Ok I will admit it – I often enjoy working with alternative tools for self-awareness, development, and growth – like Tarot Cards, spiritual intuitive readings, and astrological chartings. One of my favorite tools is a deck of cards by New York Times best-selling author Don Miguel Ruiz, which is based on his best selling book The Four Agreements. The cards offer meditations on each of Ruiz’s four agreements which are: 1) Be impeccable with your word; 2) Don’t take anything personally; 3) Don’t make assumptions; and 4) Always do your best. I was reflecting on the focus of today’s post and decided to pull a card for guidance. I pulled Always Do Your Best and the meditation states: “you are alive, so take your life and enjoy it. You were born with the right to be happy, to love, and to share your love. Just to be – to take a risk and enjoy your life – is all that matters”.
In the wake of grief, I have worked diligently at becoming reacquainted with happiness, to enjoy life, and to feel alive. I have done my best to be where I am today – living fully, doing the inner work required of someone in grief, and taking a chance on life again. Today’s card made me think that “just to be” takes practice and awareness. I equate “to be” with being right here in the moment – in the present. I have learned through my many years of involvement with Landmark Education (www.landmarkworldwide.com) that I frequently live in the past, which I then tend to drag into the future. I have learned that living from this vantage point pretty much guarantees a future that looks like my past. I don’t know about you, but there are many aspects of my past that I don’t care to repeat … EVER. I prefer to see the future as a blank slate filled with a bunch of NOTHING – and from this space of NOTHING – anything and everything is possible. But I get ahead of myself … first I need to be here now – in the moment.
The ability to be in the moment takes practice and a commitment to this practice. I believe being in the now is dependent upon the creation of an anchoring phrase – a phrase that we come back to when we are flooded with feelings that are laced with anxiety and fear. My anchoring phrase is “I am committed to living an empowered life and empowering those whose lives I touch”. I feel fully alive when I support others to live an empowered life – a life that provides them with opportunities to be of service to our poor old world, to fall in love, to laugh, or to be in awe of the mystery of life. I feel alive when I learn, live, love, and laugh. Yes there are significant problems in the world. I am not living in a bubble of ignorance. However, I cannot let those problems drag me down into a space of feeling insignificant, powerless, and disempowered.
Author and Executive Coach Eric Allenbaugh notes that “every choice moves us closer to or farther away from something. Ask yourself: Where are your choices taking you? What do your behaviors demonstrate that you are saying yes or no to in life?” My commitment to the world and myself is that my choices are in alignment with my anchoring phrase. I ask myself “Is this choice going to take me closer to living an empowered life or return me to living in the “sewage” of life? Sometimes I can get back into alignment rather quickly and avoid the sewage – i.e., numbing out or being in the grip of negative and disempowered thinking. Other times I muck about in the sewage for quite a long time and stop keeping my word to others and myself. In the sewage, I am reacting to something I don’t want to confront and often act cavalier and rebellious. No doubt there is wisdom to be gained in the sewage … primarily “LET’S GET OUT OF HERE! THIS IS TOXIC!!”
Where are your choices taking you in your life? A word of caution: if you find yourself heading to a place that has a bad smell and you feel disempowered, you may be stepping into the sewage. When I finally wake up to the bad smell and feelings, I follow a 6 step practice that brings me back to the now: 1) I stop, 2) I breathe, 3) I look around, 4) I reflect and become curious with what I am feeling, what my body is sensing, and what is my mood, 5) I remember and repeat my anchoring phrase, and 6) I decide if I need to take action.
Sometimes this practice is second nature. Oftentimes I may find myself logging onto Amazon to see what I can buy or I head to the refrigerator to find something to eat in order to numb out – and there I am in the sewage! I, like you, am a work in progress. Cheers – we are on the right path. My advice: Be it our right foot or our left, let’s watch out where we step!
I have looked life in the face with open eyes. I have learned that it takes courage to keep both feet in the game of life. I have learned since being on my own that I need to say NO to so many urges and impulses. Saying NO to the impulse is putting off short term gratification. This NO in facts transforms into a YES for long term satisfaction.
