Fear, Compassion and Resiliency

Fear, Compassion and Resiliency

Stress.  The situation that we face, at this time in human history, is the very definition of stress.  In the human mind stress is experienced when we face uncertainty and lack of control.  Each day, we feel more uncertainty and, if we are realistic, there is no one in this human family who feels in control of this Covid-19 virus or where it will take us as a human family.

Stress.  Anxiety.  Fear.

These are emotions that, over extended periods of time (hours, days and weeks), are as dangerous as the thing that is creating stress…the thing that threatens uncertainty and lack of control.  In fact, these emotions, if not honored for what they are and why we have them, can cause us to spiral down, exacerbating the situation and creating even more uncertainty and lack of control.  It’s a vicious cycle that I am witnessing so many people going through right now…including myself.

I am not a stranger to fear.  I have lived with it since I was a very small child; so much so that I thought that it was a normal part of life…that it was, actually, how everyone felt!  I lived with a mother who felt the best way to bring up a “good” child was with a well-placed spanking.  Or for those, like myself, who had an opinion, a smart slap across the face was delivered.  I learned to be fearful…and I learned to trust that fear.  When it moved into my awareness, I learned it was time to move into submissiveness… or to run like hell.  Fear became my friend.  And stress accompanied it as I learned, over time, that I had no control in my life.

What I did as a child, though, was to build resilience.

Resilience: the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.  The ability to “bounce back.”

I hear a lot of talk about resilience, lately and how important it is.  How our children need it.  How we become better humans when we learn to build resilience.  Yes, I am happy that I have built it, however, there is a very big part of me that has heard, way too many times in life, “Oh, but you are one of the strongest people I know!”  Yes, I am thank you.  But do you know that strength and resilience come from suffering?  They do.   I have come to hate it when someone brings to light, again, how strong I am because that, usually, means that I am going through something that requires strength…again.

Like now…

I am feeling fear, and stress and, occasionally, anxiety.  I know that life has moved me right out of my comfort zone and now, once again, it is time for me to call upon and strengthen my resilience.  And, I know you are feeling similar feelings.

So, please…from someone who has become quite adept at building resilience… allow me to share what I know.

FIRST and foremost, please be compassionate with yourself.

It’s okay that you are frightened. Please know that your feelings are valid.  You do not need to be some kind of hero or play the part of some super-human spiritual master.  You are human.  You are not expected to go through life’s chaos and turmoil without feeling all the feels!  In fact, these feelings are important!  They are telling you to pay attention.  They tell you that there might be a threat of which you need be aware. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. It is out of our control. Honor this fear.  It is good.

You need to be exactly who you are, where you are, right now, no matter what your feelings.

Fear, anxiety, nervousness, stressed, terrified…all valid feelings.

Some say that we should be able to “just get over it.”  Some say that meditation will take all those fears away.  Meditate.  Don’t think about it.  Just get over it!  I’ve been meditating for nearly 40 years and, you know what?  I haven’t been able to “just get over it” yet.  In fact, when I hear those words (and, sometimes they come from my inner bully!) it makes things worse because, I’m being told I “should”…and I just can’t!  Then I go into all my feelings of imperfection and brokenness.  Sigh…

The thing that I want you to know is that I understand.  It is okay.  And you are not alone.   You are experiencing the same deep emotions that most of us are feeling.  I don’t like this feeling, but here it is anyway!

Now, how do we go from this fear to resilience?  According to the American Psychological Association (APA) there are 10 ways to build personal resilience.  I have attached a slide from the APA with their suggestions.

I can roll them all up into two important actions.

Number one:

We need to connect with others, if we can.  Humans are social creatures.  Even those of you who are introverts, being with other human beings is imperative to your health and well-being.  You tend to move to your alone time to recharge after time with others. This is important for you.  Still, connection with others is important, especially as we move through difficult times, in our society, and we desire to build resilience.

For those who are extroverts, or share both personality types (that would be me), connection with those you love and care about…or those who love and care about you…during a challenging experience can be imperative.

When I am feeling fear, I want to have someone to talk to who will listen, deeply and without judgement.  I want to have someone who will sit with me until I don’t feel so afraid.

I want someone who will say to me, “I am right here.  I am not going anywhere.  I have nowhere better to be than right here, with you, right now.  I don’t need anything from you.  You don’t have to be anyone that you think you “should” be.  You don’t need to be brave.  You don’t need to be strong or spiritual or a leader so that others don’t feel afraid.  I’m here.  I love you.  There is nothing you can do, or not do that will cost you my love or presence.  I will sit with you in this ocean of fear, until you no longer need me.  We will face this together.”

