Staying With Our Difficult Feelings

Posted by Harriet on

oceanwavesWe run from pain.  It’s the natural way.  Fight or flight – we detect danger, we run.

But what about emotional pain?  We also seem to run from that.  After all, who the heck wants to feel  anger, sadness, grief and all those other icky feelings. We do whatever it takes to avoid, numb or squelch them.  We know all the ways to do that.  That’s easy.   But like that tube of toothpaste it eventually starts to ooze out and make a mess.

What if we just sat with these difficult feelings?    What if we allowed them in?  What if instead of pushing them away, we, dare I say, welcomed them?   What would happen?  Would they destroy us?  At times we certainly feel like they would.

Emotions are like waves; they come and go and the intensity fluctuates as well.  They come crashing in and then more calmly retreat.  We must hold on;  we need to believe that we can.  It’s called trust – trusting in ourselves and in the process that in going through it, we will come through it.  They can wash through us, give us a soaking and then we can dry off.

I invite you to start taking note of these feelings of fear,sadness, anger, frustration as they bubble up and surface in the ordinary moments of daily life (not the awful life situations).  When we become mindful of them, we begin to have more control over them as opposed to them taking control over us. 

How Do We Greet The New Day?

Posted by Harriet on

SwissAlps2012Harriet 668editedRachel, my 3 ½ year old granddaughter loves the music from the show Aladdin, especially the song, A Whole New World.  She knows all the words by heart.  One of my favorite times lately is tucking her into bed, either at her house when I babysit or at mine when she has a sleep-over, and singing to her A Whole New World.  I, of course, have to pull out my copy of the words since I don’t remember them as she does.

But let’s back track a minute. Before getting to bed she sometimes goes through the normal resistance.  I get it – who wants to stop playing?  Who wants to end a day of Fun, awe, amazement and curiosity?  It is a whole new world for someone here only three- plus years.   No one wants to stop and turn off the lights on that.

And so I start to sing that tomorrow is a whole new day… of more play….

She eventually gets into bed and I sing the real song and watch her fluttering eyelids as they gently close down for the night; gentleness and beauty in its purest form.


Imagine if we all went to sleep feeling the wonder of a whole new day tomorrow.   And then woke up raring to greet the day with hope and joy.

Of course there are many of us who feel the opposite –who don’t want to welcome a new day; it’s too painful.  The loss may be too great, the sadness too deep, the stress too overwhelming. 

Reactive Or Responsive

Posted by Harriet on

reactrespond“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  Victor Frankl


The space is there between the provocation and our response.  We can utilize that space to choose a response rather than an automatic and reflexive reaction.

This is quite a transformative concept.  We don’t have to be a victim to our knee-jerk reaction, with the attitude of, “I’ve always reacted this way and I guess I always will.”  That’s the mindset of someone who’s resistant to change and would rather keep doing what they’ve been doing, no matter what the cost to them might be. Of course, many people who subscribe to this mentality look to the outside, the external circumstances, to justify their re-actions and even use that pointer finger to blame.  How much easier this is.  It takes us out of ourselves and puts it on the other.  The price can be very high when relationships are compromised or even ruined and shame and guilt live deep within, while anger has a good parking spot right at the corner of our lives.

I recently attended a presentation on the brain and mindfulness and one of the presenters said we need to strive to “respond wisely instead of react blindly.”   When we react in the heat of the moment in anger or stress, it’s as if we’re reacting blindly, just shooting off our emotion.

The fact that we can choose our response is huge. 

Restoring Your Sense of Self

Posted by Harriet on

P1020457A provocation, something disturbing or annoying, critical/judgmental, toxic, some push- our- buttons type of an act,  comment, situation,  conversation or argument –  you know how any one of these things can throw us off balance and send us reeling.  We get insulted, angry, agitated, feel like a failure or an incompetent, feel intimidated…. And the list goes on.  Or we can just plain feel out-of-sorts.

How we get back to ourselves; how we restore ourselves?   The key is to do so in healthy ways, not by acting-out behaviors or even numbing substances.  Not in a reactive way where we end up feeling shameful or bad about ourselves.  Or where we take no responsibility and put the blame on the other.

We need to clear the murky waters of our oftentimes icky sticky feelings and gain clarity.  We also need to self-soothe so we can regain our footing.    Creating that space between stimulus  and response is crucial and we can utilize good distracting ways.

Here are 20 ways to restore yourself:

  1. Talk it out; express your feelings and thoughts to a good listener.
  2. Get outside yourself and do a good deed for someone.
  3. Watch a funny show and laugh aloud.  Laughter is so cleansing and refreshing.
  4. Go outside for a walk/run.
  5. Sit by the ocean and listen to the waves.
  6. Look up at the sky – the vast horizon brings us perspective.
  7. Clean the house/ fold the laundry.  Organizing can give us that feeling of control, however illusionary it is.
  8. Connect with a positive person.

Using Sadness to Live Well

Posted by Harriet on

tapestrySitting here with this letter in my hand seems to bring forth all the pain and loss of the past few weeks.  Global pain from the horrific and primitive evil of a beheading;  shocking pain over the grave depth of psychic pain leading to the suicide of one of our most beloved and gifted entertainers;  personal sorrow for a woman who was a pillar of goodness in my community whose time had obviously come to take her from a second stroke.  A woman who took in 14 foster children, who with quiet grace and humbleness performed continuous good deeds (mitzvahs) and opened up her home to all in need.

And now this letter from one of my and my kids’ doctors.   He had  put ear tubes in my daughter’s ears many moons ago, one who I just called last month to set up a second opinion surgical appointment to which I was told, “he’s out for a couple of months with back problems.”

As I opened the envelope last night my eye honed in on the second paragraph:  “I am writing because I have been diagnosed with terminal cancer.”  I began reading from the top and re-read it over and over.  A most poignant and ‘real’ letter from someone who is closing down his life, not simply a practice.   “As my own time comes to an end, I want to thank you…. I am all too painfully aware now that in a time of illness, there is no substitute for a compassionate physician with the skills to cure but, more importantly, to care…”

“This will be my last communication to you…..

Moving From a Painful Past to A Worthy Present

Posted by Harriet on

Rear View Mirror Sky“I am no longer willing to drive into the future using my rearview mirror as my tool of navigation.”  Tony Robbins


Does our past decide our present and future?  Can we press Stop on that tape player in our mind so that we can move forward and not get stuck in those old hurtful messages of our past?

We all have our childhood hurts; ones that if we fall victim to, can at best hold us back from being and doing great things with our lives and at worst can wreck severe havoc.  It’s so easy to hang our hats on our past and assign blame as to why our lives are not going well.  It takes choice, awareness and lots of inner work to become the creators of our lives instead of the victims of it.  It’s not easy but it is doable when we decide that we and our lives are worth it.

Joselyn Smith-Greene has written a poignant piece (guest blog post) on this concept.  She has transcended her past and become an active and positive creator of her life.


My dad passed away the year my oldest son was born.  He died in the hospital alone.  My father was a provider; however, that is where his parenting skills ended.

I miss my dad but not in the way most people miss a parent.  Instead, I miss what could have been; the relationship we could have had and the special father-daughter moment we could have shared. 


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