Category: Self-improvement

Limbo……not the dancing kind.

You want it! You know you want it. You’ve been preparing, visualizing, praying, expecting and putting lots of action behind it! Tony Robbins calls it “massive action”.

Yet –  nothing happens.

We’ve all experienced it: limbo. Never-never land, where our plans or expectations don’t come together, while life marches on.

You could call waiting in line a form of limbo, being on hold on the phone or waiting for something or someone.

Sadly, this indeterminate state is part of life. For the most part it’s brief; we just have to muddle through it, be patient and it’ll pass.

But what if you are experiencing an extended limbo state, one that lasts for months or, God forbid, years?

What do you do? What can you do?

I’ve experienced this state of uncertainty more than once. Years ago I lived in a location I disliked very much. It didn’t resonate, I didn’t fit in. My kids didn’t fit in.

I was determined to change our situation, but the place was like a black hole. It didn’t let us out. I left no stone unturned, no possibility unexplored, but it felt like quicksand. The more we tried to claw our way out, the more we sank.

It was a painful situation! I was unhappy.

The kids had nothing to compare it to, just some vague sense that things weren’t right.

Initially I had a lot of hope and enthusiasm because I couldn’t believe that the door was closed. I took massive action, for years.

Some situations require our determination and action is important to change our circumstances.

What if it doesn’t work? Like in my case.

Sam put several years into his education to become a psychologist later in life. He spent many late nights studying, doing research, writing papers. Then interning for a year, while raising his kids.

Interning is like volunteering; most agencies won’t pay anything. His didn’t.

 He and his wife agreed that she would support the family for the time being. So of course they were both excited and ready to finally see him graduate and begin this new life.

Graduation was a big celebration among his family and friends; the following Monday the résumés went out. One after the other without response.  Some places were kind enough to thank him for his interest, but said they hired someone more suited for the position. He did not understand how that was determined since he never even had a chance to speak to anyone; the whole process was automated and every agency wanted him to apply online.

He sent out more résumés, he talked to people who might be in a position to recommend him. He called on the friends he made in school.

Several times he came close to a potential job: he was called in for some interviews, but didn’t get the position. His wife’s resentments built and they fought more often. He was shorter with the kids as he became increasingly frustrated. He felt useless, worthless and confused.

Had he made the right choice by going to school?

One night when the tension was unbearable, he sat down with his wife and they explored some other options he might have overlooked. They were one year into it and things were looking bleak. She suggested hanging out his shingle and offering counseling just to bring in some money.

This required marketing and he approached that with gusto, although technology and social media was not his strong suit.

Long story short: Two years later he was still in the same position and his marriage had reached a breaking point.

This is an extended limbo situation, wherein things seem to be deteriorating in life, while we wait for our plan to come together.

What was Sam’s option? He and his wife had carefully considered all angles, figured out how to support him through school so they could later enjoy a satisfying life together while raising their children. It was a good, well thought-out plan.

Being in prolonged limbo requires some tough soul searching. Our human nature urges us into a “doing” mode when things aren’t coming together.

If we try to force progress, we exhaust ourselves. We put extra strain on ourselves by trying to go against the flow.

Our mind may say “I don’t know what’s going on. We have to figure this out. Do something.”

Yet, we have to learn to live with uncertainty, especially during those times when nothing is coming together.

Uncertainty doesn’t stop you from living your life, because the mind is not the captain of our ship. We use our minds, but there is more at play than we can see.

At times planned projects fall away, as in the case of Sam. Many aspects of who we think we are have to fall away. Sometimes it seems that nothing comes to replace them.

Not for a while. Not yet.

We are living in limbo.

We have to trust that life brings us what we need to navigate through these stormy waters.

We could listen to our mind, but it doesn’t know what’s coming. It only wants illusory certainty. It grasps, searches, and clings.

Life seems to know when and where we need to go.

The Gift of Mindful Presence

There was a point when I noticed that everyone in my life seemed to talk a lot while I listened.

I wasn’t a talker.

I was pretty young; maybe my early 20s and I didn’t know things other people knew….like women talk more than men in general. Men think differently about sex than women. There are chick flicks. Being vulnerable with everyone might not be smart. I could go on……….

You could say that I didn’t know much of anything about the world! I was really naïve.

However, I began to watch people. I thought that maybe something was wrong with me and I needed to talk more to be normal.

Not being like everyone else made me feel left out. Very lonely!

Being so focused on feeling like an outsider kept me from realizing that people were talking to me. It took me a long time (again! I’m a slow learner sometimes) to realize that many people told me things they didn’t tell everyone else.

The only way I even noticed was because I was told repeatedly: Oh my God, I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.

It finally dawned on me that maybe listening wasn’t such a bad thing.

My work as a grief counselor, years later, deepened my understanding that simply being present, being a witness to someone’s suffering is one of the greatest gifts we can give another. No amount of advice will lessen the despair of having lost a person we love. Our platitudes are empty words that give no solace.

Don’t most of us give advice when someone is hurting or something is not working in his or her life? Men especially (I figured that one out finally) are wired to fix things.

Advice-giving in general comes naturally to our species, and is mostly done with good intent. But in my experience, the driver behind a lot of advice has as much to do with self-interest as interest in the other’s needs (I know that’s a tough pill to swallow) — and some advice can end up doing more harm than good. Giving advice often lessens the discomfort we feel in the presence of someone’s pain.

Many of us want to be really good helpers, making sure we say the right things and give good advice. We want to do the right thing and minister to the needs of the person whom we are helping, but taking the time and patience to really be present is often a challenge.

Mindful presence is the essence of connection.

Yet especially when we’re in the presence of deep suffering we can barely stand to be there, as if we were in danger of catching a contagious disease. We want to apply our “fix,” then cut and run, figuring we’ve done the best we can to “save” the other person.

The more uncomfortable someone is with a situation, the more likely they are to offer advice…

Just recently a client had this experience when she shared with her good friend that she found out she has cancer and is very scared: His response was that she’d be fine and then started making jokes to get her mind off of her condition. She wanted to crawl away at a time when she most needed the comfort of being seen.

The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — it longs to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through.

In being heard we feel seen. Listening, asking “tell me more” opens the door to the deepest parts of the other.
Someone who is unafraid to accompany another in his suffering makes the other less afraid of himself. It is the greatest gift to be present — simply and fully present — in the same way one needs to be at the bedside of a dying person.
It is at that bedside where we finally learn that we have no “fix” or “save” to offer those who suffer deeply. And yet, we have something better: our gift of self in the form of personal presence and attention, the kind that invites the other’s soul to show up.

We not only apply this over-zealous need to “fix” to others we see in pain, we often apply it to ourselves.

Often the best way to address what ails us is to be present with our own emotions, thoughts, and senses. We don’t need to “fix” ourselves all the time, but perhaps observe with curiosity what we’re feeling because there is a reason under that feeling that we need to spend time with.

 “This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.” – Mary Oliver

So here’s my advice —

  • Be fully present, listen deeply, and ask the kind of questions that give the other a chance to express more of his or her own truth, whatever it may be
  • Don’t give advice, unless someone insists..
  • As you are being mindfully present… listening… you will know if and when advice is a wise thing to give.

I’m still not much of a talker. These days I don’t feel like such an outsider anymore. That’s a nice thing.

Holy Shift – how to create miracles

Sometimes, when I read profound wisdom or insights from others I like to share that with you. Is it possible to create miracles in our lives, a holy shift?
We all experience things we don’t like, right? How can we change that?
Can we change that?

Here’s one about creating shifts in our lives.

Lauren Lane Powell is a gift to all of us who know her. She is a medical miracle, a 3 time cancer survivor.
She didn’t just survive, but healed herself with humor and love. (follow her story on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lauren.l.powell.3)
Here’s a true account of one of her experiences:

I teased you yesterday with this meme and a promise to share a technique or two to allow us create the Holy Shifts we want to see in our world. First I get a chance to practice myself!

In the mail yesterday came my first insurance claim forms from my new Medicare Anthem part D. It looks like IU Medical is out of network and that I owe $25,000+! I felt all of the normal physical reactions of fear and anger. My chest tightened. Tears formed. Face flushed. My husband and I railed together for a while and continued the downward spiral.

We watched Glee before bedtime but my favorite character died! No help at all!
I couldn’t sleep. Worry. Fear. Financial panic. Then I remembered. Get into the vortex. Feel good no matter what! THEN allow things to work out for you. They always do.
“Things are always working out for me” was my first chant. As I said this over and over again I remembered in 2012 when I didn’t have any insurance at all! What miracles came through! I felt a little better. Then I remembered my music. I listened and sang softly, feeling more as ease and finally fell asleep. It was after 1am.
I woke knowing the rest of story.

This insurance shift, this political shift, this is CONTRAST!! When everything’s coming up roses we do not grow, change, evolve or expand. It’s only when we are uncomfortable, discontent, that we change. So what if…

What if I embrace the contrast! What if I see it for what it is and, in the midst of it all, say “I see this for what it really is! An opportunity for me to decide what I really want because now I know what I don’t want!”

For me to know that and see that I must feel better now! But feeling better ABOUT the insurance shift or the political-education shift just may not be possible. So feel good about something else! Anything else! Then see what you can do from THAT perspective.

When I feel good on purpose, my head is clear, my heart is open and inspiration comes. Most times I’m reminded to focus on the big picture outcome. I want to feel peaceful and secure knowing I’m well insured. That may be too specific yet. I’ll stick to peaceful and secure.”

Lauren used Mindfulness to become aware of her reactions, then she changed those reactions.
We don’t always catch ourselves in the moment.
That’s ok.
As long as you become present at some point. That’s where your power lies….in the present moment.

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