September 2014

Relentless: The Blog

Assertion

 

Nothing strikes fear in people like the need to assert themselves while in communication with another. In fact, most people are left floundering because they truly don't know the skill of assertion. Most times the pendulum of expressing ourselves swings to a quiet resignation or out and out aggression. There is a middle ground to be had and its time we faced this anxiety producing skill head on.

 

Let's first address why there are times we sit cowering in a corner, unable to share our needs or opinions. Most folks freeze when the time comes to share their thoughts or desires. Sometimes its because they truly dont' know what it is the wish to convey, they just know they feel uncomfortable. No one has ever asked them what it is they need and so, very few of us are skilled at identifying that for ourselves as we mature.

 

The freeze response is also supported by our society as a whole because we are often fed the propaganda that to have a desire that flies in the face of others is "selfish"; whereas the role of martyr and denying yourself, is heralded. Selfish has become a dirty word in our world, implying that anyone that has a degree of selfishness is comparable to a slithering, no-good snake. No one wants to be perceived in such a loathsome fashion and so thoughts and feelings are bottled up, the rumination of those thoughts and feelings leading to an explosive fermentation.

 

That's when the pendulum swings full force into aggression. The invalidated workings of our internal world can be contained no more and so they are let loose onto others, leaving a trail of destruction behind them and confirming that self expression is only for the troubled few.

 

So, what is the middle ground and how do we get there?

 

Let's discuss the term selfish. Indeed, there is a form of selfishness that one might consider undesirable. We've all seen it in action, felt its repercussions and have no doubt acted it out ourselves. This level of selfishness is performed with the complete exclusion of consideration of, or for, others. There is no room for empathy in this degree of selfishness.

 

The healthy version of being selfish takes into account how our actions might impact others, perhaps even clearly sharing our understanding of this. It is the intention behind this form of selfishness that sets it apart. It's not conveying an air of, "This is what I need and I don't care what you think." Instead it speaks volumes by saying " I understand that this might be uncomfortable for you and others, but this is what I need to take care of myself." It's about setting healthy boundaries and limits, not cutting someone off at the knees.

 

If we are able to take this first step, then we have made great accomplishments in preventing a nuclear explosion from our resentments. Things aren't allowed to fester but instead given a form of release. If and when we do experience anger, it is a very normal human emotion, then there are also assertive ways to articulate that without verbally assaulting another.

 

A very key step to assertively voicing our anger is to keep your mouth shut, at least momentarily until the rational part of our brain is able to participate. That's not to say you walk away in a cold silence, but instead assertively state, "I am too mad to talk right now. I will get back to you when I am calmer." That's when you exit and proceed to take an internal inventory.

 

Ask yourself, "What do I need?" Perhaps you need to feel appreciated. What does that look like to you? Is it something the other person says or can demonstrate? When you have some clarity it is then safe to return to your interaction to articulate what you've discovered.

 

It is always wise when having these types of discussions to use "I" statements. In communicating with another saying, "I felt (feeling) when or because..." and "I need..." is about taking ownership for your experience and is not part of the blame game. You know what that sounds like, it starts out with the phrase, "You made me feel..." and is about attacking and accusations. Also note, feelings are one word. Disappointed, sad or hurt are examples of emotions. Stating, "I feel that you..." and then continuing with a stream of words is not sharing our feeling but is instead conveying a thought.

 

Being assertive is not , I repeat not, about getting others to agree with us or approve of what we are sharing. The truth is they may very well disagree with us and not even understand it all . The goal in assertion is to respectfully share what is going on for you internally, that's all. You're simply honoring yourself, all the while realizing that the other person has their own desires and right to assertion as well.

 

While the skill of assertiveness take concerted effort, as it is a skill never demonstrated to many of us, the rewards that are reaped far out weigh the time it takes to hone its use. Assertiveness is an act of self love, compassion and respect - all of which you deserve.

 

Be well and happy.

September 29, 2014

Judgment Days

 

From our very conception we have been judged. In the name of health and well-being nurses and doctors tracked our growth to be sure we were developing as expected. Once born, we are bathed in an environment of opposites that teaches us about ourselves, our world and others. You are good or bad. Situations are black or white. Things are hot or cold. There seems to be nothing that exists that doesn't have a defined opposite.

 

We become so adept at judgment that oft times it is done without any conscious thought or intent. In mere moments we scan a situation or person, assessing and categorizing them based on our personal intake. It appears that there are no humans that escape this modus operandi. I would like to say I am the exception to the rule, but I would be lying. I have met a few who piously claim they are not judgmental, only to find them several days later calling another a "jerk". Just for the record, that falls under the category of judgmental.

 

We are also taught to not judge others, a judgment of judgment thrown into the mix to add further to the conundrum we find ourselves immersed in; judgment now becoming a moral dilemma. This dictate feels futile for as we discussed earlier, that's our navigational system for our entire existence and we are simply left to feel even more judgmental; this time, about ourselves.

 

In fact, we believe so strongly in our judgments that we begin to believe with great conviction that we are the almighty "right". Surely when we're right, they must be wrong; solidifying polarization on an even deeper level as we place ourselves on the "I'm superior to you" pedestal.

 

So if we can't completely escape what appears to have been hardwired into our brains, where does that leave us? I do not profess to have all the answers, only the ones that have worked for me thus far, as I'm a work in progress.

 

Step one is acceptance. Based on the knowledge that we can't function in this realm without the tool of judgment, we need to honestly accept that this is part of our humanity. Please note I said part of our humanity, not all. That's key because that's where step two comes into play.

 

Step two is conscious decisions. Now that we know and understand our dynamics a bit more, we can make more informed choices as we travel about our days. Which "part" of ourselves are we going to put into action? I suggest you ask yourself this the next time you become aware of a judgmental thought: "Is this necessary or important?" If the thoughts rattling around in your brain are simply commenting on the humid weather, than perhaps that's a necessary observation as you might need or want to seek physical comfort. But, if you're focus is the unfortunate size and shape of the woman's butt that happens to be in front of you, I'd put that on the spectrum of "not important". Here lies your choice and this is one of the tools I utilize when I find myself traveling down the "not necessary" road, I abruptly cease my judgmental thought and simply say in my mind to that individual, "May you be happy and healthy." It really can be that simple, and in keeping with the concept of judgment, is a much kinder approach to others that allows you the chance to then not get caught up in the vicious cycle of self-judgment.

 

Step three is realizing that you are part of the problem. Indeed there may be times when we are "right". Aunt Sally is downing a case of beer a day and she doesn't understand your concern with this behavior, that falls under the category of being "right". Being "right" does not automatically put one in the category of superior, however, and that's where we actually convey an energy that is more likely to keep another more entrenched in the exact behavior or action we have been judging. I think we can all agree that no one responds well to being judged. An air of judgment headed our way usually puts us in a defensive mode, feeling as though we need to justify and truly protect ourselves. Thus, we are more likely to disregard and discount another's suggestions or insights and stay fully enmeshed in the behavior or mode that is in question.

 

Step four is being an example. As hard as we try, and we have all tried too many times to count, we can not control another's behaviors. Perhaps our role in each others' lives is not to be the judge and jury, but simply an example. Emulate the behavior and actions you suggest another embody, that is the only place our power lies and is one that is more likely to create or support a change in others.

 

Step five is to repeat, repeat, repeat all the steps listed above. In practicing a less judgmental approach we are not always going to get it "right", don't worry I'm not judging you, but we can "get it better".

 

Be well and happy.

September 22, 2014

The Art of "Doing" Nothing

 

For months I've been hopping from one activity to the next, juggling various personal and professional projects simultaneously. I must say, I'm an adept multi-tasker. I even enjoy the challenge taking on a multitude of tasks offers me. Some people climb mountains for their adrenaline rush; me, I take on the management of life's numerous day to day pursuits. I'm just saying, that's what works for me... most times, until it doesn't.

 

Today would be the day that it just wasn't happening for me. I had all good intentions of heading upstairs to my office to begin my weekly chat with all of you, I needed to get my blog formulated. I even got as far as my desk and opening the page to begin typing, it was then that I felt the pull of our family room recliner. I knew the room would be bathed in the warmth of sun. Push beyond my sudden urge to slink back downstairs, allowing myself to be lulled into relaxation, or succumb to the pull? There was but a two second debate in my mind, the chair won.

 

I traipsed back to the room that beckoned me and set up my cozy "nest"; foot rest up and a soft pillow supporting my neck. Our dog leaped up on the chair beside me, he understood the importance of some down time and was more than willing to support me in my endeavors. His companionship was the icing on the cake, creating a comfort that was reminiscent of my days as a child when I would snuggle in bed with my beloved stuffed animals.

 

For an hour I proceeded to slumber lightly; the hum of the dishwasher, the calling of the birds outside my open window, and the occasional jerking movements of our dog all remained in my awareness as my brain entered an altered state of relaxation. My oldest son coming home from school was my alarm to get back to the order of the day. Except, I couldn't. While I lie sprawled out on the recliner it seemed as though someone must have filled my now weighted limbs with sand.

