Winter Blues… A CBT Approach for Treatment

THREE STEPS TO BANISHING WINTER BLUES…  f o r e v e r

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, winter blues, seasonal depression and… (did you know?) summertime sadness, is a mood disorder subset of seasonal patterns in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter (or summer).[1]

For those living in North America as well as other Northern Hemisphere countries, seasonal affective disorder is most prevalent during the winter months.  In efforts to avoid the cold and dampness, we tend to remain indoors for most of the day, venturing outside more out of necessity than pleasure.  Typically a season of reduced activity, we are affected by the shorter days (with less total sunlight) and an increased innate desire for rest and sleep.  We also forget how vital it is to breathe fresh air by being outside and in nature on a regular basis as part of what allows us to feel better.

Despite the inevitable climate and weather conditions affecting us during the winter months, I believe that there is an even greater contributing factor to our state of lethargy, low affect, and to feeling unmotivated and depressed.  Our environment and climate are important contributing factors, but there is a human element that plays an important role in whether we get excited about what the winter can offer, OR despondent and depressed.

“How you think about the weather (or anything else in life) affects your overall mood state.”  – dorothy ratusny

To help you best strategize in those moments when you are feeling the winter blues “effects”, begin with some simple questions.

Ask yourself, “What was I just thinking?”  “What am I saying to myself right now?” or “What are my thoughts?”

Your thoughts determine how you feel.  Your actions (what you do or don’t do) are fuelled by how you feel. This Cognitive Therapy principle is the same for all of us.

Thoughts -> Feelings -> Behaviours

As the busyness and fun of the year end holidays come to a close, you’re left with the reality of what your life truly is at this moment.  If there are some major issues that you’ve been avoiding, or if you’ve been increasingly unhappy with your life, it’s natural to feel a dip in your overall mood state once you return to your daily routine and are faced with the same challenges that you’ve had some reprieve from.

Typical life events – including responsibilities, bills, and a hectic schedule that perhaps leaves little time for fun and pure enjoyment, can cause negative” feelings (e.g. anxiety, worry, sadness – even hopelessness) that seem to come out of nowhere. Many people cope by finding new distractions to avoid feeling unhappy.  We can busy ourselves with other activities, a demanding work life, or the temporary escape of a winter getaway; but in doing so, we never really address the deeper issues – the origin – of our current unhappy state.

For most of us, its difficult to sit still and contemplate our unhappiness.  As we feel waves of anxiety, dread, or sadness, our instinct is to immediately “stop” these feelings.  We don’t always understand from where our feelings originate, making it difficult to address the cause or origin.  Our initial reaction if we don’t know how to make ourselves ‘feel better’, is to ignore or avoid what we feel in hopes that this will somehow make our sad or anxious feelings go away.  The moment we stop doing whatever has made us “busy” in order to distract us from how we feel, the sadness, anxiety (or any other uncomfortable feeling) returns.  Each time we suppress or avoid how we truly feel, we become further disconnected from understanding the real problem – and the cause of our unhappiness.

I remind clients that feeling sad only persists when we avoid looking at what thoughts caused us to feel sad.  Our sadness may be related to a temporary situation which will resolve itself either with our efforts and initiative or as a result of other events that unfold naturally. If the sadness we feel is related to our feelings about who we are, and the state of our life, then its important that we address whatever is causing us to feel unhappy.  If we can use the same Cognitive Therapy Principles whether for seasonal affective disorder, or any other type of low grade sadness (and other uncomfortable emotions), then we have a means of feeling better. Identifying your thoughts is like uncovering the source of your unhappiness.  What you tell yourself (whether true or untrue) is what you believe.

If you’re feeling discouraged, unhappy, or hopeless with the state of your life, it’s because your life doesn’t accurately reflect what you truly want. (Interestingly enough, your life currently DOES reflect what you believe and what you’ve been thinking about most – including what you fear).  When clients describe feeling unhappy with aspects of their life and with who they are, I remind them of the power of their conscious thought. What you consistently tell yourself is the truth behind the reality that you are living.

We all need to choose our thoughts carefully.

Who you are and how you live life is based on your thoughts and beliefs.  When you feel the ‘Winter Blues’ or sadness in general, pay attention to your state of mind.  Are you focusing on what you don’t yet have or what you want most?  Are you focusing on what you don’t yet see or have in front of you? Most importantly, are you ruminating about your current life situation and the aspects of yourself you are unhappy about, which in the very next moment effectively becomes the past and beyond your control?

The following STRATEGIES are MOST effective for banishing the Winter Blues.  These strategies are based on applying the Cognitive Therapy (CBT) principles that have been proven to be MOST effective in alleviating sadness and any other uncomfortable emotion.  Please remember, this is an approach that you need to use in order for it to work. Be prepared that you will need to pay attention to your thoughts (the internal dialogue of what you say to yourself) far more than you are used to.  Like any other skill that you acquire with practice, attention to your thoughts allows you to reap the benefits of changing how you feel. You can only change your thoughts once you become aware of what it is that you are telling yourself.

In a recent study, Cognitive therapy (CBT) was found to be more effective at treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) than light therapy (a standard and well proven method of treatment).  In fact, CBT was significantly better at preventing relapse in future winters, the study found. Led by University of Vermont psychology professor Kelly Rohan, the research initiative, funded by a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, is the first large scale study to examine light therapy’s effectiveness over time.

“Light therapy is a palliative treatment, like blood pressure medication, that requires you to keep using the treatment for it to be effective,” said Rohan. “Adhering to the light therapy prescription upon waking for 30 minutes to an hour every day for up to five months in dark states can be burdensome,” she said.

The study showed that, by the second winter, only 30 percent of light therapy subjects were still using the equipment.

