Presence and Peace

Have Faith in What Will Be


A couple of weeks ago, In the, a recovery website I like, posted this on Facebook:

“Accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what will be.”

I could get analytical and reply that it’s not quite that simple, that life complicates the equation. But the truth is that life is doing what life does and I am the complicater. I am a perpetual storyteller and I too often tell myself stories that assume feelings are facts.

Does this sound familiar?

My sensitivity gets all out of whack; then the stories get really juicy. For some reason, night-time becomes the right time for my mind to play its version of whack-a-mole.

I sometimes have trouble finding God during the night. It’s as if I assume s/he is on the sunny side of the world playing with the pretty people and doesn’t have the time or inclination to visit me.

Poor me. What happened to this moment, this blessed now? I want to be jolly and righteously upbeat and happy right now. But sometimes I’m not. What happens then?

Opportunities for practice

What happens is I get to practice sitting in whatever moment I find myself, even if it’s uncomfortable or itchy or downright miserable. I get to practice being with myself even in those moments and then when I’ve had enough, I get to choose to do something different.

I’ve been practicing lately. I sit in my red Ikea chair in the corner of my snug private space. To my left is the hedge of autumn-red and green Texas shrubs and lilacs. To my right are some of the books I love.

At my 1:00 line-of-sight are my framed On the Beam and Off the Beam lists. Off the beam: fear, worry, resentment, check, check and check.

At my knees, curled under a blue blanket, is the gentle rise and fall of my Jazzy’s breathing. I shift my gaze to the On the beam list: hope, love, faith. I can check those things, too.

Practice, it all takes practice. I don’t always want to do what’s good for me. Oh sure, I can have willingness, but without the practice, I get nowhere.

The shift is my goal, and although it may be gradual, even the slightest movement allows me to turn just a little closer to the beam.

How do you know if you’re on the beam or off? Know that falling off is okay, so long as you practice getting back up.

Hugs from Texas on this Mindful Monday.

Photo courtesy of pippalou

Mindfulness: A Tool for Recovery and Discovery


This is a guest post by Beth Burgess

Have you ever snapped at someone and you didn’t know why? Have you ever woken up feeling blue, and not been able to put your finger on the cause? Have you ever relapsed into unhelpful behaviors and couldn’t work out what went wrong?

There is always a reason why we find ourselves acting out. There is always a reason behind our low mood. There is always a reason why we fall back into bad patterns. All these are indicators that something is not sitting right with us – and yet most of us are too busy to notice the red flags waving until it is too late.

Mindfulness is the art of noticing, and it can be very useful when applied to acknowledging our innermost feelings. Many of us carry around stress and worry without even knowing it. But it is there, usually seated within our bellies, sending out subtle signals that something is awry.

But because we are ignorant of our own stresses and the toll they are taking upon us, we find ourselves reacting recklessly to things, rather than responding with insight and care. Practicing mindfulness allows us an insight into what our emotional blockages and limitations may be before we respond to our day.

I advise my clients to practice 10-15 minutes of Mindfulness every morning, where they sit and pay attention to the sensations arising in their gut. Is there any tightening, which could denote anger? Or a sinking feeling associated with worry? Or a heavy feeling, which might be a sign of sadness?

Once you know what you are really feeling, then you can be aware of how vulnerable you are to the further stresses and strains you may encounter in the day. You know which emotions may threaten to color your responses and when to keep yourself especially safe from dangerous triggers.

Bringing our attention to our belly not only allows us to notice any negative feelings in the present moment, but it enables us to identify when things sit well with us. Many people don’t pay attention to their gut instinct, the intuitive feelings as to whether things are a good fit.

With practice, we can learn to ask ourselves questions about where we are going in life, and can attune ourselves to our own gut responses. In this way, we can learn what really makes us tick, what resonates to our innermost core, and which path would be the wise one to take for us.

So Mindfulness is not only about cementing recovery from setbacks in life, and making sure you stay mentally healthy, but also about discovering where you want to go next – and how to get to that place of peace, growth, fulfilment and joy.

Beth Burgess is a therapist and coach specializing in addiction and anxiety disorders, as well as helping clients deal with other mental health issues and setbacks in life. She is the author of The Recovery Formula and The Happy Addict. Beth has also published a mini ebook What Is Self Esteem? and runs workshops on self esteem and stress.

