Pain as a teacher

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

UNIVERSE WITHIN
by Gwen Randall-Young

Painful emotion is a teacher that bears the gift of self-knowledge – Paul Shapiro, M.D.

We all experience pain at some time in our lives and it may be physical or emotional pain. Sometimes, pain is transient, such as the pain of an immunization or a dental procedure. However, many suffer from chronic pain that never goes away. Sadly, some physical conditions have no cure. It is something some people just have to live with.

Emotional pain can be considered chronic as well. A child with abusive parents may suffer for 18 years before getting out, but the pain from those experiences can last a lifetime. Some children are bullied and that can go on for years. Loss of a loved one can leave a painful sense of loss that never really goes away.

Emotional pain can be overcome depending on the type and severity. It feels so good when we no longer have the pain. The way we view our pain affects its intensity. If we are angry and bitter because we have chronic physical pain, that will make us feel even worse. If we hold resentment and vindictiveness over emotional pain others have caused, it is like scratching a wound, preventing it from ever fully healing.

With physical pain, it helps if we show ourselves compassion and love. This is better than hating the pain. We can embrace it rather than rejecting it. If a child skins a knee, we don’t just kiss the knee. We embrace the whole child. Similarly, we can embrace our entirety, pain and all, and surround it with self-love.

We need to acknowledge the pain and send healing energy to the parts that hurt. Having done that, we can then put our focus elsewhere. Interestingly, often when I do hypnosis with a client who has a bad migraine, or a painful part on their body, when they come out of the trance they say the pain is gone. Pain relief was not the focus of the hypnosis. However, as the body relaxes and the mind becomes quiet, the pain dissipates.

You know the philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Similarly, we may wonder if we remove our focus from the pain, will we still experience it? This applies equally to emotional pain.

The other important point is that pain can be a powerful teacher. In my 20s, when I entered the work world, I found that the people who had the most depth and wisdom seemed to be the ones who had experienced suffering.

Challenging our pain can be like climbing Mount Everest. Like moving up the mountain, we can move forward in a positive direction and grow in ways we never could without our painful experiences.

Pain can be a catalyst to help us develop compassion, perspective and wisdom. It can make us stronger. Pain should not define us. We are so much more than our pain. Pain definitely has side effects in our lives and affects our view of ourselves. However, unless we move on from these, we will remain stuck as victims of what we have endured. And we will carry that pain wherever we go.

The process of moving on from the pain reveals a deep inner strength and that strength will make all the difference throughout the rest of our lives.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca ‘Like’ Gwen on Facebook for daily inspiration.

33 ways you’re being tracked online

face-bug

by @iamdylancurran
Images by Anthony Freda

Want to freak yourself out? Consider how much of your information the likes of Facebook and Google store about you without you even realizing it:

1. Timeline: Google stores your location (if you have it turned on) every time you turn on your phone, from the first day you started using Google on your phone.

2. Locations visited and how long it took you to get from previous one.

3. Google My Activity: Google stores search history across all your devices on a separate database so even if you delete your search history and phone history, Google still stores everything until you go in and delete everything and you have to do this on all devices.

4. Google ads: Google creates an advertisement profile based on your information, including your location, gender, age, hobbies, career, interests, relationship status, possible weight (need to lose 10lbs in one day?) and income.

5. Google stores information on every app and extension you use, how often you use them, where you use them and who you use them to interact with (who do you talk to on Facebook, what countries are you speaking with, what time do you go to sleep?) on Google Permissions.

6. YouTube search history: Google stores all of your YouTube history so they know whether you’re going to be a parent soon, if you’re a conservative, if you’re a progressive, if you’re Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, if you’re feeling depressed or suicidal, if you’re anorexic.

7. Google offers an option to download all of the data it stores about you. I’ve requested to download it and the file is 5.5GB-big, which is roughly three million Word documents.

8. Google takeout: This link includes your bookmarks, emails, contacts, your Google Drive files, all of the above information, your YouTube videos, the photos you’ve taken on your phone, the businesses you’ve bought from, the products you’ve bought through Google.

9. Your calendar, your Google hangout sessions, your location history, the music you listen to, the Google books you’ve purchased, the Google groups you’re in, the websites you’ve created, the phones you’ve owned, the pages you’ve shared, how many steps you walk in a day…

10. Facebook offers a similar option to download all your information. Mine was roughly 600mb, which is roughly 400,000 Word documents.

11. This includes every message you’ve ever sent or been sent, every file you’ve ever sent or been sent, all the contacts in your phone and all the audio messages you’ve ever sent or been sent.