Cognitive-behavior therapy, by contrast, is a preventive treatment, Rohan said. Once SAD sufferers learn its basic skills it has enduring impact, giving the person a sense of control over their symptoms.

STEP ONE: Decide how YOU want to be, and also what you want for your ideal life.  Begin with what you know right now.  You can always add to your ‘desire’ list as you decide more of what you want.

In STEP ONE I encourage you to carve out ‘alone time’ to be quiet and introspective.  Make a list of what you want for your life and how you want to be (based on what you know now). I encourage clients to call this list: ‘WHO AM I BECOMING?’  This list reflects the person (and the life) that you have  always wanted but perhaps did not truly believe it was possible.  As you identify a list that yields the definition of your ideal self (and your ideal life), you now have a destination that you can begin moving towards.  Being committed to your WHO AM I BECOMING? list helps you to be accountable and to make healthy ‘right’ decisions that will support what you desire most.

We feel a chronic yet low grade level of sadness and a growing disconnection from our SELF if we have been avoiding looking at what needs changing, and then doing the necessary work to make our life (and our self) what we truly want.

Contemplating what it would require to fix your life – making it what you really want when you’ve been living unhappily for so long – can seem largely overwhelming.  When I work with clients, a first step is to help them become  c l e a r  about their goals and desires.  It means examining who they currently are, and what they need to do (hence the “WHO AM I BECOMING?” list) in order to feel better.  If you begin by practising self-honesty as you define what you really want (even when you don’t know all of the steps involved in getting where you want to be), the results are largely positive. Part of the sadness that we feel at different times in our life (and not only as Winter Blues) is due to the lack of clarity about what we truly want.  STEP ONE is about getting clear and stating what you desire most.

STEP TWO: With clarity about what you want, begin to move towards this using well defined ACTION STEPS.

Create action steps for each of your highest level (the biggest, all-encompassing) goals.  This will help to make the goals manageable as ‘steps’ and it outlines the practical need for daily work in the ‘here and now’ as you stay focused on the bigger picture.  Action steps also remind you that every decision you make beginning with NOW will either bring you closer to or further away from your highest ideals.

Notice how much better you begin to feel when you have a clear plan in place of how you will be different including what you are prepared to do towards this.wwwlauradbeancom

STEP THREE can be a ‘mind bender’.  It requires that you keep up both STEPS ONE and TWO while b e l i e v i n g that you already are living the life that you desire most; and that you already are the person that you most want to be.  I love this part!

STEP THREE is about believing in what you can’t fully see yet.  It truly is an act of manifesting.

STEP THREE is the practise of seeing and believing in what you truly want even though it is not (yet) visible to you in the physical world.  It’s about never giving up on what you want; rather – consistently taking the steps towards your highest ideals and goals (and trusting that they are coming to you as long as you still desire them).  Being consistently clear about what it is you desire AND living your life as if it were already what you want is the STEP that most of us have trouble with.  And yet, its one of the most powerful things that we can do to bring what we truly want into our lives – and quickly!

Each strategy comprised as “steps” is based in CBT principles (together with the Universal Laws that govern manifesting).  And what I am sharing – really works!  It’s important that you begin with a closer look at your existing ‘self-talk’ (to see what is in part causing your unhappiness), and then focus on what you really want for your life rather than what you don’t yet see or have.  The THREE STEPS as I have defined them here are a way of  l i v i n g  life.  It isn’t a one-time formula but a practical way of being.  These strategies help you understand the power of your mind and how you need to be consciously aware of what you tell yourself.

Finding one or more of these steps a challenge? Unsure of what you want? Feeling stuck in how to move forward even though you know what you ideal self looks like?  Let me be of help. To be in touch or to work with me, please contact me at: mail@dorothyratusny.com  Thankyou!!

  1. For a full read of the published study on the superior effects of CBT in the treatment of SAD, click the link above or visit: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151105084516.htm
  2. Understanding why Nature makes us Feel Better  http://blog.nature.org/science/2015/05/22/science-nature-emotion-affect-feel-better/
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A Mother’s Day Inspirational Message

Helping a Mother Understand what it means to be Gay: Healing a Relationship of secrets, pain, and anger.

 

My client and her mother are not so different from other Mother and Daughters. As I sit before both of them I feel hopeful. A Daughter willing to enter into therapy to work on gaining closeness and understanding with her Mother and to overcome the hurt of offensive comments and past wounds that she has carried largely in silence. A Mother, not knowing what it means to live in shame and self-loathing, nor to be misunderstood by those who are supposed to love you the most, is open and willing to be part of a process that she has little knowledge of, and certainly no idea of where it will lead.

 

What makes my client’s story so interesting for me has nothing to do with her sexual orientation (she initially dated men and women before deciding she would prefer a gay relationship). Rather it is the level of commitment that each woman brings into the therapy session that highlights the value they place on one another – on being a family, on improving the way in which they communicate so that words are not spoken without consideration of the other, and perhaps the ultimate hope of healing the past so that there can be a new way to experience one another – a way that they both can trust in.

 

What I see (and I tell them so) is two women reestablishing their relationship as ‘equals’. The “role” of Mother as I explain, is very different than how it existed before. There are no diapers to be changed, nor lessons on how to cross the street at a crosswalk, or what to expect with a first period. The vast amount of ‘Mothering’ has been completed almost two decades earlier; the role of Mother today needs to be one of: supporter, validating her Daughter’s painful hurts from the past (like the times when she was physically hurt by her older brother and then threatened if she ever spoke of it). The “role” of Mother today is simply to listen, to validate her Daughter’s journey in discovering who she is; and to ask the necessary questions that will provide her with understanding and knowledge so that she never again prejudges or mistakenly condemns her Daughter’s choices.

