Words for the
by Melinda Elkins
On behalf of women seeking to make their lives better, I am proud to offer you articles written by Melinda, a life long friend who has helped so many for so many years.
Click on a section title below to open each article.
June 2013: "The Change You Choose"
April 2012: "Trusting Your Intuition"
Sometime back I wrote about the matter of change. Specifically, change which is not of our own choosing. The kind of change which is, perhaps, thrust upon us, and which rarely leaves us with that warm and fuzzy feeling. As unwilling subjects, we reluctantly go along with the program, very likely kicking and screaming (metaphorically, of course) all along the way.
But what about the changes which we DO choose? Even if they involve a long-held dream, propel us into a grand new experience, or change our circumstances in any way for the better, there will still be a modicum of stress involved. Sometimes, ALOT of stress. Don't expect that just because you've finally taken the big step that all will instantly be a walk in the park. With whatever change you make your own, you must be prepared for the consequences, ( a process which can dictate a great deal of pressure and unexpected detours before the final result is fully achieved).
Let me give you an example. Several years before my late husband retired, we made what, for us, was the monumental decision of moving across country, thousands of miles from friends and family. As native Californians this was a huge step, yet something was driving us to make the change. Thinking that we could skip off to our dream destination as soon as retirement was in full swing, we were crestfallen when reality set in. It took approximately five years from inception of our plan to its actual accomplishment. In between time there were many failed attempts to sell our business and our home, as well as a multitude of other "events". Once the move was actually accomplished, there were, of course, many adjustments to be made. As we realized that we had signed up for this journey, we tended to all of the hurdles with willing hearts (for the most part!) However, what I, personally was not prepared for was the emotional tailspin that I went into in feeling a sense of isolation and separation from what I had known. It seemed ludicrous that now that I was in one of the most beautiful places in the country, living my envisioned dream, I had somehow spiraled into being an emotional basket case. It took almost one full year before I could fully realize that the change that I had chosen WAS really a good thing. Thank God I did not give in to the state of mind that kept repeating "Maybe you should never have left California…."
This is what I mean by having a willingness to accept the consequences of your decisions, even if they take you down a slightly indirect, yet temporary, path somewhere along the way. The ability to choose for ourselves does not assure instant gratification. As alluded to earlier, stress is often a very real component of change of any kind. Change which takes us out of our routine and catapults us 180 degrees has the potential to shake us to our very core. It may take a awhile for us to find our footing, even if we are now where we said we wanted to be.
Finally, there is the matter of family. Or friends. Or colleagues. In fact, ANYONE who doesn't understand just why you HAVE made, ARE making, or WILL make the change that you propose. Be prepared. Those who are relatively short-sighted or who may think they possess all the answers may try to undermine you. Sometimes it is because they themselves are afraid to try the very thing that you have chosen to do. Perhaps, as in the case of an elderly relative of mine, they are simply controlling. If you are faced with these "dream dashers", ask yourself these questions: "How will I feel when all these people are gone from my life and I have failed to make those choices I really wished to make? Will I be able to comfortably---and without regret---live with my decisions at that time?" Believe me, if you show resolve, most, if not all of the naysayers, will eventually come around.
Change of your own choosing can be scary. It can be intimidating and it can be life -changing. It can, and often does, involve a great deal of work and a huge dose of resolve. And it can be a virtual roller coaster ride of highs and lows.
However, it can also be exciting, empowering, and terrifically fulfilling. So don't be afraid to live the life you see for yourself. The choice is yours.
February 2013: "Change Is the Only Constant: When Life throws Us a Curveball"
We all have it, but we don't always take advantage of it. It speaks to us often, and in a multitude of ways, yet we frequently disregard its wise urgings. When we do follow its promptings, we often call the result a mere coincidence. Why do we so habitually ignore this inner guide which has only our best interests at heart?
Perhaps we resist the idea of giving up control. Maybe it's that we want what we want and consequences be damned. Or, perhaps, we simply don't trust ourselves enough to interpret the message that we're getting. We doubt, we question, and we analyze until we all but collapse in mental confusion. If you are not practiced at grasping your intuitive thoughts when they arise, you could entirely overlook them or, possibly, mistake them for something else all together.
So, how do we work with---and not against---our intuitive self? Well, believe it or not, the answer is amazingly simple. It is called the principle of "first thought, best thought." That's it, that's all there is to it. Except that, in practicing this approach, you must actually accept the first thought which you are being given and act upon it without reasoning it out or dissecting its validity. No second-guessing allowed here.
Intuitive thought is instinctual knowledge which doesn't necessarily come with a lot of bells and whistles. It tends to come gently, with no particular fanfare. It may appear as a thought which seems odd, unlikely, or out of place, but that does not make it wrong. Of course, it is also possible for your intuition to present its truth with some degree of force, creating a full sense of "knowing" which permeates your entire being. More than likely, though, this could be the exception rather than the rule.
One of my favorite tests of the "first thought, best thought" process came in my years of classwork doing psychometry with a partner. (If you're not familiar with psychometry, it is the practice of holding an object in order to obtain impressions about the object's owner.) In the exercise we students were instucted not to question the impressions which we received, but rather to express them just as they came to us. Again and again the most mundane and seemingly incongruous thoughts were verified as both accurate and meaningful by the person for whom we were "reading". Once we were able to get ourselves out of the way, the process became simpler and more reliable. The wonderful thing about being able to receive such immediate feedback is that it increases one's self confidence in her own abilities. In the real world, this may take alittle longer to achieve, but its well worth the wait.
One wise teacher once described intuition as a "muscle". Just like any muscle of the body, the more you work with it, the more it works with you. Ignore it and it will atrophy. One does not have to be a psychic or a spiritual medium to enjoy its benefits. You may never have been particularly aware of your intuitive self, yet it has always been there. Unfortunately, when we suppress it, we close off a very natural and intrinsic part of ourselves.
One thing I have found in my own life is that if a thought, a doubt, or an idea keeps coming up again and again, one should definitely pay attention. If there is something which we are not acting upon, our inner voice will nag us unmercifully. Intuition does not need to utilize the five senses to obtain answers. It is our direct connection to our Higher Self and beyond. Its only boundaries are those which we ourselves set, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
As with many areas of self development, coming into full partnership with your intuitive self is a matter of practice. Ask for help in this endeavor, whether from a trusted teacher or your own guidance. Above all, be patient and remain committed to the task at hand. One of the greatest gifts which you receive just may be the gift of self reliance.
January 2013: "Setting Intention for the New Year: Nature's Lesson in Faith"
Sometimes change is thrust upon us without our consent. An illness or death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, the loss of a job or livelihood-----such changes often come when we least expect them, and, almost always, when we feel sorely unprepared. We may feel angry, anxious, fearful, or beytrayed, perhaps by someone we trusted, perhaps even by the Universe itself. There will be pain in its many forms, and, most likely, tears aplenty. These are all to be expected, and are a natural and necessary part of the healing process. In these human forms which we embody we are intended to experience emotion. The ability to cry is a cleansing gift. At times such as these, use it to its full advantage, for it, too, will serve as a vital part of your healing.
Of course, we may also experience change which is of our choosing. Even that may be difficult to negotiate, but we will save discussion of such change for another article. For now, let us concentrate on the type of change over which we have little or no control.
When change not of our choosing does occur, one of our first reactions (depending on the situation) may be to resist. Disbelief may overtake us. We may feel panic-stricken and paralyzed. In fact, some of our deepest emotional reactions may even take place some time after the actual "event" itself. There is no fixed progression, if you will, for each of us must steer the course in our own time and in our own way. And, yes, it often feels as though our emotions are steering us, rather than the other way around. The inner emotional self intuitively knows when it is time to do alittle housecleaning.
When a monumental (and involuntary) change does occur in our lives, it is not unusual for us to feel as though we will never heal, never succeed, never love again, never experience happiness or peace. As simplistic as it sounds, this is when we must force ourselves to take things one day at a time. Admittedly, some days will be better than others. Avoid trying to peer too far down the road. Take life in small chunks. Realize where you are emotionally and avoid laying out a grandiose scheme of recovery. Should you fail to stick to its time frame, you will only set yourself up for frustration and self recrimination. Your bruised and fragile psyche could certainly do without such self-inflicted punishment.
Particularly in the case of a loss---be it friend, relative, or significant other---there is one assured healing agent which will always remain. Though outworn, stale and trite, it is still a fact of life---time is the Great Healer. Of course, we can try to hurry that healing along in all sorts of ingenious ways. Truth is, those painful feelings which we struggle to bear up under have their very own agenda. Though we might think we've finally gotten a handle on whatever it is that has kicked us in the mid-section, let us not be surprised to yet find ourselves crumbling into an emotional heap at the most unexpected of times. At such moments, do not blame yourself for being weak. It is not weakness, but rather a measure of your capacity to have loved another so completely.
Just as your inner self presents you with the ability to grieve, it will also signal to you from the depths of your being when the healing is accomplished and it is once again time step out into the sunshine. It may be such a gradual reawakening that you are, at first, unaware of just how far you have come. One day you will be ready to begin again. Think of all those past experiences which have laid you out flat. Given enough time, they did eventually pass. So, too, will those struggles both present and future. It is a law of life.
At times such as these, remember that, although you perceive your experience as a loss, it also represents an opportunity. Allow it to slowly open a door to something new, perhaps something far better than that which you have left behind. Never forget that the pendulum of life is always seeking balance. As miserable as you may be now, that is the exact measure of the future happiness which awaits.
When the insidious darkness has lifted---and it will lift---prepare yourself for reemergence into a sweeter and even more fulfilling world. And don't forget to be open to assistance from the realms of Spirit. They are eager and willing to help. All you have to do is ask.
December 2012: "Hope for the Hopeless"
Here in the South the azaleas and rhododendrons have already set their buds for spring. Though the ground is covered in a thin layer of white, and the hours may pass in bitter cold, these glories of nature somehow know to prepare for the warmer days ahead. It is within their very essence to do so, despite any outward encouragement from Mother Nature. Theirs is a faithful preparation for rebirth into those exquisitely verdant times ahead. They know that at the God-appointed moment, and not a minute before, they will open into full abundance. We could take a lesson from this.
Nature takes life and its respective timing on a matter of instinctive "faith", if you will. No matter that leaves may fall or summer flowers may wither, for there will always be a new and, perhaps, even more glorious replacement, in time. The wise knowing of the Universe keeps all of nature humming along just fine, thank you. Nature doesn't muddy itself up with "what ifs?" and "if onlys". It instinctively expects and receives what it needs. Did I mention that we could take a lesson from this?
Perhaps we need to make a sincere inventory of where our faith and expectations lie. If we claim to live in faith, but often find ourselves fearing - or creating - the worst, maybe we have a little work to do. When belief and expectation are not in sync, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment in its many guises. Remember the wise words of James Allen: "They themselves are makers of themselves." No permanent nor desired change will take place in our lives lest we allow it.
For me, this first month of the New Year has always been about going within, setting my goals, and cleaning out (sometimes literally) that which may have been pushed aside in the busy rush of the holidays. This latter clearing out process allows me to go forward without too much unneeded distraction. I have referred to it before as good mental feng shui.
I no longer make New Year's resolutions, having learned some time ago that January is really not the most favorable time for that. (I have been told that is why so many New Year's resolutions fail.) Rather the spiritual year, which begins with the Fall Equinox, is a more propitious time for this practice. It certainly makes more sense to me to work with the natural energies than against them.
January is, however, the time for setting intention for the coming twelve months. "What's the difference?", you might be saying. Well, according to our friend Webster, resolution has "...the quality of fixed purpose, determination, and firmness." Intention is "a plan or aim". I do sense a difference here.
Hans King recommends that all intentions be committed to paper within the first seven days of the year. Put that precious list in an envelope and place it somewhere safe, only to be taken out and looked at again on New Year's Eve 2013.
Take a cue from Nature.You may be pleasantly surprised at what faith and properly placed expectation can accomplish in your life in just twelve short months.
And, to all of you and yours, abundant blessings for the most extraordinary year yet!
November 2012: "The Soul's Memory"
We call this the season of hope, yet, for many, this time of year only serves to magnify the seeming hopelessness within us. Though we struggle to enjoy the magnificent sights and sounds which this time brings forth, we often continue to feel a hollow, unsettled sensation which preempts that much longed-for feeling of inner peace. This feeling of "unease", while not confined to the holidays, may be experienced far too frequently, perhaps even consistently by some of us. The heightened awareness of this is often swept under the rug during the holidays, if for no other reason than that we manage to keep ourselves insanely busy, thus placing our focus somewhere else. At least, for the time being, this may seem to work, though at some future date we will be forced to deal with that which plagues us. In the meantime, our "issue" will continue to sit in the back of our minds, slowing poisoning our mind, body, and spirit. If we are to have the peace, harmony, and happiness which we so rightly deserve, we must advocate on our own behalves.
So what is it that we can do to move from where we are in hopelessness to where we wish to be in hope? Whatever plan we choose to lay out, we must engage our entire selves in the process. Prayer, affirmation, and visualization may play an integral part, but without our commitment to action on the physical plane, our efforts may be greatly delayed, or even short-circuited. We must be clear as to what we want, and then be willing to do that which is necessary to bring it about. A muddy or wishy-washy approach will produce a wishy-washy result. I know this from experience. Timing must sometimes be left to Spirit, though it is perfectly ok to include a timeline in your plan, if you wish to do so. If you are unsure of what might be in your best interest, you can always state your case by following it up with "...this or something better." In the Science of Mind teachings of my younger years, employing this simple tag line produced a number of unexpected "miracles", many of which could not have been otherwise anticipated.
Through the course of actively digging oneself out of the pit of hopelessness, something quite marvelous begins to happen. In the mere act of working your plan, hope begins to find you. As a committed co-creator of your personal experience, a feeling of confidence and expectation will fill you, perhaps slowly at first, then with more assuredness as time goes on. Remember that most of those situations in life which we deem hopeless, do, in fact, have an answer. Just because we cannot see that answer from our perspective, does not mean that it does not exist.
Perhaps we are far too close to our problem to feel effective in our prayer work. That is when we turn the matter of prayer over to someone else. This brings us to one last point. Do not isolate yourself. Periods of time spent with your own thoughts are fine, but communing with chosen friends and loved ones is vital. We do not exist in a vacuum. We are meant to share this earthly experience with others.
In my life, a metaphsically-leaning church and study in New Thought teachings long ago pulled me from a place of powerlessness (as I perceived it) to a place of possibility. People of like mind inspired and supported me, and their words still resonate in my soul. This does not mean that, at times, I do not struggle, and, yes, even feel momentarily hopeless. We must first step out upon the path to hope, no matter how far in the distance it may currently seem to be. Continue on the journey, step by step, until you can joyfully say, "I have arrived!"
October 2012: "Do You Pass the Test?"
Have you ever felt compelled to do something which is seemingly beyond comprehension? Reason and logic be damned, sometimes we are driven by a force which overrides our good sense, a force against which we appear helpless to resist. Though we may chastise ourselves, and endure the judgment of others, we seem to be drawn toward a choice, an action, or a partnership for which we may have no reasonable explanation. We only know that we must follow our inner promptings, for that which is driving us forward emanates from feeling, a deep inner knowing, if you will, that causes us to act in ways which may seem out of character.
Let us consider this possibility-----perhaps, we are acting on soul memory. Could it be that at one time, before we came into this life, we made some sort of agreement, the silent memory of which is now propelling us toward its fulfillment? Did we agree to be here for someone as a caretaker, a partner, or a teacher? Does there seem to be no sensible explanation for our involvement with a particular individual? Is there an unseen force nagging at us to quit a high-paying job and take up making pottery instead? The soul-memory scenarios can play out in many ways, yet their commonality exists in their urgent call to us from within.
The Universe works on the principle of dharma, the immutable law of order. We, too, experience individual dharma, which is conduct which conforms to this principle. Our dharma may include a duty or commitment which our conscious mind has long ago erased, but which our soul still remembers. This promise rests in the inner silence until such time as we are called upon to honor our pledge. Though we may try to drown out those concealed urgings, they will not be silenced until we have acknowleged and acted upon them. And, yes, this is where things may start to get sticky, for it is not unusual for friends, family, and even you yourself to react with incredulity at what may unfold.
More than once in life I have asked myself just why, against all reasoning, I have chosen to take a certain course of action. Though I might have come up with a list of justifications---or excuses---the truth of it is that I felt that, whatever it was at the time, it was something that I must do. Hopefully, once a soul obligation is met and completed, the dharma will have been satisfied. Most likely, at various points along the way, there will be several such experiences of dharma at work in the lives of each of us.
Let us not question and punish ourselves unnecessarily when these soul memories call upon us. Rather, let us ask for guidance in dealing with that which we are required to do. May we be patient, calm, and steadfast in meeting our soul obligations, always remembering that we are simply being reminded of a promise we made long ago.
September 2012: "Unclutter Your Mind and Organize Your Life"
Recently I heard a quote which really hit home: "We are tested in the area of our greatest weakness." Thinking back to those times, both past and present, when life seemed, indeed, a test, this message seemed to ring true. Such times of testing are not a punishment, but rather a time of growth and learning. For me, the learning aspect has occurred in gaining trust in myself and my decisions. For example, as a (somewhat) reformed people pleaser, the approval of others---both friends and family---has always been important to me. So I have not been without trepidation in making decisions which may not have proven popular with those I hold dear.
The point here is not whether the decisions that I made were necessarily good ones (most were, the jury is still out on others), but rather that I faced the test of actually making the decisions and acting on them, regardless of the approval of others. This simple act is, in itself, somewhat empowering.
Of course, such tests come up in every conceivable area of life. Do you have a life-long fear of flying? Expect to have a tempting opportunity for travel, which, naturally, will involve flying. Are you overshadowed by a lurking fear of commitment? Expect to meet someone who causes you to rethink your position. Do you feel unworthy or incapable? You can probably anticipate having some circumstance in life which allows you to prove otherwise. Those areas where we are the weakest are those that we will again and again be called upon to rectify.
