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Awakeninginlove

March 30, 2017

I’ve been on a bit of a writing hiatus … not because I haven’t started several blogs, but because I can’t seem to finish them. I confess, I start a lot of things I don’t finish. My laptop is full of half written blogs, books, articles, etc. Often when I’m writing I feel it’s great stuff, but when I go back and re-read it later, it’s no longer so bright and shiny. And so it goes …

A friend of mine recently told me she was invited to an Abraham-Hicks (AH) event and asked me for my opinion. I shared some thoughts with her but didn’t realize she had never heard of them until she remarked: “I have no idea when he lived or how long he’s been gone, but it sounds like it’s some relative who is giving this talk.” I’d been following AH for so long that comment just made me laugh.

“Abraham” identifies as a “group of non-physical entities,” and Hicks is the woman who “channels them.” I remember when I first heard about them in the late 80’s I was a bit dubious. I’m still not sure how much I believe in non-physical entities or in channeling, but the message was something that strongly resonated with me. In essence, you could say it’s all about the “law of attraction,” and “your thoughts and feelings create your reality.”

However, in spite of years of AH study there has always seemed something not quite on target about their teachings. I’m fortunate though in my ability to take what resonates and leave the rest. There is a tremendous amount of good material, however I suspect it’s also a great breeding ground for narcissists with it’s message of “follow whatever feels good.” I sort of get what this message is communicating, but it’s always felt off the mark in some way. Notably if what I felt like doing at the time wasn’t necessarily beneficial to myself or others.

Perhaps part of what didn’t quite resonate was an experience I had in the highlight of my AH days. I as experiencing grief over the ending of a relationship and found myself struggling to stay in a state of positive thinking and feeling. In spite of the corresponding teaching “what you resist, persists,” it seemed the primary objective of the AH teachings was to “think a better feeling thought.” Trying to follow this teaching didn’t allow me to FEEL my grief. I finally had to stop and just allow myself to honor my feelings.

While the influence of some of the AH teachings is undeniably a part of my overall spiritual and theoretical framework, my metaphysical evolution seems be nurtured lately by the soil of loving what is. Here I practice simply observing my thoughts and feelings and allowing space for them to pass through my experience. I’m connecting more with my heart and less with my head.

I still believe we do create our own reality in many ways. However, it isn’t through the manipulation of changing external things as much as it is in choosing our perception. Our ultimate freedom has always seemed to me to be in our ability to give meaning to things and remember that our interpretation is based on our thoughts and beliefs. This requires questioning what we are thinking, how we are assigning meaning, and examining what belief system we are holding.

It is reasonable to assume we ARE creating our reality through the thoughts and beliefs we hold. However, I think it’s not quite so simple as just believing we will manifest a new car or bank account simply by visualizing and feeling what it would be like to have such possessions. This idea can sell a lot of workshops and seminars — and may even be true — but it doesn’t go deep enough for me to fully get on board.

As I’ve moved more into loving what is (thanks in part to Byron Katie, Matt Kahn and Kyle Cease) I’m going deeper and learning more about what joyful living is really all about. And while this loving what is position might seem to contradict the belief that we create our own reality, I don’t think they are incompatible. One might think if we just go around loving everything just the way it is, we wouldn’t then want or need anything to be different. Yet, I think it’s possible for us to love what is and still make choices for something different.

Admittedly understanding this is hard for even my too-busy mind to fully grasp. Not to mention there are plenty of times I’m making choices because I definitely do NOT love what is happening. Yet, I know a lot of suffering and insanity can be eliminated by accepting it is what it is. (I’m aware even this isn’t quite LOVING it, but at least it’s getting close.)

If we have the power to change something, then by all means, we should take the actions to do so. When we don’t have the power to change something, we still have the ability to change our thinking, our perception, and/or our interpretation. We can fight against something we can’t change or we can accept it and figure out what’s next.

In the process of balancing my belief that I create my own reality with my journey into loving what is, I stumbled upon an article by Kara-Leah Grant: Your Thoughts Do Not Create Your Reality, Stupid. While I’m not too fond of her title (my ego doesn’t like to be called “stupid”), her concepts really helped me grasp things on a different level. I absolutely agreed with her conclusion: our ULTIMATE reality is a combination of our internal reality and external reality. Reading her article was a huge ah-ha for me.

A week after I started this blog, I received an Abraham-Hicks email with a quote that made me laugh. It said:

“The reason you want every single thing that you want, is because you think you will feel really good when you get there. But, if you don’t feel really good on your way to there, you can’t get there. You have to be satisfied with what-is while you’re reaching for more.”

