THE ANTIDOTE TO CYNICISM

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With the invention of social media, we have been given the opportunity (or burden) of seeing people’s internal lives become outward ones in a way we probably never would have dreamed as each expression, each post reveals something about the poster. Be it a video, an article, a picture—each one is unwittingly a snapshot of the interior of a person’s heart, life and inner landscape.

One thing that has become clearer than ever as I’ve observed this over the years is that it really is not possible to be a cynical person and a happy, peaceful or joyful person at the same time. They cancel each other out. Cynicism and joy are like oil and water: they don’t mix.

Loving people project outwardly a loving world. That doesn’t mean they don’t see the evil and darkness; they may see it more than anyone else. They just don’t believe that forever dwelling on it or pointing it out is the best way to extinguish it. Sitting in a dark room and talking about how dark the darkness is will never make it light. Only turning on a lamp or lighting a candle will do that.

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Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.” And he ought to have known. He was on his feet, on the street, being love in a way that few people have ever been. Ironically, that’s why he was killed. To draw a movement of that size around the force of non-violent love is scary to those who are in opposition to it. Jesus knew that too.

The cynic, on the other hand, has a problem for every solution, a sarcastic comment for every positive one, a suspicious thought for every good you have the audacity to point out.

It will suck the energy out of you to attempt to reason with a cynic.

Yes, we need to question things, speak out against injustice, expose evil, but it needs to be tempered with grace and loving intention, otherwise no one will listen no matter how loud someone yells. A bit of skepticism is necessary so that we don’t fall for every trick. For example, I don’t trust governments, any government (except maybe the former president of Uruguay, “Jose’ Mujica–the world’s most humble president“)…with good reason. But if we’re spiritually tuned in, we won’t fall for anything and everything. Well, hopefully.

The problem happens when cynicism and skepticism are chronic, as in non-stop. At that point, it’s more of an illness of bitterness and suspicion than just a tick.

So, I put forth a suggestion, an antidote: instead of railing against cynics for how cynical they are, I would bid us to pray for them instead. Or if you’re not prone to praying, send loving thoughts in their direction, no matter how difficult or impossible that may seem.

Think: how unhappy must a person be to constantly dwell on awful things? How powerless must one feel to feel powerful only when sharing their (often volatile) opinions? How unheard must one feel? How alone? How hopeless? How afraid? No matter what show of bravado is there, it’s a pretty good bet that each cynic is inwardly afraid of something that even they can’t name.

It is heart-breaking…and infuriating.

And that’s why they need our prayers. Because we, who arm ourselves with love and light, have been given more power than we allow ourselves to believe.

We have the power to speak words of hope, to speak words of beauty, to create, to do all those things St. Francis talked about in his prayer to be an instrument of peace.

I, for one, will continue to believe that love can drive out hate and darkness. And I will continue to believe it can even heal and free people’s bound-up hearts that are shackled in chains of fear and gloom. Will you join me?

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If you’d like to talk to me, please click here to make an appointment.

 

 

 

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My Story of Healing from Eating Disorders (Podcast)

This will be part 1 of my story because there has been healing in so many areas of my life that each would require a separate talk. So I’m sure there will be more parts that I share on this topic in the future. But for now, I wanted to post the story I shared at church here in Berlin recently and my hope, as always, is that something I said might give hope and encouragement to someone listening.

There were moments of technical difficulty during my sharing…and a bit of nervousness…and a bit of crying. Our stories can be messy, so it’s no surprise that the telling of them can be too.

Click here to hear it.

It tells a bit about how I went from this:

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To this:

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I hope that if you, or someone you know, struggles with an eating disorder, or any kind of self-destructive behavior, that hearing my story will help you to not give up and to keep praying, keep hoping and keep knowing that God loves you no matter what’s going on and that healing and good things are possible.

Your life matters and you are needed here on this planet.

Blessings & peace,

Monique

p.s. If you need coaching and/or spiritual guidance, please click here to schedule an appointment for an introductory call with me.

