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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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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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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DISCOVERING “my true” LIFE’S PURPOSE

Finding Answers and Meaning in the Life I am Meant to Live

What is your purpose?

What do you offer others when you give of yourself?
When are you happiest?
What will you look back on at the end of your life and be… most proud of?
What will you refer to when you say the words, “This is what I enjoyed most”… “This is what I accomplished” and “This is what gave my life meaning and purpose?”

When I first wrote, Live Your Life’s Purpose it was because I was inspired (i.e. moved, drawn, compelled) by the belief that we are all here for a reason, and a far more compelling and important reason than to simply punch a clock at work, to “kill time” doing what we loathe, or being unable to see our greater abilities and what we have to offer each other.

As I was writing ‘Live Your Life’s Purpose’, I began to notice that more and more clients were talking about the same things as I was writing.  They came from all different educational backgrounds and career settings, yet sharing this same feeling of unhappiness and being unfulfilled.  Some clients knew what they really wanted to be doing instead, but had so many roadblocks (both real and imagined) that kept them from pursuing their deepest passions.  Other clients may not have been exactly sure of what they wanted to do instead, yet they just knew that it wasn’t their current role or job (which was making them more and more miserable with each passing day).

As I discuss in the book, the idea of a ‘mid-life crisis’ isn’t so much a need to buy that expensive red sports car, or find a new partner.  These could be part of the choices we make when we decide based on knowing what we really want, but it’s much more than just about shaking up our life.  A ‘mid-life crisis’ is really an awakening…. a realization that we’ve been doing what we’ve always done; and what we’ve been taught and told repeatedly what we should do.

At some point we may ‘wake up’ into our lives with such an overwhelming need for change because we feel suffocated; lost, alone, and yet without being certain about what we really  need to do (or how to do it).

I’ve come back to the teachings in this book, largely because I’m now again witnessing many clients and friends who are experiencing such a deep transition from what we might call their ‘old’ life into something ‘new’.  The questions I ask above (along with several others) help draw out for us ways in which we can live our life with more purpose and meaning.  You don’t necessarily need to throw out everything that you are currently doing, but rather to examine each aspect with self-honesty to see if how you are currently living life is still ‘right’ for you.  We do need to ‘check-in’ in this way, often throughout our lifetime.  It becomes an important means of acknowledging whether or not we are on the right path.  Asking ourselves important questions like the ones I’ve mentioned above, reminds us who we are – knowing that who we are today is different than who we were even six short months ago.

I am hoping that those of you who find yourselves at a point along your journey where there is clearly a fork in the road, that …before you choose the next steps of your path, that you might stand still for a few moments (or maybe even sit down) to contemplate what you really want to do next.

A Workshop based on the material in my book is scheduled for Saturday November 8th in Toronto from 12:30pm until 5:30pm.  If you are contemplating significant life changes or the true meaning of your life, please join me.  Discover your ‘right’ answers as you prepare for the rest of your journey.


Here’s more of the details of about this very important Workshop:

In the midst of everything you feel you have to do and what demands are placed on you – finding greater meaning and purpose for your life is the secret to feeling unconditional joy and fulfillment. When you feel a deep sense of purpose for why you are here and what you have to offer the world, life has renewed meaning. You become less affected by the day-to-day events that you might otherwise label as “stressful” or “negative” and far less influenced by the rampant messages in the media that tell you how you should be living life (i.e. what success is, and what latest new ‘thing’ you should own or buy). Knowing your purpose, you become more mindful and deliberate about your choices based on being authentic to who you are. Living a life of meaning and purpose also means that your discovery of what is really important to you, is now easily reflected in how you honour and care for your self.

If you have never known what your sacred life’s purpose is, then perhaps it’s time. Give yourself the knowledge of all that you are destined to become. Discover a deeper meaning and purpose for how you are currently living and for what it means to have personal value for who you already are.

*Workshop tools and techniques include: Socratic questioning, Visualization, Cognitive therapy strategies, and Guided Meditation. Bring a notebook and come prepared to be inspired, to dream boldly, and to begin living your purpose! *Workshop fees include a follow-up one-on-one phone session with Dorothy to help grow your confidence in living your life on purpose!

For a look at the pdf poster please click here: Discovering My True Life’s Purpose – Sat Nov 8 2014

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Real WISDOM is to know our true nature…

If ego is the absence of true knowledge of who we really are, then real wisdom is to realize this and seek to know our true nature.

