A Shift in Perspective

A shift in perspective seemingly occurs suddenly. A clear demarcation arises. In a moment you see things and yourself differently. I know this occurs because it happened to me, and yet, how sudden is it?

Perspective is the way one looks at things or a particular way of thinking about something, especially one that is influenced by your beliefs or experiences. It’s the lens you see the world through and determines how you view yourself, others, and everything else around you.

For the majority of my life, my perspective was clouded by the lenses of fear, anxiety, depression and shame, at least until one day in August, 2007. On that day, I went to a workshop about labyrinths – their history and use as a mindfulness meditation tool and spiritual healing. It was arranged by the spiritual advisor at an inpatient facility where I was receiving treatment for depression and alcoholism. As a result of those three hours, engaged in an activity that I hadn’t planned, my perspective changed from one of despair to one of hope.

It seemed dramatic and sudden – as if I was propelled into a different dimension – but in retrospect, I know that this moment had been coming for a long time. The good news was that my willingness coincided with my change in perspective. I could have chosen to stay in my own prison of depression, fear and anxiety but instead I chose to be open minded – the result of finally being sick and tired of being sick and tired. From that moment on, I was able to see my worth as a valuable human being. Just this small ray of hope and a change in my perspective allowed me to find the courage to face my fears and grow.

I’m reminded of this day because I recently celebrated 14 years of sobriety and today I facilitated a walk at the beautiful outdoor labyrinth at UCSB for several women who are in treatment. I’m so grateful to be able to take what I’ve learned and experienced and share it with others. I have no idea how this walk will impact these women or if their perspectives will change but I do know it’s a comforting experience – one which allows for self-compassion and forgiveness.

My hope is that these women will experience something that allows them to see more clearly. May it be so.

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It’s not only moving that creates new starting points. Sometimes all it takes is a subtle shift in perspective, an opening of the mind, an intentional pause and reset, or a new route to start to see new options and new possibilities.

~ Kristin Armstrong

Discovering that I’m Not Alone

Originally Posted on February 5, 2021

It was such a relief to discover that I wasn’t alone and that I was understood. I wasn’t the only person to feel the way I felt. I wasn’t unique and many others had lived my life and had found the support they needed to feel whole. Yes, I felt relief but was I ready to listen, to learn, to heal and to change?

I went into treatment for alcoholism and depression in 2007 and I truly felt as if I was the only person who had ever been through what I had experienced in my life and that no one would or could possibly understand me. I expected to be loathed and shamed. I cried when none of this happened. I discovered that I was completely understood and that it didn’t matter that my experiences and circumstances were different from the other women in the room. The common denominator of underlying emotions, feelings and patterns of thinking were practically the same.

Those moments in early recovery opened my eyes and my heart and the feelings of shared experience allowed the walls I had built to crumble, leaving me exposed and vulnerable. I’m so grateful that I wasn’t alone then. I had people surrounding me who understood what I was going through even before I did. They were ready with the right words, or even no words at all – just their obvious understanding and willingness to be with me and offer words of wisdom when I asked for their help.

My heart sank when I realized that my alcohol consumption had only been a symptom of much larger problems. In order to be the person I wanted to be, I would have to look at all of the behaviors and mindsets that were practically part of my DNA – perfectionism, lack of boundaries, no self-respect, low self-esteem, feelings of unworthiness, co-dependency and shame. These patterns had been learned in childhood and had become useful tools for self-preservation but as an adult they only set me up for isolation, anger, frustration, depression and alcoholism.

There are two sides to the coin of discovery – exhilaration, promise and hope on one side with fear, retreat, denial and consignment on the other. Discovery poses two questions – will you have the humility to be honest with yourself and others, to listen and to learn and will you allow others to help you find your way?

If you want to ask some questions of your own, contact me. We can talk and I might be able to help you see where you are in your amazing process of change.

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“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

An Awakening Experience

I was sitting in my garden when I said ‘yes’. I felt completely at peace for the first time in years and experienced a deep knowing that all would be well. The moment was fleeting but I seemed to see with a newly found clarity that comes from a change in perspective.

I’ve thought about this moment many times, never understanding why I agreed to go into treatment at that moment and not others. I came to believe that I had experienced a moment of grace but that still didn’t explain this mystery. This has generally been OK with me. I just accepted that it happened, attributed it to my as yet unidentified Higher Power in waiting, and have been forever after grateful for the experience.

