Releasing our Pain

Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. Ecclesiastes 7:3

There is sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. Rumi

Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak, whispers the distraught heart and bids it break. Shakespeare

It is amazing how often I hear people apologize for their tears. When clients cry, I always tell them they don’t have anything to be sorry for and I encourage them to cry. I have also worked with many people who have told me that they prefer not to cry with another family member who is grieving, because they need to “be strong” for them. I gently encourage people trying to “be strong” to consider crying with the person they are trying to protect. It is healthy to talk about our feelings and to cry with one another.

In our American society we are all about the pursuit of happiness and so learning to get in touch with our hurts and our tears is often something we resist. But we need to make space to feel the pain of life. These are just a few of the struggles you might be grappling with right now:

  • Worries about your health or a loved one’s health
  • Frustrations at work
  • Dealing with financial problems
  • Concerns for the country and the world
  • Struggles in a relationship
  • Heartache over a break-up or divorce
  • Facing infertility
  • Trying to overcome an addiction
  • Grieving the death of a loved one or pet

Rumi said our tears give us power. Perhaps what he meant by this is that in our weakness we find strength and in our tears we find a release. Shakespeare tells us that we must give our sorrow expression through talking and crying, and if we do not, he tells us our hearts will break. The author of Ecclesiastes, Koheleth, advises us that a sad face is good for the heart. So the paradox is that we will actually be happier, in the long run, if we allow ourselves to experience the pain. Even if a there is a scientific reason you can’t cry, such as a hormonal issue, there are still ways we can let our our pain. Embodied practices, such as yoga, help us to release pain through the breath and assist the body by calming the nervous system. Simply talking to a friend about your concerns can be a way to give sorrow words and find a release. Prayer and meditation are also wonderful ways to let out our pain and feelings. Playing music, singing, or creating art are also ways to let go of the heartaches we store in our bodies. One somewhat unique way I find a cathartic release is watching what Saturday Night Live might call a “debbie downer” movie. Watching a sad movie can actually help me to empathize with other stories of grief and access my own pain. What helps you to let out the feelings that you internalize?

Almost 14 years ago my grandmother Bell died. She was the last of my grandparents to die and I was extremely close to her. When she died, I can remember wailing. I cried and cried and cried some more to find a cathartic release. Think for a moment about something difficult you have experienced in the past. How did you deal with this loss?  What helped you to let go of some of the pain? Do you allow yourself to feel the pain of life? If, so how do you release your pain?

We all need to give voice to our sorrow, whether we talk to a friend, a family member, a clergy person, a counselor, join a support group, or by utilizing specific practices to release our pain. We each have our own unique ways of grieving the suffering we encounter on our journeys. So I encourage you to find a time in the near future to give yourself some space to feel the difficulties and pain of life.  Again, some people are not able to cry, but however you do it, I encourage you to find a way to give your sorrow words and let out some of the pain you are holding in your body and soul.

Please join in the following meditation. Take your right hand to your heart and then take a deep breath in through your nose and on your exhale let out an audible sigh. The louder the sigh is the more you will release. I invite you to do this 5 times. This exercise may seem uncomfortable, especially if it is the first time you have tried something like this, but we can let out pain through simple embodied breath practices.

May we find ways to give sorrow words and release our pain,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

Into-Me-See

The beauty you see in me is a reflection of you.  Rumi

When I was completing my supervision hours to become a counselor, one of the marriage and family therapists I studied under, asked me to think about the word intimacy in an entirely new way. My supervisor broke down the word intimacy to into-me-see. For me playing with the word intimacy in this way was quite profound.  In order to for someone to have intimacy with me, they must see into me, and in order for me to have intimacy with others, I must see into them. Additionally, in order to have intimacy with myself, I must be able to see and love myself.

When I was studying to become a yoga teacher, I learned that the word Namaste can be translated from Sanskrit to mean I see you or I honor you. Often yoga teachers will end a class by saying, “The light in me sees and honors the beautiful bright light in each one of you. Namaste.” I believe one of the most important life skills we can learn, is to truly look for the beauty in one another and to see one another. We are called to see one another’s gifts and graces, instead looking for the flaws in ourselves and others.

