Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Perceptions of Time

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”
                                                                                  -Nathaniel Branden

Have you ever spent time with an elder, an elderly parent, someone with a stroke or other disability? Have you noticed that being with them involves us slowing down to their movements and their rhythms of thought and expression? If so, have you also experienced that when we are present with them in our thoughts and feelings and movements that it also takes us in a different dimension of time where things that used to matter don’t, and other things do?

When events in life slow us down we become more open to feelings, thoughts, and perceptions which we ordinarily only allow in small moments and increments. As we age and find our minds slowing down or becoming less agile, or we are dealing with life changes such as a stroke, things which we were too much in a rush to pay much attention to become more important to us and we have the inward time to expand to them. Our perceptions of the time change and even our priorities change. As a person being with or visiting the elderly, for example, we slow down to keep inward and outward stride with them. It is almost like a time out of time.

As a chiropractic physician and a family systems facilitator, in my work I frequently have the opportunity to experience this “other timely” or this different dimension of time. I match my rhythms to their rhythms, to their breathing, and to their movements. When I don’t, I feel I am rushing them and then I can’t tune into them to help them. An example of this is with a patient of mine who had a serious stroke a few years ago. When I rush his thoughts or his muscles responses, I feel like I have to force things and push things like going upstream in a river. His thoughts can’t follow mine and I can’t follow his, and his over toned and tensed muscles are not able to release and let go. So I pause and I listen to his words and to his muscles. A technique I find is helpful is called fascia release. It is an unwinding technique where I literally hold his leg and let his legs reactions guide me instead of me forcing his thigh muscles. They begin to let go and he gets to experience his muscles releasing and a lot of his pain lessens. He and I become one person together talking to him. This can only happen as I slow down to this other dimension of time where we allow anything to happen.

As my father’s dementia is becoming more severe, being with him is also a slowing down experience. He walks slowly, he has trouble expressing his thoughts, and he is mostly interested in expressing his feelings and how he feels with others and his feelings for me and others he cares about. His feelings are right out in the open. He is not interested in covering up his feelings. He is interested in expression them. The daily rhythms of time are different. He doesn’t look at his clock and we aren’t concerned about or a slave to time in the usual sense we tend to live in our lives. Most of our lives together he was a person who didn’t say how he felt about you. Once when I asked him why he didn’t often compliment me or say he loved me, he answered that he thought I just knew these things and so why should he have to say them out loud?

Now he does say them out loud. He wants to tell those he loves how he feels about them. He is concerned about finding out who he is. He often is in-between two worlds where he sees his father and his mother and then he sees us; those of us still in this world. This happens mostly in the twilight and evening times. As it becomes dark outside, he becomes more lost in his past and in the world of those who past. My brother, who was visiting and was helping to undress him and help him to bed, experienced our father confusing him with his uncle. At that time, my brother was his uncle who he was speaking with. 

In this other dimension of time, relationships become the most important thing to us. Our connections are what are foremost in our minds. Time slows down. As their caretakers, partners, children, siblings, friends, colleagues, we become actively engaged in connecting with them in their thoughts and movements in time. If we can let us let go of our usual perceptions of time and we can allow us to move into this other rhythm, a great richness of being opens up to us. This too is a part of life and one we don’t often allow us. Welcoming this slowness of being is a great learning experience and helps us to feel our own vitality and wholeness. I would love to hear any of your experiences in this kind of perceptions of time!

Shift Your Story/Shift Your Life Guided Visualization

Let’s take a trip together and experience an altered time state of being. Find a comfortable chair and let your feet easily find the floor. Close your eyes and take 3 or 4 deep breaths. Become aware of your deep internal breathing. Imagine yourself being with an elderly person who is living in a slightly altered world of the here and not here. This person could have dementia, Alzheimer’s, be slightly disabled and having to slow down in life, and such as that.  You are in your mind’s eye just with that person; next to them. Smell them, see them, touch them, and tune into that person. You are speaking with him/her and listening. He/she is telling you something. You slightly lean in and listen. As you do so, your breathing slows down and your thoughts slow down to be just with that person. You take in their presence and hear their words at a deep level. All other thoughts leave your mind. You are traveling with them and with their speed of thought and being. You are just there. Feel what that is like for you. Does that feel the same, different, and if different, how? As you listen to their words they leave you with a bit of their wisdom. Take it in and let them know you will remember their words and them. Tune back into your breath and take 2 or 3 deep breaths. Feel yourself in your body and your feet on the ground in front of you. Slowly open your eyes.

