Living Your Personal Revolution

(inspired by Broadway’s Hamilton: An American Musical)

hamilton

by Metta Sweet Edge, LCSW, MAT

I’m past patiently waitin’. I’m passionately
smashin’ every expectation,
Every action’s an act of creation!
I’m laughin’ in the face of casualties and sorrow,
For the first time, I’m thinkin’ past tomorrow.
(My Shot, Hamilton: An American Musical)

I wouldn’t have become a therapist if I hadn’t personally experienced the healing power of telling my story. Speaking about where we came from, where we are now, and where we long to be, helps us define and discover who we are. Daring to speak of the depths of our fears, desires, confusions, and longings, brings meaning and mattering into our lives in a way that’s hard to put into words. And even those words—that talking, that speaking—can and do fall short.  Indeed, “there are moments that the words don’t reach” (It’s Quiet Uptown, Hamilton: An American Musical).

This is when the magic of creativity can help. Clearly, “art imitates life.” In the process of healing, growing, and discovering a deeper sense of one’s life, art can be used as a powerful ally to pull all the pieces together. During the course of working with clients, I often draw from music, poetry, books, biography, and the performing arts to help illuminate or deepen the therapy process.

Most clients find references to pieces of art in session to be engaging and enjoyable. They often see themselves and the piece in new ways and draw new and/or deeper connections with both. Most clients also easily talk about how books, music, and performances immeasurably helped them during their childhood and adolescence by reflecting their own story and experience. At the time, most kids and adolescents are not able to consciously realize the therapeutic benefit of the art they encounter. Self-respect strengthens as a client recognizes their own intuitive ability to find connection and healing on their own through art.

I have the great fortune of clients bringing art that’s meaningful to them to share with me in their therapy. Not only do I get the privilege of hearing about all kinds of artistic expressions that have touched my client in some way, but I also get to have another lens through which to view their experience. This allows me to draw from both the client’s story and the artistic story to support and expand the client’s self-exploration and discovery. Then, in turn, I can bring this full circle and introduce the same piece to other clients and see how they benefit. I enjoy and find hope in witnessing how, in sharing what touches us, we can help others we don’t even know in a way we never imagined.

The current record-breaking Tony nominated, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway production, Hamilton: An American Musical, is one such gem. This musical is based upon another piece of work (Ron Chernow’s New York Times bestselling biography, Alexander Hamilton) which is based upon a man’s life (a Founding Father of the United States, Alexander Hamilton, 1755-1804): a story inspired by a story inspired by a story.

I will always treasure the gift of being introduced to Hamilton by a client. Not only does it help me work with my client, this musical and its vast cultural reach represents so much of what drives my desire to practice psychotherapy: to respect and honor an individual life and participate in a personal revolution that can, in turn, have an impact on the greater community.

Defined by Merriam-Webster, a revolution is “a sudden, radical, or complete change” and “a fundamental change in political organization; especially the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed.” As applied to one’s personal life, the political is personal: overthrowing negative beliefs and relationships and bringing the unconscious conscious in the journey to live a free and empowered life.

How to do just that is outlined in Hamilton with commanding clarity in a succession of song and story-telling (songs/sections in italics):

1) Who am I because of AND despite of how I started? Alexander Hamilton

2) Do I matter enough to myself to take the opportunities my life presents? My Shot

3) Can I remember that personal choice remains despite opportunities and challenges? Wait for it

4) What do I want to free myself FROM? What beliefs, behaviors, relationship patterns do I want to change or break? (What’s my personal revolution?) Act I

What do I want to be free TO do? How do I nurture, support, and foster those new beliefs, behaviors and relationships and build a better future for myself, my loved ones, my community? Act II

5) How will I love? How will I stay committed to that love? And, when I fail, how will I seek and find forgiveness?  Helpless, Satisfied, Say No To This, It’s Quiet Uptown

6) How do I balance my drive to produce/create with relationships I hold dear (work/life balance)? Can I temper compulsive drives? Non-Stop, Take a Break, Hurricane

7) What do I want my legacy of love to be? Can I accept the limits of my control? Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, Hamilton, includes so much of what I find myself helping people with in therapy—assimilating and understanding the first twenty formative years of life and then using the very skills we developed during those years to release that which is no longer necessary or useful. The first song is simply the name of the person the story is about: Alexander Hamilton. It crystallizes the first twenty years of his life in carefully crafted detail. The remaining forty-five songs are the resilience, reckoning, and reconciliation of his personal history—a childhood of poverty, the abandonment by his father at age ten, the illness and death of his mother when he was fourteen, and the devastation of his town by a hurricane. Orphaned, Hamilton makes his way to a “new land” by a combination of will, intellect, community support, and hope to leave a legacy showing his worth. His desire to demonstrate that he matters and that he wants to have an impact inspires us to see our lives similarly: no matter who we are and what our beginnings, our lives, in fact, do matter and can make an impact on our world. This inspires us all to say and live: “I’m not throwing away my shot” (My Shot, Hamilton).

People come to me with their name first. We spend time on the initial “song” of their childhood and adolescence. So much of what ensues also follows the story of Hamilton: developing the resilience to “rise up” (My Shot, Hamilton) from the ashes of our beginnings, valuing ourselves enough to courageously take our “shot” at this gift of life using the skills we’ve gained along the way, finding love and failing in it, only to find it again in an even deeper way, feeling fear and enduring loss, not doing it perfectly and seeking forgiveness. “Can you imagine?” (It’s Quiet Uptown, Hamilton).

I absolutely believe that the purpose of therapy is to have a personal revolution— overturning the oppression of the past and the authorities outside of self that no longer reflect who we are. I find meaning and value in my legacy of helping others live their own “Declaration of Independence” and, in so doing, change their world in the name of Freedom—for self, for love and for all.

 

References and Suggested Reading:

Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. Penguin Books, 2005.

Hamilton, An American Musical. Dir. Kail, Thomas. Richard Rogers Theater, 2015.

Miranda, Lin-Manuel and McCarter, Jeremy. Hamilton, The Revolution. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016.

 

 

 

 

Posted in 2016 Articles, Abuse & Trauma Recovery, Metta's Articles, Multicultural Issues & Diversity, Relationships & Intimacy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Rising Strong

 

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
– C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

 

Brené Brown is at it once more. In her #1 New York Times best-selling work, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown shared the message “Be you.” Her 2012 tome Daring Greatly furthered this message to include the directive, “Be all in.” In her latest work, Rising Strong, Brown continues her mission with the invitation to “Fall. Get up. Try again.”

 

Failing can be such a frightening experience, so frightening that it can keep us from even trying. Rising Strong is about overcoming our failures and giving ourselves permission to fail, fall, and try again.

 

Brown’s Rising Strong process has three steps. First is the Reckoning, in which you realize that you are having an emotional reaction and become curious as to why. Second is the Rumble, where you acknowledge your genuine emotions and confront any fabrications and false assumptions you may have made. You decide what is useful about your reaction and what you want to change. In the third step, the Revolution, you use what you have discovered about yourself to write a new, better story, in order to live a more wholehearted life.

 

For me, the best “a-ha!” moment of the book was about realizing that we make up stories that chip away at our self-confidence and hurt our relationships. In typical Brené Brown fashion, the author manages to be both erudite and folksy, offering plenty of examples from her personal life to illustrate her research findings.  For instance, Brown describes the time she and her family were on vacation, and she went for a swim across the lake with her husband. Surrounded by the dazzling summer beauty of the lake and feeling deep affection for her husband, she felt a welling up of joy and sense of vulnerability. She told her husband how glad she was that they were enjoying the water together. When he responded with a half-hearted, “Yeah. Water’s good,” and swam away from her, her emotional reaction was embarrassment, closely followed by shame. While she had attempted to embrace her vulnerability and use the moment as an opportunity for connection, his lackluster response led her to question herself. Realizing that as a renowned shame and vulnerability researcher, she ought to practice what she preached, she tried again. She caught up with her husband and told him, “This is so great. I love that we’re doing this. I feel so close to you.” His response before taking off again? “Yep. Good swim.” Before they reached the water’s edge and the end of their swim, Brown made up stories about what was going on with her husband. Maybe he was silently berating her for being such a slowpoke. Maybe he was repulsed by how she looked in her bathing suit. Maybe he wanted a divorce!

 

At this point in the narrative, Brown had a choice. She could believe her made-up stories, feel embarrassed, angry, and disconnected, or she could try again and do something different. So she steeled herself, rising up, and shared with him the stories she was making up. As a result, her husband shared with her that he had been having a panic attack throughout the entire swim, triggered by a nightmare he’d had the night before about their children drowning in the lake. Brené’s thoughts had been hijacked by   body-image fear (the most common shame trigger for women). Her husband’s dream had stirred his anxiety about not being able to protect the children and awakened his fear of being weak (the most common shame trigger for men).

 

Brown reckoned with her emotions by acknowledging her feelings of embarrassment and shame, getting curious about how those feelings were linked to her thoughts and behaviors. She rumbled around the stories she’d made up (“my husband thinks I’m a terrible swimmer, I’m unattractive, and he doesn’t want me”) and dug deep to find a willingness to revisit, challenge, and fact-check the stories. She told her husband the stories she’d made up so that he could give her a reality check. She experienced a revolution when she and her husband were able to find the courage to trust one another with their honesty and vulnerability.

 

John and Julie Gottman, psychologists and renowned experts on marital stability, run the Gottman Institute, which is devoted to helping couples build and maintain loving, healthy relationships based on scientific studies. The Gottmans found that throughout a given day, partners make requests for connection, what the Gottmans call “bids.” For example, say that a husband notices a hawk fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that majestic bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, according to the Gottmans. Though the hawk-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The Gottmans found that these bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs. Returning to the swimming example, we can see how Brené’s husband “turned away” from her initial “bid” for connection. Her belief in the power of vulnerability gave her the strength to make an additional bid, despite her fear. Her own risk-taking – falling and getting back up – led to a return bid from her husband and a turning point in their relationship.

 

As we reckon our stories, Brown pushes readers to feel and recognize our emotions and then get curious enough about them to dig a little deeper. Doing so, she writes, keeps us from offloading our hurts in a variety of unproductive ways: lashing out our hurts, bouncing our hurts away as if they don’t matter, numbing our hurts through one or more methods, stockpiling our hurts by keeping everything inside, or getting stuck in our hurt. In the chapter on reckoning, Brown offers realistic strategies for reckoning with emotion and healing the hurt.

 

If the reckoning is the spark that ignites our stories, the rumble is the self-examination that fans the flames. The goal of the rumble is to challenge our stories, to really investigate the link between our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. This requires a willingness to confront our assumptions and beliefs, often by checking with our partners, friends, and family members. Brown calls this “mining for truths.” Taking the risk to show vulnerability can be scary, but it can lead to more deeply connected relationships, a sense of personal power, and infinite joy.

 

“Take all of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all of your so-called problems,
Better put ’em in quotations
Say what you need to say …
Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open …”
– John Mayer, Say

 

The revolution is what comes after the rumbling. It’s the act of rising strong, but it cannot be done before all the prior work. Revolution is the act of intentionally choosing authenticity and worthiness (as an act of resistance to shame) in this world.

 

Rising strong is hard work. It requires mindful attention to our emotions, casting a spotlight on feelings that we might prefer to stuff down inside. Rising strong demands that we question, challenge, and confront our beliefs about ourselves – and what we imagine others believe about us. Once we get to a place of truth, we become part of the revolution toward wholehearted living. When we fall again – and we will fall again – we can utilize the skills that Brown has consolidated, to allow us to Rise Strong. Again and again.

 

“This time you’ve got nothing to lose
You can take it, you can leave it
Whatever you choose
I won’t hold back anything
And I’ll walk a way a fool or a king
Some love is just a lie of the mind
It’s make believe until its only a matter of time
And some might have learned to adjust
But then it never was a matter of trust”
– Billy Joel, A Matter of Trust

 

Recommended Reading:

 

Brown, Brené. Daring Greatly. New York: Gotham Books, 2012.
Brown, Brené. The Gifts of Imperfection. Center City, MN: Hazeldon, 2010
Brown, Brené. Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution.  New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015.
Gottman, John. Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

 

Posted in 2016 Articles, Lisa's Articles, Mind-body-spirit Integration | Leave a comment

Harnessing the Power of Habits

habits

By Molly Keeton Parnell, PhD

As the end of 2015 approaches, many set goals for 2016. New Year’s resolutions are a common practice yet are met with varying degrees of success. Some find resolutions to be a powerful step toward positive change. Others put energy into setting them but do not achieve them. And still others do not even bother with the process, as time has shown their past resolutions to be unsuccessful.

In her latest book, Gretchen Rubin devotes herself to the study of habits. She defines a habit as “a behavior that is recurrent, is cued by a specific context, often happens without much awareness or conscious intent, and is acquired through frequent repetition”. Once something becomes a habit it requires no decision on our part because the decision has already been made. A parent who walks their child to school every day does not decide each day how to get them to school. It is a habit to walk, so each day they walk. Deviating from this plan requires a new decision, such as deciding to drive on a particularly cold day.

It takes a decision and willpower to get the habit started. But once ingrained, habits free us from having to make decisions or harness our willpower. Rubin describes the power of habits to be similar to cruise control. When they work to our benefit, we can relax into them and save our mental energy for other things.

Rubin posits that there are four tendencies related habit formation. We can think of these similarly to personality types, and each of us will fit into one general tendency. Knowing your tendency may be helpful when striving to reach a new goal. The four types include upholders, questioners, obligers, and rebels.

UPHOLDERS develop habits the most easily of any of the tendencies. While it is not easy for any person to develop a new habit, upholders simply follow through.  They are quite responsive to both inner and outer expectations. Once an upholder makes a commitment, s/he does not seem to struggle against it. Whether it is a plan that only affects themselves or if an agreement has been made with others, upholders complete the task at hand (and often times finish early). Upholders prefer to know what is expected and to fully understand the rules.

QUESTIONERS respond to expectations that make sense to them. They do not blindly follow what is being asked but instead evaluate it based on their own sense of reason. It needs to appear logical and fair in order for the questioner to get on board with it, and as such, they are not as influenced by outer expectations. In most cases they need to do their own research and make up their own mind before signing on for a new habit. A questioner will not just begin an exercise program or start taking a new vitamin because they are “supposed to”. For a questioner to develop a new habit, they must believe in it.  Rubin notes that this tendency can go in two different directions, with some questioners having more of an upholding style and others having a rebelling style.

OBLIGERS are people who will do what is expected of them by others but often have a difficult time acting in accordance with internal expectations. Their motivation comes from outside accountability. They are very reliable people. Obligers react positively to deadlines, avoiding late fees, and fear letting others down. They may feel that a promise to oneself can easily be broken but that a promise made to others is sacred. Obligers can trick their way into forming new habits by setting up external accountability, such as by taking a class where there will be deadlines and expectations. Obligers also do well in finding an accountability partner, who will check in with them on their goals and progress.

REBELS are a group that strongly resists expectations, whether internally or externally defined. Rebels are drawn toward personal freedom, and choice is a key component of this. They tend to react against anything that feels like control, even if this is self-control.  While rebels resist doing things that they feel they are expected to do, they can still accomplish great things. The key for a rebel may be finding the right trick to get around their rebellious attitude. Rubin provides several useful examples of strategies that may work for rebels. For example, a rebel who wants to make better financial decisions may react against the idea of a budget, but may find authentic motivation in resisting clever marketing strategies that could manipulate them to spend their money.  A rebel who aims to exercise may not succeed in taking a class where attendance is expected and an instructor tells them what to do but may succeed by designing their own workouts that they feel free to complete on an unconventional schedule. For rebels things can also go the opposite way, and Rubin points out that some rebels may do fairly well with authority because it gives them something to push against. Overall, rebels may be best served by not thinking of something as a habit, which becomes a “have to”, but rather by making a choice each time about doing a behavior. This may keep it fresh, interesting, and freedom-filled for them.

Rubin claims that people tend to fall into one type consistently and do not seem to change over time or across circumstance. As this is a new construct system, research does not exist to verify the veracity of her claim. I suspect that these tendencies may fall on somewhat of a bell-curve, with the extreme types of upholder and rebel making up a small percentage of the population and the middle ground of questioner and obliger fitting the vast majority.

 

Reference:

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin (2015)

Posted in 2016 Articles, Molly's Articles | Leave a comment

Seduced by Swiping

technology and love

By: Elizabeth Edge, LCSW, CSAT

Vanity Fair’s article “Tinder is the Night” by Nancy Jo Sales speaks to the culture of quick hookups through online apps such as Tinder. One-night stands and quick sexual fixes seem to be what our society is looking for based on this article.  However, I question if that is really what we want.  Is being a “Tinderella” or a “Tinderfella” all that is left to hope for in the 21st century?

Many men and women seem to find momentary comfort in these dating apps only to be disappointed when their matches don’t really match.  There is a high value on these sites for superficiality and instant gratification.  Despite the talk amongst friends (“I don’t do Tinder,” “you can’t meet anyone on Tinder,” and “it is just a hookup site”) many retreat back to the dating apps in a lonely moment—finding quick comfort swiping left and right to get a temporary high or validation they are attractive.

Kelly McDaniel wrote in her book Ready to Heal: Women Facing Love, Sex, and Relationship Addiction that sex and love addiction is a “disease of loneliness…a profound inability to attach to another person…the confusion of intensity for intimacy…the attachment to a chemical high of falling in love or sex but not the person.”  With this definition, it appears that dating apps provide the perfect platform for the growth of addiction.  Tinder allows for the promise of a new match, the hope that the next match will be different, the false hope that the next swipe will be “the one.”

Dating apps lend themselves to fantasy and the fostering of contradictions.  To play “the game” young women may compromise their own desires.   They might verbalize their needs and wants, but they do not act in a way that backs up their needs. Women promising themselves and the hookup partner that she does not want to have sex, but then hours later leaving the bedroom after having done so. People stating they do not want to be sexually objectified, but then sending sexually suggestive photos.  If this were successful, then there would not be the sadness and the loneliness and the complaints of empty relationships where nothing feels satisfying and the craving for more continues.  What can fulfill that urge?  Will there ever be enough if we can move on so quickly with a swipe? There will always be more and better out there—with the next version or upgrade just a swipe away.

Is there a solution to the dissatisfaction? How do you say what you want in on line dating and get the respect you want? I encourage clients to identify their fantasy they create for themselves and others as well as look at the contradictions they project.  One cannot live in alignment with values if you are not aware of the behavioral contradictions.  The goal is to project and live in alignment with your own beliefs and desires.  To demand more respect, women can set and keep boundaries that align with their true needs and wants instead of compromising themselves for the sake of “the game.”

I believe as both women and men demand more respect for themselves and each other, the idea of Tinderella and Tinderfella will be thing of the past.  People will look to each other in a partnership not just as a way to fulfill a momentary desire.

 

 

Resources:

McDaniel, Kelly. (2008) Ready to Heal: Women Facing Love, Sex, and Relationship Addiction.

Sale, Nancy Jo. “Tinder is the Night”.  Vanity Fair September 2015 (244-251).

Posted in 2015 Articles, Addiction & Recovery, Elizabeth Edge's Articles, Relationships & Intimacy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Possibility of Change

change

by Laura McNulty, LMFT

People often come to therapy because they would like something in their lives to change.  It might be a relationship (or lack thereof), a creative rut, a detrimental habit or a general sense of imbalance.  People tend to seek outside support when an inner voice becomes too loud to ignore. 

I just can’t go on like this. Something’s got to change.

The good news is that, whether we like it or not, change comes.

Our feelings about change can run the gamut.  Sometimes we’re itching for it, impatient and at our wit’s end for something to give.  Other times, we’re running from change, resisting it in every way we know.  Unwanted change or loss brings people to therapy too after all: the death of a loved one, a break up or affair, children growing up, a job change, retirement, aging, loss of health, ability, sex drive….  Whatever the circumstance may be, on some level, change is the experience of a shift in reality as we once knew it.

I remember one snowy afternoon the day after Christmas on a visit back home to Wisconsin.  I was walking down the street where I lived until the age of eight.  You probably know the feeling:  walking down an old, familiar street… vivid memories suddenly emerging from the sights, sounds, smells around you.  This was the neighborhood in which my brothers and I roamed freely.  We ran through the yards and wandered through the rich-smelling woods behind the row of aluminum-siding duplexes where my family lived.  I long to stroll up the driveway and knock on the door of the house, to exclaim – “This was my house.  This is where we lived.” Instead, I take pictures from the sidewalk.  Peering behind the house to the back yard and beyond, I see no trace of the woods – that forbidden and mysterious world I once ran through and in whose brush, I made forts just my size.  It is an unexpected blow that takes my breath away.

How could this be?  How could this be gone?  It is still there in my mind’s eye, in my dreams, in my stories?

On that wintery day, standing on the sidewalk, I feel personally betrayed.

The truth of the matter is that change happens – seasons change, technology advances, people evolve…  Cultivating radical acceptance is moving from a stance of victimhood (“This is happening to me.  I am a powerless victim.”) to a stance of witness participant (“This is happening.  How can I work with it?”).

