Connection and Community

Have you ever lived in a family or a community? Most of us have had this experience, for better or worse. Some of us have been blessed with an ideal situation where we have found people who we really love and care about, who have functioned well in a loving, caring way toward each other. This experience is more rare. I remember growing up in a neighborhood with decent people who did not deeply care about each other. For the most part, they did better than tolerate their neighbors but, by and large, remained independent and superficial (or aloof) from their nearest neighbors. In primitive communities, neighbors worked together to survive and looked out for each other because they realized that it was too difficult to live comfortably completely on their own. But growing up in Southern California suburbs meant barely putting up with your immediate family, let alone the neighbors. At least, that is what it seemed to me.

No man is an island was a line in a 1624 poem by English poet, John Donne. Suggesting to me that we are all connected and the world is less if anyone goes missing. Also included in this poem, “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.” “Any man’s death diminishes me, Because I am involved in Mankind.” So some people reach out to deeply connect and care for others, and this serves all of us to do so. Caring and connecting makes us happier and healthier. Perhaps we can remember this and make connecting a higher priority. Some of us may need to be reminded that life experiences are better when these are shared experiences.

Whether people are conscious or not, most of us strive to be included in communities. We feel better in a “Tribe.” In this day and age, a tribe may be with other people who share a common interest or even passion. In the United States you can see the tribes gathering on weekends in the Fall of the year. People in the tribe dress up in colors and costumes to be included in the celebration of the religion of their favorite football team. A very tribal community with elaborate clothes (Jerseys), hats, and even War paint. There is competition to be the most devoted and fanatic among the tribe’s fans. This may be our primitive need to join and to be part of a tribe.

Consider that this need for community exists and many of us do not feel a part of a “Healthy” and supportive group of people. We have been too isolated by our cultural behavior where independence is worshiped and lack of trust runs strong. For many of us, the need for connection and community has begun to surface, especially, as we begin to face aging or our mortality. Being “alone” during these transitions is often scary and less conducive for healthy transitions and the learning we gain during these major transitional periods. At the very least, it is better to have mentors or role models to help cope with these difficult life lessons. Connection and community can be very useful in these times.

So I ask you, what are YOU doing to build and maintain a HEALTHY connection and community? Not just with fellow sport fans, co-workers, or folks you see in class, church, or club, but real deep connections with caring, supportive people who can “count on you” and you on them…. It takes time and effort, but for most people, it is worth the “trouble.”

Another perspective comes from metaphysical philosophy which tells us that we are all in this together, spiritually. We are all pilgrims and benefit from reaching around and assisting the fellow pilgrims we meet in life. If nothing else, know the value you can offer by allowing another person to share their story with you. You can even show respect by not interrupting, except for clarification, as your partner finds the depth of their experience to share with you. I know that YOU would love to be respected and “heard” as you attempt to share your truth. Blessings and patience. Learn to judge less and accept more, for this offers the deepest love you can give your fellow pilgrim.

The skills of “witnessing” and listening are taught and practiced by members of the spiritual support community, the Masters of the Journey. The Masters of the Journey is a supportive community who believes that we are each masters (of our lives) having lived through many life experiences. There are lessons learned and wisdom to share. Find your supportive connections and community!

Find out more about Masters of the Journey: A Transformational Community at: www.mastersofthejourney.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/mastersofthejourney

Coping with Grief and Loss – a Process

We all suffer from loss in our lives. Sometimes the loss relates to transitions through life that are normal and expected states of growth and development such as moving from childhood, through the teenage years, and then into the adult responsibilities that confront most people. Though this is a difficult transition, we must all face this if we live past our 18th birthday. There are more serious or traumatic losses that many of us encounter such as the death of close family member or friend, the loss of health due to accident or illness, the loss of an important relationship, or possibly the loss experienced with a career change or loss of a job. These are difficult times and hard lessons to experience in the course of life. These losses, though potentially painful, can be times of learning and personal growth. Many of these transitions can be less distracting and with a greater potential for learning if you have a positive support network. Here is the dilemma. Most people do not have a network of healthy, positive supporters to allow for movement through difficult transitions with grace and healing perspectives.

