FORGIVENESS FREES US TO FEEL JOY & LOVE AGAIN – Carolyn Hobbs

FORGIVENESS FREES US TO FEEL JOY & LOVE AGAIN
By Carolyn Hobbs, LMFT

Author of FREE YOURSELF: 10 Life-Changing Powers of your Wise Heart
Forgiveness sounds good. But how do I not react personally to my husband’s depression or my own overweight? How do I not take my spouse’s affair personally? How does my son’s school eviction not reflect badly on me as a parent? How does grandpa’s womanizing around town not shame our whole family?

Forgiveness doesn’t happen by deciding in our head to forgive a wrong. It is not about glossing over hurt, dismissing selfish acts, or making excuses. It comes after we stop taking our parent’s unconscious acts personally—even when they impact us very personally. It comes after we name our hurt, fear, sadness or shame triggered by a lover’s actions, even if our anger and resentment feels totally justified. It comes after we acknowledge how hurt and scared we really feel, even if we don’t disclose until years later. It comes after we see that our parents, spouse, children and loved ones all struggle with the same judgment, doubt and fear that we do.

FORGIVING THE UNFORGIVABLE IS A FOUR-PHASE PROCESS

True forgiveness takes time: Time to be honest with ourselves. Time to heal the layers of outrage, resentment, grief, and hurt still pulsating in our tender inner self. Time to realize that—though this hurt, rejection and betrayal feels personal—it is more about the offender acting unconsciously out of their past conditioning than about us. Time to reach understanding, compassion, acceptance and forgiveness.

When I first heard that nothing we take personally is personal, I felt personally offended. After all, my husband divorcing me at age twenty-three to “find himself, throwing me into depression, felt very personal. And my mother’s depression resulting from her unhappy marriage stole my childhood. But however justified our hurt, we still have Conscious Choice: we still choose between righteous indignation, which only perpetuates our own suffering—or the freedom that comes with forgiveness. When we keep chewing on the story of who did what and how it should never have happened, we find other’s painful acts—and life itself—hard to stomach. But once we turn the compassion corner and open our heart to see how another’s reactions are often unconscious habits, forgiveness flows much easier.

Genuine forgiveness unfolds naturally by adopting this four-phase process:
First, We Honestly Face Past Grudges and Resentments.
Rather than wasting years lost in bitterness and resentment, we must be ruthlessly honest with ourselves. We pause, take a few deep breaths, and sincerely ask, “What resentment story prevents my heart from being fully open with loved ones?” Within seconds, we hear that same story in our head we have listened to for years—only this time we see it as an embellished story perpetuating suffering. thought I’d forgiven his alcoholic ways when, as a teen, I refused to see him.”

For example, at forty-two Diane meditates every morning, strengthening her intention to greet life with awareness, loving-kindness and compassion. Twice a year she attends a ten-day meditation retreat to deepen her practice. But despite these daily efforts, she still resents her husband for shaming her five years ago.

“I’d never rafted the San Juan River. I had no idea where the takeout point was,” she said as her voice raised. “But the instant our friends yelled ‘Get out! You’re headed for a fifty-foot falls,’ Ted panicked. He jumped out of the boat to drag us upstream and save our lives. But the whole time, he’s screaming at the top of his lungs, ‘You just about killed us! You’re such a space cadet!’ He never apologized.

In meditation, Diane struggled to forgive Ted. But fear and resentment lingered. Five years later, in therapy, I had Diane close her eyes, locate her fear in her belly and feel how scared she still is of Ted’s anger. Tears trickled down her cheek. “I get that in his terror, Ted lashed out and blamed me,” she said. “But I never realized I had to acknowledge how scared I still am before I can forgive.”
That night, Diane explained to Ted how scared she’s been to fully open and trust him since that incident. He apologized and vowed to voice his feelings in a softer, kinder tone. Once Diane forgave him, her fear and resentment disappeared.

Forgiving those who lose themselves in a moment of panic is easier when we see the whole picture. But forgiving loved ones and strangers who abandon, betray or abuse us, causing untold suffering, requires time, patience and great courage. Such forgiveness comes slowly over time.

Second, We Name those Feelings & Beliefs underneath our Reactions
Achieving the leap into forgiveness is like crossing a stream. The shore we stand on is familiar, riddled with defensiveness, personal reactions and blame. It thrives on frustration, irritation, anger, resentment and guilt.

The journey across this stream, from personal reactivity into forgiveness, is rarely clear. But we do know that endlessly chewing on resentment only holds our guilt, resentment and anxiety intact—and holds forgiveness at arm’s length. By asking ourselves, “Which deeper feeling—hurt, fear, sadness or shame—is triggered by my loved one’s unconscious acts?” we dip underneath resentment and speed up the healing process leading to forgiveness.

Deepening awareness with simple questions uncovers heartfelt solutions.

For example, Jenny found out about her husband’s affair by stumbling upon several emails from his co-worker. She felt shocked, enraged and devastated.

“Damn you!” she told Frank in therapy. “I told you at our wedding forty-five years ago that, if you ever cheated on me, I’d divorce you. Now at sixty-five with five grown kids, I have to grow old alone because you’re a stupid fool. Pack your bags.”

Jenny kept the divorce papers filled out in her top desk drawer. But alone in the middle of the night, her own guilt blamed her for not being sexy enough to keep her man, for not seeing the affair earlier, for not loving Frank good enough. Her friends begged her to file, but Jenny felt torn between forgiveness and divorce.

In therapy, Jenny agreed to identify her deeper feelings and beliefs. As Jenny peeked underneath her rage and grief, she uncovered a buried childhood belief. “I never feel good enough. When I was twelve, mom ran off with her boyfriend, leaving dad to raise me. Now my own husband chases sexual favors elsewhere.”

Frank and Jenny recreated closeness in their marriage. Instead of working twelve-hour days, Frank came home for lunch, helped more around the house and planned weekend adventures together. Jenny shared her mistrust pain rather than keeping it inside and had Frank compliment her when she felt not good enough.

Frank apologized countless times with tears in his eyes, swearing he didn’t want to live if he couldn’t grow old with Jenny. Jenny took the weeks and months she needed to move through her rage, loss, grief and betrayal.

Eventually she said, “It’s your genuine tears of remorse at losing me that softened me into forgiveness. But if you ever do it again, you’re out for good.”

A year later, they renewed their vows on their fiftieth anniversary.
Naming our feelings and beliefs can lead to deeper freedom and inner peace.

Third, We Acknowledge the Truth to our Inner Self
We humans are built to handle the truth. We are built to hear the truth, even if that truth stings in the moment. What we don’t handle well is lies. Left in the dark, we spiral downward into ego’s reactions, stories and fears.

I’ll never forget ten-year-old Denise in my office, begging her father, “I wish you’d told me how bad you were hurting when mom died of cancer. I hurt too. We could have cried together and held each other instead of you working overtime.”

Countless clients, after the initial shock of a spouse’s affair, all said, “It’s not the affair that hurts the worst. It’s the number of years you lied about it.”

Admitting our mistakes is hard for us. We feel embarrassed or ashamed and grow afraid of other’s judgment, but living out of integrity creates suffering until we finally tell the truth. Lucky for us, each moment holds a fresh opportunity for us to bravely be the first person in our family and our work place to speak the truth.

For instance, John turned fifty-eight when his daughter Sara called him on his birthday. Sara had been a challenging child growing up, requiring therapy as a teen for anorexia. Following her divorce at thirty, John helped her financially until she got back on her feet. But nothing prepared him for what he was about to hear.

“You molested me at six and seven, Dad,” Sara accused him. “In therapy I remembered a man touching my genitals and I presume it had to be you.”

Shocked, John took a deep breath. “I’m so sorry that anyone molested you at such a tender age, hon,” he said, “but I guarantee it wasn’t me. How can I help?” Sara hung up. That was their last conversation for twelve long years.