Examining a philosophy developed in the Himalayas a thousand years ago helps give us a useful three-step approach to cultivating the principle of egolessness. (According to the Buddhists, “egolessness” doesn’t actually mean “without ego”. (Although for our purposes, its a good way to begin thinking about this term). It’s original definition means “that there was never any ego at all to begin with”. – The best example of egolessness in action that I can think of is when we are children: innocent, authentic, and before any need to prove ourselves.

In the midst of completing coursework for my Phd, I’m captivated with Sogyal Rinpoche’s book, “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”. In it, he refers to ‘The Three Wisdom Tools’ as described by Tibetan Buddhist Masters as a way of discovering the freedom of the wisdom of egolessness.

Before describing the first of these Three Wisdom Tools, it’s helpful to think about how they came to be. They were believed to help free us from our ego – what we in Western society might refer to as the incessant noise of our mind, our attachment to ‘things’, our need to prove our self through our identify with a ‘role’, a ‘title’, or through our actions. Ego is developed as we slowly move away from being our authentic self (in childhood), to conforming and abiding by what society deems we should ‘do’ or ‘be’. Our ego-mind plays a key role in our daily existence as we are distracted by what we tell ourselves is true rather than simply observing what “is”.

Each of the Three Wisdom Tools helps us to discover and experience the deeper knowing of our true nature.They move us out of our ego-mind and into our present moment awareness.

Not only are these worth remembering….but adopting each of these tools as a part of your daily practice will forever change the way you approach and live life. Embracing the three tools will significantly improve all of your relationships. It will most certainly improve the relationship you have with your ‘self’. Using these wisdom tools will awaken you – to see and know what “is” rather than what you have been telling yourself is true.

If you are already on a spiritual path, then you may recognize the difference between your ego-mind and the voice of your inner wisdom (what Rinpoche defines as “your hidden spiritual being” – what I typically refer to as your soul consciousness). As you listen more and more to your inner voice, you begin to notice how it acts as a wise guide in helping you. As your inner voice becomes stronger and clearer, you begin to distinguish between its truth and the deceptions (and empty promises) of your ego. For example, your ego-mind might sound like any or all of the following: “If I could just make more money, my life would be so much better”, “Why can’t I lose this extra weight? What’s wrong with me?”, “Maybe there is no one out there for me and I’ll just end up being single the rest of my life?”, “I should be in a better financial position right now”, “I’m not calling her/him anymore. If they can’t be bothered to make an effort why should I?” etc, etc, etc.

 

As I help clients resolve whatever issue or problem that they initially came to therapy for help with, I always offer them the opportunity to pursue their spiritual path. This includes teachings for how to become more aware of the reality of their inner wisdom as their own best source of guidance. Embracing one’s spiritual self is how we deepen our ‘self’ knowledge and awaken to our authentic nature. This instantly builds confidence and self-reliance. (It isn’t that you won’t ever need or rely on another person to give you suggestions or support, but ultimately you feel skilled to make wise choices for your life based on knowing yourself best). Indeed, there are limitless spiritual teachings that we experience over a lifetime. The initial exploration and discovery that I show clients, includes a process of guided meditation together with techniques for how to live with awareness that you are more than your physical being.

Regardless of where you are along your spiritual path (and even if you are far removed from it right now), you can use any and all of these Three Wisdom Tools to develop a deeper awareness of your authentic self (your true nature). In doing so, you enrich the many experiences of your life. Putting these tools into action will also help you to become aware of what ‘illusions’ (perceptions) are causing your suffering and unhappiness. Contemplating what you have been “taught” to believe as a child, and what you now know to be true is one way to begin a spiritual path.

 

The first of the Three Wisdom tools is THE PROCESS OF LISTENING AND HEARING.

The process of listening and hearing begins by listening both to our inner voice and as we are guided instinctively to formal spiritual teachings (this may be in the form of a book that grabs our attention, a new spiritual practice – such as learning meditation, returning to informal methods of prayer or seeking out ‘teachers’ in various forms). Listening to this new and at times, preexisting information, guides us back to remembering who we truly are (our hidden wisdom nature).

As we listen to these varied spiritual teachings and as we surround ourselves with resources and people who uplift and inspire us, certain passages and insights resonate deeply within us. We feel a deep sense of authenticity in what we are remembering. We begin to awaken, discovering that we have the potential to be more than we currently are – not because we aren’t good enough already – but rather because what we desire for ourselves has become more and we are ready to be the person we have been contemplating, imagining, – even dreaming of. (As an aside, many times we would like to be different but we give up before even getting started. We talk ourselves out of the possibility and this is why it never happens. It will only ‘never happen’ if we give up.)