This last step is important. Get a piece of paper and write down what they told you or what you learned from them or from this experience.

Again, if you would like to share what you learned, I would love to hear from you.

Monday, July 27, 2015

What Our Faces Reveal

No legacy is so rich as honesty.
                                                                 -William Shakespeare

There are so many ways to look at faces. We can look at the color of our eyes, the shape of our lips, and the length of our noses. We can also look at our coloring, our ethnicity, the shape of our faces, and the pallor of our skin. These are all literal ways to look at each other. The Chinese and Japanese have ways of analyzing our health through the lines on our faces, the marks on our skin, the colorizations in our eyes, and the shape of our lips. There are many other ways to see each other through what our faces reveal. 

Have you noticed that we know when someone is sad without saying or hearing a word? We know through a feeling and what our faces reveal. There might be downturned lips which usually are slightly curved upwards. There might be a sad caste in the eyes. There are ways to know each other at a deeper level through our faces. 

I have written about how my father was a wordsmith and understands people more fully through listening to their words. We can do the same with our faces. Sometimes someone has one eye that looks sad and one that looks more open. We look for the asymmetries in the face and what is incongruent. This could be a lifted eyebrow on one side, or one side of the mouth in a slight smile, and the other side in a firm line.  On another level, we can also see how people respond to us through their faces. So often I hear patients say that they are afraid to say something to someone in their lives because the other person gets angry; but they dont lift their voice. What are they aware of?  They can be aware of a feeling that is exuded, and also a facial expression.

Listening to another is more difficult than it sounds. It involves putting aside everything else in our minds and opening ourselves to another. It involves listening beyond words, and to the feeling that is expressed. As a listener, it involves being aware of us and our inner experience upon hearing what the speaker is saying. How often do we listen and register disgust, anger, happiness, distrust, surprise, or pity, and so on? We are used to looking at others and what their faces reveal, but what do ours reveal? How do we look when we are listening to another? 

As a facilitator in my work of Chiropractic and family systems work it is important that I am aware of what my face is showing. I need to be aware of what I am feeling, and also what I also convey through my facial expressions is very important. In my work I was taught to sit with an open face and not reveal a smile or nod at what the patient is saying. That may be a bit extreme. What is important though is to not lead a person on or give them a reaction, which affects them and their perceptions of their story and words. We can be so influenced by others and their reactions to us. So often we develop feelings about ourselves based on how others react to us and how we perceive their reactions. What do our faces reveal as we respond to others? 

An example of this happened to me. I had been going through some life changes and re-thinking how I wanted to live. Through my course of changes, I was able to witness others reactions. I had temporarily moved to give myself some space to know myself better as I recreated my life. Some folks that knew me, friends and family members, looked at me with pity in their eyes and sadness in their eyes as they reacted to me through their own perceptions of what I was experiencing. They looked at me through the lens of their own past traumas, yet, not consciously knowing that they were in fact projecting their own experiences on me. That was a powerful thing for me to witness. How often do we do this? Do we know how our faces reveal our own past life experiences, and also have the ability to influence others? This influence is difficult because we dont know we are doing this, and the other person doesnt always know what they are seeing in reaction to them most likely doesnt have anything to do with them. These are tacit ways we are influenced by our families and our communities and our culture as we are growing up. These influences are very powerful and affect our own belief systems. We could even call it unconscious brainwashing.

