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: [email protected]  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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World Kindness Day: November 13th

World kindness day is November 13th each year.

It has been delegated in order to help nations and individuals create a kinder world. It’s also a wonderful representation of how individuals making decisions are investing are investing in our global unity.

For kindness to exist among countries – it must first be an individual experience. It must be practised as a human condition – as an instinctive reaction among each one of us – and as what we teach and model for our children and future generations.

Kindness can be a deliberate and yet natural outpouring of who and ‘what’ we are.

Kindness is a life value. It is our inherent nature and yet it is also an intentional practice that we choose to uphold. Kindness can (with consciousness and deliberate will) become our ‘go to’ response based on choosing to think of others (and ourselves) with positiveness rather than mistrust, fear, and judgement. Kindness begets kindness. Being kind helps us to cultivate understanding; to see others as equals, and to remember the end goal of our discussions, deliberations, and even disagreements – which is always to remain – kind.

Kindness ultimately resolves potential conflict, allowing people to be as they are, realizing the fact that we all have our own unique preferences and beliefs– while challenging ourselves to look for how we are all alike.

If the other person remains unwilling to be kind, then your kindness will always serve you best in dealing with others in a fair and civil manner. When we are deliberately kind, it is far easier to hold compassion, care, and trust. (If someone has proved to be untrustworthy, we can still trust that our kindness will show them that we are capable of empathy and compassion – even if we choose to uphold our relationship boundaries with them).

Kindness is what builds and sustains positive, healthy relationships. When we think of being kind first even in the face of unkindness, we are able to dismantle much of the negativity and fear based behaviours of others. With kindness, we are able to realign ourselves with a common goal; and if we continue to hold differences, then we may do so respectfully, with the acceptance that others may have a different belief system or set of ideas. When people (and ultimately nations) come together in kindness, they are ultimately able to agree on the fundamental life values of peacefulness, respect of all living beings, and the ability to live in harmony rather than war.

Photo credit: gsdakotahorizons.org
Photo credit: gsdakotahorizons.org

An international movement to practice kindness (aka Kindness Day) reminds us of the need to choose how we will be in any given moment (and especially when it may seem easier to react in frustration, anger, displeasure, or even aggression).

Practising kindness outwardly teaches us much about responsibility. First, to ourselves as we make the conscious choice to be kind even in the face of what may seem like our ‘right’ to respond in defence of others not being kind. Practising kindness teaches us how to see beyond the action of another and to remember that any unkindness directed towards us is rarely about who we are, but rather the other person and their personal struggles to be heard, accepted, valued, important, and secure.

Whether as a personal challenge in light of world kindness day or as an opportunity to become kinder more consistently…consider what deliberate and thoughtful acts of kindness you can do today. Pay attention to how your conscious attention towards being kind, changes how you feel in that instant; softening how you think and feel about yourself, others, and the situation. You might also want to notice how act of kindness (much like a boomerang) come back to you quite effortlessly.

 

Some important questions to ponder to examine your own commitment to being kind:

Are you teaching your children about the importance of kindness first as a way of being in the world, and as a part of their personality and behaviour ? – For example in sport (where you can still be highly competitive – yet kind)?

Do you model kindness for your children, peers, and co-workers? Do you choose to think kindly of someone rather than assume they have ulterior motives or are dubious and untrustworthy? (You can still be kind to someone that you have chosen to uphold boundaries within if they are not trustworthy or kind).

Do you practice kindness (here’s a tougher one perhaps) in the face of unkindness? Can you personally be kind to someone who is showing you envy, rage, anger, discontent?

If you choose to embrace the power of living kindly as who you are, what do you need to change of your existing behaviours?

Namaste everyone!

ABOUT THE WORLD KINDNESS MOVEMENT

WKM is an international movement with no political or religious affiliations. The idea for the formation of the organization came out of a conference in Tokyo in 1997 when Japan brought together like-minded kindness organizations from around the world. It is now recognised as the peak global body for Kindness, . The mission of the WKM is to inspire individuals towards greater kindness and to connect nations to create a kinder world. Members of the movement include over 25 nations with representatives from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Romania, Scotland, South Korea,Switzerland,Thailand, United Arab Emerites, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the USA.
For more please visit: http://www.theworldkindnessmovement.org/about-us/

Title Photo credit: www.pitchero.com

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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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Self-Acceptance

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

I accept that I am…

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

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

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

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

A final thought…

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

Sat Nam everyone!

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

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

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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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What does it really mean to “live your best life”?

 

To live your best life, you must first believe that you can do so…. that it is something real and tangible and not simply an idealistic concept that we hear spoken in greeting cards or by celebrities who we might think ‘already have it all’.

 

If improving the quality of each day in your life truly matters, then you may realize that living ‘a best life’ IS simply the cumulation of all of those isolated amazing moments that are (truth be told) simple and easy to cultivate.  What is needed is the mindset or attitude that reminds you that you have the ability to make each moment “significant” (even as some of your day is used for random everyday ‘tasks’ and household obligations), “fun”, “useful”, and in many cases, a moment in which you choose to live as your ‘best’ SELF.

Define what living “a best life” means exactly by asking yourself, “What does it looks like?”

 

Here are some specific questions to think about: In those moments when you ARE living your best life, how are you being? What is happening in those moments? How do you feel? What are your thoughts towards yourself and others? How are you portraying yourself? and of course ….What exactly is it that makes these the ‘best’ moments of your life?

 

Contrary to what images and values we see in the media, living a ‘best life’ occurs by first defining for yourself what this means, and then as you purposefully make these ideals possible. (This is why it is so helpful that you actually answer the questions I’ve posed above!) It’s when you have clear examples (often predicated by those times in which you have already experienced a ‘best life moment’) that it becomes easier to recall and recreate these… and to think about the other equally amazing ‘best moments’ that you want to manifest.

What ARE your ideas and beliefs for living a ‘best life?’ Are these random thoughts that inspire you for fleeting moments before their momentum becomes lost to the reality of ‘how to do this’ without having all of the resources that you think are needed? Or have any of my questions above helped you to identify the factors that truly make for a ‘best life moment’ are those that have to do with YOU living AS YOUR BEST SELF….first?

Living a best life has everything to do with who you are. It has very little to do with how much money you have, your job title, or your material possessions. I have seen many wealthy people unable to enjoy the quality of life that they have built for themselves because of the many stresses (real and perceived) that have caused them much anguish and suffering, when ….upon listening to their life story, they truly have all that they need to make things better – beginning with who they are. I have also witnessed incredible kindness and generosity from people who acknowledge what “little” they have in terms of material possessions and money, yet their ability to easily give of themselves in kindness and help to others, makes their actions (and who they are) an example of living their ‘best life’ in that particular moment.

 

Kindness and compassion are not the end result of wealth, living one’s life purpose, having power or status. These qualities also do not preclude us from needing to always be conscious of our actions, including how we are in those moments when we may not be living as our “best” self.

 

In truth, we tend to care less about the monetary value of what ‘things’ we have, when our focus can be on our true “blessings”; living a life demonstrative of high morals and conduct; having meaningful, loving relationships that are based in truthful communication, respect, and appreciation; and of course – being loving kindness as who you are with all people – and who you are with yourself.

There can be no room for anything less…. since living out of kindness and loving action makes it easy for you to live the best life possible.

 

Think about the ways in which you can live your best life by first being a better version of yourself. If you think there isn’t room for improvement please look again. All of the most peaceful and loving human beings that we might look to as positive role models have all struggled at times to live as their ‘ideal’ or BEST version of “self”. All of these peace dwelling and honourable people have also been displaced by events and circumstances that have caused them to act out in ways that they have not been proud of.  After all, we are all human.

 

Once again, this reminds us that all we can do is continue – returning to the beauty of this moment as a moment in time that we are in charge of; resolving to live as the best version of who we desire to be.  (And if we have no ‘ideal’ version to aspire to, remember…we all have aspects of ourselves that need work – improvement, and acceptance).  This is also the perpetual journey of living as our human self – while simultaneously revealing only our highest potential as who and what we are capable of.

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Can we REBIRTH ourselves in order to heal our past?

As I watched my godchild lay tenderly asleep, her hands cushioning her face as she nestled in the arms of her godfather, I thought about the beauty of baptism. Baptism (or “baby blessings”) defined across various religions – depicts the notion of rebirth; cleansing, anointing and adopting one as a part of a particular religious community (or church)….and of making pure again…. what already is pure.

It’s interesting how we choose to baptize our infant child far before they can even conceptualize what is being is being done. Infants really have no need for a cleansing and a rebirth since they are already living life so purely.

 

What’s interesting is how we might look at the idea of baptism for our own life.  How many times have we secretly wished we could be absolved of our past mistakes; of behaviours that we shudder whenever we think of them because who we are today is so far away from the person we were then?

 

I watched as this loving priest generously splashed “holy” water on the heads of all the children being baptized this morning. Symbolic to the simple notion of rain cleansing the earth; or perhaps the feeling of being cleansed as you stand under the flow of water in your shower at home, allowing the water to cascade down your body, or the feeling of being ‘washed over’ by the ocean waves as they pull you back with their gentle force, before passing over you. There are many symbolic ways to consider how you might ‘cleanse’ or ‘rebirth’ that have nothing to do with religion, but yet are meaningful in how they serve to bring a renewed sense of optimism and hope.

Embracing a spiritual life, you might consider the many ways that you have already been ‘cleansed’ of the past. Being forgiven by yourself or another is one form of rebirth, and an opporutnity for starting over. As special as a religious ceremony may be, you don’t need such an event to rebirth. Every time that you make the conscious decision to be different; to change what you may have always done, or to offer yourself forgiveness even for one act of unkindness or unkind thought – you are making it possible for yourelf to begin anew.

Baptism is said to be an outwardly symbolic rite of an inner change and transformation that has already taken place. Important to emphasize is the idea of repenting or acknowledging whatever mistake, misdoing, or error we want to overcome, forgive, and release. This is the simple yet powerful notion of how we can continue on, without self-beratment and self-hatred – in a path that reminds us of our incredible capacity for healing and rebirth.  

Consider a time when you forgave someone for their wrongdoing. Notice how doing so, freed you from any further pain or sadness that this hurt may have caused. Now apply the same idea to yourself. Becoming better at self-forgiveness is how we heal, and how we move forward.

It’s interesting how our society has needed to baptism the innocent child, but is quick to hold an adult at fault for a lifetime. How well we forgive ourselves for our ‘humanness’ and how easily we are able to forgive and forget others’ mistakes is a testament to our ability to practice ‘baptism’ – rebirth – renewal – not as a one-time religious ceremony- but as a way of life.

A helpful afterword on the definition and meaning of Baptismin both Christian and Jewish perspectives:

Baptism (from the Greek noun βάπτισμα baptisma😉 is a Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also a particular church. 

The usual form of baptism among the earliest Christians was for the candidate to be immersed, either totally (submerged completely under the water) or partially (standing or kneeling in water while water was poured on him or her). While John the Baptist’s use of a deep river for his baptism suggests immersion, pictorial and archaeological evidence of Christian baptism from the 3rd century onward indicates that a normal form was to have the candidate stand in water while water was poured over the upper body. Other common forms of baptism now in use include pouring water three times on the forehead, a method called affusion.

History of the Jewish Mikveh

The term mikveh in Hebrew literally means ‘any gathering of waters’, but is specifically used in Jewish law for the waters or bath for the ritual immersion. The building of the mikveh was so important in ancient times it was said to take precedence over the construction of a synagogue. Immersion was so important that it occurred before the high Priest conducted the service on the Day of Atonement, before the regular priests participated in the Temple service, before each person entered the Temple complex, before a scribe wrote the name of God, as well as several other occasions.

The Mishnah attributes to Ezra a decree that each male should immerse himself before praying or studying. There were several Jewish groups that observed ritual immersion every day to assure readiness for the coming of the Messiah. The Church Fathers mentioned one of these groups called Hemerobaptists which means “daily bathers” in Greek. Among those used to regular immersion were the Essenes and others that the Talmud calls tovelei shaharit or “dawn bathers.”

On the third day of creation we see the source of the word mikveh for the first time in Genesis 1:10 when the Lord says, “…to the gathering (mikveh) of waters, He called seas.” Because of this reference in Genesis the ocean is still a legitimate mikveh. (Maybe this is why the ocean is such a sacred experience for many of us!)

* Sources:http://www.bebaptized.org/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptism

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

THE PROACTIVE SOLUTIONS?

