Holistic Divorce Counseling

Holistic Divorce Counseling Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM. Free support, resources, and comfort for all life's issues and transitions.

The Holy Grail of Psychotherapy: What It Is And How You Can Achieve It July 13, 2017

 

After 40 plus years as a psychotherapist I now believe the holy grail of therapy is helping people feel safe. If that sounds too simplistic, just think about it. Whatever you are dealing with: anxiety, depression, grief, guilt or anger, the best possible outcome is feeling safe in your body, mind, emotions, and environment. If you had traumatic events in your life, physical illness, abandonment, betrayal, abuse of any kind, you may not feel safe, even if the actual experiences happened years ago. Typically, this presents as anxiety and panic, but the body-mind is very creative when it wants to express itself. It can give you all sorts of physical symptoms, like headaches, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, muscle pains, GERD, blurry vision, vertigo, and a host of other unpleasant and challenging sensations.

 

While understanding and insight are wonderful, and can feel so exciting in those Aha! moments when patterns suddenly make sense, all the intellectual knowing in the world will probably not make you feel safe inside.

 

Paradoxically, sitting with whatever arises and investigating it can help you feel more comfortable and grounded. Remind yourself the painful emotion or physical feeling is there to be felt. You might even say, “Let me feel this” when something unpleasant shows up. Giving yourself a cosmic permission slip to feel what you are experiencing is empowering and can lower the emotional ante.

 

Just as helpful as being with your experience as it unfolds is developing the capacity to soothe yourself. To talk kindly, patiently, gently, and lovingly to the parts of you that feel afraid, alone, sad, or hopeless. This may sound fairly straightforward, but it’s actually very difficult.

 

Here are a few ways to cultivate lovingkindness towards yourself:

 

Meditate. Meditation helps develop curiosity about whatever is happening in your body-mind. You sit with what is, notice it, name it, and go back to following your breath. When in the throes of a panic attack or surfing despair you probably won’t be able to meditate, but all that training can allow you to view your current situation from a different perspective: one that helps you see how everything arises and dissolves.

 

Metta meditation is a special practice that starts with wishing yourself peace, happiness, and freedom from suffering. My version goes like this:

May I be peaceful.

May I be happy.

May I be free from suffering.

May I seek, find, know, and spread joy.

May I be grateful for all that has been given to me.

May I feel safe inside and outside my body.

 

After wishing these things for yourself you wish them for:

People you love

People you find off-putting or difficult

Strangers

All creatures.

 

You can spend as little or as long as you like with this practice, lying down or sitting.

 

Physical practices can be great reminders of your deep love and concern for yourself. One way to access this connection is by simply placing your hand on your heart. There is a yogic hand gesture called Vajrapradama Mudra that has you intertwine your fingers and place your palms directly over your heart with your thumbs pointing up, elbows wide. Hold the posture for a few minutes or longer as you breathe into your heart. You can also say: I love you. Everything will be fine. This can be incredibly grounding in the midst of feeling something threatening.

 

A butterfly hug is also quite soothing. Simply cross your arms over your chest, tuck your fingers in your armpits and leave your thumbs on your chest facing up.

 

Drawing attention to your repetitive thoughts, especially the catastrophizing and self-downing ones, can be very helpful as it allows you to challenge them and substitute more helpful, loving self talk.

Watch out for thoughts, like:

I’ll never overcome this depression.

No one really cares if I live or die.

This pain will only get worse.

I’ll never be at peace.

It’s unbearable to feel this way.

I’ll always be a mess.

If you notice any of these, or other extreme, negative thoughts, ask yourself if they are true. Is there any evidence proving their veracity? Have you felt miserable every second of your life? Probably not. But, even if you thought so in that bleak moment (what the Buddhists call the hell realm) you could still remind yourself the great thing about life is its mysterious ways. The next second you could get a phone call from a loving friend or relative. You could suddenly see some of your thoughts as so extreme they strike you as funny. You never know. I have surprised myself by listening to my audio journal the day after recording an upsetting night’s experience and found things quite amusing.

 

Try Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or Tapping. There are literally hundreds of YouTube videos (Brad Yates has one for almost everything) that can guide you through the Tapping protocol to calm your nervous system and clear out negative patterns. It’s very easy to learn, especially if you follow along with the video. Just remember to substitute your words when the practitioner says something that doesn’t feel right to you. That way, you customize the practice to your unique experience.

 

Wait. Yes, just wait. As Americans we are very impatient with things taking time, but simply waiting until this surge of self-downing, anxiety, anger, grief, etc. passes can make all the difference. If you can consciously choose to let your upsetting thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations be there they will eventually lessen, change, or evaporate.

 

Use Yoga Nidra, the ancient practice of Yogic Sleep. You may actually fall asleep listening to it, but even if you don’t, it will distract your active mind from all its racing thoughts. You can find more information on this incredible practice here: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/yoga-nidra-for-relaxation-insomnia-and-posttraumatic-stress-0202154.

 

Make sure you are not hungry or thirsty, as both states can trigger a negative emotional cascade. In general, it’s best not to let more than three to four hours go between a meal or snack. Eating breakfast also helps stabilize your blood sugar levels and helps you maintain a better perspective. Some people are more sensitive to these blood sugar fluctuations than others, but almost everyone gets cranky when their levels are low.

 

Get enough sleep. Resting well and long enough allows your brain to consolidate everything it experienced and learned the day before, as well as gives you the energy you need to face the day.  Some meditation teachers, like Jeff Foster, say depression is our body’s cry for rest. While I think depression can be more complicated than that, rest is crucial to feeling good. My colleague, Robyn Posin, always says, “Rest is a sacred act.” I agree. It’s also radical to slow down, take it easy, and consider that a productive use of your time.

 

Of all these techniques, the most important one is to talk lovingly, patiently, kindly, and gently to your sweet self. Notice when that inner critic’s harsh voice appears and think of other things to say to yourself. If that’s difficult, pretend you’re talking to the five year old version of yourself. Use the Recording and Listening suggestions on this site to record yourself saying supportive, compassionate, patient, understanding, and soothing things so you can listen to it when no one is there to say those loving words to you. You may find that hearing them in your own voice is even more affecting and powerful.

 

It’s not quick nor easy to change patterns, but you can do it. Every little shift you make will accrue over time into a more compassionate, loving relationship with yourself.

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
 

Holidays II: Embracing Reality December 16, 2012



Nothing is wrong—whatever is happening is just “real life.”
Tara Brach
The holidays have an uncanny way of triggering grief. Once accessed, this deep sadness can have a boomerang effect as it sweeps up all past losses bringing them right to your emotional doorstep. Naturally, this dustpan of misery can feel as if it coats every cell of your body-mind. Tough as it is, the only way to get through it is by feeling your feelings.


While it is natural to resist pain, stuffing your feelings doesn’t eradicate them. In fact, unacknowledged grief typically surfaces as another emotion or undesirable behavior. This persistent shape-shifter may show up in the guise of anger, depression, anxiety, worthlessness, or guilt. Physically, it can create aches and pains, stomach issues, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, lack of appetite, addictions, etc. So, rather than trying to banish grief from your emotional vocabulary try allowing it some expression. You might want to do something really radical and embrace it.


Accepting grief, loss, and sadness requires a fundamental shift in your expectations of life, starting with the notion that you will not always feel good, you won’t always like what is happening, and, sometimes, reality bites. Contracting against and fighting what is true for you now only produces more pain. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, closing off to pain increases your anxiety about it the next time it shows up. Welcoming scary, unpleasant, or challenging feelings is not intuitive to Western minds, yet it can strengthen your resilience and make you feel more in control. You may not be able to change a difficult situation, but you can open to it. True acceptance entails an element of surrendering to life, rather than muscling through it, with all the tension and resistance that implies.


