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Having a vision of what we want in life is important to our efforts of getting what we want, but we also must take action.
There is a popular misconception that we might be able to just wish our dreams into being. Maybe on some other level of consciousness this is the case, but here on earth what we need to do is take action in our lives. Vision is an important companion to our efforts, but it can't accomplish anything all by itself. When we focus on what we want and ask for what we want, we are initiating a conversation with the universe. Our desires, passionately defined and expressed, bring about valuable and relevant opportunities, which we then respond to by either taking or leaving them.
Many of us are afraid to step out into the world and make things happen, and so we hang back, dreaming and waiting and watching. There are times in life when this is the right thing to do, but this phase of inaction must eventually give way to its opposite if we are to build our dreams into a reality. This can be really scary, and we may fail and struggle, but that's okay because that's what we're supposed to do. Waiting for everything to be perfect before we act, or waiting for what we want to be handed to us, leaves us waiting forever. No one expects us to be perfect, so the best thing we can do for ourselves is to get out there and take action on our dreams.
One of the hardest parts about having a vision is that when we test it in the laboratory of life, it often comes out looking completely different than what we had in mind or, worse, it doesn't come out at all. If you read the life stories of people who have brought their dreams into reality, you will hear many stories about this experience. But you will also hear about hard work, taking action, perseverance, and, finally, the successful birthing of a dream.
True lasting success comes only with surrender, which is the opposite of control.
Most of us were raised and live in a culture that emphasizes the ideals of independence and control. The general idea is that we are on our own and we don't need any help from anyone else, and if we are really successful it's because we are in complete control. However, true lasting success comes only with surrender, which is the opposite of control. We cannot accomplish anything truly great on our own, without any help, and the idea that we can is an illusion that causes most of us a great deal of suffering. Surrender comes when we see that illusion and let go of trying to attain the impossible. Surrender can then be seen as a great strength rather than a weakness.
Even small moments of surrender are powerful indicators of how different our lives could be if we would only let go. We've all had the experience of extending huge amounts of effort and energy to reach a particular goal only to realize that we can't make it happen after all. At the moment of letting go, realizing that we need to ask for help or simply release our agenda entirely, a profound feeling of relief may rush over us. This warm, open sensation is the essence of surrender, and if we didn't feel that we didn't really let go. But it is never too late to let go, even of things in the past that didn't work out the way we wanted them to, because surrender is always an option in every moment of our lives.
When we finally do surrender, our goals actually become possible, because the act of surrender is, in essence, asking for the help we need. This help may come in the form of other human beings or unseen helpers such as angels or inner guides. It may also come in the form of shifting circumstances, the small miracles that we call grace.
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
Being Gentle With Ourselves
During those times when our lives are filled with what seems to be constant change and growth, it is important to remember that we need to be gentle with ourselves. Since it can be easy to use our energy to keep up with the momentum of our lives, we may not be aware of the fact that we are much more likely to run ourselves down. When things seem to be moving quickly, it is especially essential that we make a point to slow down and be gentle with ourselves.
It might be difficult to notice what is happening to us for we may be so caught up in the whirlwind of our lives that we lose sight of the direction in which things are heading. Being gentle with ourselves doesn't mean that we don't accomplish things. Instead it means that we honor ourselves on an ongoing basis and take care of the needs of our bodies.
This means different things to different people. For instance, it could mean having a session with a healer; taking a remedy, herbs, or vitamins; or getting extra sleep. Putting our energy into ourselves in this way helps create space for a more positive, loving, and accepting view of our lives. By setting the intention to do so, we will be more cognizant of our energy levels on a daily basis and more able to replenish them as needed.
The more we are able to treat our bodies with gentleness, the more tenderness and compassion we will call forth into our lives. Learning to understand and pay attention to what our self needs will in turn allow us to fill our lives with unlimited loving and healing energy and to truly take care of the things that mean the most to us.
Being defenseless is something we avoid at all costs. Individually, psychologically, physically, emotionally, even spiritually, we build defenses to protect ourselves, our families, our possessions, our countries, our beliefs. We've been building moats around the castle since we figured out how to build castles. But why? Why is it so important to protect everything? Protect it (us) from what?
Imagine someone taking something from your hand. You are holding on and they snatch it. Yikes. That feels bad. But what was in your hand? Was it important? Did it matter? Imagine someone taking that same thing, and as they reach for it, you let it go. How is that one?
Clearly, it makes sense to be able to protect some things. And just as clearly we tend to be so protective of just about everything that we are rarely able to experience our vulnerability. How could we? We're busy fighting off anything that might hurt us. But for all that, we get hurt anyway. What then? Bigger moat? More defenses? Thicker skin? Hide better? Feel less? Care less? Get them before they get you? Leave before you are left?
Imagine a world where we accepted being hurt as part of the process. We want to run. We know we'll fall. We want to love, we know we'll be hurt. What if everyone cried, like children do, when they were hurt or scared or sad.... What if we were okay with being vulnerable and could know ourselves in both our strength and our weakness? What would our world be like if we shared our woundedness, our pain, our vulnerability? Could we go to war if we wept at every death?
Adults who can claim their vulnerability and live with it, express it and connect to others through it are likely healthier and happier. We are so conditioned, as young children are not, to look good; do the right thing; be the way the world (whatever world we inhabit) wants us to be, that we build a false front. We walk around in our "best self" and we rarely let our deeper experiences show. That false front has been called by many names, but we all know it in ourselves and can often feel it/see it in others. It is our survival personality, our persona, our false positive. Put your best foot forward! Give it all you got! It is better to look good than to feel good! (or so the old spoof from Saturday Night Live says). And because we try so hard to look good, be good, feel good, we necessarily have to protect ourselves, from anything that might threaten.
But vulnerability is a gift. It is a way that we share, with all other humans, the fragile nature of existence, the sensitivity that is deeply human. A vulnerable child elicits a caring response from an adult. The truth is that a vulnerable adult, in a safe world, elicits that same caring from others. Vulnerability is the soft underbelly of who we all are.
Defenseless, I need you. And you need me.
It Takes Real Courage To Ask For Help
I think courage is an under-utilized word these days. In the minds of most, it seems to be reserved for "big" things, like fighting in a war or rushing into a burning building to save a child. Don't get me wrong, these are definitely courageous acts worthy of the word. But for most of us, we won't get the opportunity to show that kind of courage. We will, however, do other things that require our courage - everyday though they may seem.
There are many daily occurrences that require some element of courage. But the everyday act of courage that I am privileged to see on a regular basis is starting therapy. If you've never been to therapy, just imagine:
You are at the end of your rope. You've tried everything you can think of to improve your situation, be it a troubled marriage, conflictual family relationships or mind-numbing depression or anxiety. In desperation you decide to reach out for help, not really knowing where to start but knowing something has to change, and soon. You get online, looking for something, someone who speaks to you, who seems to understand. (This in and of itself is a daunting task; how do you know someone is a good therapist from their online directory listing?) Or maybe you've asked a friend for a recommendation; maybe you've seen this person speak or read one of their articles, books or blogs. Perhaps it's as simple as you just like their smile - it seems to say "You can trust me." Whatever the reason, you take a deep breath and call or email, and make an appointment.
Then you wait, with a mix of fear and hope. Things are still bad but now when you think how bad they are you also dare to think they may be able to change for the better. At the same time you're terrified that this person may be strange or scary or just not in sync with you, and if that's the case, you're not sure you can go back to the exhaustive searching...this might just be your one shot.
The day finally comes for your appointment. You find the office, are greeted and fill out some paperwork, and all the while your thoughts race. When you sit down with the therapist a few minutes later with your heart pounding, you think This is it. Please let it help.
As both a therapist and someone who has been in therapy herself, I can tell you I genuinely appreciate what this is - nothing less than a true act of courage. There are many factors that could have prevented this moment - pain, fear, financial impediments, emotional paralysis. Add to this a potential familial or cultural stigma, and it's a wonder anyone has the courage to come to therapy at all.
But they do, and I see it every day in my office. They come in shaking, crying, yelling, stonewalling, defensive, desperate, cynical...but with one thing in common: on some level, in some measure, they dare to hope. Sometimes against unbelievable odds, with heart-wrenching stories and no real reason to continue to hold on, they hope. And their hope in therapy, in me, is a gift and an honor. I try to hold it gently but securely, as we walk through that first session and subsequent others together. It is no small thing to open up your heart and mind to a total stranger. It is no small feat to bring what hurts the most into the light, daring to trust you might be able to have the life you want. And there are no promises. Even with this courage, sometimes things don't work out - despite hard work and good intentions to the contrary, sometimes change doesn't happen, and things stay broken.
But sometimes they do work out. Sometimes - often, actually - I see the initial investment of hope blossom into real changes in peoples' lives. I'm with them when they have the "A-ha!" moment that leads them to understand their past and make better decisions in their future. I get to see the lightness return to their step, the smiles return to their faces, the love return to their lives. It's awesome, and it's why I love my work. Even if it only happened one time out of a hundred, it would be enough, but it happens much more than that. I know that the main ingredient in this is the courage of my clients - not just the significant courage it takes to come to therapy in the first place, but the courage to keep coming and keep working on things, especially outside the therapy room.
I believe that these people deserve all the good that comes their way. Helping and watching them figure that out is my privilege.
Often, when we're unhappy, we fall into the habit of thinking that, if only one or two particular things in our life would change, everything would be fine. We might focus on the fact that we need a new car, or a raise, or a change in our living situation. We dwell on this one thing and strategize, or complain, or daydream about what it would be like to have it. Meanwhile, underneath the surface, the real reason for our unhappiness sits unrecognized and unaddressed. And yet, if we are able to locate and explore the underlying cause of our discontent, all the surface concerns have a way of working themselves out in the light of our realization.
Maybe we really do just need a new car, and maybe moving to another city would improve our life situation. However, it can only help to take some time to explore what's going on at a deeper level. Sometimes, when we take a moment and stop focusing on external concerns, we get to the heart of the matter. We might realize that all our lives we've been dissatisfied, grasping at one thing after another, only to be dissatisfied about something else once we get what we want. Or perhaps we'll notice a pattern of running away from a place, or a relationship, when things get too hard. We might then wonder why this keeps happening, and how we might work through the difficulty rather than just escaping it. The point is, slowing down and turning our attention within can save us a lot of energy in the long run, because it is very often the case that there is no external change that will make us happy.
Once you've taken the time to inquire within, you can begin to make changes that address the deeper issue. This can be hard at first, especially if you've grown used to grasping for outside sources in order to quell your discontent, but in the end, you will be solving the problem at a deeper level, and it will be much less likely to recur.
Like most of us, I think I have had enough snow to last for the rest of the year. And cold! Average temperatures for the area are far below normal.
Wet. Cold. Gray. A perfect formula for depression.
The local weather looks like it was designed for one of those commercials for an anti-depressant medication. (Ever notice how the weather improves in those commercials, right after they introduce the product?) There is a great amount of research out there about the connection between mood and weather and I definitely see it in my practice. And with the weather these days, it is typically the first topic of any therapy session.
Since it looks like there may be no end in sight - I thought it might be helpful to pass along some tips for combating those bad weather blues.
Find the beauty in it. If there were no cloudy days - we would never appreciate the sun. Take a moment and really absorb the beauty of rain and the awesomeness of storms. They can be quite breath taking!
Focus on the positive and surround yourself with positive people. Enough already with the complainers and negative talk about the weather. Focusing on the clouds just make them worse and allows depression to feed on itself.
Buy Fresh Flowers Once a Week - They don't have to be roses, and they don't have to be expensive. Stop by your local grocery or flower shop and pick up a cute little bouquet made up of wildflowers or other common blooms. Be sure to follow the directions when putting them into a vase and add the plant food. Place them in an area of the house you spend time in, such as the living room or dining room. It'll brighten up your home and your mood.
Change Your Bulbs - Is your indoor lighting a little harsh? You might be surprised to know you can get light bulbs that actually simulate natural outdoor lighting! This can help soften the blow of losing so much sunlight; and again, it will probably make you feel better.
Keep Eating Fresh Fruits & Veggies - Even if you don't grow them yourself, you probably eat more fresh fruits and vegetables when it's warm out. When the cold weather hits, that seems to stop. During colder months, people eat fewer fresh foods and more canned or frozen foods. To stay feeling fresh, try eating fresh. Eat fresh or steamed fruits and veggies at least once a day. It's good for you, and it's one less change from the warm days of summer.
Get out there! You wont melt - get outside and move around. If you know anything about me - I'm a big proponent for moving your body and using that mind / body connection.
Finally, realize that there is a strong connection between the gray weather and your bad mood. That realization can be powerful. It tells you that there is a reason for your lethargy and grumpiness. And it tells you that it is temporary. Don't be a victim to the weather. Make a conscious choice to focus on the positive and improve your mood.
Most of us know that happiness is the journey not the destination. But it's the kind of thing that's much more easily said than practiced, particularly when you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or convinced that something is missing.
I suspect we will all feel that at different points throughout our lives-that there could be more. It's just the way we're wired. We're always going to want more answers, more adventures, more love, and more time.
We're always going to wonder what else is out there beyond what we know, even if what we know is what we dreamed of for years before reaching it.
Today if you feel a pull toward something out there-in a different time, place, or situation-ask yourself: how can I leverage that excitement for possibilities to live today fully and passionately?
Marjorie Gross is a Holistic Counselor in private practice in Albany, NY. She can be reached by phone at 518-862-1974 ext 95 or via email at email@example.com. Visit her website at www.psychosynthesist.com
if you move carefully
through the forest
like the ones
in the old stories
who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,
to a place
whose only task
is to trouble you
but frightening requests
conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.
Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
to stop what you
while you do it,
that can make
that have patiently
waited for you,
that have no right
to go away.
~ David Whyte ~
(Everything is Waiting for You)