Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I Will Not Put My Passion in a Box for You

I'd describe myself as a pretty passionate person. I'm up by 6:30 every morning, with or without an alarm. I'm convinced that I run on solar energy because as soon as the first ray of sun touches my window, I am energized and ready to tackle the day. I climb a local mountain every weekend. When I love, it is unconditionally. When I fight, it is vehemently. When I declare my loyalty, it is fiercly.

Some people may say I'm "too much," or that I'm "intense," maybe that I should "chill out," but the reality is:

 that sounds like a personal problem.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Love is...

We all love differently. We have had moments where we thought we had love, but were mistaken. Some of us differentiate between loving versus being in love. I can't tell you how to love, or even define what love is. But I can tell you about my love. My love is not a box of chocolates nor is it a TV romance. It is work. It is exciting. It is routine. It is magical. I thought today, on V-day, I would share with you what my love looks like.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Can You Mourn Something You Never Had?

As a child therapist, I work with many children who have been abandoned by one or both of their biological parents. Some of these kids are unaffected by their abandonment and have adjusted well to their adoptive parents, or being raised by a single parent, especially if that is all they know. However some of these children have a sadness in their eyes when they sit in the chairs of my office. There is a grief that they carry with them, expressed with tears, anger, or self-loathing. There is something they desperately long for, and they are in mourning every day they go without it. The void of that biological parent is unquestioningly present.

If I were not confronted with their raw emotion every day in my office I may have believed that these children were being bratty. If I did not see their tears of grief, I might have said that they had nothing to complain about. Working as a social worker, I have come across children who have both parents who are neglectful, and abusive. I see children who are abandoned and as a result spend years "in the system", bouncing from one foster home to another, often enduring complex trauma from the accumulation of abuse from one family to another. So when I saw a child in my office who was raised by an unconditionally loving set of grandparents, or by an attentive single parent, I considered them lucky. To their guardians, these children were precious angels, for which any necessary sacrifice was made, without hesitation.

But they saw something different.  

For these particular children, their blessings did not heal the pain of their abandonment. They were not by any means ungrateful for what they had, and knew that their caretaker(s)' love was unequivocal. What was interesting was that many of these children never had an opportunity to really get to know their birth parent(s). Most were separated almost immdiately after birth. Others who were separated a during their toddler/early childhood years had only a handful of memories to reflect on. Maybe some had pictures, or had heard stories, but the actual time spent bonding with their parent was minimal. So what exactly were they mourning? Could they actually miss something they never had?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Communication & Intimacy: How Your Style Affects Your Relationships

We often hear that communication is "the key" to a successful relationship. And we communicate with one another all the time, whether it's a facebook poke, a text message, a hug or a screaming match. However, it is evident that not all modes of communication were created equal. We alter our communication styles (consciously or unconsciously) depending on the level of intimacy we wish to have with others. When I refer to intimacy, I mean with friends, family members and romantic partners, anyone with whom we have a relationship.

When asked how we are doing, we either choose to mask our true emotions with a smile and reply with the courteous "Fine", or we chose to divulge our fears, our excitement, and our burdens. Rarely do we share personal information with people whom we have yet to develop trust (unless we trust that we will never see them again --see "Taxicab Confessions"). This of course, is a conscious decision, for self-preservation. It protects us from exposing our vulnerabilities and risking emotional pain.

But we all want that close intimate relationship, whether it's to have a BFF or to fall completely in-sync with a soulmate. Are there things that you are doing that are putting you in the "acquaintance" category. Or is the other person "just not that into you" and you are missing all of the signs?

Friday, January 24, 2014

My Cacophonous Meditation Experience

My Cacophonous Meditation Experience

As I promised, I actually tried Meditation in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month... and I lived to tell the tale.

I showed up at a Dhammakaya (don't ask me how to pronounce it) meditation center in comfortable clothes, and removed my shoes as directed. There were about fifteen people there, from all walks of life, young old, different races, and there for different purposes. For some, it was a way to gain merit (the performance of good actions to cleanse the mind), and for others it was to treat medical issues, to gain a peace of mind, or to try something new.

Why was I there? I wanted to silence my mind, and find peace in order to achieve clarity. For those who know me, I am always full of energy, multitasking more often than not, jumping from one idea to the next, crossing things off of my mental to-do list. I wanted to step away from that state of mind for a moment, and experience silence. For those who regularly meditate, they view it as a cleansing process: "only after the old water is thrown out can the cup become useful."

They started with a Buddhist quote, and went over general meditation points. They explained that the focus should be directed to the center of our bodies, two finger widths above the navel. We were encouraged to use an image of a crystal ball and had the option of using the mantra "Samma Arahang" which means Supreme Body of Enlightenment.

The leader informed us that meditation would be for 40 minutes. Challenge accepted. I sat with my legs crossed, and my eyes closed, consciously relaxing my body. And so it had begun... 

The leader initiated the meditation by helping us get into the right mental state:

Feel your head, neck, shoulders begin to relax. No big deal.

Rest your arms, your legs, your toes, relaxing any part that has tensions. Piece of cake. I'm a therapist. I can do this!

Imagine the sun, the moon, or a crystal ball with a light shining through it. Ok, let me try the sun. Whew that's bright!! Does it have a face in it like the Telletubby sun? How weird. Ok. Scratch the sun. How about the moon? How many holes should I put in it. No, I don't like the moon. A crystal ball with a light? I'm going to go blind!! You can't go blind Mollie... It's your imagination. How about a marble with a light in it? One of the marbles I used to have when I was little... with blue and yellow ribbons inside.

The leader had stopped speaking and there was silence. For a moment there was actually silence in my brain. I felt myself disconnect from my body. I experienced a tingling sensation, as if I were floating, and for a moment, I saw nothing but that bright marble. It was a liberating feeling...

Then I panicked... Holy crap, what if I looked weird, mouth hanging, drool dripping down my shirt? I don't feel anything. No, I don't think I'm drooling. I wish I could get those marbles again. I used to love looking at them as a kid. I wonder if I can find them on Amazon. Mental note: Google marbles with ribbon. It would be pretty sweet if I could find the one I was imagining. Geez Mollie! You're supposed to be clearing your mind, not making to-do lists!! SAMMA ARAHANG, SAMMA ARAHANG... I began to combat the thoughts in my mind with the chant trying to drown them out, but my petulant brain started spewing non-sequitor thoughts:

Pizza. I must write a blog post. What am I doing this weekend? Is that a lawnmower outside? I wonder what other people are thinking about. The lady's stomach next to me just growled.

To make matters worse, my toes began to tingle as my foot fell asleep. I was then intensely focused on my feet. I have such poor circulation. I probably wouldn't feel this if I was in a proper meditative trance. I hope they don't notice me massaging myself. Am I allowed to change positions? When will this be over? Again, I tried to chant: SAMMA ARAHANG, SAMMA ARAHANG...

Long story short, in the 40 minutes of "meditation," I probably got fifteen minutes of silence. No, not all at one time, in short three-minute bursts. And I'm pretty sure that my focus was nowhere near the center of my body.

I was reassured when the leader explained that a person's very first experience with meditation is similar to caging a wild animal... Yup, that pretty much nailed my experience on the head. Was that a challenging experience? Absolutely! Is my mind hyper as hell? Most-definitely! Will I do this again? Sure, why not. I believe that conquering one's mind is a great and useful skill, and is something I recommend that everyone at least try to accomplish... I know I have a lot of work to do! I leave you with this to ponder:

"The mind is like the sky. The drifting clouds are like our changing thoughts and ideas. The gray, dark clouds and wind are like our emotions and moods. The thunder and lightening are like our anger and temper. The falling rain like our sadness, sorrow and tears. But above the ever-changing clouds and weather is the clear, blue sky. Similarly, above our constantly changing mental states is awareness, mindfulness—clear, vast and peaceful. The sky is clear and unaffected by what is happening. The clouds and wind come and go. So does the rain and sunlight. But the sky remains clear, vast and peaceful. See the mind as the clear blue sky or the night sky filled with stars. And let everything arise and pass away, come and go on its own. Then the mind will stay balanced, peaceful and free, observing the flow of events and our temporary mental states. Such is the nature of awareness, mindfulness—calm, bare attention." --www.purifymind.com

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Finding Your Purpose & Feeding Your Virtuous Self

We are almost one month into the New Year. For some reason, I've noticed a lot of backlash about people making New Year's goals. People have not only given up on the resolution-making tradition themselves, but have criticized others for posting about the things they want to achieve for the new year.

People have stated that it's nonsensical to try to set new goals simply because it's the new year. My response is, when is it not a good time to try to improve yourself? Every new day is an opportunity for a new you. And why not seize the opportunity on New Year's Eve (regardless of the fact that it may have become a trite ritual) to make a change in your life?

I've waited for 21 days to talk about New Year's Resolutions --and to step away from the cliche, I'll refer to them as "personal goals" moving forward, because let's not limit ourselves to a date that occurs every 365 days. Jeremy Dean, author of "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" stated that it takes 21 days in order to make or break a habit. Many of you have likely heard of Beyonce & Jay-Z's pledge to go vegan for 22 days --Jay's reasoning behind this was that it took that long to make it a habit.

