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.

Useful & Appreciated July 9, 2012



Man cannot stand a meaningless life.
Carl Jung


Viktor Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search For Meaning,” focuses on the importance of finding a sense of purpose in life, no matter how heinous your external circumstances. The first half explores different ways his fellow prisoners reacted to incarceration at Auschwitz, while the second part details Logotherapy, the psychological model he developed from the death camp experience.


If you are reading this you are probably not in as horrific a situation as Dr. Frankl was; however, it can still feel mighty challenging to infuse life with meaning when issues with work, health, family, finances, etc. weigh you down. Often, one’s internal list of priorities doesn’t even include a search for meaning; and, more’s the pity, since finding meaning in anything you do makes it easier to bear the more odious experiences life hands out.


There are as many ways to find meaning in life as there are people. Typically they have two things in common: feeling useful and appreciated. The first one is fairly obvious, the second, less so.


No matter how spiritually evolved you are, you still have an ego, and it will express itself until your last breath. By feeding it a healthy dose of appreciation (whether from external sources, yourself, or a combination of the two), you infuse your time on earth with more meaning.


Just as eating does not mean gorging, some external ego nourishment will not turn you into what Albert Ellis called a Love Slob, someone who thinks it’s horrible if they don’t get massive amounts of approval from others. Here, balance is key. You don’t want to be so dependent on other people’s approbation that you shrivel up emotionally without it; on the other hand, setting up your life so you get regular doses of appreciation simply feels good. While doing good is its own reward, few people are truly satisfied with absolutely no recognition. Nor, is that necessarily a wise goal, since it is through interacting with others that you can feel validated for your unique contributions to society.


A healthy ego is not an inflated one. It enables you to go out into the world with enough confidence to do what fulfills you and benefits others. Knowing what you do well ignites your vibrancy and engagement in life, while giving you the strength to acknowledge what doesn’t come easily and address those areas.


Here are a few reminders of all you do to contribute your unique talents to the world:

taking care of yourself
being considerate to others
raising children
caring for elderly relatives
volunteering
working
rehabbing or repurposing things
smiling
giving to charity
caring for animals
growing a flower or vegetable
planting a tree
helping your friends, family, and neighbors

Forms of appreciation might include:

saying thank you
keeping a gratitude journal
noticing ways you are changing and growing
sending cards, texts, or emails to let people know you value them
supporting causes


One could argue that having a life full of meaning might preclude the desire for appreciation, but feeling valued often adds to one’s sense of meaning and joy in contributing to the world, thus insuring you keep sharing your unique gifts.


The ultimate way to guarantee you will feel appreciated is to practice appreciating yourself. It is easy to keep the focus outwards, seeking what you want from others, but one way you can be sure of getting approval is to make it an inside job. You may think it won’t feel as good as it would if you get it from someone else, but that simply tells you how little you value your own opinion. Practice dwelling and basking in the myriad joys you create every day for yourself and others. Something as simple as fully acknowledging another soul with a smile, hug, handshake, or deep listening has an enormous impact on the world.



Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

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Mindfulness July 6, 2010



While walking in the park this morning I happened to notice a man ambling along engrossed in a book. Curious as to what was so compelling, I glanced over and saw it was a large book of watercolors. This perplexed and amused me, as the morning was exceptionally beautiful: a rich blue sky punctuated with clouds of all hues and shapes against a landscape of fully leafed out trees. Frankly, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect example of a Spring morning.


As stunning as his impressionistic watercolors were on the page, I wondered how they could compete with what was right in front of him. Of course, he has free will; and, if he truly prefers a book to reality, that’s his prerogative. I just saw an opportunity to enjoy what was right there, right then. It reminded me of how easy it is to be oblivious to what is available in the moment when internal preoccupations are allowed to take center stage. I also remembered many walks when my mind was so cluttered and churning I couldn’t focus on what was right in front of me.


If you find yourself similarly absorbed in your thoughts, obsessions, or worries, take a break to re-ground in the present moment.


Look around you, wherever you are.

Notice the colors, shapes, temperature, sounds, and scents; anything that enables you to be here now.

This moment, this second, is the gift of life. Obliviousness lets it pass by.

Stretch, feel your body.

Take a deep, slow breath, and exhale completely.


You won’t be incarnate forever. Enjoy everything you can right this minute, even if your life is excruciatingly challenging.


The leaves are still green, the sky is still blue, and you’re still breathing. Take comfort in the most elemental things and they will sustain you.


If you aren’t in a place where you can find joy in these simple pleasures, just acknowledging they are there can boost your spirits.


