The Weight of Flexibility

We all have our moments when we adamantly believe that we are right. It may lean into our values, our morals, or because “it’s always been done that way.” Our convictions are a valuable part of us, they help to define who we are and often govern how we see the world. The significance of our opinions are often driven by our emotions, but where do our thoughts fit in?

If we lean into our opinions with adamant rigidity, we risk falling down into the rabbit hole of judgement; sometimes to the point of hypocrisy. We leave our loved ones feeling misunderstood and we risk their emotional withdrawal. We are better served to find flexibility to help carry the weight of the exchange. 

Being flexible doesn’t require that we give up our convictions; it simply means that we are open to listening; to understanding another’s position. When we can include flexibility, we validate our loved ones, opening up the space for healthier communication and the consequent strengthening of the relationship.

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A Way to Look at Purpose

We are all at times perplexed by the question of “What is my purpose?” It seems big; it feels like somehow it should be attached to something obvious. We are also led to believe that once we have discovered our purpose, complete and ultimate fulfillment and meaning will be ours.

Perhaps purpose isn’t fixed. Perhaps it isn’t meant to be so obvious. Perhaps we find it in all different stages of our lives, perhaps it is in the every day. Perhaps it is how we choose to live.

I find my purpose in the work I do as a therapist. Not because of the years of service behind me, or the amount of people I have helped, but by my intention to make a person’s experience matter in that moment. 

I find my purpose in being a mother. Some days that involved story time on the couch, other times it was found in the tucking in of bed. It is found in thoughtful intention.

I can find purpose when I hold a door open for someone, or smile at a stranger as we cross paths on the sidewalk. I can find purpose in my prayers, my aim to be kind, my aim to be inclusive, my aim to forgive.

Purpose needn’t be fixed. It can be effective, it can be free flowing, it can be intentional.

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A Thought from the Dalai Lama

The 14th Dalai Lama and spiritual leader of Tibet has said:

“When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.” – Dalai Lama

How many times are we quick to perceive that someone or something is to blame for our misfortune? How many times are we quick to make a judgement about someone else, especially in our perception of that person in relation to us? How many times do we linger in our suffering, or treasure a wound?

It is in our nature to focus on these things because of our negative bias. In order to keep ourselves safe from danger, we catalogue the wrong doings, the painful experiences; we are attuned to the hurt so as to avoid them again in the future.

Yet it is also in our nature to seek peace. We desire to feel calm, content. We have an inherent pull to forgive; to let go of the suffering and feel its release from the weighted space it has taken up in our hearts.

If we understand the Dalai Lama’s wise words, we recognize that we can hang on to the hurt and linger in our misery as to what has wronged us or we can move towards peace through forgiveness. The choice is ours. 🙂

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Self-Reflection Question 20

Last week in our self-reflection series, we explored the lessons we have learned about ourselves from the difficulties we have faced in our life. That got me to thinking about:

What have I learned about myself from my moments of pure joy? My experiences of bliss?

By the time my girls and I got to Gunstock Mountain Resort in New Hampshire for our zip lining experience, I had already ziplined a few times. Mostly on excursions on our trips south, the ziplines were manageable and not nearly as intimidating as what stood before me at Gunstock. There, you soar above the tree tops, peak to peak, with the longest zipline extending 2.5 kms! As I had already learned from my past experience, it is often the climb up the towers that give me more anxiety then stepping off the platform. The longest zipline was the last one and had the highest tower. My fear of open heights was challenged to the max as I continuously climbed up the tower, my legs shaky and my tummy queasy by the time I got up to the top. At that point, it was almost enough to convince me to climb back down as I can remember looking down the line to barely see the landing tower; racing thoughts about safety and the ‘what if’s’ were quite happy to fill in the space of my nervous energy.

But I was there with my kids, my aunt, and my nephew. I also wanted to accomplish this task and say that I did it. So I plucked up my courage and when it was my turn, stepped off the platform. The feeling was exhilarating. It was one of those moments in my life where I felt so absolutely free, without a care in the world. It was absolute joy; it was blissful. And it happened when I pushed past the fear. 

That is what I have learned about myself through my moments of pure elation – that I can create and sustain those moments. And when I challenge my doubts and fears, I always get rewarded with an experience that sustains my faith that joy is our birthright.

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Helping with the Meltdowns

We all know what it feels like when we are overwhelmed. There are some days where our emotions get the best of us and our rational brain doesn’t have much room in our decision making.

Imagine then, what it feels like for children; when their already emotional space gets flooded, their every frustration building with the crescendo of a crashing wave. Here are 5 tips to help with the meltdowns;

  • Be the calm. Matching their emotions with a bigger version will only increase the stimulation. Managing your own emotions while holding space for your child’s helps to validate, diffuse and comfort.
  • Re-direct. As adults, we have learned to be comfortable with the discomfort by using distraction. The same thing can work with our children; when we suggest an alternative, it often helps in creating a sense of control for the child.
  • Listen. Get down to their eye level; let them tell you what is wrong. Label and agree with their feelings. We can both validate and maintain boundaries which allows for teaching moments about behaviours.
  • Problem solve. When the meltdown is over, and calm has returned, that is when we can look at solving the problem – whether that is immediate or for ‘next time.’
  • Guide, not control. Sometimes our own fears about being the perfect parent will get in the way of what is happening in the moment which can lead us to needing to control. We can temper this by seeing ourselves instead as a guide, helping our littles navigate the emotional road.

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Keep Blooming

I have come to really appreciate the work of Morgan Harper Nichols:

Because no matter the amount of times you have felt lost

in a sea of a thousand things to do, in a range of roles and responsibilities

and the many ways that others see you, all along you have still been you.

You have been blooming everyday, and no amount of feeling 

unnoticed can pull you away from this truth. 

-Morgan Harper Nichols

There are times in life when we may feel unappreciated; perhaps in the busyness of our days we have put ourselves on the back burner. I believe that any work we have done on ourselves is never lost; the progress has still been achieved. It is perhaps a re-shifting of our needs that simply requires our attention to bring us back to our bloom 🙂

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3 Tips to Making Decisions

We can all struggle sometimes in making decisions. Sometimes this comes from our experiences growing up; being overprotected for example, can lead us to not feeling secure in our decision making skills. Perhaps we had a controlling parent who made our decisions for us; perhaps we had to make too many decisions as a child and it left us feeling uncomfortable with the process as an adult.

In our every day life we are faced with many choices, to varying degrees. Sometimes, we may wrestle with bigger issues such as whether to take a new job; other times we defer to someone else for something as simple as what movie to go see or what to have for dinner. In any case, the ability to make decisions is an empowering process; one that allows us to feel in control over our own choices, giving us a sense of agency. Here are three tips that can help in making decisions:

  1. Make a pros and cons list. This seems self-explanatory but the important bit here is to actually write it down. It allows you to gather information (making an informed decision makes us feel more confident), without spending copious amounts of time on it – we don’t want to lean into avoidance. Writing it down also allows us to use both sides of our brain; bringing both emotions and logic to the process.
  2. Bounce it off a friend. Friends are probably the most objective person outside of a therapist as they truly have your best interests at heart.  Grab a cup of coffee, your pros and cons list and chat away!
  3. Back up your instincts. Let’s face it, once we have gone through both a pros and cons list, and talked to a friend, we usually come to the same conclusion that we had in the very immediate moments of having to make up our mind. Our instincts are a valuable tool in helping us make decisions; challenging our self-doubts and creating positive affirmations about our instincts can help.

The art of making decisions is like anything else; sometimes we just need a sense of direction and practice. The end result is a sense of self-efficacy and confidence in our ability to work out the kinks, big or small.

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Why Are We Afraid of What’s Different?

In yesterday’s post, I spoke about the feelings of inferiority and superiority in relationships. This got me to thinking about differences and why we often struggle with them; often, sadly, to the point of hatred.

We are pack oriented by nature; it is part of our survival brain and left over from the days when we had to fend for ourselves on the plains. As a matter of survival, we needed our tribe to increase our ability to defend ourselves and be protected from danger.

We can see pack oriented behaviour in any school yard; children deemed as different in any way tend to be teased more, they have an increased chance of being ostracized, and can be bullied for their vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, we only have to look at the news these days to see many examples of this in the adult world too; in many ways, society is still leaning into the fear of differences.

But aren’t differences what also make us unique?  Perhaps it is our job to lean into the differences, to be curious before placing judgement, to be open to the experience of another person. Ultimately, it can only lead us to a better place; one governed not by fear, but by compassion.

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Inferior or Superior?

Think about someone that you have difficulty with. It could be a family member, co-worker, friend. There may be value in keeping the relationship, or they are in your orbit by way of circumstance – in any case, there are times when you struggle to maintain your composure or feel drained of your energy around them. When you reflect on your last few interchanges, ask yourself, “In their presence do I feel inferior or superior?” 

Generally speaking, we will lean one way or the other. We may feel inferior if that person tends to be controlling or dominant. Feeling inferior can occur if we feel pulled to justify or explain ourselves. We may feel superior if we feel compelled to always give advice. Superiority can also come when we see ourselves as more ‘put together’ or successful than the other.

One or the other, the feelings of inferiority and superiority come from fear. Fear that we are not good enough, that we don’t measure up. Fear that our insecurities will be revealed.

We are better served to recognize if this is happening and instead move to recognizing the equal in another. Below all the layers, we are the same being. When our ego is gently pushed aside, we are able to see that the space for equality has no room for fear, but rather leads with unconditional positive regard.

There will  always be relationships in which boundaries need to be in place and sometimes space needs to be taken, but we can do so with kindness and a respect for the equal in another.

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Tom Brady and a Comment to Think About

Most people know who Tom Brady is; an American Quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and winner of six Superbowl championships. I recently heard him in an interview talking about what he does to maintain a healthy lifestyle and he commented:

“My body is an asset.”

Makes sense, coming from a super athlete that makes his living in sports. But it got me to thinking about how we view our own bodies – super athlete or not, is our body not an asset? Imagine what is happening behind the scenes to keep our bodies healthy. Did you know for example that:

  • Our bodies automatically function to stabilize our body temperature.
  • Our bodies have the ability to self-heal. Regeneration of damaged cells occur as we move throughout the day.
  • The function of our heart is to pump blood throughout our body, bringing oxygen to our cells. In one day, it is averaged that our blood travels a total distance of 19,000 kms.
  • It is estimated that our brain can hold five times as much information as the Encyclopedia Britannia. The memory capacity in the average adult brain can store trillions of bytes of information.

This post doesn’t even touch on what how our skin, liver, and stomach do to help keep the miraculous function of our body in tact. Without us even paying attention. 

Perhaps we can begin to view our bodies as assets; creating conscious choices in what we eat, how we move, the sleep we get. Feeding our comfort system through daily self-care, creating space for our bodies to relax and renew.

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