I was doing some online research recently and found an article by Dr Steve Taylor that seemed to describe my experience more fully and secularly, which I appreciated and completely related to. In his article he says that an “‘awakening experience’ is a temporary expansion and intensification of awareness that brings significant perceptual, affective and conceptual changes.” He goes on to say that his research has shown some common characteristics of these experiences:

  • “positive affective states (including a sense of elation or serenity, a lack of fear and anxiety);
  • intensified perception;
  • a sense of connection (which can be towards other human beings, nature, or the whole universe in general);
  • altered time perception (which often includes a sense of being intensely present);
  • a sense of a deeper knowing (as if the person is becoming aware of realities that are normally obscure); and
  • a sense of inner quietness (as if the normal associational chatter of the mind has slowed down or become quiet).”

Dr. Taylor says that the physical and emotional triggers generally revolve around being in an extreme state of depression or stress, being in nature and having a spiritual practice.This accurately describes what I experienced, especially having a “sense of deeper knowing.” I had been aware of my unhappiness and distress for a long time but I had been unwilling to pay attention until that moment in my garden.

This is all very interesting and I’ll pay attention to any research that dives into this area more fully, however, in my opinion, the mystery still remains. The simplest way for me to explain this is that I had been aware of being sick and tired for a long time, I finally got tired of being sick and tired and it just happened to occur in my lovely garden. Whether it was a moment of grace or an awakening experience, I’m not sure, but I do know that I awakened to reality that day and deeply believed that I was worth saving. I knew what I had to do and even though fear was always with me, I felt empowered to push my fear to the back seat. I allowed strength and courage to be in the driver’s and passenger’s seats.

Tune in to these moments with mindfulness. You may just experience a moment of joy or new and wonderful paths may reveal themselves to you.

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“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”
― Cynthia Occelli

Where Are Your Feet?

 Have you ever noticed how unaware you are – how oblivious you are to what’s going on around you? Is your mind digging deep tunnels into the past trying to find another way out, another outcome? Or are you so worried about your future – how you’re going to get there and what it’s going to look like that you don’t notice the tree roots that have pushed up the concrete until you’re doing a face plant?

Are you beginning to feel anxious after reading that paragraph? Just stop for a moment and either sit down or stand still and ask yourself this question: “Where are my feet?” Ask yourself again, “Where are my feet?”, and then pause and actually look at your feet. When you do this, you will truly be in the present. You won’t be in the past or the future – you’ll be aware of where you are right now.

Feeling your feet can help engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the mind and body and is a simple tool that can help you when you are feeling overwhelmed or drawn into the vortexes of rumination or worry, which are counterproductive and soul sapping.

Now that you are present, what are you aware of? Are you aware of the beauty around you or are you aware of something that is disturbing, either around you or within? Are you aware of a sense of gratitude or are you aware of some kind of cognitive dissonance – something just not feeling right or something that is out of alignment?

When you are in awareness, you are able to appreciate what is or act on what can be changed – neither of which you can do in the past or the future. So, where are your feet?

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“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”
― Maya Angelou

Resilience

I remember being told that I was resilient. I knew I was receiving a compliment but I didn’t feel anything except exhaustion.

As I think about this, I suppose I felt exhausted because I was coming out of a long and painful transition. I had been successful in the eyes of others but I had to think about resilience for a while before I could agree and find strength and pride in this.

The simple definition of resilience is the capacity to recover quickly or bounce back from difficulties but there’s much more to it than this. I believe resilience implies recovery from trauma or loss, learning from the events and the losses and then changing for the better.

An article in Psychology Today says, “Resilience may be an art, the ultimate art of living, but it has recently been subjected to the scrutiny of science. This much is known so far. At the heart of resilience is a belief in oneself—yet also a belief in something larger than oneself.”

I experienced this as I moved through a divorce and recovery at the same time. I was recovering, not only from addiction but from the loss of a 28-year marriage and all that goes with this type of loss. I also realized that bouncing back and returning to the status quo wasn’t an option either. That would have condemned me to a life of depression and “victim-hood” so I had to intentionally dive into learning the art of resilience.

I found an article titled, The 7 Key Skills of Resilient People, and I see that I already had some of the qualities necessary for resilience. The others I had to either learn or enhance with practice. The author lists the skills as:

  • Resilient people are autonomous. …
  • Resilient people have a realistic awareness of self. …
  • Resilient people are adaptable. …
  • Resilient people are optimistic. …
  • Resilient people are pragmatic. …
  • Resilient people are socially connected. …
  • Resilient people demonstrate self-compassion.