No matter what your state of mind, anything that connects you to all that is will ultimately make you feel more grounded, more secure, and more open to life.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Affirmations To Help You through Divorce, Break-Up, or Life Transitions October 22, 2009

 

 

DIRECTIONS:

Make your sweet self a cup of tea or hot chocolate.

Sit somewhere private and comfortable.

Read the following sentences aloud in your most loving, gentle voice.

 

I will be OK.

 

I feel devastated, but I will be fine.

 

I may not be able to see it right now, but everything will work out for my highest good.

 

There’s so much to learn.

 

I am becoming wiser and more compassionate with myself every day.

 

No matter how difficult things feel, the universe is supporting me.

 

I can let myself fully grieve. Grief is a shape-shifter: one minute I may feel furious and the next I could be bargaining for my old life back.  Five seconds later, I’m blue. I  can embrace it all.  It’s my path to transformation.

 

Divorce is a cosmic hazing and it’s only natural to feel emotionally depleted. It’s temporary.  In time, I will feel better than ever.

 

I am constantly evolving into my true self.

 

Up and down, up and down.  The roller coaster of emotion seems never ending, but it will stabilize.

 

I allow my tears to flow, as they are nature’s detoxifiers.

 

I will be joyful again.  Even now, amidst the turmoil, there are moments of grace.

 

I am doing remarkably well.

 

I will get to the other side when I’m ready.

 

I can love myself right now, exactly as I am.

 

I may not like what is true for me now, but I can handle it.

 

I can allow myself to be rocked to my core, it’s appropriate.

 

Nature can always be a refuge: a leaf, a tree, the sky, I let them remind me of life’s glories.

 

I ask God/Spirit to walk with me.

 

In the midst of chaos, I am healing.

 

I am using this crisis as a catalyst for growth.

 

I am gentler and kinder to myself than ever before.

 

I  will be happier than I can imagine.

 

Suffering is just as vital a part of life as joy; I’m here to experience everything.

 

I make it safe to feel all my feelings.

 

There is so much love for me in the world.

 

My soul shines amidst the chaos: luminous and beautiful.





Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

How to Handle: “Get over it already.” July 23, 2009

There seems to be a prevailing philosophy that all grief should disappear in a short time.  Its mantra, “Get over it already,” is uttered incessantly, whether you just broke-up, lost a job, had an accident, or buried a loved one. What’s the rush, and whose healing schedule are you on? Surely, not theirs. Grief work (which can include anger, anxiety, depression, remorse, resentment, and feelings of worthlessness) has no timetable.  It is as unique as your fingerprint; yet, there seems to be this belief that moving on as fast as possible is the only right way.  Of course, with this mandate saturating our culture, anyone who takes his or her time to fully grieve is left with the double whammy of having endured whatever sparked the grief and feeling like a failure because they haven’t “gotten over it” yet.

We all know plenty of people mask their misery with drugs, alcohol, random sex, and a plethora of other addictions. Could this possibly be healthier than dealing with it? In some circles as long as someone keeps their pain under wraps, and puts on a happy face, everyone can just party hearty.  After all, it’s no fun being around a grief-stricken soul; and it’s even worse feeling ineffectual because you can’t make them happier.  No wonder there’s such a deep societal desire to “get over it already.”

So, what is the best response to: “Aren’t you over that already?” (Especially, when it’s delivered in a tone that seems to imply, “What’s wrong with you?” and, puts you on the defensive).  In a perfect world, where everyone has their wits about them 24/7, it might be utter silence accompanied by a slightly quizzical look. This would circumvent the the knee-jerk defensive response to what sounds like a criticism.  A simple “No” might suffice, but you risk the person replying with, “Well, you should be!”  If there’s a little two year old inside you, and there is in almost all adults, he or she is likely to take offense at being told what to do.

Henry Ford II once said, “Never explain, never complain.”  Perhaps that’s the best guide. Unfortunately, if the person exhorting you to “get over it” is a close friend or relative, you might feel a vested interest in sharing your true thoughts and feelings, if for no other reason than not having them ever utter those words to you again. You might even share how you’ve decided to give yourself a cosmic permission slip to take all the time you need to process your grief.

If you’re feeling particularly honest, you could say: “When you ask that question I feel denigrated and judged,”  letting your comment hang in the air and putting the onus on the other person to respond.

Or, you might try: “One of the things this whole experience has taught me is that I can take whatever time I need to let go and forgive. I may never completely get over this. I’ve decided to make that OK, too.”

Then there’s the very direct approach: “I don’t find that a helpful question,” or, “Please don’t ask me that.”

I generally like to assume the best (or, at least some neutral motivation) on the part of people saying, “Aren’t you over that, already?”  Perhaps, they want to propel you to healing faster, because they don’t like seeing you in pain or they feel helpless in assuaging your misery. It really is all about what they think and feel, and their projection of what they believe they would do if in your shoes.  While understanding the genesis of their comment can be helpful, it doesn’t really solve the problem of the best response.  Clearly, that depends on your mood, with whom you are speaking, and your stage of grief. (Contrary to what Elizabeth Kubler Ross said, those stages do not follow linearly, and can come back to haunt you in all sorts of disorderly and unpredictable ways.)

You could say, “Perhaps, if you had this experience (divorce, break-up, death of a loved one) you would have already worked through your grief, but I haven’t. Part of my journey is making it safe to allow my feelings to evolve.”

A deeper issue here is having the courage of your convictions and the confidence to express them.  The only way to build confidence is by doing difficult things.  Assertively standing up for yourself can be very challenging, especially when you feel beaten down by life; but, that’s the time to practice speaking your truth. It will not only build confidence, but you might feel a new lightness from unburdening yourself and being authentic.

In a perfect world, people might have the sensitivity and awareness to say, “I am so sorry this situation is painful and difficult for you,” and just leave it at that.  But, if they continue to say, Aren’t you over that already?” perhaps responding with: “I appreciate your desire to see an end to my suffering. Thank you for your sympathy and concern.” could be liberating, and keep you from reacting defensively.

No one likes to feel judged, put-down, or chastised. If you know that question pushes your buttons it’s best to get away from it as quickly as possible, especially with acquaintances.  If you want to explain how you really feel to friends or family, that’s different as you have a long-standing bond with them, and presumably many years of relationship ahead.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

The Most Important Relationship You’ll Ever Have May 31, 2009

 

The most important relationship you’ll ever have is with you.  Considering that you are with yourself every minute of every day, why not make this your most loving alliance?

 

While there are many reasons for not having developed a great bond with yourself, there’s no upside in cataloguing them.  In lieu of focusing on the past, here are some ways to cultivate an enjoyable, dependable, tender relationship with yourself.

 

As the Buddha said: There is no one more deserving of compassion than you.  By fostering a gentle, patient litany of self talk you will reap more benefits than you can imagine. Think of all the harshness you have heaped on yourself. Perhaps, it was setting perfectionistic, unattainable goals, or an incessant catalogue of self-criticism. Decide today that you will counter those old tendencies towards self-downing with tenderness.  If you hear yourself being judgmental of the way you are handling some aspect of your life, stop, take a breath, and talk to yourself kindly, the way you would calm a child.  Those same messages will soothe you and, more importably, build inner trust.  In time, you will be able to count on yourself for compassion and self-nurturing.  You will be that safe haven for you.

 

It may sound banal, but taking good care of yourself begins with eating well, including treats.  Unless you are someone who eats to live, and doesn’t really enjoy your food, eating something delicious every day is another way you show yourself that you matter.  Getting enough sleep is crucial, too.  Just like the people who think they can have one drink and drive, while every study shows they are impaired, many think they can do just fine with six hours a night.  Perhaps, you are one of the very few who can, but most need seven to eight hours to function well.  Last, but not least, is exercise.  Move your body.  It really doesn’t matter what you do, but do something on a regular basis and it will improve your outlook, as well as your physical health.

 

Meditation is a wonderful way to befriend and better understand your mind.  What are its tendencies?  Do you focus on all the tasks that still need doing?  Are you preoccupied with everyone else’s problems, worrying day and night?  Do you live in the future, waiting for your ship to come in, lose 10 pounds, or meet your ideal mate? Whatever your predilections, you can learn to re-focus on your breath and quiet some of the incessant noise.  Meditation is also a great way to notice any tendencies towards self-downing, or habits of assuming the worst.  Once you see a trend you can actively work towards substituting unhelpful thoughts for positive ones. (See Affirmations.)

 

Even your sex life can benefit from a better relationship with yourself.  By getting to know your body’s reactions you can please yourself, if going solo, or help your partner understand what you like, if coupled.

 

Socially, you can develop comfort within yourself, so going out alone is not a hardship; but, something you might choose on a regular basis. After all, you are always available without prior notice and you already know what you like to do.  For many people, this is a very difficult thing to imagine, let alone practice.  I encourage you to bravely go forth: see that movie or art show alone, go out for a meal by yourself (you may want to start with breakfast or lunch as they are often eaten without company), take a beautiful drive or walk (you will notice more when solo), do all those things you know you would enjoy and you’ll probably end up making new friends (all those other folks who like the same thing you do and who didn’t want to call their friends to see who wanted to share the experience).  I am sure that right after people’s fear of public speaking (the number one anxiety in this country), is venturing out by yourself.  Wouldn’t it feel like a great coup to tackle that old irrational belief?  You know, the one that says you’re a loser if you’re alone. You’re not. One third of all adults in the U.S. live by themselves. 

