Monday, March 28, 2011

Breathe Strategy - E is for Enrich

I love this Breathe Strategy, to me it means taking everything I have learned and used with all the other Breathe Strategies to make my life more manageable and rich.  To quit worrying about the past and having anxiety about the future, and to enjoy every moment I am living right now.  It also means that I take what I have learned and share it to help others do the same.

The dictionary defines enrich this way:  to make rich or richer especially by the addition or increase of some desirable quality, attribute, or ingredient <the experience will enrich your life>

Feeling that there was enrichment in my life took several years to figure out.  In fact, just the word "joy" had become confusing to me.  I just really didn't understand it, some how the definition and feeling eluded me.  There is a scripture in The Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 2:25 that says:  Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy.

I was finding this idea really difficult, we are to have joy, but I wasn't seeing or feeling it in my life.  It wasn't until I went to Hawaii with my daughter to drop my son off at college and we had a day at the beach that I began to understand.  I described this moment to my therapist this way:

My son was playing out in the water with his new roommate on their boogie boards while my daughter was sitting next to me in the sand.  She was being silly and playing in the sand and built a sand birthday cake.  She put a stick in it and asked me to make a wish and blow out the "candle."  I thought that I didn't need to make a wish as everything in that moment was perfect.  Night began to fall as we stayed at the beach and we saw the first star in the sky.  My daughter said the Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star rhyme and again said we needed to make a wish.  And again, I thought I don't need to make a wish, this moment is perfect. 

My therapist asked me what made the moment so "perfect" for me.  I said I was just enjoying every single moment that I was experiencing, it felt open and I could just "breathe."  Then she said, "can we give this moment a name?"  I said sure and she said, "let's call this 'joy.'"  I started to cry and said, "Is that what joy is?  I don't know what I thought it was before."

I learned then that "joy" is when you are so in the moment that you can't think of the past or future, only the current moment.  Joy is when I can breathe, everything feels open, free and alive.  When I feel joy is when my life is enriched.

As I mentioned earlier, part of "enrich" is taking that feeling to others around you.  Co-Dependents Anonymous, or CoDA, has a 12 Step Program and Step 12 says this:

Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other codependents, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

As it says, I feel the need to carry the message of what I have learned to others.  I have done so in many conversations and this is a huge part of why I am doing this blog.  And what is that message, Melodie Beattie says it this way in her book Codependents' Guide to the Twelve Steps:

What is our message?  One of hope, love, comfort, and health.  Better relationships and a better way of life, one that works. . . .  We carry the message in subtle, but powerful, ways by doing our own recovery work and becoming a living demonstration of hope, self-love, self-nurturing, and health.

 My focus this week is to remember how it feels to have that "enrichment" in my life, to feel breath in every moment and know that that breath is "joy."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

True Identity

I was watching The Biggest Loser last night and was impressed with several things that happened, but one in particular.  The contestant Justin said something about how cool it was to feel inside that he was someone special.

As I was writing in my journal this morning I was thinking about what Justin said.  It is not something I can say about myself right now, but maybe that's what this journey I am on is all about.  Maybe that is the core of all of this, to remember my "specialness."  Maybe once I realize that, I can move forward and accomplish my life's mission.  Maybe I just don't have the capacity to fulfill my mission until I can see that spark of individual worth inside.

I was looking at some articles on lds.org and found Susan W. Tanner's talk given in April 2007 entitled Daughters of Heavenly Father, this is how it begins: 

Our son-in-law told his daughter, three-year-old Eliza, that for family home evening they were going to have a lesson on a very special subject. She got a big smile on her face and attempted to guess the surprise. “It must be about me,” she said, “because I am very special!” Eliza remembers and knows who she is—a very special child of God. She has learned this from her mother, who from Eliza’s earliest infancy has sung our opening hymn, “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301), as a nightly lullaby.

All over the world and in almost every language, young women ages 12 to 18 declare the same thing: “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him” (“Young Women Theme,” Young Women Personal Progress [booklet, 2001], 5). Yet as they grow up, they often grow away from the confident knowledge of three-year-old Eliza that they are very special. Youth often experience an identity crisis, wondering who they really are. The teenage years are also a time of what I describe as “identity theft,” meaning that worldly ideas, philosophies, and deceits confuse us, buffet us, and seek to rob us of the knowledge of our true identity.

We hear so often about "identity theft" as having our credit stolen, but I found it so interesting how she uses that same phrase to indicate the loss of the knowledge of our true identity and that we our "special."

