I met a lovely little dog yesterday, and her name is Sophie. Sophie is 12 years old, deaf, and just as smart and sweet as can be. When her owner picked her up, Sophie seemed to melt into her arms. Sophie was so completely content and trusting in her owner’s actions, I could actually feel it.
I then learned that Sophie had a traumatic past. Her new owner actually rescued her from near euthanization just one year before. It was such a trip to me because without knowing about her past, it seemed like Sophie and her owner had been together forever, and that Sophie hadn’t experienced one second of fear or pain.
Actually, someone had told Sophie’s owner that it takes dogs six months to forget trauma. Whether or not that’s true, I love the way that idea sparks my imagination. Here’s what’s delicious about it to me – why can’t I (or can I?) be dog-like in that way? What if I gave myself six months to grieve/be pissed/hurt about my non-preferred experiences and then move on, healed, renewed and better than ever?
In my case, I was a pro at holding on to resentment and hurt. After experiencing my own trauma as a little one, I held on to it for decades. I kept all of it secret, and my pain jumped from back burner to front burner at different times, but it always stayed with me.
I used to think that if I started to cry, I’d never stop because my pain was so deep. To me tears equaled death. However, once my choice became face the pain or die (yes, I went to the cliff’s edge), facing my pain didn’t kill me, it ultimately freed me! By facing it, I mean safely releasing my anger and hurt (with harm to none, including myself) without judgment.
It felt like I found the formula to release hurt and reconnect with my good feelings (and, by the way, this formula isn’t new, nor is it a secret). I use this formula all the time. Sometimes I “get over it” very quickly, especially when it’s a minor annoyance. And even when I give myself six months (or however much time I think I need) to get over the bigger hurts, invariably I move through them more quickly.
One time I was particularly heartbroken and I allowed my pain to just be. It was simmering inside of me. I let myself feel it without judgment. I felt a pang in my heart for months. Then one day it just bubbled to the surface. I was driving my car, and the song “Since I Fell for You” came on, and my feelings came to a head.
It felt like a dagger pierced my heart. I started crying. And crying. Then I stopped crying. And then I started crying again. I played that one song over and over again whenever I was in my car. Sometimes I would scream, other times I would cry, talk aloud and even laugh. Whatever my emotions needed to express, I let them out safely. I was “in it,” if that makes sense.
I played that one song for about a week. I immersed myself in it and just let my emotions out. All of them that had something to say – about my heartbreak, him, myself, and whatever else – got their turn.
I could literally feel the cloud over my heart lifting. My pain was diminishing and I started to feel a sense of lightness again, or perhaps I lightened up first, which, in turn, soothed my pain. Whatever it was, it happened gently and naturally. My emotions simmered down around my breakup and pretty much went away for good.
I didn’t need to play the song over and over anymore. Actually, I got sick of it. I was done grieving! From that moment on, whenever I think about that breakup, it is now simply a fact. It was an event that had occurred in my life, and now without pain attached to. Actually I was (and am) very grateful for the relationship. I keep with me what I learned, liked and disliked about it, and I continue to let it teach me more about myself. It is very, very cool.
Something tells me I’m not alone when it comes to holding on to painful experiences. Suffice to say, to transform it in six months or less for me means immersing myself in the pain (emotionally speaking) until it naturally heals. I’d still live my life while doing it. I’d still work every day, enjoy my family and friends, and allow my feelings to ebb and flow without judgment and with harm to none, including myself. I would acknowledge and embrace my unfulfilled expectations, and that’s how I break (what feels like) a spell of sadness that I’m under.
Now, when it comes to smart, sweet and trusting little Sophie and those six months, I read that because dogs totally live in the moment they don’t remember past trauma unless something happens that triggers it. I’m thinking that perhaps Sophie’s current environment is so peaceful that she is just completely chilled out. There’s no longer fear and pain, just love.
If only it were that simple for humans – to have a peaceful and trigger-less environment in order to forget all the pain. My experience is that it doesn’t happen that way… I used to find triggers regardless, even if they were only in my mind and I’d relive painful experiences over and over again.
But what if we allowed ourselves to feel the pain with the intention of getting through it rather than avoiding, judging or trying to ignore it? Why not embrace hurt and sadness, giving them some attention just as we would a more pleasant and likable aspect of ourselves? After all, they do coexist. We can feel pain alongside joy, curiosity, etc.
What if you face your pain and tell yourself the truth about how you feel about it with harm to none, including yourself? What if your triggers only summoned the memory of the event with no pain attached to it? I believe it is possible for you, and possible to live each moment, having been enriched by all of your non-preferred experiences.
At all times, I wish you Sophie’s unwavering contentment and love!
Yesterday we were having a conversation with our friend Nina as we wrapped up our Key West Healthy Living Retreat. The conversation was about birthdays. Some people love them, some people dread them but most of us reflect a little deeper when there is a “zero” involved.
There might be some excitement about “20” as we feel we are “coming of age” but after that there is the intense feeling of time running out as we climb to 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90….
I wrote all those decades out because I have friends and clients in them all. And the ones at the top of the ladder look at the ones below as “kids”.
Yesterday as we spoke to Nina, Steve asked her, “How old are you in your heart?” Without hesitation she said, “ In my 30’s.” Chronologically, she is older but in her heart she is as old as she feels.
Nina is retired from her first profession. She recently moved to an Island and changed her life dramatically. She reduced her stress, exercises her body, mind and soul regularly and now works with an attitude of love for life rather than working to find a life she loves.
Even with all this, she was having some issues with an upcoming birthday. It is understandable. Although our calendar and birthdays are man-made ways of categorizing time, they are milestones in our lives that give us cause for pause. In astrology, your birthday is considered your personal New Year. The sun is back to the place it was on the very day you were born and took your first breath. It is a great time, a natural time to pause and reflect. It’s a time to ask yourself, “Where have I been and where am I going?”
Taking a little personal time each birthday to reflect and either set your course or reset your course, can make facing a “zero” year less intimidating. It can make facing any birthday less intimidating. It is when we live in denial of time and the inevitable that we eventually “freak out”.
In Tantric Yoga Philosophy it is said that five things cause us suffering as humans: Ignorance, Ego, Attachment, Aversion and Fear of Death.
BINGO!!! Birthdays can activate all of them if you think about it.
Ignorance – when we don’t know or acknowledge that we are more than our bodies and that our spark of divinity is eternal.
Ego- – when the fear of getting older is about loss of youth rather than the celebration of our new role as we become a wise elder.
Attachment— to our life. Aversion— to its inevitable evolution—see Ego above.
Fear of Death- For many of us- this is the unspoken bogey man for sure. And that comes down to being afraid of the unknown.
Who knew birthdays had so much deep stuff buried beneath them. But they do.
We can help each other out with the “birthday dilemma”.
Never ask any one their age. Ask them how old they are in their hearts.
Do not send birthday greetings with tombstones or the color black as the most prominent feature. That doesn’t make anyone feel good.
Ask each other what “newness” we are adding to this phase of our life and what negative thoughts we are going to leave behind.
Celebrate what you have learned through your life and plan for the next adventure.
Take time to reflect on the goodness you have experienced and all the incredible people and experiences you have had and are still having.
Allow your self to be shining example of how to continue to Live Life Fully rather than merely just existing.
Our generations are the vanguard of change about living life fully and with as much meaning as we can handle. Most of us have the advantage of being able to work on raising Consciousness like no other generation before us.
Let’s encourage each other to live our life and forget our age.
Let’s raise each other up with each birthday milestone to see our lives as having purpose no matter what man-made number we are celebrating.
We can help and encourage each other the most by teaching through example as we experience and express our lives fully through our heart as well as our head.
Happy Happy Birthday to us all.
Recently I took a risk tolerance quiz. It was a fun refresher for some financial investment work I was doing. I didn’t know this quiz, so I wanted to see how my taste for risk ranked these days. Let it be known that I am in no way what anyone would call a daredevil.
I don’t think any of my friends or family would declare me at all a risk taker. I’ve never spent more than $2 gambling in my many wonderful trips to Las Vegas. I’ve never jumped out of a plane with a parachute on my back. Heck, I can’t even go near an amusement park without feeling nauseous at the site of roller coasters: ugh. Of course, one person’s craziest night out is another guy’s average Monday night at the local pub, so we have some wiggle room for subjectivity.
It turns out that I have a pretty high risk tolerance, and not just financially. This is what I like to call ‘quiet courage’. So what does this equate to my real daily life? The simple answer is: I’m able to go after my dreams, and not worry too much about the downsides where great reward is possible.
The key here is not worrying too much. Of course, like any rational, questionably sane adult, I question things; call that worry if you must. But every great investor knows that to capture your wins (and we all want wins, even if you call it ‘to just be happy’), you must minimize your risk. Risk will always be there, as will all the emotions that come along with it.
Perhaps that’s where I differentiate myself from people who either don’t take action, or are deeply scared of action to the point of moving like molasses. From personal experience and (even more so) from the experience of others, I know that risk is always there. Let me repeat that: risk is always there. We just learn how to minimize it, to manage it, to handle it, to comfortably live with it. This is a matter of mastering my emotions, so that my honest choices can take come forward. In my mind, that’s the edge, and it’s what I work with most deeply with all of my clients. They then get the greatest rewards in terms of jobs and financial income.
For many of us, security is our #1 driving force. Yes, everyone has a need to feel secure. But when it’s your primary need, and you’re not conscious about it yet, this influences all of your decisions in ways that you cannot even imagine. Once you become aware of it, you can then balance out your need for security with those other needs that your soul has: fulfillment, growth, contribution, love & connection.
When you are stuck in security, instead of just going on that day trip to wine country, or donating your time to a new charitable organization you’ve always thought about giving to, you’ll start to seek the ways that this new experience will threaten your security. The question your habituated, un-mastered mind puts to you is: ‘How is this going to disrupt my days/habits/comfort?’ And before you know it, you’ve found all the answers, and talked yourself out of doing something that likely could have given you far more satisfaction, joy and connection than just maintaining your security status quo.
How do we get stuck in security in first place? As with most things, without changing the world and reconditioning all of society, the answer to this is likely beside the point. You might like to think that it’s your social demographic or generation or economic background. But those are just easy excuses. People from all walks of life respond to the fire in their bellies daily, and overcome – if that’s the right word – the conditions that might have been imposed upon them to move beyond their need for security.
I don’t believe you ever need to overcome anything. Wherever you started in life is the place in which you get to contribute. You’ve become the absolute best tool for the growth and progress of that place, because it’s yours and it knows and loves you, even if it forgets that some times. I come from good, ethical people, who are exceptionally imperfect, like all of us. I’ve had challenging conversations that shaped my original community’s opinions, beliefs and – best of all – feelings, through the years. And don’t kid yourself, they’ve shaped mine for the better too.
Which only leaves the fire in everyone’s bellies! That’s all any of us have. What are we passionate about? What are our dreams? What gives us our truest fulfillment? Most often, we’ve just lost track of that. We’ve gotten lulled to sleep by society’s norms – often fatally, like a lobster put into the cosy warm water in the lobster pot. Before you know it, your life was lived ‘normally’ and you get to the end wondering, ‘Is this all there was?’
When the meaning of our lives comes solely from security, problems come calling. While we all deserve joy with family and friends, imagine how much more you might have created and contributed if you responded to that fire in your belly! And I know that everyone has it, even if they pretend that they’re just ‘a simple person, living my life,’ as I hear people say until they start to ask some great questions that release some amazing, impeccable answers!
Simple people do extraordinary things every day, risky things. But they are not necessarily extraordinary or risky to that person, just to you and me if we haven’t done them yet. We can do extraordinary things every day too. And this is all it takes: a little conditioning, a little habitual encouragement to try new things, things that you really want to do. Things that you’ve always wanted to do. Things that give you huge joy, huge connection, and fun.
Little by little, you realize: ‘hmm, maybe my security is not in jeopardy! Maybe what I thought was unsafe is really just untested. Maybe all those stories my grandmother told me about going out into the world were just her fear, not mine’ (don’t even get me started on the job my family’s old-world Italian grandparents had on later generations!).
Here’s the truth: we are never really without security. Not at heart, not deep deep down, where it matters most. We are all resourceful, we just forget about this. We’ve mastered tying our shoelaces and driving cars and paying bills, things that would be challenging to every 2-year-old. But we’ve gotten experience, we came through. Most of us have come through some truly difficult, challenging, heart-wrenching experiences, and still we live and wake up and smile and find joy with ourselves and others.
So when you find yourself getting stuck in your old idea security – and it happens at the most inconvenient of times! – just stop, take a deep breath, and remind yourself: ‘Hey, I give myself credit for learning and enjoying things I never thought I could do before! I’m grateful for all the connections that I get to create every day.’
Take a moment now to remind yourself, and write down your It Factor. Ask yourself: What have I always wanted most? What makes me smile more than anything else? What makes me laugh and feel warm and connected to other people? What gives me a sense of giving to other people so that I feel so satisfied and generous? Why did I end up on this earth to give? Dig deeper, because it’s all there for you to take! Go out, have some fun, and claim your own It Factor today.
Josh Ubaldi is a business coach, entrepreneur & quiet risk-taker living in Los Angeles, CA. Please share with him your experiences of security and fulfillment here.