he was, he needed to consider what he was choosing.

 

As recently as yesterday, a client in my office commented on a recent “choice” of his former girlfriend as a “mistake”.  He noted it was a mistake since she “had several months in which to change her mind/to correct her actions” but did not.  Choices may indeed be mistakes, and we may not always be able to correct the past, but what is most important is what we CHOOSE going forward.

ALL behaviours that you instantly identify as ‘wrong’, ‘bad’, and ‘poor’ choices – are all correctable.  In the very next instant …your awareness of what you have “done” means that you can correct or change a future CHOICE.

 

This is how we make better choices in the present moment.  This is how we begin to exist as DIFFERENT – changed – in the present.

 

I know that the gym is not a typical place for a therapy session!  Yet fast forward several months later and this retired gym goer is twenty pounds lighter.  He made the ‘choice’ to change aspects of his lifestyle (and does a lot more than an easy pace on the same gym equipment each workout)!  He shared with me recently that our earlier conversation stuck with him…. especially my words of his desires for a healthier lifestyle as…. ‘a choice’.

As humans living a physical existence, we have so many choices facing us each day.  We always know what is the ‘right’ thing to do even when we choose based on desires (junk food versus healthy, aggression verus peaceful action, hostility versus forgiveness).

Your choices set the stage for how your next moment will be.

We forget that we are in charge of our future moments simply by how we behave and respond NOW and what we do or don’t do towards something.

 

Consider any change that you have been struggling with.  What similar “choices” do you continue to make?  What new choices need to be in place before change occurs?

This is how you begin creating new (lasting) behaviours.  Begin with the observation of what you continue to do.  See your actions honestly and choose what will be your NEW BEHAVIOR in future.  Pre-planning your future behaviours for when you are in specific situations helps you to make the new choice more easily.  Being observant and mindful of all of your thoughts and actions ensures that you are making choices consciously, and not as a knee-jerk reaction based on what you have always done. 

Consider that even a choice to change a previous pattern of behaving ONCE is a step toward a lasting change.  Being able to choose differently for a ‘first’ time (or correct a behaviour wherever possible as soon as you can) helps to ensure that you CAN make change happen – and that you can do what you’ve been telling yourself you want to do.

Begin with any behaviour you are hoping to change and CHOOSE NOW what important step will be in line with making that change a permanent one.

Namaste everyone!!

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Your AUTHENTIC Self

Perhaps one of the most undervalued privileges of the human experience is self-knowledge.  Beyond describing what it is that we do for a living, our preference of music genre, or our favourite ice-cream flavour, how well do we really know our self?  Much of our adolescence is spent contemplating who we would like to be (or self-loathing who we think we are) in comparison to peer groups and current media influences.   As we enter adulthood and strive to be autonomous, self-knowledge is somehow less important than the perception others have of us.  We decide on a vocation, a life partner and all of the other tangible items (e.g. job status, accumulation of material goods, even our decision to have children) that fulfill society’s requirement for living a meaningful existence – all without placing value on knowing our self.

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Knowing your self comes from journeying within.  At the core of self-knowledge is honesty and authenticity.  You need to be willing to see yourself accurately, and yet with acceptance rather than judgment.  Sometimes this is best achieved when a loved one can act as a mirror, reflecting back to you what they observe.  More often, it is your commitment and perseverance to self-awareness that elicits insight, knowledge, and understanding.  Out of the honest observation of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, it becomes intolerable to ignore the truth.  Self-knowledge promotes positive action.

 

Out of self-knowledge you are forced to examine your vulnerabilities and imperfections.  Through self-awareness and self-responsibility, you see the various events of your life as challenges to grow – and to become more.  Through this process of growth, you evolve.  Self-actualization (the motive to realize one’s full potential) in experienced as the result of the relentless pursuit of conscious awareness and personal growth.*

 

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While clients may initially seek therapy for help and guidance with a specific problem or situation, the inescapable benefit of the therapeutic process is the opportunity for self-honesty and clarity.  The net result is an understanding and authenticity that comes from being truthful.  You may not always like what you see, but your commitment to self-honesty is what facilities positive change.

 

 

 

 

 

Some suggestions for attaining greater self-knowledge and truth:

 

Create a ‘Who Am I’ List

Use a journal to record an exhaustive list of qualities that best describe who you are.  Without screening or judging your thoughts, note all of your traits, core competencies, positive attributes as well as what aspects of yourself you would like to change.  The process of creating such a comprehensive list requires you to identify yourself-concept (how you see yourself).  The qualities that you wish to change provide you with a place for personal growth.

 

Practice Conscious Awareness

Self-knowledge and understanding cannot exist without conscious awareness.  Practice present moment awareness for bringing your attention to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours – particularly at times when you are not your ‘best’ self.  With conscious awareness, you continue to learn about yourself.  Out of self-knowledge you choose how you want to be, rather than simply doing what you have always done.  Being self-aware reflects empowerment and provides you with the insightful information that you alone can be responsible for.

 

‘Live in your Truth’

With self-honesty, it is possible to develop a healthy (empowered) sense of self.  Out of honesty comes the ability to grow self-esteem.  Healthy self-esteem requires that you value yourself and your happiness.  You feel confident in your ability to express yourself with honesty and authenticity.  To live in your truth means that you honour what is best and right for you and you live according to that.

 

If we consider that self-discovery and self-knowledge exists on a continuum, then we accept that the possibility for learning about who we are is endless.  Self-awareness transcends age, educational level, and intelligence.  In fact, the more self-aware and reflective we are, the more incredible we become as a human being.

 

Namaste everyone!

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*Expressing one’s creativity, quest for spiritual enlightenment, pursuit of knowledge, and the desire to give to society are some other examples of self-actualization.

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February 2013: Surrender and Release…

The message of February’s ‘SURRENDER AND RELEASE’ reminds us of the power in “letting go”, of shedding the parts of our self (and our life) that are no longer working, nor contributing to the good of our Highest Self.   When you surrender it means you can stop forcing something that may not be divine timing or ‘right’ for you; instead looking at what is available, what is in front of you, what is more aligned with your ‘truth’.

 

surrender

When you ‘let go’, ASK for help and Divine Guidance from your Highest Self.

Then trust that everything you surrender and release to will either be replaced by something BETTER or become HEALED.

These become powerful lessons in “faith” and “trust”; important for all of us on a spiritual path.

This month’s message comes at a perfect time when we need to consider everything that is not working in our life and make a conscious decision about what to do with it.  Holding onto (whether physically or metaphorically) the things that aren’t contributing to our quality of life, that feel like a burden or ‘difficult’, or that cause us stress and unhappiness – are the precise ‘things’ what we need to surrender to.

 

This doesn’t mean we have permission to give up on a relationship, or stop working on our goals; rather surrendering is about pausing, observing, and ASKING to be ‘shown’ the gift or blessing in what we are struggling with in order to learn something important.  What we learn always helps us! 

 

Be willing to surrender your fears; visualizing them being carried away –  and replaced with what you need instead.  (Consider what you need in any situation.  e.g. courage, confidence, patience, etc).

When you think of issues you want resolved you can ask your Highest Self to give you a “higher” or “healed” version of the issue.  

You can also ‘release’ the issue to your Highest Self and ask that it be taken care of for you.  Sit quietly, relax, and close your eyes.  Surround the issue or situation in light and release it.  For the next 5-10 minutes, see yourself receiving answers and ‘right’ guidance.  

 

Feel yourself being supported by the divine Wisdom of your Highest Self. 

Namaste everyone!

 

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