In yoga, one of the major focal points is finding the sweet spot between effort and surrender. You don’t want to tighten up so much your body goes rigid with effort, making you lose your balance, or create an injury. On the other hand, letting go completely also throws you off balance and prevents you from entering the posture mindfully. The same is true in day-to-day life. Surrendering to what is enables you to work towards accepting it and doing whatever might alleviate your pain. Yet, there are times of despair and grief when the only option is allowing your experience, just as it is, until it stops; and, it will stop.


When anything, and holidays are notorious for this, can push your grief button, remember: you are here for the whole experience of life. Yes, the loneliness, illness, money worries, disappointments, losses, anxiety, insecurity, relationship issues, depression, shock, betrayal, as well as the wonder, unbounded joy, sense of oneness, peace, grace, smiles, hugs, and all those times you have the guts to radically open your heart, even though it has been through the ringer.


There’s no denying it’s tough to navigate the high seas of life’s challenges. Nobody enjoys being drenched in emotional, physical, or spiritual misery, which the holidays can easily catalyze. But it is part of life. As long as you are here, the best you can do is not add to your pain by fighting your current reality.


Try reaching out. There are plenty of other souls finding the holidays challenging and many would welcome the chance for some venting and compassion. If you don’t know of others in the same boat, seek out different supports: a therapist, web communities, free podcasts on Buddhism and meditation, religious groups, or meditation sanghas. Just going to your local library or coffee house can prove you are not the only one flying solo. Try a meet-up group (http://www.meet-up.com) as a way to connect with people interested in making new friends or doing some activities you also enjoy.


While the focus here has been on accepting the reality of this moment, whatever it is, it is equally important to remember your perspective, feelings, and bodily sensations shift every second. Sometimes, simply waiting for shift to happen is all you need to get through miserable moments.


Copyright Nicole S./ Urdang

 

Accepting People As They Are June 26, 2012



God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.

Variation of an excerpt from “The Serenity Prayer”
Reinhold Neibuhr


People are who they are and they will show you who they are. To be mad at them for expressing their true nature is like being angry at birds for flying.


Of course, accepting this can be extremely difficult and frustrating. Most people want to think they, or the force of their love, can change someone. Others believe if their partner, child, or parent loved them enough they would alter their behavior. While some simply can’t accept how family, friends, or co-workers behave, persisting in blaming them for not changing. All variations of non-acceptance are rooted in the ego’s unrelenting tendency to take everything personally and think those near and dear should conform to your expectations.


The good news is: it is not about you! That is not a judgment of your value, simply an acknowledgment of how strongly each soul inhabits itself and its own way of being in the world. Fortunately, or unfortunately, that unique package of thoughts, feelings and behaviors is driven to express itself 24/7. (Even if someone manages to suppress their true nature, by middle age it will break through those dams and assert itself even more strongly.) Again, this is all about each person being his or herself, not about how wonderful a sister, brother, daughter, son, employee, parent, or partner you are.


Since everyone has an ego, it is incredibly easy to think other people’s behavior is a commentary on how they feel about you, but it really is about them, not you. Just like you, when they look in a mirror they see themselves, not the significant people in their life, no matter how central those folks might be.


What complicates this is how other people’s behavior, even though it is all about them, affects you. If a drunk driver ploughs into your car you are definitely affected by their action, even though its creation had nothing to do with you. Similarly, if your friend, relative, or partner behaves badly towards you it may be very unpleasant, but it really has nothing to do with you. I know this can seem a little mind bending, and you might think, “Well, what if I did something bad, like gambled away all our savings?” Again, you can’t cause a reaction in someone. They create it themselves; otherwise, everyone would respond exactly the same way to all situations. In fact, people may react differently to the same situation at different times in their life, depending on their mood, hormones, diet, age-related issues, health, etc.


Not only is their behavior not about you, even when it looks as if it’s directed at you it is still about them. If someone behaves insensitively, or cruelly to you, it is a reflection of them, not you. Even if you behaved badly first, their reaction is theirs to own.


