awe-some!

We are the center of the universe, aren’t we? From birth on, proud parents, excited friends, and doting grandparents pay attention to us, delighting and fulfilling our every need and desire. We are adorable: our smell, first smile, first tooth, sitting, crawling, standing, and walking. We are the stars of the show! For the next five years, we bathe in glorious attention. Having nothing else to compare to, we are certain that the people around us are at our beck and call.

As we continue to grow, our fairy tale world seems to diminish. “Wait a minute!” we wonder, “What happened to the luxury of the spotlight?” Most of us wish we could remain the center of attention because comfort, predictability, and unconditional love from others make us feel good. Some continue to hold that belief into their tweens (think “spoiled”); others nurse it along well into adulthood (think “self-centered”). Still for others, it remains their truth until they die (think “control artists”). In short, these individuals think that everything that happens is about them. It is personal. Perhaps all of us share a little bit of this tendency. We want to feel important and recognized by someone once in a while. What does that say about human nature?

Our personal world is formed by appearances, statistics, material goods, attitudes, and opinions—all of which are illusions. Illusions and the stories we tell ourselves reflect how we think life should be. Belief in illusions is driven by our senses, yet illusions are but an outer shell. They are not the truth of us. We cling to them, desperately wanting to believe that they are our reality. The truth is that everything continuously changes. We cannot control anything. To remain sane, we must accept the ebb and flow of life. We can certainly influence what happens to us, yet it is a greater energy that has the final say.

“When the constant buzzing of ‘me,’ ‘me,’ ‘me’ recedes, we might become sensitive to loftier principles.”   ~Paul Piff, assistant professor of psychology and social behavior, University of California, Irvine; Psychology Today, March/April 2016, “It’s Not All About You” by Carlin Flora, p. 52.

The philosophies of society today—success is about alignment, reputation, and wealth; manipulation is advantageous; and feelings detract from strength—mirror the masks that keep us from knowing our true selves. Suffering follows: inner turmoil; lack of sleep; shorter attention spans; less kindness and generosity; increased stress; perseverance, regardless of its toll; negative thinking that compromises the immune system, paving the way to disease; or unhappiness that can lead to depression or, possibly, a life lost to depression.

Ego takes charge and marshals our thoughts and feelings, making suggestions based on what has worked in the past: “Do this. You need that. Just listen to me; I’ve been taking care of your problems for years.” However, dealing with anxiety and solving existing challenges using the same level of thinking that created them seems unproductive. Why not think and feel on a grander scale? Why not seek “a-ha” moments? Why not open to awe?

“My problems are so trivial compared to the majesty of the night sky.”

~Albert Einstein

“Wonder-as-therapy” is an idea explored by a number of scientists and psychologists in the March/April 2016 Psychology Today publication. Not necessarily new to some, this idea is, nevertheless, an invitation that reminds us to get in touch with our true selves, regardless of where we are in our life cycle. Wonder and awe therapy call us to get out of our own way and to connect with energy outside of us. We take a break, snuggle with a pet, explore nature, think of things that make us feel good, laugh, observe beauty, or focus on our breathing. These activities cancel controlling emotions and demonstrate that we are not alone in our circumstances. We have a friend in the awe business.

As a witness to a growing number of awe-filled recollections, here are my favorites:

  • Newborns, my own four and my seven “grands”
  • Organ music in a 16th Century cathedral
  • A starry night viewed from a hot tub
  • Vistas of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Banff
  • The growth of weeds in an asphalt parking lot
  • Exquisite inner light on the face of a person who has died

Feeling awe is “losing yourself in something or someone else.”

~Robert Leahy, Ph.D; Director, American Institute of Cognitive Therapy.

Awe may appear in any shape, size, color, location, or energy, formed or formless. It may grace us in nature or as a piece in an art gallery or museum. Never knowing exactly how or where awe will inspire us, we know that there is an unlimited supply, our choice to claim. It is a surprise from the universe that offers comfort, predictability, and unconditional love.

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”

~E.B. White

© 2018 in the thick of things

 

 

Integration 101

Look at me! That’s the hidden message that we strive to project in the first half of our lives. In some form, we yearn to stand out. We believe it is our reason for existence. Personalities, careers, reputations, appearances, recognition, and material goods pave the way to separating ourselves from everyone else—and Source—as we are strongly influenced by our ego and outer circumstances.

Then, in the second half of our lives, if we choose to become more contemplative, we discover that inward reflection brings about clarity of true Self. As we move into our late sixties and early seventies, we begin to understand the value of integration, focusing on and bringing together aspects of our lives that really matter: gratitude, listening, relationships, lessons learned from experience, and how we want to be remembered. Certainly there are other aspects, yet this is a helpful list for starters.

Integration brings to mind energy. We are complex beings whose energies often go beyond our sensory perceptions, often without our knowing. This happened to one of my friends who discovered that he was a conduit for Source’s healing energy.  He has now offered energy healing for nearly twenty-five years.

Bob (fictitious name) was offering a foot rub, a gesture of comfort, to a good friend who was dying of HIV. The friend said that he could feel amazing energy coming from Bob’s hands and that he should pursue this gift of healing energy. It didn’t occur to Bob that his hands could deliver strong, healing energy. He didn’t understand or believe it. His gift went largely unnoticed for two or three years. The death of his friend, however, prompted him to learn more about this kind of healing and his role in it.

What Bob learned as an energy healer was to trust in his gift; doubting and wondering Why me? only created blockages to the flow of healing. He could have no expectations, no control. He could only show up and be ready for service. Those seeking healing would find him. Bob became a channel for Source’s energy as it flowed through him. Finding a virtual freeway, energy unconditionally flows to the receiver, its method and destinations known only by Source. Once awakened to his gift, Bob knew he would always use it.

In addition to helping to overcome physical ailments, energy healing can also positively affect emotional and psychological demons. Again, the energy healer is the conduit. Colors representing heart energy and the energy of other chakras often can be seen by the recipient, as well as mental images symbolizing the body’s distress. Any nay-saying or worrying about the existence of a higher power instantly disappears in the presence of an energy healing session. A palpable sense of awe and a powerful knowing permeates both healer and participant.

Everything is energy, and not one single action goes unnoticed by the universe. There may not be an immediate, telling reaction, yet, over time (maybe a lapse of hundreds of years), the action receives a response. Because we are all connected energies, it is essential that we bring lovingkindness to each moment through our thoughts, words, and actions.  This ability begins with mindful introspection, where we find our true Selves, and pass along what is needed.

 

From a higher vantage: Yes, Look at me! Now I stand out for a different reason. I recognize the inner beauty of being ordinary and being loved by Source. I no longer require the surface appeal of outside approval or material goods. Deep down I know who I am and feel content. Lovingkindness and interconnectness guide me.

Hen Speaks

If Walt Disney (“Silly Symphony,” one of several animated short films produced during 1929-1939, staring the debut of Donald Duck) and Ronald Reagan (1976 political monologue) can spin new perspectives on the 1918 Old English Folk Tale, so can I. But first, the back story leading to integration.

Last Wednesday evening, I attended the introductory meeting of the Northfield Medical Aid in Dying Interest Group. I wanted to learn more about the status of The End-of-Life Option Act of 2017. Two prior introductions of the bill had previously been presented. Most recently Bill [145.871] HF1885, “adopting compassionate care for terminally ill patients; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 145” circulated in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

At the same meeting, I became aware of the New York Times article, “At His Own Wake, Celebrating Life and the Gift of Death” by Catherine Porter. In this highly compelling story, Canadian John Shields offers personal reflections of one man’s decision to end his life with the blessings of his family and friends. Suffering from a hereditary form of amyloidosis which, among other symptoms, caused his heart to stop periodically, he subsequently became approved for assisted dying. Medically-assisted death for terminally ill people was passed in Canada on June 17, 2016.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/25/world/canada/euthanasia-bill-john-shields-death.html

In providing much external information that stimulated my internal brain, the meeting also included an informal presentation by Sally Settle of Eagan. She shared a personal story of her mother’s death from leukemia, promising her mother in her final days to champion end-of-life choices. Since then, Sally has shared her mother’s end-of-life journey with newspapers, Facebook, and other numerous audiences. Her friends admire her for the work she is doing. They applaud her energy and cheer her on. They see externally. They feel internally, yet they do not move one pinky toe forward to further the possibility of additional end-of-life choices, regardless of their individual stand-alone issues. Thinking only of themselves, there is no integration, no unity.

This frustrating quandary reminded me of the basis of the children’s short story, The Little Red Hen,” retold and illustrated by Florence White Williams, The Saalfield Publishing Company: Chicago-Akron, Ohio-New York.          http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18735/18735-h/18735-h.htmhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Red_Hen).

In it, the little hen, who was busy scratching the ground for worms to care for her entourage of baby chicks, found something that looked very similar to a worm. After inquiring throughout the barnyard as to its identity, she learned that it was wheat seed. In spite of her endless responsibilities as a mother, Little Red Hen managed to see great possibility in the wheat seed and importance to the whole of the barnyard society. Offering choices beyond worms and greens, she decided that working with the wheat seed should be explored. Needing assistance for the momentous task, she asked her dear friends to help her plant the seed, care for it, harvest it, grind it into flour, and make it into bread. To her amazement, not one of her friends (represented by the cat, the rat, and the pig) agreed; each, in turn, replied, “not I.” They were willing to watch from the sidelines, live their lives as they had become accustomed, and not be associated with anything that differed from the status quo. They were unwilling to consider or act. Realizing the seed’s marvelous potential to change barnyard life and the personal value of having choices, the visionary Little Red Hen said, “Well, then, I will do these things myself.”