 

Attending to your spiritual side, developing a deep bond with the ineffable qualities of life, and finding peace within are all ways of enhancing your joy.  Trust that you will find your way to that still, small place inside where all goodness dwells.  By practicing being there for yourself, in all circumstances and on all levels, you will watch joy ripen in your heart.  You can choose to feel truly loved right this minute. Don’t take my word for it, just go for it.  It’s a radical step, but one you’ll never regret.

 

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Mini-Meditation for Balance & Peace April 5, 2009

 

 

There will be times when it seems as if the whole world is imploding inside you.  

When you are literally brought to your knees because the weight of everything you are negotiating feels completely overwhelming.  

 

At these times, it’s best to just breathe.  

 

With each exhalation, let go.  

 

Feel your body relax.

 

Pay attention to any calmness you may feel.  Perhaps it’s the softening around your eyes, your jaw, or the center of your tongue. Just notice, and let go.

 

Allow the breath to fill your body completely.

 

Imagine your breath coming in from the soles of your feet, moving all the way to the crown of your head, and leaving your body from the crown of your head all the way down to the soles of your feet.

 

Focus on gradually lengthening the breath, while keeping your inhales and exhales equal.

 

With each inhalation, draw the breath into any part of your body that feels tense or painful.  

 

Infuse that space with fresh oxygen, cleansing, nourishing, and soothing your body with loving awareness.

 

This is the attention you crave. Your own sweet self gently tending your body, mind, and spirit.  Bringing back balance, wholeness, peace.

 

 

Namaste,

Nicole

 

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Grace October 20, 2008



“The growth of grace is like the polishing of metals. There is first an opaque surface; by and by you see a spark darting out, then a strong light; ’till at length it sends back a perfect image of the sun that shines upon it.” Edward Payson (1783-1827)


“We’re all stumbling towards the light with varying degrees of grace at any given moment.” Bo Lozoff


“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” Anne Lamott




If you choose to you can see grace in everything.  Surely, it was grace that let you take a breath when the grief was so intense you thought your body would implode.  It was grace that, after a night of tears, let you see the beauty of red leaves falling to the ground; and, it was grace that brought a smile to your lips when you saw a young couple holding hands.


The Hasidic Jews practice saying a Hebrew phrase: Baruch Hashem, which roughly translates to “Thank God,” whenever anything happens. So, let’s say you made a huge pot of soup and it’s been simmering all day. You carefully pick it up, but trip on something and it spills its entire contents on the floor.  Why say Baruch Hashem?  Because you’re assuming everything happens for the best; it’s all from God and divine. On a purely pragmatic level, falling at that very second may have prevented something worse from happening.


There’s a fairly well-known story about a man who led a righteous life. Without reason, his horse escaped, and fled into barbarian territory. Everyone pitied him, but the old man said : “What makes you think this is not a good thing?”

Several months later, his horse returned, accompanied by a superb stallion. Everyone congratulated him. But the old man said: “What makes you think this cannot be a bad thing?”

The family was richer from a good horse, and his son enjoyed riding it. One day, while riding, he fell and broke his hip. Everyone pitied him, but the old man said: “What makes you think this is not a good thing?”

A year later, a large party of barbarians entered the border. All the able-bodied men drew their bows and went to battle. Nine out of ten died. But because he was lame the man’s son did not have to fight and was spared.


What do we know?  Why not assume the best?  It’s the nature of life to have balance: yin and yang, light and shadow.  All things contain seeds of their opposite.  If you ever had a baby, you know (consciously or unconsciously) that from the second your child is born they move towards increasing independence, and away from you.  Their self-sufficiency is actually your ultimate goal.


Everything is bittersweet.  The greatest joy ends and the deepest sadness heals.  Perhaps, this ebb and flow from one type of experience to another, is what keeps us so entranced with life.  We’re on an intermittent reinforcement schedule, and there’s no way to predict what’s next.


Nature’s most intense expressions: tsunamis, earthquakes, avalanches all end with peace resumed.  Yes, there has been a major upheaval and plenty of damage; but, just like the naturally occurring forest fires, it paves the way for an explosion of new growth. There’s grace in that transformation, just as there’s grace in each of us.  It may be harder to find because of our habitual preference for stability and familiarity, but it’s there.


The entire cycle, from birth to death, is grace incarnate.  Not every minute is joyous, but even suffering can be sweet in its ending, setting the stage for greater delight.




Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

 
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