The Very Portal of Heaven: Breaking Free from Imprisoning Thoughts

Imprisoning Thoughts: “That’s not possible.” “No one has ever done that.” “People won’t like you if you are too smart or competent.”…so? Who put those limits in your head anyway?

A few days ago, while searching my sock drawer, I found the above quote, that I had ripped off of an old desk calendar, tattered and worn now, on a paper, at the drawer’s bottom. I picked it up and peered at it more closely. Taped to its tatters is a small, pink framed picture of a new-born baby…

For four years, I looked at this quote, everyday of my fertility journey. I was trying to conceive Grace at the time. Reading it was my part of my routine -between visits to the local Catholic church for my personally-created-candle-vigils, while sitting at the feet of Mother Mary’s statue,  and reading aloud a series of Biblical based affirmations around the stories in the Bible where women were told, by some Divine Intervention (an angel or prophet) that they would become a mother. “I will conceive and maintain a pregnancy,” was the theme of my declarative phrases during these vigils. Devotion and Conviction. With such reverent confidence I approached God’s throne. I deeply knew I desired motherhood. And when it didn’t come easily, I got serious in my actions and in my words — separate and aside from the trips to the fertility center.

Grace will be nine this spring. She is the miracle baby that fans the fires of belief within me. She is the evidence that all encompassing- happier-beliefs, stated out loud, create life, joy, and manifestation.

So why do I still do that thing – called imprisoning thoughts –  that won’t allow the happy to be there for me?

It’s called Thought Patterns. It’s called Culture. It’s called Fear. But mostly, it’s called: Limiting Beliefs. “These are beliefs, not truths” says Matt James, Ph.D.

For example, after my first miscarriage, I thought, “I am too old to maintain a pregnancy.” But then, after the second miscarriage, “I said enough is enough! I’ve got to change this! Thinking this feels so bad!”

So, I started saying, “Women older than me have had babies! There are women in the Bible, who had no assistance from science, and if they achieved motherhood, so can I!” Then, I searched out every avenue I possibly could (from acupuncture to candle-light vigils) and added them to my affirmations and actions to assist in the inevitable happening. And, it happened.

So, how does one manifest our “hoped for inevitable”? you ask.  First, we recognize that that the negative stories we have been telling ourselves all these years are simply NOT true. Then, we try on a new, a more encompassing, belief system, one that feels happy. We say it out loud, everyday, for several days (40 is a good number). Then, we take on a different action plan: “If I really am the type of person who eats healthy food – what would I put in my grocery cart?” (James 12). And then, we place those sweet red peppers in the cart, then we go home and slice them and eat them (with some spinach and artichoke hummus preferably!)  And then, as positive reinforcement, we say the new words to ourselves, each day, to help the healthy and happy bubble up inside us.

Or, in our English-teacher-like homework,  we REWRITE our script, the one in our mind, to help seal the deal on our new belief system we have created. We say that new, happier script. We believe that new, better-feeling script. Hence, we start living the happier life we always imagined. Slowly, but surely.

Yes, I am continuing to detox from sugar in this second week (Today is day 8 – and I did have a single chocolate heart yesterday! I told myself, one will not hurt – and it didn’t).  I continue to say to myself, “I feel better and better each day, as I continue to choose healthier foods.” The candy cravings do continue to dissipate. Less fuzzy brained and more pep in my step is my manifestation. And certainly, I have less dependency on that sugar induced smile. That is a lovely experience.

So, as 2017 is still young, and perhaps you are, like me, still on the track to trying to achieve your resolutions – or a new life pattern. Let’s add some affirmations to our actions!

Let me offer a great thought, a reason why, a positive affirmation may assist us on creating this new life: “There is no physician like cheerful thought for dissipating the ills of the body…to live continually in our thoughts of ill-will… is to be confined in a self made prison cell… to patiently learn to find the good in all — such unselfish thoughts are the very portals of Heaven.” – from the book As You Think, by James Allen

What limits are in your head, preventing you from living your Heaven-on-earth experience? I invite you to explore that this week, with me. I invite you to join me in re-writing the script into thoughts that will bring you cheer. I invite you to state them out loud, and to begin to manifest the life you have always imagined. Let’s do this together!

Blessings and peace,

Pamela Rae

 

 

Advertisements

The Pains of Starting a New Relationship — with Sugar.

Anxiety. Body aches. Constant thirst. And a constant nagging hunger – and I am NOT hungry. What I want is refined carbohydrates. What I crave is sugar. And to detox from it physically hurts right now. This is what it feels like on the second day of Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet. **(see below – I am NOT endorsing a product).

