Jun 242012

I recently stumbled across a blog written by Sam Parker. In it, he gave some terrific tips for speaking “no ego:”

  • Be humble. Understand you are a (small) part of the world. Service and patience should be your
top priorities.
  • Be teachable. Focus on what you can learn, rather than showing what you know. Remember that almost everything you know began with the work of someone else.
  • Listen more. Make every effort to truly understand what others are saying (beyond just words). It makes for better connections. Allow a small gap of silence before responding. Ask questions (and listen, again).
  • Appreciate people. Enjoy others’ contributions. Don’t squelch ideas or defend territory. Encourage people more.
  • Relax. Let go of the need to be right or win every time.



Mar 072012

Nothing spotlights sagging self-esteem stronger than when people judge others. Growing up, I was the supreme judge. A fat kid (I had to wear “Husky” brand pants), I constantly put down others in an attempt to pull myself up.

Looking back, I had good teachers; my family members were masters in the art of judgment. Around the dinner table, we would take turns picking on and judging one another. It got so bad during one Sunday supper that my brother’s new bride fled the dining room; our cruelty had reduced her to tears.

Teachers used to preach, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything.”  Even when I don’t verbalize judgments, I subtly communicate them and damage relationships.

I now know that judging serves me poorly. My judgments separate me from others, and above all I want connection in my life. I also know that self-esteem is an inside job; it must come from within, not by putting people down.

When judgments bubble up, they must be examined. Writers Carol Kurtz Walsh and Tom Walsh recommend applying “The 90/10 Rule.”  When judgment rears its serpent-like head and we experience a strong negative emotional reaction to another, assume that only 10 percent of our reaction is based upon the situation, leaving a whopping 90 percent that belongs to past.

Old habits are hard to break. Although my self-esteem is much stronger than it once was, I still catch myself becoming judgmental toward a person or situation at times. When I do, I try to remember the 90/10 Rule and these wise words: “When you point your finger at someone else, there are four fingers pointing back at you.”

Jan 092012

Many mornings, I ask for direction for the day and draw a tarot card. This morning, I draw “Patience.” My first thought is, “Damn!” Patience is not one of my virtues. Still, I couldn’t have picked a more perfect card.

I am frustrated; it is the second week of January, and I still feel stuck. 2012 was supposed to be a better year.

The card reminds me this is a time that “all that is required is to be simply alert, patient, and waiting.” On it, a pregnant woman patiently waits while the phases of the moon pass overhead.

Osho writes that we have forgotten how to wait. Yet, “the whole of existence waits for the right moment.” Nature knows when to let go of the leaves and when to grow new foliage. Osho continues, “In silence and waiting something inside of you goes on growing—your authentic being.”

I take a deep breath to allow this message to sink in. Once again, I am reminded of the Divine Order of life.


Dec 182011

Getting physical. Recently, I’ve been taking Pilates and yoga, dancing, and exploring acupuncture in an attempt to get more in touch with my emotions. I had been feeling stuck, and I sensed it was because I hadn’t dealt with some sadness and anger that had crept into my life.

My physical exploration is paying off. While I can’t quantify it, I am feeling lighter, and my creativity is at an all-time high.

Raphael Cushnir writes in his book The One Thing Holding You Back: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Connection, “Emotions are like weather, constantly passing through the landscape of your physical body.” He believes that to experience emotion we must first develop a keen awareness of physical sensation.

He writes, “Feel first, think later.” Instead of trying to instantly identify the emotion, scan your body for any physical sensation. Check your belly, chest, limbs, and head. I do this and I find a little catch in my right shoulder. I also notice my breathing is not relaxed. I don’t try to influence the sensation; I sit with it awhile.

Cushnir then suggests getting microscopic. Does the sensation move or stay fixed? Mine is fixed. Does it change? Does it have a shape? Interesting question. Yes, it does. It’s oblong. It feels hollow. I sit with it. Now it’s dissolved.

What is my mood? I am a little calmer, a little less restless. Chances are there are no emotions requiring my attention. Cushnir believes that when we slow down and check in with physical sensations, those emotions that require our attention will reveal themselves.

I am not sure that I totally buy into Cushnir’s process, but I do agree that one of the most effective ways to process emotion is through the body.

Nov 132011

After ninety minutes of “This planet is lining up with that planet in that house,” all I could remember was one sentence: “This stage of your life is about slaying dragons.” My friend Jim, a brilliant astrologer, was reviewing my natal chart.

Jim explained that I was being challenged to face my biggest fear, and it wasn’t going to be easy. As Bette Davis said in the classic movie All About Eve: “Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Career was easy for me, Jim said, but relationships were not. My emotions could be somewhat frozen. No shit, Sherlock, I said silently to myself.

Since my marriage fourteen years ago, I haven’t been in a relationship that’s lasted more than three years. Looking back on these relationships, I realize that almost every one of my ex-partners complained about my lack of feeling.

Several years ago after I broke up with the first man I had lived with since my divorce, I plunged into a dark space. I turned to a therapist for help.

The therapist helped me see that I had a fear of being present. I was also afraid to face intense emotion, especially sadness. In order to defend my heart, I covered it in a hard shell. I learned that in order to free it, I would have to go to the place I fear most: my sorrow.

For the past year, I’ve tried a wide range of modalities to help open my heart including ecstatic dancing, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, talk therapy, and psychic healing, but it wasn’t until I met with my ex-partner two years after our breakup that something in me broke open. There’s a rabbinical saying that the only true open heart is a broken heart.

In that meeting, I became the man I longed for: I was present, vulnerable, and open- hearted. The anger and hurt dissipated, and the love I felt for this man flowed through me.

For months, my therapist has been telling me to welcome the sorrow. While I understood what he was suggesting, I couldn’t imagine actually welcoming anything as painful as sorrow.

I know sorrow has been my muse. Sorrow has helped me create some of my best paintings and write some of my most poignant pieces, but it’s still tough for me to welcome it. Yet when my ex-partner and I talked I allowed my pain to penetrate me—if only for a minute. By becoming vulnerable and undefended, I rediscovered the love that had been there all along.

While I’m a long way from slaying the dragon, I got a glimpse of what life would be like without this dragon in my life. I now have a felt-sense of the man I want to be. I know what it feels like to allow love to freely flow through me.

Sorrow still scares me—any intense emotions do—but a tiny crack has appeared in the wall of my resistance. If I can keep chiseling away, I have to believe it’s just a matter of time before the wall crumbles. The dragon will be slayed.