The Day Someone Threw Me a Rope

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
The Day Someone Threw Me a Rope
I can still remember where I sat on the floor in the room, the Southern California light pouring in that way it does, diagonally through the plate glass windows and bending through the blinds. There were about twelve of us sitting in a circle, leaning back against folding cushions, our knees popped up in front of us. Each of us held a fairly new babe in arms — some nursing, some sleeping, some lying on our legs trying hard to keep their eyes open or to produce an effective burp. The mothers surrounding me were different ages and different shapes and sizes, but all of us shared a common quality: a wild look in our eyes, perhaps a button askew on our shirts, hair thrown up in messy buns or that lay rumpled on our shoulders — the hallmarks of sleep deprivation and the exhaustion of new motherhood that soaked our very bones.

It was a breastfeeding support group for new mothers, and it had taken me three attempts that week to get there. The first morning, I gave up quickly. I hadn’t slept at all, and the baby — my first — had finally fallen asleep on my chest that morning in the navy blue recliner my father had bought me when I was 36 weeks pregnant and unable to sleep horizontally in my bed anymore. We slept in that recliner together, my firstborn and I, for the first 17 weeks of his life. But that day, he was only 6 weeks old, and I was still deep in the throes of not knowing what to do, what to expect, or what to think. So when he slept, I did not move.

The second time I tried to make it to the group, I got as far as trying to dress myself and the baby before I gave in to frustration. He cried whenever I put him down — deep, keening wails that shamed me and made me feel like I was doing everything all wrong. My postpartum hormones and my new mother anxiety paralyzed me. I finally sat on the floor of my bathroom in my underwear and half-washed, wet hair and just held him in my lap, sobbing along with him. I didn’t know what else to do. By the time we were both calmer, I had missed the class.

But that third attempt, I began preparing several hours before I needed to leave, and I finally managed to dress the both of us and get us to the small, humble building in Santa Monica that would become a lifeline for me, The Pump Station. I stumbled in and found my place on the floor, gingerly putting the infant seat behind me by the wall and configuring myself so I could nurse while we talked. As our leader — a maternal woman with long brown hair and a soothing, calm voice — began the discussion, I exhaled. I had tried to have brunch with a friend that week, but the baby had screamed through lunch. I had fumbled with my shirt in the middle of California Pizza Kitchen, willing him to stop screaming, praying I could get him latched and calm without all of Los Angeles as an audience. But here in this quiet, sunny room, I could relax. I could fumble, he could cry, and no matter what, it was OK. I was safe.

When our leader came around the circle to me and asked me about my week, I didn’t know what to say. My eyes filled with tears. “I don’t know what I am doing wrong,” I admitted. “He cries all the time. He chokes and sputters. He won’t calm down at night. We walk the stairs with him, we shush him and we sway and we swaddle. But he just keeps crying. I can’t do anything or go anywhere and I don’t know what I am doing.”

She took her time with me, with input from the other moms, showing me a new way to hold my baby so he wouldn’t choke when he nursed and asking me questions about his crying and how we were dealing with it. I tried to describe the hours every night when nothing worked, when we bounced on exercise balls and drove in circles in the grocery store parking lot at midnight with him in the backseat just to get a break from holding him. None of the parenting books could tell me what to do; I had read every single one of them. My pediatrician was at a loss, unable to explain this crying in an otherwise healthy infant. He called it colic. I felt duped. This was not what I expected — not at all — and there seemed to be no end in sight. No one could tell me when this would get better. I felt myself sinking. I felt myself failing.

Then my very wise group leader — a woman I would come to love in the way you love someone who saves you from drowning — said something to me that I will never forget. “One thing I have found that helps with babies like yours,” she said, quietly and slowly, “is to take them out in public.”

My eyes widened. Did she not understand? Maybe she did not hear me when I told her that if we went to a restaurant, the moment his eyes fluttered open, I shot like a bolt to flag down my server and yell, “Check, please!” This baby was not fit for the public.

“I know it sounds strange, or maybe scary,” she acknowledged, reading my face. “But if you can just take him somewhere outside, where you can be around people… well, sometimes it helps to hear strangers tell you how sweet and wonderful he is. Sometimes it helps to remember that he is really a special little guy.” She paused, and she looked directly at my firstborn, who was — of course, since we were actually in a safe space for him to fuss — sleeping like a proverbial baby in my lap. “He really is beautiful.”

I looked down, bewildered, and I saw him, really saw him, for the first time in maybe weeks. For so many hours of our days then, he was a squalling, squawking blob or he was a new appendage that made me ache. For the six weeks since he had emerged from my body, all I had really known was exhaustion and a feeling of being broken. My fervent, fevered need to take care of him better — to handle my new body and my new baby and my new life — had clouded and consumed everything else for me. But he was, in fact, a beautiful baby. He was everything I had hoped for and everything I wanted. I just needed enough calm and enough sleep to see that again. I needed my hope back.

After that day, I made it a point to take my baby out in public as much as I could possibly muster, and my leader was absolutely right — as strangers would stop and coo at him, I felt that cocktail of hormones and love course through my veins and give me strength and endurance to make it through my day without resorting to sobbing on the floor in my underwear. My firstborn had colic until he was 5 or 6 months old, and he proved to never really be an “easy” baby. But he was my baby, my beautiful baby, and our outings helped me remember that. And it did, in fact, get so much better.

That once colicky newborn I took all over Los Angeles is now 11. So these days, I make it a point instead to stop and tell mothers of tiny babies how beautiful and special they are, even if they are in mid-squawk and especially if the mother looks flustered. I am paying it forward, because that advice and those words I received at my support group saved me. My leader threw me a rope that day, just when I was feeling the tide pull me under. We all need to be ready to throw ropes to other moms when we see them struggling; we are, after all, the ones who know how long the rope needs to be to reach them, because we have been there. Have a rope ready, just in case.

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Also on HuffPost:

10 Great Ways Mindfulness Turns Fear Into an Ally
At first glance you might not put mindfulness and fear together or think that one can counterbalance the other. But while mindfulness invites us to be present with fear rather than run from it, it also frees us from being stuck in fearful thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness allows fear to be, just as it is, without diving in. It turns fear into an ally we can use to become courageous and fearless.

We all know what fear feels like, how it can appear as the enemy attacking when you are least aware or entering without being invited. It can arise as a natural response to physical danger but more often is self-created, like the fear of failure, not being good enough, being lonely, or of the future. We fear loving for fear of being rejected, being generous for fear of going without, or sharing our feelings for fear of appearing weak, and we’re easily dominated by insecurity and self-doubt.

The immediate effect of fear is to turn off our heartfelt feelings. Just for a moment, let your body take the stance of feeling fearful. What is your posture? Most people hunch their shoulders forward, fold their arms across their chests, or assume a similarly defensive position. In this self-protected place, the heart goes out of reach and we can’t feel love or even friendliness. Try saying “I love you” with real meaning while your arms are folded firmly across your heart. Hard to do!

But where fear contracts and closes the heart, love expands and opens. In other words, love is letting go of fear. So now take the posture of love. Watch how your body responds, your arms reaching outward, accepting and inviting. Fear may still be there but love can embrace it; where fear blocks out love, love holds fear tenderly. With your arms stretched wide try saying, “I’m frightened” and really mean it. Hard to do!

Here are 10 ways mindfulness both influences and transforms fear:

1. Through mindfulness you make friends with yourself and your world — just as it is.
2. Friendship naturally extends greater kindness, compassion and love, which are the antidotes to fear.
3. Friendship is also the gateway to greater clarity, ease and tolerance.
4. Mindfulness turns off the stress response of your nervous system by activating the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system; this enables you to stay focused and relaxed, no matter what is going on.
5. In a focused and present state you are better able to deal with whatever is happening than if you are preoccupied or distracted.
6. Fear takes you out of your body, limits your reactions, and brings your feelings to a standstill, while mindfulness keeps you centered and in touch with yourself.
7. Fear can make your breathing short and shallow, while mindfulness of breathing keeps the diaphragm open and breathing deep.
8. Mindfulness enables you to see that fear, or any other negative feeling, is a passing experience that comes and goes.
9. Fearless doesn’t mean denying fear; it’s not a state of being without fear but one of being with awareness.
10. Fearlessness is getting to know fear, name it, and take it by the hand so that it becomes your friend and ally.

Can you remember times you met fear and moved through it, times when fear arose but you kept going? Those are moments of fearlessness. Fear may close the heart, but courage comes out of heartfulness, out of releasing resistance. Fear may stop you from participating fully in life, but fearlessness gives you the courage to dive into the unknown.

Fear comes — breathe and let go; fear arises — replace it with love; fear knocks at the door — invite it in to share a cup of tea. In this way you become a fearless warrior of the heart, unshakable, confident, and joyful, with fear as your ally.

Is fear your friend or enemy? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs by checking Become a Fan at the top.

Ed and Deb are the co-founders, with Brian Jones, of RevolutionaryMindfulness.com. Join to get our newsletter, free meditation downloads, community support, and learn to balance your nervous system. They are the authors of award winning Be The Change, How Meditation can Transform You and the World. Deb is also the author of Merging: Women in Love. See more at RevolutionaryMindfulness.com and EdandDebShapiro.com

The 5 Habits of Purposeful People
We often hear about certain people leading a purposeful life. This is usually in relation to some recent success they had winning at a sporting event, winning a best actor award, or being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But do we have to be fabulously successful at some glamorous profession to be able to feel purposeful in our life, or is there more to it than that?

Though there are many ways we could ultimately live purposefully, there are five basic habits exhibited by all people who do so. When you follow these habits yourself, you will lead a fulfilling, purposeful life as well.

Habit #1: Live in the present moment.

What is it we’re thinking about when we’re not focused on the present moment? We are either regretting the past or worrying about the future. But will regretting the past change that it happened? Do we have the ability to control something that hasn’t even taken place yet? Of course, because the answer to both of those questions is “no,” all that we’re left to be concerned with is the present moment.

At the very heart of a life that is lived purposefully is the idea that all things in life happen for a reason. When we experience hardship, it’s here to show us what we’re supposed to learn so as to be able to grow. When we’re disappointed by the outcome of something, it’s because we’re supposed to be open to a new opportunity for which we wouldn’t otherwise be available. When we focus only on what we’re doing right now in the present moment, we’re affecting the part of the world that we actually can change.

Habit #2: Focus on one thing.

When we go through our day-to-day life, we often feel the need to multi-task: We watch TV or play with our phone when eating, we distract ourselves with conversations at the same time we do our job, and we do chores and other household activities when we talk with someone on the phone. But here’s why this is a problem: No one thing ever gets done to satisfaction, and at the end of the day we’ve only ever done a marginal job of everything.

In contrast, when we remain focused on one task at a time, we finish it to completion before moving on to the next task. This helps us to not only do a far more exceptional job, but we also give ourselves an opportunity to find a sense of joy and wonderment in the most minute details of our life. This exists as a natural extension of living in the present moment. If we’re only ever focusing on one thing, we won’t ever be preoccupied with anything beyond our immediate situation.

Habit #3: Make changes today, not tomorrow.

Often, we wait to make changes. We wait until after the holidays to go back to our diet, we return to our exercise routine after our vacation is over, and generally set deadlines for off in the future for us to take first steps at going after a new goal. But delaying our participation in intentions we’ve set for ourselves means that we are essentially delaying our purpose. If something is important enough to us to the point that it will help us to fulfill our reason for being here, why would we wait for it to happen?

As an alternative, it will help us to fulfill our purpose when we make changes to our life today, not tomorrow. If you want to reform your diet, start with your next meal today — not tomorrow’s first meal. If you want to take up a new endeavor, take a first step right after finishing this article. Start now, before you’ve lost yet another opportunity to fulfill your purpose.

Habit #4: Be of service to others.

Imagine two people, both of whom make and distribute their own clothing line. One uses recycled materials, refrains from using animal products, and pays livable wages to their employees. The other uses raw materials that requires significant resources to extract from the earth, incorporates animal products like leather, and employs slave laborers. One shares the earth with others, the other takes from it. One serves others, the other does not.

A mistake that people make is to think that extracting resources from the earth, using animals, or employing people with slave wages is wrong. Really, though, these actions just burden the person through the fear of running out of materials or frustrations with issues like labor struggles. Our ultimate purpose is to serve others, for it is in the act of service that we find the greatest potential for fulfillment. Rather than live from a place of fear and selfishness, we live from a place of connection and inclusivity. Because it creates lightness and a sense of loving kindness toward others, serving simply reinforces our reason for being here.

Habit #5: Practice.

Every day, we are presented with an opportunity to practice. When we practice our craft everyday as a lifestyle rather than just a job, we breathe life into it. It could be a physical, mental, or spiritual practice, or it could be all three. The practice defines our life and what our purpose is for living. We may be many things to many people and have many interests, but we only commit full, daily attention to the craft to which we are dedicated.

The difference between a life of fulfillment and one of discontentment ultimately comes down to our intention to practice growth every day. We go beyond the limitations presented to us by our mind or body. People who like to talk about living a fulfilled life practice only when it’s convenient to them, but people who seek true fulfillment practice when it isn’t.

It is practice, after all, that makes purpose.

Have questions for me? Comments? Visit me on my Facebook or Twitter page if you’d like to know more. And visit yogicameron.com to download a FREE sample of my latest book, The One Plan, as well as web-exclusive BONUS material.

Yogi Cameron

The 9 Essential Habits Of Mentally Strong People
In 1914, Thomas Edison’s lab burned down, and years’ worth of his work was destroyed. This could easily be described as the worst thing to happen to Edison, but the inventor instead chose to see it as an energizing opportunity that forced him to rebuild and re-examine much of his work. Edison reportedly said at the time, “Thank goodness all our mistakes were burned up. Now we can start again fresh.”

“In a world that we don’t control, tolerance is obviously an asset,” Ryan Holiday, author of the forthcoming The Obstacle Is The Way, told The Huffington Post. “But the ability to find energy and power from what we don’t control is an immense competitive advantage.”

He’s talking about mental strength, a difficult-to-define psychological concept that encompasses emotional intelligence, grit, resilience, self-control, mental toughness and mindfulness. It’s something that Edison had in spades, and it’s the reason that some people are able to overcome any obstacle, while others crumble at life’s daily challenges and frustrations.

The ability to cope with difficult emotions and situations is a significant predictor of our success and happiness. The most capable individuals in this way are able to turn any obstacle into a source of growth and opportunity. And while much has been made of what mentally strong people avoid doing — things like dwelling on the past, resenting the success of others and feeling sorry for themselves — what do they actually do? What tactics do they use to overcome adversity time and time again?

“Things that we think are obstacles are actually opportunities to do something,” says Holiday. “[To] be rewarded in some way that we never would have expected, provided that we address and don’t shirk from that obstacle.”

Here are 9 essential habits and practices of mentally strong people that can help you get through any challenge or hardship.

They see things objectively.

hand frame

There’s a maxim in the ancient philosophy of Stoicism, “There is no good or bad, there is only perception,” which was later echoed in Shakespeare’s famous line, “There is no good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

The way we perceive a situation has a tremendous power to either help or harm us. So often, we react emotionally and project negative judgments onto a situation, when the first key to overcoming a challenge is to see things objectively.

“You can have the greatest plan in the world, but if you don’t see the situation clearly, it doesn’t matter,” says Holiday.

Holiday studied countless examples through history of individuals who overcome obstacles that would seem completely insurmountable to most of us, from being falsely accused of triple murder to intense discrimination based on race or sex. He found that mental toughness came down to three things: Perception, action, and will.

“What’s required [for mental strength] is some sort of philosophical framework that allows you to look past your emotions or what your first impressions of a situation might be,” Holiday said. “So the elements of that are, 1) Your perception. Can you see things clearly and evenly? 2) Can you think about creative or out of the box kinds of solutions or actions? And finally, what is the kind of determination or will you can apply that action to the situation with?”

They let go of entitlement.

kid pouting

We all deserve happiness, but we don’t deserve a life free from obstacles or setbacks. An attitude of entitlement — thinking that we deserve to get what we want most or all of the time — can make it much more difficult to deal with challenges when they come around and take you by surprise. This is a particularly common roadblock for Generation Y, according to Gen Y expert Paul Harvey, assistant professor of management at the University of New Hampshire, who observed that many millennials have “unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback.”

“Generation Y was sold a certain mindset about how the world was going to be at any and all times,” agrees Holiday. “In previous times, the framework that people were given was not just a humbler one, but one that understood how unpredictable and inexplicable the world could be.”

Mentally strong people recognize that their entire life plans, and life itself, could be derailed at any moment — and they don’t waste their effort feeling wronged by destiny when things don’t quite go their way.

They keep an even keel.

sailing

Mental strength is not so much about always being happy as it is about “keeping an even keel at any and all times,” says Holiday.

Emotional stability and the ability to keep a cool head is an enormous asset when it comes to dealing with challenging situations. Fortunately, emotional stability tends to increase with age — and it should come as no surprise that we become happier as a result.

They don’t aspire to be happy all the time.

mindfulness practice

Excessive preoccupation with happiness can actually lead to an unhealthy attitude towards negative emotions and experiences. Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid negative emotions — rather, accepting both positive and negative emotions and letting different feelings coexist is a key component of resiliency.

“We so value optimism and happiness and all these positive traits, which are themselves abstractions, that we get caught by surprise and can’t deal with their opposite,” says Holiday. “If we were more middle of the road, things would be better and we’d be able to take advantage of the things that happen to us because there’s more objectivity.”

Australian social researcher Hugh Mackay argues that our cultural obsession with happiness can be dangerous, and that instead of worrying about being happy, we should concern ourselves with being whole.

“The idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness,” Mackay writes in The Good Life. “Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much.”

They’re realistic optimists.

optimist

Mentally tough people make a habit of getting up after they fall. Instead of getting upset, feeling hopeless and giving up in the face of obstacles, they take the opportunity to put on their thinking caps and come up with a creative solution to the problem at hand. Mentally strong people tend to be realistic optimists — they have the hopefulness of optimists and the clarity of pessimists — which gives them both the motivation and the critical thinking required to come up with creative solutions.

“Every time [realistic optimists] face an issue or a challenge or a problem, they won’t say ‘I have no choice and this is the only thing I can do,'” researcher Sophia Chou told LiveScience. “They will be creative, they will have a plan A, plan B and plan C.”

They live in the present moment.

mindfulness

Being present — rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future — allows you to see things as they really are. Whether or not they have a formal meditation or mindfulness practice, mentally strong people tend to have a mindful, attentive way of engaging with the world.

“You could call it being in the zone, you can call it whatever you want, but the idea is that if you’re focused exclusively on one thing in front of you, you’re not bringing baggage to that situation and you’re considering only the variables that matter,” says Holiday.

The science has demonstrated that mindfulness really can boost your brain power. Mindfulness practice has been linked with emotional stability, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved mental clarity.

They’re persistent in the pursuit of their goals.

persistence

We’ve all heard inspiring stories of amazingly successful people who overcame significant hardships and failures to get there. They’re exhibiting one of the most fundamental qualities of resilient people: Perseverance, or as psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth puts it, grit.

In her studies of students in a number of different educational environments, Duckworth found that grit more than any other single quality (IQ, emotional intelligence, good looks, physical health) accounts for students’ success. She also studied teachers and workers in various professional environments to determine what accounted for their success.

“In all those different contexts, one factor emerged as a secret to success, and it wasn’t social intelligence, good looks, physical health or IQ. It was grit,” Duckworth said in a TED talk. “Grit is passion or perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in and day out — not just for a day, not just for a month, but for years — to make that future a reality.”

But they know when it’s time to let go.

dandelion

A mentally strong person can say to themselves, “I tried everything I could in this situation, and now I can let it go,” says Holiday. Just as important as perseverance is the ability to recognize that you can control only your own actions — not the results of those actions. Accepting this fact allows us to resign to the things that are beyond our power.

There’s an idea in Stoicism, Holiday explains, called the “art of acquiescence,” which is yielding to the things that you can’t change and making the best of them, rather than allowing them to upset or frustrate you. We need strength, determination and perseverance, but these aren’t the answer in every situation. The mentally strong person lives by the Serenity Prayer — they change what they can control, accept what they can’t control, and know the difference between the two.

“Sometimes, the solution to the problem is to accept the problem and to bend yourself around that problem rather than crashing yourself repeatedly into it until you break,” says Holiday.

They love their lives.

amor fati

Amor fati is a Latin term that translates to “love of fate,” a concept derived from the ancient Greek and Roman Stoic philosophers that later reemerged in the work of Neitzsche. And it’s perhaps the single most important key to mental strength.

“The idea is that you don’t just have to tolerate the things you can’t control — they could be the greatest things that ever happen to you,” says Holiday. “You can find the joy in not just accepting, but in embracing the things that happen to you.”

Mentally strong people are grateful and appreciative of obstacles because of the simple fact that obstacles are life itself. Shortly before her death, Seattle-based author Jane Lotter left that advice with her family in a powerful self-written obituary.

As Lotter put it, “May you always remember that obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they ARE the path.”

Daily Meditation: Living Without Fear
We all need help maintaining our personal spiritual practice. We hope that these daily meditations, prayers and mindful awareness exercises can be part of bringing spirituality alive in your life.

Today’s meditation features the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet who lived during the turn of the 20th century and left a trove of lush, spiritual poetry as his legacy.

fearless

Where The Mind Is Without Fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

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