The Path From Loneliness to Connection
By Christa Chantelois BSN, MAC
India Arie’s song “Break the Shell” poetically frames the transformational journey from loneliness to deep connection:
“Courage is not being hard
It’s time to peel back all of the layers
You put between who you’re meant to be
And you who are
And go be who you are”
What we commonly label as loneliness is often alienation from our true, deeper self. Our society teaches us to look outward for our self and security – instant gratification on smart phones, our sense of worth from Facebook likes, consuming new and hip products, and decorating our bodies, homes and resumes with the right accessories. This dis-connection usually is held in our sub-conscious; a forgetting of our “True Self”. Richard Rohr tells us that our DNA is divine, that our core remembers our truth and it’s waiting to be noticed and fulfilled. He encourages us to foster this by pairing our loneliness with our True Self. R. Rohr calls this the ultimate homecoming.
He goes on to offer us a promise: “I promise you that the discovery of your True Self will feel like a thousand pounds of weight have fallen from your back. You will no longer have to build, protect, or promote any idealized self image…” Could this be the key to shifting the human condition of loneliness and that actually unlocks the direction to true connection?
Let’s reverse the propensity to look outward for escape from loneliness and instead turn inward, greeting loneliness as one of humanity’s oldest friends and wisest teachers. This path of coming back to being our own best friend, remembering our true self as part of the divine, can transforms loneliness into profound, everlasting connection.
Dr. Daniel Siegel proposes, based on extensive neuro-physiological research that brain development and mind are where beliefs of self, life, relationships [with self and others] and worthiness are formed. In his latest book, “Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human” he states that where we put our attention is where neural pathways are fed and grow. This pivotal research information, now globally accepted, proves that our brain has plasticity. This means that we can change/heal our neural pathways to healthier, more authentic states of functioning and, therefore, of experiencing life.
“All you need is already within you, only you must approach yourself with reverence and love.” Sri Nisargadatta
There are numerous simple tools available to assist us in transforming our loneliness to connection.
1) Come back to our breath: Take a moment or two throughout the day to stop and notice the in-breath and the out-breath. This simple technique is very powerful. It brings us back into connection with our body, with our internal being.
2) Forgiveness leads to self-love: Forgiveness doesn’t always mean saying something was/is ok. It can be letting go of the energy/emotion/pain to make space for freedom in oneself.
3) Yoga: A mindful way to come back to self, gently taking care of our physical vessel, practicing positive thoughts, releasing energies and beliefs that no longer serve our highest good.
4) Re-wiring our neural pathways: reading and watching positive things, seeking out and having positive experiences and relationships, shifting our negative thoughts to loving thoughts.
5) Being open and willing to know the divine within.
6) Reiki: Healing energy that assists in balancing our energetic body, releasing unwanted energies, offering of healing.
Bringing these into our daily lives creates a deeper and more expansive sense of freedom and open-heartedness. This life-long adventure can be filled with expansion, self-love, ease and significantly less loneliness. Ahhh the freedom to Be and experience life more fully and joyfully! Along this journey of “True Self” we are taken us to the deepest and most wonderful connections!
Published in Nature’s Pathways, August 2017
The Power of Love
By Christa and Heather Chantelois
The power of love versus the love of power! Upon first glance, it seems that power has historically been experienced as power over – as strength that enables control or domination. While this view certainly finds evidence in many major historical turns and in our current public discourse, an alternative view of power – power with (See Mary Parker Follett) – may be seen when we look closely and from below. Buddhist Abbess, Pema Chödron, asserts that, in the simplest ways, our lives are knit together in a web of interdependent kindness. For example, driving to the supermarket is possible due to the dedication of the construction workers, road maintenance, electricity grid, and creative and sustainable transformation of natural resources. On a more profound level, power with is love in action. It is compassion, respect, and care for self and others, greeting the world based on common goodness.
Coming from a place of integrity, honesty, and positive intention, power becomes an element of transformation, healing, goodwill, and peace. However, power misused can be an agent of breakdown, separation, harm, discord, or war. At a historical moment dense with fear of the ascendance of power over, a call to renew the power of love in our relationships with ourselves, others, and in our public life is paramount!
With so many forces encouraging power over, how might we strengthen the power of love – power with – in our lives and communities? Dr. Richard Davidson, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, applies neuroscience to explore – and ultimately affirm – the effectiveness of mindfulness, meditation, and other contemplative practices in revealing and strengthening the inherent goodness in humanity. For instance, studies conducted at Yale and at Max Planck Institute in Germany highlight that human and chimpanzee toddlers are oriented toward altruistic adults and toward creating altruistic relationships with others. Dr. Davidson suggests that these findings affirm our basic goodness, and he suggests engaging in practices to strengthen our mind’s capacity for compassion, kindness, and positivity.
In moments of stillness and silence, the interdependence of our ability to meet our own failures, mistakes, and embarrassments with love that nurtures and transforms and our ability to employ the power of love in our external relationships becomes clear. So, moving forward into 2017, into the month of love, into a new presidential term, take a moment to strengthen your own internal resources of goodwill and transformation.
- Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit.
- Bring your attention to your breath. Let it naturally become deep and slow.
- As you inhale, send love to all parts of your body. To your toes; to your internal organs, all the way to the cells lining your blood vessels.
- As you exhale, send love to others near you. To your pet; to your spouse; to your colleague.
- Breathe in love for all parts of your self – body, mind, heart, spirit.
- Breathe out love for those slightly farther from you. To your workplace; to your town; to our new government; to those in parts of the world you have never seen.
- Accept any resistance or judgment, and let it go. Send places of resistance your compassion, and allow tightness to release.
Follow your own intuition. This heart-strengthening meditation can be as long or as brief as feels right for you. You might do it in the waiting room, in line at the grocery store, in the moment when someone says something you disagree with and your chest tightens with irritation. Step by step, this simple practice takes us back to our innate capacity to love and to let love be our guiding power.
We are blessed with the gift of choice. In each moment, we may choose the love of power wherein we allow our ego to rule, where we lose sight of authentic respect and care for ourselves, others, and our planet. Or, we may choose the power of love, wherein we walk our diverse paths empowered by the energy of dignity, honest, compassion, and concern for the well-being of our, including ourselves.
Published in Nature’s Pathways, February 2017
The Essence of Healing
What is your definition of healing? A common assumption is that healing is a response to affliction and a need to be fixed. In large part due to the many influences of society that distort our self-esteem and thoughts of worthiness, our experiences of dis-ease or suffering quickly lose their place as ordinary yet deeply meaningful components of living a human life. Instead, they may become labeled as physical or psychological disorders. These messages then easily develop into subtle but powerful beliefs that we come from a place of deficit, not being or having enough; that we are not yet deserving.
What if something is deeply misguided in this definition of healing? Just because we may have begun – and possibly lived many years – believing that something in us is out of sync does not mean that it is truth. It is absolutely possible to shift into an authentic and self-honoring way to relate to our challenges, stumbles and gifts and therefore to experience life from a refreshed and empowered place.
Try, perhaps for just a few moments, sitting in this expansive, radical way of existing and moving through life: We all begin from a place of complete light, love, worthiness and wholeness; a place of being fully enough! Buddhists call this, “basic goodness” and teach that, in the stillness, each of us, no matter how we may have transgressed, simply is. Christians speak of this as the place within each of us where the Holy Spirit lives and welcomes us into relationship with God. How would your life – and the situation of the planet – be different if we each moved from this point of being?
Along life’s journey, we accumulate beliefs and experiences that leave us with progressively less space to be who we really are. Consequently, it is relatable, rather than surprising, to hear someone say, “I feel like I’ve lost part of myself.” This process can be called trauma, stress, or simply life. No matter how we label it, healing is possible by coming back home to ourselves!
Coming home to ourselves involves several core processes that gently unpack the layers of accumulated beliefs and habits that neither belong nor reflect our gifts or defines our identity. One practice is to bring awareness to our thoughts and to the underlying beliefs. We are neurologically wired to lean toward negativity. It’s time to shift into positivity.
Instead of accepting our thoughts as truth, try sitting for a few minutes in a quiet space. Notice your thoughts come and go, and as you watch them arise and fall away, make note of all the thoughts that are negative or judgmental. Then ask yourself how many are true or kind. Just notice with curiosity and love. This is a very simple first in rewiring our neuropathways for greater wellbeing.
Moving toward more self-love is transformational and the essence of healing. It changes how we experience life. We each have the power of choice to live from this space.
So … what are your beliefs about healing? What is your heart wisdom saying to you?
Published in Nature’s Pathways, January 2017