This is where I am, right now…

FLASHBACK:

Four years ago, I discovered that I am completely dairy intolerant – thanks to the South Beach Diet. I entered Phase 3, the part of the diet when more refined carbs can be reintroduced; I had been offered a cannoli from the culinary arts instructor at my school. With excitement I woofed that crusty tube of creamy yumminess down! Within 15 minutes, I was in the ladies room with cold sweats, extreme cramping, and vomiting. I know, I know a bit of TMI here, but telling this serves a purpose. This prompted a variety of tests to see if my gall bladder needed removal, as perhaps I could not digest the fats. NOPE.

What happened? I asked myself. After speaking with my primary care doctor, he recommended I try an experiment: eat one week normally, one week mostly wheat, one week mostly dairy, etc. He suggested this would help me see if I had a food allergy. When I got on the “primarily dairy” diet on its 2nd day, I felt that sickly bloating illness come back on! And there it was. A dairy intolerance. I switched to all Lactaid products; that lasted about two months, as I just kept not-feeling-well. So, I got serious: NO dairy whatsoever. I switched to almond/coconut milk, vegan butter products, and checked all packaging — if it said “milk” it didn’t make it into my grocery cart.

It was painful. I gave up ice cream, cottage cheese, my favorite Maple Vanilla Stoney Field Yogurt, and — yes, I shudder to say it — milk chocolate! But what I gained was energy, losing 2 clothing sizes, and clearer thinking. You see, according to my GI doctor, from my milk allergy, I was inflamed. INFLAMATION equals looking and feeling swollen, but mentally thinking it feels like weight gain. In the first month, I lost about 8 pounds! But what I really lost was inflammation, because what I had was an allergy to milk that was constantly being fought by the histamines in my body. What I gained from giving itself: feeling-really-good. I have never turned back.

FAST FORWARD:

…what I have done in the four years of saying good-bye to dairy? I have replaced it with my love of sugar: muffins, cookies, cakes with lots of confectionary sugar frostings, and gourmet jelly beans (not as good as milk chocolate, but oh so yum!).

Two weeks ago, I got honest with myself: I bought a tray of cookies from the culinary arts department café — and I ATE THE WHOLE TRAY MYSELF. Not in a day, thankfully, but over 3 days. I hoarded them. There was no sharing. Although, I did not have violent sweats or vomiting, what I had was disbelief. Here’s the honesty:

I like sugar. No, I LOVE sugar. In fact, I am sort of famous for it at my place of employment: come to me for candy; I always have it in my desk.  Truthfully, I am not going to end this relationship completely,yet I am ready to put me, and feeling-really-good, first again. It is true that Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet (veggies, meats, nuts, and low fat milk – almond milk for me – is all that is allowed for 2 weeks ) is pretty painful, especially these first 2 days. Yet, I am ready for the clarity that this time of suffering will bring.

No, this is not about the scale for me — although I always say “every American can stand to lose a few pounds” — this about the feeling. The energy I desire is not the kind that comes from rapid insulin spikes, as South Beach Diet creator Dr. Agatston calls it. That spike is is from refined sugar.

I want a slow, steady, reliable sensation: the kind that comes from a handful of slowly digested strawberries and almonds. And in time, I can drizzle some dark chocolate over the top! It’s not really so much about “clean eating”, either — although this  is a lifestyle I admire.  It’s about being honest with myself: I love sugar, but I have overdone it, for far too long.

Nor is this about an “everything in modification” attitude.  I can not do dairy in modification, ever, without it harming it me.  Nor is this about a New Year’s Resolution. This about my relationship with myself: a relationship which is getting better all the time. So while I love sugar, I want to enter into a better rapport with her. We are not breaking up. Instead, we are going to have more quality experiences with one another, instead of a large quantity of experiences. And these times together won’t end with me feeling anxiety, physical pain, or a nagging hunger for more.

In about 12 days, I can reintroduce fruits and whole grains. I will wake up and have a bowl of steel cut oatmeal, with almond butter and blueberries! It will be an amazing sensation. And I won’t be hungry till lunch. Lunch  will be followed by a dark chocolate dipped strawberry.  And clarity. And the ability to say “no thank you” and really mean it, when the cookie trays are sold at the culinary arts café again!

Until then, yes, I am suffering. For the better relationship it will bring, it is totally worth it.