Even if you are the most loving, supportive, generous soul on earth some people will just take advantage of you. If that seems to happen frequently, it is far better to learn to set boundaries and develop assertiveness skills than to bemoan the fact that others don’t behave as you would, or you would wish them to. Accepting people as they are, for who they are, is not an easy task; but, once you detach a bit from your ego and resist the temptation to equate their behavior with their love (or lack of it), it becomes possible. Even a little taste of accepting others is a heady experience. Just imagine how free you could feel if you let people be themselves. You may not like them, you may say good-bye to some, you may see others less frequently; but, at the end of the day, not only will you enjoy what they bring to the table you will also find you accept your own sweet self more easily.


It is also wise to remember how most people don’t wake up, rub their palms together, laugh devilishly, and plan ways to harsh your mellow. They are simply trying to get through their day with some equanimity, kindness, and ease. They may accidentally bump into you, step on your foot, or unleash some pent-up anger in your direction. It probably wasn’t with any conscious intention to hurt you. Yes, it still smarts and annoys. Perhaps, during those moments when you might want to retaliate, conjure up an image of a time you accidentally lashed out at someone with displaced fury or ignored their smile when your mind was a million miles away. Wouldn’t you want them to have some compassion for you, and cut you a bit of slack? Gift your open-hearted understanding to anyone who inadvertently projects their issues onto you and watch how it heals both of you.


Another antidote to those situations is to behaviorally be the change you want to see. Practice awareness and set an intention to connect with anyone who crosses your path, whether family, friend, or stranger. Give what you seek and, miraculously, you will find it reflected back to you.


While changing oneself is challenging, thinking you can change someone else is a bee-line to misery. Even if they do change, they are likely to go back to their old ways of being. People can ditch an addiction, develop an exercise habit, change their diet, and even stick with those things, but changing their personality is quite another matter, and not likely to last because personality is pretty hard-wired.


What you can do is shift the focus to you, change your perspective and your behaviors. Sometimes, associating with a different group of people, whether a self help oriented one like a 12-step program, or a social or special interest group through meet-up.com, or your local religious community, can kick some new ways of thinking into gear, and allow you to let go of old, unhelpful perceptions and behaviors. You may not be able to change someone else, but you can certainly change the way you perceive their behaviors.


Not taking things personally, allows you to better evaluate what is wonderful about the relationship and separate it from those aspects that are merely a reflection of someone else’s demons, like their addiction, for example. (See If You Love an Addict.)


If you look back on any long term relationship you have had, you will notice how many times someone has shown you their true nature. Of course, if you were young, you may have thought you, and the force of their love or your love, could alter them. Even if you succeeded in bringing out some latent qualities, their deepest personality traits will ultimately surface. The one thing you can trust is they will be who they are meant to be, whether that’s Cruella De Vil, Mother Theresa, or, thankfully, all the options in between.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Demons: Befriend Them If You Want To Change & Grow November 5, 2011



Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment.
Eckhart Tolle


If you are reading this, the demons haven’t won.


Facing your demons is part of life. From your earliest moments when you might have been hungry and the breast or bottle wasn’t immediately available to later life crises, like divorce, death, job loss, financial hardship, illness, and other challenges, everyone is beset with demons. When things are particularly rough, it may seem as if the demons are winning, but as long as you live and breathe, you’re the victor.


Demons are excellent shape-shifters and can morph from one torturous form to another in the blink of an eye. Fear of rejection, worthlessness, false pride, anxiety, failure, pain, jealousy, anger, depression, and giving up on oneself are just some of the guises they assume.


It’s important to remember just how resilient you are, especially in the midst of an invasion. When I say invasion, I mean those times when you feel so overwhelmed by life you think you simply can’t stand another minute. When the emotional pain, grief, or hopelessness is all you can see. At those moments, it is crucial to remember how time limited everything really is, including you. Even if you live a long life, it will still be a relatively short span in the body; and, being incarnate is fraught with all sorts of experiences. When the less appealing ones visit, it’s best to welcome them with open arms, as counter-intuitive as that may seem. By denying what is really happening for you, or repressing your feelings with addictions or unhealthy habits, you forgo the opportunity to grow. You miss the chance to spar with scary thoughts, ugly impulses, or overwhelming grief, all of which move you into a more evolved and compassionate place.


