Presence and Peace

The Love Mindset, An Interview With Vironika


100_0321a(Following is an interview with Vironika Tugaleva, author of The Love Mindset, inspirational speaker, people lover, reformed cynic, and the modern-day person’s guide to love and spirituality. She will help you love yourself, gain peace of mind, and trust your inner voice. You’re invited to read more about Vironika and get a free sneak preview of The Love Mindset here.)

Can you tell us why you wrote The Love Mindset?  It’s a transformational book about healing and you share some pretty heavy, even gut-wrenching stuff about being addicted and suicidal but then reaching the proverbial “jumping off point.”

While I was healing myself, I stood amongst  my broken pieces scattered around my feet.  Beneath the pain, I realized that I was still standing. I realized that I wasn’t those broken little pieces. I was something else.

I used to hate myself, but then I found a part of myself I couldn’t hate. In the end, it wasn’t myself I hated. I hated some mask, some illusion. Once I discovered my true self, I couldn’t help but feel love 680x485picand I couldn’t help but reach out and help other people find themselves too.

I can’t explain to you what it’s like to discover, after feeling broken for so long, a part of yourself that is more than intact; it can’t be broken. That’s a high I can’t explain. It’s like being hungry all your life and finally getting a piece of bread. Except it’s not food, it’s love. It’s a high that never goes away, a high you don’t have to buy because it’s within you.

Everything comes down to love, doesn’t it?  Why do people, especially folks with addiction, have such a hard time loving themselves?

Most people are stuck on one of two things. One, they don’t know that love is a life necessity. They, like I once did, say that love is rare or non-existent. Two, they don’t know what love is. They search for it with other people, and they always fall short.

It is a beautiful, comfortable, and kind of silly truth that all of our troubles originate from a misunderstanding about the nature of love. Love’s not a feeling or an action. It’s not a temporary phase, nor is it hard to get or rare. Love is always there. We just have to figure out how to open up to it.

In the book, you describe what you call “feeding the mind” as a part of healing from addiction.  Can you share what you mean?

You eat with your mouth, you breathe with your nose, and you love with your mind. This sounds strange, but. don’t we love with our hearts?

Technically, we don’t just eat with our mouths either. There’s an entire process of digestion that happens largely in the stomach and intestines. We don’t just breathe with our noses. The lungs do most of the work. Likewise, we don’t just love with our minds. The heart does the feeling part of love, while the mind, like the mouth and nose, acts as a gatekeeper.

A mind needs to be nourished with loving thoughts, about yourself, others, and life itself, and then it just falls open. When the mind allows love inside, then we get that feeling in our hearts. Like air in the lungs and food in our stomach, it’s a feeling we live for and die without.

What needs to happen in a person’s life before she or he can really experience self-love?  Do they have to reach the depths that you did?  Who needs to read your book?

My answer, now and forever, is a resounding No. We don’t need to hit rock bottom to change. We just need to make a decision.

I believe that, deep within, each “broken” person knows they can heal. Healing doesn’t happen when the people who hurt us apologize, or when those memories fade away. It doesn’t happen when our emotions suddenly disappear, or when we find a magic pill. Healing happens when we believe it will. It starts when we decide to heal or die trying.

And that’s who the book is for. It’s for a person who wants to find out, once and for all, how they can have a happy life and a healthy mind.

What’s the one thing you would say to people struggling to heal their lives?

I’d say – listen to your hope. There’s a little shred of hope in anyone who’s struggling. I know it’s in there, because I know what it’s like to face death and that’s the only thing that stands between life and death. The living have hope.

I’ve posted this on my blog and I’ll share it with you here. A few months ago I found a little note I wrote to myself as I was plummeting towards rock bottom. At the time, I was going through a profound crisis, feeling suicidal, self-destructive, and haunted by screaming thoughts in my head.

In a tiny moment of peace, I wrote this. Vironika

I think we all have these moments, from time to time. The key to healing is to realize that the pain isn’t reality – but hope is. Those moments of hope are your only moments of clarity, your only moments of really seeing what’s there. The hope is you. The pain is not.

Note: Vironika has generously offered to give away an e-book of The Love Mindset: An Unconventional Guide to Healing and HappinessTo enter to win a copy, leave a comment below. You can enter until midnight PST on May 1st, 2014.

Title photo courtesy of jdurham

Where Have Meaningful Conversations Gone?


file561270689520When was the last time you had a conversation with anyone that was about more than just the weather (Family members are excluded from this question.)?

For that matter, how long has it been since you had a conversation that lasted longer than it takes to type 140 characters?

Do you remember when you last received a hand-written note or card in the mail?

I miss old-fashioned communication!

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and electronic chatting.  In fact, I participate in e-conversations more than most 50-somethings.  I have online friends I’ve never met face-to-face and yet we’ve shared intimate pieces of our lives.

However, even as a word person, typing messages can’t be my only form of social involvement.  There are subtle nuances of facial expressions and voice inflections that I miss.  Oh, and gestures!  Even the cutest emoticon can’t replace a person’s enthusiastic hand gestures.

Why are we in such a hurry to blow past a conversation?  When did I become so important that I can’t linger over lunch or coffee?

As I write this, I’ve just returned from a delightful brunch with four other women.  I didn’t especially want to go.  When I woke, it was rainy and kind of darkish outside, a perfect morning to sleep in.

I’m so glad I went.  I see these four women fairly frequently, but there usually isn’t time for more than a quick, Hi, how are ya?

When you pay attention, you become a part of someone’s life

I came away from the brunch thingee with new information about each of the four women.  Plus, I feel connected, like I’m a part of something bigger.

Sure, I could have stayed home and dug into my work for the day.  But these women and I share a bond that deserves attention.  More than that, it deserves respect.

We live in a finite world where no future conversation is guaranteed.  I don’t say this in a morbid kind of way, but I do believe that when we’re given an opportunity to interact with someone else, we should really take it.  If we don’t, we may not get another chance.

I would miss knowing about one woman’s month-long trip to Poland where hotel breakfasts are complete dinner-like meals and how all she wanted each morning was oatmeal.

I would miss being aware that another of the women–though only in her 20s–likes old country and western music (She told me it’s what she grew up with because her dad is 52–ouch!).

Everyone has a story and every story deserves an airing.  That just can’t happen on the flat surface of weather conversations.  Unless, of course, you’re a pilot like my friend Sam, who probably does have meaningful conversations about the weather.

So get on out there–dig a little deeper.  When you’re asked to go somewhere, GO!  Chat up the people.  Ask them about themselves; people love to talk about themselves!

I guarantee you’ll find companionship and meaningful conversations.

Photo courtesy of DuBoix

How You Can “Do Like Daniel”


1-IMG_5359Every now and then, a Sunday morning TV minister catches my attention.

Yesterday morning, following a mighty thunderstorm in north central Texas, Joel Osteen spoke mightily to his faithful in Houston and across the globe.

A quick aside:  Anything ever written in this blog related to religion is strictly my opinion and is never an endorsement.  I like to remain as open-minded as possible when it comes to matters of the Spirit.  And, in the spirit of good 12-step advice, I try to “take what I need and leave the rest.”  

Focus on the message, not the messenger

Lay aside any opinions you may have about Joel Osteen because three words–a total of 14 characters counting spaces–he spoke during his talk/sermon yesterday are much more grand than even his presence.

Osteen said, “Do like Daniel.”

He went on to tell the Old Testament story about Daniel getting unceremoniously tossed into the lion’s den by King Darius in Babylon.  The story goes that old Darius, who thought Daniel was pretty cool, was tricked by some of Daniel’s enemies into passing a law that decreed no one was to worship any god or man other than Darius the king for 30 days.

Daniel, who was 80 at the time (hmmm, didn’t know that fact), continued to worship the God of his faith in spite of the decree.  The king had little choice but to throw him to the lions.  By the way, Rev. Osteen referred to 100 lions but I didn’t fact-check him.

