An Invitation

You can create a life you love… right here, right now.

You’re going to work with the raw material of your life… exactly as it is.

Start with a willingness to practice creating moments of
Peace, Joy, Empowerment, And love… in each day.

What would that look like?
What is peace? Joy? Empowerment? Love?
How does one live those qualities?

Peace is a deep inner quiet we each have within us, that can be accessed anywhere, any
time, by briefly pausing, breathing deeply and allowing one’s self to be still.

Joy is the exuberant feeling that comes from being aware and awake to the small miracles
and wonder of life in each moment.

Empowerment is recognizing one’s ability to take action, and taking action.

Love is making a choice in this moment to support one’s divine potential or that of
another with kindness and compassion. Love is not an adjective, it is a verb.

You can create a life you love by bringing these qualities to the circumstances of your life
as they are now. All you need is a sincere “yes” to yourself… and a daybook…

A daybook can be on your phone, I-pad, computer. It can be a big beautiful journal or a
little notepad that can be carried easily in a pocket or purse. It can be a graphic journal
where you draw instead of write.

Each day just take a moment to record:

When today did I create a moment of peace?
When today did I create a moment of joy?
When today did I create a moment of empowerment?
When today did I create a moment of love?

As you begin doing this right here, right now… your life will change and you will begin
creating a life you love.

Posts made in April, 2013

Creating Change

“Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again, and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.” — Anais Nin

Change is one of life’s most difficult and feared processes because one cannot change without pain.

To grow, to become more whole, requires change.  It is our desire for wholeness, our dreams of freedom  and possibility, that call us to face what we don’t want to face. This may mean giving up an unhealthy behavior that gives us comfort.  Or it can mean adopting a new behavior that will benefit our life.

meditation_2_1698x1131Both require action.  The action required is simple, though difficult: to practice staying with the uncomfortable feeling that arises when we are first changing. As we  practice this over and over again, abstaining from the old behavior and reclaiming a new behavior becomes more comfortable and natural.

As we practice refraining from dysfunctional behavior we come face to face with the real issue.  People use drugs, pills, alcohol, over-eating, over-working, shopping, lying, stealing, or other compulsive or addictive behaviors to avoid or solve a difficult feeling.  Rarely is the presenting negative habit the problem.  The problem is what the behavior tries to solve.

We usually don’t know what the true underlying problem is until we have begun forsaking the problem behavior.  This is a very difficult thing to do. Accountability to a person or a program can help us keep our commitment to stay with the action and pain required to change.  It can help us stay with the process when everything in us wants to run.

Accountability supports action.

And accountability can also help us as we try to incorporate a new behavior into our lives such as exercising, eating healthy, going to bed and getting up at a time that best supports our life, being on time, being more social, etc.

There are many types of accountability.  Twelve Step programs give their members the opportunity to begin counting the days they have not engaged in their addiction.  They also offer sponsors and support.

Weight Watchers is another example of a program that has built-in accountability through weekly weigh-ins and attending meetings where a person can learn new skills to avoid over-eating.

Religion can offer a person accountability and support through such practices as confession or partaking of a sacrament with commitment and clarity.

two-people-talkiingSeeing a coach or counselor, or finding a change partner (someone else committed to working on a problem where you can each report to each other) are other means of creating accountability in our lives.

Rarely does an individual instantly stop a negative behavior or consistently practice a new behavior.  The inevitable relapse is an important part of the process of change. Relapses give us information. They help us to learn about our vulnerability and what types of protection we need to create to stay on course. What is important is our commitment to the process, knowing that a relapse is not an excuse to give up.

Clara was a woman who was valiantly trying to become free from a very difficult addiction that had owned her for years.  At one point in her journey she decided to set up accountability for her behavior with God.  She went to God in prayer and promised him that she would go 30 days without indulging in her addiction.  She felt that was a period of abstinence she could achieve.

