Life is difficult. This is not a news flash, and yet we are confronted with a daily barrage of how wonderful your life “should” be. If only you follow these five easy steps, they promise, you will find contentment and true bliss in your marriage, family, job and physical fitness routine. And! It can all be yours for only $19.99 if you order now. What a deal!
So we follow the steps, pay the money and envision all the wonderful things soon to come our way. Then you get in a fender-bender on the way home from work. Your baby throws up all over your new outfit. The economy takes a dive and you realize you are upside-down in your house mortgage.
And you wonder why. Why does this always happen to me? I’m a good person and trying really hard to do all the things Oprah tells me to.
We begin to wonder if the problem lies with us. We are somehow defective and certainly don’t deserve good things. Enter self-destructive/addictive behaviors, i.e. what we believe we do deserve.
But Thomas Moore, therapist and author, posits that we are looking to all the wrong things and people for the joie de vivre that slips through our fingers.
“Fulfilling work, rewarding relationships, personal power, and relief from symptoms are all gifts of the soul. They are particularly elusive in our time because we don’t believe in the soul and therefore give it no place in our hierarchy of values. We have come to know soul only in its complaints: when it stirs, disturbed by neglect and abuse, and causes us to feel its pain.”
Moore was used to clients coming to him expecting to be “fixed” of what ailed them. His response is unique:
“Care of the soul is a continuous process that concerns itself not so much with ‘fixing’ a central flaw as with attending to the small details of everyday life, as well as to major decisions and changes…the first point to make about care of the soul is that it is not primarily a method of problem solving. Its goal is not to make life problem-free, but to give ordinary life the depth and value that come with soulfulness.” (Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness In Everyday Life)
In learning to make peace with those aspects of yourself and your life you fight the hardest against, life doesn’t necessarily become easier, but much more purposeful and meaningful. And in the process, even happier–no shipping and handling required.
However, that knee-jerk reaction may actually place us in a larger state of panic, creating a general view that there isn’t enough: enough money, enough time, enough love, enough strength to continue on in a time of such perceived deficit. And this shift in thinking can really take its toll on our minds and spirits, sending us straight to the nearest bottle, pill or joint in an effort to calm our rising anxiety.
So, how effective can giving in a time of “not enough” possibly be? It does happen to be a concept shared by such luminaries such as Deepak Chopra.
Chopra states, “Every relationship is one of give and take. Giving engenders receiving, and receiving engenders giving. What goes up must come down; what goes out must come back. In reality, receiving is the same thing as giving, because giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy in the universe. And if you stop the flow of either, you interfere with nature’s intelligence.” (The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success)
So the theory goes, the more generous you are in spirit–which naturally affects your behavior–the more you actually receive.
Meredith Watkins from Recovery View says generosity need not be monetary. We can give through our unique, innate gifts, such as a home-cooked meal, playing a piece of music for a sick friend or even building an unwieldy dresser from Ikea.
There’s a reason why service is a component in many drug and alcohol treatment programs: it works. It takes the focus off of you for a while and opens your eyes to your place in the larger context of community. So take an opportunity to give to those around you and you might suddenly find yourself surrounded by abundance.
It’s no secret that our society has a little, shall we say, hang-up on body image. While women are the primary targets, let’s not forget our testosterone-laden brethren, who are not exempt from “good-natured” ribbing from pals, or offhand comments from wives or girlfriends.
While many may see this constant criticism as normal, the fact is, the dark side of eating disorders is very real and even life-threatening. For those suffering with anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorders, professional help is available and necessary, says Meredith Watkins from Recovery View.com.
And for the rest of us, here’s a little reality check, some perspective from Carl Jung: “We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” Consider this the next time you cast a critical glare at that part of your body that apparently did not get the memo that it was supposed to remain unchanged from its 18-year-old counterpart.
End the dictatorship that has oppressed your unsuspecting thighs, stomach or backside. Paradoxically, doing so does not relinquish you to the slovenly mound of mush you so fear — My book, The Law of Sobriey says this frees up the energy you have spent in frustration and self-loathing to be used productively, in such ground-breaking endeavors as taking a deep breath and smiling. Filling your lungs with ocean air or rejoicing that your legs are capable of taking you down a sun-dappled path.
Like any shift of perspective, this takes time. But the only way to begin the shift is to try a little bit every day — some kindness turned inward, like soothing an injured child. Perhaps this is exactly what our abused bodies have always needed: praise for what it does right, rather than punishment for not living up to our unrealistic expectations.
Anne Lamott, in her book, Grace (Eventually) sums it up perfectly: “To step into beauty, does one have to give up on losing a little weight? No, of course not. Only if you’re sick of suffering. Because if you cannot see that you’re okay now, you won’t be able to see it if you lose twenty pounds. It’s an inside job.”