Brave Again

boy-peeing

My path was clouded and I was lost for so long I did not notice it. I lost the freedom to just “be” and the natural spontaneity I was born with; from feeling free in a magical world to becoming inhibited, guarded and restricted. Where before was only wonder and happiness, the shadow of fear and worry joined in.

The change of outlook happened in early childhood but exactly when and where I can’t come up with. There came a time then when I thought more about what I did not want than what I hoped for. My mind became clouded with wanting to grow up, escape and get away rather than where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do and having any sort of intentional direction. I just wanted to be a “big boy”. In adulthood it was dreadful to be adrift for so many years and not know it; to be unconsciously searching for what I already had but was oblivious to.

When you are born…

your courage is new and clean.

You are brave enough for anything:

crawling off of staircases,

saying your first words without fearing
that someone will think you are foolish,

putting strange things in your mouth.

But as you get older,

your courage attracts gunk,
and crusty things, and dirt, and fear,

and knowing how bad things can get

and what pain feels like.

By the time you’re half-grown,

your courage barely moves at all,

it’s so grunged up with living.

So every once in a while,

you have to scrub it up

and get the works going,

or else you’ll never be brave again.

From “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making”
 by Catherynne M. Valente

In trying “to find myself” I became lost in the fogged-up maze of the ‘real-world’.  And it’s no wonder. From my perception my “self” was hidden like a unnoticed parrot resting on my shoulder; one making sounds that were perceived distant, yet so close I looked right by them.

Once I began to focus nearby, I started to see what was hidden in plain sight. What I discovered was not all wonderful and pleasing, but it was real. In discovering the child I had lost, my courage began to return. I was in a sense, truly reborn. The crust, dirt and fear on my soul became thinner as I explored inward. I became brave again. To have relocated the courage of a little boy and a sense of wonder, amazement and beauty that goes with it I am deeply grateful.

You often meet your fate
on the road
you take to avoid it.
 Goldie Hawn

Someone Who Knows All About You

Funny-Friendship-Images-Background-HD-WallpaperGetting older has caused my high school sports injury to hurt more. Some regrets have deepened. Lots of others have dissipated to be nearly evaporated. Being more thoughtful of others has been taught to we well by years of pain and grief. Like a decades old car that has been decently cared for, I have lots of miles on me but am still moving swiftly down life’s highway. I am a better friend that I ever could have been before and have come to know just how priceless a loving friend is.

American poet and song writer Shel Silverstein wrote, “How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it. How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.”

My oldest friend other than my brother died a few years ago. For many years he was one of a couple of people I called my “best friends”.  The age of my friendships range now from three decades to a couple of years. And I have more than ever before in my life. Why I do is simple: I have learned to be a good friend to those I love.

More of my friends are men than women, but inside the last decade there are several deep female friendships I have been blessed with. My ability to be a good friend to a woman came through a broadened view of that gender that allowed me to see them as another person and nothing else. Love addiction and sexual compulsion used to be a blinder that narrowed my view. I am so very damn glad to have grown beyond that way of perceiving.

Friends are a strange, volatile, contradictory, yet sticky phenomenon. They are made, crafted, shaped, molded, created by focused effort and intent. And yet, true friendship, once recognized, in its essence is effortless. Stick around long enough to become someone’s best friend. From “The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration” by Vera Nazarian

It allowing others to see me, true and deep, has been the top single reason I have more friends today. There is little to hide anymore and none that I intentionally hold back. I am who I am, scars and all. My dysfunctions and past mistakes are part of what has shaped me. Only with allowing them to be openly seen can anyone know me and become my true friend.

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. Henri J.M. Nouwen

So to all my dear friends, thank you for accepting me into your life. Along with my immediate family, you are the greatest treasures of my life. One of my hopes is to continue to become a better friend. For those who see me as I really am and love me just the same, “I am deeply grateful”.

A friend is someone who knows
all about you and still loves you.
Elbert Hubbard

You Are Unique, Not Special

unique!!

