Break

It takes work checking out your body and how you were feeling. It takes discipline and courage. Many people who are prone to depression don’t want to check on themselves. They prefer to let things be. The problem with that, is that when we just let things be we fall into lethargy. A kind of stupor and we feel exhausted just from not doing anything.

However, today is about taking a break. You have worked hard. You may not have followed all the days, in fact, I don’t expect you to. When I read a blog like this, I usually find one or two things that compel me to do them, and other things just don’t resonate with me. And that is perfectly fine. Life is not a test. This is not a score board. There are no winners and losers in life; just people doing things. People taking action or people not taking action. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how you feel. How you feel about you. How you feel about your life.

When I suffer from depression, I feel that I am wasting my life. Like I was meant to do something but I didn’t know what. I would even ask friends and family members, “What do you think I am supposed to do? What do you think is my purpose?” And of course no one can answer that. My family would try to boost me up by saying things like, “You are amazing. You can do anything you set your mind to. You are a powerful woman.”

But you know how it is—if something doesn’t resonate, it doesn’t mean much. So today is about you taking a break. Giving yourself a break. You have read this far, you have allowed healing words to penetrate your mind, body and spirit—you are already doing the work.

Everything begins with awareness. You being aware and willing to read this blog tells me that you are already changing from a depressed person to a person of vitality. And today it is time to take a break from thinking and doing.

Today is your day. What would you like to do? You can do anything within your world that is possible. Make it a great day. Your life, your choice, your world. My friend, today make a positive choice to have wonderful moments and I will too.

A Beautiful Flower

A Beautiful Flower

Check

How are you doing? Are you feeling okay? I hope so. I hope you are realizing that you have a wonderful opportunity to make a positive difference in the world. I believe that every time someone who is depressed turns the corner and becomes less depressed, more passionate about their life, and create vitality in their environment, I believe that is a huge win. What do I mean by that? It means that you have created positive energy. You can make a check against ‘job well done’.

So this is a check in for you. I want you to sit for a moment and consider how you feel. When we are depressed we don’t really want to do that. It is easier just to do nothing, than to sit and actually check out how you feel. I am talking about pains and aches you may have, or a feeling of bliss and ease. Start with the top of your head. How does your hair feel? Does it feel washed and clean? If not that is a check against “need to wash my hair.” How does your face feel? The skin on your face? Does that feel clean and fresh. If not, make a check against, “need to clean my face and put some moisturizing cream on it.”

If you have put a check mark against those two things,  then you most likely have not brushed your teeth. So let’s put a check mark against that. Moving down your body, how does your heart feel? Do you realize how amazing your heart is? It pumps a huge amount of blood around your body every minute of every day. It works away at oxygenating your blood, and pumping it to every part of your body that needs blood. It is an amazing thing—your heart. And it is yours. Yours to have and to hold and keep forever. How does it feel? Send it some loving thoughts right now as you are sitting here with me. It sounds corny, but you can say to your heart, “Thank you heart for keeping me alive. I haven’t always given you the attention you deserve, but I really thank you today, and I will send you loving thoughts so that you know I appreciate you.”

I know, if this were on Saturday Night Live, it would make a fabulously funny skit. But don’t worry, no one is watching. This is just you and me. It’s our secret that we talk to our hearts and send them loving thoughts. Next go down your body in your mind, and think about your stomach and your colon. How are they feeling? I know that when I eat ice-cream or too much fried food I am putting a lot of strain on my system. Then I have to reach for some antacid medicine—and I don’t want to do that anymore; it doesn’t feel good, in fact sometimes it is downright painful. So how are you treating your food system? Are you chewing your food well before you swallow? Are you feeding yourself lots of good, nourishing food. Eating your veggies and fruit? Good. And if not, don’t worry, just put a mental check mark against, ‘want to put healthy food into my system.’

What about your shoulders and arms? Do you have arms? I met a young girl who was a keynote speaker and she was born without arms. She was one of the happiest people I know. She used her feet as her hands and overcame every problem she had. How are your arms and hands? Do you know how blessed you are to have them? I hope so—we can do so much good with our hands. We can make things, heal things and be really creative—what a boon!

What about your reproductive system? I don’t want to get into sex today, we will cover that another day; but are you taking care of yourself in that region? Are you enjoying love-making with a special partner? If not, do not worry; many people don’t need to have sexual relationships—it’s not an unhealthy or a healthy thing. I just want to make sure that you are feeling good about yourself in every department. If you are rarely touched; you may want to try a massage. It feels great and it helps overcome feelings of embarrassment about our bodies.

