Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Who do YOU think you are?

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Years ago, in 1884, a baby girl was born. Though the times called for young ladies to be decorative debutants, to be well-versed in the ways of etiquette and propriety and not particularly so in the ways of politics and social reform, this baby girl grew into a woman who was decidedly and unabashedly different from what was considered the norm.

She was active in the Social Reform movement of the Progressive Era. She argued for fair labor practices. This young lady found a group of debutantes who were interested in helping others. They called themselves the Junior League.

One day, while on a train, this young woman met someone who would become her husband. Her uncle, who was then the President of the United States, walked her down the aisle at their wedding. Her husband, waiting for her at the alter, was also destined to become President.

As a political spouse, this woman was able to fulfill her social obligations and still remain very active in what concerned her the most. Ultimately she developed an independent career that included writing, teaching and reform politics. When her husband became the President of the United States, she gave up her own political affiliations but remained politically active...though often in the background. She supported her husband's interests and balanced the expectations associated with being First Lady with her own interests and pursuits.

In her twelve years as First Lady, this woman gave many press conferences and insisted that publications send only female reporters. She wrote a monthly magazine column and a newspaper column. She was a radio host, a lecturer and a public speaker. She was an author.

Because of her appearance and her disconcertingly direct manner, it was not unusual for this talented and progressive woman to be the target of unkind comments. She was far taller than average. She was no beauty. Her voice, her teeth and her clothing attracted caricature. Her husband was rumored to be having a relationship with another woman. Her views were not always embraced by a society opposed to change.

What sets this woman apart is that she allowed no one to put her down and keep her down. She believed strongly in the causes she supported and was determined to make a difference. Was she aware of what people said? Certainly she must have been. Did it hurt her? Quite possibly, but she carried in her heart the knowledge that those views did not sum up the value of her life.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt did not give her consent. She did not give that power to others. She believed in herself and in doing so, she was able to pursue her dreams and direct her life's energy in ways that are truly impressive.

There are times when the actions of others leave us feeling cast aside, thrown away, not good enough, of little value. Inferior. Their actions are their choices, but our reactions remain always ours. It is within our power, even when we feel low and powerless, to retain our own sense of value and worth and purpose. No one can take that from us, ever. Not without our consent.

Jane chooses to follow Eleanor Roosevelt's example. She stands tall (though admittedly a good many inches shorter than that particular lady). She believes in herself. And she will not give consent to anyone who, knowingly or not, attempts to put her down.

Bravo, Eleanor. And thank you.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Forgiveness does not come easy. Jane isn't sure it really should be easy. Sometimes what holds the most value is what we achieve after a struggle. True forgiveness holds a great value, indeed. And true forgiveness has nothing at all to do with the flippant exchange of "sorry" and "don't worry about it". Because you know what? True forgiveness comes whether or not the apology is offered.

That's the part that involves a struggle. When we have been hurt, when we have been wronged, it's a comfort to wrap our righteous indignation around like a secure blanket. After all, we were the ones hurt, right? We were the ones disappointed or crushed or abandoned. We should wrap up snugly and wait for the sincere apology.

But what if it never comes? No matter what we might wish, sometimes people do not regret their actions and they do not want to take responsibility for the hurt they caused. We can wait, wrapped up against further harm. We can wait, wondering if they will ever come and ask our forgiveness. We can wait...forever.

Well, sure. Technically we can wait forever. But how does that serve us? If we are so filled with waiting and hurt and the need for that apology and anger and sadness, how exactly does that serve us? Jane realizes that anyone in this position might feel entitled to those emotions. She knows this as well as anyone. She also knows that if she allows herself to be filled with those thoughts, those feelings, the hurt and resentment and the waiting for something that might not ever come, she can't be filled with something else.

What else? Ohhh...lots of things. Joy. Wonder. Peace. That's a big one, peace. Enthusiasm. Possibilities. Yes, possibilities sums it up nicely. Jane has a favorite affirmation that talks about possibilities.

I rejoice in my unlimitedness and know that before me lies the totality of possibilities in every area.

Wowza, Jane thinks every time she reads that one. Wowza. Unlimitedness! Totality of possibilities! But if Jane limits herself by clinging to that which she can't ever change, how is there room for all those possibilities?

Of course there isn't. That's where forgiveness comes in. Something that Jane learned is that forgiveness does not mean what someone did was okay. It's not the same as saying you don't mind about the hurt and the betrayal. This is not about going up to the other person and telling them everything is super duper, thanks, and golly gee you wish them well. Nope. This is about acknowledging the pain and then letting it go. Releasing it. Making room for all those wonderful possibilities.

Forgiveness does not mean the other person isn't responsible for his or her actions. Forgiveness means that those actions are no longer going to fill you with sadness and hurt and pain. You don't like what happened, you wish it had not happened, but it did. Nothing can change that.

Forgiveness is a choice. It's a deliberate choice and it is not easy. But to move on fully, to embrace whatever wonders the universe has in store for you, forgiveness has to take over the hurt in your heart.

Jane wants to rejoice in her unlimitedness. She wants to be filled with the totality of her possibilities. Forgiveness is a challenge, Jane admits, but the reward is far greater than clinging to the cloak of sadness.

When you forgive, you in no way change the past--but you sure do change the future.
~Bernard Meltzer

It's your future, Jane realizes. What do you want to fill it?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Butterfly Jane

Or...the value of cocooning.

Cocooning defined as smothering or cocooning defined as sequestered in denial are not good. But cocooning defined as taking time to grow and change and emerge as a butterfly? Very good indeed. That's the type of cocooning that Jane endorses. Sometimes it's one long process and sometimes it comes in stages. A bit of exploration, a bit of time to consider. Maybe the butterfly retreats now and then, when that quiet time is needed.

Jane thinks that society comes at us with an all or nothing mentality that can be overwhelming. And along the way, quiet contemplation has become an antiquated notion. With the constant bombardment of noise and expectations, is it any wonder that we feel frazzled on occasion? In need of some comfort routines? Some self-nurturing?

Well, sure. Sometimes it's in response to emotional hurt. Sometimes it's work related or friend related or family related. The reasons don't matter. They are all valid. What matters is the need to cocoon and the ability to accept that need and to make it happen.

Jane's own cocooning ritual involves books of motivation, a favorite yoga routine and the comfort of a steaming mug of tea. If that doesn't do the trick, her dvds of Modern Family (seasons one and two!) and a cozy dinner of whatever she wants will leave her feeling nicely balanced. Yes, she does realize that watching tv does not count as quiet contemplation. But sometimes cocooning is about emotional growth and sometimes it's about good, refreshing laughter. At least in Jane's world it is.

Now if hearts have been broken and lives have been changed, cocooning takes on a new meaning. Ir provides a safe haven for a butterfly just stretching new wings. And there is nothing wrong with peeking out and trying the wings for a bit...and then drawing back to consider how that felt. Recovery isn't something that happens at the same time and the same pace for everyone. Cocooning is a way of honoring your own pace.

Not everything is instant in today's world. Not everything. So if you, like Jane, are in the process of growing new wings you can take comfort in your own cocoon. Be gentle with yourself and don't worry if the butterfly next door is flying out across the field already. You'll get there, in your own time and at your own pace. One day you'll stretch those wings and soar.

And even then you'll be glad for the shelter of your own cocoon.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jane silences the monkey chatter

Meditation takes practice. Getting into a comfortable position is the easy part. Not too comfortable, mind you. Jane finds that attempting to meditate while reclining results in a pleasant nap but nothing else. She also has discovered that sitting with her legs crossed (criss-cross applesauce, as the little ones in elementary school say) is all well and good but she needs to be leaning against something. The goal is to find a position where you can relax and not have your thoughts drifting to the various protests of your body.

Because drifting thoughts are the biggest challenge. It's called monkey chatter and getting those monkeys to settle down also takes practice. Jane's first few attempts were relaxing, indeed, for about ten seconds. After that random thoughts zipped through her head with unfortunate speed.

"Ahhh." Jane relaxed. Wasn't this nice?

"What am I making for dinner?"

"Shhh. Ahhhh."

"I've got to...I should...I wonder if..."

"SHHH! Darn it! I said AHHHHH!"

Now the goal of meditation is to go beyond the monkey chatter into that gentle zone where calm prevails and focus and energy meld into something quite impressive. Jane found it difficult to deny monkey chatter completely and was frustrated until she read more about it. Got monkey chatter? Acknowledge it and let it go. It's there, okay, and now move beyond it.

So why meditate?

Maybe meditation isn't so mysterious after all. Neuroscientists have found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex - brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. This mental shift decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety. There is also less activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear.

That's the official word, for people who like to have something a little more concrete than "because it feels good".

If you practise regularly, the benefits of meditation will promote a sense of calm and control, you’ll feel far more relaxed and happy. Your ability to concentrate will be greater. You won’t become stressed about things and you’ll feel more peaceful and relaxed about everything. One of the greatest benefits of meditation is learning to go with the flow and things that used to irritate you before simply become insignificant.

That next bit was something Jane found on a meditation website. Same basic thing, just less scientific. From Jane's point of view, which definitely tends toward the non-scientific, meditation is nothing short of amazing. Jane is a meditative newbie. She started for reasons that are obvious to any reader of this blog. And she started right from the most basic starting point, monkey chatter and all.

After struggling a bit Jane decided to see if YouTube might offer some guided meditation. Indeed, they did. Ten minutes, maybe more and maybe less. With a little experimentation to find the right voice and music that appealed, Jane got her jump start. Her opinion? Very good stuff.

And Jane believes that the articles do not exaggerate. She feels much calmer when she meditates regularly. Things that were a big deal are less of a big deal and if they soar to bigness once again she can regroup more readily. Jane found that along with the benefits already listed she got something else from meditation. Something that she hadn't expected.

What, what? Jane knows the readers are clamoring for her to reveal what she got. What she got was an awareness of herself and...even better...an acceptance of herself. This is no little thing. jane feels that meditation has been a significant part of her healing and the discovery of (and acceptance of) her Jane-ness.

Because, you know, when you quiet your mind and release the monkey chatter and relax into the moment you have nothing to hide behind. It is just you right then, just you and the beautiful energy that comes from whatever source you embrace. And it is joyful and it is peaceful and it is loving.

And it is life enhancing. Jane would say life changing, but some people don't want to be caught up in any kind of change. So she'll tell you with the certainty of one who has experienced it, that meditation is life enhancing.

Jane is going to take a moment now to go quiet her own monkey chatter. Inhale...exhale...ahhhh.