Monthly Archives: March 2013

Day 80: Learning from everything (Beginner’s Mind)

I like the term “Beginner’s Mind.”  I’m not sure when I first heard that phrase, but it’s been a very helpful concept, professionally and personally.

When I just googled it, I found Wikipedia’s entry on Shoshin, which includes this:

Shoshin (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind“. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

and this:

“Beginner’s mind embodies the highest emotional qualities such as enthusiasm, creativity, zeal, and optimism … With beginner’s mind, there is boundlessness, limitlessness, an infinite wealth.”

 

Man, I don’t know if I need to write anything more today. Just reading that Wikipedia definition helps me feel ready to face the day.

I’ll just riff briefly, before I get ready to leave for the day.

I love the thought, “I can learn from everything.”  I find that a really helpful phrase.  That reminds me of my personal “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass” antidote for when I am feeling hopeless and powerless. That helpful phrase is, “I will come out the other side of this, with some gifts I can use.”  (By the way, I STILL  forget to tell myself that when I’m very down.)  (I’m working on it!)

Here’s one recent example of a gift I got from Beginner’s Mind, when I was in the role of “Expert” (therapist):

I’m not wild about that word “antidote,” which I’ve been using for strategies for challenging cognitive distortions (unhelpful thoughts).  Somebody in a group, yesterday, used the word “remedy” instead.

I like that better.

I hope you find this post helpful, dear reader, and even a personal remedy.

 

 

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Day 79: Tears and Take Aways

The title of this post came to me, earlier, when I was thinking of possible topics.

It relates to my experience as a therapist, as well as to my personal experience today.

Yesterday, somebody in a group therapy session thanked me for “inviting crying.” She noticed that I have, in my office, big boxes of fluffy tissues within  sight and easy reach. (I sometime invite tears more blatantly, saying, “all your feelings are welcomed here.”)

Something else I invite? Take aways,  at the end of an individual or group session.  I often ask people to name something they want to remember — something they want to “stick” with them after they leave.

Today, I went to see a psychologist, who is a sleep specialist.  (I mentioned this in this previous post, about sleep.)  It was a very useful and helpful meeting.

I told her a lot, about my medical history, my sleep history, and my current sleep issues. She gave me a lot to think about.

Here is the Take Away that is sticking for me right now, out of many wonderful suggestions she made.

She suggested that I tell myself, before I fall asleep,

“You are not going to die, tonight, in your sleep.”

Her style was very matter of fact, and she spoke the language of data.  She made an unemotional, convincing case for this.

And I knew that was my important take away, because once I really took that in and believed it ….

….. that’s when I needed her box of tissues.

As always, thanks for reading today.

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Day 78: One Weird Trick, revisited

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, I don’t really believe that there is One Weird Trick that will solve something.  There’s no one trick — weird or otherwise — that will fix weight, aging, or any other “problem” addressed by the ads on our computer screens.

Nor is there one “trick” that will  solve low self-esteem, lack of motivation, symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress, or any other problem addressed in therapy.

But I often see how one change can start a process that makes a huge difference in somebody’s life.  A change, for instance, like nourishing oneself better.  Reaching out for help.  Venturing out into the world a little more. Spending a little more time with somebody helpful. Spending less time with people who don’t help. 

I see, sometimes, how trying one simple, new thought can have that effect, too.  Such as asking yourself this question:

Does that thought help me?

when you’ve noticed a thought that’s altered your mood for the worse.

(I did that, myself, this morning, when I noticed I was having some self-judgmental thoughts. And it did help.)

Yesterday, at work, I addressed that question to somebody during in a therapy session. When  a wonderfully accomplished woman compared herself negatively to other people, I asked her:

Does that thought help you?

When she compared herself to a More Perfect Her, focusing on ways she should be changing or should have changed already, I asked her

Does that thought help you?

And each time, she paused and said. “No.”

Who knows how helpful that was for her? People are so complicated. And our lives are so complicated, too. 

It can be difficult to believe  that one change  — whether it’s something new we ask ourselves or tell ourselves, or one action we take — can make a real difference.

I’m thinking again, about those ads and their use of the word “trick”.  Like a magic trick.

I do believe in the power of some kinds of magic, actually. 

The magic of one step towards change. The magic of hope.

Thanks for reading.

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Day 77: Try this one weird trick

It’s funny to me what language keeps recurring in the ads that show up on my computer screen.  Do these sound familiar?

  • Try this one weird trick to ______ (lose weight, get rid of wrinkles, sleep better, learn ten languages)!
  • Experts hate her!  Find out how this Boston woman figured out how to (lose weight, get rid of wrinkles, sleep better, learn ten languages)!