So maybe I didn’t quite get the AH teachings completely after all since that being satisfied with what-is part got lost in the translation.

I think we’re not used to making choices from a place of being satisfied with what is. It returns to the loop of “if I’m happy with things the way they are, why would I want them to be any different?” I’m still working out the answer to this question, but I trust that as I continue to incorporate more of my heart into my “thinking,” I might get there.

There is more I’ve been exploring on this topic that I will share in my next blog … so stay tuned. If you have some thoughts on this topic, please send me an Email. I’d love to hear from you!

xxxxx

As always, thank you for being a part of my journey. I share freely so that I may assist those who can relate to what I’m saying. We are not alone — each connected to one another in our own unique and individual ways, a part of a greater cosmos beyond understanding. I am committed to this connection — to unity, to growth, and to love. This, I know.

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BEAMING LOVE!!

Shannon Crane

Seeking Parental Approval

As an adult, it’s strange to still want to please our parents. For many of us, there comes a time, perhaps after the rebelliousness of our youth, when we want to make our parents proud. This desire to have the approval of our mother or father doesn’t magically disappear as we get older. There is something about that first bond in our lives that keeps us seeking love and acceptance.

When I had a fancy corporate job and was making a good salary, I actually got to hear those words: “I’m proud of you.” However, when my company got sold and my position was eliminated, my decision to follow a nebulous dream of being a writer and speaker was not met with support. In my mother’s eyes, happiness isn’t as important as security.

I’ve lived most my life with her message that I’m not okay just the way I am. I actually heard my mother say something like that when we were on a group excursion in Costa Rica. I had made a joke on the tour bus in response to something our guide had said. While the majority of people around us were laughing, my mother turned to me with complete disapproval and sharply said: “You’re too much.”

I’m too much and I’m not enough. In the past I’ve tried to change to be more of who she wants me to be. I’ve changed the way I dressed, put on make up, gotten a new hair style and moved up the corporate ladder.

I was once accused by a previous partner of acting differently in her presence. I do. I’m more conservative and less outgoing. I pay a little more attention to how I look on the outside. I do my best to remember what’s most important to her is what other people think.

It took a lot of years to find a place of peace with my mom. I don’t like to rock the boat. After years of fighting, I’ve found the balance needed for us to have some semblance of closeness.

In spite all of our differences, I love and respect her. I think she is great and admire her ability to maintain an active social life at 84. She’s smart and funny. I’m proud to introduce her to my friends. I think she’s pretty cool.

I’ve kept my light hidden under a bushel because to fully shine means I stop paying attention to what’s important to her and begin to find my own way. Being fully “me” has required letting go of pretense. I risk her disapproval each time I write a new article and every time I recommit to be more authentic in the world.

Reclaiming the parts of myself that I had abandoned goes deeper than how I dress or wear my hair. The playful, laugh-out-loud kid in me has been locked away so long it isn’t always easy to find the key to free her. And the closer I get to setting her free, the more afraid I am of straining my relationship with my mother.

To her credit, she’s gotten better about not being as overt with her displeasure. She once told me she observed all of her friends alienating their children and she decided that wasn’t going to be her. She learned to bite her tongue and not say anything instead of being overtly critical. But she still communicates her feelings through a simple look or through her silence.

In spite of all my trying not to care what she thinks, I still do. When I tried to talk to her about this about a year ago, I was driving with her in the car. I had tears in my eyes as I expressed my desire for her to approve of the path I was choosing. I wanted her to understand how I didn’t want to be on my deathbed and look back with regrets.

Her response was simple and direct: “You should be at an age now where you don’t need your mother’s approval.”

I guess of all the self-improvement books I’ve read, I missed the one that said there was an age limit on wanting mother’s validation of my life choices. If only it was so easy.

I’ve had friends who have terrible relationships with their mom or dad. I know plenty of people who don’t give a darn what their parents would say or think. I’m just not one of them.

For years I alternated between modifying my behavior or acting out rebelliously as a result. Such extremes kept me stuck in an illusion of freedom and a pattern of immaturity. Even when I stopped being rebellious, I still wasn’t really free.

Maybe I’ll never be free, even after she is dead and gone. Since she’s signed up to donate her body to science, I’ll imagine her rolling over on the lab table instead of in the grave. But who knows, maybe from the other side she won’t care anymore what people say or think.

In the meantime, I’m becoming more comfortable doing my thing and knowing she isn’t on board with my decisions. I know my mother loves me. I know her concerns are because she wants the best for me. The only problem is I don’t always agree with what she thinks is best.