12. Facebook also stores what it thinks you might be interested in based on the things you’ve liked and what you and your friends talk about (I apparently like the topic ‘Girl’).

13. Somewhat pointlessly, they also store all the stickers you’ve ever sent on Facebook.

14. They also store every time you log into Facebook, where you logged in from, what time and from what device.

15. And they store all the applications you’ve ever had connected to your Facebook account, so they can guess I’m interested in politics and web and graphic design, that I was single between X and Y period with the installation of Tinder and I got an HTC phone in November.

16. Side-note: If you have Windows 10 installed, the privacy options have 16 different sub-menus, which have all of the options enabled by default when you install Windows.

17. They track where you are, what applications you have installed, when you use them, what you use them for, access to your webcam and microphone at any time, your contacts, your e-mails, your calendar, your call history, the messages you send and receive.

18. The files you download, the games you play, your photos and videos, your music, your search history, your browsing history, even what radio stations you listen to.

19. This is one of the craziest things about the modern age; we would never let the government or a corporation put cameras/microphones in our homes or location trackers on us, but we just went ahead and did it ourselves because “F*ck it, I want to watch cute dog videos.”

20. The Google Takeout document has all my information, with breakdown of all the different ways they get your information.

21. Their search history document, which has 90,000 different entries, even shows the images I downloaded and the websites I accessed.

22. Google Calendar shows all the events I’ve ever added, whether I actually attended them and what time I attended them.

23. Google Drive includes files I explicitly deleted, including my resume, my monthly budget and all the code, files, and websites I’ve ever made and even my PGP private key, which I deleted, which I use to encrypt e-mails.

24. Google Fit, which shows all of the steps I’ve ever taken, any time I walked anywhere, and all the times I’ve recorded any meditation/yoga/workouts I’ve done (I deleted this information and revoked Google Fit’s permissions).

25. All the photos ever taken with my phone, broken down by year and includes metadata of when and where the photos were taken.

26. Every e-mail I’ve ever sent, that’s been sent to me, including the ones I deleted or were categorized as spam.

27. And now my Google Activity; this has thousands of files so I’ll just do a short summary of what they have.

28. Firstly every Google Ad I’ve ever viewed or clicked on, every app I’ve ever launched or used and when I did it, every website I’ve ever visited and what time I did it at and every app I’ve ever installed or searched for.

29. Every image I’ve ever searched for and saved, every location I’ve ever searched for or clicked on, every news article I’ve ever searched for or read, and every single Google search I’ve made since 2009.

30. And then finally, every YouTube video I’ve ever searched for or viewed, since 2008.

31. I’m probably on an FBI watch-list now, so if I die in the next few months, it wasn’t an accident, it was a set-up.

32. This information has millions of nefarious uses and violates multiple human rights. You’re not a terrorist? Then how come you were googling ISIS? Work at Google and you’re suspicious of your wife? Perfect, just look up her location and search history for the last 10 years.

33. Manage to gain access to someone’s Google account? Perfect, you have a chronological diary of everything that person has done for the last 10 years.

First-past-the-post system vulnerable

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Cambridge Analytica targets voters to influence election outcomes

Revelations late last month about Cambridge Analytica’s use of psychographic targeting to influence elections should be of special concern to Canadians because of our first-past-the-post electoral system and the way it amplifies minor swings in electoral preferences. This makes us especially vulnerable to the sort of targeted manipulation of the electoral process that brought Donald Trump to power in the US.

In Canada, a few thousand votes in a handful of swing ridings can make the difference between one party or another forming government. Seats in swing ridings can swing on a dime and governments can rise or fall from grace based on the smallest of changes. Some stark examples:

In 2011, Stephen Harper’s majority government was won by a total of just 6,201 votes in 14 highly contested swing ridings.

In 2014, the Ontario Liberal Party went from minority status to a strong majority position after increasing its share of the vote from 37.7% to 38.7%.

In 2017, the BC NDP went from opposition status with 39.7% of the vote to forming government with 40.3% of the vote. Had they lost the Courtenay-Comox riding, which they won by only 189 votes, the Liberals would have formed a majority government instead!

This is standard fare under first-past-the-post in one way or another. And not just in Canada. The UK faces the same problem, as does the US.

It stands in contrast with proportional systems, where an increase from 1% increase in a party’s share of the vote leads to a 1% change in its share of seats and it takes hundreds of thousands or millions of votes to significantly influence the result.

