Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Getting Involved

I hope your Thanksgiving was as good as ours. We went to Florida to visit Shelby's relatives that we do not see very often. In fact, she was able to reunite with her brother and sister who she had not seen in almost 15 years (since the death of their father). It was a wonderful experience for everyone involved and I was glad to be there for it. It was all brought about by a dream one of her aunts had. Her aunt acted on the dream and helped make the reunion happen. The love was everywhere despite the anxiety leading up to it.

During conversations with her family members, I learned things about everything from gardening techniques to remodeling tips to interpersonal relationships. The wealth of information learned on this trip is greatly appreciated. In fact, at the end of this note, I will share the tips related to fostering loving relationships since I feel this information is valuable to everyone who wants to have a loving relationship.

One of the key pieces of information that I have learned previously and have been trying to remember is summed up by this quote, "When someone makes a statement, they are not asking you for something. If they are, they need to ask it." This seems simple enough, but I have found that I am in the habit of automatically jumping into action when someone makes a statement that implies they are in need of something. This gets you into trouble though because it is based on an assumption, which is based on projection, which is based on past experience or programming. I have been focusing on not jumping in to fix things when a problem is stated and it seems to make life less complicated and more clear cut. If you find yourself doing the same thing, you might want to try refraining from assuming the role of fixer before someone asks for your help.

Shelby and I were discussing this and other things on the drive back from Florida and we stumbled on an issue I wanted to come to terms with. How and when do you offer help to someone who you think needs it but who may not know they need help or even want it. Or, when do you get involved when you see something happening that you know does not need to happen and will have negative outcomes if it continues. A basic example of this is when you see a parent mistreating a child. You can see that the situation is a continuation of the same old cycle (i.e. parent mistreats child, child later becomes parent and mistreats their child, etc.) and yet it's not your place to intervene. Or is it? Do you ignore it if it doesn't directly affect you and just let the parties involved live the lives they were intended to lead? They have their life lessons to learn after all.

We were debating this issue and not getting any clear resolution. There is an obvious problem in that the observer is assuming that he or she has a better solution to the situation. The degree of separation also has to be considered. It makes more sense to offer helpful suggestions to a family member in need than it does to a complete stranger. We kept going back and forth on this because I was looking for some rules of engagement to know when to get involved and none were evident.

As we stopped the conversation we stopped for a quick bite to eat. While eating in the car, we realized that we had parked right next to a case of exactly what we were discussing. The man and woman next to us were arguing about something. She was very pregnant and standing in front of the car refusing to talk to him or even get back in the car. A young boy was in their back seat crying and an elderly woman was in the passenger seat sleeping (I'm not sure how). The man, after trying to tell the woman to get in the car because her son needed her, decided he would give her to the count of five to get in the car or he was leaving without her. At this point I wanted to do something, but had no idea what to do without knowing what they were fighting about.

Well, after counting to five he started to leave thinking she would give in. Of course she did not. He finally made good on his word and left. We just sat there and continued to eat. I felt quite bad. After about 10 minutes she had sat down on a bench and cried a little. I finally went over and asked her if she was okay (unsure as to what to say). She smiled and said yes. I asked her if she was sure and she nodded. I said that I just had to make sure and left.

We sat in the car for another minute before we hit the road again. I started second guessing what I should have said, and quickly realized that it was a waste of time and that I had said exactly what I was supposed to say. We also discussed the fact that she was at a busy gas station with a phone inside if she needed to call someone. Though I was reassured by the fact that she would be okay, it was difficult for me to get it out of my mind.

The next day, on our second leg of the trip home, we parked at a rest area. While I was waiting for Shelby to return to the car, the woman parked next to us could not get her car started. She also could not get the hood up on her car after several attempts. This time I got out without an invitation to help and offered my services. I could tell she was a bit reluctant to accept help from a total stranger (which is a sad state of affairs in and of itself), but we were able to get the hood up. She smacked on the loose battery cable (as she had apparently done a number of times) and was able to get it started. She thanked me a couple of times and left. I felt good that I was able to help and was glad that nothing mechanical was wrong as I would not have been able to help with that.

Thanks to these situational gifts, I decided that there is not a clear cut time and place to involve yourself in someone else's life. There is no magical list of criteria to check against before offering a helping hand to someone in need of direction or assistance. It's all shades of gray. Oh well, maybe as I continue to grow I will develop a keener sense of when and how to get involved in another person's life. But I can safely say that I am glad that Shelby's aunt got involved in her life to help bring about a long overdue family reunion. Feel free to share any guidelines on getting involved that you might use as I would love to obtain a bit more clarity on this issue if there is any more clarity to be had.
Take care,

List of Relationship Tips (care of Shelby's aunts)
- Always kiss hello and good bye
- Have a meeting night once a week to discuss things that are on your mind
- Go for walks where you talk about what you like/love about each other and what you like/love about yourself (you can't love someone else unless you love yourself)
- Don't allow yourself to act as your partner's parent
- Lead a full social life together
- Alternate decision days (one person gets to decide what to do/buy one day and vise versa)
- Each person pick a hobby that they want to do with their partner (i.e. one person picks dance lessons, the other person picks tennis lessons)
- If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all
- Have a romantic date night once a month
- Don't be afraid to ask your partner for something you want

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Choose to be in control

It's been a while since I have dropped you all a line, but I have thought of it on numerous occasions (about every time I have a new realization). This is just a sampling of what I have been realizing lately that I felt compelled to share.

I've been paying attention to my own thoughts a lot more lately (i.e. practicing mindfulness) and learning a great deal about myself in the process. A great deal of what I do is based on habit or trained response. It's like the brain is a computer programed with a series of "if" "then" statements (if I do this, then I will bring about this result or avoid something else). This is basically the role of the ego.

The ego is a survival mechanism that helps us avoid injury as we develop. We innately try to avoid unpleasant things and instead bring about a pleasurable outcome. However, as we grow so does the ego's role in running our lives, which can become very detrimental to our development and prevent us from finding true happiness. Many of the books I have read recently talk in great detail about the ego but I won't delve too deeply here. Just to give you one example, when I was a kid I started smoking because I thought it was cool (despite my denial at the time). In fact, I could probably write a book of examples from my life alone on things my ego lead me to do that weren't in my best interest.

Now that I have become more aware, I have noticed that I have a tendency to always be doing something and allow certain things in my environment to run my life. This may be out of fear or a way to distract myself from dealing with something I'm not ready to deal with, but that's a discussion for another time. The bottom line here is that years of unconscious living has caused me lose sight of the fact that I have the ability to choose what I do and how I respond to my external circumstances, regardless of what my ego has to say about it.

In fact, the power of choice was expressed quite nicely in a recent article I ran across in the WNC Woman I picked up. I decided to type it up so I could share it with those of you who didn't have the opportunity to read it. Take a look at it and feel free to share any thoughts or comments you have on the subject (either via blog or email).
Take care,

PS - Thanksgiving is coming up and it's a great time to practice gratitude for all that you have. Gratitude is a wonderful thing so make sure you take time out to think about all of the things you have to be grateful for and feel free to share. Personally, I'm grateful for every single thing I've ever experienced as well as every person I have had the pleasure to communicate with, because it has all had the cumulative effect of making me the person I am today.

Women and Power: The Power of Choice
(from WNC Woman - November 06, p 25)

Throughout our lives as women, we are constantly called upon to make choices. For some, choices are an unwelcome burden, causing life to feel challenging at every turn. For others who make the same choices time after time, the idea of choosing may seem nonexistent. People who say that they have no choice have fallen into a state of unconscious habitual living, unaware as to how their sense of helplessness is constantly impacting their lives. And then there are those women who hold a higher reality, believing that they wield great power through the choices they make in every moment of their lives.

It is through these moments of choosing that we define our future and set into action our destiny for either insignificance or greatness. At times we are called to make choices that challenge our very foundation; “Do we stay or do we go? Do we pick safety or do we take the risk? Do we do what is expected or do we follow that inner voice that so often knows?” Then there are times when we make what may appear to be smaller choices; the way we treat ourselves, our attitudes and responses, even our first thought when seeing our reflection in the morning.

Whether large or small, our choices mold our future by directing the flow of energy and resources in our lives. We can all look back and see how some of our choices have caused us to completely change direction. We can also see how the choices we are making in this moment will affect us in the days, months and years to come. Even when we thing we are not choosing, we are making a choice. A choice to do nothing has the potential to set in motion events that can impact us for the rest of our lives.

As we grow in self-awareness, we more deeply understand that the conditions and circumstances of our lives are our creation. It is up to us to make choices that support us in having the lives we want and deserve. We also realize that no one else can make those choices for us; our choices are only ours to make. So the choice is literally up to each one of us. Do we hide our heads in the sand and delude ourselves by saying, “This really doesn't matter?” Or do we consciously focus on what we want, clearly choosing that which serves our highest and best and supports the future we so desire?

By consciously and wisely using the power of choice, we stand in our now moment aware of who we are, with head held high, clear in what we are doing and where we are going, knowing that through the choices we make today, a bright future is guaranteed.

By Barbara Waterehouse (Co-Minister of the Center for Creative Living -

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Anniversary Thoughts

Today is my two year anniversary. It was two years ago today (11/7) that I had my first grand mal seizure and was diagnosed with epilepsy. What an earth shattering event it was. A lot has changed since then and I am grateful for it all. In fact, I have learned to be more grateful for everything I have and everything I have been through as a result of this life altering event. I also think that it is no coincidence that it happened right around election time. At that time I was getting sucked deeper and deeper into following the political wranglings of our country's leaders and losing sight of what's really important: leading a joyful life.

Now, I have grown to realize that no matter who controls what country, I can be a whole person and lead a fulfilling life. I can choose not to let external issues control my life and find inner peace if I look deep enough. I can even feel compassion toward those people who have lost hard fought elections, even if they happened to be less than honest while in office.

Ultimately, the only things that can affect us directly are those things that we allow to affect us. We have the power to decide how to respond to what happens in our daily lives and my personal recommendation would be to respond positively regardless of the situation. Be good to everyone even if they are not good to you and you can tap into something that the Dalai Lama refers to as the "seed of perfection in all of us."

It's a tall order I know, but one that I am trying to implement in my life as the result of a diagnosis that I could have allowed to be an ongoing tragic event. Instead I can say that developing epilepsy is one of the best things that's ever happened to me. So, take care of yourselves and be grateful for everything you have.
Take care,