I have always been a pragmatic and adaptable person, able to grow where planted, but I had to learn that I couldn’t control other people’s behaviors and needed to focus on changing my own. Optimism has always been easy for me except when suffering from clinical depressions, so self-care was critical. I had to learn to be self-compassionate – beating myself up and expecting perfection were defaults for me so more self-care, mindfulness practices and therapy were required. Social connection was difficult for me but I learned that it wasn’t impossible and, in fact, was necessary and fun – go figure! I had to make the effort. I learned and worked my way into being able to recognize and honor my resilience today.

If you have experienced a loss or are in recovery and doubt your ability to move forward and worry about your capacity for resilience, contact me. I would be honored to listen, to talk with you and to share my experience and perspective.

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“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.”

~ Steve Maraboli

In Alignment

“When you’re aligned with your Soul, you’re aligned with the whole.”

~ Kris Franken

Plumb bobs are weights suspended by string and are used to indicate verticality. Egyptians used them to build the pyramids and builders throughout the ages have used them to determine if framing and walls are “plumb” or perfectly vertical. In the building trade, having perfectly vertical walls matters.

Metaphorically speaking, our souls are the framing for our psyches but how do we know when we’re in alignment? How do we know when we’ve reached a state of emotional flow? We feel it. It’s as if we have internal plumb bobs. The cognitive dissonance we’ve experienced by having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes is gone. Instead of internal noise, there is internal peace. There is a clear, unimpeded line leading from our core values to our actions.

I’ve experienced this process and know what it feels like to be out of alignment and then, with intentional work, to be in alignment. Here’s an example: I believed that I valued self-respect and honesty and deeply believed that I was an honest person. But, I had a hard time saying NO and said YES when I didn’t mean it. I wanted to please everyone and always left my needs out of the equation. As a result, I found myself frequently irritated and upset not only with myself but with everyone else.  If I had been in alignment with my values of self-respect and honesty, I would have said “No, I’m so sorry but I simply don’t have time.”  Or, I would have said, “No, I won’t do this because I disagree.”  When I began telling the truth by actually saying NO when I meant it, I initially experienced lots of discomfort because of my need to please others and I worried about what others would think of me. When I realized that I was the only one feeling this discomfort and that others actually respected my decisions, I began to let go of my incongruent behavior. As I practiced this new behavior, my feelings of honesty and self-respect grew, my need to please others diminished and my feelings of discomfort virtually disappeared. It was noticeable – I felt at ease and authentic. I was no longer creating internal road blocks. I was in alignment.  

This is the state of flow – of being in alignment with our values. It is the essence of emotional sobriety and reaching this state of well-being is usually the result of hard work. Beginning with the awareness of psychic dis-ease and then moving through the stages of awakening, discovery, courage and action, we can find and experience flow.

Once we reach a state of flow, it doesn’t mean we’ll never hit road blocks or snags again. We will, and this is the nature of life, so don’t despair and don’t set yourself up with unrealistic expectations. Observe the road blocks – see them for what they are – temporary conditions – pause and take a look at where they come from – find detours, if necessary, accept them if you must or move through the stages of change again. You’ll be guaranteed to find your way if your intention is to be in alignment by living your values.

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If you are interested in doing a Values-Based Living self-assessment, just sign up for my email list and I’ll send you a downloadable PDF which includes the assessment along with some powerful journaling prompts. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. This is an exercise that is worth doing. Give it a try – see where it leads.

Under the Influence

Whenever I see a rainbow, I feel as if everything is possible. I feel as if I’m truly present and under the influence of joy.

When I hear or read the phrase, under the influence, I immediately think of alcohol or drug use but we can be “under the influence” in many ways. How about being under the influence of joy because of the discovery that we aren’t alone and that we’re able to become authentic and happy individuals by changing our behaviors, attitudes and perspectives?

I know this happened to me. When I discovered that there was hope for me and that in sobriety I could create a bright and happy future for myself, I was infused with joy. Moving into action feels good. Finally stepping out of the closed-minded state of denial creates a flow of dopamine – the “feel good” hormone, that builds on itself and can absolutely create an “under the influence” state of mind – one that is natural, clear, motivating, purposeful and powerful. The “pink cloud” phenomenon.

There’s one caveat – pink clouds don’t last forever and it’s difficult to predict when those happy pink clouds will disappear. It’s important to use this time carefully and wisely. Take action judiciously, always asking for and receiving feedback from partners or professionals who understand and have been through these stages of change. Take the implications of any changes into deliberate consideration so your decisions are grounded and not reactionary.

Once you feel stabilized in your sobriety, do an inventory of the values that matter to you most and move toward being in alignment with those values as you continue taking actions that will lead you forward and into emotional sobriety. If you’re interested in doing an inventory, try this Values-Based Living Self-Assessment. It’s a good first start and something you can revisit at any time, especially if you feel that you’ve become stagnant or if old mind-sets and behaviors start resurfacing.

Remember, you have the power of choice when it comes to being “under the influence.”

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“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Gandhi

Courage

Megan Woodward Moyer

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Where do we go to find courage? I know for a fact, that we can’t look outside of ourselves – we have to find courage within. And how do we embrace the fledgling courage we find there when fear is working very hard to slam the door on it?

In my previous posts, I wrote about awareness leading to an awakening and the discovery that change is possible. In combination with these early stages of change, a growing realization and acceptance of our spiritual nature is the key that unlocks the door that has kept our courage hidden. Spirituality cannot exist in a vacuum and is not true and authentic if corrupted by a narcissistic ego. The spirituality, of which I speak, occurs in a state of humility with a supportive and understanding community.

Before I chose sobriety, I experienced an actual visceral feeling…

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The Importance of Community

The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food.

~ Dean Ornish

I felt a visceral void within me for years. It was growing and becoming more noticeable. Finally, when it became impossible to ignore, I remember weighing my choices and I’m so grateful I chose to go into treatment.

When I became a member of the recovery community, I noticed that the internal void I had experienced for so long began to shrink – literally. I began to feel filled and nurtured by this community and understood that being in community and all that this means was the reason for the beginnings of my transformation. These newly found connections allowed me to realized that I wasn’t living in alignment with my values and disconnection was the result. As I actively participated in my 12-step communities, I discovered that meaningful connection with others was also the path to my innate spirituality and I began to want more. This led me on a search for a spiritually religious community that suited me and, yes, I found them as well.

Spirituality is the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things and is all about seeking a meaningful connection with something bigger than yourself. As I participated in my chosen communities, I discovered my feelings of purposefulness and value returning as I listened, learned, shared and connected with others. I discovered that by being in community, I was practicing self-love as well as love for others. I was realizing that I am a spiritual being living a human life with all of its’ ups and downs.

Discovery is the stage of change where we realize that we’re not alone and that there are others who can help you along the way. It’s that place where you also realize that you can help others, too. The profound exchanges that occur in safe and supportive communities changes the noun, spirituality, into a verb – a beautiful set of actions that literally filled my empty soul.

If you’ve found yourself at this stage, I have a free offer that will help you identify if you are living a values-based life. This is a wonderful starting point for any life journey. I encourage you to give this self-assessment a try and if you have questions, contact me. I’ll be more than happy to help you along the way.

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“Sometimes you have to kind of die inside in order to rise from your own ashes and believe in yourself and love yourself to become a new person.”
gerard way

Awakenings Happen Every Day

Each morning, we have an opportunity to do more than just wake up. We can truly awaken to reality.

Awakenings represent a shift in our perspective. Instead of choosing to live in denial and demanding that everything be as we want it to be, we choose to see everything as it is. We decide to embrace the truth no matter how beautiful or ugly it may be.

This type of honesty requires courage because we are actually asking ourselves to consider taking an action. Will we accept things as they are or will we find ourselves face to face with change?

I remember awakening to the understanding that I needed help with my depression and alcohol addiction. As far as awakenings go, it wasn’t a lovely moment. I felt as if I had no choice and was resigned to this humiliation in order to save myself. Fortunately perspectives can shift and, in time, mine shifted from one of humiliation to humility when I awoke to the fact that I’m an imperfect human being who occasionally needs help. This awakening was gratifying and well-received.

I like to think of the awakenings and realizations that I’ve experienced as spiritual moments – moments when I’m able to tap into my innermost self and speak honestly with her. If you’re experiencing or have experienced moments like this, hold yourself with compassion and patience. Give these awakenings time to grow and time to reveal themselves for what they truly are – the answers will come.

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To realize that you are not your thoughts is when you begin to awaken spiritually.

~ Eckhart Tolle

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