 

The only thing I could do was remain seated where I had planted myself the hour before and wait as my mind and body returned to a functioning state. After several minutes, I made an attempt to hoist myself from my position, making it as far as a foot, where I managed to sprawl out on the floor, pillow in tow. It must be noted that the dog was now lying there too; ever the observant one, I decided to follow his lead which was, continue to do nothing. Who was I to question?

 

Actually, it was my son that had the question. "Are you sick or something?" he pondered. I assured him this was not illness related but seemed necessary nonetheless. After the passing of about five minutes I made another go at getting on with my day. This time I traveled about a foot and a half, progress indeed, to the sofa. There I bed down for what felt like some much needed rest. And that, was when I got it, what this catatonia was attempting to teach me.

 

I had been moving at warp speed for quite some time and while all of my activities were integral parts of my growth and awareness, it was now time to stop and permit a settling of all that I had been creating in my life. My body needed to adapt to the new energy of all that I had manifested and to do that effectively, I needed to literally "do" nothing in order to complete the integration.

 

My mind revolted and proceeded to list all that I needed to accomplish not just today, but over the next three months. "Exactly," was the rebuttal to that argument; all the more reason to permit this adjustment.

 

Always the rebel, I made one final attempt to peel myself from the furniture to get some water in the kitchen, this time traversing a crazy twenty feet or so, thinking a bit of hydration might do me well. Nah. I was not even up for standing at the fridge long enough for the glass to fill. Back to the sofa I went for the next hour, where I finally conceded to the message I was receiving. No television and no radio, just silence. I simply remained still long enough for my body to make its assimilations.

 

Gradually I felt an energy seep back into my body, alerting me that the synthesis was complete. As you may well have figured out, because here I sit conveying my story to you, I eventually moved forward in my day but what I took with me was the importance of "doing" nothing. It seems a necessary part of our growth and development. I took with me the understanding that continually moving from one thing to the next, whether it be a physical, emotional or spiritual undertaking, does not support a complete embodiment of the newly found energies. By "doing" nothing the dust clears and we can more fully embrace what we have previously been working so diligently to obtain.

 

My invitation to you? Take a break from that to-do list so that you might more fully enjoy the fruits of your labor. The order of the day? "Do" nothing.

 

Be well and happy.

September 15, 2014

The Wisdom of Weeds

 

I recently took our family dog for a walk, one of my favorite things to do. I enjoy the companionship a dog brings to a jaunt through nature. This trip was no different than any others, except for my powers of observation.

 

As we strolled past a field, the weeds caught my eye. I took note of all the different heights and textures they displayed, hinting to me that variety is the spice of life and while we may all have various presentations, we are all from the same species that make up the "field" we call humanity.

 

I began to sense there was more knowledge to be gleaned if only I took the time to pay attention to what it was that was being offered to me. And so, I gave the weeds my full focus as we continued on our way. What I observed next was the varying colors of the weeds. There was the pale purple of a thistle, the white of of Queen Anne's lace and the mustard yellow of goldenrod. The colors reinforced within me that no one is black or white, we all have splendor to offer the world during our various stages of growth. If I check out those same weeds a few weeks later their bloomage may not be present, but that does not negate the fact that earlier in their life they shared with the world a vibrant rainbow. We can never judge the full value of another by the brief moments in time that we may be in their presence.

 

Many others traveled past the same weeds I speak of and I'm guessing most didn't observe the colorful splendors that I did. Lesson: Just because we don't witness something, or the glory beheld in the "weeds", doesn't make it nonexistent. We all have our own perspective and experience and what may be true for me, may not be true for another.

 

Another weed stood taller than the rest and appeared to bow it maroon colored head in benevolence as we sauntered past. I felt seen and recognized for my glory. It seemed as though that particular plant was honoring my divinity and encouraging me to do the same within myself.

 

Further down the road, a car passed us and a row of weeds appeared to ripple and dance in its wake. "Flow with life's events and all that may cross your path," was the wisdom they shared with me. "There is an elegance in the rhythm that comes from the interactions we share with one another." I also understood that one can not be in the presence of another without having an impact, even if we are unaware of that impact; just as the passing car had no knowledge of its effect on those undulating weeds.

 

Amidst all the weeds stood one lone fern. I knew it was there to emphasize to always be yourself, even if that means standing out in the crowd.