I suppose it’s a parents job to worry about their children, even when they are grown. In retrospect, when my mother told me I should be at an age I shouldn’t need her approval, I wish I had quipped back something about being at an age where she shouldn’t worry about me. Apparently, she can’t change that any more than I can stop caring what she thinks.

I am thankful to have a mother who cares, and I am grateful she raised me to care as well. My wanting her approval is my issue. Because if I really think about it, I already have her love and acceptance. She might never fully understand me, but then that’s my job too.

Our job as children is to learn to find our own path and discover who we are separate from our past. When our parents have done a good job raising us, we will make our own choices. Some of them they will like, and some of them they will not. When they love us anyway … well, that’s all that really matters.

Living With Paradox & Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty

As I have grown in my spiritual and personal understanding, I’ve come to understand and be comfortable with paradox. Paradox is defined as “a statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.” My ability to merge a belief in creating my own reality with loving what is in the moment is one such paradox.

My spiritual beliefs have been influenced by the New Age movement and I long ago embraced the belief in the power of my thoughts. I know without out a doubt that what we think about and what we focus on manifests in our lives. However, I also have seen that there are plenty of things that come into our reality that appear outside of our control.

Therefore, I’ve always embraced neurologist and psychiatrist Victor Frankl’s well-known belief, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” When I can’t control what is happening outside of myself, I can always control how I choose to respond and give meaning to those things. In this way, I create my own reality.

The paradox of loving what is while making a choice for something different is ever present. Following the recommendation of Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön to stay present with what is and “lean into sharp points and fully experience them” can be difficult when one believes their focus gives energy to the creation of it’s direction. Sitting with what is coming up for me emotionally without trying to change it by reaching for a better feeling thought is a challenge.

Living with paradox for me means learning to have balance. Stepping outside of any fixed belief system and staying open to the understanding that it is our very beliefs which determine our experience can be liberating. I continue to find comfort in remembering to stop seeking for answers and simply return to finding the love and wisdom of my own heart.

My journey has also taught me to be more comfortable with uncertainty. I would say the most difficult aspect of the life path I have chosen is that there are no guarantees. I’m presently working various caregiving jobs and able to pay my mortgage and bills with ease. However, I’m aware that at any time my job situation could change.

I learned this lesson early on when I thought this past year was going to consist of weekend caregiving for an elderly couple, with a few hours a week being mothers helper for a five-month old. When the 97 year old fell and broke his hip, my weekend job changed dramatically. His daughter ended up staying in town and my hours began to get cut. The mother of the five-month old started feeling more comfortable handling his needs on her own.

I’ve felt fear at the beginning of every new caregiving job I’ve accepted. When I was offered a couple days a week taking care of a two year old, I wasn’t sure it was going to be a good fit. I actually turned the job down before I reconsidered and called back to accept. As it turned out, I made a great decision and that period of time was pure joy.

I am also keenly aware of the uncertainty of what would happen should I become sick and unable to show up for work. I struggle with being here now financially while thinking of my retirement and the future. I have no sick time, vacation time or active 401K. If I want to take a vacation, the cost will be all the more because I have to factor in the unpaid time away from work.

Those that are self-employed are probably used to such considerations. It still amazes me how having a full time job in “corporate America” can give the illusion of security. Now that I am actually living and accepting uncertainty, I also can see that it’s always around us. It’s just not so “in-your-face” when a steady paycheck gets deposited automatically in your bank account.

Much of what I am passionate about today involves being authentic. Perhaps one of the best known advocates of this way of being is American scholar, author, and public speaker Brene’ Brown. I agree with her quote,

“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.”

Today, my life is fuller and richer than it has ever been. Sure, I can get caught up and worry and fear for the future since in many ways I am living on the edge. However, the fullness of the love in my heart and complete trust in my ability to land on my feet brings me comfort.

But perhaps it is my belief that all things happen for my highest good and constant seeking of a silver lining which offers me the greatest security. As I move more deeply into my awakening in love for myself and humanity, I am finding living my word for this year of TRUST easier and easier.

I still don’t know where I will be in a year from now. However, I no longer live the illusion that there are any guarantees in life. And rather this being a scary thing, it is actually an understanding which enables me to more fully live.

Because I choose love. I choose to do work and activities which bring me joy. I choose to keep showing up authentically and embracing paradox and uncertainty.

Every moment is a choice. What’s yours?

