A Progressive Holiday Blessing

The Christmas Season is a time for joy and peace and goodwill to all men. Unfortunately for some it is a time of sadness; not only on a personal scale but also with family tension of togetherness. May these thoughts bless you, not just today, but progressively, on and on, again and again, forever.

Life is too short to hold on to grudges, stress or anything that weighs heavy on your mind and heart.

And too long.

We live in a fast paced society and seem to want everything instantly. Yet character is developed over time and by going through difficulties. Struggles have the ability to forge qualities in us such as patience, compassion, humor and moral fiber.  

Lower emotions such as fear, anger or stress damage your nervous system. Higher emotions such as love, courage and forgiveness repairs, heals and energizes every system in your body.

Prepare your heart – or a special place of your choosing – to be the location where you exchange and transform lower emotions into higher ones.  Make this special spot internally as your emotional recycle center. Give permission to your body, mind and soul to be the healing place it is designed to be.

Light dispels darkness. Truth weakens the shadow side. Breathe in the white light of truth and feel it permeate every cell, tissue, system and muscle in your body. Let the white light of truth goes as deep, as broad and as expansive as you can imagine.

Expose darkness to the light and be healed physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. The quality of your thoughts determines the quality of your actions.

Allow the following Progressive Blessing to be instrumental in effecting transformation.

May you awaken each morning filled with excitement over a new day.
May you eagerly taste the deliciousness of life.
May you revel in challenges presented and humbly triumph.
May heaven shower you with love, joy, mercy, compassion and faith to overflowing.
May you be overcome by the awe of a sacred moment.
May you embrace change and see it as the life-giving force that it is.
May you be healed of poverty, lack, intimidation, or anything that keeps you bound.
May you be released from unforgiveness, anxiety, or whatever that may keep you stuck.
May you allow God to love you and to bless you.
May you receive the gift of yourself.
May you be free from fear, doubt, scarcity and be empowered to risk success.
May you be encompassed by peace in the midst of turbulence.
May you experience restful sleep and pleasant dreams.
May your last thought of the day be one of profound, yet simple, “Thanks”.
© Mona Dunkin 2008


Dreaming of a White Christmas

The Christmas Story is filled with angels, dreams and interpretations. That wonderful phenomenon was not just for long ago and is still prevalent for us today.

The dream center. Our conscious awake mind takes in information and responds. Sleep allows the brain to rearranges recent memories, a process that can lead to insight and new knowledge. Researchers believe that sleep is not only good for our physical health but also for our mental well-being.

Stages of sleep. In the process of falling asleep breathing and pulse slows and muscles relax. The brain waves are regular and the body can be easily awakened. In deep sleep the brain waves slow down with occasional spikes depending on surrounding noise or interference. In the deepest sleep, known as REM or rapid-eye-movement, the brain stem releases chemicals and fires electrical signals. The muscles are so relaxed the body is virtually paralyzed.

IT is during REM that dreams occur. Scientific research reveals that everyone dreams every night, whether remembered or not. During REM sleep chemicals go all parts of the brain gathering a mix of visual images and emotional feelings and coalescing them into a dream that has elements of both the real and the bizarre.

Train yourself. You can remember and benefit from your dreams but it may take time to train yourself. Put you to bed, quiet your breathing and deliberately turn off your mind’s rehearsal of the day’s events or tomorrow’s worries. Tell yourself that you will remember your dream upon awakening. Learn to wake naturally, without an alarm.

Write it down. Upon awakening, continue to lie still and concentrate on remembering your dream. Keep a pad and pencil by your bedside and immediately jot down the dream exactly as you remember it. Do not embellish and do not edit. Think on it. At off moments during the day, reflect on your dream for insights. Was it meaningful or simply entertainment? Embrace success and look forward to more.

Pay attention to your dreams. Even the wild ones. Dr. Carl Jung belived that dreams is how our unconscious tries to make sense of the way we think and act. Consider all the characters in your dream as being you in disguise; once you "own" that personallity as genuinely you, it becomes a catalysis to problem solving.

An example. I had a recurring dream of various meetings and demands made on me. Mixed up with all this was a nagging that I had lost a library book and a huge fine was awaiting. Upon awaking I was puzzled. The thing that stood out the most was the library book. It made no sense since I prefer to own the books I read.

My interpretation. I began to reflect upon the last time I had visited a library. Then I remembered having called several bookstores and the library trying to find a certain book for a client. The library had it and put it aside, in my name, to be picked up. I gave the information to my client. He never went. Consciously I dismissed it. Unconsciously I knew my name was on the list and my reputation was on the line. Once the problem came to light a solution was formulated.

Science gives validity to Mom’s advice to “sleep on it”. The function of the unconscious mind is to protect you. When you have a decision to make or a problem to solve, your mind works over-time - day and night - to honor you.

Sleep allows the brain to rearranges recent memories, a process that can lead to insight and new knowledge. Sweet dreams.


Living the Lord's Prayer: Forgiving and Being Forgiven

You know the passage. “And forgive us our debts; for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us.”

