“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

~ Carl Jung

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Crackers

As a part of our family’s holiday tradition, we have English crackers at the end of our Christmas dinner.  The crackers come with a crown and a joke inside; and, I add an inspirational quotation and a small trinket of some kind.  At the end of our meal, we pop the crackers, don our crowns, and each person reads his joke and then his quotation aloud.  It is one of my favorite parts of our celebration; and, the perfect end of the day.

In selecting the quotations, I try to identify some theme that relates to what the members of my family have been experiencing over the past year.  This year my first thought was to use quotations related to change;  but, as I thought more about it, I realized that change was the theme last year.  In fact, change is the theme every year. The one constant in our lives is change.   

So, if this is simply a reality of our lives, what is it that helps us to negotiate the changes that we all experience?  I believe the most important factor is connection to loving, supportive family members and friends.    Having others share our joy in response to positive change multiples that joy exponentially.   A willingness to walk with another, as well as, the willingness to allow others to walk with us, through a painful experience is perhaps the greatest gift we can give or receive.  We tend to underestimate the power of our presence, our willingness to just be there in the experience together.

This time of year is filled with ritual and tradition.  Many may seem somewhat trivial – the menu, the trip to ride the Pink Pig, the annual cookie baking.    They are anything but trivial.   They are the very experiences that build our connections, our foundations.  These are the experiences that make our lives rich and worthwhile.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Finding Myself at My Center

Recently I attended a workshop.  One of the exercises we participated in went something like this (or at least, this is how I experienced the exercise):

Imagine a beautiful scene in nature.  It might be somewhere you have been before or it might be a beautiful place in your imagination.  As you allow yourself to be in that scene notice that you are feeling peace but at the same time you are feeling excitement.   The scene that comes to mind for me is an actual scene that I am fortunate to experience fairly often.  It is sitting on a boat, floating on a lake in North Georgia.  The sun is beginning to drop behind the mountains surrounding the lake.  The surface of the lake is shimmering with the reflected sunset.  It is truly a magical place and a magical time.  It always stirs those feelings of peace and excitement in me no matter what else may be happening in my life.

That state of peacefulness and excitement that you experience as you imagine your scene is who you are at the center of your being.  It is your true self.  Beneath all the reactionary emotions, under the everyday stress of life, this is you. 

Years ago I did a guided imagery with my therapist.  She led me in some relaxation breathing and then she suggested that I imagine a circular staircase.  As I descend down this staircase, I would sink deeper and deeper into myself, into my center.  What I found that day at the bottom of that staircase was a beautiful meadow.  At the meadow's edge in the shade of a tree was a bench.  As I sat on the bench, I was surrounded by light and I felt connected to something larger than myself.  I felt peaceful, safe, and contented.  That time in my life was not peaceful, so I used that imagery often to find a quiet refuge away from my sometimes intense feelings of fear, sadness, and anger. 

I have gotten pretty good at going to my center.  After much practice, I can pretty much access that place inside me whenever I have the need to do so.  I would encourage you to find that place in yourself.  Practice finding yourself at your center and spend some time getting to know yourself underneath all the stuff of everyday life.  I think and hope that you will find, as I do, that this is a journey worth taking regularly.   

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Listening to the Whispers of My Heart

As I have made my way through the last few months, I have found myself feeling compelled to create. I love making mixed media art canvases. My mother was a litte OCD when it came to keeping her house clean; my sister and I are certain that our love of scissors, glue, paint and ink is a direct result of not getting enough cutting and pasting time as children.
We are making up for it now.

These little canvases have helped me in so many ways. The messages they convey have come from within me, sent by my heart and soul to help me heal. They challenge me to believe in myself and in my capacity to find what is next for me. I can stretch and grow if I am willing to take risks and try new things.

They remind me that I am loved and that I have love to give to others. When this transition started for me, I asked myself the question: what do I believe my purpose to be?

The answer that came to me was a little surprising. I really felt that my purpose is to love. It seems a little simplistic and sort of hokey, but that's the answer that came to me. Love of family will always be my first priority, but this seemed bigger than that. I felt my purpose is to be a loving presence in the world.
And so as I look for that open window that must be out there somewhere for me, I will continue to listen and to follow the whisperings of my heart and to look for opportunities to open my heart and to be a loving presence.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Today is a beginning.  The start of something new - my first blog.  I am starting this blog during a period of transition in my life.  Among other things, I am a social worker and have worked in the same agency for the last 15 years, but circumstances change no matter how tightly we try to hold on, not matter how tightly our fists close around what we have in an attempt to keep things the same.  So, earlier this year, in spite of commitment to a program I had helped to build, concern for clients and the staff members I supervised, and the loss of my job and livelihood; I resigned.  It was an incredibly  difficult decision, but it had to be. 

I am not sure at the time I was aware of how profoundly the losses I experienced would impact me.  I lost a part of my identity and treasured relationships with long-time clients and colleagues.  With the loss of my income, I lost my sense of security.  Most importantly, I lost my community.  This was more than a job for me.  On the day of my resignation, I made a choice to open myself up to change and let me emphasize I am not a person who enjoys change, adventure or adrenaline.  But I chose change and so this transition started.

In the months since making this change, my emotional response has vacillated between two poles.  I am terrified about the uncertainty of what's next and wildly excited anticipating new possibilities.  Unfortunately I am most familiar and thus most comfortable with the terrified, what have I done, end of things.  I am working to change that.  I am working to live my life with both hands wide open to receive whatever life has for me.  I am working to live my life with both hands wide open to share what life gives me with others.  So, this blog is born.    So today with the beginning of something new, I am challenging myself and perhaps you, to continue to grow, to use whatever experience life has given to you.  Let's be willing to open our hands, let go of the past, swing out over the cavern of the the unknown, and reach for what ever it is that life has for us as we continue our journey. Let's live with both hands wide open!