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

 

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

 

 

 

An Afternote or two…

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A 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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Your AUTHENTIC Self

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

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

 

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

 

authentic-self

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

 

 

 

 

 

Some suggestions for attaining greater self-knowledge and truth:

 

Create a ‘Who Am I’ List

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

 

Practice Conscious Awareness

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

 

‘Live in your Truth’

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

 

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

 

Namaste everyone!

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

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RETREATING Within

April has begun with a gentle quietness.  There are signs indicating a ‘break’ in the weather and the coming ‘thaw’ of Spring.  Yet even with the promise of warmer temperatures and the anticipation of nature’s gentle ‘rebirth’, there are also gentle reminders (like the small snow pellets falling last week and the intermittent cold days!) of the need for patience; to prepare, contemplate, and plan.  One does not walk into a new or next phase of life without having some things remaining to completefinish, or perhaps release

 

Now is the perfect time to introspect and to deepen one’s resolve toward what we desire most.  Working toward our goals and ambitions means we can enjoy the fruits of our labour – much like the enchanted gardener who, even while she carefully plants spring bulbs in the late fall …. hoping, trusting, and believing in her efforts in the months to come; continues to prepare the soil in early spring; planting more. 

 

While we may be in anticipation of the coming warmer months, there is perfection in using this time thoughtfully, considering what gentle preparation and ‘inner’ work is needed in order to experience our self in bloom in the months to come.

 

One way you can easily do this is to commit to quiet time in self-reflection and meditation.  Let yourself be guided by your true desires; all you need to do is decide on the ensuing action steps that will move you toward what you most want.

 

I also know how helpful it is to have a sacred Meditation practice; a personal and intimate time that you dedicate in quiet silence – allowing the inner voice of your soul to be heard.  Whether you have such a beautiful gift already in place in your life, or you would like to begin one…. this Mediation ‘retreat’ is a perfect experience both for how you contemplate being LOVE in the world, but also how you develop the ability to open yourself to the experience of Meditation in your life.  Namaste!!

 

Being Love

A Meditation Retreat with Dorothy Ratusny

This Retreat is ideal for anyone who has ever wanted to experience Meditation, deepen an existing practice, and for those who have been “in love”, grieved love, or who may be looking for a new love relationship.

Being Love is both a deliberate action and a state of mind – a conscious decision to act and live in ways that model love in the world and in your life.  We have evolved as humans to a place of conscious transformation where living “as love” is no longer a lofty ideal but a certainty we can all work toward.  Acts of our love already show us the power of being love. If we ever needed a reminder all we have to do is remember how our loving words and actions touch the hearts and minds of others so deeply.”                 – Dorothy Ratusny

Retreat Highlights:

* Experience how to heal the past with meditation, love, and compassion.

* Discover the inner peace that comes with unconditional self-love and acceptance; and the freedom of feeling LOVE from within rather than seeking others to love us.

* Experience the freedom of healthy detachment and the ability to ‘let go with love’.

* Learn how to send loving energy in a way that improves and heals relationships, and opens the hearts of those you care about so deeply.

* Experience through meditation how you can live with your heart open and as a being of love without being hurt; and how your open heart helps you to enjoy the richness and natural “bliss” of life.

* Discover how to access the Divine wisdom of your heart chakra for knowing TRUTH.

* Learn an essential breathing technique for reconnecting with the loving energy of your Divine nature.

Please join us!

Venue: Metropolitan United Church56 Queen St. East., TORONTO, Ont. 

Workshop Fee: $95 (includes hst)

SATURDAY, APRIL 20th Noon-5:00pm

Please Register with: Dorothy Ratusny  t: 647.889.8722e: [email protected]

Dorothy Ratusny is a Certified Psychotherapist in private practice in Toronto, Canada who specializes in Cognitive Therapy. She is the Author of ‘The Purpose of Love’ (Insomniac Press, 2007), ‘Live Your Life’s Purpose’ (Insomniac Press, 2008), ‘WISDOM: Divine Guidance for your Spiritual Journey’ (2013), and her NEW Meditation CD, ‘Being Love’ (2013).  She maintains a longstanding devout daily meditation practice and teaches meditation extensively.  For more information please visit: www.dorothyratusny.com

 

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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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January 2012: ROMANCE

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

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

 

The idea of romance is in cultivating love.

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

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

The teachings of a love relationship last a lifetime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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