Tag Archives: mindful

Gifts that Endure

family collage

A gift is defined by how it impacts the heart. 

Sadly, we’re hypnotized by ad campaigns that tie the act of gift-giving to the act of spending money. In fact, the more money spent, the greater the perceived value of the gift—and the greater proof of love.

Something has definitely gone awry when the measure of one’s love is determined by the amount of money sacrificed.

The word “sacrifice” is no exaggeration for many people around this time of year. Some have difficulty paying for heat and groceries. So, instead of joy in their heart during the holiday season, despair, guilt and anxiety fill the air.

Jerry is a good example. He’s a construction worker with four children. When I counseled him a few years back, jobs were scarce. I couldn’t help but sense his heavy heart as he talked about how disappointed he was with himself. Why the disappointment? Because he wasn’t able to buy enough “stuff” for his family. He was convinced he was a failure as a dad.

Another client, Nicole—a single mom—was equally distressed. She was laid off so her Christmas-anxiety was the cause of many sleepless nights and, like Jerry, she also felt like a failure as a parent.

How can Jerry and Nicole arrive at peace? I like what The Beatles had to say about that:  “All you need is love.”

As a therapist, I deal with issues of love and abandonment—stemming from childhood—all the time. But I’ve yet to encounter an adult client grieving over having received too few gifts as a child.

The fact that Jerry and Nicole are concerned for their children tells me their hearts are in the right place. The love—that precious commodity underlying a healthy parent-child bond—is more than evident.

In an effort to have them rethink their definition of a gift I asked them two questions: What would bring joy to your children’s hearts? Throughout the year, what do they ask you to do with them?

To get a sense of the sheer magic of those questions, imagine yourself at age eight and being asked by your parent, “What would you like us to do together?”

Our involvement with our children spells love to them. So my advice to Jerry and Nicole was simple: “Give them you.”

Sure, there’s a thrill—a rush—when receiving material gifts. But more often than not, they impact our pleasure circuits—which are fleeting—not our heart.

Ask yourself this: How many gifts do you really remember from last year? I would venture to guess that joyful experiences—involving people—remain memorable, evoking inner smiles yet today. Such memories clearly take center stage . . . because they impact the heart.

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

(c) Salee Reese 2015

 

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Freedom is Creating a Fabulous Elephant!

elephant 1

“It takes one a long time to become young.”  

–Pablo Picasso

I remember hearing about an 8-year-old girl who painted a picture of a fabulous elephant. What made her elephant earn the distinction of being fabulous? She used a wide array of colors.

Unfortunately, her teacher was stricken with an adult brain and was therefore incapable of seeing the fabulousness of that elephant. So instead of enjoying the unique creation, she felt it her duty to inform the little girl that elephants are not multi-colored.

The little girl had an immediate comeback:

“You don’t know elephants very well.”

No, we adults don’t know elephants very well—we don’t know a lot of things very well because our perceptual filter is so narrow. Children, on the other hand, are not confined to a rigid idea about reality. They don’t deliberately think outside the box . . . they just don’t see the box. The box doesn’t exist.

And for that reason, one could say they’re intimate with the realm of freedom. Writer and educator Ashley Montagu wrote about this rare freedom children so readily possess. In an article for Psychology Today titled, “Don’t be Adultish,” he suggested that we “preserve the spirit of a child, of youthfulness, inquisitiveness—the curiosity that is so evident in children. An open-mindedness that is free to consider everything, a sense of humor, playfulness—all these qualities we are designed to develop rather than outgrow.”

I like that. How unfortunate that so many of us mistakenly carry around the notion that we’re supposed to outgrow such traits. Doing so is something I call self-abandonment and a recipe for either a boring existence or depression.

No wonder we grownups are inclined to turn to the bottle, the pill, wild parties and so forth to remedy this sorry condition. But, as we all know, those things are merely band-aids. They’re no substitute for reclaiming our lost self.

Think about it, do children seek out the substitutes? No. They don’t have to. They’re neither enslaved by convention or weighed down by adultishness.

The child within each of us contains the seeds for authentic happiness.