Blessings and peace,    Pamela Rae

**The “link” will bring you to the Wikipedia definition of South Beach Diet.  I do not endorse or receive proceeds or products.  I want you to know, my approach is SELF driven by reading the books and going to the grocery store. I am simply blogging about my experience. Please contact me if you have questions.

Meditation: A Self Proclaimed Drama Queen Confesses

Here’s my true confession: I’m a recovering drama-queen (DQ). If you’ve known me for awhile, you can’t deny it. You may even be happy that I am finally admitting it. Heck, I certainly am.  And, while there’s no 12 step program for this condition, there is this blessed thing called meditation. Similar to a 12-step program, its power builds up over time, making my DQ incidents less intense, and further apart…

Before I go further, let me clarify, what I mean when I say meditation, for me personally: it’s taking the time to sit or lie down quietly, I then begin to follow my breath, and in a non-judgemental way, silently I monitor my thoughts – accepting them, then releasing them – and then while continuing to follow my breath, I reach a place of peace.

My personal practice takes place at around 5 am each morning, also, when someone says or does something that triggers me, or if an event is causing me stress.  I can do this process for 30 minutes or for as little as 16 seconds, depending on when and where I am. It effectively brings clarity and relief.

I can do it for only 16 seconds in a crowd, and no one even knows.

“Does this really work?” you ask. Well, according to my on-line meditation guru, Davidji, more and more studies are neurologically supporting that meditation is not just for “flower-children” and Buddhists. If you click on this link (here), you can watch Davidji’s most recent vlog explaining the science behind why anxiety-prone people, like me, are finding real relief; here it is quickly:

There’s this inner brain portion called the Amygdala — it’s responsible for fear, anxiety and anger — and if you have had many high drama (emotionally threatening or life threatening) experiences, that brain portion is a major player in a person (myself included) reacting in a fight or flight manner (i.e. DQ manner – my words here).

One study showed: when an individual meditates, over a series of several days (56 was what the study focused on), that Amygdala will actually shrink. Meaning: smaller Amygdala equals less fight or flight reaction (because of less feelings of anxiety, fear, anger). This means, the ability to reason out a situation and respond peacefully, increases over time with a consistent meditation practice.

“Now that you have been meditating consistently, how often do you act like a drama queen?”

UGH – Another true-confession: still way more often than I want to admit.  Let me bring us full circle; I repeat: “less intense and further apart”.  Let me tell you what is different: When a DQ reaction moment occurs, I know it now. It might take a few minutes to identify it as such, but, when it happens, it just doesn’t feel good anymore. It just doesn’t feel good. Sometimes, if I’m mindful enough, I stop and take a 16 second pattern interrupt meditation, and halt the escalation in its tracks!

While my 12 step program analogy for meditation may seem a bit exaggerated, to someone like me — who has depended on emotionally charged episodes to feel alive, attention-worthy, or just plain “good”– meditation is my medicine.  No, it’s my cure. When I skip a day or two, or perhaps a week, and an anxious moment happens, it feels more difficult to resist my old pattern: let’s make this bigger. But when I’m consistent in my practice, nothing needs to be bigger. Heck, stressful moments just tend to NOT even occur.

So, I invite you on this Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Day holiday to come to a place of peace with me: a place of peace within yourself.  I think you’re a really great person to start with…maybe this is what Jill Jackson meant when she wrote the song lyrics “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” It’s worth meditating on. Let’s go.

Blessings and peace,

Pamela Rae

On How to Say Goodbye…and Tuesdays with Morrie…

My mother-in-law passed away on New Year’s Eve 2016.  Well, I should say, my former mother-in-law. Despite all the angst of the past two years of separation and divorce from my co-parent, he and I managed to come to an agreement: I should say good-bye to my friend.

In the days leading up to her passing, I came across The Garrison Institute. Serendipitously, I had viewed an instructional video  on The Compassionate Pause Process (for painful clinical care encounters).  There are seven steps in this process that are meant to bring peace and love to a situation where a medical diagnosis may bring great emotional strife to a patient — and here I was a few days later, by my friend’s bed side, saying goodbye, and implementing the process: exhaling to relax (step 3), practicing self compassion (step 5), and leaning in to her to be present in the “I” and “thou” moment (Step 6 and 7) we were sharing.

 But more importantly, in that last moment, I had  my lessons from  Morrie to carry me through… I was able to walk into my mother-in-law’s hospital room, after not seeing her for two years, and see her now, withering away from the cancer in front of me, and not be completely broken, and completely regretful for our long separation.

