Is There Enough?(Hint: Yes! If We Change the Way We Look at Life)

I probably sound like a groupie, but I am utterly enchanted by Dr. Rick Hanson’s work. I just read his newsletter, Just One Thing, Simple practices for resilient happiness from Rick Hanson, Ph.D. , and immediately wanted to shout from the rooftop.

Resilient happiness. Who doesn’t want that?

The newsletter is free, informative and totally relatable. I enjoy reading it every week. Today’s message was about feeling already full. I’m simply going to copy and paste the entire thing here as he says it all.

No, I am not financially affiliated or rewarded in any way for promoting his (or anybody’s) work. This is just too helpful not to share!

Is There Enough?

The Practice:

Feel already full.
Why?

One slice of the pie of life feels relaxed and contented. And then there is that other slice, in which we feel driven and stressed. Trying to get pleasures, avoid pains, pile up accomplishments and recognitions, be loved by more people. Lose more weight, try to fill the hole in the heart. Slake the thirst, satisfy the hunger. Strive, strain, press.

This other slice is the conventional strategy for happiness. We pursue it for four reasons.

1. The brain evolved through its reptilian, mammalian, and primate/human stages to meet three needs: avoid harms, approach rewards, and attach to others. In terms of these three needs, animals that were nervous, driven, and clinging were more likely to survive and pass on their genes – which are woven into our DNA today. Try to feel not one bit uneasy, discontented, or disconnected for more than a few seconds, let alone a few minutes.

2. You’re bombarded by thousands of messages each day that tell you to want more stuff. Even if you turn off the TV, worth in our culture is based greatly on accomplishments, wealth, and appearance; you have to keep improving, and the bar keeps rising.

3. Past experiences, especially young ones, leave traces that are negatively biased due to the Velcro-for-pain but Teflon-for-pleasure default setting of the brain. So there’s a background sense of anxiety, resentment, loss, hurt, or inadequacy, guilt, or shame that makes us over-react today.

4. To have any particular perception, emotion, memory, or desire, the brain must impose order on chaos, signals on noise. In a mouthful of a term, this is “cognitive essentializing.” The brain must turn verbs – dynamic streams of neural activity – into nouns: momentarily stable sights, sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and thoughts. Naturally, we try to hold onto the ones we like. But since neural processing continually changes, all experiences are fleeting. They slip through your fingers as you reach for them, an unreliable basis for deep and lasting happiness. Yet so close, so tantalizing . . . and so we keep reaching.

For these reasons, deep down there is a sense of disturbance, not-enoughness, unease. Feeling threatened and unsafe, disappointed and thwarted, insufficiently valued and loved. Driven to get ahead, to fix oneself, to capture an experience before it evaporates. So, we crave and cling, suffer and harm. As if life were a cup – with a hole in the bottom – that we keep trying to fill. A strategy that is both fruitless and stressful.

All the world’s wisdom traditions point out this truth: that the conventional strategy for happiness is both doomed and actually makes us unhappier. The theistic traditions (e.g., Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity) describe this truth as the inherently unsatisfying nature of a life that is separated from an underlying Divine reality. The agnostic traditions (e.g., Buddhism) describe it as the inherent suffering in grasping or aversion toward innately ephemeral experiences.

Call this the truth of futility. Recognizing it has been both uncomfortable and enormously helpful for me, since you gradually realize that it is pointless to “crave” – to stress and strain over fleeting experiences. But there is another truth, also taught in the wisdom traditions, though perhaps not as forthrightly. This is the truth that there is always already an underlying fullness.

When this truth sinks in emotionally, into your belly and bones, you feel already peaceful, happy, and loved. There is no need for craving, broadly defined, no need to engage an unhappy strategy for happiness. And you have more to offer others now that your cup is truly full.
How?

Recognize the lies built into the conventional strategy for happiness to wake up from their spells. Mother Nature whispers: You should feel threatened, frustrated, lonely. Culture and commerce say: You need more clothes, thinner thighs, better beer; consume more and be like the pretty people on TV. The residues of past experiences, especially young ones, mutter in the background: You’re not that smart, attractive, worthy; you need to do more and be more; if you just have X, you’ll get the life you want. The essentializing nature of cognition implies: Crave more, cling more, it will work the next time, really.