In Co-Dependent No More, by Melodie Beattie she said:

To honor the self is to be willing to know not only what we think, what we want, need, desire, suffer over, are frightened of or angered by and to accept our right to experience such feelings. . . . To honor the self is to be in love with our own life, in love with our possibilities for growth and for experiencing joy.
I think that must have been what Justin was feeling, he was honoring himself and being "in love" with his own life.  At the end of the episode they showed him back home teaching, motivating and "calling out" the people around him to exercise and take care of themselves too.  To me it appears as if he found himself, his true identify and his purpose in life by honoring and loving himself .

I had one particular painful experience after I first started therapy and I felt as if my personal identity had been "stolen."  When I realized that I was co-dependent and how it started, I felt as if I didn't know who I was today.  I felt like I had left my true identity at that moment of crisis.  I was devastated and it was probably the darkest moment of my life.  It took sincere effort, prayer and guidance before I realized that I was still me, had been me all along, that I had only been ignoring a part of myself.  It wasn't a true identity theft, just a partial loss of my full identity.

I have since started trying to honor all parts of myself, trying to love myself and identify my true self, the part of me that loves me and realizes how special I am.  It's a journey that is easier and more natural for others, but has been a great challenge for me.  I am now excited for the day when I can see the joy on my face at feeling my "specialness" inside as Justin did on the show last night.  I see more and more of myself each day as I look in the mirror so I know that little by little I am uncovering my true identity.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Breathe Strategy - H is for Hear

If I had to pick only one strategy to follow, this is the strategy I would pick.  I didn't realize in the beginning the importance of this strategy.  My awareness of it's importance has slowly grown over time and so has my understanding of what to "hear" really means. 

When the Breathe acronym first came to me I thought the "hear" was to hear and help others.  Hearing what others need and helping them is extremely important, but it is equally important  to "hear" yourself.  I hadn't realized that I wasn't listening to myself at all.  When I quit my job my last full-time job, I was suffering from unbelievable fatigue.  After being a stay-at-home mom for the next several years, the fatigue continued to worsen, I went to see a naturopathic doctor (I had seen several doctors and even specialists who couldn't help me).  She diagnosed me with Adrenal Exhaustion and put me on an adrenal gland support which changed my world.

She also gave me a really amazing tool to "hear" what my body was trying to tell me.  At my first visit with her she asked me how I felt on a scale of 1-100 (100 being the best I've ever felt) and she encouraged me to say the first number that popped into my head.  I was surprised at the low number that popped out of my mouth.  After hearing my answer, she said that we needed to get me to 80 or above, which eventually I was able to.  I still use this method to see how I am doing, not just with fatigue, but also many other factors of my life.

I understand now that my fatigue was my body telling me that it needed time to rest and recover, but I just kept working trying to get everything "done."  Our bodies are amazing things and they are constantly communicating with us, every pain and hurt is a message.  The question is are we listening to what it is trying to tell us?

The last few years I've had a problem with falling.  My first fall was only down two steps, but it was the most destructive to my body.  As I hobbled into the house crying in pain, my son got some ice for me and said, "I think your body is telling you that you are doing too much."  He was right, but I still didn't listen.  I just kept pushing through projects and over the next few weeks had several more falls.  Over a year later I had a few more falls.  After one particular fall when I was outside working in the yard, I kept working through the pain in my ankle just because I wanted to get the project done.  There I was trying to carry some rocks and I could hardly walk.  I finally got smart and quit working.  But I paid a price for taking so long to listen by having a longer recovery time, needing some physical therapy and having to wear an air cast.

Our body isn't the only thing we need to listen to, we need to listen to our emotions.  I have a very bad habit of taking my emotions and shutting them down.  I "box" them up inside of me and ignore them.  This too has had some bad consequences and I am learning how to "hear" those emotions and work through them as they happen instead of having to deal with them later because they always come up (see the book Feelings Buried Alive Never Die).  We cannot hide from our emotions forever, they will demand attention at some point.  I realize now that feeling those emotions as they are happening and working through them is much easier than trying to shove them down over and over again.

Another very important thing that we need to "hear" is our spirit.  One day I was writing in my journal about how I didn't feel like I was worth much, but then I wrote "something inside me says that isn't true."  As I continued to write in my journal over the next several weeks, this kept happening.  "Something" inside me kept saying that I had value.  It finally occurred to me that that "something" was my spirit, that part of me that has always been, that was me before coming to earth, that was me through my childhood and was me now.  As I listen to my spirit, I connect with my real self, not the me that pretends that I'm okay all the time, that pretends that I don't hurt physically or emotionally.  I listen and hear the real me that knows that I feel and love and have value just because of who I am, not what I do.

I believe that we are like a three legged stool.  The legs are:  our body, our emotions, and our spirit.  We need the support of all three legs.  And when we are not supporting one of those legs, we fall.  In order to remain healthy and strong, we need to hear all three aspects of ourselves. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Labor

This is one of my favorite poems, I could see how Heavenly Father feels as we go through trials and challenges knowing we will be better people when it is done.  Even though I hate it when my kids are going through challenges, I can also see the things they learn from those challenges and the growth is amazing.  It's still hard to appreciate difficulties though!

