After a recent trip to Cape May, NJ, I noticed that many of my favorite photos centered on this walkway from a Sunset Beach cottage to the Delaware Bay. Thinking back, I realized how I have always been drawn to photos of pathways.
Perhaps, the times I enjoy them the most are when I am examining my own life’s pathway. Following a new road can be exciting, scary, and wonderful. The uncertainty of it all can be very enticing. The opportunities it brings can be challenging and stressful. Nevertheless, there is one magnificent guarantee – it will bring change…change which is the driving force of life that frees us from stagnation and allows us to grow.
Forty years ago, when I moved into my first apartment, I came across a beautiful plaque and purchased it for my new home. The wise words written upon it resonated with me from the moment I read them. Back in the 70s, the author was unknown, but it was later discovered to be Max Ehrmann, an American, who had originally published this piece in 1927.
I hope you enjoy reading, or re-reading them if you’ve come across this before.
Happy New Year! May 2016 be one of your best!
Desiderata ( in Latin, “desired things”)
“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.’
When we look forward to a peaceful night of rest, our sleep may be invaded by thoughts, feelings and experiences that appear in dreams. Is there meaning here for us? Based on my experience, I believe that to a certain extent, there is.
Several years ago I studied a little about dreams and even kept a dream diary. I also remember attending a seminar about dream interpretation. The most important point I learned at the seminar was that the way a dream makes you feel is the most important factor in interpretation. Also, dreams can have universal symbols or themes but the way something like a bird, or snow, makes you feel determines its specific significance for you. For example, a dog can be a symbol of unconditional love to one person or fear to another who was bitten as a child.
I stopped keeping the dream diary after I had noticed two patterns – nonsense and themes. I also decided that if a dream was important enough I would still remember it the next day and not need to write it down in the middle of the night or even as soon as I woke. Many of my dreams made absolutely no sense and seemed to contain vague references to a person, place or thing I saw or thought about during the previous day. Basically these dreams were filled with meaningless activity. Other dreams had themes such as being lost or repeatedly looking for a person that I was unsuccessfully trying to contact in reality. I did find some relevance in them as they related to my life, and began to focus on any related emotional issues.
Repeated dreams with the same theme are a different matter; they send us a strong message although it may be difficult to decipher. The theme dream continues until we figure it out. Even today I occasionally dream I’m in school and have forgotten to attend classes or do the homework. This is unsettling to me as a former conscientious student. I am very relieved when I wake and remember that my school days are behind me. In this case, I believe that these dreams may be reflective of my fear of not doing well or not pushing myself to learn enough. Either way, they send a message of fear and insecurity. Perhaps that’s something I still need to work on.
Another theme for me involves tidal waves. For a number of years I dreamt that I would look behind me and see a high wall of water approaching or that I was swept away in a tidal wave. I am happy to say that I rarely have these dreams now. I believe that the feeling there was one of being overwhelmed; at that time in my life I no doubt was.
There also seem to be “direct message” dreams where we are being told by someone that we have cancer or another condition. This happened to me several years ago. The first couple of times I disregarded it as just a fear-based dream as it’s not uncommon to fear getting cancer although it wasn’t a thought I had dwelt upon. After a third or fourth dream, I actually was diagnosed with cancer. These dreams had occurred over the previous two-year period. If you receive a message like this at least three times, I would check it out just to be safe. I believe that message such as this can be sent from our higher self, spirit guide or angel when we are meant to act upon it.
I rarely have terrifying dreams although I have experienced a few that I have been happy to wake up from. I think that in this case it is unresolved emotion from experiences in the past or present that need our attention. I believe that dreams can bring a certain degree of healing through emotional release. Repeated dreams of terror, however, need some additional healing techniques such as by journaling or seeing a therapist.
Some people may experience precognitive dreams which reveal a future event. I did have a repeated dream that described an event in a very general sense that did finally occur. Other dreams that I had hoped were precognitive, never materialized, at least not yet!
My favorite type of dream is what I call a “love” dream. This is where someone either alive or dead comes to you and embraces you in a way that makes you feel more love in your heart than you normally experience in your everyday life. My own thought is that it is communication on the soul level either with one who has passed on or with someone who is alive, but physically separated from you. It’s their way of letting us know they are thinking about us in a very loving way. I had this experience with my mother a couple of months after she passed. I have also experienced it with people who I care about and from whom I’m physically separated, either by distance or circumstances.
To a certain extent, it seems as though dreams will always be somewhat of a mystery. Good or bad, though, they can send us clues to make our reality a better, happier place to live. We have only to respect and listen.
What messages do you receive in your dreams? I’d love for you to share.
It’s happening again. I have an hour now to either write a blog post or do promotional activities. I struggle with this repeatedly, sometimes doing neither. For the most part, I don’t enjoy promotional activities. I can’t believe that someone who really loves to write truly does. Meaningful interaction with fellow writers, bloggers or fans is great, but it seems pointless to repeatedly promote my work on Facebook or Twitter and do all the other tasks that so-called professionals tell me I should do to achieve success.
I grew up driven, thinking it was important to have goals with carefully outlined steps to achieve them…maybe even a timetable. In some cases, this worked very well; other times the path was fraught with difficulty. I’ve noticed along the way that resistance, obstacles and delays seem to occur when the goal I’ve chosen, or the pathway designed to achieve it, may not be the right one for me. Or, it could be that it’s simply not the right time for it to happen.
I’m older now and have realized that often things work better if I relax and go with the flow. The original goals may adjust or even change, but the end results I am guided to are even better. I believe that in following the path of least resistance and doing the things that make us happiest, we are listening to the wisdom of our inner being, or the soul. Our inner self knows our deepest desires and what is best for us, even though we may not be consciously aware of this.
Sometimes ideas and thoughts need to be nurtured by the ebb and flow of life until they are ready to burst forth at the right time. As the amazing caterpillar transforms itself into a butterfly, it goes through a period of inactivity. In actuality, much is happening within the security of the cocoon. As with us, a powerful transformation may go on inside us during a period of quiet time or relaxation.
I am feeling happy that I’ve chosen to write this post and not spent the time on Facebook or Twitter. This tells me I’m heading in the right direction because even though it’s sometimes difficult, I find that writing brings me satisfaction unlike any other. It teaches me more about myself that often others find interesting or helpful.
I hope that some of you will reflect a bit and not feel that your time has to be filled with meaningless activities that someone else tells you to do to achieve your goals. If the “someone else” is your boss, you might want to consider another line of work. If the goals you have in mind are right for you, you will enjoy the path that guides you there.
Keep in mind that what is right for another, may not be beneficial for you. If your life is not moving in the direction you would like, it could be time to re-evaluate your goals. Spend some quiet time at home or in nature thinking about what holds meaning for you in life, especially meaning that celebrates your uniqueness. There’s a place inside of you that has all the answers…you have only to tune into it.
Well, of course you are good enough! But why is it we don’t always feel that way?
We come into this life packaged with a mixture of genes and energies ready to take on the world. There is no question at that point, that we are equipped to forge the trail of the life that lies ahead. So why is it that when we journey into adulthood we find that fears and doubt have crept in? It’s true that life repeatedly shapes us as time goes on and often chips away at self-esteem, hopes and dreams, allowing negativity to slip into the cracks. But some of those cracks did not begin in adulthood; they developed during the powerful formative years in childhood.
Well-meaning parents may have repeatedly sent us messages such as:
“Your dreams are fantasies that can never happen, they are silly.” The child feels, “I am silly.”
“Shut up; I don’t care what you think.” The child comes to believe, “There must be something wrong with my thoughts and opinions.”
“Why didn’t you get all A’s like your sister? You can do better.” The child who has already done their best believes that the world, as reflected by their parents, will never see them as good enough. “I can’t do well enough even when I try hardest, so why even try?”
“You have to think of others before yourself.” The child hears, “Others are more important than I am.”
Lastly, one of my favorites for children born back in the day, “This hurts me more than it hurts you,” as they are being spanked. The child internalizes, “Love must always involve some pain.”
Of course, everyone’s childhood is different and the effects of repeated messages vary, but the words parents say frequently to their children during the first ten years of life are critical in their developmental foundation. At the end of that period, the child has some scratches and chips in that positive, enthusiastic, loving spirit that was born into the world.
The child becomes an adolescent where conformity is the watchword. This is the period where children learn how to interact in the world with others and parental messages are not as acceptable as the mores dictated by their peers. Trying to fit in by dressing, talking and behaving like the “in” crowd often robs the adolescent of more of their already fragile individuality.
We reach adulthood and the messages continue. Just listen to how TV, especially commercials, portrays the “ideal” woman or man and how social media can crucify an individual because anonymity allows it. By now, though, we hopefully begin to learn that we do have choices in life and don’t have to be dictated to by anyone. We realize that society will respond to us in certain ways depending upon how we present ourselves. Face to face interaction encourages a more realistic appraisal than social media of how we fit within the world, but that is unfortunately becoming less common. Romantic involvements become fertile ground for recreating the unresolved dramas of childhood. Some of these relationships foster emotional growth that is positive in itself but comes at the cost of more injury to that strong and vital birth spirit. Death, divorce and disease happen.
Many of us later in life begin to realize that who we have become is not who we want to be. We may feel discouraged, that something is missing in our lives. We have lost our true selves playing the game of life. All that programming of the earlier years and the busyness of adult life has hidden our true essence. We may have learned to please others and become neglectful of our own wants and needs.
The good news is that at the core of our being, our true self still exists. It is capable of being found if you begin peeling away and letting go of the layers of guilt, inadequacy, and stress that you have allowed society to place upon you. Begin by realizing that your true happiness does not depend on anyone or anything else. It simply lives inside of you as the joy of your existence. This is what you felt when you were born; it is the true essence of who you really are. Spirituality and meditation can help you find it. If that isn’t enough, play back some of those positive tapes from your childhood. Not all parental messages are negative. My father used to say to me,”You can do anything anyone else can do, and chances are you can do it better.” The bottom line is that you are good enough; you always have been and always will be good enough to accomplish whatever you truly wish to do in life.
We came here to connect with, not disconnect from, our true selves. For some of us, this takes a lifetime; others seem to be born with a knowing that we are more than our physical body. Sadly, there are those who barely connect and continue to live a life of quiet desperation, with an empty feeling they try unsuccessfully to fill. Others never connect at all until they die and reunite with their true higher self.
Some of us feel our soul in the whispers of the wind; others in the crashing of the sea upon the jagged rocks. It might be heard in the spring song of a robin or seen in your baby’s first smile. It is that feeling of joy and infinite peace that you experience when you hook up with all that you are – the part of you that never dies but lives through all eternity. How do you connect? What is it you do when you lose yourself completely and time no longer exists?
When you take the time on a regular basis to experience soul-filled moments such as losing yourself in a hobby you adore or quiet moments of meditation, you will find it easier to keep your life in perspective. You will tend to detach, not escape in addictive behaviors, from the pain or complexity of your existence. You will be able to see through more neutral eyes as your ego-driven personality relinquishes control, and you become capable of seeing who you really are, in love and light. Not only will your health improve, but you will feel at peace as you see the wholeness and magnificence of this unique, loving being you were created to be. Nothing will seem impossible to you then. All problems are solvable, and they no longer even matter. Isn’t that a good place to be?
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
—— Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3
These words of Polonius have stayed with me since I first read them at age fifteen. But it’s hard, isn’t it, to be true to yourself as a teen when the urge is to conform? We come into this life fully being ourselves and then lose who we are under the parental guidance of early childhood and the peer pressure of adolescence. At least most of us do, and I was no different. I always knew, though, that I felt happiest when I allowed my inner light to shine on my own uniqueness.
As the years go by, many of us become more familiar with our true selves. Perhaps we have grown more confident because we’ve found recognition and success in using our natural talents or skills. Or, it might be because we’re fortunate to have solid emotional support from close family or friends with whom we’ve dared to share our deepest thoughts or craziest ideas. Regardless, they still love us. Best of all, maybe it’s because we’ve learned to genuinely love, as well as like, ourselves. It simply feels good when you know you are saying, acting or writing in a way that is an honest reflection of your true self, doesn’t it?
As a therapist and social worker, I‘ve come across many adults from all walks of life who worry too much about what others think of them. Perhaps they are still trying too hard to please a parent or a spouse. Maybe it’s a writer who hesitates to write about controversial issues or an actor or musician who denies some of their creativity and presents himself or herself in a way they believe will be most approving to their audience. It’s more important to play to your soul than to your audience. Ignore the negativity that haunts the internet, the press and the chatter from those who are not capable of understanding you. You will touch those who are meant to find you in very meaningful ways.
If you have trouble connecting with your real self, take a little time to meditate, listen to your favorite music, or simply enjoy nature. That relaxing glow you feel after a glass of wine takes you right there also and is a good time to write down your thoughts or feelings. Journaling daily, with or without the wine, is another pathway. For others, the joy of a religious experience puts them in touch with that deepest part of themselves.
True success lies in living your truth, whatever it is, both professionally and personally. This doesn’t necessarily mean achieving a worldly measure of success, but rather success in the eyes of your soul. It means being open and honest with others to the extent you possibly can. If you can allow your real self to consistently express freely, you will undoubtedly find peace in your life because you have become who you were born to be. You are accomplishing your goal by doing the work you are best suited for and touching others’ lives in very special ways. Your soul will applaud you.