As you see through these lies, recognize the truth of fullness. In terms of your core needs to avoid harms, approach rewards, and attach to others, observe: that you are basically alright right now; that this moment of experience has an almost overwhelming abundance of stimulation, and you probably live better than the kings and queens of old; and that you are always intimately connected with all life, and almost certainly loved. Regarding our consumerist and status-seeking culture, consider what really matters to you – for example, if you were told you had one year to live – and notice that you already have most if not all of what matters most. In terms of the messages from previous experiences, look inside to see the facts of your own natural goodness, talents, and spirit. And about the impermanent nature of experience, notice what happens when you let go of this moment: another one emerges, the vanishing Now is endlessly renewed.

Abiding in fullness doesn’t mean you sit on your thumbs. It’s normal and fine to wish for more pleasure and less pain, to aspire and create, to lean into life with passion and purpose, to pursue justice and peace. But we don’t have to want for more, fight with more, drive for more, clutch at more. While the truth of futility is that it is hopeless to crave, the truth of fullness is that it’s unnecessary.

Finding this fullness, let it sink in. For survival purposes, the brain is good at learning from the bad, but bad at learning from the good. So, help it by enriching an experience through making it last a 10-20 seconds or longer, fill your body and mind, and become more intense. Also absorb it by intending and sensing that it is sinking into you as you sink into it. Do this half a dozen times a day, maybe half a minute at a time. It’s less than five minutes a day. But you’ll be gradually weaving a profound sense of being already fundamentally peaceful, happy, loved, and loving into the fabric of your brain and your life.

Needless to say I highly recommend signing up to receive this gem in your inbox every week. He also links his podcast, classes, and other news in the world of resilient happiness. And I want that for all of us.

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Rejected. Thank Goodness!

Today I received a “thank you for your application, but…” email from a local non-profit group I want to volunteer for. Or at least I thought I want to volunteer. As I’ve been waiting to learn if I was in or not, I’d begun to feel anxious about the time requirements, both for the training and the monthly commitment afterwards. I’d put several other opportunities on hold to save time for this group and felt mildly resentful about that too.

So now I feel as if a burden has been lifted! Once again I didn’t know what I really wanted and chose to pursue something that wasn’t an ideal match for my needs. In fact, had I been accepted, I can now see that one of my favorite pastimes would have been irrevocably linked in my mind to volunteering and likely forever tainted by a sense of obligation .

Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

How cool is it that fate or the Universe or Divine Planning (or whatever you want to call it!) didn’t give me the thing I thought I wanted that I really didn’t? Not only that, but during my interview I was given the name of a book that actually contains the information that drove me to seek out the training in the first place. Perhaps that was the whole point!

Most magical of all, I’ve been able to see this potentially upsetting news as the gift that it really is. If it weren’t for my consistent practice of filling myself up with Reiki before getting out of bed every morning, I would have likely been sucked into a downward self-pity spiral. Instead I was able to tap into my inner resilience and wisdom.

I tell my students that Reiki always works, just not always in the ways we want it to. I had been using Reiki to support my hopes of being accepted into the program. I didn’t get what I thought I wanted, but I did get what I needed. Fortunately Reiki can see the bigger picture and has my highest good prioritized. My only job is to activate it, trust, and follow through on the steps I’m guided to take.

Whew! That’s totally doable.

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Follow the Yellow Brick Road

I talk a lot about the follow-up steps after a Reiki session; paying attention and taking inspired action. (My most recent post about this, You Don’t Need to Know How, can be found here.) Healing isn’t usually something that just occurs voila! in a treatment and then you’re all done, ✔. I suppose that might happen occasionally, but more often than not, we are given directions to the next step on the journey of recovering health and wholeness. It’s then up to us to follow through. Or not.

The perfect circumstances in my own life have aligned to illustrate this. I’m sharing it here because I am often greeted with blank stares when I tell clients to watch for insights and synchronicities that occur in the days following their sessions. Generally these hints turn us in directions we are unlikely to have found on our own. Yet if you don’t know what to look for, it can be easy to miss them.

Here’s my example.

I yearn for a sense of belonging. It’s been an elusive experience in my life, partially because I’m an introvert and have some peculiar habits, a ridiculously early bedtime and a very low tolerance for superficial conversation. This is compounded by frequent callings to up and move across the country every 8 years or so. While I have occasional glimpses of belonging, most of the time I feel like a misfit. I don’t see that changing, but I would enjoy being a part of a larger community of misfits. 🙂

A friend mentioned a teacher/author that he appreciates and so I followed her blog, bought her book, and happened to be sitting in front of my laptop when an invitation arrived from her. An online class, the description of which used different language, but essentially outlined a way to grow a sense of belonging wherever you are. Yes please! But completely beyond my budget given a recent out-of-pocket root canal and dental crown. But a 50% scholarship was offered, I applied, and was accepted. Some might call this grace. I call it Following the Yellow Brick Road.

Wait, there’s more! During this online class, we were given an assignment to learn the history of the land we live in, as well as the native flora and fauna. Well I couldn’t tell the difference between an oak and an elm tree and all those little birds pretty much look the same to me. A search of the library’s catalog showed nothing helpful and I hadn’t yet made it to the local bookstore when I received an email from a colleague inviting me on a hike organized by the group that maintains the wooded area near my home.

I’m not able to attend this particular hike, but when I signed up for the group’s newsletter, I was alerted that they are soon beginning the next round of volunteer training. A training that covers the history of the woods I so love to visit and the native flora and fauna there as well. Ding, ding, ding! I filled out the application, and was delighted to receive an email containing the training dates, which by some miracle (or grace or Follow the YBR magic) align with my somewhat impossible schedule.

The next day I received another email inviting me to schedule an interview with the volunteer director on one of the next several Saturdays. Saturdays are my busiest workday. I have appointments scheduled every Saturday for the next 10 weeks. But this coming Saturday, I have nothing booked in the afternoon and therefore am able to easily make this interview. This is exactly what I mean! I never could have planned this. I’m just following the road that is emerging before my very eyes.

I haven’t yet been accepted into this program. I might not be. I might not even want to be. I’m in a curious place of non-attachment, recognizing that if it’s meant to be, it will be. If it’s not meant to be, it has at the very least opened my eyes to the possibility of divine intervention through the unlikeliest of methods: email! All I know for sure is that I’m going to the interview and will keep following the clues as they appear, clearly showing me the way on The Yellow Brick Road.

All I need do is pay attention and take inspired action. Period. I don’t need to see the big picture, or even know where the next turn is. Obviously this doesn’t absolve me from making plans for my next vacation or paying my bills, but when it comes to healing it’s become crystal clear to me that I’ll be shown the way. Every single step!

This is What 'Self-Care' REALLY Means

I’ve written a lot about self-care over the years. I talk about it frequently with students and clients. I practice it non-stop. Most of the time it’s not at all glamorous. Often it involves chopping vegetables on a Saturday morning, doing my bookkeeping on a Friday night, saying “no” to invitations that don’t spark joy, NOT buying that awesome tote bag that’s 60% off, getting up at 5 am to pursue my dreams, and going to bed early so I’m not cranky when I do that.

When this touching article by Brianna Wiest came across my radar once again, I decided to share it. She makes very good points about the toxicity that is so rampant in our society and the importance of choosing to go another route. Particularly this: “True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.” So here’s what Brianna has to say. I hope you find it helpful.

“Self-care is often a very unbeautiful thing.

It is making a spreadsheet of your debt and enforcing a morning routine and cooking yourself healthy meals and no longer just running from your problems and calling the distraction a solution.

It is often doing the ugliest thing that you have to do, like sweat through another workout or tell a toxic friend you don’t want to see them anymore or get a second job so you can have a savings account or figure out a way to accept yourself so that you’re not constantly exhausted from trying to be everything, all the time and then needing to take deliberate, mandated breaks from living to do basic things like drop some oil into a bath and read Marie Claire and turn your phone off for the day.

A world in which self-care has to be such a trendy topic is a world that is sick. Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some reprieve from our own relentless internal pressure.

True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.

And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.

It often means looking your failures and disappointments square in the eye and re-strategizing. It is not satiating your immediate desires. It is letting go. It is choosing new. It is disappointing some people. It is making sacrifices for others. It is living a way that other people won’t, so maybe you can live in a way that other people can’t.

It is letting yourself be normal. Regular. Unexceptional. It is sometimes having a dirty kitchen and deciding your ultimate goal in life isn’t going to be having abs and keeping up with your fake friends. It is deciding how much of your anxiety comes from not actualizing your latent potential, and how much comes from the way you were being trained to think before you even knew what was happening.

If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.

It is no longer using your hectic and unreasonable life as justification for self-sabotage in the form of liquor and procrastination. It is learning how to stop trying to “fix yourself” and start trying to take care of yourself… and maybe finding that taking care lovingly attends to a lot of the problems you were trying to fix in the first place.

It means being the hero of your life, not the victim. It means rewiring what you have until your everyday life isn’t something you need therapy to recover from. It is no longer choosing a life that looks good over a life that feels good. It is giving the hell up on some goals so you can care about others. It is being honest even if that means you aren’t universally liked. It is meeting your own needs so you aren’t anxious and dependent on other people.

It is becoming the person you know you want and are meant to be. Someone who knows that salt baths and chocolate cake are ways to enjoy life – not escape from it.”
-Brianna Wiest

New Moon Intentions

Yesterday we were gifted with the energy of a new moon, a time when the cosmic energies are supportive of planting the seeds for that which we’d like to harvest. I recognize the vast wisdom of astrology, but have yet to learn the language. Currently my bandwidth is fully occupied with other pursuits, so I turn to The Power Path School of Shamanism updates for a user friendly, fully digested version of what’s happening in the universe.

Here’s what they have to say about this month’s new moon energies:

“This moon supports expansion, freedom, practicality, a higher sense of intuition and beauty, and an increase in your inner awareness of what you want, what you can have and what you deserve.  This is the “proactive change” growing teeth and getting grounded in something substantial as you anchor a new vision or a new project.  
“This new moon also initiates a time frame of preparedness for what is coming in the future. It is not too early to get thinking about your goals and desires for the months to come. And, whatever you can get rid of that is no longer useful during this new moon time will make space for what you really want.
 
“This is a social time where you can share your visions and get support. Celebrate change, progress and all the aspects of your life that are on the move to something better, bigger, grander and more balanced. Be sure to take some time for self care as your emotional and physical health is a major component of being prepared for the future. If you have some clarity about what you want, this new moon is also a great time for actually making a concrete list of what is clear to you and how you plan to go about manifesting it.” 

I had the great joy of hosting a small gathering of people in my office last night. We joined together as a community to witness one another’s intentions and share a layering of energetic tools to support our goals. I’m all about stacking practices- a term I use to describe the combining of a variety of techniques to maximize outcome.

Keeping the quality of the astrological forecast in mind, we used the powers of awareness and connection, sound vibration (via my amaaaaazing crystal bowl), Reiki and all its potent symbols, grounding aromatherapy (cypress, cinnamon, rosemary- yum!), and a deck of oracle cards to offer concrete wisdom about how to proceed. (Forgiveness was the beginning point according to the group reading. Isn’t that always the case?!) All of this was amplified by the dynamism of intention, further amplified by the group’s combined efforts.

The invitation is clear. At the very least we all have the power of intention and the influence of the mind-body connection. Stack this with the understanding of the currents of the new moon energies and every tool you have at your disposal, and take a few moments to align yourself with the future you desire. Our vibration is constantly influencing our experiences, why not make the effort to influence them in our preferred direction?

Reiki fail?

For months now I’ve been spontaneously waking up before 5 am. Since I’ve been using Reiki to break this super annoying pattern and failing miserably, I know that there’s a bigger plan beyond what I can see. As I tell my students, Reiki always works, just not always in the way we want it to! I trust the intelligence of this universal life-force healing energy much more than I trust my own thinking. My thoughts often lead me astray!

This week my self-care, spiritual, and personal growth practices all converged to show me the colossal wisdom of Reiki and my own shortsightedness. It’s a lovely story of how the universe has conspired to give me exactly what I want despite my continued resistance to receive it. The complexity of several different factors intersecting perfectly blows my mind and lends credence to my belief in synchronicity, divine guidance and divine timing.

Last month’s meditation in Rick Hansen’s “Growing the Good” online program focused on motivation. That certainly got my attention as I was just wrapping up the 12 week studies in the book, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity“, by Julia Cameron. Given that I’ve spent the last year intending to open to my innate creative flow, this book was a no-brainer, and linking creativity with motivation was incredibly helpful. As was the choice to delve into the humorous yet profound “You are a Badass at Making Money” by Jen Sincero, as I’m building my own business and have a burning desire for more freedom and autonomy as well as prosperity.

Throw in the practices I’m learning about dream tending from Sharon Blackie in her online course “Courting the World Soul” and a dietary detox revealing greater levels of energy, I grew closer to my epiphany. But it wasn’t until I had a medical intuitive session with the amazing Laura Bruno regarding the healing of a longstanding pain in my foot that the breakthrough broke. In addition to some practical remedies, Laura suggested that I make a verbal commitment to a project that I intend to complete in the next 2-5 years. As I did this… ding ding ding!! The alarms in my head went off and everything fell into place.

I have three different books simmering inside me that I just can’t seem to find the time or motivation to begin. With the exercises in the books I’m reading, the meditation, harvesting the messages in my dreams, breaking the hold that sugar has over me, and making this commitment to myself and the projects I desire to create; it was infinitely obvious that the universe/Spirit/Reiki/intuition/whatever you want to call it was giving me the gift of an undisturbed, quiet hour every morning to devote to my creative urges.

Once I stopped wasting this precious time lying in bed cursing my biorhythms and feeling sorry for myself, I began to see this for the spectacular blessing that it is. Since then I’ve been jumping out of bed after recording the fragments of dream memories and doing what absolutely needs doing to sit my butt down and write for an hour. I have no idea of where it will lead, but the energetic rewards of being devoted to my goals and allowing creativity to flow, feel fantastic! And quite frankly, that’s good enough for now.

Happy side effects: I’ve not had any sensation in my foot since I made my commitment to using this morning time for writing. My body was trying to tell me something for a long time and I just wasn’t getting the message. I vow to learn to speak her language to save myself the time and hassle of painfully unheeded communication. I am also finding myself so productive in the mornings that I’m able to get to the woods more frequently for creek therapy and sunshine. Win, win, win!

Health Insurance

As the year draws to a close, I’m receiving a lot of calls and emails about choosing my health insurance package for next year. While I am indeed grateful for the ability to seek medical care should I need it, I’m more interested in the steps I can take every day to insure my optimal health and wellbeing.

For me, that’s spending time in nature, being with the trees and flowing water. Drinking my tea outside at sunrise allowing myself to be still and quiet and present with my intentions and feelings. Choosing organic and sustainably produced foods from the farmers market and making the time to prepare and enjoy nourishing meals. Setting healthy boundaries to protect my down time and peace of mind. Engaging in meaningful and uplifting conversations and reading material.

And my latest project- learning to have fun, since I’ve managed to take really good care of myself in an overly serious and chore-like manner. So tomorrow night you can find me wearing silly glasses and a tiara (it’s Halloween after all!) turning in the wrong direction and stepping on toes and having a blast with my neighborhood contra dancing community.

It doesn’t really matter what type of insurance you invest in for yourself. Knitting, baking, painting, gardening, hiking, writing, singing… I could go on for ages! But I do encourage everyone to empower themselves by taking action (or stillness, as might often be more helpful!) to promote your health rather than relying on a doctor to “fix” you once things begin to fall apart.