I’m choosing to stop the story here. While most people recognize perseverance, hard work, worthy causes, and the quality of daring to step into the unknown or unproven possibilities, they balk at action, caring more about what people will think than about staying true to their higher Self. They let busyness make excuses. Is this integration?

The cat, the rat, and the pig were happy to watch Little Red Hen from a distance, in the present moment. Only the protagonist saw possibilities for the wheat seed and was willing to venture into the unknown with no guarantees. Her actions demonstrated a trusting alignment with Source and the courage to meet whatever life brought to the moment. This is integration.

Knowing of choices beyond the standard diet of worms (even if they were fat and juicy) and greens did not occur to cat, rat, or pig. They were complacent and in denial. Little Red Hen, however, was willing to explore something new and different. Options may not be used by the entire barnyard society, yet, with choices, every animal (everyone) is free—free to make decisions within personal circumstances. This is why we have free will. This is integration.

 

From a higher vantage:  Choices should not divide us. Instead, let them unite us in free will and the joy and satisfaction of being able to accommodate our personal circumstances.

 

©2015 Barbara L. Krause

Co-existing with Energy Zappers

How have you been zapped today? By stress, worry, anxiety, judgment, frustration, losses, or limitations? Although these outcomes seem to have a pattern, you are not a specific target; random change and humanness are part of life. It is how you choose to view these robbers of personal energy—with acceptance or resistance—that determines your quality of life. Exploring a single word will help you co-exist with these responses. Do any of these situations sound familiar?

  1. You planned to go to an exercise class, got into your car, and discovered that your car battery was dead.
  2. A long-time friend forgot your birthday.
  3. You received a message from your doctor, asking you to return for a repeat mammogram or PSA test.
  4. You see the x-rays from your exceedingly painful wrist, confirming that you have advanced arthritis—a shock that you could do without.
  5. You want to make your wishes known about your health directive and will, yet your adult children have their own ideas about what is best for you.

And you thought that you were in control! You didn’t realize the extent to which energy zappers tighten your body by compromising your immune system; by increasing irritability, headaches, or insomnia; and by constricting the muscles that help you to breathe. Energy zappers affect your emotions, making you more susceptible to depression, restlessness, overeating, and drug or alcohol abuse. Yet, underlying all of these responses, and perhaps the greatest tragedy of all, is that they block you from experiencing your true nature of joy, love, calm, generosity and happiness.

Some of you may still be in doubt that energy zappers truly affect you; after all, you practice wellness: a balanced, organic diet; sleep; movement; and supportive relationships. You believe that you are strong, educated, and wise—denial has no chance. No, your responses to energy zappers are under control. Compared to the experiences of your friends, your quality of life is supreme—for the most part, you guess, perhaps not entirely. It may surprise you, but YOUR body—as well as everyone else’s—carries a tremendous amount of stress, worry, anxiety, judgment, frustration, loss, and limitation at any given time. Try this practice to evaluate just how your body is feeling from the inside-out. Take note of how you are feeling right now.

Begin: (You may ask someone to read this section as you listen and participate.)

  1. Tense your toes; scrunch them up tightly. HOLD for 3-2-1. Release.
  2. Tense only your R leg, bringing your thigh to your torso. HOLD for 3-2-1. Release.
  3. Tense your L leg, again bringing your thigh to your torso. HOLD for 3-2-1. Release.
  4. Now, tense BOTH legs. HOLD for 3-2-1. Release.
  5. AND, you thought you had no stress, worry, anxiety, judgment, frustration, loss, or limitation affecting your body.
  6. Tense your abdomen, chest, and stomach (pulling your navel to your spine). HOLD for 3-2-1. Release.
  7. Tense your R hand, making a fist. HOLD for 3-2-1. Release.
  8. Tense your entire R arm, bringing your forearm in toward your chest. HOLD for 3-2-1. Release.
  9. Tense your L hand, making a fist. HOLD for 3-2-1. Release.
  10. Tense your entire L arm, bringing your forearm in toward your chest. HOLD for 3-2-1. Release.
  11. Tense your shoulders up to your ears. HOLD for 3-2-1. Release.
  12. Tense your jaw, gritting your teeth. HOLD for 3-2-1. Release.
  13. Close your eyes and frown; “purse” your lips. HOLD for 3-2-1. Release.
  14. NOW: Tighten your entire body at once. Feel all of your limbs and organs squeezing toward your midline. HOLD for 3-2-1. Release.

Ahhhhh, your body should feel comfortably relaxed. Compare what you feel like now with how you felt before you started this exercise. No doubt, you are more in tune with your body and realize that it has been in a state of tension.  Visually, it appears as if you have successfully let go of much of that tension. Also remember that how your body feels directly affects your mind. As your body relaxes, your mind relaxes and is more open to expansive ideas. You return to your creative and positive self. This exercise has the same effect on you as if you had just returned from a mini-vacation. Some of you are even smiling.

You are ready to consider this question: Are you truly living with energy zappers or just pretending to be aware of them?

It would be wonderful if you could wave your magic wand and, POOF, these limiting responses would disappear, forever banished. In today’s society, if only there were a quick fix! That’s not the case, and probably for good reason. Time allows you to ask for guidance from your higher power, to see different viewpoints, and to find acceptance in situations. This is how you gain wisdom. Energy zappers are part of our humanness and are here to stay. They will never go away, regardless of how much effort you put into wishing, envisioning, or hoping things to be different. The most effective way to handle these responses is to co-exist with them and not let them consume you.

To understand stress, anxiety, judgment, confusion, or frustration, go back to the basics surrounding lack and see them through a child’s eyes. Go back a few years…well, maybe quite a few years.

Imagine that you have a sugar cone w/one scoop of Cookie Dough ice cream; you see another cone w/ two scoops. You think: Wait a minute, that isn’t fair—even if two scoops will give you a tummy ache. Without anyone else interceding, you become unreasonably frustrated because you can’t have what you want! You may even think that next time you want an ice cream cone, the ice cream will be gone, and you will be out of luck. That perception may lead to an underlying anxiety surrounding lack. You should have two scoops while the getting is good! These thoughts of frustration and anxiety become a part of your mindset or who you believe yourself to be.

Now imagine that you have an older sibling who laughs a lot and makes crazy faces; your neighbors always interact with your sibling. You, on the other hand, are more on the quiet side; these same neighbors say hello to you, yet that’s about it. You may perceive this as the neighbors not liking you and may try to mimic your sibling. Another reaction might be to create an imaginary world. Your mindset of judgment and confusion, based on this experience, becomes your reality, your story.

As you grow older, you think about perceptions over and over until you believe them into your reality. Returning to the ice cream experience of perceived lack: I never get enough ice cream. Now that I think about it, I never get enough of anything. And, remembering the experience of judgment and confusion: I guess I’ll just be by myself. Who needs friends anyway?

These perceptions are stories about you and your experiences, not who you truly are inside. When you understand that the stories of your ego are only perceptions of your reality, the truth of you emerges. Not having enough or not feeling like you are enough is about your perception of lack. When you’re feeling lack, find some way to feel more gratitude and appreciation in the situation. Gratefulness for what you already have and for your gifts balances your emotions. It’s hard to feel stress, anxiety, judgment, frustration, worry, losses, or limitations and be grateful at the same time. Should any of the energy zappers come your way, practice gratitude and feel how your outlook shifts. A bit of false perception melts away.

To understand worry, losses, and limitations, go back to the basics of fear. You are born with only two natural fears: the fear of startling noises and the fear of falling—all other fears are learned. Fears are stories told and retold by your internal voice (ego) or learned from outside influences (peers, parents, teachers, ministers, other adults).

An example of an internal voice: A newly-graduated high school senior: I get a pit in my stomach when I think of enrolling in the School of Engineering at college next year. I’d rather major in theater, but my dad is insistent, and he was an engineer. This dilemma causes feelings of unworthiness (a type of loss) and worry of family rejection.

And, an example of outside influences: Don’t go into the basement; there are monsters behind the stairs that grab your legs and cut them off. Hearing those words from a friend whose older sibling made up a scary story, you panic over the possibility of losing your legs and never go near the basement door. As an adult, perhaps a small recognition comes to mind as you remember childhood stories like this.

As an older child, teen, or “twenty something,” you encounter stress, anxiety, judgment, frustration, worry, losses, or limitations as part of being human. Most likely, you’ve had a few role models who’ve provided guidance and coping skills in these matters. At the same time, no doubt, you’ve also suffered. Suffering is universal. Most adults are still  searching for productive ways to work with these limiting responses. Consider how ACCEPTANCE helps you to move forward in spite of energy zappers.

“Accept—then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it…this will miraculously transform your whole life.” ~Eckhart Tolle, author and the most spiritually influential person in the world, 2011.

“Acceptance is a letting-go process. You let go of your wishes and demands that life can be different. It’s a conscious choice.”~Gary Emery, Counselor

“Know that everything is in perfect order whether you understand it or not.” ~Valery Satterwhite, Information Technology Services

Through practicing acceptance, we have greater quality of life. Acceptance is not conformity, weakness, or waffling attitudes. It is a way to learn something about your feelings and approach to energy zapping situations. Do you exaggerate, underestimate, or deny all together? Next is to contemplate various perspectives of the situation, exploring a universal point of view and possible next steps. The final step is to accept, moving toward resolution.

Key points of acceptance promote more personal harmony as you live with energy zappers.

A= An attitude of gratitude (finding something worthy of authentic gratefulness)

C= Compassion for self and others (offering positive self-talk; wiggle room for others)

C= Contentment (appreciating what you already have)

E= Expanding love (extending love toward all energies)

P= Present Moment (consistently welcoming what the “now” brings)

T= Trust in a higher power (Knowing that a universal power is consistently working for your highest good)

Recall the earlier example of a family member wanting to share wishes regarding a health directive or will, yet who experienced some “push back” from adult children who had their own ideas about what was best. Practicing the points of acceptance could lead to more family harmony and an enhanced quality of life for all.

Health Directive/Will: Disagreement between wishes of family member vs. views of adult children about family member’s wishes

*1. Family member (Dad) shares wishes…

*2. Response of adult children…

Feelings

*Disappointed; possibly angry, frustrated, feel they are “right”

*Wishes denied sensitivities of family members regarding death and dying

Contemplation

*We can’t possibly predict Dad’s thoughts or actions

*We can ignore, be silent, or resist Dad’s wishes. Is the resistance worth it?

*End-of-life should be positive, yet change or impermanence can sometimes

deliver a curve ball

*Whose life is it anyway?

Accept

*Attitude of gratitude for an actual end-of-life plan and transparent conversations

*Compassion for ourselves that it’s OK not to be in charge; compassion for Dad 

that he is taking this opportunity to voice his wishes

*Contentment in that we appreciate the gift of peace-of-mind engendered by a

legal health directive and will

*Expanding love through understanding, patience, and celebration

*Present Moment is a gift that life is unfolding exactly as intended on my behalf,

in positivity.

Accepting what the moment brings to you, especially when you encounter energy zappers, can be challenging. Be sure to keep a light-hearted perspective, as in this quote:

“Accept that some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue.” ~Roger C. Anderson, Ecologist

 

From a higher vantage: Acceptance is about co-existing with and celebrating “what is.” Staying in the moment, regardless of change and humanness, balances your thoughts and behaviors, promoting an enhanced quality of life.

©2017 Barbara L. Krause

The Supreme Gift

Anticipation was high. We were looking forward to quality family time and a change in environment. The present moment, however, has a way of tempering expectations. Ever-present turbulence during the flight, regardless of the altitude, created a mock Tilt-a-Whirl effect. It afflicted our descent as well. As we dropped in elevation, a glimpse of the fog-shrouded Rockies offered some mental stability. We had returned to Calgary where Paul grew up.

A change in environment was an understatement. Making our way to the baggage claim was like going down Alice-in-Wonderland’s rabbit hole. Would our stay prove to be more of the same? This was our annual western Canadian adventure. Everything had changed: The international airport’s addition of two million square feet on two storeys; automated systems everywhere, including the declaration of goods brought into the country and passenger messages; and a massive water feature, along with large, attractive pictures, bright lights, and a shiny, tiled floor provided newness in every direction. Although spacious, the atmosphere made our heads spin. One aspect, however, remained the same: Cowboy and cowgirl greeters wore their Stampede outfits, hats, and welcoming smiles as they engendered a festive mood to prepare for the upcoming event July 7-16. Thoughts of bucking broncos and Chuckwagon Races grounded us.

We had been given the code to enter the gaited condo buildings where we would be staying. As the gate opened, we noted the additional growth of the garage ivy and other foliage. The home of Paul’s mother still had its quaint veranda with gorgeous flower boxes and magpie visitors. Having mellowed considerably, we arrived at the inner door of the condo. Impermanence struck again. The individual owner codes had been changed. We tried numerous times to work with the system, but with no luck. Reaching for his phone to contact his mother, Paul discovered a dead battery. Oh, great! Our only saving grace was a visit to his favorite coffee shop (which, by the way, had changed everything but its physical location) around the corner. We managed to find a power supply to get the phone operational and a Cappuccino for composure.

The phone rang. Success! A familiar voice was happy to hear from us and would meet us at the inside door of the condo. Her calming, pleasant energy reminded us to check our own energies. What kind of vibes or demeanors were we emitting? Were we able to rise above the numerous changes and resulting chaos we had encountered, regaining our peaceful and gracious true Selves—the Selves that went beyond Ego’s dramatic voice? Of course. Impermanence was only rattling our cages; Source is always in and around us. We have a choice.

Having tea with Paul’s mother brought our attention to subtle details that had changed from a year ago. We had spoken on the phone numerous times, and she always seemed to be her usual bright, yet pensive self. In person, she conversed, yet sometimes appeared pre-occupied. We thought it was due to the antics of the new five-week-old kitten, Meadow. Anyone, at any age, couldn’t help but wonder what would happen next with that kind of energy! Although cute, the kitten seemed to exasperate her. Yet the additional family member brought smiles and provided entertainment—both good things.

One of Paul’s siblings had remarked that we shouldn’t be surprised when the mother Paul knew was not the same mother now. Even so, we wanted to share stories and observe. Talking about milestones and friends from her growing up years and early marriage era was comfortable for her; she easily remembered many details. However, when it was time to decide on a restaurant for dinner, she became hesitant and looked away, even though we had routinely eaten at a little Italian restaurant she enjoyed.

We observed the greatest signs of dementia as we prepared to leave for the restaurant. She was unable to find her purse or the jacket she preferred. Saying things slowly and calmly without pushing her was the most helpful response. Allowing more time helped.

We thought that a short excursion (three hours of car time, round-trip) to visit one of her dear friends might be a positive way to spend some time and experience new environments. As the day of the arrangements drew closer, we thought about our conversations in the car. In this case, driving time allowed limited meaningful conversation. Face-to-face conversations were more important. We decided to save the trip for another day.

Even though Paul’s Mom has a signed will and health directive, we felt that there were still some wishes that could be explored. Having spent the last five years researching death, dying, and end-of-life decisions, we wanted to give her an opportunity to tell us of further preferences. We were somewhat hesitant because we thought that she might not be interested in sharing her preferences. However, it was pleasing to see her so willing and agreeable in offering her thoughts. We ended our time together with loving embraces, smiles, and a touch on the arm and hand. This was the kind of quality family time that we had envisioned.

Like the rabbit hole encounter during our arrival at the airport, initially experiencing the decline of Paul’s Mom was a bit unsettling. When we stopped resisting “what is,” we found clarity to see another way to look at change. As we learned to flow with how the present moments unfolded in her life, we felt more relaxed (and believe that she did, too). No fixing or striving to change. Just acceptance and love.

Yes, it is difficult and emotional to watch a loved one decline physically and mentally. It is the apex of universal suffering. Unquestionably, this is hard on us emotionally (and physically) and we may feel as if we are being torn apart, yet the process of decline is not about us. It is about how our loved one’s life is approaching full circle. Acceptance, rather than resistance, of our loved one’s decline is the supreme gift.

When we accept the cycle of life, honor it, and view it with cherished gratitude, we expand our minds. It is only the physical body and mind—what we are used to—that is in decline. The loved one’s soul or essence is intact and immortal. Remembering that, we demonstrate love, support, gentle words, and touch. We honor our loved one.

We hold space for Source to do the work whether that is in the realm of recovery, revelation, or release or a combination of these areas. Source is vigilant, loving, and wise. Energies of patience, gentleness, and encouragement toward our loved one’s inward perspective are what are needed from us. Indeed, Source’s work is mysterious—we may never know reasons or answers behind what is happening—yet, that is okay. We don’t have to know everything, only that a power greater than we are, knows and cares.

 

From a higher vantage: Some excerpts say it all:

To everything (turn, turn, turn)

There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

And a time to every purpose, under heaven…

~The Byrds’ 1965 album, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Every Thing There Is a Season)” featuring a few words by Bob Seeger (late 1950’s); majority of words excerpted from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8,  King James Version of the Bible (1611)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4ga_M5Zdn4       

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turn!_Turn!_Turn!

 

 

 

©2017 Barbara L. Krause

Private Rituals

One of my favorite magazines brought to mind the importance of ritual in life: maintaining structure and order, preserving values and beliefs, celebrating milestones or honoring personal or local community. Several definitions give meaning to “ritual”:

(1) “A ceremony or action performed in a customary way” (family members having pizza in front of the TV every Sunday night), (2) “sacred, customary ways of celebrating a religion or cultural heritage” (a bar or bat mitzvah), and (3) “a time-honored tradition” (watching the Viking-Packers football game or eating angel food birthday cake with Seven Minute Frosting). https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/ritual

Often we take rituals for granted—thinking that they will automatically be part of our life. That is, until the lead person or family who organizes the ritual chooses to discontinue or is no longer able to do so. Suddenly the ritual becomes hugely important. Resistance. Telling and retelling, expanding on the facts. Victimization. This happened to a family who had an in-ground pool. Every Fourth of July, they held a huge open house with grilled food, live entertainment, and swimming. They invited the entire neighborhood. One summer the family decided to vacation in Italy. Neighborhood expectations were not prepared for the shock. Whenever we begin to feel entitled, Ego puts on a show that is less than pretty.

The type of bond, length of relationship, circumstances, emotional and physical attributes and a host of other elements provide variables that make it impossible to determine exactly how someone will respond to loss. Responses are as unique as the people involved. However, an overarching thread is present. Interestingly enough, whether we are the person dying or the one left behind, we feel a loss of control.

