How to Transform “Not Enoughness” with Loving Kindness

“Loving kindness (metta), a traditional Buddhist concept, implies acting with compassion toward all sentient beings, with an awareness and appreciation of the natural world.” – Dalai Lama
“Loving kindness (metta), a traditional Buddhist concept, implies acting with compassion toward all sentient beings, with an awareness and appreciation of the natural world.” – Dalai Lama

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?”
– Hillel the Elder

It was no accident that both my sister and I chose helping professions (nursing and social work) for our career paths. Our family and immediate surroundings communicated to us the unspoken rule that our core purpose, meaning, and worth laid in our contribution to others. I have since argued and rebelled against these notions (especially the worth part) but I still found myself on the path that was paved for me by the message embedded in my subconscious early on. This blog entry is not about proving that our meaning or value as human beings lays in what we do. I do not longer believe it is. This is about the benefits of loving kindness to our sense of self worth and overall happiness. Although loving kindness is expressed best through our actions, it originates in our thoughts and our ability to connect inwardly to the loving, kind, compassionate part of our selves. I believe that there is a part of us, in all of us, that feels deeply satisfied when we experience our own inner kindness. Connecting to that part of us that feels unconditional love makes us feel better about ourselves. Period. And when we feel better about ourselves – we feel better about everything and everyone else.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”  ― Rumi
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
― Rumi

When working with depressed or anxious clients whose sense of self worth and esteem are affected by their perceived contribution to society, we run into the “I’m not doing enough” wall. When exploring the meaning and significance of this statement, we commonly find that at the bottom of this wall is the belief that “I’m not enough.” I’m referring to these beliefs as “a wall” because for as long as we choose not to examine them, they block our way to fulfillment and thus indeed feel like an unmovable, permanent wall. I love the moment we hit that wall. It is like a call from within that loving part of self, saying “I’m here and I want to be expressed.” Often, we get to this point after working through other obstacles such as past hurts and resentments, guilt, shame, etc. So, in a way this is also a moment that indicates to me that my client has released some of the baggage that was holding her/ him back from self realization.

"Kindness in words creates confidence, kindness in thinking creates profoundness, kindness in giving creates love." - Lao Tzu
“Kindness in words creates confidence, kindness in thinking creates profoundness, kindness in giving creates love.”
– Lao Tzu

When I ask my clients what would “enough” be or look like, I’m met with a rainbow of responses that ranges from a baffled look to notions about saving the starving nations of the world or curing cancer. But, most people just want to feel like they are helpful to the significant people in their lives. We often become so preoccupied by what we should be doing and what others may think we should be doing that we become blind to the expressions of love, kindness, and compassion we already exude on a daily basis and to how these expressions contribute to the world around us. We become dismissive of the daily expressions of our loving kindness that are already there. In short, we become so preoccupied with what we should be doing that we forget who we really ARE.

On the day we hit the smilingly unmovable wall of “I’m not doing enough (therefore I’m not enough) I suggest the following homework:

As you go about your week, keep a mental record of the way you already express loving kindness. Don’t go out of your normal way to do things for others or to do things differently. Just notice every time you think about yourself or others with kindness, love, or curiosity instead of judgment. Make a mental note of every time you find yourself smiling, listening emphatically, or expressing sincere gratitude. Try to notice the kind words that come out of your mouth, but don’t force out fake kindness. Notice when you open the door for someone, or yield in traffic, share a meal, or gently touch your loved ones. Notice when you tend to your garden or your pets. Notice when you follow the little voice inside you that tells you to do the right thing even if it is inconvenient. Just notice. Don’t do anything extra, and try not to expect anything in return. Notice how it FEELS to be you in that moment. That’s all.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  - John 4:7-8
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. – John 4:7-8

I’m always excited to meet my clients after they have conducted the loving kindness experiment. They look and report feeling lighter and without fail report a shift in their sense of self-worth. Some also report an improvement in their relationships, work environment, and movement towards other goals. When I ask what they have noticed, I hear responses like “that I’m a pretty cool dude,” “that I can be awesome” “that I have more energy to start that project” and more. Something opens up inside us when we put our attention on loving kindness that allows us to feel better, braver, and more at ease…and did I say already that when we feel better about ourselves we feel better about everything else?

I want to invite you to try this experiment in awareness. Consider sharing your experience with others as one way to give out loving kindness. So, please come back and let me know is it going. Blessings on your journey!

More info at http://www.lifebalancemissouri.com

Plug into your energy source… or… How to give others by taking care of yourself first

Take time for self care, so you could better handle everything that comes your way.
Take time for self care, so you could better handle everything that comes your way.

When I first bring up the topic of self-care to my clients in individual sessions, groups, or public talks I often encounter replies that range from inhibited giggles to condescending smirks.  More often than not, somebody would say “of course I take care of myself! I take showers and brush my teeth daily!” While personal hygiene is defiantly an important and fundamental part of good self care, it hardly scratches the surface of what self care really means.  Continue reading Plug into your energy source… or… How to give others by taking care of yourself first

The Traps of Stinking Thinking

 

 "Stinking thinking" is a collective nick-name to unhelpful thought patterns that result in negative feelings and energy drain
“Stinking thinking” is a collective nick-name to unhelpful thought patterns that result in negative feelings and energy drain

It happens at least once a month …well…ok, probably more than once:  I wake up in the morning, and no matter how bright and lovely it is outside – the light just doesn’t come through.   When my husband says “I love you” I feel that there is a “but” waiting to follow (it hasn’t followed yet.) When the phone rings, I immediately assume it is some sort of bad news (to the most part it is no news.)  When someone smiles at me on the street, an unkind “yeah, what do you want?” may cross my mind.   I may even start an argument, where there is no disagreement, or make a mountain out of a mole by magnifying the meaning or importance of another person’s words, tone of voice or gesture.  On these days, when I finally become conscious of my thoughts, I find a lot of negativity towards myself, others, and the future.   See, mental health professionals were not born free of automatic “stinking thinking”. These are natural patterns that seem to negatively affect all people, regardless of their demographics… AND… they are horrible energy robbers.   Our feelings and behaviors follow our thoughts.  Continue reading The Traps of Stinking Thinking

Spirituality for the Spiritually Challenged

What makes you feel fully connected?
What makes you feel fully connected?

I was sitting in a circle with about twenty five men and women in substance abuse and chemical dependency treatment.  “Spirituality,” I said while scanning the room for immediate knee jerk reactions, “what comes to mind, when I say it?”   The room erupted with mild gestures and sounds of discomfort and protest.   I could see that some of the group members were preparing for yet another talk about Higher Power, and they were not in the least interested.  Some responded bluntly with “bullshit, that’s what comes to mind”.  Some took the time to talk about the hypocrisy of the church in which they were brought up, and how it turned them off to anything related to spirituality and religion.   There was some talk about spirits, ghosts, and the supernatural.  A couple of people humbly admitted that they were confused by the word, and didn’t really know what it meant.

I told the group that we were going to put religion aside.  Continue reading Spirituality for the Spiritually Challenged

Helping Your Mind with Yoga

After a particularly wonderful yoga class at the Washington Healing Arts Center, as I was feeling refreshed and renewed, I decided to ask my most amazing yoga teacher Elaine Blackmur, if she would graciously agree to be a guest blogger and tell us some things about the benefits of yoga to our minds.

She compiled for us the information below (thank you so very much Elaine.)

Yoga 2MIND BENEFITS OF YOGA
Yoga is a form of exercise that links breathing with controlled movements. It is a popular way to relieve stress, increase focus and improve your mental health overall Continue reading Helping Your Mind with Yoga

The “Finishing” Trap

CREATIVITY as a SELF-HEALING TOOL

creativity 1 Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work with many creative, imaginative and talented individuals.  I have found in my own life as well as in the lives of my friends and clients, that the creative impulse and imagination we possess are magnificent self-healing tools.  When we allow ourselves to follow our creative curiosity, we intuitively find outlets to our most difficult feelings.  We find ways to express what we can’t consciously or verbally say out loud. With that, we often find new, more helpful ways of thinking about our lives.

HOW DO WE GET BLOCKED?

0_0_0_0_250_373_csupload_56384767Sadly, more often than not, my creative, imaginative, and talented clients make their way into my office after long periods of creative droughts.  For some, the drought had started early in childhood, when their imaginative self expression was met with scorn and criticism, maybe even severe punishment.  For many, the drought took over gradually, as the creative curiosity and enthusiasm slowly gave room to fear of criticism, to the need to fit it into environments that were not accepting or supportive, and to the value our society puts on the end product rather than the creative process.

Creativity 3THE “FINISHING” TRAP

It is amazing to me how many of my blocked creative clients share similar self-defeating beliefs about the importance of “finishing”.  I have to admit, that for many years, I was trapped by a similar belief. I can’t tell you enough about how good it feels to be free of the pressure to “finish.”  But, I can  assure you that ever since I allowed myself to let go of this belief,  I have been having a lot more fun, by exploring different mediums of self expression, and consequently,  being able not only start, but also finish many creative projects.

The following is a typical conversation that happens at one point or another, during my sessions with blocked creatives:

Blocked Creative:  I had an idea for this project for a long time (write a short story, build a bench, plant a garden, take a cooking class, start a business, etc.) but I just haven’t been able to start.

Me:What stops you from starting?

BC: (Normally after a long pause,) well…I’m not sure that I will be able to finish it.  I will probably quit in the middle.  So why bother.  Right?

Me:What makes you think that you will quit?

BC: (Confidently) My history.  I never finish anything.  I have a basement full of unfinished projects. 

Me:  (Smiling mischievously) SO WHAT? 

BC:  (Looking confused) what do you mean?

Me:  So what if you don’t finish? 