I suppose people keep using this language because it works — the advertisers MUST be getting clicks.

And it IS appealing to believe that one trick, accessible to everybody,  will solve everything.   And in order for ONE trick to work that well, it would HAVE to be weird.

I don’t know if I have one weird trick, for you or for myself.

However, I am going to write a short post tonight, which I hope will have something helpful in it.

Today was a wonderful, scary, and exciting day, where I got to do many new things at work.  These new things involved being more focused on patient care in new ways.

I’m not going to write details about this, but I will say that I was able to help and witness a medical practice being more responsive to patient needs, in new and creative ways. And I found this very moving and energizing.

This morning, before I went to work, I recognized that I was feeling a higher level of stress and anxiety, because (1) I was going to be doing a lot of new things and (2) these new things felt very important.

I wasn’t afraid of failure.  But I did passionately want success.

So I said a few things to myself this morning, before I left for the day.

Which I’m having trouble remembering now! And I know that what I told myself really, really helped.

So maybe that was The One Weird Trick!  And I didn’t write it down.  Oh, no, dear reader!

Wait a minute. Here’s my best guess at what I told myself this morning:

Be as much in the moment as you can, and let go of judgment.

Actually, I think that is pretty close to what I said to myself this morning.  And it helped. Then, after I left the house, I said some other things to myself, including:

Take your time.

You don’t need to be perfect at this immediately.

There are people in your organization that will help you do this.

All those things helped, too.   It was a good day.

(And experts didn’t hate me.)

Thanks for reading.

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Day 76: Random Thoughts about Sleep

I’ve written in this blog before about the Topic of Sleep  — like here, herehere, and here, and less directly in other posts, too.

Sleep does seem to be An Issue for me these days. As a matter of fact, I’m seeing a Sleep Specialist this week (for the first time ever).  So, of course, sleep is more on my mind.

Also, several people I work with in individual and group therapy have been talking more about sleep lately.

Sleep is in the air.

I think that’s enough of a reasonable introduction for this post.  So without further ado, it’s Random Thought Time!

Moving the clocks back (or forward) screws people up.

Man, people in general have seemed “off” this past week, in so many different ways. I ran a group on Tuesday where EVERYBODY was late, by a substantial amount.  That would have seemed quite weird, except “duh!” we turned the clocks forward last Saturday.  And people have been talking more about sleep problems this past week. People have been more forgetful.  I was definitely more emotional.

We seem to negotiate our ways through the world by taking in cues that help keep us on track and safer.  I imagine disrupting any of those cues — like an hour suddenly disappearing — poof! — like a magic trick  (where did it go?) — would put us off balance.

We never know how we are interacting with the world when we’re asleep, unless somebody tells us.

What kind of sleeper are you?  Are you restless?  Do you snore?  Do you talk in your sleep? Do you look like you’re making balloon animals or do people consider calling 911?

Unless you have a video camera set up in your room, you’ve heard information regarding “You, While Sleeping” from other people — either experts or people you know in a rather intimate fashion.

And when you find out information that surprises you, that’s a little disconcerting, isn’t it?  When somebody you love (or are paying for their expertise) (which could cover several circumstances) starts a sentence like this:

“Did you know that when you’re sleeping, you …..”

Don’t we cringe a little?  Whatever the hell follows that opening, like …

  • … say rude things about the President
  • … look so peaceful
  • … snore like a lumberjack
  • … seem smarter
  • … look disturbingly like my cousin Flo
  • … poke me repeatedly in the abdomen
  • … perplex the cat
  • … wake up, every six minutes, screaming
  •  … are adorable
  • … try to eat the pillow, or
  • … do something that none of us in the Sleep Research Foundation have ever seen, so can we have your autograph?

… it’s going to re-cast our self-image, in some way.

Which can take some work, right?  Also, this might be a Prime Time for self-judgmental thoughts.  Let’s watch out for those, shall we?

Sleep is one of those “natural things we all do” that nobody seems to know how to do these days.

I guess I have nothing else to add to THAT.

I mean, I could list lots of other things we are all supposed to be born knowing how to do, that still seem difficult, to the extent that lots of people are making lots of money helping us do them, but …. nah.

It’s time to wrap this post up.

Chances are that the topic of sleep will be creeping back into this blog, pretty soon. Especially since I’ll be meeting with an expert, this week.

Thanks for being here, dear reader. And may you sleep the sleep of the innocent and the satisfied, all your nights. (Even if you look and sound really weird while doing that.)

Categories: humor, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Day 75: Things that make me go _____

I woke up this morning thinking of lots of subjects I could write about, today and in future posts.

I considered writing some drafts for future posts, and then thought, “Hey!  Maybe I can come up with a topic today that can cover several of these ideas!”

Hence the title of this post, “Things that make me go __.” (With thanks to a song title I’ve always liked:  “Things That Make You Go Hmmm.”)

THINGS THAT MAKE ME GO BOO HOO.

Here are some things that can make me so sad, that I may very well cry.

1. When I experience somebody disconnecting from me.

There are all sorts of reasons why people disconnect from each other — why they regulate intimacy in the moment — whether it’s guilt, shame, being overwhelmed, fear of being rejected, boredom, fear of intimacy, etc.

In the hospital, when I was a kid, I think treaters would sometimes put up barriers to connection, for lots of reasons, so I think I am pret-ty sensitized to that moment of disconnecting. At the same time, I recognize that we all regulate intimacy — we have to!  Boundaries are important.

My most recent experience of my sensitivity to this “moment of disconnecting”  was yesterday.  After a person who schedules meetings at work was harried and a little abrupt with me — because (I know!) that person is overworked and (I think!) guilty about needing to cancel lots of meetings —  I went back to my office, closed the door, and, much to my amazement, sobbed for a few minutes.

2. When somebody I like leaves.

When I was sobbing in my office yesterday, it also occurred to me that this reaction might also be related to the fact that  one of the people at the front desk where I work — who does a great job and who is welcoming, thoughtful, fun, and just generally wonderful —  was leaving yesterday.  It was her last day at work with us.  (Sigh.)

3. When animals are in danger or hurt in some way.

When I was a kid, I remember reading a children’s book where somebody steps on a kitten, and the kitten dies.  Oh. My. Gawd.  I think I cried for days.

Also, I saw the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in the theater when I was really young. (I just looked it up — I was 8 years old.) I remember a scene at the end of the movie, where Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard are reuniting for a “happy” ending, after Audrey Hepburn had done this horrifying thing of pushing her cat out of the cab into the rain. I remember that I couldn’t stop crying — even though George Peppard had found the cat, and he and Audrey were hugging, with the cat in between them — because the cat was still getting wet.

While I think that’s great that I could find that scene just now on YouTube, I have to admit that — watching it again now, for the first time since I was a kid — I started crying when Audrey Hepburn kicked the cat out of the cab. Again!  And I’m just turning off the waterworks, now.

Man!

Okay.  Time to move on to another emotion. I think I’ll write about one more, for this post today.

THINGS THAT MAKE ME GO HA HA.

Here are some things that make me happy, to the extent that I Laugh Out Loud.

(By the way, I have a pet peeve about the abbreviation LOL. I sometimes suspect that people use this inauthentically!   I think that when people write LOL, they are often  NOT Laughing Out Loud, but rather Smiling To Themselves.  I know that’s shocking, but this is what I assume.

If I ruled the blogosphere — and was therefore corrupted by that power — I might track people’s use of LOL, compare that with video taken of them by their computers’ cameras, and impose fines for misrepresentation.)

1. Certain scenes in certain movies.

The first movie I remember laughing out loud at in a theater was “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” —  a very slap-stick-y movie with a huge cast.  (I just googled that, too, and I was 10 years old when I saw it.)  I laughed and laughed at a scene where there is a car crash in a tunnel —  which we don’t see, but only hear. What cracked me up was not the crash, but what happened after a moment of stillness and silence, when a tire comes rolling out of the tunnel.

I have seen this scene subsequently, and it didn’t make me laugh again. I don’t think I even found it all that funny. But I did enjoy seeing it, remembering how much pleasure that movie moment gave me, when I was a kid.

Let’s see if I can find that scene on YouTube now. (I have to admit, dear reader, I’m still a little drained after watching that friggin’ Audrey Hepburn kick that poor cat out of the cab again.) (So I will do my best, but I’ll only look for a brief time.)

The trailers I looked at have lots and lots of action scenes, but they don’t show that moment. Here’s one trailer (I think it’s actually a non-USA trailer):

“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” trailer

The only YouTube video I found that included that Rolling Tire was one of those compilations somebody makes with their own soundtrack. So forget that.

But looking at several YouTube videos told me something– I probably liked that rolling tire because it was one of the few “subtle” moments of comedy in the whole thing — it was a momentary rest from all that action!

Other movies where I’ve laughed out loud  — since that initial time in 1963 —  include “The Producers” (the original, 1968 version), “This is Spinal Tap,” “Galaxy Quest,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and “A Fish Called Wanda.”

While there are lots of movies I think are funny (I’m thinking of the early Woody Allen movies), I don’t easily laugh out loud at them. And I’m actually having trouble thinking of another movie, since that scene in “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World,” where I have truly cracked up, laughing for an extended period of time at a movie.

2. Sharing a moment of silliness with a friend, where we both think we’re not supposed to be laughing.

Oh, yes. This is probably the Mother Lode of Laughing out Loud.  My friend, Megan, at my birthday party, told a story about our attending a weekend workshop at a place where You Weren’t Supposed to Talk During Meals.  Something struck us both as funny during one of these meals, and we could NOT stop laughing.  We had to leave the dining room.  The laughing — and the trying not to laugh — was so intense, it hurt.  (Do you have memories of something like this, dear reader?)

3. Finding pleasure, delight, and surprise in something somebody tells me.

I’ve been told that I’m quite an easy laugher — outside of movies, I guess. When I’m having a personal interaction, I know I really enjoy hearing other people’s humor, creativity, and any expression of their personal joie de vivre.

I’m sometimes not actually aware that I’m laughing, and other people sometimes let me know about that. Just the other day, a patient whom I had seen for a few sessions, and then hadn’t returned for about a year,  called to make an appointment. She said, at the end of the phone conversation, “I miss you!”  I remembered being surprised by that.  When I saw her in person, she said, “You laughed when I said I missed you. Why?” She said she wasn’t offended, but curious.

Sometimes I wonder whether people might take my (often unconscious) laughter “the wrong way.” I guess I can’t control that, but maybe I can be more mindful of my own laughter, and hope that people check it out with me, as this patient did.

Okay, dear reader, I’m going to end this Saturday Post, because here are two Things that Make me Go Zzzzzz (or at least run low on energy):

  1. Writing a post with some deep emotional content, and
  2. Needing something to eat.

Thanks for reading, everybody.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Day 74: The Fear of Feeling Too Good — Part 3

After having resisted writing about this topic for 70 days, and returning to it yesterday, I am going to stay on it, for at least one more day.

One of the reasons I listed yesterday, of why feeling too good was scary, was this:

  • I’m afraid that I will be disappointed.

And sure enough, I was disappointed yesterday.

A client at the psychiatric day program where I used to work used to talk very eloquently about her fears about that fall from grace — the fall from feeling too good.  She would sometimes make the argument that it wasn’t worth feeling too good, because the fall felt so bad.

And yesterday, I felt that drop very deeply, to the extent that I was affected all day.  I felt bad. I felt shame.

But, what I’m realizing today, after I’ve slept on the experience (and spoken to several people on “my team”), is that the fall was something I constructed.

And what I mean by that is this:  in my mind, I constructed the dimensions of the fall AND the meaning of it.

Here are the facts.  The meeting I wrote about, in my post yesterday, was cancelled.

That is the data, pure and simple.

What I did, in my mind with that fact — that the meeting was cancelled —  was all internal construction.

Boy, that’s noisy!  I couldn’t turn that sound file off while I was writing this, and that felt annoying and somewhat disturbing.

But not as disturbing and painful as my internal constructions, yesterday:

Arrrgh!  The meeting got cancelled. Of course.  Here I thought I was important enough that somebody I respect so much and see  at such a high level would actively want to meet with me.  Obviously, I miscalculated. I’m not that important. I’m not seen as that important.  Who did I think I was?  And I wrote about the meeting in my blog!  Arrrrgh!  How humiliating.  When I wrote that post, and left for the day, I felt so …. good, so full of myself — setting off for work, looking forward to that meeting.  Hah!  Well, I hope you learned your lesson. It’s not like you haven’t learned this before.  You keep thinking you are more important, more valuable, better than you really are.  

Ouch.  And I felt shame, all day long.  I tried to fight it, battling the distorted thinking with thoughts like these:

Come on!  It’s just a cancellation.  You’ll meet again.  The person wrote you and told you they want to meet with you. Why not believe that e-mail?  This is a familiar feeling.  It’s shame.  You talked about this yesterday with friends — how this is so inbred in you — the shame about feeling too good.  This is an understandable and expected reaction, but that doesn’t mean your worst fears are true — that you need to beat yourself up all day.

And those thoughts helped, a little. But the shame remained.

I still got things done yesterday at work.  I interacted with patients in a way that I think was authentic and maybe even somewhat helpful.

But when I got home from work, I said, “I had a bad day.  I feel bad.”

And when I was asked the question, “What happened?” The answer was, “My meeting got cancelled.”

And those were the facts.

And today, I can see clearly again, and see that those are the facts. No more, no less.

But yesterday, I thought I was seeing clearly, too.

So that’s the dilemma. How can I monitor and interpret my importance? How can I figure out how much I matter, and how good I can feel about myself and still be safe?

Maybe the answer is this.

Maybe those are the wrong questions.

Maybe I can stop monitoring so closely.  Maybe it’s not a matter of life or death for me to figure those things out.

Maybe I’ll just be disappointed some times.  And maybe I’ll be delightfully surprised sometimes.

But no matter what, my essential worthiness does not fluctuate.

That, dear reader, stays the same.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Day 73: The Fear of Feeling “Too Good” — Part 2

Way back on Day  3 of this blog, I wrote this post  about the fear of feeling too good.

And, at the end of the post, I said I would write more the next day.

And then, I didn’t.

And that was useful, because I got to manage my guilt about making a promise and breaking it to you, my readers.

And I haven’t returned to the topic.

Yet.

Today’s the day!

And something that I’ve relearned — again! — is to have faith in my own process.  Or, as I wrote a few days ago,  in this post:

#17. Notice your resistance, letting go of judgment.

If you’re resisting doing something, assume that — on some level — that resistance makes sense. See if you can figure that out.  Even if you can’t, try to let go of judgment about the resistance.

Also resistance may mean that you don’t yet have what you need (data, support, completing something else first) in order to continue with your task.

I’m not going to write today about why I was resisting completing that task — of writing Part 2 of “The Fear of Feeling ‘Too Good,” even though that might be useful to explore.  That might be the post for another day.

Here’s what I want to say today about The Fear of Feeling ‘Too Good.”

At times in my life, I’m been afraid of feeling too good, because:

  • I’m afraid that I will be disappointed.
  • Other people in my life have been afraid of my feeling too good, for their own reasons (which I can only guess).
  • I’m afraid that if I feel too good, I will lose people.

I think those are the main punchlines, this morning.

I have a big day at work today, where I’m meeting with somebody where it will probably be helpful for me to feel very good about myself (even though I still believe there are some dangers in my feeling “too good.”)

Writing this post this morning helped me prepare for the meeting, which I’m actually looking forward to.

Before I leave, though, I would like to quote this poem by Marianne Williamson, which I have found very helpful.  (If it helps you to do so, feel free to substitute your own language for the word “God.”)

Our Deepest Fear
By Marianne Williamson
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Day 72: Short on words, long on gratitude

Hi, everybody.

I am feeling a lot of gratitude as I’m writing this post.

I’m grateful for my health.

I’m grateful for my family.

I’m grateful for my friends.

I’m grateful that I get to do work that I love and value.

I’m grateful that when I am kind to people, most people are kind back to me.

I’m grateful that there is something to learn no matter what the circumstances, even when the circumstances are painful (and I feel incapable of learning in the moment).

I am grateful for the privileges given to me by the accidents of where I was born and who I am.

I am grateful for all the different parts of my past, because they have contributed to who I am today.

I am grateful that I live in a time where I can connect with people in so many different ways.

I am grateful for you, dear reader.

Thanks.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Day 71: The Secret to Life is Three Things

Cristian Mihai is one of my favorite bloggers here.  This post of his showed up in my reader today.

That post, titled “Three easy steps to achieving what you want,” inspired me to write about something that I consider one of the most valuable gifts I’ve ever received.

About 20 years ago, I attended a weekend retreat — the  Opening the Heart Workshop — run by an organization which was then called “Spring Hill”.  (Spring Hill was a gorgeous location in Ashby, MA, and there are some pictures of that beautiful spot in the link above.)

During that weekend, one of the presenters told us this.

The secret to life is three things:

(1)  Show up.

(2)  Be gentle.

(3)  Tell the truth.

That’s it.

Since that weekend, I have shared that gift with many, many people.  I sometimes invite people to notice that “be gentle” also means to be gentle with yourself.

A lot of people have told me they find this gift really useful.

20 months ago, when I left the day treatment program where I’d worked for 12 years, one of my esteemed colleagues there gave me this clock as a going-away present:

IMG_0570

I keep this clock in my office.  I sometimes show this clock to people who come to therapy for the first time.  I think it’s a pretty good beginner’s How-To description of therapy.

So now that we’ve discussed the secret to life, I guess it’s time to end this blog post.

 

One more thing, though. When I got the photo of the clock off my phone, I noticed another photo I took recently, which is making me wonder if I should amend the title of this post.  

Maybe the secret of life also includes a fourth thing:

 

IMG_0565

(4) A bunny cake.

Thanks for reading, everybody.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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