During the days leading up to my mother’s death, she had called out to family members by name that had preceded her in death; her soul was traveling in-between this plane and beyond. She also wanted to know if she needed to pack a suitcase, take her pillow, and catch a bus. Her earnest questions indicated a childlike confusion and loss of control. Those around her were also feeling loss of control, trying to give her a response that was both understandable and reassuring.

All of us, regardless of where we are in life, are steadily losing control. It is wise to acknowledge that fact. Those who are actively dying have special gifts to share as we approach them with softened hearts. They give us the urgency to acknowledge our own mortality and to live our lives more fully. Their inner nature speaks to our compassion, and we can apply that compassion to others in grief. Sometimes, when we’re lucky, those actively dying will share wisdom from their heart which forges deeper bonds. Finally, observing and being with them reminds us that there is clearly a greater force at work beyond life on this plane.

Harvard Business School researchers Michael I. Norton and Francesca Gino have been studying how people respond to grief and why some individuals are able to move beyond grief more quickly than others. They found that those who seemed to be more resilient had created their own private rituals. One example was a woman who continued to wash the family car every Saturday, just as her deceased husband had done for years. Another person “gathered all of the pictures taken as a couple during their relationship and ‘then destroyed them into small pieces (even the ones I really liked!), and then burned them in the park where we first kissed.’”

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/in-grief-try-personal-rituals/284397/

Even a small change in attitude or self talk can be used as a ritual.

After her mother’s death, Charlotte L. Kent, 19, wrote regarding her college music theory class that she “simply could not understand it.” Her good friend’s advice was “Yet. You can’t understand it yet.” Charlotte went on to apply this advice to her life, especially with the thoughts and words she was using to express her grief. She began to add yet to the ends of sentences. “I don’t want to laugh—yet. I don’t want to stop crying—yet. I don’t want to let go—yet.” This reminded her that she was a fully in control work-in-progress.

~ “Readers Write: Leaps of Faith,” The Sun, March 2017, p.31.

These actions offered symbolic value to the persons participating in them and the actions were completed privately. Little rituals like favorite foods or preparation methods, a favorite wine, a happy or scary story, jokes repeatedly told, an accessory or flannel shirt, or sayings can offer comfort and a bit of control. Solo rituals do not have to be explained, approved, or tracked. Over time, we let go of them. They have served their purpose. We are able to move on without expectations or wishing things were different.

 

From a higher vantage: In grief, are you or a friend in need of a ritual? Choose the most memorable aspect about the loss you are grieving. Turn it into a private ritual, one that you don’t have to explain, gain approval, or feel a need to track. Give it all of your heart.

 

© 2017 Barbara L. Krause

Lift or Squash?

Somewhere around the ages of eight or nine—I have a grandson and granddaughter in this range—a child has capitalized on a growing Ego. The voice is almost magical and highly persuasive as it drives the child to distinguish character in any way possible. To stand out from the crowd begins with checking out the competition and comparing the assets and deficits. The child will feel either superior to (arrogance) or cheated out of (lack) as the situation is analyzed. These feelings carry over to the parties of any relationship. Comparison always results in greater separation from Source, separation that continues well into young adulthood and intensifies throughout mid-life.

Noting comparison behaviors in a child is a wake-up call to all adults to carefully consider how they approach comparison in their life situations. Adults cannot expect from a child that which they are not willing to see in themselves. The exploration of the still, inner voice is unconsciously cast aside in favor of personal development, with an opportunity to be heard, once again, at the sunset of life.

Anecdotal evidence may lead a child (or an adult)…

(1) To believe s/he is “right” about most things, evidenced by playing the card of the older sibling or adult knows best or uses physical or mental prowess to gain the upper hand.

(2) To unabashedly tout good fortune by playing the card of the announcement to go on a trip or constantly talk about how exciting it will be to experience an amusement park ride (with a height requirement).

(3) To mock and belittle the actions or situations of others by playing the card of calling out the emotion observed and adding an undermining comment.  (Stop crying like a baby because you can’t go to the Children’s Theater—you’d never understand the play anyway).

(4) To want to feel superior at another’s expense by playing the card of criticism (Look at your hair—mine is cooler).

In using comparison behaviors, the child (or adult) thinks only of personal self and believes that RECOGNITION is guaranteed. At the heart of these deductions is self, or Ego. The child (or adult) desires personal happiness—at all costs. And, as we observe an eight- or nine-year-old, this realization is almost forgivable except that a child imitates adult comparison behaviors that are witnessed in a variety of environments. Interacting with adults who have honed these skills of comparison, we often shake our heads or are quick to judge.

Comparison behaviors can be effective when used to lift someone’s outlook, desires, or dreams rather than to dash or to squash those qualities. Recall the anecdotal evidence and spin them in a positive way.

(1)  This is what has worked for me…

(2)  Even though I’ll be gone for a while, I know that you will make our pet happy.

(3)  Dr. Seuss’s “The Sneetches” at the Children’s Theater is the perfect play for you because you have so many friends with different interests.

(4) You’re getting better with the gel—let me put some of mine in your hair.

 

From a higher vantage: Regardless of age, time of life, or profession, a choice to lift or to squash someone else’s outlook, desires, or dreams is always at-hand. Lifting encourages self-esteem, compassion, camaraderie, and inclusion. Overall, each act or exchange of words affects the state of the whole. We are all in this life together. Choose to follow your higher Self and lift at every opportunity.

© 2017 Barbara L. Krause

getting to forgiveness

Ego: It’s not fair! I told Patti, in confidence, about a newly-discovered breast lump from my recent mammogram. She told someone else in our women’s group, and now everyone knows. I haven’t even returned for a follow-up screening yet. It was my story to tell!

Higher Self: That’s a tough one.

Ego: It was an insatiable personal urge to tell someone so that I would feel some comfort; however, it turned into a nightmare.

Higher Self: Even words presumed as confidential carry no guarantee that they will be honored as such. Feeling betrayed is difficult—a trust has been broken.

Ego: I don’t think that I can ever talk to Patti—again! For all I know, others are thinking that I have only six months to live!

Higher Self: You and Patti are long-time friends. It seems as if she acted out of character. You remember that her sister had breast cancer two years ago. Perhaps your news brought back scary memories.

Ego: I don’t know. It makes me angry, though. Maybe I should call her and tell her off!

Higher Self: Try looking at what has happened from a different angle—with an accepting and loving heart.

Ego: Fat Chance. If I let her off the hook by forgiving her, what’s to stop her from deceiving someone else?

Higher Self: Try to separate Patti the person from her behavior. Usually a kind and gracious individual, Patti forgot to be sensitive to your needs. Perhaps she was overwhelmed by your news and panicked.

Ego: Make no mistake: She just didn’t think!

Higher Self: I know her actions have made you upset. I believe that she had an urgent need to enlist help from others to support you.

Ego: Her behavior hurt me!

Higher Self: Have you ever made a tacky, thoughtless comment about someone when you didn’t realize that person was within earshot?

Ego: No! Never! (pause) Well, maybe, but I didn’t mean it. I was just kidding.

Higher Self: The comment was still insensitive, right?

Ego: I guess.

Higher Self: See how easily we can slip into our humanness? First accept what happened. Then offer forgiveness because it eases you out of situations with potential long-term negativity by imparting divine love into the mix. Mentally extend compassion and benevolence toward the person who “wronged” you. Finally, have gratitude for another way to witness Source. Accept. Forgive. Love. Extend. Gratitude. Remember that forgiveness is not about the other person. It is about you.

Ego: I can’t do that!

Higher Self: You’re not ready to do that, yet. Raise your consciousness to another level. When you focus on the divine spark of Source within you and within the person responsible for the grievance, you understand that you both are one and one with Source. What you do to others, you really do to yourself.

Ego: I need to think about your words.

Higher Self: Withholding forgiveness hardens your heart and compromises your health. It is divisive and causes separation.

Ego: (looks away)

Higher Self: Inner wisdom breaks open your heart. Over time, your attitude and disposition will be transformed. You’ll hold yourself (as well as the “abusers”) in acceptance, forgiveness, divine love, and compassion. This is a “sure remedy”!

Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore offers a way to practice forgiveness as found in a 1924 Unity publication entitled, “A Sure Remedy.”

“…Sit for half an hour every night and mentally forgive everyone against whom you have any ill will or antipathy. If you fear or if you are prejudiced against even an animal, mentally ask forgiveness of it and send it thoughts of love. If you have accused anyone of injustice, if you have discussed anyone unkindly, if you have criticized or gossiped about anyone, withdraw your words by asking him, in the silence, to forgive you. If you have had a falling out with friends or relatives, if you are at law or engaged in contention with anyone, do everything in your power to end the separation. See all things and all persons as they really are—pure Spirit—and send them your strongest thoughts of love. Do not go to bed any night feeling that you have an enemy in the world.”

Source intends goodness to enrich every aspect of our lives, lessons in bounty. When we do not forgive others and ourselves, we interrupt that circle of fullness. This negatively affects every aspect of our being, physically, emotionally, and mentally.

~paraphrased: Science of Mind, “Our Need for Forgiveness,” Ernest Holmes

You may find this all-inclusive prayer of forgiveness to be meaningful: “I forgive everything, everyone, every experience, every memory of the past or present that needs forgiveness. I forgive positively everyone. I also forgive myself of past mistakes. The Universe is love, and I am forgiven and governed by love alone. Love is now adjusting my life. Realizing this, I abide in peace.”

~Catherine Ponder, Unity Movement

 

From a higher vantage: Recognizing the need for forgiveness and practicing it leads to miraculous heart transformations and increased personal happiness.

©2017 Barbara L. Krause