Why We Need Each Other — Part 3

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Watching the news these days can be . . . disheartening.  We seem so committed to “othering,” to shaming those with whom we disagree, to shutting down the voices we don’t like, to ad hominem attacks and violent attacks.  It seems that we can so little tolerate difference that we’d rather dehumanize each other than sit with the discomfort of the complexity that life offers.

 

But we need each other.

 

We need people who are deeply concerned about the well-being of the planet, and those living in poverty, and income inequality, and social justice.  We need people who ask how we’re going to pay for our social programs, who are concerned about security, who value individual ingenuity, who are deeply concerned about protecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

 

We need people who create order and form and rhythm.

We need people who create art and connection and fun.

 

We need people who teach us how to trust.

We need people who teach us how to question.

 

We need people who remind us how amazing and whole and complete we are.

We need people who show us the ways that we could use some improvement.

 

We need people who have learned to sit with their discomfort.  Who have learned to pause and not react.  We need people who can make space inside of themselves for the pain that arises when they don’t get their way, or when someone doesn’t agree, or when they realize they don’t have any control.  Who have learned how to stand for what they need and want without demonizing those who need or want something different.  Who can sit in the center of the chaos and breathe. We need more of this.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPCC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

Why We Need Each Other — Part 2

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We all have blind spots.

Recently, I noticed that I felt triggered —  frustrated, irritated — by someone (let’s call him Jay) after a conversation.  Jay had made some bold (and I thought offensive) generalizations about a group of people that I identify with.  I couldn’t believe the audacity of his comment, the brazenness of his generalization.  During our conversation, I noticed that I was triggered, so I told myself to slow down, to breathe deeply, to give myself some time and space to understand why I was so upset.

Afterward, I called a friend (a fellow therapist) and told her what had transpired.  I could feel the part of me that wanted validation, the comfort of knowing that my feelings were “justified.”  At the same time, I already knew that I had missed an opportunity with Jay to contact the feelings that lay beneath the surface of his statements.  I had missed a chance to connect more deeply with him, to be curious about his point of view, and to stand in my own point of view, even as it differed from his.  I also know that I called this particular therapist friend intentionally, knowing that she would hold me to a higher awareness, that she would challenge me to look more closely at my role in what I was feeling.

I had a blind spot and my friend helped me see it.  Instead of telling me I was right and that Jay was wrong, instead of pumping up my ego and creating more separation, she held me accountable to myself.

We all have blind spots.

They are innocent and unconscious, and also potentially troublesome as we make our way through the world.  Having someone we trust to help us see our blind spots —  in an atmosphere of positive regard and lovingkindness — can be invaluable in our personal evolution and in learning to live more comfortably and honestly in the world.  External reflection challenges us to see what we otherwise wouldn’t see — and maybe don’t want to see.

I returned to Jay and owned my blind spot.  I apologized for any impact it may have had and asked him to share his experience.  And from there we had an honest, engaged conversation about our differences, without generalization, without irritation, and with genuine appreciation for one another.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPCC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

Why We Need Each Other — Part 1

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In a culture that values independence, self-reliance, and the Almighty Individual, we are easily seduced into believing that we can — and ought to —  grow and heal on our own.  One of the ways this shows up in therapy is when clients state emphatically that “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself.”

Hmmm.  Is that true?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the impulse behind this beloved bit of pop psychology.  Often it is uttered by people who have realized that they have been looking to others to fill a longstanding feeling of emptiness, of unworthiness.  They notice that going into relationship from this sense of lacking creates an undue demand on their partners (or friends, or family members), and the relationships either don’t last or are fraught with conflict.  They notice that they don’t regard themselves with kindness and they sense that moving into relationship from a place of loving self-worth might yield an altogether different kind of relationship.

