August 5, 2012
If you have lost your sense of wonder, take a deep breath, close your eyes and remember the last time you had it. You might have to dig deeply to a place you haven’t visited in a while. It might span miles and years and acres of memory. But you had it once. It is still there, slumbering in the eeves of your being.
Call it up within yourself. Rekindle its fire. Feel how it crawls through your body. Where do you feel it most intensely? In your arms? Your legs? Your back?
I keep my sense of wonder close to my heart, calling on it in times of sadness or remorse. It is my road map to inner peace and regained equilibrium. In troubled times, that source of creative power can be your saving grace.
When was the last time you danced in the sky to beat of your boundless heart? Don’t you want to go there?
And you can. Any time. Any place. Through the breathtaking beauty you keep inside. When you do, you will meet others who are doing the same. Your heart and soul will shift to attract the very people who have been waiting for this moment. You will touch them in unspeakable ways. And they will do the same for you.
When you regain that sense of wonder, your life becomes one big celebration of the divine that is you, that is me, that is everyone.
Blessings to you all.
June 28, 2012
What would people say about you if you left the room? Are you living a life of true intention?
I know it’s a heady question, but it’s one worth asking. Luckily, Bryan Clay, Olympic hopeful for this summer’s Olympics in London, started to ask himself that question before it was too late. In his new book, Redemption, Clay reveals his life story in great detail, such as how he had a very troubled childhood with parents who made their own share of mistakes. Throughout high school, and then later in college, he continued to ignore his highest athletic potential by drinking too much and engaging in dangerous behavior. It wasn’t until he met the woman of his dreams that he started to see a future beyond his current one.
Love can do that to a person.
Even then, however, he nearly lost his girlfriend because it took him a long time to realize the impact his partying was having on his relationship. The moment he changed his way of thinking, however, everything changed. A religious man, he began to see that he could indeed worship God through the sport instead of seeing his athletics and his spiritual practice as two separate things. He moved away from believing sports were a way to glorify himself; instead, they were a way for him to glorify God. Magically, his extreme partying dropped off.
The Big Picture can do that to a person.
“Keeping my priorities in the right order had brought me there,” he writes. He found Slow through God. Pretty darn cool.
So what do you think people would say about you if you left the room? Would they say you are kind, generous, emotionally available? Or would they consider you closed, disruptive, shut down and unreachable? As Maya Angelou says, people may not remember what you say, but they’ll always remember how you’ve made them feel.
My guess is you can make someone feel really good today. Maybe in the form of a hug or a smile. There is redemption for us all, and it only takes one baby step toward your own truth. Don’t be afraid of it because it is there to show you the way even when you are lost. Embrace that beacon of light for all it’s worth. When you do, you will be set free.
Slow can do that to a person.
June 9, 2012
The light curled its fingers around the kitchen counter, penetrating the darkness with its insistent call.
“Come outside,” it said.
And so I did.
God pulled back the curtain of clouds and spoke:
“I am you. You are me. We are one.”
And so it is.
If you have the urge to do something, just do it. Everyone gets impulses that we often squash in the name of logic, circumstances or practicality. But when the beckoning comes, know that it is your truest purpose. It is that profound knowingness that will carry you through from darkness to light.
What is beckoning you in your life? Do you have the courage to follow its call?
Whatever you do, embrace the divine within. It is your guiding star. Without fail.
May 24, 2011
Life is not a plan. It’s a journey.
This is something my mom knows well. So it was fitting that, as we journeyed NYC-bound on the Acela Express, we would soon learn not only people can travel, but things can, too.
You see my mom lives in the belief that life is a God trip; God only knows where you’ll end up. As we zipped up the East Coast toward Manhattan, I helped her set up her blog, aptly named Life is a God Trip to celebrate her philosophy in an online space. Snapping a photo of her, I wanted to capture her joy. But little did I know that that photo would be the key to the camera itself.
We got settled in our hotel room, had a nice meal and retired early as we knew the next day would be long. Up at dawn, we breakfasted, then took a taxi to the harbor for a boat tour of Lower Manhattan. It was then that I realized my beloved camera, the holder of so many memories during my mammoth five-state five-week trip, was gone.
I should have known the camera had its own ideas. It had slipped from my lap and into my bag on the train. Little did I know it was practicing its escape!
Later that day, I half-heartedly asked the hotel security if they had seen the camera. They had not. Saddened, but steeped in my God trip knowledge, I sensed the camera had decided to take its own journey.
And so it had.
Yesterday a woman left a comment on my mom’s blog, explaining she lived in Venezuela and that her mother had found a hot pink camera in a NYC taxi. She scanned the pictures to find a clue as to the owner’s identity. That’s when she came upon my mom’s photo of joy in front of her newly birthed blog. She must have read the URL, then matched her picture to the one on the camera. She was writing to ask for the address so that she may return it on her trip to Florida, where my own God trip in April began.
No, my friends. Life is not a plan. It is indeed a journey, one of joy and grace and miracles.
For this I am forever grateful. Thank you, Alexandra, of Venezuela. Your kindness will live on in all that I do.
March 22, 2011
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes
Why is forgiveness such a loaded topic? Because many believe that somehow the victim has to be the bigger person, raise himself up to a higher standard than the perpetrator and make amends to reach the Kingdom of Heaven.
Forgiveness is a process that can sometimes take years. And it is the key to personal liberation.
Betrayal, violence, neglect and abuse are the themes of Helen Whitney’s book Forgiveness: A Time to Love & A Time to Hate, which grew out of her upcoming film on forgiveness, which will be broadcast on April 17 and April 24 on PBS.
Forgiveness is a vastly misunderstood theme that deserves our renewed attention. As the world’s uprisings, both natural and man-made, have recently shown us, there is no better time than now to understand the healing powers of forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not mean you have to reconcile with the perpetrator or condone their behavior. I am certain there are many who find Gaddafi unworthy of their forgiveness, for instance. But, as Dr. Jane Greer, New York-based psychologist and author of How Could You Do This to Me? Learning to Trust After Betrayal, so aptly stated in a phone interview, “Forgiveness is the resolution of your rage.” There is a time for wrath and a time for warmth. It is about coming to terms with what has happened in our lives, acknowledging our anger, releasing it to feel the depths of our despair, only to realize it has its limits, too.
Then, once felt, the gaping, lingering wounds of our years can seal.
We have all experienced some level of betrayal in our lives. We think we cannot bear the searing rod iron-hot pain so we develop coping mechanisms such as self-abuse, angry relationships and continued drama cycles. In many of the personal stories Ms. Whitney conveys, people held onto their pain for years. In the book, she illustrates the story about a fugitive responsible for the death of a policeman in the face of anti-Vietnam protests who didn’t fully accept responsibility for her acts until well after she had handed herself in to the authorities two decades later. It wasn’t until she released her anger toward the U.S. government from the 1960s that she could apologize to the family whom she had caused so much pain.
“Apology is necessary to begin the journey of forgiveness within a relationship,” claims Dr. Greer. But what happens if you do not receive that apology? In many cases, the victims in Ms. Whitney’s book did not. She interviewed people from Rwanda and Nazi Germany who experienced so much sorrow. Millions of people died at the hand of a few. It is only now that people can speak of the abomination they experienced.
Without apology relationships cannot thrive. And so how does one go about forgiving someone who does not wish to be forgiven? The relationship ends, if there ever was one. That is where self-healing comes into play.
“[F]orgiveness in no way means you have to reconcile with someone who badly treated you,” states Dr. Frederic Luskin, head of The Forgiveness Project at Stanford University and author of Forgive For Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness. “If you were the recipient of childhood abuse or are in a harsh relationship you can forgive the offender and as part of that choice make the decision to end or limit contact. Forgiveness is primarily for creating your peace of mind. It is to create healing in your life and return you to a state where you can live capable again of love and trust.”
