Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Value of Darkness

The Need for Shadow
Without darkness and shadow, there is no depth. Ask any artist. We see depth and form through contrast. Shading and shadow in juxtaposition with light brings out the fullness of three dimensionality. Everything is flat in the harshness of just light.

The Problem with “Positivity”
A while ago, I pulled away from a friend of mine I used to be very close to. Why? He is so extremely “positive”. What’s wrong with being positive? Nothing, if it’s one of many colors. But if it’s the only color in the emotional spectrum, then I find it problematic. I dislike being with someone who only shares the light, who seems unwilling or unable to be present and alive with the shadow as well. Someone like that seems flat to me, lacking depth and fullness.
 
Embracing the Shadow and the Light
I don’t see anything wrong with feeling sad, angry, upset, afraid, or any one of a number of emotions that are often thought of as being “negative”. All emotions have value and messages. I do find it a problem to be stuck in any one emotion or state of being, even positivity. Looking at only the bright side is a lie. In real life, there is shadow, shade and darkness as well as light. There is a fullness and truth to accepting that. To embrace both the emotional shadow as well as the emotional light allows me to process and see a situation more fully for what it is, what it means, and what I can and need to do about it.

Authenticity
To me, “positivity” is like being in the desert with no shade and no moisture. I need the shade, the shadow, the moisture, the tears, the emotional fullness. Light without shadow to me is harsh. Ultimately, I experience “positive” people, not as being positive but as being in denial. I felt frustrated being with my friend because I felt like I couldn’t be authentically, fully myself. The moment I shared anything related to a challenge, or exhibited any of the darker emotions, he would jump in with comments that, for him, meant looking at the “positive” and bright side of the situation. I’m not interested in cutting off part of myself, part of life. I want to feel it all. I want to be authentically, fully alive. What has higher value to me than being positive is being authentic - experiencing and expressing the full range of emotions. I believe this gives me a deeper source of knowing and the possibility of living a fuller, richer life.

© 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing

The man next door
“He loved you; you know that.” said the woman who was his partner for 15 years. He was an old, somewhat crotchety man who had a cabin next door to mine up in the Sierras. He had emphysema and still smoked, with his oxygen tank next to him like some kind of obedient puppy. He told me of his massive collection of DVDs and would invite me over to watch movies. I would always bow out. He would see me working on my ½ acre - clearing, hauling wood, whatever needed doing. And occasionally would make comments of a slightly suggestive nature. I would feel a little uncomfortable. Thinking about it, I would realize he probably meant well, though his communication sometimes seemed crude to me.

His partner
He passed away last week. His partner was standing in front of me, shaking, distraught. I am fond of her, so I hugged and comforted her, encouraging her to breathe and to allow herself to feel instead of swallowing and pushing down her grief. “I suppose I can carry wood” she said. “Yes, that would be good. Carry wood.” I reply.

Love?
We are part of a very small, rural community. Many of us have a closeness and are sort of family. If I had thought about it, I knew the old man cared for me, was fond of me, and yet love? I think to myself: “No, I didn’t know he loved me”, though I can see the love in my memories of him, such as how he kept an eye on my cabin when I wasn’t around. Or the happiness that came through our exchange when we first saw each other after the evacuation for the wild fires was lifted. Thank you, sister, for the lesson and reminder. Yes, love can look very different than our expectations allow. 


© 2017  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Empowerment of Saying “No”

I want!
I so dearly wanted to go to the very special week-long event that many of my friends have been to. The mission of the organization is very much in alignment with some of my key values. Registration was coming up and it sells out quickly. I needed to decide soon if I were going to go. I did some research online about the event, listened to the cacophony of my inner voices, created stillness and silence, and heard a clear “No”. 

Hard to say “Yes”
Some people have a hard time saying “Yes” to life. They are afraid of taking risks, tend to play it safe, and prefer a path that is tried and true. I have the opposite challenge. 