Here I am talking mostly about what our faces reveal in the opposite context of what we usually think about in what our faces reveal. I am talking about what we reveal about us when we listen to others, and the consequences. When we are little and we tell our mothers or fathers about our day, how influenced are we about us and others by the look on their faces? When we talk about our feelings and others look at us with pity, or with disgust, or sadness, or anger, or disbelief, how does that make us feel about ourselves? If we are not conscious of us and we arent able to know ourselves and our feelings very well, the impact of such facial expressions on us can be significant. We may try to please the other based on how we interpret the look on their face. We may begin to think less of us or that we made a mistake by the look on their face. What our faces reveal is a very important thing for us to become aware of for us and for others. Recognizing the power of our facial expressions on others helps us also to understand the ways we were impacted in our lives by our parents, family members, teachers, friends, etc., and also to help us to be aware of what we communicate to others whether we mean to or not.

Small Changes that Promote Big Results:

For this little exercise, you might want to enlist a friend or family member. This involves two people. One of you tells the other a short story; this could be a true story or a made up one. You will tell this story twice. The first time, the other person, the listener, just listens and keeps their face impassive. The second time, the listener lets their faces reveal what they are feeling in the story. For the purposes of this exercise, the listener can exaggerate their expressions. Afterward, both parties talk about what they experienced. This is particularly important for the talker to talk about their experience through the listener. Pay particular attention to how the talker felt and was influenced by the listener; or not. How did it feel to them and how did they respond inwardly when the listener facially revealed their experience in the story.

Next, change roles so both parties are listener and talker.

I would love to hear from you regarding your experience in this exercise.

Monday, July 20, 2015


Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.
                                                                                   -Abraham Lincoln

How often do we look for opportunities to be alone unless we are completely overwhelmed? It seems that most of us have a great fear of being alone. We stay in stagnant relationships or we make bad choices in roommates or we emotionally blackmail people or children to stay with us. Being alone is a great fear many of us carry. 

If we look at the word, alone, we can see that in taking it apart in two syllables, it is al” “one. We know that in our heads we are really all one, but feeling our oneness and connection while we are by ourselves is another matter altogether. Many times this comes from the impact on us of imperfect parenting experiences. Many of us had aloof, or distant, or depressed, or sad mothers. Many of us were raised by one parent, or an abusive parent or suffered a great loss of a caretaker or parent at a very tender age. At those moments, we felt separate and lonely. As we grow older then, we consciously and unconsciously remember the pain of being and feeling alone. When we were young, our very existence depended on our caretakers. We remember that feeling intimately. To lose a connection with another individual can feel devastating to us, and we may not know exactly why. At those moments of crucial decisions then we frequently choose ones which keep us with poor relationships rather than brave the new world of being with ourselves alone.

A story comes to mind of my father, and also of my nephew as I write about our experiences with our aloneness. Actually, a great place and time to connect with us intimately is when we are alone. It certainly feels like the opposite. I was having breakfast with my nephew and my sister on our Sunday breakfast, keeping up the tradition began by my father. So he is with us at those moments in spirit while not in fact. My nephew was and looked sad. He was distracted and looked everywhere but at me when I was speaking with him. He had brought a toy with him and chose to play with his toy.  He is ten years old and rather than engage with my sister and me he was focusing on his toy. I tried to engage him in discussion but I was working too hard and gave up and my sister and I spoke with each other. When we were through with our meal and sitting together, I told him directly that he looks sad. That got his attention. He said he is fine. I asked him if the prospect of going back to school the next day had anything to do with his mood. He told me yes, he didnt want to go back to school. I asked him why, and he explained to me how he has trouble understanding and gets bored. This led us to a discussion of what we can do to help him through this. He began to smile a little. The words that came to my mind which I spoke to him were ones which I was also telling myself. I told him that when we most need people to help us, in our selfishness, we actually disconnect from the very people who can help us. We make ourselves alone; separate, when we dont have to be. 

How often do we do that? If we honestly look at ourselves, we see that we all at times cut off from others when we most need them. We are unconsciously recreating an early situation in our lives when we were cut off, and we keep repeating that pattern. Silly of us and yet also true. 