She was having success and had almost reached her goal when the cunning, mysterious, pull of the addictive behavior sunk its fangs into her once again.  On midnight of the 28th day she relapsed.  As she returned to her home and proceeded to go to bed, she felt utterly ashamed, discouraged, and worthless.  “I can’t even keep a promise to God,” she lamented.  She was anxious to just fall into the refuge of her bed, pull all the covers over her head, and hide.

“Who am I kidding,” she said to herself, “Do I really believe God doesn’t know I relapsed?”

woman-prayingAnd so instead she fell to her knees to confess.  Before she could even completely whisper the words, “I broke my promise,” she felt surrounded by warmth and compassion and a phrase that she both felt and heard within her.  “I am so proud of you — you made it for 28 days.”

She was overcome by the understanding and compassion she experienced in that moment.  God had not given up on her.  She decided not to give up on herself.

It took many more tries, much more practice to finally claim success.  She created accountability by attending 12 step meetings five days a week for over a year. She also got a sponsor and worked with him.  She now has nearly 18 years free from her addictive behavior.   She was able to abstain for 28 days on her own — with accountability she adopted abstinence from addictive behavior as her new norm.

An important part of terminating a dysfunctional problem is replacing it with a healthy behavior.  I encourage clients I meet with who have OCD to come up with two options of new behaviors they will immediately turn to when they feel the compulsion to engage in their compulsive behavior.  Clients have picked replacement behaviors such as playing an instrument, reading, running, sketching, and others. As a person practices new behaviors, new neuro-pathways in the brain are created, supporting the healthy behavior.

081208180228-largeOur brains, where all behavior originates, can change, but they need our help. Our task is to abstain and reclaim. Healthy brain function is aided by abstinence from what is harmful and replacing it with something not harmful. As we do so, our brains begin to rewire themselves. The book Brain Lock, by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, is one of many useful guides about how this works and how to practice abstaining and reclaiming.

There are some parts of our ego that cling to the safety of denial and delusion to avoid the challenging work of change. Truly seeing our shadow behavior and changing it is a sacrifice.  But sacrifice is merely giving up something of lesser value for something of greater value.  Creating change in our lives not only opens up new doors to us, but new worlds. We experience freedom and fulfillment, and empowerment and peace.  As we change, we move from the narrow margins of our lives, to a landscape of possibility.

Join me next week for an exploration of relationships in the coming chapters on creating love!

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Creating Change

Creating Change

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.” – Joseph Campbell

It was a simple enough afternoon, or so I thought.  I was 31 years old and my four little girls had all gone to a friend’s house for the day.  The bliss of free time!  After a busy morning, I made my way to my bed for a much needed nap. But while lying down, instead of falling asleep, I awoke to a part of my past I had tried to bury.

I was overcome by a flashback of an incident of sexual abuse I had experienced for several years as a child.  It was like a waking dream, except that it was a replay of a specific event I was living again. All senses were activated – sight, hearing, smell, feel. It was jarring in its detail and accuracy. Fortunately, it passed quickly, but I was nauseous and shaken.

“I need help,” I whispered to myself, confused about what had just happened.

A few weeks later I was sitting in a counselor’s office. She explained to me that flashbacks can be a normal occurrence for anyone who has experienced trauma.  She also said it was an indication that I was “ready to do the work” around the abuse. At the time I had no idea what that meant.

Now, many years later and working as a counselor myself, I know that many people do not begin addressing sexual abuse until they are in their twenties, thirties, or even forties.  The psyche seems to know when a person has the maturity level to handle this difficult work.

The work of healing from our past often can be broken down into two general themes: mourning what was lost and reclaiming one’s power. Past issues may include the death of someone close to us; a car accident we were part of; an addiction, experiencied either by ourselves or someone close to us; a difficult relationship with a family member, teacher, or friend; being bullied; struggling with a serious illness; living with sever acne as a teen; moving from a beloved home or place; losing a friend; having dating issues; or abandonment issues. The list is long and varies.  Whatever the past pain — whether life changing or just difficult — it is worth our kind attention.