The sensitivity of our first-past-the-post system to small shifts in voter preferences leads to the sort of hyper-partisan behaviour we have come to expect in Canada and increases the incentives to engage in dirty tricks and wedge politics. While we have come to expect this, modern social media technology is taking the dangers of our electoral system to new levels.

The stage is set for a perfect storm when politicians’ all-consuming passion to win under first-past-the-post is buttressed by companies like Cambridge Analytica, which is capable of manipulating key segments of the voting population with misinformation and scaremongering tactics targeted at vulnerable segments of the population.

Cambridge Analytica’s website boasts of involvement in more than 100 elections around the world. One should add to this their involvement in the continent-shaking Brexit referendum.

Could the same thing happen in Canada? According to Fair Vote Canada’s President Réal Lavergne, “Canadians have every reason to be worried because of the ease with which results can be manipulated under our our winner-take-all electoral system. It’s time for Canadians and politicians to wake up to the fact that our antiquated electoral system is not just excruciatingly unfair to voters. It is downright dangerous!”

Source: Fair Vote Canada, fairvote.ca

Editor’s note: From the Cambridge Analytica website – “Cambridge Analytica uses data to change audience behavior. Visit our Commercial or Political divisions to see how we can help you.”

Rick Hanson: grow your core of calm, strength & happiness

An interview by Fiona Douglas-Crampton

Rick Stanton Hanson
Rick Stanton Hanson

The holiday season often brings additional stress. The days are getting shorter and colder and we have to cope with multiple demands to make our loved ones happy: Christmas shopping, parties, cooking, cleaning and more. Add a growing sense of helplessness in the face of climate change and negative world news and it can seem an impossible task to maintain a sense of personal happiness, well-being and calmness. Negativity and stress take over.

Psychologist and New York Times bestselling author Rick Hanson became aware of unhappiness in his family and in the world at a young age. Now a Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC, Hanson turned to psychology and brain science for answers and realized that if you can change your brain, you can change your life. In his new book, Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness (co-authored with Forrest Hanson, release March 2018), the author of Hardwiring Happiness and Buddha’s Brain draws on 40 years of experience of working with people to offer practical ways to grow the 12 essential strengths of resilient well-being.

Hanson shares insights into what people can do now to build lasting well-being in their daily lives and replace a sense of deficit and disturbance with fullness and balance.

Fiona Douglas-Crampton: What inspired you to focus your work on happiness and neuroplasticity?

Rick Stanton Hanson: I had a sense as a young child that there was a lot of unnecessary unhappiness in my school, my family and out in the world. But I didn’t know what to do about it. Then as I got older and learned about psychology, brain science and contemplative wisdom, I became excited about the practical tools they offered for using the mind alone to change the brain for the better.

The brain is the final common pathway of all the causes streaming through us to make us happy or sad, loving or hateful, effective or helpless, so if you can change your brain, you can change your life. I have personally gained from these methods – my wife of 35 years says I have become nicer, which could be the toughest test! – and have seen many others get many benefits as well.

FD-C: What are the specific challenges we face today in a world that require us to build a core of inner strength?

RH: There are big problems in the world, plus ordinary life is full of stressors, losses, conflicts and illnesses. To deal with adversity and pursue opportunities in the face of challenges, we need to be resilient, able to endure, bounce back and keep on going.

Methods in self-help, positive psychology, transformation, new age, human potential and spiritual practice are often framed as a kind of magic carpet ride: just do X (e.g., be grateful, compassionate, meditative) and you’ll be whisked to happiness. But it’s just not true.

Any kind of lasting well-being requires coping with the hard things in life. Want to be happy? Be resilient.

Resilience is usually presented as something we need for trauma, combat, etc. True enough, but that is an inaccurate and overly narrow view. Resilience is for every day of your life, not just for surviving the worst day of your life.

FD-C: How do we get started?

RH: Resilience comes from having inner strengths such as grit, motivation and love. These are the resources we draw on to deal with hassles and setbacks, manage frustration and disappointment, ride waves of pain and face inevitable aging and death.

Resilience is not static. Actually, it is something you can develop over time. Most research and interventions related to resilience focus on just identifying and using inner strengths. This is good, but it misses the key question: where do these inner resources come from and how can we get more of them?

This is where the neuropsychology of learning comes in. To grow more empathy, mindfulness, self-worth or any other psychological resource, first you must have an experience of it or a related factor. Second, that passing experience must be installed as a durable change in neural structure or function.