Go further down your body to your legs and feet. Do you have any? Again, I am amazed at how young men and women cope without legs. Have you seen people play basketball and play extreme sports without legs? So if you have a pair of them and a pair of feet, you may want to be thankful right now. They take you places, they stand, they sit, they lie down, they will keep on walking until they can walk no longer. If you haven’t taken a walk recently, put a check against, ‘will take a nice long walk.’ Your legs will thank you for it. If you can’t take a walk for whatever reason, then stretch whatever part of your body you can stretch.

So that’s it for today. Whatever you felt when your checked your body, do something about it today. Get washed, showered and take a walk if you can. Treat your body well and you will enjoy the benefits for years to come. And do not worry if you cannot do everything today. You know where you are and what you need to do. You are amazing and you will do exactly what you need to do to create a combat move to kick depression. You are a life warrior my friend. Never forget that.

Going for a lovely walk

Going for a lovely walk

Rejoice

To rejoice is to feel or show great delight. One of the things that depression abhors is rejoicing. To rejoice is just stamping depression on the head. It is impossible to be depressed if the person is rejoicing. But how do we rejoice when it feels like there is nothing in the world to rejoice about.

Maybe you have watched the news and realized that most of news is bad news. Someone has been murdered, raped, or robbed. A country is killing its citizens and other countries are going to war. Maybe you have been to war yourself and you feel terrible about it. Maybe you feel there is simply nothing in the world to rejoice about. Maybe you feel you have no friends, no family, no job, no money and no relationships. I agree, it seems like there is nothing to rejoice….except I am here beside you to let you know that there is plenty to rejoice about.

Sit for a moment right now and think about a time in your life when things were going well. It could be a vacation, or a time of celebration. Think about how you rejoiced. You felt great delight. You were smiling, happy and filled with joy. Let me tell you, if you felt that once, you can feel it again. But you have to do some work. You have to want to rejoice. You have to want to climb out of the pit of despair and make yourself rejoice.

How do you make yourself rejoice: The key is to want it. Remember how you felt when you rejoiced. It may be a long time ago, it may have only been once in your life. Maybe you have had a really, really miserable life and only felt like rejoicing one time. Okay, then you need to watch other people rejoice. There are plenty of people rejoicing. Joel Osteen for one. I love reading the books written by this man. I don’t necessarily agree with his religion, but when I read his words, I feel like rejoicing. He is so happy looking. He smiles all the time. It feels like he is living a life of rejoicing.

Now is that true? Of course not. He has problems just like everyone else. I read one time that when he was first married to Victoria he would get into conflict. Over silly things; like the fact that she left all the lights on in the house or that she would never be ready on time. And he made a conscious choice—he would be content—he would rejoice in their differences and not make a big deal out of it.

If you have been watching unpleasant movies, or reading nasty books, or viewing horrible programs on TV, programs that show people being mean, nasty and hurtful, then you need to stop. Depressed people do not need to watch this kind of depressing stuff. We need uplifting things to read and watch. We have to look them out. We have to be discerning about what we let into our minds, hearts, and spirits.

My friend, if you have read thus far you are indeed at a point to rejoice.  And whether you have just found this blog and this is the only one you have read, or whether you have faithfully followed the writings, it doesn’t matter. You are reading this now and you are being given permission to rejoice.

Today, rejoice. Whether you are rejoicing because you woke up above ground and are still alive, or whether you are rejoicing because you are a human being with a brain and can make choices and decisions, today it is time to rejoice.

Feel the joy in your heart. Feel the bubbles of rejoicing burst forth in every cell of your being. It feels good doesn’t it? So let’s do it together right now. Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice. And keep rejoicing all day long—make it a habit in your life to find things to rejoice.Val

Filter

Coffee has a filter. It is grown as beans and then gets ground down, but it still needs a filter of some kind. We too need a filter. We need to filter our words. There is a lovely saying, “Is it kind, is it necessary, is it wise.” Before we speak, we should think to ourselves, ‘is what I am about to say, kind, necessary or wise?’ often times when I ask myself this question the answer is “No!” and so I work on not saying it. When I am strong enough to use my filter, the result is amazing.

The conversation moves along, and pretty soon I have forgotten what I was going to say anyway. But if I had not had the filter, I would have said something that was not kind, necessary or wise. The situation would then continue on a path of unhappiness and upset.

I have been married for a long time; since 1970, and during that time I have said so many unkind, unnecessary and unwise things to my husband I am truly amazed that we are still together. Yes, it’s a two-way street; he can say unkind things also. But imagine what a peaceful life I would have had, if I had known to filter my words early on in my marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I am not feeling guilty, upset or ashamed of what I said. If I had known better back then, I would have done it differently, and as Edith Piaf sings in her song, “non je ne regrette rien” which translates, “No, I don’t regret anything…”

That’s one of the reasons I am writing Life Warrior, combat modes to kick depression. I have been there and I have learned some ways to kick depression that I want to share with you. And using the filter is one of them. Of course it’s not always possible. In the heat of the moment, it’s not always possible to use your filter. Words may slip out which are unkind, unnecessary and unwise; but for the most part, with practice, using a filter does become a habit to be kind.