Labor
by Carol Lynn Pearson

You have come in
Like a wounded animal
That crawls into a log
To die.

Now
Do not think me
Unfeeling.
It's just that I have
Been through it
So many times
And seen it
So many times
And know
I'll see it again.

I will hold your hand.
But, if you see me
Smiling just a little
While you're writhing and torn,
Please understand
That I know labor pains
When I see them --

And frankly, I can't wait
To see what is struggling
To be born.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Breathe Strategy - T is for Thank

I have always believed that giving thanks is important because it reminds us that we have so much going for us in our lives.  When we take a moment to give thanks, we can see that things are not as bad as it might seem otherwise. 

Giving and showing thanks can do even more for us, President Thomas S. Monson (President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) said this, "My brothers and sisters, do we remember to give thanks for the blessings we receive? Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love."  I love that, giving thanks helps us feel love and when we feel love, it is easier to share love, to others and to ourselves.

In my life, I have a hard time believing that I deserve the wonderful things that I have been blessed with so I find myself constantly expressing my gratitude in quiet prayer.  Despite my deep feelings of gratitude, I am not great at showing my gratitude outwardly.  So I wanted to share some examples I have seen of people who know how to thank outwardly. 

One of the most gracious people I have met is Jeanette Lynton who is the owner and CEO of Close to my Heart.  I have been an independent consultant for this company for over 15 years and I have been to many company events and listened to Jeanette talk on many occasions.  When she speaks, the first comment she shares is her gratitude to her Heavenly Father for all she has, to her husband who is by her side and works with her daily, to her children and grandchildren and the great love they all share and to all of us consultants.  Her words of gratitude are always so heartfelt and tender.  I would truly like to be more verbal with my gratitude as she is.

 Another example is a young man that was saying a prayer at a church event I attended many years ago.  His prayer seemed to last forever and at first I think there was a little snickering going on because of it, but in his prayer he expressed his thanks for the smallest things without fearing what his peers might think.  I have thought of his prayer many times over the years and how he was thankful for so many things and not ashamed to express how he felt.  I would like to be better at showing my thankfulness for all the smaller things in life, not just the big things.

Recently someone was telling me that they were not taught how to write thank you cards and that is why they didn't send them.  I wasn't taught either, but I have always loved to write letters and so didn't have a problem writing thank you cards.  Although this is a practice I quit doing a few years ago, I have a great desire to begin again.  In looking for some inspiration on doing just that, I found this quote:

"Don’t think of writing thank you notes as a chore, some obligation to be filled or box to check, think of expressing gratitude as a way to become an artist, and the thank you note as your artwork. There are many different kinds of art and artists, decide who you are—Michelangelo, Monet, or Pollock—use this as a starting place from which to inspire and launch your thank you note writing."  Taken from Tips on Writing and Showing Gratitude website.

Someone who is really wonderful at writing thank you notes is my mother-in-law.  She is so faithful in showing her thanks for everything from gifts to time spent together.  She is definitely someone to emulate in the practice of sending thank you notes.

One last quote to share with you, again from President Monson:  "A grateful heart, then, comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude. Often we feel grateful and intend to express our thanks but forget to do so or just don’t get around to it. Someone has said that 'feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.'”

My focus this week is to make the conscious effort to show my thankfulness to those around me and in particular to those who have supported me through the last few trying years. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Circles and Triangles

The second I hear the "circle of life" I think of the song in The Lion King and it starts rolling around in my head.  It's a circle we are all familiar with, life and death.  But there is a circle in life that I wasn't even aware of.  One day in therapy my therapist said that we all need to "recuperate" and I said, "what?"  I had been telling her that I was so tired and found myself just sitting and watching tv a lot lately and how guilty I felt about that.  That is when she said that I was probably tired and needed to recuperate.

I honestly had never thought about having a need to recuperate.  I just did and did and did.  I especially had a problem with pushing and pushing through things regardless of how much energy I had left.  So needless to say this was a completely new concept for me.  She shared with me the circle we each follow to take better care of ourselves, most people just do it automatically without even thinking about it.  It goes like this: 

1 - Homeostasis - balance, restful state
2 - Impulse - desire to do something (earn money at a job, create something, etc.)
3 - Action - moving on the impulse (going to work, working on a project, etc.)
4 - Recuperation - taking time to rest your body and mind from your action
5 - Reintegration - activity or thoughts getting back into your life

Learning about this circle was huge for me, understanding that in order to complete it we need to follow through with recuperation, then getting back into our life and the restful state of homeostasis.  I realized I had only been going through phases 2 and 3, impulse and action, impulse and action, never giving myself a chance to recuperate and keep moving around the circle.  No wonder I was exhausted.