 

 

WHAT IS THE SABOTEUR? (HINT: WE ALL HAVE ONE)

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Hi friend…

Do you ever have the experience where you’re about to do something you know you’re supposed to be doing and then you stop yourself? I don’t just mean doing the dishes or the laundry. I mean important stuff. Things your heart burns for. And yet, despite all the burning, there’s this voice inside you that takes a bucket of cold water and pours it all over you. And the next thing you know…

You’re doing something completely unrelated to whatever “it” is that you were meant to be doing.

I don’t know what it is for you. It could be a book you’ve been meaning to write. It could be that space you’ve been wanting to organize for yourself so that you’ll have a place to focus on your creative or spiritual life. It could be eating healthier so that you’re not sick and tired all the time. It could be a relationship you’ve been wanting to work on. It’s different for everyone.

But then some voice inside you says things like this:

“What’s the use? There’s no guarantee it’ll lead anywhere.”

“When I have more time.”

“So many other people are doing this. What makes me think I’ll ever get anywhere with it?”

“The last time I tried something like this, nothing came of it.”

“I’ll do it later.”

“I’m not good enough. / Nothing I do is good enough.”

“It needs to be perfect.”

Friend, that merry-go-round won’t stop on its own. You have to deal with it and stop it by force, even if it means bringing it to a screeching halt. Even if you have to dig your heels into the ground and feel like you’re being dragged a while before it stops. But stop it you must.

How do I know this? Because I have a tendency to ruminate, so if I’m not careful, I could spend hours ruminating and speculating and over-thinking. Granted, a big part of being a writer involves staring into space. But there’s a limit. I’ve had to learn to snap out of it. I do a lot of things to help with that—prayer, meditation, yoga, EFT, writing, watching and reading things that motivate and inspire me.

But in the end, the only way to cut it out is to…well, stop it. Get up and shake yourself out like a blanket that has crumbs on it. Because even crumbs can bury a person if there’s enough of them.

Remind yourself of the opportunities you have—very likely opportunities that a few years ago you only dreamed of. Or if not that, just reflect on what you’ve already done and how far you’ve already come. And if you’re having trouble remembering, call up someone who knows you well and ASK them. Ask them to remind you!

There are some friends who fit this quote so perfectly, they should have a t-shirt with it inscribed: “A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it back to me when my memory fails.” Or, in some cases, a coach.

Make sure you have at least one person in your life who can jolt your memory and remind you who you truly are and of all the good you have done. Because this will help you to courageously keep going on days when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.

If you can’t reach a friend, consider sitting for 20 or 30 minutes and writing down all the good you have done and reminding yourself. I guarantee you, 20-30 minutes won’t be long enough.

I hope this encourages you and helps you feel less alone and more okay being human, knowing that there isn’t anyone on the planet who doesn’t struggle with self-doubt or The Saboteur.

Together, we can silence that debilitating voice and keep replacing it with the voice of grace and encouragement. The latter is the voice of truth.

If you need help battling the saboteur, you can click this link to go to my calendar and set up a free 30-minute introductory coaching call with me. 

https://www.timetrade.com/book/581CL

Stay courageous,

Monique

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7 REASONS LOUIS THEROUX REMINDS ME OF JESUS

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I started watching Louis Theroux documentaries several years ago when I lived in England. In case you don’t know who Louis is, he’s a journalist, documentary filmmaker and presenter from the BBC who travels the world interviewing unlikely people—people, in fact, who most of us would shy away from. He has interviewed white nationalists, black nationalists, neo Nazis, religious fanatics (including the folks from Westboro Baptist Church who hate pretty much everyone), swingers in Los Angeles, extreme wrestlers, gangsta rappers, survivalists in North America, the criminally insane (or those perhaps pretending to be so they can live in lush hospitals rather than in hardcore prisons) and many others.

What makes Louis unique is his ability to win the trust and friendship of diverse people whether he agrees with their views and lifestyles or not. He most often doesn’t seem to agree with them yet seems to have a morbid fascination with them and a way of pushing the limit in terms of his disarming inquisitiveness.

After watching Louis, I often go away thinking, “Man, he’s so much like Jesus!”

