The Art of Extreme Self-Care

The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a time by Cheryl Richardson book cover photoThe Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time by Cheryl Richardson is aesthetically pleasing and full of insight.

This is a wonderful book and I have recommended it to many of my clients, friends, and family.  I have read a lot of self-help books.  This is definitely one of the best. I felt like I actually had a “to do” plan at the end of each chapter and I kept post-it notes nearby to flag section that I wanted to go back and re-read because the book was much too beautiful to mark or damage the pages.

Cheryl’s insightful observations and direct questions stimulated several pages of notes for my tapping journal. It looks like I have a lot of work ahead of me, but instead of dread like I often experience while reading this type of book, I am actually excited to do the work.

It has been a while since I read it the first time but have picked it up again.  I am as excited about it now as I was the first time.

Why All of the Book Reviews?

Book shelves full of colorful books that could be used for bibliotherapyThanks for the question.  The quick answer is that I’m addicted to books.  The long answer is that I believe strongly in bibliotherapy.

The term bibliotherapy may be relative modern; however, the concept of using books for healing is reportedly as old as the sign of the anxiety Grecian library at Thebes which translates as, “the healing place of the soul.”  In the 1930s Dr. Karl Menninger and Dr. William Menninger advocated the use of books within the psychotherapeutic process.

Pardek, an expert in bibliotherapy, defined it as a dynamic interaction which occurs between the personality of the reader and the literature. Others define bibliotherapy as the use of literary work in the treatment of emotional and physical problems.

Bibliotherapy has many uses including:

  • To gain insight into a problem
  • To provide relaxation and diversion
  • To stimulate discussion of problems
  • To encourage one to focus outside of one’s self

NOTE: Books are not a substitute for the therapists’ time and are not to be considered a shortcut.

When you walk through a bookstore or browse online you will likely notice a very large section of books labeled psychology or self-help. Many of these books may be recommended by a therapist during treatment. Bibliotherapy is not limited to that section of books alone. Biographies, novels, non-fiction, comic books, and children’s books may also be used to stimulate growth and wellness. The use of movies and videos has also gained popularity in achieving the same goals.

You can be sure more book reviews are coming……Happy Reading.

Tao Te Ching, Holy Bible, and Abraham Lincoln

Book cover of Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition by Lao Tzu from amazon.comI have been reading Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition by Lao Tzu, translated by Jonathan Star for quite a while now.  Sounds like light lunch time reading, doesn’t it?  In the introduction I was struck with the similarity between the Tao Te Ching and the Holy Bible.  Please hear me out.  The first similarity was the difficulty in preserving a knowledge base that was primarily oral.  Both the Tao Te Ching and the stories of the Holy Bible were oral traditions that were written down at a later time.  There are many similar challenges including the writer’s own biases when hearing and re-telling a story, the political and cultural influences of the time, language translation issues, and poor memory. Have you ever played telephone? By the time you get even 2-3 people deep into the retelling of a message it can often be significantly altered, not just in the details, but in the real message of the story.

The second similarity that struck me was the question of whether picture of open Biblethe story or phrase was intended to be literal or illustrative. This quandary is often evident in Bible stories and there is considerable discord between the factions that believe that everything is literal and those who believe it is a figurative lesson meant to inspire or teach.

A third similarity was that reading the verses of the Tao Te Ching elicits more questions that the answers provided. That has often been my experience when reading from the Bible. I can easily generate long lists of “but what about…?” from either book.

You may be wondering where Abraham Lincoln fits in all of this. Abraham Lincoln statueAs I was thinking about writing this post I recalled an event many years ago when my older son, then about 3 or 4, was almost inconsolable when he asked me about the man whose face was on the penny. I told him about Abraham Lincoln, and he asked me where he was. I explained that he had been killed many years ago.  My son began crying. When asked why he was crying he stated, “because I’ll never get to know him.” That is also the truth of the Tao Te Ching and the Holy Bible.  We will never really know.

As seekers of truth and wisdom we can make best guesses, sit in meditation, engage in prayer, and evaluate the cumulative knowledge of others, but we will never really know. For me it does feel sad.  So much has been lost.

Beyond the wisdom of the texts, what can I learn from this?

  • Don’t assume that others will remember my stories accurately
  • If it is important, I should write it down
  • It is my responsibility to share the stories of my “tribe”, culture, and my life. No one else can really do it.
  • If I want to know the stories and beliefs of my ancestors, I need to ask while they are still here and able to share them with me. I wait at my own peril.

Tapping Exercise: Who I Am is Constantly Changing

Black-eyed-susans with Embrace New Beginnings signSay this statement aloud, “Who I am is constantly changing.” How true does that feel to you?  Rate it on a scale of 0-10 (10=very true) and write down your number.

Begin tapping on the karate chop point and say the setup statements.

Setup: Sometimes I am confused about who I am. It seems that who I am is constantly changing. When I think I know something about myself it feels really good. When I’m uncertain about something I feel somewhat unbalanced. Accepting the changing nature of who I am is uncomfortable to me.  In spite of this discomfort, I choose to love, honor, and accept myself.

Eyebrow…Who I am is constantly changing

Side of Eye…And that is ok

Under the Eye…Who I am is constantly changing

Nose…I am open to learning to accept those changes more gracefully

Chin…Who I am is constantly changing

Collarbone…I am choosing to see that changing nature as more positive than negative

Under the Arm…Who I am is constantly changing

Top of Head…But sometimes it still makes me feel uncomfortable

Eyebrow…Who I am is constantly changing

Side of Eye…Sometimes that fills me with joy

Under the Eye…Who I am is constantly changing

Nose…Perhaps evolving would be a more comfortable word

Chin…Who I am is constantly changing

Collarbone…I choose to see the positive aspects of my changes

Under the Arm…Who I am is constantly changing

Top of Head…Expecting and accepting that change is part of the process of life

Eyebrow…Who I am is constantly changing

Side of Eye…My ideas and viewpoints change as I learn new things

Under the Eye…Who I am is constantly changing

Nose…My feelings and thoughts change as situations unfold

Chin…Who I am is constantly changing

Collarbone…I’d like to think that my wisdom is expanding

Under the Arm…Who I am is constantly changing

Top of Head…I deeply and completely love and accept myself and choose to embrace my evolution.

 

Book Review – The Wisdom of Forgiveness: Intimate Conversations and Journeys

Many of my friends and followers already know that I am intrigued by the Dalai Lama.  I was privileged to hear him speak in person once and have been very moved by most of his interviews and books.  What I have found most compelling is the apparent congruity between his teachings and his life. The Wisdom of Forgiveness: Intimate Conversations and Journeys by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Victor Chan describes this congruence beautifully.

The Dalai Lama teaches about emptiness, interdependence, and forgiveness. He speaks specifically about forgiveness for those who have treated you cruelly or unfairly. In his case, he speaks about forgiving the Chinese people who caused his exile.

The concepts in this book are meaningful all of the time, but seem more so during our current political and social upheaval.  Whether you are Buddhist or not, check it out.

Book Review – The Journeys of Socrates

Book cover Journeys of Socrates by Dan MillmanThis book is a prequel of sorts to the Peaceful Warrior books.  I was quite excited when the book was announced and I haven’t been disappointed.  I’ve now read it multiple times.  Beyond his exceptional ability as a storyteller, Dan Millman succinctly captures the essence of our modern yearnings for lives that make sense, embrace sanity, and cultivate warriors.

The book is set in Tsarist Russia and follows the life of Sergei Ivanov from early childhood through his adult years. He is the one who is called Socrates in the other Peaceful Warrior books.  there is a blend of culture, tragedy, violence, mysticism, and martial technology that keeps the reader fully engaged no matter what their preferred genre.

More than just a novel, The Journeys of Socrates can be viewed as a parable or metaphor for living in today’s complex world. Sergei learns many lessons (most of them the hard way) and they have definite application in our current society.

One of his mentors, Serafim, was a monk. Sergei sought him out because he had previously been a great warrior and master of the martial arts. Serafim obviously believed in experiential learning, but occasionally dispensed words of great wisdom such as this, “In an instant a life may turn around; a heart may open in a moment of grace. But preparing for that moment can take a lifetime.”

The following quote is listed as being from Socrates’ Journal:

“When I was young, I believed that life might unfold in an orderly way, according to my hopes and expectations. But now I understand that the Way winds like a river, always changing, ever onward, following God’s gravity toward the Great Sea of Being. My journeys revealed that the way itself creates the warrior; that every path leads to peace, every choice to wisdom. And that life has always been, and will always be, arising in Mystery.”

For more information about Dan Millman’s work check out www.danmillman.com.

 

Confront Your Naked Identity

Large rope implying presence of a docked shipDoes that statement scare you a little bit? It did me. I noticed that statement in Jump Ship, a book by Josh Shipp.  I’ve mentioned this book in a few different posts.  What the author was speaking about was getting real with yourself about who you are. He considers this an essential task for becoming successful in life. The question one must ask is “who am I?” The answer needs to be honest.

The question isn’t very difficult, but the naked answer sure is. When you first consider the question you may have some ready-made answers like “I’m a mom”, “I’m short”, “I’m Caucasian”, or “I’m a doctor.” I would argue that these are just the roles you play. Other people come up with answers that include what other people have said about them like “strong-willed”, “efficient”,  “lazy”, or “beautiful.” That may not be who you really are either.

To help with confronting your naked identity Shipp offers these questions:

  1. What makes you unique?
  2. What do you love?
  3. What are you good at?
  4. What do you believe?

I’d like to offer a few more:

  1. What do you dislike?
  2. What are you most afraid of?
  3. What makes you cry?
  4. What makes you laugh?
  5. What are you afraid to let other people know about you?
  6. What brings you the most pleasure?

You might be wondering why this is so important. Consider this. Suppose that I want to make chocolate cupcakes. I have my ingredients all lined up to make them. Unfortunately the canister labeled sugar actually contains salt. What will happen to the cupcakes? You can be sure that I’ll be unhappy with the end product. In life the same thing can happen. If we do not see ourselves with accuracy – confronting that naked identity – it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get the end result we desire.  We must know what “ingredients” we bring to the table.

So, if you dare, confront your naked identity and get “cooking”!

What Are Limiting Beliefs?

Limiting beliefs are those thoughts, sometimes conscious, sometimes not, that keep us from doing the things we need to do to reach our goals.  For example, when I was growing up I wanted to be an astronaut.  That was at the beginning of the manned space program and whenever I would mention that I wanted to be an astronaut I would hear someone say – girls can’t be astronauts.  That is a limiting belief.  It kept me from trying to become an astronaut.

Not all limiting beliefs come directly from an outside source.  There was a time when I also wanted to become a doctor.  I knew that I had to take physics and calculus in order to go to medical school.  I didn’t believe that I could do well in those subjects in spite of the fact I was a straight A student.  There was no logical reason to assume I couldn’t pass those classes but my belief that I couldn’t kept me from actually trying.

History is full of limiting beliefs.  The world is flat. That belief kept people close to home so that they didn’t fall off the edge. A limiting belief is anything that keeps you stuck right where you are.

The good news — they are just beliefs, not facts.  We can challenge our limiting beliefs.  Tapping is a great way to do that.  Believing that I can’t pass physics is a belief. Deciding that I don’t want to put in the work that physics would require is a choice.  Being in a position of choice is “where it’s at” if you ask me.

Contentment Is A Verb

Contentment is a hot topic in many venues and disciplines. References to contentment can be found in virtually every religion, social group, culture, and philosophy. The word contentment can even be found in economics and psychology. Most of the references I have found seem to refer to contentment as a destination or objective.  While that may be an accurate usage of the word I believe that it lacks the depth and dynamic that is possible when used another way.  It would be more accurate, in my view, if contentment was a verb.  Verbs indicate action.  Contentment is really a process, not a destination.  In that way it defies our typical grammar structure.

Contentment doesn’t mean not wanting, not achieving, or not trying.  You can have contentment while trying to reach goals.  You probably must have contentment to really accomplish anything. My definition of contentment would read like this: the struggle of knowing that all that there ever could be is not enough and all that exists right now is abundant.

Here are some other definitions.

  • from WordNet 1.6 1997 Princeton University: happiness with one’s situation in life
  • from Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary 1996: contained within limit; hence having the desires limited by that which one has, not disposed to repine or grumble; satisfied

At the website www.pausetoponder.org they suggest that we are trained to be dissatisfied. Our economic structure thrives on discontent. Contentment in the Western mind is having enough so that you are happy, can sit back, relax, and have no care in the world.  This can never be achieved.  According to Paster Gerry (Pastor Gerry is Gerald Whetstone, Ordained Elder and teacher in the Church of the Nazarene), in A Pause to Ponder God’s Word there are several actions one can take to find contentment.  Note that I said ACTIONS.

  1. Always rejoice in the Lord
  2. Don’t be anxious, pray
  3. Think on Holy Godly things
  4. Practice Holy living
  5. Always remember that with Christ there is nothing that we cannot handle
  6. Be a vital active member of a community of believers

The Jewish concept of Shabbat is also related to contentment.  Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg defined Shabbat as resting in the eternity of this day when we do not try to change or control our reality.  We are not pushing anything away or longing for anything to be different. Shabbat is completion, acceptance, realization, and fulfillment – all of the qualities that we cultivate when we rest our attention in the present moment.

In my dynamic model you “contentment” (the verb) in each time of prayer, meditation, or practice of Tai Chi.  The more one practices the longer you are able to experience the expanding state of contentment.