No doubt, our parents worked tirelessly to get us to say “thank you” when someone offered a gift or did us a favor. Most likely, they succeeded in getting us to mouth these words. But while we internalized proper etiquette, did we understand the purpose behind uttering thanks? To what extent did we develop an inner sense of feeling and conveying genuine gratitude?
Gratitude is a corrective to our sense of entitlement. One aspect of narcissism is the belief that we deserve to get without having to give. We feel that we’re entitled to fulfill our needs without being troubled by perceiving another’s world and responding to others’ needs. Our attention is fully absorbed within a limited and narrow sense of self.
I recently wrote about the importance of receiving — and how letting in good stuff is often more difficult than giving. But this is not to minimize the value and power of extending ourselves in generous ways to others.
How often have we felt devalued, unappreciated, and criticized? A basic human need is to be valued, seen, and appreciated. When this longing goes unmet — when our basic value and goodness are not recognized and reflected back to us — we may find it difficult to value and affirm ourselves.
My last blog’s topic was about the varied reasons people have sex, which led a reader to ask me: “When is the right time to start a sexual relationship?”
This is a difficult question to answer because there isn’t a set recipe of “right or wrong” timing. This decision depends entirely on each individual’s own values, interests and attractions.
It is actually easier to tell you when starting a sexual relationship is likely to lead you to difficult consequences, rather than when it is okay to go forward.
There are just as many thoughts and definitions of spirituality as there are people. That’s because spirituality is highly personal.
“How I define it is different from how you define it,” said Polly Campbell, a blogger, speaker and author who specializes in spirituality, positive psychology and personal development.
She described spirituality as a profound physical, emotional and intellectual awareness of her core self, as the connection to all that she is.
Do you know people who pride themselves on being authentic, yet when you walk away from them, you feel badly about yourself and the interaction? Perhaps they’re angry, accusatory, blaming, and shaming, yet they have no clue how they’ve hurt you.
“I tell it like it is,” they proudly declare. “I say exactly what I think. You want me to be honest, right?”
Why do people fast and what is the meaning behind it?
Fasting is an act of willing abstinence or reduction from certain foods or drinks, or both for a certain period of time. We’ve all done it, whether we’ve realized it or not. Many of us have had a horrible morning with a vicious hangover and have stopped drinking for a period of time. I’m also pretty sure that at one point you’ve decided to stay away from a particular food that gave you food poisoning or made you feel sick.
Many of us grew up in religions that warned about the perils of desire. Greed and gluttony are two of the seven deadly sins that imperil our soul. Buddhism, which many view as a psychology more than a religion, is often understood as teaching that desire is the root cause of suffering; the path toward liberation is one of freeing ourselves from its seductive grip.
No doubt, our desires and longings have brought a heap of trouble with them. But an open question remains: is suffering created by desire itself or how we relate to it? Perhaps it is how we engage with desire — or fail to engage with it in a wise and skillful way — that generates the bulk of our discontent.
We often hear spiritual teachers say that suffering is created by our attachments and that the path toward awakening means transcending desires. But might the opposite be true? Is suffering generated by a lack of healthy human attachments and our subsequent isolation?
During my college years in the late 1960’s I was introduced to meditation and spiritual practices. At the same time I joined a “sensitivity group,” which focused on honoring our feelings. I found both practices to be invaluable. But finding few people interested in the interface of these two paths, I felt rather lonely.
Many of us are weary of outward-looking religion and don’t feel nourished by psychotherapies that neglect our spiritual potential. We may linger in an inexplicable emptiness until we attend to spiritual growth and awakening.
But the word “spiritual” is so overused that it may lose its meaning.
Here are three things that spirituality means to me…
One of the doctrines of meditation — especially Buddhist-inspired meditation — is radical acceptance. Often misunderstood, at its root lies the need to experience things as they are — not bound by judgment, opinion, or our desire to change things to better suit our expectations.
Also informing many people’s meditation practice is the Buddhist idea that an attachment to anger is one of the causes of suffering, again colored by judgment, opinion, and a desire to change. Desire itself, or an attachment to desire, is cited as another cause of suffering. Not accepting things as they are, wanting them to be different, can cause us great emotional distress.
But what if our experience itself is unacceptable?
At the start of a new year, many people make resolutions and are inspired to make changes in their lives. This year my resolution is to have no resolution.
The problem with resolutions is that it can place you on a dangerous course of comparison. We constantly compare images, status, children, wealth, skills or values.
Although dangerous, comparison also is quite essential for our growth and development. We all need a parent, teacher, friend, pastor or role model to guide us and teach us. Most times your mentor knows something more than you, hence the comparison: you know more; I know less. Therefore, I want to know what you know. There’s also the triple comparison: he is “better” than me, but I’m “better” than she.
One tricky comparison is that of suffering. For example, someone’s family member dies and another person’s marriage is over. Though different, both are experiencing the same feelings of pain, grief and loss. To compare the extent of one’s trials is not so important, in my opinion.