Specialness is all about the idea that somehow the rules of the world apply to me differently than they apply to everyone else. Specialness is the belief that it is OK if bad things happen to the other 6.5 billion people that live on the planet, but if anything bad happens to me, it is the worst, most awful thing in the entire world and I cannot handle it because I am special.

To introduce the idea of specialness to my patients, I ask them to do the following exercise: I tell them to spend the entire day treating themselves as if they were their best friends in the entire world. If anything goes well, they are to tell themselves how awesome they are, and that they are totally cool, and that everyone is proud of them. If anything goes wrong, they are to tell themselves that no one noticed or really cared and that it was really no big deal.

I tell people to do this because that is how most of us talk to the people we love – we tell them that we are proud of them and their work. Yet, almost no one actually talks to themselves in this way. We are actually more likely to remind ourselves of every dumb thing that we have ever done instead of telling ourselves how well we just did. And, even if we just did something really well, we will almost always still find a way to criticize ourselves or beat ourselves up about something that “should” have been better.

Then, the following day, I want you to treat everyone you know like you normally treat yourself. Anytime anyone does something wrong, be sure to tell them how stupid they are and that they are one big failure. Further, anytime anyone does something well, tell them that it was just luck and that they did not actually deserve what they just got, and then see if anyone will ever speak to you again.

Now, I am betting that you would not be willing to do this, so let me ask you a basic question – why is it OK to treat everyone else wonderfully as a way to motivate them, but you need to beat yourself down in order to get yourself to behave better? And the answer is: You do not need to. You could actually be very nice to yourself and motivate yourself positively.

If you want to start to feel less stress, go into situations with a positive attitude and motivate yourself the same way that you would motivate others – build yourself up and stop beating yourself down. From “You Are Unique, Not Special” by Patrick B. McGrath, Ph.D. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-try-harder-try-different/201108/you-are-unique-not-special

About ten years ago I adopted a particular attitude entitled “disputing my own BS”. When negative thoughts about myself came up that I would certainly dispute if anyone said them to me, I learned to argue for myself and set my thinking straight. It does not always work, but most of the time it does. Simply by taking the time to examine what I am telling myself is an effective weapon in disputing the lies, partial truths and exaggerations I tell myself. I am grateful for this insight and how it has improved the quality of my life experience.

If you are determined to succeed you will,
if you are determined to fail you will,
it is only through determination
that we began to see our true selves.
Frederica Ehimen

Invented Self vs. Real Self

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Western philosophers have sought some pure and enduring touchstone of “I-ness” ever since Socrates began interrogating the citizens of Athens. He famously asserted that the unexamined life is not worth living—but left vague exactly what insights and actions such inquiry might yield. Aristotle later connected the fruits of self-reflection with a theory of authentic behavior that was not so much about letting your freak flag fly as about acting in accord with the “higher good,” which he regarded as the ultimate expression of self-hood.

Spiritual and religious traditions similarly equated authenticity and morality. Enlightenment philosophers secularized ideas of selfhood, but it took the 20th century’s existentialists to question the idea that some original, actual, ultimate self resides within. To them, the self was not so much born as made.

“The philosophical question is, do we invent this authentic self?” says [ethicist John Portmann of the University of Virginia]. “Or do we discover it?” Socrates believed we discover it; the existentialists say we invent it.

“There isn’t a self to know,” decrees social psychologist Roy Baumeister of the University of Florida. Today’s psychologists no longer regard the self as a singular entity with a solid core. What they see instead is an array of often conflicting impressions, sensations, and behaviors. Our headspace is messier than we pretend, they say, and the search for authenticity is doomed if it’s aimed at tidying up the sense of self, restricting our identities to what we want to be or who we think we should be.

Increasingly, psychologists believe that our notion of selfhood needs to expand… An expansive vision of selfhood includes not just the parts of ourselves that we like and understand but also those that we don’t. There’s room to be a loving mother who sometimes yells at her kids, a diffident cleric who laughs too loud, or a punctilious boss with a flask of gin in his desk. The authentic self isn’t always pretty. It’s just real.

