Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Creative Power of the Empath

"Everything that is real on planet earth has vibrations. Empathic people feel reality via these physical vibrations. This means empathic people resonate with the reality around them by using their physical body."

--Doris Jeanette

Our culture is very intellectual and cerebral, often times forgetting that there are other ways of knowing and other sources of creativity and power, beyond the brain and even beyond what we understand to be "the mind." Empathic people tend to sense, know, intuit and feel information, experience, and energy. And their mode of perception is often what is felt in the heart and sensed in the body.

Doris Jeanette notes that "resonating with reality is powerful stuff." If we are conscious about our capacity to resonate with reality, not only can we take in valuable information, but also we can use our energy to create from the heart and with our life force. Finding ways to express what we feel deep inside and to find forms in which to channel our energy is at the root of the creative power of the empath.

It is also important to be able to choose what we resonate with. Just because we CAN resonate with external reality does not mean we choose to resonate with EVERYTHING that is out there. Doris Jeanette reflects it is important to become clear of what we WANT to resonate with, so we resonate with what we want and not with what we don't want. When we are able to discern what we care about, what really matters to us, and what resonates with our values, we develop a wonderful sieve through which we can process reality. People, projects and experiences that we care about, that really matter to us and that resonate with our values then command our attention. What we focus on expands. What we do not focus on fades into the background.

If we care about special friendships, colleagueship's or family relationships, and we invest our times, energy and attention in these relationships, our energy helps anchor and grow them. By focusing on physical and emotional energy, we not only think about loved ones, but more importantly, call them, text them and initiate get togethers to stay in touch and keep the connections alive. When we share time and space with another person, we invest in the connection we share with them. Because of the creative power of our physical presence, the possibility to both experience and enjoy a connection with another person is so much greater when we are face to face than in virtual reality.

When we feel something in our hearts or bodies, there is an energy signal that is transmitted between us and another person or living being. When another person or living being feels a connection with us, their hearts and body send an energy signal that we perceive at this non-intellectual, empathic level. Feeling the connection, expressing our sense of connection, and acting from the sense of connection all contribute to anchoring and nurturing a relationship with another person or living being. If we are kind, and exude kindness, others will feel nurtured in our presence. If we are soft and graceful, others' defenses will be more able to melt. If we are defended and tough, loved ones may need to put up their defenses and toughen to protect their vulnerable hearts.

The energy we emanate creates, consciously or unconsciously. The more conscious we become of our feelings, our bodily sensations and our energy, the more consciously we can use our energy to create desired outcomes--for ourselves and with others.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Making Our Dreams Come True

"A thin line stands between dream and reality. And only the heart knows the characteristics that correspond to either side." --Linda Marks, age 16 It seems my entire life has been about living with vision and living from the heart. As a child, I wrote poems about these two topics. They were in separately interrelated. When I was 20, I wrote a song called "When Dreams Suffer," which became my signature song. And the message of this song was at the heart of my first book, Living With Vision: Reclaiming the Power of the Heart, which came out in 1988.

We all have dreams. What is often the hard part is turning dreams into reality. What can we do to make our dreams come true?

Some of the messages in "When Dreams Suffer" are:

1. When dreams suffer, there must be fear in our way.

Believing in our dreams is a magical thing. If we keep putting positive, heartful, visionary energy into our dreams, and taking actions steps one by one, we are unstoppable. When we are afraid, we freeze, stop, give up and sometimes even crumble. Finding ways to find safety, support, rooting and faith are critical to making our dreams real.

2. We need to learn to both hold on to our dreams, yet let go.

If we hold on to our dreams too tightly, we can suffocate the life blood out of them. We remove the breathing room that allows life's energies to move and flow. On the other hand, if we don't hold fast to our dreams, they can die, as a beautiful Langston Hughes poem notes. We need to hold them in our hearts, yet trust that God will be our co-pilot.

