Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Still stuck? This is the missing link you need!




Do you feel like you’ve heard it all, done it all, read it all, could probably teach it all, and are still stuck? If you answered “Yes” – don’t despair….The concept of Tri-Alignment could be just what you are looking for: The missing link that pulls everything together. Let me be honest – this is not something I invented – far from it. In fact, it’s a very, very old model for life and living – I’ve merely adapted it to take it from the philosophical to the practical realm.  

As some of you may know, I used the SOFTLY method (see my previous posts) to help me navigate devastating loss, and eventually reconnect with the joy of living. The tools anchor me, allow me to center myself: they are truly life-changing. I have been using the method for more than 15 years, for large and small matters, since I first created it to help me cope with a challenging life. Then, tragedy struck – I lost my son… For quite some time, I was inconsolable. But eventually, all those years of practicing the method stood by me, and helped me deal with this great loss too. I was grateful to have this resource to help me rebuild a life I thought could never be rebuilt. Over the years, this method has helped me navigate the aftermath of divorce, job loss, loss of home, and tragedy – I knew it to be a very valuable resource I can rely on to help me get through the bad times and maximize the good times.  

Sometimes, when you’re least expecting it, life gives you a gift. A few months ago, I participated in a writing workshop in Jerusalem, where the facilitator explained a model to improve both writing and editing skills. While I listened, I knew this was something that had significance far beyond the realm of writing. It was ironic, because the model they presented was the Indian Trimurti model of creator, preserver and destroyer – a model I was very familiar with from having grown up in India. After the workshop, it kept brewing in my mind – and then it all came together. I experienced an Aha! moment – when you know your understanding of life has been deepened.  This would make the SOFTLY tools (or any other tools for that matter) exponentially more powerful and much easier to use.  

Reality is made up of a combination of all three aspects of the Trimurti: creation, preservation and destruction. Everything in life is in a state of constant flux and the more we are able to align with the greater reality of life – the more effectively and joyfully can we can live. Ultimately, true joy is only possible to the extent we are aligned with this greater reality – which is why I call the model Tri-Alignment. 

Aldous Huxley — “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored”

We ignore reality at our peril. And yet, often we resist reality, are afraid of facing it, and do anything we can do distract ourselves from it – but at what price? Right now, an important relationship may slowly be eroding away. Right now, we may be taking our good health for granted, rather than working to maintain it. Right now, a huge opportunity may be around the corner, but we miss out because we failed to read the signs.  

In my next blog post, I will make available a free PDF explaining Tri-Alignment in greater depth. In the meantime, here is a takeaway you can use right now:

When you identify any discomfort in your body (when there is no immediate threat to you) rather than ignoring or suppressing it, try to focus on it. This discomfort is actually a gift, inviting us to look at reality with more attention, because we are out of sync with it – we are not Tri-Aligned. Our current situation, like every other, is a combination of all three facets of reality, and our discomfort is a signal that there is an aspect of reality (or several aspects) that we are resisting.  

We may eventually have to ask ourselves difficult questions: What has been lost, what is falling apart, what do we still have, what opportunities lie within the situation, what can we create? This is a process that requires an investment of time. We need to go through the process with focus. But right now, at this moment of discomfort, of avoidance and resistance, we can still make a healing choice. Most likely, our habitual reaction at moments like this will be to escape into overthinking, or emotional drama, or busyness, to tension, contraction and shallow breathing. Try not to get caught up in the story you are telling yourself about something, which lies at the root of that “separation” (the “S” of SOFTLY). 

Instead take a moment to be aware of what is happening in your body. Sit comfortably and relax the tension in your body as much as possible. Breathe fully and become aware of yourself. Now, start breathing to the 4-7-8 rhythm. This is a well-tested breathing technique to calm anxiety and relieve stress. Dr. Andrew Weil states that it is the single best anti-anxiety method he has found. Here is how you do it:  Place the tip of your tongue at the roof of your mouth, right behind your top teeth. Breathe in through the nose for 4 counts, expanding your diaphragm. Hold the breath for 7 counts.  Open the mouth slightly and exhale to the count of 8, drawing in the diaphragm. Do this for 4 cycles. After that, continue breathing calmly and naturally. Notice your surroundings. You are HERE – NOW. Be grateful for the present moment. Extend love and compassion toward yourself and your struggles. Expand your awareness outward. You are part of a far greater reality than you see and experience right now. Finally, extend your compassion to all the others who are struggling with similar problems throughout the world.  

