Why Not Follow Your Dreams?

What else must you do in this life? I am serious with this question. What else on this planet could be more important than to follow the innate longing you came with? There is a TED talk by Elizabeth Lesser https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_lesser_say_your_truths_and_seek_them_in_others that is quite remarkable on this very subject. In it she eloquently relates a tale of being joined by family ties, separated by (among other things) life, ego and misunderstanding and finally reunited through death. She considers how we allow life's circumstances, dips in our courage and fear to lead us away from the wonder and excitement toward life we are born with. Why do we do this. What if this journey really is about having the courage to be who we are and to explore the gifts we have inside of us...the ones we have always  known about. The dreams, hopes and ambitions we may never have dared to pursue for fear of...what exactly? Is it failure or ridicule we fear? I don't think any of us escapes this life without large doses of both failure and ridicule. This is likely never going to be avoided. Imagine how careful one would have to be to avoid the judgement of others? 

We do have the power to avoid disappointing ourselves. We can have the volition to be who we are and suffer the blessings and consequences of this courageous stance in life. Yes some others will revile us for not being compliant people...others will love us for being ourselves. I think we do not regret taking the chance to really live according to what is in our hearts. That is what I am actively doing...how about you?

What Do I Do Best?

Being in business as a helper is often a strange dance with seemingly opposite purposes. On one hand, easing the suffering of others is the purpose and end goal. It is what most Psychotherapists, Counsellors, Coaches and Soul Guides go into business to do. Business, on the other hand is about promotion, earnings and success. It is such a privilege to help others as a way of making a living...and it comes with a huge responsibility.

I was recently asked by a wise friend what is my speciality as a therapist. This is not a new question, it is almost always asked by those trying to help people like myself define our scope of business. This is necessary to be able to market oneself most effectively and to reach the people who can most benefit from the type of help we can offer. The goal is to help clients find the right therapeutic care for their needs. We call this a therapeutic fit and it refers to the needs/skills equation and also to compatibility as people. The most skilled therapist in the world cannot help someone who finds their presence anything less than comfortable.

Most of my work as a therapist has been with adults and sometimes mature youth. The best way to describe what I do is as Empowerment work. I often call it Soul Work because I see that when people begin to really be themselves: in relationships, career and personal life choices; a new chapter of authenticity begins in their lives. This often involves moving past numerous roadblocks. So many people get damaged in this dog eat dog world. All of the people I see have wounds; some fresh, some old and raw, some still festering and still others scarred and hardened. Moving on in life with the wounds we have is an often difficult passage. It involves acceptance that attachment challenges, traumas, betrayals, rejections and failures have happened. In some way or another wounds happen because we didn't get what we needed, deserved or wanted. Moving on with our lives in no way means that whatever difficulties that altered us are condoned; it means we will not longer allow it to limit our lives and all the possibilities that still exist as long as there is breath in our lungs and the beating of our heart. That is the work I do :)

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Acceptance vs Letting Go

Maybe it is just me, but I have never known how to react whenever someone has told me to "let it go." This was especially true during those years when my life was filled with challenges. I was having lunch with a dear friend this week and the phrase came up in passing.  It is a popular saying in our society and I think people use it offhandedly. It is one of those phrases that I have difficulty with and I have been reflecting about why this may be so. It may depend on the way the phrase is used but in my career as a counsellor I have often heard family members and friends tell my struggling clients to "just let it go" as a form of advice about what they need to do to. People use these words to try and help others get back to themselves, to heal and to move away from problems and wounds in a healthy way. But...what if sometimes people can't "just let go?" What if the pain of the loss or the trauma, the depth of grief, the fear or the terror they experienced has shaken the person to the core of their being. What if the event or state has indelibly changed a space within the person that is so central to identity that they do not know who they are anymore. What if there is no "getting back to?" What if the needs of struggling people is for a different kind of phrase? Perhaps they may need loved ones to offer a question like: "What is it you need that will help you accept this?" Perhaps the need is also for time, compassion, support and reflection and that these gifts allow for a gradual state of acceptance that nothing will ever be the same again. For many people, moving towards a new normal is the only healthy option.

Change can insist itself on our lives and force us to learn its new ways and rules. This can take time. How do you "let go" of the grief of having lost a loved one? How does one get on with living when a happening or event has irrevocably altered life forever? Who can say when there has been enough time spent adjusting? How can another person know when it is time? When we tell people to let their pain and difficulties go, we undermine the seriousness of the situation for the person who is struggling. It is a message that indicates that there may have already been too much time spent with the pain or that the degree of the affliction is somehow incorrectly weighted or inappropriate. Who are we to suggest this to another person?

In my experience, the process of acceptance can help a person move toward a state where having a less intractable position is possible. This is useful when a person suffers. Movement can take time and often the 'bones' need to be laid out in the open where they are aired instead of festering, hidden in the dark. Of course there are techniques like EMDR that help people make sense of being stuck in a loop of despair that seemingly never ends. This modality is quick and takes the client behind the curtain of the conscious thought rapidly and with great effect.

I find that many clients have never truly been listened to, by anyone...in their entire lives! Witnessing the experience of another and allowing their telling to occur is also powerful. When the therapeutic alliance is strong and the therapist is patient enough  to put aside agendas that push toward results and instead can accompany a suffering human being on a journey of healing, acceptance and change can happen. This is one of the gifts of therapy, in my opinion...

The Watcher

The Watcher, the Witness, the Higher Self, the one that observes: the things we do, the way we think, our feelings and the patterns we create, seek and perpetuate. This higher part of self is dispassionate and removed. It's quality is often more distant than anything else…not cold but somehow also not really involved in the life drama. It often seems (to me at least) that it isn’t really even curious about what I (the part of me I call I, of which the Watcher is most certainly a part) am doing. It just watches without judgement or criticism, without encouragement or dissuasion, without engagement or emotional connection. It sometimes seems to be the part of self that has no opinion about self…just there, watching eternally, patient and calm. It is almost as though this part of self is destined to watch our life together as if it was a movie.

 

I find this presence comforting, like an old friend--a large warm rock on a well loved beach where I can rest. I feel at times as though it’s presence can calm me when other parts of self want to lead me to places within my psyche that are raw and painful to visit. The Watcher counters the brutal parts of self that want to convince me that I am somehow not good enough, unlovable and even, in times past, an abomination. The beastly part of my mind that forgives me not one single infraction and remembers everything I have ever done that is “wrong”. The Watcher watches this torturous process, is there with me and in its own way, offers compassion through its calm and steady presence. It never turns away, never agrees with my tormentors, and never expresses impatience when I travel down the roads I have been before. It does not judge when I do make poor choices (as every human does) that lead to uncomfortable consequences. The Watcher stays there with me through it all, like a wise and committed friend.

 

Sometimes I use the Watcher’s presence to pull myself out of whatever pit I have been wallowing in. I remember all I have learned on this journey: that I can stop thinking too and just watch for a time. I can wait with the Watcher to see what will come next? When I remember I can do this, it helps. I remember that I am not my thought. I remind myself that feelings flow and change and it is ok to sit with them and be curious about them. I recall what the experience of distance from “myself” feels like. When I do this I can take comfort there and feel a blessed reprieve. The Watcher and I sit side by side in companionate silence and understanding; a loving connection. I remember what huge growth it is to allow self and the processes of self to be, without running away from, denying the existence of or judging the process. When I do this, I begin to feel better and more able to work through the demons of the past a little bit farther than I did the time before. And this is how I KNOW for sure I am getting better.

Paradigm Shifts

Have you ever had one of those moments in life...you know, the moment when everything you thought and believed on a subject suddenly seems incomprehensible? It is a moment of liberation wherein one realizes that the walls that set the boundaries in thoughts, never actually existed in reality. In Narrative Therapy this phenomenon is referred to a problem saturated thinking and the solution is to gain an arial view. This requires moving away from the face to face, immovable and confining spaces within thoughts, and beliefs as well as within inter and intrapersonal situations and seeing a new view, hopefully a better, bigger and more expansive view...maybe even a breathtaking view!  It is an amazing moment to be able to see the small corner of the forest that once was the whole game and realize just how small it was. It is a moment of clarity that brings empathy for the former self who--likely through no personal failing--could just not see how big and beautiful the world is.

Yes sometimes climbing the mountain is hard folks...but it is worth the challenge :)

New Day Begins

Dawn, the new day arriving to offer what blessings and opportunities to learn that it will. The promise fulfilled…another day on Earth. What a glorious privilege each day is!  I have always felt honoured to be named after this time time of day.  It is a peaceful time when the nocturnal are settling in for the day of sleep and those day lovers are in the final dramatic moments of dream, preparing to awaken.  What will this day bring for you? What will it bring for me? What will I choose to give this day? Will I finally lay the bones of the past out into the fresh air to be washed by rain or bleached clean by the sun? Maybe I will sing songs of gratitude and hope? Will I stay in the dark and hide from life itself and my true self? Will I choose some partial solution betwixt and between the extremes? Today I choose to shine and let life flow through me like the brilliant and illuminating force it is. Today I have decided to allow the gifts of life to visit me, to change, and transform me as they will. Today I will say yes… 

What is the soul?

Nothing like a very heavy question before bed... The truth is I do not know for sure what the soul is, but I have some ideas. I believe the soul is the essential part of ourselves that moves through life with us. It is a kind of rock in our centre--an indelible, certainty that defines who we really are once all the window dressing and incidentals are stripped away. It is the real self, unvarnished and true, honest and unadorned. It is the part of ourselves that knows who we are and what is necessary, true and valuable for each of us. It holds our longings to encourage us to fulfill our true nature. It causes us guilt and shame when we stray too far from our essential nature. It whispers in our ears and scratches at our necks...listen please...let me show you the way. We feel despair when we do not listen; hopelessness when we lose faith in our ability to manifest the calling of this persistent and insistent voice from within. When we do follow the call...life is amazing...because we have trusted in the incorporeal, unseen and omnipresent spirit that guides our life...

PLAY

This is Sugar Plum, my canine friend. I love dogs! They have a lot to teach us humans about living...really living. I think this photo says it all. She is letting herself go with complete abandon into the pleasure of the moment. No hesitation at all and no regrets. I love dogs ability to be and all animal's way of total acceptance of their own nature. They know who they are and what they like and they do those things. They also know what they are adverse to and they avoid those things. Simple right? For dogs it is and as I said, I have learned much from these animals. Who doesn't want to roll around in the snow?

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