Be Fearless, Love, Garry

Lately I have been having these incredibly interesting life events simultaneously occurring. As I continue to open myself up to others regarding my personal history with mental health struggles and some of the causal factors of those challenges, more people, more articles and more connections are continually being revealed to me.

In psychology, Carl Jung calls this “synchronicity:”  events that are “meaningful coincidences,” occur with no causal relationship, yet seem to be meaningfully related.

For example, if someone recommends a certain book to you, then you happen to see a review of it in a magazine and then see a stranger reading it in the airport, there’s most likely a message in that book for you.  When three different people of no connection suggest you try something new, it is worth your effort to investigate. The universe has something waiting for you in these meaningful coincidences. I accept life’s synchronicities as little winks from the universe: “Keep going, Jane. You are on the right path.”

However, in order to be alert to life’s synchronicities, we must be fully present, or mindful.  As a reminder, mindfulness is: “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”

This is a picture of the artwork I keep on my office wall as a mindfulness reminder:

BeHereNow

It’s a lot harder than it seems, frankly. When I am at lunch with a friend, am I actually present mentally or am I thinking about the 3 things I need to do immediately after? When I am working at my “real job,” where the above artwork is framed, am I day dreaming about what I want to write about next on my blog? (Usually, yes…but we are all works in progress).

The most significant synchronicities have been in the revelation of connection through our shared experiences, particularly our common struggles:  real life stories of anxiety, panic attacks, major depression, anorexia and/or bulimia, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, alcoholism, prescription medication addiction, PTSD caused not only by military experience but also by rape and child abuse, suicide and suicide attempts. Real stuff. Scary stuff. But the stuff from which we are most deeply connected, if we allow ourselves to remove the shame and stigma.

Big name movie stars, athletes, news anchors, and comedians are braving the consequences and sharing the truth of their struggles with mental health. Parents, coworkers, college students, children, young adults and grandparents are opening up with confidants and professionals. I am hearing these stories first hand and know that the more we talk about these things, the more they will be lifted from of the darkness, free from shame.

Which brings me to Garry Frickin’ Shandling, of all people. As those closest to me know, I’m a sucker for anything biopic. Unlike a sitcom rerun that makes me run from a room covering my ears, give me a life story and I’ll inhale it faster than a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. But Garry Shandling? Isn’t he a dorky comedian who was in his prime during my college years??

Well, yes, I guess, but I’ve just recently learned so much more about his depth and process through the HBO mini series, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, produced and directed by Garry’s protégé, Judd Apatow.

Posthumusly, Garry Shandling, who died at age 66, has become a major contributor to my Synchronicity Posse. Below are  pictures on my phone from some of his diary writings, which he began in his earliest days of trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life, and continued throughout his explosive career.  His soul searching began as a result of the trauma he experienced as a boy through the loss of his brother at ten years old. His parents never acknowledged the death of his brother, nor allowed his grief. He wasn’t even permitted to attend his brother’s funeral.

I paused the show and snapped pictures, paused and snapped, taking photos of Garry’s personal diary and his words of wisdom and personal reflection. Each one of these had a personal meaning to me or was relevant to things I care keeping about: being fully present, being/becoming my most authentic self, being fearless, the power of vulnerability, just to name a few.

This is a screen shot of all that I accumulated… from Episode 1:

GarrysNotebooks

A writer. A spiritual seeker. A student of buddhism. Practicer of mindfulness. Also, often a pain in the ass, work-related perfectionist who was often difficult to deal with and overly sensitive. Was I watching a documentary on myself???

No, just my synchronistic soul brother, encouraging me to follow my path and be both brave and fearless at the deepest levels.

Because, of course, this is not the first time I have heard these exact words recently. Meaningful connection through occurrence. Synchronicity.

befearlessGarry

“Have the courage to feel your emotions in <whatever is important to you>”

Meditate on it, open up at the deepest level.

Be brave at the deepest level.

Be fearless.”

– Garry Shandling, Zen Diaries

Look for the 2 part series, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling on HBO:

https://www.hbo.com/documentaries/the-zen-diaries-of-garry-shandling

Rise

This post is for those of us who may have wanted to do something differently this weekend and are perhaps feeling some regret; maybe wanting to take back certain words or change some actions. It’s for those who feel they have let themselves or others down. For those who strive to be a positive example to their children, friends and families, but may have been tripped up by personal struggles. And for those who have been challenged by their physical or mental health.

We will Rise Up. A thousand times again.

This is for the thousands of students who Rose Up to their feet, who walked it out, in the March for Their Lives. You will move mountains.

In spite of the ache, we will Rise Up again, today and everyday.

“Just like moons and like suns

with the certainty of tides. Just like

hopes springing high,

Still I rise.” – Maya Angelou

I am with you. We are all connected. You are not alone.

Jane

Rise Up
You’re broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry go round
And you can’t find the fighter
But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out
And move mountains
We gonna walk it out
And move mountains
And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
And I’ll rise up
High like the waves
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousands times again
For you
For you
For you
For you
When the silence isn’t quiet
And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe
And I know you feel like dying
But I promise we’ll take the world to its feet
And move mountains
We’ll take it to its feet
And move mountains
And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you
For you
For you
For you
All we need, all we need is hope
And for that we have each other
And for that we have each other
We will rise
We will rise
We’ll rise, oh oh
We’ll rise
I’ll rise up
Rise like the day
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I will rise a thousands times again
And we’ll rise up
Rise like the waves
We’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
We’ll rise up
And we’ll do it a thousands times again
For you oh oh oh oh oh
For you oh oh oh oh oh
For you oh oh oh oh oh
For you
Songwriters: Cassandra Monique Batie / Jennifer Decilveo
Rise Up lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Inner Critic on Blast

I’ve been amazed by the support and outreach that I received after posting Down Day here on my blog and on Facebook.  Feeling propelled by the positive responses, I have had a million thoughts racing through my mind about what I want to write about next. My desk is surrounded by writing notebooks, old journals and a stack of books that guided me along my journey, any of which provide a hundred or more writing topics.  I can’t turn on the T.V. or open the internet without seeing an article on mental health. All incredibly inspiring – so what’s the problem??

I realized today that I had acquiesced to a self-imposed pressure of “perfect writing” (no such thing) for the “perfect reader” (anyone who I may be able to positively effect), after going public last week with some of my innermost thoughts and struggles.  Instead of writing for healing, I was frozen in perfectionist fear thoughts: “How is this story going to be interpreted?” “Who is going to judge me if I share this?” “Who am I to be writing with any authority on mental health issues??”  “My writing SUCKS and I have nothing of value to say!” DELETE YOUR BLOG, YOU BIG.FAT.DUMMY!!!”

Whoah. That escalated quickly.  The Inner Critic had armored up and was using FEAR as her weapon of choice.

I think I have my topic.

The Inner Critic wants us to stay small and quiet in order to feel safe. She hyperbolizes negative thought patterns and seeks to minimize growth and healing. Fear and the IC rely on one another, just a like a couple of BFFs, and they love to treat us to episodes of “Lifestyles of the Anxiety and Panic-ridden.”

So what can we do to quiet this Inner Critic in order to live more joyful and authentic lives? We must first learn to take away her power, which thrives in fear, shame and feelings of unworthiness.

“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our FEAR of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” – Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Sometimes I need to break things down very simply in order to fully process them, so let me do that with this quote:

  • The dark = traumatic experiences, things we keep hidden from others & sometimes ourselves
  • does not destroy = has no power over
  • the light = joy, love, happiness, shared common experience
  • it defines it = through our processing, acceptance and integration of the most difficult times of our lives, we are able to fully live as we are intended; our highest purpose & most authentic selves
  • It’s our FEAR of the dark = our worry over possible outcomes or side effects of dealing with the scary stuff
  • that casts our joy into the shadows = we are deprived of a life of joy if we allow fear to define and control us

So, in applying this quote to my writer’s block:

  • The dark = my inner critic
  • does not destroy = has no power over
  • the light = helping others through shared common experiences, personal healing
  • it defines it = years of accumulated negative self talk and personal judgement want to keep my in my safety zone, but I no longer want to live in that constricted space
  • It’s our FEAR of the dark = if I “go there,” share too much will I be rejected? what does the future hold if I continue on this path?
  • that casts our joy into the shadows = swirling thoughts, distraction, the voice of the inner critic could win out over the light, if I let them

I used writer’s block somewhat lightly as an example of how we can quiet the voice of the Inner Critic, but this process works in breaking down deeper issues as well.

For too many years my joy was cast to the shadows because I was afraid of the repercussions of acknowledging my real life struggles. I honestly didn’t think I could handle the reliving and retelling of some of those traumatic experiences, so I listened to the voice of the Inner Critic who affirmed my fear and feelings of unworthiness. But suffering endured and true joy was cast aside.

The good news is that the Inner Critic is disarmed in the face of mindfulness, love and self compassion. Now, when she starts yammering away, I acknowledge her: “Oh hey there, IC. Let’s have a chat. I really don’t need you here anymore. Fear does not control me. I am not ashamed of who I am. I am driven by the light. And light overcomes your darkness.”

If you struggle with the loud, obnoxious voice of an Inner Critic, disarm her. You can learn how to take a few steps toward deescalation by listening to this short guided meditation: “A Basic Meditation to Tame Your Inner Critic.” There is such relief to be found in the silence. You deserve to rest.

Down Day

I used to get really scared when I was having a Down Day. You know the feeling, the one that many of us call the “Sunday Scaries?” It’s that, “I feel sad and I don’t know why” on a random Tuesday feeling. When this happens to me, I typically run through my checklist of usual worry suspects – kid stress, work concerns, sleep deprivation, familial arguments,  friendship issues – to identify a culprit. On a Down Day, the check list typically comes up empty and what’s left is a case of the Unknown Scaries.

The Down Day feeling is a gnawing heaviness; a general malaise perhaps, to put it fancifully. My husband asks, after observing my quiet and distant behavior, “Are you okay?” and I answer, “Yes, I’m just having a Down Day.”

On a Down Day, a tear sits at the ready, waiting to emerge at the tiniest bit of distress or even a kind word.  Not a heavy duty, cleansing cry.  Just a few damp escapees down my cheek that expose hidden sadness to those who may cross my path. Tears, those traitors.

Most of my life was spent white-knuckling my way through a Down Day. Ever fearful that if I stopped moving, stopped numbing, another D, depression, would overtake me, beat me down and exile me. I had to move faster than the depression, like a storm you see in your rear view mirror that is quickly catching up to you.

GO GO GO. DO DO DO. Anything except FEEL FEEL FEEL. Feeling was scary and brought with it too many unknowns. I had convinced myself that my feelings were too much and way more than I, or anyone, could handle.

“The cure for pain is in the pain.
In Silence, there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.”        – Rumi

One gets to the point, however, where white-knuckling, busy-ness or any other false coping mechanism no longer work as “feeling avoidance strategies”. That storm in your rear view mirror catches up to you because, as Rumi says, the “cure for pain is in the pain.” We must sit in and then go through pain in order to get to the other side of it. Going around it? Not an option.

I have experienced adverse life experiences that span in time from early childhood through adulthood. No wonder on a random Tuesday the effect of this accumulated trauma may periodically show itself, often times without warning.

What I have learned in sitting with the pain, whether that is in a therapist’s office, in meditation, or in a mindfulness practice, is that when the deep pain and hurt reach out to you on a Down Day, they need to be attended to with compassion and love.

Our tendency is toward avoidance or covering up of the pain. Put on a mask of happiness and go on with our lives. However-

“What we resist, persists” – Carl Jung

Avoidance and numbing strategies create resistance to what is presenting itself, which then results in increased anxiety and depression. If we want to minimize Down Days, we need to do the opposite of resist: accept and allow.

So, what does it look like to “Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves” per Rumi? How do we stop doing and start feeling? Stop numbing and start healing?

For me, it’s an acceptance of, and sinking into, the flow of life’s ups and downs, acknowledging my feelings through stillness and meditation, along with a combination of self-compassion and self-care.

Self-compassion as defined by Kristin Neff, PhD., “requires the we stop to recognize our own suffering. We can’t be moved by our own pain if we don’t even acknowledge that it exists in the first place.” So, on a Down Day, I try to increase awareness, decrease avoidance and offer up some love.

For example, in meditation, I send love to the hurt parts of my emotional and physical self. I literally put a hand over my heart to comfort myself, and then connect with the love and light I send to those hurting places. Some times tears flow as a part of this practice, but when acting within the realm of self-compassion, I no longer think of them as traitors. Instead, they are truth – the truth and authenticity of my story. I feel you. I see you. And I honor the pain and suffering that I share with you.

Self-care can come in any positive action that feels comforting. For me, self-care is crawling into my bed with a good book or to watch a silly reality show, being with my family, snuggling with my dogs or even a mani/pedi. For others it may be a bath, watching a movie, or a phone call with a friend.

Self-care is also prioritizing my own mental healthcare even when my bank account, fear or life’s unexpected circumstances say I should cancel. I have stuck to this self-imposed guideline for the better part of three years and it’s the best gift I’ve ever given myself.*  Healing was not possible for me without intensive therapy.

Instead of being scared of a Down Day, I now know these times are the indicator that my innermost self needs a little love and attention. Sometimes there is a clear cause of the darkness; other days not-so-much as a clue. If you get a case of the Down Days, I hope that the combination of avoiding resistance through mindfulness and mediation practice, self-compassion and self-care will help you feel less scared too.

_____________________________________

*I highly recommend therapy for anyone battling anxiety, depression and PTSD. Keep looking until you find someone you can afford, who takes your insurance, etc., and make it a top priority for yourself. It took me multiple attempts over the years to find the “right” therapist, but when I did, it positively changed all aspects of my life.

Butterfly Kisses

I can’t remember exactly what chain of events lead me to the book E-Squared by Pam Grout in my early days of self discovery.  Whenever I sat down to read or write, it was a completely organic process. One word or phrase would lead me to another, and before I knew it, my Amazon Prime account was activated yet again.

I credit E-Squared with kicking off my next phase of higher education. The subtitle of E-Squared is “9 Do It Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality.” The theory is that each of us can affect an invisible energy source with our thoughts and actions. Revolutionary. At least to me.

Esqauredbook

The idea behind the book is that in conducting the nine fairly simple experiments the reader would have proof in the existence of this higher energy field and how thoughts and actions effect the results. Pam Grout calls this energy the FP or Field of Potentiality.

Experiment #2: The Volkswagen Jetta Principle: You Impact the Field and Draw from it According to Your Beliefs and Expectations, rocked my world.  At the end of each experiment there is is a “lab report” where the the principle and theory are explained and the reader documents his or her approach, application and result of the theory. Each experiment has a defined time limit to produce the result. For #2, I had 48 hours.

The theory of this experiment is that you impact the field of potentiality and draw from it according to your beliefs and expectations. The question to answer is, “Do I really expect to see what I want to see?” Pam’s direction was to see an unusual color of color of cars (specifically sunset beige) and butterflies. I read through the experiment and documented the time: 12:19 am.

I made notes in the lab report and affirmed that I would see butterflies and sunset beige cars in the next 48 hours. I went to sleep repeating these thoughts in my mind. Not, “I HOPE I will see…” but “I WILL see…” apparently there is a very different energy to those two statements. HOPE insinuates lack or scarcity, while WILL is an affirmation of what already is. In order to draw towards you what you want, it was important to be operating only in this positive space, or vibration.

I fell asleep late and was awoken the next morning by my youngest daughter. She jumped on my bed and laid right on top of me. “Wake up, Mommy! Wake up! I’m going to give you BUTTERFLY KISSES to wake you up!” Butterfly. Kisses.  She said it over and over as her soft eyelashes brushed against my eyes.

I was so blown away by this example of the FP that I actually wrote and shared it with Pam Grout. I was also shocked when she wrote me back and asked if she could share the story in one of her next books.

E-Squared introduced me to a new realm I had been completely unfamiliar with until then. The more experiments I performed, the more the results solidified my belief in this universal energy. Pam’s book lead me to study more about the Law of Attraction and the work of Abraham-Hicks, among others.

As exciting and profound as this new-to-me energy source was, I get a pang of discomfort when I read through my notebooks at the time.  After a couple months of writing, I can see a sense of frustration setting in.  A sense of “I’m not happy enough, vibrating highly enough, just not good enough” to draw to me those things that I thought I wanted. The initial excitement of the experiments had worn off and old anxieties started creeping back into my life.

I didn’t know then what I know now: I needed a softer side of manifesting. I really didn’t want things. I wanted deep healing of the hollow in my heart. Finding 3 dimes on my walk through the neighborhood wasn’t quite going to fulfill that longing. Universal energy, I learned, was an essential piece of the puzzle towards healing, but not the whole enchilada.

Top Ten Lists

Five years ago (2013) I came across an article on the wholistic living website, Mind Body Green, that changed my life because it caused me to examine how I looked at the world, the way I lived in the world and how I understood myself. The article took up residence in my psyche and planted a seed that snowballed into years of reading, research and intensive therapy.  Sometimes the message was in the forefront of my brain affecting all of my decisions. At other times, it was deeper and harder to access but it never was far from my consciousness. The truth of that article resonated so deeply within me that I knew my life’s work was somehow centered around the information contained within the 500+- word post. I had no idea how,or what my “life’s work” looked like, only that the content activated within me a need to know and understand more of the topic.

I was drawn to the article because of the title, “10 Ways to Become Your Most Badass Self.” Who couldn’t use more bad-assness in their life?? Immediately I was sucked in, as a good title should do. At the time, I was feeling anything other than badass; more like fearful, anxious, lonely, disconnected, unworthy and borderline depressed.

Just like any “Top 10 Tips to X, Y, Z,” article, the headline conveyed that it had the answer – all the answers. A few tweaks here or there and I’d be “fixed.” Fine-tuned, Bad-ass-Jane, at your service! Super-sized, please! I’m in.

But, alas, the information that followed the headline was much deeper than any 10 step, quick fix program. Damn it. Sold me a bill a goods.

What I wanted:

  1. Wake Up at 7:30 am.
  2. Do 20 sit ups.
  3. Walk a mile.
  4. Make a to-do list.
  5. Less Netflix.
  6. More healthy foods.
  7. Go to bed by 11 pm.
  8. 9. 10. More of the same: clear cut, unambiguous steps.

What I read:

To become our most badass, we must live the most authentic version of ourselves in order to transcend states of anxiety, stress, fear, loneliness or unhappiness. W-T-H. Then more: The balanced center between our inner and outer worlds is found in our Spiritus, which is Latin for spirit, breath, soul, courage, and vigor. When feeling sad, confused, uninspired, tighten the S-Link.  “Tear down the wall that fear built inside you which clogs your passageways to reach The Spiritus.” Spiritus, then, is the truest expression of who we are.

Balanced center of inner and outer worlds. Balanced center of inner and outer worlds. The phrase repeated over and over in my brain. What does that mean? What does that look like for me? Where are my easy and actionable 10 steps!? Instead, this seemingly rag-mag style headline asked me to:

  1. Figure out who I am.
  2. Go slow and steady.
  3. Trust my path.
  4. Be fearless.
  5. Tell my truth.
  6. Move and sweat (finally, a step I understood!)
  7. Look with love.
  8. Practice patience.
  9. Remain in the moment.
  10. Practice gratitude.

Item number one threw me. The writer suggested I “peel back the layers and let yourself be seen…Behind the body, behind the spiral of your overactive mind, deep inside where you feel your breath, that is where you will find yourself.”

I realized for the first time, I truly had no idea what an authentic version of myself looked or felt like. I had lived as a chameleon, changing myself to match whatever was presented to me externally.  For 40+ years, I allowed the outside world to dictate who I was and how I felt about myself. Faced with this reality, it was no wonder I felt like I was spinning out of control, drowning, and miserable.

These daunting 10 steps were not what I was looking for when I pulled up the article, they were, however, exactly what I needed.

This is my story of a deep, deep dive into the truth of my life story; excavating all the way down to my most authentic self and finding worthiness. Finding a woman who has value in all her cracks and flaws. Finding a woman who loves to love and loves to laugh. Finding a woman who forgives. And finally finding FREEDOM through the balanced center of my inner and outer worlds.

*******

Inside the cover of my first major writing notebook – 9/23/13. Drawing and doodling concepts I read helped me process the information.

dipictionofspiritus

First page of notes – 9/28/13. Top line references the article referred to in post above.

first spiritus link notes