Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Releasing the Need to be Right

You’re on a spiritual journey. You can’t mess it up.
-Janet Tuck

Most of you know that I’m highly intuitive. When I work with someone, “seeing” information on their behalf, I just love it when they call me later declaring, “You know that thing you told me? You were RIGHT about that!” I love it when that happens.

But my need to be right is also a major stumbling block. My need to be right disconnects me from others and from myself. It goes straight to my need to control every aspect of my life and when I’m there, in control overdrive, there is no growth or joy happening.

This goes for both small issues and the larger ones. Fear of being wrong keeps me stuck. So I become vigilant about being right. And what I am coming to believe is this: none of it matters. Being right doesn’t, getting it right doesn’t, doing it right doesn’t. What does matter is being kind to myself and to others and the rest of it just does not matter.

Not long ago a friend was going through a divorce. Originally from North Carolina, she’d lived in California for 20 years and was seeking employment back east so she could be near her family. She’d been offered a position in Virginia, a comfortable drive from her family but was wrestling with the decision, wondering if she could find something closer, wanting to make the right choice. I can imagine her making lists of potential issues, hoping to anticipate them and prevent them from happening. I shared with her the idea that she’s on a spiritual journey and she couldn’t really mess it up. She found tremendous relief in that idea. And she made the move to Virginia. We have the power to allow our lives to unfold in an easier manner, when we end trying to figure everything out perfectly.

This ability to step back and look at the bigger picture can be a great relief. We get so caught up in trying to figure out every eventuality, anticipate what may happen, always do the right thing, spend time striving and striving and striving to be right, that we forget. We forget that we don’t really have all that control over much of anything.

I think if I can just get it right…and it is really just another way I am seeking to control things. I really love to do this with relationships. If I have a misunderstanding with someone, my go-to frame of mind is wanting to get in there and convince them of my perspective. I am the Queen of the mind conversation. I’ll roll out point after point, making my case. And there is no listening involved here. I am hugging close my own need to be right and fantasizing about how I can get the other person to do, be, or think a certain way so that I can be comfortable. It is all me, me, me. When I insist on being right, love has no space.

The thing is, though, that if I’m on a spiritual journey, so is the other person involved here. And I don’t know what their journey is about. And it’s none of my business. If they are on a spiritual journey, it’s not my job to “get them” to do, be, or think anything, no matter how “right” I think I am.

A couple of years ago I was talking with someone I know about the wonders of EMDR therapy. (And if you don’t know about it and have had any kind of trauma, please check it out: The woman I was speaking with had done EMDR therapy, with good results. I said something about my eyes moving during the therapy and she declared that her eyes hadn’t moved. To which I replied, “Well, they had to because that is how it works.” She very calmly noted that her eyes hadn’t moved and that was the end of the conversation.

Only it wasn’t. Not in my head. Being the Queen of mind conversation, I continued where we’d left off, noting that the E and the M in EMDR stand for EYE MOVEMENT! Her eyes HAD to be moving. I just knew I was right.

And then, I was sick of myself. What difference did it make? She’d had the therapy and found it helpful. I’d done it and it had transformed me. Why was I making such a big deal out of it? It didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if I’m right or not. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Only kindness matters. Kindness to myself, kindness toward others.

Being right doesn’t make me a better person, smarter, safer, kinder, or more effective. And my need to be right makes me none of those things.
Giving up the need to be right frees me to be present for my life. It frees me to listen. It frees me to understand and enjoy others, to share their experience, and beauty, and spiritual growth. They can’t be vulnerable with me to share that if I need to be right. My need to be right shuts down all that shining connection.

Deepak Chopra says that “everyone’s spiritual path is perfect.” Wherever a person is, whatever they are feeling, thinking, or experiencing is just as it should be in that moment. I don’t need to straighten anyone out or prove how right I am. All I need do is make room for them and for their experience.
If I don’t like what they are bringing to the table, I have the power to choose whether or not I expose myself to it. But I don’t need to show them or explain to them how right I am. My true “rightness” comes from showing up for my own experience: for the joy, peace, pain, sorrow, or even my own need to be right. Then I’m free to explore what it’s really about, this need to be right, and to release it.

The deep release of “rightness” makes room for what is. It is a deep surrender to truth. The truth of who you are. And it makes room for the fullness of others. This surrender allows for your fullness and all the accompanying hopes and dreams to rush in. It welcomes abundance, because you, at your core, are pure abundance. That is what happens when we release our need to be “right” and welcome who we are.