The next morning, after Darius spent a worrisome and sleepless night, he went to the lion pit and found Daniel sleeping.  Duly impressed by Daniel’s unfaltering faith, he made a new decree that everyone should worship Daniel’s God. (Remember:  Take what you need and leave the rest.)

How can you “do like Daniel?”

The story is, after all, describing one man’s ability to weather any storm or condition or event.  I mean, seriously, does it get much worse than a tribe of hungry lions?

The lions are a metaphor for the situations in our lives that threaten our deepest faith in ourselves, and more importantly, our faith in whatever power we believe is greater than ourselves.

I think there are some pretty simple ways we can “do like Daniel.”  Here are a random few; I’d love to hear more from you because I’ll bet you’ve had at least one or two den-like experiences.  Be sure to mention them in the comments section below.

Focus on positivity:  Figure out a way to begin every day this way

Think thoughts on purpose (another Joel-ism): Be deliberate and intentional with your thinking

Find a method or manner of quiet-time each day: Prayer, meditation, bubble baths

Let it all go: No matter what she said or he did to you, no matter the mistakes and missteps you’ve made, forgive it all.

Believe you are good and worthy:  God don’t make no junk, y’all.

Have a supercalifragilistic kind of week.  Don’t forget to DO LIKE DANIEL and tell us how you do it!

Photo courtesy of Sgarton

My Reaction to Fred Phelps’ Death


plantingpeaceFred Phelps, the perennial hater of gays and lesbians, died last week.

You may remember him as the man who hid behind God and his Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS, while picketing funerals of soldiers and terrorist victims.  He claimed God was punishing the U.S. because it condones homosexuality.

Or at least that’s the way I interpret his followers’ actions.

But let’s not get lost in the semantics of beliefs of the congregants of Westboro Baptist Church. This post is not meant to be about the church or even Mr. Phelps’ death; it’s supposed to be about how you and I respond to such news.  Yet, the more I wrote, the more that what Phelps represented–hate, fear, and a misguided knowledge of right and wrong–became the basis of this post.

Yes, I admit to initially feeling a “thank God he’s gone” sense of justice. I even posted a question on Facebook, “I wonder if anyone will picket Fred Phelps’s funeral” and told myself it was just an innocent question.

Then I started getting comments that were on the mean side. Those folks–my friends–are absolutely entitled to their opinion. But did I need to set them up in such a manner?

Looking back, I think, “Seriously? Just an innocent question?” Please.

My motives were definitely not pure. Now I know that I posed the question so I could piously watch my friends express what I really felt.

How’s that for a Lord, have mercy moment?

What happens when we don’t tell the truth?

Oh how I wish I would’ve left the whole thing alone. Sorry for the set-up, my friends. If you take solace in such things, I’ve felt all disconnected and even ugly inside since last Thursday when I posted the question.

My entire week until the writing of this post on Saturday was speckled with sadness and fear. Monday began with hurtful news that could affect me financially and Friday ended the work week with an additional piece of rotten financial news.

I cried. I even raged a bit.

Throw my reaction to Mr. Phelps’ death and subsequent manipulative actions into the mix and I was an emotional mess most of the week.

Did I reach out to anyone? No, because this time I felt the need to sit quietly with the emotions instead of replaying the story. I don’t know about you, but when I tell others the stories I tell myself, I stay stuck in the negative doo-doo.

What happens when we center ourselves in lovingkindness?

Tolerance is a natural byproduct of the act of centering. Here’s what I noticed this past Saturday morning before I wrote this post: After spending some time reading and journaling, I felt quieter and much less knotted up inside. I realized I didn’t despise Mr. Phelps as most gays, heck, most people period, do.

The gladness I feel, if you can call it that, is because at least this one vitriolic voice is now silent. Once I really examined my motives and used my personal centering process to face the truth, I was at peace.

Now I can re-read what Planting Peace, a Topeka-based non-profit with a mission to spread peace throughout the world’s pain, posted on its Facebook page (thanks to Lou Elder for steering me to the page):

 “We are saddened to hear of the passing of Fred Phelps Sr. We have sent our sympathies to the Phelps family and plan to assist them in their time of grief if needed. The philosophy of the Equality House has always been to overwhelm hate with unconditional love. A loss of a human life is never a reason to celebrate, even if you have a stark disagreement. Fred was a father, grandfather, and great grandfather that was loved deeply by his family. Let us remember that we are all in this world together and vengeance is never justice.”

This stance from the organization which, one year ago last Wednesday, the 19th, celebrated the first anniversary of Equality House, a small-refurbished house meant to serve as a visual reminder of the need for equality.

The house’s exterior is painted in the colors of the Pride flag and sits right across the street from Westboro Baptist.

“Vengeance is never justice,” Planting Peace wrote. Pray for peace and let go of the outcome, I’ve been told.

Fred Phelps died on the same day as the first anniversary of Equality House, Wednesday, March 19th. May he rest in peace.

Photo courtesy of Planting Peace.

It’s Spring! Get Outside and Blow the Stink Off!


IMG_0963Alrighty then.  You’ve kissed the blarney stone and the wee leprechaun is dancing into history.  It’s the first day of spring and we’re through with holidays for a month or so.

Time to get down to business.  Time to get serious.  Spring cleaning the house isn’t going to take care of itself.

Turns out the house isn’t the only thing that needs a good airing out.  How about the ‘ole noggin?  Think it could use a clearing of the cob webs and a mop and bucket to clean up the winter’s stale outlook and attitudes?

Come on over to my place . . .

I started my spring cleaning a little early after completing Tess Marshall’s Mastermind questionnaire to begin work in her coaching group called The Bold & Courageous Ultimate Mastermind Inner Circle.  Can I just tell you I feel like I’ve completed a fourth step of sorts?

It was fun and grueling and I now know more about myself than I really wanted to know.  Tess will know more about me than anyone else, including me!

Without going into detail, because if you want to shake things up in your life and really take a bold look at your hopes and dreams, I encourage you to head over to Tess’ site, The Bold Life and register for her Mastermind group.  She’s even offering a 60% discount through the month of March.

When 2014 rolled over on the calendar, I said, rather boldly, by the way, this is my year.  When I spoke that emphatic affirmation, every part of me from crown cowlick to toe tips, believed it.  I think I even added a damn it! for emphasis, as in, This is my year, damn it!

The problem was that I had no new tools for creating my year.  I think I subconsciously planned on doing the same things expecting different results.  Uh oh.

Isn’t that the definition of insanity?

Get outside and let the stink blow off!

Did your mother used to say that or did I grow up in the only weird family?  Either way, it’s appropriate here as we talk about refreshing our attitudes–letting go of what didn’t work and trying new tools.

Hence, the Mastermind group.  Man, I’m all in.  I am so ready and willing to do something different, not unlike the decision to enter recovery.  

Guess you could say I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of my winter attitude.  Time to blow the stink off, throw myself into spring and truly become the master of my fate and the captain of my soul.

Who’s with me here?

One of the things I’m doing for myself is reading the hottest new book to hit the treatment/addictions/recovery shelves.  It’s called Beyond Addiction, How Science and Kindness Help People Change.  It’s written by the co-founders of the Center for Motivation & Change, in New York City, along with CMC’s director of evaluation and family services.

One little book tease and then you’ll have to wait for my review:

“We built our practice on optimism, not because it made us feel good, though it does, but because it works.  We base our optimism, our clinical practice, and now this book on forty years of well-documented research on how substances and other compulsive behaviors affect people, why people use them, and how and why people stop self-destructive behavior and start on paths toward health and happiness.  In turn, our experiences with thousands of clients bear out the research findings.

“There is in fact a science of change.”

Stay tuned and Happy Spring (cleaning!)!