What was even bigger for me was when I discovered the triangle, more specifically the co-dependent triangle.  The co-dependent cycle is a triangle of three steps that happen over and over again.  I first read about this triangle in Co-Dependent No More by Melodie Beattie.  It is called the "Karpman Drama Triangle."  When I read about this cycle I could see my life flashing before my eyes.  I could see every single triangle that I had done in my life, the big triangles and the little triangles.

Here are the steps in the Karpman Drama Triangle:

1.  Rescue/caretaking - rescue someone we believe is not capable of taking care of themselves.

2.  Persecution/resentful - We become resentful and angry at the person we have helped, we've done something we didn't want to do, we've done something that wasn't our responsibility to do, we've ignored our own needs, and we get angry about it.

3.  Victim - feelings of helplessness, hurt, sorrow, shame and self-pity abound.  We have been used again.  We have gone unappreciated.

Unlike the circle which is very beneficial for our emotions and bodies, this triangle is very self-destructive.  It has taken awhile, but I have learned how to stop a triangle cycle and have learned how to complete a circle cycle. 

In the triangle cycle, when I am feeling resentment, then I know that I am in a co-dependent triangle and stop what I am doing.  I have also come to notice when I start a "rescue" and can immediately stop things before I move further into that triangle.  I have learned to notice when I am exhausted and understand that I have been in the action phase of the circle and know that I need to allow myself to move to the next phase which is recuperation and move forward to again reach homeostasis.

I have found that as I properly follow the circle I have more energy emotionally and physically.  Additionally I'm a much happier person as I shut down the triangles, even better if I don't start the triangles at all. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Where do I Stand?

One last talk I found in my journal, this one I gave in church on January 29, 2006 :

When I was called and asked to give a talk, my first thought was "I haven't been asked to give a talk in years and they pick this week when I have so much going on to ask."  But I didn't have a good reason to say no, so I accepted.  The interesting thing is that I had recently been thinking about giving talks and just last week as I sat here in church listening to the speakers, I thought, "it's a good thing they don't call me to talk because I'm feeling so low spiritually."  I guess as my mother says, "when you don't feel like praying, is when you need to pray the most."  I knew that I had a busy week and I didn't want to procrastinate my preparations and I wanted to raise where I was feeling spiritually.  So I delved into my scriptures, I did research during my daughter's gymnastics classes, typed in between dropping my son off at seminary and picking him back up for school.  I was feeling pretty good about my progress.  Then Thursday morning after I dropped my son off at Seminary, I hurried home, typed in a few sentences and then my computer died.  Now, I normally don't handle it well when things go wrong, I'm not good when I'm frustrated, but with this, I almost half expected it.  How often have you heard people talking in church about how their printer died, or they lost their talk or something else similar.  So I was okay.  Then I had the repair work done, my hard drive had completely crashed, nothing could be saved from it and that's pretty much when I crashed as well, it was the straw and I broke.  I, unfortunately for my husband, started crying and couldn't pull myself together.  I was trying hard to make everything work, yet I felt like everything kept getting heavier and heavier.  I asked my husband for a blessing and once the blessing started, I felt an overwhelming sense of love as my Father in Heaven spoke to me, I felt so much like he was in the room standing right in front of me saying the words himself.  He told me that he loved me and that everything would be okay, I just needed to stay on the path that I was on.  Being on a path, and particularly where we stand on the path is crucial to our experience on earth.  Our theme today is Where do I Stand using President Monson's talk "Choose You this Day" in the November 2004 Ensign.

President Monson talks about Alice in Wonderland and how at one point in the story she asks the Cheshire Cat which path she should follow and the cat answers that it depends on where you want to go.  President Monson says that we all know where we want to go and that the path we follow in this life surely leads to the path we will follow in the next.  I think that a lot of our problems lie in the fact that we do not know where we want to go.  I keep telling my Sunday school classes that if you knew, if you really knew and understood the gospel, you wouldn't waiver on your path.  I'm not saying it would be easy, but you wouldn't waiver.

I was reading a talk given by Ardeth Kapp entitled "Drifting, Dreaming, Directing."  In her talk, she says "It is while a person stands undecided, uncommitted, and uncovenanted, with choices waiting to be made, that the vulnerability to every wind that blows becomes life threatening. . . .  It is in taking a stand and making a choice to follow our leaders that we become free to move forward.  We are then released from the crippling position of doubtful indecision and confusion.  We then have access to power and influence, so much so that we can hardly keep pace with our opportunities.  It is in or by using our agency and making firm decisions that we turn the key."

