Uncover the Sun

Gratitude and Acceptance

After my daughter died, some well-meaning person told me that even though I had lost my child, I should be grateful for what I had. Although I was not grateful for that comment, ironically, I had just been appreciating the fact that I had enough food, a sweet husband, family, hot running water, and a warm place to sleep, and was marveling that I could still feel absolutely wretched. It occurred to me that gratitude and grief could coexist, and that in fact, most of us are grieving losses and managing to do so while going about our lives and being able to focus on other things. And we can simultaneously feel grateful and ungrateful at the same time, complex creatures that we are.

That same week another person mentioned, in relationship to injustice, that we have to accept the way things are, rather than the way we wish them to be. I immediately thought that we can simultaneously accept what is, and still strive to improve our lot in life. In fact, if we didn’t have this capacity, we would probably have remained at the hunter-gatherer stage.  Women would not have the right to vote, and without the civil rights movement, well, you get the idea.

A client once told me that her spiritual teacher explained that it was her karma to be hit by her boyfriend, and she should “be in the moment and accept what is.” I won’t print what my response to that was, but I encouraged her to leave the situation immediately. We had a nice conversation about how she could apply the statement in a different way, i.e. she could accept that her boyfriend probably wasn’t ever going to change his behavior, and she needed to make decisions based upon that “acceptance.” She chose to leave, both her boyfriend and her spiritual teacher.

Gratitude practice can be a great way to move out of despair, to appreciate the people around you, to cherish your life and the world. Finding the positive can help you balance gloom with joy. But telling people that they should be grateful when going through utter hell, merely shames people by denying their experience, reducing complex emotional states into simple “ingratitude”. Gratitude also may be used as a way to minimize our pain, and I’ve heard numerous people with chronic illnesses saying how they probably should feel grateful that they’re not homeless while they are screaming in agony. Comparing pain, comparing grief, comparing suffering, isn’t the best strategy for honoring our experience.

However, finding things to be truly grateful for, the people and things in life that fill us up, that encourage and support us, gives our lives more meaning.  Genuine appreciation goes a long way. People who can deeply receive others and joys in life are lovely to be around. And accepting the current state of affairs with the intention to improve them, keeps us from despair.


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Navigating Through Mayhem

How do we navigate a time period in which cruelty has become commonplace, and we are sensitive to everything around us, including other people’s feelings as well as our own?

Many of us are grieving the loss of the kind of world/country/life we thought we could have. Not that we already had it, but we had hope that someday we would. That we would have leaders that cared about us, all of us, people of color, every gender, age, sexuality, religion, all living creatures, and especially our planet.

You are not alone. Many caring people feel as you do. Those who pay attention to racism, sexism, prejudice, politics, natural disasters, climate change warnings, and other current events, have been facing enormous personal and collective grief, which includes, fear, dread, sorrow, anger, frustration, feelings of hopelessness, and the grim specter of the end of human doings.

Many of us are not at our best under stress, and this is a time of extreme stress. It is many times worse if we are sensitive. If our hearts are open and we feel the collective pain on the planet, right now it may be debilitating. Maybe we are going through the motions of living while wondering why we should care about regular, everyday tasks when humanity may not make it past the next 50 years. Maybe we have been so angry, sad, and fearful that we can barely sleep. And this takes a toll on our bodies. We may be experiencing strange aches and pains, and reacting to things that normally don’t bother us. Even when we turn off the news, and try to pretend things aren’t going badly, our bodies may let us know how we really feel about current events. Being around those who support and encourage us, who deeply value connection rather than separation, may be vital during this time.Continue reading

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My Friend

I lost a friend again yesterday.

I say again, because I originally lost her when we were 12 years old. She was one of those kids who never had an awkward phase, never looked clumsy or gangly, but was always stunning. I remember seeing her baby pictures on the wall of her mom’s apartment and marveling at her beauty as a newborn. I watched people take a deep breath when they first saw her, and then stare as if they couldn’t help themselves. Sometimes they couldn’t even talk.

When we first met in school, we were nine years old, and I was both skinny and gawky. I trailed along after her like a grateful puppy. She was smart, creative, and had a deep belly laugh that made you want to join in, even when you weren’t sure why she was laughing.

She was the kind of friend that was not only fun, but easy to talk to. We did art projects and ran around outside. We had far ranging conversations about life and death and why some people are popular and some aren’t. We wrote a poem called, “What is it Like to Die?” and other less serious ones. We wrote stories together and could tell each other anything.

We were almost ten years old when she told me that one of her parents’ friends had climbed into bed with her at a party. I didn’t really know what it meant, or why an adult would do that. I didn’t know about inappropriate touching, only that my friend was constantly being gawked at by boys and men, and now she was telling me something I didn’t understand. “Why did he do that?” I asked.