With my father, we would meet with him at least once a week on Sundays, especially after my mother died. We kept the Sunday breakfasts alive. Through those times, I saw intimately how lost and alone he was after the death of his wife. The truth is that he was alone most of the time, even before her death. He kept himself separate from the woman he loved the most, and then he felt lost and lonely without her. He was often angry with her and spent the majority of his days at work  through almost of their years together. She kept the household going and he was free to concentrate on his work. He would work at least 12 hours a day, was available by phone to his patients at all times of the day and night, and continued in this vein into his 80s when he couldnt sustain that anymore. Suddenly now when he came home from work, he was alone, no one was there but him. 

He became like a lost little boy. When she was by his side, he seemed like the strong and independent one. Upon her death, it was clear to all of us how lost, alone, and weak he was and had been. He had hidden this part of him and showed it only to his wife. We used to wonder why she most often didnt want to go anywhere without him, or leave him even for an overnight. We, my siblings and I, thought it was her weakness. Now we can see she was taking care of him. He couldnt be alone, and yet he felt so alone. 

In his early life, as I have written about previously, his mother became ill just after his birth and she was often sick in his early years. His father was jealous of him, and was never close to his son. Dad lived in a perpetual state of feeling separate and alone and not good enough. Those early years haunted him his whole life. Even though he dealt with these issues with his patients, in his Mr. Magoo ways, he carried this blind spot within himself.

The more we can look at and feel the effects of our early experiences and accept them and heal from them, the less we feel separate, and the more we can feel our all oneness in life. Being alone can be a very liberating experience. We, in fact, are all alone, and through our full selves lays the path to our growth, health, and vitality. As we can stop repeating those early patterns, we also stop them from repeating for our children. 

Recommended Resources:

There is a book my father wrote called: Mr. Magoo is My Role Model. If you can find it, I recommend reading it. It has some pearls of wisdom he gleaned from his years of life, and also it speaks to our blind spots. He identified with Mr. Magoo, which says a lot. His identity was bound up in his blindnesss. When we do that, it is impossible for us to see those aspects of us which we most need to see for our growth. 

Now take a minute and think about how you feel when you are alone. How is it for you? Do you look for opportunities to not be alone? When you are, what comes up for you? What feelings do you begin to feel which you might want to run from? If you can, write down your findings and have them next to your bed where you can read them upon rising, or before going to bed. If you feel like sharing your experiences, I would love to hear from you.

Monday, July 13, 2015


“When in doubt, tell the truth.”
                                                                     -Mark Twain

The summer is heating up and secrets heat up our lives, too. Last week, I wrote about The Good Lie, and secrets are part of the lies; usually of omission. Occasionally, we tell little white lies and at times, they can be appropriate or helpful. I can’t think of a good reason to keep a secret for a long period of time. Yes, at times we need to hold onto an idea or a secret someone told us carry for them. However, to carry a secret to our graves is not a helpful thing to do. In my work as a facilitator I see many ill effects from such secrets. 

There are so many examples of how secrets distort the past and hurt our future. In the Family Constellation work I do, which is a group oriented experiential process where people “stand in for” or represent family members for a member of the group in order to see important dynamics in a person’s life which had not been seen, and so much more (check out Family Constellations on my website, to learn more), we are often surprised by what is revealed. An example which comes to mind involves a client who was feeling very angry with her husband, and anger in general. In her constellation, the energy was revealed that her father had an affair during the war in which a child was born, and her mother knew nothing consciously of the affair or the child. She herself knew nothing of the child until just very recently. In fact, during the movements of the constellation, the representatives and their movements showed that both her father and her mother were “looking” at something in the past. As I began asking her questions about this to find out what she knew, she remembered the man, her half-brother and had previously forgotten about him even until this moment. This secret, the affair, and the child had eaten at her mother and this woman’s relationship with her mother their whole lives. Sometimes during the constellation experience, a secret is revealed, or the fact that there is a great secret, but the actual events had been forgotten. Even in my own life, I have seen how a secret kept regarding the true parent of a child is so hurtful to the family.

