Dreaming

Diving Into the Shadows

Shadow

I have had the pleasure and privilege of spending the last several days in Maine on my favorite lake enjoying the sun and nature. Last night, it began to rain so my daughter and I decided to watch a movie. After scanning the selections and reviews on her computer, she suggested we watch “The Florida Project,” a 2017 slice of life drama which, according to IMDb TV, follows a “precocious six-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Walt Disney World.” 

Childhood. Adventure. Disney World. Sounds endearing, right? 

Not exactly.

I did not like the film at first. I kept waiting for the plot to unfold or an inspirational moment, but neither surfaced. Instead, I felt a mounting anxiety combined with sadness and despair as the reality of life in a poverty stricken hotel-turned-residence community exposed all the things that make me uncomfortable: poverty, lying, foul language, cheating, stealing, hustling, betrayal, fighting, child abuse, pedophilia, drug use, prostitution. 

The movie was shown through the eyes of a child who had friends, freedom, food, community and a caring mother, all of which made it more palatable. However, the stark contrast of the lives profiled to those of the privileged thousands visiting nearby Disney World, made me stop and think.

The movie did an outstanding job of portraying the reality of the situation, but I wasn’t happy with the way it left me feeling. Something was tugging at me to look deeper. 

It wasn’t until morning that I realized the importance of what I was experiencing. It became clear that the issues in the movie that made me uncomfortable were the ones I needed to examine more closely. Maybe it was time to look at what it means to lead a privileged life. Had I been turning a blind eye to the realities of those less fortunate?

With all of the recent unrest and attention pointing towards inequality and racism, my viewing of this movie was particularly timely. It became evident that the cinematic story I witnessed was one I had chosen to overlook, just as many instances of injustice get somehow justified through the selective stories we tell ourselves and the parts of our psyche we choose to keep hidden. 

I have recently been working on my own personal growth and have also started “The Life Purpose Project,” a series of one on one sessions to help people reach their life’s purpose through discussion, dream interpretation, tarot, and flower essence therapy. 

I am a believer in the power of positive thinking and healing through love. However, I have been finding that in order to truly heal and make significant progress forward, we need to look at something called our “shadow self”. 

According to an article in highexistence.com, “the shadow is a concept first coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung that describes those aspects of our personality that we choose to reject and repress. For one reason or another, we all have parts of ourselves that we don’t like–so we push those parts down into our unconscious psyches. It is this collection of repressed aspects of our identity that Jung referred to as our shadow.”

Full Article:  https://highexistence.com/carl-jung-shadow-guide-unconscious/

Some examples of repressed shadow tendencies include  “aggressive impulses, taboo mental images, shameful experiences, immoral urges, fears, irrational wishes, unacceptable sexual desires.” 

Our shadow self develops as a result of societal expectations that tell as we are a “bad” person if we have certain thoughts and behaviors. We want to fit in and be accepted, so we deny and hide these impulses and pretend they do not exist as parts of ourselves. On top of that, if left unchecked, these qualities feed into a larger collective societal shadow which can multiply and become more systemic, resulting in a world that tolerates prejudice, racism, abuse, and inequity.

Jung believes that these innate qualities are present in all of us and the only way to effectively deal with them is to recognize, accept, and find ways to constructively manage their presence within our lives. 

I have been using dream interpretation and the Tarot to help uncover the shadow within myself and my Life Purpose Project participants. Both methods point out areas of the subconscious that ultimately want to be seen and accepted before allowing us to move forward on our spiritual path. Meditation and identifying psychological triggers can also help shed some light.

One thing “The Florida Project” made clear was that when we look at these shadow qualities, whether within ourselves or society as a whole, the feeling can be extremely uncomfortable. It can bring us to places and uncover a world that is unnerving and painful. 

The idea is not to run and deny, but to look directly into the areas of darkness. When we do this, “fear becomes an opportunity for courage. Pain is a catalyst for strength and resilience. Aggression is transmuted into warrior-like passion. This wisdom informs our actions, our decisions, and our interactions with others..” (highexistence.com).