 

Mother’s day means different things to each of us. Perhaps you too have experienced a “shifting of roles” in your relationship with your Mother, relying on her for different things (perhaps just to lend an ear as you talk about a current issue on the phone, or having your favorite dish waiting at Sunday brunch). Perhaps you now see her as your equal. Or, as in some cases when roles actually become reversed, you can accept that your Mother has technically completed her ‘duties’ as your ‘go to’ for everything. You may have become someone that she now comes to for guidance and help.

 

Most important is to appreciate your Mother for all that she has done, accepting that her new role in your relationship may be something quite different. Finding what that ‘different’ is will (if both of you are willing) help heal the wounds of the past and build new parameters for what your relationship is…and is becoming.

 

I always appreciate my sessions with my client and her Mother.  I can see their closeness deepening (like the time recently when Mother reached out and took her Daughter’s hand, holding it gently as she listened to the story of how her brother used to pick on her, and become physical when the Mother was not around).  I can hear the patience in my client’s voice when she listens to her Mother tell her some of the backdrop to the past; how being a single parent with two young children was only one of several challenges that she rose above.  I know that these women have already begun healing…their laughter and sharing of one another’s lives in our session highlights how they are learning much about one another – as who they are now.

 

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When the love we are shown as children is fake, self-serving, and conditional…

When you were a child, perhaps the love you were shown by one or more of your caregivers was confusing because it was not consistent, unconditional, or pure in intention.  Now as an adult, the mixed messages and inauthentic actions that you continue to observe help make sense of what was likely always there.  What you are being shown is not unconditional love.  It never was.

 

Perhaps there are times when we all need to make choices around self-preservation and self-love.  We may need to ‘let go’ of the wishful thinking that someone could be kinder in their words or not ‘two-faced’ – acting as though they care when really they are just making the obligatory small talk – or perhaps feeding their own selfish need to feel good about their relationship with you.  Perhaps it is enough that we take care of our own needs, honouring what would be best for us – even if it means spending much less time in the company of others whose professed ‘love’ of us is self-serving at best.

 

These are real life stories; they exist for real people.  We cannot just assume that because we are ‘family’ that each member wants to or is able to love us without conditions.  Rather than compromise who we are, give in to societal pressures, or lose our self in the quest for approval based on someone else’s subjective and limited views, why not first acknowledge what you see and feel. Validating your experience doesn’t mean it will change anything.  But it will help you to make sense of what love is not.

 

 

Perhaps one person’s story of a childhood of “conditional” love will help explain what too many of us have experienced.  Perhaps you or someone you know can also relate and through reading this, know that you are not alone.

 

 

I watch closely but I do not feel love.  I hear the words “I love you” but they are empty. Sometimes the words spoken carry a weight of expectation: they are spoken in order to hear the same in return. I can feel it.  I watch the look on their face when I say the words back and they are satisfied, like an addict that has just found their fix.  Love is indeed a drug to those who do not know what it means to love themselves.

 

I realize that words without truth are just words.  They are confusing at best because they are empty.  They do not give me comfort nor do I feel cared for.  I am left confused – as if something is missing. Imagine a lifetime of this.  How I come to know love is through the love that exists within me – what I feel inside is love felt easily, naturally when I can be around animals – when I can feel and experience unconditional love in my love for my pets. They return my love. (As do certain extended family members whom I feel a genuine warmth and an unconditional love from whenever I see them.)  My pets return my love.  This feels wonderful …but most of all it feels REAL.  No words – just the experience of real love from within – expressed by me and also felt – reciprocated – in the instinctual behaviours of my pets directed toward me.  My love given and received by another living being – unconditionally – validates my experience of what genuine love is.

 

As with all kids, I learned to read the body language and facial expressions of my primary caregivers.  Perhaps most crucial – I could feel the energy attached to the words someone spoke.  Almost like a human ‘lie detector’, I was able to know instinctively when the words someone spoke were congruent and authentic with their true feelings – and when it was not.”

 

This is how we know truth.  Words spoken are not always truthful. In fact, we hide behind our words – spoken to cover our true feelings because it is safer – easier – and because it is what we have simply been conditioned to do.  When you continue to communicate with words that are not backed in (your) truth, you will continue to feel empty inside.  This is where the sadness comes from even though you may not realize it is building, growing – perhaps for years – inside you.

 

Words without truth are empty.  They die in the space between being uttered from someone’s lips even before they reach you.

 

 

 

As a child there is NO “off switch”.  Children learn how to guard and protect themselves only after many repetitions of being hurt, experiencing ongoing betrayals of trust, and of course through physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.  These are the experiences that teach us not to trust, that love is uncertain, conditional, and unsafe when ‘delivered’ by certain people.

 

 

As a child your tap simply “flows” with love.  You don’t know how to ‘shut it off’.  You LEARN to close your heart in self protection and self preservation because if there is no escape from the ongoing harm of lies, hurts, or abuse, you must find a way to survive.

 

I hear many stories from clients who were emotionally, physically, and also sexually abused by the people they placed all of their trust and love in.  These were people who I believe as parents had the most important job on the planet but failed to see it as so. 

 

 

As a human race, we have all experienced conditional love. The difference is that some parents make the conscious decision to not treat their children as they were treated; and that it is up to them to love themselves – to heal themselves first – before repeating the cycle.

 

When you return to your childhood home – whether it is to visit those same caregivers or to reunite with extended family at holidays and special occasions – the ability to intuitively perceive whether there is real love or just empty words – carries much weight. As an adult you no longer have to feel uncomfortable, sad, hurt, “wronged”, betrayed, or a lack of belonging – even though you likely will.