 

We soon came upon a neighborhood and it was there I noticed all the finely planned and planted gardens and lawns. While there was certainly pleasure in looking at everything others had created, it became clear that the random approach of nature that I had previously been witnessing allowed for its own splendor. Not everything is in our control,nor need be, and it is in those events that catch us unaware that we may find a before unknown or unimagined grace. While structure can bring us comfort, it is often in the chaos that we discover another level of our expression. Micromanaging can sometimes rob of us of life's greatest gifts.

 

Traveling down another path, the weeds became taller than me. They loomed as sentries on both sides of us and it was there that I took comfort in their presence. I recognized that there was a force greater than me that was watching over me with unbound love and protection. This particular set of weeds filled the air with a sweet, earthy aroma. I grasped that I was to comprehend that there are many expressions and levels to who and what we are.

 

The pods of  milkweeds I passed were pregnant with their seeds that were maturing, waiting patiently for their time of release. "We are are full of promise and all will come in due time," spoke the milkweeds. Patience is key, not force.

 

Lastly, I noticed a weed whose flowers looked like a miniature orchid. The flowers were a vibrant orange and donned red speckles on what appeared to be its lower lip. I found it curious that a flower of such "high regard" could be found blooming on a roadside weed. Instantly, I grasped the next lesson; that not everything was as it appeared and that my powers of observation were there to protect me. Always trust my intuition. This flower drew me in and I wanted to reach out and touch it. Intuitively I heard, "Sometimes we just need to walk away, despite the promise of the shiny outer wrappings."

 

Weeds. Weeds held an abundance of profound advice and insights. We all have many "weeds" in our lives which we loathe to deal with, seeking only to yank them out of existence and our world, but the weeds shared some insight on this as well as I trekked up the final hill towards our home. In my mind's eye flashed the blossom of Queen Anne's lace and another plant that I can't name, its bloom composed of various little fuchsia orbs. As I put my attention on the white of the Queen Anne's lace flower I was reminded of the meringue that may don a pie. The fuchsia colored balls of the other weed were reminiscent of nonpareils that top some chocolate candies. The final enlightened words that were shared with me, "Even the weeds in our life offer us a sweetness, we only need change our perspective."

 

 

Be well and happy.

September 8, 2014

Spiritual Cleansing

 

I've spent the better part of the past six months orchestrating and planning numerous projects around our house. I feel driven to see my visions come to fruition. As the dust from these various projects settles, I'm close behind with my supplies of cleaning products; wiping down and washing objects and areas that have seen some brighter days. My time and attention to those things brings new life to their existence.

 

Along with the resurfacing of many places in our home comes redecorating. Out with the old, in with the new. It seems as though what once felt "right" no longer seems fitting. I'm inspired to create a brand-new look and convey an updated energy and feel.

 

This has been a project of massive undertaking in time, research, organization, effort, creativity, thought and patience. Along the way I have hit some speed bumps and felt the frustration of relying on those that can't tout reliance as one of their most notable qualities. I am energized through those times when one project (finally) comes to a close and I am able to behold its sparkling and fresh presentation. The feeling is reminiscent of the my days as a child when I would don my recently purchased clothing for the first day of school, revealing a shiny version of myself to the world.

 

I've come to understand that this gutting of my personal surroundings is in keeping with the time and effort I've personally invested in my own growth. Just as I've purged, cleansed and renovated my internal space, or "home", so too do I embark on this journey so that my physical world is in keeping with my inner being. The cleansing and healing of my internal world, creating anew, has allowed for the space of continued discoveries. Holding onto the old, both inside and out, prevents us from attracting and allowing an influx of the new. The removal of the cobwebs in my emotional realm allow for my true and forgotten beauty to shine through, similar to those items in my physical surroundings.

 

There are some in my house who have voiced a bit of apprehension about all the changes swirling about, sharing their disdain for what they believe to be an upheaval of their comfort in the familiar. While I too have fond solace in the routine and habitual, I know with even greater truth what Heraclitus stated many years ago, "The only thing that is constant is change." Our resistance to it does not stop its flow.

 

Are you ready to embark on literally cleaning some portion of your home, permitting it to be an expression of your present self and not that of the past? It can be as simple as cleaning out one drawer one time each month. What is it that you are holding onto, both possessions and experiences, that sit somewhere on the shelves of your mind and house? Perhaps the time has come to embrace change, allowing for the influx of new-found perspectives and energy so that you too may glimmer after having cleansed your being of the outdated version of your truth.

 

Be well and happy.

September 1, 2014

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