By questioning this beloved aphorism, I don’t mean to suggest that it’s altogether false.  I’m just not convinced that it’s the whole picture.  While I believe that it can be helpful to a point, I think the bigger picture of growth and healing requires a more nuanced and paradoxical container.  Because while we may love more fully and freely when we have a sense of our own inherent worth and lovability, we learn how to love ourselves in the context relationship.  Our foundational sense of self (from which blooms self-love) develops through our earliest relationships; when our brains are not yet differentiated enough to even know that we are discrete entities, we are learning about our value, lovability, and worth from our families, friends, teachers, and environment.  However we feel about ourselves as adults is a reflection of accumulated relationships and experiences (as well as our adult capacity for self-awareness).  While personal effort and self-reflection are invaluable in the process of claiming our wholeness, so too are relationships with other people who reflect our basic goodness.  Our sense of self is more of a conversation than a static quality: my relationships inform my sense of self, and my sense of self informs my relationships.

For some people, the work lay more in learning to how hold for themselves the healthy reflection of worth that is conveyed to them by life and loved ones.  For others, the work may be in finding people who are able to offer this form of loving reflection.  Regardless, this is not work that needs to be done alone, in isolation, when one is “ready.”  Rather it can be supported in the laboratory of authentic human relationship.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPCC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

The wish to be exactly as you are

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Who you are is just right.  You don’t have to bend yourself into a pretzel trying to be someone else.  You don’t have to work so hard trying to stuff yourself into a tiny little box that is never going to fit.  “But I am a dandelion,” you say, “and it is so much better to be a rose.”  It is wonderful to love the beauty of a rose, to celebrate its magnificence.  But that doesn’t mean that you are any less magnificent for being an iris (which sometimes smell like grape soda), or a crocus (the Harbinger of Spring), or a dandelion (which keep the bees alive).  Your way is just right.  Are there things you can learn and appreciate from All the Other Ways?  Of course.  Is the world a far more beautiful place for all that variety?  You bet.  “Perhaps if someone cared enough to put dandelions in a vase,” you think, “or tie up a dozen of them with a wide red ribbon, and give them as a gift, I would be important.”  But if you pause for a moment, you might notice all the young children who proudly pick a rumpled up handful of dandelions to give to someone they love.  You might notice that your sturdy presence feeds the bees (who pollinate the world and make the honey) all season long.  You might notice that you are the one who receives the wishes of all the hopeful hearts and carries them into the world.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPCC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

What to do when you don’t know what to do

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Sometimes inspiration doesn’t come.
Sometimes clear mind seems as far away as the next galaxy.*
Sometimes our thoughts get a little too quiet.
A fog settles in.

In these moments, discomfort can drive us to get busy.
“I’ve got to do something about this!”
“Something must change!”
“I have to work harder!”
“This cannot stand!”
But the “what to do” eludes us, leaving a pallor of shame on our cloud of discomfort.  The very mind that seems to be blocking our access, then blaming us for it, then demanding we take action . . . also refuses to show us the way out.

So what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Rest.
Allow the stillness.
Notice what it feels like to not know.
Rest some more.
Breathe.
Make breakfast.
Take a walk.
Watch rain drops splash on a puddle.  Notice the sun lighting up a daisy.
Then rest again.

The world offers us plenty of doing.
Sometimes, through an act of uncomfortable grace, Life offers us rest instead.

So rest.
The sun will burn off the clouds eventually.
Clear mind will return.
In the meantime . . . settle into the fog.

*Did you know that there are ~100 BILLION stars in this galaxy alone?  And that there are ~100-200 BILLION more galaxies BEYOND the Milky Way?  Kind of makes this moment of personal dullness seem altogether impersonal and relatively small and perhaps not such a Big Deal after all.

Don’t believe everything you think.*

*Or, why you are not your thoughts.

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“You are not your thoughts, my dear,” I said.  “You are so much bigger than your thoughts.”

She looked at me with bewilderment.  “I don’t understand what that means.  I’m the one thinking.  How could that not be me?”

One of my favorite — albeit colorful and slightly disgusting — metaphors to help people understand this principle is of a monkey throwing its own feces at the wall of its cage.  Monkeys in cages throw poo; it’s what they do.  Minds imprisoned by beliefs throw thoughts; it’s what they do.

Have you ever noticed that thoughts just seem to happen?  That you don’t have much (read: any) control over them?  Think about the last time you had to write a paper for school.  Either the thoughts come or they don’t.  You can’t will yourself to have the brilliant thoughts needed to write the perfect essay any more than you can will yourself not to have disturbing or hateful or self-aggressive thoughts.