The path to reclaiming that inner child looks different for each of us. I had conversations with Drake, Bud, Jane, and Garth about walking that path.

There can be no change, no opening to a new way of seeing and being as long as we continue to tightly grip that which is no longer working. We have to be willing and ready to let go.

And we attain the know-how for doing that by becoming young again—young enough to be able to paint a fabulous, multi-colored elephant!

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

(c) Salee Reese 2015

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Heart Connections Live On

colorful heart

“You don’t grieve to distance yourself from a loved one, you grieve so they become a part of your heart.”

I just love that thought! It was one of the many insights my friend, Pat, shared with me several months before her body lost its battle with cancer. Throughout my life, I’ve had to say goodbye to numerous loved ones, and as you all know, it’s never easy. Grief is a pain like none other, and it doesn’t just go away by wishing it gone. It lingers until it’s darn well ready to leave.

Grief is inevitable and often necessary for the healing process, but prolonged torment is preventable.

Grief, I’ve found, is worsened and perhaps prolonged when we believe our connection to our loved one has been cut. The result is an intolerable sense of separation. That was my experience when someone I dearly loved died. I suffered for a long time until I realized that being miserable was the separating factor—not his death. That experience, along with a strong desire to relieve suffering in others, led me to write a book, When the Cage Dies, the Bird Lives. In it I write:

The death of your loved one

is a tragedy as long as you

experience it as

severing.

The heart grieves

when the mind tells it

that a cord has been cut.

But the mind is wrong!

The heart’s yearnings are right!

cords between people

~heart cords~

can’t sever

Ever.

My thoughts turn to Kay, a client whose seventeen-year-old son, Jerod, died in a tragic car accident. “He was my life!” she wailed repeatedly. I have to say, it was heartbreaking to hear such raw pain.

Kay was a single mom and Jerod her only child. For years, a major portion of her life had centered around his schooling, including various activities and sporting events. She was on a first-name basis with all of his friends and their parents. She knew each of his teachers and his coaches.

“A year ago, before the accident, I was into everything . . . I was an extrovert,” she said. “But now I don’t want to be around anybody. I just go through the motions. I’m not really present in my life anymore.”

She wanted to share memories about Jerod. She needed to. As she talked, she would sometimes cry. At other times, she would break out in laughter. I cried and laughed right along with her.

Later on, I brought up the subject of moving on. “What new doors have invited you in?” I asked. “If you view your life as a storybook, what does the next page have to offer? What would you like it to offer?”

She shook her head vehemently while blurting out: “I don’t want to let go of Jerod!”

Kay’s logic told her that moving on was equivalent to letting go—severing a connection with Jerod. And for that reason, she had chosen to remain stationary in an attempt to freeze time.

To offer some degree of peace, I drew upon Kay’s own belief system. I asked her if she believed Jerod was more than his body, or whether he ceased to exist when his body perished. She was adamant that his spirit lives on.

If that’s the case, I explained, Jerod wouldn’t be shackled to the past. Under such circumstances, we’re forced to ask ourselves: Is reality a stagnant pond or a flowing river? Staying stuck in one spot—holding on to the past—isn’t an answer. It can’t provide relief. “That’s because Jerod is no longer in the past,” I said. The past is gone; the present moment is all there is.

“In your view, Kay,” I asked, “what is the meaning of life?”

“God gave us unique gifts and a purpose,” she responded. “We’re here to use those gifts and to fulfill our purpose. We are to touch people’s lives. Jerod touched people’s lives.”

Kay proceeded to describe Jerod as a kind-hearted person who radiated a warm glow wherever he went.

“Okay,” I asked, “how can Jerod continue to touch people’s lives through you? And how has Jerod’s touch—his coming into your life—fertilized your being and purpose? How can he enrich it yet?”

And in so many words, I added this:

Suppose death doesn’t mark an ending but the beginning of a whole new phase with souls—invisibly linked—engaged in some common purpose? Is it possible that the grandeur of your bond with Jerod has morphed into new and heightened meaning?

Tears slowly trickled down Kay’s face. The tears were different this time.