Sister Kapp goes on to say, "It has been my observation, and it is my confession as a former participant, that many people drift along with the crowd in the Church.  Many good people drift to Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School, even family home evening, and they drift through a casual study of the scriptures.  The drifters fall into at least one of two groups.  In the first are those who step into the mainstream, getting deeply involved with Church activity and floating with the current, comfortable with a sense of false security that they are in the right place.  Others, who form the second group, accepting a few selected principles, resist being part of the flow, the mainstream, and choose to get out in the eddies at the edge, freed from the demands of full participation.  It is difficult to decide which of these two groups is better -- or worse.  Those of us who are, on the basis of activity alone, very much in the Church may not necessarily have the Church very much in us; and if we left, the Church might hardly recognize the difference.  Following the practices, doing the right thing but if without coming to know, understand, accept, and apply the saving principles and doctrines, we may be compared to one who spends his entire life stringing the instrument -- never once hearing the music for which the instrument was created or incapable of recognizing it if he did.  In matters of principle, let us stand as solid as a rock.  In matters of practice, may all that we do be based upon these saving principles, and may we understand the intrinsic relationship of principles and practices.  It is in making the decision to follow the admonition of the prophet and to become scholars of the scriptures that we gradually learn the doctrine that prepares us to stand on the rock of revelation and to experience less and less the restless sense of drifting, wandering, questioning and searching."

When I read this, I felt that I too, like Sister Kapp, have been a participant in drifting and this was most likely the reason why I was lately feeling spiritually low.

Heber C. Kimball said, "The time is coming when no man or woman will be able to endure on borrowed light.  Each will have to be guided by the light within himself.  If you do not have it, you will not stand."

I think about people I have known in my life, those that have not been able to continue standing or moving forward on the path to eternal life and I wonder what made them leave the path, how come they didn't seek to have their own light, or testimony?

President Monson quotes President David O. McKay who counseled, "The greatest battle of life is fought within the silent chambers of your own soul. . . .  It is a good thing to sit down and commune with yourself, to come to an understanding with yourself and decide in that silent moment what your duty is to your family, to your church, to your country, and . . . to your fellowmen.''

And I would add to yourself, you owe it to yourself, to find out what is at the end of the path that you are on, whether it is a good path or a bad path, you need to know what is at the end and if it is really what you want.  If you don't really know what is at the end of your path or especially why you are on that path, as Heber Kimball put it so boldly, you will not stand.  I'm sure many of you have heard the saying that if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

As President McKay said, it is a good thing to sit down with yourself and determine what your path is.  Once you have done that, and you know you are on the right path what keeps us standing and moving forward?  President Monson talks about how he has a guide, it is a painting of the Savior.  It is his reminder to stay on the path and keep moving forward.  He also talks about President Harold B. Lee's daughter and how her guide is a special set of scriptures that he gave to her. 

I think another great example of a guide is Lehi's vision where he sees a rod of iron and a straight and narrow path along the side of it which leads to the tree of life.  I have seen many key chains that are an iron rod as a reminder to cling to it.  There are also beautiful pieces of jewelry with reminders such as "return with honor," "endure to the end" and more.  I have a symbol of the Liahona on my bracelet that I like to look at as a reminder of that wonderful tool of guidance that was given to Lehi and Nephi to help keep them on the path that their Heavenly Father desired them to be on and that I have many things in my life that can be likened to the Liahona such as the scriptures.

I think one of the simplest visual guides is the ring we have all received in Primary, the CTR ring.  Last week Sister Page and I had a little girl and her brother came to try out a gymnastics class and she was wearing her CTR ring.  It was so fun to say that we had one of those too and be able to share a knowing look with her and her mom!  Recently, I found myself drawn to a TV show about a young man who had been attending BYU and left school as well as the path of righteousness for a path in direct conflict.  As I watched his struggles, it was interesting to note, that he still wore his CTR ring despite the path he was currently on.

Maybe you don't have something visual as these examples, maybe it's a feeling, a desire, a poem, a thought.  I memorized a poem many years ago in seminary entitled "If you want a thing bad enough," it goes like this:

If you want a thing bad enough
To go out and fight for it,
Work day and night for it,
Give up your time and your peace and your sleep for it,
If only a desire of it makes your arm strong enough
Never to tire of it,
Makes you hold all things tawdry and cheap for it,
If life seems empty and useless without it
And all that you scheme and you dream is about it,
If gladly you sweat for it,
Fret for it,
Plan for it,
Lose all your terror of God and of man for it,
If you'll simply go after the thing that you want,
With all your capacity,
Strength and sagacity,
Faith, hope and confidence, stern pertinacity,
If neither cold, poverty, famished and gaunt,
Nor sickness, nor pain,
Of body and brain,
Can turn you away from the thing that you want,
If dogged and grim you besiege and beset it,
YOU'LL GET IT!

That pretty much sums it up for me, it has always just been a great desire of mine to attain the Celestial Kingdom and live with My Father in Heaven again, it is really, really what I want.  If you currently don't have a visual or type of "guide" or reminder for your path, find something that is meaningful and keep it close to you.

Our Heavenly Father has a plan for us and he wants us to succeed.  He and our Savior will do anything to help us stay on the right path.  As the Savior has said, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."  He is standing there, waiting to help us, but he can only meet us halfway, we need to be standing at the door ready to open it.

I found a quote many years ago that I keep on my bathroom mirror as a reminder that my Heavenly Father does have a plan for me, that I do have a purpose here and that I need to keep on my current path.  It is by Elder Richard G. Scott, he says "The Lord has placed currents of driving influence in your life that will lead you along the individual plan He would have you fulfill here on earth.  Seek through the Spirit to identify it and carefully follow that direction that the Lord has put in your life.  Align yourself with it.  Choose, willingly, to exercise your agency to follow it.  Do not be overcome by concentrating solely on today, its challenges, difficulties, and opportunities.  Such preoccupations must not totally capture your attention so as to consume your life.  Oh, how I would encourage you to weave deeply into the fabric of your soul the recognition that your life now is a part of a much bigger plan the Lord has for you.  You lived part of it in the premortal existence.  you were valiant there and came here because you wanted to grow and enjoy greater happiness.  What you decide to do now will affect how well you fulfill that divine, personal plan He has for you."

So where are you standing right now in your life?  Are you on the right path?  Do you fully understand what is at the end of the path?  Are you committed to that path?  Are you moving forward, backwards or standing still?"  Are you drifting?  We should be constantly evaluating where we are, do we need to make adjustments?  One of my favorite scriptures is "Be still and know that I am God."  Sometimes we do need to be still on our path and feel the peace of the spirit.  We need to find ourselves standing still in holy places.  President Monson talks about how Joseph Smith sought help by entering a grove which then became sacred.  He poses the question, do we each need to seek our own "Sacred Grove?"  A place where we can communicate with God unimpeded, uninterrupted and undisturbed.

As I thought about that, I thought about places that have been my sacred groves.  I thought about how in my youth, the nearby Provo temple was my "sacred grove."  It was where I felt closest to my Heavenly Father.  I would walk on the grounds or sit there for hours.  I even remember late one night after the temple gates had been closed and locked that I so desperately needed to feel close to my Father in Heaven that I knelt at the fence and poured my heart out, knowing completely that he would hear me there and I would feel him.

I remember traveling on a mutual trip to Nauvoo and other Church history sites and singing Come, Come Ye Saints in a small old chapel having seen so much of the early church members' trials and the feeling that came as we sang that last verse, "and should we die, before our journey's through, Happy Day!  All is well!  All is well!"  When we traveled to Carthage Jail and saw the blood stain still on the floor where Hyrum Smith died, having a testimony meeting outside on the lawn near where the prophet Joseph Smith fell to his death.  And, entering Admon-ondi-Aham feeling the peace and the strength of the spirit.  Many places on that trip were "sacred groves" to me, even just for a moment.

Every summer at girls camp, the surrounding area and especially in the evening as we would gather as a ward around the campfire on our knees, hand in hand singing I am a Child of God and then praying to our Heavenly Father and how on our last night we would share our testimonies.  That was very much a "sacred grove" to me.

I don't have a "sacred grove" right now and I have yearned to find one, I would hope that each of you would seek out your own "sacred grove."

We are admonished to stand in holy places, President Hinkley asks us to "stand tall," and if you've never heard it, I highly recommend listening to our Young Women as they repeat each Sunday and at mutual the Young Women's theme which begins, "We are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love him.  We will stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places . . . ."

We know the obvious holy places to stand, at Church, the temple, our homes.  It is when we find something not as obvious as a holy place that we find our "sacred groves" whether it is just for a moment or for many years.  My family and I had just such an experience over the summer.  We met my in-laws in Eastern Washington at a property that has been in my mother-in-law's family for many generations.  She had invited several long-time friends and their families.  We were having a great few days playing and enjoying each other's company.  Arrangements had been made to have the sacrament on Sunday while we were there.  We were in the old family lodge which does have running water, but not much else.  I have been at this lodge many times over the years, and I never would have expected what we experienced that day.  Our simple sacrament was prepared, blessed and served.  It was quiet, serene, simple and so beautiful.  It meant something so amazing in its most basic form, and we all felt it.  The feeling could not be denied.  We moved on to a simple testimony meeting, everyone in attendance (except my step-father-in-law who is not a member) was inspired to stand and bear witness of what we were feeling, from the oldest to the youngest, we all stood in that simplest of places, cried, shared our testimonies and felt something we could hardly describe.  We will forever be grateful for that time of standing on holy ground, for that sacred grove moment.