So why am I celebrating this and not cowering in the corner of my poo-covered pen?  The quandary of the monkey mind lies not in the thoughts, or even in the Thought Maker, but in whether or not we choose to believe the thoughts. Rather than identifying with the monkey (the thought-making poo slinger), or with the thoughts (the poo), we can imagine ourselves as the space in which the thoughts are thrown, as the one who watches the whole spectacle from a place of detached bemusement, because honestly, it’s all a little funny.

Accepting that we don’t control our thoughts doesn’t mean that we let the monkey run wild.  If we are wise (or at least tired of the pain caused by our thoughts, which is its own wisdom), we learn to train the monkey (through mindfulness, cognitive practices, self-kindness . . . ).  We learn to question our habitual thoughts (“Is that true . . ?) and identify the core beliefs — held in our bodies — that are generating insufferable conditions of imprisonment.  With time and practice, the monkey learns to settle and may even start sowing flowers in all that compost.  Eventually, we may come to realize that the cage itself doesn’t exist and that our very nature is freedom.  So no, you are not your thoughts, my dear.  You are so much bigger than your thoughts.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPCC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this postcard was meaningful for you, I invite you to share it with others who may benefit.

The Butterfly Effect

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It can be really difficult to make changes in our lives.  There are so many things that fill our days and demand our attention: from family to friends to work to the many varied mundane activities required to sustain a life (buying groceries . . . paying bills . . . ).  In the midst of such swirl, the idea of making a change for our own personal development can seem indulgent if not impossible.  Often clients come to me in a state of deep dissatisfaction with their lives, yet when we turn our attention to what changes the client can make in order to move in the direction of happiness, out comes the laundry list of reasons why change is impossible.

Here’s the inconvenient reality:  nothing changes if nothing changes.  But reality always comes with a bright side, and the good news is that small changes can have an enormous impact.  Ever hear of the Butterfly Effect?  This is the mathematical theory that small differences in an initial event can have significantly magnified effects on a later outcome (e.g., a butterfly flapping its wings can impact weather conditions just enough to impact the trajectory of a hurricane that emerges weeks later).

Or try this on.  Imagine you are standing on top of the Earth, walking in very a specific direction.  If you were to simply alter your line of direction by a fraction of an inch, eventually — if you keep walking — you will end up in an entirely different place.

In other words, one small change now can result in big results over time.  Whether it’s taking a few moments each day to sit quietly, or keeping a gratitude journal, or learning to notice whenever you are being unkind toward yourself, or riding your bike to work one day a week — the small thing you do today turns out to be not so small after all.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MA, NCC, LPCC, is a Nationally Certified Counselor trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this postcard was meaningful for you, I invite you to share it with others who may benefit.

Who’s Steering This Thing? (or “Why I Am Not a Healer”)

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I bristle at the use of the word “healer” to describe my work.   In the process of therapy, all change and growth and healing belong to my clients, to the wisdom of their own beings that draws them toward wholeness.  I am simply a space holder, a compassionate witness, a friendly resource, a guide who helps clients uncover for themselves the pathway back to themselves.

I can only walk with my clients so far along their path.  At a certain point, they have to want their own well-being badly enough to risk trying something new. Ideally, therapy is a place where clients learn to risk in a bite-sized way, in a supportive environment, until they are ready to risk more fully in their lives.  While I may serve as a steady hand on back of the bike seat for the one who is learning to balance, ultimately it is the client’s own inner balance that dares to risk for the sake of freedom.  It is the client whose hands grip the handlebars, whose feet turn the pedals, as I smile and whisper, “Yes. This.”

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MA, NCC, LPCC, is a Nationally Certified Counselor trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this postcard was meaningful for you, I invite you to share it with others who may benefit.

The BIG WANT and the tiny.little.steps

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Once you have developed a habit of noticing ~ of mindful, gentle awareness ~ it is important to set a clear, simple intention.  You can think of this as identifying The Big Want.  What motivates you?  What lights the flame of inspiration in your being?  What is the guiding vision you have for your life?