We usually keep the secrets to supposedly save another from hurt. Mostly this “saves” the person keeping the secret from hurt or humiliation or embarrassment. In my father’s life and these stories are often revealed over Sunday breakfasts, he tells the story of his father and a great secret. He was a Depression baby and his father wasn’t able to find a job. His mother worked for a few years, and when he was just a young boy, his father went away for a year or two. They lived in Chicago, and his father left supposedly for Detroit for a job. There was lot of speculation around his activities and movements during that time when he was gone, and dad and his mother lived at times with his father’s parents and family, and at times in their own small apartment where dad’s bedroom was a closet. Later there was a discussion between my father and his aunt, his mother’s sister. He was demanding to know what happened in Milwaukee, as he had a feeling there was a great secret which was important to him. His aunt refused to tell him and just said to him that some things are too bad to tell and that the secret would go to the grave with her. And it did. We can speculate, and we do. We guess that he was in jail, that he was involved in some shady activities and such as that. My father has spent the last 18 years of his life atoning for something by being compelled to give all his money to Nigerians, people from Amsterdam, Haitians and so on. He could not keep is money and even lost his house to people who professionally scam elders. Secrets do not bode well.

When we keep secrets we are really trying to protect ourselves from some feeling. Can you think of a time where keeping a secret for a long time, or carrying it your grave was helpful? In my experience, they are a great cause for future suffering of our children and our children’s children. When we own our true selves, the dark sides, and the light sides, we have an opportunity for growth. In doing so, even in feeling guilt, loss, embarrassment, etc., we honor who we are so that we can become more whole, healthy and vital individuals. This is not only for us, but a legacy for our future. 

Small Lifestyle Changes that Promote Big Results:

Take a few minutes and look back on your life. Look at yours personally, and the lives of your parents. Have you ever told a lie or kept a secret, for a long time that boded well? Think back on keeping that secret; yours or a family members or a friends….how did it turn out? What were you hiding from in your own secret? Write out what you find. What might your parents have been hiding from? What feelings are involved? How did the secrets affect others? In owning our own actions and thoughts, is where the richness is for our own growth.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Good Lie

“Truth is such a rare thing, it is delighted to tell it.”
                                                                                                  -Emily Dickinson

I saw a movie a few months ago called The Good Lie. It was with Reese Witherspoon and is about a group of the “lost boys” from the Sudan. These young men made it through a purging of their villages, a trek to a camp in Nigeria, and a passage to America and their indoctrination and integration into American society. It is quite a moving picture. In this movie, one of the young men had to make a very difficult decision. A young leader of their surviving villagers did something during their trek to save his life, and it jeopardized the leaders own. He and his companions thought their friend had perished saving him and felt guilty for his life over the young leader. After a year or two in America, he heard that his friend was alive and in the camp in Nigeria hopefully awaiting passage to America. He decided to make the voyage back to the camp and find his friend and help him to America. When he arrived, he did everything he could to get his friend the documents he needed to leave. In the end, he wasn’t able to. He found his friend and took him to the airport. His friend thought they were both going to America, but he had to give his friend his own documents with his name on them. He stayed and helped others at the camp in Nigeria. This is where the movie gets the name, The Good Lie.

The more I thought about his actions, the more I felt uneasy about them. I don’t know that I think giving his friend his own documents at his own expense was a good lie. I do know doing that assuaged his conscience. But what he, in fact, did was give his friend his own life, and he is living his friend’s life. We all do things like this. We live other friends or family members fates; consciously and also unconsciously. An example of doing it unconsciously is when we become depressed or fail just like our mother or our father. When they live depressed lives, it is often from events that happened to them. When we live in a similar mental and spiritual state, we are not living our own, but we are living theirs. 

Over one of our many breakfasts my father tells of a story where he kept a secret and a good lie so that a patient’s child wouldn’t have to suffer from actions of hers and of her perpetrators. He had a female patient who had suffered at the hands of a group in St Louis my father refers to as cultists. This was a group at a psychoanalytic facility who engaged in sexual activities with their female patients and then blackmailed them into not telling anyone. A woman came to see dad for help thinking he could help her as he had seen her son much earlier and had helped him.  He saw her about four times and then went away for vacation. While he was gone, some of the therapists found out she was seeing him for help, and they were afraid he would make trouble for them, so they put fear in her. She came to him one more time and accused him of sexual activity with her and then bolted from the room. There ensued a lawsuit where his license was taken away. Dad had an opportunity to accuse the cultists and didn’t because he was afraid that if everything came out, her son who he had originally treated, would be hurt, and he couldn’t live with himself if that happened. 

