, , , ,

To be aligned is divine!

What is Alignment?

In this edition of Soul Notes, we visit the topic of what it means to be divinely aligned. What is alignment, how you can tell, and what are some ways to get and stay in alignment – with your authentic self and with your soul’s true desires?

For our purposes here, alignment may best be described as arrangement in appropriate, relative positions. It may be alignment in the physical sense – such as getting a chiropractic adjustment to your spine. It may also be alignment in the metaphysical sense – such as an aligning of your chakras, or energy centers. It may be a combination – such as aligning your mind, body and soul.

Let’s take, for example, an automobile traveling down the road. When in alignment, barring any intervening forces, it moves forward (or backward!) in a perfectly straight line. The vehicle moves efficiently, with minimized wear and tear on the car’s suspension, brakes and tires. Alignment makes for an even distribution of force. A driver may compensate for poor alignment through (over-)steering the car, but that exerts more wear and tear on the driver and the vehicle. (I know, I know, we’re talking physics here on the blog! It’s okay to include science in the discussion, once in a while, right?)

Similarly, reflect for a moment on those times when your spine feels out of whack. You may then seek relief by going and getting a chiropractic adjustment. Chiropractors are trained in the aligning (or realigning) of the vertebrae in your back and neck, and may make adjustments to other joints as well.   Chiropractic adjustments are designed to help restore the body to its natural alignment and to allow the body to maximize its own natural healing ability.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

~ Mahatma Ghandi

Okay, great – now what about spiritual alignment? For your consideration, I pose this question: Is spiritual alignment really that much different from physical alignment?

As with a harmonic symphony, your soul when fully aligned makes for beautiful music in your life; it lays the foundation for deeply gratifying and fulfilling experiences.

How do you know when you’re in alignment? How can you tell?: THE SIGNS  

Just as with visits to the chiropractor, throughout your transformational journey your body gives clues as to when your soul is out of alignment, too. It comes down to paying attention, and to being a “Sherlock Holmes” in your own life!

Here’s the #1 best way to tell when you’re in (or out) of alignment with your authentic self: 

#1: The gut check

If you’re like me, I bet you can easily recall those times when you’ve noticed a queasy feeling in your stomach — when you just know that something isn’t right for you. Or, maybe it’s been a frenetic rush you feel coursing through your blood stream, or when your head suddenly starts hurting for no apparent reason? Or, maybe you feel weak in the knees; or, you feel your hands clenching, or your “heart sinking” in your chest?

Absent any actual threats to your physical well-being, these instances tend to be your body’s way of letting you know something is out-of-alignment with who you are, and what’s authentic for you.   Someone else may feel just fine in that given situation; for you, however, it’s just not ‘right.’

#2: The “What lights you up?” check

A kissin’ corollary to the gut check would be what I call the “What Lights You Up?” check.   When time simply flies by, and little if anything distracts you, and you feel that your whole body has been lit up from the inside out — You know that feeling? That’s a pretty darn good sign that you’re in alignment with your true, authentic self.

Following the clues:

Think of it as a Mapquest® or a global positioning system (GPS). Often, there are different ways to get to the same destination. One route may be the fastest. Other routes may be more scenic. Road hazards may come up along the way. If and when that happens, do you stop your trip altogether? Do you stop the car in the middle of the road, and abandon the journey? Nope, to get to your destination, you pay attention to what’s happening in front, back, and around you – and make adjustments along the way. The journey is fluid, not static.

The Mapquest® or GPS is simply the tool or resource you use to help you navigate. Have you ever received a “recalculating route” message coming from your GPS? I have, plenty of times! If and when I veer off course, it ever so politely alerts me to get back on track. I can ignore the message.   If however, I desire to get to my intended destination, I better take heed!

Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, I encourage you to do the same with your own life. By now, if you’ve listened to any of my interviews or watched my earlier video series, you know that it is the intuition which I feel serves as our own internal GPS. Use it, and use it often! Turn it on! Fire it up! And, trust it. Proceed in accordance with the messages and signals it sends you.

Why is alignment so important?

It’s important, and dare I say vital to be in alignment with your authentic self, because it makes for more productive and enriching life results, and makes this thing called the “human experience” better for you and those around you. It enhances the experiences of those whom you’re destined to serve, and in furtherance of your great work in the world. The world needs you! – The authentic you!

In contrast, as set forth above, the cost of not being in alignment is: undue stress, feelings of frustration and disappointment, and often sadness. It also takes its toll on your mind, body and spirit, all in disservice to your overall well-being.

So, with that, I leave you with the following tips to help you get and stay in alignment:

  1. Meditate/Get Still/Quiet (for 11 minutes)

Set aside 11 minutes that you will commit to being free from distractions, and pose this question to yourself — allowing your intuition and divine guidance to provide any and all information you need to receive:

“With regard to this particular (issue/situation), what is most in alignment for me at this time?”

  1. Write, Draw or Doodle in Your Journal

Next, write, draw or doodle in your journal about the answer(s) you received to your question.   What words, phrases, or pictures represent what has come up for you?

If you’d like to receive additional information or clarification on the question you’ve posed with regard to a particular issue or situation, feel free to ask again!   It may take doing this more than once or twice to get the full “download.”

  1. Keep a Log: “Gut” Checks & “What Lights You Up” Checks

Start keeping a log of those instances throughout the day or week, when you notice or feel in your gut that something is off track. Additionally, keep a record of those instances when you feel most excited, fulfilled, lit up, and on fire!