And, as I listen to these words, and feel my friend’s love and support, the fear begins to subside.  I feel calmer.  I feel more at ease.  I feel like someone has my back, they’re in my corner, they understand and they love me.

I would venture to say that many of you would like to hear similar things when you are afraid.  And, knowing that, we can find ways to offer our time, our listening ears and loving hearts to others who are feeling afraid.

However, there are times when I am scared, or terrified (and I do get terrified) when there is no one available to sit with me…no one who will listen and love me.  Well, no one but me….

In those times I turn to Number two:

I sit down and write myself a love letter.  Let me explain…

When it’s just me…and no one else, and I just want to cry, or scream, or run…I sit quietly and allow myself to feel all of those scary, fearful, anxious, terrified feelings and, then, I ask that little girl inside of me, “What do you need from me right now?”  And, then, I listen while all the feelings come up.  You see, when we allow our feelings and stop pushing them aside, or down, when we stop fighting them, we can find compassion for ourselves.  So, I listen.

And then I write a love letter to myself.  I write exactly what I would want to hear from someone who loves and cares for me.  “I am right here, Cynthia.  I’m not going anywhere.  I don’t need anything from you.  Your feelings are valid and important and I don’t need you to be anyone that you “should” be right now.  I’m here.  I love you. I will face this with you.  I’ve got you.  I promise.”

And, as I write these words of love to myself, again, the fear begins to subside.  Here, too, I feel calmer.  I feel more at ease.  I feel like someone has my back, they’re in my corner, they understand and they love me.

It isn’t difficult to ask yourself, “If I had someone strong and loving and protective to tell me what I need to hear right now, what would it be?”   Write that down.  Write it.  It’s more effective when you write it and it gives you the opportunity to read it again, later.  All of these words of unconditional love and encouragement, written to you!

Speaking to ourselves with a voice of love and compassion is the ultimate action of self-care.  It is the first, and most important step to all the other steps suggested by the APA to build resilience: Self discovery, accepting and managing change, keeping things in perspective, taking decisive action, moving towards goals, nurturing self- esteem, maintaining hope and positivity, taking care of oneself and seeing the crisis as a surmountable problem.

When we begin with self-compassion, we begin to build a sense of resiliency within.  When we hear that voice of love, connection and compassion from within, when our fear begins to abate, we can feel a sense that we can face our threat and adapt.  In that moment, I know that during adversity, trauma, tragedy and threats we can bounce back.  There is nothing more resilient that the human spirit’s desire to thrive.  That is what resiliency is; Moving from a need to survive to an ability to thrive.

Having love and compassion for myself was not always part of my life.  I was not taught to speak to myself kindly or compassionately.  Quite the opposite.  For most of my life I learned resiliency the hard way. I was expected to hold my words and my emotions in.  Literally (and figuratively) I was thrown off of a roof and told to fly.  I was thrown into the ocean and told to swim.  I was taught to stand strong, even with the threat of bodily harm.  And I learned that the more I jumped off of cliffs, the more I put myself in challenging situations, the more I learned and built resiliency.  I could survive.  Fear was my daily experience and I learned to use it, to bully myself, be angry with myself, move forward  no matter the circumstances.  It worked.  I have been called the “strongest woman” by many.  But, I have learned a better way through compassion.

I still have that bully in my head who attacks me when I am afraid; who calls me weak and shames me. I know she is trying to keep me safe, to move me forward out of danger and to help me survive. But now I balance her out with this voice of love and compassion for myself.  It is a big part of me.  I can be patient with my own human-ness.  I can let go of the shame so that I can focus on dealing with the fear with loving kindness and compassion.

And there is plenty of fear to deal with, right now.  This Covid-19 virus is affecting every aspect of my life and the lives of all those around me.  I am in a helping profession…I work with people who live with fear and anxiety every day.  People who want to be able to not only survive, but to thrive through their own challenges.  And I know that, if I am going to be of benefit to anyone else, I have to take care of the ONE person I KNOW is suffering right now…me.

So, in the spirit of love and compassion, today,  I sat down and I let my fears speak to me.  “What am I going to do?  What if I find myself homeless?  What if I, or someone I love, contracts this virus?”  So many fearful concerns within.  And I wrote myself a letter.  “I am here, with you.  I don’t know what we should do right now.  We are not homeless now.  We are doing what we need to to protect ourselves and we are helping others, too.  All I know is that I am here, with you, and we will get through this together.  I love you.”