My hope for myself, my family and each of you is that you will take a moment and commune with yourself as to what path you are on, and where you are on that path.  That each of you will find a guide to encourage you on that path.  That you will reach out and open the door and let the Savior in to help you along your path.  That you will find a "sacred grove" of your own to continually commune with your Father in Heaven.  That you will know what you want, that you will know what your Father in Heaven wants for you and that you will let nothing lead you away from that path.  I hope most of all that you will stand tall in the knowledge that you are a child of God, that He loves you and wants you back home with Him.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Breathe Strategy - A is for Accept

Years ago we were going through a difficult trial and my cousin shared this phrase with me:  you have to accept that what you are going through is the only way for you to learn what you need to know to progress spiritually and once you do that it takes the drama out of the situation.

That phrase has helped me through so many trials and life experiences.  I think acceptance means that you quit fighting against what is happening.  Does this mean that then your experience will be easier, I'm not totally sure but I believe that as you quit fighting against the bull and flow with it's bucking, your ride will be much easier.

I guess for me, acceptance of trials came with learning and living through them.  I assumed that acceptance was only meant for the here and now.  I didn't realize that I also needed to accept things from my past.  Accept that they happened, and accept how they really happened instead of putting rose colored glasses over it.  Accepting the pain and sadness of those experiences is what helps you move through them and let them go.   I love this quote on acceptance by Nathaniel Branden in his book The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem:

Self-acceptance entails our willingness to experience -- that is, to make real to ourselves, without denial or evasion -- that we think what we think, feel what we feel, desire what we desire, have done what we have done, and are what we are.  It is the refusal to regard any part of ourselves -- our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts, our actions, our dreams -- as alien, as "not me."  It is our willingness to experience rather than to disown whatever may be the facts of our being at a particular moment -- to think our thoughts, own our feelings, be present to the reality of our behavior.

Left to right: Stacey, Jenny
and me on the right
Over the last few years as I have been working through a lot of things, I have put on a lot of weight.  I finally had to decide to accept that I was overweight, to quit avoiding having pictures taken of me, looking in the mirror, etc.  Accepting that it is taking time to put myself together emotionally and that it will take time to put myself back together physically.  So this week I'm focusing on accepting that I am who I am, with all my emotional baggage and weight baggage.  I believe the weight will come off as I work on it, I also believe that the emotional "weight" is coming off too as I work on that. 

It has taken a long to accept me as I am right now, I wanted to be who I used to be, all skinny, cute and seemingly in control of my life.  Now I am overweight, stronger than I was just a few years ago, living a more real life and much wiser too.  I can accept that.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Joy is in the Bouncing

As I spent some time with old friends a few weeks ago, I found myself trying to describe what co-dependency is.  It is not an easy thing to describe, because though it has the same underlying theme, it can be a little different for each co-dependent person because of why they found themselves in that situation in the first place.  But, here are a few good definitions from Melodie Beattie's book Co-Dependent No More:

"The common denominator is having a relationship with troubled, needy or dependent people, and unwritten or silent rules that prohibit discussion about problems; realistic expectations, such as being human, vulnerable or imperfect; selfishness; trust in other people and one's self; playing and having fun; and rocking the delicately balanced family canoe through growth or change."

"A co-dependent person is one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior."

"Co-dependency is a way of getting needs met that doesn't get needs met.  We've been doing the wrong things for the right reasons."

These are some good definitions, but there is so much to co-dependency, but to make it simple, this is what I usually tell people:

On one end of the scale is Narcissism or destructive selfishness (usually destructive to others), at the other end of the scale is co-dependency or self-destructive unselfishness (destructive to the self) and in the middle is balance. 

Like being on a teeter-totter, we need to bounce back and forth between doing for others and doing for ourselves.  To park at one end or the other is destructive, but to bounce back and forth, that is where we find our ultimate joy.  We've all been on teeter-totters as children, it is not fun by ourselves, it isn't fun to just sit there in the air, nor to sit at the bottom trying to hold it down.  The true joy of a teeter-totter is to push ourselves off into the air and then to come flying back down, laughing with our partner.
I was parked at the bottom of the "do for others" side of the teeter-totter, trying desperately to hold down the weight of those I was "holding" at the top trying to care for all of them and the longer you hold the teeter-totter down, the heavier it gets.  I had held on to that side of the teeter-totter for so long, I was completely exhausted and had nothing left for myself.  