Do this daily for one week, and set aside another 11 minutes at the end of the seven days to review your log.  What patterns, if any, do you notice? Is there anything that really jumps out at you? Any surprises?

  1. Seek out kindred spirits with whom you can share your spiritual journey and soulful quests.

“Birds of a feather flock together.” – Proverb

As in nature, we as humans benefit from traveling together with others on a similar path, quest or journey.   It helps tremendously to gather together with other souls who are spiritual seekers and those, like you, who are yearning to live full out and in complete alignment with their authentic selves.

  1. Enlist a trusted mentor, guide, or advocate devoted to your success.

Having an advocate on your side who believes in you, supports you and holds you accountable, makes for accelerated alignment and long-lasting success.

For your consideration:

For you, what does it mean to be fully aligned?

Okay, your turn:

In what area of your life do you feel most in alignment? Which area or situation in your life feels the most off track or out-of-alignment for you right now?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
, , , , , , ,

A sacred initiation

My recent initiation

Since JT (Justin Timberlake) has already brought sexy back, I’m bringing “sistren” back! According to the Oxford dictionary, both brethren and sistren shared common parlance until the 1600s, when the word brethren started to take over.  I say there’s plenty of room for both!

I joined a new (for me) sacred sisterhood this weekend. After nearly a year of study, on September 26, I, along with my sistren apprentices, received my formal initiation as a “Keeper of the Water” (Keeper).

As with many other types of initiations, we each took solemn vows and made sacred commitments. As our elder has so beautifully taught us, we have each now entered into a love-centered contract with the Divine.

And, it certainly doesn’t end there. With this initiation, it has truly just begun. And, will begin again. It’s creation. And, it’s rebirth. We are neither the first, nor the last of the Keepers. What prevails is the devotion to creating sacred space for, and holding, compassion and unconditional love. Love for ourselves, for each other, for Mother Earth, for Grandmother Moon, and for the grandmothers and angels who watch over us all.

We each have our own medicine to bring into our circles and in how we show up in our lives. It is ours to bring forward; ours to share. There is much healing to be done.

Initiations of Various Types

Initiations vary, of course, in terms of their specifics.   All initiations, though, tend to exact a certain demonstrated level of commitment and a meeting of specified requirements. And, what rings true throughout, is the sanctity of the occasion.

Some examples:

There is being knighted. There is priest hood, and priestess hood. Often handed down through the generations, there is the becoming a “keeper” of a sacred tradition, rite, or ritual.

There are sororities and fraternities. And there are fraternal and sororal orders.

While pursuing my undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley, I was initiated into a leadership society known as The Order of the Golden Bear. Each initiate was nominated and then inducted at a formal ceremony.   Referred to as “Fellows” once initiated, members are to carry forth the Order’s charter and pledge to uphold the group’s mission and purpose.

Also while in college, I participated in the Catholic Church’s RCIA (Rite for Christian Initiation of Adults), whereby after a year of devotion and study, I joined the other catechumens to be initiated into the Church during a several hour ceremony at the Easter Vigil.  Once initiated, we began our year-long role as a Neophyte, and with that accepted and carried out our new duties. Our first act of service began that very evening, when we anointed each of the congregants with holy oil.

Fellowship

With my Keeper initiation and the others, I have experienced a sense of fellowship. My “fellow” (sistren!) Keepers and I have each fulfilled the specific requirements, and at the same time all underwent a shared experience as we proceeded though our apprenticeship as a group. Along with a certain comaraderie, we more deeply formed a spiritual bond, a sacred sisterhood. It became clear that in our new role, we were to be continuing a centuries’ long tradition which at one point had gone dormant, and has since been honorably and solemnly resurrected by our elder, our teacher.

May I get a witness

As with Ceremony, with Initiation comes an element of being witnessed. Other members of your initiate class join you as you receive your initiation. They observe your initiation and hold sacred space and compassion for you and what you’re accepting. Among other things, their witnessing serves as an acknowledgement of where you’ve been, and more importantly, where you are headed, as you step up into this next role.

It is in effect a rite of passage. I’ll leave the topic of rites of passage for further exploration perhaps at another time. For now, I invite you to allow the idea and experience of “being initiated” to resonate with you.

As a newly ordained Keeper of the Water, what it means for me is this:

I accept this new role and its responsibilities with reverence, dedication, and devotion. I vow to continue to practice all that I’ve learned, and to do my best to honor the traditions of the grandmothers, and of the sacred feminine.

When I stumble, I promise to stand up. And, to carry on. And, to continue to hold. Again. And again.

For your consideration:

For you, what does it mean to be initiated?

Okay, your turn:

Have you or a loved one ever been initiated?   If so, in what way did you or they perform certain duties or functions? What would you like others to know about that experience? Is there a role you’d like to step into, at this point in your life? If so, what would that be, and what is drawing you towards that next level, experience, or role?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
, , , , , ,

The Sacred Art of Ceremony

The Sacred Art of Ceremony

In this edition of Soul Notes we explore the meaning and depth of the sacred art of ceremony.

CEREMONY CEREMONIOUS!

The word ceremony comes from the root, ceres, meaning: creator.  Many modern day ceremonies date back to ancient times, and are said to stem from sacred rites performed in honor of the Creator.  Additionally, they often involve certain formal activities, acts, or rituals.  They may or may not be tied to religious functions or precepts.  With or without a religious tie-in, there is a prevailing sacredness to ceremony.