Upon learning of my recent relocation to the Atlanta area, a colleague said to me, The only constant in life is… change.  The older I get, the truer this rings.  The illusion of permanence that comes with youth increasingly slips away. Though for some, it gets torn away quite violently, sometimes at a startlingly young age.

How could this be happening?

What’s probably most universal in people’s experiences of change is the presence of an array of different emotions

I am so excited / freaked out / thrilled / sad / relieved / nervous/ curious / terrified.

We often feel pressure to pin it down to one feeling. One of the golden nuggets we learn in therapy, or anytime we get quiet and really listen, is that being human can mean having a variety of seemingly contradictory feelings about the same situation.  It is when we try to reduce our experience to one feeling or meaning, to solidify it into one story, that we create added suffering and confusion for ourselves.

Amidst all the swirling emotions and thoughts that we may have about a given change, how can we skillfully work with this inevitable aspect of life?  An allegory that I have heard in my study of Buddhism comes to mind.  I like to refer to this as the teaching on not too tight, not too loose. 

As (I recall) the story goes, a determined meditation student comes to his teacher and urgently asks, “Master, I have been meditating for hours, days and months on end.  Please, revered one, teach me the secret of how to become enlightened?

The guru replies quietly, “You are a musician. Tell me, how do you tune the instrument you play?”

Confused by this response, the student utters, “Why teacher, not too tight, not too loose.”

“And so must you approach your practice.”

So what does this have to do with change? How does meditation practice or a musical instrument relate to the sometimes mundane, sometimes radical changes we face in our daily lives?  One way to think of meditation is a practice of watching the endless fluctuations of the mind.   We practice holding our seat – staying present and friendly with ourselves, suspending judgment – regardless of the speed and content of our moving minds.  We practice holding a posture, upright and strong, but also relaxed and open.  We practice bringing our awareness back again and again to the object of meditation – perhaps the sensation of the breath moving through the body – with both persistence and gentleness.

Ideally, this practice extends beyond the formal meditation period to the moments our daily lives.

Change can make us feel seasick, disoriented, and spacey.  It can make us want to get under a blanket (or behind a screen) and never come out.  It can make us want to go to battle, plead our case, find someone to blame, hate ourselves or get revenge.  Change can take the ground from under our feet and leave us with unsettling thoughts about the meaning of existence.  So how we can we surrender to the inevitable forces of changes without completely losing our footing and falling into a state of collapse?  How do we hold our seat just as we practice doing during meditation practice?

We begin by simply acknowledging our experience, directly, just as it is, without the usual tricks of minimizing or embellishing.  When we simply notice what is happening, or has already happened, we have the possibility of moving toward acceptance and choice in how we respond.  With mindfulness, we practice noticing in a friendly, non-judging way our very human emotional, mental and physical reactions.  The use of mindfulness here means noticing and then practicing dropping the mental story that we so quickly tell ourselves about what’s happening.  As best we can, we turn toward our felt experience.  For even just a few moments, we can allow ourselves to be just as we find ourselves, without trying to fix or change, without analyzing, justifying, problem-solving or numbing out.

It is deeply human to experience fear, sadness, hope and anger when things change.   We can take time to acknowledge these feelings, to find comfort and grounding so that we can give them space to move through us.  This process, as messy and chaotic as it sometimes feels, eventually brings us back to our senses, back to new ground to stand on and new clarity from which to move forward.

We can move through times of change with both an attitude of surrender and as active participants/creators in our lives.  We are neither passive victims nor the sole determiners of what happens next.  Not too tight, not too loose.

Today is the second week anniversary of my relocation to Atlanta.  Every moment, every day, I learn something new about this new life I’m creating.  Sometimes it’s with trepidation, sometimes with curiosity and excitement, sometimes with the heavy heart of letting go of the familiar.  I keep telling myself, there’s room for it all.  There must be room for it all.

change-quotes

Suggested Reading:

Chodron, Pema (1997). When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Boston, Mass: Shambhala Publishing, Inc.

Brach, Tara (2003). Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha. New York, NY:  Random House.

Kabat-Zinn, Jon (1994). Wherever You Go, There You Are. New York, NY:  Hyyperion.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 2015 Articles, Anxiety, Career Planning & Life Direction, Laura's Articles, Meditation & Mindfulness | Tagged , | Leave a comment