The Dot and The Outsider

I read two distinctly different books this week that are the opposite ends of one spectrum. “The Outsider” by Albert Camus and “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds are, on the surface, completely unconnected, one being a short novel about a condemned man and the other a children’s story about creativity. For me, these two books hold a different gaze on the same subject, being different.

In “The Outsider”, the main character is unapologetically odd, which leads to his fate, being condemned by society. In “The Dot”, the main character is encouraged to create her original art, a dot, by a teacher, which leads to acclaim. On one end, being different is despised, on the other it is praised.

What these two books capture, in altogether contrasting mediums, is the influence of perspective in telling the story of our lives. In “The Dot”, a teacher’s praise of an early art attempt, leads the character to define herself as an artist and continue creating works of art. The teacher could have just as easily said the dot was ‘not art’ and the story would have reached a dismal conclusion. Not a typical move in a children’s book, granted. In “The Outsider”, the character is on trial, two portraits of his personality are presented to the jury. On one hand he could be an amoral, cold-blooded killer, on the other he could be a confused, weird man caught in a bad situation. The story that is believed is the one that seals his fate, but is it true?

A story can uplift, a story can kill. Words are powerful. Words are more than description of a fixed reality. Words and stories sculpt life itself. So, I wonder, what story are you telling about yourself? Is it the one you want to be true? This is the role of affirmations; they are specifically designed to counter unhelpful stories that we may have heard about ourselves. It takes a strong character to withstand a negative culture. Deliberately telling a different story about ourselves, as these two works show, can completely change our lives.

Tell a better story.

Throw your heart over the bar

I’m reading “The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. Written in 1952, it is still relevant today; although you may need to overlook gender bias in the workplace, it was written before the feminist revolution after all. He is also a Christian minister, but I find it relatively easy to replace the word ‘God’ with the word ‘Divine’ and not get lost in the differences of beliefs.

It is an amazingly well written book that is resonating with me on many levels. It is filled with practical advice and numerous examples of how to apply positive thinking in your life.

The message that has stuck the most with me is advice that was given by a trapeze artist to people he was teaching. “Throw your heart over the bar and your body will follow.” Meaning, put your full attention and focus on what you are doing, commit fully, and then allow the world to rush in and carry you forward.

Imagine the ease of just flowing with the moment you are in. Adjusting your course as you go rather than trying to demand and force your way through life. It is a concept that has stuck.

A worthy read.

I Love Myself Exactly as I am

All too often, ‘beauty’ magazines do their best to make us feel ugly, fat, and completely undesirable. Probably because they are driven by advertising dollars for products that we don’t really need (22 shades of pink lipstick), don’t even work (wrinkle cream), or only look good if you look more like a skeleton than a woman. So, it is refreshing that Glamour magazine in the U.K. actually published a picture of a woman who actually looks like a woman.

Lizzie Miller’s Glamour magazine shoot: How one model’s picture shook the world (flabby tummy and all)

This is a step in the right direction, to be sure, but there is a giant chasm still to cross. The beauty industry has systematically undermined women’s confidence for decades. All in the name of pushing products that will somehow magically restore our confidence (that was shamelessly robbed from us in the first place). We now live in a world where even the models don’t look as good as their photos in magazines. We are chasing an impossible ‘ideal’ that not one person can achieve.

So, clearly the system is outdated and not working. Rather than push against it, we can do something far more powerful. We can repair our collective self-esteem as women. How do we do this? Well, we start small. You can start by finding something to admire in yourself and others every single day. When you start looking for what you like, you find more things to like. You can also start a program of radical self acceptance. Repeat this affirmation:

“I Love Myself Exactly as I am.”

How does that feel? A little odd? Crazy? Outrageous? Good! Start wherever you are and embrace it. Just keep saying this little gem of a phrase until you begin to feel a shift. Basically, fake it till you make it. Eventually you will begin to believe that you are a worthwhile person without needing to drop 20 pounds or have perfect boobs or have flawless skin. Soon, you will find that ‘beauty’ is on the inside.