While these questions can help you identify the big picture of where you are heading, there is an art to choosing a goal or setting an intention.  And research has demonstrated several ways in which we set ourselves up for failure in our desire for change / movement:

  • by choosing goals that are too abstract / lofty (e.g., I will conquer all of my fears) or overly ambitious (e.g., I will become fluent in a foreign language in three weeks);
  • by focusing on too many goals at one time (e.g., I will overhaul my diet, start a daily exercise regimen, work regularly on my novel, write letters to my friends back east . . . all starting now!); and
  • by failing to maintain adequate and appropriate resource (i.e., engaging the will takes energy and requires good nutrition, adequate rest, and exercise).

I invite you to recall your last attempt at New Year’s resolutions and notice how common it is to slip into these pitfalls of intention.  (Check out my post on New Year’s resolutions here.)

In order to increase the possibility of meeting your goals, experts recommend the following.

  • Attend to one intention at a time.  Touch in with the Big Want that motivates you, and then identify bite-size, manageable, attainable goals.  You are more likely to succeed by making successive small changes than by trying to leap from where you are to Where You Want to Be.
  • Make the goals clear and specific.  “I will refrain from eating refined sugar for three weeks, excepting one treat on Friday evenings and honey in my daily morning tea,” versus “No sweets.”
  • Keep your energy up.  Research indicates that willpower decreases as they day goes on.  Not only that, but we apparently only have one well of willpower to draw from, for all of the activities that require the will.  So eating good meals, with adequate protein and healthy fats, will help us maintain our resolve throughout the day.  Additionally, setting aside time in the morning (when willpower reserves are plentiful) for tasks that require our will (e.g., exercise) increase the likelihood that we will meet our goals.

Once your intentions and goals are in place, continue to resource yourself in gentle, loving mindfulness.  Notice how you feel when you meet ~ or don’t meet ~ your goal for the day.  Just notice, allowing the information to inform your resolve.  “Loving” is the key word to noticing.  If it isn’t loving, it’s judgment ~ and, more than anything, self-judgment is a surefire way to sabotage the will.  Part of this process ~ of loving awareness ~ is an acknowledgment of our present-moment wholeness, the realization that we are ok as we are, even before we engage a process of change.

This postcard is the third and final in a series on Engaging the Will.  

Rafia Rebeck, MA, NCC, LPCC, is a Nationally Certified Counselor trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this postcard was meaningful for you, I invite you to share it with others who may benefit.

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

 

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Beliefs and judgements have impact on how we relate with the world, but they also have impact on how we relate with ourselves.  This is one of the clearest pathways between external and internal.  If we approach other.life.world, with a set of demands and expectations ~ beliefs about how Things Should Be ~ we will approach ourselves with the same critical narratives.  If we attack the beliefs.expression.beingness of another person, we can be certain that the teeth of judgment.criticism.hatred will be bared in our direction, by our very own mouths.  If we nurture the inner dialogue that makes others wrong, that same storyteller will tell the tale of our own brokenness.

How do we find our way out of this quagmire of belief and judgment?  “Surely the way is not to abandon our beliefs?” the mind protests.  “Surely not that!”   Maybe.  Maybe not.  My question is simply this . . . how might life be different if you didn’t cling so tightly to ~ or allow yourself to be squeezed so tightly by ~ your beliefs?  Slowly the breath returns to the belly.  Can you feel it?

What would it be like . . . ?

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“All the wars, all the hatred, all the ignorance in the world come out of being so invested in our opinions. And at bottom, those opinions are merely our efforts to escape the underlying uneasiness of being human, the uneasiness of feeling like we can’t get ground under our feet. So we hold on to our fixed ideas of this is how it is and disparage any opposing views. But imagine what the world would be like if we could come to see our likes and dislikes as merely likes and dislikes, and what we take to be intrinsically true as just our personal viewpoint.”  ~Pema Chodron

Better to Retreat a Yard

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Rather than advance an inch
it is better to retreat a yard.
~Tao Te Ching

I want to write to you about nonviolence in the practice of psychotherapy.  I claim no perfection here, only a clear and sincere intention to live in the pulse of nonviolence.  This quotation from the Tao Te Ching comes in the context of a war metaphor (see full verse below). However, the generals referred to are those nonviolent wielders of wisdom ~Malala Yousafzai, Ghandi, Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, H.H. the Dalai Lama ~ who realize that true healing comes from holding whatever is happening in an atmosphere of Loving Presence.  Victory comes not from squashing one’s enemy but from understanding the true nature of things and engaging nonviolent means to support healing.  Of yielding rather than opposing.  In therapy, this means not approaching the client ~ or any of the client’s thoughts, feelings, impulses, tendencies, behaviors ~ as enemies in need of subjugation but as allies in the making, as gatekeepers to an underlying peace that yearns for freedom.

