Sunday, October 27, 2013

When Pain Leaves A Calling Card

It is quite normal for us to move away from pain when it shows up in our lives. Whether it is emotional or physical, imaginary or real, our own or another's, pain is something we learned to move away from a long time ago. Much of that has do to with basic survival; if it hurts our instincts tell us to get away from it at all costs right?

It makes perfect sense to get away from painful things when we are talking about physical pain being caused by some kind of outside stimulus such as fire or being physically assaulted or some such event. Today I'd like to talk about emotional and physical pain that shows up without the outside stimulus. This kind of pain requires a very different response yet for the most part we treat it the same way, we tend to do anything we can to get rid of it without another thought.

I'd like to offer another perspective. What if the emotional and physical pain that arises within are not the enemy but rather messengers handing us calling cards inviting us to look at something that needs our attention? What if it is a way for inner being to communicate about something that is being resisted or misinterpreted or simply not in alignment with who we really are?

When I think of all the emotional pain I have experienced in my life  there is not one instance where it did not have something to do with some expectation or desire that was not being met or some event that I was interpreting through unresolved memories. I spent what seems like lifetimes trying to manipulate my world and the people in it to get what I needed, even though I didn't know what that even was most of the time, or conversely giving up in frustration and disappointment. I've done plenty of bouncing back and forth between those two extremes until I finally realized the pain was not my enemy, it was the out picturing of my own distorted thoughts and my ineffective coping mechanisms.

In relationship emotional (which eventually turns into physical) pain is an opportunity to connect when we realize it has an important message for us. We can learn to pay attention to the thoughts associated with the pain and see them for what they really are, projections and assumptions and expressions of unmet needs. If I have a need to feel safe or wanted or appreciated doesn't it make more sense to  turn around and bring reassurance to that innocent being within who feels the need rather than being angry at my partner for not meeting it? Believe it or not that isn't even their job! The problem is that we usually don't even realize what we really need because we simply react to the pain and don't take the time to be still and look at what's really going on.

Our partners in life are not here to meet our every need if we are to grow beyond our wounded child self concept. They can walk with us and bring up our unresolved pain but the truth is they didn't cause it and they aren't the ones who have to do something about it, we are. We can compassionately receive the pain, become aware of what's really going on and give ourselves the kind of attention we have been longing for. When we share this process with our partners, not demanding anything of them but rather including them and allowing them to be present with us in our vulnerability then we open the door to whole new levels of connection and authenticity.

It truly is a wondrous and beautiful experience to embrace our pain and our partners with love rather than expectation. It generally takes a lot of practice and there are plenty of false starts but the rewards a more than worth it if we really want to share our lives with another or simply live authentically and joyfully.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Doing What I Love

It seems I so rarely take the time to write these blog posts of late. Much of it is because it has been a busy time and when I am on the computer I am usually researching and writing services or looking for appropriate songs.

I love the process of preparing for end of life services and weddings and baby namings (don't do many of these but I love it when I do). It's a sacred time for me to connect with the spirit of the loved one lost and their family or the couple who is entering a new phase in their lives. I also get to meet all kinds of people and be witness to the many different ways people deal with both loss and new beginnings.

 Sometimes I feel very connected to the families I work with and sometimes I do not. This is a normal part of the process because we all deal with grief and change very differently. Some become more vulnerable, others more guarded. Each one is precious however and I honour the many ways we all deal with life.

At this moment I am feeling very introspective and am particularly aware of the sacredness of life itself. In the stillness of the moment I feel the blessing of peace and the wonder of the mystery and majesty of the ever unfolding universe in all its diversity and beauty. I am grateful for the times I share with others and for the quiet moments alone as I do what I love to do.

Just feeling so much appreciation for it all and wanted to share that with you who happen to read this.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Alternatives to Traditional Religious Funerals

In today’s world more and more people are looking for ways to remember and celebrate the lives of loved ones who have died in more personal and non-religious ways. Sadly, some people actually forgo services altogether because they are not aware that their funeral or memorial service does not have to be a religious one.

When I was younger I used to think funerals were no big deal, I didn’t think I’d even want any kind of farewell ceremony. I really had no idea of the significance of this important rite of passage not only for the individual who has died but for family and friends who are bereaved.

For some reason in our culture there seems to be a kind of denial of death and grieving. People often want to just gloss over their losses and pretend it’s no big deal; I was one of those at one time.

Death, however, is one of the great mysteries we all live with in some form or other every day. Whether it is a far away event or right in our own family death is a constant, as are all the changes we undergo in a lifetime. Birth and death are inexorably tied to one another just as love and grief are two sides of the coin called sharing our lives with one another.

When we lose someone who is dear to us it changes us at a fundamental level. We don’t just get over that kind of loss; we learn to live with it. A farewell ceremony is not only about remembering the loved one lost; it is also about honoring the grief that is being deeply felt by those who are left behind.  It is a time to acknowledge that the relationship we’ve had with our loved one while it isn’t over, certainly has changed. 

Today there is a growing trend toward ceremonies that are more celebrations of life where the focus is on the person rather than on religious beliefs. A good celebrant can customize the service to suit the beliefs and desires of the family rather than obligatory traditions. Sharing stories and pictures, speaking of life and death, coming together to support and be supported in community are all part of the farewell ceremony as well as being important parts of the grieving process.

Even though religious ceremonies have traditionally been the format for this important passage, if you are not religious it doesn’t mean you have to forsake your beliefs to have a service and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. Most funeral directors have a list of funeral celebrants who can assist families who prefer a non-religious service or you can look online to find celebrants in your area.