We all have multiple layers of self and ever-shifting perspectives, contends psychiatrist Peter Kramer. Most of us would describe ourselves as either an introvert or extrovert. Research shows that although we think of ourselves as one or the other (with a few exceptions), we are actually both, in different contexts. Which face we show depends on the situation.

“Whether there is a core self or not, we certainly believe that there is,” says social psychologist Mark Leary of Duke University. And the longing to live from that self is real, as is the suffering of those who feel they aren’t being true to themselves.

Inauthenticity might also be experienced on a deeper level as a loss of engagement in some—or many—aspects of your life. At the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts, where he often teaches, Stephen Cope opens his programs by asking attendees to reveal their deepest reason for being there. “Eighty percent of the time, people say some variation of: ‘I’m here to find my true self, to come home to my true self,’ ” he reports. That response is as likely to come from young adults struggling to build careers and relationships as from people in midlife reevaluating their choices. “They say, ‘Who am I? Now that I’ve had a decent career and bought a house and had a marriage, I’m still feeling profoundly unfulfilled.’ by Karen Wright http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200804/dare-be-yourself

Such a thoughts as “who am I? and “what is the real me?” used to spin in my head like 10 peopleall talking all at once. That experience is not completely gone, but the ongoing inner dialogue is not constant and down to a voice or two. To wonder “what and why” is dependably human but any more I don’t ask such things of myself a great deal. My conclusion? Allowing me to mostly just be as I am is probably the best practice I ever began. As the “real me” has shown through, my discovery has been I like most of what I have found. I am grateful for those life changing insights.

Knowing yourself
is the beginning of
all wisdom.
Aristotle

A Letter To My Son on Father’s Day

ORIGINALLY Posted on June 19, 2011

Dear Nick,

Vivid in memory are the emotions I experienced just after you were born. The day after you arrived I wrote in a journal about the joy I felt, the gratefulness within for you being ‘normal” with the proper number of fingers and toes, the awe that filled me for life and the hopes I had for you. I described your birth as “the most incredible thing I’ve ever witnessed” and also wrote “No child could be more wanted or more loved.” Those thoughts have aged sweeter as time has clicked by.

Frequent have been musings of how I could have been a better Father. Had I not chased with such vigor the emptiness of dysfunctional illusion, success and money I could have been there for you more. There were too many of your games I missed,weekend outings that never were and small events at school that were big happenings for you when my presence was missing. I never did build the treehouse I promised you.

Your Mother and I went our separate ways when you were sixteen which took you hundreds of miles away. One of my deepest regrets is your high school years when seeing you only every couple of months I became a sideline spectator of your life. Yet, as I mature and learn I have come to know regrets past making sure you’re aware of them, have no good purpose.

There are so many wonderful memories I have of your growing up. No child has ever been more curious about the world than you. You never crawled and began to recklessly walk at 7 months old. Such determination you have always had!

In school you did well and had the respect of most of your teachers. You made good friends and some of those relationships are healthy and thriving today. The only time you ever really got in trouble at school was through protecting a friend from a bully. How the game of hockey worked when you started to play at seven was unknown to me, but no father was ever prouder than I was to watch you. The lessons that came at you in college were hard ones, but you learned from your mistakes. I can not begin to express my admiration for your determination and stick-to-it-ness to get the education you wanted.

On this father’s day I hope these borrowed words express clearly to you the feelings of my heart and the wishes of my soul.

Until you have a son of your own… You will never know the joy beyond joy, the love beyond feeling that resonates in the heart of a father as he looks upon his son. You will never know the sense of honor that makes a man want to be more than he is and to pass on something good and useful into the hands of his son. And you will never know the heartbreak of the fathers who are haunted by the personal demons that keep them from being the men they want their sons to see.

We live in a time when it is hard to speak from the heart. Our lives are smothered by a thousand trivialities, and the poetry of our spirits is silenced by the thoughts and cares of daily affairs.

And so, I want to speak to you honestly. I do not have answers. But I do understand the questions. I see you struggling and discovering and striving upward, and I see myself reflected in your eyes and in your days. In some deep and fundamental way, I have been there and I want to share.

I, too, have learned to walk, to run, to fall. I have had a first love. I have known fear and anger and sadness. My heart has been broken and I have known moments when the hand of God seemed to be on my shoulder. I have wept tears of sorrow and tears of joy.

There have been times of darkness when I thought I would never see light again, and there have been times when I wanted to dance and sing and hug every person I met.

I have felt myself emptied into the mystery of the universe, and I have had moments when the smallest slight threw me into rage.

I have carried others when I barely had the strength to walk myself, and I have left others standing by the road with their hands out stretched for help.

Sometimes I feel I have done more than anyone can ask; other times I feel I am a charlatan and a failure. I carry within me the spark of greatness and the darkness of heartless crimes.

In short, I am a man, as are you.

Although you will walk your own earth and move through your own time, the same sun will rise on you that rose on me, and the same reasons will course across your life as moved across mine. We will always be different, but we will always be the same.

This is my attempt to give you the lesson of my life, so that you can use them in yours. They are not meant to make you into me. It is my greatest joy to watch you turn into yourself.

To be your father is the greatest honor I have ever received. It allowed me to touch mystery and to see my love made flesh. If I could but have one wish, it would be for you to pass that love along.

I love you,

Pops

You are my son-shine.
Author Unknown

Fitting In

wichita-fitting-in

In high school, everything revolves around “fitting in.” Adolescents are basically children in bigger bodies (with some hormones sprinkled in). If one does not fit in, one does not get to play in all the reindeer games. It’s lonely not to be allowed to join in with the others, and no one wants to be lonely.

About two weeks into their freshman year, most high school students figure out that the more they “fit in,” the greater the benefits and privileges — and this makes it much easier to get all those things they need to feel like they matter… to feel loved. They wear the same clothes, they “hang out” in the same spots, they talk the same, they act the same . . . and, as a result, there is very little tension among them. Something for everyone; and most everyone ends up finding the clique that’s right for them.

Soon, however, all the students discover that, no matter how well things are going in the clique, they still feel like they don’t “fit in” because their clique isn’t accepted by everyone else or because not everything about them fits into the clique – if they were really showing all of themselves to those around them.

Even the most popular kids feel lonely much of the time because being popular means they have to hide a lot of who they really are from other people. They know, on one level or another, that the reason they are so well liked by so many people is because most of the people don’t really know them at all — they only see the outer persona (the image of something that may or may not exist within the person behind the mask). So, they live in fear much of the time – fear that the other kids will find out their secret… that they are not perfect.

The point of all this is that most of us are not in high school anymore. We’re out here in the “real world” trying to earn a living, find and keep mates, take care of families, and more. These are extremely challenging and time-consuming (and often frustrating) tasks to accomplish. And, on top of all of that, we’re also trying to find purpose and meaning for our lives . . . to be happy, to find joy, and more. We need to experience all of these aspects of being human to find peace and to find fulfillment – to feel complete.

What we have discovered, however, is that being grown up is even harder than being in high school! But, we learn and grow with the passage of time and experience. Eventually, we begin to take our lives into our own hands, even if it means not always fitting in. That’s when things really start getting interesting.

The older and wiser we become, the more we realize that accomplishing all of these worthwhile goals involves a whole lot of letting go of the things that allow us to “fit in” with the majority. And that isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s pretty darn hard. It means becoming more self-aware and identifying those aspects of our egos… it means facing the fears that inhibit us; it means accepting ourselves and other people, regardless of differences and imperfections; and it means finding the courage and strength to be the person we want to be, even if that person doesn’t get to be the king or queen of the prom. By Sloan http://tamingtheinvisibledragon.com/2012/08/07/being-the-person-you-want-to-be-self-esteem-fitting-in/

It is not that I don’t care what others think of me, it’s that I don’t care very much. I am not completely immune to the desire to fit in, but such wants are far down the list underneath needs such as “happiness”, “contentment”, “peace of mind” and “a life lived well”. Simply my attitude is “I hope you like me, but if you don’t that’s your loss”. I am grateful to care, but not that much, about what others think of me. I am far more interested about “fitting in” with my ideals and hopes for myself.

Nothing we can do can change the past,
but everything we do changes the future.
Marcus Aurelius

Where Happiness Grows Roots

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A question often asked of me is “what do you want most” to which my answer has long been “peace”. On occasion the follow up I get is “what does that mean to you?” My reply is akin to some of the definitions of the word peace: “freedom from disturbance; a state of tranquility; freedom from oppressive thoughts; harmony in my personal relationships”.

In his “Conversations With God” series, Neal Donald Walsch wrote about the pathway to peace that includes:

Speak only in truthfulness.
Act only in love.
Avoid the mundane.
Do not accept the unacceptable.

Embrace every circumstance, own every fault, share every joy, contemplate every mystery, walk in every man’s shoes, forgive every offense (including your own), heal every heart, honor every person’s truth, adore every person’s God, protect every person’s rights, preserve every person’s dignity…

Speak humbly of yourself, lest someone mistake your Highest Truth for boast.
Speak softly, lest someone think you are merely calling for attention.
Speak gently, that all might know of Love.
Speak openly, lest someone think you have something to hide.
Speak respectfully, that no one be dishonored.
Speak lovingly, that every syllable may heal.

That’s a tall order to do all the time, but a simple one to practice and aspire to. The more I keep such things in mind the more tranquility comes. Peacefulness is a gift I give myself. It is not decided by any outside circumstance, happening or person.

Peace is not about what is going on around me, but how I react to it all. I am grateful for that nugget of wisdom instilled in me over decades of trial and error. Peace is the fertile soil where happiness grows roots!

Peace is present right here and now,
in ourselves and in everything we do and see.
Every breathe we take, every step we take,
can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity.
The question is whether or not
we are in touch with it.
We need only to be awake,
alive in the present moment.
Thich Nhat Hanh

Looking at the Surface

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Life is actually simple. It’s principals are straight forward and uncomplicated.

Nature will always be its natural self and never a pretender or a poser. Trees are simple. Flowers are uncomplicated. Dogs and cats are predictably the way they are. Elephants look like elephants, sound like elephants, move like elephants and can be counted on to act like elephants. Weeds grow like weeds. The sun rises and sets. The moon comes and goes. It is humans that are otherwise.

Human beings are always complicated on the surface. The only apparent thing predictable is we are unpredictable. Humans are prone to be unhappy in some manner with the way they look, sound, move and act. We don’t grow uniformly and our coming and going is hard to forecast. The world is really not a complicated place outside of human kind’s effect upon it. Only through stillness in a present moment can one person truly see another in simplicity, honesty and love.

There is so much more to all of us than the obvious.

A few times in my life I have gotten a glimpse of the real self of a person. It was only for an anguished moment and only because I looked with eyes of love.

But for an anguished moment I looked with eyes of love and I saw. I cannot say what I saw, but I knew that is was something inexpressibly beautiful. I shall always believe I was looking at being as it really is, and I saw beauty naked.

I believe that is what I would see if I saw the real self of you. But I have to look with eyes of love.

That is why lovers go around starry-eyed. They have seen through what is form to what is real, and it has left them dazzled. They can only murmur, “Beautiful.”

We look at what they are looking at and wonder how they can see so much in such a plain creature. But it is our vision that is imperfect.

Love raises vision to a higher power that eye charts cannot measure.

People are like that. They, too, glow with a kind of hidden luminosity when you get past the obvious. From the book “Look With Eyes Of Love” by James Dillet Freeman

My perception of the complication and difficulty of life remains a blinding illusion unless I look beneath it, around it, over it and under it to realize most that is difficult to sort out is man-made. To take people only at the face value is lazy, unimaginative and lacking in inspiration. Instead, I remind myself to look beyond what a person shows and postures. I am grateful that beyond the obvious there is always goodness and beauty in every person I encounter if I can look deep enough to see it.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking
at the surface of the ocean itself, except that
when you finally see what goes on underwater,
you realize that you’ve been missing
the whole point of the ocean.
Staying on the surface all the time
is like going to the circus
and staring at the outside of the tent.
Dave Barry

WHY?

chinese_character_weishenme_why long reversed edit

Why? It’s a simple one word question, and the first one we learn to ask as a small child. And we never stop looking to answer it. I certainly haven’t. With age I ask “why” more, but expect an answer less.

