Category Archives: Reflection

Daily Prompt: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes > Life Without Change? A Life Unlived.

There is nothing permanent except change. Herodotus

Change. A scary, dramatic word for many. For nature, change is constant. For human beings, change is also constant. But for the mind- the experience of change is much like death, at least in the beginning. For the mind, a thought or a belief system generally emulates concrete. But then again, even concrete changes! It is the nature of the mind to hold onto belief systems like they are living, breathing beings that determine who we are and how the world “should” be

Change- It Never Ends.
Change- It Never Ends.

When I was in college studying historic preservation, I had to focus a lot of my time on the conservation of old structures. And to conserve, you had to know a building’s past, present and future. We actually had to create architecturally accurate drawings- only through a reverse process of intricately measuring every aspect of a building in its current state of life. One of the things I distinctly remember is the debate of glass being a solid or a slowly moving liquid. When you look at a glass window from the 1800s, it looks like old glass- wavy, hard to see through clearly- but still. It almost looked like it was not consistent in thickness from the top to the bottom. Apparently that has to do with the way the glass was actually made, and not necessarily with its molecular structure- but nonetheless, even though some say it is a myth, there are still scientists out there doing studies to prove if glass is a slow moving liquid or a solid.

Nonetheless- the fact that the argument is out there at all is just symptomatic of subtle change that exists on a molecular level every second around us. Change is constant, even though we can’t see it with our naked eye. The same goes for relationships, and our own mental perception of the world. In my world, our outer reality is reflective of our inner reality. How we perceive ourselves is projected around us like a film in each person we interact with in a multitude of ways.

Change never stops, one minute we are born and with every day thereafter, our body is different. The thing is, change naturally flows in a step by step process. A butterfly does not become a butterfly in one leap. It starts with the laying of an egg, then the birth of the caterpillar, then the pupa or chrysalis, and finally- the beautiful butterfly, which may life only 1-2 weeks. If we are going to make a major change in our life, and we have the opportunity to take it in steps, I feel that the mind generally copes better with change in a step by step process.

But let’s be real! Some change simply does not unfold like a gracious symphony. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job- that is the change we cannot control. But if we are choosing a major life change- choose the healthiest options for yourself and remember your motivation with each step. This will create an outcome that will always serve your highest good- trust in this outcome is integral or else, you may just lose your mind. But then again- would that be a bad thing?

I would love to know- how have you coped with a much needed, major life change- and was it easier to do it in one swoop, or vice versa?

Daily Prompt: Toot Your Horn / The Complement Man

reflections of lonely reeds in water
How am I reflecting your light today?

As a life coach and someone who helps people learn how to give themselves pats on the back for making headway in personal work, I was delighted to see the daily writing prompt today.  On the other hand, I am one of those typical ironic people that also feels like I am being inappropriate for maybe “tooting my own horn.”  I recall a moment in my own personal history where a great uncle figure in my family was bathing me in complements while visiting my childhood home in Virginia.  It was during a time in my life where I was just developing as a girl and felt extremely insecure about being pretty enough or accepted into social groups at school.  As I was basking in the light of these complements my uncle’s wife said to him that she felt like he had said enough and that I didn’t look that pretty.

Talk about a plane taking a nose dive?  Crash and burn.

It is funny to me now on one level.  I can watch the scene like an outsider and laugh at it like a film pointing out the hilarity of the obvious situation my ego was engaged in.  I have found in life that giving complements to others in a way does toot my own horn.  It gives cause to feeling the inherent love that exists in my heart because I am recognizing it in others.  I feel grateful because I can step back and say- this person is so kind, how can I bring more kindness into my life and interaction with others.  I recommend to everyone out there that when you see light in another person, reflect back and know that you could not see that beauty unless you had first recognized it in yourself.  It is the magic trick of life- that mirror reflecting back to you your truth over and over again.

When I lived in DC, there was this guy that would hang out at the top of Dupont Circle and give praise to people as they strolled by.  It was his way of earning a living.  He called himself the “Complement Man”.  Even though it sounds funny- everyone loved him.  He made a conscious decision that if he was going to ask people for money to help him in life, he was going to do something for it- so why not divvy out relevant complements to people?  I say “three cheers!” to that.  How can you also complement yourself today?  How can you be the “Complement Man” (or woman) in your own life or someone else”s life?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

Tibetan SunshineLiving the light of my heart
On again, off again
My light switch, my ego’s fear
Dancing, illuminated-
Light’s alliteration playing a game of hop-scotch
With each syllable sounding out
A glimmer of hope bounces from my outer to my inner
A sanctuary of joy ready to open widely
If only for a moment
Let there be light, let there be love.

When I took this picture it was my second adventure in New Mexico, only this one was one of those experiences where your heart is hunting kismet.  Stopping in Madrid, a small artist community an hour from Santa Fe where they’ve filmed such regal cinema as “Wild Hogs” (just joking on the regal), me and my friend met this local shop owner that had a very open heart.  She invited us to go check out a ceremonial place where locals would meet and have drum circles, and walk a labyrinth.  When we got there it was like stumbling upon the love of their land in a balanced ritual of Goddess magic.  I took this picture as I pondered the imagination that had been infused into the land of New Mexico from its magical past.

The light illuminated these colorful twists of prayer next to some Tibetan prayer flags.  Believe it or not, Santa Fe, NM, has a large Tibetan population.  The Tibetan scholar and consultant for Scorsese’s film Kundun, Lobsang Lhalungpa, lived in Santa Fe until he passed away due to a drunk driver accident.  At his funeral, it was said that when he came to New Mexico and meditated, it was the closest thing to Tibet he had ever experienced in his life, which is why he moved there.

At the funeral ceremony someone said that before he died, he told his wife not to feel anger toward the drunk driver.  That we must feel compassion for him.  It was an illuminating experience, just as this light in my picture.  A room of 400 people were able to create so much compassion in that instant that would again be infused into our land for generations of healing.  Even on his death bed he forgave and created a wave of love.  I hope that when I pass, my life will end in such a peaceful state as well, cultivated by the compassion and kindness of so many others.

DAILY PROMPT: Confessions of a Co-dependent: Me, Myself & My Helplessness

loveyourselfchallenge_tumblrLooking back, living life as a co-dependent was like a personal hell that I would re-create through relationships for myself over and over again.  I started to feel like Bill Murray in the film Groundhog Day only I didn’t feel like an omnipotent “God” with the advantage of no-calorie pastries, I felt helpless and cursed.  I lived my life like an addict, only I was addicted to being needed by others and when I was rejected I didn’t know where to turn.  Usually I would turn, but I would just turn in circles like an out of control top who could not tolerate the pain any longer.

Many addicts talk about when they “hit bottom” and my hitting bottom was definitely not something to write home about.  As for many, it was one of those experiences that has come back to haunt me in my own “hall of shame” many a time.  Understanding co-dependency is very difficult and frustrating for outsiders.  We can see certain patterns in people, but it can be trying and difficult to understand why they keep going back to that place of helplessness and loneliness whenever a relationship ends.  And why they choose partners that may seem dysfunctional or simply “wrong” for them.

For me, I had deeply ingrained worthiness issues, and I chose people that would prove to me my own personal belief system- that I did not deserve a healthy, thriving relationship that fed my soul on all levels, and that had good boundaries.  My lack of boundaries always set me up to fail because I compromised what felt right for me all the time due to my fear of conflict.  It would build up until I myself could not handle the situation any longer.  But if a breakup came out of left field, it felt like deep abandonment and I had no healthy coping mechanisms to help me get out of my personally fated riptide.

My rock bottom was not the end of my conflict, but it brought a turning point for me in my psyche that I had to take notice of.  I was young and already felt tired of having to go through the motions of life.  I was confronted with a break up that to me came out of left field.  I was a year out of college, and still very co-dependent.  When the break-up happened, I felt amazed at how people can make decisions for you and there was nothing you could do about it.  But mostly, I felt downtrodden and so helpless that life simply didn’t matter anymore.  There was a crack of light from my soul trying to expand itself into my ego-centered vision, but I was refusing to see it.

One night after going out with some friends and drinking I walked into my dark bedroom as if I was walking into a prison cell.   I looked out my window and saw the street lamp’s light, and the beautiful leaves from the trees rustling so peacefully.  In my heart, I wanted to be those leaves and not myself.  I was truly sick of my ego’s helplessness.  I then swallowed a bottle of pills.  Before going to the hospital, I simply remember this one thought- “why doesn’t anyone love me.”  What I had to learn is that my own personal love for myself and the divinity that coursed through my veins was undeveloped, and it was time to move forward.  And you know what? I am grateful every day for the grace and karma that I had to take life back by the reins from that experience and remember my truth rather than reject it so I could hold onto a belief system about myself that my ego used every day to create more separation.  The great divide within myself had to heal, as it does within all of us.  And I look forward to doing this with others for the rest of my life.

IN AN INSTANT- LIFE REMEMBERED

Peace Doves

“Then, in the nightmare of Monday and Tuesday, there was the struggle to keep normal when planes zoomed overhead and guns cracked out at an unseen enemy. There was blackout and suspicion riding the back of wild rumors: Parachutists in the hills! Poison in your food! Starvation and death were all that was left in a tourist bureau paradise.”

Betty McIntosh, Hono­lulu after Pearl Harbor: A report published for the first time, 71 years later, Washington Post 12/7/12

This morning, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I opened up my Washington Post to an amazing experience.  An article written by a now 97 year old woman named Betty McIntosh who was a journalist in Hawaii the day Pearl Harbor took place.  The Washington Post published her article today after 71 years has passed, as the paper she wrote for in Hawaii deemed it too graphic and traumatic for its readers at the time.  The article was written 7 days after Pearl Harbor took place, a piece about the woman’s perspective of a war that began with great uncertainty and fear, during a time that many people view from their heart and safe place in the US- the holidays.

In reading the article, I felt emotional and wanted to relate her experiences to something deep inside of me that continues on its human course to heal.  This journey that we are all on ebbs and flows with our fear and our light’s inner knowing.  We oscillate between feelings of love and safety to feelings of uncertainty and sadness.  The pendulum between the ego-driven mind and our connection to the divine, our inherent truth.

“For seven ghastly, confused days, we have been at war. To the women of Hawaii, it has meant a total disruption of home life, a sudden acclimation to blackout nights, terrifying rumors, fear of the unknown as planes drone overhead and lorries shriek through the streets.”

Betty McIntosh points out how on the morning of Pearl Harbor it was a lazy Sunday with people coming out of church still in their reality that a war could not possibly be taking place on their island.  Her narrative takes us on a journey of coming to terms with the reality.  Yes, a war was taking place, and as she walked deeper and deeper into that reality she saw things that shattered the safe place that most knew to be home.  The forest of destruction became thicker with every movement.  There are people still experiencing this in our world, every day, coming to terms with the expansiveness of the human existence and how our reality can so easily be shaken because it is so tightly bound with our expectations and what we are “used” to.

In our experience as fragile human beings, I find it important to remember that each day we could still possibly experience this same thing including our own death.  We don’t know what plane will be ready to take off in our reality and we can’t count on our expectations because they are rooted in our desires rather than possibility.  The only thing we can count on is our ability to choose our reactions and how we will treat people, what we will do that affects other people.  If we can remember the humanness of our bodies that we experience this reality in every day, we can create a motivation to love.  This is our gift.  It is the greatest gift that we can experience within ourselves and in turn, our experiences with others.  Our oneness will not evaporate like emotion or the quenching of an ego-driven desire.  Our oneness will always be here to reflect on.

During this holiday season, I would like to extend my own kindness to all of you out there in the only way I can- in these words.  I want to say thank you with all of my heart for every moment that you choose to reflect and to love.  Every one of those moments is affecting me right now and my potential to also do good things.  You are my olive branch, you are my peace- and I honor you for all that you have experienced as a human.  Whether those experiences are rooted in trauma or joy, I have experienced the same, and I can relate.

As those during any war come to terms with the darkness in the human existence, I can only honor their experiences of suffering in my own and pray peace.  I pray peace during this holiday season and hope that all may experience it in their interaction with others, so we may all remember that we are simply one.  Pearl Harbor, along with all war, has a purpose now to teach us that life is a pendulum of swinging possibility and to embrace it with a motivation to live in our highest potential.  Let us choose our light and shine, illuminating the path for all to experiences of peace.

My Inner Charlie Brown

My Inner Charlie Brown
By: Jessica Burnham

How many of you grew up watching the famous holiday cartoon- Charlie Brown’s Christmas? Or, reading the loveable character’s foibles in the comic page of your newspaper? Charlie Brown always felt depressed- and usually his depression came from his commonly chattered statement “I can’t do anything right!” Just recently as I trudged through my own inner turmoil regarding my life’s ups and downs, I heard myself saying just that. Tears streaming down my eyes, fear and frustration curling over me like a heavy blanket, I roiled “I can’t do anything right!”

I took a deep breath as I observed myself engaged in this belief system. I realized that I had to embrace this part of me, my inner Charlie Brown. And the tears came tumbling down at light speed! What can I say? In the daily work we all engage in called life, we have this perception of ourselves. We know we are working hard and trying to deliver what we envision as our greatest self- so why is it that when something doesn’t go as we expect it to go, it is so easy to spontaneously combust over our self judgments? It is so easy to attach to what someone says about us and then to take the flag running into our self inflicted fire.

I have probably watched Charlie Brown fall apart over his disappointing Christmas tree a couple hundred times. Yet every time I watch it I feel great compassion for his character. How many times does Charlie have to stumble upon his belief that he can’t do anything right? How many times do I need to stumble over this same belief system about myself? I sometimes find myself wishing (foolishly!) that I also had an inner tape recorder that released a statement to my mind like a red alert every time I start to go into this story- “Jessica, please take a look at yourself- do you really believe you can’t do anything right?” And the answer would be “YES” from my mind’s point of view. But it is just that, a point of view. And just like all points of view, they can easily be adjusted to create a journey that is more empowering and in line with what you ultimately deserve in this life.

I have full confidence that since I have chosen to accept the part of me that truly believes and lives this belief system every day, “I can’t do anything right,” I will be able to choose something that aligns with my heart. I have lived this work deeply over the past two years, so I know I can trust this process. I now have the choice to feel compassion for the Charlie Brown that lives within me instead of judging him like Lucy or any other of his harsh critics. Life is difficult enough as it is, juggling everyone else’s belief systems and projections. How much easier could my life be if I opened up to what is available from the universe that sees me for who I truly am? Rather than always seeing myself through filters and lenses that are attached to points of view?

Nietzsche has been quoted as saying “There are no facts only interpretations.” Interpretations, opinions, points of view- are they not all the same? My dear friend’s grandfather taught her growing up that one of the most important ways of being in life was silence, to not open your mouth. This is something I look at with the deepest awe. To not respond with an opinion, an interpretation about our behavior, as well as others, gives us the space we need to experience the emotions of being human without sacrificing the truth of who we are. And the truth of who we are is not an interpretation or a limit- it just simply is- bound by nothing, open to the possibilities of the universe.