Tag Archives: soul

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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Dominated by Guilt

sad puppy

Guilt, just like anger, is often used as a tool to manipulate.

Last week I offered one reason why we refrain from speaking up or confronting another person. It’s the fear of igniting a thunderstorm.

Another reason is guilt. One of my teenage clients, Allie, put it perfectly:

“I don’t know how to stand up for myself without feeling really bad afterward. I worry about hurting someone’s feelings.”

Allie may be a teenager, but her concern is universal—she’s just not alone in this. Many, many people of every age—myself included—have trouble with this one.

Dru also suffered, and grew, through her struggle with this issue.  You can read about it here.

Allie wants to get a handle on this tendency because it sets her up to be taken advantage of. For example, friends frequently ask her for rides. During Christmas break she was driving people around for hours. She always says yes even when she doesn’t really want to.

Her friends may be happy with this arrangement, but Allie isn’t. “My gas gets used up!” she said in exasperation.

In our session, we talked about the common sense of asking her friends to help out with the gas, or merely opt to use the “no” word. She gets it, but it’s tough, tough, tough because she can’t bear the idea of letting someone down. A certain sad expression is all it takes.

We explored where her problem first took root. “My mom would act hurt if I didn’t give in to what she wanted,” she said. So understandably, Allie learned to water herself down and become putty in the hands of others. She tells me she’s so used to focusing on what others want that “I don’t even know what I want half the time.” Sad.

What I told Allie, was the same thing I told Dru:

Hurting someone’s feelings isn’t always a bad thing. Being denied, stopped or corrected is a part of life and necessary for teaching us our limits and how to be sensitive and respectful to others. We rob people of growing in these ways when we give in to pouts or angry outbursts.

Names are changed to honor confidentiality

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Fear the Small Stuff

bug swarm

We’re all aware of the big and obvious things that rock our existence. But it’s the small—oftentimes invisible—things that can prove to be most destructive.

Here’s an example. While at Cape Cod, Don and I took a nature walk, enjoying the beauty of the wetlands. But something unseen was putting a damper on things. Call  it gnats … some people  call them no-see-ums. I call them nuisances. For Don and I, the experience was akin to being aggressively attacked by a battalion of biting mosquitoes.

Interestingly, earlier in the day at our seminar, Thomas Moore suggested we look for animal sightings and explore their symbolic meaning. Sure enough, those bothersome little creatures qualified.

At some point in our nature walk, exasperated and miserable, Don and I woke up and remembered our assignment.  A shift in consciousness occurred. Instead of seeing those tiny little creatures as the enemy, we now saw them as innocent. “They just want to survive,” Don said.

Those little buggers didn’t know it (or maybe they did), but they were teachers. They taught us that:

  • Life’s small irritations have the potential for eroding wonderful experiences.
  • Small, unseen, or seemingly insignificant things make their presence known by their effect on us. Therefore, it’s wise to tune in to how we’re affected internally by things.
  • Gnats are a subtle threat. The opposite is true of a grizzly bear. There’s nothing subtle about that threat! In a way, we’re better prepared for an obvious threat.
  • Small issues can grow into big problems if not attended to.

Don said,

“If I see an issue as a bear, I’m more likely to seriously deal with it. I don’t want obvious pain! On the other hand, I’m more likely to bypass the smaller issues. The truth is, both have the potential to be very destructive.”

The moral of the story:

If you don’t want the big issues in your life, you’d better be willing to deal with the little issues on an everyday basis.

I invite your insights. Thanks!

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Flying Sunglasses

fish jumping out of water

Thomas Moore, the presenter for Psychotherapy, Spirituality and the Soul, a five-day seminar I attended recently, had this to say:

“In an ordinary situation, larger things may be occurring.”

He was referring to those mysterious happenings that lack any rational explanation. At those times, the intellect is left in a state of confusion. Moore says that’s precisely where we need to be—confused because such occurrences rattle our preconceptions and thus open the pathways for new insight and meaning.

I want to share a personal experience. I was in the loft of my condo preparing to  go somewhere. Having an armload to carry down, I decided to make it easier by tossing my sunglasses—protected securely in their case—over the railing in the hope it would  land on the sofa below.

The case appeared to be headed for a safe landing when suddenly it took a detour and struck the frame in  the middle of the window located just  behind the sofa. What happened next defied all reason! Upon impact, the case snapped open and the glasses flew out and traveled sideways to the edge of the window, meeting up with the cord  of the blinds. The two engaged in a graceful dance of entwinement, ending with the glasses safely snagged in the cord.

The mystery of what had just happened captured me—taking me to a place of silence inside. For the longest time, I stood transfixed, gazing at the glasses hanging securely by the cord. When I finally reached out to retrieve them, I was amazed to discover that the cord had neatly wrapped itself  around the glasses three times.

This experience verified for me what Thomas Moore was talking about when he said: “In an ordinary situation, larger things may be occurring.”

Moore’s consistent message throughout the seminar was  to get good at listening to deeper meanings. He urged us to reflect on what our soul is telling us in our dreams, our imagination and in the multitude of symbols that sit subtly in the fabric of  everyday living.

Whether in a dream or awake, a hat isn’t just a hat, a car accident isn’t just a car accident, and a fish jumping out of the water isn’t just a fish jumping out of the water. Such things are pregnant with insights unique to each individual.

For me, the sunglasses occurrence spoke loudly about control. My tendency is to believe that I have to make things happen—that I have to direct my life. That belief was challenged by that ordinary but significant situation. The symbolism, for me, was profound. What I learned?

Miraculous things happen when we give up control. They’re freed up to happen.

I invite you to share how an event or a dream made a significant impact on you.

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Caring for Our Soul

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I spent an exciting week on Cape Cod! The adventure included a five-day seminar led by Thomas Moore entitled Psychotherapy, Spirituality and the Soul.  (Not to worry … the sessions were over  at noon every day. The rest of the day was play!)

Thirteen years in the monastery seasoned his  wisdom, but so did his experience as a university professor and a psychotherapist for 35 years.

He’s written several best-selling books including Care of the Soul and the recently released Care of  the Soul in Medicine. A large measure of  his work has entailed illuminating the connection between our psychological self and our soul. He doesn’t see a separation between the two. In fact, on the first day of  the seminar, he explained that psycho is a Greek word meaning soul. So it’s no surprise that he maintains that psychotherapy should be invested in the caring for the soul. I agree.

Moore described the soul as “who we are at our depths.” He had more to say about it which is summarized well in Care of the Soul. Here it is:

“Soul is not a thing, but a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance. I do not use  the word here as an object of  religious  belief or  as something to do with immortality.”

Moore points out that the soul is usually hidden from view—from our surface consciousness. Details  of everyday life, such as filling out forms, driving to work, fixing lunch, parenting kids, cleaning the bathroom and heading off the onslaught of constant problems, prove distracting.

All of these things can rob us of our peace,  trigger  anxiety, disrupt relationships and make us unhappy. Such symptoms, Moore says, are ways our soul communicates to us. If we listen closely while emptying our mind of preconceptions, we’ll discover what we truly want and need.

I have a personal example of how stress  was my soul’s method  of communication.

Picture this: You’re sitting in the passenger seat, whizzing down the road at 75 miles per hour, passing and being passed by cars, trucks and anything else that might be coming down the toll road. And what are you doing? You’re trying to write the next post for your blog. The words aren’t  coming … not even a topic!

That was me coming home from  the seminar. My friend, Don, was driving.

After four hours of driving, we decided it was time to take a break. We stopped at a lush picnic area. No highway bustle or noise here—just tranquility.

With the green of nature all  around us, we sat quiet for several minutes—soaking it up, rather letting it soak us up. The key was in the letting.

The birds  were singing. A cat wandered along a nearby path. The breeze was cooling …  I knew I was experiencing what it means to be attuned to my soul—what it means to  care for the soul.

Through that experience, I learned firsthand that solutions—call them soulutions—aren’t about changing or fixing things on  the outside of us, but on  the inside. A shift.

When it was time to head back to the car, I took the lush oasis with  me. As a result, the words—for the blog—came with ease, and the topic was a no-brainer.

I welcome  your thoughts.

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Free Your Spirit!

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Far from being free, Joe lives in the prison called “settling for.” Consequently, he lives a boring, soul-deadening existence. Long ago he deserted himself when he aborted his desires and dreams. Now Joe isn’t where he wants to be, doing what he wants to do. Not surprisingly, in the process of sacrificing his will, Joe lost any zest for life. Today, he’s hollow inside, a mere shell. He’s resigned to living a life that in no way resembles his true self . . .  continue reading

A sagging spirit or depression, like all discomfort, can be a signal alerting us that change is necessary. We all know the annoyance of walking around with a bothersome pebble in our shoe. It isn’t long before the unrelenting irritation forces us to remove it.

I welcome your comments.

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Apologies That Mean Something

apologies

Ever receive one of those  hollow-eyed, flat apologies? You know … the mechanical kind that lack any substance. Yes, we all know what it’s like, and we all know what we want instead. Tracy and a few others do, and here are their stories. Read them here.

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Don’t Spend Your Life Being Little

Stalled in Chicago traffic wasn’t Carrie’s idea of a wonderful day.

Planted in the driver’s seat, she silently broiled. Her anger didn’t stem from her two passengers, her husband and mother-in-law. Instead, she was furious with herself. Getting trapped in traffic was ohhhh soooo avoidable, because Carrie was adept at driving Chicago, maneuvering skillfully and comfortably through the maze of tangled highways.

So what went wrong? She failed to assert herself. Although situated behind the wheel, she let others “drive.” Carrie’s experience illuminates how things go wrong when we shrink down and take on a passive role. For one thing—as with Carrie—such behavior impairs our ability to take charge when a situation calls for solid leadership.

Limping, when fully capable of walking upright, is an act of self-betrayal. It’s felt at the soul level—a sickened feeling deep within.

Continue reading the article . . .

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Make YOU Happy

Jill and Trent have been in a relationship for a long time. They love each other very deeply and treasure their time spent together. The problem? Trent can’t leave his former girlfriend, Laura. He doesn’t love her, but he can’t bring himself to cause her pain.

Trent is one of those people who easily—too easily—feels guilty and responsible for the happiness of others. If someone close to him seems displeased or unhappy, he believes he caused it and should do something to fix it.

In our counseling session, I pointed out that he’s actually hurting Laura more by being unfaithful and deceptive. “And furthermore,” I explained, “we don’t do people any favors by catering to their illusions. It keeps them from growing and grappling with truth.”

The pain of lost relationships and fading hopes is built into the very fabric of daily living. We can’t escape it.

When he’s in Laura’s presence, he’s there physically, but that’s all. The rest of him is absent. In all likelihood, she senses that, which causes her a certain degree of suffering and unhappiness.

I just flatly told him:

“You can’t make her happy if you’re not happy being with her.”

Because he’s a divided man, his energy is diluted in each relationship. He pays a price as well. Sacrifice and self-denial is not a route to happiness. For his sake and the sake of everyone involved, he needs to follow the path of his truth.

“If you honor yourself—honoring what’s right for you—you’ll automatically be honoring everyone else,” I said.

“How can that be?” he asked. “I’ll be hurting Laura.”

I explained that honoring Laura means respecting her dignity and honoring her soul—the higher aspect of her. “You need to stop treating her like an emotional cripple—someone incapable of growing from pain and incapable of helping herself,” I said. “Stop making yourself her god.”

In the final analysis, Trent’s not responsible for Laura’s happiness, she is.

By the end of our session, I was encouraged by Trent’s response to my following question: “Why is suffering a good thing? What is good about it?”

He came off with this WOW:

“Suffering helps a person dig deep into their soul.  As a result they become wiser and stronger.”

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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Get in Touch with Your Inner Teenager

Let’s face it, there’s something  about our teenage spirit we miss. Yes, back then we were reckless–even stupid at times, but there was something horrendously precious about it, too. Call  it our free spirit, our drive, our passion.

How  do we recover  that spirit? Maybe the answer lies in recovering that which we abandoned amid life’s  assortment of manifold compromises, expectations, and superficial  preoccupations. I surmise we abandoned what deeply gratifies us.

In 2009, I  wrote a column about this. This is how it starts out:

Get in touch with your inner teenager and rebel against mindless  conformity! How much joy is sacrificed because we  walk  around on auto-pilot,  enduring a boring existence? Instead of steering our own course, many of us tend to follow the herd–sometimes right over  the cliff.

That’s what happened to Drake’s brother Clay … continue reading

How have you gotten in touch with your inner teenager lately?

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