3. We must both give space, and believe, even while nothing supports our beliefs.

Perhaps this is another way to talk about having faith. Faith is a kind of heartfelt, spiritually rooted sense of belief. Yet, it also acknowledges that we do not create in a vacuum. There is a powerful creative force in the universe that gives life in many ways, including to our dreams. Having faith in that creative force is critical.

4. We can't throw our dreams away. Instead, they can be our life guidance system.

Without our dreams, our life will be can "a barren field frozen with snow," to return to Langston Hughes' poem. Our dreams enliven our days and our entire lives. Yet when we don't the steps to take to make our dreams real, or when it seems like our dreams are not manifesting soon enough, it is far too easy to abandon ship. Learning how to frame our dreams as our life guidance system makes it easier to stay with them and follow them over time.

Another important principal in bringing our dreams to life is to take immediate action. If you feel inspired, capture the energy of the moment. Take even a small action step. Every step we take moves our dreams forward. When we wait, tell ourselves we can do it later or even worse, procrastinate, we deflate the energy and fail to take advantage of the power of inspired moments. Telling someone else about your dream and inviting them to team with you are two other ways to ground your dreams. I learned early on that when another person co-held a dream with me and/or partnered with me to work on a dream, the path was easier, more unexpected doors opened, and the dream took flight much more effortlessly and faster than when I tried to do it all alone. Taking action and involving others are two ways of committing to our dreams. Commitment moves our energy forward and opens up all kinds of divine energy to support us in realizing our goals. When we fear commitment, we diffuse the very things we desire that commitment can bring.

Learning to make our dreams real is like learning dance steps. We need to get a sense of the rhythm. We need to get used to the music. We need to gain a sense of the dance floor. We need to get our footing, so we know how it feels. In many ways, we use all our senses, even if we focus on our hands or feet to take action. And the heart is the ultimate compass, at the center of the entire process.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Looking At Living As A Loved One Is Dying

"Don't come visit me after I die...I needed you when I was alive...."


My 86 year old mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers 3 1/2 years ago. While watching her memory fade, can be sad and at times surreal, until she broke her hip in November, her physical health seemed to be strong and constant.

I had always heard that once someone breaks their hip, it is often the beginning of a downward spiral towards the end. But it is very different living this truth than hearing it as a "parable." While some of my mother's Alzheimers behaviors are quirky (like lying on the carpet picking up every piece of lint she can find for hours) or down right entertaining (like answering a question like "how was physical therapy today?" with a seemingly senseless tale of the Boston Red Sox hitting badminton-like tennis rackets at batting practice), seeing a loved one move into a rapid response crisis with congestive heart failure, with a team of twelve people working for four hours to stabilize vitals is a whole other matter.

I have been finding myself reflecting a whole lot more on living and what it means to be alive as I have been living through the decline of my mother's health as her life has been moving along the downward spiral, that only God knows is the last moment of life. One thing that has become very clear to me as my mother has spent countless hours and days in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, often called nursing homes, is how alone many people are as they ail and die.

I visit my mother as often as I can, but with work and commitments to my son and friends, I cannot be there nearly as often as I feel I "should" be there. I am very grateful that my mother has a nurse and home health aide who can visit her on days when I cannot. However, even with all of our visits, there are countless hours when she is alone. In a hospital, with telemetry equipment, IV's and a Foley catheter encumbering one's body, this can be very lonely, scary and overwhelming. No wonder disorientation moves into delirium. I am struck by how little our society focuses on the deeper emotional and spiritual needs of human beings, including their needs for connection, relational security and presence during scary and hard times.

When the staff has commented that the visits of me and my mother's nurse and aide have helped her immeasurably, I feel even more deeply for those who have no one coming to visit them when they are ill or declining in a public facility. When someone goes home after an illness or health crisis, it can also be incredibly lonely faced with what has just happened, and being all alone.

Hospice is a wonderful concept for a person's last months of life. Yet, I wonder about some kind of care-giving structure that focuses on companionship, emotional contact, a loving hand to hold, and continuity of emotional care for people going through hard time or transitioning as life draws to a close. Some people are fortunate enough to have large networks of family and friends. My mother is not one of those people. She has been a loner much of her life. I cannot imagine there are moments when she does not feel quite a lone.