Let's face facts. Some of those weaknesses we bear will never be fully overcome. However, that should not keep us from trying, as the mere effort on our part is proof that we acknowledge and sincerely wish to address our issues. This alone is vastly important. When presented with these life tests, let us look at them as gifts of opportunity rather than penalties, as lessons rather than impossible challenges. We, ourselves, will be our own best judges in deciding whether we have suitably risen to meet these tests. No one else's opinion will count as much as our own. If we have done our best, then let there be no cause for regret.
Life will continue to be a never-ending series of trials. As one hurdle is overcome, another will rise to meet you. The upside is that, as we progress in facing such tests, a natural process begins to take place within us. If we allow it, this process will hone our coping skills, increase our faith quotient, and boost our self confidence. Passing the test can be as singular a thing as not falling to pieces when presented with a prickly life circumstance.
Never forget that how you approach everything in life depends a great deal upon attitude, belief, and expectancy. Work to keep all three in the arena of possibility and positivity, and there will be few tests you cannot conquer.
August 2012: "There's Always a Contingency Plan"
Mind clutter can be exhausting. We women are incredibly busy being wives, mothers, friends, caretakers, and career girls, continually performing fetes of mental and physical dexterity which are nothing less than heroic. With a constant to-do list rattling around in our heads, there exists for us a sense of ongoing distraction from matters to which we ought to be giving our full attention.
Mental organization can be very freeing. The unfettered mind is the mind which is fully engaged in the moment. I like to think of it as mental Feng Shui. When our mental chi is flowing correctly we notice a balance settling over our entire thinking process. No longer do we feel the ever-present angst which accompanies us everywhere. Those niggling little thoughts which we have carried in the backs of our minds cease to divert us as they once did.
Just how can we help ourselves to incorporate this mental Feng Shui into our lives? Well, there are some simple procedures which will aid in alleviating a great deal of that nagging mind clutter, and they will cost you nothing. I have used these methods for years and continue to rely on them to keep my myself organized and to free up my mental space for being in the present moment. Of course, they are not fool-proof. My mind can still race occasionally with all that is before me. However, when this happens, it helps me to still myself knowing that I have my "game plan" to fall back on.
So, here it is, an easy formula for organizing, and, hopefully, simplifying your mental process, as well as your life:
1. Write down your to-do list
Rather than trying to remember the horrifyingly long list of what needs to be done, try writing it all down. I like to make up a weekly list and break it up into the seven days of the week. This way I know just what I have to do on any given day, and can work things around other commitments. Nothing need be set in stone, and there is always flexibility to move something if I need to. Though this may sound OCD to some, in not having to continue to juggle thoughts of what I need to be doing (and when), my mind is left free to devote to other affairs. As a result, my level of mental fatigue is considerably lessened.
You can even make up your to-do's for this month, next month, or the whole year! This can really just be an organizational guideline to keep you on track, but do remember that we add power and intention when we take the time to write things down.
2. Keep a calendar of important dates
In my life this is absolutely essential. I prefer a purse-size calendar which I can carry with me, but a permanent desk calendar is certainly better than none. My preference for a portable calendar allows me to always be at the ready, no matter where I am at any given time. Because I know that trusting my memory is not necessarily reliable, everything gets written down, including birthdays and anniversaries. (I have a relative who is exasperating in that she never writes anything down. As a result, she is continually clueless regarding her social "calendar." The fact is, if she would actually use a calendar and then follow up by referring to it, she wouldn't be blindsided every time an event rolls around.)
3. Finally, work your plan
It will do no good to make out lists and mark calendars without the followthrough of actually using them. Make it a regular part of your routine. Your life does not have to be controlled by them, merely guided. These are simply tools to assist in managing your time, and thus your life, more effectively, without the constant disruption of disorganized thought.
My sister used to joke that I made lists of my lists! Though that has never been the case, I have always made it a habit to commit things to paper. (Even ideas for writing get penned as soon as they come up. Otherwise, I am unlikely to count on recalling them in full at a later date.) All I can say is that my organizational methods have kept me sane, even while in the midst of seeming chaos.
Should you choose to incorporate this strategy on a regular basis, I assure you that it will be well worth it for its mind-calming effects. No one has to see any of what is written down but you. Keep a notebook handy, not only for your list-making, but anything else which you may wish to jot down. Empty your mind of all those mundane thoughts before they begin to agitate. After all, don't you have more important things to think about?
July 2012: "You're Stronger Than You Think"
There's Always a Contingency Plan.....
At least this is what our dear friend Hans King says. Personally, I just so happen to believe it to be true. How many times have our best laid plans fizzled, only to reveal a much better alternative just around the bend? Spirit always has a back-up plan in mind. We, of course, with our limited human vision of how things ought to be, probably haven't even considered all the wonders that could be in store for us just in case our own version of the future (immediate or otherwise) doesn't pan out.
This so-called contingency plan almost always includes a sort of road-not-taken. It presents us---and, at times, literally forces us---down a path we would never have considered on our own. Usually, we find that path leads to something greater, better, and happier than that which we had been striving so hard to attain in the first place. Most often, in not realizing our original goal, we naturally fall into the pit of frustration, failure, fear, and, perhaps, anger. Only later, when our "replacement" opportunity is presented, do we see how much more suited to our needs this new experience truly promises to be.
Very tangible examples of this exist for all of us. As a newlywed, I once coveted a certain apartment, envisioning it as the perfect place to begin my married life. That apartment ultimately went to someone else, leaving me in a state of panic and disappointment. A few days later, through an innocuous newspaper ad, my new husband and I were lead to an apartment with exactly the same floor plan, in exactly the same neighborhood, for even less rent! Not only that, but the property manager turned out to be an old friend, who literally paved the way for us as tenants.
This same phenomenon (if one can call it that) later occurred again when we were buying our home. After looking at some 50 or so houses, we had finally found The One, only to lose our dream home to buyers who outbid us by a mere $1000. Feeling quite crestfallen, we were told to go out and "look with new eyes." Within 48 hours we had found an even better house at a better price right around the corner from the one we had just bid on! I like to say that our new house "embraced" us the first time we entered, and, of course, the rest is history.
No doubt we can all recall such examples in our own lives. In those moments when our hopes are dashed and our plans go awry, we desperately need to remember those examples, for they give us courage to begin anew. I believe that they are proof that there is something which advocates on our behalf, whether or not we know it at the time. Before we go into a tailspin, we need to rest in the knowing that something else is in store for us.
In my Science of Mind classes from many years ago, we were always taught to pray or affirm "this or something better." In doing so, the door was then left open to something even greater than that which could be envisioned. It's a prayer that works. Seeming miracles have been born of these few simple words. Say them, believe them, let it go, and watch what happens.
June 2012: "Is Compassion Killing You?"
Every so often Life throws us the proverbial curve ball. It's that life event that comes, often quite unexpectedly, and for which we feel woefully unprepared. A spouse dies, a relationship ends, illness or unemployment come to visit. Such monumental changes can have a devastating impact on our psyche, not to mention the emotional turmoil which ensues. We feel lost, afraid, lonely, and often, completely inadequate. Our spiritual side may take a huge hit, with our faith wavering on the edge of the abyss.
How do we cope effectively in such times as these? How do we make that seemingly impossible journey from "victim" to victor? Others have walked their own darkened roads and come out all the stronger and wiser for it. Can we do the same? The answer is a resounding "YES!" We humans are incredibly resilient beings. Frequently, we do not know just how much we are truly capable of until a crisis emerges. By whatever means necessary we must reinvigorate ourselves and somehow find a way to move through the situation in which are enmeshed.
However, we need not do this alone. Counseling may help. So may talking to friends, family, or a trusted ministerial figure. Just don't try to carry the burden alone. Cry, but reach out. Be angry, but reach out. Often, in sharing with others, we come up with our own solutions. Frequently, the caring input from another helps us to see our own problem in a new light. Suggestions may be forthcoming which we never might have considered if left to our own devices.
Sometimes the challenges are the smaller, more mundane things, like bill paying and having to be solely responsible for maintenance of home, auto, and, possibly, children. For me, when my husband died, it was, among other things, the "daunting" task of trying to learn to drive (and park) his rather large vehicle, which I had always avoided in favor of my much smaller compact car. It was a challenge which I unwillingly took on, only to find that, not only was I able to master the driving and parking aspects, I actually liked using his car a great deal more than my own. The lesson for me was twofold. The overcoming of an ungrounded fear coupled with the sense of strength and accomplishment in doing so led me to a series of small fetes which I might never have otherwise tackled. With each "overcoming" my sense of personal capability increased. My confidence was growing and I was slowly becoming whole again.
There is one thing which I would advise when a huge life disruption hits. Don't try to look too far down the road. Don't drive yourself crazy with an unending series of "what if?" or "how will I?" That will only add to your misery. Instead, try to take things in small bites--kind of the "one-day-at-a-time" approach. The Universe often has a way of sending unexpected, and certainly unforeseen help, just when we need it most. While standing in the middle of our current dilemma, we have little idea of what the bigger picture is. And, certainly, in a state of mind which is confused, hurting, and fearful, we are not very likely to see beyond our own immediate set of circumstances.
At some point in this process---and it is a process--- we can begin to make our plan. What practical steps will it take to get us from where now find ourselves to where we wish to be? What is it that we need do on all levels to begin to mend and fortify who we are? When we get to the point in time where we can start to plan anew, we take our first steps toward a new course of self empowerment and possibility.
I have spoken of it before, but, here, I think it bears repeating. The pendulum of Life never swings too far one way that it doesn't eventually balance itself out by swinging in the reverse. Wherever you find yourself today will, at some point in time, be a faded memory. The angst and pain which may now envelop you will, thankfully, one day subside. Summon the strength to walk through the shadows, and do not unnecessarily prolong your own suffering. Brighter tomorrows are within your grasp.
May 2012: "Dealing with Depression"
Is Compassion Killing You?
This month I write this article as much for myself as anyone. This morning I ran across a most apropos expression which I plan to immediately incorporate into my vocabulary ... "compassion fatigue."
For those who aren't quite clear on this, let me explain. Compassion fatigue can happen when, through empathy, love and caring, we try too hard to help fix someone who really does not want to be fixed. It is when we give ourselves over to a cause, whether large or small, in which we have no apparent hope of coming out on the winning side. It is when we believe in that yet unseen healing miracle with all our heart and soul. The only problem is, if it be a person whom we are trying to help, he or she must believe in that miracle, too, and not openly resist its possibility. We can pray our hearts out, but if that individual opposes the help and refuses to change (either consciously or subconsciously), there is little we can do. Yes, we can continue to pray and affirm, for miracles CAN and do still happen. Perhaps, the one whom we are trying to help is not yet ready for wellness. However, at some point we must honestly examine what harm we are doing to ourselves in this process, and, if nothing else, back off and reassess. In other words, as the song goes, we must "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."
I will not downplay how very difficult this decision can be, particularly for those of us who see possibility where others see only failure and defeat. Unfortunately, we cannot forcibly supplant their shortsighted vision with our own. Others must tread their own paths and experience the results of their own choices. Sadly, some may never fully grasp the good which is available to them in this lifetime. If this be the case, we cannot allow ourselves to go down with them. We do not owe them that, and we certainly do not owe it to ourselves to do so. No God would require such a sacrifice. Karmically, perhaps we have been put in another's path to provide help and support. However, should our efforts be rebuked, the Great Spirit does not expect us to continue long-suffering in our efforts.
A dear friend said something which makes a great deal of sense. It is that some people put themselves out there to be helped, without really having any sincere intention of being helped. I have known and do know people like this. It is, indeed, amazing to me that they continually reach out for such help, while actively doling out excuses as to why they cannot be helped. Much to their own detriment, there is often a lack of humility in these individuals. They prefer to remain the victims, complaining that no one really understands their plight. Those who can overcome this are those who are finally willing to say, "Maybe I don't have all the answers. Maybe I need to turn myself over to a Higher Power." Unless that person can come to sincerely embrace this understanding, any efforts on their behalf will likely prove futile.
It may come to the point where the best that we can do for ourselves and for them is to let them go. At least, for the time being, let them go to make their own mistakes, to plunge far enough into the darkness that they are, at last, ready for the Light. We can, of course, continue our prayers for healing, in whatever form it may take. This is no easy course, and I do not speak of it without having been there more than once. Even as I begin on such a journey yet again, I do not expect that it will be any less difficult. The only thing I can say is that I am now older and somewhat wiser, and I know that I will survive, no matter what. Knowing that I have done all that I can possibly do for one I love is, at least, a small comfort, for I could do no less. However, I do not believe it worthwhile to continue to do damage to oneself in order to save another. As Hans King would say, the trauma to one's soul would be far too great a price.
No, I have not given up on miracles, but I can't presume to know what form they may take. In letting go, I expect that the Universe will be in charge of that.
April 2012: "Personal Resurrection"
Almost all of us have had it at one time or another. That heavy, pressing malaise that descends over us, sometimes, seemingly, for no reason whatsoever. In reality, it is simply a part of the natural emotional ebb and flow of life. However, when, to any degree, we are visited by it far too frequently---or become firmly stuck in it--- our lives can become burdensome, with days spent in a kind of conscious stupor. Rather than denying that we have a problem, it is then that we must act in order to reclaim our lives.
In my twenties I went through a full year of depression, trying to sleep my life away when I wasn't at work or tending to some other responsibility. Sleep was a great escape (as I'm sure some of you have discovered), and, certainly, the amount of sleep that I was racking up was a pretty good indicator that I was in trouble. Even to this day, when hit with a big emotional blow, I immediately feel the urge to take to my bed. Fortunately, I now have managed to process things a bit differently, and---if sleep does enter the picture-- it is limited to a short nap or going to bed a little earlier. I no longer wish to lose precious time wallowing in the pit of despair, not when there are viable ways to help myself and so much in life to experience.
So what can we do to mitigate the effects of depression? We probably all know that exercise is a good beginning, since it cranks out those endorphins which kick our spirits up a notch. But there is so much else that we can do. For instance, (and these have been personally tested by yours truly) we can:
Read or watch something inspiring
Walk in nature and commune with the animals
Feed our creative side
Watch a funny movie
Throw a party
Go shopping (ok, this is, admittedly, a temporary fix, but enjoyable, nevertheless)
Work in the garden
Plan time with our friends (there is nothing as uplifting as girl-time)
Talk it out with someone we trust
In other words, do anything which will get us outside of ourselves.
Yes, you may have to push yourself to do any of these. In fact, it's probably alright to pull the covers over your head and suck your thumb (figuratively) for a little while, but don't allow yourself to make it a way of life. Fully succumbing to this on a continuing basis will only make you wearier and more removed from living a healthy, balanced, and fulfilling life.
So, what if nothing that you try works? Or, what if it does work, but not to the degree which brings you total---or, at least, sufficient---comfort? Let's say that you have also tried the natural remedies that we hear touted regularly. (Be aware that such remedies do not always solve the problem for everyone.) At this point, you may have exhausted your arsenal, and now what?
My advice is to seek the help of a professional, your doctor, a counselor, anyone qualified to help. In fact, you don't even need to wait to get to this point in the process to do that. Healing comes in many guises, and doctors and their medicines were put here to help, too. I would be the last one to advise heavy doses of anything, but, through my own experience, I can share with you that just a mild amount of the right remedy can make all the difference. One does not have to be medicated to the point of listlessness in order to enjoy the benefits of good medicine. If it does you no harm, and far more good, wouldn't it make sense to at least consider it?
Finally, in the course of aging, I have seen two things happen. Some individuals develop an age-related depression which they may not have had to cope with before. This is relatively common in seniors who face many life-altering changes at that time in life. On the other hand, through the advent of wisdom and maturity, others find themselves experiencing less depression, possibly due to better coping skills. And, of course, we women have always had to deal with the hormonal issue, not always a friend to our better nature.
The bottom line is, you don't have to remain immersed in darkness or confined to a self-imposed prison of despair. There are answers and there is help available. Reach out for it and begin again to participate joyously in life.
March 2012: "Making Your Own Luck"
Whoever you are, wherever you are in your life, you can experience a resurrection of the spirit. You can undergo personal renewal and a new and better way of being. However far down life's ladder you find yourself now is how far up that same ladder you will travel yet again. The natural order of things is balance, and so it is that the scales of our lives will eventually swing back to a point of harmony and equilibrium.
However, we can, I believe, help this process along.
It is said that we are creatures of habit. Unfortunately, some of our worst habits exist in our words and in our minds. When you speak, are you speaking words of joy, appreciation, and abundance, or do you dwell on despair, criticism and lack? Do you constantly focus on missed opportunities---or the next misfortune which is likely to befall you---or do you, instead, pick up the mantle of hope and possibility?
We do ourselves (and others) a great disservice when we ignore the positive view under the guise of being a "realist." In doing so, we shut ourselves off from the good which could be ours, if only we would embrace and believe in it. It is an easy thing to abide in the negative, particularly if it has become an habitual way of life. Those who have accepted this for themselves are often blind to what they have allowed to overtake them. More is the pity, for they repeatedly quash that shining spirit within them which longs for upliftment.
However, just as we are able to change our outward habits through awareness and repetition, so can we can change the habits which reside in our thoughts and manner of speaking. This, of course, takes conscious and committed focus, as we allow our whole selves to absorb the new way of being. Naturally, the old ways will not give up without a struggle, but we must hold steadfast until those new and loftier traits are firmly established within us. We must consistently stand guard against the negativity which was our former life, and, instead, keep our new ways always in our sights.
Over time, we will see change beginning to appear ... at first, perhaps, subtlety. As we progress in these new found ways, greater life experiences will appear for us, for we will have drawn them through that greater Self which we have now embodied. I know this works, because I have done it. Long ago putting this process into motion, I went from a place of physical and emotional pain and struggle to an unimagined personal resurrection. Through laying the groundwork as I have described, my life was forever changed, thus setting me on the path which I have followed to this day. It is a process which gains momentum the longer it is practiced. It is not one of blind and unrealistic expectation, but rather one grounded in the prospects of personal fulfillment.
At this most hopeful time of year I wish you all the gift of spiritual renewal. It is within you waiting to be reborn. It is possible and it is your right as a child of the Great Spirit.
February 2012: "Love is Trying to Find You"
Can we really make our own luck? I believe that, to a certain extent, we can. Through our choices, thoughts, words, and actions we set a course for ourselves which can either bring reward or punishment. In ways both great and small, we can change the tenor of our lives through our impulsive (and sometimes regrettable) choices, alter our destiny through our negative thinking, and erect unneeded roadblocks through thoughtless actions and angry, retaliatory rhetoric.