Again, although his motives were good, not wanting to inflict any more pain on a prior patient, in fact, the truth is better in the long run. He cheated this young man from information that might temporarily hurt him, but has the opportunity to enrich his life and his mothers. 

How often do we do such things; keep secrets, live others fates, supposedly to prevent hurt? Does it really do so? Is it really a good lie? Where might you have done something like this in your life? Has it really helped you? Living a full life of wholeness, health and vitality involves being true to us and to our own lives and fate. Changing or withholding does not enrich us. Do you have a story to share along these lines to enrich us?

Recommended Resources:

I recommend seeing the movie, The Good Lie, and I believe it is rentable through all the DVD and blue ray sources. I also recommend seeing the movie, The Imitation Game, as it also poses many questions that are along these lines. 

Afterwards, sit down for a few minutes and ask yourself? What do I think is best in these types of situations? What is best for me, and what is best for all involved? Where have I done something like this in my life? 

In my work with facilitating Family Constellations and therapeutic settings, I find that secrets are almost always hurtful in the long run, and often in ways we are not able to imagine at the time. Let me know what you think on this subject, if you are so moved. You can read more about my work on my website.

Here is to a brighter and better self!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Into The Stillness

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
                                                                                   -Mark Twain

A friend asked me the other day for some insight into why she drinks. The only thing that came to me that was both powerful and simple is that it is easier to drink than to be with the stillness. It is easier to drink or eat or go out or whatever than to be with our uncomfortable feelings. We don’t look to be still and to feel what is underneath our facades. We are taught to look for happiness and that something or someone else will make us happy. So we do that. We emulate our parents and those in our community. Does it work? Are we happy? Do we have good marriages, and do we feel truly, inside happy? 

The answer is not often. The truth is we have to go into the stillness to know ourselves. I watched a 4-minute video called, Will You Marry the Wrong Person (http://bit.ly/14EbPT0). It is a great video, and I heartily recommend watching it. It talks about knowing ourselves before we marry; knowing our madness. Yes because, in a way, we are all a bit mad or weird or crazy, whatever word you prefer. It is crazy to keep doing the same things and expecting a different result. Yet we do that all the time. What we don’t do is go into the stillness. We are often afraid of what we will find there. 
What we do find there is of great value. We find our places of emptiness, our places of loss, our places of feeling lost, our places of hurt, etc. We often react out of those places instead of responding from them. We attack when we feel hurt, for example, instead of feeling our hurt and helping ourselves and possibly telling another that we are hurt. We get into relationships and marry from familiarity more than from a place of greater understanding. It is familiar for us to be controlled or to control; or to be blamed or to blame, and so on.

What helps us understand our crazy places is to look at what is familiar and see how we also have come to embody certain beliefs in our lives. So we look at our parents, for example, and see them through how they acted and reacted and taught; with a much larger perspective. I look at my parents and see their patterns. My father was an egomaniac in which everything centered on him. My mother centered her life around him, he was always right, and he demanded her full attention. This took most of her energy, and there wasn’t much left for anyone else including herself. Dad was very controlling, and mom was controlled by him including how she wore her hair, how she dressed and what she believed. Dad thought he was more intelligent and mom thought she wasn’t intelligent. Under the surface, my father had great anger that he was ready to let loose on anyone who countered him or caused him trouble. These are just a few patterns that were represented to us, their children. 

If we don’t go into the stillness, we don’t see these patterns, how they affect us, and how they affect how we eat or drink, or who we marry. I saw these patterns by going into my stillness. By being still, I see my patterns within my relationships to others and to things. I see how I married someone quietly controlling with a rage burning deep inside him. I see how and why I react to others instead of just responding. I become less afraid of myself. My choices become more informed and I understand them more fully.

What happens when you go into your stillness? What do you see and feel and learn?

Recommended Resources:
Our best resource is us. When we begin to feel uncomfortable inside, take a few minutes and just sit and listen. Don’t react, and don’t eat or drink something, or don’t argue. Just sit and breathe and listen….for as long as you can. Sit in the stillness. Afterward, take a few minutes and access or write down what you thought, saw, noticed, and learned about yourself.

The second resource is one I spoke of in this blog. I recommend watching the 4 minute video, Will You Marry the Wrong Person: http://bit.ly/14EbPT0!

I would love to hear your reaction to the video if you are so moved!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Living In The Past

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”
                                                                                       -Soren Kirkegaard

Watching older people during the last phase of this life is enlightening. Often, not always, they lose more of their short term memories and retain many of their long term memories. You can sit with them and they will talk about an old family story, probably one you have heard many times. Yet they can’t remember what time you told them you would come by to pick them up. Does this sound familiar? Most likely we all live more in our past than in our present, but it isn't so noticeable in this way.

Living in our past is noticeable through our fears and our anxieties and our anger and our need for control and need for comfort, and such. It is noticeable through our issues or places where we are stuck in our lives. When we are afraid to move forward for any reason, that fear is a guideline to an old memory where something not so good happened. When we are in denial of seeing something in us or in a relationship, we are looking more into the past than we are at what is happening right in front of us. What would happen if we followed that guideline to the place in the past that holds precious information for our souls and our growth, instead of getting lost in our feelings and thoughts, which hold us back? Isn't that a good question, yet we all get caught in the webs of the past.

There are some older people I know who are not telling the same old stories over and over again. There are some older souls who have made peace with their pasts and are able to still live in the here and now. They remember what time you are coming to pick them up and are vitally present. That is their secret; they have made peace with their past and aren't afraid to follow the guidelines to the places of pain. They recognize that those very places are sacred…not to get stuck in, but they hold such vital information for their continued growth. They go back in order to live in the present; even with the fear they may carry.

My father is one of the elders who is lost in the past. Although he still remembers who we are, he has lost most words, he gets confused easily, he re-tells stories over and over again, and he remembers everything negative that has happened to him. I sometimes prod him to tell me something good. He laughs, and then continues to tell me his tales of woe. In the prime of his life he helped many people. When I have spoken with some of his patients and friends, they easily speak of how brilliant he was and how he helped them in so many crucial ways. 

This man who was brilliant in some ways, and one patient called it a crazy brilliance, was able to help others in important ways, and was not able to help himself. He lives in the past. He lives in the past of his early traumas. He is still nursing hurts from his mother and father, and so wasn't able to emotionally treat the love of his life, my mother, the way he wanted to. He couldn't allow himself to really be close to others. He didn’t trust. As a young child, this was for good reason; but he stayed there. His dementia is a generational thing. It also makes me wonder how many others my family got caught in similar webs. And how many others have and are doing the same thing?

When we don’t move on in careers and in relationships, can we be brave enough to use the past to guide us and help us? But be able to let it go when it doesn't help us anymore? When we stay in abusive relationships, or we repeat patterns over and over again, can we begin to use these guidelines and recognize that they take us to traumatic, yes, but rich and fertile places? These are important questions for us to ask ourselves so we can live in the present, be role model elders, and live healthy, whole and vital lives to 92 and on. 

I am interested in your experiences in this regard. What have you noticed with elders in your lives, and in your own experiences?

Small Changes that Promote Big Results:

This exercise will take about 10 to 15 minutes. Take a piece of paper, or for the digital agers, a notepad. Let’s look at one day in our lives. Start with yesterday. Go through your day in your mind’s eye, and start with waking up and what went through your mind, if you can remember. Go through your daily rituals, encounters with family, friends, co workers, bosses, patients, clients, etc. and ask yourself if you were in the present, or if your mind drifted anywhere? If you can pinpoint a drift, where did it drift, if you can remember? If not, just notice it drifted. Go through the whole day and as honestly as possible see where you might have gone into the past as an inappropriate time. 

As with all these exercise, there is no shame or blame, just noticing. 
Write down important things that came up for you during this exercise. 

If yesterday was too long ago, go through your present day and do the same process!