Tag Archive 'loving kindness'

Feb 22 2010

The Olympian Challenges of Life – Issue #43

   How do you deal with disappointment? While watching the Olympics I have been fascinated with the various reactions to winning and losing. Some lucky ones say, “I’m just happy to have been here and had the Olympic experience.” Others, who expected to win gold and won silver instead, experience a bitter disappointment that will forever affect them. Yet other athletes who won the same medal are overjoyed and will carry that joy the rest of their lives. It is our thoughts about what happens that affects us more than anything else.

   We don’t have much control over mistakes, slip ups, going off track — life happens; but we do have control over how we choose to perceive it. How we look at things has a huge impact on the quality of our lives. Scientists have found that our perceptions affect us on a cellular level. Our brain cells, our bodies, and our lives literally rearrange themselves according to our beliefs. If we think we’re a failure, our brain cells and body will reshape themselves around that belief, and our lives will draw in experiences that confirm it. It is the beliefs we hold, the stories we tell ourselves that shape our lives.

   That is the true Olympian challenge we all face.  Life’s disappointments offer us the opportunity to go for the real gold – the ability to direct our thoughts to positive, life-enhancing perceptions.

   As a child I adopted an attitude of thinking negatively; I figured that way I wouldn’t be disappointed. It didn’t work. I was often disappointed. My negative attitude arranged my cells and myself into one big disappointment magnet! I finally wised up to how my thoughts were creating my reality. 

   It has been my Olympian challenge in life to transform my attitude from negative to positive. My recent experience with cancer has been a test for me – do I get caught up in the draining, complaining energy of  “poor me” down the drain? That’s no fun! Though I did dip my toe in that energy a bit, wondering what I did wrong. But then I chose to shift to a higher perspective, to look for the gold in my experience, focusing on positive perceptions, which generate healing and good feeling.

   I’d like to share with you some of the ways that help me shift to a higher perspective. When you find yourself dwelling in disappointment you can do the following:

1.    Remind yourself that it is your thoughts that are making you feel bad. It is not another person or event that is causing you to suffer, it is how you are perceiving it. I recite to myself Shakespeare’s quote: “It is neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so.” 

2.    Choose encouraging thoughts instead of blaming thoughts. For instance, tell yourself that you did the best you could at the time, and when you knew better, you did better. Appreciate yourself for trying.

3.    Question your negative thoughts. Byron Katie has devised four questions that help jog our thoughts loose from their rigid position. Ask yourself: “Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true? How do you react when you think that thought? Who would you be without this thought?” These questions open us to a whole new way of seeing the situation.

4.    Become thoughtless — shift to your right brain. Negative thinking happens in our habitual left-brain chatter. Singing and other acts of creativity, like dancing and play, shift us to our right brain where we are in the present moment and see the bigger picture. When you find yourself sinking in stinking thinking, come into your ‘right mind’, into the Now — sing a song of self-love and encouragement. I like the song, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.”

5.    Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” Search for the learning in your experience the way you would search for a treasure. The real gold medal in life is the learning we acquire. Focusing on what we have learned makes us a better person, instead of a bitter person.

6.    Cultivate an attitude of loving kindness towards yourself. How would you talk to a child who is suffering in disappointment? Address your own self the same friendly, loving way. A much better goal than being perfect is to learn to truly love ourselves AS IS. That is a major life accomplishment worthy of a gold medal!

7.    Go for the gold! Find the gold in the experience — how has it made you a better person, a stronger person, a more empowered person? For instance, many people who have had challenges such as cancer, including myself, have been awakened to the preciousness of life, and galvanized to live our highest purpose. What a gift! You can multiply the gold by sharing it with others, so that they too can benefit from your experience.

   Life, like the Olympics, tests our metal. I remember a past Olympics when Russian Bela Karoli, the American gymnastics coach, was encouraging Keri Strug, who had sprained her ankle, to do her last vault to help the team win the gold. “You can do eet Keri! You can do eet!” And that diminutive, determined dynamo did it!

   We can do it! We can be winners in the Olympics of our life! All it takes is to choose how we think about things. With Olympian determination we can keep coming back to choosing self-loving thoughts over self-castigating thoughts, focusing on what we have learned rather than what we have lost, creatively shifting into new perspectives instead of staying stuck in old thought patterns, dwelling in the present moment rather than wallowing in disappointment, and finding the gold in every situation and sharing it with others.

   Are you facing a challenge right now? Flex your muscles, activate your determination, call on your Olympian courage, and with all the power that is within you commit to focusing on life-enhancing thoughts and perceptions – you can do eet!