But at seventy, in meditation, images of Sara kept appearing. He knew forgiveness was the next step, but he didn’t know how. In therapy I helped John distinguish between his less mature self and his forgiving heart. I had him first acknowledge the truth of what did and didn’t happen to his young self, who felt hurt.

John closed his eyes and pictured himself at six years old in blue jeans and a blue sweater swinging in the schoolyard. “He looks confused, sad and betrayed.”

“Excellent. Now acknowledge the feelings he felt with compassion.”

“First, I love you. Second, I know what good morals you have. I hear how confused, hurt and sad you feel. But I also love my daughter, and in her pain, she is lashing out at the person closest to her: me. I can hold your sadness in compassion and I also hold my daughter in compassion.”

Two weeks later, John said, “I called my daughter. I apologized for the years of silence and said what a shame it is to let precious years go by without sharing the highlights of our lives.” Tomorrow I’m flying to see her and meet my new grandson.

Speaking the truth to our inner self, soothing our young self’s tender wounds, allows us to forgive other’s unconscious words. This lets the love flow again.

Fourth, We Take the Leap into Forgiveness and Let Go
Even with these first three phases, forgiveness can be hard to swallow. Deep inside the caverns of our heart, devastating loss and pain can feel like a gap as wide as the Grand Canyon between “us and them.” When someone who loves us hurts, betrays or rejects us, we first need to take some space and lick our wounds.

But what we choose next either creates freedom or suffering.

Painful unconscious acts can make us question their love, question whether something is wrong with us, question whether true love exists at all. As we stand bleeding inside, that old adage, “Someone who truly loves me should never hurt me,” sounds true. But the second we devise a clever plan to protect our heart from ever being so hurt or devastated again—we set ourselves up for more suffering.

Freedom comes from leaping across the abyss—from shutting down to being open, compassionate and forgiving. And this happens slowly, as we feel ready. Our forgiving heart knows that moving through our feelings is the short path to freedom.

As Jack Kornfield says in The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness & Peace, “True forgiveness does not paper over what happened in a superficial way. It is not a misguided effort to suppress or ignore our pain. It cannot be hurried. It is a deep process repeated over and over in our heart which honors the grief and betrayal, and in its own time ripens into the freedom to truly forgive.”

As we take time to be honest with ourselves, time to grieve fully and feel how hurt we really feel, time to feel compassion for our tender inner self, forgiveness sprouts a few buds. At first, we might practice under the covers at night by whispering, “I’m willing to forgive my stepdad for molesting me” or “I’m willing to forgive my spouse for betraying me.” We try it on in a safe space and see how it feels.
If our heart feels ready to take the leap into forgiveness, we know it. If not, we give our heart more time to heal. Eventually as we reach a place of peace with it in ourselves, we might say, “I forgive you” to the violator. Or we may never say it directly. The key is stepping into compassion—for our selves and for the unconscious acts of others that drive them to cruelty.

By the same token, when we have hurt, disappointed or betrayed others, we allow them to move through the four phases of forgiveness in their own timing. We may say, “Please forgive me,” but healing occurs in each of us at our own pace. We must bring patience, kindness and compassion in the interim until they are ready.

Forgiveness changes our rules of engagement. It stretches our hearts to see that true love includes, even embraces, those imperfect acts by those who love us. While mind keeps trying to convince us, “Something is wrong if you ever feel hurt or sad,” love reminds us that we all struggle with fear, judgment, doubt and shame, even those who hurt us. Love holds our ordinary feelings in a warm, loving, embrace, allowing us to stretch and forgive the unconscious acts of others.

As we open our hearts, forgiving others, we remember that each hurt helped brings us to this moment of understanding, compassion, wisdom and forgiveness.

Carolyn Hobbs offers life coaching, videos, interviews and sample chapters on her website, http://www.carolyn-hobbs.com. Her new book, FREE YOURSELF: 10 Life-Changing Powers of your Wise Heart (Wisdom) is available in print, kindle and e-book (and Audio in December) at Amazon.com.

Posted in FORGIVENESS FREES US, Therapist, Therapy | Tagged

THE POWER OF CURIOSITY – Carolyn Hobbs

THE POWER OF CURIOSITY
By Carolyn Hobbs, LMFT

Author of FREE YOURSELF: 10 Life-Changing Powers of your Wise Heart

Few of us realize the secret wisdom at our fingertips inside curiosity.

But over the years, my clients have taught me how easy it is to access our deep heart wisdom by focusing directly on those annoying symptoms and getting curious. For instance, by time Frank came to see me for therapy, he long ago tired of popping painkillers to deal with his chronic backache. Though skeptical at first that talking to this pain was possible, let alone useful, he reluctantly agreed. Frank closed his eyes, focused his attention directly on his back pain and gingerly asked, “What are you trying to tell me?”

At first, nothing came. Frank immediately grew discouraged. But when he asked again, an image of himself lying on the couch resting popped into his awareness. “Along with a clear picture of me on the couch, a most loving voice deep inside whispered, ‘Let me rest. Let my back rest more.’ I’ll never admit to the guys at work that I’m now conversing with my back pain,” he chuckled, “they’d laugh me out of the building. But if resting and paying attention makes it disappear, I’m on board.”

Once we view pain and symptoms as our wise heart trying to gain our attention, we can relate differently to it. Instead of angrily wishing symptoms would disappear, we can focus directly on it and listen for the loving message our pain is delivering. As we give ourselves what the symptom forces us to do, the symptom is free to leave. Curiosity helps us hear th unorthodox wisdom of the heart.

When Karen turned seventy, she had already had two knee replacement surgeries and the doctor was scheduling a hip surgery. A tomboy all her life, with all her relatives touting a “buck up” attitude, she laughed when I spoke about “listening to her body symptoms.” “I don’t want to wind up in a wheelchair my last ten years,” she said, “But I’m not a touchy-feely sort. I hate sharing feelings.”

“Humor me,” I pleaded. “Focus on your hip pain, ask what it’s saying to you.”

“Only if it helps me avoid wasting time on that post-surgery PT rubbish,” she said. Once focused on her hip pain, she said, “When I close my eyes, I see myself swimming, which I haven’t done in decades. Before I fell in love with running in my thirties and forties, I loved to swim as a teenager. I just never thought of it.”

Karen still dodges feelings. But she’s enjoying a new affair with swimming. For myself, I love curiosity. I love how it disappears worry, guilt, despair, and fear whenever I ask, “What story am I telling myself now?” The instant I ask, I chuckle at ego’s silly story hijacking my attention. Free of scolding, the question returns me instantly to the present, to what my eyes are seeing and ears are hearing. Its sister version, “Am I here now?” also reminds us that, on the deep level of conscious awareness, everything is story—those fears about money or finding love or losing love or health or displeasing someone.

I admit I don’t welcome the physical symptoms that come with aging. For three weeks recently, I suffered from nausea more days than not. I tried antacids, peppermint tea, kefir, ginger, and acupuncture to alleviate it. When nausea returned, my chiropractor adjusted my digestive valves, which usually works. But still the nausea persisted, tugging at my shirtsleeve to say, “Psssst. I need to interrupt your routine. Something very, very wrong needs your immediate attention now.”

Finally I carved a morning out of my busy schedule to focus directly on the nausea. I breathed deeply into my diaphragm, asking, “What can I not stomach? What am I having trouble digesting?” Immediately, tears poured out. Images of the ponderosa pine forest behind my home flooded my awareness. But instead of picturing the elk herd, mama bears and cubs, coyote, and deer I have shared the animal trails with for fifteen years, I saw dead oak bushes and pine trees strewn in every direction. In two days, a giant bulldozer had destroyed what nature had taken decades to perfect. Mitigation, the term for wildfire prevention measures, had struck my sanctuary. I cried for the deer, who lost their shade in oak bushes on hot days, and for the elk who sleep under pine trees on cold, wintry nights. And then I wept for the world’s rain forests, changed forever by bulldozers.