We can learn from our painful transitions and losses. We can wade through these changes more gracefully, and possibly with less discomfort, if we have the best team of support surrounding us. Some people look for professional counselors or coaches, or perhaps clergy to help with difficult transitions. Some of us have personal mentors who can be trusted and who have the necessary communication skills to assist in times of need. Some of us have healthy relationships, friends or family who can help without too much of their own “baggage.” Many people do not have enough access to the positive supporters who can help us through the grief that life throws at us.

There are many books and potential sources of information which help us to understand the process of dealing with loss and grief but for most people reading about the grief process is not enough. We need to be supported by a personalized experience that we can gather around us as we muddle our way through our emotional and spiritual pains of loss. We need to be “touched” by the proper support in many ways. We need to be allowed our grief and yet “called on it” when we have gone past the limit and start the “wallowing process.” We need to find the exact, personalized process to assist in managing the stress, anxiety, pain, confusion, and the “emptiness” of replacing the part of ourselves which has been lost with the more experienced and empowered person who has survived a major change/loss/growth… Do not miss the opportunity to build a support network of “healthy” and available people. You never know when a need will arise for this special support.

Each of us need to find the best way to learn our lesson and then to move on into our new, restructured life. We need to learn the best way to take care of ourselves, benefit from the lessons, and then discover the most appropriate directions to move our new life. To do this, we need to find people we can trust and invest the resources into the process of self-care and self-development so we can move down the path that leads to our goals. This is easier said than done, but if you realize that you would survive this transition more easily and possibly more quickly with positive assistance then you must do the work and find the correct support you require.

In the future, we will be expanding and releasing information regarding a new program which can assist most people in developing an individualized transition plan. We are beginning to build a process for creating a positive support network which will enable participants to discover their strengths, accept their weakness or flaws, and to free up energy to invest for moving toward positive goals and enhanced lifestyles. The working title for this process is “Finding Your Tone.”

Please comment or send questions to the Stress Education Center at wellness@dstress.com or visit the website at www.dstress.com.

The Secret to Finding Balance in Life

There are major areas in your life that when left unattended can lead to a lack of balance and prevent you from full life satisfaction. You can be a victim to a lack of awareness regarding these areas and suffer from physical or emotional symptoms including anxiety, depression, headaches, pain, abdominal complaints, and reduce productivity (due to unconscious distractions.) With awareness and action you can use your new balance to be more productive, prosperous and healthy.

Find the 8 essential areas of your life and learn to honor the ones that you do not make time for in your life. This will help to re-prioritize your life and give you greater balance as you pursue your long term goals and aspirations. The 8 essential life areas include: career, finance, family, friends/relationships, education/life long learning, health, creativity/aesthetic, and honoring the spirit. If you do not have a plan for honoring each of these 8 areas then you may not have balance and may have to fight to sustain emotional and physical health and well-being.

The first two areas are obvious and many people spend time and energy working to fulfill these areas. Career relates to your work and the satisfaction that you may achieve through being productive. Many people need to address their work/career if they find themselves under-satisfied by the job that they are employed to do. Training and mentoring can lead to more appropriate career paths. Finance includes current and future plans for financial stability and security. Long term planning is required and impulse control is necessary to help maintain your long-term planning until you achieve your financial goals. There is a great deal of support regarding these two areas and so society tends to focus on these areas but these do always provide life balance or satisfaction by themselves.

“Family” is an area that relates to the closest relationships that we have. The importance of having close ties to your family can vary a lot. Some people require large amounts of contact with parents, siblings, and children. If this were true for you, you have to make time to maintain these relationships. Some people are not as connected or attached to these close family relationships and so they may require less time and attention to maintain their balance. Career and other life distractions can move this area to a seemingly lower priority but this can be a huge mistake and in some cultures, family, is the highest priority. This support is very important and should not be shuffled to lower priorities. If you neglect this area, you may suffer emotionally and physically. Remember that “quality” of time with family is more important than quantity. Do not miss your opportunities for good, close connections even if your schedule is an issue.

“Friends/Relationships” like family are important, but individual needs vary. Time with chosen, “healthy” friends is important. This support both giving and receiving is critical for most humans. These are relationships that can be as intimate as husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, or intense coupling that seems born into our genetic code. When your life is tested by change or tragedy, close, healthy friends and relationships can be critical. Time in your life may need to be allocated to find, build, and maintain these relationships. We all have different levels of needs. Remember that the quality of these contacts is more important than quantity, though people with need for drama in their lives may want to argue about the need to quantity of time for relationships.

“Life-long learning” is the pursuit of knowledge or wisdom that allows you to move forward in your life. Sometimes it is specific to career development but it can also relate to information that can allow for better decision making or following a passion in your life. To not expand your knowledge can lead to a weakening of memory. Studies have proven that an active mind is less likely to suffer of the early onset challenges like dementia. Life is more interesting when you challenge yourself to expand consciousness and information.

“Health” is a “no-brainer” when it comes to balance and life satisfaction. Investing time and energy in keeping fit and eating “right” is an individual but necessary requirement for the most productive life. Bad habits can, and should, be changed, either reduced or eliminated. Substance abuse is a very temporary distraction from pain or anxiety (fear-anger) and does not offer long-term solutions but can lead to long-term impairments. Challenges can “run” in families but this is no excuse for caving in as a victim to poor health. Time spent on health and wellness actually saves you time and money, in the long run. Companies who tract wellness programs often find a cost benefit of $5, or more, for every $1 spent on wellness. This is true for the quality of your life and even your levels of productivity. DO NOT USE “no time” as an excuse. You will save time by practicing stress management, getting regular exercise, and eating better.

“Creativity and Aesthetic” pursuits are not simply producing arts and crafts. Not everyone has talent for this type of creative endeavor. Everyone does have an appreciation for some form of art or natural beauty and we must invest resources in finding the activities that touch your aesthetic needs. Maybe a hike or trip to a museum will meet your requirements and give you balance. Planning a once a month visit to experience a beautiful natural environment or man-made work of art, or going to a performance, or listening to uplifting music can all qualify for creating satisfaction in this area. Being distracted by TV, video games, or movies may not be enough… Exploring your requirements for quality aesthetic exposure is important and is often ignored, with poor long-term results in life satisfaction.

Finally, “Honoring the Spirit” is an area that requires attention. There may be an over-lap with attending to aesthetic or creative pursuits because pursuing the spiritual requirements may have more to do with feeling good in your heart than chasing a philosophy. So religion or religious pursuits do not always involve the true celebration of spirit. Religion can be cerebral or political in ways that may feed the mind but not always the soul/spirit. Do not take this area lightly. When you do not know how to nourish your true spirit you run the risk of having fears and anxieties about important transitions like death/dying, parenting, or aging that when left unresolved can lead to serious emotional imbalance. Everyone has different requirements for honoring or celebrating spirit. Do not fall into the trap of taking on someone else’s belief. FIND YOUR OWN PATH.

If you are unclear how to pursue engaging in any of these areas in your own life, consider finding a mentor or life coach who you can trust to assist you at examining the specific needs you may have in your unique situation and life. If you need assistance, consider the Stress Education Center for this life coaching (www.dstress.com.) But remember, honor your own needs and find a way to incorporate these areas into your life. Life satisfaction may be the biggest and best reward. Take good care of yourself.

Coping with Grief and Loss – a Process

We all suffer from loss in our lives. Sometimes the loss relates to transitions through life that are normal and expected states of growth and development such as moving from childhood, through the teenage years, and then into the adult responsibilities that confront most people. Though this is a difficult transition, we must all face this if we live past our 18th birthday. There are more serious or traumatic losses that many of us encounter such as the death of close family member or friend, the loss of health due to accident or illness, the loss of an important relationship, or possibly the loss experienced with a career change or loss of a job. These are difficult times and hard lessons to experience in the course of life. These losses, though potentially painful, can be times of learning and personal growth. Many of these transitions can be less distracting and with a greater potential for learning if you have a positive support network. Here is the dilemma. Most people do not have a network of healthy, positive supporters to allow for movement through difficult transitions with grace and healing perspectives.

We can learn from our painful transitions and losses. We can wade through these changes more gracefully, and possibly with less discomfort, if we have the best team of support surrounding us. Some people look for professional counselors or coaches, or perhaps clergy to help with difficult transitions. Some of us have personal mentors who can be trusted and who have the necessary communication skills to assist in times of need. Some of us have healthy relationships, friends or family who can help without too much of their own “baggage.” Many people do not have enough access to the positive supporters who can help us through the grief that life throws at us.

There are many books and potential sources of information which help us to understand the process of dealing with loss and grief but for most people reading about the grief process is not enough. We need to be supported by a personalized experience that we can gather around us as we muddle our way through our emotional and spiritual pains of loss. We need to be “touched” by the proper support in many ways. We need to be allowed our grief and yet “called on it” when we have gone past the limit and start the “wallowing process.” We need to find the exact, personalized process to assist in managing the stress, anxiety, pain, confusion, and the “emptiness” of replacing the part of ourselves which has been lost with the more experienced and empowered person who has survived a major change/loss/growth…

Each of us need to find the best way to learn our lesson and then to move on into our new, restructured life. We need to learn the best way to take care of ourselves, benefit from the lessons, and then discover the most appropriate directions to move our new life. To do this, we need to find people we can trust and invest the resources into the process of self-care and self-development so we can move down the path that leads to our goals. This is easier said than done, but if you realize that you would survive this transition more easily and possibly more quickly with positive assistance then you must do the work and find the correct support you require.

In the future, we will be expanding and releasing information regarding a new program which can assist most people in developing an individualized transition plan. We are beginning to build a process for creating a positive support network which will enable participants to discover their strengths, accept their weakness or flaws, and to free up energy to invest for moving toward positive goals and enhanced lifestyles. The working title for this process is “Finding Your Tone.”

Please comment or send questions to the Stress Education Center at wellness@dstress.com or visit the website at www.dstress.com.

Are Relationships Stressful?

Most relationships require time and attention and this can prove stressful. For relationships to work, they require maintenance and energy. If these are in short supply then you can experience stress. The very nature of forming a good and healthy relationship is different for every person and every relationship. A secret that many people have to learn is about timing. An attractive relationship will not get off the ground unless the timing of attraction is good. As an example, think about any relationship you have pursued. If it worked out, both sides were available and ready. This is good timing. If only one side of the attraction is available, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, for it to work out.

Relationships have a wide range of possibilities. They can be romantic relationships or friendship relationships or business relationships or therapeutic relationships or possibly all of these. Most people require relationships at some point in their lives. Many people are raised without positive role models of healthy relationships and no matter how many TV shows or movies, or even books you read, you may not come across good relationship examples. Sometimes you have to use trial and error to figure this out and it is greatly complicated by the complex personalities of the people we attempt to have relationships with. By the way, relationships continue to evolve and change as the participants learn and grow. Your strong, but flexible, motivation may be a useful tool in maintaining relationships.

Some people are very traditional and have very strong inflexible values. Unless they hook up with the “right” situation in the first place, their relationship may prove difficult or fall apart over time. So knowing about yourself and your values can be a great start to developing stronger relationships. Controlling your expectations of changing your partner is a very useful consideration. If you do not like (and accept) the person in front of you but you see “real potential” then you may be doomed to the pain of watching their “unfilled potential” as they veer in a different than expected direction. “Expectations screw things up!” It is good to have a list of important qualities that you are seeking in a potential relationship before you begin to pursue the challenge of finding and then developing a relationship, especially if this is an important relationship for you. Ask yourself what you really need and do not accept less. What you want, may offer some flexibility.

A lasting relationship requires your loyalty and trust. If the timing is not right, one side or the other may move in directions that are less loyal and trustworthy. (And, “mid-life crisis” type personal changes can wreck certain relationships.)

Remember to take GOOD care of yourself. Because if your “light goes out” you run the risk of losing the attraction you have to your partner. It sometimes feels selfish to take care of yourself but this is essential to your own well-being, on many levels, and to your relationship. Continue your self exploration and growth. A healthy relationship can weather the storm your personal change and development may bring.

For many people in relationships good communication is hard work but necessary. Honesty with yourself and your partner, from the beginning, builds the best foundations for long term success.

Relationships can be the most stressful thing that you experience but they can also be the most rewarding. Ask most parents about their children. Without connection, shared love, and the deep bonding of relationships, most of us would not have the depth of purpose that create the most important lesson we have to learn from in this life.
Learn on….

If you require an assessment to learn more about your style or your values or your attitudes contact the Stress Education Center at www.dstress.com to get the assessments and the coaching that can make you more successful. This can be used for personal relationships and is also very helpful with key teams and management groups.

The Power of Connection

People are basically “social creatures.” Since the dawn of human history, one main trait that separated humans from many in the animal kingdom was the need/desire to band together into communities for survival. We learned to hunt in teams. We have learned how to create different roles and expertise that helps the “tribe” survive and thrive. For example, some people: grow food, some prepare food, some build structures, some care and educate the young members, some minister to the health and spiritual needs of individuals, some protect the tribe, etc. There are a very few of us who can survive without any other people or outside assistance and people who do not require the assistance of other people are rare and these individuals seem to be a vanishing breed.

Relationships with other people have become more complicated. In today’s world, we have family relationships, business/work relationships, spiritual relationships, creativity/productivity relationships, educational/mentoring relationships, and many other attachments related to services that require relationships. Family and friends are necessary for most people. Our earliest survival as an infant requires bonding relationships with care-giving family or friends. (Many physical and emotional challenges develop when children are neglected or do not have strong, trusting bonds with their caregivers.) But most of us have developed an even greater requirement for caring relationships that go beyond the need of physical survival. We now have expectations of emotional connections within “committed relationships” that seem emotionally necessary for survival. This may be a dramatic overstatement of survival, but expectations can, and do, get developed into mental and emotional issues that appear to be necessary for quality of life.

For example, our society, or at least advertisers, has created an “emotional need” for us to be “home with family during the ‘Holidays’.” In the United States, that means that you should be lonely or guilty for not being with “loved ones” during Thanksgiving or Christmas Season. Depression rises. Suicides spike after the “holidays.” Substance abuse increases to cope with emotions of “loneliness” or to help us survive time when we are trapped with family that we have successfully avoided all year long. Financial stress increases. Travelling becomes more stressful. So we need to increase our awareness of the potential emotional victimization we can have to these expectations of connection.

Putting the downside of expectations for connection aside, it is time to address a more significant, day to day, reality of connection. Most of us can improve our quality of life and increase our personal productivity by mental or emotional or spiritual connection with another person or with a group of trusted, like minded people. Our physical health improves. (There have been research studies on increased longevity of married men vs. single men, for example.) Our emotional health improves, if we are involved with healthy people in healthy relationships. We thrive spiritually when we can connect with people or institutions that create an open focus of our higher consciousness. Conversely, when we lose a “loved one” we can lose our physical or emotional health. With a “loss,” our source of loving acceptance can be altered or removed leaving us a gaping hole in our emotional support foundation.

We must understand this possible situation and learn to manage our levels of self-care to adjust for self-nurturing when we experience a significant loss of love and connection. When aware, we can be better prepared for the situation and hopefully avoid becoming a victim to this circumstance. Losses of connection can happen suddenly or over time. They can be from planned lifestyle changes, like moving or job changes, or from random acts that are beyond our control. Regardless, we benefit from discovering our unique needs and requirements for healthy connections. We will do better when we can know how to reach out and get appropriate, positive support when it is needed.