30 Days of Raw Authenticity: Complete Transparency

I’m not sure why I let my friend talk me into this project, but I think maybe subconsciously I knew I had to renew my commitment to this path. Putting a 3-5 minute video of myself being authentic on a pubic channel like YouTube more or less eliminates any backdoor of returning to the corporate world. Of course, that’s just a story I tell myself that may or may not be true.

I’m only on Day 11 and this commitment has been hard to keep. The recording the day I had been stung by 3 yellow jackets and had taken two benedryl was particularly difficult for me. My inner critic has delighted in having such great ammunition with which to beat me up. My self-doubt is at an all time high.

Yet I remain convinced that this is what it’s going to take. This truly naked vulnerability to the world is what is needed for me to have the breakthrough I desire. I can’t encourage other people to shine their light if I’m not willing to shine my own. And shining my own means I have to admit, show and accept my shadow too.

This is what 30 days of raw authenticity is about for me. It’s about showing up even when I don’t feel like it. It’s about learning to accept my big nose, slightly crooked teeth, middle age wrinkles and graying hair. It’s about not letting my self-doubt stop me from speaking up about how it’s okay to be real.

I am concluding that I absolutely need to get more focused on how I want to serve this world. And by this world, I mean you. The sad part, however, is that I’m not even sure who you are … how do I engage in a way that serves YOU? What am I offering that is of value to YOU?

What part of my message drew those of you who signed up to receive my blog or updates on my website? With this crazy busy world we have, what is it I can provide to help you navigate your journey?

My purpose in being so authentic is to encourage you to do the same. I know I started this blog with the intention of encouraging you to follow your dreams – or discover what they are if you don’t know. I started here so that I could share what to expect and how to overcome some of the challenges, etc. Of course, the journey is still continuing.

Yet, I feel something is missing and I think it is your voice. I wish I could create a way for you to comment, but I haven’t figured out how to do that, however I’ll be developing a survey in the next couple of weeks and I hope you’ll take the time to fill it out. In the meantime, if you are so inclined, feel free to send me an email.

I’d love to have you join my youtube page and follow along as I complete my commitment to 30 days of raw authenticity. Here’s the link to my page: YouTube

As always, thanks for being a part of my journey. Please tell your friends or anyone else who you think would resonate with my message and please do tell me more about YOU! 🙂

A Life Cut Short: A Reminder to Live Life to the Fullest

“A female tourist that was struck and killed by a ’Ride the Ducks’ boat vehicle in Philadelphia’s Chinatown section has been identified.” Her name was Liz. At age 68, she was the youngest of my mother’s circle of friends. She was zany and full of life. I was privileged to know her and she was my friend too.

The web story of what happened wouldn’t have been seen by me if I hadn’t searched for it. People get hit and killed by cars every day and we don’t hear about it. The most unique thing about this story was that it was one of those land and water vehicles. And, of course, because it involved someone that spanned the generations of being friends with not only my mother, but also me, my brother and my sister.

A witness reported she was distracted by her iPad and was clipped by the Duck boat. Instead of stepping back, she held out her hand, as if to say “stop.” Sadly, the driver never saw her. Another witness said they heard a scream and then a thump. She died of massive head injuries.

It’s distressing to read news like this in general. Even more so when it is someone we know and love. Although we hear tragic stories in the news all the time, it’s quite different when it’s personal.

For me, I am made aware again of the fragility of life. It is a reminder of our assumptions that we will have a tomorrow.

It is another wake up call to let go of worry and more fully enjoy the moment.

It is support for my decision to follow and live a life that brings me joy, instead of doing what might be considered sane, secure or logical.

It is also a stark reminder to pay attention to life and what is around me.

Almost all of us have been guilty of walking around in an unfamiliar city looking at our iPad or smart phone. Check out any city webcam and you’ll see many folks distracted trying to navigate their way around. Most of us have referenced our phone or iPad while walking down the sidewalk or crossing a street, even when in a familiar setting.

I know I’ve also been guilty of using “talk to text” while driving. I tell myself I’m not really texting and driving, but we all know there’s not really that much difference.

We’ve all seen the news reports and heard the stories about horrific and sudden deaths due to texting while driving. And perhaps because those stories weren’t directly connected to someone we know, we often don’t quite take them as seriously as we should.

After Liz’s celebration of life, my mother sent a group email out and wrote: “[The] Message is ‘tell people you love them.’ I love you all.”

One of my mother’s friends responded “Liz lived every day to its fullest … and reminds us to live each day as if it were your last … because some day it will be. Her sad, sudden death shows us that life changes in an instant.”