Elizabeth Gilbert said, “The opposite of fear is not courage, it is compassion. You cannot chase fear out, you can only bring love in and, then, the fear starts to subside. “

Human beings are incredibly resourceful, creative and resilient.  Every single one of us is a descendent of a survivor.  Resilience is our birthright.  We are adaptive, creative and strong.  This is what we have been preparing for.  All those hours you have spent learning, meditating, praying, connecting, loving, surviving, building…these hours prepared you for today.

Now, in this challenging moment in time, when our world is in need of courage and resilience, perhaps it’s time to bring in compassion, first.   For you and for all those lives you are able to touch.

And, in case you didn’t know, I’m right here.   I’ve got you.  I’m not going anywhere.  We are in this together and I am right here.  I love you.

Be gentle.  Be tender.  Be kind.   Be love.

Acquired 03/22/2020 from:  https://www.slideshare.net/VALOZ/building-workplace-personal-resilience

Regression AnnaBelle

Regression AnnaBelle

Past lives have a way of affecting our current experience.  The following is a retelling of a past life regression, shared with permission.  Names were changed to protect identities. You can see, through this story, how AnnaBelle’s life experiences flowed into Louisa’s current life and how, through the use of regression hypnotherapy, she achieved awareness and healing, Louisa could take control of her own story. 

Louisa came in complaining of a lifetime of trauma.  She was born to a woman with too many children and not enough love to spare.  Her father left before her birth and her mother began beating her at 9 months old.  She experienced chaotic family; a tornado of abuse and neglect.  As each of her older siblings left home, she became more afraid. There was no safety.  She ran away from home at 16 and began looking for the love that she never got at home.

She entered an abusive relationship when she was 17.  She experienced many things abused children experience; drugs, alcohol, and more than her share of dangerous events.  She didn’t care if she lived or died.  She had not found love, but she had found comfort in the beatings and the subconscious idea that, somehow, she could escape this painful world.

At 21, she straightened up her life.  She didn’t want to die anymore, she wanted to live.  She stopped drugs and alcohol, went back to church, got a good job, and met a man.  She married and, as life would have it, he left her pregnant 4 months later.  Alone.  Unloved.

The years passed. She was passionate about books and learning.  She earned degrees and certifications, one after another, never feeling like it was enough.  Relationships weren’t easy. She had been married and divorced 4 times.  She had 3 children.

She created a successful career.  She worked with governments, raised funds for good causes, and worked with adults, children and families to improve their lives.  She created financial success and, then,  lost all of it to her 5th husband, a narcissist.  When Louisa came in, she had just left a year-long relationship with another narcissist.  She was in tears, ready to give up on life.  Tired.

She said that she had given everything to her mother, to men, to bosses and companies, and to her children. She had loved, unconditionally, no matter what they had done or said to her, in hopes that she would be loved in return.  She had lived a life of trauma and she needed to find a way to stop it.  She was alone.

The Regression

(Regressions can be very detailed in their storyline.)

It was a beautiful Spring day in Boston when AnnaBelle stood by the water fountain watching the people hurry on their way. It would seem they would slow down and notice this beautiful day.  Except for the few mothers who watched as their children splashed in Brewers Fountain, the people in the Common were moving almost as fast as the streets of downtown Boston.

The sun was finally shining.  It had been a long, very cold winter. As far as she could remember, only 1912 had been colder. This year, however, she had had the warmth of exchanging letters with Brian, the son of her father’s dear friend.  They had written one another for over 6 months, as the fall leaves turned and covered the ground, and as the winter snows fell and made going outside difficult, at best. Brian’s weekly letters became the highlight of AnnaBelle’s life.

At first the letters were unwelcomed.  AnnaBelle knew her father was seeking a husband for his “old maid” daughter and, although she wanted love, she did not want her father to force her into something she would dislike.  But Brian was a gifted writer.  As she read his letters her heart softened and, soon, she began to imagine what life and love might be with this gifted man.  She wasn’t getting any younger.  She was in her early 30s now.

Every woman in her family’s economic standing had married, were bearing children and managing their lovely Boston homes. She, however, couldn’t get enough of the books in the floor-to-ceiling library her father had curated.  Nestled in front of the large fireplace, she read all of the great books she could gobble up.  She read history and stories of Greek Gods and Goddesses.  She read of love and passion, war and greed and death.  Most days, since she was a young child, she had a book in her hand.  Boys didn’t like that much.  Girls and women were not supposed to talk of history or politics, or of Dickens or Hemingway, or Tolstoy…or Neptune.  And, when she did, she was reminded that her place was in the home, supporting her husband and bearing children.  But she didn’t have a husband.  And, so…Brian.

On that beautiful 1920 spring day, Brian was coming to Boston for a meeting and had arranged to meet her in the Boston Common at Brewers Fountain.  AnnaBelle was dressed fashionably with her new button up boots and a hat that matched her spring dress and jacket perfectly.  Her father was kind, always providing the latest in fashion to his daughter. He enjoyed presenting her to one business associate or another, always mentioning that she was still single.  But today, that could all end.  Brian was coming!

Her heart beat loudly in her chest as each handsome young man approached, then her heart fell and ached a little as each walked past her.  She had Brian’s picture in her hand, holding it up, comparing it to each face as it approached.  She waited by that fountain until the sun began to dip in the sky and the air turned cool. But, there was no Brian.

AnnaBelle never heard from Brian again.  Such disappointment, such sadness filled her days that she felt unable to enjoy life.  She refused her father’s requests for her to dress and accompany him and her mother to their social functions.  She had had enough of walking by old school friends and hearing their “old maid” whispers as their eyes turned away.  She had grown tired of watching as they giggled over one another’s babies and spoke of their husbands’ latest successes.  She only wanted to be loved.  Loved.  Only loved.  But, apparently, love was not for her. She was not good enough.  Not worthy.

She buried herself in the library and studied more.  She read the news and listened to the new radio shows that filled the airways.  As long as she was learning, she didn’t have to think about why no one wanted to love her.

The suffergettes had fought hard for Women’s vote and, because AnnaBelle was over 30, she had been given the right to vote in 1918.  But women were far from equal in Boston and many women were complaining.  Younger women still didn’t have the right to vote and they were, quite loudly, tearing men down in public.  In some ways, AnnaBelle understood. But she loved men.  She dreamed of having one of her own, if it wasn’t too late. Why couldn’t she be an intelligent, learned woman and be able to have a family, too.  Why did men judge her so harshly?

Because of her standing in the community, AnnaBelle had been asked to speak at a women’s rally. She agreed hoping, not to reach the women’s ears, but to appeal to the hearts of men.  She didn’t want men put down; she wanted to see women lifted up.  Could she inspire men to lift women to an equal standing?  She spoke of women in the home, of the importance of their support, of love, of the need for equality for women so that families could be stronger, together.  One man in the audience heckled her, “I’ll give you love little lady!”  And another chimed in, “You mean Old Hag!” And the crowd laughed her off stage.

AnnaBelle never married.  She gave her time to raising money, helping children, building support for families, studying and writing.  Her parents had aged and died and she was left with the Boston home and plenty of money to support her needs.  Those who gathered around her loved her standing in society, and her money, as much as anything.  But she never felt that she fit in.  She wasn’t interested in how high she could climb, nor did she feel the need to compete or compare to the men or women who managed as much Boston money as she did.

But she felt lonely.  Very lonely.  And when she lay on her deathbed, surrounded by people from her community, she knew she had not lived the life that she had wanted to live.  Yes, she had a beautiful home, clothing, food and household goods.  She had done good works.  She was appreciated.  But she never felt loved.  Not like she had wanted.  Not by a man.

Crossing over, after AnnaBelle’s death, her soul met her angels and guides.  She had died with hurt and frustration at having never been loved.  She carried that through her death and her soul cried that she never wanted to return to earth.  Earth life was just too hard!

After some time of conferring with her guides, she knew she had to go back.  She knew it was the only way she could learn unconditional love.  And, she knew that, until she learned to love, she would have to keep returning to Life School.  She was warned that this lesson was a difficult one, that it would not be an easy life.  Unconditional love was a master lesson.  But she rushed toward it anyway.  She thought that, if she loved, unconditionally, that she would be loved in return.  Her guide promised to be with her and off she went, back into life…and, once again, she returned to a human body.

She chose a family filled with challenges, not father and a mother with her own traumas.  What better way to learn to love unconditionally than to love someone who would make loving difficult?  And Louisa was born.

But what AnnaBelle had done was to take her hurt, her frustration, her intense loneliness and her desire for love from a man into Louisa’s life.  Louisa lived much of AnnaBelle’s story again…her love of learning, the “good works” of raising money and working with children and families, and the incessant search for love.  And, through the years, Louisa studied love and she spoke about love. She was obsessed with love.  She was proud that she could love anyone…even the guy lying in the gutter was worthy of love, she said.  SHE could love him, too.

And she loved her mother.  She loved the men who beat her, and emotionally, mentally and sexually abused her.  She loved her children who treated her with disrespect, even after she had given them good lives.  She loved, she forgave, she uplifted, made excuses and loved some more, all in the name of unconditional love.

Louisa felt that AnnaBelle had, in essence, cursed her life.  Louisa had spent this lifetime seeking love from a man, again, without success.  She didn’t want to be lonely.  She wanted love.  But what AnnaBelle didn’t know, when she made the decision to learn this Master Lesson, was that she had to learn to Unconditionally Love herself.  And Louisa had never done that…in fact, she didn’t know how.

We returned to their guide for instruction and healing.

Nine month old baby Louisa was rescued and given safety.  Louisa agreed that she could unconditionally love that baby, even after she made the decision to come into her difficult family.  She also agreed that she would be willing to love present-day Louisa, even with all the decisions she had made…decisions that brought so much pain to her life.

But how?

How could she love someone so unlovable that no one else in her life had stuck around and loved her?  And her guide said, “Do it.”  It was as simple as that.

If Louisa could love all of those people who didn’t know how to love and were, in fact, unkind and mean and hateful, she could, certainly, love someone who had put so much effort into loving so deeply, and who gave so freely.  She could love Louisa…she could love herself.

Yes. She would.

She released AnnaBelle’s life to the past.  It was time to create and live her own life.  And if her soul was to come away from this life, having achieved unconditional love, Louisa would come away loving herself, completely, without condition.  Life was to begin anew.

And as she completed her session, she was told that she was loved by her guides and by a legion of angels.  They had always protected her and had her back.  She had fallen, was guided and risen more times than most.  And she would rise again.

As she left our session, she shared an important awareness: that although everyone deserves love and is worthy of love, some people are best loved from far away.  And self is best loved from within.

Running Barefoot Again

Running Barefoot Again

I began running barefoot decades ago.  I have to admit that I had forgotten to run wildly barefoot. In fact, I had not run, playfully, wildly barefoot for many years; until yesterday, when I was challenged to take my shoes off and just run outside.  Not later…NOW. 

I thought that I was still living free, adventurous, feet on the ground.  Outside, my adventurous life spoke of a wild run.  But, inside, I have been holding back.  Inside, I have listened to and believed the voice that cautioned against others’ judgements or embedded complacency.  This voice, inside, had become so “normal”, yet loud and insistent.  I no longer recognized her as foreign…or as an adversary…to all that I grew to embrace in my early life.  She was holding me back.

I accepted the challenge.  I drove to a park, took off my shoes and walked through the leaves that had, recently, been released from the trees that stood strong and unafraid. 

Trees. They don’t care about judgement.  These great natural teachers live.  They grow and reach, they bend toward the sunlight and add beauty, they stretch their branches to shade us, below, or to make homes for those who live above.  And when it’s time, each on their own clock, they display brilliant colors and release what is no longer needed to the ground below to nourish their roots for the next year of growth.  They don’t ask permission.  They don’t wonder whether they are doing their thing as wildly or as beautifully as the tree standing next to them.  Some release more gently than others, some are more insistent on their brilliant show.  Still, they just do their thing…standing in their beautiful place…just being. 

And my feet began to move through these offerings of leaves and mud, twigs and rocks…slowly, at first, picking my steps so that I might move without hurting my feet.  And, then, I broke into a run.  I ran through it all, not caring (in fact loving) what my feet were touching on this beautiful earth.  Then, running up onto a grassy knoll, I spun around, out of breath…and almost fell in my dizziness.  The trees stood all around me, smiling, nodding in the breeze. 

They knew.  I knew. 

This was an unfamiliar feeling…or was it?  This was joy.

Okay, so this first run wasn’t such a wild run.  But it was the expression of a mind and heart wanting, so much, to break free and just be.  I don’t think I will ever be a “runner” again; I have a great love of a meaningful walk with nature.  I have learned much in this life, about running wildly…and about the importance of a slow, gentle walk.  They are, each valuable to the soul. 

I think, now, I will take more opportunity to touch my feet to the earth and break into a run, to play, to feel my muscles move in a different way, to let my heart wildly speak to me of movement and adventure.  And, once again, I will be unafraid of what I might find underfoot.  I think it’s time to bring all available experiences together for life and love.

I am running barefoot again, (in life and metaphorically), to find all that life may offer in this moment and, then, I’ll sit quietly to take it all in, to listen to my heart and consider all of the moment’s gifts with gratitude. 

What is your heart pulling you toward?  When was the last time you played like you did as a child, with complete joy and abandon? Is today your day?