Don’t forgo this most important aspect of dealing with loss. Every life deserves to be celebrated and every person experiencing loss deserves to be acknowledged.

Friday, October 4, 2013

But I've Dealt With That

It is not uncommon for me to hear the comment 'It can't be about that, I thought I had dealt with that' from people who have done a lot of personal/spiritual work.

Many of us have been delving deep into the mind for a long time and have come to realize the kinds of thoughts and beliefs that have been driving us and making us unhappy. We've brought love to it, we've questioned, we've changed our minds, we've done affirmations, you name it; so why is it those old beliefs keep cropping up and creating havoc in our lives?

All too often people think they've failed somehow or done something wrong when they find themselves unwittingly caught up in old thought patterns. From my perspective this is not the case. Having 'dealt' with a pattern doesn't necessarily mean it is gone from our lives, though sometimes that does happen. Most often however what it really means is that when we become aware of false beliefs  we can deal with them with much more ease and in a much timelier fashion.

For example, I have a deeply held thought pattern of lack. It is easy for me to fall into it's clutches because it is so very familiar. It's also much easier now for me to notice when I have fallen prey to this insidious idea and bring new energy to  it. By new energy I mean bring soothing to that in me which is afraid and remind myself gently that it simply isn't the truth. If I am in a phase where business is quiet, which is when the thought tends to arise, instead of dwelling on what I perceive to be missing I can gently shift my focus to appreciating how much I do have and how much beauty and wonder there is in my life. I can also short circuit the future focused thoughts from dire ones to wondering about what amazing things this space might bring forth. There is so much more available than what my limited thinking can even imagine why stay caught up on those things that make me unhappy?'s the thing I want to convey about the idea 'I thought I dealt with that'; even if you have, the old pattern of thought will most likely show up again when circumstances come up that remind you of it in some way. It's OK, the old belief is still floating around but so are millions of other ways of seeing what is happening right now. You don't have to hitch your wagon to the most familiar thought, you can try on a new idea, a new thought or simply let yourself rest in the field of unlimited possibility until you spot something new and more in alignment with who you are becoming.

Be gentle with yourself in the process; there is nothing wrong with you even if you did get lost for a time.  Learn to recognize the signs that tell you when you've gotten caught up in old patterns. Some signs might be:
1) Getting upset easily at the most trivial things
2) Feeling uncomfortable and restless
3) Being angry with others when they are caught up in their patterns
4) Getting into compulsive behaviours (over eating, drinking, shopping, sleeping, etc)
You get my drift.

Pay attention, be kind to yourself and find another way of seeing whatever is making you unhappy. Do it as often as you need to, even if it is for the rest of your life. Who knows when the old thought might get tired of showing up? Sure beats falling into the trap of giving up because 'it didn't work'.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What To Do With Those Pesky Thoughts

In the last post I talked about self-soothing, dealing with the painful and uncomfortable feelings that arise from time to time (or almost constantly for some).

Today I'd like to say a few words about what you can do with the thoughts that are likely rolling around in your head bringing up those uncomfortable feelings. More often than not, we are not even aware of the thoughts behind our feelings mainly because we are so used to them that we either don't notice them or we simply believe them to be true so what are you going to do?

Thoughts that generate pain are simply ideas and belief we have about what is going on in our lives. They are usually assumptions we made long ago in similar circumstances that have become beliefs and the lens through which we tend to view the world as adults. It is our way of filling in the gaps between what we are witnessing and what we don't know, which is a lot.

Because of our discomfort with not knowing it is normal for humans to give meaning to what we see or experience. We do it so quickly that we don't even realize that is what we've done. The truth is however that 99% of the time we give meaning to situations based on our beliefs, not on what is happening. That is a huge part of the self-created illusion we live in.

When we stop, take a breath and do a little self-soothing around uncomfortable feelings, if we also take the time to ponder what we've been thinking about this situation we can uncover all kinds of interesting little tidbits of information that we've been buying hook, line and sinker. When we experience fear there are likely thoughts of being in danger somehow even though none really exists. When you notice thoughts like, 'I'm in trouble', or 'they won't like me anymore', or 'I've done something wrong' or (insert your own habitual thoughts) when you may not have done anything at all for instance,  it's time to question those thoughts and remind yourself that you don't really know any of what you've been thinking.

A cautionary note, don't argue with the thoughts and assumptions you become aware of, that will only strengthen them and cause you to become defensive; the trick is to gently question and compassionately remind yourself that what you're thinking is not likely the truth; the truth is you don't know what this means. Here is a great opportunity to start making peace with the reality of not knowing. We simply don't know why things happen most of the time; we don't know what things mean most of the time; we certainly don't know what the future holds, ever. Things can change so fast it makes my head spin sometimes.

I don't know. Very powerful words and a very powerful place to start from when you want to know the truth about what is going on. In relationship, when we can be vulnerable enough to admit we don't know what we thought we knew, an opening is created where we can actually connect with each other, talk about what is going on, ask questions, clarify for ourselves what is going on inside of us, build connection instead of distance. The possibilities are endless.

Don't buy into the idea that you know what anything means even if you've had all kinds of experiences to confirm it. Of course you did, that was how you interpreted things in the past so of course that is how you saw it, that's the way consciousness works. This is a new day, a new moment, a new opportunity to break out of old patterns.

It truly is a beautiful thing this not knowing.