My counselor gave me a list of common problems of childhood sexual abuse in survivors.  It included such things as denial, creating chaos, self-destruction, lack of assertiveness, victim thinking, shame and guilt, perfectionism, passive-aggressive behaviors, depression, disruptions in family relationships, trust issues, and physical symptoms such as an increased rate of illness, stomach and headaches and others. The list was sobering and helped me to understand a broader picture of my life.

Gently, my counselor guided me into the subterranean grief I had buried, but still carried, from the abuse. Before this, I didn’t realize that grieving applied to anything other than death.

Silhouette woman run under blue sky with cloudsI took up running, and each day running through the countryside to the Columbia River gave me the space and freedom to release the vast reservoir of emotion my body had been holding for many years.  I cried, yelled, and threw rocks at an abandoned overpass. Over time I was able to feel and release anger, sorrow, fear, shame, and self-loathing.

Surprising to me, as I moved through my grief, things began to change. My lack of assertiveness was replaced with finding my voice. Victim thinking gave way to taking responsibility for myself.  Gradually, as I experienced, faced, and confronted the roadblocks that had held me back in important ways, I began to feel empowered.

Trying to change significant parts of our personality is so much more difficult when our body is still holding the grief of the past. Often we are not even aware of what is there.  The practice of counseling has increasingly turned to teaching people mindfulness practices –learning to develop awareness of the sensations in the body and then witnessing them with compassion and non-judgment.  I have written about this in previous chapters of this book.  (See the “Path to Inner Intimacy” in chapter four.)

We do not need to go on a hunting expedition, but rather learn to practice just noticing what we are experiencing in the moment, especially when we are triggered by life’s events and experience a sudden, strong reaction to our surroundings or another person’s actions. As we allow ourselves to observe and meet those emotions they will naturally carry us down into, and then back out of, a wave toward balance. This is different from becoming entangled or enmeshed in emotion where we feed it, obsess over it, and dramatize it.

weather1Emotions are not who we are, they are something we live with daily, the same way we live with weather.  Our emotions can change many times in a day or sometimes even in an hour.  Practicing observance and presence versus attachment or detachment, helps meet and process our own ongoing emotional experience.

Joseph Campbell was an anthropologist, author, and lecturer who is best known for his vast work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. In his book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces he presents a model of transformation entitled, “The Hero’s Journey.”  (See chart below)

“The Hero’s Journey” symbolizes a person being “called to adventure”–a place in life where they are given notice that their life is about to change.  They can accept or refuse the call. Once they accept the call, Campbell asserted, they are given “supernatural help.”  I like to think of it as spiritual support.  This enables them to cross a threshold from the world, as they have known it, to an unknown world.

The journey is a difficult one fraught with challenges and temptations and eventually leading to what Carl Jung called, “the dark night of the soul.”  On my own journey, that place has represented the intense sorrow, fear, and anger that have arisen as I allowed myself to do my grief work.

ladyYet, there is a miracle to come: the traveler emerges reborn, new. Transformation and atonement are the fruits and the enlightened traveler has returned with a new view of and a new competence with both the inner and outer worlds.

The Hero’s Journey is a powerful metaphor for the journey we undertake to receive the gift of transformation by being willing to address the past through going to the depths of our own losses, arising with new perspective and power.

After my descent into the loss I suffered from abuse, I returned to life with more power, vitality, and a richer sense of life than I had felt in years.  I felt free of fear, my confidence was stronger, and I had found freedom from limiting behaviors that had held me back.

There would be many more times in my life, as is true for each of us, where once again I would be called to a journey of change.  Though difficult, the invitation is always a gift, calling us to continued expansion and new life.

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Creating Change

Creating Change

“By assuming the stance of willingness and acceptance you can open all the blinds and the windows in your house and allow life to flow through; you let fresh air and light enter into what was previously closed and dark.” — Steven C. Hayes, PH.D.  Author of Get Out of Your Mind, and Into Your Life.