Experiencing alone does not equal learning. Think about all the times we experience something useful – a moment of satisfaction at finishing a task, an insight into how to be more skillful in a relationship – and we zip along to the next experience so that first experience is wasted on the brain. Besides the impact on everyday life, this is the weakness of much psychotherapy, coaching, human resources programs and spiritual training.

This general problem is worsened by the brain’s evolved “negativity bias,” which makes it like Velcro for bad experiences but Teflon for good ones. We overlearn from stress, worry, irritation, sadness and hurt, while underlearning from moments of confidence, determination, calming, kindness and realization.

Here are two practical suggestions a person can use every day:

1) Half a dozen times a day, focus on and stay with a useful, usually enjoyable, experience for a breath or longer. Feel it in your body and notice what feels good or meaningful about it. This will help the experience be more consolidated and installed in long-term memory systems. In effect, you can make it “stick to your (mental) ribs.”

2) Pick an inner strength that would really help to have more of. Perhaps greater calm, gladness or the sense that your own needs matter, too. Then look for opportunities to experience this strength each day and take these experiences into yourself.

You’ll notice that most experiences of inner resources are enjoyable – an aspect of well-being. Resilience promotes well-being and as you take in experiences of well-being – including experiences of inner resources – that will make you more resilient. Resilience fosters well-being and well-being fosters resilience, in a wonderful upward spiral!

FD-C: What are some things you do to take care of yourself?

RH: Firstly, I try to frame taking care of myself in a larger context of service to others. Second, I try to take care of myself by having many little moments in the day in which I take in whatever might be calming, soothing, wholesome, beautiful, loving or happy.

Fiona Douglas-Crampton is the president and CEO of the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education, a charitable organization focused on “Heart-Mind Well-Being.” dalailamacenter.org

EVENT

February 23-24: Rick Hanson, Ph.D will be speaking on resilient well-being at the next Heart-Mind Conference hosted by the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education in Langley. For information and to register for Heart-Mind 2018: Take Care of Yourself – the Science and Practice of Well-Being, visit www.dalailamacenter.org/conference/heart-mind-2018-take-care-yourself

White Poppies – new Remembrance Day ceremony highlights the true costs of war

white poppies

by Teresa Gagné

The white poppy was first introduced in Britain in 1933, only 12 years after the red poppy. Alarmed by the rising tide of post-war militarism, British women, many of whom were the wives, mothers and sisters of men who had been killed – looked for a symbol to express their belief that civilized nations should never again resort to the terrible and ineffectual method of war for the settlement of international disputes. The wearing of a white poppy on Armistice Day became a focus for the British peace movement and the newly founded Peace Pledge Union undertook its promotion and distribution.

The growing demand for peace poppies highlighted the need for Remembrance Day activities to reflect the diversity of Canadian perspectives on war and remembrance and to acknowledge the war experiences of many immigrant Canadians. With this in mind, Vancouver Peace Poppies partnered with The BC Humanist Association in 2016 to co-host “Let Peace be Their Memorial,” a Remembrance Day wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate refugees and other overlooked victims of war. The following is largely excerpted from my address at the 2016 ceremony.

The first armistice day was in November of 1919, pretty close to 100 years ago, a year after the end of a war so huge and horrible it was regarded by many as “The War to End War.” People thought that surely nothing this terrible could happen again, that governments and nations had learned from this horrific and wasteful experience. But 100 years later, we find there have been well over 300 more wars, with close to 200 million people killed and every year on November 11, we get together and remember. But really, what have we accomplished with all our remembering if 200 million people have died in war since then? Do we really think that was the torch John McCrae and his comrades threw to us? They would be appalled to think they had lost their lives and we had learned so little from it.

There are lots of reasons to be against war: it’s immoral and it’s wasteful, but I think the inarguable reason now is that it doesn’t work; it just doesn’t work. The reasons given by our governments and our press for why we have to enter this or that conflict aren’t valid: that it will make the world safer, it will spread democracy and that it will increase human rights for persecuted minorities. In fact, it isn’t working. If we look at the most recent effects of 20 years of war in the Middle East and ask, “Is Canada safer? Is the US safer? Is the Middle East safer? Is the world safer?” No! “Is it more democratic?” No! So all those deaths, all that money spent, all that waste haven’t really achieved their stated goals and we have to raise our voices to say, “Your way isn’t working.”

Around the world, we need to be training hundreds and thousands of people as a mediation resource available to communities and countries to deal with the difficult situations that are always going to happen. Not providing training for peacekeeping forces or the military or the police.

