I’ve been busier than usual lately, and the cleanliness level of my house was beginning to reflect that fact. We care for 12 animals; although 5 of them live in outdoor shelters, we have enough animals in the house and porch to make keeping up with housework a must. I occasionally have some help for hard cleaning days; but being the control freak that I am, I usually like to do the rest myself.
I had planned to roll up my sleeves and do a thorough house cleaning last Saturday morning. Due to the fact that I have OCPD, I was already in freak out mode by Friday afternoon. As I ran the list of things I’d have to do the next morning (vacuum, mop and dust the entire house; sweep the garage; spray natural flea control in the house, including the garage; wash all pet beds and blankets; etc), I started feeling overwhelmed, which soon caused me to be overcome by a feeling of anxiety. Anxiety came laced with self-pity (“I’ve been working so hard, and now I ‘have to’ spend my whole Saturday morning cleaning…”, conveniently ignoring the fact that I didn’t really have to do it all, and by myself, at that; I chose to); that eventually led to depression, as it often does when I’m not vigilant and allow these feelings to remain unchecked and escalate. At that point, I had lost perspective of my goal, as well as how to break it down and move forward to accomplish it. I just felt confused, depressed, miserable. Then I felt bad for allowing myself to spiral down and feel that way just over house cleaning; so I added guilt and shame to the pot. End result: Total paralysis. I continued feeling like that until Saturday morning, when I was supposed to get started.
As I’m familiar with my patterns, I usually prevent things from hitting bottom; sooner or later, I manage to catch myself, stop and reverse the process. This time I had to count on higher guidance to snap out of it. As I helplessly stood in my kitchen, trying to decide what to do, how to get started and how to feel better about the whole thing, a voice popped in my head: “Forget about the list, just clean the bathrooms.” I’m used to asking for and receiving guidance, but I was surprised at the fact that they had jumped in without invitation this time, and in relation to something as mundane as house cleaning. “There’s a lesson here,” I thought; “I’m in need of a reminder.”
So I proceeded by staying in the moment as best as I could and focused only on cleaning the bathrooms. When I was done, I checked with myself and felt energized and ready for more. So I decided to proceed with the house cleaning and load the washer at the same time. I cleaned the bathrooms, the living room area, the kitchen. At that point, I checked in with myself again; I was starting to feel tired and hungry. I realized it was almost lunch time and my husband would be coming home soon, bringing groceries. So I decided that I was going to finish the second part of the cleaning (garage and flea treatment) on Monday, and start focusing on lunch.
I’m glad to confirm that I did finish the job on Monday; no further schedule adjustments were necessary. I felt satisfaction and a sense of peace and calm for what I had accomplished on both days, not to mention relief... Mostly because I had gained clarity in relation to what I needed to do, and how; my world was in order and I was in the flow again, and it had taken only one step to get things rolling.
I took this experience as a microcosmic reminder of the power of taking one small step, no matter what it is that you need to get done or how big and overwhelming the project seems to be. Although it’s tempting to try to make it more complicated than it really is, it’s actually a fairly simple process, as follows:
The Power of Taking One Step Process:
- Check in with yourself and take inspired action by choosing one small step. Sometimes it will come to you, as it happened in my case; sometimes you have to ask the question and create the space to allow your inner or higher guidance to come through by taking a quiet moment, doing breath work, meditating, praying, etc. Also, accept the fact that you might not see a clear path yet or know the next step when you take the first one. Trust and take the first step, anyway.
- Check in with yourself; take more steps. Tune in to know when to put that energy flow to good use and roll with it, to keep moving forward.
- Check in with yourself; adjust your plans as needed. While it’s important to plan a schedule that works with your circumstances (which often involve others), it’s just as important to know when to mix it up to change the routine a bit, or stop and pay attention to self-care, as well as other needs or priorities.
- Check in with yourself; follow up and follow through. Sometimes it’s easy to allow things to interfere with your intention to continue moving forward. Unless a course adjustment is really called for, as mentioned above, stick to your plans and continue taking action steps towards your goals.
- Check in with yourself; reach out for help and support, as needed. In my case, I received guidance at the right time and I chose to take care of business myself. However, it’s important to remember that delegating and asking to help often is the best next step.
- Repeat. This simple process can be applied to every situation in life!
FINAL THOUGHT: There’s no journey without steps…
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 03/31/21
Photo by Christian Chen on Unsplash
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Shifting Your Perspective From Pain
I’ve been dealing with sciatica pain on and off (mostly on) for many years now. For the last 3 months I’ve been negotiating a peace treaty with the latest sciatica crisis, but this one is very entrenched and doesn’t seem to be quite ready or willing to vacate its occupied territories (pretty much the right side of my body, from the mid-back down to the foot, with a strong hold around the hip, thigh and knee areas). As anyone who’s familiar with sciatica knows, there’s considerable pain involved in such a crisis. To aggravate things, the pain gets much worse when you sit (which I have to do most of the day, due to the nature of my work) and lie down (which often means very poor nights of sleep). After trying the usual strategies for several weeks (massages, chiropractic sessions, back stretches for sciatica, slow walking, heating pad, pillow under the knees, special seat cushions and back support, etc, as well as some pain medication), my level of exasperation grew to the point that all I could focus on was the pain; especially when lying in bed at night, trying to sleep through it.
As I’ve been practicing Sadhguru’s Inner Engineering mediation techniques twice a day, and also reading his book, A Yogi’s Guide to Joy (under References), it finally dawned on me that maybe I needed to approach this issue in a different way. In other words, what about paying attention to all those texts I’ve read, videos and webinars I’ve been watched, deep conversations I’ve had, etc, about not identifying so much with the mind-body (or the pain-body, as Eckhart Tolle very appropriately calls it)?
Coincidentally, as I was thinking about this, I caught a post by K.C. Miller, founder of SWIHA - Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, in her A Course In Miracles study group on Facebook (link below). The title of the post was “I Choose the Joy of the Divine Over Pain - Lesson #210,” which served as a strong confirmation of my recent line of thought.
So I decided to give it a try. That evening, when dealing with the usual pain and discomfort at bed time, I said to myself several times: “I choose joy!.” I really put my heart into it. And something amazing happened: the pain became less intense; or rather, my feeling of the pain decreased. For the first time in weeks, I fell asleep fairly quickly and had a good night of sleep. I repeated the experiment for the next two nights; same result. And since I was able to rest better, physical healing started taking place; so I’ve had less pain during the last three days, too. In addition, repeating the “I choose joy” affirmation to myself had the effect of self-hypnosis; I actually felt more joyful as I quietly fell asleep, and I’m sure that helped increase the serotonin levels in my brain, which in turn helped with the pain.
As I related my experience to my wise husband (an experienced Vipassana meditator), he suggested that I should try the same exercise throughout the day, and in relation to every challenge that life throws my way. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do. So simple, right? “I choose joy.” Yes, it’s easier said than done, but it’s definitely been worth the effort…
FINAL THOUGHT: “Our lives include both pain and suffering. Pain is physical discomfort, while suffering is the story around pain. The Buddha said, ‘When touched by a feeling of pain, the ordinary uninstructed person sorrows, grieves, and laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical and mental, just as if he was shot with an arrow and, right afterward, was shot with another one, so that he felt the pain of two arrows (Being With Dying, Joan Halifax).’ “
Ironically, the harder pain is often the one caused by the mind (the second arrow)... Just remember, however: we can always choose joy!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 07/31/2019
Image by kalhh from Pixabay
Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy, by Sadhguru
Being With Dying, by Joan Halifax
I Choose The Joy Of The Divine Over Pain - Lesson # 210 (A Course In Miracles study group hosted by K.C. Miller/SWIHA - A Conscius Community)
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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 the process.
- Inspires others to find their own way.
If you have been able to achieve all or most of the above, kudos! But if you’ve only 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
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