What is fascinating is we all know this message. There is nothing new about the missive to live each day as if it were our last. “Yes, Yes” we all proclaim, wholeheartedly agreeing how life can serve up some mighty unexpected curve balls.

For a time we remember to tell our friends and family how much we love them. Perhaps we call our mom or dad a few times more often. We let go of the grudge we were holding against our neighbor and make up with an old friend.

Life is precious and we never know when our time to leave this earth is going to come. Our biggest assumption is that we will have a tomorrow. Or that those we love and hold dear will be here when we awake. We eventually forget to live each day to the fullest as we get caught back up in the drama of our lives.

Wake up calls are rarely a pleasant thing. The best ones are like the applications on our cell phones that play soft music gradually increasing in volume. The worst are those that startle us from a deep sleep. For me, hearing of Liz’s death was one of the most jarring calls I’ve received in a long, long time.

It’s unfortunate that sometimes this is what it takes to remind us to fully appreciate those around us and chose to focus on how wonderful life can be. Most of us will have a wake up call like this at least once or twice in our life. We will all probably then become busy again and forget to stop and smell the flowers.

Yet, for these brief times we are reminded – whether it’s by a personal experience or by hearing of someone elses’ – we can embrace our loved ones, give thanks for our life, and treat every interaction with every person as if it might be our last. Because, you never know when it just might be.

Pieces of the Puzzle

Having a blog is interesting because I start to be aware when I haven’t posted in awhile. If you haven’t guessed already, I’ve been in what you might call a slump of creativity. I’ve not quite felt as if I’ve had it all together lately. It’s like I’ve been spinning in space – a bit lost – waiting to get back down to a creative, inspired vision.

I think I’m caught in the grist and mill of the grind and having difficulty seeing what’s being created or the work that’s being done. Almost like I’m caught up in my story. It’s an uncomfortable place to be, however it’s perfect to help me practice what I preach, so to speak.

I’ve allowed myself to feel discouraged and without direction rather than using the tools of reframing and shifting my focus and attention. In this, there is the irony of my own forgetfulness. This thing I have called “slumbering” has actually managed to slip in and hijack my life, (again). Perhaps not completely, since I’m recognizing it, but it’s still been here.

When I think about the areas of interest I have had over the last several months, they often seem disconnected. First, my enthusiasm about helping people get off auto-pilot and sharing the importance of how we give meaning to and interpret the events of our lives. Next, I discovered my passion for sacred caregiving and the desire to create a national movement and training program for direct care workers. As I explored that path, I unveiled a forgotten interest in the field of death and dying. While there are some connections, I’m uncertain as to how they all fit together.

I could choose to look at my inability to find one focus as floundering. I could continue to see the disconnection between each of these and continue to feel lost. Or I can use the power of my perception and ability to find a different interpretation my experience and reframe what is happening. Doing so requires I step outside of myself long enough to let go of how things appear now.

This is what I’ve been doing and working through lately. I’ve been thinking about how all of this is floating around me and the connections just haven’t come together yet. And I’ve been remembering to trust they will. When I shift my attention away from feeling that all of these things are separate, and remember everything is connected, I am filled with instant peace and relaxation. It’s a simple mental shift, yet it does wonders.

However, it’s hard for me to maintain this peace because I want everything to happen on MY timetable. I’m so anxious about getting to the end point, where I’ve got it all figured out and have all the answers. Therefore, I’m forgetting some of my own major beliefs:

– there is no end point;
– I’ll never have it all figured out;
– I already have all the answers;
– it’s the journey not the destination.

Since making the choice to be a writer and speaker, one of my consistent themes has been what I am living and demonstrating right how: how our periods of spiritual conscious awareness (awake) and forgetfulness (slumber) are a part of life. I’ve written several articles addressing the importance of being gentle with ourselves and accepting our patterns of slumbering and awakening. I’ve had a deeper understanding of how we will have times we remember that we’re writing the script and telling the story, and other times when we will get lost in the drama and forget we can take control.

It makes sense to me that my life is going to continue to reflect this theme on multiple levels. Certainly I wouldn’t be writing about it if it wasn’t my personal experience and if I didn’t expect it was also that of many others. The irony is to discover there was a part of me fooled into believing that since I had the awareness of the cycles of awakening and slumber, I’d stay awake.

It’s nice to experience an opportunity to practice self-compassion and reframing. I’m floating in the “in-between” time and learning how to let it be okay. It’s hard letting go of the desire to push the river and figure out the next phase of my life a little faster. It’s equally difficult releasing the thoughts that I am wasting my time or “should” be doing something different.

Yet, these are the choices I have to make in order to improve the quality of my life right now. Because no matter how hard I work, study, or write, there will be times the pieces just don’t seem to be fitting together. Trying to force anything else but what is, will not succeed in making me happy. All I can do – all I must do – is reframe what is happening so that it serves me.

Feeling frustrated, lost, or hopeless does not serve me. I can honor those feelings but recognize they are being created by my thoughts and viewpoint. Beating myself up for not having accomplished more or for not being in a different place does nothing to help get me there. Having the perception that I’m spinning my wheels and getting nowhere is not going to move me forward.

The fine line with reframing is releasing into a trust of the process and a bigger picture while continuing to look for inspiration, guidance, and direction. Trusting that things are unfolding does not mean it’s okay for me to ‘wallow in the mud,’ give up striving, or stop looking for the connections. What it does mean, however, is that I won’t be able to put the pieces together if I’m trying to force them or stay focused on how they don’t fit.

Putting together a giant puzzle seems a good analogy for this delicate balance between loving what is while still moving forward. I can appreciate each piece and can enjoy what has come together, but sometimes it’s necessary for me to step back and take a break. Because I don’t have the box that has the completed picture to help me figure it out.

In our lives we don’t have the box with the bigger picture, and sometimes we will feel as if we’re floating in space with no connection to what is happening. We put together the boarders and then try to figure out what goes in the middle, picking up pieces and putting them down again. Sometimes we have to tear the whole thing down and start over.

I’m gently grounding myself with remembering all the pieces are here. They will come together when the time is right. I continue to write, play, laugh and cry and thus live my life fully. And I remind myself once again, it’s the journey, not the destination … and it’s nice to reawaken.

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I am that “I AM”

I have finally arrived at an age where I fully understand and accept the natural rhythm and cycles of my inner world. I go through times when I am on the highest of a happy high and other times I’m just not feeling it. I’ve questioned if I have a mild bi-polar disorder – maybe I’m the 0.4% to 1% of the world’s population with cyclothymia. After all, I always suspected I was special in some way.

According to WebMD, in cyclothymia, moods fluctuate from mild depression to hypomania and back again. Cyclothymia can straddle the line between mental illness and normal variations in mood and personality. Neither the highs nor lows are severe enough that people seek out treatment.

Self-diagnosis of anything via the Internet is a pretty risky and crazy-making thing to do. I tend to google whatever is going on with me and try to determine the cause. I am not, however, seriously worried about having cyclothymia. Fortunately, my shifts in mood don’t happen suddenly, are not extreme, and generally don’t occur frequently.

I remember several years ago driving down the road and thinking to myself, “This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.” In the same instant I had the awareness “this too shall pass.” This moment defined a deeper personal understanding of the transitory nature of everything.

I had been accustomed to using the expression “this too shall pass” when I felt down, but had not recognized that it is equally applicable when I was happy. Actually, it pretty much could be said to sum up all of life. Whatever is going on, it’s not going to last.

There is for me, however, a constant beneath it all; my sense of an internal Self unchanged. At 18, I wrote a poem asking these questions: “Will I remember now? And will I have the answers? Will I laugh? Will I cry? Will I even BE?” I ended it with the words “I AM.”

The “I AM” for me has never seemed to change. Yet I am not the same person as I was then. I am not even the same person as I was last year, let alone five, ten or fifteen years ago. Who I am as a personality has adapted and altered significantly in many ways. The “I AM” and the “I am” are not the same.

So, it is my “I AM” awareness – that indescribable sense of the constant – that is able to hold space for my current cycle of a lack of motivation and inspiration. The knowing “this too shall pass” helps stave off my resistance and stay in acceptance. But that doesn’t mean I like it.

I have a half dozen unfinished articles or blogs on my Mac. I had Unity magazine accept my proposal to submit an article on balancing faith and perspective. However, I haven’t been able to revise what I had written to where it has the ring of quality work. There is no guarantee they will publish it either way, but I certainly don’t want to submit anything less than my best.

My inspiration for sacred caregiving has waned and my overall focus feels lost. It is as if I am floundering again in a sea of uncertainly. I am lacking the passion and zest that were once at the forefront of my brave new adventure into this uncharted world of following my dreams.

Yet, here today, with this writing, I have finally expressed what has been happening for me. I feel the familiar ring of knowing I’ve got something good here. I am comforted by knowing all is not lost.