When I was a child, I loved watching the PBS show, Mr. Rogers. There was something about his kind way that made me feel safe and loved. Recently, a colleague at work gave me a beautiful quote written by Mr. Rogers that I have on my desk. The quote on my desk from Mr. Rogers says, “As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is.” It occurs to me that in order to help people know how beautiful and special they are, we have to work at seeing them. And then once we see the beauty in others, I believe we are called to speak to others the gifts we see in them.

Take a moment to ponder these questions:

  • Are you more likely to see the beauty in others or the flaws?
  • What are some of the gifts that you see in yourself?
  • Who is someone in your life whose beauty you struggle to see?
  • Who is someone in your life who sees and accepts you just as you are?
  • How does it feel to you to be seen and accepted by a loved one?

One of my concerns right now is that we live in a very divided and fractured culture. Because of this, people are becoming much more reactive towards one another. Instead of looking at one another with the eyes of love, we are much more apt to demonize colleagues, strangers, friends, and family and see their faults, instead of seeing the beauty and image of God that is in all of us. The problem with this approach is that all of us fall short, and if we only look at one another’s growing edges and brokenness, then we are stifling the potential in others. However, when we look for the good and encourage one another, we start to see our friends, family members, and colleagues thrive, and in turn, we also grow. If we really lived this way, I think the fear and polarization in our society, that is steadily increasing would also start to reverse itself.

I invite us to close with the following meditation:

Take your hands to heart center in prayer and take a deep breath in and out and then say silently or out loud:

I see my beauty. I see my gifts. I offer myself compassion.

Keep your hands at heart center in prayer and think of the person in your life who is the most difficult person for you to love right now. Take a deep breath in and out and then say silently or out loud:

I see your beauty. I see your gifts. I offer you compassion.

May we seek to see one another,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

 

Finding Peace

If there is no inner peace, people can’t give it to you.  The husband can’t give it to you.  Children can’t give it to you.  You have to give it to you.  Linda Evans

It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.  C.S. Lewis

Worrying about all of the what ifs of life disrupts the peace of the present moment.  C.S. Lewis encourages us to find new ways to carry the load of life, but to do so we have to change the way we approach life.  We have the opportunity to change the way we live our life and experience greater peace, but this has to be a choice we make.  We can choose:

  • The present moment instead of worry
  • Self-acceptance in lieu of trying to be perfect
  • Forgiveness versus grudges
  • Slowing down in place of the packed schedule
  • Hope as an alternative to fear
  • Self-love instead of being so hard on ourselves
  • Asking for help from God and/or others or carrying the load of life alone

Take a moment to ask yourself the following questions?

  • Where do I need to experience more peace in my life?
  • Do I need to find peace with a person?
  • Am I seeking to find peace about a decision I need to make?
  • Do I need to find peace with a current situation in my life?

Shanti is a Sanskrit word that simply means peace.  In the practice of yoga and in other traditions, shanti is traditionally said three times, in order to ask for peace in our bodies, speech, and mind.  I invite you to practice the following simple meditation to ask for peace out loud or silently by saying:

May I have peace, peace, peace today

May I have peace in my body, mind, and speech today

Is there someone is your life who is struggling right now?   I invite you to continue the meditation by asking for peace out loud or silently for your loved one by saying:

May ______ (loved one’s name) have peace, peace, peace today

May ______ (loved one’s name) have peace in body, mind, and speech today

Take a moment to ask for peace in whatever area of your life you need it and then also send love and peace or pray for peace for the person in your life you named earlier who is facing a difficulty.

Shalom to you,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

Embracing Silence

There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub.   Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Listen to the silence, it speaks.  Native American Proverb

Take a moment to imagine a plug in the outlet and then imagine the plug being pulled out of the outlet.  How often do you unplug from all the commitments of life and just find quiet rest?  We live in a culture filled with distractions and we are beckoned to stay constantly connected.

Thomas Merton said, “In a world of noise, confusion, and conflict it is necessary that there be places of silence, inner discipline, and peace.  In such places love can blossom.”  I am a doer and I know silence is something I don’t embrace often enough.  And yet, when I do enter the silence, I am less tense, kinder, and more creative.  We know companies like apple and google actually allow their employees to meditate at work because the science shows it leads to more creativity and productivity in the workplace.

I also recognize that when I allow for more silence and space in my life, I have more to give to others.  Mother Teresa remarked that we need silence to be able to touch souls.  But silence is not only useful for helping others.  Silence is also helpful to our own souls.  It is when we are truly silent that we are able to experience peace or sometimes hear our spirit point us in a new direction that provokes fear.  And yet, as the Native American proverb says silence has much to teach us.

We are surrounded by pings, beeps, horns, and constant noise.  So where do you go to disconnect, pause, and just be?  Some of us have special sacred places we need to go to find silence and space for our souls.  Do any of these places resonate with you as silent healing spaces?

  • garden
  • bathtub/shower
  • hiking
  • prayer/meditation
  • screen porch
  • massage therapy
  • worship
  • bathroom
  • yoga

Perhaps you can think of other spaces you would add to this list.  Again, where are places of silence in your life?

May the silence speak to us,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

Letting Go

I realize there’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go. Jeffrey McDaniel

How can we be more like winter trees and let the dead leaves fall?  How can we know when it is time to let go of the leaves on our tree that are dying? What do you need to let go of today? When I take yoga classes, I often hear teachers encourage those of us taking the class to let go of whatever is no longer serving us. Here are some possibilities of leaves that need to fall off your tree that are no longer serving you.

  • perfection
  • control
  • the desire to achieve
  • resentment
  • fear
  • shame
  • guilt
  • stress

Take a moment to take a deep breath in and then exhale and let something go. Take another breath and exhale and find your release again. Let go of something that you are holding. There is a metaphorical weight on your chest that you can release. There is a dead leave on your tree that needs to fall to the ground. Can you let go?

What are the practices or places in your life that help you to let go?  Counseling, breathing, prayer, worship, yoga, and time with loved ones have all been helpful to me on the journey of letting go. How do you let go of the stress you internalize and hold within you? Take some time to take inventory of the things you are carrying within you that you need to release. Are there any self-care practices you have done in the past that you are not doing right now that might help you let the dead leaves fall? Letting go is not an easy task and we must be intentional to work on letting go everyday.

Let’s stay on the journey of letting go together,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

Forgiveness

Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace. Jonathan Lockwood Huie

I once attended a seminar entitled, “Emotional Intelligence.”  The facilitators of this seminar stressed that emotionally intelligent people are those who listen to one another when conflict arises. They shared that if you disagree with someone you should be able to listen to them so well that you can argue their perspective better than they can. And often when we take the time to really listen to someone who thinks differently than us, we begin to understand their perspective. In addition to listening skills, emotionally intelligent people also have empathy. Empathy is the ability to wonder what it must be like to be in another person’s shoes.

Ian Maclaren said, “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle of some kind.” Empathy is the ability to respond to people in kindness even when they are ugly to us, because we know that if they have been unkind to us they are probably acting out of their pain. Empathy also is the gift of seeing someone as a whole person who has both strengths and weaknesses. People who are lacking in emotional intelligence usually vilify the person or group they are at odds with, instead of taking the time to look for the gifts and graces they have within them.

So, when it comes to emotional intelligence how well are you doing?

  • Do you listen to others when you disagree with them?
  • Do you take the time to really hear out your family, friends, or colleagues when you have a dispute with them?
  • Do you have empathy for others and try to imagine what it might be like to be in their shoes?
  • Do you show kindness to those who hurt you, knowing that they are also going through a battle of some kind?

In his short story “The Capital of the World,” Ernest Hemingway tells the story of a Spanish Father and his teenage son, Paco.  Paco ran away from home and his father began a long and arduous search for his son.  After coming up empty handed, Paco’s father placed an ad in the Madrid newspaper.

Dear Paco,

Please meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon.  All is forgiven.

Love,

Father

Hemingway goes on in his story to say that the next day at noon, there were 800 Pacos, at the newspaper office, all searching for forgiveness.  So, who do you feel disconnected from? Is there a Paco in your life that you need to reach out to and reconnect with? Perhaps today we feel disconnected from a parent, a neighbor, a friend, a sibling, a colleague, or a child. Maybe if we empathize more, listen more, and pray for this person…Maybe, just maybe this relationship can be restored. Obviously, reconciliation is not always possible because it involves two parties willing to listen and empathize with one another. But even if reconciliation is not possible we can still do our part. We can give up the gossip, self-righteousness, criticism, and anger. And in time, maybe we can even forgive. I know first hand these things are not easy. But it is so important to struggle through conflict and do the hard work of forgiving, listening, and empathizing in order to find as much peace as possible in our relationships with family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.

May we find peace with one another,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

Gratitude

Gratitude is wine for the soul. Go on. Get Drunk!

Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life. 

Rumi

I love these moving thoughts on gratitude from the poet Rumi. Rumi invites us to get drunk on gratitude and to wear gratitude like a cloak that we wrap around us. But do we get drunk on gratitude or do we worry more about what we don’t have or what is going wrong in our lives? I invite you to take a moment to ask yourself the following questions, in the hope that they remind you of some of the places of gratitude in your life.

  • Who are the people in my life who nurture my spirit?
  • What is a hobby in my life that brings me joy and life?
  • What blessings have I experienced this summer?

It is valuable to stop and recognize the many loved ones, experiences, and gifts in our lives. Being grateful reorients us and reminds us that we have abundance and beauty in our midst.

Let me be clear that you don’t have to be a Pollyanna type who is always optimistic. Life is a challenge and just as we express our appreciation for life, we also need to name the pain and difficulties we face. However, balanced people tend to be able to articulate not only their struggles, but also their gratitude for life.

Additionally, I think it is important for us to not only feel gratitude in our hearts, but to move beyond this and to express our gratefulness for one another. One of the questions I asked you, is to consider the people your life who nurture your spirit. Sometime today or tomorrow I invite you to call, email, text, send a facebook message, or even find a way to tell your loved one face to face why you are thankful for them. Albert Schweitzer once said, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

I invite you to take a moment and find prayer hands and take your prayer hands to the skin of your chest. With your hands at heart center say out loud or silently in your heart:

May I have a grateful heart

Then move your prayer hands to your lips and say out loud or silently in your heart:

May I have grateful words

The move your prayer hands to your forehead and say out loud or silently in your heart:

May I have a grateful mind.

The Catholic mystic, Meister Eckhart, said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. May we get drunk on gratitude today and allow thankfulness to be our cloak of choice.

With deep appreciation and love,

Christy

 

 

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health

Living Life Fully!

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. Howard Thurman

This quote from the poet and theologian, Howard Thurman, is so moving to me that I have memorized it. I think it is important to regularly ask ourselves the question, “What makes me come alive?” Recently, I received a phone call from a friend who is confused about what he wants he wants to do vocationally. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who feel unfulfilled in their jobs and with life. When I am speaking to someone who lacks clarity about their next steps on their life course, I often turn Howard Thurman’s wise words into a question. I say something like, “If money was not a consideration and you could go out and do what makes you feel most alive and brings you the greatest joy what would you do?” The Quaker theologian, Parker Palmer, says vocation begins when we experience “the rapture of being alive.”  Both Howard Thurman and Parker Palmer encourage us to go and do something that makes our spirits feel alive.  Living fully doesn’t just have to do with our vocational choices.  You may already be retired or out of work.  But no matter our age or stage in life, we have the choice to live each day fully as possible.  We must find the things that bring us joy and to go and do them.

I have a yoga teacher who will often ask the question, “Why are you here?”  And then she will add something like, “Why are you here on this yoga mat?  Why are you here on this earth?” Can you take a moment to stop right now and ask yourself the following questions?

  • Why am I here on this earth?
  • If I could pick any job what would it be?
  • What hobbies are life-giving to my soul?
  • What makes me come alive?
  • What talents and gifts do I have to offer the world?

Oscar Wilde once said, “Get out there and live!  To live in the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.” I believe each person reading this blog has unique gifts and graces to offer others.  If you feel like you are just existing, please continue to seek and answer the question, “What makes me come alive?” And once you answer this question please go and do this because we truly need people in the world who have come fully alive! The early Catholic saint, Irenaeus, said, “The Glory of God is the human person fully alive.” I encourage you to keep discerning what makes you come alive.

May you live life to the fullest,

Christy

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health