BC:  (Looking at me as if I just grew a horn on my forehead,) well…uh…that wouldn’t be good, would it?

Me:  What’s not good about starting and not finishing?

BC:  Hmm …I guess that if I start something and don’t finish it, it would mean that I have failed…and…and… wasted (time, money, energy, etc.)

Me: So, who told that not finishing meant to fail or waste?  I mean – who told you that it was important to finish your projects?

BC:  Everyone!  My parents,  my spouse, my children, teacher, employers (and so on.)

Me:  Of course, when the goal is to be paid or get a grade, we must complete the task for which we will be graded or paid.  But, tell me -what makes you want to start this project (drawing, writing, building, cooking, etc.)?

BC:  I just always wanted to see how it would be to do it. 

Me:  So your goal, or your reward in this case is “to see how it would be to do it.”

BC:  Hmm…I guess so.

Me:And what if you figured out how it was to do it before you actually finished the project?

BC:  Hmm…well…that’s an interesting point (looking puzzled, but starting to smile).

Sooner or later in this conversation we discover that the initial goal of the blocked creative was to experience the PROCESS, and that the PRODUCT was an expectation made by others, who (unfortunately for them) could not appreciate the amazing benefits of simply exploring, experimenting, learning, and being in the moment of creativity.

0_0_0_0_250_167_csupload_56386217THE CREATIVE ZONE

If you are a blocked creative, I would like to encourage you to give yourself permission to not finish.  Rather, notice what happens when you are in that “zone”…you know what I’m talking about…that moment of focused concentration, the energy that flows through you, the excitement of discovery.  Many artists and creative thinkers describe the experience of being in the moment of creativity as a moment of connection to the world, the divine, or a higher self.   Really, there is nothing as wonderful as this zone, is there?

More information at http://www.lifebalancemissouri.com

Below is a poem by Pablo Neruda, describing the moment of creativity as he experienced it.

How would you describe YOUR EXPERIENCE?

Please share.

Poetry

And it was at that age … Poetry arrived

in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where

it came from, from winter or a river.

I don’t know how or when,

no they were not voices, they were not

words, nor silence,

but from a street I was summoned,

from the branches of night,

abruptly from the others,

among violent fires

or returning alone,

there I was without a face

and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth

had no way

with names,

my eyes were blind,

and something started in my soul,

fever or forgotten wings,

and I made my own way,

deciphering

that fire,

and I wrote the first faint line,

faint, without substance, pure

nonsense,

pure wisdom

of someone who knows nothing,

and suddenly I saw

the heavens

unfastened

and open,

planets,

palpitating plantations,

shadow perforated,

riddled

with arrows, fire and flowers,

the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,

drunk with the great starry

void,

likeness, image of

mystery,

felt myself a pure part

of the abyss,

I wheeled with the stars,

my heart broke loose on the wind.

__________________________________________________________________________________

A big Thank You to my friend Slava Bowman, for the pictures in this blog,  Slava is a successful Washington, MO photographer, who first started taking pictures as a hobby.  Her fearless exploration and curiosity gave birth to a successful blog “Re-Discover Washington,” that significantly energized Washington’s social and business communities.  Slava is a great example of how letting oneself explore may become a blessing to others.  You can find more of her photography on www.slavabowman.com

 

How Breath Makes Your Brain Work for You

BreathIn the last installment, we talked about the effects of gratitude.  This installment will address something much more basic and natural to all living creatures.  We all breathe and we all know what happens when we stop breathing.Not surprisingly, most of us have found ourselves at least in one situation where we were feeling anxious, angry, or stressed to the point that someone around us had to instruct us to “take a breath.”   We have known about the power of mindful breathing from the beginning of time.  It has become the basis for different forms of meditation in both Western and Eastern spiritual traditions.  We commonly tell each other to “take a breath” when we try to help each other relax.  But, what many people do not consciously realize is that focusing your attention on your breath is the one most effective thing for relaxation.So, while the basic instruction to staying alive is to “keep breathing,” the basic instruction to keeping calm is to “keep focusing on your breath.”How about just trying it right now?  Here is the very simple way to do it:

  •  Slowly, draw in a breath, and notice your lungs and belly filling with air.
  • Slowly, let the breath out and notice the release that happens in your body.
  • Repeat over and over again.

(Some people find it helpful to count while drawing the breath in and out.  Try counting to 4 while drawing the breath in, and to 4 again on the way out.)

When you focus your attention on your breath, you take your attention off your anger, fear, stress, and worry.  You become one with the perfection of the present moment.

Moreover, ( very simplistically stating,)  the more you practice mindful or conscious breathing, the more you strengthen those “relaxed” pathways in the brain.  In other words, the more you practice this technique the more you train your brain to respond with calm to stress.

Do it for just a few minutes in the morning, and then stop and do it a few times a day, especially when things get a little much for you.  Let me know what you noticed and have fun breathing!

Continue reading How Breath Makes Your Brain Work for You