If we seek to accept the shadows as part of who we are, if we allow them to come forward without condemnation, we may be able to heal not only ourselves but the world as a whole, and people like those featured in the “The Florida Project” may have a fighting chance.

The Power of Flower Essence

Flower Essence Pic

I first got involved with flower essences about 15 years ago when I was studying energy healing for personal growth. My soul had been nagging me for years to take a deeper look, to make some changes, so that it could bloom in full. 

I tried a variety of modalities including yoga, Reiki, massage, craniosacral therapy, and nutrition and although they all helped to center my mind and calm my energy, they weren’t able to specifically address my deeper feelings. I realized there was an emotional component to whatever was holding me back and until I could temper it, I would never be able to fully heal and move forward.

The mentor with whom I was studying at the time recommended I try Essence Therapy.

I was quick to fall in love. I ordered a few bottles of the concentrated remedies from Alaskan Flower Essences (https://alaskanessences.com/) and began to experiment.  Their gentle healing energy flooded my senses in the most subtle ways and suddenly I would notice my perspective had changed or I was no longer feeling angry or sad about a particular situation. It was that easy. No talk therapy. No painful memories. No medication. No discomfort.

Many years have passed and I am once again revisiting the power of the flower essence. 

As I began to work on the Life Purpose Project (a business I started recently), I noticed that a lot of the obstacles that keep people from moving towards their fullest potential have an emotional component. I realized that even though I had developed tools for gaining insights and designing action steps, without the ability to remove the emotional roadblocks, we can only get so far. 

 

In my program of identifying and moving towards one’s life purpose, I encompass dream interpretation, tarot, collaborative discussion and planning, and lots of additional resources. I also encourage everyone to choose one or two flower essences to help them move along more quickly and easily. 

There are many excellent sources for essences including Alaskan Essences (https://alaskanessences.com/), Hawaiin Essences (https://www.janebellessences.com/), and the most widely known, Bach Flower Essences (https://www.bachremedies.com/). 

According to the Flower Essence Society, “flower essences are liquid extracts used to address profound issues of emotional well-being, soul development, and mind-body health. They are part of an emerging field of subtle energy medicine, which also includes homeopathy, acupuncture, color therapy, therapeutic touch and similar modalities.”

Essences are made by harvesting pristine wild flowers and garden blossoms and then capturing their unique energy imprint in distilled water as it is infused by the sun. The potentized herbal infusions or decoctions are then preserved in an alcohol base and further diluted before being distributed. They are administered by putting a few drops under the tongue a couple of times a day or by dropping the essence in a glass of water and sipping as needed.

Many people confuse Flower Essences and Essential Oils and although each complement the other, they are in fact very different.

According to the Flower Essence Society, “The most significant difference is that essential oils have definite aromas; flower essences do not. Essential oils work primarily through the sense of smell and its effect upon the old brain. They are highly concentrated chemical substances, many of which are quite poisonous taken internally.  Essential oils are produced from large quantities of plant material, the flowers, roots, seeds, or bark, depending on the location of the volatile oils in the plant. Steam-distillation is the most common extraction method. With flower essences, only the flowers are used and in a very small quantity. The vibrational imprint of the flower is extracted in water, which is then further diluted. Thus essential oils are a physical extract and flower essences are a subtle energy extract.”

For more information, visit  http://www.fesflowers.com/learn-about-flower-essences/what-are-flower-essences/

During the pandemic, I have experienced more anxiety than usual. I have found Bach’s Rescue Remedy to help curb the stressful feelings and keep me calm. I am also working with Bach’s Star of Bethlehem and Walnut.

I am an advocate of flower essences for many reasons, but perhaps the most powerful is their ability to balance our emotions and help us adjust to a healthier perspective through the gentle and subtle genius of nature. Sometimes life’s greatest healing gifts are right outside our door.

The Life Purpose Project

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Even before the pandemic hit, I had been trying to discover my life’s purpose. Why am I here? What am I meant to do? I can remember (as far back as my teenage years) feeling that I was meant to do something important during my time here on earth.  I began to pursue different options in my 20s, but then, like many people, my focus turned to finding a partner and starting a family. I knew I wanted to have children. That was a certainty.

My family life was traditional. My husband worked long hours while I managed the house and our two girls. We were busy. Between gymnastics meets, crew regattas, music lessons, schoolwork, meal planning and home management, my time and energy were pretty tapped. I added a part time massage business when my younger daughter was 5 and this satisfied some of my yearning. However, I knew it wasn’t enough, and although I received immense joy from raising children, I felt there was something else waiting for me. 

I am now in my 50s. My girls are out in the world beginning their own lives and I have found myself staring into the future, knowing that the possibilities are endless, but also feeling myself frozen in old habits and uncertainty. Midlife is a challenging time of transition, loss, and redesign. Yet, it also offers a broad spectrum of possibilities and another chance to uncover the reasons why we are here. There is an entire new chapter of life waiting to be written. 

During the recent quarantine, I have had time to reflect on where I’ve been and where I want to go. With the world in enormous flux and a massive state of upheaval, discovering my soul’s path seems that much more urgent.

I have been thinking about a way to realize my life’s purpose while also helping others reach theirs. I have been studying and testing a number of modalities and approaches over the years and feel that now is the time to put them into a comprehensive package ready for implementation and action. 

I see myself as a Life Purpose Facilitator of sorts with the objective of helping individuals identify their life’s mission and then begin to remove blocks that prevent them from moving forward. 

I envision myself attracting those who have an inner gnawing and strong desire to uncover a hidden or under developed life purpose. This journey can begin at any age, though I see a particular need for middle aged men and women going through their “second birth.” 

A couple of weeks ago, I put together a program that I can carry out online through a weekly zoom meeting. I decided to offer it to 5-10 volunteers free of charge once a week for one month as a way to practice, revise, and refine the service. I sent out a letter to my past and present massage clients and the response was affirming.

I am now halfway through the month-long trial and it is going extremely well. I am offering a holistic, natural approach to soul purpose discovery combining tarot, energy healing (distance Reiki, chakra healing), dream interpretation, and flower essence therapy. These are all modalities I have studied over the years for personal growth and am now thrilled to be able to share them with others. It is encouraging to observe the insights and breakthroughs that are already beginning to happen with my clients.

The Life Purpose Project, as I am calling it, is the perfect convergence of many areas of interest and study. Everything about it feels right. I have a sturdy base of knowledge with much to learn (all of which is inspiring and intriguing), and although I’m not sure exactly where it will lead, I can tell that I am on the right path. What a surprising irony, that my own life purpose would be to help others find theirs.

A Night Without TV

No TV Blog

I have never been a big TV watcher. For as far back as I can remember, I could only take so much. I would have periods of binging or try out the most popular show, but the distraction never lasted long because ultimately, it didn’t make me feel good. 

Since the pandemic quarantine, however, things have changed. 

We have been watching TV nearly every night. With the scope, variety, and quality of shows offered by Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and HBO at our fingertips, there is never a shortage of options. That, coupled with the need to escape from the world right now, makes the temptation hard to resist. The increase of stress, uncertainty, change, and loss in our current lives leaves us seeking relief, and with those distractions involving socialization unavailable, what’s left?

For most of us, the ritual of evening TV watching does the trick. It pulls us away from our thoughts about work, family, finances, the future, and sucks us into a world of make believe. It entertains us. It numbs us. 

In the long run, however, it may be making things worse. 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, watching TV before bed can have a negative effect on the quality of your sleep. Not only do you tend to stay up later to find out what happens next but the increase in programming with high levels of violence, gore, or suspense “may leave you feeling anxious and contribute to tossing and turning.” On top of that, an even bigger problem is the light emitted from the screen which disrupts your body’s natural clock and inhibits its production of melatonin, throwing off your REM sleep and resulting in morning drowsiness.

Full Article: https://www.sleep.org/articles/is-it-bad-to-watch-tv-right-before-bed/

Binge watching (even during the day) can cause problems as well. According to Jenna Birch in an article in the Washington Post, How Binge Watching is Hazardous to Your Health  (June 3, 2019), “binge-watching can affect your cardiovascular system, your vision, your socialization and your sleep patterns which can lead to other problems.”

Full Article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/how-binge-watching-is-hazardous-to-your-health/2019/05/31/03b0d70a-8220-11e9-bce7-40b4105f7ca0_story.html

Last night, we decided to take a break. 

Instead of planning our night around a new Netflix show, we spent some time chatting while cooking a special dinner. We played our guitars, went for a walk, and got into bed early with a good book. My eyes were closed before 10 and I had the best sleep I’ve had in days. 

We are not planning to cut out TV altogether, but we do see the benefits of cutting back. With the high levels of gore, violence, and suspense in the real world right now, we don’t see a need to add more. Our vow is to look for activities that are calming, healing, and relationship building. 

It’s an idea worth considering.

Photo from NBC News https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/back-basics-how-instituting-nightly-reading-ritual-has-become-my-ncna1071391

 

When Enough is Enough

Vision Board

We have been sheltering in place for over a month and while at first it was nice to get the rest, focus on friends and nature walks, have extra time to catch up on neglected projects, and reduce work hours, enough is enough. Our closets have been cleaned out, the puzzles completed, yards raked and mulched, trails hiked and books read.  We are ready to return to our normal lives.

Not just yet, I’m afraid.

The pandemic continues to grow and the curve of fatalities and those infected with Covid-19 is still rising in many locations. We are not even close to getting the situation under control and returning to life in any safe fashion seems months away at best. We need to stay strong and dig deep, and despite the mental and emotional challenges that most of us are facing, we still need to stay home in order to save lives. 

I am a proponent of positive thinking. I believe that our thoughts create reality and as Shakespeare so eloquently put it in his play Hamlet, “ There is neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so.”  I work regularly to direct my mind towards the good, while keeping negativity and fear at bay.  In the case of the current pandemic, I believe there are blessings and hardships and where we place our focus will not only affect our approach but also the outcome. 

Easier said than done. 

There are days when I feel sad, defeated, and fearful. In an article published in the Harvard Business Review (March 23, 2020), Scott Berinato states that part of what we are feeling is grief. There is the “loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection,” not to mention the collective grief we are facing due to the staggering death toll that surrounds us daily.

Berinato believes we are also suffering from anticipatory grief which is “that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain.” He offers us some ways to manage the grief such as “finding balance in the things we’re thinking, coming into the present, letting go of what we can’t control, and stocking up on compassion.”

Full Article: https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief

Feeling grief is normal and we need to allow time and space to honor it. However, sometimes it is hard to pick ourselves up and get back on the positivity track, especially now as we are faced with growing and sustained challenges.

One way to shift our focus is to put our energies into dreaming and creating visions of what we’d like our lives to be when this is all over (or at least over enough that we are able to go back into the world). If we could have anything we want, what would it look like? 

Pam Grout has a weekly blog and offers a course in Manifesting Magic and Miracles (which I had the great fortune of attending at the Omega Institute in New York several years ago and which literally changed my life). In the course, Pam encourages us to explore what it is we really want and then gives us techniques for manifesting it. Her book, E-Squared, offers several real life experiments which she asks the reader to try as a way to experience how it all works.

Pam’s Website: https://pamgrout.com/

In addition to Pam Grout, I recently stumbled upon Mike Dooley, whose book, Playing the Matrix, outlines a method for achieving all that we could dream of or imagine for our lives. He compares the process to a GPS system whereby you put in the vision or end result as the destination and then shift the car into gear. As you begin to drive (taking steps no matter how small or uncertain), you will be guided down the pathways and roads that will best lead you to your goal. Dooley emphasizes that we should keep our focus on the end point and not get caught up in the details of the journey. He says we should be open to changing course along the way and not get stuck on the “hows.” 

I would like to propose that on days we are feeling down or stuck or shut in or hopeless, we get out a piece of paper and begin planning our future. I suggest we make it as outrageously fantastic as our imaginations will allow. We can add pictures or drawings or whatever it takes to add inspiration and joy. We should dream big and begin to move in some direction, any direction, while keeping the end vision in mind. We don’t need to understand how we will get there, we just need to believe that we will.