Monday, June 17, 2013

Don't Run but Proceed with Caution: Negative People Ahead

     Did you know if you look up “Negative People” on the world wide web of computers under images, there is a barrage of “ignore”, “avoid”, and “run screaming, arms flailing” messages?  (I especially like “I hate negative people”.  Isn’t that something like "I can’t stand intolerant people?")  I get that.  To a certain extent.  Now, if you are with someone who is abusive mentally, emotionally, or physically, it is imperative to remove yourself from that situation for the sake of your personal wellbeing.  Changing another person’s behavior is not, nor will it ever be, your job.  But those negative situations are extreme circumstances and not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about the person who you inadvertently sat next to at a dinner party and suddenly you feel your soul being sucked into a vortex of darkness with every comment they utter.  In reality, this has little to do with what the person is saying and mostly to do with how well you have conditioned yourself to process the information.
     I recently came across something called “General Adaptation Syndrome” which describes how the body responds, and adapts, to stresses placed on it.  This is the foundation of any exercise program and conditioning your body to become stronger and more functional. 
     There are 3 phases: the “Alarm Reaction” stage is how the body physiologically and psychologically responds to the increased force being placed upon it.  As in an “Oh my lord, I have not worked out in a long time and my muscles are KILLING me!!” sort of reaction.  In this phase, things are often uncomfortable and difficult; like making a running start on a sharp incline; you wear out quickly.  But, over time, you condition your body to more efficiently respond to those stresses placed upon them and the burden feels considerably lighter.  This is called the “Resistance Development” stage. 
     When I began studying these phases it immediately struck me how closely physical and emotional development are related.  They go through the same phases of development.  They are connected. 
About 3 years ago I actively decided to get my body into better shape.  It amazes me, now, how I can do certain things with veritable ease that seemed nearly IMPOSSIBLE 3 years ago.  But I wanted to be stronger.  I wanted to be able to adapt more easily to my surroundings, and just feel better. 
    As life would have it, about 2 ½ years ago I started on another conditioning program, one that was for my mind and life perception.  It was initiated by an “alarm reaction” to a stressful situation and I realized I wanted to get my intellect into better shape as well.  The way I was handling my life and how I saw it just wasn’t getting me where I wanted to be.  I was angry and frustrated.  The muscle I had to condition in this realm of development was my compassion, my understanding of others, and getting my ego out of the way.  Trust me; some days trying to move that self-serving ego is no small feat; it would be easier to lift weights and/or run for 12 hours straight!  It is difficult but I have been conditioning myself ever since because I want to see things in a different way.  I have little energy as it is; I hated the idea of spending it spinning my wheels in anxiety and anger.  The growth I have made – the peace I have created within me - is worth every moment invested.  It has become easier for me to understand the nature of others and therefore be more compassionate.  It has helped me build bridges – to connect – with those around me, near and far.
     The last phase of this development is the “Exhaustion” stage.  This is when “prolonged stress or intolerable amounts of stress can lead to exhaustion or distress”.  In a physical aspect, this is where injury occurs; fractures, strains, joint pain, emotional fatigue.  Essentially when the body can’t take any more and begins to break down.  In the psychological world, it is this point where your mind says, “I can’t take any more!”  Now, based on conditioning, life experiences, teachings, etc., we all have different boiling points – the moment we reach or maximum capacity of negative stressors.  For some, that path is very short – literally and figuratively, physically and emotionally.  For those that have not conditioned their compassion muscle (and it’s easy to let slide or ignore in a society teeming with visions of “me vs. you” (watched any reality TV lately?)), there’s going to be a lot of yelling and frustration.  I simply grew tired of that.  As I began to strengthen my mental muscle, the exhaustion stage took a lot longer to reach; I simply have better endurance. 
     So do I still get to my breaking point?  Shoot yeah!!  And some days thanks to inadequate sleep, poor dietary choices, dehydration, bad alignment of the planets, I can handle stresses/negativity a lot less efficiently or objectively.  But that’s no longer where I live.  I’ve made myself stronger by changing the shape of my perspective.  (And it looks AWESOME!)  Changing my perspective doesn’t change what other people do; that’s not my job.  I can only change me and so I have changed the way I listen to what another person is saying; when I do, I create a peaceful place inside of me that gives me clarity to open my eyes to another’s suffering.  I change my anger into sympathy, empathy, and compassion. 
     When I’m around someone who is as cuddly as a porcupine I realize I have no control over their bristles but I can handle the situation with care and understand that I too have bristles some days.  When those sharp jabs start to wear me down, that’s when I have to step back and regroup.  It’s still not about me but it can get hard to take.  By regrouping my thoughts, I give myself a better shot at absorbing those stings and just letting them pass through me verses feeling every prick; after all, those quills aren’t attached to MY skin. 
  Too much negativity can get exhausting.  But, in moderation, it has actually made me stronger, both emotionally and psychologically.  It gives me more perspective and has built my insight into other human beings.  And it’s interesting to me that some of the most negative people I have ever met will be the first to tell you how negative someone ELSE is!  (I wonder who just said, “I know, right?” and then paused a second…)
     EVERY creature has his or her place in the choir.  EVERY person has a purpose and a role.   You can’t control what others do, but you can change what you see if you aren’t happy with the condition you are in right now.  Physically or mentally.  It’s an ongoing process but it is a way of life that I have come to love.  I want to feel my best physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Like a holy trinity, each is dependent on the other; individual parts all connected.  I am a happier person because I get out of my own way more and more each day and choose to see others as fellow people, all struggling in one way or another, just like I am.  We are all in this together.  I hope your struggles become a process that leads you to peace.

Friday, June 14, 2013

So Much For Coincidences!

This has such a "wow" factor for me, I don't know where to begin?  I hope I can do this story justice.  Because it was really a "wow" moment for me.

On May 1st, I created my Facebook page "Connections".  It just seemed to be a recurring theme in my life.  So many things seemed to be lining up and pointing me in that direction.  Of course, my fear and insecurity kept me from actually making it public - that would be CRAZY!!

I carefully selected the profile picture and the cover photo.  I wanted them to convey the feeling of "Connections".  The profile picture, I knew right away when I saw it.

I loved the intense stare between brother and sister (not to mention Holly's innate "I OWN you" look!). And then I kind of put the page on the back burner - not really sure what I wanted to do with it.  But I had made it so, step one - check!

Yesterday morning, for whatever reason - I really can't tell you why - I just had this urging feeling "You need to find out how to invite people to this page - make it public.  Take the plunge!"  So, I took a big swig of coffee, figured it out, and started hitting the "invite" button.  It was crazy liberating!  Okay, so maybe people won't want to "like" my page, but that's totally cool!  Who cares?!  I did it!!  I ripped off that band-aid!  And then I went about my daily grind.

(Side note: it was neat to see the little "likes" start to tally up.  It really is nice to know you're not speaking into an abyss sometimes.  :)  )

So, last night I went to the year-end dinner for my MOMS Club (yes, they have a club for us moms!!).  On my way there, I noticed a sign on the side of the road that simply said "Begin".  I think it was part of a bigger message at some point but all it says now is "Begin".  Hmmmm...

So, anyway, we did this fun thing where, back in May, we were assigned a "secret sister" and we had to deliver a little gift once a week for 3 weeks and at the dinner we give our final gift and the secret sisters are revealed.  I received some great gifts: whole grain flapjack mix and fun spatula; a wicked awesome canvas beach bag; and Ribena and soda water - fantastic!!  So, when my secret sister was revealed to me to be the lovely and talented JJ Munson, I was surprised and not surprised.  All those awesome gifts made perfect sense!  Then she handed me my last gift.

Now, as I said before, I only made my "Connections" page public yesterday.  I had posted the original profile picture on my Facebook page I don't even know when; ages ago (I got tired of looking).  But it's in there somewhere.  I know this because JJ found it.  She said she must have gone through my photos 5 times and finally came across a picture that she thought: "That's it!  That's the one."  She had to draw it.

Can you even begin to imagine the dazzling lights in my head, goose bumps on my body, and swooning feeling in my stomach and knees when I tore open the wrapping to reveal this?

I was overwhelmed to, say the least.  I was speechless.  Which speaks volumes!!  Sometimes the universe gives us subtle hints about our journey.  Sometimes it hauls off and smacks us up side the head!!  I consider myself smacked.

I consider myself one of the most fortunate people on the planet.  The fortune that has been given me never ceases to amaze me.  I have been given a great gift.  In so many ways.

Thank you, thank you, thank you JJ, for being part of my journey.  I know you too were bowled over by the insane alignment of our beings when you saw my Connections page pop up yesterday!!  There are no coincidences.

I have so much to do today and I will go about it joyfully.  Whenever I look at this beautiful portrait, I will remember I am not alone on my path.  That there are many wondrous things at work and I, just a part of the great fabric of the universe.  And it is up to me to embrace or ignore the many choices and aspects presented to me every day.  That I am perfectly connected to every individual around me and I have the profound and humbling power of choosing what to do with those connections.  Peace.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Understand to Love

Happy Thursday morning!!
You just never know where you will find inspiration.  I just stumbled up on a great picture while attempting to stalk my friend's page.  This one here.

 This spoke to me because I was thinking about how we go about things in life and what inspires us and what gets in our way.  In both cases it is our processing of information - how we see things - that makes this happen.

Mother Teresa was an amazing human being, because she lived in one of the poorest area of the earth and worked seemingly joyfully because she saw each person just as that; a person.  She regarded each human being as important.  The more I look at every person in this way, the more compassion I have for humanity.  But it is easy for me when they are random strangers.  There is no personal attachment.

Ever been around someone and you just get the feeling they are barely tolerating your existence?  They have that fixed facial expression that with every word that comes out of your mouth it seems like a personal assault to their ears?  I have.  I have a lot!  And this used to bother me.  I'd keep talking (digging a deeper hole!) trying for that barely tolerable person to "get" me.  Then I realized, not everyone needs to "get" me.  I have no control over what other people think of me.  And that's cool.  I won't understand every other person's ideas or points of view.  It's harder when it's someone that is in your life all the time.  Especially when it seems to be in opposition to your own views.  But I think it is then that it is more important to show compassion and try and understand where that person is coming from; more so than being understood.

I read this book a while ago, sort of self-help book on how to live a life that can have a positive ripple effect on those around you.  Basically there was one message.  "Love one another".  It wasn't "judge one another".  It wasn't "save one another".  It wasn't "like what the other person is doing".  It was simply "love one another".  Seems simple enough.  So why does it have to be so complicated?  It didn't seem complicated for Mother Teresa.  She wasn't judging anyone or even trying to save anyone's soul.  She just loved her fellow man.  You could argue, what good did it do?  Calcutta is STILL one of the poorest places in the world.  But she did what she could do, one human being at a time.  And her efforts have been felt around the world.  They're being felt right here!  Right now!

I'm reflecting on this because I was having difficulty using compassion for my fellow man; I was personalizing a situation without taking into consideration everything that was happening.  We have to make choices in how to see things and right now when I put myself in that other person's position it frees me from judging, it frees me from feeling a need to "save" someone else, and it frees up the ability to just love someone, regardless.  Interesting; as I was writing this I had a certain calm come over me.

Don't think for a second that you are not important.  You are important and what you do, MATTERS!  Every person has a contribution to this earth.  Every single person.  Every being.  You are no less and no better than any other.  We all laugh, we all cry, we all hurt, we all feel joy, we all need water, air, and nourishment to survive this naked planet.

