Thursday, January 2, 2020

Creativity? Just Do It!

It seems that the time to write articles for my newsletter comes around every other day. I often make myself sit down. I have a commitment. I produce a newsletter that comes out every Tuesday at 9:30 AM Central Time, period! Some articles are better than others. Some are didactic while others are inspiring, yet, regardless of the quality, I do my best, in the moment, with each article. I prefer to write without interruption, but some of my greatest articles were written in the middle of mayhem. I write when life is dusty, and when the dust has settled.


Click image to see it larger.
This guitar was crafted by a farmer who was told,
in a near death experience,
to make instruments and give them to children.


Are there artists who never paint, musicians who never pick up their instruments, or bakers who never bake? Yes. I spent years imagining myself writing and being a good writer. There came a time when wishing, hoping, and visualizing had to give way to action. It was time to start writing. I sent out 2,500 hard copies of a newsletter for ten years. Some of my earlier writings were not only laughable, they were self-centered and poorly written. I usually didn’t have anyone to check for mistakes and the newsletters were riddled with dangling participles, misspellings, and nonsense. There was no spell check and the newsletter was put together by the literal cut and paste method, then taken to a printer.

Next, I went 14 years without putting out a newsletter. I did manage to write a couple of books, but I wrote less and less. Then I started another newsletter. Online newsletters were easier to manage. The first edition came out on Dec. 20, 2011. There were still plenty of mistakes, but Charles Heineke stepped in to assist, in 2012, and the quality of the newsletter vastly improved.

I’ve been putting out this rag for almost 12 years. Why do I do it? Why do I take ten hours out of my week and spend about $500.00 a year to make the newsletter happen? Because I am a writer, and if I don’t make that commitment, the song will die within me. I know me: I need something bigger than a round tuit.* My skills have improved over the years, but, lest they grow dim, I must continue to write.
The enjoyable part is rereading some of what I consider my great articles. I inspire myself. I know that if I were not committed to putting out a weekly newsletter, that they would never have been written. Often it is as simple as sitting down and listening to an inner voice, but sometimes I have to scrape my insides to find anything to say. At other times, I wake up and words come so fast I can barely write them down. It’s a rush – ideas flying through me and onto paper, and I am grateful. It’s the star moment of writing.
If we want our art flow through, we have to write it, play it, or sing it, whether anyone is listening or not. We must act when we are trudging through mud or even at a standstill. No one ever discovered me and encouraged me to write, but, fortunately, I may be my best fan – a must for artists! If we are good at something, we should do it. But, we need to live out our passions, even if we are not great performers or artists. As one can see, by the pictures I put in the newsletter, I enjoy art, but it’s not great art. I have an art section to force myself to draw on a regular basis. It may be messy and take time away from our daily lives, but the only way to participate in the depths of our creativity is to be creative.

Many people are motivated by money; they monetize their talents. But sometimes our books, our paintings, or our poetry doesn’t bring in the money we need to pay bills. Do it anyway. I don’t think how much money we make is recorded at the universal level, but how much we develop ourselves and give our gifts without expectations makes a mark in the ethers.

Here’s a question to ask every day: What can I do today to bring the brilliance within to light? Listen, then act. We don’t want to visit our talents; we want to develop them. We are the saviors of our creativity. No one is going to make us do what we want to do but fail to do. It’s not a moral issue. It’s an issue of the heart. Life doesn’t break our hearts. We break them when we fail ourselves. We can’t go with the flow when we are standing beside a dam. We all have talents, and when we use them, when we develop them, then life, for sure, gets EZier and EZier.

*Round Tuit refers to the saying  “I’m going to get around to it some day.”

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Building Happy Relationships


We are tribal people, pack animals, gatherers, and joiners. Solitary confinement, removing one from others, is a punishment or a tactic used to break people. Certain religions shun members who act outside approved behaviors as punishment for their supposed infractions. People are exiled from their country of origin. We don’t do well, as a species, when we are on our own for extended periods.

A therapist once spoke about helping people who had recently undergone an arduous boat journey to escape genocide. She expected to hear about the trauma of not knowing if they would survive, or the long, hot days at sea, but what she heard, on several occasions, surprised her. People wanted to talk about their relationships, not their endurance hardships. “He hardly even noticed me. He was looking at her.” “When we got to shore, she bolted, without a second glance at me.”

Relationships are important. While we don’t need to depend on any one person to meet our needs, especially when they don’t want to, we can expect that our need to feel a part of a pack, group, or family can be accomplished, and we can always have better one-on-one relationships. Once we pass the initial honeymoon phase of any relationship, when the fizzle wears off, we must take genuine heart action and become a giver of right actions.

We can’t wait for others to love us; we must become love in action, and in that giving we receive all the love we give. The St. Francis Prayer (I know. It’s widely accepted that St. Francis did not write the prayer, but it’s still a dynamite prayer!) says it clearly, “O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”

Here are ways to build healthier and happier relationships with those who are close to you. Some of these are appropriate for friends and family and some of them are not. All of them are helpful in special love relationships.
  • Smile at your mate/partner/spouse 5 times a day while looking them directly in the eye. This sends a signal to your loved ones that you are okay and that they don’t have to worry about you. Our loved ones often take responsibility for how we feel, and if they never see us happy, they feel guilty, mad, or afraid. Smiling is an amazing spiritual practice, so why not share that smile? This also conveys a unit of recognition; we all like to be noticed and to receive that confirmation of existence.
  • When your loved one leaves for work or to run an errand, say goodbye. Acknowledge their departure. Give them a hug or a kiss goodbye. Greet them when they return with a hug, a kiss, or a greeting. “Hi. How did it go?” Consequently, tell them when you are leaving, announce when you get home, and touch in with them.
  • Greet your mate when you wake up (if they are already awake). Give them a good morning hug, kiss, or a wave. If they wake up after you, greet them when you see them. “Good morning!” Be cheerful.
  • Tell them you love them, one or more times a day.
  • Give your significant other at least five hugs a day.
  • Tell your significant other something you appreciate about them, every day.
  • When your partner talks to you, pay attention. Don’t look at your cell phone and tell them you can hear what they are saying. Be present. Acknowledge what they’ve said so they know they have been heard. Nod your head occasionally, saying “I hear you” and say “yes” when appropriate. Ask questions to be sure you understand, or repeat back what they have said to show you heard them.
  • Hug 5 to 10 minutes a day while lying down. Don’t force your mate to do this. Do it only if it appeals to your mate. Forcing compliance erodes trust and pleasure in our relationships.
Without taking special care of our relationships, they waver. It’s like trying to wash a hand-knitted wool sweater in the washer. Doing so will ruin the sweater. We must take our sweater to the dry cleaners or wash it by hand in cold water and dry it on a flat surface. Relationships require more attention and care than do our sweaters. Do we take as much care with our relationships as we would when we wash our car or bake a cake? Relationships can be fragile, but when we take to time to nourish them, they gain strength and eventually become monuments of love and compassion. Better relationships make EZier lives, and, given the complication of contemporary living, EZier is more necessary than ever. Take it EZ, make it EZ, and have an EZ or at least EZier day.

Anne

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Sexual Healing


I once had a spiritual teacher who was a sexual predator. He was my minister, and, in many ways, my mentor. I should have seen his acting out, but I was naive and young. He raped a friend of mine, but I didn’t know that until 40 years later. If I had known, I would have left. I guess I did leave. My friend left the church and went to another church, and I followed her.

This man, a man of the cloth, opened many doors for me, although he had a shadow side that allowed him to take advantage of his position. I quoted him Sunday AM from the pulpit. I didn’t mention names, and as sad and horrifying as his actions were toward women, he helped me immensely. I don’t discount that. I would have been “out of there” sooner if I had been able to see the abuse, but my family history allowed me to deny it. I too was caught in an unhealthy sexual perspective, though I didn’t know it. I was a child of the sixties, and there was a sexual liberation movement that was well-needed, but with it came a time of experimenting. There was no AIDS, no herpes, but there were few heart-centered guidelines.

I had a friend who disclosed that he was a peeping tom. He was one of my best friends and he had always treated me with respect and admiration. He asked me to read Patrick Carnes’ book, Out of the Shadows. It’s about
sexual addiction. I cried when I read the book. It opened new doors of compassion in me. I never looked at my friend differently. I couldn’t excuse his behavior, but after hearing his confessions and reading the book, I saw a different point of view.


There are many women who are coming forth these days with stories of sexual abuse. People ask why they didn’t come forward sooner. Maybe it was fear, but, for me, it was because I was raised in a culture where men took advantage of women, and I didn’t even see it as wrong. I thought it was just, “This is what men do.” It was like a Stockholm Syndrome for our culture.

My husband has been great when it comes to sexual openness. He admits that he, too, has his sexual baggage. He was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, and, in their book, just being alive is practically unacceptable.
I once took my mom to a weekend retreat. She asked me some specific questions about sex. I was shocked at her naivete. She had three children, was married to a womanizer (I’m being kind with that assessment), and hardly knew anything about sex. I won’t go into details, but the generation I came from was one step away from Puritanism. Those values keep parents from allowing sex education in the schools and make sex a forbidden fruit, thus creating intrigue and mayhem around sexuality.

Take religious repression, violence, domination, and sexual liberation, mix them together, and you have a mess - a milkshake of sexual wounding. There are a few brave souls who address this. Of course, I had to put my toe into the turmoil, thinking I could contribute something of value. I gave a workshop on sexual pleasure and a seminar on sexual boundaries in the workplace, but I just scratched the surface. There’s not an easy solution, but there is a calling coming forth that demands that we, as a culture, take a closer personal look. Sexuality is a topic that, when explored, offers poignant possibilities for introspection. Sexuality is a part of the mind, body, spirit connection. It should be an intimate act, done in full awareness, that allows us to learn the deeper aspects of our being, because when we do, life becomes EZier and EZier.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Relationships

Relationships are the playing field from which we learn love and goodness. Without these indispensable basic elements, relationships are cold and dark. They imprison us in pain or limitations. Loveless relationships are full of competition, a relentless drive to get something, or the need to be right and prove the other wrong. Unhealed wounds are the source of punishment when the other friend, child, or partner does not meet one’s unmet baby needs! Revenge on one’s parents is taken out in the relationship.

Gina Lake puts in succinctly when she says, “What interferes with expressing love is the tendency to be absorbed in your mind and thoughts about yourself and what you want and need rather than about how you might express love.”

It’s not a pretty scene, the loveless relationship. However, relationships founded in lack, pain, power, and struggle have the potential to come alive through love. It is in the awakening to our true nature that love flourishes. Love surfaces when we surrender the egoic mind. Once we stop demanding the form love must take, we are free to become what we really are – love incarnate. This loves shines away the darkness in our relationship and even the darkest corner becomes a welcome potential to strengthen love. Focusing on love awakens deep compassion, and it is this compassion that allows us to see our partner, friend, or family member clearly. We cease to identify them with their actions and define them through their Essence.

Truly, the quality our relationships is dependent on our relationship to Source. When we know who we are and make a conscious effort to be the space for love to live, everything changes.

Are you ready for the change? How can you live love?

  • Don’t try to be right. Just drop the conversation that keeps love at bay. This is a game called right - wrong and it is designed to thwart intimacy.
  • Really listen to what your friend or partner is saying.
  • Heal your thoughts about your parents. Unhealed parental wounds not only show up in your relationships, they show up as your relationships. Acknowledge what your parents did to you. It’s not about blame. If a parent runs over a child with an automobile, it’s unintentional, but the child is hurt none the less. Truly acknowledge what happened, then forgive your parents, and drop it.
  • Pray for your friend or partner. Wish for him or her the best. Don’t try to coerce the Universe into getting more love or attention from your partner. Radiate your love toward your partner.
  • See yourself as whole and lovable when you are with your friend. Be aware of your self-talk. Don't use that inner voice to put them down. Don't think about what you want from your friend. Experience your lovability; drink in the ever-present, omnipresent love available. Keep your mind clean.
Relationships can be thought of as a spiritual pilgrimage. You enter with high expectations, stumble and fall, then discover things about yourself that would be hidden if you were alone, then heal those wounds, and finally share love from the deepest places. If you can’t go to India and see a guru and you desire the rigorous teaching of a master, just turn to your relationships and see them as your guru. If you open your heart and let them, they will lead you to love, and with love as your guide, everything is EZier and EZier.

Anne #relationships

Friday, September 7, 2018

Egonomics


There is a part of our minds that functions to limit us. Some call it ego; others refer to it as egoic mind. This idea does not refer to Freud’s concept of ego; in his model the ego is the mediator between our instincts and our social self. The term ego has undergone multiple transformations since it first appeared in Freud's psychoanalytic theory. Eric Berne brought the ego into cultural narrative with his theory on ego states. Berne divided the emotional states, or ego states, into the parent, the adult, and the child. Berne and others further subdivided these ego states until there are too many aspects of mind to keep up with without being trampled by the intellect! All respect to Berne. I think he was a genius.

People refer to someone who has an exaggerated self-image by saying she's all ego or that that's his ego talking. We say, “He has a big ego.” We use the term egotistical as a pejorative. People have even turned the word ego into an acronym. Easing God Out or Easing Good Out. Some people define the ego as a useful part of the mind; they prefer to befriend it. Others think the ego should be annihilated, and some realize that the ego must be carefully watched and tamed, lest it become the gatekeeper of our mental prisons. A Course in Miracles invites us to “Watch your mind for the temptations of the ego, and do not be deceived by it. It offers you nothing. When you have given up this voluntary dis-spiriting, you will see how your mind can focus and rise above fatigue and heal. Yet you are not sufficiently vigilant against the demands of the ego to disengage yourself. This need not be.

While many people dispute the circuitous route ACIM takes on the way to peace, the course nails the destructive element of the mind and refers to it as ego. Just as one uses the word love in different ways, people use the term ego to refer to different things. Regardless of whether we use the word ego to refer to someone’s grandiosity or use it to describe a part of our mind that takes part in the organization of the personality, it is helpful to have a word that describes a part of our mind that limits us. Egonomics provides that clarity and defines the ego as a part of the mind that limits us at every turn and thwarts our best efforts at healing unhealthy and ineffective beliefs, emotions, and behaviors.

Using the concept of the ego as a limiting device, here are some characteristics and thoughts about the ego and its function.
  • The ego’s foundation is fear. This is emotional and psychological fear. This is not the same fear one has when a bear runs toward them.
  • The ego bases its operation on protecting one from this fear.
  • The ego’s fears are illusory.
  • The ego fears its own destruction. The ego takes on a life of its own and uses the personality to fulfill its needs and pass on its legacy. This legacy is spirit poor and rich in control and divisiveness.
  • The ego feeds the mind endless stories of travail in order to cement its position in the psyche.
  • The ego’s motto is, “Seek, but do not find.”
  • The ego feeds on special relationships to get what it thinks it needs to stay alive and be in charge. This is “loving to get.” Naturally, this faux love has a self-serving agenda.
  • When we are afraid and upset and there's no bear around or other life-threatening circumstances, we are operating under the influence of the ego. When the ego rules, we live in a drunken state of fear.
  • It takes an ego to point out an ego.
  • The ego gets all its material from the past and then diverts the mind away from the present.
The above information seems daunting, but it can be liberating to expose erroneous mental constructs. It is revelatory when we understand that part of the mind is out to get us. We can refer to the ego’s plan as the ultimate plot for self-sabotage. Knowing that all its thoughts and feelings are not helpful, we can choose another way.

Operating under the influence of the ego is like having a road map that only goes to New York City. We load up the family to go to Florida, take out the New York City road map, and head out. We never get where we want to go using the New York City map. We use the same map on all trips, so whether we're headed to Hong Kong or Hilton Head, we always end up in the same place, New York City. That's what the ego wants. It wants us to end up in the same place with every mind trip we take. The ego wants us under its spell and it’s not a magic spell. It’s the spell from hell.
What is the way out? How can we sober up from the ego drunkenness? We sober up in one of two ways. We can go directly to wholeness or we can use stepping stones to wholeness. Either way leads us away from the ego and into the promised land.

The Direct Approach - Love. Love, accessed in the moment, dissolves the ego’s effect. Love is always present, and the direct approach is the fastest, easiest, and most accessible option.

The Stepping Stone Approach - Forgiveness. When blinded by ego’s effect, forgiveness walks us away from the ego. It heads us into our essence, which is love. We forgive others for not acting the way we want them to act because we want peace. Forgiveness means letting go of the upset that surrounds the situation, and, while it is difficult to let go of certain situations, it is never impossible. Why? Because we always have help.

“If you knew who walked beside you on the way that you have chosen, fear would be impossible.” (ACIM) When we believe life is hopeless, we are ego drunk. When we believe nothing works for us, we are under the influence. When we think situations or people hold the key to our happiness, we are under the influence. When we think the world is evil, we are under ego’s influence. When we stop and turn toward ever-present love, we stop the ego in its tracks. All doubt, all pain, and all hopelessness disappear. And that’s the good news. “Delay does not matter in eternity, but it is tragic in time.” (ACIM) The way out of pain is here. Jerry Jampolsky wisely proclaims, “Love is letting go of fear.” This path stands waiting, loaded with love, for a decision to abandon the map to New York City and to choose the path of love, and when we do, life is always EZier and EZier.

Anne