We need to commit ourselves to counting all the different costs of military conflict: the social costs, the environmental costs, the desperate refugees, the lost potential of 50 million children whose schooling is disrupted by war, the women traumatized, abducted or sexually assaulted, the conscientious objectors who sometimes pay with their lives for standing up and refusing to fight, the psychological costs of PTSD on veterans and civilians. We need to include all those things and we owe it not just to ourselves to do so; I would say we even owe it to our military.

If we ask somebody to risk not just their physical health, but also their mental health, on a military endeavour, we’d better be sure it’s likely to succeed and that in the cost-benefit analysis, it’s worth the costs. So I don’t see any disrespect to the military in saying, “Let’s count all the costs of war and evaluate if it’s really going to achieve what we want to achieve.” If we don’t do that and find a better way, we will really have ‘broken faith’ with those who died and with those who will continue to die.

This year, wear a White Poppy to:

  • commemorate all victims of war.
  • mourn the environmental devastation it causes.
  • reject war as a tool for social change.
  • call for dialogue and peaceful conflict resolution.
  • show your commitment to building a better future.

Because Remembering is important, but it isn’t enough.

Teresa Gagné is the co-founder of Vancouver Peace Poppies (www.PeacePoppies.ca). White poppies may be ordered on the website. The poppies commemorate civilian victims of war and encourage people to challenge the ‘normalization’ of militarism.


EVENT

NOVEMBER 11: Wreath Ceremony to recognize overlooked victims of War, 2:30-4PM, Seaforth Peace Park, 1st Avenue & Burrard Street, Vancouver.

On love and forgiveness

Scott Stabile

by Scott Stabile

I forgive the man who killed my parents completely and without reservation. I forgave him a long time ago, but not until years after he took their lives and uprooted mine.

Photo: Scott Stabile at Banyen Books

I have four distinct memories from my mom and dad’s funeral when I was 14. I remember sitting at the funeral home, as hundreds of people paraded past my parents’ closed coffins to pay their respects. The only face I recall is that of my classmate, Jodie Goldberg, whose eyes caught mine as she waited in line. She gave me a nervous, sympathetic wave. I stared for a second and then looked down at my lap. I also remember crying in a side room away from all the mourners, with two of my sisters standing nearby. I overhead one sister tell the other she didn’t know how I, the baby of the family and devoted mama’s boy, would be able to survive without our mom. I didn’t know, either. How would I? How could I? The third thing I remember was the moment before my parents’ caskets were going to be carried off. I leapt from my chair and threw myself against my mother’s casket, screaming and crying so they wouldn’t take her away. “Mom! No! Mom! No!” I remember shouting, over and over, not willing to say goodbye. One of my brothers – I’m not sure which one – pulled me off and led me out of the room.

Incredibly, I don’t know if that last scene really happened or if I saw it in a movie or read it somewhere and owned it for myself. I can see the moment in my mind and feel it in my bones, but there’s a part of me that questions whether it actually took place. It feels much more dramatic than I knew myself to be. Of course, many things I thought I knew about myself changed when my parents died. I was one Scott the day before their death and a different one the day after. An orphan can never be the same person he was with parents. The day of the funeral, and the weeks around it, are mostly lost to me. Still, I have that vision of myself, body pressed against her coffin, screaming, arms outstretched, holding on to a little more time with her. I’ve never asked my siblings if it happened because I don’t want to know if I made it up. I want my last memory with my mom to be real.

The last thing I remember that day was being in the funeral home parking lot with my three brothers. They were talking and smoking as I sat on a ledge staring at the ground with one thought in mind: I will never forgive my father for my mother’s death.

Luckily for me, I didn’t end up keeping that promise.

The man who killed my parents was caught and sent to prison for life. He’s still there. I have a vague memory of being at his sentencing with my siblings. I don’t know why we were there, really. I’m not sure what difference it made to anyone. Maybe we wanted the judge to see our devastated family so that he wouldn’t be lenient in his sentencing. Or we wanted our parents’ killer to see the faces of the seven orphans he’d created so that he couldn’t ignore the magnitude of his crime. Perhaps his sentencing promised the only closure my older siblings knew they would find within their grief; being present for his conviction provided a breath of relief within a universe of hopelessness. With mom and dad’s killer off to prison, we could at least lock away that part of the horror.

Though that day remains a blur, my parents’ murderer does not.

I remember his name, of course, and even his face, sometimes more clearly than I remember my parents’ faces. Maybe because his actions, even more than my parents’ up until that point, impacted most profoundly the person I would become. He had changed my life more than anyone. He had taught me the meaning of loss and introduced me to unimaginable grief. He had turned me into an orphan overnight.

Even so, I forgive him.

I forgive the man who killed my parents completely and without reservation. I forgave him a long time ago, but not until years after he took their lives and uprooted mine. Not until I simmered in blame and rage and fantasized all the violent ways I would have loved to take revenge. Not before I quieted my fury by imagining his troubled life to that point and the saddened loved ones he would likely never see again. I forgave him many years ago, but not until I learned that forgiveness of others is the only choice that lives in love, and that love is the only choice I want to live by.

To love is to forgive. To forgive is to love. I don’t see exceptions, not where my heart is concerned. I don’t believe any of the justifications I produce for not forgiving. The only way something could be unforgivable is if I’m not loving enough to forgive it – if the darkness that lives within someone’s actions proves greater than the light that lives within my heart. I’m not willing to accept that. I won’t discount the strength of my love for anything, or anyone.

I used to think my parents’ murder was unforgivable. For many years, I didn’t even consider the possibility of forgiving their killer. It didn’t register as an option, not when he’d done something so profoundly terrible. When I thought about him, which wasn’t that often, I hated him, and I was fine with that. He deserved it, I thought. But it felt awful to rest in a state of hatred and rage. It hurt. I grew to understand that to feel more at peace with myself, I would need to find a greater sense of peace with him. Without knowing how I’d find my way there, I eventually considered the possibility of forgiveness. What did I have to lose?

“How do you forgive?” People ask me that question a lot. Some have struggled to forgive ex-spouses who treated them horribly while others refused to forgive friends who betrayed them. Abusive bosses, backstabbing colleagues, selfish parents, thoughtless children, corrupt politicians, greedy executives, bigoted neighbours – all have provoked in us the need, and inability, to forgive. Is there someone in your life right now you have yet to forgive? Or someone from your past you refuse to forgive? Maybe you don’t think they deserve it. Maybe you want to forgive them, but don’t know how. Maybe you’ve tried and failed.

I wish I had an answer that guaranteed success, but I’m not sure a definitive path to forgiveness exists, beyond a clear commitment to it. We have to want to give it in order to find it. If we don’t, we’ll never really start searching. There are loads of articles, books and videos that promise to guide us to forgiveness and that, no doubt, offer some valuable tools to help us along the way. Still, all the best forgiveness recommendations in the world won’t make a bit of difference if we stay committed to the belief that something is unforgivable. We won’t climb a mountain we have determined to be unclimbable. Once we shift that belief, and truly want to forgive someone for what he’s done, even if that’s solely for our peace of mind, our desire alone will likely lead us there. My desire has.

Forgiveness takes dedication and awareness, and it takes work.

Excerpted from Big Love: The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart. Copyright ©2017 by Scott Stabile. Printed with permission from New World Library, www.newworldlibrary.com

Are you a people pleaser?

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

UNIVERSE WITHIN
by Gwen Randall-Young

Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.
– Lao T

When we are young, we learn that if we please others we gain their approval. If we displease them, we feel unloved. Even an infant can feel a parent’s energy when they are annoyed about having to change yet another diaper. Human infants depend on adults to keep them alive, so instinctively they will feel stress if they feel rejected.

As we grow, we learn that getting the right answer in school feels good. The teacher seems pleased. We learn to try and figure out what the teacher wants to hear and respond accordingly. Even at university, students often try to align papers with the instructor’s views.

On some level, many come to equate the displeasure of another with a failure on their part. They have failed to be what another wants them to be. Here lies the crux of a major block to authenticity and personal evolution.

Sadly, I have seen students struggle with the pressure of wanting a different career path than the one their parents envision for them. Imagine the conflict for a bright, young compassionate person who yearns to be a teacher because of their love for children, but knows it would be a huge disappointment to their parents who want their child to be a lawyer. Think of someone who abandons their love of art because they are told, “You will never make a living doing that.”

The fear of displeasing can become much stronger than the desire to please. I have worked with many mature adults who are stressed out at being controlled by their parents’ or partner’s expectations. They learn it is not okay to be their true selves.

This carries over to other areas of life as well. It manifests as a fear of displeasing others, which turns the person into a pleaser. They become trapped in a life that is stressful and unsatisfying. They cannot say no and cannot stand up for themselves when being controlled due to an intense discomfort at the thought of any confrontation.

If you cook for others, but never feed yourself, you will starve. If we live our lives for others, always doing what they want, our soul begins to starve. We lose touch with our true nature. Many in their fifties and sixties have shared they do not even know who they are.

The path to healing begins with first acknowledging the things we are doing that we do not want to be doing. It is beginning to recognize when our heart is saying “no” while our mouth is saying “yes.” It is up to us to begin to develop clear boundaries and to listen to that inner voice that is not happy with the way we have been doing things. We can blame others for being controlling, but we must recognize we are allowing it.

Standing up for ourselves can be done in a non-confrontational way. Rather than focusing on the behaviour of another or accusing them of being controlling, we just learn to speak our truth. Our truth is what we want for ourselves, not what we think of others. Speaking our truth starts with the word, “I,” not “you.” For example, “I am going to take some time for myself” is a statement that says, “I am in charge of me and I am taking care of myself.” After all, if you don’t, who will?

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca ‘Like’ Gwen on Facebook for daily inspiration.

Reinventing your life

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

UNIVERSE WITHIN
by Gwen Randall-Young

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
– George Bernard Shaw

Perhaps your life has not gone as planned. Perhaps it did, but you are not sure that the plan is what you want anymore. Change can be hard. I often have clients that are dealing with major change and frequently the change is not of their own choosing.

What I see is that the old life, in some significant way, is gone. It may be the death of someone close, the ending of a relationship or job, a financial setback or a health crisis. In most cases, there is a longing for the return to the old life, a wish to wake up and find it was all just a dream. This is normal.

However, when the longing and resistance to change persists, over time, it prevents one from moving on. I picture it like this: you have been moved to a new house but you do not furnish it or put up pictures because you are focused on the old house and you want it back. You are not really even living in the new house, but rather merely existing. You do not plant flowers or even get to know your neighbours or the neighbourhood.

You realize you cannot go back, yet you spend time thinking of the old life, replaying memories and asking “Why,” but this leaves you sad and depressed. The only way to move forward is to look at this new house and start figuring out how you can make it a good place for you.

With big life changes, it is important to access resources. These include friends, family, helping professionals and perhaps accountants and lawyers. Recognize that so many others have been in your shoes and have survived.

You may feel you have lost a big part of yourself, but you are still here! There may be a void caused by the changes, but look at that as a blank canvas on which you can begin a new painting. What can you do with your time now that things are different?

With the busyness of modern life, many find they have lost touch with who they really are. It is easy to get so wrapped up in the context of our lives that we lose touch with who we are at the core of our being.

Think of the things you once liked to do. Are there books you simply have not had the time to read?
Is there music you love, but somewhere along the way stopped listening to it? Are their friends or family you have not seen in a long time? Many of them would be delighted to re-establish contact with you. Are there things you have always wanted to try but never did? A new interest, hobby or activity can invest you with a lot of new energy.

Yes, some things will never be the same, but that is true of all of life: everything changes. It is okay to look back now and then, but keep your eyes open to what is in front of you. Be in the moment rather than in the past. Notice nature, the sky, the earth and the stars. Feel your breathing and the beat of your heart. You are alive. You need to live.

Remember the words of Max Ehrmann: “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca ‘Like’ Gwen on Facebook for daily inspiration.

Honouring Athena, embracing Aphrodite

by Marianne Williamson

Portrait of MarianneWilliamson
Marianne Williamson

Many people complain these days that romance hasn’t come their way. Often, however, we see that if romance were to be likened to a visitor, it hasn’t arrived yet because we ourselves are like a town where there’s no place for it to stay. We keep saying we want love, but don’t truly prepare for its arrival. Why would it come to a place where there’s no real welcome past the initial “So glad you’re here!”?

Many contemporary women now embody the Greek goddess Athena while craving a visit from Aphrodite. Yet the gods only come to where they are fully embodied. Embodying Athena, we attract worldly achievement; embodying Aphrodite, we attract love. What’s exciting about being a Western woman today is that we’re allowed to embody as many and whichever goddesses we choose. For those who seek a deeper romance, it serves to embody the goddess Aphrodite for she is the goddess of romantic love. In order to become her, however, we must approach her with reverence and love.

“Aphrodite’s temple” is a real psychic vortex, as is any divine space, with steps to be climbed in order to enter. There are both external and internal steps to climb before entering Aphrodite’s temple, and all of them can be learned.

External steps to the Temple of Aphrodite

Get all exercise equipment and office work out of your bedroom. Aphrodite is a temple, not a workspace. Make your living environment, clothes (even undergarments) and personal behaviour a magnet for romantic vibrations. Your own manifestation must match her frequency in order to attract her. Study books, take seminars, attend support groups, go to therapy – anything to avail yourself of all opportunities to learn greater mastery in romantic relationships. Some barriers to Aphrodite are simply mental, emotional and behavioural patterns that we learned and can now unlearn. All negative energy, when surrendered to God for healing, can be transmuted and transcended through grace.

Internal steps to the Temple of Aphrodite

Take an honest look at how you view relationships. Do you value them less than other areas of life, judging them as somehow trivial? Do you truly give yourself emotional permission to fall in love and stay there? Do you hold covert, or even overt, judgments against men or women as romantic partners? Such judgments must be recognized and consciously surrendered for healing or they remain subconscious forces that sabotage our chances for love.

Take an internal scan of your psychological, spiritual, emotional and physical landscape. Are you emotionally available? Are you physically prepared? Are you ready to be gentle with a man, or at times of fear might you be demeaning or impatient or angry? Are you yet kind and giving enough for love? Are you juicy and erotic and honouring of real sexual desire? Are you ready to welcome a partner, to serve his or her growth that you might participate together in a great romantic journey? Combining the sacred and the erotic is a high adventure; Aphrodite is both goddess and lover. We must approach the gods, and love, with reverence if we’re to receive their blessings.


Inner engineering


Even those who feel that they have failed at love can receive the blessing of Aphrodite’s touch. For she does not just reward those who are willing and ready to love; she also heals those who come to her weakened in the wars of love, now ready to make peace with the parts of themselves that have tried and failed at love, shown up and been rejected, had the chance and blown the opportunity. When we are ready to forgive ourselves and others, ready to humbly ask for guidance in love, ready to rise above the resistance to love, then we are ready for Aphrodite’s blessing. Once we are ready for her, she is ready for us, and once joining with her, we embody her. Then love arrives on angel’s wings, for gods can do what only gods can do. And love surrenders to their slightest command.

Source: www.marianne.com

Where do we go from here?

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

UNIVERSE WITHIN
by Gwen Randall-Young

At one time we had wisdom, but little knowledge. Now, we have a great deal of knowledge, but do we have enough wisdom to deal with that knowledge?
– Jonas Salk

A number of months ago, there was a story in the news about a family who lost their lives in a cottage fire. I felt sad about this tragedy as I do whenever I hear such stories. A couple of days after the family was identified, I received an email from my daughter saying the father was one of her husband’s best friends. The couple had been at their wedding in May and my daughter and her husband had spent time in that very cottage in August. It was a beautiful family; a successful couple both involved with and contributing to their community.

Suddenly, it was no longer just a news story and I tried not to think about their last moments. What a horrific shock to friends, family and their community. Now that I had a context for the news story, the sadness would not go away. It kept replaying in my mind. It was no longer like a photograph; it was now a streaming video. I I felt the weight of the pain and loss that was touching so many. Some wounds never really heal.

I then began thinking of all the scenes I had witnessed around the destruction in Syria. Parents losing children, children losing parents, families losing everything. I always felt compassion, but I wanted to turn away because it was so horrible for them. In war-torn countries, the pain is constant and ongoing; those deaths are not accidents. It is humans intentionally taking the lives of other humans. Like the loss of that Canadian family multiplied hundreds of thousands of times.

Has the world gone mad? Why can’t we do anything to stop it? Is the dark side of humanity getting darker? There is no cosmic parent who is going to step in and admonish the species to stop fighting and just get along.

The answer may lie in quantum theory: the notion that we (and everything else) are part of a gigantic energy field. What happens in one part affects the other parts no matter how far away and disconnected they may be. What is playing out on a global level is just a magnified version of what plays out in relationships and communities.


Inner engineering


The ego motivations are the same: the desire to win, to overpower, to have more and the inability to see things from another’s perspective, to transcend differences and work together to find solutions.

Back in the ‘70s, Jonas Salk wrote a book called The Survival of the Wisest. Wisdom here meant collaboration, cooperation and finding win/win solutions as opposed to aggressiveness and force. In my book, Growing Into Soul, I write that transcending ego and embracing wisdom is the next step in human evolution. Salk spoke in terms of counter-evolutionary and pro-evolutionary thoughts and behaviour.

Sadly, it seems we are seeing more and more counter-evolutionary behaviour in our world. The only solution is to begin, at the individual level, to act and speak wisely and model pro-evolutionary behaviour to our children and those around us. If an electron can alter the spin of another, though very far away, we can alter our “spin” and so influence the whole energy field in which we exist.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca ‘Like’ Gwen on Facebook for daily inspiration.