I have seen this played out again and again in the lives of friends and family. I have also observed the result of it in my own life. There are situations in which we find ourselves that might have been allowed to open new and expansive vistas to us, had we only handled matters differently at the time. Had we only been more patient, not flown off the handle, or chosen our words more carefully, things may have turned out a bit better for us, and, certainly, more to our liking. We may have been able to mend that relationship, secure that coveted position, or have that experience of a lifetime if we had taken a more thoughtful and positive approach, free of the damaging influence of negative emotion.
The old adage "You can attract more bees with honey" was coined for a reason. It is a consistent truth that you attract more of what's good about life (including people who could be helpful and loving toward you) if you yourself are a positive thinker, a kind and loving individual, and a fair and reliable friend. Generosity of spirit counts in this life. Measured words can be a good thing.
Look around you---is it the complainers in life that seem to have all the luck? Are they the ones surrounded by a full contingency of adoring friends and people rushing to their aid at every turn? How wonderful are the lives of those for whom poor choices are a customary habit? And how different might the life experience be for those who repeatedly trip themselves up? Might we say that their luck has changed once they take that higher road and begin to produce a different result in their lives?
Now, observe the lives of those whom you hold in high esteem. Is it possible that there may be some direct correlation between how they live and the "luck" with which they seem to be blessed? Do they regularly keep to a moral, ethical, and spiritual code, while employing behavior which would be considered not only positive, but, perhaps, even exemplary?We are told that like seeks like, and surely these same people appear to be shining examples of this simple law of life. Many may call it luck, but chances are that it did not come without some mental equivalent on the part of the receiver.
So it is with all of us. The Universe is far more apt to compensate us for our well-intended efforts. Conversely, It can also quash our good fortune, the latter in direct response to whatever poor choices we might foolishly make. Of course, we do sometimes make those choices out of ignorance. Unfortunately, the Universe's response seldom takes this into consideration. If you jam your finger into a light socket, either intentionally or accidentally, you're going to get electrocuted all the same.
There will be times when, although we've attended to our homework and done what we think are all the "right " things, results do not seem to be forthcoming. Take heart. It could be a matter of timing, or it could be that there is some life lesson or experience which we are destined to play a part in first. Whatever detours we encounter should not permanently deter us from making our largest efforts---in thought, word, and deed--- an ingrained part of our way of doing and being. Be your highest and best in every way you know how. Luck will find you, for you will be as a shining magnet for good. Know it, feel it, expect it.
January 2012: "Trusting Your Process"
Ah, love. It is both the joy of our lives and the bane of our existence. Yet, most of us continue to seek it out in all its many forms. At the top of the list, that most special relationship which we can call our one-and-only. That person who makes our hearts sing (and who can most easily throw us into a tailspin with their bad behavior). It's the one with whom we possess that heart connection which transcends all logic. There is no explaining love. Love simply is.
So, why is it that we spend so much time thinking about love, seeking it, even writing songs and flowery poems about it? Of course, it is a basic human need, an emotion which must be satisfied within every individual. Nevertheless, it seems that we spend an exorbitant amount of time looking for love, when, perhaps, we should be letting it find us.
It is a basic law of the Universe that in grasping for our desire, injecting it with our fear and worry, and generally never turning loose of it, that we somehow push that which we want ever farther away from us. What if we simply relaxed into the knowing that at the right time and in the right way that special someone will cross our path and our destiny will be forever changed? This knowing is, in and of itself, a sort of continuing affirmation. And, it has been said, too, that the act of knowing goes beyond even prayer, in that it assumes that that which we want is already done. It is, in fact, a feeling far more than an intellectual concept. It is something which we know in our hearts, not in our heads. When we accept this knowing at the deepest possible level, our entire being resonates with joy. It is then that we truly know, without a doubt, that we have set something powerful into motion.
Make no mistake, development of your "Knowing Self" will take some time. Just as with the establishment of a new habit, the longer you hold those knowing thoughts, the more ingrained they will become. Trust that in this process you will be guided to that which is for you. Let this new way of being act as a powerful magnet to attract that which perfectly suits your needs. Go about your life and be open to any subtle promptings which may be out of the norm. It could be the Universe urging you toward your desire.
Though it may be a possibility (anything's possible!), it probably isn't a good idea to stay locked up in your house expecting Cupid to show up at your doorstep. No, you have to put yourself out there in life. Stay busy and involved and keep your heart open. I've said it many times---the Universe expects us to do our part. Work with it and it will work with you. As always, walk in faith and trust what you are given to do, even if it may not make since at the time.
The inspired metaphysician Ernest Holmes once said of this knowing "force" (and I am paraphrasing here) that "...we should not be surprised when it works but when it does NOT work." I don't know about you, but those sound like pretty good odds to me.
December 2011: Being Thankful....No Matter What
In this new year some---or, perhaps, many---of you have resolved to live a better, more fulfilling, and happier 2012. For those few who may feel that life is perfect just as it is, though the rest of us may be a tad bit envious, we plan to continue grasping for that brass ring, nevertheless.
Life seems to unfold in chapters. Just because your story started out badly doesn't necessarily mean that it will end up that way. Your life is a continuing journey from one experience to the next. The plan is that we learn and grow from each part of that journey so that we can wisely plan our next step. Of course, we are not in control of everything. In fact, the most that we can really hope to have control over (if "control" is, in fact, the right word) is ourselves in this very moment. This is not to say that we should not do our very best to create the kind of life which will fulfill us. In doing so, we must be honest and act with integrity toward ourselves and others. We must stand up for ourselves when necessary, and know when to back off a losing proposition. And, we must trust our gut.
Sometimes what our gut tells us is very much out of sync with the message we are receiving from our head. Our cognitive self will inevitably analyze something to death, often leaving us with no palpable answers and a throbbing headache, to boot. Gut feeling is usually where the truth of the matter lies. And know this---it may be telling you something that is in direct opposition to what seems the logical answer. It may be telling you something different from what friends and family are saying. It may be infusing you with a feeling which flies in the face of perceived reality. If you trust what your gut is giving you, then go with it. Even if you stumble, you, hopefully, have learned something.
But how do we learn to trust that gut instinct which so often serves as both protector and protagonist? First of all, recognize it as that "feeling" which simply won't go away. It is a knowing which surpasses physical perception, and which screams out to us from the depths of our being. It is something that, when unheeded, causes us to feel out of balance and untrue to ourselves. It is that which calls for our highest and best, even if that means that we must first walk over hot coal to obtain it.
If we don't overanalyze, and can succeed in getting our trust mechanism into gear, we just may be whisked along to a most right and proper outcome. And, yes, that may mean that we get what we need rather than what we think we want. Trust the process without too much judgment, if possible. Try not to get hung up on right and wrong, good and bad. Use each day as a building block toward your future, always keeping in mind those things which you wish to experience (i.e. joy, love, abundance, a terrific relationship, a promising career, etc.) You don't have to name a specific person or job, or even how any of your other "good" might come to you. Again, trust the process, and work from your inner knowing. Be willing to act, when needed. The Universe will take care of the rest.
November 2011: Is It Assertiveness or Aggression? "
Thankfulness----'tis the season. This is the time of year when we are expected to reflect on all that we have to be grateful for. A wise aunt once admonished me (when I complained about all I thought I lacked) that it was far better, instead, to focus on one's blessings, as the list of what's right in life usually outdistances the list of what isn't. She was correct, of course, and I always try to remember her advice when things get tough. Making up that thankfulness list each time is a humbling process, without a doubt.
Over the years, as I have given more and more thought to the whole thankfulness issue, I can truly admit that some of those things for which I wasn't initially thankful have now made it to the ever-expanding thankfulness list. There is no question, some of life's less savory "blessings" have proven the greatest turning points in my life. Life lessons that may have flattened me at the time have been invaluable building blocks to later---and far better---experiences, and for that I say a rousing "Thank You!"
Actually, it is my opinion that thankfulness possesses a fairly broad scope. We can be thankful for the support of a wonderful family, or thankful that we live 2000 miles away from a dysfunctional one. We can be grateful for our perfect health, or grateful that we had that check-up which unexpectedly started us on the journey toward regaining it. That which we are now thankful for may have once been something which we railed against. Regardless of our circumstances, when we stop to count all the blessings in our own lives---even the seemingly insignificant ones---we can almost always see how the positive aspects drown out the negative.
One of the exercises which I was required to perform when taking metaphysical classwork was to make a detailed list of all those attributes about myself for which I was thankful. Once I overcame the urge to be modest (something which then actually ended up on the thankfulness list), I was surprised at just how many things about Melinda that I actually felt blessed by.
And today, when I make up the list of those people for whom I am thankful, I don't just lump them together under the headings "friends" and "family." Rather, I list them as the unique and wonderful individuals they are. Getting a visual of the sheer number of loved ones who support you in life has a much greater impact on one's psyche, to be sure.
So jump on that pen and paper and start your own thankfulness list. Post it where you can see it every day, and, by all means, update and edit as needed. And, when those days come that you are feeling at the end of your tether, counting all you are blessed with might just be the one thing that pulls you through.