Often in life, we cannot find a reason for our cycles of inspiration and lack thereof. For me, I finally recognized what it was that has had me feeling out of sorts. It surprises me every spring because it is so deeply unconscious. It is amazing to me that it’s been thirteen years and this sadness still sneaks up unexpected.

You see, it was in April my dad was admitted to hospice with melanoma throughout his body. As I do today, back then I had googled the information he had given me about the stage and location of his cancer. Regardless of his hopefulness – based on what I read – I knew his chances of recovery weren’t likely.

I remember writing a poem about how new life was teaming with the coming of spring while my father lay dying. The juxtaposition of the colorful trees and flowers was in stark contrast to the sadness I felt inside. Towards the end of April I took time off work and was at his bedside when he died May 2.

I have come to peace with his death, but this cycle of grieving seems to reappear year after year. I am glad now that I was being gentle with myself for having lost my mojo. It’s comforting to have a reason for what I am experiencing.

I am also aware that it’s not always so clear as to why I am feeling a certain way. I have learned that everything happens in its own time and not to push the river. I’ve been okay with the not knowing as much as I am okay with the knowing.

Because when it all comes down to it – “this too shall pass.” Whether I understand it or not. And what remains – well, that is the true elixir of life. My sense of an “I AM” that can hold all this with love and compassion and just let it be.

Loving Kindness

I’ve been on retreat this week, returning to the hermitage in the mountains of North Carolina where I first decided to follow my dream to be an inspirational speaker and writer. I came here this time mainly because my house was booked on AirBnB and I needed somewhere to stay. I also knew it would be a great place for me to prepare for a couple of talks I have coming up.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about this week is what some people see as my completely new direction. I’ve been contemplating whether my turn to the development of Sacred Caregiving is a genuine inspiration, or a well disguised cop out to continuing the pursuit of my dream. Personally, I have not necessarily seen the two as exclusive, but there is enough self-doubt to warrant closer examination.

Most of my energy and thinking, however, has been on the topic for my upcoming talks: Engaging Our Inner Critic: Changing Our Relationship from Adversary to Ally. I’ve been reading and studying materials to incorporate into my speech. I’ve also been practicing my solution to changing this relationship, which turned out to be slightly different from what I had originally derived.

I’ve learned that one of the ways I can really incorporate what I’m learning is to take a break and go for a walk. For me, there is something about moving my body that allows my mind to process on a deeper level. Being here next to waterfalls and hiking trails has made taking that time easy and enjoyable.

As I’ve been walking I realized how determined I am to be an authentic voice in the world. I recognized my difficulty in writing out my speech is because of this commitment. I know when I read from a manuscript, I lose my effectiveness to sound authentic. So, I’ve had to prepare for my talk without a script.

This, of course, has led the part of me that is critical into overdrive. Not having a perfectly timed, practiced and performed presentation is simply unacceptable. The messages I’ve been hearing from my inner critic are pretty disparaging.

However, I’ve seen this as a perfect opportunity for me to get out of my head of the discussion I need to give, and move into the practice for which my discussion will be based. Using the recommendation of Ann Weiser Cornell in Radical Gentleness: A 5-week course transforming your experience of inner criticism to one of inner acceptance, I went inside my body and practiced using self-in-presence language: I’m sensing something in me that is critical and I’m saying hello to it. I then asked that part of me another question: “What might you be worried about?”

To my surprise, the answer wasn’t that I’d get half way through my speech and forget what I was saying or ramble unintelligably the entire hour. No, the answer came in the form of a vision – and it was a much larger fear than just about the content of not having a written speech. I saw myself as an old lady: poor, lonely, and miserable.

With this image, I had a huge “NO WONDER” sense of empathy for the part of me that criticizes. No wonder it’s always pushing me to do more or be better; No wonder it’s always on my case about goofing off. It’s terrified I will end up old, lonely, poor and miserable.

I later realized this fear is likely a universal one for many of us. It’s what keeps us in relationships that no longer bring us joy. It’s what keeps us busy on Facebook or distracted by our addictions. It’s what keeps us from reaching out because we’re afraid we will be rejected. At our core we are afraid of getting old and being alone – and we don’t know how to deal with it.

As I contemplated this awareness and recommitted to showing up as authentically in life as I can, it occurred to me that Sacred Caregiving isn’t just about nursing homes or the direct care workforce. The topic I have been reading about and studying while here this week actually has a LOT to do with Sacred Caregiving. Because caring for others has to start with caring for ourselves, and that means changing our relationship to the part of ourselves that is criticizing.