Beauty lives in the twinkling eye and the easy smile. It lives in the genuine ‘Thank you’ and the generous ‘Please’. Beauty is found in the warm hug of love and the hand that helps you up. Beauty is found in the tear that is shed over a stranger’s sorrow and the grassroots campaign to help change lives. Beauty shows her fine self in the careful kick-in-the-butt a friend gives us when we have lost our way. She flexes her muscles when she protects all the children, and all the homeless, and all the lost ones. She stands over the gate between life and death, she brings  babies into the world and she midwifes us back into the eternal Love. Beauty is reflected in the eyes of our grandmothers as they hold our small children. Beauty is found when we look at our sisters and see all that she does, all that she gives, all that she lives. Beauty, you see, is already in you… and me… she is just waiting for us to see her.

The flickering flame – our self-healing bodies

emotion icon

Candace Pert has an intriguing quote “Our bodies are more like a flickering flame than a hunk of meat.” Dr. Pert is the scientist that co-discovered the body’s receptors to morphine, which led to the discovery of endorphin. In “Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind” she discusses that our bodies have hundreds of natural drugs we make with our own cells. So far, every drug that has been tested has a natural counterpart that is made within our bodies. Even more, many of these natural substances are neuropeptides, small protein molecules, that are generated as a result of an emotion or thought. Basically, the research that Dr. Pert and her colleagues have conducted demonstrate the mechanism behind mind-body medicine.

Back to the flickering flame. Research shows that the receptors for these small peptides are found on the surfaces of our cells. When a peptide interacts with a cell receptor it can cause huge changes in how that cell behaves and, by extension how an organ behaves within our bodies. What is really cool is that these receptors to our ‘thought-molecules’ are not just in the brain, but are found throughout our whole body, especially on our immune cells, the white blood cells. White blood cells are responsible for protecting us from germs, but also for getting rid of cells that are beginning to turn cancerous.

Lets think about that. Our thoughts -> create molecules -> that send messages -> to our immune system -> to protect us from the nastiest dis-ease out there. Cool.

What is more, the latest research suggests that having a wide spectrum of emotions are important to health. So it is the variability in our emotional states that can keep us healthy. Feeling emotions fully and completing them is a foundation of many holistic approaches. It seems that covering over our anger or convincing ourselves we are too spiritual to be angry is not a healthy way to approach life. Staying stuck artificially in any one emotion too long is not where we want to be, but instead to live a life of ’emotional integrity’, as Dr. Pert calls it, is the key to our health.

Think of how many thoughts and emotions you have in a day. What if you could let yourself feel them fully without pushing them back down? When you start exploring the layers of emotions, you find that below all of the so called ‘negative emotions’ is a state of pure bliss. We often fear the power of our emotions and think that we might get crushed by them, but the opposite is true. The longer we suppress our emotions the longer we suffer.

There are many techniques to release trapped emotions from the body-mind. One of the simplest and the most powerful is just to breathe. Breathing at at regular pace, or counting the breaths you take, can clear deeply held emotions. Exercise is also amazing for resetting our emotional clocks, particularly if you get a bit breathless when you do it.

I am always in awe of how powerful we are, and I am amazed at how the emerging science is demonstrating how it all works.

Perfection Illusion

brain

Image by TZA via Flickr

When are things perfect? How long do they stay that way? Who decides what perfect is anyway? If you have Virgo rising like me, or are just a natural perfectionist then these are some key questions to ask yourself. Perfectionism, or if we are being generous, detail orientation, is the crushing drive to make all experiences, actions, events, and people conform to a narrow, rigid definition of perfect.

There are some benefits to high standards, for sure, but when a person’s self-esteem and relationships with others begin to suffer, it has been taken too far. Some signs that we have crossed from high standards to perfectionism are: anxiety and depression when faced with a situation that can’t be ‘fixed’; procrastination when faced with potential critics; compulsive fixing of minor details (that ultimately mar or delay the work being done); people you love tell you they feel they will never be good enough for you. These are just a few examples.