“Why”
by Wanda M. R. Garrett

Why was I born?
For whom do I live?
What worth am I?
What can I give?

What will I be?
Where will I go?
What must I do?
Tell me if you know.

There is more to life than what I see,
There is much more of myself deep
down inside of me,
Who am I?

Where do I belong?
These words keep turning
like an endless song,
I feel I have so much to give,

But where do I start?
I feel that I’m special,
No one else like me,
But who am I?

I like feeling good
And strangely enough,
I like sometimes the feeling
of being sad.

I am an emotional being,
So many things move me,
Things I do and what I see,
I am touched by the,
tears of a child.

I feel a sense of freedom,
Sometimes I even feel wild,
I am here,
Yet I am there,

I am still also very aware,
I am sensitive,
And touched by how you feel,
I am loved by God,
And I know that feeling is real,
But still, Who Am I?

http://www.angelfire.com/nc/poetsstreet/

Sometimes there is no “why”. As my life experience has broadened, no answer echoes back more often than one comes.  And that’s okay. But never will I stop asking the question.

Frequently, the reply to “why” is “because”, the same that was said to me as a child. I am grateful that more and more that’s all the answer I need.

He who has a why to live
can bear almost any how.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Becoming the Person You Want To Be

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The first thing to get clear on, is that becoming the person you want to be is not an outside search. You will not find your self-love in the affection you get from your partner, you will not find your confidence in the title you hold at work, and you will not find your true abundance in the amount of money in your bank account.

The secret to becoming all you want to be, lies in remembering that you are already everything you want to be. What you are looking for is not out there in the world that you see. If your level of self-love, confidence or abundance is dependent on circumstances that are external to you, then you will live in constant fear of them being taken away. True inner power comes from believing that the source of all that you desire to become, is within you.

Let go of everything that is not who you want to be

You already have all the answers. You are already the sexy, confident, successful, abundant, happy person that you long to be. All that prevents that part of you being expressed are the blocks you have created inside of you. All you have to do is release whatever it is that is blocking you from connecting with that part of you now.

+ Be willing to go deeper: Many of us are afraid of going deep inside ourselves. Doing this means facing those parts of you that perhaps you do not feel proud of. However, it is through loving and accepting these parts, that they can then be healed.

+ Remember you are already complete: There is an illusion that exists in our minds, that we are incomplete in some way. It is important to remember that there is nothing wrong with you, and this belief that you are somehow flawed is a block that you need to release.

+ Listen for the answers within you: Too many of us ignore the soft inner calling of our intuition which loves and adores us. It reminds us to just relax and trust. Practice making the distinction between the harsh, critical voice that pushes you, and the soft, nurturing voice which loves and supports you.

+ Let go of thoughts that contradict your truth: Any time you tell yourself you cannot do something or have something, you are lying to yourself. Your truth is that you have the ability to become anything you wish to become. All you have to do is believe it, and you can achieve it.

+ Do the work: If you are aware that you have some inner blocks going on, then it is about time you did something about it. You can no longer bury your head in the sand, suppress your emotions with food or drugs and distract yourself with television and partying. Get very honest and real with yourself.

+ Trust and relax: You do not need to continue to try and figure it all out. You simply need to identify what it is that is blocking you from being who you want to be right now. Once you can heal your blocks, and re-connect with those inner qualities, your actions naturally shift, the results you get naturally change. Taken from a post by Connie Chapman http://alifeofperfectdays.blogspot.com/2012/03/secret-to-becoming-person-you-want-to.html

Forty-Seven days until my semi-retirement officially begins. Nothing is more top of mind than allowing myself to relax more fully into the person I am. Graduation from the college of life is about to happen and what is coming I have been preparing for all along, professionally, personally and otherwise. I am grateful to be so richly blessed.

The ego is your self-image;
it is your social mask;
it is the role you are playing.
Your social mask thrives on approval.
It wants control,
and it is sustained by power,
because it lives in fear.
Deepak Chopra