Often we approach change from a stance of fixing, controlling, or managing.  Fixing works great if you’re replacing the roof on your house or oiling a rusty hinge that keeps the front door from opening easily.

But trying to fix and control our own weaknesses or the weaknesses of others, invites resistance and offers little success.  The harder we pull, the harder the weakness or person pulls back.  We may search for and try numerous methods for pulling.  We may try to work out so our muscles are bigger or figure out just the perfect way to explain to someone else in our life how they could be different so that we will be happier. This only leads to further entrapment in the rope pull.

tug-of-war1-1But what if the point isn’t to win the tug-of-war?  What if the solution is to let go of the rope?

Tug-of-War is based on resistance and overpowering. These are often the qualities we bring to the problems of life, usually to our disappointment because of their ineffectiveness.

The first task of “letting go of the rope” is acceptance.

Acceptance is a crucial principle of change.

Acceptance is taking things as they are.

That doesn’t mean condoning wrongdoing or tolerating bad behavior. It doesn’t mean giving up on seeking a cure for an illness or discovering the way to maintain a healthy weight.

Acceptance allows us to recognize that change is a process, not an event. It allows us not to put life on hold until the problem is resolved. Acceptance creates the space we need to do our work.

It means meeting others and ourselves where we are at—problems and all.  In the process we have the opportunity to practice patience and long-suffering, both with ourselves and others. We come to know more about compassion.  Life is no longer a battle, but a journey, in which, we learn, gain experience, and become more whole. We learn to love our enemies. Over time our injuries can be lived into irrelevance.

As we practice living acceptance in these ways, we begin to change—naturally.

Failing to acknowledge reality by fighting it is a form of denial. It keeps us stuck.  I’ve witnessed people being miserable for years because another person in their life was never going to give them what they wanted, and they couldn’t accept that.

There are countless stories of compulsions and addictions that are never healed because we resist accepting we have a problem and becoming willing to take responsibility for it.

Sun through the Parsonage WindowWillingness is taking responsibility for our self—for the exercising of our own will in making choices.  In other words, we can claim our ability to respond!  To respond is to take action ourselves. When we become willing to respond in conscious, empowering, and healthy ways to the realities of life, we create change.

Nick was a man who had been born to teen parents. His 16-year-old father married his mother. His mother adored Nick and doted on him despite the difficulty of their situation—living in poverty, their youth interrupted by adult challenges.  But as Nick grew from a baby into a child, his father distanced himself from his young son.  Eventually his parents divorced and his mother raised him alone.

As an adult, most of Nick’s attention in life was focused on trying to get his Dad to pay attention to him.  He thought about it more than he thought about his wife or children.  He made countless efforts to engage his father, all to his disappointment. He became a chronic overeater – food became his “Daddy.” His self-talk was abusive.  He constantly put himself down and believed the story he told himself that his father wasn’t interested in him because he was “fat and worthless.”

As we began to work together as counselor and client, it became clear what a hopeless tug-of-war he was caught in as he tried to get attention and affection from a father whose main behavior with this son was avoiding him.  Slowly, Nick began to see how much power he had given his father for his happiness and how profoundly he was abandoning himself in his efforts to chase an illusion.

Nick fought hard to hold onto his fairy tale.  But as I met his resistance with compassion, curiosity, and occasional confrontation, he slowly became willing to practice the self-nurturing skills I was teaching him.  He practiced changing how he talked to himself. He decided to start working out at a gym and was blessed to have a male trainer who encouraged him, gave him praise, and was there for him.  This led him to pull back from overeating.  As he did he experienced the pain and loss from his father’s distance and met it with acceptance and compassion versus avoidance.  He was shining the light on his own avoidant patterns in the house of self.

As he did, he accepted responsibility for taking care of himself versus trying to get his father to be something he was not. This allowed him to move into deeper relationship with himself and his children and wife.  Foundational to Nick’s work was accepting his father’s limitations and focusing his efforts on his own actions.

sun-_windowAs we explored the possibilities for his father’s avoidance, Nick began to glimpse potential reasons for his father’s behavior that helped him take it less personally. Perhaps his father’s avoidance, we speculated, was more about his own shame and regret for becoming a parent sooner than he had been ready to. His father’s alcoholism was evidence of his father’s avoidance of his own pain, whatever it was, and of his responsibilities in life.