I am not talking about having to filter every conversation; I am talking about the serious conversations that are spoken in times of stress. I am talking about situations where conflict occurs. In a partnership, these situations are often repeated over and over again. It could be about smoking, eating, spending money or relationships. The same old argument arises and that is exactly when you need to filter. Stop and don’t say the usual thing you always say. The person you are talking with already knows how you feel about it; you’ve repeated it over and over and over. It does not need repeating. The person you are speaking with is not changing. So why bother keep saying the same thing, “You never help around the house—you never help around the house—you never help around the house.” If you have been saying and repeating something like that for years and years, guess what—the person never helps around the house and you saying it is not going to suddenly make it happen.

Think of the conversation as brewing a cup of coffee. Filter the beans; filter your words. Allow only the goodness to come through. Smell the aroma of a pleasant conversation. “I would love some help tidying up on Saturday morning. I’ll put on your favorite music, and afterwards we’ll go to our favorite breakfast place—we’ll make it fun!”

Today, filter your words. Whatever you are about to say, stop and think, “Is it kind, is it necessary, is it wise?” That’s it. My friend your words are powerful and have a powerful effect on yourself and other people who hear them. Make your words today be uplifting. Speak of solutions instead of problems. Be joyful with your words and rejoice…you have a voice…let is be used for the good of all.

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Observe

This goes along with being mindful. When you observe something or someone, you are watching them. You are not involved, you are not absorbing their emotions, you are apart from their frustrations and upset. Sometimes, when I have felt depression lingering on the outskirts of my mind, I observe myself.

It is like being at the airport and watching people. You see them doing something, and you think, “Why are they doing that?” or, “Wow, I would never do that.” You are observing them. And that is how it is sometimes with me. I observe what I am doing, or what I am about to do, and I stop and take a moment. Is this what I want to be doing? Is this going to lead to me having a life full of vitality and joy, or is it going to lead to more depression?

For example, I can sometimes meddle in other people’s business; with my daughters and even my son-in-laws. I know it’s hard to believe, but I can. I can be a big, enormous, huge meddler. Then one day, my therapist said, “Val here is the number one rule: never give advice unless it is asked for.” And I remember thinking, wow that is really good advice. And then I would go about my day, meddling. It’s hard not to meddle when you have lived a long time. I’ve done things and made mistakes that I think could have avoided. So when I see my family making those same mistakes, I want to meddle and give advice.

But I realize now, that is not the way to lead a joy filled life. I had to make my own mistakes, and other people have to make theirs. I can listen and be a listening pal, but if I am not asked for advice I need to zip it! It’s really hard to do, but I am learning.

Yesterday, a text came to me accidentally. Truly, our family plan cell phones sometimes screw up. Anyhow, it was between my daughter and her husband. It wasn’t outrageous, just something about money. And I thought, “No way—surely they’re not going to spend money on that?” I struggled with it. Then I realized I had to be the observer and not the absorber. It has nothing to do with me. It is not my life and not my problem. If I am asked I will give advice, but if not—which I am sure I will not be asked—I will zip it!

More than that; I will love them. You see, zipping it, means that there is a combustion of thought that is dying to get out. Like filling a balloon full of air and trying to close it with a safety-pin. At some point the air will be released. But if I choose to love them, to love the situation, then I can simply become the observer.

Today, be the observer. If something comes up where you would normally meddle—stop. Do not be a meddler in other people’s business. If something comes up where you would normally get frustrated or angry—stop. Allow yourself to become the observer.

Watch what happens instead of being part of what happens. Be like an observer. Watch the people, the scenario as if from a distance. And remember to breathe. Breathe my friend, and you will notice that you do not have to be involved in everything. Sometimes being the observer is exactly where you need to be.

Struggle

The first sermon the Buddha preached after his enlightenment was about the four noble truths: 1) Life is frustrating and painful. 2) Suffering has a cause; we suffer because we are constantly struggling to survive, 3) The cause of suffering can be ended. 4) the path to end the cause of suffering is to meditate and practice mindful awareness.

Have you noticed that life is a struggle? As soon as we get on a path that feels good, something comes along to destroy the harmony. It could be a relationship, we fall in love, everything is going well then out of the blue our loved one does something hurtful. Or it could be a new job, everything is going well then a co-worker says or does something to hurt us. Or money; our finances may be going well, we have saved money, then something breaks or falls apart and all our money, our savings are gone. The reason the Buddhists meditate is to come back to a simple mindfulness and to get rid of the complex thoughts that surround struggle.

Not everyone enjoys meditation; not everyone finds the time to sit and meditate; so what do we do if we are one of these people? We simply practice being mindful. How do we do that? It’s like a prayer or a simple slowing things down for a moment. It comes back to the breath. Taking a few deep, cleansing, healing breaths can be a wonderful way to be mindful.

Let’s say something happens in your life that causes you to feel that life is a struggle; simply stop for a moment and take a breath. Release the tension with your out breath. Take another cleansing simple breath and fill your mind with serenity. Think, “I am here now in this moment and nothing is going on.” If someone is being mean and argumentative, say to them, “I just need a moment to go to the bathroom, or grab a drink of water, or something that is acceptable.” You are not saying, “I just need a moment to get away from you!” But you are indeed taking a moment to be mindful.

When you are away from the person, take a slow and deep cleansing breath. “I am here now. Nothing is going on in this moment. I am safe, I am here.” Be mindful of the moment. Then ask yourself, “How do I want this to end? What is the result I want to get?” Answer: “I want to bring serenity to the struggle.” “I want to be a bringer of peace and calm.”

How do you do that? You become mindful that the conflict is not in you. Life maybe causing a struggle in this moment, but you are not the struggle. You are observing the struggle, but you are not the struggle. You are being involved in the struggle, but you are not the struggle.

When you let go of the struggle, you realize that you do not have to answer frustration with frustration. You do not have to be angry just because someone close to you is expressing their anger. You are not the struggle. The struggle wants you to be part of it-because the struggle is struggling. But you do not have a responsibility to be angry, frustrated or upset. The struggle is something happening outside of you.

Have you ever tried to undo a tangled chain? I have. And what I learned is that you simply shake the chain gently. You let it jiggle around gently between your fingers. You allow the tangles to come apart. The chain itself wants to be untangled, and you are simply letting the chain find its own way to straighten. With time, it will straighten itself out. And all you did was sit with it and gently allow the pieces to find their own way out.

Today, when you encounter a struggle, whether it be on the road with another driver, or something/ or someone in your home that is struggling; be mindful. Be aware of your breath. Take a healing, cleansing breath in, and release all thoughts of struggle with your out breath. Let your mind become calm. You are a Life Warrior. You are learning a powerful combat move to kick depression.

It may not seem like you are doing much—but in fact you are being immensely powerful. To be mindful of your breath and to release your thoughts of anger and frustration with your out breath is one of the most powerful things you can ever do. Now you are an observer of life’s struggles instead of being an absorber. Now you are allowing peace and equanimity into your mind, body and spirit. My friend, if you can be mindful in the moments of struggle, you are a Life Warrior! Welcome to life.

Prayer

This morning I woke up feeling anxious. Maybe it’s because yesterday I was writing about control. And I realized the best way to overcome wanting to be in control is to pray. I woke up anxious and worried about my grandchildren and their friends. Were their friends treating them well? Did they have good friends and so on. And you know how it is when we start to worry, one worry leads to another worry, and pretty soon it is out of control and we are just one big massive ball of worry and anxiety.

I think that’s why I used to get depressed. The worries became so overwhelming the only way to stop it was to stop altogether. Just stop and stay in bed, or not answer people, or opt out of making decisions.

Thank goodness that today I know about the strength of prayer. And the many different kinds of prayers we have.  I used to pray like this, Dear God please help me! and that is good sometimes. Now however, I have been reading the bible and I realize that I can pray a little differently and maybe quote scripture, Dear God, please make crooked paths straight.

And that’s what I did this morning. And then something wonderful happened. I suddenly realized that what I really wanted to pray for was love and being a nurturing parent.

My old way of being is to be critical and tell my family what to do. Now I know a bit differently. Now I know that love and prayer are the most helpful things I can do. So my prayer this morning ended up like this, Dear God, please help me be a loving parent today. Please help me be nurturing and helpful.

Suddenly, out of the blue my anxiety vanished. My worry disappeared. I felt okay. I felt good. I felt that everyone in my life is fully competent to live a good life.The best I can do is pray, not so much about them, but about me.

A bit like the Serenity Prayer. Many of us know the first bit: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. 

This last bit of the prayer is maybe not so well-known: Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time.Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen. – Reinhold Niebuhr

Today, use prayer to enjoy one moment at a time. Use the Serenity Prayer above if you cannot think of how to pray. Or make up your own prayer. One good way to pray that I use every day, is to be thankful. I pray like this, Dear God, thank you for my life. Thank you for my family. Thank you for helping me be filled with love.

So however you want, and whenever you want, today use prayer to help you focus on where you want to be in life. God grant me the serenity….