What are you saying to yourself?
I recently heard a song by the Lumineers entitled Charlie Boy. Before the band sang the song, one of the members shared what had inspired the song. He said it was inspired by his uncle Charlie. Though the singer never met Charlie he knew him from family stories.
The story went that Charlie was a smart kid, who liked school and had figured out early on that he wanted to be a doctor. This Charlie had big dreams and worked hard to achieve them. He went to college, was accepted into graduate school, and was well on his way to achieving his goals. Then one day, he heard a speech by John F. Kennedy that so inspired him, that he made a decision to put all his dreams on hold in order to enlist. Instead of becoming a doctor he volunteered to serve in the armed forces, went to war and was there for thirty days before he was killed
In the introduction to the song, the singer talked about the importance of words. In this context, the words of a revered leader which had a profound impact on Charlie. I was reminded, as I often am lately, of how what we say matters. I am reminded of the power of words. You may notice how easily people seem to toss words around without any thought or understanding of the impact or influence of them. Over my lifetime I too have been inspired by words. I also have been hurt and wounded by words.
As a mental health counselor I think about the power of the words we say to ourselves, I am privy to the hurtful words that people tell themselves, words that they would never utter to someone that they care for. These words come into our minds because someone slung them at us, or as a result of miscommunication. Sometimes we tell ourselves a narrative to help explain difficulties we experience or too manage angst.
It may or may not come as a surprise but one of the very best things we can do to support our mental health is to listen to how we talk to ourselves, offering as much grace to ourselves as we do to those we love. Observing and changing self talk is an intervention which costs no money and has significant results. Pay attention! Be kind-to your self as well as others.
Edited by Anne Dukes
Hi ya, doggy!
Recently while out on an early morning walk with my dog Abby, we passed a mother pushing her child in a stroller. The child called out in a clear, lilting voice- “hi ya doggy!” This simple greeting contained so much joy and enthusiasm that I had no choice but to grin from ear to ear. As I continued my walk, I began to think about this child’s response to seeing my dog. It was clear that he had yet to develop any preconceptions about dogs such as, is a dog friendly or dangerous. His greeting was basically: I am so excited to experience another creature- yahoo! A few weeks later, I was stopped at a traffic light on the corner of Church Street and Commerce Drive in Decatur and noticed a young man crossing the street. I caught his eye or he caught mine and both of us offered the other a big toothy grin. It honestly felt like a sacred moment. It felt like an understanding passed between us, something akin to the expression of Namaste, the divinity in me greets the divinity in you! Both of these encounters, not only lifted my spirits, but provided food for thought as well.
What would the world look like if we were able to let go of our preconceptions of the other? What would the world look like if we simply offered each other eye contact and a smile? How is it that I feel differently when I acknowledge and extend well being to the other? What can shift for us when we approach the world in an open wholehearted way? Is it possible, in a time when everything seems so complicated, that in opting for the simple we can lighten the load for another and lift our hearts at the same time? “Hi ya,” from one human to another! Sending light and love to all readers.
The Broken Heart
An unimaginable event occurred in the life of close friends recently. It is not my story to tell so I will not share their story. What is my story, as will be yours at some point, is that tragedy will occur, not only in our lives but in the lives of people we love. My post today comes as I experience my own grief for people I care for and as I am witness to their grief. I know that grieving is necessary for healing and healing does not mean the world will ever be the same.) Without a welcome to this knowledge, I have learned and now understand that allowing grief is an important component of living a whole life. In the book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow, the author quotes a piece from a poem by Diane Levertov, “To speak of sorrow-works upon it-moves it from its crouched place barring the way to and from soul’s hall”. For me, the starting point in grieving is to allow the awful, hollow, dark, dread, overwhelming sadness to be felt. I propose we must allow tears, to wail and beat the wall with our fists if necessary. If we try to contain, ignore, or repress a deep searing sadness then we lay the groundwork for a significant shit storm to occur in our lives. Please understand there is much more to this process known as grief. My belief is when we give ourselves permission to simply feel the pain, then we can get to the other side in a way that allows us to meet the world with hope, love, strength and courage.
Bumper Stickers and Self Help?
I recently saw a very clever bumper sticker which read, “DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK”. In last week’s post, I wrote about the forest of our minds and how a dense clutter of thought, motivated by fear, limits our ability to lead a whole and healthy life. In the forest of scary thought we may hear a whispering of, “ I am not good enough OR I don’t matter,” These are just a couple of thoughts that can sabotage our living. There are countless more whispers of sabotage and if we pay attention to our thoughts we may begin to recognize the ones that need to be cleared from the undergrowth. Not only does clearing the undergrowth allow us to see more clearly, but to hear more clearly the stories we tell ourselves.
One of the most powerful ways we can create space in our minds is to be curious regarding where those thoughts come from. Pretend you are a private detective on the lookout for clues leading to formation of cluttering, fear-generating thoughts. In her book, Rising Song, Brene Brown, writes that one thing that allows people to rise strong is that , “…they get honest about the stories they’ve made up about their struggles and they are willing to revisit, challenge, and reality check these narratives…” Imagine a life lived without the whispers from the undergrowth. Wow!
(If you are looking for powerful ways to assist you in you journey towards health and wholeness read Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong as well as anything else she has written) Remember, you can’t believe everything you think!
The Forest in My Head!
From my back window, for the first four years of living in my house, my view included a bamboo forest. The forest was actually in my neighbor’s backyard. I imagined there were all sorts of creatures hiding in that forest. There were rats, snakes, maybe even a thieving human lurking in the undergrowth. A few months ago, the bamboo forest was cleared to make a nice yard for the new homeowners. It looks lovely! It is neat, clean, and spacious. I can clearly see what is back there.
After the forest was cleared, it occurred to me that the stories I created in my mind of what possibly might be in the bamboo forest generated fear for me. Maybe you too have experienced, a forest of thought, in which you mostly see “what’s out to get me” or “all the scary things that can happen.” If you observe that you live with more than your fair share of anxiety or fear, maybe it would be helpful to consider some “thought trimming.” Our minds can become very cluttered with thoughts that limit our ability to see. We do have the ability to create a more open, expansive, generous space in our minds. If you are interested in creating this space check out next week’s post!
The Next Step
Recently, I was fortunate to take a trip to Great Britain where we hiked with friends along the south west coastal foot path in the county of Cornwall. The hike was what I would consider moderate with occasional climbs. During the climbs, which definitely challenged my leg muscles, I had a mini epiphany. If I kept my focus on the next step, it seemed as if I reached the top with greater ease. It occurred to me that this insight is helpful as I make my way through other challenges in life. Keeping an eye focused on the next step instead of focusing on the challenge itself helped me. If you have “something looming large” – see if it helps to focus on the next step .