If you feel ready, you can now take an action step. Is the best thing to do in the situation clear? A lack of clarity indicates the need to explore the Tri-Alignment model more thoroughly – working with the Tri-Alignment model will clarify your desired direction, and your path. [Note: when you are “separated,” never take any action to “solve the problem.” As Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.” Instead, your main focus at these times should be to get Tri-Aligned! 

If you want further information about Tri-Alignment, please contact me at: communityofones@gmail.com

My book "Community of Ones" explores the many existential, emotional, intellectual and spiritual questions and dilemmas that arise in the wake of the loss of a loved one.


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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How to Fail Well at Tai Chi





Since I was a young woman, I have always wanted to learn Tai Chi. But somehow, life got in the way. Being a single mother did not leave me the time (or the resources) to pursue this desire, but recently, just short of my 60th birthday, I decided it was now or never, and joined a really great Tai Chi class in Jerusalem.

 Although I enjoyed the practice, I gave it up after about 4 months: after making a wrong move, I started to feel persistent pain in one of my knees, and so, reluctantly decided not to continue. However, nothing is in vain! Besides the Tai Chi form, the class consisted of a practice called “Push Hands.” Now, I quite disliked this part of the class – Push Hands reminds us that Tai Chi is not just an exercise form, but a martial art, to be used when under attack in real-life situations. It is practiced in pairs to teach the proper inner and outer stance versus an “attacker,” which is essentially, non-resistance and use of the attacker’s own force to one’s advantage. The Push Hands principle teaches how not to react with resistance or force to the people and situations that disrupt our balance, but how to flow with and redirect what we are presented with.

 Theoretically, this is exactly in line with the way I see things, but while practicing this exercise, I became aware how instinctual it is for us to push back (or to give in to the “push” rather than redirecting it). My body seemed to have a mind of its own. I have to admit, I was a total failure at Push Hands, and tried to get out of participating as much as I could. However, there was one Push Hands exercise that I really liked, and was able to connect to.

The exercise is called “Seaweed.”  As in all other Push Hands exercises, you work with a partner, one person being a strand of seaweed, and the other being the ocean current moving the strand. The purpose of the exercise is to move with the current, and then regain your position without losing balance. The strong imagery in this exercise helped me to connect with and do the exercise properly.

Thinking about it later, I realized that this exercise can help us understand what Separation is and is not. (Separation is the first step of the SOFTLY model: Separation – Ownership – Fear – Truth – Love – Yes! Please see my previous posts for more information.) Separation is never about the ocean current (the external situation) or even about the movement of the seaweed – even when the seaweed moves to the current, it never loses its power. Moving with the current (non-resistance) is the natural, powerful response in this situation, because that very current will help us go back to our natural position. Separation happens when we respond to “what is” with resistance – the seaweed exercise helps us realize the futility of this response.

 Of course, another response to being pushed is resignation, which is totally different from the non-resistance discussed above. When powerful forces are pushing us out of balance, we give in. Tai Chi offers us a great lesson that the situation we are in can always be used to help us – all we have to do is to figure out how redirect the energy. In fact, the more powerful the energy directed at us, the more it could potentially be used to our advantage. Most of all, whatever is “pushing” us, cannot touch who we essentially are.

 Another every important lesson to keep in mind is that the body does have a mind of its own – however aware we are, we will become separated and out of balance. But we have to keep on practicing. Most people who have mastered Tai Chi have been learning and perfecting the art for well over a decade. Similarly, our awareness and practice of these principles will reduce the frequency of Separation, and allow us to regain our balance more quickly.

As you may have gathered by now, I am no Tai Chi expert ;-), but my brief essay into the world of Tai Chi was totally worth it. (P.S. – Since I’m still looking for a regular practice, I might give Yoga a try next, who knows what I may learn….)

My book "Community of Ones" explores the many existential, emotional, intellectual and spiritual questions and dilemmas that arise in the wake of the loss of a loved one.
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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lobster is Sometimes the Perfect Choice (even for vegetarians)

 
 
   
 
 
I'm a vegetarian, so I don't eat lobster. Moreover, I keep kosher, so in any case, I don't eat lobster. So why am I talking about lobster? Because lobster is the perfect answer when the heat is on.
 
 A few posts ago (Dancing with Maya), I mentioned that the question to keep in mind when under pressure is "Given the situation as I understand it, how can I be true to myself?" Often, the answer is clear. But sometimes, the only way forward is to shed superfluous parts of the very "self" we are so invested in, and to let other aspects of ourselves emerge to light. As usual, nature offers us a good example of how this happens: the lowly lobster.
 
I heard the analogy for the first time in Dr. Abraham Twerski's YouTube video addressing stress, where he discusses how lobsters grow given the fact that their shells do not. The process is called molting, and as Rabbi Twerski states, "The stimulus for the lobster to grow is that it feels uncomfortable." In other words, feeling uncomfortable is a positive thing, and "times of stress are also times that are signals for growth."
 
This is good – it reinforces the fact that the difficult situations we face offer some of the best opportunities for growth. But there was another aspect to the process of molting, which Rabbi Twerski mentions in passing, and which struck me as being as important as the actual process of growth and change: While growing a new shell, the lobsters hide under rocks or bury themselves under mud to keep safe from harm. 
 
While the pressure of a problem should signal to us that growth and change are inevitable, so too should it signal to us that we must take extra care to protect ourselves during that time. It's time to ask ourselves – Who has my back? Who could help cheer me through this? Who and what should I avoid for now? Am I eating and exercising right? Am I sleeping and resting properly? Is my environment nurturing? Do I need to "bury myself in the mud" and isolate myself for a few days to replenish my energy? 
 
Wow! What else? I was intrigued enough by the subject to search online for the typical behavior of the ordinary lobster while growing its new shell. This is what I found on veganpeace.com
- Before they shed the old shell, they form a thin one underneath.
- They secrete enzymes that soften the shell.
- They struggle out of their shell and absorb water to expand body size.
- Each time they molt, they increase size by about 20%.
- They often eat their old shell, which speeds up the hardening of the new shell.
 
Now, we humans may not be as instinctively smart as the average lobster, but we could try to imitate its behavior. We could:
 - Try out our new self in a safe, supportive setting.
 - Discard what needs to be discarded as gently as possible.
 - Realize that change is uncomfortable, maybe even painful, but we basically live in a friendly universe and are surrounded by the very stuff that will help us make it through.
 - Avoid extreme changes, and opt for steady, manageable change.
 - Use what we already possess to support the process of change.
  
If we haven't been handling pressure well, we have the option to lobster up and meet the challenge!
  
My book "Community of Ones" explores the many existential, emotional, intellectual and spiritual questions and dilemmas that arise in the wake of the loss of a loved one.
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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Got a problem? Get done for the day!



When we are faced with a complex problem, one of the major skills we must either possess or develop is – how to live an imperfect life well.

A big problem will not get solved in a day or maybe even a month. Sometimes, it takes years. Sometimes it takes longer than that. Everyone with a chronic illness knows they will probably be handling the issue for the rest of their lives. Everyone who has lost a major love to death knows they will forever miss the person they lost.

Even those problems which can be completely solved, the simpler issues in life, bring to light the matter that lies at the heart of this post. Once you "solve" one problem, as likely as not, life will hand you another pesky, or serious, problem to solve. So in real life we rarely, if ever, experience that wonderful feeling of getting all our ducks in a row… (Whatever that means – my ducks seem to have a perverse mind of their own J)

Getting done for the day is the art of appreciating and enjoying an imperfect life. Hopefully, we already have the right attitude, we have crafted an effective strategy, and now, we must make sure NOT put all our efforts into solving the problem.

After determine how much time to devote to this issue per day, or per week, we work on it, to the best of our ability (100%), during the time we have scheduled for the task, and only then. That's it – we're done for the day. We do not allow it to take over our lives.

This won't be easy. We will obsess about the issue all the time…but if we are "done for the day," we can tell ourselves "I'll think about it tomorrow, at the time I've put aside for this matter. I won't worry about it now."

Next, we put more of what we truly love into our days – the people and the activities that bring us joy. The art of living (an imperfect) life well, is to deliberately start choosing more of what makes us happy. Not what we're supposed to do, not what we're told we should do – but the real thing. (Keeping in mind that choosing joy is different from compensating for feeling bad. It's the difference between eating one portion of quality, delicious chocolate, and a bar of the cheap, sickly-sweet stuff that leaves you nauseated after you're done.)

So let's choose wisely. Yes, we face our problems head-on. But once we're done for the day – we're done. We have only one life – and its focus should be our joy, not our problems.

This is the third part of a three-part series of posts which falls under the "Ownership" section of "Walking Softly." (Refer to my previous posts on the 6 steps of Walking S O F T L Y through Grief (and Life): Separation – Ownership – Fear – Truth – Love – Yes!)

The other two parts are: Got a problem? Get an attitude! Read it here:
And: Got a problem? Get a strategy! Read it here:
http://communityofones.blogspot.co.il/2015/11/got-problem-get-strategy.html


My book "Community of Ones" explores the many existential, emotional, intellectual and spiritual questions and dilemmas that arise in the wake of the loss of a loved one.
Amazon Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/Community-Ones-Search-after-Devastating-ebook/dp/B00FYNMQ7S/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Monday, November 16, 2015

Got a problem? Get a strategy!

Got a problem? Get a strategy!

[My father David E. Samson, of blessed memory]

Clearly, we need a strategy to solve a complex problem, especially if it is one which we have little or no past experience in solving. But that's the whole dilemma. We can choose an effective strategy when we have previous experience in solving a similar problem. But if this is problem we've never encountered before, we often don't know enough to adopt an effective strategy. We can learn more about the situation, we can take advice from those who have successfully overcome a similar challenge.  But ultimately our situation is unique, and we have to find a unique strategy to deal with it. Like it or not, my problem = my responsibility.

A long while ago, I read a book in which I found an excellent action plan which helps address any problem, simple or complex, new or familiar, and offers a strategy to extricate yourself out of any morass, at your own pace, and in your own style. The title of the book: "Smooth Sailing – Navigating Life's Challenges" by Sarah Chana Radcliff. The whole book is chock full of good, practical advice, and the strategy presented below is based on the chapter, "Jumping in Feet First."

Here it is:
One: Identify and list the actions you must take to solve your problem. [Usually, many things need to be done to solve any particular problem.]
Two:  Prioritize and identify the most important step you can take. [This is the action that will have the biggest impact on resolving the issue.]
Three: List the ways in which you can accomplish your priority step. Choose the easiest option or the easiest part of it, and do it.

I like this strategy, because it is both focused and as easy as possible, given the circumstances, and your particular style of coping. You always focus on the highest priority action item, and you always choose the easiest way to accomplish it. You keep moving forward, while taking into account that there are many ways to get something done, and choosing the best option for you and your unique situation.

A variation of this strategy is also a great way to overcome procrastination and other avoidance behaviors. Usually, when we avoid something, it is because we are viewing the task as a whole, and it seems overwhelming, so we put it off. But we can trick our brains into believing the task is not that hard or unpleasant. Whenever something seems too hard, it just means we have not broken it down into small enough chunks.

For instance, on the days I don't feel like exercising, I tell myself, "It's not going to hurt to just put on my exercise shoes"…Then I say, "Just pop in the DVD and do 5 minutes." After that, "Just do one mile, and then stop." And so on, to the end of the hour and feeling good. If we balk at doing something, it just means it has to be broken down further.  This works, despite our being aware that we are tricking ourselves. Why? Because the hardest part of any task is beginning it - once we get past that, there's a good chance we will keep going. Even if not, we are still ahead. Working for 5 minutes on a project is better than not working on it at all.

So whether we need a strategy to regain our health, get out of debt, rebuild a life after loss, or to cope with day-to-day challenges, just ask:
What's the most important thing for me to do?
What does this entail?
What's the easiest part?
Still seems too hard to do? Chunk it down, chunk it down, chunk it down, until it's small enough and simple enough for you take that step toward the solution.

This is the second part of a three-part series of posts which falls under the "Ownership" section of "Walking Softly." (Refer to my previous posts on the 6 steps of Walking S O F T L Y through Grief (and Life): Separation – Ownership – Fear – Truth – Love – Yes!)
The other two parts are: Got a problem? Get an attitude! Read it here:
And: Got a problem, Get done for the day! (Coming Soon!)

My book "Community of Ones" explores the many existential, emotional, intellectual and spiritual questions and dilemmas that arise in the wake of the loss of a loved one.
Amazon Kindle:





Sunday, September 6, 2015

Got a problem? Get an attitude!




This is a three-part series of posts which is part of the "Ownership" section of "Walking Softly." (Refer to my previous posts on the 6 steps of Walking S O F T L Y through Grief (and Life): Separation – Ownership – Fear – Truth – Love – Yes!
The other two parts are: Got a problem? Get a strategy!
And: Got a problem, Get done for the day!

So what is new about this? Why should you read this post when thousands have said the same thing before me? Everyone knows that the right attitude is critical to solving large problems and small. So why belabor the point?

Well, because there is a difference between knowing you should do something, and knowing how to do it well. Everyone knows that it is vital to have an "empowered attitude" when dealing with our problems, but how do I access such an attitude at a moment's notice, when I need it?

For me, things get clear when I compare what I don't know to what I do know, or at least what I can well imagine. So I'm sharing this with you, and hope it will help you to switch your attitude from "helpless" to "resolute" at will.