Persistent symptoms bring unconscious feelings to our awareness.

Curiosity Calls Feelings into Awareness

Feelings below our awareness trigger much more of our behavior than we might think. Curiosity is our get-out-of-jail-free card for ending angry outbursts and sullen silences. It helps us identify which unconscious feelings are fueling our strong reactions. Since the body cannot lie, it is forced to act out any feelings we fail to name and verbalize. The body has no choice, but we do.

When we ask ourselves, “Which feeling is fueling this incessant story in my head?” we release the body from having to act out feelings. And when our wise heart calls the hurt, fear, sadness or anger into our awareness, our relationships change.

For instance, though Mark promised himself each morning, “I won’t dump my anger on my lover today,” he inevitably would, and then would feel ashamed and discouraged for failing. A smart and successful man, his inability to stop pushing Teresa away with anger perplexed him.

In therapy, Mark closed his eyes and asked his heart, “Which feeling feeds my anger?” He focused on his breath, listening patiently for an image or feeling sense. Finally a picture arose of himself at age seven by his mother’s bedside. “Mom was depressed again and refused to take me to my baseball game as she’d promised. Enraged, I threw my glove on the floor and stormed out, declaring that women aren’t trustworthy. It protected my heart from future disappointment from Mom,” Mark admitted. “But now, I can’t hear Teresa because I believe I can’t trust her.”

Curiosity offers a safe, nonjudgmental way to stick our big toe in the yet-unexplored waters of the unconscious—those waters we were taught to avoid. It gently invites us to ask, “Which feeling is fueling my story now?” Just as naming thoughts “thinking” releases us back into the present, identifying feelings underneath stories gives us conscious choice. We can choose to set down ego’s reaction and ask, “How would I like to respond in this moment?” to whatever is troubling us. When we ask directly, the answer is usually obvious. Most of us, once we realize we have a choice, prefer reassuring ourselves for two seconds than spending hours lost in fear or guilt or shame. Most fears stem from two basic sources:

Fear of losing what we have and Fear of not getting what we want.

For example, Sandy found herself drinking too much wine while preparing the family dinner. Like her father before her, she dismissed all feelings as “silly.” By forty-seven, this ignoring habit kept her clueless about her feelings and needs. When she read about curiosity, she set down the second glass of wine and asked herself, “What am I feeling?” Inside she seethed with resentment below the surface.

In therapy, Sandy said, “I had no idea I was drowning such resentment with wine. My father’s needs always felt more important than my little-kid needs. But he was lousy at asking for help. Between his depression and his anger, we kids had to avoid him or figure out by ourselves what he needed. Now I’m doing it too.”
“Have you asked your teenage son for help?” I inquired.
Sandy burst into tears. “No. I have a million rationales for putting his needs first. But between running my business and taxiing them both to soccer practice and all it takes to run a household as a single mom, I’m exhausted.”
“Sandy, if you dropped the judgment that your feelings and needs are silly,” I asked, ”how would you like to respond to your need for help?”
“I’d like to ask my son for help, but I’m really afraid.”
“So make an intention. ‘I’m willing to ask my son for __________.’ State your fear by adding ‘and I’m afraid.’ If we verbalize fear, we don’t have to act it out.”

“I’m willing to voice my needs to my son and I’m afraid,” she grinned.

Whether lost in despair, worry, jealousy, guilt, or anger, one simple question, such as “How would I like to respond now?” changes our whole experience. Since our bodies cannot lie, stating feelings and needs directly stops forcing our bodies to act them out again and again in old, unconscious ways.

Curiosity & Awareness Improve our Relationships

Curiosity transformed my therapy work. In my practice, I have clients stand up and move around the office, exaggerating a current fear, hurt, or anger by naming its “story” out loud. This helps them realize that who they are is much bigger and wiser than their story, and that they have a choice how to respond. Then curiosity helps them dig even deeper: “How is this feeling familiar to you? What happened in your world the first time you felt this way?” As clients identify the original situation where they felt hurt, scared, or angry as children, they are free to heal the root trauma from their original wound. Once this initial injury receives the focus, expression, and love it needs, we stop overreacting in similar adult situations.

This new ability to bring the wisdom culled by curiosity to loved ones changes our relationships. Rather than acting out anger, hurt, rejection, and disappointment for the thousandth time, our curious heart witnesses our reactions, feelings, and stories—giving ourselves the option to describe rather than act out our inner process to loved ones. This stops our unconscious habit of blaming and projecting personal reactions onto loved ones, replacing distance with closeness.

For instance, Sara and Jim hit a stalemate in their relationship. After a passionate honeymoon phase discovering how much they loved nature, backpacking, lovemaking, and travel, their communication filled with hopeless disappointment. Sara responded to Jim’s angry outbursts and anxiety by holding him while he cried, sometimes for hours, but his outbursts continued.

In desperation, Sara invited Jim to witness his anxiety rather than dump anger on her. One night, paralyzed with fear, Jim lay on their bed describing his body’s experience of the anxiety to Sara. “My chest feels so tight, it could explode. If I try to move at all, I feel like I’ll disappear. If I don’t explode in anger, I feel like I’ll never stop crying.”

Sara, filled with compassion for his pain, held Jim as he wept the tears of growing up with an alcoholic mother. Once released, his outbursts disappeared.

Curiosity spells freedom. By shining a spotlight on old unconscious reactions, and by recognizing that we always have a choice to respond differently, curiosity opens countless doors of new possibility. The more we respond to ourselves differently, the more curiosity nudges us to remove ego’s blinders and see loved ones, and strangers, with compassion.

Living Life in Expanded Curiosity

Too often, when feeling overwhelmed, we look for strength in habits that actually weaken us: compulsive drinking, eating, smoking, working, exercising, reading, or “keeping ourselves busy.” Curiosity cuts through these compulsions. It invites us to experience feelings, and life, directly. It returns that juicy spark of spontaneity that has been missing far too long in our relationship.

Cultivating curiosity is a shortcut to happiness available to everyone. It opens the golden gateway to our deep heart wisdom. It keeps us from sleepwalking through our lives indulging ego’s incessant habits. Curiosity brings an inner peace and joy few of us have ever known. It allows us to welcome all of life, the good and bad, the pleasant and painful, equally.
Carolyn Hobbs’ new book, FREE YOURSELF: 10 Life-Changing Powers of your Wise Heart (Wisdom) is available on Amazon.com. For information, life coaching, videos & Radio Interviews on the subject, click on http://www.carolyn-hobbs.com

Posted in Carolyn Hobbs, THE POWER OF CURIOSITY

THE POWER OF CHOOSING JOY – Carolyn Hobbs

THE POWER OF CHOOSING JOY

Most of us think of joy as something we capture through special activities or people that bring us a sense of joy. For instance, I just returned from a two-hour hike on one of those warm, sunny, early June mornings that I love about Southwest Colorado. The cloudless sky is a deep turquoise blue that I can lose myself in for hours. I feel a deep sense of joy.

I find great joy in nature. I love seeing the baby fawn tracks carved in the dirt right next to the not-so-tiny mama deer tracks on the narrow animal trail we share. Today I watched a red-tail hawk circling for breakfast. Later I saw black bear tracks crossing the fire road, a rare sight. In the fall, when the elk return from their summer cavorting above tree line, I’ll fill my nostrils and spirit with their wild, musky scent. I love this wild place.

You may find joy in scuba diving, running, swimming, dancing or texting and tweeting. But doing the things we love, no matter how much we love them, brings only a fleeting joy. Try as we may to cram every free moment with the things we love, we still have the rest of our lives to manage: we still go to work, buy groceries, cook meals, pay bills, address conflicts with our spouse or teenager, and keep the car running. And if we have a small infant at home, we wake up five times in the night to nurse and still taxi the older kids to school by eight, then get ourselves to work on time.

We can’t expect to find joy in all this hard stuff. Or can we?

Yes we canIn fact, if we only expect to find joy while doing what we really love, we end up spending ninety percent of our lives joyless.

Now is the perfect time to expand your vision of joy. Let me reacquaint you with the unlimited joy that we are born with, that lives deep in our core. Unlike that over-the-top ecstatic joy you feel after dancing, downhill skiing, or doing what you love, it’s a softer, subtler joy. It floods your awareness with a sense of inner peace and well being, no matter what is happening around you or what feelings are moving through you. This ever-present inner joy helps you to take everything much less seriously.

When you Choose Joy, you open the door to everyday joy, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Yes, even amidst a busy, frustrating, anxiety-ridden day, this reservoir of inner joy is always here, inside, awaiting your awareness. Joy is not something to go out and find; joy resides in your core. It’s that place inside that constantly reminds you that, no matter what issue is demanding your attention, you are safe and you are loved, always.

Unfortunately, most of us were trained out of inner joy a long time ago. But any time of day, you can tap into your inner joy by taking three simple steps: Say “Yes” to what is true right now (whether you like it or not); Witness your ego’s reactions to what is; Respond differently, with much more kindness and compassion, less habitual judgment and fear. Imagine how life might change if you knew you could touch this innate joy you were born with.

As a body-centered therapist for 35 years, I have witnessed thousands of clients reconnect with their unstoppable joy. And all they had to do to get joy was the one thing we were taught to avoid like the plague: turn and face directly any grief, rage, or fear they were too scared to face for years. That is, to tap into inner joy, we all have to change how we unconsciously allow everyday fears, hurts, disappointments and struggles of life steal our joy away. As soon as we locate uncomfortable feelings like anxiety or despair in our body and breathe into them, our inner joy bubbles up from deep inside.

For example, Paula avoided feelings as long as she could—but she suffered from migraines. When she stopped hiding behind confusion and indecision and empowered herself to leave her alcoholic boyfriend, her migraines disappeared. And Linda rediscovered her joy when she faced her guilt and grief over having an abortion at sixteen.

But my favorite is Dave, a math professor who suffered digestive pain for fifty years. By sixty-one, when he entered my office, he had tried antacids, prescription drugs, fasting, vegetarianism—everything but surgery. Since I trust that symptoms ask us for our attention, I had Dave lie down on my office futon, close his eyes and deep breathe. “Now take a big belly breath and imagine sending your exhale down into the center of your belly pain.”

“I remember my bully sister destroying all my model cars in her fit of rage,” he said. “I felt terrorized by her and my parents never lifted a finger.”

“Good,” I said. “Let your body release any stuck feelings still present.”

Dave’s legs began to tremble, then his arms and torso. I encouraged him to trust his body and allow all that fear in his belly to rattle through his body.

“Oh my gosh,” Dave said. “I feel more joy in my being than I’ve felt in decades. I feel like literally a ton of fear just got released from my belly.”

Dave’s digestive pain disappeared. And he rediscovered his innate joy.

Even when we can’t control our outer circumstances, as adults we always have a choice about how we respond. Instead of unconsciously running away from pain and discomfort, as ego coaches u to do, we can choose to stay present, directly face our feelings and respond differently.

Over the years with clients, as I saw how our own beliefs, fears and habitual reactions limit our joy much more than any spouse, boss, or devastating life experience, I discovered two key questions that help bring joy into our daily lives: “Am I feeling joy nowIf not, how am I holding my joy away?” By seeing our old habits clearly and taking full responsibility for how we respondwe can hold all of life’s gifts in joy.

Of course, we don’t limit our joy consciously. Nobody pushes away joy on purpose. It’s an unconscious habit learned over years of watching our parents and grandparents respond to life through a lens of fear. No matter how much they loved us, our elders weren’t able to teach us how to bask in unlimited joy because they never knew it existed. 

         For centuries, our ancestors were guided by a set of beliefs that they needed to survive—beliefs about fitting into the mainstream at all costs, hiding their vulnerable feelings, not trusting anyone “different,” and fitting themselves into a white patriarchal culture. But times have changed. And whatever beliefs were passed down from our ancestors can be changed. They are, after all, only beliefs. My own Russian grandfather and Romanian grandmother told their six children they came from Germany. As immigrants to the U.S. in 1905, they lied to avoid being fired, shamed, or even deported.

I can’t even count the number of times I have tenderly invited clients to reconnect with their inner core, only to have them gingerly reply, “I’m afraid to. I’m afraid I’ll just find a big empty hole inside. I’m afraid I won’t like the miserable nothing I find inside, and I can’t handle that.” But as I invite them to be curious, and as they move through the anger, sadness, fear, and shame that once felt too overwhelming to face, they are pleasantly surprised to touch joy. Whenever we find the courage to locate fear, sadness or shame in our body and breathe into it, joy naturally bubbles to the surface.

All you need to bring to this transition are 1) willingness, 2) courage, and 3) curiosity. Your job is to say, “Yes” to your current experience, to witness your thoughts and feelings, and to respond differently, no matter what anyone else is doing. Your job is to keep facing the layers of hurt, fear, and disappointment that have built a thick wall around your heart and to keep choosing joy, even when the ground under your feet–built on rickety old habits–begins to shake.

Of course, dropping familiar defenses can feel very uncomfortable at first. After all, that’s why defenses get created in the first place. Let yourself move slowly into these tender, vulnerable areas. Don’t force your deeper feelings. Don’t expect too much too fast. And be extra-forgiving all those times you slide back into old patterns. After all, change is never a linear path. In aware moments, you will feel totally able to notice your fears and talk about them to loved ones. Other times, when old wounds are triggered, you will hold tight to old habits, convinced that all this joy talk is just some fluffy Pollyanna gibberish. Hang in there.

Picture yourself crossing a rushing stream from old to new habits. As you move towards the middle, slowly let go of the old, familiar shoreline that appeared to keep you safe up to this point. Move slowly and carefully toward the new shore, knowing that a much more loving and compassionate way of relating to yourself, and to life, is awaiting your arrival on the other shore.

In each moment, we essentially have two choices: We can buy into old fear-based patterns and act them out or Choose Joy. Even in scary moments, gripped by fear, we can bravely whisper to ourselves, “I choose joy—even now.” But don’t take my word for it. Experiment in your own life.

Let your feelings, fears, and old habits or beliefs become your new gateways to feeling joy. Remember that Joy is always here, underneath—it just gets covered up by doubt, judgment other states of mind.

Author & Therapist Carolyn Hobbs’ new book, FREE YOURSELF: 10 Life-Changing Powers of your Wise Heart (Wisdom) is available with free gifts on http://www.JoyandFreedomNow.com. For information, videos and new iHeart Radio Interviews, click on http://www.carolyn-hobbs.com.

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THE POWER OF CONSCIOUS AWARENESS – Carolyn Hobbs

THE POWER OF CONSCIOUS AWARENESS
By Carolyn Hobbs, LMFT

Author of FREE YOURSELF: 10 Life-Changing Powers of your Wise Heart

Jessie sat meditating each morning, labeling her thoughts “thinking” for thirty minutes. But this failed to stop her rage at her partner Tom for disappointing her. Perplexed at how to overcome this, she agreed, in therapy, to set an intention: “I’m willing to see my anger story as a story rather than swallow it as gospel.”

“Last week I found Tom pouring his heart out on emails to some woman at work,” she reported in our next session. “I wanted to wring his neck. But just as my mouth snarled to launch an attack, I remembered my stupid intention. I jumped up, ran into the bathroom, sat on the toilet, and took several deep breaths. Through gritted teeth, I asked, ‘How might the Dalai Lama respond?’ Dead silence. Then finally my heart whispered, ‘Meet his unconsciousness with awareness.’

“I rolled my eyes, retorting, “I’m aware alright. I’m aware of my outrage.” But after I calmed down, I went back into the kitchen and said, ‘I know you hate to disappoint me. But I’d love to hear what motivated you to email your coworker.’

“Tom stared in disbelief at Jessie’s calmness, then blurted out, ‘My dad has colon cancer. I’ve been afraid to tell you, afraid of your reaction. The woman at work lost her husband to colon cancer last spring, so she understands what I’m going through. If you would stop talking all the time and listen, I’d share more with you.’

“I took Tom in my arms while he wept and shared his fears about dying.”
Conscious awareness changes how we respond in our relationships. Of course, ego never misses an opportunity to react or embellish a big story—anything to distract us from feeling our feelings directly. But as long as we know this, we can welcome and dismiss ego through the same revolving door.

With practice, by consciously noticing ego reactions and choosing awareness, we stay lost in ego’s habits for only two minutes instead of two days or two years.

Unconscious Human Conditioning: Ancient Ways Still in Vogue

For centuries, we humans—with ego’s full support—have resisted, reacted, judged, doubted, and feared our way through life, fully believing that this is the smart way to survive. We all know the routine: hide tender feelings like hurt, fear or sadness (even from ourselves), take everything personally, make up a story to avoid feeling our feelings, blame others or life itself for all misunderstandings, then repeat ad nausea. When avoidance fails and relationship feels intolerable, bail.

We sabotage love relationships, blame others for our unhappiness, and perpetuate suffering for ourselves with endless reacting, judging, and resisting, all in the name of “this is how we do reality”—until awareness turns the light switch on.

With generations of our ancestors refining what Buddha aptly named our unconscious human conditioning, these habits live deep in our bones, our blood, our DNA, and our cells. We rely on them to meet scary situations, meaning anything unfamiliar, new, or unexpected. Our conditioned habits are such deeply ingrained parts of us, like our right arm or left foot, we literally never think about them; they occur pre-thought. In fact, these habits occur so far below conscious awareness that, without questioning them at all, we deem these recurrences “reality.”

In our youth, none of us escaped this indoctrination. The moment the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” to the delivery room, we began soaking up the misperceptions, misguided beliefs, and ego reactions that form our family’s special brand of unconscious human conditioning. Whether raised Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist, we all began seeing, thinking, and reacting to life through certain culturally tinted filters. Whether born in New York, Florida, California or Kansas, we all struggle day in and day out with this human predicament: ego’s fears and stories running our lives unconsciously.

But once we realize it is ego’s unconscious reactions—not our current life event—that cause us untold suffering, we welcome Conscious Awareness.

Awareness of fear’s familiar voice is a short path to freedom. Fear can sound so clever and seductive, so demanding and logical, we often mistake fear for truth. Its chorus of “never good enough” judging our every act paralyzes us in doubt. It repeatedly holds us hostage to past mistakes and future what-ifs until we can’t hear that soft voice of our aware heart. If we are thinking about having a baby or opening our own business, fear scolds, “Where will you ever find the money and time to do that?” Once we do find love, fear tries to sabotage it with “He or she will leave too, like the others, once they see who you really are.” Over time, consumed with doubt, we feel afraid to care, afraid to trust, afraid to believe in ourselves and life.

Cutting right through fear’s countless disguises, awareness lessens fear’s impact by disarming fear’s element of surprise with, “Hello. I was expecting you.”

Simple questions call unconscious fears into conscious awareness. When we ask, “What is fear telling me right now?” or “Which fear stories capture my attention when I’m anxious, worried, hopeless, or lonely?” awareness exposes fear as fear—not who we really are. Rather than merge with it, the instant we see fear clearly, we stop identifying with it. We can name it “fearing” and let it go or surround it with love.
Centuries ago, Buddha warned us there’d be days like this—days when we layer untold angst on top of the inherent suffering that comes with being a human being in a body. Making unconscious feelings conscious returns us to freedom.

Attention Calls Sensations and Feelings into Awareness

Anyone facing paralyzing anxiety, jealousy, loneliness, or despair knows that ditching old unconscious conditioning is easier said than done. After all, we adopted our family’s unconscious conditioning as toddlers. And despite rebelling against certain behaviors in our adolescence, adulthood finds these deeply ingrained values—and the habits that support them—remain the only reality we know.

Here’s five quick, easy ways to feel free through the Power of Awareness:
• Awareness notices thoughts as thoughts: each time it notices an ego reaction, story, or judgment, it labels it “thinking” and lets it go.
• Awareness notices sensations as sensations: each time it senses pain, tension, or tingling, it labels it “sensing” and lets it go.
• Awareness notices feelings as feelings: each time it feels grief, hurt, anxiety, despair, loneliness, etc., it experiences the feeling directly (free of story) and holds it in loving compassion.
• Awareness notices ego stories as stories: it holds all stories of rejection, resentment, fear, guilt and shame in loving compassion.
• Awareness notices impermanence: rather than resist change, it uses daily life to remind itself of the ever-changing truth of life.

When we align with awareness, when we notice thoughts as thoughts, sensations as sensations, and feelings as feelings, we are able to pause and remember who we really are: “I am conscious awareness witnessing thoughts, sensations, feelings, and ego stories passing through my awareness as visitors.”

But this shift—from misidentifying with our thoughts, feelings, and sensations (as if all I am is such a limited sense of self), to identifying with the conscious awareness noticing these—takes time. Midstream between the two, while we practice this transition day in and day out, we painfully watch ourselves reenact old habits. This feels painful because now we are aware when we get lost in fears about money or sex or love, but we can’t stop the old habit immediately so it runs roughshod over our desire to change it.

For instance, each time Nancy felt overwhelmed at her clothing store, she threw up her arms, said, “I can’t do this anymore,” and stormed out, just like her mother and grandmother did before her. “Mom used to piss me off so bad! She’d never say clearly what she needed. She’d make our whole family and the whole world feel wrong, then drown her sorrow in a bottle of wine.” When Nancy interrupted this family tradition by closing her eyes and asking her heart, “Which feeling perpetuates this horrible feeling of being overwhelmed?” she let go of her family legacy. “It’s my fear, and Mom and Grandma’s fear, of never being good enough. Ever since I was young, I hid my imperfections to win love.”

As many of us learn over the years, those deep-seated childhood wounds can dampen our joy in adult life. At times, Conscious Awareness is required to meet persistent habits that repeat themselves long into our adult lives. strangers that hurt me?”

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THE POWER OF APPRECIATION – Carolyn Hobbs

Too often, we focus all our attention on acquiring what we want, achieving goals, avoiding what we don’t want, and getting our way. Amidst the hubbub, we forget to include the Power of Appreciation in soothing conflict. As huge, powerful beings, we forget that we created this love relationship to begin with and that we create, or uncreate, it by perpetuating fear, resentment and anger—or choosing appreciation. As a couple’s therapist, I always teach the Power of Appreciation in our first session.

For instance, Ralph and Linda had perfected their complaining skills the past 19 years. On the brink of divorce, their marriage had deteriorated into yelling matches, seething resentments and loud silences.

We love each other,” Linda said, “but somehow we forgot how to get along.”

After naming their resentment stories out loud, and listening to each other’s feelings, I gave them a most challenging assignment: “For one month, I want you to refrain from anger and appreciate each other for big and little things each day.”

I turned to Linda first. “Would you be willing, Linda, to appreciate Ralph for working hard to support you and your three teenage boys these past nineteen years? And for pitching baseballs and practicing soccer plays with the boys after a long day’s work? And for saving gas money during the recession by bicycling to work, even on cold January days? And for learning how to keep his temper in check after his second DUI when he quite drinking?”

Linda rolled her eyes, looked aside, swallowed hard, then said, “Yeah, okay.”

Next I looked into Ralph’s eyes. “Are you willing, Ralph, to thank Linda for learning how to cook low-cholesterol, no-salt meals after your first heart attack amidst her busy career as a journalist? And for all the times she somehow manages to get the boys to soccer practice and gets dinner on the table and creates fun family weekend plans? In other words, all the small and big ways she shows love?”

Ralph nodded. “Yeah, I guess in all the busyness I forgot to appreciate her.”

We still had a pile of resentments and unresolved conflicts to address over the next few months. But appreciation paved the path toward forgiving hearts.

Year after year, as routine and bad habits dull our senses, we forget to appreciate loved ones. Appreciation slips through the cracks, unspoken, as we race through our busy lives. Soon all that undying love in our romantic phase succumbs to complaints and blame. Our mental story of what is and isn’t possible with our lover or spouse blinds us to seeing them clearly anymore. Over the years, resentments are honed into an art form. Instead of co-creating the relationship we want, we collapse into feeling stuck in a dying relationship without tools for how to get unstuck.

But when we consciously invite a daily dose of appreciation into our love relationships, we can turn a corner we never knew existed. The Power of Appreciation creates an attitude shift—from complaining to valuing the time, attention, effort and focus a loved one puts into our relationship every day, even if it’s different than what we put in. Appreciation reminds us to stop falling forward into what’s next and truly value what we have. It stretches our hearts and minds to feel love in all its surprising form.

Because our small ego thrives on judgment, doubt, and complaining, it wants nothing to do with our attempts to appreciate. Suffering from a case of chronic dissatisfaction, ego can’t waste time appreciating anything. It is always onto the “next thing,” chattering nonstop inside our heads about what we need to get, do, have or keep in order to be happy, to be good enough.

But when we pause two seconds to acknowledge to ourselves or loved ones, “Thank you for working today, bringing groceries home, cooking dinner, being a good parent or lover, losing two pounds, eating healthy, mowing the lawn, exercising, tending our newborn, taxiing the kids to gymnastics, meditating, living ethically, following your passion, getting good grades, keeping up with Pilates or yoga classes,” we stop ego’s runaway train. Appreciation brings value to those small, unspoken daily acts (done by our selves and loved ones) that help life go smoother.

Appreciation replaces ego’s chronic habit of lumping every experience into “good” or “bad” judgments with “this moment is good enough, perfect exactly as it is.” It reminds us to pause long enough to appreciate the things our spouse did do to keep the family functioning rather than focusing on the one thing they forgot. And to thank our child for doing their homework, even if we wish they were getting an A.

Years ago, psychologists studied appreciation in couples. In the experimental group, couples agreed to only appreciate each other for several weeks and silence their complaints. The control group appreciated good behavior but also complained about bad behavior. After one month those couples that complained and praised noticed little change. But the daily diet of appreciation created such a safe, loving environment that, to their surprise, couples reported, “all bad or negative behavior fell away without saying a single word about it.”

The power of appreciation, which helps us feel seen and heard and valued (sometimes for the first time), goes a long way into healing past wounds of feeling undervalued and unseen.

A month after my first session with Ralph and Linda, as I said goodbye to my last client, I heard soft whispers and giggles coming from my office waiting room. I peeked around the privacy screen to see Ralph and Linda snuggling and laughing like teenagers on the couch. Both looked ten years younger and light years less inhibited to be their unabashed selves.

“When Linda looked dreamily into my eyes and told me all the things she appreciates about me,” Ralph grinned, “I melted like a school kid. I’m falling in love with her all over again.” Linda shrugged and snuggled deeper under his arm.

When we pause a few seconds to appreciate what is, we enter the unbounded reality of our grateful heart. We start flowing easily into each precious moment with lighthearted abandon, less attached to notions of how life should be and utterly delighted with how perfect it is, exactly as it is.

Learn more about Carolyn Hobbs, LMFT, author of FREE YOURSELF: 10 Life-Changing Powers of your Wise Heart, at her website: http://www.carolyn-hobbs.com.

Posted in Appreciation, Feelings, Lifes Simple Questions, Therapy | Tagged , , , , ,

THE POWER OF SIMPLE QUESTIONS – Carolyn Hobbs

I spent last week sick with a chest cold, exhausted from promoting my new book, Free Yourself, on radio shows, social media, and an East Coast tour this fall. But as I lay sick on my deck, soaking up rays, I noticed a pressure on my heart. Along with deep exhaustion from a busy year of editing, proofreading and promoting, I felt disappointed and discouraged that a few close friends were too busy to help me.

My story felt totally justified—until I remembered the Power of Simple Questions. In any relationship, it’s so easy to point the finger at loved ones, easy to blame those closest to us and assume that what they said or did or didn’t do caused our hurt feelings. But the instant we engage our Curious Heart and ask a simple question such as “What story is ego telling me now,” we snap out of ego’s trance into the truth of who we are: conscious, loving awareness. After all, ego will hold us hostage to its stories and infinite thoughts forever, perpetuating our suffering, if we let it.

For myself, the instant I remembered to stop pointing the finger at my busy loved ones and pause instead to take two deep breaths and ask my curious heart, “Which part of me feels disappointed and discouraged,” my heart reminded me that these two feels trigger my young child wound from growing up with a depressed mother. Within 24 hours of offering young Carolyn loving reassurance, I healed.

The moment we ask, “Which part of me—my noisy ego or wounded child—feels hurt and needs to defend itself?” the mental story of feeling lost, lonely, scared or angry is replaced by loving reassurance from our wise heart.

Resisting what is true or reacting is not our problem. Failing to see it clearly is.

We owe it to ourselves, and loved ones, to get to know the workings of our inner self. By whispering to ourselves each morning for a whole week, “I’m willing to recognize ego’s voice,” our curious heart helps us hear the loud and demanding, or soft and seductive tones our ego uses to convince us to buys its fears and judgments.

But when we ask a question, ego’s constant chatter takes a break. Rather than staying lost in ego’s stories of guilt, anxiety, jealousy or anger, our focus shifts into a deeper sense of self: our wise heart. Curiosity helps us notice which reactions are just passing through, like radio waves, and which we want to pay attention to.

Curiosity brings awareness. Awareness brings conscious choice and freedom.

For example, Bill suffered from panic attacks. A healthy thirty-year-old who loves downhill skiing, he never let friends ride in his car to the ski resort for fear he might have a panic attack and have to pull off the freeway until the panic attack subsided. Anti-anxiety drugs failed him. So he tried body-centered therapy.

“I don’t believe in therapy,” Bill said, “but a friend recommended this.”

“I hear your resistance,” I responded, “but are you willing to try an experiment?”

He nodded. We spent a half hour teaching him how to recognize his voice of ego and young self from his wise heart. Then I asked Bill to lie down on a futon and place both hands over his heart. “Now take five deep belly breaths” and repeat inside your self, ‘I stay calm and relaxed in all situations.’

After this phrase relaxed his body, I asked Bill to describe his latest panic attack.      “I was driving to Denver early on Christmas Eve morning, excited to see my family and see my nephew’s faces when they opened my gifts,” he reported. “Just before I panicked and pulled off the road, I felt scared, out of control, unsafe.”

“Good remembering,” I said. “Now call in curiosity by asking your wise heart, ‘Which part of me felt scared, unsafe and out of control? My ego or young self?”

Immediately, Bill responded, “My young boy! I never felt safe with Dad driving the car because he’d drive drunk and swerve and play chicken with oncoming cars.”

Tears trickled down his cheeks as he recalled his terror at riding with his dad.

“As a boy, nobody reassured you or helped you feel safe,” I injected. “So ask your wise heart what words of loving reassurance you might offer your scared boy now.”

Bill paused, as if listening closely to his heart. “It’s Okay, buddy. I’m here. I love you and I’ll keep you safe. I’ll never make you ride with an unsafe driver again.”

The next week, Bill arrived grinning. “It worked,” he exclaimed. “I started to panic, pulled off the highway, put my hands over my heart and reassured young Bill. After repeating ‘I’ll keep you safe and I love you,’ he calmed down and I drove on.”

Our ego and young self react instantly, without thinking about it. We can’t stop it.             But we can consciously choose, in this moment, to respond differently.

Like a TV remote, curiosity switches channels inside, from unconscious reactions to conscious awareness. It opens all the shutters and doors to notice ego’s voice, which pressures us constantly to stay on top of things, stay in control and have all the answers. Curiosity hands us our own personal “stop” and “pause” buttons with full permission to use anytime, anywhere, whenever any thought, misperception or story distracts us from the present. The moment we remember to ask, “How am I reacting to an unwanted situation” and “How is my reaction creating suffering,” we free ourselves to ask the empowering question, “How do I want to respond now?”

Every situation, pain, symptom and conflict holds a pearl of wisdom inside. If only we pause and respond with curiosity, it teaches us something below the surface that we’ve been waiting to learn our whole lives. Our job is to find the courage to use our discomfort, pain, despair and hopelessness to wake up right now out of ego’s trance and see our humanness, and our loved ones, more clearly.

When we meet each life event—the good and the bad—with curiosity, it can feel at first as if we are pulling the rug out from under us, a rug that we believed was keeping us safe our whole lives. In chapter two of my new book, Free Yourself, I dive into more detail about using the Power of Simple Questions to unleash our birthrights: inner peace, joy and freedom.

But for now, ask yourself, “Which part of me feels scared, anxious, rejected or lonely?” Watch the mere question transport you into your curious heart, whose deep inherent wisdom changes how you see yourself, and life itself, forever.

Carolyn M. Hobbs, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

Author of Free Yourself: 10 Life-Changing Powers of your Wise Heart (Amazon.com)

For information or phone sessions, author’s website is: Carolyn-hobbs.com

 

Posted in Fearless Love, Lifes Simple Questions, Therapy | Tagged , , , ,

THE POWER OF CONSCIOUS CHOICE – Carolyn Hobbs

Anxiety woke me abruptly at five o’clock this morning. The frantic voice in my head sounded my alarms, chanting, “You don’t have enough time to do everything!” My adrenals jumped into fight/flight mode, instantly waking me all the way up. But luckily, after 35 years as a body-centered therapist, I knew better than to stay focused on this all-too-familiar-chant. I quickly shifted into asking, “Where do I feel anxiety in my body?” It appeared as a tight knot in my belly. From years of experience, I sent five deep breaths directly into the center of the knot and watched it soften and dissolve into spacious peacefulness.

We cannot control which feelings visit us at any hour, day or night. But we can control how we respond through the Power of Conscious Choice. Though we were taught to run as fast as we can away from anxiety, fear, despair, sadness, loneliness and other “negative” feelings, we have choice. Since all the power is in the present, in this moment we can choose to respond differently.

We can stay lost in the “story” of our hurt or sadness for hours and days (even years)—or we can locate the feeling in our body, breathe directly into it and hold it in loving compassion. We can hide under the bed with fear, worry and anxiety—or we put breathing room around it by witnessing the feeling appear, visit us and disappear. We can stay consumed by the contraction and story that come with guilt thoughts for hours, or we can offer loving reassurance by remembering the truth: “I am conscious awareness noticing feelings visit me.”

In other words, we make conscious or unconscious choices moment-to-moment. When we unconsciously resist, run away or ignore feelings, fueling our resentment or guilt stories, they grow bigger and more powerful, eventually forcing us to stop and pay attention. But when we consciously shine our focused attention directly on feelings, even for a few seconds, they melt and disappear.

For example, Suzie stayed busy to postpone her feelings for years by working fulltime, parenting, meeting her husband’s every need and helping her neighbor—anything to avoid feeling her depression. But when she couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, and anti-depressants failed her, she came to therapy. “My twins started college and I’m retiring next year. But I’m terrified I’ll spend my life in bed, depressed, or do something horrible to end my misery….”

“Let me stop you, Suzie,” I interrupted. “Depression is the trump card of feelings. If we ignore our sadness, fear, hurt and shame long enough, depression stops us in our tracks. Would you be open to healing this for yourself?”

“Anything! I’ll try anything,” she blurted out.

I had Suzy lie down on a futon, close her eyes, and take several deep breaths.

“Now ask your body where you feel depressed inside,” I whispered.

“Right here, like a brick on my heart,” Suzie said as she patted her heart.

“Good. Now focus directly in the center of that heavy brick, take a big breath in your belly and imagine sending your exhale into the center of the heaviness.”

Tears trickled down her cheek. “I never grieved my twins leaving home.”

“Would you be willing now to feel how sad you feel about your girls leaving?”

Suzie nodded and wept a few minutes until her crying came to completion.

“I feel different,” she said as she stood up, “more alive and peaceful than I’ve felt in some years, as if a heavy weight has been lifted off my chest.”

More than lots of time, our feelings need attention and acknowledgement.

If we only have a few seconds while sitting at a red light or standing in the grocery line, we can pause to take three deep breaths and notice the fear story, worry thoughts or anxious tight belly inside.

If we squeeze two minutes out of our busy day, we can ask, “What would I love to hear right now while my loneliness or sadness is visiting again?”

If we have ten minutes, we can sit in our office chair or lie down on our bed, close our eyes and shine the power of our full attention to our current anxiety or hopelessness, locating it in our body, breathing into it and surrounding it with loving compassion. Every moment, whatever feeling is visiting, we have our new ally: the Power of Conscious Choice.

In those precious moments when we greet feelings with loving awareness and reassurance, worry and anxiety stop, fear stops, despair stops. And in the quiet stillness, we see with the loving eyes of our heart that we are not meant to control life. Life moves through us in its own timing, own changes, own wisdom. Our job is to witness it, grow to trust it, and meet it with loving acceptance.

Each morning, when I wake up at six or seven, I take ten deep breaths. Then I place both hands over my heart and repeat, “I love you, Carolyn, for whatever is true in your body in this moment. I love you for feeling tired, worried, scared or down. I love you for noticing back pain and for wishing the back pain would go away.” In other words I say, “yes” to what is and love myself exactly as I am.

Even though I have meditated daily for 30 years, I still do this. Why? Because we are all born with an unlimited capacity for joy, loving-kindness, compassion and inner peace.

The problem is, we grew up learning to look outside ourselves—to parents, teachers, elders, and older siblings—for all our love, approval, and acceptance. We can spend our whole lives hoping that somebody, someday, will find us worthy of love. As adults, the more desperately we look outside to parents, lovers, spouses, friends, children (even one-night stands), to prove that we are worthy of love and approval, the deeper that empty unlovable feeling grows inside.

The longer we postpone giving ourselves the loving acceptance and approval that lives right here, inside our wise heart, the more desperate we feel.

The solution is our innate Power of Fearless Love.

Fearless love sees disappointment, loss, even divorce as opportunities to love and accept every aspect of being human, reminding us to, “Love even this.” It throws out the welcome mat and holds worry, fear, despair and grief in loving compassion, whispering, “Don’t wait! Love yourself right now for feeling scared or down; and you’re safe to feel how sad you really feel inside.” It teaches us to trust our timing and our changes by saying “yes” to whatever arises.

When we listen to our wise heart, fearless love constantly reminds us that we are perfect just as we are. It watches feelings come and go without identifying with any anger or resentment story. It instills courage to hear our heart-felt longings and meet our human mistakes with “I forgive you.”

Tapping into Fearless Love begins by asking ourselves, “What would I love to hear right now?” and patiently listening for our wise heart to answer. When we feel pushed for time, fearless love reminds us, “You have plenty of time to do what you need to.” When we are reeling from a morning conflict with our spouse or teenager, fearless love jumps in with, “You are loved just as you are. Let it go.” When illness strikes, Fearless Love offers a breath of fresh air with, “We’ll make healthy choices for our body and heart today.”

Notice how you speak to yourself today when you feel hurt, upset, anxious, scared, angry or down. Just notice with a neutral tone, without judging yourself.

Starting tomorrow morning, before rising, take ten deep breaths, place both hands over your heart and ask, “If I could hear anything now, what do I secretly wish someone would say to me?” Breathe deep in your belly and patiently listen for the soft, quiet voice of your wise heart to bubble up from deep inside. Whisper this phrase to yourself five times (each repetition quiets that annoying skeptic inside). Whether your loving phrase is “I love myself for feeling scared,” “I understand me” or “I am safe and loved, even now,” feel free to repeat your loving phrase every morning for as long as it nurtures your body, heart and soul.

Throughout the day, whenever you think of it, ask, “What would I love to hear?” and repeat it to yourself. Telling yourself what you love to hear—and not waiting for a loved one who may be too preoccupied to think of it today—takes desperation out of the love equation. Once you see yourself as the fountain of fearless love that you are, you feel much less devastated when a loved one—lost in their own thoughts and habits—speaks words that trigger hurt or rejection.

The more you trust your inner wisdom, responding to anger (our own and others) with fearless love, you invite everyone around you to tap into the fearless love inside their wise heart.

Fearless love infuses us with that inner joy, freedom, happiness and inner peace we all long for everyday. Now we are free to give it to ourselves.

Carolyn Hobbs’ new book, FREE YOURSELF: Ten Life-Changing Powers of your Wise Heart, is available October 7th. Her website is www.carolyn-hobbs.com.

 

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THE POWER OF FEARLESS LOVE – Carolyn Hobbs

heartEach morning, when I wake up at six or seven, I take ten deep breaths. Then I place both hands over my heart and repeat, “I love you, Carolyn, for whatever is true in your body in this moment. I love you for feeling tired, worried, scared or down. I love you for noticing back pain and for wishing the back pain would go away.” In other words I say, “yes” to what is and love myself exactly as I am. Even though I have meditated daily for 30 years, I still do this. Why? Because we are all born with an unlimited capacity for joy, loving-kindness, compassion and inner peace. The problem is, we grew up learning to look outside ourselves—to parents, teachers, elders, and older siblings—for all our love, approval, and acceptance. We can spend our whole lives hoping that somebody, someday, will find us worthy of love. As adults, the more desperately we look outside to parents, lovers, spouses, friends, children (even one-night stands), to prove that we are worthy of love and approval, the deeper that empty unlovable feeling grows inside. The longer we postpone giving ourselves the loving acceptance and approval that is lives right here, inside our wise heart, the more desperate we feel. The solution is our innate Power of Fearless Love. Fearless love sees disappointment, loss, even divorce as opportunities to love and accept every aspect of being human, reminding us to, “Love even this.” It throws out the welcome mat and holds worry, fear, despair and grief in loving compassion, whispering, “Don’t wait! Love yourself right now for feeling scared or down; and you’re safe to feel how sad you really feel inside.” It teaches us to trust our timing and our changes by saying “yes” to whatever arises. When we listen to our wise heart, fearless love constantly reminds us that we are perfect just as we are. It watches feelings come and go without identifying with any anger or resentment story. It instills courage to hear our heart-felt longings and meet our human mistakes with “I forgive you.” Tapping into Fearless Love begins by asking ourselves, “What would I love to hear right now?” and patiently listening for our wise heart to answer. When we feel pushed for time, fearless love reminds us, “You have plenty of time to do what you need to.” When we are reeling from a morning conflict with our spouse or teenager, fearless love jumps in with, “You are loved just as you are. Let it go.” When illness strikes, Fearless Love offers a breath of fresh air with, “We’ll make healthy choices for our body and heart today.” Notice how you speak to yourself today when you feel hurt, upset, anxious, scared, angry or down. Just notice with a neutral tone, without judging yourself.             Starting tomorrow morning, before rising, take ten deep breaths, place both hands over your heart and ask, “If I could hear anything now, what do I secretly wish someone would say to me?” Breathe deep in your belly and patiently listen for the soft, quiet voice of your wise heart to bubble up from deep inside. Whisper this phrase to yourself five times (each repetition quiets that annoying skeptic inside). Whether your loving phrase is “I love myself for feeling scared,” “I understand me” or “I am safe and loved, even now,” feel free to repeat your loving phrase every morning for as long as it nurtures your body, heart and soul. Throughout the day, whenever you think of it, ask, “What would I love to hear?” and repeat it to yourself. Telling yourself what you love to hear—and not waiting for a loved one who may be too preoccupied to think of it today—takes desperation out of the love equation. Once you see yourself as the fountain of fearless love that you are, you feel much less devastated when a loved one—lost in their own thoughts and habits—speaks words that trigger hurt or rejection. The more you trust your inner wisdom, responding to anger (our own and others) with fearless love, you invite everyone around you to tap into the fearless love inside their wise heart. Fearless love infuses us with that inner joy, freedom, happiness and inner peace we all long for everyday. Now we are free to give it to ourselves.   Carolyn Hobbs’ new book, FREE YOURSELF: Ten Life-Changing Powers of your Wise Heart, is available. Her website is www.carolyn-hobbs.com.

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Free Yourself – Now Available On Amazon – Carolyn Hobbs

Carolyn’s latest book “Free Yourself – Ten Life-Changing Powers of your Wise Heart.” – is now available on Amazon.

NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON: http://www.amazon.com/Free-Yourself-Life-Changing-Powers-Heart/dp/1614290814

 

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Saying Yes To What Is / Carolyn Hobbs

Saying yes dissolves resistance.  It empowers us.  Saying yes helps us stand on both feet and find the courage to handle whatever arrives on our plate today.

Saying yes teaches us that we are safe to be totally honest–with ourselves and our loved ones.  “Yes, I am feeling depressed today, and yes, it is scary to feel this way.”  When we say yes to what is, love and acceptance share the same space with whatever we are feeling.  It says, “I love myself for feeling sad, and for hating feeling sad, right now.”

Yes reassures our tender, vulnerable Inner Self that “I can handle even this.”  It engages our curiosity rather than our habitual resistance.  

As we keep saying yes to what is, we begin to trust life.  We trust that we are having exactly the experience we are supposed to be having.  It may not be the one we expected.  It may trigger varying degrees of fear and discomfort.  But, we say yes anyway.  Soon, each issue, each feeling facing us feels more workable, more manageable.

Resisting feelings forces us to act them out.  Nobody walks around saying, “I’m going to resist life now.”  We don’t start the day declaring, “I think I’ll rob myself of happiness today.”  That’s the problem.  We don’t think about it at all.  It’s an “unconscious” habit.  It occurs below our awareness.  We learned to bypass “negative” feelings, and we just keep doing it.

We think we can avoid conflict in our relationships by withholding feelings that might trigger anger or hurt.  We believe we are protecting ourselves from future disappointment and pain by making “practical, reasonable” choices.  But all we are really doing is acting out our feelings unconsciously.

When we say yes to what is, we see clearly, with loving eyes, our own personalized version of resistance.  The simple act of saying yes to what is helps us make friends with ourselves and life.  It is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.

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