   In Love,

Jan Jacobsen

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Sep 08 2009

There’s Gold In Them Thar ILLs! – Issue #26

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I read something remarkable the other day that moved me to tears.  Eighteen-year-old Shawn Hornbeck, who was abducted by a predator at age eleven and held in captivity for over 4 years (he was found two years ago), wanted to share some of his insights about the experience with Jaycee Dugard, who was also abducted at age eleven and recently found after 18 years in captivity. He said in an interview:

“I realize this sounds like I’m stating the obvious, but you have to move on. You can’t dwell on the past. You have to keep looking toward the future and telling yourself that it’s going to be better than your past … I had a lot of built-up anger afterwards, which is normal. But this anger can take control of your life if you’re not careful. You’re angry about how unfair it is that this happened to you … Going to therapy really helped me get everything in order. One of the things that really helped me…is that we talked about how I could better myself from what happened to me, how could I use all those terrible, awful experiences I had, to grow and mature. I know it sounds crazy, but those experiences have made me a better person.

Wow! After all the horrors that he’d endured, this young man turned his victim’s journey into a hero’s journey by finding gold in his experience, finding the gift in his wound, and sharing this gift with others. He also freed himself from the captivity of his anger and bitterness. That is the ultimate freedom! And it is no small feat.

I know what it’s like to be a captive of resentment. It has been an ongoing teacher of mine. For years I was addicted to ‘stewing’, simmering in a soup opera of resentment, feeling victimized, wronged, and ripped off. Anyone who has ever been trapped in resentment knows what a powerful, addictive force it is. Hanging on to feeling wronged becomes more important than anything, more important than freedom from it, more important than love.

I vividly remember one day when I was about eighteen years old driving to work at the New London Submarine Base, stuck in traffic and stuck in a stew about my life, and singing, with tears and strong emotion, along to The Young Rascals song playing on the radio, People Gotta Be Free:

“All the world over so easy to see.

People everywhere just wanna be free.

Listen, please listen,

That’s the way it should be.

There’s peace in the valley,

People got to be free.”

I felt a deep longing to be FREE from the captivity of negativity and anger. I had started reading about how my thoughts and attitudes create my reality. The truth of that strongly resonated with me. I could see that it was my attitude that was creating my unhappiness. Nobody was Making me angry…I was responding with anger, and then dwelling in it, making myself stew, creating a negative attitude that made me a shit magnet, drawing to me more things to be resentful about. I realized that my resentment was far more destructive that anything anyone could ever do to me – I was only hurting myself. I set out on a lifelong quest to free myself from the confines of my negative attitude.

On this quest I eventually learned to become a “miner”: I discovered how to mine gold from my anger by seeing what is MINE, seeing my part in things, seeing how I was contributing to my own misery, seeing that I can choose to hang on to anger or let it go. I can choose to be a bitter person, or a better person because of my experiences. I can choose to dwell in the hell of The Heartbreak Hotel, or dwell in love. I can choose captivity or freedom. And I can choose to mine gold from any situation.

I’d like to share some keys to freedom that I’ve found along the way. When I notice myself feeling wronged and starting to spiral down into that sticky, stuck, stewing place, I do the following:

I witness myself - observing the physical feelings of resentment, such as a tightening of my body, shallow breath, eyes narrowed, lips pursed. Becoming aware of the contractive prison of my body enclosing me, and realizing that I am doing that to myself, helps me to take a breath and begin to shift into a more expanded place.

I accept that it is what it is. Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is an example of that: taking a deep breath…accepting…there’s nothing I can do about it…it happened…it is what is.

I allow and align with the feeling. I tell myself, “Yes, this sucks. I understand how you would feel upset. Let yourself feel it fully.” My hard stance begins to melt, allowing me to feel the sadness that lies underneath the anger.

I generate loving kindness towards myself – talking to myself with compassion, like talking to a wounded child, verbally hugging myself. “I’m sorry this happened. I know this is hard for you. I’m here for you. I love you.”

Finally, I mine gold from the experience - learning from it and owning what is mine; and then, seeing how it has made me a better person, a stronger person, a more empowered person.

All this results in FREEDOM, with the added bonus of some gold nuggets in your pockets to share with others. There’s gold in them thar ills and there’s plenty for everyone! Just think, if Shawn Hornbeck can find the gold in his experience, then anyone can.

Have you ever been held captive by your resentment? What are ways you have freed yourself from that captivity?  What is the gold that you mined from the experience? When we’re able to do that, as the Young Rascals sang:

“There’ll be shouting from the mountains on out to the sea,

No two ways about it, people have to be free.

Oh what a feelin’s just come over me.

Enough to move a mountain, make a blind man see.

Everybody’s dancin’, come on let’s go see,

Peace in the valley, now they want to be free.”

    In Love,

Jan Jacobsen

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