As Nick let go of the rope—his self-imposed captivity to the task of getting his father to pay attention to him, and his resistance to doing his own work – he experienced something new and revitalizing: he was free!

He used that freedom to begin creating a life he loved.

It began by beginning to practice, acceptance and willingness, foundational principles of creating change.

I invite you to join me next week as we continue our discussion of creating change by exploring the importance of addressing our past through mourning what was lost, and then reclaiming our power.

 

 

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Creating Change

Creating Change

“One thing we are always in control of is where we put our own attention. We are sovereign beings.”  Paul Levy, Author, Spiritual Teacher

I believe in cycles.

I see them in the pond near my home. Every winter it fills up from the steady downpour of the season’s somber rains, ready to foster an explosion of life come spring.  The first sign is a lime-green jagged edge circling the Cattails - Iowapond, which within days shoots up into a thick border of cattails, crowned with brown chenille tops lopping in the breeze.  Cascades of branches new with tender buds arch over the pond nearly touching the water. Gaggles of young geese, covered in the silver fuzz of developing feathers, waddle onto shore in search of bread.  The pond is a song of new life.

But by October the life cycle is nearly spent.  Foliage takes on its fiery coat, fades to copper and falls. The pond dries up.  The ducks leave.  The fish die. By November it is a cemetery of loss. But the rains always come again and the cycle starts over.

The cycles of the earth are mirrors of the emotional lives of us humans trodding its surface.  Like the winter pond we have our own little deaths throughout life – the leaving behind of a certain stages of life, but also the giving up of behaviors that create pain and struggle. Like nature, we also possess the ability of rebirth, re-creation—the death of the old giving way for fresh ways of living and being.

This metaphor provides us with a new way of looking at self-change.

IMG_1499The concept of change in our “quick-fix,” “30-pounds-in-30-days” culture is fundamentally flawed.  It is based on the fantasy of will power as a change agent and the idea that there is a miracle cure waiting in the next weight-loss program, moneymaking scheme, or extreme makeover.

Over the past decade an ancient, more mindful approach to change has gained attention and application in the world.  This is a model of change whose emphasis is on changing our “relationship” with our problems versus trying to “fix” the problem.

Awareness is foundational to this approach: the promise of organic transformation.

Awareness occurs when we learn to be present and observant about both our inner and outer landscape. We learn how to simply notice our inner reality (something often cloaked in unconsciousness) with curiosity versus judgment.  Awareness helps awaken from the trance that holds us. The trance state is the tool of the ego to protect itself from being less-than (or more- than); it swathes us in faux comfort; it is fostered by denial, blind-spots, closed mindedness, and unwillingness to see that which must be seen in order to change.

This stage is about telling ourselves the truth.  Truth is things as they are, not the illusion of truth we have created based on our limited stories and identities.  As we practice curious presence and compassion, our awareness deepens and we see parts of our shadow self we have tried to avoid.  Parting the veil we have drawn over the truth of our behavior, we see what needs to be seen, and can admit what needs to be admitted.

Thus the First Step of The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the most important change movements in the world:

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable”.

meditationPracticing body presence helps us become aware of what thoughts we are thinking and what sensations we are experiencing in our body.  As my daughter Amanda, a yoga instructor, has taught me, transformation begins when we “focus on the inner-sensation we are experiencing in the moment versus our story.”  Story is more about ego identification, the story we are telling ourselves with our thoughts. Noticing the physical presence in our body during difficult emotions helps us see what we are trying to avoid or block with compulsive, addictive, or other dysfunctional behaviors.

By just noticing what we are experiencing in the moment, we enter the realm of transformation.  As we attend to our sensations with acceptance, compassion, and curiosity, our awareness and our choice is deepened.  We realize the problem is not the outward negative behavior, but the emotion it solves.