Healing won’t be an easy path for her. The death of a child is considered to be the greatest loss a person can endure. One client with a similar loss put it this way: “Sometimes the pain is so deep and so dark, you’re just drowning in it.”

I know that to be the case personally. I witnessed such pain in my parents when my older sister, Susan, suddenly died at the age of twenty-one.

Profound loss results in profound grief. The pain may never completely go away, but in time its sharp edge tends to dissipate, along with the accompanying shock and paralysis.

The people who recover their inner radiance are those who carry the confidence that love survives death. Although they can no longer see or touch their loved ones, they maintain a heart connection, not letting death be a barrier to their bond.

As for Kay, she’s finding relief through the growing realization that moving on is the act of letting someone in instead of letting someone go.

Names are changed to honor confidentiality.

(c) Salee Reese 2015

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Leaving Your Cage

flying+bird+out+of+its+cage+the+best+for+the+post

A cage is anything that confines, reduces, inhibits or limits us. This includes our distorted ideas about ourselves.

In  Meet Your True Self,  my previous post, Brad woke up to the fact that his inner roommate, also known as an inner critic, was a liar. In that mere flash of an instant, Brad freed himself from a cage.

Brad didn’t stop with that single insight. In fact, on that day, he was on a roll and I wasn’t about to stop him. I just sat back with a big grin on my face.

He said he realizes that his inner roommate is a product of his conditioning and that it operates automatically “just like breathing . . . most of the time we’re not even aware of it.”

Nor are we aware of the constant stream of dialogue swirling around in our head. “My brain just keeps playing the same tape over and over,” Brad said. “What I have to do now is reprogram myself.”

Brad also had a good idea about how to do that: “Since we get programmed through repetition, we can also get re-programmed through repetition.”

In other words, instead of telling himself over and over again how worthless he is, his plan is to start telling himself the truth about himself . . . over and over again. In effect, he’ll be arguing with his inner roommate . . . and winning.

Unfortunately, inner roommates don’t simply go “poof” and disappear when we get wise to them. Conditioning, by definition, sticks. Brad calls it a “default setting”—something our brain automatically goes back to. Inner roommates may fade through disuse and neglect, but in all likelihood they will reactivate when life throws us some curve balls or when we hit a low point. So patience is called for.

I told Brad to expect setbacks, but to view them as temporary. Serious backsliding is impossible at this point because he’s too aware to stay lost. He has taken a huge step with his epiphany about his inner roommate being a liar. That’s a game changer. It’s like trying to unripple the pond—it can’t happen. Like returning to a cage after getting a taste of freedom—it won’t happen.

Clear-eyed reflection—seeing something for what it is—makes it impossible to return to our delusions on a permanent basis.

I’d like your comments. Do you agree with that last statement? And what are your insights on reprogramming and cages? Thanks!

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

(c) 2014 Salee Reese

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You Create Your World

?????????????????

 

So You Create

Your thoughts are setting the stage for things to come.

As you think, so you create.

If you believe your dreams are attainable, so you create.

If you anticipate failure, so you create.

If you imagine being smiled at tomorrow, so you create.

If you predict rejection, so you create.

If you envision having a good time, so you create.

If you view your child as a problem, so you create.

If you expect to have love in your heart

. . . for everyone you meet today, so you create.

—Salee Reese

 

What world do you want to live in? We all have a choice.

When we venture deeper than the surface of our lives, we notice that life is a tapestry and we’re the artists. We use our selection of paints to color our world. Life isn’t always controllable, but how we respond to it is—how we look at it and how we react. That’s the world we create.

Here’s another anecdote that illustrates this creative power inside each of us. It’s an excerpt from Pema Chodron’s book Awakening Loving-Kindness:

A big burly samurai comes to the wise man and says, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.” And the roshi looks him in the face and says: “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you?” The samurai starts to get purple in the face, his hair starts to stand up, but the roshi won’t stop, he keeps saying, “A miserable worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?” Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword, and he’s just about to cut off the head of the roshi. Then the roshi says, “That’s hell.” The samurai, who is in fact a sensitive person, instantly gets it, that he just created his own hell; he was deep in hell. It was black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment, so much so that he was going to kill this man. Tears fill his eyes and he starts to cry and he puts his palms together and the roshi says, “That’s heaven.”

 Let’s go with heaven today, shall we? 🙂

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Choose to Bloom

 

blooming flower

 

 

Spring.

The sun.

The warm air.

Life blooming.

With the awakening earth, my soul is refreshed.

Like the flowers that push through the hard ground,

I too am now open to possibility.

No one chooses how I bloom but me!

—Kim Thompson

I just love that poem! How does it speak to me? It’s all about birth, change, and personal choice. Life just doesn’t stand still—it can’t. Old eventually gives way to new. We witness it everywhere!

Such a peaceful thought . . . to know we all have a chance at renewal. I’m certainly not the same person I was ten years ago or even ten days ago. “Hard ground”—struggle—is on everybody’s agenda, but so is blooming.

Brad’s a perfect example. For years he’s lived in a cage—a cage of depression. I wrote about him a few months back. Click here to read “The Latest Wow: We Can’t Always Snap Out of It.”

Well, it seems he is snapping out of it—I’m noticing some blooming going on. For the first time, Brad’s questioning what his inner roommate tells him. (For more on inner roommates, read “Meet Your Roommate.”)

His badgering roommate tells him—on a constant basis—what a loser he is. It accuses him of being lazy, wasting time, and generally being worthless. Internalizing that message, giving it the weight of truth, kills all motivation.  “I hesitate to make more of myself . . . to even try,” he said, “because I think: What’s the use? Why try? I’ll never get it right.”

Your busy mind isn’t you. You’re the one observing it.

“What’s the benefit of being an observer of your thoughts?” I asked.

“It allows a person to detach from their roommate,” he said. “It’s a form of letting go. I see that I need to separate from my thoughts.”

I would love the opportunity to get Brad’s inner roommate on “the couch.” The first thing out of my mouth would be: “Don’t you have something better to do? Who’s actually the lazy one here?  As far as I can see, your sole interest in life is tearing Brad to shreds every chance you get. How ridiculous is that? What a complete waste of time and how utterly pointless!”

Of course, I would never actually have a conversation like that with a client, but “roommates” are another matter.  That’s exactly the kind of conversation we all need to have with our bedeviling inner critics.  Brad, I’m happy to say, is well on his way.

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

 

Thanks to Kim Thompson for the use of her lovely poem.  Kim’s talents extend far beyond her gift with words . . . check out her site and see for yourself. 🙂

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Two to Tango

tango

Passivity invites the other person to take a power position.

Maya and Jarel have been dancing the same dance step—or style of relating—for years. He dominates and she obediently yields. She’s tired of it.

Not long ago, she was ready to walk out the door, but right at that point he made a dramatic change . . . for the better. Now she’s not so sure about leaving. But she’s not sure about staying, either.

“I’m skeptical,” she said. “If I change my mind and decide to stay, I’m afraid Jarel will go back to his same old ways.”

“Sounds to me like you don’t trust the new you,” I said

Lately, Maya has made some impressive changes—giant strides—in terms of standing up for herself.  She doesn’t mouse-down anymore. Gone are the days of being dictated to and controlled. Gone are the days being passive and silent. She’s come to value herself way too much for that.

Yes, Jarel could slip back to his “same old ways,” but it’s more crucial that she doesn’t.

Here’s the naked truth:

If she doesn’t go back to her old ways, he can’t go back to his. It’s impossible to dance the tango when the other person is busy doing the rumba. As the saying goes: It takes two to tango.

Darcie, another client, was also rising to the challenge of changing the dance in her relationship with her husband.  You can read about that by clicking here.

Maya, Darcie and all dance-changers should not underestimate their power to change a relationship dynamic . . . or dance. They can. It happens, but only if they remain changed themselves.

For Maya, this means she’ll continue to stand up for herself—instead of being passive—if Jarel reverts back to his habit of dominating. Not occasionally or a week later, but ideally every time it happens!

Both will slip up occasionally, but weakening back to their former daily pattern spells destruction for their relationship. Maya’s challenge is to remain just as self-honoring as the day she was poised to walk out.  Not to forget that being uncompromisingly true to herself was the game changer for Jarel.

By the end of our session, Maya was leaning in the direction of staying. She’ll be practicing her new dance step which, inevitably, invites Jarel to follow suit. Who knows, he may even decide he likes the new dance!

 

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My Journey as Mom

polarbear

The other day I realized something: When my two sons were young, I thought everything they did was cute. Well . . . almost everything. Now they think everything I do is cute. How do I know that? Because they let me know. Without warning, one of them will say, “Oh, mom, that’s so cute.” I’m not sure how to take it. I’m stumped.

I realized something else, too. The only difference between then and now is I took pictures of them being cute. They don’t take pictures of me being “cute.” What’s up with that?

Hmmm . . . parenthood. Gotta love it.  Click here to read about another one of my ah-ha moments on that crazy ride called motherhood.

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Don’t Settle for a Beige Life

Angel Wings

When we follow our dreams, we take up residence in a much larger part of ourselves . . . our soul.

“Be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.”

 – Rumi

That line could apply to many circumstances. It can apply to a person, an activity, a career or a dream we’re squelching. Kelly is a prime example. Her life lacks color because of derailed dreams.

For as long as she can remember, Kelly was thoroughly captivated by the thought of becoming a chef. Excitement tackled her to the ground every time she thought about it, so buoyant was she over the prospect. But something regrettable happened to her once she turned 18. Her dream was replaced by something more socially expected. Instead of obeying her passion, she obeyed a programmed directive that said she should get married and have a family. And unfortunately for her, that’s exactly what she did.

Since then, Kelly’s life has been reduced to a series of compromises—and not surprisingly, she’s a very unhappy woman today. Her life is marked with an undercurrent of sadness, grieving the life she failed to choose for herself. She lacks enthusiasm for her job, for her family—for life in general. Kelly’s life is beige.  Click here to continue reading Kelly’s story.

For another person’s take on this journey, read Tracie Louise’s blog here.  (I’ve never met Tracie but her beautiful spirit—who she is—shines through in her writing and in her breathtaking photography. I’m sure you’ll agree. By the way, the parrot above is one example of her art.) What she wrote a few days ago resonated with me.  Both Kelly and Tracie were weighed down by persistent unhappiness and dissatisfaction, clear signs that they were veering off course.

Only when we live life in accordance with our purest and deepest desires, do our lives take on the colors of contentment.  As Tracie Louise says, “You CAN NOT go against the power of your soul.”

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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Shed Those Unwanted Pounds . . . of Guilt

freedom-from-false-guilt

I propose we start a club called Guilt-Shedders.

Not long ago, I heard this joke on the radio:

If you feel bad about what you did, that’s guilt.

If you feel bad about who you are, that’s shame.

If you feel shame because you don’t feel guilty, that’s Catholic.

The truth is, Catholics don’t have a monopoly on guilt. Let’s face it, there’s just too much of it floating around. We can feel guilty for nearly anything . . . letting coupons expire, ignoring our expanding collection of unanswered email, singing off-key, showing up a tad late, saying no to an invitation, or even saying yes when we’d rather not go. We can feel guilty for not eating right, standing right or looking right. We can feel guilty for not getting enough exercise, or for doing it all wrong.

And what about the category called “no-win guilt”? That’s when we feel guilty for things like working too much or too little; for not furthering our education, but also for going into debt to further our education.

Then there’s the never-ending parental guilt. I’ve been there myself . . . I am there. We can just as easily feel guilty for caring too much as for caring too little. One dad tells me, “I feel guilty for not being the right kind of father.” But he is.  (Guilt can be so empty-headed.)

The glut of guilt is endless. What to do? Out-muscle it. Be bigger than the guilt. Disarm it by out-loving it. Find out how to do that by reading a column I wrote—using actual client stories—titled The Guilt Monster. (click here)

Yep, our world is ripe for a Guilt-Shedders Club. I just happen to be a charter member along with about three million other people. 🙂

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