Mental Balance

A balanced mind abides in the present moment.

To abide means to remain, continue, stay, dwell, reside.  The mind only knows now, this present moment.  There is no past or future.  Have I presented another paradox?  If the mind knows only the now then what is going on when I spend an entire day dwelling on past mistakes, losses or disappointments?  What is going on when I spend an entire night in fear and anxiety over future possibilities?  I am bringing the past and/or the future into the present moment and my mind will respond accordingly as will my body and my emotions.

When I abide in the past, whether the memories are filled with joy or trauma, my mind interprets it as happening in the present.  And if I abide in the future, whether I look forward with joyful anticipation or anxiety-filled dread, my mind thinks it is happening right now.  Aside from the physical and emotional responses that are triggered, I am totally oblivious to and missing out on the present moment.

Yes, there are times when the future or the past are appropriately part of the present.  When families get together and share laughter and joy while reminiscing, that is their present moment.  When a young family prepares for the birth of a child months ahead of its arrival, that is their present moment.  These experiences come and go and the attention returns to the beauty of the sky, paying bills on time, or preparing a meal that will be shared lovingly with the family.

The key is developing the ability to abide in the moment.  I come back to each person finding what works for them, what keeps them in the here and now.  For me, when I walk, my intention is to see, hear and enjoy my world.  I watch the sky, listen to the birds, say hi to neighbors and pet their dogs. I breathe the air and allow gratitude for my life, even when at present it is filled with challenges.

Years ago, Thich Nhat Hanh, suggested on one of his tapes to walk very slowly to the phone when it rings.  As you walk, ask yourself if you can be fully present with the person calling.  If you cannot stop what you are doing and be only with that person, do not answer the phone.  Call them later.  (Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese monk living in exile.  The primary focus of his loving, compassionate teaching is mindfulness.)

The way to begin is to become aware of your own mental patterns.  It is important to embrace this awareness without judgement.  Awareness allows me to accept what I have been doing to avoid the present moment.  Once I accept that I have created these patterns, I can forgive myself if necessary and begin to create new patterns of mental behavior.

For many people, this process is enhanced through counseling with a professional therapist.  I am in this group.  There have been a number of times in my life when therapy was essential to finding and maintaining a healthy mental state of being.  Others need medication in addition because they live with a chemical imbalance of some type that must be treated in order for them to be able to experience healthy thought patterns.  Remember, the physical directly impacts the mental and vice versa.

May you learn to abide in the moment as you discover the balance of body, mind and emotions that allows you to do so.  Peace, tranquility and contentment will follow and also abide with you.

 

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Emotional Balance

Emotional balance has been unfolding in my life for 50 years.  One of the biggest hurdles has been letting go of the belief that my emotions define me; that I am what I am currently feeling.  I now define emotion as: e-motion = energy in motion.  When I am experiencing a specific emotion, I realize that it is energy moving through my entire being.  It is energy that has been given a name such as happiness, sorrow, anger, etc.  Remembering this helps me release judgement about the nature of that energy.  Energy is energy; it is neither good nor bad; it just is.

As practices for the body and mind (yoga, meditation, healthy eating, exercise, fresh air, loving friends, etc.) have become consistent in my life, my emotions have become more consistent as well.  For the most part, my emotions fit what I am experiencing in the moment.  When each of my parents died, I was deeply sad and grieved.  I was also profoundly grateful that I was with them in their transitions. I was proud to be their daughter. I was also grateful for everything they had given me over the years.  So many emotions flowed during those times and I felt them all. Intense and fulfilling all at once.

In releasing judgement, I view these experiences in terms of intensity.  Seldom is overwhelming happiness described as bad, yet it is every bit as intense as sorrow and can be just as exhausting.  My granddaughter’s birth was so intensely joyful that there were times I didn’t sleep very well.  There were times when I quietly cried for happy.  Intense.

On the other end of the spectrum, I choose not to take in news about things like child abuse because the depth of anger I feel on behalf of these innocents is almost frightening to me.  But is anger always “bad?”  Not in my opinion, because there are many people who have been inspired to acts of bravery because of the anger that arises within them.  Anger and frustration with things I had allowed or created in my life have given me the courage to make very difficult changes.  Intense.

Intensity is seldom comfortable, which is why these energies are judged as bad or unhealthy.  The key, is – guess what? – balance!  It makes more sense to realize that imbalance in the emotional body creates confusion and can be destructive than to set the goal of never feeling these things.  When I feel angry, can I allow myself to be in it in a way that leads me to action, forgiveness or compassion?  If so, I will quickly return to peace and tranquility.  My actions will be appropriate to the situation and to my desire and intention to live lovingly and compassionately.  It is when I avoid and stuff or hide my feelings that my behavior becomes inappropriate and possibly destructive.