© 2014 Janet Tuck

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Forgiveness as an act of self-love

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” Marianne Williamson

I’d like to propose that forgiveness is a radical act of self-love. The act of forgiveness has very little to do with the person we forgive (unless it is ones self, and that is a whole topic for another post) and everything to do with finding personal freedom. In order to truly forgive another, we must love ourselves enough to understand how very much we deserve the freedom that comes with forgiving. It isn’t about what it does for the other person. It’s about what it does for us.

I can’t find a better illustration for this than the essay by Charles M. Blow called “Up from Pain.” It is an excerpt from his memoir Fire Shut Up in my Bones and can be found in the September 19 issue of the New York Times.

This struck a nerve with me, in a deep, deep place, because his story of childhood abuse by a trusted relative is so familiar to me. Just reading this brought back the terror and that hard knot of resentment in the depths of my gut, and the suspicion that forgiving someone something so vile is tantamount to saying, “it’s okay, what you did to me.”

The truth is that refusing to forgive keeps us stuck. Kept me stuck. It’s like Charles Blow says, “I couldn’t continue to live my life through the eyes of a seven year old boy.”

By withholding forgiveness, we hold onto resentment and this keeps us stuck wholly in the past. The person we resent has already acted, it is in the past. By withholding release, withholding forgiveness, we allow the perpetrator to act, again and again, replaying events in our minds, nursing our hurt, stoking resentment, re-wounding ourselves. We repeatedly hand over the power to the one who wronged us. We continue to give over our power, even if it is only in the mind.

Don Miguel Ruiz, in his book The Mastery of Love, addresses this issue. He writes:
You must forgive those who hurt you, even if whatever they did to you is unforgivable in your mind. You will forgive them not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because you don’t want to suffer and hurt yourself every time you remember what they did to you. It doesn’t matter what others did to you, you are going to forgive them because you don’t want to feel sick all the time. Forgiveness is for your own mental healing. You will forgive because you feel compassion for yourself. Forgiveness is an act of self-love. Pg. 169-170.

Forgiveness is an act of self-love. Can you find the courage to love yourself enough to stop the re-wounding; to stop handing over your power? I do not have the power to undo the past. I do have the power to choose to stop feeling sick all the time, to stop the endless replay loop, to choose to let go through the power of forgiveness.
For me, this was a long process. It took me, once I made up my mind to pursue forgiveness of the man who molested me, a few years to get there. With my ex-husband, it was easier, simply because I’d had more personal power to begin with in that situation. One thing that helped in each case was the practice of praying for them. A suggestion I received was to pray that my “difficult person,” as Gordon Peerman so delicately puts it, receive everything which I longed for myself. Health, financial stability, healthy relationships, peace of mind. Pray for each of these men, individually, that they might have these things. OOOOh. It was hard work. I would pray, but there, lurking in the back of my mind was the secret wish that, especially my childhood tormentor, would have disastrous relationships and financial ruin. But I kept at it. And it works. There came a time when I could release this prayer to God with all sincerity. And that was a great relief! The relief came when I began to see, to truly understand, the kind of torment a person has to be in to act out the way he had. Enter compassion. It is the pathway to forgiveness, which is the pathway to transformation.

In her book about A Course in Miracles, called A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson has a wonderful section on forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the key to inner peace because it is the mental technique by which our thoughts are transformed from fear to love. Our perceptions of other people often become a battleground between the ego’s desire to judge and the Holy Spirit’s desire to accept people as they are. The ego is the great fault-finder. It seeks out the faults in ourselves and others. The Holy Spirit seeks out our innocence. He sees all of us as we really are, and since we are the perfect creations of God, He loves what He sees. The places in our personality where we tend to deviate from love are not our faults, but our wounds. God doesn’t want to punish us, but to heal us. And that is how He wishes us to view the wounds in other people.
Forgiveness is “selective remembering”—a conscious decision to focus on love and let the rest go.

This idea of the ego’s desire to judge is what truly keeps us stuck. It’s what kept me stuck. I wanted my childhood tormentor to be pure evil, making me pure good. But the truth is that he was acting from his own hellish compulsion. His pain is not something I want or need to understand. It simply is a part of the equation. His need to control me wasn’t about me. It was about his feeling out of control, and the only solution he could find was to control others. It wasn’t about me. I just happened to be convenient. Once I understood THAT, it was much easier to forgive. His actions weren’t personal. My resentment was. It was personal to me. It was hurting me. This truth, once I discovered it, was the key to surrender and release. My ego could, in this, let go and I began to see the wound that was driving the whole situation. “God doesn’t want to punish us, but to heal us.” This is true for me, and it is true for my abuser.

Once I came to understand much of this, a process that took time, I understood the relief I could find in Forgiving.

And I encourage you. To love yourself.

Love yourself enough to claim freedom from old wounds, past hurts, long-gone betrayals. Love yourself enough to no longer allow the person who hurt you to have the power to continue to hurt you. Love yourself enough to forgive the other their own wounds, their anger, the hell they are living in. Forgiving someone who has hurt you doesn’t mean that what they did is okay. It just means that you love yourself enough to be free from the burden they placed upon you in the first place. Love yourself enough to choose freedom.
© 2014 Janet Tuck

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tend Your Garden

The world can be overwhelming. Just the management of our lives: keeping gas in the car, people fed, our jobs attended to, bills paid, taxes in, get to the doctor, mow the grass, rake the leaves, change the oil, the dentist, am I consuming enough Omega-3’s. And if that weren’t enough, we’ve got ISIS beheading people, Ebola terrifying people, Russia threatening, the environment deteriorating, pervasive sexual assault, and mean-spirited public discourse. Take a glance at all of this at once and it is a wonder any of us get out of bed in the morning. We are left feeling powerless. Where do we even begin? The feeling of powerlessness can be so huge that we end up doing nothing, further contributing to our feelings of being disempowered.

So what can we do? Marianne Williamson writes that “we’re all assigned a piece of the garden, a corner of the universe that is ours to transform. Our corner of the universe is our own life—our relationships, our home, our work, our current circumstances—exactly as they are.”

Where do we begin to tend our garden patch?

It’s always an inside job. If peace begins with me, it must begin in my own heart and mind. The thoughts I think matter. If I get caught up in stewing about what an egomaniac Vladimir Putin is, how like Hitler he seems, how narrow and narcissistic, I am contributing to the atmosphere of fear and distrust already polluting the world. I am living in fear, radiating it out into the larger world, disturbing the peace, so to speak. But if, instead, I choose to pray for and shine the light on Putin and on the Russian people, I contribute to the solution, adding to the healing of the world. Then, I’m radiating light and love all around. Perhaps it doesn’t change Vladimir’s mind today but I’m not living in fear and my loved ones aren’t exposed to my fear. I’ve changed something by tending my own little garden patch.

Yes, we are that powerful. I often encourage people to shine the pure, white light of love on others. This is a simple practice of visualizing a great column of light, pouring down over the head and body, around and through, the person. It actually does something, both when we receive this light for ourselves and when we shine it upon others. We do have the power to intervene, if we will but do it.
Transformation comes closer to home than Russia, too. We bring peace into our homes and workplaces when we focus on ourselves, our purpose, our business. When we relinquish the need to control, all kinds of magic is unleashed. Just think about the idea of transformation as tending the garden. We dig, we weed, we water. But the seeds must do the work.

Releasing the need to control others is a big part of this. One of my sons is a smoker. I’ve always hated smoking and educated my children from an early age about the health consequences of smoking. This is a kid who knows his stuff. And has since a small child. When he was four or five, I was taking both boys to the pediatrician’s office. There were three people standing outside the office building, workers on a smoke break, and he marched up to them and started explaining to them why they shouldn’t smoke. He knows. And yet he smokes. And I had to let that go. He has all the information he needs. He is making a choice and at this point it is none of my business. My choice is to not sacrifice my peace of mind by worrying about my son’s choice.

A friend of mine sent me this quote not long ago: “Worry is a prayer for chaos.” I love that. Worry is a prayer for chaos. If I choose to worry about my son smoking (and I am good at this), I will spin out an alternate story line that goes something like this: He’ll smoke for years, develop lung disease, throat disease,  and gum disease, along with chronic sinus issues. After I spin out the details of that story (think lots of phlegm and cancer), my anxiety level will grow to such a degree that I will start looking for relief. In my search to get comfortable, I’ll start nagging him, mentioning his smoking every time I see him, which will (spinning out the story again here) affect our relationship, we’ll become alienated, he’ll avoid me, start using other substances, end up homeless and dead. Even if none of these things happen, I have plenty of chaos going on between my ears and am creating my own suffering.

Best to leave him alone. And leave me alone. I don’t have to DO anything. I shine the light on him each morning and go about my business. Which is to tend my garden today.

The older I get the less I think I can do. What I mean by this is that I am capable of many things, I write, I work with clients, I teach, I tend my home, nurture friendships, love people. But I used to think I could DO stuff. Like fix things. Fix things for people. I got way too much into other’s business. I used to offer advice. Or “intervene” on other people’s behalf. Do stuff like pay someone’s electric bill for them when they were struggling. Or feed people. Or come up with solutions (that they didn’t ask for) to problems. I tend to not DO stuff now. I like the idea of bearing witness. I listen. Sometimes I have to coach myself to listen, to shut up and just listen. I really understand problems but I don’t need to solve any of them. And in this quiet restraint, I allow others’ to have their own journey, instead of imposing my version of their journey upon them. I allow others to weed their garden. I’ve plenty of weeds of my own to work on.

I do want to say a little bit about energy here. We live by the energy we allow in. If I meditate, if I get outside, my spiritual energy will be more reliable, abundant and powerful than if I do not do these things. I am more likely to worry my way to chaos if I am not attentive to my own spiritual needs. This is a big part of tending my garden. I’ve got to let the light shine on it if I am to be able to do the tending. This love energy is a thing. When we sit in meditation together, I feel energy moving around and through us. It is the energy of divine love, available to all of us, if we will but pause and allow it in. This energy calms and heals us. It is the source of peace of mind and heart that I’ve been talking about tonight. It is real. The only thing that is, actually. So we turn first to it, the source of love, when we begin to tend our garden. The garden of our heart. The garden of our mind.

© 2014 Janet Tuck

Friday, October 24, 2014

Follow your heart

Yesterday morning I received a call from a friend who was wrestling with a decision. She explained the situation and my first, instinctive sense about it was, "she already knows what to do but isn't trusting herself." When I expressed this to my friend, she confirmed it.

And I've run across this several times in the last few weeks, people doubting themselves. Why do we do this?

This self-doubt is a fear-driven thing. We fear making a mistake. We fear being wrong. We fear vulnerability. We fear not being good enough.

And the truth is the opposite of this. Whatever you are, at any given moment, you are enough. Our lives are filled with endless opportunities to learn and to create. What we call "mistakes" or "wrong" are truly opportunities. When we fear we are lacking, we are blocking our true selves from blossoming.

We fill our minds with things we should or shouldn't be so much so that we stop ourselves from becoming.

How do we move past these fears? By noticing our true desires, our true longing, our true self. What brings you pleasure? What are you good at? When do you feel afraid? Whatever pleases you, whatever you are good at, whatever interests you, whatever frightens you, that is who YOU are. Learn about yourself. Receive the truth inside of you. Follow your heart.

If you'd like help with this, I'm available. You can book a session with me and we can get started together.

© 2014 Janet Tuck

Friday, June 7, 2013

It's time for some selfishness

I see it with clients again and again. Relentlessly putting the needs of others before their own needs resulting in spiritual exhaustion and resentment. There seems to me to be an epidemic of the belief that one’s needs do not matter. Self-denial then leads to weariness and, often, depression.

For a nice southern girl like me, this argument is counter-intuitive. We are taught early on that self-denial is a virtue. And, in some circumstances, it is. But when we consistently do for others what they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves, self-denial is a soul sickness.

A few weeks ago it was a mother seeking to manage the family schedule, earn a living, teach Sunday school, be of service to some young women she mentors, get exercise, and work on her spiritual disciplines. The result was that she felt she wasn’t doing anything well. Over-extended, she sat in my office feeling depleted. “Is it okay for me to say no?” she asked.

This week it was a middle-aged father, providing well for his family, participating in the activities of his children, addressing the lengthy honey-do list handed him by his wife, and caring for his aging parents. “Is it wrong for me to want a little attention for myself?” he wondered.

At times like these I’d like to raise my voice and shout: Please say no! Please ask for what you need! How can we possibly give with any fullness of heart or any sense of joy if we are consistently putting the needs of others ahead of our own?

It is time, friends, for a little selfishness here. There is a vast difference between what I call “productive selfishness” and pathological, or morbid, selfishness. Productive selfishness is about developing one’s gifts and embracing pursuits which bring pleasure. These pleasurable experiences are really about living into the authentic self, developing creativity, and expanding natural gifts. Joyous selfishness is about living into the fullness of who you are.

Many of us have spent years taking care of the needs of others: our children, our parents, our spouses, our employers. While responsibility and accountability are necessary, there seems to be an over emphasis on self-sacrifice and a vacuum where self-fulfillment should dwell.

It is time now to receive the full self, in all its wonder, while embracing a kind of selfishness which our work-driven culture doesn’t recognize. This productive selfishness enhances who we are, giving us energy, vision, and hope. Ultimately, it enables us to give of our best self. This is very different from morbid selfishness which leads us to turn in on ourselves, always wanting more, a stranger to wonder and joy.

A bold embrace of self enables us to truly offer the whole self, from the heart, in service and love in a most freeing manner, unconnected to duty or guilt. Take some time, friends, for selfishness.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Live like a dog

I’ve written about living in the moment before and most likely I will again. It is a spiritual practice with rich rewards but it does take practice. The happiest people I know are those who have cultivated this skill, leaving the past in the past, forgiving themselves and learning from mistakes, and not projecting too far into the future. Sometimes I call this ability to live in the present, “living like a dog.”

Dogs are truly remarkable creatures. Loyal, non-complainers (unlike my cat who is capable of maligning my character to anyone in the vicinity), quick to forgive, I find they carry life lightly. My little dog Toto truly lives in the moment. If I ask him the time, he says “now.” Same food day after day? He’s delighted. Only water to drink? He’s grateful. Going for a walk? Best activity ever invented. On the occasions when I can take him off the leash to run, it is pure bliss for him, echoed in the electric activity of his little body.

When he is naughty and I scold him, he has forgotten the whole thing in ten minutes and is back to adoring his people. He makes friends easily, is slow to judge, and holds no resentments.

He even asks for what he wants (to play), and lets me know when he needs something (when he asks to go out).

For him, this all comes naturally, because he lives in the present moment. For me, most of this takes effort. The thing is, though, that I have a choice in how I will live and can choose to practice this living in the moment.

A few days ago I was with a client who was making himself miserable over something that might happen. What Buddhists call “the monkey mind” had taken over and he was obsessively thinking about scenario A leading to scenario B leading to scenario C and so on until, in his mind he had met with complete financial ruin. Was any of this true? Not so much. He has several successful small businesses, lives in a nice home, and provides well for his family. So I asked him if he was all right at this very moment. And he said yes. He was more than fine at that very moment; he was well taken care of. I reminded him that the singular moment was all he had.

And that is all any of us ever have. This very moment. I have the power to choose to live in each moment of each day. To notice what is around me. To choose to not go down the “what if” path and to choose instead to delight in what is. Just like Toto.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Here we are again

Here we are again. A stunned nation, mourning innocent lost, unnecessarily wounded, the stripping of our freedom to gather and safely go about our business. The images have become sadly familiar and this fact, too, offends deeply.

So many thoughts have been going through my mind since hearing the news from Boston yesterday. I am a little familiar with the running community, not because I run but because my brother does. Paul has done several marathons. One of the things he loves about them is the running community. As he says, “runners are just good people.” An assessment from someone who would know.

People run for all sorts of reasons. Some run for their health. Others to raise funds for research. Or because someone they love runs. Or simply because they find joy in running. Another because they are good at it. For every one of those 23,000 runners making their way along the course yesterday, there is an engaging story.

But beyond the runners is the community of support around them. Family and friends turn out to cheer their runner, to replenish water, to feed them “goo.”

The atmosphere is festive, celebratory. People run around in tutus, rabbit costumes, as Elvis. I’ve seen multiple Dolly Partons run down the road during the annual marathon in Nashville. It isn’t easy to run 26 miles with balloons for breasts.

Nashville’s Country Music Marathon is in ten days. I can only imagine what the organizers are going through right now. The city turns out to line the streets; it is one big festival with countless opportunities for someone with an evil intent to act out. Fear looms.

And that is the point, isn’t it? The thing about acts of “terror” is that they have a vast ripple effect. “It could happen here,” we think as we look at our children. We close in, we look with suspicion, we pass unwieldy, expensive, and ineffective laws. We become smaller.

I long to see us collectively defy fear-driven behavior with love-driven choices. Celebrate community. Participate with joy. Choose kindness toward neighbor. This is the response to acts of such senseless violence which defy everything these acts are meant to provoke. Choose senseless kindness. Choose senseless joy. Acts such as these lead to real freedom and a nurturing of the kind of community worthy of the Boston marathon.