“No man is an island,” is part of a quote by John Donne in 1624 that can be understood to mean that humans benefit from connections and the loss of any connections may contribute to a reduced quality of life.
Please consider how to develop and maintain “healthy” relationships with relatively “healthy” people or institutions. Your physical, emotional, and spiritual health can benefit from “good” connections.

Note: Connections with family are NOT always healthy. Connections at work are not always healthy. Unfortunately, connections with friends are not always healthy, though you have more control over who you have as friends. Please recognize “healthy” relationship connections and nurture these.

Unconditional Love

Everyone benefits from loving or by being loved. It is human nature to want to “connect” with other people and the exchange of energy, for some people LOVE, is the very best part of the connection. Not everyone admits to needing or wanting love, but people who do claim to not need love are often in denial, for their own reasons.

Pets need love. Most people enjoy their pets because of the exchange of love and devotion that can come from this bond. Babies need love to thrive and survive. Babies need food, water, and a reasonably warm physical environment, but babies will not thrive without human contact and the exchange of a “loving energy.” If you do not believe me, read the studies of children raised in Eastern European orphanages where deprived babies lack physical, mental, and emotional development when raised without quality human contact. My point is that 99% of us require human bonding to thrive and part of this connection is labeled as love.

Getting the love that we need has been one of the complicated human dilemmas. People often strive for love and often can be disappointed, or worse. Timing is everything when it comes to connecting with other people for love. In most families a certain amount of love is exchanged because people connect more easily with other people whom they share genetic material. Parents usually love their own children, in part due the bond of sharing genetic material. But even in this relationship, if the timing is not correct, the bond of familial love can be weak or possibly non-existent. A challenge can exist if you look for, or expect, “unconditional love.”

By definition, “unconditional love” is given unconditionally. This often means, with no strings attached or no expectation connected to the sharing of this loving energy. “Pure Love” can be defined as unconditional. When a mother bonds with her new baby, a hormonal and genetic driven instinct can take over where the mother feels very strongly connected with her young offspring. Not every mother feels this way because, stress, survival, drugs or medications may interfere with this bond. When a mother is too stressed and possibly concerned with her own survival, this distraction can overcome the “chemistry” of maternal bonding. Fathers can also develop a loving connection and bonding with their offspring but this may be more challenging than simple maternal chemistry.

Beyond parental connection, there are a few other opportunities for connecting and developing unconditional love. Children raised with other siblings or people other than parents can develop attachments especially when mutual needs are met by these relationships. There are even times when close friends and “significant others” (life partners) can develop a chemistry that can include forms of unconditional love.

By my definition, “Unconditional Love” is pure connection and the sharing of energy that is given with NO EXPECTATIONs of any return. Thus unconditionally shared. To bask in the light and warmth of unconditional love is healing, nurturing, empowering, and enlightening. For many of us, it seems to be a rare and special experience. For some lucky ones of us, it is not so rare. I believe that most of us are born with an innate knowledge of what unconditional love and pure higher consciousness really is. We know it and can celebrate it when we can stumble upon it, unless we are in a “survival” moment. It is my belief that we can search for this pure form of love and energy, and we can occasionally find it. For me, such a time came when I was in a meditation near sunset and I experienced myself as a molecule of water surrounded by all other living things who were also represented as a molecule of water in a golden river of “life.” I felt the overwhelming feeling of connection and pure acceptance. (As if all other living things could resonate with the same vibration as we shared the movement along the “river of Life.”) This is not a common or even daily experience for me, but it is a feeling and memory that I will never forget. I have also seen this described by people interviewed after having a near death experience (NDE.) Perhaps, this is what “heaven” is like…

My wish is that every conscious living entity will be able to experience this brief, and lasting, feeling of celebrating in a state nirvana and know what is like to be free from fear and hate. Seek and celebrate any interlude you may have with Unconditional Love. Share this when you can… Peace!

Comments? www.dstress.com (wellness@dstress.com) or call 360-593-3833