I recently interviewed for a full time teaching position. I learned yesterday that I was not chosen for the job. How do I feel? Sad, disappointed, relieved, and angry. What do I want to do in the wake of being told NO? I want to indulge myself with anything and everything: clothes, food, alcohol, a massage, a trip, perfume, etc. Buy, eat, indulge – a very different message than EAT, PRAY, LOVE! My financial reality tells me NO. My commitment to losing 20 lbs this year says NO. I cannot say yes to these impulses in order to mask my feelings for the short term relief. Instead, I am swallowing the multi-layers of reality: I was told no about the job. I am telling myself no to the impulses in order to stay aligned with my goals. Paradoxically, IN THE LONG RUN, I am saying YES to financial integrity, physical health, mental wellness, and prosperity. The meaning of the word prosperity is frequently intertwined with wealth and money. In fact, the word prosperity is actually rooted in a sense of well being NOT how much wealth and money one has, but more so how well one is doing in life.
In her book The Energy of Money, Author Maria Nemeth states that money can be the source of great joy and creativity or it can bring frustration and misery. “Everything we do and dream of is affected by our relationship with this powerful form of ENERGY”. I am creating a new relationship with money – treating it as a friend rather than an unwanted guest who takes up residence in my life. When I go for short term gratification, I disempower myself and don’t acquire the wisdom that comes with waiting for the feelings to be embraced and digested and for the impulse to pass. I sabotage the opportunity to acquire the power I need to live a meaningful and successful life. Because money is energy, the impulses we experience to spend it are actually an effect of an energetic movement, like when the wind moves through our hair.
Maria Nemeth shares a great equation: Knowledge (like establishing goals) plus Wisdom (for example riding out the need to respond to the impulse) Equals POWER (being accountable, staying on track, reaching the goal). So rather than hiding out under my covers today, I went for a 4 mile walk along the ocean. Just say NO to the easy fix and say YES to the possibility of being accountable. Just say YES … you betch’em Red Rider!
Happy New Year! Although I have not written a post since Thanksgiving, I have done a great deal of thinking during the past few weeks about where to go with my posts. I recently recognized that I am ready to move onto topics other than grief. Grief finally found its proper place within my psyche – it is no longer front and center, but instead has settled into a space of compelling awareness. I did not choose this path of learning – it was thrust upon me and took me totally by surprise. As I approach the 4 year anniversary of Roy’s death, I am aware that grief was a bitter learning experience and yet the experience of bitterness allowed me to see how fragile I am and also how strong I am in the fragility.
I have actively engaged in many bodies of work to reach these insights: thrice weekly psychoanalysis, bi-monthly spiritual direction, 5 days a week of intense cardiovascular exercise, daily contemplative prayer and meditation, regular participation in Landmark Education courses, and quarterly readings with an intuitive. I learned last week from my intuitive that Roy has finally arrived “home” after 3 1/2 years of journeying through multi-dimensional fields of space and time – this makes sense because Roy was a rocket scientist after all. Roy is happy in this “promised land” where he has found rest, peace, intellectual companionship, and cosmic aliveness. Since learning of Roy’s arrival to his home destination, I feel free to fully focus with new eyes on my life. Knowing Roy is safe and happy has freed my soul to move onto what is next for me in this incarnation. This liberation has allowed me to move away from grief and to move towards my work with Whispers of Wisdom® in the areas of falling in love as a mature adult, aging, physical fitness, health and sexuality, money, spirituality, and family. In the coming weeks I will be writing about these topics.
