Too often children are taught not to cry. “Be tough; don’t cry. You’re okay.” Maybe their feelings are hurt or they are afraid. Appropriate validation of his or her feelings and reassurance is essential for healthy emotional development. However, if those feelings are ignored or pushed aside repeatedly, it may teach the child to feel insignificant and to build protective walls. This can manifest in an older child or adult as overweight issues or addictive escapes into drugs, spending, alcohol, sex or even work.
It truly takes courage for an adult to melt down those walls and allow feelings of human vulnerability. It requires being honest with yourself and others about who you really are; it short, it requires acknowledging and becoming your authentic self. To fully feel unspoken pain and accept it, is a catalyst for healing. In some cases, this may require the assistance of a therapist. Perhaps the comforting ear of a close friend or loving family member may suffice. At the very least, journaling is a wonderful outlet to release those secret feelings.
Truly experiencing joy requires knowledge and acceptance of the darkest recesses of your sadness and disappointments. If you are unable to be fully open to all of life’s experiences, you are depriving yourself of meaningful relationships and your deepest joys. Vulnerability is not weakness; it takes strength to be vulnerable in the face of your sorrows or shame. Weakness is not allowing yourself access to the full spectrum of human emotions. Truly, vulnerability is a precious gift that you give to yourself because only those who live with it can fully embrace all the beauty and joys life has to offer.
It’s where I go to think things over and sometimes to write. For me, it’s a nearby place of inspiration and gentle breezes that stir the soul. Located in Thorofare, New Jersey, Riverwinds Community is bordered by the mighty Delaware River.
Behaving as a writer and not a photographer, I grabbed my writing pad rather than my camera, when my daughter unexpectedly suggested a visit during a recent day of Indian summer. I would have preferred that these photos came from a camera, but I have to admit that my cell phone did a half-decent job.
Early signs of Fall
On a clear, warm day like this, I was reminded how good it felt to be alive as I glanced out over the river. At times, the soft sounds of the waves lapping at the shore were lost int the roar of the planes landing across the river at Philadelphia International Airport. Nonetheless, there seemed a strange sense of harmony between the solitude of nature and the intrusive sounds of a busy world.
Plane landing across the Deleware River at Philadelphia International Airport
Maybe harmony is the key here. Perhaps those times in the past when I came here for confirmation of an important decision or comfort for a troubling situation, it was harmony I sought and received.
A powerhouse of humanity – the Philadelphia Skyline seen faintly in the distance to the right.
Of course, some people still throw trash into the river. I was reminded of my post, Sad Signs of Spring from early 2012 as I looked down at the bottles on the beach.
Trash on the shores of the Delaware River
So how about you? What do you do or where do you go when you want to think things over or need to relax and get away from the everyday hassles of life?
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?
Follow your bliss…it’s a saying that is heard frequently. What does bliss mean exactly? I signed on to the internet to take a peek and found a general consensus among links that it is an “extreme state of happiness,” if nothing else. Sound’s good doesn’t it?
What does it mean to you? What makes you extremely happy, or even just happy? Of course, it’s different for each of us. Start small if you’re having trouble. Perhaps it’s eating some chocolate or a tasty piece of filet mignon. I’m in for both of those. Keep adding until you have a happiness checklist. It could be spending time with friends or that special someone. Maybe it’s a hobby that you get so lost in that you lose track of time. It’s wonderful if your profession is blissful, and you are doing what you love everyday at work.
So how do you follow your bliss? If you’re doing it, you already know. Your days are filled with moments of joy and deep satisfaction. If you’re still working on it, then keep the checklist handy and begin to integrate more of these happy options into your daily routine. I also use the “follow your bliss” concept when it comes to making simple choices like which housekeeping chore to do first. If I do first, the one I dislike the least, I find the rest of them go easier and faster. Of course, use it when making a big choice like selecting which house to buy. Choose the one that makes you smile and sings to your heart, assuming you can afford it, of course, or it won’t be a blissful choice for long.
I’m for bringing more blissful moments into each of our lives, week by week, day by day, moment by moment, until “following your bliss” becomes a wonderful habit. How about you?