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The generals have a saying:
“Rather than make the first move
it is better to wait and see.
Rather than advance an inch
it is better to retreat a yard.”

This is called
going forward without advancing,
pushing back without using weapons.

There is no greater misfortune
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means thinking that he is evil.
Thus you destroy your three treasures
and become an enemy yourself.

When two great forces oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield.

It helps to have help

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So presence is the difference between pain and suffering, and being present is simple, but not easy.  This is where the power of support comes in. It helps to have help.

Having support in the process of learning to be present is helpful so that we don’t have to experience the overwhelm alone. We don’t have to know how to suddenly be masters of being present with our pain without having someone to learn with.

Having support is helpful because an outside observer will notice things that we ourselves can’t see, the less obvious ways that we distract ourselves from the present moment.

Having support is helpful because my being in presence invites your presence to come forward. It’s simply easier.

It helps to have help.

Being present is simple, but not easy.

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So what does it mean to be present?

Simple.

Just notice.

Just notice what is happening right now, and allow that to happen.

Notice your thoughts, your feelings, your physical sensations, and let them be.

Just notice.

Simple.

 

Being present is simple, but not easy . . . because when we first sit down to be present, everything we’ve been distracting ourselves from rises to the surface for our attention. and initially, this is experienced as an increase in pain. so we turn to distraction . . . because we are well-trained in the art of self-distraction – whether through watching TV or shopping, eating chocolate or having sex, avoiding conflict or inciting conflict, reading a book or exercising, drinking alcohol or talking about spirituality.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that these activities are inherently distractions.  It’s a matter of usage.  Do we eat chocolate to savor its sweet earthiness, or do we reach for chocolate in a moment of stress, in an attempt to escape?  Do we sit to meditate as a way of welcoming our experience and allowing it to be, or does meditation become another way that we abandon ourselves in pursuit of not-here-now?

All of the ways that we habitually distract ourselves from our present experience are like addictions. We feel the scritchy familiar discomfort or pain arise and we reach for our addiction of choice, in effect turning away from what’s present within us. So being present is simple but not easy in the same way that letting go of any addiction is simple but not easy.  How do I stop smoking?  Simple. Just stop.  Don’t pick up another cigarette.  But not easy, because stopping means having to sit with the pain that arises, the pain that I have been avoiding by smoking.

So why would anyone decide to be present, if being present means facing pain?  Because the alternative is suffering.  Because on the other side of the pain is a vast, expansive sense of wholeness that can only be reached by letting go of the project of escaping ourselves.  Because when you are already soaking wet and cold in a rainstorm, it is more enjoyable to relax and maybe splash in a puddle than it is to cringe and cling to a broken umbrella.

The beauty of the rain

 

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I was driving in my car recently, thinking about how to understand the difference between pain and suffering, when it started to rain. I mean REALLY rain. It was torrential.  And windy.  And cold.  The wind was whipping the rain in every direction, so much so that it was hard to see very far.  Outside, in this pouring, driving rain, I saw a woman ~ soaked to the bone, running, gripping an umbrella that had been literally blown inside-out, every muscle in her face and body contracted in resistance to the rain.

And I thought to myself, “THIS is the difference between pain and suffering.”

. . . .Pain is getting soaked in a cold torrential downpour.  Suffering is gripping with tension to a broken, useless umbrella.

. . . Pain is unpleasant, uncomfortable, or unwanted experience.  Suffering is everything we do to avoid feeling pain.

. . . Pain is an inevitable. Suffering is optional.