 

Our feelings (and the situations in which we have been wronged) remain buried deep inside us – buried because that was all that we could do with them as a child.  Buried because they were just too frequent and damaging for us to make sense of them at the time. Burying the hurt allowed us to carry on – to function in hopefully the best way possible – while always hoping, wishing – that what was told to us (when there were kind words) …was really true.

 

As an adult, one of the best ways to acknowledge any of the painful memories of your past is to open them; to look inside and see what is true. Find a means of first validating and then reconstructing the discrepancy between what you were told (e.g. empty words, lies, manipulation) and the truth. Once you can begin to make sense of what confusion you felt but could likely not explain nor understand (as a young child) – what inauthentic actions and hurtful words your caregivers did and said that made no sense, then you can begin to release – ”to shed” – this pain. 

 

These vast incongruencies meant that you were “right” to feel confused, sad, and uncared for, at the mixed messages of love, for its inconsistencies, for love being withheld, for the inappropriate and disproportionate degree of punishment (aka discipline) that were based on your caregivers inability to contain their rage, frustration, or overwhelmed feelings.  All of these examples were not love.

 

 

As adults, we are (in most cases) biologically able to have offspring. We are not always so able to offer the emotional security, unconditional love, and care that a child requires.  Or – as in most cases – we are able to offer this some of the time.

 

 

 

We need to examine our own childhood long before we contemplate having children.  We need to first make a commitment to heal our own past, (from abusive homes and parents who gave us conditional love (if love at all). We need to return to our childhood through the eyes of our ‘inner child’ and see what damage has been done – not for the purpose of blame and finger pointing, but out of the ability to heal past actions through understanding that the times when we didn’t feel the congruency of being loved – indeed we were “right” .

 

As an adult, if we remain observant to the actions of our former caregivers, we will be shown the accurate ‘proof’ of what was true.  It offers the inner child in all of us validation for all of the feelings felt when there was no explanation for why we were feeling them.  It also provides an understanding for all of the (years of) sadness, mistrust, and our reservation for letting our guard down with them now.  In the presence of these former caregivers and everyone else who acts inauthentic and dishonest – now you know the truth.  To know the truth will be enough to heal you.

 

THE PROACTIVE SOLUTIONS?

For some of us who are exploring the relationship with our inner child – (the inner part of ourselves that we recognize was hurt or wounded at a earlier age) – and because our inner child was without the adequate love, nurturing, protection, safety, kindness, etc to navigate through that particular experience successfully (aka without lingering emotional dissension or trauma) you may wish to return to a particular time in your mind where you experienced a past incident. Using visualization, allow your younger (inner child) self to speak ‘their’ mind.  Allowing them to have a “voice” offers empowerment, and a way of acknowledging the wrongness of the past. Having an inner conversation with your younger self where you allow your true thoughts and feelings to surface gives your inner child strength and the power to change the outcome by going back in time.  In your visualization, see the outcome you want – make it different!  (There is great healing in visualizing a different outcome while feeling the effects of what you are seeing in your mind.)  Let your inner child be heard, loved, validated, given fair treatment.  This is how we can wrong what has happened in the past.  This is what is meant by “taking back” or “reclaiming the self”.

 

Secondly, as an adult, it is up to you to speak honestly whenever you see (or sense) incongruence or in genuine behaviour.  (If you sense something is not congruent to what you are being told there is a strong likelihood that you are receiving what is not perhaps being spoken but is nonetheless there).  Speaking your truth is not to prove that your hunch is correct – it is to simply give your feelings a voice.  Speaking your truth never guarantees that someone will change, admit the truth, apologize, etc.  Speaking up with firm kindness and compassion simply gives you a window into the past – into acknowledging what is (and what you believe to be true) and for holding others accountable to their behaviours.  It means that you have acknowledged what you are witness to in that moment even if they cannot.  Notice how this step is enough to help you make your own peace with who they still are…and some of the past.

 

 

 

An Afternote or two…

The more inner work you do to be authentic and truthful, the more it will bother and even upset you when others are acting inauthentic.

 

Parents who themselves were mistreated or given “conditonal” love often seek love through their children – realizing their young children will love them “no matter what”.  Because of this parents can ‘get away with’ being quick to anger, using harsh words to manipulate or scold when not obeyed. Parents can enforce what action they demand through guilt, bribery, and by withholding love or through punishment.  There can be no trust gained for these caregivers for two main reasons:  one being that these parents may still continue to act out in ways that are harmful and that inflict wounds.  Second, if the damage is deep, their adult children will always be cautious, careful, and guarded – to not become prey to the habits of the past.

 

Parents have different relationships with each child because they are different people at each birth – and at each stage of child rearing.  How inexperienced parents raise their first child will be substantially different than how they raise future children.  Who that child is in their ‘nature’ and ‘personality’ also greatly affects the relationship a parent has with each child.  Even though you may be in the same family of multiple siblings – each of your siblings experiences throughout childhood will be significantly different.  Having older siblings to help (or hinder) a child’s experiences in their family of origin also plays another important role in their experience growing up.

 

For those of you seeking to make amends, to dialogue, communicate, seek understanding and an improved quality of relationship with your adult parent, realize that this may not be possible – not because you aren’t making a genuine effort or that your desire is not great enough – but for the same reasons that your caregiver’s behaviour existed in the first place.  Your parents may not be capable of letting go of their ‘stories’ and the misperceptions that have served them so well.  They may become defensive to your honesty and candidness – being triggered by the wounds of their own childhood.  They may become enraged, resorting to the same type of behaviour you witnessed so many times in childhood: and they may lash back – causing your ‘inner child’ wounds to be felt all over again. 

 

This is why much of the work in healing the inner child – or simply your adult self – is done without the presence of these caregivers.  It is safer without their presence or involvement and the healing may happen best when you can give your (inner child) self what you need in order to heal rather than hope or wait on your needs to come from a place where it has already been proven that it never can.

 

In the end, you may decide to have a very different – perhaps far more distant relationship with your adult caregiver.  In cases where the abuse and emotional and physical neglect were extreme – there is really no room for anything of substance (or depth).  These caregivers themselves are stuck in the emotional habits of blame – of not being willing to look at their own actions, nor are they willing to truly seek the change that is needed to heal themselves so that they can cultivate a healthy dynamic.  This limits any growth that could potentially happen. 

What remains is your choice – whether to allow them a simple place in your life, or not at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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The Path….

The soul’s journey is one of a peaceful existence.   We listen to and allow the many ways in which the soul speaks quietly, purposefully to us and we are gently moved in the ways of spirit.

What does your heart say that honours your spirit best?

This is how you best guide your next actions – your next focus – the guidance that holds your truth is at once the perfect nature – your soul’s path AND the path you are already on.

 

In all of the daily requirements of life, make space in the abundance for inner work; for acknowledging the needs of the soul drive your ‘highest’ actions.  Consider that the way in which you realize the most perfect things in life are also the needs of the soul.

Honour the needs of your soul by asking, “What honours me best right now?”  Then listen and hear the words spoken from within your heart (not your mind).  This is the path you must follow.

Namaste everyone!

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REPLACING the compulsion for FOOD….

 

From a young age, we learn to associate food with: comfort, a reward (or “treat”), a way of ‘sharing quality time’ with others (e.g. breaking bread together), and pure pleasure.  Practically, food is for nourishment and survival.  Yet, we live in a nation that offers an overabundance and variety of food – of which we often overindulge in.  We actually require small amounts of food for optimal health – particularly at adulthood and beyond.  As our biochemistry (and our values and beliefs) change during our lifetime, these ought to reflect how we view and value our food choices.

 

When you use food as a mechanism to feel better, to calm yourself, out of the conditioned thought that you ‘must eat’ because it is a culturally accepted “meal time,” in boredom, or because others are doing so – you aren’t connected with the true purpose of eating.  Even the choices that you make such as: foods high in refined sugar, carbohydrate-dense foods or processed (fast) foods, for example – become as much as a conditioned response to your state of mind at a particulr moment and far less about what you really need.

It’s no wonder that a high proportion of the population struggles with their relationship with food; we “use” food in place of many of the things we actually need.

 

When clients choose to seek therapy as a way of getting help with their food relationship (and subsequently addressing issues of weight loss, poor self-image, or an eating ‘disorder’), the relationship they have with food is generally the tip of the iceberg.  Most of the ‘real’ work of therapy is in examining a person’s conditioned attitudes and beliefs around food and its purpose in their life.  We use food, as many other ‘substances’ to effect a feeling or mood state – and when this becomes an automatic response – it masks for us the underlying issue that needs attention.

 

Most of us could stand to examine the prevaling role of food in our life.  For example, being raised to eat meat at every meal may not be the best thing for someone’s physiology nor their evolved belief system.  Rather than do what you’ve always done, consider becoming far more aware of your body’s reaction to different food groups, practices of eating, and what foods feel healthy – fueling your body in ways that allow you to feel energized, mentally alert, and ‘light’.

 

In becoming aware, you may also consider sitting still the next time you feel the habitual urge to reach for ‘something’ to eat.  Let your inner voice communicate what you really need instead.  You may be surprised to learn how often it isn’t food that is needed. 

Trust that sitting still will keep you from acting on what you have always done: using food* as the ‘quick fix’ or ‘temporary solution’  that leaves you still unsatisfied and searching for more (more sweets, more quantity, more food).

*Overindulging in food is synonomous with any other behaviour that may be a way of temporarily helping you mask an uncomfortable feeling: smoking cigarettes, drug use, alcohol, shopping, gambling, compulsive or indiscriminate sex.

 

Instead let the stillness find you. 

In it you will discover what you really need.  It will almost never be food.  Challenge yourself to recognize each time you allow your mind to contemplate food and stop yourself from acting habitually or compulsively on your thought. 

Then simply ASK,  “What do I really need in this moment?”

 

Of all of our body’s automatic and necessary processess, breathing is the most significant.  As you observe your mind go to thoughts of food and what type of food you ‘want’ or ‘need’ in any particular moment, place your full attention on your breath.  Choose your breath as a way to experience the subtle yet powerful effects of nourishing your ‘SELF’ and observe the path inward instead.  When you follow your natural breathing cycle, you bring awareness to how you feel in that moment.  You are also able to draw your attention within – for even a minute or two.  If you stay in this awareness, you begin to READ the internal cues of your body.  You may notice that food is used for so many reasons; few of which are true pangs of hunger.

 

What you may discover from the silence and the careful moments of inner reflection is that what you needed last night was not sugary treats, but sleep, rest, and reprieve from your work schedule.  In the gentle stillness of non-movement, and non-doing you will always have an answer.  Food no longer becomes the ‘go to’ point to soothe, comfort, or entertain you.  In self-awareness, you firmly resolve to find new answers for what you actually need in this moment.  Sometimes the answer is surprisingly simple: ‘just be’, ‘enjoy this moment and what you are doing right now’.  It  may be of a reflective nature: ‘take in a deep breath and contemplate your perfect life’, or ‘enjoy the sunset in front of you’.  Sometimes your inner awareness inspires you to change your state of being (your energy) by: ‘using your breath to calm you, and simply moving you ‘past the urge for food’ in situations that are stressful.

 

Consider the moments you have felt a flurry of excitement as you were preparing food, contemplating the choice of restaurant, scaning the baked goods section of a supermarket, or the buffet for what choices you may place onto your plate.  What you are really doing is using food to add excitement or adventure to your life.  You may not want food to have this consistent role, nor the indulgence of eating copious amounts as a way to ‘enjoy’ life.  Even here, your inner voice is gently pointing out what you really need instead.  Recognize that it is your excitement and at times adrenalin rush that becomes too overpowering for the quiet voice within.  If you pay close attention, in the brief moment before you act – you will always have an inner urging to ‘not’ indulge in food – especially when it involves unhealthy choices.  Yet, once you ambush the inner voice (or bulldoze through it), you are on automatic pilot.  You may be aware during your food ‘adventure’ of the control food has over you, even though it is too late.  And by the time the sugar rush or copious amounts of food has had an affect on your brain, it’s game over; because you are now experiencing the addictive physiological effects of food on your brain chemistry; which are similiar albeit more intense than any drug you could injest.

 

Interestingly, when we rely on food for happiness, joyful experiences, and comfort – eating replaces other forms of stimulation, peaceful activity, or pleasurable life experience.  Food becomes an ‘escape’, allowing us to ‘check out’ from life – to ‘disassociate’ because we are now eating out of a conditioned pattern, heavily programmed and stimulated by a deeper need that has not yet been met.  When eating takes on a quality of automation, or when we eat while distracted with conversation, television, or work – we actually zone out from our experience of eating making the act of eating even less important,  necessary, and fulfilling.  Similarly, if our waking moments are disproportionately caught up in what we are going to eat, from where will be purchase or prepare it, when we will have it; you can see how much of life is ‘spent’, ‘used up’ in the act of ‘experiencing’ food versus sitting in the uncomfortable feelings that are there to tell us something is wrong.  It is our job to discover what we really need instead.

 

When you choose to be present and to return to the natural flow – the exchange – of your breath – you discover what lies beyond the impulse for food (and any cravings you may have).  Instead you discover the stillness of being.  When you continue to ask the question: “What do I really need in this moment?” the inner voice that you hear may truly surprise you.  Your inner self will always require far simpler and more meaningful quests; which begs the question, “How can I give this need to myself?”

 

When you use food in place of: love, sleep, connection with others, mental stimulation, excitement, comfort, or any other real purpose, you continue to avoid what you truly need.  When you are temporarily satiated or perhaps ‘stuffed’ from the endeavours of eating food, notice if you are moved ever so subtly – further still from your true needs (e.g. the desire for happiness, peace, or another real need).  Instead, the act of unconscious eating disconnects us further – and buries the emotions that were recently near the surface.

 

The need for love, excitement, adventure, peace (or perhaps something else) will remain buried deep within you unless you choose to look at what is there.  Reaching habitually for food throughout the day will simply continue to ‘feed’ your compulsions rather than help you ‘find’ TRUTH.

Honour your ability to use food as nourishment and sustenance and be mindful of what its purpose truly is. 

For one day, challenge yourself to dispell the myths and teachings you have conditioned yourself to follow and instead ask, “What do I really need in this moment?”

LOOK BEYOND FOOD and see what is there.  You will uncover far more answers and TRUTH by not reaching for food as the solution to something.  Find the resolve to sit still first, asking ‘What am I using food for?’ and then honouring the answer your inner voice speaks.  Do this – and trust the answers you hear – allowing the wisdom of something more to be uncovered instead.  Holding the resolve to follow a different path, you will notice life’s miracles gently take form – providing what you DO NEED to show up in your life.

Sit with the answer your inner self has spoken and then notice how that inner need might ever so perfectly become fulfilled right before your eyes.  Consider the simple perfection of your cat or dog jumping into your lap in a way that allows you to feel ‘love’ (=an inner need), or perhaps you think of a friend or family member that you haven’t been in contact with in some time as the perfect solution to feeling ‘connnected’ (=another inner need).  These simple yet perfect examples are what we tend to overlook or disregard altogether because of our grander impulse to feed ourselves.

Namaste everyone!

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BEING LOVE

As human beings, we have a fundamental and inherent need to experience love.  Whether it manifests itself as an unconscious desire to have others like and accept us (and so our behaviour becomes motivated by this need); or an deliberate drive to experience love through our relationships, the truth is….we all seek love.

Never before in the history of the universe have we recognized this universal truth – that love originates within us.  It is in experiencing love as something that we create from within … that we can feel LOVE.  The action of being love (sharing love with others) is another form of the expression of LOVE.  Third and finally, we have the ability to feel the energy of love that comes to us from another.  

Even if we do not feel love for ourself , or deserving of others’ love; we are able to both experience love and express it openly with others.  This is what makes our nature as loving beings so incredible.

We are awakening to the realization that we are capable of expressing love because LOVE is our inherent nature.

In fact, a UNIVERSAL PURPOSE of life is to be unconditionally loving.

In LOVE Relationships:

LOVE is both experienced as a feeling and a state of being.  We experience our self in a love relationship and feel a sense of validation; inspiration; elation; and purpose.  Historically, social and cultural conditioning teaches us that we are special and important when we have “found” love (simultaneously making it less desirable and fulfilling to be single).  Society still perpetuates the idea that a couple relationship is one of the ultimate goals in life, since it offers validation that we are indeed lovable. 

In actuality, we are born worthy of love.  If we at some point later in life we believe anything else it is because we have been “taught” that we are somehow “not good enough” (unfortunately, this is one of the most common ‘negative’ core beliefs humans possess). 

If our love relationship should come to an end; in most situations, rather than take a breath, step back, reflect on what we’ve learned, rediscover our SELF and seek to work through old issues and fears – we immediately begin looking for a new person to love us.

In this perpetuating cycle, we fail to discover (and also model for our children) the notion that our need to be loved drives our desire to: be in a relationship; our life choices, and even aspects of our character.

Despite the incorrect messages that bombard us to seek love in relationships with others; consider the truth of love’s origin.

“We are both beings of love and at the same time – seekers of love.”

It is in being LOVE that we are an incredible magnet, drawing others to us and building a framework of beautiful relationships, new friendships and a life mate.  We have been taught to seek love without learning how to be it first.  We have been given the wrong messaging that falling in love will ‘complete’ us. 

“Falling” in love is inevitable.  As soon as you allow your natural tendency as love to shine through; like a lighthouse beacon – you make it easily possible for others to find the beauty and grace within you.

In your experience of love in its purest form, there is nothing that you require; nothing that you need in return; nor expect from another.  Love in this form is unconditional in its giving.  This is the type of love we give and receive most easiest when we are being our highest self; our Spirit.

 

We understand Spirit best in the context of energy – universal consciousness – infinite divine wisdom and of course ‘God’.  To be god-like is to be our inherent blissful nature uninhibited by the mind’s ego.  To experience our Self in this divine state we exude love easily.  Not only can we easily be loving with others but our divine nature fills us with love.

When we are unconditional in our delivery and giving of love; it is because we are not dependent on anyone to love us in order to feel worthy, validated, purposeful. 

The greatest and most worldly blessing any human can realize is their own divine potential – and their infinite nature of being love.

There are a few ways in which we can cultivate a state of unconditional love much more of the time.  We can remain present to life and live from a place of present moment awareness (this allows us to live from our heart rather than from our critical mind).

Pursuing our innate (god-given) talents and gifts fulfills us; and this is a heart chakra quality.  When we are simply doing whatever we most love (which is also by the way what we are already talented in), there is no differentiation between Self and doing.  We become the very gift that we are blessed with being able to give.  To share this talent with others only reinforces the perfect nature of our Self.

We can also begin a spiritual practice – a journey into the Self through the experience of our self as oneness with a divine universal consciousness.  This can be contemplated within the context of exploring Self in therapy, through a guided or self-directed spiritual practice, or with a mentor or spiritual teacher.  Remember that any spiritual practice if done with authenticity will promote inner work and a discovery of who our Self is.

 

Those who have convinced themselves that they are worthy only as they have someone to love them; will forever be chasing the idea of love and the fairy tale image that their mind reinforces. 

This idea of finding love to feel loved can never be completely fulfilling because each one of us needs to ultimately love who we are first.  Love originates in our heart.

Consider experiencing yourself and your feeling of love here; in the center of your chest.  Expand this awareness by breathing with inward intention.  As you practice expanding your feelings of love from within it becomes second nature.  You feel the experience of love first within and as it expands and “fills” you – it becomes easy to share it with others.  This is you being love. 

Namaste! 

 

 

 

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Confidence “in LOVE”

There is an element of love in us all that… when we bring this freely into our conscious state we become it.  We exude love by the nature of our kind actions and generous spirit.  Love is contagious.  It frees us to be our true self and to experience the true nature of others as perfect beings as well.

I recently witnessed a magical day…I witnessed a pure transformation of LOVE.

Love doesn’t occur by wishing or hoping but rather by BEING.  When you can embrace a special day in your life and make the intentional choice to enJOY, to experience thes present moment, to have ‘fun’, what you are ascribing to is your natural state of being love.

A wedding day is special for many reasons, but what I observed at my Sister’s wedding was the confidence of choice both her and my Brother-in-law felt for one another; the confidence that comes from a well established and lengthy love relationship; as well as the confidence in knowing with certainty that they have chosen the right person to share their life with – even as that person continues to change and evolve.

 

The wedding day was not so much an acknowledgment of their commitment; for they have thirteen years of commitment in place – the day was a celebration of their love of one another, and for their closest and dearest friends and family members.

The transformation I witnessed was in the couples’ confident expression of LOVE.  They were truly celebrating their love of one another, and their LOVE of everyone in attendance.  The freedom and confidence to love freely and openly is what I know we all witnessed.  In being witness to this, each of us also experienced the confidence to freely love one another: new friends and friends of our past.

To experience one another as we are in the present moment also frees us to be in relationship with who we are today knowing that this is the most honest example of who each of us is.

To witness and feel pure JOY and the love of being your true self is something that is always replicable.  For you see, love does not only reveal itself in big ways in the special moments of our lives; LOVE in its purest form experienced each and any moment, makes that moment and those whom you share that moment with … special.  It is is being LOVE that we become Divine spirit in action.

 

Photo by: Chloe Whitehorn http://www.amusephoto.com

To all of us who journeyed together; may we always carry our special memories of the wedding and our holiday in our hearts forever.  And may we (in our everyday lives) be LOVE.

 

Namaste!

…..and Congrats Cat & Troy!

 

 

 

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January 2012: ROMANCE

The idea of ROMANCE as a focus for the first month of this new year may seem unusual, and yet as I quietly contemplate the focus for each of these next twelve months, ROMANCE seems ideally just the right focus to bring to one’s life.

January is an exciting month for many reasons: the anticipation of a fresh start; the possibility of what this new year holds; the idea of manifesting and receiving with gratitude your deepest desires…. all mark for important discoveries, experiences, and HOPE.

 

The idea of romance is in cultivating love.

A focus on Romance this month reminds us of the need for displays of our love to one another. I t may be a gesture of thoughtfulness, affection, a note or card expressing words and feelings, or a simple return to focus on feeling the LOVE in our relationship.