There are still many people out there, and I don’t mean drug dealers, who will offer you a way around your misery. Advertisers will tell you life can be rosy if only you buy X, Y, or Z. Some new-agers will claim a quick way to nirvana, and there are myriad options for dulling one’s pain with obsessive-compulsive behaviors of all kinds. Don’t be beguiled by their dog and pony show. Who wouldn’t want an easy way out from pain? Sign me up! I’d love to think there was some quick panacea; but, after 40 years of studying psychology, religion, and philosophy I truly believe the only way out is through.


That doesn’t mean you have to weather every storm alone. This is the time to ask for and graciously accept help. Whether it is from a friend, relative, therapist, hotline, clergy person, or 12-step group, please avail yourself of any support you can. Just because many of us were brought up with that old Calvinist ethic of independence and self-sufficiency doesn’t mean it was right. If you were traveling West in a covered wagon you needed to be tough, but even those intrepid souls recognized how interdependent they had to be.


Going back in time even further, they say when the Buddha was under the Bodhi tree seeking enlightenment the demons came. He tried to fight them off for days. Finally, realizing that, at best, they would reach an impasse, he invited them to sit with him. I like to think of this as the Buddha inviting his demons to tea. Take a page from the Buddha’s book, befriend your demons. Undoubtedly, you will learn something, and develop more resilience in the process.


Jung, Freud’s disciple, believed each of us has a shadow side and we need to embrace it to be fully human, alive, and whole. By inviting your demons to tea, you own your shadow. You bravely go where many fear to tread. You have the guts to face your anger, fear, jealousy, lack of self-acceptance, guilt, and anything else you deem unacceptable. By dancing with the demons you reclaim your power. If you keep trying to bury them, you unconsciously feed each one and it comes out in projection, attributing all your own issues to others. (Everyone does this to some degree, but being unaware of it is problematic.)


It takes guts to face your demons. Luckily, everyone has the innate capacity to tread this rocky path, and has. Have you been ill? Divorced? Child of divorced parents? Child of an alcoholic or addict? Moved to a place where you knew no one? Weathered a financial storm? Been estranged from family? Experienced the death of a loved one? If so, you faced your demons. You courageously soldiered on. It wasn’t easy or fun, but you persevered, even when you thought the pain would never stop. Slowly but surely, it abated. At first, you may not have even noticed the subtle lessening of your anger, anxiety, or grief, but as the weeks and months wore on you started to feel more alive and open. That resiliency supports you through every challenge, allowing you to stretch beyond what you thought your limits were, and finding more capacity to bear what you thought was unbearable.


You are here for the whole enchilada, not just the kittens and rainbows. The sooner you embrace the totality of life, its highs, lows, and everything in between, the sooner you will find some measure of peace. Practicing affirmations, self-soothing thoughts, meditation, a comforting prayer, or mantra, will ease you through those trying times everyone has. No one is exempt, no matter what their life looks like, or what story they tell you. Every life is mix of treasures and traumas.


By persevering, speaking lovingly to yourself when the going gets rough, and assuming the best, you will make it to the other side.


Just like all the molecules in you and around you, things are constantly moving and shifting. Whatever you feel at this moment won’t last. It can’t. That’s what makes life so interesting and bittersweet. By embracing the vicissitudes of life with compassion for yourself and others, you allow yourself to fully experience whatever is happening to you right now. Yes, this is also known as mindfulness, acceptance, and liberation.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Love Is Not a Faucet August 31, 2010



Love is not a faucet you can turn on and off at will. If you have spent years, or decades, with someone, even if that time was not always so wonderful, even if you came to disrespect or feel contempt for your partner, the simple act of sharing a life bound you on a cellular level. That emotional glue often feels like love. Is it? I don’t know. It can certainly seem as deep as a well and impossible to leave behind. Luckily, a feeling is not a fact. You can get unstuck, though it may be a slow, arduous process. Typically, the longer you were coupled, the more time it takes to grieve, let go, and embrace a new life.


What do you do when your mind says I don’t want to be with this person anymore, but your cells feel drawn to resume the relationship? It’s best to assume you ended things for very good reasons, as people rarely split over superficial, trivial matters. (See Second Guessing Yourself.) At this moment, those reasons, so compelling at the time, may look less important. But that is an illusion brought on by the many challenges of divorce: financial, social, emotional, lifestyle, familial, and spiritual. When you are lower than a snake’s wiggle everything looms scarily above you. It’s temporary. Just as every molecule on earth is moving, your life is changing, whether you see it this minute, or not.


It’s easy to look back and think your greatest joys are behind you. But that’s not true. Your grief will slowly ebb away, your loneliness will turn to peaceful solitude, and you will make new friends. It doesn’t happen overnight. You can cultivate patience by looking around you and noticing all the people who have found their way to the other side of divorce living full, satisfying lives.


You may be feeling sad and lonely, but that doesn’t mean you always will be. Perhaps, you have not yet met someone else. If that is your desire, you certainly can. Transitions take time. Growth happens in spurts, some lightening fast, and others achingly slow. Riding the emotional waves isn’t always easy. Give yourself the gift of time. Time to heal so you can be open to enjoying your own company, being with friends, nature, family, and possibly a new romantic relationship. Taking time to re-establish your sense of yourself as an individual, after being part of a couple, can be daunting, but it is worth it. Remember: You deserve happiness just as much as anyone else, though it may not come knocking at your door. You have to pursue it, when you are ready. Taking as much time to grieve is crucial. Jumping in to a new love relationship because you are lonely is very tempting, but it deprives you of the opportunity to practice loving yourself.


Sometimes, letting go seems impossible; but, day by day, whether you are consciously aware of it, or not, you ground more deeply in the present moment. When you fully understand the past is over you clear an emotional path and open up to new experiences. It requires primal trust in yourself and the universe. Be patient and things will change. You have no idea what great joys are to come. Waiting, allowing, and imagining all ready you for that new phase of life. Endings and beginnings are as natural as each inhale and exhale. Relinquishing the pain and welcoming the new will happen organically when you trust the process. Sometimes, if you are not in that trusting place, the best you can do is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Life will naturally carry you along to renewal and wonderful experiences you never dreamed possible.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Gratitude & Emotional Multi-tasking May 4, 2010



Gratitude can be confusing. On the one hand, who doesn’t want to be grateful? Yet, when surfing the seas of depression, anxiety, anger, or any other intense emotion, gratitude may be the farthest thing from your mind.


Even if you are going through the most treacherous, challenging time of your life, there will always be something for which you are grateful, probably many things. The question is: Does feeling grateful at that moment help you move through your pain, or not?


People in 12 step groups are encouraged to adopt an attitude of gratitude, which can seem daunting in the face of giving up substances. It is also hard to adopt if you’re facing unemployment, divorce, illness, death, or any other major life adjustment. While it is great advice, it could benefit from adding: Focus on everything good in your life as you allow expression of all your feelings.


Without the added words it is all too easy to use this helpful reminder as a lash to whip yourself into an frenzy of self-downing. You already face a hard situation; and, now, you are told you should feel grateful for all your blessings. For many this is more than a cognitive conundrum, it’s a invitation to self-hate. Not only are you miserable about some real life issues, you can’t even be grateful for what the universe has given you.


So, the first thing, as always, is to give yourself that cosmic permission slip to feel whatever it is you are feeling. Denying what is true for you now will only delay the deeper gratitude you want to feel. Paradoxically, by making it safe and OK to feel what your are feeling, you will get to gratitude more quickly.


The next step is understanding how, as a complex person, you are capable of floating two, or even more, seemingly mutually exclusive thoughts and feelings at the same time. Appreciating life is a great idea, but not if it means burying your emotions. For example, you can feel: gratitude and grief, gratitude and depression, gratitude, and anxiety, gratitude and anger, even gratitude and worthlessness. Perhaps, that is because gratitude is a thought rather than a feeling. When you think: I am so grateful I can see, hear, think, etc. you realize you are blessed and feel more joy in just being alive. While that’s wonderful it doesn’t eradicate your financial, health, or other concerns.