May this holiday season bring more blessings than your hearts can hold!
October 2011: "Giving Yourself Away"
Is It Assertiveness or Aggression?
Many years ago I attended a class---strictly for women---on how to be effectively assertive. We learned, among other priceless tidbits, that there is a very real difference between assertiveness and aggression. Up until that time I had not really considered that they were not one in the same. Needless to say, those few hours of enlightenment were a tremendous eye-opener which forever armed me with an invaluable tool for successful communication. (This is not to say that I don't sometimes fall short in my attempts to opt for clear cut assertiveness, but at least I now know the difference.)
Aggression, you see, is often tinged with anger, sarcasm, or accusatory overtones. In other words, it's both offensive and off putting, instantly placing on the defensive the person to whom it is directed. Aggressive words target the other party, usually with a laundry list of "YOU did this and YOU did that!"
Rather than disabling its subject, aggression is often a self-defeating act causing the individual on the receiving end to react with rage rather than understanding.
Assertiveness is not only the preferred approach, but, if I may say so, the "gentler" one, as well. Instead, it relies upon the expression of how one feels about a situation (or person or behavior). For example, instead of yelling insults at your spouse or partner regarding their less-than-stellar habits, try saying something like : "I feel_____(sad, angry, irritated, threatened, etc.) when you say (or do) that." In this way you come from a point of feeling, placing part of the responsibility upon yourself without necessarily putting the other person on the hotseat.
The assertive approach can assist in avoiding an otherwise unpleasant confrontation, and the resultant tempestuous exchange. (That is, assuming, of course, that the person you are dealing with is a relatively rational individual. As we know, not everyone is, but we'll save discussion of that for another article.)
Aggression is nerve shattering and divisive. Assertiveness is honest and controlled. Which do you suppose is more likely to build a bridge when storms rage within a relationship? If you want to have any chance of really being heard, then come from a place which reflects how you think and feel about whatever it is that concerns you. Don't accuse, don't point fingers (literally or figuratively), and try to keep your cool as you express your needs and feelings as calmly and as firmly as possible.
Hopefully, this will pave the way for dialogue, not derision. Try it and see if you don't get a response which differs from the norm. If nothing else, handling yourself assertively may disarm those who are not accustomed to your new way of "dealing." And wouldn't that be nice?
September 2011: "Grief and Loss"
Giving Yourself Away
If there is one thing I know, it is that the feeling of being used, put upon or otherwise taken advantage of is often inextricably connected to our failure to use that very simplest of words---"NO." Such a small word, really, but one which can greatly impact our lives, depending upon our wise use of it. So, why do we have such a difficult time employing the "NO" word when we we need to?
Do we avoid it because of guilt, or, perhaps just because we wish to be liked at any cost? Do we swallow the word out of embarassment, or simply out of habit? Somehow, we frequently fail to say "NO" even when we know that not doing so will prove a detriment to ourselves.
We have all made this mistake, and, for some of us, it has been a product of our upbringing.
Always put others first.
Share your toys.
Never take the largest piece of ANYTHING.
You are your brother's keeper.
Don't be selfish.
And, of course, the customer's always right.
It is likely that we all grew up with either some or all of this litany of admonitions.
Over time such rules of behavior (for women, especially) have somehow morphed into our being there for everyone everytime (and at any hour), even though we may have a house full of company, an impending PTA meeting, and a kid in the emergency room nursing a broken arm. This is an exaggeration, of course, but I'm sure you get the picture.
The fact is, we who have difficulty getting out the word "NO" need to value our time, energy, and resources more, and stop trying to play Mother Teresa to our friends, family and coworkers. That may sound a bit harsh, but it is sometimes a necessary step towards balance in our own lives. Besides lessening the burden on the "rescuer", it may actually serve as a valuable lesson in self reliance for those who are continually being rescued.
This does not make us selfish beings, just discerning ones. We can choose when and where to put our energies, without feeling angry or disappointed in ourselves for being pulled into something which we didn't want to be a part of in the first place. Placing value upon yourself is both wise and healthy.
It really is okay to "just say NO." Regardless of what you may think, you are probably not the last best hope for your friends and family. You're just the one they know they can always count on, regardless
of what it costs or how it inconveniences you.
If you have found yourself to be the one who is always expected to step up to the plate, just remember that YOU will have to be the one to change. Don't expect the change to come from others. Simply know that there will be times when you will need to use that dreaded word that you have been avoiding for so long. You CAN do it, and it actually becomes easier with repeated use.
As a former member of the Never-Say-No Club, I can tell you that it will be very uncomfortable using the "NO" word your first few times out. However, with practice, I guarantee you will become much better at it. Remember, you are not obligated to respond with an automatic "yes" just because someone asks something of you. If you're not sure how you want to handle the situation, at least say that you'll think about it and get back to them. If nothing else, this will give you time to formulate a diplomatic answer which satisfies both you and (hopefully) the other party.
Strangely enough, learning to say "NO" is one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself.
It will give you your life back.
August 2011: "What Is Your Intention?"
Normally, I do not struggle over the topic for each month's article. As a rule, it is somehow just "presented" to me, and everything else seems to flow from there. So it was again when I received the recent call that my elderly father had passed away in California. He was 93, it was not completely unexpected, yet, since he had two older sisters still living (and doing exceptionally well at the ages of 95 and 98), we thought that maybe Dad would beat the odds. It wasn't to be.
Everyone deals with loss in their own unique way. Some things are universal to us all. Like the initial feeling of disbelief. This is where I am, further compounded by the fact that I am currently (as I have been for the last nine years) living on one coast, while most of my family remains on the other. I know that were I there at this moment I would inevitably be drawn into the emotions that are running rampant so many miles west of me. Here in my quiet home among the North Carolina woods I can at least embrace my disbelief for the time being, knowing that when I get on that plane in a few days all that will be set aside.
I have long believed that this phase of disbelief is an important one, serving as a temporary protective shield to those of us who are left behind. It somehow allows us to walk through that which lies before us without coming apart entirely. In some strange way, we are given added strength to do what we must do, thus postponing the real grieving process until such time as we can do so privately.
For me, the real grieving has sometimes not begun until well after the loss of a loved one. Then, suddenly, one day, there it is---the tears, the deep sadness, the wrenching sobs. I used to question why I so often managed to avoid all of this behavior while everyone else around me seemed to be in emotional disarray. Perhaps it is because I possess a very deep belief in the continuation of each individual soul that I am, in some small way, equipped to handle the profusion of feelings which immediately follow a death. Now I just accept it as my own innate way of responding to this most mysterious of life's transitions.
Most certainly, grief has its own timeline. We can never predict how long it will last in all its intensity. All we can do is go with it, work through it, and not let it consume us. Then, one day we have our epiphany, and at that point, things begin to change. After my husband's death five years ago, I knew I had turned the corner when I woke up one day singing. I do not remember how long he had been gone-----perhaps a year----but I knew then that I was beginning to heal.
We serve no one, least of all ourselves, by hugging our grief to us long after the time that we should have let it go. My wise and mystic grandmother always warned that, in grieving beyond our time, we inevitably tether our departed loved ones to us, preventing them from fully advancing to that place where they now need to be. This is something which I have never forgotten, and have shared it many times over with those seeking to nurture their grief rather than set it free.
The amazing resilience of human nature is that it is inherently biased toward healing, on all levels. We can and will surmount loss if we but allow ourselves to do so. We can and will love again. We will heal.
July 2011: "Insecurity: Love It or Leave It"
"Intention organizes its own fulfillment"
I came across this quote not long ago, though I have since forgotten who so wisely said it. Perhaps it was our own Hans King, perhaps I had saved it from some book read eons ago. Regardless of its origin, the message is profound. It speaks to us of the incredible power of directed thought. We are not speaking of random thought, of unorganized or scattered thought, but rather of conscious thought focused like a laser in the manifestation of its desire.
A common metaphysical belief is that everything which is, in one form or another, first began in thought. All that which we now enjoy (or are irritated by) in our modern world first began as an idea. However, without intention, that idea would never have turned into a cell phone, an airplane, or the words which you are now reading on your computer screen. Intention gathers the energy, the resources, the knowledge, and all the other factors needed in transforming an abstract concept into tangible reality. Intention can produce a life circumstance or a car, a fulfilling existence or a tropical vacation.
So how does this apply to us? Well, most of us will never find a cure for cancer or develop the next space shuttle. However, we can use the power of intention to address those areas which are important in our own lives. Do you yearn to be a size eight, when you are, in fact, a size fourteen? Is your goal in life to own your own home? Or to be a doctor? A model? A veterinarian? Do you center your attention on that which you truly want, or do you simply wish for that certain something to happen?
Wishing does not carry with it the power and emotion involved in making dreams into reality. Merely wishing is, instead, a passive approach to creating that which we envision. In other words, it lacks the "oomph" factor needed to demonstrate the longed for result.
Rather, we must actively infuse the creation process with our intense desire. Even if we do not know how to proceed at first, this desire and the focus of our intent will serve as a platform for the rest of that process to unfold. As possibilities are then presented to us, we can make those choices which will best serve us in the longterm.