Roxanne Renée, author of Laughing Again: A Survivor’s Guide to Healing Depression, says that “[t]he one who hurt me does not suffer the destructive, internal physiological effects of my sustained anger; I do. When I practice forgiveness, I engage my “rest and digest” (parasympathetic) nervous system, triggering myriad calming and healing physiological changes in my body. When I forgive, I am the one who is set free. “
In fact, forgiveness begins and ends with us.
Our misconception of forgiveness lies in our belief that we someone should ‘forgive and forget’. The truth is we will never forget, although we may suppress memories that bubble to the surface, oftentimes decades later. The pain is expressed either way. Sometimes it comes in the form of an illness. What the mind ignores, the body absorbs.
Forgiveness is not about reconciliation. We may never wish to see the perpetrator again. Dr. Luskin says there is nothing wrong with that.
“Another misconception about forgiveness is that it depends on whether or not the abuser or lying person apologizes, wants you back or changes his/her ways,” says Dr. Luskin. He cautions about making someone else’s behavior the determinant for your healing and happiness. “[Y]ou can forgive you ex spouse for their insulting speech and even for abandoning you and your children… but forgiveness in no way means you do not take the ex to court to make sure your children get their support payments to which they are entitled. Forgiveness and justice are not the same. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same. Forgiveness and condoning are not the same.“
At this point in my research, I was quite relieved to learn the distinction between forgiveness and what our religious traditions have us believe is forgiveness. Ms. Whitney’s book features the 2006 Amish schoolhouse shootings in which the parents of the children killed by the local milkman turned gunman promptly forgave him, even though he was dead. They reached out to his widow and found comfort in their God that says you will enter His Kingdom if you forgive. Ms. Whitney raises the question of whether suppressing one’s natural feelings without allowing for a certain level of unforgiveness is healthy.
There’s got to be grieving at your own pace.
But perhaps Ms. Renée is right when she says “As we vividly remember the hurtful encounter again and again (practicing un-forgiveness by holding on to our hurt and anger), we trigger the same fight or flight response that we initially experienced. When we stay angry, we keep our sympathetic nervous system constantly engaged. In this state, we are trapped in a place of unrelenting stress. Because humans were not designed to live this way, the ultimate result over time is quite harmful — systemic inflammation leading to a host of chronic, degenerative conditions.”
Many studies have been conducted about the health benefits of forgiveness, including lowered blood pressure, slower heart rates and decreased cortisol levels. Dr. Philip Carlson, author of Love Written in Stone, pointed me to one such study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine that claimed study participants who learned to forgive experienced significant increases in blood flow within the areas of the heart where it had been previously impaired due to damaged tissue resulting from a heart attack.
Whether we choose to forgive or not needn’t be a loaded question. It is our choice whether we wish to carry the burden of a heavy heart or to nurture it with forgiveness.
Forgiveness heals. Unforgiveness destroys. When we forgive, it is much like love. We are all entranced by its power and through it, we are set free.
Listen to my podcast with Dr. Frederic Luskin to learn more about what forgiveness can do for you.
September 25, 2010
A recent discussion with friends at breakfast got me to thinking. Why do we use nicknames?
One of the couples said they are calling their baby daughter by her name only. They don’t believe in pet names for whatever reason. I, on the other hand, use pet names to express a closeness and contextuality.
For instance, my husband is Andreas to the rest of the world. I only call him that, thereby lumping me together with said world, when I’m either mad or other people are within earshot. Otherwise, I have an array of names to express the situation. The same applies to him. I always know he’s about to ask me something a tad tenuous when he addresses me with ‘Babu’ ~when he had a business trip to Malta, for example, he called me that (I ended up tagging along! )
My kids have a variety of nicknames as well. To protect the innocent, I won’t, well, name them here.
I always know when I let someone into my heart ~ it’s the moment I find a nickname for that person. It usually unfolds naturally. My dear actor friend is ‘lovey dovey’, for instance.
Words are the ties that bind. And names matter. As Shakespeare’s Juliet so rightly said, “
“What’s in a name? That which we call a roseBy any other name would smell as sweet.”
So, what’s in your name?
In my book, everything that makes you special to that other person.