The process of dying has surely cast a lens on the process of living for me. I have always realized life is fragile. And now the clarity of that truth is even more apparent. If there are dreams we have, taking action today is essential because we don't know if there will be a tomorrow. Telling the people we love that we love them can never be done too many times. Being fully present with the people we love and asking for them to give us their presence and time allows us to exchange the most precious gift of all--our presence with one another.

We are all irreplaceable really. Our virtual culture may lead us to forget this truth. But watching a loved one go through the downward spiral at the end of life brings it home loud and clear. As James Taylor said, "Shower the people you love with love." Ultimately, that is one of our greatest powers and one of the greatest gifts we have to give ourselves and others while they and we are alive.

The Extraordinary Power of Small Acts of Kindness

"Never get tired of doing little things for others. Sometimes those little things occupy the biggest parts of their hearts"


For as long as I can remember, I have consciously focused on kindness as a walking meditation. Initially, a commitment to kindness can start with a morning prayer, or stepping out of one's daily schedule for a moment to be quiet and affirm one's commitment to look for opportunities to be kind. Over time, when these practices sink deeply enough into our hearts and souls, being a bearer of small acts of kindness can become a powerful way of life. I have never ceased to marvel at the extraordinary power of even a small act of kindness.

If I am having a hard day, a small act of kindness from a friend or loved one offers comfort deeper than words. A hug or an arm around my shoulders can melt my tension or my tears. A bouquet of flowers can make me smile. On a good day, a small act of kindness magnifies the joy. It is always the right time to offer small acts of kindness. Being the bearer of kindness can make you a "magical stranger" in the the life of a loved one or even a stranger.

Here are some ideas of small way to brighten someone's day:

1. Be fully present to the person in front of you. Your full presence is a special gift. It can make someone feel like they really matter, that they are seen, or that they are not alone. Stopping, taking a deep breath, and really looking at someone, gently witnessing and sensing how they are feeling can be a quiet and gentle gift.

2. Help someone who appears to be lost or looking for something. If a person in your aisle in the supermarket seems lost, ask if you might be able to help them find something. If someone on the street looks like they need directions, stop and ask if you can help them find their way.

3. When a big moment is coming up in a loved one's life, proactively offer support.Is a a loved one going to a medical test? Offer to go with them. Is a close friend having an important interview? Ask if they would like to talk it through before they go.

4. When you greet someone or take leave, make it a habit to give them a hug (or a kiss if it is a close friend or loved one). The ritual of greeting and bidding adieu to someone with a loving gesture instills a spirit of love and good will.

5. Make it a habit to tell loved ones that you love them. Tracy Chapman wrote about how hard it often is to say "I love you," in her poignant song "Baby Can I Hold You Tonight." These words are often hard to say. And they may lead to a wish that we hear them in return. They are not said nearly enough to the ones we love. Speak your love abundantly.

6. Make time to listen.Sometimes a stranger needs a magical stranger who can just listen for a little while. They may be your neighbor on the cross trainer at the gym, or someone whose path you cross on the sidewalk. Or they might be your family member, friend or partner, who could really use a bit of your listening ear and heart.

7. Make a special effort to give loved ones the things they most need and want. Sometimes we react by pulling away when a loved one says they want or need something. In our culture "need" is often a "four-letter word." There is incredible power in freely and spaciously giving someone something they want or need, be it a foot rub, their favorite Thai take out, or even a special loving glance.

8. Adopt an attitude of "how can I help."If you walk around life with a "how can I help" framework, you will find yourself discovering many opportunities to offer small acts of kindness.

9. Learn your loved ones "love language."The ways we have learned to give love may not match up entirely with the way our friends and loved ones most feel loved. Whether it be a touch of your hand, gentle words, a thoughtful gift, special time or an act of service, any one of these actions can be felt as particularly loving when it translates to a loved one's "native" love language.