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Photo courtesy of audrey630

5 Ways to Overcome Unworthiness (And Soften Your Heart)


Pema Chödrön tells the story of being a lonely six-year-old girl who one day walks past the house of an old woman who was sitting out in the sun.  I know it’s hard to imagine, but the young Pema was kicking anything she could find out of frustration for feeling unloved and alone.

Pema tells the end of the story, “Laughing, she said to me, ‘Little girl, don’t you go letting life harden your heart.'”

It’s quite possible that Pema’s life as a teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition began that day.  On that day, the six-year-old girl learned that she could make a choice to allow life’s events to harden her or she could  use those events to do the opposite, to soften her heart.

Buddhists call the softening bodhichitta

Pema writes, “Chitta means ‘mind’ and also ‘heart’ or ‘attitude.’ Bodhi means ‘awake, enlightened,’or ‘completely open.'”

So, what’s with the lesson in Shambhala Buddhism?

Because the character trait of unworthiness is rampant in our society.  We watch it play out every day in people who touch our lives, in the places we live, work, go to school, perhaps even worship.  Unworthiness may be hard to spot because we’re so used to seeing it every day.

Don’t you know someone who feels inferior?  Who says their work is less than adequate?  Who self-denigrates and then laughs because s/he thinks it’s acceptable to feel and believe those things?

Come on, people!  Have we forgotten who we are?

The process of remembering

We are, depending on your preference, children of a divine creator.  I sometimes call that being GUS (God-Universe-Spirit).

We are sooo much better than the untrue beliefs we hold about ourselves.  Believe me, I need to read this stuff as much as I need to write it.  My feelings of unworthiness run deep and I’ve honed them for half a century.

When we remember our true, authentic selves, we begin to unlock the habit of turning to unworthiness.

In fact, that’s the first way to overcome unworthiness.

1.  Realize that when one of your buttons gets pushed, you react out of habit. Yes, the trigger may be real, but you can change your reaction.

2.  When something happens to upset you, say a co-worker makes a hurtful, mean remark to you, do not respond.  Instead, try to find a mirror and spend a full minute looking into your own eyes.  You’ll know the truth is not what that person just said.

3.  Don’t spend time in maudlin-ville.  It’s a sure track to pity, remorse, and self-denigration.  You deserve better.

4.  Eliminate all “o-u” words from your vocabulary.  No more should (as in, “I should have . . . “), could, would or even ought.  Thou shalt not should all over thyself.

5.  Decide to begin a new spiritual practice.  It’s not hard, I promise.  If you’ve accomplished the other four, this one is a piece of cake.

Just for today–because today is all we have–I want you to feel, really feel, that you matter.  You come first, not because you’re selfish, but because if you don’t put your oxygen mask on first, how can you possibly be of any use to the rest of GUS’ kids?

I dare you to write me and tell me your heart hasn’t softened.

May your week be filled with soft landings, my friends.  Peace out.

Photo courtesy of melschmitz

Of Fire Ants and Winnie-the-Poo Characters


‘It’s snowing still,’ said Eeyore gloomily.

‘So it is.’

‘And freezing.’

‘Is it?’

‘Yes,’ said Eeyore. ‘However,’ he said, brightening up a little, ‘we haven’t had an earthquake lately.’

— A. A. Milne

Ah, Eeyore. Of all the characters in the Winnie the Poo line-up, Eeyore–the ever-glum, sarcastic and usually pessimistic donkey–is my least favorite character.

Give me ADHD Tigger, adorable-but-anxious Piglet or the obsessed-with-honey Poo any day.  Yes, I found more than one online reference for the mental disorders of the cast of The Hundred Acre Wood.

Now I’m suffering with major TMI.

Today, I am thinking of Eeyore, though, because I’m reminded that no matter what your present circumstances, there is generally something that could be worse.

Accept the things you cannot change

Eeyore couldn’t change the snowy weather conditions.  I can’t change the incessant fire ant problem in my small yard. Or the people in my life who sometimes behave like fire ants when they surprise me with unprovoked stinging bites.