Just because you don't understand something doesn't mean it's bad or wrong.  Yesterday I spoke of irrational fears.  Fears are compelling things.  But, as we all know:
 "Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."  ~ Yoda.
The root of fear, from where I stand, is simply not understanding.  The more we at least try to understand, to walk in someone else's shoes, the more peace we will have in ourselves.

I'll say it again: You are important, and what you do MATTERS!  Whether you like it or not.  I have to remind myself regularly so I may as well remind you too!  :)

Have a great day people!  I'm going to go do my homework now because all play and no work makes Pokey an unproductive girl!  :)

Greatness In Fears

So, I had some ideas bouncing around in my head this morning but then I read an email and was inspired.
Recently, a friend of mine’s child came forth with what some may call, an embarrassing truth.  He’s afraid of spiders.  Not an “Eeeek!  A spider!” type fear.  But an “I’m-paralyzed-beyond-all-reason-and-rationale!” fear of spiders.  I can relate as I used to have the same fear.  Ugh!  It’s awful!  No matter how someone tells you “you’re the giant and he’s the tiny person” or “what’s the worst that can happen??” that fear can get inside of you and take you over like a cancer, keeping you from living the life you want to live. 
What I find most remarkable about all this is not this boy’s fear, but his courage to deal with it head on (he’s 11 years old; this is prime taunting age from peers!).  He has to go to summer camp and, last time I checked, nature has a spider or two!  And I think he was able to do this because he has great support from his mom and dad.  The boy was the one to mention it publicly first and his dad informed the other parents of what his son was dealing with and their plan to go forward.  Awesome!!  How many times do I see people simply sticking their heads in the sand or dismissing a problem with “Get over it!”?  If you think this is overkill for one kid’s fear, you’ve never had a fear that takes you over; otherwise you’d understand.  And it IS difficult to understand irrational fears if you haven’t had any.  The power they have over you.  But if we really think about it, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we ALL have fears.  And ignoring them may work on one level but they’ll always be there, lurking in the shadows.  Which adds to problem!  (Especially if you’re afraid of shadows! J)  True bravery is facing your self head-on. 
I’m not saying the “fake it ‘til you make it” philosophy doesn’t have some merit.  If you can convince yourself you are a certain way that you really aren’t, you may ultimately get there.  Sort of a Dumbo with the feather scenario; give yourself what it is you need to believe in yourself until you have proved to yourself that you really can do what you want to do.  But even then you have to face your shortcomings.  I think only then can we move forward. 

Nobody can be all things, all the time!  That would be exhausting!  And we tend to look at our fears as a sort of a drawback.  Once again, we fixate on that which keeps us back rather than what propels us forward.  And that too has a place if you’re looking at your weaknesses in a problems solving sort of way.  For instance, I am not confrontational.  When it comes to any sort of confrontation I tend to lock up tight, my brain seizes like an engine without oil, my body tenses, my stomach gets tight, my skin grows cold, and I feel dizzy.  Yeah, THAT’S how much I hate confrontation!  (Well, my husband says how come I have no problem when it comes to confrontation with him but I tell him that’s just because I love and trust him so much!  He says “lucky me”.  J)  But, in that case, I’ve adapted by choosing my words carefully, looking for different points of view, and, most importantly, think before I speak!  I think all those are a good thing for me.  I would look at that as an attribute rather than a fault. 
Fears are necessary.  It’s evolutionary!  Without a certain degree of fear, we wouldn’t last very long!  But there are ways to not let fear control all aspects of our lives.  This little boy and his parents are very inspirational.  As his dad said: “We have a plan!”  I think that is fantastic.  I told him, since I got over my fear of spiders (for the most part – we do live in the land of black widows and brown recluses!), I’m always available for reference.  I get it.  I admire anyone who takes action to get control over his or her own life.  Imagine if we concentrated our efforts over controlling our own issues, as opposed ignoring our own and trying to control the issues of others, what a healthier world we would live in?