So today, on the 21st day of the year, are you able to recall your personal goals that you set for yourself 3 weeks ago? And when I say recall, I don't mean to look for the piece of paper on which you scribbled it on December 31st... Those things that you strive for, that you yearn for, should not be tucked away in a file or posted on a board, but emblazoned on your spirit. If not, then you should challenge yourself to think "Who am I setting these goals for?"

Have you been fully committed to your goals and have been following through with the promises you made to yourself. Maybe you missed a few days, but your committment remains unwavering. If that is the case, take your right hand, reach it over your left shoulder, and give yourself a pat on the back --you have turned your personal goals into a way of life, and a habit!! Congratulations and keep it up!

However, if you have found that your goals have faded, maybe this is an opportunity for you to reevaluate and reanalyze your goals. It's an opportunity to really consider the things that are truly important to you, and the best way that I can think of is to figure out the the WHYs of your goals...

For instance, "I want to go to the gym because I want to be hot," is a totally fair goal, however is being "hot" of great importance to your being. Is it something that you want to be a defining part of who you are? However, "I want to go to the gym so that I can be a more active mother for my kids" OR "I want to go to the gym because a leaner body will give me confidence, and be proof that I can do whatever I put my mind to, and handle the challenges ahead of me" ...Those are goals that speak to your core and goals that will continue to motivate you throughout the year and beyond.

What is your purpose? What drives you? What pushes you to get out of bed every morning?

A priest said something during a sermon that caught my attention: "If you are doing something in your life that does have any virtue, then why are you doing it?" He then went on to share that his grandfather was not only a member of the KKK, but was one of the founders of the KKK in Georgia. (Now, you know I sat up in my seat when I heard that. The white lady next to me actually choked on her gum. LoL.) He stated that his father, who was raised to be racist did not want to pass on his ailment onto his children. He made a decision to take his boys to a KKK rally, and from a distance, he showed his boys, "This is what hate is, and I don't want you to be like this." So this man did not simply declare "I want to be a better father," he made the decision to show his sons the virtues of kindness, respect, and tolerance.

So what does this have to do with your New Year's resolutions?? My point is to think bigger, and to dig deeper to find the meaning in your goals. Look beyond the simplicity of "traveling more," and explore how such a personal goal can feed your soul by adding virtue to your life, perhaps courage to try something new, or generosity in giving aid to the poor.

 According to Wikipedia, there are 5 different categories of virtues:
  • Virtues of Self-Control
  • Virtues of Self-Efficacy
  • Virtues of Regard
  • Virtues of Respect
  • Virtues of Kindness
The task that I take on for my personal growth is to tackle the endangered virtue of patience. In a world where things are everything is instant, from otmeal to communication, developing patience will require discipline. The task which will truly test my patience, I am pleased to announce is BOOK #2!! This book will require reading and research, which will take time, much longer than it took for me to finish Book #1. In taking on this task, I require perseverence as well.

So how have you been doing on your personal goals? What is it that drives you to achieve these goals?

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Haunting of the Grudge: Guide to Freedom

In small towns and villages in Peru, on the 25th of December there is an annual tradition that is upheld. It is not the lighting of a Christmas tree nor is it the anticipation of a bearded old man coming down a chimney. It is the tradition of Takanakuy. In the Quechua language, it translates to "when blood is boiling."

It is a festival that goes on for days. There is music, costumes, dancing and lots of drinking. Men, women, old and young participate. Then comes the bizzarre part: They all meet in a bull ring, and beat each other up. So if you live in  Peru, and you have a grudge against someone, an unresolved issue that needs to be settled, Takanakuy is your chance to square up and resolve it with a good 'ol beat down. Issues range from stolen property to a stolen girlfriend or boyfriend. A referee monitors the fight, and determines the winner. Whether you win or lose, you hug it out, and you share a drink afterwards. It is a way to guarantee a new year with a clean slate, free from the emotional baggage from last year and the metaphorical hatchet buried.

In a place where access to lawyers is nearly impossible, Takanakuy works for that small group of Peruvians. However, scheduling a beat down to work out your grudges in the U.S. may not be the best option for you... you know, for legal reasons. So let's talk what we know about grudges for a moment...

They haunt. Grudges are these annoying little feelings that left unaddressed will continue to haunt you and your relationships. They creep up on you, looming over every conversation, corrupting every word, marring every nonverbal gesture. Like a parasite, it takes over and feeds on you, growing larger and larger until you explode.