You see, in the memoir Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom has allowed 16 years to pass between him and his college professor (his “Coach” as he nick-named him when he attended Brandeis University). When he finally visits Morrie in his West Newton home, Morrie is withering away from ALS.  Morrie and Mitch rekindle their friendship, over a 6 month period, every Tuesday, talking about the important things in life: marriage, children, regrets, money, and so on. Mitch, to his emotional benefit, gets to say a long, meaningful, and memorable good-bye.

However, at one point in the memoir, Mitch has a harsh realization: it has been 16 years since the last time he saw Morrie walk! This is particularly painful because one joy Mitch and Morrie shared in their Brandeis days was long “life talk” walks around campus. Mitch knows he can not go back, shake his past self and say, “Hey, go visit your friend and have a ‘walk and talk’ session ! ALS will steal this ability from the two of you, and Morrie will be gone way too soon.”

Mitch, instead of letting raw regret eat at him, reminds himself of, and shares with his readers, Morrie’s advice: “You can not go backwards; you can only do what you can do now – in the present, and it is never too late – as long as there is breath and life to share.”

So, as I leaned in, I took Morrie’s advice, and I enjoyed my 71 year old friend’s breath, and her life… It went something like this:

She had no hair, but she looked beautiful, serene and I told her so. “You’re full of shit,” was her response (crass as ever!). “Do I look skinny?” she asked. “Yes, but I always saw you that way.” And I did because I saw and loved her giving heart, and her large laugh, and her ability to warm a room when she sang in the choir, or walked through our front door of our family home to share a Sunday meal with us, when we were still together as a family of five. And then, I leaned even closer, as her voice was a whisper now – destroyed by the radiation. “I’m so glad to see you,” she stated warmly. “I’m so glad to see you! I wouldn’t have not come to see you – I finally made it…I want you to know that I love you, and how grateful I am to you, because of you I have Grace, and I can never thank you enough for that–” Her follow-up statement, “You told me ‘you better not give that baby chocolate'” (Still correcting me, even after a 2 year absence – hey, I’ll happily take it!) I responded, “I’m over protective — are you still upset with me for that, because you can be.” “No.” And I informed her, “Your grand-daughter eats like crazy, loves school, and has a natural ability to make friends – much like you…What are your thoughts?” And seamlessly, even after my 2 year absence, she streamed out her thoughts, “I’m going to heaven; I am proud of my two boys; I loved walking up and down the football field watching them play; I would love to go back to Nashville (a country fan till the end)…” And it continued for several minutes, us, sharing each other’s  life and breath.

And as I sit here, reflecting on how we said goodbye, I’m pretty solid on a few things. One, my mother-in-law was a really good friend (she bravely came and gave me intermuscular shots in my butt when I had fertility treatments to conceive Grace), and I’m glad I had the chance to tell her so before it was too late –whether I had six months or six minutes to do it in. Two, I will see her again — and I’m glad I got to tell her I was looking forward to our future reunion — we will have another hello.

Finally, spending time with Morrie again, as I have just done so just recently with my students, has built within me a certain unchangeable resolve: I love my friends; I love connecting with them; there is life and breath to be exchanged between us while we are here and together. I will treasure those opportune moments to do so – and try to express that pleasure in all our hellos and in all our goodbyes. Thank you, Meme. Thank you, Morrie.

With love and warmth,

Pamela Rae

Winter Recess Reflections: NEEDs, WANTs, MUSTs…

What NEEDS to get done? What WANTS to get done? What MUST get done?

These are the three questions I believe every teacher ponders as their winter recess week speeds to a close with only a few optimal hours left to accomplish it all.

At the beginning of the recess, the MUST list dominates all action, but as we come to a close the WANTs list seems to have pushed its way to the front.

Here’s what I mean:

On Friday, December 23rd I knew that all else MUST be put on hold till every gift was wrapped, in the special “from Santa paper”,  and ready to be placed under the tree.  My eight year old daughter still believes, and one holiday MUST is keeping her belief system intact, for another precious year. Other MUSTs that dominate on December 23rd: completely grading 2 classes of open responses, 4 classes of compositions, and all the Google Classroom homework.  MUSTs like taking down a tree or putting holiday decorations away, never trump grading, as the nostalgia feeling they evoke is delicious well past the New Year party. Another MUST: visiting of family and friends to share sentiments and exchange gifts.

The NEEDs list includes (as I still whittle it down): the never-ending pile of laundry, both mine and my daughter’s, that has been waiting to be put away for days (thank you to the inventor of the laundry basket!), the cleaning of bathrooms, the washing of sheets and towels, and grocery shopping for the healthy foods to start out our New Year /New Living “resolution”.  And there’s the general NEED to tidy up and organize before the January 2nd back to school wake up call.

How about that WANT list?  On the 23rd, I had one colossal desire: to get two hours to indulge in an oh so sugary sweet Hallmark movie! Somehow, I managed to get in five featured films: A December Bride (3 stars), Love You Like Christmas (4 stars), Christmas Cookies (3 stars), A Nutcracker Christmas (5 stars – total AWESOMENESS), A Christmas to Remember (4 stars) …and one Netflix flick – The Spirit of Christmas (5 stars – complete sentimental romantic gushiness: love it).

Now fast forward: January 1st 2017 (Happy New Year!! btw), and in my hindsight wisdom, I arrive at a present moment new understanding.

Here’s what I mean:

Often what really NEEDs to get done, are actually the things we WANT to get done.  In other words, did I NEED to watch 12 hours of gushy holiday movies? No. But something magical happened as I snuggled on the couch with my daughter last night (sometimes we snuggle with IPADs in hand – she’s playing Animal Jam; I’m searching for a local yoga studio that incorporates meditation into the practice). I vocalized something closely and softly into her ear, “I’ve always dreamt of the day I would lounge on the couch with my daughter and watch Christmas Hallmark movies with you. My dream has come true.” With my warm words she gave me an extra snuggle and an ear to ear smile. So, a longtime dream – a WANT –  easily, effortlessly manifested last night.

Often, in life, as educators, we are obligated to look at the MUSTs as non-negotiables: those things that we don’t have an option to  not do, we must, with no choice, partake in them (our SMART goals and teacher evaluations for instance) … while those NEEDS tend to be essential, but often at times, they are optional (such as the apparent NEED to drink 8 glasses of water a day, but as a teacher with a full schedule – I’m lucky to get in ½ that! And I’m not dead from dehydration – yet).

And so, when are we are truly mindful, what happens to that WANTs list?  It’s interesting, that along the way it’s the WANTS that push themselves into our lives as impulse. Remember my NEEDS list? I have tidied up the house, cleaned bathrooms and changed sheets (there’s still time to organize laundry and grab those healthy foods) – somehow, those mindlessly get done! Yet, it is what I have WANTED to initiate – for days, for months, sometimes years  (this BLOG for example) that demanded my action this winter rescess!

Yesterday, that impulse (a strong desire to act) became a FORCE that could no longer be squelched.  And here is the manifestation: words I wanted to say, on a page, to drive me to this fierce reflection.  Hey, it turns out, the WANT list is the fire that invigorates! It’s that list that bites us in the proverbial ass and gets us moving, even when the stacks of papers and the Google Classroom keep calling out our name… The fact is MUSTs are absolute – they tell us what to do to maintain the status quo of our life (our pay check for instance!) – they are the voices of responsibility – and somehow, we manage to get to them (even if it is on a Sunday night grading ‘date’, at 9pm!).

It turns out that the WANTS – oh, those are the fires of desire! They are of what makes life worth living – like really good chocolate (Sugarpova is super delish btw), great sex, or a relaxing coffee hour with your best friend! And whether we find time for them or not, they find time for us, in a beckoning call that we must answer…

So, I invite you, this New Year of 2017, my fellow veteran teacher friends (and my newbie friends, too) to look at life in 2017 in the way you approached your winter recess – as TO DO lists: determine what NEEDS to get done this year (student achievement by trying a new strategy) and do it; then, nail down what MUST get done this year (getting to work on time, eating a little better, vocalizing your needs)and be responsible for it; BUT listen, really listen to the impulses of what you WANT to get done this year – as those are the fire and ice of life – and allow yourself to take action. After all, isn’t it the “WANTs list”  in your life,  that is really NEEDED? I think so.

New Year Blessings for Good Health and Prosperity!  — Pamela Rae

An Invitation as the Journey Begins

When my life came to a crossroads in the winter of 2015, I discovered meditation — and you know what they say, “When the student is ready, the teacher arrives.” Arrive it did.  I meditated for about 90 days straight. My mind began to shift: more clarity, less confusion; more joy, less sadness. As my outlook changed, so did my life, my daughter in tow. As meditation grew into mindfulness, I realized I wanted to incorporate this clarity into my mothering, my classroom and my community. This is that story.  I invite you to join my daughter and I (and my students) as we explore this path. Let’s see how it happens. Let’s see what it brings!