Thursday, August 23, 2012

Everything You Imagine Is Real

This summer, my 8 year old daughter was looking through an art book and came across Pablo Picasso's famous quote "Everything you imagine is real."  This really struck her as something special, and she's been painting and drawing it on everything for the last month.  I particularly love this drawing she did because she left the fairy's body without a face, so that anyone who looks at it can imagine whatever type of fairy they want which leads one to imagine first a fairy and then any kind of fairy they want.

Since she's come across this quote, she's taken it to heart and has started to "imagine things real."  She started with small things.  She hoped, for example, that there wouldn't be a line at her favorite ride at an amusement park and there wasn't.  When we were staying at a hotel recently, one elevator had a huge window that overlooked the city, and the other elevator was just a plain box.  Victoria imagined that window elevator opening for us and every time, that was the first one to open for us.  Next she imagined all her closest friends being in her class, and she got it. Once she imagined a letter for her in the mail and she got an invitation to a party.

She's been imagining parking spots for us, the neighborhood pool being empty except for us, seeing a shooting star, all sorts of things.  Just this week, she came up to me and said, "Mom, I really think I have a special power.  Whatever I imagine becomes real.  I think this could be dangerous and I'm afraid I might imagine the wrong thing."

Oh how my heart clenched when she said this because, really, isn't this the dilemma we all face at a subconscious level? Aren't we all really just afraid of our own power?

In truth, we really do have the power to imagine anything into reality.  The Greeks wrote about this. Plato wrote "Does not like always attract like."  And over and over in the bible, Jesus tries to tell us about the importance of belief.  "If you have faith and do not doubt, if you say to this mountain, 'be taken up and thrown into the sea,' it will happen. Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive if you have faith."

Over and over we are reminded by great philosophers, saints, teachers and Christ Himself that we have the ability to imagine what we need into reality, and yet we're afraid of this.  Why?

I said to my daughter, "As long as your heart is aligned with God's, you can never go wrong.  You keep imagining things real, okay?"  Victoria nodded and said, "Okay, but I'm going to stick to small things for now.  When I'm bigger, I'll move on to bigger things."

God, I hope she does.  And I hope she never loses faith that she everything she imagines is real.

Friday, August 17, 2012

What Not To Say

 I’ve met so many brave and courageous people this month who are suffering from a variety of tragedies -- illness, death of a loved one, job losses, foreclosures.  One thing that remains constant in their stories is the lack of real support they’re getting from friends and family.  Many of you have shared stories of things people said or didn't say that was very hurtful.  The following is a brief summary of the top things NOT to say to a friend going through a hard time.

       1)   Don’t ask, “What can I do?”  This person has enough on her plate.  The last thing she needs to do is brainstorm something for you to do to make her feel better.  Instead, suggest something you’d like to do help her such as cooking, cleaning, babysitting, running errands or just listening or praying with your friend.
      2)   Don’t say, “Time heals all wounds.” Because the simple truth is that it doesn’t.  I have a client who’s 92, and all she wants is to leave this earth so she can see her son again who died when he was nine years old.  We don’t get over our grief; we get through it.  We learn to carry on with a heavier load. 
       3)   Don’t say standard things like, “At least she lived a long life” or “only the good die young.”  Or “At least you had time to say goodbye.” These myths help no one.  When your mom dies, it doesn’t matter if she’s 60 or 90, it’s a hard loss to take.  When someone dies before their time, there’s nothing worse than someone saying, “God takes the good ones first.”

       4)   Don’t suggest vague remnants of helpfulness by saying, “Call me if you need me.” Make specific plans to be there for your friend.  “I’m going to call you in a few days when your family leaves and we’ll have coffee, ok?” And then follow up with that. 

       5)   When a friend’s pet dies, don’t say, “Are you going to get a new one?” For us pet owners, pets are an extension of our family.

       6)   When a friend miscarries or has a stillbirth, treat it as the loss of a child that it is.  Don’t say things like, “You’re young; you can try again.”

Helping a friend through a difficult time is never easy.  Here’s what I know – doing something is better than doing nothing.  Send a card, make a phone call, visit with a meal, be a good listener.  Share who you are with your friend.  When I was dealing with cancer, my crystal therapist friend would set up a crystal grid for me each week.  My writer friend texted me positive affirmations almost every day.  My Catholic friends gave me St. Agatha medals (she’s the patron saint of breast cancer) or St. Peregrine figurines (the patron saint of cancer) and had healing masses said for me.  My artistic friends would mail me beautiful cards with healing messages.  Some sent me books, knitted me shawls and blankets or cooked meals for my family.  You have something wonderful that you do.  Share that something wonderful and you’ll be a beautiful gift during a difficult time.

*Check out the PsychicTeachers Facebook page for stories people shared of the worst and best things people said to them when they were grieving.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Leaving the Past Behind You

My husband has this frustrating habit of living in the present.  He never ruminates on things that have occurred long ago.  Me? I love to go over things, analyze them, find meaning in them, and discover patterns that make up the memory of my history.  Friends and family are always teasing me fore having a memory like an elephant, and it's something I've always been proud of.

Until recently.

I've been meeting so many clients who are stuck in the past.  They are caught up in their "story." They are afraid to move on.  I think their fear stems from a false belief that if they leave the trauma in the past, it means it didn't matter.  We want our life and our experiences to matter.  So we're afraid to drop the pain of a death, the anger over a divorce, the shame of a fight with a parent before their death. But we can't move forward until we can let these things go.  I have a client who comes to see me every six months and always to talk about her %#** ex-husband who left her five years ago.  Five years ago!!  She can't let it go, and yet she comes to me and wants to know why his life is going spectacularly while hers has stagnated.  I keep telling her it's because she hasn't left 2007.  She needs to join us here in the present and get on with her life.  Another client brings up her lost inheritance every single time I see her.  Yes, her sister stole her inheritance.  Yes, it was wrong.  But she can't do anything about it, so why not move on?

You've probably heard that old story about the two monks:

Two monks were making a pilgrimage to venerate the relics of a great Saint. During the course of their journey, they came to a river where they met a beautiful young woman -- an apparently worldly creature, dressed in expensive finery and with her hair done up in the latest fashion. She was afraid of the current and afraid of ruining her lovely clothing, so asked the brothers if they might carry her across the river.

The younger and more exacting of the brothers was offended at the very idea and turned away with an attitude of disgust. The older brother didn't hesitate, and quickly picked the woman up on his shoulders, carried her across the river, and set her down on the other side. She thanked him and went on her way, and the brother waded back through the waters.

The monks resumed their walk, the older one in perfect equanimity and enjoying the beautiful countryside, while the younger one grew more and more brooding and distracted, so much so that he could keep his silence no longer and suddenly burst out, "Brother, we are taught to avoid contact with women, and there you were, not just touching a woman, but carrying her on your shoulders!"

The older monk looked at the younger with a loving, pitiful smile and said, "Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river; you are still carrying her."

How many of us are still carrying that woman around?

I just finished Paulo Coelho's newest book Aleph  and wanted to share with you some things he had to say about the problem with memory:

"It takes a huge effort to free yourself from memory, but when you succeed, you start to realize that you're capable of far more than you imagined.  You live in this vast body called the Universe, which contains all the solutions and all the problems.  Visit your soul; don't visit your past.  Just as the cells in your body change and yet you remain the same, so time does not pass, it merely changes."

He goes on to say, "People want everything to stay the same, and yet the consequence of that is pain."

I believe this is what Jesus meant when he said, "Let the dead bury the dead."  Move on, leave it behind you.  Better things, people, experiences and opportunities await you in the future.

If this is resonating with you, try asking yourself this question:

1) Is this memory/past experience helping me today?
2) What am I gaining by ruminating on this experience?
3) Who will I be when I let this go?

It's also important to point out that that our subconscious mind knows no time, so when you think of a painful memory, your body reacts as though it's happening NOW.  This is why people get upset stomachs or headaches or panicky feelings when they think of painful memories.  Your body is living and reacting as though that memory is happening right now.  This increases your stress and risk of depression and lowers your immune system greatly.

The next time you find yourself going over a past painful memory or talking about it with a friend, say to yourself, "This is in my past.  It's not who I am today.  I am a new person and good things are coming to me now."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Crystal of the Week: Holy Stones and Fairy Crosses

Ever since my youngest daughter found a holy stone on the beach a few weeks ago, I've been obsessed with finding as many as I can whenever I'm at the beach.  So far, I've collected 11.  Holy Stones are said to be very protective stones, especially to the one who finds the stones.  People have hung Holy Stones over their homes and barns for protection for generations.  Some believe that when you sleep with a Holy Stone under your pillow, you will never have another nightmare.  It is even said that if you look through the hole of a Holy Stone on a full moon, you will be able to see into other dimensions.

So how do you know if you've found a Holy Stone?  It has to be a stone, not a shell.  And it must have a hole that runs clean through the stone. When you find your own Holy Stone, keep it near you for protection.

Fairy Crosses are stones shaped like a cross.  They are typically found in the Blue Ridge Mountains and across North West America.  They've also been found in Brazil, France, Italy and Scotland.  Also known as Staurolite Crystals, Fairy Crosses are made of iron aluminate silicate crystals and have an unknown origin.  Some believe they were formed between 60 and 500 million years ago, but a more popular story says the Fairy Crosses were formed when the fairies learned Christ had been crucified and their tears hardened into Fairy Crosses.

They are said to protect the wearer from disease and are known to bring good luck, good fortune and in some cases to grant wishes.

There are three types of Fairy Crosses to look out for:

1) The Maltese Cross -- a perfectly formed cross and very difficult to find
2) St. Andrews Cross -- made with an angled line
3) The Prismatic Cross -- most easily found

To clean your Fairy Cross, wash it with soap and water and soak it overnight in mineral oil to restore its natural shine.

When I was in the library this week with my daughters, I came across an old book with tales of ghosts in the mountains of North Carolina.  I checked it out because it had a chapter called Fairy Crosses.  Isn't it funny how that happens?  I'd never heard of Fairy Crosses until just this month, and now I keep stumbling across references to them.  The book told the story of a sad, lonely man who worked for an elderly couple in the mountains of North Carolina helping out around the farm.  One night he finally told them why he was so sad and lonely.  His wife was from a communist country, and after she had her children here in the States, she wanted to bring them home to meet her family.  This they did and had a lovely time.  But when the family tried to leave the country, officials there would only let the husband leave.  (The book was published in the 1960's and didn't date this particular story, but it must have been during the Cold War.) He tried all he could to get his family to return but luck was never on his side.  Paperwork got lost and his name kept getting sent to the back of the line.  The older couple felt bad for the man and said they would pray for him.  That night, after telling his story, he prayed too.  When he awoke, there was a Fairy Cross in his hand.  He showed it to the elderly couple and they became very excited.  "You've been blessed," the old man explained.  "The fairies are watching out for you."  The lonely man thought it was nothing more than superstition, and so he slipped the stone in his pocket and went back to work.  But that night, he got a call from his wife.  By some miracle, they had been allowed to return to the States and she and the children were waiting for him to pick them up at the airport.

The book gave no more details and didn't mention the family's name, but it's still a great story and one that reminds us to never give up, to keep having faith, praying and believing.

I hope you all find your own Holy Stones and Fairy Crosses on your travels, and if so, share your story here!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fighting Over Wills

In the readings I've been doing all month, this one main theme keeps popping up: families fighting over the possessions and money of their deceased loved ones.  I can't think of a more despicable way to dishonor the memory of your deceased family member.  I've met families who have been fighting for years over a couch.  Yes, I am not kidding.  There are siblings out there who haven't spoken to each other over an old couch that they both think they should have.  People fight over jewelry, money, flags, medals of honor, antiques, pictures, pianos, and yes, even a bread maker.  These are just things, useless,   meaningless things.  The only meaning they have is the meaning we give them.

When I was pregnant with my first child, my mother-in-law wrote a letter to her future granddaughter at the first of every month throughout my pregnancy.  She would come by my house and drop off a meal for us, a present for the unborn baby and the letter describing how much she loved this child already and all the fun things they were going to do together plus some tidbits about me and how my pregnancy was going.  I have saved all those letters and I cherish them.  But it's not the pieces of stationary that I cherish; it's the memories I've attached to those slips of paper.  There's a big difference.  Yes, I've held on to them but if they were gone, would it really matter?  Would my children start to doubt their grandmother's love? Of course not.

Fighting over things is silly, ridiculous and a huge waste of time.

The most common fight I encounter is this:  Sibling A has taken care of the parent and seen to all the parent's needs through the dying process.  Sibling B has visited, sent money and helped when able to.  When the parent dies, Sibling A believes she has a right to all the money, the house and the possessions inside.  Sibling B feels hurt, guilty and angry.

This happens over and over and over again.  I've encountered just this month alone people lying about inheritances, changing wills and even taking money outright from their grandchildren.  It's disgusting and mean and just really bad karma.

Does money really mean that much to people?  Do things and stuff really matter all that much?  I've said this before, and I'll say it again, inheritances include things that are not ours.  We do not take care of our parents so we can get a house out of it or some money.  We take care of our parents because it's the right thing to do.  Period.  And if your sister or brother did nothing to help his or her dying parent and they still get half the inheritance, so what?  That's life.  Life is unfair.  It just is.  And it's none of our business as to why this is so.  Our job is to simply be the best person we can be.  Other people's behavior is their responsibility, their karma, not ours.  Please, reread the Prodigal Son if you don't understand this.

I am so exhausted from seeing people who define themselves by transitory things.  Your body, your money, your status -- you can't take any of it with you.  It's meaningless.  Your character, your ethics, your values, your morals, your beliefs and behavior -- that's what you take with you.

So, please, if you're fighting with family over a will and some green pieces of paper called money, stop and think.  Ask yourself: Is this who I am?  Is this how I want to be remembered?  Is this really what matters to me?

And if you have children and haven't got a specific will in place, please, please, please write one. Write down who gets every stinking piece of jewelry and cutlery you own because even though you birthed them, nursed them, walked the floors with them at night and put them through school, at the end of your life it will come down to questions of who gets your rings, who gets the silver and who gets the car.  It's sad but true.  Maybe this is the society we're living in, and I'm the odd one.  Who knows?  But I am tired of seeing people fight over money when they won't even lift an eyebrow to fight over morals, ethics and beliefs or, at the very least, the good memory of their loved one in heaven.