Man with fear of flyingI once had a client who came to me with a pronounced fear of flying.  He spent days using other modes of travel to arrive at his destinations in his quest to avoid the extreme discomfort he experienced when he got on a plane: racing heart, throbbing temples, a stomach that felt like a hummingbird was trapped inside. He had taken a class offered on a stationery plane, showing him all the reasons he didn’t have to be afraid because of the many mechanisms built into the plane to prevent danger.

Logic means nothing to the emotions.  He still didn’t fly.

After exploring with him what sensations arose in his body the minute he walked into the airport, I said, “You’re not afraid of flying, you’re afraid of anxiety!”

What a shift.  He was shocked.

I explained to him that what he was fighting his anxiety, which only made it worse, and so he completely avoided the anxiety-provoking event – flying.  The problem with avoidance is that once we give into our fear, our world begins to shrink.  First it’s the plane, next its elevators, then the store, then cars, then people . . . then you’re never leaving your house.

It was time to quit trying to run away from the anxiety and enter into an accepting, compassionate, and curious relationship with it. He learned he could ride it like a wave by breathing into it and witnessing it.

We also addressed his thoughts. Once again this was simply a matter of offering himself the gift of his own presence, attention or awareness. The thoughts also contributed to the problem and in fact helped create it.  The task was not to arm-wrestle them, but simply to notice, ‘oh, there’s that again.’  By observing his own thoughts he could realize HE is not the thoughts, they are just electrical currents in the form of words, flowing through him.

flightanxietymarquee-11132012-201950_panoramicAs he became present to his physical sensations he became the observer of the racing heart.  He could breathe into, give it a little “there, there” energy of self-comfort.

The result: he began to fly.  At first he made small 60-minute practice flights eventually building up to flights across the country.

I ran into him several months later at the grocery store.  “I’m still flying!” he announced with a big grin.  I acknowledged his accomplishment and inquired about his anxiety.

“Oh you know,” he said, “It still shows up, but it’s not as pronounced or as enduring because I have learned to just be with it.  That seems to have the power to calm me down, to change it.”

Like a scarf that is wound too tightly around one’s neck, we can learn to wear our emotions more loosely by practicing awareness.  And as we address our core experience our outer behaviors respond.

One of the most important guides I have discovered for practicing awareness is called “The Four Questions” and is presented in Mary O’Malley’s important book about change and healing, The Gift of Our Compulsions – A Revolutionary Approach to Self-Acceptance and Healing. They follow this chapter below in handout format.

As we practice directing our attention and awareness to our real experience in the here and now of daily living, especially with the difficult emotions that lead to our compulsive, addictive, or other unhealthy behavior, change becomes a more natural and truly transformational process – just like the cycles of nature with its little deaths and new life.

Join me over the coming weeks for continuing chapters about the change process.

The Four Questions

  • In this moment, what am I experiencing?

Physical sensations identified through a body scan

  • For this moment, can I let this be here?

Be still, breathe and notice the sensations like a scientist, observer

  • In this moment, can I touch this with compassion?

Notice the judgments that start to arise around the emotion, for example “I shouldn’t be feeling like this, I have so much to be thankful for.” Etc.

Once again notice your breath, move out of your head and into the sensations, as the pain is emerging come to your own assistance with comforting thoughts and kindness.  For example, “This is really difficult for me.”  “I will be there for myself.”  Even things you might say to a young child like “There, there” and “It’s going to be o.k.” Continue noticing sensations and comforting for as long as you can sustain it or as needed.

  • Next, check in with yourself, and ask, “Right now, what do I truly need?”

 

The Gift of Our Compulsions, pp. 249-260, Mary O’Malley, New World Library, 2004

Formatting and explanations by Tamera Smith Allred, Creatingalifeyoulove.net

 

 

 

 

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Entering The Flow of This Day

Entering The Flow of This Day

I didn’t want to go to work today. Resistance showed up cloaked as lethargy with an overlay of apathy.  I felt penned in by previously made work commitments that didn’t match my morning mood.  I longed for the vast expanse of unclaimed time to putter in my kitchen, take a meandering walk through the woods, and then sit down to write.

I was gentle with myself.  I moved slowly, dressed more simply, lingered a few extra minutes over whole-wheat toast with my favorite homemade raspberry jam.  I gave myself time to surrender—to the day, and to the moment, exactly as they were.

UnknownHaving gently coaxed the reticent therapist in me to come to work, I started my day.  As always happens when I sit down in my “chair” I simultaneously entered “the river”—an emotional construct I have created, complete with visual images in my mind, of what my true work is as a therapist.  It is to let go of agenda and be present to the client and the journey they find themselves on this day.  I sit back and breathe deeply from my feet—planted squarely on the floor.  I visualize the two of us on a raft, on a slow moving river in the mountains, being carried by a gentle flow stronger than either of us.  I know if we need to we can get out the oars and row.  But I also have learned to trust the current and it never fails me.  I am in the water now.  I greet my client with a peaceful smile and we begin.

I am reminded again that this is the lesson of life.  Often in the daily comings and goings of my life as a busy woman I come to the day’s doorstep prepared with my lists and my agenda – rigid in their urgency.  Often, life has other plans for me.  I can make my life miserable by digging in deep with the heels of resistance and then layer that with a meta-resistance to my resistance, which only makes it all the worse.  But I have learned after many years on this journey we call life with its varied landscapes and changing terrain that I do best when I trust.

When I trust myself, I trust my life, I trust the Divine. I enter life’s flow.  Just like the therapy session with my clients, at times uncertain, we always arrive at a somewhat surprising, but seemingly preordained destination that serves the needs of the journey perfectly for this one day.

Today I find that my clients are also in a mood to move slowly through the waters, to meander and float.  There are quiet tears over a lost love, some angst over a difficult child, regrets about a path not taken. The gentle healing calm that comes from presence and witnessing feels tangible.

imagesAnother client wants to putter her way through her journey today.  We spend most of the session sitting next to each other on the couch as she shows me 122 digital pictures of her recent trip to the Grand Canyon. The photographs are stunning with their dramatic view of the vast canyon.  The colors captivating – peach colored rock against violet evening skies.

But an inner “should” voice tells me this is not what she is paying me for.  I should direct the session in a different direction, just like I had felt about my day.  I let myself notice how I am feeling deep inside.  I acknowledge my anxiety—then reenter trust. I trust this client with how she wants to use her time. And then I am open to see that she is telling me a more expansive story than the cursory flipping through frames of her trip pictures.  As I am present to this puttering, the larger story emerges – she is telling me what she is learning about companionship with her husband – the narrow cliffs, the mysterious patterns, of the journey of marriage at middle age.

In the last few minutes of the session she happens upon a powerful insight about that relationship. She leaves thoughtful, her body held more upright with the buoyancy of her important discovery.

“Nothing is more precious than this day,” Goethe wrote. While time is infinite, the time we have right this moment is all we really have.  The true measure of time is here and now in our own heartbeat.

When we leave the present moment by ruminating on the past, or over thinking the future we abandon the life we have and miss the experience of this moment. Real life is found in presence to our experience moment by moment. Lama Surya Das sums it up so simply, “We are already there.”

My day meanders on, matching my mood and carrying me no faster than I am able. When the last client closes the office door and waves at me as he gets on his bike, smiling appreciatively, I realize what life has given me this day was deeply satisfying once I surrendered and really showed up.  I have puttered, I have meandered, and I have been still and present.

And my life has expanded with the wonder of each person’s journey.  A story has unfolded all day—words gathering in some eddy in my mind, ready to be released as I sit down to write at the end of the day instead of the beginning. The words are waiting for me, but now enriched by the expedition that my surrender to this day has offered me. The expanse of my life and my time unfurls, one moment at a time.

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