Here’s why I think that:

He meets people where they are. He doesn’t come in trying to change them, at least not overtly. He shows up, is courteous and exudes the best of manners. He doesn’t talk down to people, but he also doesn’t shy away from confronting people’s narcissism and duplicity. When he has a contention with someone, he mentions his disagreement so politely and hesitantly that it would be hard to imagine anyone getting upset with him. Although some do…

Those who end up disliking him (rare as it is) are those most entrenched in a worldview that brings with it self-righteousness and exclusivism. Much like Jesus dealing with the Pharisees of his day, the people who get the most irate with Louis are those who are so convinced that their thinking is right that they become volatile and sometimes even threatening when contradicted. They tend to fall under the category of religious or racial extremism. Those who have become most angry with him have been white separatists, some of the Westboro Baptist members, and neo Nazis.

His sense of horror over people’s behavior seems always couched in seeing people as human and not evil. Though it seems hard for him to hide his sense of revulsion at the lifestyles of some of the people he visits, he still treats them as human beings. Even when he asked probing questions of the young man who raped and tried to kill his own mother, he managed to ask him accountability questions while at the same time treating him with dignity and respect.

He hangs out with “sinners.” And not the garden variety type. Not people who feel bad for saying the F word, or who yelled at their kids today and feel guilty about it. Not the pastor who committed adultery. Or the nursery school teacher who commits credit card fraud. No, that stuff is small potatoes. Louis goes to the murderers, the prostitutes, the pimps, the porn industry and…judges them? No, he just hangs out, talks with them, tries to understand where they’re coming from. In other words, he extends friendship and grace.

He’s fun to be with. When you watch one of his films, you see that the people he interviews genuinely enjoy his company. They laugh with him at his silliness, at his awkward and often uncomfortable questions, at his willingness to participate to whatever degree he’s able to—either physically or psychologically. He enters their world and goes where few dare to tread and because of this, he often wins people’s trust.

His gentleness belies his courage. Although he is clearly nervous at some of the situations he gets into, he doesn’t let it stop him. He’s no coward. You couldn’t be a coward and confront neo Nazis who suddenly ask you if you have Jewish blood or show up to train with extreme wrestlers with a drill sergeant for a coach. (In the wrestling documentary, the coach pushed Louis so hard that he had to throw up.) The guy’s got moxie.

He’s got heart. “Extreme Love” is possibly his most moving documentary in which he befriends families of autistic children, gaining the trust and love of both the families and the kids. They include and welcome him because he included and welcomed them first. Sound familiar?

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Louis could teach all of us a thing or two about how to treat people we differ from with more love and respect.

I hope you get a chance to watch one of his films. Like me, you may wonder if Louis Theroux is sometimes Jesus in disguise.

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10 EMPOWERING TIPS FOR ADDICTIVE PERSONALITIES

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Some weeks ago, I posted a piece called Hope for Addictive Personalities here: https://artoflifeandwellness.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/hope-for-addictive-personalities/

Following are some tips to help you get started if you struggle with any type of addiction—from serious ones to ones that are not necessarily life threatening. Whether it’s an eating disorder, a drug addiction, a worry addiction or a nagging addiction, these apply…

1. Admission. Acknowledge and admit that you can’t go on like you have. The first step of surrendering and putting your hands up to say, “I can’t do it on my own” can bring a flood of relief. Especially combined with turning to a power greater than yourself, whether that is the God you believe in, or a supportive community, or both. (I realize not everyone believes in God. A loving, supportive community is God with skin on though.) It’s not about trying harder. It’s about laying down arms and admitting you’re powerless over this thing. It’s humbling to admit we don’t have something under control, but it’s a lot less exhausting than trying repeatedly to overcome something that we’re obviously not overcoming.

2. Change your thinking by replacing disempowering thoughts with empowering thoughts. It all starts in our minds. Once we get that sorted out, our actions begin to fall into place much more easily. Where you focus your mind, your energy follows. Instead of allowing your mind to automatically fall into old ways of thinking (which can lead into old ways of behaving), find ways of thinking that fill you up with energy, hope and confidence. This doesn’t happen overnight usually. It takes some discipline, but be encouraged! Your brain wants to help you. As you form new patterns of thinking and acting, your brain creates new neuropathways that will eventually make the new thoughts and actions the norm for you. Identify disempowering thoughts and intentionally replace them with thoughts that edify you, rather than bring you down. This step alone can lead to amazing results.

3. Become aware of the words that are coming out of your mouth. Know that, as it says in Proverbs, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Or as the poet Hafiz said, “The words you speak become the house you live in.” Think of each word you speak as being the brick and mortar of the life you want to be living. Which leads us to the next two…

4. Stop saying mean things to yourself. Life is hard enough without chanting about all that you don’t like about yourself and all you’ve done wrong. If you mess up, admit it, and press on. If you’re working on improving, then give yourself some credit for your willingness and tenacity.

5. Start saying kind things to yourself. Talk to yourself as you would to a good friend or someone you really care about, someone you want to encourage. It’s not egotistical to care about yourself. You could say it’s egotistical not to because when we care for ourselves and treat ourselves with love and respect, it’s easier to treat others the same way. Also known as “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Speak kindly both to yourself and to others.

6. Be intentional about your actions. This will flow more easily if you’re already thinking differently. Decide what you want to change, and take small steps towards changing it. At first it may be difficult, but difficult isn’t the same as impossible.

7. Tell someone. Talk to someone you know won’t judge you or try to rush your process, someone you know will come alongside and cheer you on as you take on the brave challenge of change. Not only will it give you accountability, it will give you momentum and courage.

8. Notice. Start noticing how, little by little, what once seemed impossible to change is becoming easier. You’ll see how you and your brain are working together to form new habits to replace the old ones.

9. Be gentle with yourself. If you have a day when you fall down, get back up. If no one else is around to do so, remind yourself that just starting on this new road is a huge hurdle you’ve overcome. Brush yourself off and try again.

10. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. Any great work takes time and effort and a lot of faith to keep going. Remind yourself how far you’ve come. Remind yourself that your life is a great work. Think of all the possibilities that may lie ahead for you if you simply keep going. Michelangelo didn’t paint the Sistine Chapel in one day, or in one go. Abraham Lincoln had a nervous breakdown and many setbacks before he became president.

You may not be running for any elections or looking to paint famous ceilings in Rome, but whatever it is you are trying to overcome, you can if you simply do not give up.

And I hope one day these hurdles that you face will only have paved the way on your personal road to greatness.

If you need help working through some of (or all) of these steps and you’d like to schedule a free 30-minute exploratory coaching call with me, please click here and book yourself an appointment. I’d be happy to talk with you!

p.s. Here is the version that was published on Elephant Journal:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/05/do-you-have-an-addictive-personality-theres-hope-for-you/

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“NO” IS NOT A FOUR-LETTER WORD

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I originally wanted to post a piece on this topic at the beginning of the year because I thought that after the holidays, the effects of not saying “no” might still be ringing in people’s heads. We’re now almost a quarter of the way through the year and I’ve had plenty of conversations with people who are wrestling with saying “no” and I realized again that it’s always a good time to talk about it.

Too many people are exhausted, overwhelmed and burned out because of the fear of saying this little two-letter word. Or perhaps because of not knowing how to say it. Fact is, the word “no” can often be a positive thing, yet we tend to think of it as a negative one.

Consider some possible situations when “no” might be a great thing to hear:

“Do I have cancer?” No.

“Are you cheating on me?” No.

“Did I make a mess of dinner?” No.

“Did I break anything?” No.

See? There are times that “no” is a beautiful word.

But now, let’s consider some times that “no” is still a beautiful word, even when it’s uncomfortable.

“Will you take responsibility for my problems?” No.

“Will you take the blame for my mistakes?” No.

“Can you pretend you don’t notice how rude I continually am to you?” No.

“Can you take on this project [even though you have a pile of other things to do]?” No.

“Can I disregard your schedule, and your life, and expect you to see me or talk to me whenever I want you to?” No.

Now, those questions are most likely unspoken, yet they are still there simmering below the surface whenever another person insinuates, directly or indirectly, that behaviors, problems, or actions of theirs are somehow your responsibility. Or that you should drop everything because they expect you to. Your “no” to these unspoken questions or implications can also be unspoken. For example, by not taking the blame for someone else’s mistakes or behaviors by removing yourself (permanently or temporarily) from their presence, especially if this is an ongoing pattern. And by politely declining their requests, which are sometimes really just sugar-coated demands. Overbearing people have a knack for assuming others will comply with their requests, so you need to be able to stand strong in order to resist them.

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It’s possible that if you have trouble saying “no” that there are some limiting beliefs you have about yourself that may be causing this. Even more likely is the possibility that you lack healthy boundaries both with yourself and with those around you. Sometimes knowing what you need to do does not immediately lead to doing it. This is where coaching can be very beneficial to keep you on track.

Sometimes people have trouble saying no because they are afraid of conflict. This is often at a high cost to yourself because then the conflict that goes on is within as you wrestle with self-doubt and self-deprecating talk. But beating yourself up doesn’t empower you or bring you inner peace.

Here are some suggestions on healthy ways to say “no.”

“I won’t be able to do that for you at this time. I have too much else on my plate at the moment.”

A healthy person will honor such a request without trying to make you feel guilty. If they try to manipulate you or coerce you into meeting their request anyway, you can simply say it again, prefaced by, “As I said…” Hopefully this will cause them to accept that you have declined their request. If they persist, politely excuse yourself and leave (or hang up if you’re on the phone…or stop responding to their emails if they continue to badger you online).

If someone is upset with you though you did your best to accommodate them, you can acknowledge their disappointment while saying you did your best. For example, if someone tries to blame you for something not turning out as they hoped, you can say, “I can see that you’re disappointed right now, but I did the best I could.” That way, you acknowledge how they are feeling, you take your part in the situation and you leave the other person to sort out their part. Remember, you are not responsible for managing other people’s emotions, only your own.

If someone requests something of you that you can’t do right way, you can say, “I’d like to help you with that, but right now is not a good time for me. Can we arrange a time that works for both of us?” This is a gentle way of saying “no” that leaves options open to a different time that is beneficial for both parties.

Another excellent option is that, instead of saying “no” right away, simply say, “I need to think about it and get back to you.” A lot of times we struggle with saying “no” because we said “yes” too quickly. Giving yourself time and space to consider a request is fair to you and to the other party. It’s fair to you because you can decide without feeling pressured. And it’s fair to the other person because it communicates that you are willing to consider their request.

And if you do anger someone for saying no, keep in mind that just because someone is mad at you doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. Sometimes they are simply mad because they realize that their attempts to control you with guilt, fear or obligation are not working on you. But again, that’s for them to sort out.

So the next time someone asks you to do something (or implies that your compliance is a given), take a second to ask yourself if this is something you truly feel you should do and then respond accordingly. If you need to think about it, say so.

You have so much to give to the world. Just make sure you’re giving it where you truly feel called to and not where you are being pressured to.

These are just a few examples, but there are many more. There is a lot of letting go involved in saying no. Letting go of outcomes. Letting go of other people’s behaviors and emotions. Letting go of the need to please people. Letting go of worrying. Letting go of someone possibly being disappointed with you. But as you start to bring this powerful word into your life, you will find that you have more space and freedom to say “yes” to the things that are most important to you and it will become easier for you.

Not only that, you’ll feel stronger and more confident when you don’t give your personal power away to people who use your good-natured heart to manipulate you. The more you respect yourself, the more others will see that they need to respect you too if they want to remain in relationship with you.

Change usually takes time and practice. Things that are difficult now will become easier the more you apply the things you learn.

I wish you strength on your journey and light on your path. I’d love to hear your comments, concerns and questions below.

If you need more help with saying “no” and you’d like to schedule a free 30-minute exploratory coaching call with me, please click here and book yourself an appointment. I’d be happy to talk with you!

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