Sunday, May 20, 2012
Hi, healers! Check out my new MindBodyGreen post here and copy/pasted below.
"'You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.' - Kahlil Gibran
What is the quickest and most effective way to achieve abundant prosperity? The answer is that to receive more abundance in our lives, we must give freely out of pure love and generosity, without expectation or the desire for recognition. Giving and receiving are the exchanges of energies, two parts of the whole, and they must exist equally for the maintenance of energetic balance. Abundance is your birth right, and it is perfectly acceptable to expect prosperity in all of its forms.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word “abundance?” For many individuals, “abundance” is directly related to material goods, often money, and the act of giving calls forth similar images of material gifts or monetary donations. But what if I told you that giving does not require money and abundance is not confined to material possessions but rather includes those components as pieces of the prosperity pie?
Each one of us has many different gifts to offer, and during these difficult economic times, it is understandable if those gifts are more of services rather than goods. When you come from a place of generosity and abundance rather than a place of poverty and lack, the possibilities for giving and receiving are endless.
Below are five ways to give non-monetarily so that you can create more abundance in your life.
1. Say a Silent Prayer – As you go through your days, send healing prayers to those who need your good thoughts and silently bless them, wishing for them that they receive all that they need and desire. We are all connected as energetic beings, so your sending of positive energy will ultimately affect those who you direct it toward in positive ways.
2. Be Friendly – Your smile can brighten up a room, and it can also brighten up the day of someone you encounter. Start a conversation with someone about the weather, compliment someone on a beautiful piece of clothing, or just smile and say “hello.” I’ve been on the receiving end of friendliness from a complete stranger more times than I can count, and it has always made a lasting positive impression on me, even changing the outcome of my days.
3. Perform Random Acts of Kindness – Random acts of kindness are so often surprising when you are on the receiving end and deeply fulfilling when you are on the giving end of these hidden gems. If you see someone struggling to open a door or carry all of his/her grocery bags, offer to help. You will open yourself up to all kinds of positive energy and prosperity by the giving of kindness.
4. Lend a Helping Hand – If you know someone in your life is struggling, offer to lend a helping hand, such as taking a disabled or acutely ill friend’s dog for a walk, babysitting the children of a busy single mother you know, or writing thank you notes for an elderly neighbor who can no longer see. These helpful acts are often much more valuable than any material gifts could be.
5. Love – Love is the universal energy that connects us all, and when we are plugged into our source, the potential for love is limitless. Share love, spread love, preach love, or teach love. Whatever you decide to do, do it freely and with love, and abundance will be yours for the receiving."
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Hi, healers! Check out my guest post on simplerlifetoday.com here and pasted below.
"How I Made Meaning Out of Tragedy
A guest post by Maria Mooney
The diagnosis of any illness, chronic, acute, or terminal, is a devastating, life-altering, earth-shattering, monumental moment in the life of the diagnosed individual, impacting all areas, including but not limited to vocation, social relationships, self-care, and recreational pursuits.
A devastating diagnosis challenges and often shatters world views and belief systems leaving the individual feeling confused, unsupported and out of control, questioning faith and facing his/her own mortality.
When I was told I had a “progressive and incurable” neurological disease at the age of twenty three, the diagnoses tore through my life like a category five hurricane toting 100+ mph winds, uprooting and ripping through every shred of hope and normalcy I had for my barely realized future and leaving me to feel fragile and exposed.
I hunkered down and gratefully made it through the eye of the illness storm, admittedly still in several pieces with the reconstruction of my life slowly beginning to take place despite the devastating destruction.
As I look back on my journey from the start to where I am sitting today, nestled comfortably (for the most part) in acceptance, one of the most important tools I used (and still use today) is that of “meaning making,” a transformative process where the individual finds explanations for and benefits from tragedy.
Meaning making allows for resiliency to be cultivated and hope to be restored as the diagnosed individual becomes the author of his/her own story as a dynamic, multi-faceted person living with a disease but not defined or controlled by it. The illness becomes a small but important piece of the life narrative and not the entire narrative, allowing for depth of character, pride, dignity, joy, and achievement despite the multiple losses, challenges, and disappointments often associated with the condition.
Asking “why” when a tragedy or trauma occurs and searching for acceptable answers are natural and normal responses to astronomical shifts in our lives. Sometimes, there are no tangible, scientifically observed and proven answers, and this is when meaning making can be especially helpful.
For me, I came to the conclusion that this illness occurred because it was necessary that I learn how to live well, discover my passions, gain direction, and learn how to serve the larger community instead of focusing on my own selfish desires.
Not only have I gained from this condition, but I truly believe the world has also and will continue to gain from it, as well. When the days become difficult, that is what I whisper to myself just before a meltdown occurs and my life begins to take form and purpose once again.
I’m not quite sure if meaning making comes before acceptance or acceptance before meaning making. It’s the classic “chicken or the egg” debate that includes viable and persuasive explanations on both sides of the argument.
Perhaps, meaning making and acceptance happen simultaneously, each one clearing space for the other to exist as life rafts rescuing hope, determination, and happiness from drifting out toward the horizon and just outside of our grasps. Either way, the future is much less daunting and the present is much more comfortable when they are surrounded by much more meaning."
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
“What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society than with the language we use to justify it. In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. So we don’t. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color “criminals” and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind. Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans…We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it…Quite belatedly, I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States [due to the War on Drugs] had, in fact, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.” – An excerpt from The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness by Michelle Alexander
Diversity does not equal equality. In this supposed age of colorblindness where we have elected an African American man as president of the free world and one of the most powerful sources in the media today is an African American woman, we have made great strides in terms of overt racism, such as legalized segregation, but we have also taken many steps backward, or at the very least, halted our progress, wearing the comfortable shoes of covert, and even seemingly justifiable, discrimination. In Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, she addresses the grossly erroneous War on Drugs enacted in the early 1980s and how its provisions have created a racial caste system by disproportionately incarcerating minorities and then subjecting them to second class citizenship status by ostracizing these individuals from mainstream society and its economy with unjust mandatory minimum sentencing and felony charges.
Diversity does not equal equality. As someone who studied criminology in Miami, FL, as an undergrad, a program that focused on race relations and the larger structure of society and how they both contribute to theories of social deviance in disorganized and disadvantaged communities, I was given the opportunity and insight required to be able to look beyond the surface of our daily lives and examine the mechanisms that create and maintain systemic patterns of oppression. As an 18 year old white female from a largely homogenous, affluent hometown in the suburbs of New Jersey, this was a true honor and profound gift due to the fact that I had lived my young life in privilege, specifically white privilege, without the need to examine the workings of a society I gladly participated in but never questioned. Today, I know better, and I also possess the tools, the desire, and critical thinking skills necessary to carry this examination forward into all aspects of my life.
Diversity does not equal equality. As time progresses, the efforts to create and maintain diverse work, school, and living environments consisting of many different races and ethnicities remain a priority, but despite environments filled with all the colors of the rainbow, equality, equal treatment, continues to allude us whether it is through overt or covert racism or hidden individual, even unconscious, biases that have been engrained is us so deeply over generations that they are almost at the cellular level. From the macro level, with the mass incarceration of minorities, to the micro level, with the senseless murder of Trayvon Martin, it is easy to identify these patterns of prejudice and discrimination in the modern day. I know that I don’t have to tell my readers, individuals living out the values of love, equality, justice, mercy, compassion, empathy, and non-violence, to consider the larger social context and the systematic oppression present within it, but I encourage you to share this article and Michelle Alexander’s book with someone you know that might greatly benefit from this knowledge, and in turn, help to benefit our society and human kind.
Monday, May 14, 2012
Hi, healers! Here and pasted below is my new MindBodyGreen post. Enjoy!
"Recently, I attended a conference held for my profession so that I could fulfill the continuing education requirements needed to sustain my professional license and increase my knowledge of specific, personally chosen topics. I took several interesting courses, including a course on white privilege and another on parental rejection of LGBTIQ youth after coming out, and thoroughly enjoyed being in an academic setting once again. But despite my thirst for knowledge and the tantalizing subject matter, there continued to be a gargantuan elephant in the conference, mainly one eating pastries and drinking coffee.