She told me that he was probably drunk, and it wasn’t the first time someone had acted like that with her. I had no idea what to say, but she looked okay while she was telling me, not particularly upset or angry. I asked her if her parents knew, but she said they were drunk and there was no one to tell. I didn’t realize then that she was already resigned to that sort of behavior. I did have a fleeting thought that I was glad I wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that kind of thing could happen to anyone, pretty or not.Continue reading

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On Narcissism

Many of us have the experience of dealing with narcissists. In some ways, the self-centered, isolationism of narcissism may partly be a function of the human experience. To originate from oneness and a connection to the entire universe, and then incarnate into a separate, tiny human form would seem to focus one’s attention on self and the relationship of everything in the world to the self. Our individual personalities, body, psyche, ego strategies, and senses help promote this feeling of, “I’m alone in here, and everything and everyone else is peripheral.” The development from child to self-actualized adult means moving from that self-centered existence into a greater relationship with other human beings, living creatures, and the world in general. How then do we develop engaged, deeply nourishing relationships with others, and experience true intimacy?

There are many theories of human development, psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual. And there are many paradoxes in developing a healthy sense of self. From an initial dependent state, we need to develop autonomy and self-responsibility, as well as a deep and abiding connection to others. If we do not attach properly to our primary caregivers, we may have difficulty forming healthy, trusting relationships later in life. And if we do not learn detachment from our own emotions, we may not achieve any mastery over them, and may also sabotage our relationships as well as our personal development. Attachment and detachment then, are both required in order to have healthy intimate relationships.

What happens if one or more of your primary caregivers is a narcissist? First, emotional immaturity isn’t the same as narcissism, nor is the creative urge to focus on one’s work. Self-care is not narcissism, and people may behave selfishly at times without being narcissists. There may be a confusion for children raised by a narcissist about when and where they are able to get their own needs met, or even if they are allowed to have them. Having parents who set boundaries and enforce them is not narcissism. The bandying about of the word narcissist when someone does not agree with us or insists on having their own way, helps to cloud the issue of what narcissism is. We all have motivations based on self-interest. If we didn’t, none of us would be alive.

Narcissists may treat others as if they don’t exist except in the presence of the narcissist, or when they are useful. Children of narcissists may have been told they are loved, but they do not feel real, or as if they truly matter. And in relationship with a narcissist, your needs often don’t really exist, unless you make a big deal of fighting for them. And if you dare to have needs, the narcissist may either ignore you, or punish you for having the gall to need something. In a healthy relationship between parent and child, an adult is, at appropriate times, able to set aside their own desires to take care of the needs of the child, as well as set healthy boundaries and limits, and as children grow, gradually give them the tools and practice in responsibility to ultimately take care of their own needs.Continue reading

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Grief Styles

All of us grieve differently, and depending upon the culture there may be expectations of how to do so “properly.” In some cultures, talking about the person who died is considered taboo, because it may bring back their spirit, resulting in a haunting of the living. Mentioning them by name or even naming a child after a departed soul may be frowned upon. In other cultures, naming a child after a dead relative may be a way to honor the relative and impart some of their strengths to the child.

In many countries, mourners create an altar in dedication to their ancestors, treating them as if they are still part of everyday life. The dead are not considered to be really gone, just physically away for now. Some folks keep many mementos visibly displayed around the house, others may have a special corner, or not want to share them with guests at all. And one woman told me that in her country everyone knows that sometimes dead relatives get into fights with other people’s dead relatives, and she has had to leave parties because of the spirits arguing so much.Continue reading

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We label them: mom, dad, brother, sister, son, daughter, husband, wife, lover, teacher, student, etc., but many of our connections have no description that fits easily. Sometimes we meet someone and we are instantly friends for life. Or not.

Our connections may defy explanation, like how we may tolerate the behavior of one person, but not the same behavior in another. Our friends may be as varied as our personalities. We might have many friends that we could invite to a party and they would blend well, or we might wind up with a hodgepodge of disparate folks who can barely relate.

Some people bring out the best in us; we feel safe, comfortable, and expanded in their company. Around them possibilities abound. We feel loved and accepted. Around others, we may feel small and unheard. And there may not be anything these folks are saying or doing to make us feel this way, we simply do not feel comfortable. We may love them dearly too, but not want to spend a great deal of time with them.

We might meet someone who is highly skilled and very successful, like a teacher, doctor, therapist, or business person, and we may not be able to connect to them or they with us. And because that person may be an authority, we might assume there is something wrong with us, especially if everyone else we know thinks they are amazing. And they may be exceptional, just not for us. Continue reading

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Being Sensitive

Maybe you’ve been to a doctor’s office and were told that despite your symptoms, there’s nothing wrong with you and therefore, it’s all in your head. And by the time your ailment shows up on a test, it’s become much more serious.

Maybe you avoid stores with strong scents, and you avoid going to concerts or the theater, because people wearing cologne or perfume make you nauseous. And you get tired of explaining to friends why you won’t go to concerts with them; loud noise gives you a headache and wearing earplugs all of the time isn’t fun.

I use the word “sensitive” to describe someone who perceives at a heightened rate, feels things deeply, and notices or experiences energy, emotion, and sensations that others may not. Many of us are sensitive on different levels and to different stimuli, and that may even vary one day to the next.

Physically sensitive individuals may: experience extreme side effects when taking medicine, and in fact may respond better to wholistic medicine like naturopathic, homeopathic, energy work, or acupuncture. They may have food allergies, react poorly to changes in the environment, and notice the effects of pesticides, Wifi, perfumes, and pollutants. They may be able to discern between scents easily, and startle easily at sudden sounds.

Sensitive folks may respond badly to being touched, even casually, by people they don’t know. They may dislike labels on their clothing and complain about rough seams. They may feel pain more quickly and intensely than the average person. They also may be highly attuned to their bodies and feel sensations at subtle levels that most people aren’t even aware is possible, like feeling the coursing of blood though their veins, micro movements of fascia and ligaments, etc. They may discern shifts of energy with their hands.
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On Grief

Grief may make it hard to sleep, hard to function, hard to focus, hard to care about activities that used to bring you joy.

It is hard to feel so intensely for days, months, years, decades in a culture in which sad, angry, uncomfortable emotions are considered “negative,” and socially unacceptable.

It is hard to wake up wondering why you are still here when someone you love isn’t, and it is hard to pretend everything is fine, when it isn’t.

But what is the alternative to feeling? Closing up, pretending, being isolated in your grief, having your body protest later by becoming ill, having a breakdown, or becoming more depressed than you might have been before the loss? Continue reading

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When I was a kid, I literally thought I’d been dropped off on the wrong planet. Once, I had to get a blood test, and I was worried that the doctor would discover my blood was green or purple, and I’d get busted for being an alien. The nurse stuck the needle in, and I passed out. Later the nurse told me it was really common to faint at the sight of your own blood. But actually, it was due to relief that my blood was as red as anyone’s!

Throughout my childhood, even though I loved my family, I kept waiting for someone to come get me and take me back to wherever I came from. By the time puberty hit, I realized that I would have to stay here for the rest of my life. No one told me that I wasn’t really human; it was merely my assumption based on how weird I felt. I genuinely didn’t understand people, their behaviors, or what they valued.

And, my perceptions were odd. People had light all around them, which changed into different colors depending upon their moods. They were accompanied by sound, smells, textures, and pictures that other people didn’t seem to notice. When my eyes were closed, there were images like a TV station. While listening to music, there was a huge light show, with smells and flavors too. Numbers, and letters of the alphabet, had specific colors and personalities. When I looked at objects, I could feel their textures in my hands. There was a glow around everything, including tables, chairs, socks…Continue reading

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In this blog, I will be exploring different facets of being a sensitive, spiritually-oriented person in a culture that cares more about money than people.  It can be difficult when your deepest, heartfelt values do not match the general population’s, however, there are others out there that have similar concerns.

I welcome your input, and will be taking suggestions for topics, as well as answering questions you may have.

In order to be a happy, fulfilled human being, there are certain experiences and qualities that come in handy, like having your basic necessities covered, living in safety, being with kind and compassionate folks, and having a good sense of humor.

Face it, being human is pretty absurd.  We have these big brains and still haven’t figured out how to live together peacefully. Being able to laugh at ourselves lightens things up. And for those of us with sensitive nervous systems, and who tend toward empathy, a bit of lightheartedness may soothe our souls.

To be aware, joyful, and kind, we don’t need to eat perfectly, avoid all sugar, and meditate every day. We may or may not have a consistent, formal spiritual practice. Sitting quietly and checking in with yourself regularly to see how you’re feeling and what you need, can be really helpful. I sit silently sometimes when I feel the urge, but most of the time I live in an open, playful state of relaxed optimism. Or, as my youngest daughter used to say, back when she was alive, “you’re freakishly happy for no reason.”

Yes, my youngest daughter died at the age of 23. And despite terrible grief, I still manage to experience joy as well. How? Like a kid, by feeling everything as deeply and as thoroughly as possible, while still understanding that we humans are not merely our feelings. We are more than what has happened to us, what others may think of us, or even how we perceive ourselves. And after a loss we discover that love continues even after death.

Most of us are intimately acquainted with fear, sorrow, anger, frustration, disappointment, loss, jealousy, and numerous other emotions. The trick is not to  judge yourself or others for having feelings. You might think of them as indicators that you need to pay extra attention to some part of yourself. And most of us respond better to kindness and acceptance rather than condemnation. It’s also helpful not to throw your feelings around all over other people, or to hold onto them for too long. Not easy to do, and we all have varying degrees of success at this.

Maybe we don’t need to achieve perfection, or even a formal idea of enlightenment, but more a state of loving kindness for ourselves and others, as much as possible in this little human form. If we embrace being human in the absolute sense of what that means, flawed, annoying, foolish, quirky, creative, mortal, amazing, and all the rest, we may find out it’s actually kind of cool. And if we are kinder to ourselves, we will find more comfort when life is painful, which it will be at times, no matter how spiritually or emotionally adept we are. Continue reading