Others have asked me in the past, "why don't you just do something for yourself, what's the big deal?"  Well, the big deal was that since I was a child I had been trying to "hold things in the air" so they wouldn't get out of control.  I thought if I could keep everything calm at home, then the people in my home would stay calm too.  I was so afraid that if I didn't do everything I could to keep the environment calm, then emotions would fly and things would get out of control.  I held this fear to the core of my being and that if I did something for myself, instead of doing everything in my power to control my home environment then things would get very scary.  As if my very arms were holding back the power of a grenade and if I let go, things would explode.  How could I let go and do something for myself and let that happen.  The fear is very real and I didn't realize how adversely it was affecting my life until I started dealing with the co-dependency.
   
I've always known how much joy we can feel when we do for others, but I just couldn't see how doing something for myself would be beneficial to anyone.  I was so afraid that if I just took care of myself, then the out-of-control feeling at home would escalate.  I didn't see how the bouncing back and forth between the two brought joy to everyone involved and that each one of us are responsible for our own emotions.  I really didn't understand that my holding on so tightly wasn't really going to make a difference in the end, others behave however they want to behave, no matter what we do.  I didn't realize that by my holding down that one end of the teeter-totter, I was holding down my own joy and that did affect my husband and children.  I was still living as if I was in my childhood home, instead of living a new life in my own home.  Letting go and pushing off into the air was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I did it!

I have let go and learned so much over the last few years and I can truly say that life is so much better bouncing back and forth than trying to hold it all up in the air!  The joy in life really is in the bouncing back and forth, pushing up into the air, laughing as we come crashing back down, then pushing up into the air again.  I can almost feel my hair flying against my face right now as I think about it.  Life is about balance, not staying stagnant in one place or another, and joy is in the bouncing! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Breathe Strategy - E is for Energize

I don't know why I forget how important this strategy is.  I will find myself so tired and just dragging myself throughout the day completely forgetting that I know how to change that feeling.  It just isn't something that comes naturally for me. 

Years ago I went to see Dr. McDonald in Buckley, she is a naturopathic doctor and I had tried other doctors with no relief from my problem.  What was my problem, fatigue.  My every waking thought was "I'm so tired."  One of the first questions she asked me is what I did for fun.  I didn't have an answer because I wasn't doing anything for fun.  She encouraged me to work on that.  She also gave me an Adrenal Gland support as I had nearly exhausted my adrenal glands.  It was amazing, after a few weeks I felt so much better.

I really did feel great for a long time.  Then I started having heart palpitations (see my Heart Pain post earlier for more details).  I was diagnosed with a Mitral Valve Prolapse, the interesting thing is the best thing for it is exercise.  I remember one day seeing my trainers at Body Logic (see them in Bonney Lake, they are wonderful) and my heart was hurting so bad, but my cardiologist said to think of it like a headache, but it is a heart ache.  So we went cautiously through with the workout and before I knew it, I was feeling really good.  In researching MVP I came across a saying, "fatigue begets fatigue."  The more we give in to the fatigue the more tired we become.

I have come to realize that when the physical fatigue sets in is when I need to move my body, to get the blood pumping through my heart and then I feel better.  But when the emotional fatigue sets in, it is time to do something fun. 

My therapist talks a lot about "flow."  The first time she mentioned it, I didn't get it.  So she asked me what is it that when I am doing it, the whole day could go by and I wouldn't have even noticed it because I am enjoying it so much.  Of course, on the spot I couldn't think of anything.  So I tried to pay more attention to when my day felt like it was "flowing" and when it felt like I was "pushing" through it. 

Pushing is just when I am trying to get things done and I don't have the energy (physical or mental) but I just keep going (this is also when I find that I end up hurting myself by falling or some such thing).  Pushing does not create more energy, pushing drains energy.  Admittedly sometimes we have no choice, there are things we have to push through, but once you are finished, you need to do something to replenish your energy.  This is where the flowing comes in.  I have come to realize that creating things (whether scrapbooking, card making, needlework, doing something decorative in my home, shopping for creative type things, etc.) is where I find my flow.  Also, writing is very energizing for me. 

When I am drained and I need to re-energize I know it is time to pick something that helps me "flow."  Sometimes it is something as simple as listening to music.  Sometimes it is something bigger like exercise.  Either way, when I'm feeling like I am run down, instead of giving in to the fatigue, I need to do something energizing, whether it be emotional or physical depends on how I am feeling.  Sometimes, it might be both, that's when something like Wii Just Dance is perfect, fun and exercise at the same time.

I just need to remember "fatigue begets fatigue" and to do something different than succumbing to the fatigue.  And also to remember that creating energy in your body comes from within, from the things you enjoy doing and help your day flow.