Recently, I was asked what I am grateful for. Rather than list all the usual suspects, I reframed the question to: For what would I like to be grateful? Immediately, I thought of 80 year old Jean Vanier who, when interviewed by Krista Tippet, said he was still working on loving reality. In other words, I would like to be grateful for everything; especially the things that challenge me. The body’s expressions of stress, bad moods, insecurities, ups and downs of relationships, day-to-day worries—all of it. Jean Vanier said he had been practicing for 40 years and he was still practicing; so, as a relative rookie I am not expecting an immediate turnaround. Just the ability to meander around the topic fills me with optimism.


If you try this philosophy on for size, or you have already adopted it, feel free to let me know how it has changed your life.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

From Loss To Liberation October 29, 2009



Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;
Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;
Opening to my loss,
I am given unimaginable gifts;
Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.

Each condition I flee from pursues me.
Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed….

Jennifer Welwood


 

The positive aspects of loss may not be immediately apparent, but they do exist. I am not talking so much about the old saw: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but the liberation that comes with losing a relationship, a job, even a coveted aspect of one’s health. At first, this may sound absurd. What liberation? But, in time, life strips you of your illusions, and you come face to face with your demons. The thing you feared the most happens. It might be the death of a loved one, illness, financial hardship, or divorce. You think you’ll implode, explode, or become catatonic; but, no matter how you react initially, you usually end up coping. The very act of dealing with catastrophe liberates you from the old fear that you wouldn’t be able to stand X, Y, or Z.



At some point after the initial shock has passed, you may find yourself feeling a freedom that is so deeply pervasive it’s overwhelming. The unbearable lightness of being, Milan Kundera called it. Simply too heady to contemplate, let alone assimilate. Yet, like so many things in life you didn’t think you could bear, you slowly adjust to this internal vastness and possibility. Sometimes, you react with the old fear; but, more typically, you feel some heady delight in your ability to cope. With each passing month you find you can make decisions more easily because you understand yourself better.



The thing you feared the most is a gateway to your liberation.  The “shoulds” commandeering your life no longer have any sway, as they are overridden by self-knowledge. Even when you may not know what exactly you want you are open to discovering it through experimentation.


By cultivating patience for yourself and the process of envisioning, creating, and navigating your new life,  you can actually see how loss opens you up. Not only for new experiences, but for a better relationship with your own sweet self.



Major change is akin to dying and being reborn; neither is easy, but both are necessary if you are to move forward. By going through the dark, whether it’s anger, grief, anxiety, or despair, you clarify what you want. Each time you encounter something you don’t want it helps refine your desires.


Fighting against loss, and the grief it engenders, slows your progress.  However, it may be a necessary part of your healing, so allow whatever comes.  It won’t last. Eventually, you will get more comfortable with the ebb and flow of life, moving towards acceptance.


Once you relinquish the notion that any transformation should be quick and easy, you can fully allow what is happening in this moment.  The minute you lessen your resistance to reality you open yourself up to myriad possibilities.  That’s when things change for the better. Your optimism and open-heartedness bring new avenues of joy, meaning, and fulfillment.


Life is flux, whether it is obvious or not.  What appears to be hibernation and inaction may be a period of necessary downtime to energize you for the next leg of the journey. Things are exactly as they should be; and, as Louise Hay says: “Everything is happening for your highest good.”


Today, while being stalked by fear, loneliness, or grief, you may not be aware of the mechanism through which your highest good will manifest. By adopting Louise’s assumption you acquire the necessary faith to carry on.


Liberation from your old ways is challenging and frightening because it is new.  Whatever or whomever you were dealing with before was familiar.  Allow yourself to adjust to these changes. Whether they are from divorce, death, illness, or an empty nest, take all the time you need to get comfortable.  Be patient and compassionate as you adapt in your own unique way.



Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

 
%d bloggers like this: