Jon Stewart, former Comedy Central show host, has been in the news a lot lately. If you haven’t seen it yet, please make sure to catch the coverage of his testimony before Congress about the 9/11 First Responders bill (under References). Warning: It will be hard to keep your eyes dry.
FYI, in these days of false idols and celebrities that are all about image, authenticity is hard to find. I probably have just a handful of people that I truly admire and look up to; Jon Stewart happens to be one of them. Coincidentally, I have recently written an article named Becoming A Fully Functional Empath. On this article, I mentioned some of the qualities that a fully functional Empath or Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) often possesses and demonstrates. After watching Jon Stewart’s video and doing some research about his life before and after retirement, I believe Jon Stewart is the ultimate fully functional Empath:
1) He’s obviously a highly sensitive person, who cares deeply for his fellow human beings, as well as other living beings (read below about his animal sanctuary). He wears his heart on his sleeve and isn’t afraid to show emotion for a worthy cause.
2) He has certainly found his voice and the courage to express it through his TV show hosting, writing, acting, producing, directing, public speaking, etc. In retirement, he took the time to come back to the lime light and emotionally expose himself for a cause in which he deeply believes.
3) He took on leadership roles, in spite of how jarring and challenging that probably has been for him; and in the process he’s had to deal with his share of criticism from a lot of disgruntled people along the years. A recent example happened after the aforementioned emotional speech before Congress, which earned the following comment by Republican Senator Mitch McConnell: “I don’t know why he’s all bent out of shape but we will take care of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund” (FYI, after 18 years of struggle, the bill was finally approved by the House following Jon Stewart’s speech, but it’s currently under review by the Senate; please also refer to Jon Stewart’s reply to Sen. McConnell’s comment during his appearance at The Late Show With Stephen Colbert).
4) He served (and still serves) others in a meaningful and self-sustaining way, as mentioned above. In retirement, he and his wife bought a 12-acre farm in New Jersey, which they turned into a sanctuary for abused farm animals.
5) He seems to have been able to establish healthy boundaries and maintains good relationships throughout his career. He has also helped a lot of the professionals who worked with him to advance their own careers in show business.
6) He managed to develop effective coping mechanisms to be out in the world, dealing with life. Humor is obviously his top choice. But he also knows when it’s time to get serious, and will go to great lengths as an advocate for worthy causes.
7) He’s been able to create and maintains some balance in life. Although currently enjoying retirement, he’s still helping abused animals in his ranch and continues to be involved in causes that are close to his heart.
8) He has obviously been able to find contentment and joy in this process, while sharing it with so many others.
9) He has Inspired and continues to inspire others to find their own way. As mentioned above, he generously mentored several colleagues and even helped some of them start hosting their own shows, such as Stephen Colbert and John Oliver. He continues to be an inspiration as a vegetarian who helps abused animals, and who doesn’t mind crying on camera in front on millions of people, if that’s what it takes to give the powers-that-be a wake up call. He can also serve as a beautiful example of a fully functional Empath to all of the highly sensitive people out there. Jon, hats off to you!
Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 06/24/2019
Video: Jon Stewart’s Testimony Before Congress
The Late Show With Stephen Colbert - Jon Stewart as guest
Finding Your Own Way In This Crazy, Insensitive World
It’s not easy being an Empath. Even if you know what that means, and are aware of the fact that you may be one (which also implies you’re a HSP or Highly Sensitive Person), chances are you have a hard time with life in general. You hide. You’ve found ways to work or study from home, at least on a part-time basis; and even if you have no choice but to join the ranks as a student in a public school or hold a full time job at a large company, you most definitely hide. You don’t feel comfortable showing all of yourself and revealing who you truly are to most people; you hold plenty back. Social situations can be agony to you. You suffer. You see and hear and feel too much; all the injustices in the world, especially to children and animals, make you suffer deeply. If you take a chance, show yourself and get rejected, it will often scar you for life. You numb yourself. Sometimes everything is so hard to bear that you feel the need to go numb, either through soft addictions such as TV and food, or habits that include alcohol and drugs (prescription and otherwise). Too often, you have to struggle to get out of your bed, your bedroom, your house, and will yourself to continue functioning.
You’re far from alone. Many articles written about Highly Sensitive People/Empaths mention that they comprise 18% to 20% of the population. I wonder if that percentage is actually much higher than these reports show. Were all the “closeted” HSP’s/Empaths taken into consideration? How about those who have always felt there’s something different about them, but have no idea what it is? I personally know a lot of people (among family members, friends, acquaintances, clients, etc) who seem to have all the tell-tale signs of highly sensitive/empathic people, but who aren’t aware that they might be part of that group. Some haven’t even heard these terms before; or if they have, they’re not quite sure what that means. Not to mention that many highly sensitives have learned to hide their true nature, as they quickly understood that most people around them can’t handle who they are, or the intensity of the emotions they feel.
Something else that gives me the impression that there may be a lot more highly sensitive empaths out there is the amount of the available literature on the subject (by the way, if you’re not very familiar with these terms but feel that you might be an empath, I recommend checking some of available resources and taking a quiz). Although the purpose of this article isn’t to define these terms, I actually had a hard time finding a title for my blog article that hadn’t been used before. My research showed a plethora of books and articles with Empaths and HSP’s as their main theme. To name a few: The Path of the Empath; The Way of the Peaceful Empath; Becoming a High Functioning Empath; Becoming a Skilled Empath; The Alpha Empath; The Happy Sensitive; The Empath’s Survival Guide; How To Handle Being An Empath; Becoming An Empowered Empath; The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You; etc; in addition to tons of related articles and resources available. Actually, I almost gave up writing this blog article, thinking that these themes are quite overdone… Well, redundant or not, I thought of a few people with whom I’d like to share my views on this subject. So here we go.
Who Would A Fully Functional Empath Be? Ideally, perhaps, someone who:
- Found their voice and the courage to express it.
- Takes on leadership roles, in spite of how jarring that can be for them.
- Serves others in a meaningful and self-sustaining way.
- Establishes healthy boundaries and maintains good relationships.
- Developed effective coping mechanisms to be out in the world, dealing with life, but without the need to constantly numb themselves. They have learned that numbing themselves works only temporarily, and it comes with too high of a price: feeling like an emotional zombie at first; then having depression, anxiety, repressed anger, etc; and finally, dealing with the agony of knowing that they’re holding themselves back...
- Created and maintains some balance in life.
- Finds contentment and even joy in this process.
- Inspires others to find their own way.
If you have been able to achieve all or most of the above, kudos! But if only you’ve managed to become partially functional and are out there, feeling that there should be more to life that this (whatever “this” is); or are still struggling to find your way, take heart. Keep searching for your own truth, little by little, step by step. Information is useful and role models help, but in the end you have to feel your own way through.
Just think about this: Maybe a big part of what you’re meant to do here is simply to bear. To help bear the weight of the world through your compassion; to bear witness to what is wrong, what needs to change; and to bear life as you hold space for the new generations of Empaths to come and do their thing. Just the fact that you’re here, dealing with and surviving in this crazy, insensitive world, may be nothing short of a miracle…
No, it’s not easy being an Empath… But it does come with the opportunity to live life on deep and intense levels… for better or for worse. At this point in your life, what do you want to make of it?
“Empathy doesn’t make you a sentimental softy without discernment. It allows you to keep your heart open to foster tolerance and understanding.” — Dalai Lama
Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 05/28/2019
Photo Credit: Image by ejaugsburg from Pixabay
“This Is Too Much!!!” About Highly Sensitive People
The Science Behind Empathy and Empaths
…And Then You Die
Some time ago I’d had a beautiful experience helping to save a butterfly (for those of you who missed The Butterfly Connection, please see the link below). Just a few days later, when I went outside to feed my rescue cats as usual, I noticed a torn piece of butterfly wing a couple of feet from where I was standing, on the concrete pad where I place the food. My heart sank. And as I instinctively looked down, I saw the dead body of a butterfly, belly up, partially torn up. Right there, by my feet, as if it was meant for me to see it and suffer for seeing it. At least, that’s how I interpreted at the time. Of course, I could had simply accepted the facts that it was butterfly season and we have several TNR cats around who like to hunt. They also like to present us with the occasional “gift” in appreciation for our services to them. I could have felt even more appreciation for the fact that I got to save a butterfly just a week before, and made peace with the fact that, unfortunately, you can’t save them all. It’s life. Death happens. Moving on.
Instead, I took that as a slap on the face by the “powers from above.” And the very same high I had felt just a week before shifted to the other end of the spectrum and turned into a deep low.
Enlightened and unattached much? Still a long way to go, I’m afraid… It actually took me several months to get out of that resistant mode and feel like writing this blog article after that incident, which is an indicator of how much easier it was to relate with the happy ending story vs. the one that ended with loss and death.
But at this point in my life, I finally find myself inching closer to acceptance and understanding in relation to the subject of death (or so I hope)… My conclusion (other than the fact that acceptance of the good, the bad and ugly in life is easier said than done) is this: Life keeps trying to teach us balance. It’s about understanding both ends of the spectrum. It’s about realizing that, much more often than we’d like to admit, we are not in control of external circumstances; only how we react to them. It’s about accepting that without death there’s no life, and vice-versa. It’s about acknowledging, as the Kybalion’s Principle of Polarity teaches, that good and bad, happy and sad, love and hate, etc, aren’t so much opposites, as they are extreme ends of the same pole.
So one day you save the life of a butterfly; another day you witness another butterfly’s death, and come face to face with the fact that there was nothing you could do. And it’s all part of life’s beautiful dance. It’s as simple as that (or should be)... Being able to understand and accept one of life’s most basic principles (or enjoying the learning process) is the key to having a joyful and fulfilled existence.
Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 04/30/2019
THE BUTTERFLY CONNECTION - About Our Role In Others’ Lives
The Kybalion - The Seven Hermetic Principles
Last year I had a very telling dream which I’ll never forget, as it marked an important shift in my life. At that time, I was staying at a friend’s house in Tempe, AZ. She had invited me to attend a summit organized by the company she works for as a business coach. I had the dream the night before we were supposed to attend the registration event, which would be followed by a business Meet & Mix. One of my goals for that event was to network and generate new business opportunities.
In the dream, I was attending an event or gathering with this friend of mine. During the event, she was trying to hook me up with a man; so she approached a cute young guy and pointed me to him. At first he seemed interested; but the room was dark, so he saw mostly my silhouette and pleasing body shape. But when he approached and saw me at close range, he became distant and dry, barely polite. He then pulled my friend to the side and told her he wasn’t interested, after all. And I knew it was because I looked too old and not as attractive anymore.
Needless to say, I didn’t have a great feeling of confidence when I woke up the next morning, or when I finally attended the business mixer for real that evening. At 56, I feel comfortable with my looks (or so I thought); I actually believe I look good for my age; maybe even a bit younger than my years. I’m also happily married and certainly not “looking.” In addition, I’m aware that dreams such as this one are never literal, so I knew that my subconscious was clearly pointing to another kind of insecurity through my dream. It’s no coincidence that I had this dream the night before attending the business mixer, and I came to realize something important: I was wrapping my age and attractiveness around my perception of how professionally marketable I am these days, or how much more I should be aiming to expand my professional role and business ideas at my age. I realized that, in spite of everything I’ve accomplished in my life so far, and everything I’m still in the process of accomplishing, I had bought into the “I’m too old and my life is pretty much over now that I’m menopausal” cultural myth, and was having a hard time finding (or acknowledging) my new place in the world. In other words, the insecurity and self-doubt were related to how attractive I perceived I was (or perhaps wasn’t anymore) as a career professional or entrepreneur.
Although this stigma felt real to me at the time, and still is very real for many, things have certainly changed a lot from the times when people (women in particular) were expected to hang up their boots at a certain age. With trending attitudes such as “50’s are the new 40’s,” “60’s are the new 50’s,” etc, we see more and more middle-aged people embarking on self-discovery journeys, going above and beyond normal expectations for their age group and even becoming inspirational leaders in many different industries. In fact, we could say that the middle has become the new beginning. It’s the new mid-life phase when a lot of people find themselves finally free of life’s incumbencies and choose to take bold steps towards a journey of self-empowerment, by being true to themselves and claiming their own place in the world.
WHAT TO DO?
Once I realized what the issue was, I started doing some research and trying a few different approaches to address it. Here are some of the steps that have worked well for me (and I hope will work for you, too):
- Get confident. The truth is that’s it’s a younger world out there; so how can you compete with Millennials and younger gens? The answer is: it’s not a competition. By the way, I love Millennials. They are fearless. Their generation has the finger right on the sore spots of our current society; they point out everything that’s seriously wrong with the world, and in dire need of change. And they are certainly better equipped to deal with technology and its consequential overload of information and stimuli than we are, among other things. On the other hand, we bring the kind of life experience that younger people can only dream of at this point in their lives; and that includes how to be a (mostly) functional adult. So we actually can work well together and help each other.
- Get some perspective. This brings me to another important point in relation to how we can sabotage ourselves, and that is our tendency to compare ourselves; and not just to Millennials and other younger generations, but also to anyone else whom we perceive as having achieved more and become more successful than we are at our own age. If the goal of the comparison were meant as a form of inspiration, that would be just fine. But that kind of comparison is often loaded with guilt, shame and self-deprecation for not having done more with our lives, which can often feed into our insecurity and self-doubt, and in turn lead to feeling paralyzed and afraid to move forward. So stop comparing yourself to others! You are a unique individual, and your path is meant to be different than anyone else’s. Remember, only you can do what you do just the way you do it!
- Get healthy. This should be the next step, before moving forward with your goals. For instance, if you’re suffering from the many symptoms that come with menopause (namely, hormonal imbalances that cause mood changes, insomnia, lack of energy, hot flashes, etc), do some research about hormone replacement therapy, diet and exercise, and everything else that can help balance your hormones. In my case, along with dietary and other life-style changes, I decided to try a plant-based progesterone cream which has been working quite well for me.
If you have other (or more serious) health challenges, this step is even more important. Do what you know you need to do to achieve and maintain a healthy state of mind, body and spirit, to the best of your ability and circumstances.
- Get self-care. Although this is part of getting healthy, it deserves special emphasis due to the fact that many of us neglect ourselves in that department. We are so used to putting everyone else’s needs first, that giving priority to our well-being (which includes our own career goals and life paths) might sound like an alien concept. So spend time and resources doing those things that you know make you feel much better and help maintain your sanity. Yes, it’s ok to finally put yourself first.
- Get updated. To become more marketable and effective, it’s a good idea to find out what would help you get even better at what you do or have done in the past, and then go for it. Take classes, watch webinars, get some training on new technology, etc; and have fun in the process! Learning keeps your brain young.
- Get busy. Rather than getting lost in all the planning and list-making, take some solid steps. As Marie Forleo suggests, focus on progress and results, instead of perfection.
By the way, if you consider yourself a perfectionist, you might want to read the article below.
Becoming a Functional Perfectionist
- Get support. No one can do it alone! Join a group or create one yourself, enroll in community activities and events, volunteer, etc. Also, reach out to successful professionals in your field. Choose your role models and mentors carefully, however. Are they all about image? Look for authenticity!
- Get going. The Dalai Lama said that the “Western women will save the world.” There’s no question that a powerful revolution has begun; it’s all around us. So you can start by asking the following question: What do you believe your place or role in this revolution is? What’s been tugging at your heartstrings for a while? It doesn’t have to be big to be meaningful!
- FINAL THOUGHT: Get gutsy and get started! After all, what do you have to lose?
Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 02/07/2019
As February is the relationship month, let’s explore some thoughts about the most important of all love (and hate) relationships: One’s relationship to oneself. I recently shared the following quote on the Ragi Center Facebook page: “When you’re in a dark place, you sometimes tend to think you’ve been buried. Perhaps you’ve been planted. Bloom.”
Now, that is an awesome quote (by the way, I haven’t found its original creator yet; when I do, I’ll give the author well-deserved credit). But what does that mean, “bloom”? How does one bloom? In my opinion, blooming means finding a way to get out of the comfortable, hidden darkness of the dirt and coming into the light. Growing, evolving. It means discovering who your authentic self is (or is meant to be), and becoming just that; the very best version of your completely fulfilled self.
But how does one push through the dirt to reach that complete state of fulfillment? I happen to believe that it starts with accepting where you are. There has to be a balance between aiming to become your best self, while at the same time appreciating and loving who you are right now. Because right now you are the best self that you can be; and you’ve done a lot, gone through a lot, learned a lot to get here. You’ve been preparing to take that proverbial leap.
Complete self-acceptance, combined with a healthy dose of self-awareness, can serve as the springboard that will help you break through those boundaries and reach for the skies…
Are you ready?
FINAL THOUGHT: Yes, authenticity is the buzz word for the new times, and there are many who are already getting tired of hearing it. Well, I say that it’s still far from being used enough… We can all stand to become more authentic with ourselves and those with whom we share our lives. I hope this fad endures!
Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 02/26/2019
A Message For The New Year
In an age when we own so much and have access to so much more, why is it that most of us are so dissatisfied, unhappy and often depressed about our lives? And how can we change that? How can we take steps towards being rather than having or doing, towards happiness rather than misery? Among the different available paths, a lot of us turn to spirituality for answers, while still holding on to patterns of behavior and core beliefs that keep us stuck.
According to Sadhguru, an Indian yogi, mystic and author, we hold the key to our own happiness by understanding and following a just few basic principles. Here are three of them:
1) All the rules are our rules. We made them up or inherited them from others. We use those rules to create the cages that entrap us. The good news is that we can choose to change the rules that we have often unconsciously accepted and live by. We have the free choice to choose to be free.
2) Our responsibility is limitless. We are all responsible for how we create and react to the world around us. In many circumstances, our actions may be currently or temporarily limited; but not our responsibility for what happens. This is not about assigning blame; it’s about understanding the impact our own actions and reactions have on how we live, how we relate to others (and others relate to us) and, due to the fact that we are interconnected, everything else that is happening in the world around us.
3) This moment is inevitable. This very moment that we are living right now cannot be changed. And this one… And this one… And so on. We can start making different choices that will potentially change our future, moment by moment. But we have no choice but to accept the moment that happening right now, which is a consequence and accumulation of past moments, as well as how our rules create our world. It’s our resistance to this principle that causes a lot of our misery. If we are able to accept that basic truth, our lives can become a whole lot easier, and we can start taking steps towards feeling more content as we make different choices. Happiness is within reach!
FINAL THOUGHT: Just try practicing these simple principles as you observe yourself and the world around you. It can be a life-changing experience…
Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 12/29/2018
Jaggi Vasudev, also known as Sadhguru
Sadhguru’s YouTube channel:
Do you consider yourself a perfectionist (or either of its close relatives, the lazy perfectionist or the imperfect perfectionist)? Please refer to the article 15 Struggles Only Perfectionists Would Understand (also listed under References). If you find yourself there, you’re far from being alone. While the 2010 article Real Learning: Meet the Perfectionists mentioned that the general population contains approximately 30% perfectionists, that percentage has been steadily increasing; especially among young people worldwide, according to a Harvard Business Review article by Thomas Curran and Andrew P. Hill (Perfectionism Is Increasing, And That’s Not Good News). In the same article, the authors make reference to their published research which discusses the idea that perfectionism might be behind the recent rise in serious mental illness.
As a perfectionist myself, I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed and get lost in small details and endless tweaking. Although I realize that perfectionism is counter-productive, as it causes a lot of busy work and often leads to procrastination and even paralyzing fear, it’s still a habit that can be very hard to keep under control. Over the years, however, I’ve learned a few tools that have helped me (and can also help you) in the journey to become a functional perfectionist:
1) HAVE A PLAN. You are much more likely to achieve your goals and remain focused if you take the time to put together a detailed plan of action, or at least a solid outline of action steps towards achieving your goals. However, try not to get too caught up into making lists and organizing the process, or nothing will get done.
2) CATCH YOURSELF! Focus, prioritize and continuously remind yourself of what really matters. Why are you here? What are your main goals, or what do you aim to accomplish or achieve? Who do you want to serve (or for whom do you do what it is that you do, or want to do)?
3) JUST DO IT! According to Marie Forleo, life coach, motivational speaker, author and owner of B-School and web television MarieTV, “perfectionism will kill your dream. It is the one thing that separates winners from the wannabe’s in almost every area of life.” She also says that none of us are immune to this; we can all slip into that mindset if we’re not careful. So her mantra is “go for progress, not perfection.” This is not about lowering your standards; it’s about stopping endless tweaking (which is a manifestation of procrastination caused by fear) and focusing on what really matters: results. “If you wait to get it perfect, Marie affirms, “you’ll never get it out there.” So do it before you think you’re ready! This is also how you learn and evolve; and there is no shame in growing and improving your work, once it’s already out there.
4) TAKE FREQUENT 5 R’S BREAKS (RELEASE, RECHARGE, RESET, REDIRECT AND REFOCUS). Your mind really needs breaks, and you’ll notice that you’ll be much more productive if you take them throughout the day. Brendon Burchard, one of the top motivation coaches and marketing trainers in the world, suggests taking a 5 or 10 minute break every 50 minutes to stand up and stretch; breathe deeply and get some oxygen in your body and brain while repeating “release, recharge, reset” in your mind; take a bathroom break; drink water; play with your pet or something that is relaxing for 10 minutes.
To redirect and refocus, Brendon also suggests that you ask yourself the following questions before you get busy again: Who needs me in my A game right now? How can I show up at my best? What are my priorities right now? What will advance me the most towards my goals?
BONUS BENEFIT: Recent research suggests that taking even a 5 minute break every hour to move your body (walking, stretching, etc) is more effective to improve your mood and promote well-being than a single longer walk or exercise routine before or after work.
5) GET HELP! If you catch yourself procrastinating often due to lack of focus or fear, take the time to examine what might be behind this pattern. There are many available therapies and techniques that can help you release, resolve and remove any fears, blocks, barriers, negative core beliefs or illusions of limitations that are in your way. Some of them are cognitive behavioral therapy, hypno-coaching, meditation, yoga, etc.
6) DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP! If you’re making progress and catch yourself slipping back into your old patterns of procrastination and perfectionism, simply acknowledge it and shift back your focus to positive action steps and habits that get you moving forward. Release all that guilt and shame, and choose to be gentle with yourself!
7) DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS! As that wise old text Desiderata states, “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” Just remember that you are unique, and NO ONE else can do what you do the way you do it!
8) ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR VICTORIES! Take time to appreciate and celebrate yourself at every turn; and not just when you manage to accomplish your goals or important milestones towards your goals, but also for all the small steps you take every day on your way to accomplishing your goals! Reward yourself and enjoy some well-deserved rest and play time.
FINAL THOUGHT: BE CURIOUS AND PERSISTENT! According to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic, among other successful books, “all my most fruitful seeking and making in life has been born out of curiosity, and hopefully always will be. I feel like curiosity and stubbornness have been the two guiding stars of my existence as a writer, in particular. (The author Robert Stone once quipped, recognizably, that he had the two worst character faults possible in a writer — that he was lazy, and a perfectionist. I've always thought that if you can trade those two creativity-killing traits out for simply being curious and stubborn, then you are ON YOUR WAY.)”
Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 11/26/2018
The Charge: Activating The 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive, by Brendon Burchard
High Performance Habits, by Brendon Burchard
Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Real Learning: Meet The Perfectionists
Perfectionism Is Increasing, And That’s Not Good News
Why Perfectionism Will Crush Your Productivity — And How To Stop It
15 Struggles Only Perfectionists Would Understand
You Aren't Lazy — You're Just Terrified: On Paralysis And Perfectionism
How This Simple Formula Can Help You Increase Your Productivity By 30% Every Single Week
4 Steps To Restart A Bad Day
Work. Walk 5 Minutes. Work.
For all the healers, change-makers and those seeking to help and serve others out there
Yes, I know… This is too much!!! It’s certainly more than what you bargained for. While your intention was to learn how to help others undergo deep and meaningful transformation, you probably never imagined that you’d have to go through it first (or yet again)… And that it might turn your life upside down in the process!
At the same time, you know you are here for an important reason: you’ve been called to action and this is your life path, so you need to keep going. Of course, maintaining balance in all areas of life while you’re at it would be ideal. But sometimes things will get messy, and balance might be hard to maintain… So what now? Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when trying to create balance and deal with overwhelm, as you continue to pursue your goals and dreams:
1) Remember that we often thrive and achieve the most when we are extremely busy and feel overwhelmed, as that forces us to take stock and focus on what really matters. Not to mention that we have the opportunity to push our limits and discover what we’re capable of!
2) Remind yourself of why you are here. What’s your purpose or calling in life? What’s your biggest dream of service? Why did you choose to become part of this amazing tribe of healers and change-makers? Get back in touch with what motivates your soul!
3) Get support. That can come from friends, family members, classmates, teachers, mentors, etc, as well as spiritual sources. For instance, how about creating an in-person or online meditation or study group with like-minded friends and fellow healers?
4) Remember to use the tools you’ve learned! We all use them to help friends, family, clients… But we often forget to get our tool box out and use it to help ourselves, and just when we need it the most! For instance, you can trade sessions with fellow healers to work on achieving balance, as well as releasing, resolving and removing blocks, barriers, limiting core beliefs and fears.
5) Focus on what really matters and moves you closer to achieving your goals (please see the video below for some great advice).
How To Deal With Overwhelm, by Marie Forleo
6) Never give up! Just keep moving forward, through and around your fears. Invite your dragons and demons for tea (or margaritas, as a student of mine suggested once; she thought that would be more fun!) and have a straight talk with them. Bring them to light and question them all!
FINAL THOUGHT: Put that fear energy to work for you! After all, fear is your friend; it reveals the road map to opportunity!
Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 07/09/2018
About Our Roles In Others' Lives
One morning I was feeding the rescues cats that live in shelters around our home, when I noticed one of the cats in hunting mode, chasing something. As I got closer, I noticed the cat was mercilessly swatting at a butterfly, playing his catch game. I got closer, shooed the cat away and examined the poor butterfly. The back part of its wings had been slashed on several places, leaving the butterfly still able to fly, but only at short heights and distance. With pain in my heart for the poor butterfly, I decided to try to get it and move it to a safer location where it wouldn’t be so exposed. As I tried to approach it and carefully scoop it in my hands, the butterfly seemed to understand I was trying to help. It simply walked from my cupped hands to my left wrist and just sat there, seemingly waiting for my next move.
Mind you, that was the very first time I ever had a butterfly pose on my arm, and I felt a sense of exhilaration, as well as responsibility for that beautiful and precious little life. I started scouting the area for a place where to safely discharge the ward in my care. I walked towards one of my neighbor’s house and approached a low hedge in the middle of their front yard. Not sure if that would be safe enough, I decided to ask the butterfly. As I got closer to the hedge, moving as if to place it there, the butterfly walked up from my wrist to my arm, giving me a clear indication that it wasn’t ready to get off. So I kept slowly walking around, butterfly on arm, until I noticed a low-bearing tree behind the wood fence between the next two neighbors. Some of the tree branches touched the top edge of the fence. I climbed up a pile of bricks to reach the top of the 6’ fence, paused and decided to ask the butterfly if that was a better spot. As I was in the process of formulating that question in my mind, the butterfly seemed to instantly respond by walking down my arm and into a leaf from one of the tree branches over the fence. Elated,
I said goodbye and left it there, hoping it would still be able to live the rest of its butterfly life
I found the experience quite moving in many ways. And since I believe everything happens for a reason, I started looking for the meaning behind this sad but beautiful experience I had just shared with a butterfly. What came to mind was a parallel with my profession. As a healer, it’s my job to create the safe space to assist the people I cross paths with in dealing with the challenges they encounter, and help them find a better path. But all I can do is to serve as a tool, a facilitator, a ride from point A to point B. As much as I want to help, even to the point that I might occasionally entertain the misguided belief that I know what’s best for my clients, in the end my job is to gently guide them where they want to go, while checking along the way if they are indeed approaching their goals; and then finally letting them go when they find the perfect spot where to get off and continue their journeys on their own (or with someone else’s assistance). I would have loved to know if that butterfly managed to live the rest of her life flying from flower to flower, completing its mission in this world. But I had to trust the fact that our paths were just meant to cross for that brief period of time during which we connected and learned from each other, while I was able to be of service.
The same principle can apply to anyone trying help a loved one through a challenge. The bottom line is, we can’t shorten anyone’s path; but occasionally we may be placed in a position to offer someone a hand (or accept someone’s support), as we all continue to move forward at our own pace to where we need to be…
On a side note: I often use the butterfly symbol of transformation during my sessions, and I actually had a client gift me a beautiful coffee cup with the following famous quote:
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly…”
Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 10/23/2017
Do you remember the fast-talking peddlers often depicted in old Western movies, who entertained their audience while selling bottles of miracle medicine that was supposed to cure everything from lice and snake bites to lumbago and lameness? Most of them were simply ineffective and harmless; many of them, however, were potentially dangerous and contained herbal concoctions mixed with generous amounts of strong liquor or opiates which often caused customers to become addicted.
That’s what came to mind when I read the Huffington Post article Coconut Oil Is Over, RIP Coconut Oil (link below). In her rather angry article (which is something that tends to raise a red flag for me), Dr. Laura Thomas says that the coconut oil hype is an example of “marketing getting one over on science.” She mentions the tall claims that coconut oil helps you lose weight, reduces cholesterol, prevents dementia and boosts the immune system, to name a few. She then proceeds to quote the British Nutrition Foundation and their findings concerning the claim that coconut oil promotes weight loss. After reviewing available studies, the BNF reports that “there’s insufficient, good quality evidence at present to conclude that the consumption of coconut oil leads to a reduction in adiposity (fat).” According to Dr. Thomas, the studies used to substantiate such claims were flawed and are examples of “bad science” being used to push tons of coconut oil on unsuspecting consumers. She also mentions on her article that there are no studies showing any “immune-boosting” or “brain-Boosting” effects of coconut oil. And she ends by telling you to keep coconut oil “the f*ck out of your smoothies.”
On the other hand, the article 10 Proven Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil (by Kris Gunnars, from Authority Nutrition, a website that claims to take an “evidence-based approach” to nutrition), seems to disagree. Among other things, the author points out that “coconut oil contains fatty acids with powerful medicinal properties”; “populations that eat a lot of coconut oils are healthy” (going off on a tangent, I remembered watching a Jackie Chan movie where he saves a guy from dying in a desert by using coconut water in a make-shift I.V.!); “coconut oil can help you burn more fat”; “coconut oil can kill harmful microorganisms”; “coconut oil can reduce your hunger, helping you eat less”; “the fatty acids in coconut oil are turned into ketones, which can reduce seizures”; “coconut oil can improve cholesterol levels”; “coconut oil can protect hair against damage, moisturize skin and function as sunscreen”; “the fatty acids in coconut oil can boost brain function in Alzheimer’s patients”; and last but not least, “coconut oil can help you lose fat, especially the harmful abdominal fat.” Gunnars ends the article by affirming: “I personally cook almost everything I eat in coconut oil and my health has never been better.”
There are countless such articles online, authored by information providers who have supposedly checked the facts; all heralding the health benefits of coconut oil. Many of them mention the great benefits of coconut oil for Alzheimer’s patients, for instance. One example is the article Alzheimer’s Treatment: New Alzheimer’s Drugs Continue to Fail Where Coconut Oil Shines. (please see link below), which lists a lot of research and testimonies, and claims that “the testimonies of success in using coconut oil to treat Alzheimer’s have been nothing less than remarkable, especially considering the widespread failure of the drug companies to find drugs that can effectively deal with this disease.” The thing is, this information comes from coconutoil.com, a website that seems to have been created with the purpose of promoting coconut oil. And you might be familiar with Dr. Mary T. Newport, who decided to give her husband coconut oil to treat Alzheimer’s, supposedly with amazing results (please see the link to a short video below; the full-length video is available on youtube.com). But the website cited on the video is coconutketones.com, which might also be another coconut oil promoting site.
In addition to the marketing aspect of the available information, Dr. Thomas affirms that “a lot of the available studies “are observational, meaning we’re just looking to see what happens - you can’t prove cause and effect from this type of study.”
If Dr. Thomas is the one who’s right, maybe my husband and I should also be angry, as we bought into the coconut oil rave and personally use coconut oil in generous quantities for cooking* (as a medium/low smoke point oil, so we don’t use it for frying or other high heat cooking methods; please see oils smoke point chart on the article below). Except that neither my husband nor I seem to be suffering the potential harmful effects of cooking with coconut oil. And we absolutely love it. I also use coconut oil once a week as a deeply moisturizing skin mask as per my esthetician’s suggestion, due to the fact that I have very sensitive skin and usually have trouble with commercial face creams. It works very well for me (BTW, if you’d like to try it, but are not sure if it will feel or smell too overwhelming, you can try applying a thing layer of coconut oil and then your regular moisturizer on top).
We’re all aware that, over the years, many foods have been “villainized” in comparison to their competition, to only end up by being proven as the better (or less harmful) option, after all. For instance: a few decades ago, studies came out showing that butter was full of saturated fat and very, very bad for you; margarine and other butter substitutes were supposed to be much healthier. A few years later, margarine and other butter substitutes were proven to be much worse than butter due to the harmful effects of unnatural trans fat such as hydrogenated oils, in addition to the dozens of chemicals they use (including yellow die to make it look like butter). Butter had a come back as a better option, especially if organic and consumed in moderation. A similar trend happened with sugar and artificial sweeteners, among other foods and products.
The problem is: With the mass media world constantly feeding us (often incorrect) information, how can we tell what is what? In our household, here’s what we do:
1) We try to do some research ourselves and get as much information as we can from reputable professional sources on both sides of the issue. If at all possible, when we read about a “scientific study,” we try to find out who funded it (a very hard thing to do, since the moneys behind it might reveal the vested interests, if any, on the results of the study).
2) Even if the research checks out, we take it all in with a grain of salt… And we make sure to check with our doctor or other healthcare professionals for reasons why a specific substance might be beneficial or harmful to us.
3) If we decide to try it out, we pay attention to how we are personally affected by it, so that we can decide if it works for us. For example, I know for a fact that I do noticeably well on real butter (in moderation), but do very badly on margarine (digestive issues, weight gain, low energy level, etc).
4) We also make sure to have a wellness exam with a complete blood panel and other tests at least once a year (or more, if any issue comes up). That’s how we’ve been able to ascertain that our use of coconut oil hasn’t increased our cholesterol levels or caused other health issues.
Final Thought: So maybe coconut oil can’t indeed cure everything and should be used with discretion in the kitchen, especially by people who need to watch their intake of saturated fats (of the “good” and “bad” kind). But let’s not get carried away and go for the tar and feathers just yet. Maybe coconut oil does have some positive effects which haven’t been properly researched yet. Plus, in addition to its uniquely delicious flavor which makes it a favorite for cooking, this is an amazingly versatile oil that has countless uses, including beauty/hair and around the home. So, as with most things in life, enjoy… with moderation.
Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 08/16/2016
* Two of our favorite ways to use coconut oil for cooking are:
1) Thai Baked Salmon: spread some coconut oil on a baking dish; place salmon fillets; season both sides to taste with curry, turmeric, coconut sugar, light soy sauce and anise or fennel seeds; top with a touch of cayenne pepper and a dab of coconut oil per fillet; bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
2) Sweet Potatoes With Coconut Oil: dice and steam sweet potatoes or yams; toss lightly with coconut oil.
Coconut Oil Is Over, RIP Coconut Oil, by Laura Thomas, PhD
Alzheimer’s Treatment: New Alzheimer’s Drugs Continue to Fail Where Coconut Oil Shines
The Science Behind Coconut Oil As An Alzheimer's Treatment - Dr. Mary Newport
10 Proven Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil, by Kris Gunnars
101 Best Coconut Oil Uses And Benefits
Cooking Fats 101: What’s A Smoke Point And Why Does It Matter?