Balance is the key. Here are a few reasonable goals:  Feel without being thrown against the wall by the intensity of emotions. Be willing to sit with the discomfort in order to remember that energy in motion does not define me; it is something you are experiencing in the moment.  It will diminish, shift, transform because that is the nature of energy.  Embrace the experience for what it is:  a human experience that does not change or define your True Self, a spiritual being. Be patient and remember that it takes time and maturity to come into this awareness in every aspect of your being: physical, mental, emotional.  You don’t have to change everything at once.  You don’t have to fight yourself and judge yourself.  You do not have to be perfect.  You can be in this moment, experience it, and be all that you are.  You can unfold into True Self as naturally as a healthy tree matures and produces perfect fruit.

One of my favorite responses to myself when I explode into emotional intensity and catch myself in the midst of it is:    Well, Catherine Ann, welcome to the human race!

 

Walter Littlemoon

Walter Littlemoon passed through my life briefly during a time of personal healing and searching. I carry him in my heart and mind because he looked into my soul and knew me. He honored my journey when I didn’t understand it myself. I remember him as a tall, quiet, gentle man of great intelligence and profound compassion. He spoke softly, humbly and taught much with very few words.

Walter Littlemoon was born at Wounded Knee in 1942. Taken from his family at the age of 5, he was forced into a federal government boarding school. His family, language and traditions denied him. I met him in the early 1990’s when he visited  friends in Florida. He graciously conducted sweat lodges without asking for payment of any kind. Money offered in gratitude for his presence and teaching was given to the destitute community of Wounded Knee. His entire life has been dedicated to restoring his people and his land. I sat in stunned silence when he told us he was not supposed to leave the reservation without official permission. How could that be in a free country?!  Fortunately for all of us, Walter answered to a power higher than any government and traveled where Great Spirit led him.

I will not presume to tell his story for I cannot do him or the Lakota people justice. I hope you will search him out on the internet. You will be blessed.

When I told him I was nervous about doing my first sweat lodge (in summer, in Florida), he very lightly touched my shoulder and quietly said, “Trust the Creator. You are meant to be here.” At his touch, a calm peacefulness spread through me and I entered the lodge. Those words have carried me through many challenging life experiences. I could easily feel the sacredness of Walter Littlemoon’s path; he helped me understand the sacredness of my own.

Even as I struggle to share something of my experience with him, I hear his sweet voice, “Trust the Creator. You are meant to be here.”

“Here” is wherever I am in the moment, whatever I am experiencing in the moment. “Here” is all that I have been in the past, all that I am in this moment, and all that I will be in the future. “Here” transcends geography, ethnicity, gender, religion, politics. Let this be your meditation today:

TRUST  THE  CREATOR.    YOU  ARE  MEANT  TO  BE  HERE.

Seeking Balance

Human beings are designed for balance.  Homeostasis is the natural mechanism that functions 100% of the time to establish and maintain balance.  It is an automatic and wonderfully complex process.  Mental and emotional balance are part of homeostasis because there is no separation among the body, mind, and emotions. What affects one, affects all – whether that effect is toward health and wholeness or dis-ease and imbalance. I can enhance balance by my lifestyle choices, making it easier for my body to achieve balance and wholeness. I can exhaust it when my lifestyle choices undermine the process.

I can raise my own awareness by asking myself these questions:  Am I helping or hurting myself?  What are the patterns in my life?  What do I want to experience? Do the choices I make in any given moment support or undermine my fundamental desires?

Have you known someone who is faced with overwhelming life challenges and yet remains loving, kind and able to find joy in small ways? Do you wonder where they find the strength to go on? Is it possible their level of self-awareness is a major factor?

Have you ever known someone who consistently creates chaos while bemoaning their fate and wishing for a more peaceful, happy life?  Do you wonder why nothing ever goes their way? Is it possible their level of self-awareness is a major factor?

My observation is that both people, consciously or not,  are seeking balance.  What we need to understand is that this balance comes from within our beings, not from the circumstances outside of us. It emanates from our personal choices moment-by-moment. The results f those choices hinge on the level of our self-awareness, our consciousness.

So, if a person is chaotic within themselves, they will manifest chaos outside themselves because, to them, this feels like balance. And they are right. What they experience inside and outside is in balance but this does not create peace and contentment.

If a person is balanced and peaceful within themselves, they will manifest balance and peace outside themselves because, to them, this feels like balance.  And they are right. What they experience inside and out is in balance and it does create peace and contentment.

The difference is that one achieves a healthy balance and one does not.  Remember that balance is not a static state.  Even the healthiest balance waivers now and then. The question is “What am I creating and how am I living the majority of the time?”

Life is not about perfection.  It is about balance and harmony and wholeness.

Let Life Be Easier

On the opening page of his book The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck says:

Life is difficult.

This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

What are the illusions that have given birth to your expectations of yourself, others and life itself? Do you believe, somewhere deep inside, that “someday” everything will be perfect? Are you always waiting and hoping for what lies out in the future somewhere?

A young sage once said to me as we walked through a farmers’ market on a crisp sunny morning,

This, this is the essence of life: Do what you love doing. Do it with people you love. And let it be easy.

Sitting on a quiet beach on the Emerald Coast of the Florida panhandle, I watched the gulf waters. The water was so still it looked more like a lake. A few weeks earlier it had raged, sending huge waves crashing across the highway into the small bay behind me. In that moment I realized that water is consistently true to itself whether it is quietly lapping at the shore or ripping into that shore so deeply that it is forever changed. I could see that because water is consistently true to its own nature,  it is able to shape the continents and I was looking at a different Florida coastline.

Life is like that. It is consistently true to itself, ever-changing, relentlessly being what it is. Life ebbs and flows. At times so quiet and peaceful I want this moment to last forever. Other times it rips and tears at the fabric of my being. It dares me to resist its flow, to deny its very nature and, in the process, to deny my own and be taken down and devastated by its storms.

M. Scott Peck is right. The only way to embrace the very nature of life is to accept the reality of its true nature. When I surrender my illusions, I set myself free to ride the waves. World class surfers travel the globe, following storms and ocean surges, looking for the fiercest waves in order to ride them! I want to ride the waves of life with that kind of confidence and openness of mind and heart. Like my young sage, I want to let life be easy.

So when life is a challenge, I sit down and breathe. I breathe slowly and quietly until I remember that this is the nature of life. I am not being punished or tested. Life is what it is. I meditate and pray for guidance. I wait for the inner voice of wisdom. The challenges don’t disappear but they look different to me then. I know that, when this storm passes, the waters of my life will be calm again while I rest and restore my energy.

It won’t be the last storm so I rest in knowing that I am more adept at embracing all of life’s experiences. I seek out the quiet within when everything around me is raging. My own true nature carries me as I flow with life rather than fighting it, even when it hurts.

This moment is enough for me no matter what it contains. Blessings can be as overwhelming as challenges. Looking to some future that may never come is not the answer. This moment is all I have. Whatever this moment contains, I choose to be present in it because I can let this one moment be easy.

Just for a moment

Peace, who doesn’t seek that for themselves?   Where and how do we even begin? First of all, remind yourself that trying to change everything at once never works. I want to suggest something simple and quick that can begin improving the quality of your life almost immediately. Here we go.

 

Just for a moment, stop and take a slow inhale. Feel your rib cage and abdomen open up to that inhale.

Let the exhale release just as slowly and feel your body relax inward.

Now, do this 5 times with your eyes closed and simply feel what your body is doing.

When you open your eyes, notice how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.

 

That took less than 5 minutes. What if you did 3-5 breaths before you start your car?  Or right after you brush your teeth? What if you did this several times a day and before you fall asleep at night?

Seems like an easy place to begin.

My Country…Sweet Land of Liberty…

Words from a song I learned as a child…A song I have sung more times in my life than I could ever count. It comes to mind this morning, July 4, 2018, as I sit in my rocker sipping coffee. I’m thinking about my family’s history here, which began with my grandparents. I’m thinking about my country’s history, which began when people wanting the freedom to be who they were sailed into the unknown and found her shores. Did you know my ancestors from northern Spain were master ship builders? Basque craftsmen designed and built the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria.

Now my mind wanders forward to those new Americans who fought England for their right to rule themselves. Later they fought each other over whether to be united or separate. We still honor those early Americans when we visit the battlefields and museums that remind us of our own history. Our history matters and it deserves our respect now more than ever.

I need to remember this morning that Americans have never agreed about everything. We have, however, found ways to work together and move forward in spite of our differences and disagreements. AND THIS IS IMPORTANT:

It seems to me that our forward movement has usually been about allowing more people the freedom to be who they are. 

We have stumbled in this process and made unfair decisions along the way. Can anyone overlook our treatment of Native Americans, survivors of slavery and their descendants, Japanese American citizens….the list goes on does it not? And, yes, it takes too long. Many still fight for truly equal rights like Black Americans, women, same-sex couples, and more.

We are not a perfect nation but we are a nation that does not give up. We fight for human rights – not just our own as individuals – but even the rights of those we don’t really understand or relate to easily. I still shake my head when a news report reminds me that the KKK still exists-what?

So, dear hearts, we aren’t going to agree on everything but we all have the right to be heard. Is your voice being heard? Are you speaking out intelligently and without defaming others? Are you calling your reps in state and national offices? Are you voting? Are you?

God bless us all and may we be free to be.