I just came in from dousing a fire ant condominium complex discovered while trimming some bushes earlier today. Do I believe that eliminated my fire ant problem?  Oh, heck no, because I live in Texas and they apparently come with the territory.

Sometimes fiery people come with the territory too, but since I can’t pour 1/4 cup of granular ant killer on them, I guess I’ll have to find another solution.

Since there is nothing I can do to change them, I’ll just shrug my shoulders and walk away.

Be grateful for the things that haven’t happened

Like Eeyore who occasionally looks on the bright side, I can practice gratitude for the things I can change. Like my own attitude about fire ants.

Let’s face it.  We all have fire ants in our lives. But it could be worse, right?

They could be a daily, instead of an every-now-and-then nuisance. They could be inside my house, where I can’t close the door on them.

They could take over my entire yard, instead of a little bit of space at a time.

In the big scheme of things, fire ants really mean nothing. In fact, I’ve decided to quit letting them get under my skin by avoiding them altogether.

They’re just not worth the effort that goes into figuring out how to co-exist with them. Better to just walk away.

And should I stumble into a nest–which given where I live–is likely, I’ll deal with it then.

Until then, I’m going to keep doing my Tigger thing. I’ll keep bouncing through life, enjoying my now moments instead of fretting about fire ants.

I’ll leave the fretting to Eeyore.

Photo courtesy of mantasmagorical


Mindfulness and the Modern Woman


This is a guest post written by Emma Haylett.

During my time as an undergraduate, I remember staring at the early morning yoga-doers as I burned time on my elliptical. I knew that my body didn’t bend this way or that, and as I yearned for the clock to tick faster, faster, until my workout was done, I thought I’d never be brave enough to try yoga.

And I wasn’t, for a long time. I should pause to note that I am not a coward—in my life, I’ve watched my father struggle with (and overcome) a meth addiction, I’ve learned to manage life with two alcoholic parents and I am the older sibling of two sisters who gave birth in their teens. I’ve been a kind of parent, a 40-hour-workweek, full-time-first generation college student, and a writer. These, I think, are brave things.

But yoga—well, it was another thing entirely. When I finally decided to give it a go, it was because I knew that I was lacking something in my life. While I’d worked to overcome many obstacles, or so I thought, I’d neglected to develop and maintain a sense of self. I’m not an addict, but I come from a family of them. My mind and body were functional and (mostly) healthy. My spirit was not.

I’ve never been a particularly religious person, so I found little solace in church or youth groups. I don’t exactly pray and I’m not particularly interested in religion, except as a course of study. So, in graduate school, I found myself neglecting my spirit, and deeply depressed because of it.

As a student, I got a free subscription to Amazon Prime, which offered a lot of instant videos. In my studio apartment, I did some basic yoga. I found myself struggling because it lacked any sense of community and left me sweaty and sore in my home. Was I performing the moves correctly? The absence of another person (or even a person-sized mirror) made it impossible to tell.

So, I wandered into a class called “Yum Yum Stretch.” I was a little hesitant. My yoga pants were too tight. My shirt was too loose. My toenails were unpainted. But I found a group of woman and men who were extremely varied—in age, body type, and flexibility. I sighed in relief. We stretched.

What I loved about Yum Yum Stretch was the soothing voice of the instructor, the guided stretches, and the snacks afterword. Maybe it isn’t even yoga, exactly—but the opportunity to join a like-minded group of individuals devoting time to themselves in such a tangible way was exhilarating. We stretched and strengthened our bodies, and (at least for me) our minds. Our mindfulness.

For me, yoga provided a way to deal with my anxiety, depression, and feelings about the behaviors present in my family, perhaps lying dormant in me. For me, this sort of “treatment” is more about prevention of addiction than the treatment for addiction—insurance, you could call it. For others, it is just another piece in the puzzle of addiction treatment.

Running, Pilates, hard-core yoga aren’t for everyone—they certainly aren’t for me. But they represent a dedication that is both selfish and selfless that has nothing to do with any substances, except maybe adrenaline.

Emma Haylett grew up in a state with no sports teams so she picked her own. This is and isn’t a metaphor. Now, she helps treat addicts and families of addicts with non 12 step rehab programs as a graduate student and Certified Prevention Specialist Intern. You can reach her on Google+.

Photo courtesy of kakisky.