The concept of Whispers of Wisdom was born roughly 14 years ago after I attended an 8 hour Live Your Best Life Seminar with Oprah Winfrey in San Francisco. I was exulted by this experience because I had the opportunity to speak to Oprah in front of 2000 people. I acknowledged her work with women and shared that she had inspired me to create more opportunities in my work as a psychotherapist to support women in finding the call of their life. When I later talked to Roy about it, he asked me probing questions as only an intellectual property attorney could do about my passion and Oprah’s inspiration. He was curious about what was being evoked within me about following the call of vocation. I responded that through my work with clients, as well as in my personal life, I was learning that at certain times of an individual’s journey, they are very clear about what needs to be done. Yet at other times it’s hard to hear what our heart and minds or perhaps a higher source of intelligence is trying to tell us to do. I said it’s almost like a whisper at times, difficult to hear and understand, but is filled with so much awareness and wisdom. Then it hit me that we often are listening to inner ‘whispers of wisdom’. He and I both liked the sound of that phrase and Roy began the trademark application process for me. After much contemplation, thinking through, researching, and studying, The Certificate of Registration for Whispers of Wisdom was issued on January 6, 2006.
I have designated 2015 as The Year of Integration. I will be pulling together the threads of the whispers I have heard during the past several years about vocation, being of service, living a full and happy life, and accepting responsibility for designing that kind of life. The topics I mentioned earlier are the crux of life and play a big part in how we create a meaningful life. It is imperative that we learn to decipher and hear the whispers of wisdom that come at the most unusual times and in a variety of different ways. In the weeks ahead I will share how you too can learn to decipher these ‘whispers of wisdom’.
Namaste and Thank You for taking the time to read my posts.
I had a meltdown yesterday and it is only December 2! After an intense session with my analyst, I returned home, ate lunch, and felt exhausted. I took a 2 1/2 hour nap with my cats and woke up feeling tired. Then I spotted the familiar red wrapped boxes in my kitchen. The day before I bought several boxes of See’s candy to give to various people. I didn’t think twice – I ripped open one of the boxes and proceeded to eat 7 pieces of candy. I then made coffee and was able to work for a few hours from the mixture of sugar and caffeine. I felt no guilt. So what was the emotional trigger? I confronted yet again the reality that I miss Roy and our holiday traditions and I am not in a serious love relationship yet (by my own choice). I feel alone.
Last week I decorated my place with our decorations, as well as those of my mother’s that I have. Now she and Roy are both dead – just writing that four letter word “dead” feels sad and heavy. I started playing holiday music on Thanksgiving eve – an annual tradition I started with Roy several years ago. The tradition was a fun and humorous point of contention between us because Roy didn’t really like listening to holiday music all day, every day, for 30 days. So now when I hear the music I reflect on how much I miss his sarcasm about the music and yet, I still love listening to it. I am grateful that I can listen to it again and that I decorated for the holidays.
Three years after Roy’s death, the holidays still warrant critical focus on physical, emotional and spiritual self care. So what am I doing? I have my five day per week exercise routine that I stick to, I eat sensibly and allow for holiday cheer in moderation (the other boxes of See’s candy will be delivered tomorrow and I put the one I attacked in the garbage this morning), I see my analyst, I journal, I work on my projects, I pray as I look at the ocean each morning, I help others by giving my time to charities I support, and I am making plans with friends and family for fun outings between now and January 1, 2015. I am creating balance in my days. I have carved out time for quiet reflection, as well as dates to be with people I love and feel at home with. This is critical for those of us who have endured the loss of loved ones. I don’t believe it is healthy to spend a great deal of time alone or to be so overextended with activities that we are tired and disconnected from our core self. Balance is the name of the game.
As a mental health practitioner and a widow of 3+ years, I know that holidays are particularly hard for those who are grieving. If grief is new to you, then your capacity to plan activities might be hindered – let someone help you plan what you will do or have someone stay with you. The late French author Romain Rolland says: “Be reverent, before the dawning day. Do not think of what will be in a year, or in ten years. Just think of today.” So whether grief is new or familiar, take good care of you right now. Cry, sob, rest, pray, eat, and love – that is enough for this holiday season.
The poet of the sixties, Rod McKuen wrote this short poem: “where do they go the friends who come into our lives like green leaves and leave like melting snow?” I think of this poem today as I remember the sunrise that I saw this morning. I was up early enough to see it because a good friend who lives 80 miles north and had a meeting close to me spent the night and needed to be on the road for her early morning meeting. Because we are participating in an an empowering program about life and relationships, she and I sat this morning with freshly brewed coffee and looked out at the ocean together and discussed men, life, and dating. And there like a magnificent expression of love from nature came this incredible majestic pink sunrise – a gift for both of us. We were in awe as we fell into silence and were at one with the sunrise. Because I was up early with my friend, I was given this gift to start my day. How wonderful is that? Pretty darn wonderful I would say. It has helped me think of this season of Thanksgiving and recall my friends and family. It is through friends that I have healed and that I can take such pleasure again in the richness of a sunrise. This is the season to not only count our blessings but also the time of year to prepare for the darkness of winter. The ancient cultures experienced the darkening of winter as a time for retreat and contemplation. In the darkness they prepared for the eventual return of light. In our modern world we follow similar rhythms in our busy lives: gathering for holidays with friends and family or retreating into nature or homes for quiet self reflection. Our modern psyches require an acknowledgement of the changing seasons and the shortening of days just as our ancestors did.
When I think back to the first Thanksgiving after Roy¹s death, I recognize that grief can be experienced like a season – a winter of the soul. Now that I have emerged from the season of grief, I notice the sunrises, the sadness of friends, the complexities of the world, the joy of my cats, and the awakening sensuality of my life. I am alive, aware and resilient. I often remind myself how is incredible it is to have more and more moments of feeling alive and engaged with the world after such a long season of withdrawal. I find my unfolding relationship to life to be like the new friend McKuen describes.. With luster and the green of new possibility. The grief has melted away … Leaving me moist and fertile for what life has to offer, always aware of the tenuousness of life. I am blessed … And for that I am grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving. Count your blessings … They are there – even in the winter season of grief.
For the past year and a half I have had a chronic need to scratch the top of my head. This is a recurring condition that surfaces when I am under stress. As a result of the scratching, I have a bald spot at the top of my head in the crown chakra area. The crown chakra, Sahasrara in the Hindu tradition, is associated with one’s relationship to the eternal, a higher power, or God. Health issues associated with the crown chakra include nervousness and skin disorders. When I am nervous, anxious, bored, daydreaming, or driving my hand will make its way up to the spot. I feel soothed while I scratch this spot – similar to how one feels while biting her nails. I want this to stop but have not found the correct modality for stopping the itch. I know I am itching to soothe something – the continuing anxiety that has accompanied me since Roy’s death. Or maybe I itch to soothe the anger and rage that I feel about the unfairness of life. Or perhaps my spiritual life is demanding more attention.
This week I made an appointment with a cranial sacral practitioner (www.upledger.com) to see if she could help me. The minute I walked into her office I felt a sense of calm. I became tearful as I explained my issue and outlined all that I have been dealing with since Roy’s death. She was very compassionate and reflected back to me that it was apparent to her that I have worked very hard to get to the place I am today. We proceeded with my session and at end she asked that I talk to the sore spot on my head and see what it could tell me. She left the room and placed a piece of blank paper on her desk. She suggested that I write down what I heard. I heard the spot tell me that it was angry at God for taking Roy from me. For the next 24 hours I did not scratch my head – this was the longest period of relief in 18 months. It would seem that my spiritual life is asking for attention.
Metaphysical and intuitive healer Louise Hay writes about self healing and the mind-body connection. I checked her book You Can Heal Your Life for some ideas. In this book, Hay discusses that the body, like everything else in life, is a mirror of our inner thoughts and beliefs. Our bodies are always talking to us – we just need to take the time to listen. She states that THE HEAD represents our sense of ourselves. It is what we show the world. When something is wrong with the head area, it typically means we feel something is wrong with “us”.
So what does this all mean to me, my life and this latest episode of head scratching? My mind is overworked by the continuing acclimation to this strange new world as a single woman. In some ways I continue to feel odd as a single woman. However, at the same time, I am dating men and am learning to enjoy how it feels to get close to some of them. “Getting close” involves being vulnerable and opening up about me, my life, and my dreams. Not too surprisingly “getting close” raises stress levels – I wonder consciously and undoubtedly unconsciously about how am I being seen by these new men – am I accepted and acceptable?
As Louise Hay notes, the head represents our sense of self. I believe the head scratching is how my body is letting me know that I worry about being accepted more than I am consciously aware of. In other words, unconsciously the symptom is scratching at me to be recognized. Bottom line: Will I ever be loved by another man as I was by Roy. More so, will I love myself well enough to stand tall in my new life as a single woman and be secure whether I meet a new special someone or not?
I will continue to work with my cranial sacral practitioner. I already have a better understanding about the mind-body-spiritual connection. On many conscious levels all is well in my world. I think this regularly and proceed “full steam ahead”. The top of my head however is saying “Pay Attention … Go slowly … Something is bubbling to the surface”. I am learning to manage this nervous scratching/soothing habit by talking to the top of my head … Asking questions like “what do you want to tell me”. Then I sit and reflect while looking out at the ocean from my terrace. I am calmed by the eternal nature of the ocean and am connecting to my understanding of the Divine. The journey of grief waxes and wanes – my body and spirit know this in many ways that my mind does not.
Recently I was asked why I share such personal information on my blog. The questioner stated that he could not imagine “revealing” this kind of material in a public forum. I have been thinking about this query for the past couple of weeks. The verb to reveal comes from the 14th century old French reveler which means to uncover, to disclose, to “unveil”. The mission of my blog is to share my personal story, inform, educate, and ultimately contribute to the well-being of others who have lost a significant other and are attempting to find their footing in the new world in which they are living. In order to do this, I must “remove the veil” that could keep a distance between me and you my reader about the real experiences I encountered along my journey. I am compelled to tackle the deeper/harder issues that one encounters during grief because I believe the spirit of my experience will come through and reach people more authentically than if I stayed hidden behind a veil of discretion or academic writing. I can talk about my descent to the underworld of grief, as well as my ascent back to the world of the living. I am a straight shooter and believe that declarative writing serves me best because it allows me to make my experiences known thus allowing me to offer reflections and hopefully a life line to others. The late Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung talks about the value of going into the depths of one’s experience in order to open oneself beyond the personal ego. He believed that individuals grow continually in psychic awareness by paying attention to dreams, exploring the worlds of religion and spirituality, and questioning the assumptions of the operant societal world views.
I had a very important dream roughly two weeks after Roy’s death. In the dream, I am in Israel and dressed in the clothes that I wore to Roy’s funeral – an ankle length black skirt, a black blouse and vest and black sandals. I am walking on an old cobblestone road and I notice the architecture of buildings from ancient Israel. I am leading the funeral procession of friends and family to the cemetery. Roy’s casket is behind me in a horse drawn cart and following the casket is a very large group of family members and friends. At one point I look back at the group and tell them to settle down as they were too boisterous and not showing the decorum I felt was fitting to the occasion. As I turn back to look ahead, I see another funeral procession approaching us. The group draws closer and I see a Moslem woman veiled and dressed in black. She is accompanied by two family members on either side of her. I recognize she is also a widow. I take note that I walk alone and in front of the others and she is supported by two loving family members. I tell my family and friends to move to the side and let the Moslem procession pass by. As the black draped widow passes me, she and I turn toward each other and bow. We then stand up and look each other in the eyes – her black eyes are strained and filled with despair. My blue eyes are filled with tears. In the moment that our eyes connect, I know that we are acknowledging the universal pain that women have carried for centuries. Women are typically the ones who meet the caskets of husbands, sons, and daughters killed in war.
This dream told me that my pain was not only personal but one being shared by thousands of women at the same time all around the world. Women from very different cultures were experiencing pain like mine and in an odd and comforting way, I was not entirely alone in my pain. The dream spoke of my response and the other widow’s response to death, grief, and widowhood. Through our eye to eye contact, we recognized a part of our self in the other.
