13 November 2008

The Object of My Affection

Love is about the subjective, not the objective. Too often we see others just in the way they exist for us, not in the way that they exist for themselves. When this happens, we "objectify" them. This term is often used in reference to the way women are perceived and presented in media and culture. One is objectified when one's inner life is disregarded based on what is better for the observer. i.e. when a person is treated like a piece of cake, tasty or not, good or not, to be eaten or thrown away by the one making those judgments.

If we want love to work, if we want love at all, we have to give it, not expect it. When we put expectations on another (and I'm not talking about common courtesy and respect) for who they should be for ourselves, we kill love. When we seek to put the welfare of someone else above even or own (not to the detriment of our own, but to go out of our way to support and love someone else) we discover beauty. When a person does this for many people, they are considered a saint.

So, the next time you are wondering about your relationship, about your love, trying loving instead of trying to receive. Give more of your time, more of your self, do something they love to do, just for them, because you love them and their happiness means something to you. And then you discover the true secret: that joy in life lies in actively loving and giving. As Mother Theresa said: “We can not do great things. We can only do little things with great love.”

24 October 2008

This Too Shall Pass

We are currently living through an historic time, a time that should be learned from and not repeated, but that will probably be forgotten or clouded over with the passing of time. But regardless of how the future looks back on us in this moment, this moment itself is one of intense stress and discomfort for many of us.

A friend of mine called me recently suggesting that I offer some thoughts about dealing with the stress of an impending depression, and the paralysis it is causing people in being able to continue to move and make changes in their lives. There is a beautiful Jewish parable that might be instructive for this moment:

One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, "Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot which gives you six months to find it."

"If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty," replied Benaiah, "I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?"

"It has magic powers," answered the king. "If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy." Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.

Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of he poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day's wares on a shabby carpet. "Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?" asked Benaiah.

He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile.

That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity. "Well, my friend," said Solomon, "have you found what I sent you after?" All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled.

To everyone's surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, "Here it is, your majesty!" As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: _gimel, zayin, yud_, which began the words "_Gam zeh ya'avor_" -- "This too shall pass."

At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.

04 September 2008

The Examined Life

The unexamined life is not worth living. ~Socrates

To examine one's life is a work of love for oneself and compassion for others. Although taking time for ourselves--whether we're daydreaming as we take a walk on a beautiful fall day or talking about our daily struggles in therapy--can feel self-indulgent, is it?

When we remain unaware of ourselves, we are unable to take responsibility for who we are in the world, and how we affect others. When we are unconscious of our motivations, desires, and fears, we act without insight, and repeat patterns that don't make sense anymore. We are reacting to the world through memory, rather than through lived experience.

Whether in therapy or meditation, talking with a friend or seeking God, when we take the time to look at ourselves and our lives, amazing things happen. Sometimes we are so busy trying to live a life that exists only in our minds, that we miss out on the life that is here, right now, waiting to be lived and loved.

27 August 2008

Honesty

Brutal honesty is one of the keys to satisfaction in life. But not the kind of honesty where you tell everyone what you think, no holds barred. No, true honesty is the honesty you have with yourself, your ability to take responsibility for your own feelings, thoughts, and reactions. And without that, honesty in relationships with others is almost impossible.

Often, we are very afraid to be honest with ourselves; it feels as if the sky will come falling down if we admit that we know in our heart of hearts that we really did mean what we said at dinner the other night. The difference in responsible honesty is that we are able to admit that yes, we meant what we said, but also, that we were saying it out of hurt feelings or anger or ...?

This kind of honesty can only happen in a safe environment. Couples often come to counseling in order to find that environment, to work on "communication and trust". These two things are completely intertwined, and cannot exist without the other. But we are talking about communication from the heart, realness. Not about what you're going to do, but about how you feel.

Sometimes we don't communicate how we're truly feeling to our partner because we are, in fact, being responsible. We realize that our partner does not deserve to hear or experience the wrath that we feel inside, that it has nothing to do with them. But we must reach beyond that type of holding in, if what we want is intimacy and connection. We must admit our own difficult emotions, but in a responsible way.

"You're right, I was being sarcastic. I guess it's because everytime you talk to him, I feel like you don't want me around, and that hurts my feelings."

Honesty requires trust, trust requires honesty. It is the circle of life, and we have to be willing to take some risks if we want to find that reward, that safe place of love that we long for.

07 August 2008

Summer's sweet recline

It's hard to think of getting anything done this time of year, the days seem to be only for moving slowly through the thick air of late summer. We've had such a lack-of-summer in the northwest this year, that every day with the heat seems even more important to cherish and savor, as difficult as it may be sometimes. Like a sweet summer romance that got started too late, and must end all too soon.

It's harvest time, a time for taking stock of gains and being grateful for what the year has brought. Soon we will enter into the winding path of Fall, inevitably leading towards Winter, and then off to Spring and Summer again. The rhythmic nature of the seasons is such a comfort, when we allow it to be so.

So as we lay on the hammock of late summer--whether actually or just emotionally--let's remember that one of the biggest holidays of the year in China is for the August Moon. That now is a great time to take stock of a year of productivity, to see how far we've come, and where we still want to go.

24 April 2008

Spring's Slow Arrival

With this Spring season's slow arrival, I've been reflecting on what it is we long for as we wait for the weather to change. What is it that spring brings?

In the pink of the cherry blossoms and the overflowing life of azaleas and rhododendrons, we recognize the hope for new life that we all carry inside. Add to that the contrast of a bright blue sky and you get the experience that we of the Northwest carry as a quiet little dream all winter long.

It is, indeed, the time for new life. And I find that every Spring is more beautiful in different ways than the last. The rains come and go, and the weather is full of life and movement. There is so much that nature has to teach us if we stop to listen just a little bit.

Mother Nature is a complicated presence who enlivens our hearts but also challenges us with violence and unpredictability. Yet, we never give up on her abiding and enduring presence. This presence exists in all of us as well.

The seasons are symbols that teach us about our own lives. They bring beautiful experiences and memories, but also a lot more than that if we take the time to look and feel what nature has to offer to our souls.

10 March 2008

Nothing to fix

Oftentimes, either when I first meet a client, or after we have been working together for a while, an issue that needs fixing presents itself. Usually, it is an aspect of the person that needs fixing, "I just need to fix this about myself" or "I need to change this about myself." Yet, though change is, indeed, in many ways the goal of therapy, it is not always what we think it is.

Being alive is a fluid, organic process. Our body is not the same second to second, with millions upon millions of cells splitting, dying, changing, and being born. Why should who we are be any different? We become stuck in our lives when beliefs about ourselves become entrenched. The same truth can be both terrifying and liberating: we are not one thing, but many.

As I sit typing these words, I am a woman in my thirties, a therapist, a wife, a resident of Portland, a friend, a daughter, a neighbor, a reader, a writer... the list goes on and on and on. So I am truly none of these things. I am actually an emerging consciousness moving through space and time, the origin of which is still a mystery. It is that very mystery that allows for beauty and happiness in life.

In therapy, we are often seeking to fix, both as client and practitioner. But life is much more fun, rich, and satisfying when we instead make it our mission to discover, to live, to love. Finding out what gets in the way of that natural movement is the work both of therapy and of life.

erinmoline.com

20 February 2008

In the balance

Many of us live day to day in a precarious balance, just barely able to tolerate the amount of stress we are under, our fears and anxieties about the state of the world around us, and the subtle yet powerful fear that we are not really living in our life as we should or wish we could be.

These fears come together to form a kind of malaise, and then when we are cut off in traffic, or have a difficult conversation with a loved one, or a bad moment at work, the balance tips and we are angry, enraged, or in tears. Sometimes, in moments like these, we wonder what is wrong with us, or what is wrong with the world, or, perhaps more often, we think to ourselves that there must be more to life than this.

I am continually amazed at the power just allowing ourselves to be has to transform this precarious balance into a grounding in our inner strength and joy. When we are caught up in stress, we tend to feel that we have to "figure something out", but truly, the key is so simple, yet often elusive. When we learn to have faith in ourselves and our way of being in the world, when we become okay with just being who we are, a tremendous burden is lifted. Some discover this through spiritual seeking or recovery from an addiction. Some discover it in the yoga studio or on an extended retreat in nature. And others find that the therapy room becomes a retreat nestled in the midst of one's life, which suddenly makes it okay to feel.

However it is found, it is a universal experience. It is the universal experience of the joy of just being, just being who we find ourselves to be, right here, right now.

erinmoline.com

17 January 2008

It's going to burn off


Yesterday, as I was looking out my office window, there was a brightness to the gray sky that I recognized: the sun is back there! I had a feeling then that the day would soon give us a glimpse of blue sky and I wasn't disappointed. Today we are socked in again, but it was so nice yesterday to have a chance to feel the sun on my face and be reminded that we are ever closer to Spring.

When we pay attention to ourselves and our surroundings, we develop a familiarity with how things move and change. Just as yesterday I was able to detect that the sun might just shine, so does the process of personal growth and change unfold, until you are able to see that past that gray sky is a sunny day waiting. Or a gray day waiting. And that's okay, too. And even, quite possibly, welcome.

When we muster the courage to more fully engage with our life, inner and outer, we become inhabitants of a new world. We gain knowledge from living in this world, and from that knowledge comes more courage. In this way, life becomes a flow of experience, an ever-changing sea that is neither good nor bad, but just what is.

erinmoline.com

02 January 2008

Taking root in 08

During this time of year, it's tempting to make resolutions, look straight into the new year like you're daring it to defeat you, and forget to take stock of how you got this far. By the end of a year, we are so ready to get moving on. We've stuffed our bellies with food and our minds and hearts with friends and family. You can almost hear the collective sigh of relief on New Year's Day as the revelry ends and a new year begins. In fact, we end the year on a note so different than what our day-to-day life is, it's easy to lose the thread between then and now.

Taking stock of what was good and bad, fun and stressful, improved and worsened, can help us get ready for being more balanced in this next year. Note, I did not say better. That is because the more balanced we are, the more we can allow our roots to grow in our lives, regardless of whether we live in one place for 50 years or 50 days. And having roots allows us to be happier, more creative, and more compassionate. Is there a better resolution?

So as we get ready for 2008 and all that it will bring, don't forget good ol' 07. Remember to look back on those months, remember what you've struggled with, and where your victories where. Situate yourself squarely on a fresh starting line, and, when you're ready, start moving at your own pace.

erinmoline.com
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