Archive: Meditation and Mindfulness

Spread your wings

Spread your wings

I had a dream last night. In it a man is murdered. A second man is hounded and finally convicted of the murder – never any solid evidence but pretty sure he did it. He escapes with the help of his friends, and then I’m convicted (because they needed someone to pin this on). I begin many years of living under glass, in a house, constantly monitored, same regimen daily. No change. Until one day years later, when my hair has turned gray, he helps me escape back to normal life. We both end up in a community where we simply live out our lives, free of unwanted eyes.

I feel so sad and ashamed when I remember the dream.  I’ve always felt the outsider, convinced that I’d done something so terrible that I could never really belong.  For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be accepted. To belong.

If you know what I’m talking about, then you also know it isn’t true:  It isn’t true that you or I have done anything terrible, or that we in any way deserve to feel such shame. It’s something that was imposed on us by others who felt the same way. We know that. And yet, that feeling persists, causing unnecessary pain. It saps us of our life force energy, and our power.

This shame and pain makes us want to escape – through endless activity, or food, or drugs, alcohol … any thing or activity that numbs us to that unbearable feeling of pain and helplessness. Some of us never wake up to what we’re doing to ourselves. Those of you who are reading this – and who identify with it – you’re the lucky ones.  Because understanding what happened, and that you can free yourself of this fake myth, means that you can finally move on. You can take back that power you were born with.

Seth Godin’s blog Fake Wasabi  is a reminder of what we can miss if we buy into that fake myth. He notes that most sushi restaurants serve something that looks like wasabi, but is really a mixture of horse radish and other things. If you didn’t know this, and didn’t go in search of the real thing, you’d never know what you were missing.

Time to spread your wings!

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
 

-Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

 

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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

The Art of Intimacy

So often, I’m struck by a painting or poem that brings up a felt sense of some aspect of life that is deeply meaningful to me.

Rumi, when he speaks of two kinds of intelligence, speaks in my language, as if he were a contemporary instead of someone who lived several centuries ago. The Chess Players by Retzch, reminds me of times in my own life when I “innocently” made a deal with the devil. The friendship that develops between the female characters in Midsummer Night’s Dream turns what might otherwise be sordid and hopeless into light hearted and hopeful.

How often has that happened in your life? Where that intimate connection, of caring or consideration from a friend or stranger, turned pain into pleasure. Something to cherish and remember.

I know that when I’m feeling especially sad, or fearful, or anxious, I look for something in the world of art to remind me that someone else understands what I’m feeling, and that they turned this despair, or fear or sadness into something beautiful.

As a plug for a friend, a particularly intimate version of Midsummer Night’s Dream is playing in Toronto this month in Toronto.

Yuki

Quote of the Week
I have a very, very good relationship with 10 percent of the audience. The only purpose of art is intimacy. That is the only point. -David Hare

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

The Best We Can Do

best

Yesterday was my birthday. And, as is my custom, I spent the day in contemplation – how last year went, what I learned from last year, and what I’m dreaming for next year.

Last year I pushed myself – not as hard as I would have done, because I’d learned from the year before.  But, I still pushed myself. Why? Because I still don’t accept who I am. Still need to be better than who and what I am right now. Still self-judging, finding myself wanting.

I thought of the stories I tell myself about my past struggles, and focus on all the things I’ve tried that didn’t work.  Then I thought “What if I were a woman from a truly struggling part of the world – from the Congo, for instance – looking at my life and where I am in it.  What would she think and say to me?” I think she’d laugh in my face, and tell me with incredulity that I am so lucky! To rejoice in my good fortune!

I think of my friend Eric. He was a poet, and struggled most of his adult life, working at jobs that would feed and shelter him so he could spend of his time writing poetry and speaking at readings. He didn’t strive at being the best poet in the world.  He strived at being the best poet he could be in that moment.

I thought of my parents. They had their issues and in some ways never grew up. There were secrets and lies, favoritism and unfairness. I used to fantasize – like Gloria Steinem – that I was adopted, and that this somehow explained it.  Then one day as an adult, I noticed that I was doing what I swore I’d never do like my mother or father did. Shockingly, I was more like them than I ever imagined!

That’s the first time I got it: they were doing the best they could do.

It’s what inspired me to become a therapist.

When I come from knowing that I am doing the best I can, I become more accepting of me, and of everyone else around me.

 

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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

The Gift of “Negative” Emotions

emotions

I was with a friend I hadn’t seen for years, and after being with her for an hour, I remembered why. She was hopelessly positive about everything. She had one rule about life, and that was to look only to the positive.

I understand what motivated her life’s rule – she didn’t want to descend into feeling hopeless and negative, and she was afraid she would if she stopped clinging to the positive.  But what it did was alienate her from her own emotions, relegating some to bad and evil, and others to good.

Her rule also made it impossible for me to have a meaningful conversation with her; and I simply drifted away to more meaningful relationships.

In university, I learned that emotions represent our value judgments.  They’re neither bad nor good. They simply let us know when we judge something as good or bad for us.  When we feel pain, it’s because we’ve lost something or someone dear to us, or because we feel threatened by such a loss.  When we feel joy, it’s because something or someone we value has connected with us – like an unforgettable sunset, or the face of a loved one we haven’t seen for a long time.

Psychologist Susan David argues we need what she terms emotional agility to thrive in a complex world. Refusing to feel certain emotions that we judge as “bad” will eventually lead to a loss of control over our lives, and plunge us into depression.  Sometimes depression is expressed in a sense of hopelessness; most often is hides an unexpressed rage and anger. And so long as that anger is left locked down or bottled up, it will control us completely.

Research shows that when we ignore or bottle up an emotion, is simply gets stronger.  It’s what happens when we obsess over something – like burnt marshmallow ice cream, or French fries, or that perfect size 2 figure.  It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as we try to ignore it, it will begin to dominate our thoughts.  We’ll notice ice cream wherever we go, or anyone with the figure we want.

The same is true with any ignored emotion.  I can’t imagine bottling up good feelings – ignoring how my heart soars when I see that sunset – but I can imagine ignoring the pain of being disrespected. When I ignore such pain, I tend to get super “professional”, until one day in the near future I don’t want to get out of bed, or I can’t get to sleep.

Bottling up our emotions simply doesn’t work. It literally makes us sick.

Ms. David’s and other research shows that in today’s world, a third of us judge our emotions as “good” or “bad”, and that depression is now the number one cause of disability in the world.

Not dealing with all our emotions stops us from dealing with the world as it is and plunges us into a world of fantasy. It renders us ineffective and non-resilient, unable to effectively deal with what life gives us.

The truth is that the only way to living happy is accepting all our emotions. When we accurately identify what we feel, we can better understand what is causing us to feel as we do. And this understanding generates our ability to take effective steps to deal with that cause.

Accepting, and honoring, all our feelings leads to resilience, and resilience leads to living a happy and contented life.

As Ms. David concludes, “discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life”.

If you’re interested in reading more, sign up for my weekly newsletter.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

Hope is the place where joy meets struggle

This beautiful heading is a quote from Parker Palmer. When I let myself feel the impact it has on me, my heart feels lighter, and I experience a sense of hopefulness.

Let me explain. A dear friend (I’ll call her Wendy) has been struggling with a big decision – whether to move and begin again, or stay and face some old blocks that simply won’t budge.  There are big plusses and minuses either way:  If she moves, she’ll be starting all over again in an unknown area; if she stays she might end up moving or even dissolving those blocks, but miss out on other wonderful opportunities.  She’s really torn by it, especially on days when everything just isn’t working. Wrestling with this dilemma is frustrating, depressing, sometimes overwhelming.

But through all this, Wendy is hopeful she’ll work it out.  She hasn’t lost sight of why she’s in this dilemma, and what makes it all worthwhile for her. She sees it as a worthy challenge, because the only reason it’s important is because she loves what she does. It’s important to her, even in the current overwhelming situation.

Like the old cliché says, “Anything worth having is worth fighting for”.  Wendy knows this struggle is worth it, because her life and happiness is worth fighting for.

It’s not a done deal. There are risks – that’s why she’s struggling right now.  Wendy is stepping into unknown territory. Any time we step into a new and unfamiliar place, what carries us through is hope.
For Parker Palmer, hope keeps him alive and creatively engaged. For me, it keeps me moving forward, even when moving forward is painfully hard to do. It keeps Wendy in the struggle.

The one thing that Wendy was afraid of – and why she talked to me about it – was that she worried that she was fooling herself. That she was in some way not seeing the reality of the situation. She needed to talk to people she trusted to clear up any confusion and strengthen her determination, one way or the other.  Wendy said she chose who to share her dilemma with for 2 reasons: the person was honest, and the person was benevolent.

Wendy wanted the truth from her friends, not soothing platitudes. And she wanted to be with people who cared about her.

I can’t think of a better, more supportive way to make big decisions.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Morley – Women of Hope

struggle

 

Quote of the Week
When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too. ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

 

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

 

Hope – an encouragement and a refuge

hope

Hope is something none of us can live without. Hope literally keeps us healthy and motivated, no matter what.  In fact, I’ve decided to write about this most important topic in both my blog and newsletter this week, because at this time of year, we can all use a little more hope.

Hope is both an encouragement and a refuge for us.

If I’ve had a bad week when everything I’ve attempted goes wrong, or when I feel rejected or ignored by someone who might have mattered to me, hope – the broader and perhaps deeper vision I carry inside myself – bolsters me.  It’s the light at the end of the tunnel that I can feel, even if I can’t see it. It reminds me that not everyone will agree with me, that not everything will work when tested in the real world. And that this is a fact that is part of living and striving for something I value, and doesn’t mean that what I value isn’t possible.

Hope reminds me of what is important. It helps me look forward with confidence.

Hope is what I work to bolster in clients who come to me for help and support.  No one comes to me because they’re feeling great; they seek me out when they’re losing hope and afraid they will remain in this hopeless state.  They don’t want that, and don’t really believe it either.  So, they seek someone like me out to help them clear their hopeless feelings and get back on track in their lives.

Hope is also a refuge. A safe place.  A place inside me – like a beautiful and safe room of my own – where I can feel good regardless of the circumstances.

It reminds me that all life is like a wave: there are natural ups and downs. There is no straight line in life – if everything is going wonderfully, there will come a time when that changes; and when everything seems to be going badly, that too will pass. In those down times that we all must meet and deal with, I tell myself and my clients that it’s temporary. It will pass. Just wait for it.

And that’s hope.

How to come to terms with the need to be liked and accepted

accepted

 

I read a recent blog from Seth Godin where he discussed what he calls the modern addiction of perfectibility, or for short, imperfectibility.

What’s imperfectibility? You might feel, deep down, that you can somehow make everyone happy. That you can silence every critic, delight every customer, and interest every person you approach. Then when the inevitable happens, when someone misunderstands you, or has the wrong impression of you and simply won’t give you a chance, you – like me – take that on as something you failed to catch. That it’s somehow on you, and that you have the power to change it and get that person to like you.

The truth is you can’t, because it doesn’t have anything to do with you. People have their reasons for feeling dissatisfied, or disliking something or someone. The reasons are mostly emotional and personal, and if it’s directed at you, that likely means you were in their line of sight at the time.

A sensitive man just got yelled at by his mother; then you come along, strangely like his mother in some indefinable way, and he finds a reason to dislike you.  A woman you’re slightly acquainted with is regualarly bullied by her boss, and takes it out on the first person she can. You, as it happens. Or, what you have to offer simply doesn’t interest the person you want to interest, and never will.

Whoever you are and whatever you have to offer, it simply can’t interest and delight everyone. And the point that Mr. Godin is making is that if what you are trying to perfect isn’t giving you joy, then it’s an addiction. And like every addiction, no matter how much you do it, it will never satisfy you.

So what’s the antidote? Re-focus.

Re-focus on what you truly like to do.  If that happens to be striving for perfection for its own sake, great! But if that striving is about trying to gain approval from someone who you aren’t likely to get it from, stop! Walk away. And focus on something important to your sense of joy. On something that feeds your soul.

And don’t worry about that other person. They have their own journey.

 

If you’re interested in reading more, sign up for my weekly newsletter.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

7 Questions for 2018

(Inspired by Courtney Martin)

7 is a magical number – a number of power.  There was a study many years ago called the Magic Number 7 that observed crows, discovering that crows can remember up to 7 things.  It turns out that’s true for us too: we can remember around 7 things – concrete or abstract – at a time. “7” also stands for the 7 generations that influence us, and that we will influence, according to shamanism. What we do and how we do it is partly a result of the 7 generations that came before us – it’s something that we can’t ignore without blinding ourselves to who we are. In shamanism, “7” also stands for the dream and freedom.

With this in mind, I wonder what last year offers you now for this year. And if you could clarify your dream for this year, what would it be? To help you out, I offer you 7 questions.

  1. A moment to remember. If you could choose one moment from 2017, what moment would that be? How can you carry that moment into 2018?
  2. Connections. Who did you connect with in 2017 that changed you. Who do you want to connect with this year?
  3. Lost Opportunities. Who did you wish you connected with last year, but didn’t? What did you learn from that experience that can help you this year?
  4. Battles. What inner battles did you grapple with last year? Which ones did you resolve, and which are your battles for this year?
  5. Wins. What were the greatest personal “wins” you made last year? What are you aiming for this year?
  6. Hope. What gave you hope in 2017 that you can carry inside you as you begin 2018?
  7. Dreams. What one thing, above all else, do you want to focus on for 2018?

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

5 ways to kill your dream

questions

Quote of the Week
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one. John Lennon

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Our history is our saving grace

history

In a recent On Being episode, Krista Tippett interviewed Isabel Wilkerson about her latest book The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. In her book, Ms. Wilkerson followed the migration of families from the deep south to the west or further, and how that history shaped their modern offspring.

The great migration in America, she discovered, wasn’t about migration. It was about freedom, and the lengths people will go to find it.  In fact, this is behind all human migration.

The young farmer in late 19th century Russia who packs up and leaves with his young family the day he is conscripted into the Russian army, knowing what that means for his life and those he loves.

The child, travelling alone through Europe, sent by her loving parents in the hope that she can find a better life than the one they are forced to live where they are.

The young African American who walks for days out of the deep South, hoping for a decent job and the hope of the freedom to simply be.

It is by no means a story of unfettered success, or even of getting what they were yearning for.  For African Americans – and new immigrants – many were greeted with resentment and continued to suffer hardship. It was a huge struggle and it didn’t always end well. And yet, it was also the beginning of a hope that simply didn’t exist without making that move.

Their history what it took to reach their destination, whatever that was – all the roadblocks, the mistakes and failures, all the unexpected successes, kindnesses and support along the way – made them.  And it wasn’t only what they did themselves; it also included everything their parents did, and their grandparents, and great-grandparents, and even further into their past.  We know now there are epigenetic changes that we inherit from our grandsires. There are also stories.

That young Russian farmer is my great Grandfather. In times of hardship, all I have to do to regain perspective is take a moment to contemplate the courage, resolve and clarity of sight he must have had to leave everything behind in a split second and begin again.

Ms. Wilkinson’s father was a pilot, and being the daughter of a pilot meant to her that, metaphorically, she could fly too.

The indigenous peoples of North America have the belief that whatever we do will impact the next 7 generations, and that we are impacted by the past 7 generations that came before us.  It’s humbling to see that whatever I do will impact my nearest and dearest, which will in turn impact their dearest, and so on for the next 7 generations.

I’ll leave the last word to Ms. Wilkerson …

And you don’t know how to react when someone says, “This is the last book that my mother or father read before they died.” But they say it with such joy and gratitude. And they say that it allowed them to come to terms with all that they had endured and to give their suffering some meaning and to recognize that they had not been alone, but that they had been part of something bigger — some connection to immigrants around the world, other people who had come up from the South as they had, and others who had been able to express their freedom and their individuality in the way they had chosen; that it was a peaceful and, in their view, fulfilling and healing way to have left this planet.

 

If you’re interested in reading more, sign up for my weekly newsletter.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Standing up for Yourself

If you don’t stand up for yourself, how can you stand up for anybody else.

-Mrs. Green, a marcher in the 1963 Civil Rights Movement on Washington

Gloria Steinem related this in her latest book My Life on the Road. Mrs. Green happened to be marching beside Gloria on that day, and Gloria was telling her about all the efforts she and her friends took to get a man of influence to listen to them and take up their cause. That’s when Mrs. Green shook her head and said: You white women! If you don’t stand up for yourself, how can you stand up for anybody else?

I’m a life coach and therapist. My job is to help people re-empower themselves. And yet there are times when I come up against something that scares me, and all I want to do is hide in a corner rather than deal with it, hoping it will be taken care of by someone else. But, paraphrasing Mrs. Green, if I don’t stand up for myself, then how can I facilitate that in my clients and those I care about?

Here’s how I help others, and can use as a reminder for myself frequently:

  • Choose your battles. Not every event I disagree with is one I need to fight. But the ones I engage in are important to me spiritually. I speak up for equal rights of all races, because I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t have equal rights. I actively fight against all animal cruelty, and increasingly, the equal rights of wild nature to live freely in their own habitat.

There are many things I don’t agree with that I won’t take the time to fight against right now. For instance, I disagree with using salt on winter roads, but I’m not willing to take the time to fight for a less eroding alternative.  That’s going to have to be someone else’s fight.

I’m sure you have a lot of things in your life that you don’t like or want to change. Which of those are personally important to you, that you’re willing to spend your energy on? Not that’s important to your spouse or loved one, unless they are that important to you; but that deeply moves you, so that you can sustain the effort it will take to stand up for.

  • Be clear on what you want to gain. Is it something that can happen this year with effort? Or in a few years’ time? Or something that can only get started in this lifetime? Gloria Steinem didn’t have a clear idea in 1967 of what she was ultimately fighting for; all she knew then was that she wanted to empower more women. So she decided to walk in the Civil Rights march (after having almost talked herself out of it).
  • Take action. All of us has more power than we know. We have the power to influence the course of our lives and of others’ lives. Ms. Steinem showed up in 1967 and walked. That’s all she did that day. And that led to other things that ultimately culminated in a world-wide women’s rights movement. Every step she took was scary and required a huge stretch on her part. That’s true for you and me.

What is important to you right now, and what can you do to make it a reality?  How can you stand up for yourself today?

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

3 Lessons on success from an Arab business woman

Standing up for Yourself

Quote of the Week
How many more of us are faking the facade? How many more of us are pretending to be something we’re not? Even better, how many of us will have the courage to be ourselves regardless of what others think?
― Katie McGarry, Dare You To

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co