Things My Mentor Taught Me Articles

Head Knowledge Versus Heart Knowledge

Monday, February 11th, 2013

heartcrpdI will admit I do know the difference between listening to my head and listening to my heart.

But that doesn’t mean I remember this distinction when crisis moments strike. I was telling a friend the other day that, while I don’t believe my mind has independent intelligence and is out to get me, I do find it distressing how frequently it takes the “glass half empty” approach.

My mentor is continually reminding me that I will know I am on the right path when I feel peace within myself. Of course, she keeps reminding me of this (for going on 11 years now) because I keep forgetting….and because sometimes I can get so worked up about an issue that even when I am feeling peace I occasionally fail to notice it!

The truth is, my head chatters. Oddly, it doesn’t need input or responses – it seems perfectly happy to go on about its day, muttering and commenting about anything and everything. In this, it tends to automatically assume I am listening (unfortunately, I often am). It also assumes its commentary is both welcome and wise.

Most of the time it is neither.

When I can calm down enough to tune in, it becomes immediately obvious that heart knowledge is vastly superior in quality to head knowledge. Head knowledge is wordy. Head knowledge tends to be complicated. Head knowledge often brings emotional chaos and indecision.

Heart knowledge is simple. Heart knowledge resonates. Heart knowledge often prompts that wise head-nod reaction (imagine Obi-Wan Kenobi here, “Right, Luke, FEEL the Force within you.”

Heart knowledge can extricate me from a sticky situation without a trace while head knowledge leaves a damage path a mile long…and wide.

Must. Remember. This.

Today’s Takeaway: Do you ever struggle to tell the difference (or simply to remember there is a difference) between head knowledge and heart knowledge? What can you do now that might help you remember in the future to tune in to your heart even in the most challenging crisis moments?

Woman with heart photo available from Shutterstock

Peace in the Midst of Chaos

Monday, January 14th, 2013

This phrase is one that has alternately inspired and terrified me for more than two decades now. It inspires me because it sounds like a wonderful way to live. It terrifies me because, most days, I am quite certain I will never be able to get there.

Finding peace in the midst of chaos appears to be one of those quests that requires accepting the presence of the chaos first. I have a very hard time with this. My preferred way of finding peace is by eliminating the chaos. This works for me… just doesn’t seem to work for anybody else.

Other people (who shall remain nameless but usually seem to enjoy living or working either right beside, below or above me) seem to like chaos. I find this confusing. Perhaps it is because chaos is always in ready supply while peace is harder to locate and even harder to retain.

Chaos, to me at least, is represented by the presence in my life of pollution, noise, drama, conflict, intrigue, fear, anger and other similarly jarring or emotion-laden experiences. I also feel like, if I’m doing it right, accepting or rejecting chaos should be largely a matter of personal choice. For example, I can engage in gossip with a friend or refrain. I can turn the television on or off. I can also choose what I watch on TV or at the movies. I can stop and take my time before responding to someone who has made me angry or I can mouth off right away. I can live in a city where people outnumber trees and there is lots of smog or one where trees outnumber people and the air is cleaner.

In these instances at least, accepting or rejecting the presence of chaos in my life feels like something I absolutely can control. But what about when chaos comes in uninvited and refuses to leave?

The Active Wish-Maker

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

If I have learned anything in my 42 years to date, it is that making a wish often doesn’t have the exact effect I was going for when I made it.

For instance, when I make a wish, assuming my part is done the moment the words have passed my lips (or emptied out of my mind) is both naive and fruitless. I can use wishing for patience as an example. My mentor has often jokingly warned me against wishing (she usually uses the word “praying” instead) for patience, reminding me that what I am likely to then receive is endless opportunities to learn how to be patient. Unfortunately, she is always right.

In the same way, if I decide to make a wish for more money, a more understanding mate, a quieter place to live, a bird who doesn’t jump into my scrambled eggs….well, what happens next? In the past, I have treated wish-making like genie lamp-rubbing. I make the wish, and the end result appears.

That is, um, wishful thinking. EXTREMELY wishful thinking.

What in fact will appear at the very moment I finish making my wish is the start of the process of fulfilling that wish. So let’s take my avian scrambled-egg hurdler as an example. Making the wish, “I wish Pearl would keep her claws out of my scrambled eggs” is just my wake-up call to myself that I would like something to change. Specifically, I want to eat my own scrambled eggs, from my own plate, without having to first extract feathers and dander or section off a pile for her personal use.

So next, I then have to start working on facilitating the realization of my own wish.

Why Labels Suck

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Labels. They are EVERYWHERE.

Labels are affixed to our clothing and glued to the sides of our food packages. They are displayed on the front of buildings, in our online dating profiles, and on our driver’s licenses.

Most of all, they exist, prominently and for most of us, for the balance of our natural lifetimes, inside our heads.

They separate you from me, and us from them. They train us to see opposite genders, differing sexual preferences, and different faith backgrounds as separate and apart, desirable or undesirable, dangerous or safe.

In all of these labels, we are frequently so busy staring at what we think are different species of trees that we miss the unified forest we form together in our shared humanness. Beneath all those labels, underneath all of our individual surface differences, what we will universally find is a single human being deep inside each of us – a human being who feels, thinks, fears, cries, loves and dreams right alongside ourselves.

On the one hand, labels can be helpful. For instance, it can be mighty uncomfortable (and all too, um, revealing) to misread the labels displayed on the front of a set of twin public restroom doors. In the same way, if you are allergic to a certain food, you for sure want a label on what you are about to consume that clearly states “don’t eat this!” – that sort of thing is life-saving to my precious two-year-old nephew, Gavin.

Perhaps most interesting to note, labels are not bad, harmful, or unwelcome on their own.

You Have Such a Good Heart

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

This month’s “Good News for Eating Disorders Recovery” ezine is out, and I wanted to share it with you here as well. Enjoy! :-)

Time and connection with simple, good things is often what is needed to realize the goodness living within our own heart.

You Have Such a Good Heart

For many years I loathed myself.

I mean – I hated everything about “me”. Just a glimpse of my reflection on the pavement could give rise to shame.

I was also convinced that everyone else felt the same way about me that I did. Oddly enough, they didn’t.

This I found especially frustrating. When someone would try to connect with me, I would wonder what was wrong with them. Couldn’t they see? Didn’t they know? So if someone said they loved me, I assumed they were as flawed as I was and I refused to give them any time or attention in return.

This went on for years. And years. And years.

Then one day, a shift began. I made a genuine connection with a single person – my first mentor – and I shared my flaws with her, and then she shared her flaws with me, and then I realized that having things to improve in myself gave me something in common with every other person on the planet.

I also, much more slowly, began to realize that having good things I liked about myself – such as the ability to play and write music, my love for animals (and birds in particular), my desire to serve others – connected to me to every other person I saw as well.

My awareness of myself as someone worth knowing grew out of meeting my mentor, and understanding from her that my very desire to improve myself, to be a likable person, to not let loved ones down or cause them worry, was proof that I had a good heart.

Only a good hearted person would long for those things, and resolve to do whatever it took to attain them.

Only a good …

Emotional Addiction

Monday, November 26th, 2012

emotional addictionIn my continued exploration of habitual anxiety – specifically, mine – I have also noticed a far more disturbing habit at work within me.

I have become addicted TO emotion itself.

I am also starting to suspect I am not alone in this.

Everything in our culture, in society itself, is set up to foster a continual seeking out of emotion – its highs, its lows, its sheer adrenaline rush of unpredictability – from television to movies, books to casual conversation, relationships and more, we seem to rely on emotion for meaning, motivation, direction, and relaxation the way cars rely on gas or other fuels.

This does not feel okay to me.

As I have begun to work on this emotional dependency within myself, I look at the example of the great beings for guidance – for instance, the Dalai Lama. In the post, “Less Emotion” earlier this month, I shared how the Dalai Lama believes that emotion gets us into all kinds of avoidable trouble. He shares very candidly about both how and why he practices the art of less emotion, and he exhorts those he meets to, if they must seek out emotion, to at least seek out emotions that are more uplifting, such as peacefulness, kindness, a welcoming nature, acceptance, joy, and humor.

I really think he is on to something.

Furthermore, I am beginning to realize that my characterizations of people close to me say a lot about which range of emotions they tend to spend more time and energy experiencing. If I say someone is “negative”, “angry”, “always happy”, “loving”, or another description, this says a lot about where they are spending their emotional time and energy – and when I turn this contemplation towards myself, I can find a lot to ponder in where I invest myself emotionally as well.

Perhaps even more fascinatingly, I have begun to perceive that when I am feeling “bored”, if I can remind myself to dig a bit deeper into what I am really feeling (ie, like “fat”, I am realizing …

You Can Be HAPPY

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

The newest edition of “Good News for Eating Disorders Recovery” has just been released. I wanted to share this timely pre-holiday message with you here as well, since the holidays are often a time when happiness can feel less like a choice and more dependent on circumstances or other people than at any other time of year.

I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful!

You Can Be HAPPY

Many, many years ago, one of my mentors made an incredible statement. She said:

It takes much more strength to hold joy than to hold sadness.

I had never heard anything like this before. My yet-to-be healthy mind was RIVETED.

My eating disorder mind, on the other hand, was distressed to the point of panic at her words, having used the exact opposite argument to keep me dependent upon it for so many years.

This simple statement transformed my relationship to my eating disorder, to my recovery efforts, and, ultimately, to myself.

I began to see happy people, joyful people, as the truly strong ones. I wanted to learn more about them, so I began studying those great souls who exuded contentment, joy, a spirit of giving and service, gratitude, and humility whether in the midst of plenty or deprivation – and wondering HOW they had achieved this feat.

Then I began to wonder if I could achieve it too.

You Always Have a Choice

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

you always have a choice“You always have a choice”.

This is a phrase that has been resounding in my ears for YEARS.

I am not saying it is a phrase I have agreed with for years. That part has only gradually started to unfold over the last year or two. But it is definitely a phrase I have been hearing for years from books, articles, friends, and most importantly (and often) from mentors.

The truth is, at least from this tiny corner of the world, that it is relatively easy for me to convince myself that I do NOT have a choice. Especially when the issue at hand is something I do not want to do, am afraid to do, think I cannot do, or think others do not want me to do (or do want me to do as the case may be – I, too, have my rebellious side), I have discovered that it can be much, much less costly in terms of energy output and personal growth work to simply say “I have/had no choice”.

Except for the ill-concealed, niggling little fact that this is not – is never – true.

You – me – each of us and all of us – we always have a choice.

The very definition of “choice” is to choose between two or more possibilities or options. In this definition we do not read anything about unwillingness, unreadiness, or a strong dislike for the potential outcome of what we are choosing to do or not do. What we may call a lack of choice is nearly always a lack of affinity for one or more possible outcomes of the choice we say we cannot make. In other words, “I have no choice” equals “I don’t like what will probably happen if I do/don’t do this thing I say I have no choice about.”

Here is an example. Let’s say you are diagnosed with cancer. Your doctor says you need an expensive treatment. You look into your bank account and – no cash. So you might be tempted to state, “I …

Craving Quiet

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Many people I know enjoy the continual companionship of sound.

Whether it is the sound of their favorite music CD, a television program, a pet barking (or, as the case may be, meowing or chirping), a roommate, or other sound source, sound is a near-constant, welcome presence for many.

But not for me. I crave quiet.

I crave quiet the way my bird, Pearl, craves shiny things. To me, silence is its own form of sound, reverberating with stillness, presence, meaning, guidance, and companionship.

When I cannot experience silence daily, and often enough during each day, I start to wear down little by little. My energy is sapped with each little interruption of sound interjecting itself into my required daily allotment of silence. Correspondingly, once I am able to return to a state of stillness and silence again, I can feel the experience replenishing the well of energy, stamina, and serenity within me once more.

It is probably important to distinguish here that not all types of sound are equally draining to me. For instance, the sound of Pearl chirping is rarely an irritant, nor is any sound I am personally generating by choice, such as a music CD I decide to listen to or a television program I choose to watch. But sound that is generated over which I have no control, such as a neighbor’s loud conversation, a delivery truck’s beeping, a nearby construction site, or the indiscriminate tolling of church bells – these sounds translate in my mind as “noise”.

So part of the reason I crave quiet revolves around an issue of control, and that aspect I am continually working on so that I can improve my tolerance for the noises of others around me. Just as I cannot expect to control all elements in my life (I can always control how I react, but I simply cannot expect to control what I am reacting to), in the same way I cannot subject myself to a continual state of personal misery that only abates when silence once more prevails.

As one of my treasured mentors, Byron Katie, teaches, I must instead look at where the real source of …

Your Loneliness is a Good Thing

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Good News for Eating Disorders Recovery’s August edition is now available, and I wanted to share the message for this month here with you! Much more to come on the topic of loneliness in weeks to come….stay tuned!

Your Loneliness is a Good Thing

I know.

Could I find anything weirder to say for an opening statement?

Probably not. I specialize in weird. ;-)

Plus, loneliness has been on my mind in a big way over the last several weeks – I have been going through a big move, and being a real “nester” type personality, I have found myself clinging to anything that feels like home while I say goodbye to the old and hello to the brand new.

In the midst of this process, one day I found myself talking with a friend about loneliness. I was wondering out loud – why do we traditionally view feeling lonely in a negative light? Why is loneliness regarded as a condition to solve, fill, run from, ignore, or shame ourselves for?

After discussing this for awhile, we concluded that it is because of habit. We are quite simply habituated to blaming ourselves for the feeling of “lonely”, as if it is some defect within ourselves that has installed this program instead of something else better that everybody else got.


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