Feeling overwhelmed? Getting clear on life: keep the main thing the main thing

Why What You Love May Be More Important Than You Think
Dropping her handbag and jacket onto the floor, Ginger slumped wearily into my office’s comfy chair. “I know we are officially in autumn, now, and colder weather. I know Washington is up to its political craziness. But this is not what’s getting to me,” she sighed. “Actually, I love the crisper air, and the leaves turning from green to gold. I am not sure exactly what is getting to me. But when Oprah said she recently felt overwhelmed and numb, and could not take in one more thing with her senses, I know precisely what she means.”

Me, too. I’ve been there. How about you? Take a gander at what steals too much of your energy. The result will be more beneficial than what is offered in traditional health care as treatment. For folks like Ginger, the health care system adds to the burden by failing to make a distinction between depression and spiritual crisis. Assembly-line medicine would suggest the “fix” is to pop one more pill. But, for those like Ginger, who are willing to look deeper, what seems like depression may actually be a condition of spiritual crisis, the prelude to opening doors into more ease, joy, and freedom. The fact is that just as your gastrointestinal system can get clogged, we can enter a state of spiritual constipation, which blocks awakening our own Best Self. Ginger longs to live her own best life, and her condition is attempting to steer her in this direction, and away from what is taxing her life force. As Elia Wise puts it: “Your embrace of life, your expression of love and your aspiration to self-realization are essential to the circulatory system of All That Is. This is life feeding itself.” We can block this flow, or we can choose to facilitate living in the Flow.

One source of feeling overwhelmed is not permitting ourselves the opportunity to get clear on what is really most important in terms of bringing not only relief, but also regeneration and refreshment. When a great deal is going on in your life, much of you end up in the brambles wondering what happened. At these moments, getting clear on your intention to create what brings you back home to your best life is essential. As Michael Clouse has said: “Keep the main thing the main thing.”

But, just what is the “main thing,” and how do you identify it when life is moving so fast, and you’ve temporarily lost control of the steering wheel? Let’s examine eight pointers that can help you regain latitude and longitude, get back into the driver’s seat, and do it with relish and flair.

1. Look in the right place. This means, climb out of the box of your cultural conditioning. Western culture places more value on the head than the heart. Hence, we all know models like the “t-columns” where you list the pros and cons of the decision you need to make. Ever listed the pluses and minuses of a particular choice you are deliberating, and yet, when you finish your list you do not feel resolved? There is a reason for this, which brings us to pointer #2.

2. You are not here to be a carbon copy of somebody else’s plan or life for yours. You are here to be a unique creative expression of the fullest “you” that you can, not to only live in your head. You are bigger than this, wiser than this! Your solutions are as unique as one snowflake to another. If you relate to Ginger’s situation, this pointer is key. Turn in the direction of what your heart loves, not what your head thinks you should love, and rekindle the flame. Dr. Carl Jung once said: “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play of instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” More on this to come this year.

3. Consider play. No joke. “Mess around” more with what tickles your funny bone, with what reignites the flame of your creative play. Begin dreaming again. In my recent book, The Love Project: Coming Home, I describe the power of placing your order by how you use language. For two years, my husband and I overheard ourselves saying aloud that where we lived was perfect, only lacking a great view of the water. The prospect of that to our conscious mind seemed impossible. But, the wisdom of the unconscious mind knows much better than our ego. More on that story down the line.

4. Be honest with yourself. Notice when you feel especially out of sorts. By way of example, for me, I began taking “notes to Self” over the past few years when I’d catch myself fuming at the insurance companies ways of slithering out of reimbursement, and failing patients on many levels. With this at play, along with the revision of DSM-5 codes, (the official bible of mental health care professionals), through taking lots of time for personal honesty with myself this past spring, it became abundantly clear to me that my reaction to this mental dragon was costing me time and energy to fight it. And, so, I told myself the truth: I am out of that game, period.

5. Be willing to pay the price, and sometimes the price does not need to be paid. Well aware of what could have been catastrophic to my practice, the truth is that every single client understood, and decided to stay. If we move away from what drains and depletes us, and towards what renews us, and uplifts the creative imagination for what is possible, new aliveness can come forward in ways that blow the mind!

6. Synchronicity befriends those who ware willing to take creative leaps of faith. Embracing the truth that I needed a break from the way health care was being practiced, the creative fire was fanned. Before we knew what had happened, I found a perfect place for my practice and group studio, to teach what I adore, that I call “The Process.” No more bridge traffic for me! Simultaneously, buyers came to purchase our home (which was not on the market and the furthest thing from our minds), which enabled us to make a long-standing dream come true: a home overlooking Lake Washington three blocks from our all-time favorite neighbors. Turns out that now, that new place for my practice is even closer to where I live: a full five-minute commute. I am in heaven. Although we could not have figured out how to manifest this shift, the unconscious knows what it is doing when we follow its guidance, and give it sufficient time to arise in stillness.

7. Trust your creative process. Move in the direction of what you love. What you love has wisdom in it. It is a connecting thread to your aliveness and flowering. If you want to bring in the harvest to your Good, you must give yourself permission to love what you love and nourish those tender roots as long as it takes. In my case, that seven-week sabbatical last spring brought clarity about the creative imperative for me of more time in nature, which heals my soul, and creative activity, which is at the heart of my gift. I had been spreading myself too thin doing the things I love, but was not leaving enough time and space for what feeds me. You can’t offer to others what nourishes if your plate is empty. When I realized that this would mean cutting down my HuffPost blogs from weekly posts to monthly, I grew sad, frightened that this “would not be enough” for my reader friends over this launch into blogging for five years on HuffPost. I love connecting with you and your friends here, more than I can say. Writing to you here uplifts my Spirit enriches my life. And, yet, my own flowering creative process has many aspects to it, and it requires that I practice what I preach, meaning that I take the time that is needed to love in a myriad of creative ways, which includes more time for teaching this process, for walks in nature, for expressing my experience in new and expansive ways, and for Love Projects (see carabarker.com) as they arise.

8. Get out of the box! Forget what you think can’t happen, the “too good to be true,” and know that you are a beautiful Being, here to bless life, to bless others with who you are, and to receive life’s bounty. Adapting Hafiz’s words from his poem, “In a Tree House,” let me share the following:

Creativity

Will Someday split you open

Even if your life is now a cage…

For a divine seed, the crown of destiny

Is hidden and sown on an ancient, fertile plain

You hold the title to.

Creativity will surely burst you wide open

Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy…

Even if your mind is now

A spoiled mule.

Your turn: What do you love? How has moving in the direction of what you love helped you when overwhelmed or stuck? I’m listening! Thanks for forwarding this to all you know.

Special notice: The fourth printing of The Love Project: Coming Home is sold out. So, too, is “The Process” weekend for 2013. If you wish to be to be on the waiting list for the fifth printing, or retreat, contact me below. The next available “Process” weekend will be 1/18-20/2014.

For updates, contact me at carabarker.com or dr.carabarker@gmail.com. To save time, click on Become a Fan.

For more by Dr. Cara Barker, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.

I’m a Controlled Alcoholic
I’m a controlled alcoholic… and proud of it. The other day I was having lunch with a psychologist friend who works with a drug rehabilitation agency. I had just ordered my usual 86-proof first course when my friend asked if I always drank in the middle of the day. Because I usually do, she concluded that I was a “controlled alcoholic.”

Where other people might be put-off by such a diagnosis, I fully agreed. I then went on to point out that I am also a controlled eater and a controlled spender and a controlled lover and a… well… you get the idea. In fact, I am controlled in most areas of life and that’s the point I want to make today.

Too many politicians, and the experts who advise them, seem to have lost sight of the fact that it’s not so much what you do as how you do it. Allow me to explain. I can tell a sexy joke in mixed company to the delight of everyone present. Someone else, telling the same story but using a string of four letter words, would succeed only in embarrassing and/or offending the group. The trick is to learn to control your behavior to suit the situation. I don’t have eight drinks at lunch… or at any other time for that matter… because that would be excessive. I’d get sick at the very least. I also don’t have eight desserts or eight maxed-out credit cards or eight girlfriends. So yes — I am a controlled whatever.

Now why is this a concept that’s so very difficult to understand? During the era of Prohibition, the entire nation was deprived of alcohol because a few could not control their behavior. Our current War on Drugs is an equally disastrous, doomed attempt at legislating behavior. It’s based on the same erroneous reasoning. A relatively small percent of the population have never learned personal restraint. They must rely on their parents when they’re younger and the government when they’re older to keep them in line. The obvious difference between “use” and “abuse” gets lost in the shuffle. In point of fact, drug use is not the same as drug abuse any more than enjoying one’s food is the same as eating to excess and winding up a 400-pound basket case. An aspirin or two for a headache, an injection for a root canal an amphetamine before a carrier landing after a combat flight are not examples of abuse. Indeed, all will help to get the individual over the sometimes-rocky road of life.

Of course, I run into all kinds of arguments when I say such things. Mostly, I have found that these come either from those with no experience or from those with negative experience. Let’s go back to Prohibition. There were those who, way back then, never touched a drop but just knew that a shot of alcohol would bring about all kinds of drooling, degenerate behavior. And then there were those who either drank a quart a day or knew someone who drank a quart a day. They were always fully armed with a first hand account of the damage alcohol could do. Those who drank in moderation and could attest to the positive effects the use of alcohol has on most of the population would be drowned out by the emotional rants of those who suffered from its abuse.

The media doesn’t care about the masses of people who enjoy their glass of wine with dinner because it’s far too ordinary an occurrence. Far better to feature the horrible results of the clown who downed 14 six-packs and then took out a school bus with his semi… pictures at 11:00! The truth is, regardless of what the fellow running for office says, it’s impossible to protect everybody from everything. There will always be those who behave responsibly and those who don’t – one’s drug of choice notwithstanding.

Look at It This Way

The danger is not so much in what people do as in how they do it. Drug abuse is life abuse… but so are all forms of abuse. People abuse religion when they use it to exterminate their neighbors. They abuse education when they use it to teach pseudo science. They abuse credit when they use it to buy a $300 dinner. Should we outlaw credit? Dinner? How about plastic?

For more by Steve Mason, click here.

For more on personal health, click here.

What They’re Teaching in School Now (And Why You Should Care)
By Jan Bruce

There’s some exciting stuff brewing in the world of education, and it’s not just about how boost test scores: It’s about how emotional literacy can and must be taught in school. What used to lie outside the sphere of academics is becoming a focal point of education as experts recognize the importance of social-emotional skills in a child’s development.

What makes this so big is that they’re saying, essentially, that managing your emotions has a direct impact on your life, productivity, and achievement — and it’s a skill you can learn.

In a recent piece in the New York Times Magazine (“Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught?”), contributor Jennifer Kahn writes,

Once a small corner of education theory, S.E.L. has gained traction in recent years, driven in part by concerns over school violence, bullying and teen suicide. But while prevention programs tend to focus on a single problem, the goal of social-emotional learning is grander: to instill a deep psychological intelligence that will help children regulate their emotions.

Here’s why this is so amazing: What researchers are saying is that a child’s ability to understand and manage their emotions may be predictive of a psychologically (and possibly even physically) healthier life. Some experts, like Maurice Elias, a psychology professor at Rutgers University and the director of the Rutgers Social and Emotional Learning Lab, also quoted in Kahn’s piece, are calling it the missing piece in American education.

This is what I’ve believed for a long time — and it’s the basis of our approach at meQuilibrium on: You don’t have to let your emotions rule you or determine the quality of your life. By going to the root cause and addressing your response to stress, you can change it.

I asked my colleague and meQ’s chief science officer Andrew Shatté, Ph.D., to weigh in on the topic:

“Emotional Intelligence was a breakthrough concept, mostly because it demonstrated that beyond a certain point, say an IQ of 115 to 130, more IQ points probably didn’t matter,” he told me. “That after that point, in any situation, what mattered most in terms of success was emotional intelligence — awareness of the emotional state of oneself and others and how to harness that knowledge to achieve.”

He went on to tell me that experts in this field have been involved with insights and assessments of emotional intelligence. But where they often come up short is prescription.

“The question remains, how do you get better at emotional intelligence?” Andrew asks. “That lack of clarity is why we have so many social-emotional intelligence programs competing for schools’ interest. Everyone has a take on how to boost emotional intelligence and few have been tested and validated.”

Take Dan Goleman’s famous and wonderful book Emotional Intelligence. “He spends 99.9 percent of the book describing emotional intelligence and .1 percent offering a prescription,” Andrew said. “Basically, if you want to boost your EQ you’ve got to understand how you think, because thoughts determine emotions.”

It’s not enough just to note this in your head or tell yourself you’re just not going to get upset again — anymore than why looking at a set of weights isn’t the same as lifting it. In order to make real changes, you’ve got to practice — and this is why the programs that target your thoughts (which lie at the root of your emotional response to stressors), like meQuilibrium, are the way to go.

If you’re looking into schools for your children, ask about what evidence-based programs they use to teach these vital skills. Because those, Andrew and I believe, are the ones that are likely to have the sorts of outcomes we want — long-term change for better, stronger children and citizens in our world.

(Find out how the meQ app can help you track, understand, and manage your emotions.)

Want to dramatically reduce your stress? Take our 28-day challenge.

Jan Bruce is CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, http://www.mequilibrium.com, the new digital coaching system for stress, which helps both individuals and corporations achieve measurable results in stress management and wellness.

For more by meQuilibrium, click here.

For more on stress, click here.

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