Hard to say “No”
I am an extremely creative, passionate woman. I see opportunity everywhere. I am bursting with ideas of projects I want to do and places I want to go to. Consequently, I am very good at creating overwhelm. It is my biggest challenge. Thankfully, as a coach, I am my own best client. I regularly meditate and use other disciplines and healing modalities that support me to clear and center. Through such processes, I get a more refined sense of who I am and where I want to go that I believe is in alignment with the highest good. This clarity supports me to be more effective in making choices that empower me. 

The empowerment of saying “No”
We need to be able to say “No” to be empowered. We need to say “No” in order to be able to say “Yes” fully. My greedy inner child wants to have, do and be it all. But if I don’t say “No” and create clear, powerful priorities in alignment with my deepest truth of who I am, then I stay in the stress of overwhelm, create defeat and failure because I’m dispersed. It feels good and empowering to say “No” appropriately. 

Fear of abandonment
Saying “No” can be difficult and confronting. In saying “No” to a person or opportunity, it can bring up the fear of abandonment. If I say “No” this time, will I be invited next time? Am I going to be forgotten? Left behind? Will I get the support I want when I need it?

Fear of the unknown
In making a choice, I may also experience the fear of letting go and of the unknown. What am I missing in the path not taken? What repercussions is this choice going to have? It can be particularly difficult in times of transition and flux when I may be uncertain of exactly what I want to say “Yes” to. Sometimes, it’s important to take a huge risk and live in the question. It may be important and powerful to wait and stay open; to not make a decision too quickly, even though the uncertainty can be very scary.   

The richness of life
Even with saying “No” to some directions and opportunities, I still have multiple focuses. My projects and other facets of my life are connected to deeply meaningful aspects of myself. It can feel like I constantly grapple with Sophie’s Choice: which “child” shall I let die? What works for me is juggling, participating sequentially. For instance, I keep several projects going simultaneously, though focusing intently on whatever I am choosing to do in the moment. I find that the various projects can feed me in different ways and so are synergistic. (Check out a wonderful TED talk about this approach to life related to being a “multipotentialite”.)  Besides, when I create stillness and silence, and listen clearly, I can usually hear what’s next and thus prioritize effectively. I can reframe my numerous directions and change overwhelm to abundance. Instead of feeling stressed, I feel blessed with the richness of life. 

Say “Yes” fully
Of course, the point is to say “No” in order to get to a bigger, stronger, brighter, more powerful “Yes”. Some people never get to a powerful “Yes”. They make excuses, drag their heels, stay dispersed or hold back in other ways. Ultimately, the point is to say “Yes” fully, to make a commitment and give oneself wholly to the choice one makes. While there can be challenges along the way, a powerful “Yes” is the door to joy and bliss.

© Bibi Caspari 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Butterfly’s Struggle

In my youth, in the beginning of my mime-dance career, I drew a picture of a woman encased in a cocoon. Faint lines around the cocoon indicated vibrations and struggle. It was a time in my life that I was dealing with a lot of frustrations, felt bound by them, and was struggling to get out. Yet the cocoon was also a safe haven, a refuge that I had created.

Metamorphosis
Soon after, I developed a movement piece entitled “Metamorphosis”. It depicted the story of the butterfly from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Each stage and the transition from one stage to another was an analogy of human psychological development. I represented the cocoon by wrapping myself within the confines of my own arms. To evolve into the beauty and lightness of the butterfly, I needed to liberate myself from my own self-made armor. I struggled to do so until I gained my freedom, rebirthing as a butterfly.

The value of struggle
Sometimes struggle is necessary in order to become liberated from circumstances in which we find ourselves or from confines of our own making. The struggle can precede and lead to a rebirth and metamorphosis into a more beautiful and evolved being. Rather than fear struggle or judge ourselves for struggling, it can be best to examine if the struggle is necessary since sometimes we create struggle out of the dysfunctional need to have a battle with someone or something. However, if the struggle is needed, then I think it is best to allow it to be okay, get on with it, learn from it, and do it with as much love, grace and compassion as possible. 

Perhaps not
FYI: There is a story that’s gone around the internet of a man who freed a butterfly that was struggling to get out of its cocoon. Supposedly, it proceeded to die because it needed the struggle to push blood into its wings. Well, that story is an urban legend. It’s just not true. During the normal development of the insect, the pupa bursts allowing the butterfly to emerge. It’s an easy transition without struggle. Makes me wonder how much of our struggles are really normal, healthy or necessary!
© Bibi Caspari 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Shining Light in the Darkness


The journey of healing is often not straight, clear or easy. There can be setbacks. We may fall down a black hole and feel immersed in the darkness, feeling hopeless or scared. Sometimes the fear and upset of others creates a toxic environment and pulls us into their darkness. What can we do at such times? Find a way to shine some light in the darkness. Our wellness can depend on it. And doing so can help us get back on the path to holistic health.

The following are a list of things one can do. None are “the” answer. And all can possibly help.

Breathe: Simple breathing exercises are an approach to a mindfulness practice. You can start without instruction and you don’t need extraordinary capabilities. Just create a quiet space, sit comfortably and breathe slowly and deeply.

Nurture yourself: Do at least one thing a day that you find nurturing, comforting and/or fun. Make a list of those things, with as much variety as you can think of. Some may be more involved, needing more time, money or the participation of others. Budget for those. Others may be simple, such as finding some pictures online that are fun and/or soothing. I had a blast finding images for this blog entry, especially about hugging. I noticed myself having fun, smiling, and feeling good. Another example of a simple joy for me is that I always feel better when I step outside, even briefly, into my back or front yard.

Do something physical: When we exercise, our body releases endorphins which make us feel better. Regular exercise has been proven to have myriad benefits, including reducing stress and improving sleep. The exercise doesn't need to be rigorous. It can be simple, like taking a walk or doing some yard work. Sometimes house work or decluttering can give us a boost. Not only are we moving, we are being productive, which can make us feel better about ourselves. Remember: a little exercise is better than nothing. Think of the Nike slogan: “Just do it.”


Reach out to someone safe. The human animal is a tribal creature. We need human interaction. And when we are “in the darkness”, we can feel particularly lonely. We can also be emotionally vulnerable so that reaching out can feel scary. Or we may feel embarrassed about our state of being and don’t want to face others. Or we may think we are a burden and don’t want to impose. Yet, if we are open, there is often someone who would be glad to be available to us. Dare to reach out and ask for what you want and need. Compassionate human contact can offer solace.


Ask for help: Too often, we expect ourselves to be able to handle any challenge alone. Some of us carry a belief that we “should” be self-sufficient, as if taking care of ourselves means doing it alone. We often need support and guidance to best handle a situation, especially if doing our best means creating change. Changing is difficult. All animals resist change including human animals. So, if you realize that you need to change yourself or something in your life, having support might assist you to do so. Help could look like therapy, coaching, a mentor, a 12-step program or myriad other possibilities.


Get some touch from someone you trust. With rare exceptions, we need touch. This can be another way to ask for help. If you don’t want to talk, find someone willing to do without the conversation, someone who is open to just giving you a hug. Or if you like animals, pet a cat or dog (yours or someone else’s). Or hug a tree. Not open to any of these options? Strange as it may sound, close your eyes and hug yourself. It can feel really good!

Journaling can be a valuable and safe way to vent or otherwise express ourselves. Doing so can often help shift our mental/emotional state. And we sometimes find answers to questions or challenges by journaling.

Write a letter to your sad self from your nurturing self. We all have a variety of aspects. Even those who are chronically depressed might find a part of themselves that is good at nurturing. If you love animals, are good with plants, or smile when you see a beautiful vista, there is a part of you that is kind, gentle and nurturing. Allow that part to nurture yourself. Step into that part and, from that perspective, write a letter of love and compassion to the place in you that is hurting. You might find some wonderful insights coming up from deep within, or just be comforted by a different point of view.

Help someone: Sometimes helping someone else can get us out of our funk. As we help others, we can tap into a sense of purpose, an experience that who we are and what we do matters. Helping others might also help to put our own misfortunes in a different perspective as we experience that others are worse off than we are. And helping someone else can be part of reconnecting to others, supporting us to get out of isolation and re-establishing ourselves as part of a “tribe”. If you don’t know someone to help, explore volunteer opportunities, such as those offered through VolunteerMatch.org.


Be understanding: It is common to be embarrassed by backsliding, and to be frustrated, lonely or depressed at times. What you are experiencing is part of the human condition. Have empathy and compassion for yourself. Let it be okay to feel what you are feeling. Then nudge yourself to take action such as one of the above suggestions. Chances are that if you do take some kind of action, you will start to feel better.


© Bibi Caspari 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I’m a "10"!

A Special Story
It was at a friend’s memorial that I received the gift of hearing a very special story. He was a very generous person, both to individuals and societally. He touched many lives with his goodness.

He founded a non-profit organization that mentored young people. At his memorial, a woman, who had already faced many challenges in her young life, shared how my friend had mentored her, including helping to build her self-esteem.

A Clean Slate
He told her that every morning she had a chance to begin over, leaving mistakes behind. She could start each day with a clean slate as a “10”. And he repeated this truth to her until she got it, believed it and was ready to start every morning with confidence and enthusiasm. As she spoke, she was close to tears, acknowledging how much my friend changed her life for the good.

Inspired to Action
I was deeply moved by this story and loved the thought behind it. It inspired me. When I got home, I put “I’m a 10!” on an index card and put the card behind my pillow. Every morning upon arising, I look at the card and remind myself that “I’m a 10!”. The practice supports my subconscious mind to relax and feel good about myself as I awaken and get out of bed. I read that card and I simply feel really good! That positive affirmation supports me to practice self-acknowledgement and self-love. We need both.

Blissful Awakening
Of course, all my problems don’t suddenly disappear. This positive thought helps me to shift my perspective to feel good about myself. In doing so, it encourages my subconscious mind to find remedies for my mistakes and solutions to my challenges. It is one of the things I do that helps me wake up feeling positive, pro-active, enthusiastic and joyful.

Being a “10”
What does “I’m a 10” mean to me? It means that I can forgive myself for any transgressions, let go of any mistakes, and start each day anew with love for myself and for others. Specifically, it means my choice on a daily basis to:
  • Forgive myself and others.
  • Live in gratitude.
  • Live in goodness.
  • Make choices that are right for me and that are in alignment with the highest good.
  • Be authentically, joyfully who I am.
  • Contribute to the world, lovingly using the gifts I’ve been given.
  • Be at peace.
I choose to start each day in alignment with these thoughts. I find that doing so has made a huge difference in my life. I eagerly jump out of bed, looking forward to and excited about the day ahead.

What would being a “10” mean to you? Whatever it may mean, I would encourage you to start out each day knowing that you are a “10”, embracing life being the best you can be. 

© Bibi Caspari 2015

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Journey and the Destination

I’m not perfect
I was recently working on a bio related to developing presentation opportunities. Along with mentioning some of my many accomplishments, this bio revealed that I had gotten burnt out related to my work with my non-profit organization, Forward Step. A friend read the bio and expressed his concern. He thought that speaking of my experience of burn out lessened my authority as a life coach. I was astonished at his perspective. I told him that my authority to be a life coach didn’t come from being perfect. I don’t claim to be perfect or infallible. My authority comes from embracing my humanness plus my success gained in practicing what I teach.

Practicing what I teach
My emphasis in coaching is that I teach and use practical methods that can empower people to gain greater consciousness and abilities so that they can move ahead more effectively toward their goals. I know these methods work because I use them myself and they have helped me. For instance, I find value in the practice of Kaizen, constant incremental improvement. I exalt in my experience of continual improvement. As a result of practicing what I teach, my life is incredibly rich and wonderful. I am increasingly happier as I progress on my journey along this path that I espouse of healing, learning and growing.

Enjoy both
There are many who say that it is important to focus on the journey, not the destination. I say focus on and enjoy both! I love my journey of healing, learning and growing, my progression toward any goal that I may have. And I love arriving at my destination such as achieving a goal. I continually celebrate my arrival at any destination. For me, this happens frequently, sometimes on a moment-to-moment or at least on a daily basis. (FYI: This is easy to do when the journey is the destination.) So, maybe I am perfect. In this moment of arrival.

Have a wonderful journey! And enjoy arriving at your destination! Happy trails, Bibi

© Bibi Caspari 2015