Clear Skies Ahead

In California, where I live on occasion, the earth shakes periodically, and fire scorches our “golden” hills. On the East Coast, wind and water have been the elements of destruction lately. We tend to forget about the power of Mother Nature until she grows fierce and threatens our usual way of life.

Irene brought us back to reality. The name Irene comes from Greek mythology, where she is the Goddess of Peace. Tell that to the folks who have had to abandon whole towns and communities near overflowing rivers and streams. This peaceful lady did something no one has ever been able to do before: totally shut down New York City mass transit and mandated the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from low-lying areas. The “better safe than sorry” refrain is only heard, it seems, when disaster is imminent, not in the planning stages before we build our homes and businesses in flood or fire zones, or sitting on top of major earthquake faults.

Many of us were glued to the Weather station or to our favorite news programming for days as we watched Irene crawl up a thousand miles of coastline. There’s a part of us that loves to watch Mother on a rampage, as long as we’re not the ones directly in her path. It awakens the desire to break free of all restraints, to go wild, to throw dishes and break windows, to dance in the wind and wash away complacency in a roaring flood.

We forget that we, too, are governed by the same elements as nature: fire, air, space (ether), earth, and water. Millennia ago, the seers of ancient India recognized this fact when they created the first medical system, Ayurveda, which is based on balancing the elemental energies, called doshas: vata is air and space, pitta is fire and water, and kapha is water and earth. Ayurvedic practitioners understand what aggravates each dosha, and what food and lifestyle choices can bring it back into balance. Ayurveda also has a regime for purification, called panchkarma, that eliminates toxins from the system.

Natural “disasters” are purification on a big scale. The old gets swept away, bringing the opportunity to reevaluate the strength of infrastructure and the health of our governing bodies. They bring out bravery—like risking electrocution to save a child—and compassion for the victims. They unite us as we work together to save a city or rebuild what has been wrecked. There’s no one to blame—no terrorists, no evil megalomaniacs. Just an acceptance of what is beyond our control and an understanding of what must be done. Not a bad lesson to remember when the skies clear.


Catalogue of Regrets

There’s a wonderful line in the Paul Simon song, “Everything About It Is A Love Song,” that goes: “Open the book of my vanishing memory, with it’s catalogue of regrets. Stand up for the deeds I did, and those I didn’t do.”

Ah, regrets. We all have our own catalogue of them, divided into the things we’re sorry we did and the things we’re sorry we didn’t do. I imagine there’s a long list of politicians who are sorry they unzipped outside of marriage—not at the time, perhaps, but certainly when the media caught them and public indignation forced their resignation. What regrets heads of state must have about ordering troops into war, or is it only us civilians that regret “collateral damage” to innocents? Do Congressmen regret the bills for the public welfare that they didn’t vote for because of political posturing?

Do rock stars and entertainers regret their wanton use of drugs, prescription or otherwise? If only we could hear from Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and host of others. And we could tell them about our regrets: the way we were mean to someone, the way we hurt those we loved, the time we wrote that email we never meant to be seen but we pushed the Send button anyway. Or the things we didn’t do because we were afraid—of rejection, of pain, of our status.

Regrets can be so tricky. Imagine being harmed by something that didn’t happen! And the regrets we carry can manifest as physical ailments. Many of my clients made themselves ill over sorrows tied to chances not taken, roads not traveled, relationships not pursued.

For example, Dynasty, a 40-year-old mother of three, came to me with neck pain so severe that she had used up her sick leave and vacation time because she was unable to get off her couch. Doctors labeled her neck problems as stress related, but she couldn’t find relief. I asked her about regrets and silent sorrows. She took a deep breath, a few tears fell, and Dynasty told me how sad she still felt about not being at her mother’s deathbed six years earlier. BINGO! We had just found the answer to her neck trouble. My advice to Dynasty, who hasn’t had a recurrence of the phantom neck trouble, was threefold:

  1. Voice the regret. No matter how illogical it is, no matter how much we understand that we can’t change the past, no matter how over it someone thinks we should be. Speaking the words out loud begins to release it from your body. Find a trusted person, an isolated mountaintop, even a loyal dog, but say the words out loud. In Dynasty’s case, she need to say: “I regret not coming home to be with my mother when she died.”
  1.  Look at how that regret has shaped your life. Did you grab onto other relationships with a stranglehold? Did you avoid getting close to people so you couldn’t lose them? Did you march along with a smile on your face to shut the door on the pain? Or did you recognize the gifts that came to you from this kind of pain? Did you learn to cherish your family and treat them kindly? Did you learn to never miss an occasion to tell someone you love them? Did you begin following your doctor’s orders to maintain your good health? Recognize the effects these regrets have had on shaping your life. Some will be unpleasant to look at, but chances are, you have also gained some positive lessons as well.
  1. Release the regret. Yes, it shaped me and taught me things–good and bad. Yes, it took root in my body and showed up as a sore neck, or a bad back, or ulcers, or knee trouble. Release yourself from this regret. Go to a peaceful outdoor spot and choose a natural item, like twigs or pebbles, as a symbol of your main regret. Sit quietly with your item, and when you feel ready, whisper the regret out loud one more time. Then release the pebbles off the side of a hill, or toss the twigs into a running stream. Watch them disappear and accept that you are no longer held by that sorrow.

When your regrets are based on actions you did, such as the chaos and despair your heavy drinking inflicted on your family, have you forgiven yourself even if those you hurt have not? Share your honest regrets with those you have hurt. Try the Hawaiian forgiveness exercise in  my book, Be Your Own Shaman.

Regret is an acid that eats at you. It can be tricky to tease out, because we internalize it so subtly. But by getting it out in the open, into the fresh air and sunshine, and releasing the shame and sorrow from your body, you can find freedom from your own catelogue of regrets.


Intimate Relationships

An intimate, stable relationship is the crucible in which we learn how to stand strong in our own individuality. It’s not an easy task. We need to trust each other, to feel emotionally “safe,” in order to bring forth the full expression of who we are. Unfortunately, a lot of us think a relationship should look like the one the romance industry promotes, full of hearts and flowers and sexy lingerie. We picture ourselves walking hand-in-hand along the riverbanks of Paris, sharing Mai Tai’s on the beach, gazing soulfully into each other’s eyes across a candle-lit table.

The truth is that our bodies are programmed so that the early infatuation we experience will pass in roughly six to twelve months. At some point, either you or your partner may want to run away from the relationship. I need time alone. You’re smothering me. Or you don’t spend enough time with me, you’re always at work or with your friends. What statements like those really mean is I’m trying to figure out who I am and what I want.

As you reach the infamous seven year mark in a relationship, either partner may feel the strong need to run. And when women enter perimenopause, the compliant little wife may suddenly become a fierce tiger, and scare her partner. As men and women hit their mid-forties to mid-fifties, they may develop more of the heavier qualities of the earth, sleeping more or becoming inclined to depression. Or they may exhibit too much of the fire quality, become overly driven and ambitious and rushed.  Or they may develop too much air quality and become anxious and worried and have trouble sleeping. These are classic times for one of the partners to have an affair, or many affairs.

Most relationships crack because of lack of trust brought on by either financial or sexual factors. If your partner is not contributing to the monetary welfare of the relationship—can’t get or hold a job (especially in this economy), gets an inheritance and blows it on a Porsche instead of a college fund for the kids, or develops a gambling addiction, for example—money is the main factor in the loss of trust in the partnership.

One of the most common betrayals of trust happens when your partner (or you) has an affair, which is pretty difficult not to take personally. Ideally, it would be nice to be able to forgive and move on, but a lot depends on the circumstances. Was it a single one-night stand? A long-running affair? Many different partners? There are few relationships where one or the other partner doesn’t at least think about straying at some point. But looking outside the marriage is really just a diversion from the basic issue, which is finding ourselves. However, it is a compelling diversion that basically switches our attention from our present partner’s needs to the new partner’s needs. . . and often duplicates the problems we had with the last partner.

I work with so many people who blame themselves when their partner cheats or lands them in financial difficulty. The key point to remember is that your partner’s behavior says more about the problems your partner is trying to resolve from his or her past than about anything directly related to you.

Unfortunately, when we’re betrayed or our trust is broken, we tend to shut down our heart. When a dog is hit, it cowers close to the ground. Well, we do the same thing if our heart is hurt. If we don’t open our heart and let the pain move through, how can we be open to new experiences of love? This is why it’s so important to clear the energy from past relationships out of your personal energy field and out of your body (see the shamanic technique, the “Sweeping Breath,” on page 117 of my book, Be Your Own Shaman). That old relationship can slow you down and make you feel confused, unfocused, unhappy, lethargic or, worse, it can make you toxic and sick.

I’d like to pass on to you the two biggest tips that I have learned in over thirty years of marriage: First, if you meditate every day with your partner, you’ll find it’s pretty easy to get along. Secondly, when you are really upset with your significant other, begin every statement with how you feel. Start the sentence with “I feel horrible when you say such and such,” instead of saying, “You always say...” That gives the other person a chance to realize the impact they are having on you instead of going immediately on the defensive.

As you grow in your emotional health, your relationships will reflect a more mature intimacy, which in turn allows you to be fully who you are. If your relationship can survive the power struggles and betrayals, it means you have healed the wounds inflicted in the battle of the sexes for nurturance, power, and self. You realize you can separate from each other and come back together without losing yourself, and you can finally claim the prize of real intimacy.


“It’s all about Perception” by Barbara Sinclair

When our kids were young, my friend, Mary, and I would often remark, “It’s all about perception”. Meaning – their perception vs. ours. While we viewed discipline as teaching life lessons, they likely saw it as cruel and unusual punishment. I’ve thought a lot about this lately and how perception fuels much of how we live our lives, both in relation to others and to ourselves.

It’s impossible to know just how someone else (especially a child) is interpreting our words or our actions unless we ask them directly. The tone of our voice might imply something totally contrary to what we intended. Maybe we’re tired or distracted and were just stating a fact, but the other person perceives that we’re angry or annoyed.

The science of Ayurveda is a great place to begin to understand why we all feel things so differently.  A study of the three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) around which Ayurveda is based, will reveal how we might have a different reaction to the same situation such as a boss making a cutting remark. The vata type would likely be hurt and overly sensitive, but the hurt feelings would soon dissipate. The pitta type might explode in anger (or at least be seething inside). The kapha type would probably “take it” but would never forget it! If you’re curious what your dominant dosha is, here’s an easy quiz you can take.

Since studying Ayurveda, I’ve learned that before I cast judgment on someone’s reaction, I do a quick “dosha assessment” and then usually have an ah-ha moment. My perception invariably changes and any possible misunderstanding tends to evaporate. Imagine how many relationships would be smoother if each person took the time to understand their partner’s unique constitution. I’m not making excuses for bad behavior here, but rather showing how a modification in our perception might change a potentially uncomfortable situation.

Then there’s the perception we have of our self and what’s happening around us that’s out of our control. If we can shift how we look at disappointment in our lives and instead see it as an opportunity for change and growth, we can move forward, instead of staying stuck in old patterns of negativity. A rainy day can go from a “ruined day at the beach” to a glorious chunk of time to burrow in, read a book, watch a good movie or do some clutter control.  Likewise, if we always see ourselves as depressed and stagnant, chances are our perception will become our reality. Sometimes just bringing this into our awareness is enough to help make that shift towards a more positive outlook.

How do you feel perception influences your daily life? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Guest Blog Post: Barbara Sinclair is a visual artist and holistic health coach living in New York City. “Studying energy medicine in Deborah’s 21st Century Energy Medicine Program has greatly influenced every aspect of my life, both personal and professional.” You can learn more about Barbara and read her blog by visiting her website at