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a raw vegan, meaning that I eat mostly raw foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) and aim to abstain from all animal products, alcohol, refined sugar, and caffeine. My reasoning for what some would call an “extreme” lifestyle is because I was diagnosed with a “progressive and incurable” neurological disease at 23 years old and have been reversing and managing the symptoms with this particular lifestyle ever since, which is clearly a personal choice and may not be suitable for everyone. At the time I began these changes, my parents purchased a wheel chair for me, and I could not stand up for longer than a few minutes at a time on the most potent narcotics. Now, I am medication free, have a Master’s Degree, and am applying for a Ph.D., something I never thought I would be able to do.
During one of the conference’s plenary sessions, the speaker was suggesting that self-care is extremely important, but I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of the individuals in the room were only consuming pastries and coffee ( the only food choices offered) before a full day of learning. I bring this up, not with judgment because those foods are certainly delicious (and I always pack my own food as someone with an alternative lifestyle), but with concern for the amount of education provided concerning diet and lifestyle and how they are extremely important tools in self-care. If I can manage and reverse the symptoms of a progressive disease, imagine what someone facing less grave conditions and feeling run down from an emotionally demanding profession like social work can do! Energy increases naturally without the need for stimulants, skin glows, the body detoxifies, emotions and weight balance, amongst other wonderful benefits.
I do take it one step further myself and view animals as part of vulnerable, oppressed, and disenfranchised populations, populations we pledge to advocate for as social workers in our Code of Ethics. I would be thrilled to excitedly open the brochure for next year’s conference and see courses offered concerning diet as self-care and animal advocacy. Until then, I will continue to do what I do best, advocate for all sentient beings and heal others by healing myself, mind, body, and spirit."
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Hi, healers! Check out my latest MindBodyGreen post here and pasted below.
"The skill of validation is an important tool that can be learned and may be one of the most profoundly powerful aspects of successful interpersonal communication that I can identify. Emotional validation involves the processes of understanding, empathizing with, acknowledging, accepting, and nurturing an individual’s feelings. When you validate, you are accepting people as they are in that moment without attempting to change them or “fix” their current and uncomfortable situations. You are giving them permission to feel and allowing them to feel safe when expressing and sharing their emotions with you.
Validation is a gift, and it can be given silently as pure listening or wrapped up in verbal and non-verbal cues, including perfectly placed head nods and the simple statement, “I understand.” This allows the individual to feel heard, acknowledged, and understood, and it is often the bridge built between two authentic individuals in a healthy interpersonal interaction. When emotions are expressed and received with empathy, relief is often the end result sprinkled with feelings of dignity, respect, connection, and well-being.
As someone trained in the social sciences and currently in the mental health field of clinical social work, we are taught to validate, validate, validate, and validate some more. It is just that powerful, and I understand this because I have seen the miraculous shifts that have occurred within my own clients once they have been led off the island of isolation and loneliness by the extended, inviting hand of validation. But recently, I had my own personal experience with validation, and this time, not as the professional, but as the client.
After an acute back injury, I entered into physical therapy to address some tight hip flexors and hamstrings creating decreased mobility in my joints. The back injury was extremely acute and surprisingly painful involving a slipped disk and an inflamed nerve, but prior to this injury (seven and a half years to be exact), I have been healing from a “progressive and incurable” neurological disease, involving debilitating neurological pain in all four limbs. My physical therapist was aware of my slow movements and my fear of causing the acute pain to reemerge due to any sudden or exaggerated movements, and she said to me, “I can see you are afraid to move. You have been through so much in the last seven years. I don’t blame you.”
WOW! What a simple but powerful and significant statement, and at the core of it was validation of my feelings. At that moment, I felt understood, and I can almost guarantee you that she may not even remember that statement but certainly does not realize how much it has affected me. THIS is the power of validation. Please, use it in your own life and watch tiny miracles occur within yourself and those you touch with this influential communication tool."
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Hi, healers! Life lessons, they are everywhere, usually found in the more difficult circumstances we encounter, but also present in times of peace and joy. I tend to learn my life lessons the difficult way, and I’m practicing insight and self-awareness so that I may begin to learn in a kinder, gentler fashion. Although I’ve made tremendous strides, leaps and bounds even, in my life lately concerning health and wellness, trust me, I don’t always get it right the first time. In fact, it may take several times being presented with the same lesson for me to fully catch on and begin to make the changes that are necessary for greater balance and wholeness.
So what was the big lesson this back injury taught me? I haven’t quite found balance in terms of my physical self, particularly when it comes to pain and discomfort and pushing past limits. I’ve become an expert at listening to my hunger signals, cravings, energy levels, emotional ups and downs, intuition when decision making, etc., but I have no idea how to listen to my own pain signals. It does not come naturally to me. Part of this is because I currently have (and have had for seven years) and condition in which my pain signals are constantly misfiring, assuming an injury exists when it does not, so ignoring and pushing through pain has become as natural to me as my heart beat (a sad but true statement). Part of this has to do with the fact that I have an incredibly high pain tolerance, much of which I attribute to years of pushing myself in the sports arena. No pain, no gain, right? Wrong. And the last piece of this is that I still don’t respect my physical limits because of the two abovementioned reasons and others not mentioned.
So where do I go from here? Nowhere. For once, I go nowhere. I’m going to start low and slow while I learn to decipher between a misfiring nervous system and pain that signals something is truly wrong, and I'm also going to be OK with that. Slowly but surely, I will learn. Life will have it no other way, and if I want to live well, I better be a decent student.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Hi, healers! Here and pasted below is my new mindbodygreen.com post, "3 Tips to Recover from a Breaking Point."
"We all hit breaking points eventually, despite years of acquired healthy coping mechanisms and intellectual understandings that the world has not tragically come to an end over one or two difficult life circumstances. When faced with a breaking point, I tend to express my unhappiness and frustration rather abruptly, but I then move toward balance again quickly, sometimes within hours, even minutes. My emotional turmoil is acute at this point in my life and never lasts for consecutive days. However, before my time in therapy learning how to cope with life’s little lemons (for me, the diagnosis of a “progressive and incurable” neurological disease), my poor mood persevered for a lengthy period.
Recently, I demolished my lower back, particularly the sacroiliac joints and the muscles around them, which are in spasm and causing excruciating pain with movement, doing some gentle yoga stretches. It has been a problem area for me for some time now, and I am about to address it in physical therapy. But I have to admit, this acute injury just about took me to a breaking point. I thought to myself, “How much more physical pain can one human endure?!” Just as I am reversing the symptoms of a “progressive and incurable” neurological disease (off all medications and gaining back normalcy with each passing day), I take ten steps back, couch bound once again, and taking muscle relaxers, medication I refused for three days until I realized I was only tweaking my injured muscles and exacerbating the injury with each movement.
This is when my coping skills came in handy. Below are three tips to recover from a breaking point.
1. Allow Yourself to Feel – Are you angry? Sad? Hurt? Disappointed? Repression and denial of feelings and emotions, while unhealthy, do serve a purpose. They act as a buffer to feelings and emotions that are not yet ready to be or aren’t capable of being felt in a way that is purposeful and productive. Unfortunately, a chronic pattern of avoidance can actually create a state of dis-ease in the body. Instead of being addressed and let go, that energy is circulated and re-circulated throughout the body, often gaining momentum with each unexpressed go around and eventually settling in as pain, physical illness, or chronic emotional distress. After the original injury, I spent an entire day crying on and off out of pure frustration, and it felt wonderful, as healing as rest by all accounts. Recognize your emotions and allow yourself to sit with them, experience them, and, ultimately, let them go.
2. Have an Attitude of Gratitude – It could always be worse, and while that is not something you necessarily want to be told by someone else when you are writhing in physical or emotional pain, it is an important distinction to make internally during those particularly demanding times. Taking on an attitude of gratitude, focusing on what you do have instead of what you perceive to be missing, is a powerful and effective way to create happiness despite trying times. Despite my acute injury, I consistently remind myself of all the blessings that surround me, including delicious raw vegan food on my table, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, an amazing support system, and love in my heart and surrounding me. Express gratitude for the people in and components of your life, big and small, to boost bliss and appreciate the abundance around you.
3. Utilize Social Supports – Social supports are everything, and as human beings, we are social creatures who crave interaction and communion with important others. When I suggest utilizing social supports, I mean having trusted individuals in your life, friends or family, who you can confidently turn to in times of crisis. As luck would have it, I had two important job interviews scheduled the day after the acute injury to my back. I could not drive, and my beautiful family rearranged their schedules to cart me around so that I could prop myself up long enough to get through the interviews. That is social support. That is love. That is magnificent."