room in your heart
for the unimaginable.
~ Mary Oliver
As 2018 begins, many people make resolutions or set intentions for the new year. There is often a desire and a hope for a fresh start or a clean slate, an end to bad habits or to frustration about things not going as desired.
Usually these resolutions or intentions are very specific- around losing weight, eating better, becoming more fit and working out more. They may be focused on finding a relationship or a new job, improved finances or feeling happier.
Specific resolutions and intentions can be useful for staying focused on reaching defined goals. They can assist you in maintaining discipline and achieving your objectives.They can help you create a plan and take actions to master things that may have been difficult in the past.
I would like to suggest, as Mary Oliver does, also keeping some space in your heart and mind that is free of specific goals, so that there is room for the unimaginable to happen; or as the Queen in Alice and Wonderland says, to believe 6 impossible things before breakfast! A space for new passions and interests to suddenly spring forth and catch you by surprise. A space that can take in wonder and beauty in the external world or between people and be deeply moved by it.
In 2018, can you leave some room in your heart and mind for the unimaginable to show up in your life?
We're being turned into a noun,
when the aliveness is in being a verb.
If you love singing, just sing.
You don't have to become a singer.
You follow the aliveness
and the identity follows over time.
~ Mark Nepo
Frequently people get discouraged from trying something new because they are afraid of not being able to do it well right from the start. It's often hard to be a beginner at something as there may be a steep learning curve. This (unrealistic) desire or need to do things well from the beginning and the fear of not being able to do so can stop you in your tracks. The fear of feeling incompetent and the accompanying embarrassment and shame may lead you to either not start something new or to abandon it very quickly, not really giving yourself a chance to enjoy learning whatever you were attracted to in the first place.
What if you could be grateful that a new idea, interest, impulse or passion bubbled up? Could you trust and follow this inner aliveness with anticipation and beginners mind? Might it be acceptable to learn to sing or dance, or play a new instrument without worrying about being a singer, dancer or musician? Can you follow your aliveness with openness and curiosity for the pure joy of doing something that has called to you?
When you go deeply into the Present,
Gratitude arises spontaneously,
Even if it's just gratitude for breathing,
Gratitude for the aliveness
that you feel in your body.
Gratitude is there when you
acknowledge the aliveness of
the Present Moment.
It's easy to feel grateful when life is going well, or to feel gratitude for a specific circumstance or "win." In those moments, it's easy to celebrate life and to feel connected, happy and grateful.
Yet there are other moments that are darker, when there are worries or concerns, a health challenge or diagnosis, a betrayal, a break-up, or some other major loss in your life. You may suffer from depression or anxiety which can cast a dark cloud over your ability to engage in life or to appreciate being alive.
In recent years, there has been an emphasis on "gratitude lists" and though it might sound trite or cheesy, finding even one thing you are grateful for can help you connect to yourself and to life in those dark moments. It is NOT a solution, nor should " looking for the positive" be used as a bypass of real human feelings that need to be felt and worked through before truly being released.
But feeling grateful for even one thing, large or small- the sun shining, a flower blooming, a smile, the joy of a child exploring something, the breath you are taking, a song, ANYTHING, makes it easier to bear whatever you are going through. This gratitude can shine a light into the darkness, helping guide you through the muck.
And if you are in a good space, gratitude will amplify your happiness, joy and appreciation of life. It can help bring you out of past and future thinking and into the delicious, unique aliveness of the present moment!
Call me for an initial consultation
if you'd like help connecting to yourself
May light find you today
in this broken and beautiful
- Trent Gillis
The paradox of life is that it is both beautiful and broken. This is true of both our inner worlds and the outer world. Can we hold that both are true as we go through our lives? Can we let go of our need for things to be black or white, good or bad, dark or light and live in the confusing messiness of it all being true? Can we give up trying to control everything?
Karl Jung called this "holding the tension of the opposites." It means becoming comfortable with seeming contradictions such as our heart breaking and at the same time feeling great love. Or seeing the unimaginable horror and also the breathtaking beauty of the world ( external and internal).
Sometimes life can feel heavy or too difficult to navigate, full of suffering and pain. And yet at the same time there is always beauty, connection, and wonder available in a smile from a stranger, the tiniest flower, the wispiest of clouds, even in the weed pushing up through a crack in the concrete.
So today, may light touch your heart in the midst of grief, fear and anxiety, and also in the midst of love, connection and joy. May feeling and accepting the world's ( and your own) many and serious imperfections not take away your ability to feel the beauty that always exists as well.
If you would like help navigating this beautiful and broken world
call me for a consultation.
Courage is not
the towering oak that
sees storms come and go;
it is the fragile blossom that
opens in the snow.
~ Alice Mackenzie Swaim
As a culture, we often think of courageous acts or courageous people as ones that are larger than life: a good Samaritan who risks his or her life to help someone, a war hero, Doctors without Borders and other aid organizations that operate in war zones, or someone who engages in extreme sports. We may feel intimidated and small in comparison. How could we measure up to that towering oak that withstands storms easily and gracefully? How is it that some people seem to embody courage and appear fearless?
Maybe the secret is in that there are many kinds of courage, many different acts of courage, many distinct ways to be and feel courageous. If you are feeling depressed, it may be a great act of courage to get up and face the day. If you live with an abusive partner, it is an act of courage to tell someone, stand up to them and/or leave. If you are anxious, it is courageous to not succumb to the anxiety but to develop some mindfulness and know that it is not all of who you are. If you have a substance or other addictive problem, it is a courageous first step to acknowledge this, talk about it and seek help or take those first baby steps to change.
If you are unhappy in your job, it may take courage to acknowledge this to yourself and begin to take whatever steps you need to take to decide where your passion in life lies. If you think you are supposed to be a certain way, yet your true self is calling out to express itself, this is a great act of courage to begin to allow yourself to be who you truly are.
Like the fragile blossom opening in the snow, every act of allowing yourself to be more truly yourself, of living your life as genuinely as you possibly can in each moment, are huge acts of courage. Courage, by the way, comes from the French word for heart: COEUR.
Call me for a free phone consultation if you are ready to explore your courage
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley