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Archives for Things My Mentor Taught Me


Head Knowledge Versus Heart Knowledge

I 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...
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Peace in the Midst of Chaos

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 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?
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The Active Wish-Maker

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.
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Why Labels Suck

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.
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Emotional Addiction

In 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...
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Good News

You Can Be HAPPY

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.
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Celebrity Mentors

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.

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Craving Quiet

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 the noise is, which requires me to notice what my ears are tuning in to.
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Your Loneliness is a Good Thing

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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