Romance also nurtures our understanding of what a love relationship symbolizes and expresses.  To love someone romantically leaves us open to divulging our deepest vulnerabilities and truths. We may not entirely accept or love our self and yet we are trusting (and perhaps hopeful) that another person will accept and love us as we are. 

The teachings of a love relationship last a lifetime.

Each person we love will help us see and discover more of ourself in a way that cannot be hidden. We will be constantly tested to grow and take risks and to become autonomous in our development of self since our love relationship can be all consuming if we allow it. 

Romance is how we cultivate our love with our partner.  To be romantic and express our feelings of love takes courage, especially if we choose to do so in moments of tension or conflict.

Romance is the fire that keeps the active nature of our love alive.  It is an important ingredient for sustaining love and the connection of intimacy between two people.

Romance and the idea of being respectful and loving to our partner is what nurtures and deepens our commitment and our feeling of love toward another.  For when we love strongly and without limits or conditions, our love becomes ever so strong and resilient.  The energy of love at times is palpitable and can overwhelm us with emotion.  This is the energy of love that is often shown through gestures of romance.

Romance also reminds us of our need to love others. We may see a couple walking along the beach holding hands and looking ‘in love’ and be moved by the beauty of love in relationship.

To express love through romance is to acknowledge our life choices in a mate and the ever so perfect nature of life that allows us to feel love through acts of romance.

For January, take a break from setting intentions and visualizing what you want to manifest and return to the ever growing nature of romantic love. Find ways to express romance in your life regardless of whether you are single or in a love relationship. Let romance find a way back into your heart and feel the grace of love open you to the possibilities of what that may bring.

 

Namaste and blessings for countless expressions of romance in your life this January!

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JULY 2011: ‘Bodycare’

This month, consider the challenge of paying greater attention to your physical body – and at the same time, detaching from it. 

Your physical body works best with kind attention to what it needs: rest, exercise, healthful foods, and proper care.  And yet, as much as we identify with our physical self, your body is not you. 

If you take excellent care of your body, you enjoy the benefits of having few if any limitations in your physical world.  At the same time, maintaining an attitude of non-attachment to your physical self challenges you to identify with your inner being – your spirit

Know that you are much more than simply your physical nature.  In fact – you are a divine spiritual being having a human (physical) experience.

Some time ago I began seeing a new client.  He was destined to spend the rest of his adult life in a wheelchair – the result of a car accident that occurred while returning home from his soccer game.  At the time of the crash, he was 26.  He had been working as a financial auditor – and was given much responsibilty and autonomy at such an early stage of his career.  As he spoke about what must have felt like a lifetime ago, I could feel the obvious passion he still felt for this profession; one indeed he was well suited for.

Today, life is very different.  Even the timing of our sessions means that my client has not eaten all day and refuses the water I offer.  He explains that he does so because he has no control over his bowels.  While he remains sufficiently independent, living on his own; he is paralysed below the waist.  He describes living a solitary life.  Married for a short time, his wife (whom he met on-line three years ago and who moved from another country to be with him), recently left claiming it was “more difficult than she might had ever imagined”.  While he was initially bitter (and even hateful), my client has begun to forgive, understanding that “it was a lot to ask that someone should want to be with him, giving up so much of what they could do” because of his physical limitations. 

My client attends support meetings with other wheelchair patients at a nearby hospital.  By his reports, the statistics are certainly grim.  Most individuals who become parapalegics also inevitably become divorced.  Of the 15 others who were part of the support group when my client began attending, only 3 remain.  While new individuals continue to join, my client informs me that 12 of the initial members have since committed suicide.  A physical body now vastly tranformed, makes for an almost unbearable life. 

He too admits deliberating the idea of taking his life.  What has kept my client going these last 12 years has been his “Mother’s love and care” (his Father has recently passed), and possibly (although he has not admitted so) the hope of finding love again. 

During this month, make an effort to reclaim appreciation of your physical self – and yet at the same time – become somewhat detached to the significance of your physical body. 

July offers us a perfect time to rethink lifestyle and dietary habits, to create goals – as well as the resolve to improve our ‘bodycare’.  It may be perfect timing to remember with gratitude the ease to which your physical body performs. 

You might also consider not attaching your whole nature – your entire self image – to how you view and display your body.

Know that your body is indeed important, yet it remains only the ‘vessel’ of your human existance.  Instead, consider your SPIRIT. 

Embrace the opportunity to live as a spiritual being ‘in action’ and live showing the world your true nature – the divine element of your inner self.

As for my client, he has been considering a return to university – to retrain in the field of social work.  He wants to help other wheelchair injury victims, by reminding them of their true nature – to be a shining light in the world – simply as they already are.

In doing so, I imagine he will reclaim more of his whole self.

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and the word is … LOVE

LOVE: Photography by Katie Hebert www.katiehebert.com

Consider how you can look within to cultivate the experience of love.  How can you experience love as infinitely accessible and available to YOU?  What makes it possible for you to experience love that originates from within your being?

The answer is truth.

When you feel authentic love it overwhelms you, it fills your being, it creates a blissful experience.  You feel it throughout your entire being.  That is the nature of love.  A powerful pure, energy – it moves through you and with it you transform.  It is the energy that unites all beings.  You feel its effects and you are inspired to be outwardly LOVING.  This is similar to how you feel when you love another being.

In choosing to ‘experience and be’ unconditional love – you will forever change your life.

We find love easiest when we know our self – our inner workings and the inner messages we hold about who we are.  When we establish what is truthful, we begin to work from that place: knowing, evolving, growing our self and our capacity to love.

At first love comes externally, through relationships, and in other practical ways- often material in nature.  Then, with the idea that love actually exists within our being, we are able to be loving outwardly to others as a precursor to the experience of love; we are free to learn how to generate feelings of love for our self.

 

 

 


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