When we are overwhelmed by a problem, at some level we are looking at that problem through the scared, helpless eyes of a child. A significant problem will do that to us. It will create an urge to react as we did when faced by a threat in childhood. Some of us will escape, some will have a tantrum, some will try to appease and please, and so on…. As varied as these reactions may be, they have something in common – the problem is viewed as being more powerful than ourselves, and the coping strategy is largely ineffective. After all, if it worked, there would be no problem, would there?

So what's the alternative? I like to compare the problem to a difficult teenager, and you, the problem-solver, to a caring, responsible adult – maybe a parent or a teacher. This is a concrete way to relate to the problem, and it immediately allows me to put things into perspective and ensures I have the right attitude.

To me, this is a useful analogy. As anyone who has parented or mentored a difficult teen will tell you, there is nothing easy about it. Yet, fundamentally, there can be no doubt that you will do this – that you will find a way. While dealing with that teen may shake your faith in yourself at times, it will never destroy it. Why? Because you know it's up to you; this is your responsibility, and it's clear that you will succeed. You just need to find out how.

And so too your problem: Firstly, remember you're the adult – you are the one in charge here. Secondly, do not reject, avoid, ignore, struggle with or (worst of all) hate your problem – it is yours! Thirdly, know deep within, without any doubt, that there is a solution, and by George, you will find it.

How do you do that? That's in my next post.

My book "Community of Ones" explores the many existential, emotional, intellectual and spiritual questions and dilemmas that arise in the wake of the loss of a loved one.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dancing with Maya





This post, which I call "Dancing with Maya" delves a little deeper in the element of TRUTH when "walking S O F T L Y" through tough times. (Refer to my previous posts on the 6 steps of Walking S O F T L Y through Grief (and Life): Separation – Ownership – Fear – Truth – Love – Yes!

As I mentioned in my previous posts, TRUTH is nothing but REALITY, but keeping a firm grasp on reality is oh-so-hard, especially when we are stressed, especially when we are hurting, especially when we are in pain….
But unless we can clearly see and navigate reality, we will be stuck in repetitive cycles of pain; things may get better at times, but sooner or later, we will find ourselves plunging back in the down-cycle, and realize that nothing has actually changed. For instance, many people in abusive relationships may eventually "face the facts" and leave, but be dismayed to discover that their next relationship is barely better than the previous one. The culprit is Maya.

The Hindu concept of Maya means ILLUSION, or the delusion of the mind. It teaches us that much of what we identify as being real is illusory, because the human mind is the ultimate channel for distorting reality. Now, I have not studied the original Hindu concept enough to authoritatively discuss it, but I like to use it as a metaphor to help me navigate reality more mindfully. I call this metaphor "Dancing with Maya."

Actually, if we go one step further in our exploration of truth and reality, it could be put this way – if reality is "what is" then "truth" is our truest way of being in that reality. Viewed in this light, it becomes clear that we have little or no control over "what is," but TRUTH, as it is defined here, is always our choice. And that is where Maya comes into the picture: We think we have full freedom of choice, but how wrong we are. Maya is the ultimate puppet master, so skillful that we are oblivious of its power over us.

The only opportunity we have to confront it is when things go wrong, and we are at odds with reality. We futilely try to control factors we can't – fighting "what is" tooth and nail, completely unaware that Maya has been pulling the strings all along. Our thoughts, reactions, our internal and external struggles, and even most of our efforts "to solve the issue" are all the outcome of Maya's dominion over us. Our attempts at gratitude or giving the benefit of the doubt (as mentioned in previous posts) will feel shallow and forced under the influence of Maya. Truth is impossible in this situation.

When we feel discomfort in any situation, we should be on the lookout for Maya, because as likely as not, it is in control. Only a few rare individuals can completely break the bonds of Maya, but the good news is that we don't have to. 

The alternative is to dance with Maya. We shift our goal from trying to control the situation, to not losing ourselves in it. The question to ask ourselves is "Given the situation as I understand it, how can I be true to myself?"


Maya will jerk the strings and threaten dire consequences if you do so, but keep dancing. Just as you would hold your own with a strong lead partner, smile at Maya's efforts to throw you off your stride. It may be leading you for now, but for every move it makes, you get to make a counter move. You are not a puppet, but a dance partner. Keeping your goal in mind, keep dancing with it and the shift will happen. Maya will step back, and let you take the lead. At that time, for that moment, you will be living from your truth. It will be short-lived, it's true – but each victory will make the next one easier.

My book "Community of Ones" explores the many existential, emotional, intellectual and spiritual questions and dilemmas that arise in the wake of the loss of a loved one.
Amazon Kindle: