Your Own Midas’ Touch

sunshine-vector_MypdEKH_

Consider the Sun, which beams equally upon all depending on its nearness. It shines forth of its own nature, unquestioning. All within the scope of Its worlds is illuminated; everything the Sun’s rays reach may prosper. Its thunderous Light is self-perpetuating and long lived.

How may you be most like the Sun in your own life? Is this the fabled Midas’ touch we all might seek? Then contemplate how to give as the Sun gives, never asking for anything in return.

sunrays

How to Build Your Strengths

kiel week 2009

When I was an undergraduate at SUNY College at Buffalo (1972-1976), I majored in English and minored in Philosophy and Creative Studies. Creative Studies was unique to this college, with faculty led by Sidney J. Parnes and Ruth Noller, pioneering experts in the creativity field.  Dr. Parnes (Sid) went on to later co-found the International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY Center at Buffalo.

Every summer the Center for Creativity Studies at Buffalo State College held a Creative Studies Conference, inviting the brightest innovators in this field to present their study findings and to present workshops about the creative process. I attended one in 1974 that I shall never forget, as I acquired a simple tool there which I have always remembered and still utilize and about which I share with my own university students—and now, you!—to this day. It was offered in a workshop titled something like “Strength Building: A Creative Process.” Unfortunately I do not recall the name of the presenter. I believe he was a CEO of a creative corporate consulting firm.

Colorful Hot Air Balloons in Flight

“Take out a piece of paper and a pen. Now I would like for you to write down 10 of what you consider to be your Greatest Weaknesses.”

That is how the workshop began. The workshop presenter, a well groomed man in his early 40’s, gave us around ten minutes to compile our list of weaknesses. I don’t recall at all what I wrote down then; which is good, according to the insights he shared over the rest of this exercise.

creative-diamond-913-602

“Now then, on a separate piece of paper, please write down a list of what you perceive to be your 10 Greatest Strengths. I’d like for you to rank order these strengths of yours from one to ten, with ten being your highest, greatest strength of all.”

I seem to recall a few of these even today, forty years later. “A good listener” was on the list (I don’t think at the top); “persistent” was probably there, too; “a Friend” I am guessing I would also have included on my self-perceived list of strengths at that time.

“Now then, please take out your page with the list of your perceived weaknesses. I would like for you to TEAR THIS UP.  Please throw the paper scraps away in the waste basket that I will now pass around the room.”

Hmm! I was surprised. I thought for sure we would be focusing on those weaknesses to learn how to “build our strengths.”

numbered-lines-with-fitness-silhouettes-913-1145

“Never focus on your weaknesses,” the creativity consultant stated. “If you were ready to deal with them, they probably wouldn’t  be on your list of weaknesses anyway.  Instead,” he invited, “ ALWAYS CONCENTRATE ON DEVELOPING WHAT YOU ALREADY FIND TO BE YOUR STRENGTHS.  IF YOU DEVELOP YOUR STRENGTHS FURTHER, SOME DAY YOU WILL LOOK BACK TO FIND THAT SOME OF WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE COUNTED AS WEAKNESSES ARE NOW AMONG YOUR STRENGTHS, TOO!”

Snail Shell

This man explained about how developing our greatest strengths has benefits that expand all of our skills or talents along the way. I could relate this to fencing at the time, as I was on an intercollegiate fencing squad that placed within the top 10 in the nation at the the following year’s national tournament.

I applied the workshop KEY to fencing all that next year. ACCENTUATE STRENGTHS! Develop those skills or fencing moves and attacks that I liked most and could do the best. Don’t dwell on weaknesses, and all will improve. I must say, he was so right! They did! I learned that when I focused on a weakness in fencing, a move or skill I had not yet been able to master, I became self-conscious on the fencing strip, and any athlete knows that is never a good thing! When instead I focused mainly in practice and coaching lessons on honing particular moves and attacks I already felt naturally good at, I developed a portfolio of strengths, a repertoire of successful strategies which I found I could rely on “without thinking” during a bout. That is what fencing absolutely requires is the fluid capacity to ACT and to CREATE strategy in the immediacy of the Moment. This approach was highly successful. That next year I defeated many of the best fencers from the best university teams throughout the country. I was focussed on what I COULD do, and DID that!

summer_1100012520-1013int

So, I invite YOU to write down a list of what you perceive to be your ten greatest weaknesses. Put that aside and on another sheet of paper, write down what you perceive to be your ten greatest strengths. Rank order those strengths to compile a final list of your strengths. Now then, please tear up your list of weaknesses and throw that away. What you are left with is the list of Your Greatest STRENGTHS! Place that list somewhere so you will see it often. Contemplate your strengths. DEVELOP them. Then go about your business, whatever it might be, and APPLY these Strengths mindfully. This is a win-win scenario for all!

I welcome your Comments, Your Insights and Your Stories to Share !

The Turning Points of This Woman’s Life

Using the Life Theme Illustration that I created (inspired by the exercise given at Better Endings for LIFE PATHS by my friend Linda), I have identified actual turning points to all of these major themes of my life which are represented in their own portion of this illustration.

  1. That sad little girl with the glasses displaying the artwork that she created, with clouds and lightning hovering over her… -This is symbolic of the bulk of my childhood. As an asthmatic, I was unable to play and exert myself with my friends outside. I had really bad allergies and asthma attacks. I also set out with a very low self esteem, as I was a chubby little one (because of Asthma meds), and very few children had glasses in my class. Being made fun of by classmates and an elderly neighbor that is not mentioned,  this imprint was created. My self concept (in psychology: the mental image one has of oneself ) was developing, and it had all come down to this. I knew I was different. I was fat and not pretty. All of the nice pictures I could ever make would never change it. So…The turning point here was HUGE.
  2. The Treble Clef that represents my musical experiences growing up was made in red because music was a fire, a passion that flowed through my veins. This passion was an outlet. Though I played clarinet, when I played I did so with as much soul as I could belting out any show tune with a diva-like voice. In high school I earned first chair (for you non musician cats out there, that means I was considered the best or the section leader). Music opened a huge door in my life. This whole band thing led me to auditioning for leader of the high school marching band my second year of high school! I made the cut, held the spot as drum major/field commander of the high school marching band for the rest of my high school career/3 years! I had no clue I could be a leader. At this point, that little girl who saw herself as fat and worthless looked around only to find others staring up at her in awe. Things looked a whole lot different from the top of the field podium directing that band on the football field than they did at my mom’s kitchen table. I knew I could do it. I had it all in me. I had a future! There was something in me far greater than I could’ve ever imagined…the floor of Heaven cracked open just a wee but and the blessings rained down. I was somebody! I knew I could achieve things then. I was smart. My self concept was altered for the better.
  3. The Happy/Sad broken heart doodle above the Treble Clef signifies all of the teenage love gone sour due to not only situation and circumstance, but because of my undiagnosed condition and how it strongly impacted my relationships with others, especially boys. Just because the greatest crush I ever had rejected me, and the fact that he and other guys my age were attracted to my friends more than me, made me feel incompetent for love. This belief led me down a horrible path of bad decisions in the dating world, horrible suitors, and tragic endings. From that point on, I failed at romantic relationships simply because of how I let people tell me what I deserved, and who I was.I wasn’t complete nor whole. In order to thrive in life and in love, you must first know who you are! I didn’t find myself, til even after I was married. Better late then never, I suppose.
  4. The A+ that leads into The Dean’s List Scroll symbolizes my outstanding academics in high school and into college. I was becoming who I was meant to be, knocking down mountains. Into college, career opportunities were lighting up along with my confidence! Being recognized in such a way really boosted my self esteem. This is where I was at an all time high in my world. I believed I was smart, and so did everyone else…I became a true, confident young woman, headed for success.
  5. The Crossing, Green Street Signs, as you can see, say “Danger” and “PhD.” There were 2 roads. I was on that road that led to success, led to completion, led to my PhD!!! However, I took a detour and headed in the way of danger because I had lost my grasp on reality. It was all so gradual, so nobody noticed right away. My life was in part a show, as people believed the lies that I told to make it all fit. Somehow I was justhappy all the time. High risk behaviors became the norm, and flirting with danger was routine. I began to act not accordingly  to any of my morals or beliefs, or who I grew up to be. I defied my religion and all of my own guidelines to life. At this point, I welcomed Bipolar Mania, and letting go of it all, embraced the thrill of insanity…
  6. You can see where The Bottle of Lithium below came from! It took a lot of time, a lot of time, trial and error, scary hospitalizations to be monitored and such so that my doctor could find the right combination of meds. to keep me stable, on an even line, so that I could live a normal life. The introduction of these Bipolar medications was another beginning. This was my blessing though! I began to settle down, find a calm that I never knew in all of the storms of my life. Lithium was a savior along with a few other drugs that helped control my Bipolar disorder and bring me back to a state of normalcy!
  7. The woman and man kissing a shared heart with the word ‘forever’ inside, are supposed to be me and my husband. Finding my husband was an adventure in itself.. This was a huge change for me. I believed marriage to be a healing. Now I see that I am the healing.
  8. The Church on the Bottom Right Corner represents how God never gave up on me, even though I gave up on him at times, and in times of mania, completely let go. However, I was protected through much by The Father and His angels. That’s another post. The prayers of my family and my Church were most definitely heard while I was in the hospital multiple times during the year 2004. Prayer is the most powerful tool that we have as people. These prayers, and the prayersof my own made the difference. I returned to the Lord who protected, healed, and delivered me.
  9. Finally, the large Cross in the middle of my illustration represents Jesus, my Savior, my hope, all that He’s done for me. With God as my rock, I made it. He never let go even though I did. I let go of the heart of me. Not anymore. He’s got my back, and lives in my heart forever! In a healthy state of mind, I include Him when making any decisions. I made it back to The Truth. Praise God for delivering me from it all…and for what the future holds!

God bless! — Mandi

******   ******

7-1113tm-vector2-3715

I welcome all of your insights and stories! Linda

Two Wellness Affirmation Stories, by Illyipstick of Masknolonger, and Brenda Davis Harsham of FriendlyFairyTales

This day we are blessed to share two stories from other bloggers which serve as Wellness Affirmations. I re-blog them here with gratitude for their insight and “centeredness”!

Woman at the sea

A 2nd LETTER TO MY THERAPISTby Illy

posted in Detoxifying the PastLife in Recovery

Dear Joan,

When we first started our sessions 14 months ago, I could not imagine having the freedoms that I do today. I surely would have listened to you had you have said that my life today was something that I could achieve then, but I certainly would not have believed you.

Our relationship, which was my first safe and honest relationship planted a seed. Watering this seed was certainly terrifying, but you allowed me just enough time and space to gradually nourish this safety and trust in our sessions. I mentioned in my last letter to you that you had provided me with a treasure box of healthy living and I had no idea just how accurate I was. You truly have. Today, I not only have you as a guiding force which keeps me on track, but I have allowed many others into my life as well. I have shared secrets which I thought would remain in your office forever and I have shared some of these willingly with groups of strangers even because I want to hold my shame up to the light… I did not know that my shame was in fact evaporating through this process until I started taking moments to reflect on just where I was months ago…

I am sober today which is miraculous. The manner in which you encouraged me to go to treatment for my alcohol addiction was absolutely perfect. There was no pressure. You made it clear that in order for you to help me, I had to consider treatment and I did. You were there to assist me in that planning. You were there to listen to me rant from the pay phone while I was in treatment. But, most importantly, you were there when I came home and you helped me to pick up the pieces of my life that had been cast astray while I was active in my addiction. You never left and in my mind you were supposed to because that is what people have always done.

I stopped relying on others because I was always disappointed, I was always hurt and so by relying solely on myself – I thought in my distorted mind, that I was safe… In all of this self-examination and learning about myself, I realized that this method of self-protection did not keep me safe, it actually made it more dangerous to live be with my thoughts alone and without support.

I cannot think of a single moment in 14 months of weekly sessions where I have felt judged or in a state of oppression. Not once.

You have and continue to help me navigate my 12 step recovery and encourage me to seek counsel outside of the rooms as well, which has helped me to establish healthy boundaries in my recovery and in my everyday life. Not everyone has this opportunity and I am grateful that I do.

All of this said, I was never excited about life. But, I am sometimes nowadays and I am learning to appreciate and be with those moments more and more often. I can’t believe that there was a time when being with my emotions was so unbearable that I wanted to die all of the time. These feelings will undoubtedly re-surface at some point, but I am willing to live today knowing that bad emotions may one day lead me astray for awhile and that is okay.

Has my life changed? Have I changed? Most definitely. Everything has changed!

And, the beauty in this is that so much more will continue to change as we delve deeper and deeper into the trauma of my past…

I recently came across the “Miracle Day!” exercise that we completed at one point during my first 4 months of therapy. I was to describe what a day would look like for me if I could do anything and everything I wanted for that day without anything holding me back… On the photocopied version of your notes, it reads: not to drink/to stay sober, to be honest with everyone I meet, to open-up to another person other than Joan (most probably, my sister) about my alcohol problem, to treat myself to lunch on a patio and not feel guilty about eating, to be able to sleep without having nightmares, to spend time in a park writing, to feel alive. This miracle day, minus the eating portion – has happened to me on many days since I have gotten sober… Even the eating portion has happened, not as often as I would like, but I am getting there slowly, but surely…

Thank you for helping me be with myself in such a fashion which has allowed me to realize that I am not always to blame…

“We may define therapy

as a search for value.”

-Abraham Maslow

http://masknolonger.com/

******   ******

Centered Haibun, by Brenda Davis Harsham

0294-seasonal

I learned to pray as a small child by placing my hands flat together, closing my eyes and bowing my head. That ritual helped me focus, set aside distractions and center myself. In yoga, I took quickly to prayer pose, which also uses hands placed together, head bowed and attention focused.

In prayer pose, I hear my breathing, like the waves of the ocean, calming me. I observe the movement of my rib cage, expanding, contracting, and I consciously deepen my breathing, holding it after taking a breath in, for a few seconds of stillness. I learned to focus my intention for that class: to set aside worries, to lay down burdens, and to think only of the needs of my body for those moments.

prayer pose
thoughts echo and grow still
breathe out worries

I haven’t been to a yoga class in years, but I had inspiring teachers, who were generous enough to help me design a home practice. I still practice yoga, and I am so grateful for it.

Prayer pose lets me feel close to the divine, for in the stillness and focusing of my mind I achieve calm. I hear the voice of the universe only in quiet moments, external and internal quiet.

tree pose
branches lifted to the sky
blessed by rain

Copyright 2014 Brenda Davis Harsham ( http://friendlyfairytales.com/ )

summer_1100014445-1013int