Listening is a far more difficult process than most of us imagine. To truly listen as intended by the ancient Tibetan masters is “to let go of ourselves completely; to let go of all the information, all the concepts and ideas, and all of the prejudices that our minds are filled with”.

 

Like the Zen master Suzuki-roshi has said, “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” “If we really listen with an open (beginner’s) mind, we might really begin to hear. If we listen with a silent mind, free of all preconceived ideas that we already know the answer, then it becomes possible for the truth of the teachings to pierce us, and for the meaning of life to become startlingly clear”.

“The more and more you listen, the more and more you hear; the more and more you hear, the deeper and deeper your understanding becomes.” -Zen master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Stay tuned for my next WISDOM blog and the second and third Wisdom tools that will complete your practice.

Namaste everyone!

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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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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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Witnessing Your Incredible Nature Through the Eyes of Others….

As much as we may experience the challenge at times of seeing ourselves with loving eyes (often we are our own worst critic, repeating many of the same words that we’ve grown up hearing others say to us), I am always in awe of  how incredibly healing it is to hear how others “see” us.

 

Whether from a friend, loved one, or perhaps someone we don’t really know – hearing genuine kindness spoken quite deliberately affects us deeply.  Hearing words of truth that are spoken through another’s eyes gives us a new ‘landing point’ – a way to see and evaluate ourselves differently.

At times the parts of our selves that we are struggling with most need reassurance, loving words, and acceptance. Having others acknowledge our greatness can help us to believe in our self; and to see with approval all that we already are.

Having nothing at stake, we can more easily consider the words of others spoken sincerely, and allow these words to sink ‘in’ …feeling their positive effects in ways we had perhaps not imagined.

 

Consider witnessing yourself through the positive words, adoration, and kindness of others.  Write these words so you can see and read them later  – and at moments when you may begin to doubt yourself.  Remain open to the ways in which messages of ‘truth’ and appreciation about who you are finds you… and trust that these are exactly the words that you need to hear at that moment.

 

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.

gym

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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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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FALL RETREAT: – Honouring Self on the path of Enlightenment –

 

 

DIVYA PRAJNA RETREATS with Dorothy Ratusny presents…

 

Honouring SELF on the Path of Enlightenment: A FALL RETREAT

“Discover the WISDOM of your heart and the way to live enlightened now.”

 

At SUGAR RIDGE RETREAT CENTRE in Midland, Ontario

Friday, Oct 26th, 7:30pm* until Sunday, Oct28th, 2:30pm 

*First Didactic Session begins Friday at 7:30pm.  However, you are encouraged to arrive at anytime after 4:30pm and become acquainted with your beautiful surroundings.  Dinner (included) will be served at 6:00pm.

 

To honour your SELF, you must be willing to live in your TRUTH; for this is how you come to realize your greatness.  The sacred gift of living enlightened comes from learning what it means to honour who you currently are, and to live aware of your SELF as a spiritual being. To experience your spiritual self you must be willing to become quiet – to be guided gently within – to the place of infinite calm and wisdom that has always been a part of you. ” – Dorothy Ratusny, Retreat Facilitator

RETREAT HIGHLIGHTS

Didactic and Experiential Sessions: Explore the true meaning of spirituality and allow it to become more a part of your daily life.  *  Discover the sacred principles that support what it means to truly honour your SELF and live “in your truth”. *  Connect with the wisdom of your Highest Self (your soul consciousness).  *  Learn what it means to live enlightened now.  *  Nourish yourself with healing Nature Walks,  * a gentle YOGA class, *  and individual time for reflection and journaling.

Guided Meditations & Techniques: Gratitude, Manifesting Abundance and Self-Acceptance.  * Learn the Three ‘Power Points of Meditation’ – Centering, Grounding, & Expansion as effective tools for building your practice.  * Discover how to open your intuitive channels to hear the wisdom of your Highest Self. * Experience the YOGA postures specific to each Chakra – to open and restore the body’s energy systems and facilitating all healing. 

 

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Friday October 26th

*Arrive anytime after 4:30 to relax and settle into your cozy cabin, have some tea and snacks, and take advantage of some relaxing time outdoors or inside by the fire

6pm – Dinner

7:30pm – Guidelines for Retreat and Guided Meditation Practice on the notion of Gratitude and Manifesting

9pm – Reflective Questions for Self-introspection and Journal practice

9:30pm – free time and rest

 

Saturday October 27th

6:30-7:30am – Guided Meditation

7:30am-9am – Explanation of the Chakras and Experiential Session: Yoga Postures (Asanas) for Opening and Healing your Energy Systems (Chakras)

9am – Breakfast & free time

10am – Didactic Session: on Spirituality, Enlightenment, and Inner Wisdom.

[11:15 approx – Tea and snack break]

11:30-1pm – Didactic & Experiential Session: Knowing Truth & Accessing the Wisdom of your Highest Self + Meditation for opening to your Inner Wisdom

1pm – Lunch

1:45pm-3:30pm – Open ‘free’ time in solitude for you to simply ‘be’, & journal your reflections (snacks available)

3:30pm-4:30pm – Group Sharing Activity

4:30pm-6pm – Knowing ‘Your Sacred Journey’ – Didactic presentation with Guided Meditation

6pm – Dinner & free time

8pm-9:15pm – Experiential Technique – Reflective Writing with Guided Questions: Communicating with your Highest Self

9:15pm – Closing Meditation & Mantra

 

Sunday October 28th

6:30am-7:30am – Guided Meditation

7:30am – Reflective Journalling

8am-9am – YOGA

9am – Breakfast & free time

10am-11:30am – Nature Walk

11:30am-12:30pm – Final Didactic Session: Exploring the Wisdom of your Highest Self as you live Enlightened

12:30pm – Lunch

1:15pm-2:30pm – Closing Group Sharing and Final Guided Meditation

2:30pm – depart, and/or stay on a little longer and enjoy some quiet time in the beauty of Sugar Ridge

 

 

“Everything that occurs on this retreat has meaning.  Everything you experience is a communication about the path you are already on.  Deepen your intimate knowledge of SELF and the wisdom of your inner knowing” 

– Dorothy Ratusny, Retreat Facilitator

 

 

ALL-INCLUSIVE$535.00/pp(includes hst).

Each Cabin sleeps four comfortably with cozy duvets and private views of your beautiful natural surroundings.  Guests may choose to reserve private accommodation enjoying their own Cabin (one-time additional rate of $50).  Semi-private rates are $30 per person (one-time additional rate) which are ideal for couples or friends/family attending together.

The retreat fees include two nights of accommodations, all (six) vegetarian meals prepared on-site with fresh local ingredients (organic where possible), daily snacks and beverages, personalized retreat facilitation and individualized retreat handbook. 

You may bring a mat or pillow for meditation practice, or use one of the plenty of mats and cushions that are supplied by Sugar Ridge. Comfortable clothing, and dressing in layers is recommended, as well as weather-appropriate gear for walks in nature.  A personal notebook / journal for writing is needed.

Sugar Ridge is named after the abundant maple trees on its 150 acres of majestic forest.  It offers lush meadows surrounded by 3000 acres of provincial land, and 20 km of trails accessible from the property – making it a perfect oasis for finding space to be alone in quiet, to rejuvenate the spirit and to nourish the body.

www.sugarridge.ca Near Midland Ontario, Sugar Ridge is a newly (2008) built unique facility that boasts organic and locally grown vegetarian cuisine prepared daily on-site.  There is a wood fireplace and cozy seated area for lounging,  We will be using the 1200sq ft circular meditation studio designed with heated floor for many of our group sessions and meditation experiences.  For your individual work, you will easily find many intimate ‘spaces’ in and around the property to feel supported and nourished in as you experience the peaceful quiet of your inner being.  I chose Sugar Ridge for the site of this fall retreat because it has been designed and built with love, attention to detail and offers a perfect balance of rustic simplicity and quiet beauty to comfort and soothe you.  You will find and hear your inner voice (your spirit) here and feel the gentle calling of your Divine path.

Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre:  5720 Forgets Road Wyebridge, ON L0K 2E0 866-609-1793

 

For more information or to register please contact Dorothy: 647.889.8722 or dorothy@dorothyratusny.com

 

Dorothy Ratusny M.A., (C). OACCPP. (PhD Candidate) is a Certified Psychotherapist in Toronto, Canada who specializes in Cognitive Therapy.  She is the Author of ‘The Purpose of Love: A guidebook for defining and cultivating your most significant relationship’ and ‘Live Your Life’s Purpose: A guidebook for creating and living a purposeful life’. Dorothy is currently completing a PhD in Metaphysics (the study of science, world theology, and spirituality).  In addition to extensive formal training and study as a teacher of meditation, she offers a practical, skill-based approach, within a holistic model of healing, personal growth, and self-actualization. For more information, visit ww.dorothyratusny.com.

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