Real Independence

Today is a glorious day here in St. Louis, MO.  There is an incredibly bright blue sky overhead and comfortable temperatures which are always a gift in the summer here.

It’s the 4th of July which has me thinking about Independence.  In this country we have this wonderful gift.  I’m extremely grateful, but I am also aware of the ways that my clients and I give up our personal independence on a regular basis.

What I am referring to is our tendency to be controlled and ruled by the thoughts in our heads that we take seriously.  We each have our own foreign monarchy trying to call the shots for us in a way that is not in our own best interest.

For example, many of us have a voice that tells us that we are never good enough. It doesn’t matter what we do or how hard we try, this clever voice has a way of undoing our best efforts by noticing some shortcoming.  Many of us have a voice that seems to make its living by pointing out ways that we don’t look the way we should.  We’re too short, tall,  heavy, skinny, old,…..on and on. These voices judge our behavior.  We shouldn’t have said that or we should just realize that we aren’t as smart as we should be.

Do you recognize this voice?  If so, don’t give up.  There is great news!  This news is that we always, yes, always  have a choice as to whether we take these voices seriously!  Yes, we get to be in charge.  The voices are pretty much automatic, but we feed them and empower when we allow them to be The Truth.  Taking charge means noticing the voice’s message and recognizing that it is optional as to whether we pay any more attention to the message.  Some people dismiss the thought by saying, “Thanks for sharing” and then moving on with their day with no more attention paid to it.

What you will find is that when we don’t “feed” these thoughts with our rapt attention, they slowly begin to lose their power and and not show up as often.

As usual, it’s all a matter of mindfulness.   We need to pay attention to what it is that we are paying attention to so that we see that we always have choices as to whether we want to continue to do what we are doing (& , of course, get the same old results) or choose something else.

STRESS IS CREATED BETWEEN OUR EARS

I know that it really seems like that rude driver who just cut you off on the highway made you stressed. Just as it seems like your inconsiderate boss who gave you another assignment made you stressed. And then there’s the weather which is stressing you. How about your kids? They create more stress with all of their demands and after school activities. We haven’t even brought up your spouse and mother-in-law yet! You have no choice but to feel overwhelmed with stress and anger, right?

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise that I am going to vote Wrong on this. And this truly is the good news. We do have a choice. We play a major role in the stress that we experience.

Yes, there are many stressors that find their way into our lives. It’s how we respond or react to them that makes all the difference. It’s what we tell ourselves about what is happening that will determine how we feel about those stressors.

When I was younger, I used to keep a running tally of all the things that I felt were going wrong in my life. I guess I didn’t want to forget any of them! Anyway, this tally made me very anxious, discouraged and Stressed. I would repeat them like a mantra, over and over, working myself up more and more. I don’t imagine I was much fun to be around and I most certainly was not fun to live inside of!

I began to observe people who appeared to be serene and happy. When I spoke with them, I noticed that they also had stressors in their lives, but they did not focus on them. If they did mention them, they always had a way of reassuring themselves. For example, if they had a boss who was always dumping work on them, they might say, “but, of course, I can only do one thing at a time. I’ll eventually get things done.” I would feel better just hearing them speak in this common sense way. They might not be thrilled about the cold, dreary, dark day outside, but they might say, “Days like this really help me notice and appreciate the beautiful days which will be here soon enough.” Somehow that lifted my spirit and brought a little sunshine into my heart.

Perhaps life is all about what we make of it. As far as I can tell, everybody has their fair share of unpleasant, anxiety-producing things that occur over time. It’s the way that we talk to ourselves about these inevitable events. Do we whine, cry, scream, moan when they happen or do we take them in stride, bringing kindness and compassion to ourselves. We are not unique. We all suffer. But tormenting ourselves by telling ourselves how unfair it is, how we will never get everything done, how life is awful is truly optional suffering.

A MINDFUL THANKSGIVING

Does your traditional Thanksgiving consist of cleaning, cooking and overeating followed by exhaustion?  If so, why not try a mindful Thanksgiving this year?

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to slow down, to be grateful for what we have and to really see what is important in our lives.

For example, as you are slicing and chopping vegetables for the meal, become aware that they were warmed by the sunshine, were watered by the rain and had moonlight shining down on them at night.  You might reflect on the fact that you are preparing food that will nourish the bodies of those you love so that this becomes an act of caring rather than a boring chore.

If you notice yourself caught up in worries about whether the house looks perfect or fearful that you will overeat, try to remember that all of that is beside the point.  The point is to savor the experience of togetherness and gratitude for all that you have.  You might see that slowing down with this awareness of abundance and gratitude will fill you emotionally so that you will be less likely to burden yourself with excess food.  Perhaps you will also see that what you are truly hungering for are these nourishing feelings.

Put aside your worries and fears to look into the eyes of those with whom you are sharing this day.  Drink in the delight of any children who might be present.  Notice what is right and let the rest go.

A warm, mindful connection with others provides a positive internal experience.  We miss this experience if we are busy worrying and/or judging ourselves and others.

Creating this kind of rich, meaningful experience can provide a wonderful balance for any personal life hardships, upsetting world events and uncertainties.

Perhaps you will see any opportunity to reach out in some way to some one who is less fortunate, being grateful for the opportunity to do so.  This kind of behavior not only feels good to us, but it also is modeling behavior that your children are likely to integrate into their lives in a positive way.

You might be amazed at how much abundance you have when you actually slow down and just notice.