Types of Ceremonies:  Some familiar, some maybe not so familiar

Across various cultures, we can all picture a number of ceremonies that come to mind.  For example:  graduation ceremonies, weddings, funerals, “swearing in” ceremonies, and initiation ceremonies.  Others may be unique to a particular culture or region, such as the Japanese Tea ceremony.  As a Keeper of the Water apprentice, I’ve been trained to lead Full Moon and Sacred Water Meditation ceremonies, as part of an ancient Native American practice, handed down through the generations.  All ceremonies carry with them, and bring forward, meaningful traditions.

Common Elements

What do all these ceremonies tend to have in common?  With each, there’s a certain set of formalities, guidelines, and structure to follow.  These aspects allow you to know that you’re taking part in a ceremony, as opposed to a more ‘ordinary’ event.  There’s a devout reverence, and honoring that takes place.  It often serves as a marker of some sort, in one’s life.  Emotions generally run high and deep.

Often, there is also a “setting of the scene” with the placement and invocation of sacred objects.  These sacred objects are often blessed and used solely for the purpose of ceremony.  When not brought forth for ceremony, they are usually held in a safe, sacred space until needed.

The Role of a Ceremonialist

Another distinction of ceremonies is that they are led, governed, presided over, or facilitated by someone designated or chosen to do so.  Often, it’s the ceremonialist who proclaims and maintains the intention for a particular ceremony.  As I’ve been taught, it’s important for the ceremonialist to set aside ego, and allow the heart to take center stage.  Additionally, the ceremony leader’s role is to ensure an atmosphere of reverence, safety and security for those who are participating and are in attendance. With compassion, the ceremony leader creates and maintains a sacred (metaphysical) container to hold a spiritual space and environment. The physical and the metaphysical are very much connected.  It’s really about embracing and maintaining divine presence for all involved.  It’s essential that the ceremony leader allow for the varying energies to move through in a way that is attentive, respectful, and connected to the heart, spirit and soul.  Those who are participating in and witnessing the ceremony can feel it!

A friend’s wedding

This past weekend, a friend and I hit the highway, and took a road trip to attend a mutual friend’s wedding.  As with many weddings, on this occasion, friends and family members gathered from near and far, to witness the marriage of two people special in all of our lives, and dear to every one of  us.  As the priest explained to those of us in attendance, our very being there added a beautiful and essential element.  Our presence served in effect as an extension of their love.  There were smiles all around when he said that!   There’s a beauty in the witnessing of a sacred union, and in a commemoration of a solemn commitment.

There’s also something beautiful and touching about seeing multiple generations coming together for such an occasion.  I marveled at the sight of the grandmothers, with the wisdom of their years, sitting alongside nieces and nephews with their young eagerness, excitement, and dare I say slight perplexity and overall wonderment about the whole experience!

I was also struck by the solemnity and juxtaposition of another friend having just flown in from attending a loved one’s funeral, making it in time to attend this wedding, an event that of course had been planned for months.   So raw.  So emotional.  So pure.  Facades, if any, were removed.  “All that really matters” is what came to the forefront, and in clear focus.

Why are Ceremonies so Important?

Ceremonies serve as a marker.  They commemorate and punctuate the occasion.  They lend it grandeur, a sense of awe, and solemnity.  Ceremonies and all that they entail lend texture, context, and richness to our lives.  I love them!

For your consideration:

I welcome you to take a moment to reflect on your own life.  To what kinds of ceremonies are you most drawn?  For you, what makes a ceremony a “ceremony,” as opposed to some other type of event or happening?

Okay, your turn:

When is the last time you participated in ceremony?  Or, what is the most memorable ceremony you can recall?  What made these experiences so special?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
,

Feeling Familiar in a Strange Land: The Beauty of Belonging

THE BEAUTY OF BELONGING

What does it mean to feel that you “belong”?

This edition of Soul Notes is dedicated to the beneficial sense of belonging — from the standpoint of inclusion (and not exclusion). “Belonging to” — not in the sense of being subject to an outside force or group having power over, or ownership of, or “possession” of you or another. In this post, let’s consider the concept of “belonging to,” as coming from a place of equal footing.

A sense of “place,” of home, a feeling of familiarity

The beauty of belonging lies in the feeling of a common bond, identity, and shared experience.   It’s a feeling of togetherness. Unity. Each one an accepted member of the collective.

Most recently, a strong sense of belonging came up for me during two different kundalini yoga classes that I attended. One was during the Moksha Yoga Festival held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and the other took place at a martial arts studio in Hollywood. The venues and the instructors were unique unto themselves. Yet there was also a beautiful commonality, and familiarity that I felt in both instances.

Ever since my early childhood, I have also felt a similar profound sense of “home” when attending a Catholic Mass.

And, as I’ve shared previously, as a participant in the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Family To Family group training, I definitely felt a deep sense of belonging there.

I invite you to consider whether these types of experiences ring true for you as well. What environments or groups allow you to feel most at home?

Sense of belonging…familiarity in a strange land

For me, it became apparent that the feeling of belonging, in all of these examples, stems from a sense of community – or common elements, shared by all or many who participate in the group’s activities. It’s a communal experience.

  • Kundalini yoga

Common Elements:

In my experience, kundalini yoga classes each start with the same opening chant, contain a kriya (or “set” of exercises and meditations) in the middle portion of the class, and close with the same resting pose and the same closing song.

The two kundalini yoga classes mentioned above took place over the course of two consecutive weekends, with each taught by a different master yogi and in a different location. Neither of these were my “usual class” that I have been attending regularly in my own neighborhood.

And, even though each yoga class offered a unique in-the-moment experience, there were nonetheless common elements that were so welcoming and felt so familiar. At both of these classes, I felt right at home. I knew what to expect, and I could “follow along” with the teacher’s instructions, even though these particular instructors, and the respective class environments, were new to me.

This is not to suggest that there’s little or no room for spontaneity in these classes. There is. There are hundreds of kriyas, for example, from which the instructor may select. And, the specific kriyas often do change from class to class.

What made these experiences so special for me, though, was the sense of peace and comfort I felt upon discovering that I could take a class pretty much anywhere, and always feel at home. My friend who had invited me to join her for the class in Hollywood agreed. She was trained in kundalini yoga in New York, but finds that she feels right at home in the California classes and pretty much anywhere. It’s as if, in any given room, during any given class, we are all speaking the same spiritual language. Beautiful!

  • Catholic Mass

Common Elements:

I remember, when as a teenager attending a Mass, it suddenly occurred to me that “oh, each Mass is always a re-creation of the Last Supper” – how amazing, and how profound, I thought at the time. I wasn’t baptized in the Church at that time (I would later partake in the RCIA – Rite for Christian Initiation of Adults), but I would come to appreciate how truly special Holy Communion (the Eucharist) is, and how integral it is to the Mass. It’s my understanding that a service doesn’t constitute a Mass unless there’s Holy Communion given. There are other common elements too, such as the Lord’s Prayer and the Sign (or Kiss) of Peace.

As I would later travel to other countries, I again felt that same sense of belonging. The word catholic itself even means “inclusive.” I can be in Spain, or Italy, or France, for example, and feel that same sense of familiarity and welcoming when attending Mass. I needn’t speak the local language; I speak the language of a Catholic congregant. And, it is universal. I know when to stand up, and when to kneel.  And, the common elements of the Eucharist, et cetera feel so wonderfully familiar to me. Again, there’s a sense of community, with one’s self, each other, and the divine. It’s one of my favorite aspects of traveling!

Why is a sense of belonging so important?

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the social needs to be loved, accepted and to belong, fall smack dab in the middle, at level 3, of Maslow’s 5-level hierarchy. Abraham Maslow, PhD professed that as humans we continue to gravitate toward a higher and higher level of needs so as to maintain our motivation and our ever-elevating human experience. Once the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, followed by security and safety are met, the social need to belong comes next.

In short, it’s really a matter of feeling accepted. Even though the environments may change, the familiarity, the feeling of “I’m at home here” prevails.

For your consideration: In this moment, reflect on those instances when you’ve felt most at home – when you knew in your heart that you were welcomed and accepted and that you truly belonged. What one thing could you do TODAY to bring that sense of belonging to the forefront?

Okay, your turn to share:

What does belonging mean to you? What are some of the indications that you know that you “belong”?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
, , ,

Oh, to be the center of (loving) attention

Here’s to the unseen, the unheard…the silent warriors

For the unspoken ones, the quiet ones, the so-called “reliable” and “responsible” ones, this edition of Soul Notes is for you.

This is dedicated to those living with or having lived with a family member with a mental illness.   I would imagine similar experiences ring true in other trying situations in other types of family dynamics as well. With respect and reverence, I honor those, too.

Specifically, here, however, we continue what we started exploring in an earlier post where I shared that I had embarked on an intensive “Family to Family” training program delivered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I’ve completed that training, and have emerged hopefully with a deepened sense of grace and understanding.

From my own experiences, coupled with what I learned in the NAMI “Family to Family” course

My mother had her first “nervous breakdown” when I was seven. She is bipolar (or what they called back then manic depressive). By my teenage years, on more than one occasion I had witnessed her attempt to end her life. In my 20s, I experienced the downward spiral of my brother who had his own psychotic break and who did die by suicide.

When you’re a family member of someone living with a mental illness, the attention, the focus, the energy centers around that person. “Rightly so!,” you may be exclaiming. Indeed. Agreed.

The need to ascertain and ensure proper dosages of medication, the monitoring of moods, and riding the waves of ever-changing behavior — all require steadfast attention, energy and care.

The persons with the mental illness(es) often feel alone, isolated, and misunderstood. They experience severe pain, disorientation, and confusion. They suffer the pangs of unfair stigma, prejudice and ostracization. Absolutely, they need and deserve loving care and attention. (For a prior discussion regarding empathy for the mentally ill, please go here.)

Resources are created, collected, and distributed to the person or persons with the brain disorder. To the one “acting out.” To the erratic one. They have their own treatment plans, hospital wings and specialized medical personnel. They have their own support groups, etc. Again, rightly so.

But, what about the other family members who are not the ones with the brain disorder? The steady ones? The stalwart ones? The ones who bravely persevere amongst the turbulence and the mayhem? The ones who may have violence directed towards them, and who undergo stressful encounters with law enforcement and medical and paramedical personnel? Ah, there’s the rub, Shakespeare.

As an advocate for all  souls to be shining brightly, I pose this question:

How, then, to garner the attention, focus and care that YOU, as a family member, may also need?

Are your needs and desires to remain cast in the shadows, lost in all the chaotic mix that is, in a household or family structure centered around one or more members living with a brain disorder? I speak for the silent ones. The often overlooked ones. The often forgotten ones in this mix.   I take a stand for these souls. As does NAMI. NAMI’s Family to Family program is designed to support and improve the lives of family members affected by mental illness.  I applaud them, and other organizations like them, for their great work.

The Squeaky Wheel

There’s an American idiom that states in effect: “to the squeaky wheel goes the grease.” In other words, to smooth out the ride, to eradicate the noise, to silence the distraction, apply oil.

What if, however, there is no ‘noticeable’ squeak? As this philosophical question poses: “If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?” The answer is yes! The family members of a loved one with a mental illness are often the silent sufferers. The unsqueaky wheels DO need the grease (i.e., their own loving care and attention). As they are often the ones overlooked, that is all the more reason to pay them close heed.

Families with a mentally ill family member often cloak their experiences in secrecy. They bear the social stigma of having a “crazy” family member. They are deemed unstable-by-association. And, within their own families, the non mentally ill ones often feel and are in effect treated as if they are “invisible.”

Self-care and Support

It’s important for the family members to find healthy ways to take care of themselves, and that includes surrounding themselves with their own support system. Wonderfully, NAMI offers support groups not only for the ill persons, but for the family members as well.

As discussed in the Family to Family class, family members suffer their own unique burdens. The course classifies them into objective life burdens and the subjective burden of their own painful and often hidden, unexpressed feelings. The objective life burdens often include:

  • getting through crises with the ill family member while maintaining the needs of the other family members
  • inevitable family conflicts due to different coping styles and perspectives on how best to handle certain situations
  • finding a way to balance work or school responsibilities with treatment and care responsibilities
  • financial concerns and plans for future care
  • being “menaced” by someone you love
  • taking on dual or multiple roles within the family
  • having to grow up too fast
  • worried that you will get the illness, too
  • lack of an understanding peer group

And, again, the subjective burdens are the often unexpressed feelings and hurts associated with being a family member of someone who is mentally not well.

NAMI Graduation

Which brings me to our graduation from the NAMI Family to Family course. On a recent Saturday, I joined my twenty or so classmates in a joyous celebration. Our weeks of emotionally draining at times, uplifting at times, and overall deeply bonding time together, came to a close.

We had our own graduation ceremony. Okay, so there were no actual caps and gowns, but someone did play “Pomp and Circumstance” from her smart phone! And, we each walked up to the front of the room, and received our Certificates and some came complete with a gold seal for Perfect Attendance. Without exception, each person cheered for one another as we accepted our ‘diplomas’. We had our pictures taken with our instructors, and as a group.

We were the center of attention. We weren’t the squeaky wheels. And, we didn’t need to be. We were seen, heard, respected, appreciated and loved — for who we are and what we have each experienced. And, it felt great.

3 Suggestions to Consider:

I leave you with three suggestions to consider and to incorporate into your lives should you know of a colleague, friend, or other loved one who may be experiencing hidden, locked or unexpressed feelings as a result of living with someone with a mental illness:

  1. From a place of compassion and understanding, let them know you are available to listen, without judgment, and are open to hearing about their perspective and their experiences.
  2. Allow them to express their fear, doubt, anxiety, nervousness, frustration, anger, shame, guilt or any other telling aspects of their experiences to whatever extent they feel comfortable. This is true for adults, and especially true for children – who may need loving encouragement and reassurance that it is safe to express their feelings, and that their feelings are indeed valid.
  3. Go ahead and dote on them once in awhile! Allow them to be the center of your loving attention. Allow them to take a break, have a little fun, and let loose for a change. Life need not always be so heavy. They will likely savor every bit of those precious moments.

So, here’s to the silent brave ones! Carry on! We see you. We hear you. We care about you. You matter!

Okay, your turn:

What experiences have you had with someone whose family member has a mental illness? If you are a family member of someone with a mental illness, what one thing would you like others to understand?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
,

Just for the JOY of it!

For the kid in all of us

Children don’t ever “forget” to play. Why then do we as adults seemingly forget nearly completely?

Best case, maybe we at least tell ourselves, “Okay, I’ll get to have some fun when I take a vacation.” And, maybe that vacation never comes…? Or, it does, and yet as soon as your vacation ends, you return to your day-to-day life, and playtime gets put back into the Vacation Time Capsule for safekeeping.

Are we really too busy to enJOY what’s happening around us?  With this edition of Soul Notes, I say it’s time to play!

PLAYtime is JOYtime

 

Sometimes, you just need a quick play break

  • “Playtime is for kids.”
  • “You need to be a ‘responsible grown up’.”
  • “There’s no time for such foolishness!”

Any of these sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve heard them from someone in your life, or from the media, or even coming from that ‘little voice inside your head.’

I know that for me, I find myself seemingly caught up in the profuseness of all that is in this thing called Life – that I lose myself in the depths, and forget that it’s okay to lighten up! My inner Lil’ Lori from time to time, though, does come to my aid – it’s during those long periods of ‘deep work,’ that she will proverbially reach up and grab me by the hand, and say “hey, wanna play a game?”

And, my 13-year old corgi/border collie mix Molly (the Wonder Dog), still tries to get my attention with earnest persistence. In my home office, when I’m focused on working from the computer for a long stretch of time, I’ve often looked down to discover that she has one-by-one brought toys in from the other room, and has set them down at my feet. Squeaky toy, drop. (Wanna play?) Tennis ball, drop. (Can we play now?) Frisbee, drop. (How about now?) Rope toy, drop. (Let’s play!!)

Dogs naturally take time out to play. They even have the body language for it, known as the “play bow,” that indicates to other animals that they are ready to engage in some fun.

Hmmm…What if humans started doing this?

It seems that most of us are overdue for a quick play break.

SO, I say we all take a stand together, one and all.

Playtime Pledge:

Please join me in taking the following oath.

Raise your right (or left) hand (or put one or both hands on your heart), and say:

  • “I hereby give myself permission to play”
  • “I hereby declare I will engage in playtime more than I ever thought possible”
  • “I pledge to keep incorporating play into my life, on an ongoing basis”
  • “I make this proclamation, right now, in this very moment”

Extra credit: And to really seal it in, you may wish to add the following:

Tap-tap, no erasies.”

This was something my friends and I would say on the playground at school. Once you had declared whatever it was about the game you were about to play (we’d reach a consensus about the rules for that particular game, for example, tetherball) – you would then say aloud, “tap-tap, no erasies.”

That was our little ritual which would make it clear to the group that there was no going back now, on the agreed upon stipulations.

Maybe we should apply this ritual to business negotiations, and mediations, and arbitrations, and small claims court? I’m only partially kidding. (Kidding, get it?…oh, well, puns with me are always intended…grin.)

 The importance of playtime

Now that you’ve given your adult self full permission, I invite you to let your inner child out to PLAY.

As a young one, I would take sidewalk chalk, and map out a bicycle “route” on the blacktop in our back yard. To maximize the space, I’d chalk out lines for streets that wrapped back and forth, complete with intersections and four-way stops. Then, I’d ride my bicycle through the self-drawn roads, using my imagination along the way – looking for and responding to pedestrians, other ‘motorists’ and road hazards. Sometimes friends would join me, and we would ride our bikes, criss-crossing at intersections, and allowing for merging and passing within and between “lanes”. It involved using our bodies, our minds, and our imaginations, all the while fostering all kinds of being-in-the-moment creativity.

When I was three, a few friends and I collaborated on-the-spot (again in the back yard) to form our own makeshift musical group. I remember taking a large plastic bucket, turning it upside down, and proceeding to bang on it with a couple of wooden spoons. I made myself the drummer in the band. We didn’t really know how to play any songs, so we just made them up! It was great fun.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~

In our goal driven society, may we all remember that the focus of play is the experience of it. There’s nothing to “achieve.”

Play is how we connect.

Additionally, play brings joy, and joy brings a renewed energy and a fresh perspective.

It also creates space. There’s no room for fear to hang out with you while you’re playing!

Challenges too have a way of working themselves out to some degree. Feeling stuck at a certain point in a project? Needing to clear out some energetic sediment that needs some composting? How about seeking a new take on a seemingly unsolvable problem?

Well-timed play breaks often result in increased productivity. Go for it! A change of scenery will do you good!

Taking a play break

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Pick up a box of crayons and a coloring book. Start coloring! (Coloring books for adults, by the way, are becoming increasingly popular!)
  • Arrange a night of “mini-golf” out with your friends or family.
  • Play fetch with your dog, or a neighbor’s dog.
  • Play “marco polo” in a nearby swimming pool.
  • Dance to one of your favorite up-beat music videos.
  • Swing on a swing set.
  • Look at the night time sky through a telescope.
  • Finger paint!

While engaged in these types of activities, notice the feelings they invoke…openness, expansiveness, joy, pleasure, love. When you’re in that state, just imagine all the goodness that is possible!

Ready to go play? Really, truly? Tap-tap, no erasies!

Okay, your turn:

When’s the last time you (voluntarily) stepped (or better yet jumped!) smack dab into a rain puddle? Blew bubbles? Flew a kite? Whistled?

Or, when was the last time you sat on the grass, looking up at the sky, and tried to identify the funny shapes and formations in the clouds?

When walking with a friend, when’s the last time you turned to them, and said: “Hey, I’ll race you to that telephone pole – Go!”

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
, , , , , , , , , ,

When the phone rings at 3 AM…

That call at 3 AM

Yes, that one. The one that jerks you awake – the bolt straight out of bed when the phone rings – kind of phone call.  Some years ago, I received such a call:

In the jet black of night, I answer the phone.

“Hello, is this Lori Noonan?” I hear a man’s voice ask on the other end of the phone line. “Yes,” I manage to say while in complete darkness as I fumble for a light switch.

“This is the County Coroner. I have news about your brother.” I am barely able to register what he’s saying and what’s really happening. I feel as if I’ve fallen into a deep, dark, hollow well.

The Coronor continues speaking, and says rather matter-of-factly: “He shot himself in the head and killed himself.”

The voice continues, stating rather brusquely: “He was found out near some railroad tracks, in his car, with a gun. In his wallet, the only contact info was a card with your name and telephone number on it. So, I’m calling you.”

I try to keep my composure and attempt to process what I’ve just been told.

Without skipping a beat, however, the Coroner just keeps talking, asking me questions and rattling off directives.

“Can you call the other family members?”

“They need to be notified.”

“Can you take care of that?”

In that moment, all I desire to do is to ask about my brother. My heart and my mind go straight there — to my brother, out in the rural outskirts of town, in the dark of night. In my mind’s eye, immediately I picture my brother out there in his car, in his final moments, full of despair.

Why by the railroad tracks, I ponder. Was he planning to stop the car on the tracks? Was that his plan and it somehow went awry? Was he worried about injuring others on the train, and backed away? Or, maybe he waited for a train to approach, but a train didn’t come by at that time of night? Oh, but he brought a gun with him, though, too. What exactly was his plan, and how long had he been planning this? What were his final thoughts? Did he really see suicide as his “only way out”?

My mind jetted from one scenario to the next and back again. Meanwhile, the Coroner is still talking.

Suddenly, the voice on the other end of the line punctures my imaginings, and pierces straight through and into my mindstream. This is when I heard something that I hope I never hear again, and pray that no one else ever has to hear when receiving this type of news:

With agitation in his voice, the Coroner says: “Okay, I gotta go now. I’ve got to get off the phone. Half his skull is missing, and there’s all kinds of blood and mess that I’ve had to clean up, and I’ve already had to stay past the end of my shift.”

I had just been envisioning my brother in the moments before his death. In my mind’s eye, he was still out there in his car, and was still very much alive.   I certainly wasn’t prepared to have that image immediately sliced through with a proverbial scalpel from the Coroner. Envisioning my brother with half his head blown off, and blood everywhere – that was an image that I neither needed nor desired.

The call just seemed so very callous. It was not as if I was an objective bystander, a non-interested third party, a ‘passer-by’ learning of this, for the first time.

It’s 3 AM, and I’m now standing in the middle of my apartment with the phone in my hand, and I feel so, so alone, so very alone.  And, my heart aches so, so deeply, for my brother. It felt as if my chest suddenly had caved in on itself. Heartache, in that moment, was anything but a euphemism.

And, it hit me that I would be the one then calling and informing the other family members.

From the darkness out into the light

Now, my intention here is not to vilify Coroners. I realize that they have a stressful job to do. I just wish that he had handled that conversation differently – with at least a bit of civility, a modicum of compassion, an ounce of sensitivity.

This happened quite a few years ago, and perhaps training and call protocols have improved since then? Or, maybe this one phone call was an anomaly? I’m realizing that it may be helpful for me to find out. It may be time for me to reach out to others who are facing or have faced suicide in their family. It may be time for me to advocate on their behalf, and to help medical professionals understand their point of view.  I’m feeling that it may be part of my own spiritual path.

Answering a Call of a Different Sort

I’m looking into ways that I may be of service, and share my experience with those in the mental health professions, and medical personnel, and the like. Recently, I’ve learned that here in the United States, there is a national organization that provides educational programs and classes for staff members who provide mental health treatment services. And, this organization has trained presenters who present on topics such as “ending the silence” in schools, and out to the general public as a way to promote awareness of mental illness.

Is this part of my calling? Yes, it feels as if it may be. Perhaps I may hold a lantern — to shed light along the dark passageways – for those with suicidal thoughts, and for those family members who feel so alone in helping themselves as well as their loved ones through such travails. At this point, it remains somewhat undefined. I am willing, however, to explore, follow my intuitive impulses, and find out.

Okay, your turn:

Do you recall a time when you received such a phone call? What, if anything, could that person have said that would have “lessened the blow”? In what ways would you be prompted to convey such a message, if you are or were in a position to inform someone of such news?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
, ,

“So, this guy walks into a bar…”

A surprising (or, maybe not so surprising) conversation!

In this edition of Soul Notes, I bring to you a tale of two (spiritual) seekers.

After a networking event that wrapped up while rush hour was still in full force in Los Angeles on a recent Friday, I decided to wait out the traffic by taking a seat at the hotel lobby bar, and get a bite to eat. As I munched on my fish tacos, in walks a young man who takes the seat to my left, and orders a beer. We get to talking, and quickly I discover that he is visiting from England, and I share with him that I’m a “local.”

Early in the conversation, it becomes clear that this is not going to be any ordinary chit-chat. Way beyond anything as mundane, trite, or unoriginal as “do you come here often,” he turns to me and, in earnest, instead asks me this question: “Are you fulfilled and content?”

A not-so-usual question

I paused for a moment, let his question land, reflected on my answer, and said: “Yes. I am.”

What a wonderful question, I realized. What a blessing, as well – to be able to answer in the affirmative – I realized, right there, in that very moment. I must say that I didn’t necessarily know, at the surface level, that “Yes” would be my answer. A beautiful feeling of acknowledgement and gratitude bubbled up for me, however, as I realized that my answer was true – my truth – and that it arose from my inner knowing.

Each of us, of course, has our own story, and is traveling on one’s own path. And, I suppose we’re never truly “done” with the pursuit of the answers to life’s questions, meeting its many challenges and facing the various tests along the way. There have been many times in my life when I would have answered this question with an unequivocal, “No.”

I was moved, really, by so many aspects of our little interchange – including:

Wow, even for a longtime friend or loved one to have asked me that question would have been a bit unusual, let alone hearing it from someone who up until just a few minutes earlier had been a complete stranger.

How intriguing, I pondered, that he didn’t ask me if I was “happy.

Fulfilled and content – now those words, then and now, too – resonate much more deeply with me. They carry with them much more gravitas and come across with much more texture to them.

There was a rich quality to his question. And, it drew both of us into the conversation at an even deeper level. It brought the conversation, dare I say, to a soul level.

Spiritual Seekers Unite

He also asked me if I considered myself to be religious. Jeepers, how did we get into this topic of discussion so freely and effortlessly? The way he asked it, the question didn’t seem intrusive, nor did it feel at all confrontational. While certainly having had my own experiences with formalized religion over the years, I would say that mostly I consider myself more of a spiritual seeker. I have been one for some 20 years or so, at least in terms of my conscious awareness of that term. (I remember reading Elizabeth Lesser’s book, “The Seeker’s Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure,” and that title drew me in, for sure. I devoured that book and absorbed many of its teachings. To this day, it sits on a nightstand in my guest room, for visitors to enjoy.)

Quickly, I realized that he too was a spiritual seeker.

He shared with me that he had what he termed a rather strict, dogmatic, fundamentalist religion thrust upon him, which caused him great discontent. He told me that he has since left that religion. It was not easy, he said – but, he couldn’t remain in a religion that seemed to leave no room for interpretation or free expression. He did say, however, that he realizes that we are all here for a “greater purpose,” and that we are all part of a “bigger picture.”

The conversation then turned to our mutual love of astronomy and telescopes.   With his having revealed to me that he was from London, I shared with him my trip from a few years ago, when I headed up with a friend to the Royal Observatory. I was pleased to hear that he had previously visited Los Angeles’s own observatory up at Griffith Park.   This conversation just kept getting more and more interesting! We tied the cosmos to our own spiritual adventures, and we reflected on the wide range of possibilities.

I suddenly realized that we hadn’t yet really formally “met.” I asked him his name, and he introduced himself as Richard, to which I quipped that that seemed to be such an English name and a regal one at that. He smiled at my not-so-veiled attempt to be somewhat learned and okay, maybe a bit cheeky.

I could tell, however, that he really wasn’t particularly satisfied with his current life – and that seemingly he had been pondering for himself whether he was indeed feeling fulfilled and content — and that the answer was, not really.

Now that he had removed himself from what he felt were the tight reins of that one overbearing religious group, he wasn’t sure what was next for him. If it wasn’t that, then what was it he was seeking, instead? He’s still determining that for himself, he confided.

“I hereby declare tomorrow as ’Richard’s Day’”

He mentioned that he had the next day, Saturday, completely schedule-free before he would be heading back to the United Kingdom on Sunday. As he seemed to be feeling rather glum, I offered him an idea. I said: “Well, that’s perfect then, because tomorrow is “’Richard’s Day.’” I felt compelled to declare it so. Why not? Who needs to rely on the greeting card companies to designate which days we celebrate? Okay, so he did look at me a tad quizzically, but he soon warmed up to the prospect. We explored ways that he may wish to spend the day, on his terms.   “You get to choose, you know, right?” “Yes,” he agreed – and his mood seemed to brighten.

As I got up to leave and started heading back out to my car, I left him with this:

“Tomorrow morning, I’ll be envisioning you starting out on your big adventure, spending YOUR day as you like! It’s gonna be great!”

Okay, your turn:

Would you consider yourself to be “fulfilled and content”? And, what if you designated tomorrow as YOUR day? How would you choose to spend it? I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
, ,

It feels so good to be heard

A Talking Circle, a Talking Stick, and the Opportunity to Be Heard

Let’s consider the need to be heard. It’s a basic, fundamental need. We know when it’s being met. (And, we sure do feel it when it isn’t!) It feels wonderful to be seen, to be witnessed, and to be truly heard.

One beautiful way to facilitate the meeting of this need to be heard — is through talking circles and through the use of a talking stick.

Among other traditions, Native Americans use a Talking Circle as a way to solve problems, remove barriers among individuals or groups, and to allow participants to express themselves freely. In modern circles, it has become a way to share thoughts, feelings, and individual stories.

How a Talking Circle Works

Everyone sits in a circle, facilitated by a ceremonialist who calls in the intention for that circle, and asks that each person speak one at a time. Traditionally this is done by going person to person in a clockwise direction. A token, or “talking stick,” is passed along as each person speaks. Everyone is encouraged to speak, although one may choose to pass along the talking stick without speaking.   All those who are not speaking, are asked to give their undivided attention to the person who is speaking, and who is holding the talking stick.

Blending the Old with the New

Earlier this month, I led a talking circle of 14 women. This is a circle of women who have been meeting regularly in the conference room of a wealth management office — to discuss issues such as life transitions, wealth distribution, retirement strategies, and the like.

So, how does a modern day financial planning discussion group and a traditional Native American talking circle end up intersecting?   Allow me to draw the connection, if I may.

I’ve been apprenticing as a Keeper Of The Water, based on Native American traditions of the Northwestern United States. As part of my training, I’ve been called forward to conduct Talking Circles. Through previous meetings, the financial advisor who brought together this group of her clients, has already set the tone for a wonderful circle and discussion group. Recently, however, she had invited me to introduce an element of ceremony into the next meeting.

A key element of a talking circle is to set an intention or focused inquiry. For this group, I asked them to consider, and to claim for themselves: What it is that they desire to invite in, or invite more of, into their life this year?

Full Moon Rising

On this particular evening (coinciding with the full moon), the energy was strong, amplified, and vast. You could just feel it!

This type of inquiry, and the talking circle, moves you from beyond the realm of thought, and directly into your heart space. You don’t “think your way” through a talking circle. By design, it allows room for your SOUL to speak.

As each person held the talking stick, it took on that person’s energy and full intention. In speaking her truth, each woman infused the talking stick with her story, and her experience.

And, as each woman shared her truth, unfiltered, unedited, and from her heart – all the other women witnessed her and what she desired and claimed for herself. Each person, one by one, was truly heard.

It was a soul sharing…from within…without judgment…without consternation…without any advice given or ‘fixing’ going on. Just acknowledgement, with honor, with respect. With love. That’s divine feminine magic.

Again, we all have a need to be heard. Truly heard. In our truth. In our vulnerability. Held and witnessed by kindred spirits. Sister souls. And so it is.

Okay, your turn:

What does it mean for you to be “truly heard?” What are some examples that you recall from your own life, when you felt truly heard? Take a moment and reflect, and then share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2015 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.