My path to becoming a mindfulness-based therapist grew from an deepening understanding that all of our attempts to avoid pain actually lead to suffering, which is a great realization, but then, what’s the alternative?  Instead of avoiding and resisting our experience, we learn to be present to it. And this is the key to eliminating suffering because when are no longer resisting what is happening, there is space to be alive.  We realize that there is a wholeness inside of us that is vast and spacious enough to hold even the most painful experiences. We learn that we are so much bigger than our pain.  We learn to notice the beauty of the rain.

Mind Your Mind: What “The Secret” Kept Secret

Joyful Balance LLC Mind Your Mind

Many people were excited by a movie called The Secret, in which certain experts tried to explain the power of our thoughts in creating our own reality.  The examples in the movie were thin, focusing primarily on the acquisition of material objects and wealth and suggesting a kind of magical thinking: “If I simply want something badly enough, I will get it.”

This movie evoked a phenomenon I refer to as New Age Self-Hatred.  If my life is not going quite the way I want, then there must be something wrong with me (or at least with my thoughts), as if perfecting our thinking is the key to a life free from suffering.  As if it is even possible to have a life that is completely free from suffering.

And here is where many people get stuck.  They know they want to show up in their lives in a certain way.  They try to think positive thoughts.  But beneath the surface are hidden core beliefs, beliefs that seep out in unconscious gestures or habitual expressions, beliefs that are sending out signals about how they are really feeling.  It is these deeper intentions that shape the world we live in.

While pain (in the form of sadness, anger, jealousy, disappointment) is a natural part of being human, and while the level of discourse in The Secret is specious, there is truth in the idea that our thoughts ~ our beliefs, our emotional stories about ourselves and the world ~ have a tremendous impact on our experience.

Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan put it like this:

A person thinks, “Some day I should like to build a factory.” At this
time he has no money, no knowledge, no capability; but a thought
came, “Some day I should like to build a factory.” Then he thinks of
something else. Perhaps years pass, but that thought has been working
constantly through a thousand minds, and a thousand sources prepare
for him that which he once desired. If we could look back to all we
have thought of at different times, we would find that the line of
fate or destiny . . .  is formed by our thought. Thoughts have prepared for us that happiness or unhappiness which we experience. The whole of mysticism is founded on this.

If thoughts can accomplish this, so can love or imagination; even a
dream can accomplish it according to the impression which it makes.
Some thoughts are like things, like objects, other thoughts are like
beings. Some thoughts are like angels by our side, and some are like
devils. They are all round us, either helping us towards the
accomplishment of the objects before us, or drawing us back from
those things we wish to accomplish.

One of the reasons that somatic therapy is so powerful is that the mind does not exist only in our thoughts.  Neuroscience research tells us that there are neurons ~ the basic communication system of the mind ~ throughout the body, especially in the heart and in the gut.  The intuitions that we are trained to ignore (i.e., the gut feeling, the heartfelt sense) are in fact another manifestation of mind.  Somatic therapies, like Hakomi, allow us to include these channels of experience, so that transformation can happen on a whole-body level.  So often, clients say to me some version of, “I understand what you’re saying , but I don’t feel it in my body.”  This is where the full understanding of the mind ~ mindFULLness ~ creates a doorway to powerful transformation.  Including the body matters.

Believing is seeing ~ can you imagine a world where hummingbirds nest on a peach?

Believing is seeing ~ can you imagine a world where hummingbirds nest on a peach?

No amount of therapy (or meditation or prayer or . . . ) can completely eradicate the “inconvenient” emotions — sadness, anger, grief, disappointment, jealousy, shame, etc.  When someone we love passes away, it is natural to grieve.  When someone violates our boundaries, it is natural to feel anger.  However, our beliefs about these events, and about our natural responses to them, about ourselves as we experience them, and about what kind of world we are living in, have the power to shape that very world.  Therapy that works at the level of beliefs, including the whole body-mind system, truly holds the potential to change our minds.

For more information about Joyful Balance Counseling, please contact Rafia Rebeck, MA.

On commitment ~ Goethe

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy,
the chance to draw back,
always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative
there is one elementary truth
the ignorance of which kills
countless ideas and endless plans:
that the moment one commits
oneself, then Providence moves, too.
All sorts of things occur to help one
that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the
decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of
unforeseen incidents and meetings and
material assistance which no man
could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do or
dream you can, begin it!
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

~Goethe

Rafia Rebeck, MA, is a psychotherapist with Joyful Balance Counseling in Boulder, CO.