Complacency is not an option if one's intention is to be fulfilled. As always, the Universe expects us to also act on our own behalf. As things begin to fall into place (a direct result of the intention process), we will be expected to engage, both mentally and physically. I bring up the mental element only because it is not unusual for us to short circuit our
desires once they truly begin to manifest. We must keep feelings of fear and unworthiness at bay if we are to realize success. Many a goal has been undermined through the detouring of intent.
Anyone can harness the power of intention. Just for fun, try it out on the small things in life first. There is no better way to convince oneself than firsthand experience and a successful outcome.
June 2011 "Getting Your Own Way - Or Not"
Insecurity can be crippling. At it's worst, it can interfere with our relationships, undermine our sense of self-worth, and keep us from our life's purpose. It rears its ugly head in a variety of circumstances, sometimes catching us totally off-guard. For some of us, insecurity is simply an everyday fact of life.
Along with fear, the burden of insecurity can be one of the most immobilizing forces that we, as individuals, face. Insecurity---like fear--- is insidious, coming up for us again and again, often just about the time that we have convinced ourselves that we've finally overcome it. Think you've got the insecurity lesson licked? Think again, for the Universe will most surely give you the opportunity to face it just one more time.
We with issues of insecurity must repeatedly push past our anxiety and self-doubt to perform in ways that may not be a challenge to others. She who is insecure inevitably expends a great deal of energy in the worry/fear mode. " Will I be good enough? What if I make a mistake? Will he leave me? What will THEY think?" Frankly, unless it's someone such as your spouse or your boss, THEY are probably so busy going about their own lives that they're paying very little attention to yours.
There was a time in my life when I thought I could never appear in public without full makeup and my hair at least relatively well-arranged. Even a quick trip to the corner store called for a coat of lipstick and a dose of mascara. For most other occasions, shoes, handbag, and nail polish had to match, lest someone should consider me anything less than fashionable. Appearance was one of my biggest insecurities.
Fortunately, I have relaxed somewhat in this area. Yes, I still like to dress "to the nines", when called for, but I can now run into a store looking less than glamorous and not feel self-conscious. Recently, I went into a hardware store wearing absolutely no makeup. (Afterall, if you can't do that in a hardware store, then where can you?) People still smiled at me, the clerk still greeted me warmly, and---as far as I know--no one pointed and stared. Now, this may seem like a very small thing to some, but for me it was a big step. Not only was I proud of myself for pulling it off, but, in my mind, it somehow made a very public statement. That is that I CAN be myself---the real woman under the makeup---and, hopefully, not be so absorbed in being judged by others.
Overcoming insecurity is another one of those inside jobs. It takes practice and some degree of fortitude to trudge through your own personal minefield of issues. There is no easy fix, no magic pill, there is just doing it. Start by writing down all those areas you'd like to address, and then list the ways in which you can tackle each of them. You may have heard this somewhere before, but I will say it again....there is GREAT power in writing things down. Not only does it focus, direct , and organize your thought, but it sends a very vital signal of your intention. Intention cannot be stressed enough, for it sends the message to both your higher conscience and the Universe that you, indeed, mean business.
Remember, this is another one of those processes that will likely take some time. Just know that any changes you make, no matter how small at first, will instill in you that little bit of assurance which bumps you up to the next step in your journey.
So, get out and get going. Stop questioning yourself. Pump up your potential and create a more fulfilled and confident YOU. I guarantee you will not be sorry for your efforts. In fact, you may be amazed. Most certainly, you will gain a sense of pride that you may not now possess....with or without makeup!
May 2011: "A Few Thoughts On Fear"
I once had an eccentric aunt whose favorite (and frequent) expression was that all she ever wanted in life was her own way. Being the single-minded character that she was, she very often got it, though the results of her efforts sometimes brought her more grief than joy.
Certainly, like my aunt, personal will can produce much in one's life. Frankly, without the human will we would be in a sorry state, indeed. However, we can sometimes carry the issue of will a bit too far. This is somewhat akin to the old saying, "Be careful what you pray for". You may very well get what you want (sometimes only through shear determination), only to find that it comes with a very high pricetag. You get the man, but it turns out he's married. The job you just had to have is yours, but the boss is a nightmare. You want your son to be a doctor and he wants to be a florist. (Not only that, but because you pushed so hard for that doctorate, he ends up being a florist who no longer speaks to you.) No doubt you have some of your own examples of the use of will gone awry. I know I do.
Rather than allowing our will to rule us, we need to be wise in it's use. Perhaps that handsome hunk whom we are pining over isn't the right one. Maybe the right one is just around the corner. Instead of forcing a situation which is not in our best interest, we can take pressure off ourselves by relaxing into an attitude of faith and trust. Let us use our will to produce results in those areas which are clearly for us.
Because we can't possibly see the bigger picture as Spirit sees it, we take a very limited view of our possibilities. In doing so, we think (quite mistakenly) that what is available is only that which we can see in front of us. We must remember that there is much, much more in the unseen world which is currently in the process of manifestation. In not trying to "push the river" we free up the forces of Good to unfold scenarios which we could never have dreamed of. How many times have we all looked back on something which we had at one time wanted, seeing in retrospect how very fortunate we were not to have gotten it? And, is it not the case that often this seeming disappointment was later followed by the appearance of something or someone far better and more suited to our needs? As so often happens, our answers come after we have "given up" and stopped fighting the uphill struggle. Would that we could take that attitude from the outset---we would save ourselves the tense burden of feeling that we have to literally make things happen all on our own.
How can we know if we are using our will incorrectly? My favorite trick is to ask for a sign. Not just any sign, but one which you can clearly understand, one which will be unmistakable to you. Then be ready, for you will most assuredly receive your sign. Be open to understanding its meaning, even if it doesn't produce the answer you want. Should that be the case, maybe it's time for alittle less will and alittle more trust. Trust in the Invisible and Its magnificent plan for you. After all, what better way to merge with your new life experience than being led by the loving hand of Spirit?
April 2011: "What if your dreams are TRUE?"
My childhood was fraught with fears aplenty. Fear of doctors, fear of the dark, fear of water, airplanes, and strangers, and an intense fear of being separated from my mother. In anticipation of being thrust into unfamiliar situations with unfamiliar people, I would make it a point to worry endlessly beforehand. If I began a new school (or, later in life, a new job) I always created a blue print of my unaccustomed surroundings so as never to find myself lost, confused, or tardy. In grammar school I even refused to use the restroom at recess for fear of germs, or worse yet, being late to class.
It didn't help that I came from a long line of expert worriers. My grandmother was founding member of our little club, and my mother saw to it that no worry was ever left untended. Many of their worries centered around the fear of something intangible. Even opening an umbrella in the house elicited panic from Grandma, who truly believed that that simple act would bring bad luck. Sadly, Grandma was overly superstitious about absolutely everything. She also had a terrible fear of being judged. During my growing up years our household mantra was "What will the neighbors think?" Obviously, fear found me ripe for the picking.
Fast forward to adulthood. Clearly, fear was holding me back. By my 20's I HAD managed to conquer air travel , though my fear of what COULD happen at 30,000 feet still lingered. Each time I was to fly, I would wind my worry clock days in advance. The countdown to takeoff was excruciating. How ridiculous it all seems now.
I have found that overcoming fear (or, at least, disabling it to some degree) has essentially proven a three-step approach. First, I have had to clearly identify the fear that I wished to surmount. That was followed by settling on a plan to consciously DO something about the fear. Finally---and this is, of course, the most challenging part---I actually had to carry out that plan.
When I decided, somewhere during my high school years, to attack the problem of my crippling shyness, I would literally force myself to initiate conversation, even if it was nothing more than a "Hello", coupled with an engaging smile. Changes didn't occur overnight, mind you, but the more practiced I became, the more my fear of strangers subsided. Lo, these many years later, people are surprised to find that I carry the shy gene at all.
Whenever diagnosed with an illness, such as adult chickenpox---which I actually had at age 58---I make a habit of reading up on my malady du jour. Armed with the facts, I can lay my fears aside and take charge of my own healing. Certainly, I have faced more serious issues than chickenpox. My husband's cancer, for one. A massive kidney stone which threatened to take my right kidney, for another. In each situation, information-gathering became a lifeline which helped to allay some of my fear-driven anxiety. Like they say, knowledge really IS power.
Of course, the approach to handling fear is always better served when there is a spiritual component. Unfortunately, I did not learn this until I was a young adult. Since that time, however, prayer, meditation, and a deep awareness of my connection to Spirit have been a very necessary part of my process.
Please don't misunderstand---I have NOT entirely succeeded in relinquishing every fear that has ever challenged me. Some still require repeated doses of attention. Nevertheless, as I work through each one, I can't deny that there is a sense of accomplishment and self pride that makes me smile. I may not overcame my fear of putting my face underwater, but, if not, I will, at least, accept that I have chosen NOT to address that fear this lifetime. Afterall, I still live a pretty good life, even if I never learn how to swim.
February 2011: "A Woman Aging Spiritually"
"Dreams are renewable. No matter what our age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us and beauty waiting to be born." This inspiring quote from Dr.Dale E.Turner reminds us that, as long as we can still draw breath, we continue to embody the capability to transform dreams into realities. Got a dream you've given up on? You never know if your very next effort will be the one that turns the corner for you, the one that sends you repelling toward your goal at warp speed.
Just ask any "successful" person about their personal journey toward a respective dream. You will inevitably be treated to a tale of repeated roadblocks, detours, and generally bumpy roads. However, you will probably also become privy to how they stayed the course, endured the hardships, and never gave up. That may not necessarily mean that they never lost faith. Luckily, faith, too, is a renewable commodity.
My own lifelong dream has been to become a published children's author. It has been a sort of stop-and-start journey, full of hope and rejection slips. This has gone on for some years, though I must admit, I have not been constant in my efforts. However, inevitably I always eventually pick up where I left off, yet again sending off a flurry of manuscripts in the renewed desire to touch just one editor's heart. I am not fooling myself. I know that it is an uneven playing field, and that I may not be the odds-on favorite. However, what would I be left with were I not to continue to try? Regret, perhaps. Worse yet, true remorse. Undoubtedly, there would continue to well up within me that ever-nagging question of "what if?"
It is that prospect which bothers me most of all. And it is precisely that which keeps me moving (however ploddingly) at least in the general direction of my dream. When all is said and done, I would like to rest in the knowing that, at the very least, I did make a genuine, repeated, and sincere effort.
The Universe can provide the avenue through which our dreams become tangible, but we must plant the seeds and carefully cultivate the soil in which they are to thrive. We can plant at any time, since the cultivation of dreams is not subject to the weather, but rather to a myriad of conditions, many of which may actually be within our power to manipulate. How much time and energy do you wish to invest in achievement of your dream goal? Much of that is up to you. What attitude will serve you best in working toward your desire? Again, that is something over which you most assuredly possess control. True, there are always the wild cards---those things which arise unexpectedly, or those decisions which rest in the hands of others and ultimately effect us as individuals. Still, if you avoid reaching toward a cherished aspiration, you intentionally deprive yourself of unimagined possibilities, and, perhaps, even success. How will you ever know unless you truly try? And, let's face it---when you look back on your life, do you really want to be just another one of the many to regretfully sigh, "What if?"
January 2011: "How to Turn Loneliness to Your Advantage"
Aging....that one common malady to which none of us is immune. Having just reached a milestone that I never imagined for myself---the age of sixty--I can say with some degree of satisfaction that I am, indeed, grateful for the latest news trumpeting the fact that "sixty is the new fifty". Perhaps this little tidbit has lessened the aging blow to some degree, but I suspect that the underlying reason that I am not slugging down antidepressant is simply that I cannot relate to the number which has been assigned to me. After all, I feel no different than I did the day BEFORE this birthday, when I was still a relatively "young" 59. I still look the same, act the same, and feel the very same inside. Acting younger than my age is something I have aspired to for some time, and, even as I enter my "sunset" years, I have no plan to set that aspect of myself aside. I make no excuses for this, nor do I intend to act and dress in a pathetically inappropriate manner for my age. (And, yes, I do realize that one's perception of what is appropriate is entirely subjective.)
Frankly, the so-called "reality" of aging is lost on me. In my world, age is just an abstract and arbitrary designation, something which humans have conjured up to define their existence. Unfortunately, it has ended up defining us as individuals, as well. Is there ever anything written about a person without age being mentioned? We are literally obsessed by it. You have, no doubt, heard the quote, "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?"
Well, what age would you choose? Close your eyes and ask yourself just how old you really feel, and be honest. No one is listening but you.
Personally, I see aging as an inside job. Sure, over time things happen on the outside, but we actually can modify a great deal of that through our thinking, our behavior, and our habits. Think thoughts of ill health or "oh-my-god-I'm-going -to-be......" (just fill in the blank), and watch how the psyche responds. Convince yourself that you're starting down that slippery slope called "growing old", and eventually your body will respond, too. Much of the aging experience has to do with our attitude toward it. We don't have to give in or give up, we just have to keep moving forward with the same wonder and enthusiasm of our youth.
It's an interesting thing that turning 40, 50, and 60 really never fazed me. Turning 30 sent me into a tailspin. I can only guess that one of the advantages of added years is lessened anxiety about those things which we have no control over. And, I suppose, a gradual realization that aging does not have to detract from one's life, but rather serve as an enhancement to it. I can't turn back the clock, but I can certainly prodceed forward with the intention of living life to the fullest.
The concept of growing old does not exist for me, and, in times past, I have often wondered why. That is, until a very wise person explained it all in just a few brief but profound words. What was the message? "The Spirit within us never ages." So simple, so comforting, and so very true.
November 2010: "Being a Single Woman"
Upon first reading this article's title you might just be prompted to ask, "Oh, and just how so?" Well, having lost my husband five years ago, I do not come to this topic without some degree of experience. Allow me to share with you some of the tools which have worked for me. (These are not magic bullets, just practical coping methods which I have come to over time.) By way of this sharing, you will, hopefully, find some tools that will work in your own life.
First and foremost, it's perfectly okay to acknowledge that you are, indeed, feeling lonely. It is another thing to allow it to become a way of life. Loneliness, for me, has gone from lonely days to intermittently lonely moments, now and again. It's a process, most assuredly. The journey away from loneliness can be a bumpy one, with setbacks aplenty. However, it is not an impossible task, just one with its own timeline. There will, no doubt, need to be some effort involved on your part. In other words, you must participate in your own renewal.
Fix yourself a potent infusion of spiritual sustenance. Read that which is uplifting and empowering. Concentrate on things of a positive nature (which may mean turning off the news, if you have to!) Surround yourself with happy and supportive people and places. And play. Plan activities, take a trip, if even for a day. Go to lunch with the girls...or church, if that draws you. Volunteer. Laugh. Dance. Play music. Sing. Tap into your creative self. Meditate and pray. Make a list of all the things you haven't yet done (and would like to), and then go about doing them.
It sounds like a tall order, but the fact is that anything which you can do to raise your endorphine level will help to keep you from regularly slipping into the abyss of loneliness. Loneliness and depression go hand-in-hand, and both will devour you, if you let them. I am sure that you know this, but I am simply here to remind you. (No nagging, just cold, hard fact.)
Use this time of "aloneness" wisely, for it may simply be an opportunity cleverly disguised as yet another challenge. Get to know yourself. Set goals, attack those projects that you've been putting off. Make this period in your life count for something, and know that, all in all, it's just a temporary glitch in the fabric of your experience. You WILL come out the other side of this, hopefully wiser, stronger, and more self-sufficient than ever. How do I know? I've been there. And survived.
Challenging. Disheartening. Depressing. Nerve-wrecking. Downright scary. In these uneasy times, there may be no better words to describe our financial woes, particularly if one is a single, divorced, or widowed female. As such we are often the sole caretakers of our children, frequently struggling to get by on one (almost always inadequate)income. Our mantra is that there is usually "more month than money", leading us, by necessity, to become masters at the art of creative financing. (I, for one, pride myself on having perfected my skills in this field, over my many years of "jumping high for biscuits", as my Missouri grandmother used to say.)
We single women mentally bombard ourselves with questions, fully half of which probably have to do with money. How can I continue to pay my mortgage? How will I be able to afford to send my kids to college? What if I lose my job? How can I afford those new shoes? (Okay, maybe that last one isn't quite so important.) The point is, more than ever, financial welfare very often sits at the forefront of our thoughts. On some days, it displaces nearly EVERY other thought. Yet, the answer to all of the questions we pose to ourselves is basically a simple one. Simple, that is, but not easy.
The answer is faith---that is, belief, positive expectation, trust in the not-yet-seen. And with that comes the hardest part of all---first, fully applying that trio of faith/trust/belief, and then following it up by releasing the problem. Send it out into Universal Mind, the Spiritual Realm, or whatever name you wish to attach to the Great Unseen Forces, for it's all the same. Like I said, simple but not easy.
Our natural tendency is to want to hold onto what little we have in the mistaken belief that there won't be more to replace it. However, in doing so, we break one of the fundamental laws of the Universe---that of circulation. The great metaphysician Ernest Holmes observed that, "Everything in Nature moves in circles. What goes out must come back." We must KNOW that there is more than adequate supply to meet all of our needs. We do NOT need to know how or where it all will ultimately come from. We do not need to know what it will look like, for abundance comes in many forms. (Maybe someone will gift you with those new shoes!) Nor do we need to be concerned that we may be taking away someone else's good, for there is plenty for all. We need only know that our needs will be fulfilled.
Of course, we must also apply ourselves in our daily lives. There is no reward for bad judgement, especially when it comes to financial irresponsibility or a poor work ethic. However,when we feel satisfied that we have done all that we can do, both in the physical and the mental/emotional/spiritual realms, we must release it all to finally produce the "miracles" which we seek. Don't keep snatching the issue back (though I know it will be tempting), rather just go about your daily life in the unshakable faith that Universal Mind is now the architect of your new-found financial well-being. Never say, "I will be financially secure", but always state your affirmations in the present tense. (Statements in the future tense do just that---they project your good into the future. It is your PRESENT which is in need, right?)
Each day, simply KNOW that faith will surmount the obstacles, trust will unleash the power, and belief will clear the way. Go forward holding in thought those changes which you desire, and be prepared to participate in the great plan as it unfolds before you. Remember, all of that which is now seen once began in the unseen realm of mind. Practice, practice, practice. Your future awaits.
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Hans Christian King
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