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Discernment versus Judgment

I hear from many people who worry overmuch that they are thinking or saying something judgmental, when in reality they are making a clear and healthy discernment regarding a person or situation.

In this video, I help define discernment–which is healthy and helps us make wise decisions–versus judging, which generates negative feelings and energy for everyone.

The questions to ask yourself when you are worried that you are feeling judgmental are:

  1. What is happening?
  2. What is my experience of what is happening?
  3. What can I do about it?

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences!

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Boundaries: Loving Kindness in Action

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© Lynn Barrette

What does setting boundaries mean to you? Selfishness? Gigantic confrontations? Plates thrown across the room? Hurt feelings followed by the silent treatment for days? An opportunity to unload 30 years’ worth of baggage that you’ve been carrying?

When I say the word “boundaries” to my clients, I often sense the fear response that is common for many people when they think of putting in place even the healthiest of boundaries.

Yet, setting boundaries is a loving gesture that allows us to take care of ourselves through clear and gentle communication of what we’re willing to do or to allow around us. Boundaries that we set are kind for the other person, too. They make our intentions clear and help each person to be respectful and respected.

Brené Brown, PhD, author and human behavior researcher, uses the acronym BIG to formulate her boundaries with others: “What Boundaries do I need so that I can stay in Integrity with myself and be as Generous as possible with you?” We can’t be generous with others—our time, resources, emotional energy, compassion—when we feel overburdened, taken advantage of, or drained. We instead start feeling resentful and build protective walls between ourselves and the other person.

How do we set boundaries with loving kindness?

We are in charge of ourselves: our time, our location, our finances, our sense of self and well-being. If any of those are being taken advantage of, it is up to us to protect the resource we feel is being drained. To do this, we define what we need or are willing to do, and determine the best way to communicate it, given the person with whom we’ll be communicating.

Here are a couple of examples:

Scenario #1: You have a friend in need whom you want to support, but he’s not taking any action to support himself. After several rounds of hearing the same story and offering the same suggestions, you are beginning to feel drained.

Possible boundary: “I understand you are going through a hard time. You always have my support, and I know that you know what to do.” Repeat as needed.

Note: I always encourage the use of voicemail as a boundary-setting tool. You can return the call at a time that is convenient to you; plus, you have time to prepare your boundary beforehand and have it ready when needed.

Scenario #2: That obnoxious family member will be at the dinner gathering you are going to. She is always in everybody’s business and has something to say about it.

Possible boundary: “Thank you for asking, Aunt Millie. Things are going well with me. What have you been up to lately?” (Notice the deflection and redirection. You only have to share what you want to, and with those you want to share it with. In this case, turning the focus back onto Aunt Mildred kindly redirects her attention, at least for a while.

In either scenario, the other person wouldn’t necessarily know that we are setting a boundary with them. We are communicating the limit clearly, but less directly. We don’t have to wait until we are so exasperated with our friend, frozen in crisis, that we stop talking to him altogether, or end up saying something that is more hurtful than helpful. With Aunt Millie, we don’t have to tell her how obnoxious her behavior is— she probably already knows, and she might thrive on the negative exchange if we did tell her! In both cases, we simply set our boundary so as to not get entangled with the other person’s emotional state.

Boundaries are kind, compassionate, loving ways to maintain our own integrity while respecting where the other person might be on their journey of self-awareness. What boundary are you going to put in to place today?

Don’t Worry, the Universe Will Remind You that Your Work Isn’t Done

tumblr_nrtexbzjua1snt055o1_400Sometimes it takes a lot to push through resentment to find the gratitude.

I knew someone who had purchased a condo to help a friend in need–a place for the friend to stay while she was trying to get back on her feet. All things were going well until the friend lost her job and stopped paying rent. Then one day, she disappeared to another state without explanation.

How betrayed he felt! How could she do that? She left him with thousands of dollars in mortgage each month, plus his own home’s mortgage! No word, no apology, no help!

For several years, he tried to sell the condo. Sale after sale fell through for this reason or that. Every failed attempt to rid himself of the condo was one more reminder of the betrayal of his so-called friend, a reminder of how angry he felt at himself for trusting her, a reminder to forgive again.

One New Year’s Eve at a Burning Bowl Ceremony, he wrote a letter to himself stating that for the new year, the condo would be sold! The letter was mailed to him eleven months later, and eleven months later the condo still hadn’t been sold.

He had been sharing this story with me over time via email, and I could now hear the disappointment in his words. He had worked faithfully with the Seven Steps for Moving through Difficulties, a forgiveness process I had shared with him toward the beginning of this difficult, healing journey, and would return to it each time a condo sale would fall through.

When he shared with me about his letter for the year, and his yet unmet commitment to continue to forgive, I could suddenly see the message loud and strong, and I replied:

“You have worked hard this year to continue to free yourself from that condo, through all the sales that fell through, plus the forgiveness work that you have been persistent in affirming. Perhaps the condo is still part of your life, but you have freed your heart so much this year–and your free heart is something you get to take into the new year! Congratulations!

“Sometimes we forget that the Universe uses our human circumstances to do a job that we might not have done otherwise. If the condo hadn’t been a reminder of your friend’s betrayal all this time, how would you have paid attention to that forgiveness need? It might have been buried in your heart like a needle in a haystack–only to poke you when you least expected it!

“No wonder it’s so important to look for the good in all things! It is always there. You have done a great job on fulfilling what you wrote in your letter last year! Now you’re just waiting for the sale to go through. Give thanks for all things–mysterious and obvious alike!”

As is true so often in my work, I can’t give encouragement without seeing how it applies in my own life. As I composed my email, I could see the many people and circumstances that have been so challenging in my own life this past year (and some for several years!). I could see how I hoped a struggle would be over, only to have it rear its ugly head over and over and over again. I could see my persistence, but also how it looked so disappointing because things didn’t change according to my ideas or timing.

Yet I could also see how the struggle is what strengthened me, slowly but surely! It loosened my grip on my desired results. It reminded me of the inner work left to do. It reminded me to forgive what needs to be forgiven, and that I wasn’t finished quite yet.

Outer results are easy to see, easy to be grateful for. But to see that there’s something bigger going on? That takes looking beyond results.

What in your life continues to show up and remind you to do your inner work?

 

Join us for our series of workshops to transition into the new year!

 

How Meditation Supports Your Soul Evolution — Part 2: How Do I Meditate?

Now that you are excited about the benefits you will receive from an ongoing meditation practice, the next step is to begin making part of your daily routine. Here’s step-by-step support for your budding meditation practice:

1. Make a commitment to yourself. Five minutes a day? Ten? Thirty? One hour? Commit to a meditation practice, no matter what daily quantity, for three months; then decide if you like it or not.

2. Choose your meditation space. Make it nurturing, comfortable, simple, relaxing, and peaceful. Use this same space each time you meditate.

3. Choose your meditation time. Meditating at the same time every day builds an automatic response into your mind and body. Your whole self begins to cooperate when you sit down for your time!

4. Find a spiritual symbol that resonates with you. Why? A symbol that is steeped in tradition or meaning for you will magnetize your innate spirituality.

5. Find a methodology that works best for you. Try a few of these to find out your own meditation style preference:

a. Perhaps a guided meditation would help keep you focused. There are CDs, mp3 recordings, YouTube videos, and even smartphone aps with all sorts of guided meditations. Find two or three that you like so you can use them interchangeably.

b. Centering prayer is a wonderful tool for a busy mind! Take a prayer that resonates with you, and recite it slowly to help you quiet your mind. Repeat slowly and sincerely throughout your time.

c. Mindfulness is the practice of observing your thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and breath, with detachment, non-judgment, and compassion. Being present with what is, without having a conversation about it in your head, is an excellent and very portable meditation practice.

d. Visualization is a method often found in guided meditations, but you can create your own. Imagine yourself spreading out of your body, filling the room you are in, then stretching through your whole house, then neighborhood, then city, then state, then country, then throughout the entire planet, then universe! Sit in that expanded state without inner comment.

e. Group meditation is a great way to keep your commitment to yourself. Although it may not be feasible to meditate with a group every day, once a week—or even once or twice a month—has great value. You receive a vibration boost from others when everyone is generating energy for the common purpose of meditation.

6. Keep a journal. Meditation is going to awaken you to new ideas, experiences, and insights. Writing them down helps assimilate those new understandings into your consciousness.

7. Practice every day, no matter what! Some days, your meditation will feel extraordinary, or maybe it won’t. Either way, trust that something is happening, even if you aren’t consciously aware of it. Go back and remind yourself of the benefits of your practice. Let it be okay that you don’t feel enlightened at the end of your first month. Meditation is like brushing your teeth—you just gotta keep doing it for the best results!

Now give it a try! You will be grateful that you gave yourself this gift of a meditative life!

How to Use Your Intuition to Support Your Soul Evolution

Soul growth is primarily about taking responsibility for your choices, past, present and future. Intuition is necessary to guide you through each moment, helping ensure your right new course of action.

Intellect can only go so far, since it pulls information and ideas mainly from past experiences—experiences that often hold false beliefs, faulty decisions, and unresolved issues. It’s hard to make clear decisions when you are seeing a situation through a clouded filter.

What is intuition then? It is the avenue for receiving answers from your Higher Self—that part of you that sees through the drama (yours and others’) of a situation. Intuition is a spiritual muscle that takes practice, time, and attention to build, clarify, and trust.

If you haven’t already practiced using your intuition, here are some ideas to being. If you regularly check in with your intuition, these ideas may help you go deeper, and strengthen your intuitive muscles.

  1. Practice with the small stuff. Ask for guidance about insignificant matters daily. When you get your answer, go with it and see what happens!
  2. Observe yourself, your thoughts, your emotions on a regular basis, throughout the day.

Millions of thoughts move through your mind each day. Some of them are true, but most of them are not. When you go through life unaware of these thoughts, you inevitably act on the false ones, reinforcing them. Observe your thinking and begin to discern the difference!

Also, there are times you can let an emotional response go, and be done with it. Other times, you have to watch an emotional or thought pattern for a while so you can understand it enough to let it go. Observing your inner self greatly aids this process.

  1. MEDITATE! This is the best exercise for improving your intuition.

Meditation raises your vibration, allowing you to problem solve at a higher level. Meditation also gives you practice discerning the real versus unreal among the thoughts that whip around your mind all day.

  1. Work with tools to go deeper:
  • Journaling. When in doubt, write it out. Your mind will turn an issue in circles a million times and still not let you have peace about it. As you journal emotional triggers, you will begin to see patterns in the triggers, which helps lead you to the core issue. Then the healing begins.
  • Forgiveness. No matter what, forgive. If you’re holding on to blame—toward yourself or others—your ability to move forward is greatly inhibited.
  1. Detach from the result you think you want in a given situation. When you are follow an intuitive sense, just go with it. Which brings us to…
  2. Trust the process! Your intuition is connected to Universal Wisdom. Trust your inner Self!

Now, go work that intuition!

Too Spiritual for a Diagnosis?

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“A mental health diagnosis isn’t spiritual. I’m not going to take medication; and besides, what does a diagnosis have to do with spirituality? Shouldn’t I just pray and meditate more?”

As a licensed clinical therapist and spiritual counselor for over a decade, I have been asked these questions frequently, and understandably so. There is still a lot of stigma on mental health issues, not only because of ignorance or the fear of being judged as “crazy”; but also among the more spiritually-minded folks who don’t want to identify with labels. Some people feel that having a mental health diagnosis will somehow become a block to wholeness.

Ironically, every once in a while, I will hear “I am a [such-and-such number] on the Enneagram”, or “I am a [four letters] on the Myers-Briggs scale” as a reason why they are unable to change themselves or how they manage their lives. But just as these personality-type labels can serve as a self-awareness tool, a diagnosis can bring light to areas where we need to push a little harder, or accept and have self-compassion a little more, in order to support our daily functioning and our spiritual growth.

Spirituality does not mean the absence of issues—including diagnoses—but the working with and through them. Instead of seeing a diagnosis by your doctor or therapist as a lifetime sentence, try using it as a tool for understanding those limitations you are here to overcome.

Any diagnosis can show us our strengths and limitations. Our job is to use those measurements to understand ourselves, and move forward where we have been limited, using the strengths that we have accumulated!

For example, if you have anxiety, what tools can you use to support your own peace of mind? How can you use meditation (mindfulness or otherwise) or yoga to help you ground yourself and strengthen your mind-body communication? What tools are you using to help you take charge of the faulty, racing thoughts when they are keeping you up at night? Everyone needs these skills; anxiety makes us have to work a little harder to strengthen them than someone without a diagnosis that includes some form of anxiety.

If depression is a problem, how can you stretch beyond your comfort zone? What tools in your toolbox do you have to support yourself on the more difficult days? Self-compassion is always, always, always first. If that’s hard for you, then that’s what to start practicing. Keep a list or a vision board of what makes you feel good, your strengths, and what you are grateful for. If you need help coming up with what your strengths are, ask someone you trust. But even then, you have to grow your own self-acceptance of your diagnosis and how it makes you feel some days, or every day. No one will convince you but you; and you have to work a little harder at it than someone who isn’t diagnosed with depression.

Attention deficit issues? What a great opportunity to learn focus and presence! Make a two-column list of what your strengths are and what your limitations are. How can you apply your strengths more widely and build compensation strategies for your difficult areas?

And we could go on with every diagnosis. Whatever diagnosis you may have, look at your strengths as well as the areas where you need inner and outer support more than the next person. Part of self-compassion is to refrain as much as possible from comparing yourself to the next person who may not be dealing with what you are. I guarantee you that they are dealing with something that might seem very easy to you. We are all working on something!

As spiritual beings, we all have our challenges to work through. Some people are systemically discriminated against, some people grow up in abusive households, some are financially unstable, some have difficulties maintaining relationships, some have a combination of challenges. Our spiritual growth is supplemented through compassion for and moving with the challenges we have in our lives, diagnosis or otherwise.

Is it easy? Nope. But who ever told us it was easy? No spiritual tradition that I have ever heard of! Your solution will be as unique to you as the challenges that you are dealing with. Get support. You don’t have to do anything alone!

And by all means, if medication will support you best, go for it! It is sad to me when a client won’t allow themselves to benefit from medication, and continues to struggle with a brain make-up that is overwhelming them in spite of their best efforts! Years ago, I had to get off my judgments and fears regarding Western medicine. It was the Universe telling me, “Let go of your hang-ups, lady! You have to learn to trust Me in whatever way I direct you!” Self-acceptance also means being open to the support that is available to us!

Be open to your soul’s messages. This will benefit your spiritual development the most. Turn within in whatever way you pray and meditate for strength, support, and intuitive answers. Take the outer signs within you, and ask your inner guidance, “How can this benefit my soul growth?”

Don’t be too spiritual for a diagnosis. Be too spiritual to stay stuck.