The power of the pause

Gardens offer a meaningful metaphor.  Soil is turned under, rich with compost, ripe with worms.  Weeds are pulled. Seeds are planted.  Sunshine. Rain.

*pause*

First sprouts . . . *pause* . . . seedlings  . . . *pause* . . . flowers . . . *pause* . . . fruit.

IMG_0727

The pause between planting and reaping is important.  Elapsed time allows for Things To Happen.  Fortunately, Life offers variety.  Lettuce greens sprout fast and easy, giving the gardener a sense of (near) immediate gratification.  The taste buds are satisfied.  But the sweetness of watermelon requires patience, waiting, the juicy non-urgency of Time.

In a culture that loves performance, activity, diligent doing, it is easy to overlook the fallow periods, the essential moments of rest and patience and waiting that make growth and activity possible.  While the activity of planting and cultivating are necessary, a seed will only sprout when it is good and ready.  This is true for our own growth and development as well.  Nothing can be rushed.  Everything in its own due time.

What eventually grows, in the garden or in the heart, is a function of which seeds we planted in the past.  It is a matter of attention.  The seeds we sowed yesterday ~ either consciously (by carefully creating furrows in the soil and gently dropping in seeds) or unconsciously (by ignoring last years weeds and letting them spread) ~ bear their fruit in our present.

The same is true in our hearts, minds, and relationships.  Therapy is a way of tending one’s inner garden ~ weeding out old thought patterns, sowing new behaviors, fertilizing with lovingkindness, cultivating with mindfulness and self-care, and harvesting the rewards of our efforts and intentions.  The seeds that are planted today ~ the stories we tell about ourselves and the world . . . the choices we make (or don’t make) to meditate, exercise, act with kindness ~ show up as fruits tomorrow . . . *pause* . . . or the next day . . . *pause* . . . or the next day.

Whether the seeds we plant grow into flowers or weeds is a matter of attention and intention.

That they will grow is simply a matter of time.

Rafia Rebeck, MA, is a psychotherapist with Joyful Balance Counseling in Boulder, CO.

We begin in the name of balance . . .

IMG_0470balance = sunflowers in a rainstorm

Every breath is an invitation, an opportunity to begin again . . . and again.  With each breath, whether consciously or unconsciously, we are drawing into our bodies the inspiration for this particular moment.  When we take the time to set an intention, and allow that intention to rise and fall with our breath, we are engaging in a radical process of personal, internal re-organization.  Beginnings are important.  Intentions are important.  Breath is important.

In this particular beginning, I hold an intention of contented equanimity . . . of joyful balance.  What does it mean to live a life of balance?  How do we aim ourselves in the direction of balance so that we find ourselves ever-so-slightly on its joyful bank?  And why ever-so-slightly?  Why joyful balance?  Why not EXTREME JOY?

It is my experience that Life prefers balance and rhythm over intensity and extremes. To give credit where credit is due, I am not the first person to notice this.  The Taoists have long-advocated for going with the natural flow, rather than fighting against it.  The Buddha called his path the Middle Way.  Time spent in the natural world reveals the Earth’s balanced rhythms . . . spring follows winter follows fall follows summer follows . . .

The heart has ways of finding balance, too.  If we spend our lives chasing extreme joy, Life often serves extreme sorrow in its wake.  In a sense, we can be forced into balance by swinging radically between extremes.  Or we can aim a bit more for the middle, where joy and sorrow still exist but perhaps with less devastating and destabilizing consequences.

The most immediate, inherent, intimate reminder of balance is our own breath.  Inhale follows exhale, whether we like it or not.  The beauty of the breath is its persistent pulse, its ongoing rhythm of invitation back to this moment, back to our intentions, back to the beginning, again and again.  What is your intention as you draw in this breath . . . and this breath . . . and this breath . . . and this . . . and . . .

Rafia Rebeck, MA, is a psychotherapist with Joyful Balance Counseling in Boulder, CO.