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Archive for the month “March, 2014”

I want to be perfect!

There – I said it! I really do want to be perfect!  Not in the Barbie Doll kind of way with the pink corvette, swimming pools, and the blonde hair. But perfect in the way I feel.  I want to be perfect in my faith. I want to trust that all will be well, and when it isn’t well, it will pass. I want to sit perfectly with my feelings until they rise to the surface and I can name them, look at them, be comfortable with them, and then let them go. Instead when feelings start rising, I get on Facebook, or pick up the phone to chat, or check the bank account balance, or begin cleaning.

Instead of being perfect, I suffer. Why do I suffer? Because I want to be perfect! I don’t want to worry about my daughter’s headache and dizziness. I don’t want to worry about my other daughter’s spending time alone in her room. I don’t want to worry about how my husband and I will find each other again when these daughters are gone in just a few short years. I want to know that God will handle this.  I want to have faith that the Universe will handle all things, and I can let go and lean in.  I know that leaning in will not cause as much pain as fighting the feelings that arise.

I want to be okay with a nightmarish past. I want to sit in the presence and know all I have is this moment. I’ve recently discovered that sometimes being present keeps me from looking at a past that needs to be looked at in order to heal. The real trick is – to look at it with all that I am now. Integrating ourselves to be fully whole and fully present is the way to peace. But therein lies the suffering. I can work to integrate wholeness in myself – the same way I sit with others so they can move to integrate wholeness. It’s a process, it isn’t at all perfect.

What choice do I have? I sit. I trust. I move forward. I keep going. I quiet my mind by focusing on the breathe, and the moments pass, the anxiety lifts. In the light – all things look different.

Peace.

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Daily Ground – – -Paying attention to Spring – – – February 21st

Presence and attention are the most precious gifts we can give to another.

When I did my first internship as a budding therapist in graduate school, I learned this loud and clear. I worked at a youth service bureau in a depressed area of Southeast Baltimore. Many of the families we saw were already deep into the system (DSS, CPS, Probation, DJS). I was a bit nervous and completely unsure of myself even after completing a rigorous grad program.

I thought I needed to memorize the DSM and know every intervention possible. I was worried about diagnosis, and correctly presenting cases in supervision. What I quickly learned was that so many of the people – children, adults, families, parents – sitting across from me had never been truly listened to. They needed to be heard.

There is a lot more to psychotherapy than just being with another, but it is the most important part. Id’ say it’s even the most difficult part. It’s  true of most people we encounter; we aren’t normally present to each other at all. Give someone a gift today. Make it your intention to be truly present to those you encounter – try it even with one person.

Peace.

Seduced by the American Dream

I’ve recently been feeling like I’ve been seduced by the American Dream.  It’s not a bad dream really. It’s just not for me.  The other day I finally got around to cleaning my house.  I don’t get to do that very much because I work a lot trying to pay the mortgage on the house, pay the astronomical fuel bills to travel 20 miles to work from the house, and save even a little to get the kids out of the house and into college.

I was putting away the winter dishes and getting out the regular Mikasa Southwest Pattern dishes we got for our wedding.  I was onto something then. I knew I didn’t want crystal – I wanted good, cool dishes. But something happened.  I began wanting the crystal (I still don’t have it), and the winter dishes, and the manicured lawn, and the deck. I got a lot of it, except I realize now it’s not at all what I want.

I was dusting the inside of china cabinet (a second hand one like most of our furniture), and realizing the ridiculousness of having all of these stupid dishes! Talk about excess! And now I have to dust them and display them (in a second hand china cabinet)! That’s when it hit me.  This isn’t my dream. It was my sister’s dream and my mom’s dream. They are the reason I even live 20 miles outside the city.  They loved it out here. I love the city!

Many people love it out here, and that is great. . .for them.  Now my kids go to school in the city, and my husband and I both work in the city.  We all love the amenities, the independently owned chic stores and restaurants, and the diversity of the city.  We spend a lot of time there, and our poor dog spends a lot of time out here.

I’m 50. I think this all has something to do with the freedom of turning 50. Years ago I purchased things so that visitors to my home would like it.  Now I want to downsize.  I really want to simply enjoy the people I love. That is my dream.  I hate cleaning and painting and gardening. I love people. I love conversation. I love connections. I don’t even mind much of the work I do.  I need to create a new dream, and pray I live long enough to make it come true.

Peace.

 

Ash Wednesday~Welcome to Lent

Ahhhhh – Lent. That dark time before the light of Easter. Lent – the time where we can give up, do more, and admit to our failings. I love Lent! It makes me feel so human. If Lent is all about admitting our human frailties and repenting for our past mistakes (sin), then isn’t it true that none of us are perfect? Whew – I thought it was just me.

Even as a young girl, I just loved Lent. Back then I didn’t mind giving up meat or candy or whatever it was. It made me feel special – like I had accomplished something. I suffered! Then I realized it wasn’t about me or about my feeling special.  As I got older, I discerned more and followed less.  I felt Jesus didn’t give a hoot about my eating meat.  I did think it might impress him if I was more mindful about eating period! I felt it was about giving something up that would make me or someone else better. It never made sense to me when folks would give up meat and then eat lump crab cakes or 16.99/pound grilled salmon.  What kind of sacrifice is that?

As much as I like many of the rituals of the church in which I grew up, I really don’t feel very good about doing some things “just because.” I don’t at all feel guilty about eating meat at anytime during Lent (no guiltier than I ever feel about eating meat; vegetarianism is definitely in my future). The trick for me has been to let others give up their meat without me judging them. That is often a struggle for me; I need others to act and react like me in order for me to feel safe and comfortable. Maybe I could give that up for Lent – my judging mind.  How much peace could I spread if I would stop judging myself and other fro a full 40 days? Ash Wednesday seems a good time to begin.

Peace.

Freedom in the popularity of Mindfulness

When I was first exposed to mindfulness practice it was Buddhist in nature.  Theravada Buddhism to be exact; as there  are many different traditions in Buddhism.  As someone who was raised Catholic, I felt I had a choice to make, and working in a Catholic school I felt I needed to be careful how I spoke about my new practice (not that you have to be Catholic to work in  a Catholic school). Even though my Buddhist mentor consistently advised me that there was no need to choose, I was rigid and content on doing this right!

I eventually had a group of likeminded people coming to my house on Sunday mornings to “sit.” Sitting involved just that – sitting. We would sit and meditate mindfully for 20 – 40 minutes. We would then break for tea or coffee and return to listen to a Dharma (teacher) talk for another hour or so. It was. . .enlightening. Unfortunately, I never let go of my struggle of choosing.

In 2009, my sister was diagnosed with Leukemia, and the next couple of years were filled with her extreme illness, and eventually her death, and the illness and death of other people in my family of origin.  I was busy planning Catholic funerals and had lost the ability to “sit.”  My sister actually said at one point in her illness that she didn’t really want a Catholic funeral, but this was early on, and I could never really get her to engage in actual plans of her passing (she really thought it wasn’t going to kill her). So I did what any good Catholic daughter would have done – I planned a Catholic funeral knowing this is what our mom needed.  I have said often that I love the way Catholics do death.  There is hope and peace present in a Catholic funeral.

I finally felt the veil of grief lift slightly in the late summer of 2013. The intense waves finally subsided to dull pangs. I once again was called to “sit.”  Death and life does something to you (if you are lucky); there are lessons in all of it. I wasn’t so rigid anymore. I didn’t feel called to one particular Tradition. In fact I discovered American Buddhism and a Mindfulness Practice that had gained much popularity since I had last practiced. These practices were less spiritual – more psychological.  I didn’t feel defensive, upset, or rigid about it.

Once again on Sundays, a group of folks gathers at my home to “sit.” Some are Christians, some are Buddhists, some simply know there is a God and they aren’t it. We all believe that slowing down, creating space between our feelings and others’ feelings,  and not taking things so personally helps us grow emotionally and spiritually.

Even though I am not suffering from the intense waves of grief, sitting is not easy.  Life is still difficult, so sitting with it can be difficult too. Even though it’s difficult, I’m surprised to hear people say they can’t do it. It is just sitting. Mindful sitting, however, allows me to watch my thoughts. In watching my thoughts I see the vulnerabilities in me and how they can be stirred by people I encounter in my life. When this happens I become angry, sad, proud, frustrated, etc. My first reaction is to blame the person that stirred me, but in sitting, I see it is me being stirred. By sitting and seeing this mindfully, I can usually stop acting out in the ways I used to.

After all of these years, I still don’t do it right, but I now know that doing it right isn’t at all the point.  Doing it is the point. That is progress. Living mindfully brings peace to myself. . .and to those I encounter.  I’m still Catholic although I do enjoy going on silent Buddhist retreats.  I think Jesus would be a big fan of mindfulness.

Peace.

Cartoon Amazing Race to Enlightenment

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