I’m not sure exactly what this means for my new direction, but I know something deep in me clicked when I had this bigger vision. It’s now going to be my new tag line: Sacred Caregiving: Caring for Ourselves and Caring for Each Other.

Caring for ourselves can start with each of us being gentle and compassionate with all the parts of who we are and what we do. For me this week, that’s meant accepting the discomfort of not having a written speech, accepting the worry for how my talks will turn out, and allowing the uncertainty of my future direction. As self-in-presence, I can hold all of that and let it be.

What can you do in this moment to bring more loving kindness to yourself? Maybe start by putting a hand on your heart and breathing in love. Let the part of you that is criticizing know you hear it, but don’t get caught up in the content. Become big enough to hold all of who you are with love and compassion.

Overcoming Obstacles

“There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” Rosalynn Carter

Would you just shut up!” The caregiver’s voice cut sharp across the dining hall. Nearby another aide responded “I don’t know what’s wrong with her, she’s been acting up all day!” I was shocked to hear this exchange at a fairly high-end religious retirement community and now understood why the residents were all eating quietly with their heads down. The resident who was being yelled at had dementia and apparently had asked for the umpteenth time about the piece of paper on her tray containing her dinner order.

Sadly enough, scenes like this – and worse – play out every day in family care homes or nursing homes across our nation. They don’t happen on family day or when you’re there visiting your loved one, but this kind of exchange is much more prevalent than most people realize. Residents fear retaliation for speaking up or administration often does nothing to hold staff accountable.

I was witness to this type of caregiving because at the time I was drilling in the wall putting up a trial of a new hand sanitizer. Staff don’t pay much attention to someone pushing a work cart who appears to be doing some sort of maintenance. They certainly didn’t seem to see me.

For seven years I was in and out of nursing homes throughout North America, promoting a hand hygiene infection control program and products proven to increase hand washing and decrease infections. After meeting with the Directors of Nursing, Housekeeping and Infection Control, I’d often be behind the scenes in dining halls, nursing stations or staff bathrooms. From this perspective I saw what will one day be the future for many of us.

There are certainly thousands of individuals doing this kind of work with loving care and compassion. I have absolute respect and admiration for all caregivers, both paid and unpaid. It’s hard not to be sympathetic with the CNA’s and other caregivers hired to wipe bottoms, clean up soiled sheets and change bed pans, usually for less than $15 per hour. However, low pay should not be an excuse for those that aren’t doing this work with the right attitude.

Our country is rapidly approaching a serious caregiving crisis: Employment of nursing assistants and orderlies is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022. There will not be a corresponding increase in the workforce of people who typically fill these jobs. However, due to the availability of jobs in this field, more direct care workers may seek employment for financial relief, unmotivated by a service or helping mentality.

I decided to incorporate my desire to share how the power of our perspective can change the quality of our life with my 25 years of services to older adults and my passion for mindful caregiving. My vision is Sacred Caregiving: creating a growing movement of visionaries teaching and inspiring caregivers to incorporate mindfulness, open-heart communication and a spiritual perspective in their work. In this way, I hope to improve the quality of care not only for older adults, but eventually for all populations receiving caregiving.

As one woman, starting at age 52, the fulfillment of my dream is daunting. It would be easy to get discouraged by how much work needs to be done and how much support is needed to make my vision a reality. When I see all the caregiver information available, I can feel scared and incompetent. If I think too much about the barriers, I can get discouraged from moving forward.

Someone recently shared with me, however, a story about his time in the army. Part of his training involved spending field time going through an obstacle course. I’ve always thought of this type of training as being a physical conditioning one, however he pointed out the psychological benefits. “Every time you come to a barrier,” he said “you learn to look for a way around it, even if it seems impossible.”

I may not have all the answers, experience or knowledge necessary to create a national movement. Maybe I won’t be able to get the funding needed to become a non-profit, or get the grants to keep it operating. Maybe that big wall in front of me isn’t surmountable. But, I am surely not going to let it stop me.

You see, the other thing my friend told me is this: sometimes those obstacles needed the help of teammates to get over. And with Rosalynn Carter’s definition of the four kinds of people in the world, I expect to have a lot of teammates. I also know I have a burning desire in my heart, an inspiration that is stronger than anything I’ve ever felt before, and a commitment to making this happen.

Sacred Caregiving Certified will one day be a status proudly displayed by nursing homes, child care centers, individuals and organizations. The wall that stands in front of me is an illusion. What the mind can believe, it can achieve. Join me and let’s do this thing …

Connect with me on Facebook, follow me @awakeninginlove and spread the word!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead