Archive: Meditation and Mindfulness

The fine art of letting go, and what that really means

What does it really mean to hang onto things and people and situations? We hear a lot about the virtue of letting go, but how often do you see that happen?

Not often! Because it’s a really tough thing to do. Letting go pretty much always means letting go of a belief – that something or someone is so important to us that losing it would be a disaster.  This belief may be connected to similar childhood beliefs – may even be connected to events in childhood that are still painful.  If so, then letting go is far from easy.

And yet, there’s a saying I’ve heard that goes something like “you become what you fight”. If you’ve ever witnessed someone close to you who is afraid of losing something and won’t let go, you know the truth of this first hand. We end up being alone because we fought loneliness.

So, if not letting go really means losing what we love, then what does letting go really mean? What it means is freedom. Freedom to move on, to enjoy what we have with no expectations, and to look forward to new adventures around the corner.  It doesn’t mean we won’t have our loved ones near for many more years – in fact, that’s more likely if we’ve let go of our need for them to stay . What it means is that they, and we, have no obligations that unnecessarily tie us down.

And that tastes of freedom.

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.

Isaac Lidsky – Letting Go

Quote of the Week
Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it. ― Ann Landers

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

Letting go, pillar of mindfulness

letting go

Letting go takes practice.  It’s easy to let go of a thought or desire if it isn’t that strong or important.  Not so easy when it is.

The cause you’ve worked for all your life.  The son or daughter who wants to move to another continent. The issue at work that you fear might end your career.  These are the kinds of things that keep us awake, and that can take up every free moment in our day.

And yet, it’s by hanging onto them that we have the best chance of losing them – the child or lover who can no longer handle our neediness of them; the cause that needs a new and fresh approach that you can’t bring yourself to embrace.  The issue at work that makes you so stressed you can’t think straight and find yourself making big and bigger mistakes as a result.

Deep down, being unable to let go is about fearing to loose what is important to us.  The problem is that fear changes us, so that what began as something beautiful turns by that refusal to let go into something toxic.

Let go. Spread the love.

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thehjoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

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 .

When time seems not on our side

“I don’t have time for this” is a refrain I heard often from my mother. Now I say it. I don’t have time for a lot of things, and it isn’t because I’m impatient.  It’s because I try to fit too much into a day – like my mother did.

Some people are fantastic at calculating how much time something will take, but never those who never have enough time.  Those are most of the people I know.  We tend to underestimate everything – to such a degree that what we thought we could accomplish is hopelessly out of wack.

Why is this? Partly it’s because we are overly optimistic about our own abilities and the smooth running of the world.  Partly because our hopes take over instead of our objectivity. Partly because we simply have unrealistic expectations about life, especially about ourselves. Most of us are very hard on ourselves – inside us is a little diabolic dictator who mercilessly berates us whenever we fall short of her or his demands.

That inner dictator is this way, possibly because she is fuelled by fear.  Mine is. She shows up when I’m afraid I won’t be able to do what I promised; or when I’m afraid I’ll suck during a presentation.  So many things – and whenever that fear sneaks in, so does my mini dictator.

Time isn’t on my side when I try to do too much – or so it seems.  But when I stop to consider this a little deeper, I have to admit that the pain I go through whenever I’m driven like this is a strong motivator to stop doing it.  If being driven gave me pleasure, I probably wouldn’t stop.

The truth is that I’m discovering that time is on my side: I always have the time I need to do things that are really important, as long as I pay attention to what’s really important.

Time, it turns out, is a choice – my choice.

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.

Laura Vanderkam – Time is a choice

Quote of the Week
Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.’
― Lao Tzu

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

No time? How to reclaim it

How often have you said to yourself “What happened to the time? Where did it go?  I still have so much left to do!”  If it’s often, then you’re a lot like me. Every time I go away for more than a few days, the amount of stuff I have to get done before I go grows exponentially: I have to get the work I’d normally do the week I’m away done before I go; that office clean-up I’ve been planning for 6 months suddenly looms large in my mind; what about that sweater I began and never finished 2 years ago?  These things, reasonable or not, suddenly become imperatives, even if some rational part of me knows better.

My partner knows better than to argue and offer rational argument; he simply finds other things to completely occupy himself with while I go crazy and wear myself out needlessly.

It really is a compulsion, and as with all compulsions, sitting and thinking about it in an attempt to discover what’s really going on isn’t going to get me anywhere.  What’s needed is to take 10 or so minutes, and discover what my body has to tell me.  That’s right – my body.  It’s in our bodies that we store feelings and value sensations, and this compulsion is, for me, connected to my values and, possibly fears.

How do I do this? I do a body-scan, then sit quietly and meditate on what comes up for me. That’s all.  A body scan is a mindfulness technique where we breath into our body and be with whatever physical sensations come up.  We begin at our toes, then move up our legs, into the pelvic area, then up the torso to the shoulders, then from the finger tips up the arms, finally breathing into the neck, the face – jaws, mouth, nose and eyes, forehead and ears, the top and back of the head. By doing this, we not only become familiar with what is going on physically for us, we also get to know how those sensations are connected to our values and beliefs.  And for most of us, this is an unfamiliar feeling.

Here’s a real-life example from my own life: I’ll take my compulsion to multiply tasks before I leave for more than a few days.

While thinking about the impossible list of tasks on hand and my sense of urgency over getting them done, I scan my body.  I’m looking for discomfort and numbness.  When I discover these, I take note and continue my scan. In this case, I might notice a tightening at my solar plexus, a hardening at the back of my head, and a clenching of my back shoulders.

Now, for each sensation, I ask what it’s doing and how it’s helping me. For instance, if I breathe into my solar plexus and the tightening there, asking it why it’s there and how it’s helping me, it might respond with something like “I’m holding things together”, and “I’m helping by enforcing calm”.  This helps me understand that what’s really happening is panic, only what I’m feeling is tightening – tightening me up so that I can keep doing all those things on my list.  I’ve fooled myself into believing everything is A-OK.

The hardening at the back of my head and the clenching of my shoulders are similarly, helping me dull down the panic, so that I can finish everything.

Knowing this is the first essential step to changing this approach into something healthier and less driven. It isn’t the answer, but it is a huge start.

 

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 .

Following the road less traveled

I watched a wonderful movie last night titled “Legends of the Fall” on Netflix.  It was released in 1994 and stars Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, and Gordon Tootoosis (as One Stab, the narrator); the movie is based on the novel of the same name by Jim Harrison.  The story is about the development and life of a young man who follows his own path, and as can be expected, his road is one less traveled; his path puts him in the way of adversity over and over again.  Early on in the story, the narrator One Stab tells of how the boy counted coup on a Grizzly Bear, and that this attitude of facing and defeating death remained with him all his life.  The message I took from the story was how we must be willing to face our fears if we want to be true to ourselves rather than slave to the will and opinions of others.  Life, in this way, is a lonely business.

The book is set in the American West in the early 1900’s and even though it’s fiction, it has a large element of truth in it: there are many characters of that time period who went West in order to free themselves of the bonds of their community (some good, some also bad); my grandfather was one of those people.

It’s hard to follow our own path. So hard, in fact, that most of us (including me) fall off the path at times and try to follow someone else’s path that’s “safer”, “easier”, more acceptable to those in our society.  Then, at some point, we loose our energy and joy of living, waking up one day wondering how we got to a place of going nowhere, wondering if that’s all there really is.

I’m here to tell you that isn’t all there is. And even more importantly, no matter your age or circumstances, you can get back on your own personal path and reclaim that energy and joy you once felt. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it.  After all, this is it, so far as we know: this life we have now, no matter how long or short, is what all we’re given to live our dream.

How do we do it then, reclaim our path? 

    • First, re-attach your head to the rest of your body.  When we feel attacked and protective (of our dreams, for instance) we go into what’s called fight or flight mode – our stress-response system kicks in and we protect ourselves.  Wilhelm Reich called this body armoring – we tense our muscles and if we do it often enough, our body keeps that tension.  We also repress the feelings we have around what we’re protecting so that, in the end, all we feel is numbness.  And when that happens, all we have is our thoughts no longer attached to the feelings they generate.  So it’s important to re-attach.
    • One way of doing this is to re-learn about what your body feels like. You can do this through the mindfulness meditation of body scan.  Body scan is a meditation technique that is designed to bring you back into body awareness.  There are many similar techniques (relaxation tapes, for instance, if they have as part of their instructions to feel each part of the body as you relax it) – the main point is to bring back into your daily or weekly routine a way of being with your body and re-discovering what it feels like in terms of physical sensations.
    • Then, notice what you feel physically – and where – whenever you are thinking something.  For instance, if I have to give a presentation and I’m stressing about it, I might feel a tightness at my solar plexus, a rawness at my throat; on the other hand, if I’m looking forward to it, I might feel a fluttering at my solar plexus and a warmth at my throat.  One suggestion is to set a timer on your phone, and every the timer goes, stop and ask yourself what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.
    • Once you’ve reconnected your head and heart, you can access your true inner knowing.  Martha Beck calls this your “Essential self”; some shamanistic traditions call this that part of the “Shideh self” that knows what’s best for us. I call it your “Gut”. In any situation where you need to make a decision, you can go to this place of knowing – your “Gut” – and see how each truly sits inside you.  Does a decision make you feel not so good – nauseous, tight, even dead? Or does it make you feel light, energized, fluid? This is called learning to “Trust your gut”, a phrase that’s often used and rarely understood.
    • Finally, let go. The most important thing about trusting your gut, once you can access this, is not fearing change. Change is a constant part of living and growing, and may mean changing relationships, changing expectations, changing direction, changing long-held beliefs. Fear of change can bind us, and blind us from our inner knowing.  Facing our fears, remaining open to new possibilities, can feel scary; and yet doing that is the path to spiritual freedom. My challenge to you is to incorporate these three steps into your daily routine – even for a mere few minutes a day – then see where you’re at with yourself in a month or a week.

Here’s a practical every-day example, using myself as the guinea pig.

I have a problem that is recurring: I want to do too much. I want to complete a course that’s meaningful to me and adds to my business experience; I want to complete a business face-lift that’s even more important to me; I want to learn how to market myself better; I want to advance in my shamanic studies.  I want to write a book.  And I haven’t even started on all the other things in my life I want to do – spend more time with my friends and loved ones, take vacation, and so on. Well, I can’t do all of them all at once, so how do I decide on what to focus on and what to put aside for now? First, I notice how I feel physically with each one: ”complete the course” leaves me feeling somewhat energized in my stomach area; “complete the business face-lift” leaves me feeling really energized; “market myself better” leaves me feeling heavy and with a restricted throat; “advance my shamanic studies” is similar to the first one.  So if I follow my inner knowing – my gut – the most important thing, no matter what anyone else may think, is my business face-lift (that problem with self-marketing is another issue).

If you have a decision to make and you feel stuck, try this out.  It may take a while – especially if you need to re-connect – but believe me, it’s worth it!

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.

Ziggy Marley – Roads Less Traveled

Quote of the Week
Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

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

Acceptance, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

acceptance

A friend was having issues with the neighbor above her: he was noisy and would wake her with his banging at around at 2am, to the point that she had trouble getting to sleep at all.  Every night.  It began to bother her so much that it was on her mind every evening, taking up all the space in her head with wory and rumination on “What if this” and “What if that” and “Why can’t he do the decent thing” and “Why can’t he be more considerate” and many many more What If’s and Whys. It became a constant nag and an equally constant drain on her energy.

At some point, she’d had enough – desperate and frantic from lack of sleep, she was willing to try anything short of moving (although that would have been next).  And as so many of us know personally, desperation is a wonderful impetus for change.  Sure enough, It wasn’t too long after this decision that she had a huge Aha moment: it was when she changed her perspective just a little, adding one more “What if”: What if her neighbor was like someone with poor eyesight and debilitating arthritis, who couldn’t help but constantly drop things? What if they had to get up at night to use the bathroom? If an elderly person were living above her with these issues, would she be as intolerant? Or would she find a way of dealing with it that brought her peace?

The fact is she would have no trouble accepting the situation as it was for an elderly person, so what was stopping her from accepting the situation as it actually was with her neighbor? The only thing that was stopping her, she discovered, were her own judgments and expectations.  All she had to do to find peace and a good night’s sleep was acceptance of what actually was.

I’ll leave the last word on Acceptance to Jon Kabat-Zinn: Acceptance is a very active process, there is nothing passive about it, it’s not passive resignation but an act of recognition that things are the way they are… Acceptance doesn’t mean we can’t work to change the world, or circumstances, but it means that unless we accept things as they are, we will try to force things to be as they are not and that can create an enormous amount of difficulty.

If we recognise the actuality of things, then we have the potential to apply wisdom to the situation and shift our own relationship to what is occurring in ways that can be profoundly healing and transformative… Without acceptance of a situation it is very difficult to know where to stand and to take a first step.”

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thehjoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

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 .

Coach or Therapist? When to chose one or the other

Coach or Therapist

I’m both a coach and a therapist.  Even when I was offering only therapy, I would often get asked the question “Maryanne, what’s the difference? Why would I choose one over the other?”

I was asked this three times this past week, so I thought I’d address it in my blog, even though it’s dissimilar to what I usually talk about.

A therapist, meaning a psychotherapist – at least in Ontario – is a trained professional who is licensed by a regulatory body to practice. She has proven competencies and a minimum number of practice hours in the field of psychotherapy. A coach isn’t regulated, and the level of training and experience of a coach can vary widely – anywhere from a few weekends to a few years.

I’m going to assume for the purposes of comparison that both coach and therapist have comparable training and experience. So when would I want to see one over the other?

A coach is active, a therapist is more a listener.  Some, including many coaches, believe that therapists see “sick” people, and that coaches see “healthy” people.  I just heard that from a prominent international coach, who always gets this question.  This isn’t true.

What is a “sick” person anyway?  If you’re depressed are you sick?  What if you’re anxious?  Who isn’t depressed or anxious at times?  What about being stuck over some issue that ends up being a huge distraction? If you follow the medical model, then you might believe that someone suffering from depression is “sick”.  I’m not one of those who do follow that model, and there is a growing number of professionals who no longer follow it.

Why? Because labelling someone as sick when they are having emotional issues doesn’t help: if we decide a person is sick, then we look for some external source – like a drug – that will make them better.  But research is proving that no anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication, on its own, works.  The only thing that works is the therapy that accompanies the drugs: it’s the trusting relationship that is built between the therapist and client that eventually leads to relief for the client (and growth for the therapist, because a relationship is always a two-way street). By the way, this is also true for the relationship built between a coach and client.

With this in mind, when to go to a therapist and when to go to a coach becomes a little clearer.  As a therapist, I work with someone at their pace to help them get unstuck from a very stuck place. I am limited by my regulatory college in what I can do, and it can often take some time before my client is able to resolve the issue they came with. As a coach, I offer a set number of sessions with a specific goal in mind: I give my client weekly actionables, with the expectation that they already have the ability to deal with whatever issues are blocking them with little or no resistance. If in the course of the program, we hit something deeper and less movable, then we can take some time out to deal with it, or I refer her to a therapist colleague, who deals with that issue separately.

If you’re stuck in a place that has you going nowhere and are wanting to know which to see – a therapist or a coach – ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I hurting enough to be willing to do whatever it takes to resolve the issue; or am I reluctant to let go of the coping strategies that I’ve put in place, even if they make me miserable? This may seem like a no-brainer, but those strategies were put in place for a reason, and it’s scary to let go of them.  Are you ready?  If not – if you feel you need to deal with this at a slower pace, then a therapist might be the better answer.
  • Am I willing to take the time to work with a coach for 2 to 3 hours each week over the next 3 to 4 months? Therapy takes longer, and this might be the better option for you.  Coaching is more action-oriented – there’s more homework – and correspondingly leads to faster results.
  • Am I willing to commit to a 3 to 4 month program? Therapy sessions are one at a time (so that there is no pressure to achieve major changes in a set period of time), and paid for one at a time; coaching comes in packages and are typically paid for up front.  A good coach will be investing a great deal of their time in designing and facilitating a program for you, and to make it worthwhile, will ask for commitment in the form of compensation up front.

No answer is better than any other.  The only criteria are an honest assessment of your needs.

 

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 .

Trust, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

Trust, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

I’m part of a coaching support group, where we practice being coaches on each other.  Contrary to some opinions, I find that coaches use many of the same techniques that therapists do, and being part of this group reminded me of what it was like testing my wings as a new therapist.  I remember watching the teachers conduct hot seats in front of us (a “hot seat” happens when a therapist and client work in front of an audience, generating “heat” simply by exposure for both of them; for this very reason, hot seats tend to generate fast results, when done well); as I watched, I marvelled at how brilliant the therapist was and wondered if I’d ever reach that level of competence – doubting at the time that I would.  Needless to say, over the years since, practicing and meeting with clients every day, I have reached that level – and it feels good, because I’m genuinely helping people achieve their dreams in the process.

The secret comes from trusting myself and the process.  In both coaching and therapy, the work involves the building of a trusting relationship between the coach or therapist and the client.  The client has to feel safe enough to speak openly and honetly; the coach or therapist has to be open and present and trust herself enough to go with what she sees and responds to, and to be able to say when she herself is stuck or confused.  Both need to trust that this process will lead to worthwhile results.  There isn’t a session I have with a client where I don’t learn something about myself as well as about my client.  It’s a process that benefits both of us, as long as there is trust.

When I first started to apply what I learned as a new therapist, I made the mistake of following instructions, so that I found I was completely “in my head” and equally completely out of touch with my body.  When that happened, there was no learning, no relationship-building, and no trust. The client left feeling dissatisfied and I was left feeling guilty and inadequate.

The way to trust is in being authentic and open, and in remaining in touch with our essential selves, which is always revealed in how we physically respond to our world.  For instance, if I were to think of a past event that brought me pain, my body will immediately register certain sensations – for me, it will be a feeling of tightness in my chest, like there was a heavy metal ball in the centre of it.  If on the other hand, I were to think of a past event that brings me pleasure, I feel a feathery kind of expansion in my chest.  When a client says something that grabs my attention, I feel that sense of expansion.  If I follow that interest, something always comes of it. If I ignore it, the session is pretty much done.

My challenge to you is this: discover in yourself how your body responds to painful and pleasant events. For one day, use this knowing to guide you, and at the end of it, take a moment to see how your day went, and how it left you feeling.

I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’ … There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt. ― Maya Angelou

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thehjoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

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 .

Mirrors – How to get the most out of life with them

Dear friend,

We all remember those special times when we connected beautifully with someone, even for a brief moment.  When a kind stranger helped us as a child, perhaps, or when we met the person we eventually married; when we had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time to connect with someone we truly admire.  Those are moments in time that define us, and they are probably as fresh now as when they happened.  They helped to shape who we are today; we remember those times with fondness and often, gratitude.

There are smaller, less significant, yet equally important events that happen daily, that we might not notice as much.  Like when someone lets us in in heavy traffic, or holds the door open for us at closing time, or even gives us a little extra when we go out for lunch.  They are all genuine acts of kindness, where nothing is expected from us in return.  Most if not all of us feel a lift when that happens, and often end up returning that random act of kindness by “paying it forward” to another person we meet.

These instances give us mirrors into our own souls; they are all moments when someone said “I see you”, and reflect back to us through their eyes what we are giving them.

Then there are other kinds of mirrors we like less; those that can be opportunities for growth.  These can be instances when we are triggered by someone – someone who reminds us of others or other past instances that still make us angry, judgmental, embarrassed, protective – and produces in us a compulsion to armor and defend ourselves.  These are the interesting ones because they are the hardest to deal with. They also bring with them the potential for greatest spiritual growth.

Life will always provide these mirrors, and they will keep returning in our lives until we do deal with them.  Here’s a personal example: I have a teacher, who I admire and who also is very demanding.  At times when I’m not prepared, she will comment on something she’s noticed that she thinks I need to look at, and at times I find myself triggered into anger.  My inner dialogue sounds something like this: She’s judging me again! She doesn’t seem to understand I’ve done this before and don’t need this kind of thing.  I feel completely unseen by her! I wish she’d see me and stop judging me!

Byron Katie talks about this kind of mirror in her book Loving What Is. In fact, the entire book is about turning these times around where we find ourselves defensive and judging others.  She calls this process The Work. This isn’t the place to go into how it works; I simply want to demonstrate what I learned about myself when I applied it to the above.

I first asked myself if “She’s judging me again” was true.  On the surface, with no inquiry on my part, it seemed true; there was a certain comfort for me in thinking it was true.  But actually I had no idea whether or not it was true.  In one sense it was true; after all she is my teacher and it’s her job to judge me. In another sense – in the sense that she was triggering me – I had no idea. Then I asked: how do I react when I believe it’s true?  How I react is with anger.  On the other hand, who would I be without thinking she was judging me personally?  The answer: I’d be fine, and able to take in her comments without rancor.  Finally, what happens when I turn this statement around?  For instance, “I’m judging her again”, or ”I’m judging me again”, or even “She isn’t judging me again” – are these at least as true as the initial statement?  In this case, the first two turnaround statements are definitely true, and give me the mirror I need to see – that it’s me who’s judging personally – both me and her. The last statement, if true, would be devastating; after all, if she isn’t judging me, what is our relationship really about?

What I’ve just demonstrated is a very simplified version of what Katie goes through in her book. It’s a powerful tool that helps us see the reflection that someone else is ultimately gifting us.

The point? Every moment that impacts us is a mirror moment, a moment when the universe is giving us a reflection of ourselves.  Without these moments, we’d never grow and learn. And life would be a lot less interesting.

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.

Byron Katie – The Work Explained

Quote of the Week
If you want to find the real competition, just look in the mirror. After awhile you’ll see your rivals scrambling for second place.
― Criss Jami, Killosophy

 

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 power of adversity

adversity

I grew up in chaos.  My mother contracted MS early on, then miraculously went into remission, leaving only numb fingers for some years.  Later on, the nerve damage was more impactful, but most of the time growing up, her MS had only one major impact on the rest of us.  That’s right, chaos.

You see, as she was lying on her bed, day after day, unable to move or see, she would contemplate many things; and the biggest thing was: what was truly important to her.  As a result, when the miracle happened, she no longer considered things like housework and order to be all that important.  Creativity, on the other hand, was vastly important, but only a certain kind of creativity – creativity that led to practical solutions, and that bettered our lot in what she considered a meaningful way every day.  So, art was out, but sewing and designing clothing was in; ballet was out, but working in clay creating pots and dinner-wear was in; writing was out but cooking well definitely was in.  One other thing that happened is that us kids were expected to take up the slack in housekeeping, and even though I won’t go into what that looked like, I will suggest you take a few creative moments imagining what 4 kids might do with it.

This molded certain ways I operated into adulthood.  For instance, I would witness friends and associates struggling with whether or not to do what their parents were against, and would get that, in this way, I was fortunate.  I remember thinking more than once as an adult making my own way:  Wow!  This would have been a lot harder if I hadn’t grown up with chaos! We were a pretty independent bunch, and that gave me something very precious: personal power.

Yes, there were many ways in which I didn’t have this power and had to learn to regain it, but not when it came to my own independence. I had that in spades, and all because of the adversity I met in childhood.

Research and scholarly wisdom has thus far focused on the detrimental effects of childhood abuse and/or adversity. Willem Frankenhuis and Carolina de Weerth in their research paper Does Early-Life Exposure to Stress Shape or Impare Cognigion?  discuss evidence showing that, in addition to the detrimental impact of childhood abuse, there are some positives.  This doesn’t negate the negative impacts of such abuse, which can be severe, far reaching, and difficult to correct.  What it does show is that adults who experienced childhood abuse or adversity have, compared to safely nurtured children, better skills that help them deal with potential threats.  These people are better at detection, learning, and memory on tasks that protect them from these possible dangers.

One often-sited example is the study where children are given the option of delayed or immediate gratification, knowing they will receive a larger treat if they delay than if they don’t delay.  Children raised in an emotionally safe environment will opt for delayed gratification; those raised in a stressed unsafe one will opt for the “fast” immediate option, strategizing that something is better than nothing.  These children can never count on a stable environment and so they take what is offered in the moment rather than wait for what might never happen. Both strategies make sense, considering the two different environments.

Another example is the ability to shift focus in unpredictable environments.  Adults from adverse childhood backgrounds are, on the whole, better at shifting focus without loss of accuracy than their peers from stable childhood backgrounds. In other words, flexibility in times of instability is easier for the first set of adults, which is an asset in unsafe times.

The big learning for me from this study is this: no matter what our background is, children take whatever situation they end up with and adapt as best they can.  In Gestalt Therapy, this is called Creative Adjustment. It’s wonderful to know that we have this capacity in us; it’s something some of us can truly appreciate as a strength that is well-earned.

 

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 .