So back to our questions. Who decides what perfect is? The short answer is: you do. Your own inner critic is ultimately the one who holds up the yardstick to all that you do. The inner critic is that part of you that pummels you for saying or doing the ‘wrong’ thing. The inner critic, if it is let free reign, is fueled by the comments of the ‘outer’ critics and meticulously keeps score of all your failures. It is one-sided and unfair, because it promptly forgets your wins. Left unchecked, a strong inner critic can destroy self-esteem. Often we hear far more criticism than praise from, usually, well-meaning people. Unfortunately, the negative stuff tends to be stickier than the positive stuff. The inner critic works hard to convince us that we need everyone to like us, all the time, in every situation, no exceptions. As long as we are looking for an external source of approval our inner critic is happy, because you start depending on something that you have no power over. At its worst, the inner critic grows so strong that even if highly respected authorities heap glowing compliments on us, we never believe them.

We can defeat the inner critic by nourishing our inner ally, the part of us who really knows that we are a piece of the Divine. Affirmations, complimenting others, and stopping all verbal criticism of ourselves and others are good first steps at undermining  the inner critic. Test this out. Practice “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” for a week. Our subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between something mean we say about someone else and something mean we say about ourselves. So go on a thought diet, no more mean things. You could also couple this with making an effort to say nice things about yourself (affirmations) and nice things about others (compliments). If this is new territory for you, start small with things you really believe and work your way up to more difficult levels of niceness.

When are things perfect and how long do they stay that way? Short answer: never, or hardly ever, and that is a good thing. Abraham often tells us that the negative things in our physical world are the starting point of new creations. Whenever we encounter something we don’t like, we immediately cause the Universe to start creating what we do want. We purposely chose a life situation that would give us the contrast we would need to grow and develop. The problem is never the unpleasant event, the problem is always staying stuck on what you don’t want and not focusing on what you do want.

As soon as you focus on the solution to a problem, the whole thing gets easier. You could never fix a car by examining the broken fuel pump over and over; you can only fix a car by finding a working part and replacing it. We often examine our problems too closely and completely forget to step back and see the big picture. It is often in that big picture view that we find our solutions. When we let go and embrace the whole of our lives, we gain perspective on the small little details we are worrying over. Ask yourself, is this really important? Is getting this thing I’m doing perfect worth the anxiety and restlessness? A small world view will always say ‘Yes, this is life or death.’, a big world view will usually say ‘No, this is pretty minor, just let it be.’

Perfection and criticism go hand in hand, like two best friends. They team up to convince you that you are less than you really are. So practise letting them go, and embrace being your own best friend.

Free your spirit

Lotus

Image by petrichor via Flickr

Unforgiveness is the sticky bond that ties us to painful memories. Energetically, whatever we focus on, good or bad, gets a dose of our energy. The more hate and anger we harbour puts more fuel into the energy ties that keep the person in our experience. Forgiveness is the ultimate act of freedom for your soul.

We often confuse forgiveness with saying “It’s Okay”; somehow excusing the person or letting them off the hook. This is a mistake. When we  are harmed by another, intentional or not, it does not serve us or them by just forgetting the incident happened. What do we learn from the experience if we just cover it up? But equally, we cannot make the other person ‘pay’ for their transgression if we hold hatred and anger in our hearts. It only poisons us.

If you acknowledge forgiveness as a feeling of freedom and releasement, then you can easily experience the power of forgiveness to transform your life. Try these steps to find your freedom:

  1. Write a list of people you need to forgive. Make sure to include yourself on the list.
  2. Pick one person on the list to forgive. Since forgiveness is an internal shift in your feelings, you do not need the other person to participate in the process. In fact I would advise against it in most cases, because ultimately it does not matter what they say or do, it only matters how you feel.
  3. Repeat the affirmation “I am willing to forgive _____” several times. Notice how you feel. Pay attention to any tightness or clenching in your body. Tightness in your muscles indicates resistance.
  4. If you feel anger and contraction, or any sense of resistance at this point, you can back up a step and say the affirmation “I am willing to think about forgiving ______”.
  5. If you still feel contracted or angry then visualize yelling at the person. Tell them exactly how you feel; do not go into repeating the events, stay focused on the feeling. Let it all out. The time for holding it all in is over. Do this for 10 minutes.
  6. Go back to the affirmation “I am willing to think about forgiving ______”. Stay at this step until the sentence feels too long and bulky. Test out dropping the words ‘think about’. Notice what happens to your body. Use the feelings of relaxation as your guide to the next step.
  7. Move on the affirmation “I am willing to forgive _____”. Again, pay attention to your muscle tension. Where are your shoulders? Are you clenching your hands? Is your jaw relaxed. Stay here for as long as you need to. Experiment with dropping the words “willing to”.
  8. The last affirmation is “I forgive ______”. At this point the feelings of release and freedom will flow naturally.
  9. Repeat. Go through everyone on your list and forgive them in the same way. Be sure to forgive yourself as well. Naturally, there will be some people who keep winding up on the list over and over, particularly if they are still in your life. That is perfectly ok. It is ok to be angry. It just doesn’t do us much good to hang on to it. The process gets easier and easier the more you practice it.

Test it out in your life. Observe your relationships shift on their own accord without any effort on your part. What else might shift in your life, now that you are free?

Louise Hay Feet

Cover of "YOU CAN HEAL YOUR LIFE"

Cover of YOU CAN HEAL YOUR LIFE

I love feet. And I love Louise Hay. It is safe to say that I also love Louise Hay’s feet. I would love to rub those feet and give them a really wonderful reflexology session.

This post is all about loving what is. And that is also what Louise Hay is all about. My husband challenged me to write a post where I do not edit or delete a word as I go. It is an act of embracing the inner critic, or inner editor, that slows down the fluid movement of my brain to computer discourse. The conversation must continue and I must embrace all my words, whether they are eloquent or clumsy. This is also what Louise teaches, to embrace all the parts of yourself whether they are someone else’s idea of perfect or not.

Louise is a queen of affirmations. She wrote “You Can Heal Your Life” which was a best seller for several weeks after she appeared on Oprah. I’m guessing it was written in the 80s or so, i can’t stop writing now to check, 🙂 “You Can Heal Your Life” is a transformative book as it goes through every aspect of your life and systematically disables your ability to whine and complain. She teaches us that we are powerfully in control of our lives and bodies and ultimately responsible for everything that happens to us. This might seem a tad unfair, but wait!, with great responsibility comes great power. When you fully claim every experience as one you have manifested through your thoughts and repetitive actions, you gain the power to truly change your life.

More than just one book, Louise created a publishing company that is one of the leading companies for holistic content. Hay House has heavy hitting authors like Wayne Dyer, Denise Linn, Cheryl Richardson, and even the Dalai Lama. Her influence in the world is huge and she has helped many, many people, including me.

Her work is really a foundation of what I do in my practice. I often talk with my clients about the mental and emotional causes of their physical troubles and even prescribe affirmations. I combine affirmations into healing mediations at the end of a session. I really know that this stuff works and I am always in awe of the power our words have. I use affirmations all the time, and I now have fallen in love with writing them on my bathroom mirror with dry erase markers.

But back to those lovely feet! A woman as amazing as Louise Hay really deserves to put her feet up and be pampered. I am thrilled by the idea of working on such amazing feet. Wouldn’t it be a hoot to give Louise an affirmation as home work? I wonder, would she relax and let me move her feet around? Often people who are helpful do all the stretches and ankle rotations for me. I start moving their foot in a circle and off they go! doing all the circles. But I think that perhaps Louise would be very good at receiving and would let me stretch her feet.

I envision lovely manicured toenails in bubblegum pick polish with white daisies painted on. I would think that Louise loves her feet and likes to get pedicures. I also think that her feet would be no stranger to walking barefoot on the garden path or freshly mown grass. Maybe she would have had callouses on the edge of the ball of her foot once, protecting her heart, but probably not anymore. She has done a lot of healing work and has released so much childhood pain. I think she might have a prominent big toe that is tapered, and maybe a longish second toe, the wisdom toe. I would imagine that she would have wrinkles on the bottom of her feet that are parallel with her toes, these are energy lines and are signals of a great healer. I think she would like my ‘Sweetpea’ aromatherapy blend, which really does smell like sweetpeas. Or maybe she would like something spicy like my ‘Wild Woman Blend’, or better still I would blend an aromatherapy mix just for her. I would call it ‘Lovely Lady Louise’.  I think it would smell like a mix of angel hair and garden dirt and freshly bottled laughter, with a hint of sunshine and oranges.

That would be a very great day.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: