Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Helpful Practices’ Category

Set GoalsThe end of the year is often a time of looking back.  What was great about the past year?  What didn’t work so well?  We often find ourselves performing a sort of audit on the past year so we can get a sense of closure prior to moving forward into the New Year.  Last week’s post, “Top 10 Posts of 2010” resulted from my reviewing all of the posts I had made to “The Healing Project” in 2010 and determining which ones represented my best work.

I conducted a similar audit on my life as a whole and came up with 15 serious personal and professional wins for the year (including regular blogging!), as well as three key areas of my life which didn’t go as well as I would have liked.  This audit created a firm foundation for my 2011 planning and I highly recommend that you do something similar.

New Year’s Resolutions

The start of a new year is generally a time when we look forward instead of backwards.  Many people set goals for the coming year, which are commonly referred to as “New Year’s Resolutions.”  While such resolutions get a bad rap from many people (often because they are typically broken within a few short weeks), I am a fan of designating areas to work on in one’s life.  In fact, this blog resulted from my wanting to change various areas of my life during 2010.

While my life is still a work in progress (as is the case for everyone), I have made excellent progress in healing various areas of my life since I set the intention to do so in early 2010.  I will be posting on my progress shortly as we approach the one-year milestone of “The Healing Project” on February 3, 2011. Stay tuned…

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Peaceful beach sceneA few years ago, I became highly “accident prone.” I broke three toes in three separate incidents, one of which necessitated a fairly involved surgery with a lengthy recovery time.  I repeatedly bumped into things and hit my head on at least ten different occasions.  After one of my head bumps led to an emergency room visit and a CAT scan, I decided I needed to look more closely at what was going on with all of my accidents.

Not Paying Attention

I came to the conclusion that a large part of the problem had to do with not paying attention to what I was doing.  My mind was always on what I had to do next, not on what I was doing in the moment. I frequently rushed around and felt frantic about getting everything done in a timely fashion.  I was always running late to appointments and often drove too fast and somewhat recklessly trying to reach my destination on time.  Needless to say, I was not living my life in a relaxed fashion!

A Simple but Significant Decision

A little over a year ago, I decided to allow myself more time to get things done and to be more mindful about my actions. This one simple decision made a significant impact on my life.  Not only did I stop bumping my head, arms, and toes every few days, I also found myself feeling much more calm and peaceful.  I began paying more attention to what I was doing in each moment instead of living for the future, whether it be two minutes or two years later.  Without really intending to start being present as a spiritual practice, I experienced strong benefits in that realm.  I started to become more of the person I wanted to be – happy, peaceful, calm, and joyous.

Spiritual Practices

I have read that even washing the dishes can be a spiritual practice.  At first I scoffed at such a suggestion, but I now know the veracity of that claim.  When one is fully present to whatever action he or she is taking, a stronger connection to divine energy is experienced. As someone who has tried and failed to meditate in the traditional sense over the years, I learned that there are many forms of meditation. Some are more sedentary and include the lotus position and mantras, while others are more active and involve being completely focused upon whatever actions one is taking. The latter works better for me, at least for now.

I remember attending a retreat which included an activity called walking the labyrinth.” This exercise is a type of “walking meditation in which one walks through a maze-like circuitous path to the center of a labyrinth and back out again.  There is only one way in and one way out, so there are no decisions to be made along the way.  If desired, one can set an intention or ask a question before entering the labyrinth, but neither of these actions is necessary.

The activity of walking the labyrinth quiets the mind in a way similar to traditional meditation. I enjoyed this activity very much and have since learned that there are labyrinths all over the world.  According to the Labyrinth Society, there are six labyrinths within ten miles of where I live!  Perhaps a regular visit to a local labyrinth should be an integral part of my effort to experience “the power of now” (by the way, I highly recommend Eckhart Tolle’s wonderful book by that title!).

Slipping Back Into Old Habits…

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were gearing up to go on a trip for several days.  Unfortunately, I did not allow myself enough time to get ready to leave and found myself frantically rushing about and still far behind our planned schedule. It is no big surprise that I hit my head, forgot to pack a critical item (underwear, believe it or not!), and ended up in a foul mood.  I had gone to bed late and wanted extra sleep in the morning, so I didn’t allow myself the additional preparation time which would have rendered the entire morning far less stressful.  I was thinking a step or two ahead instead of focusing on what I was doing in the present moment.

Fortunately, I didn’t hit my head hard, I was able to purchase underwear once I reached my destination, and felt much calmer and in better spirits shortly after we were on our way.  But I did learn a valuable lesson from my negative experience.  I need to honor my commitment to give myself more time than I need to get things done and to be fully present to whatever I am doing in any given moment.

Louise Hay’s Insights

I also decided to take a look at what Louise Hay has to say about accidents and being “accident prone.”  Like everything else in life, Louise believes that we create accidents as a result of our negative thought patterns. She also states that accidents are expressions of anger and indicate built-up frustrations resulting from not feeling the freedom to speak up for one’s self.

Accidents can be related to rebellion against authority or anger toward ourselves. The accident is a way to punish ourselves and to receive sympathy and attention from others.  The area of our bodies in which we experience pain from the accident can give us a clue as to which area of our lives we feel guilty about (see Chapter 15 of “You Can Heal Your Life” for “The List” of physical problems and probable causes).

A Wake-Up Call

Whether you believe Louise Hay’s explanations for accidents or decide that they signify the need to be more careful and present, accidents can represent a “wake-up call” for you to make changes in your life.  Either way, the message is to look within and examine your thoughts and behaviors more thoroughly.  It is never a good idea to just go through the motions of life in a virtual fog.

All too often, people numb themselves out through addictive behaviors, “busyness” and projection of their feelings and motivations onto others. While I have definitely done all of these things in the past and sometimes slip into such maladaptive tendencies from time to time, I choose to be fully present to my thoughts, my motivations, and my life. There is beauty and richness to be had in all of life’s experiences!

I need neither future nor past, but to learn to take today not too fast.” ~Jeb Dickerson

Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace.” ~Author Unknown

Related Posts

  • Compulsive Behaviors – This post is geared toward examining compulsive behavior, getting to the root of why we engage in such destructive actions, and looking at what we can do to begin to turn it around.
  • Illness As Avoidance – Could it be that you have created your physical pain in order to prevent or avoid potential psychological discomfort?  If so, how would it be for you to face the challenges at hand and not let your ailments stop you?
  • Messages From Pain – When you keep experiencing the same health challenge over and over again, it is helpful to look for messages which your pain may be trying to communicate to you.  This post uses the example of my 25-year battle with migraine headaches to illustrate this point.

Read Full Post »

I had intended to post much earlier in the week, but you know what they say about good intentions… This has been a difficult week for me, which probably means I should have been devoting more attention to my healing project, instead of virtually ignoring it for a number of days. In getting back on track today, I searched for an exercise from “You Can Heal Your Life” to complete and write about.  I was quickly drawn to the most appropriate exercise for me at this particularly point in time, the “Mirror Exercise” on page 35.

Simple Yet Not Easy…

The Mirror Exercise is extremely simple, yet not at all easy.  The straightforward instructions are:  look in a mirror and into your own eyes, speak your name, and say, “I love and accept you exactly as you are.”

Louise Hay asks each of her clients to do this exercise during their initial session with her.   She states that she has rarely had a calm reaction to her simple request.  On the contrary, some clients were brought to tears, while others became angry and refused to do the exercise.  One client even threw the mirror across the room!  Needless to say, it isn’t easy to proclaim love and acceptance for ourselves.

My Experience with the Mirror Exercise

During the height of beating myself up for what I felt was an unproductive week and an overall stagnation in my life, I decided to do this powerful exercise.  As I walked up to the mirror, I felt my heart pound loudly and a tingling sensation crawled up the sides of my body.  I also felt flushed despite the relatively cool temperature in the room.  My eyes welled up with tears before I even opened my mouth to speak the requisite words.   However, when I actually spoke the words, I did not feel sad or angry.  Instead, I felt a sense of peace and calm wash over my body.

It was a relief to affirm my acceptance and love for myself today and it really felt good for me to do it.  I know that in the past, it would have been very difficult for me to speak Louise Hay’s simple statement. I used to be far more invested in making myself wrong than in wanting to feel good about myself and my life. Although I still have a long way to go in terms of self-esteem and acceptance, I have made some definite progress in these areas.  It’s taken a lot of hard work and self-examination for me to get to the point where I am ready to accept and love myself.

Self-Acceptance is Empowering

Why is it empowering to declare love and acceptance toward ourselves?  Louise Hay asserts that the root of all human problems lies in not loving ourselves. Even if we can give ourselves a tiny bit of love during a brief mirror exercise, this can go a long way toward counteracting the negative messages we send ourselves on a regular basis. 

Positive messages are far more powerful than negative messages, and even irregular empowering messages can serve to inoculate us against an onslaught of self-effacing thoughts.  I know this is true because I’ve been inwardly affirming “I approve of myself” as often as I remember to do so in recent months.  This simple action has helped me to become stronger and I am finding myself less compromised by sadness and depression than before I began this practice.

Acceptance Doesn’t Mean We Don’t Want to Change

To clarify, stating that we love and accept ourselves exactly as we are in a given moment does not mean that we don’t want to change anything about our circumstances. We may have a number of things we wish to change, as well as some powerful goals for the future.  The truth is that we are far more likely to achieve our goals and make successful changes when we begin from a space of self-acceptance.

Lasting transformation cannot be accomplished through brow-beating and self-effacement. A good example of this relates to weight loss.  I can remember many times when I would look at myself in the mirror, pinch my stomach and thighs, and use colorful adjectives like disgusting, ugly, and weak to describe myself. These debasements only served to make me feel much worse about myself and propel me to comfort myself with food, an action that was counterproductive for my weight loss goals.

I have had far better luck when I’ve treated myself with kindness.  If I start with self-acceptance and then move forward toward change, I am much more likely to be successful. If, instead of beating myself up and calling myself awful names, I dress in flattering clothing and do my best to look and feel attractive, the likelihood of my exercising and making good food choices is much greater.

Power in the Present Moment

One of the key principles of Louise Hay and many other spiritual teachers is that the point of power is always in the present moment.  In the here and now, we have a choice.  We can criticize ourselves or we can love and accept ourselves. One choice will lead us to feel weak and dis-empowered; the other choice will uplift and empower us.

As I stared into my eyes in the mirror and proclaimed my acceptance of myself, I experienced an energetic boost.  I was infused with power and strength to face the challenges of the day, along with a sense of calm and assurance that I can accomplish my goals for the future. This is far better than the metaphorical “air out of the tires” feeling I encountered each time I criticized myself for not meeting my impossibly high standards for acceptability.

My Challenge Moving Forward

My challenge now is to show myself more love and compassion than disdain and criticism. My task is to stop myself mid-criticism and switch to affirming self- acceptance and love.  My commitment is to know that I am enough, that I don’t have to be perfect in order to be loved by others – or by myself.

I close with a portion of a “spiritual treatment” from Louise Hay:

“In the infinity of life where I am, all is perfect, whole and complete.  I am always divinely protected and guided… It is safe for me to enlarge my viewpoint of life.  I am far more than my personality – past, present, or future.  I now choose to rise above my personality problems to recognize the magnificence of my being.  I am totally willing to learn to love myself.  All is well in my world.”

Read Full Post »

We all have a voice inside of our heads which tries to tell us what to do, how to act, and who to be.   Sometimes this voice is productive, such as when it moves us out of inertia and into action. The voice can also help us to do the right thing, even when the right thing is not the easiest or fastest thing to do.  That is the positive side of the voice…

The Dark Side of Our Inner Voice

However, the voice can also be counterproductive or even destructive. It can be so ubiquitous in its presence that we are unable to experience even a moment of peace.  It can relentlessly order us to be productive in each and every moment, to always put the needs and wants of others above our own needs, and to prove our worthiness through action many times each day. 

The dark side of the voice is where “should” often resides. Have you ever heard the expression, to “should” on yourself?  The mental imagery evoked is apropos in that this application of should is akin to showering ourselves with garbage (or worse…).

A War Within…

I’ve often spoken of the war inside of myself between the “Warden” and the “Unruly Child.” These two archetypes represent two distinct aspects of my personality.  The Unruly Child desires complete freedom and carte blanche to do whatever she wants in any given moment, even if that includes watching TV and eating bonbons (that’s what many people who know me think I do, anyway, since I haven’t had a “real job” in a number of years).   The Unruly Child doesn’t want to be told what to do by anyone, at any time.

On the flip side, there is the Warden… The Warden is like a drill sergeant. He (I always see the Warden as a man) orders me around continuously and won’t let me rest until there are no tasks left on my to-do list.  Of course, since no one ever really has a completed to-do list, there is no rest for the wicked – or the weary.

The Warden thrives on “shoulds” and believes that if I do not live a regimented existence, nothing will ever get done and all will be chaos.

When the Unruly Child is running the show, I am incredibly unproductive and I don’t feel very good about myself.  Deep down, we all want to get things done and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  Just as children thrive on structure, so do adults.  However, the realm of the Warden is like structure on steroids.  While I may be industrious under the Warden’s regime, I am not happy and I definitely don’t feel free.

Struggling To Find a Happy Medium

For many years, I have vacillated between the chaotic world of the Unruly Child and the prison sentence of the Warden’s control.  I am still struggling to find a happy medium.  I envision the happy medium as a place where peace and productivity can co-exist and thrive together. My “healing product” is not just about healing my body; it’s also about transforming my soul.  One aspect of my inner healing has to do with releasing the “tyranny of the shoulds” and breaking the Warden’s stronghold that saps my vitality and aliveness.

Escaping the Tyranny – A Few Tips

How can we break the hold which “shoulds” have over us?

  • The “I Should…” exercise from Louise Hay which I wrote about in my last post is a good first step.   Sometimes increasing our awareness about the origin of our self-imposed musts can help us to either release or re-frame them.

We can also invent games to play with ourselves to at least place boundaries around our “shoulds.”

  • One thing I do is to select a maximum of three “most important tasks” (MITs) which I will need to complete on any given day. I learned this technique from “The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta, a book which is focused on helping people to simplify their lives.  I’ve found that if I contain my obligations, I can achieve more of a sense of accomplishment from completion.
  • Another “game” I play with myself as a self-employed person is to make deals with myself. I think of something that the “Unruly Child” really wants to do, such as watch TV or read a magazine.  Instead of either doing that thing right away or postponing it until that mythical time when everything is done, I negotiate an agreement with the Warden.  If I spend a certain amount of time on a critical task or complete one of my MITs, I can watch a show or spend a predetermined time frame reading a magazine or surfing the internet.  It’s kind of like time off for good behavior…
  • Something else which has been helpful for me in achieving balance is to track my successes. I wrote about this in one of my earlier posts, “The Practice of Gratitude.”  Including a short list of the things I did well on any given day helps me to realize that despite my perfectionist protests to the contrary, I am getting a lot done and moving forward in my life.

Freedom Lives in the Center

We all have a tendency to be too hard on ourselves. We can be so quick to admonish ourselves for our failings while simultaneously neglecting to give ourselves credit for our successes.  I believe we all have a “Warden” inside of ourselves.  Freud called this facet of our personalities the Superego, but there are many other names for it.  I also feel that each of our personalities includes an “Unruly Child” of sorts (Freud’s concept of the Id).

Our power doesn’t rest in either of these personas.  Our power is seated within our Higher Selves, the part of us that desperately craves balance, fulfillment, and self-expression.

How can we access our Higher Self on a more regular basis? Well, that is a topic for a future post!  If you have any tips or suggestions, or if you would like to comment on what I’ve written in this post, I am open to feedback.  We can definitely help each other to escape the “tyranny of the shoulds” and move forward more freely and powerfully.

Read Full Post »

hand grasping star imageI want to briefly interrupt my discussion of Louise Hay’s Key Principles in order to share a personal practice that has made a big difference in my life.  I will return to the Key Principles in my next post…

I’ve often heard that the biggest key to happiness is gratitude, and I don’t doubt that.  When we are present to all that is wonderful in our lives, it’s difficult to feel depressed and despondent.  As  I look back on my life, I can see that even in my most difficult times, I still had a lot to be grateful for in my life.  I just had to look in the right place!  It’s all about focus and attitude, I’ve learned.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

To help me to stay aware of the many blessings in my life, I started to keep a Gratitude Journal a few years ago.  I confess that I haven’t always been consistent with this practice, but when I’ve maintained my Gratitude Journal, it’s helped me to be more positive and upbeat.  Here’s how it works…

On a daily or almost daily basis, I list three things in my life for which I am grateful. These can be big things or small things; there are no rules for what can be on the list.  I’ve found that it’s easy to think of the larger things, such as my wonderful husband, my cozy home, my cats, my vision, and my hearing.  The smaller things can be trickier to remember, yet those things also have a powerful impact in my life.  Here are some examples of some of the “small things” I’ve listed in my Gratitude Journal in recent entries:

  • I had an enjoyable walk with Mike along the water this evening.
  • The sun was out today after many, many rainy days in a row!
  • My kitties were curled up in the box on my desk all afternoon while I worked.
  • Our coffee grinder and coffee machine allow me to have delicious coffee every morning.
  • Class yesterday was both interesting and useful.

Add “Success” Entries to Your Journal

Since I have a tendency to be down on myself at times, I added a second component to my Gratitude Journal.  I also list three successes which I’ve achieved since my last journal entry.  As with the gratitude entries, it’s easy to remember our big wins, such as getting a job or a new client, completing a difficult project, or having a “crucial conversation” with a loved one.   But as we all know, such triumphs are not usually an everyday occurrence.  Yet we all have many small wins each and every day.  Noticing these wins can help us to become more present to the greatness which exists in each and every one of us.

In all honesty, I have to admit that sometimes I have to wrack my brain to come up with three successes for my Gratitude / Success Journal.   It is at these times that I really need to reflect upon what I have done well in the various areas of my life.  As with the gratitude entries, my success entries are often the “small things.”  Here are some recent examples of successes which I have recorded in my journal:

  • I got up and moving earlier this morning – was done exercising and getting ready by 10 am (I’m not a “morning person” – LOL)
  • I found a pair of jeans which fit well and are long enough for me!
  • I’ve been keeping me email in-box cleaned out and I’m not spending too much time on email.
  • I’m doing better at letting go of “should” and allowing myself to enjoy life (this is a BIG success!)
  • I ran errands and went to the gym yesterday despite not feeling like leaving the house.

How the Journal Helps…

My Gratitude/Success Journal helps me to be more present to all of the wonderful things in my life and to count my blessings instead of my problems.  It also helps me to be more aware of what I do well and to see how my small triumphs contribute to my life satisfaction and overall success.  Keeping this journal on a regular basis has led to my becoming a more positive person.

There is an additional use for my journal… When I am feeling particularly low on a given day, I look back at my journal entries for a reminder of my large and small blessings, as well as the ways in which I’ve succeeded in the various areas of my life.  This often provides the boost that I need to get out of victim mode and get back on track to being grateful and positive.

Stay tuned for two more posts about Louise Hay’s key principles.  Then we’ll move “full speed ahead” into the exercises in “You Can Heal Your Life.”  The Healing Project is ON!

Read Full Post »

A confession is in order… I have a tendency to procrastinate!  I get excited about something, have fabulous intentions and then I proceed to do… NOTHING – or at least very little.   This blog represents another example of my procrastinating nature, and I know why.  I am a huge perfectionist and I often wait to do something until I feel it is the best, right, or perfect thing to do.  Well, as part of “the healing project,” I’m going to let that go!  I know that one of the most important keys to a successful blog is to write consistently and frequently.  Yes, it’s also critical to include interesting and compelling content, but I know I am capable of that.  I just need to do it!

My Commitment…

My commitment to my readers (I know I may not have any YET, but I will…) is to post at least once per week.  I hope to post twice a week (or even more), but my promise is to add new content to “The Healing Project” once per week.   My first post was an introduction to the blog – why I decided to do it and what the blog will be about.  This second post includes a few quick tips which have helped me to get started in transforming my thinking and my life.

“I Approve of Myself.”

One tip which Louise Hay offers in “You Can Heal Your Life” is to say to yourself over and over again, “I approve of myself.”  She states that several hundred times per day is not too often for repeating this affirmation.  I started doing this in December when I was going through a personal crisis.  It felt silly at first, but I persisted.  I found that repeating this affirmation helped me to feel less anxious and over time it helped to improve my attitude and outlook.

Think about it…  How often are our thoughts about ourselves negative and disapproving?  I know that I have a tendency to be highly critical of myself and think disparaging thoughts almost automatically.  When I would consciously replace those automatic negative thoughts with the affirming affirmation, “I approve of myself,” it would be like throwing a monkey wrench into the machinery of my negative thought processes.  Do that often enough and an attitudinal shift can be created.

Mirror Work

Another powerful exercise which Louise Hay offers is to look in the mirror and say “I love you” to yourself.  She said that the resistance to this exercise was so high that her clients would sometimes throw the mirror across the room sooner than declare loving feelings toward themselves.  I can identify with those clients, as I felt tremendous resistance toward the exercise when I first read “You Can Heal Your Life” about 15 years ago.  I was angry and thought the exercise was stupid and unnecessary.

My reaction these days is quite different.  I find that I have much more compassion and yes, even love, toward myself.  When I look in the mirror and into my own eyes and say, “I love you,” I am often tearful.  Why?  I think it’s in mourning for the many years during which I treated myself with outright contempt.  I was my own worst enemy for most of my life, and I think that is a big part of the many health and life issues with which I now suffer.  Louise Hay states that most of the problems which people face are side effects of a lack of self-love and self-acceptance.  She asserts that the simple but not easy act of loving oneself can heal even the most profound struggles.

A Good Start…

The above two exercises are what I started with back in December and they helped me get through a very difficult time.  Here we are on February 12th and Valentine’s Day is upon us.  In the spirit of this holiday of love, I suggest we strive to love ourselves a bit more…  The above two exercises are a good start.

Next week, I will get started in working through the exercises in “You Can Heal Your Life.”  Step by step, I will heal my life.  I may be a slow starter, but I’m ready to set “the healing project” into gear.  True, it’s over a month into the New Year, but as the old saying goes, better late than never…   I wish a happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!

Read Full Post »