I hope that up to this point my posts have revealed to you that my journey of grief was gnarly. I needed a great deal of psychological, spiritual, and loving support from a diverse team of professionals, clergy, family, and close friends. Many of my family members and friends worried about me and were concerned whether I would make it back in tact to the land of the living. I think it is evident from my posts that I have returned with a depth of perspective and a wealth of experience. Life has never felt so sweet to me as it does now. For this sweetness, I am eternally grateful.
The moral of my story: Never give up on yourself or life.
Project 1-15-15 is mired in celebration, joy, passion, and well-being. I am blogging, being of service, releasing weight, being social, participating in Landmark Education, and I am healthy. Mazel tov to the possibility of life, l’chaim to life. My personal suffering has lifted and I am completely available to the possibilities that life presents daily. I am experiencing a growing trust in the process of living, loving, and laughing.
The late psychologist Erik Erickson states that trust is the first skill we learn as an infant – trust in mother to come to us when we cry, trust that we are protected from harm’s way, and trust that we will thrive in life. These are the building blocks that lead us to develop a sense of trust in ourselves. I am learning to trust me in this new phase of life. I am fully celebrating the re-emerging passion I feel growing within me each day.
In his poem “Everything is Going to Be All Right”, Irish poet Derek Mahon states “there will be dying, there will be dying, but there is no need to go into that … The sun rises inspite of everything and the far cities are beautiful and bright … Everything is going to be all right.”
I know more intimately than ever before that everything IS going to be all right. I have recognized that there is both sorrow and joy and this is the essence of life. People will die, I will die, wars will break out, disease will kill, and the beauty of a sunrise will make my heart quicken. Everything is going to be all right.
In my last post I spoke about my new project 1-15-15 which encompasses the rediscovery of my physical, sexual, and emotional well-being. Way back when I was a young woman, I imagined by the age of 60 that I would have all the answers, be totally together, and be congruent with the world in which I live. Now that I am 61 and in the process of rediscovery, I can honestly admit that I don’t know what it looks like to be a whole woman who is sexy, smart, and resilient. However, from this space of not knowing, I encounter the UNKNOWN and all of its incredible possibilities and opportunities. What I do know, whether I like it or not, is that life will throw things my way when I least expect it.
The day after I last posted, I had such an opportunity when I attended a lovely cocktail party at a dear friend’s home. When I arrived at the party, I felt comfortable in my skin and was delighted to be there. I had the good fortune to meet with a lovely couple in their 80s who told me how they met 25 years ago after losing each of their spouses. I was happy to hear that they found love again after suffering through grief and loss. As I was leaving the party and saying goodbye to the woman, she told me I was beautiful and looked much younger than my age. As I was saying thank you, she added “but you are too fat and that is unacceptable for meeting men”. Wow … from utopia to hell in 30 seconds or less. I was stunned into silence by her comment. I mumbled that I gained a great deal of weight after my husband died and was in the process of losing it and getting back into shape. What I wanted to really do was slap her across the face and scream at her for being cruel and insensitive.
I left the party in a state of dismay. I thought through how I wanted to handle the situation. I spoke to my closest confidants – both men and women – and was supported in how to handle this lack of integrity on the woman’s part. The following week I saw her at another party. I was pleasant upon arrival, but knew it was important to let her stew in her own juices for awhile before I spoke with her. An hour and a half later I approached her and we spoke. I took her hand and looked her directly in the eyes. I told her that her comments to me were unacceptable and offensive. I also stated that I do not tolerate women treating each other like this. She apologized profusely and felt ashamed. She and I talked for quite awhile and we each had a healing experience. I stood in my power and she humbled herself in the face of truth and integrity.
This experience provided me the opportunity to step into my authority and allowed her to take responsibility for her actions. This was a powerful moment in my journey towards being true to who I am and NOT to the cultural standards that dictate who women are supposed to be in the world. The moral of the story is be true to who you are and to constantly challenge social and cultural expectations that weigh both women and men down. No pun intended of course!