This is part two of And God Remembered Noah. Last month I reviewed a conference in which Linda Crawford was the main speaker (our own Anchor Publisher). It was an excellent combination of entertainment and friends and worship and singing and fun. And catharsis.

Linda’s asked us to call to mind a particular person where forgiveness was needed and to address this issue through completing a pre-printed fill-in-the-blank letter - not to send to the individual; but to lay at the foot of the cross.

Some things present a real conundrum. We think we have forgiven someone “indebted to us” yet continue to have hard feelings toward the offender. Or to hold ill will?

And what’s more, even though we want to believe that we know that God has forgiven us for whatever we did or did not do, we retain an ongoing guilty feeling of being unforgiven.

Fact is a fact regardless if we believe it or not. The fact is that God, in his nature of pure love, forgives us whether we ask him to or not. In his forgiving nature he woos us to himself for healing.

Feelings, on the other hand, can be factual but more often than not our feelings are fleeting and fickle and just plain false. Forgiving and being forgiven are deep-rooted issues.

There are matters I have acknowledged and chosen to forgive and have found complete freedom and peace. There are other areas where – even though the prayer and the choice were made - the layering of hurt goes all the way to the core. The wound still lingers. And I often do not even know it.

One of the phrases in Linda’s fill-in-the-blank letter hit a sore spot. "I only wanted to hear you say..."

That thought remained with me days later.

Since I think and pray best at a keyboard, I sat down at my computer and began to name those people who had hurt me. I realized that what I had wanted to hear – but didn’t - was what was keeping the puss pocket in my wounded spirit.

I wanted to hear you say you were proud of me.

I wanted to hear you say you understood.

I wanted you to acknowledge that you remembered what you did.

God is intimately involved in our individual story. As we prayerfully reenter into the haunting event, he comes alongside to do a job on you. What job; the job of transforming us through forming his mind within us (Phil. 2:5).

He heals our wounded childish psychic by silently whispering, “I AM proud of you.”

He restores our remorseful heart by fully and completely understanding our point of view and motive whether we were right or wrong, good or bad.

He mends disconnect by affirming, “I remember what happened to you and I love you regardless.”

Every cell in our body knows truth and longs for it. It is okay to have your needs met. If not met earlier, then now is the perfect time.

What are some things you have needed to hear?
I’m so glad you were born.
I am so happy you are a girl.
I am so happy you are a boy.
You are perfect just the way you are.
Don’t try so hard. You'll get it.
It’s okay to have a down day.
You’re doing a good job.
It hurts when you are overlooked, doesn’t it.

I cannot explain how God talks to us inside our head, but somehow we sense his presence and he presents possible solutions and there is clarity of thought and struggles calm down and peace reigns.

Maybe he speaks to us through his inaudible love language of forgiveness.


And God Remembered Noah

I attended a spring conference hosted by High Point Church where Linda Austin Crawford, The Anchor Publisher, was the main speaker. It was great. It was an excellent combination of fellowship, food, fun and worship.

Linda’s talk centered on forgiveness. In teaching the multitudes, Jesus noted that offenses would occur. That is a given. Whether or not the offense was deliberately perpetrated or whether it was our perception, being offended is a part of the human experience.

Jesus also talked about choosing to forgive. Even to forgive repeated offenses. Even to be as extreme as choosing to forgive an offender 490 times (70X7)! To wit the apostles pleaded, “Increase our faith!”

Linda’s teaching involves the etymology of words – what they meant originally and what they have come to mean through use. Case in point is a “mustard seed tree”.

The underlying message is that something so small (seed) can grow quickly and spread to mammoth proportions. Whether or not the tiny seed is an offence that spreads to fill one’s soul with puss pockets of unforgiveness or if it is the tiny seed of the Word of God that spreads hope and healing to a wounded spirit.

Both are cultivated through remembering.

Failure to forgive self or others is fostered through remembering; keep in mind, dredge up, harked back to.

Pain is compounded to a victim when she gains courage to confront her abuser and he doesn't remember (will not acknowledge an indiscretion). Our pain would not be healed if we were courageous enough to seek God's comfort and he did not remember.

And God remembered Noah.

To remember has variations of meaning. What may be true in one stance may not be true in another. God's not remembering our past does not mean his forgetfulness but rather that he does not hold our past against us.

Noah may have thought he was forgotten, but not so. God never promised us protection from the storms of life. He never promised us passage through the storms of life. He promised us his presence in the midst of the storms of life. God’s presence is there for whatever is needed, either to comfort and sustain or to convict and convince.

Whether we are the victim or the victimizer, God remembers and He loves us and woos us in spite of.

Our past does matter - the good and the bad - it is just not paramount. The past does, to a degree, color our personality; it just does not determine our today or our tomorrows.

Forgiving and being forgiven are deep-rooted issues. Not to worry, God remembers. Choosing to forgive – even taking a baby step in that direction - increases our faith. Remember that.


Habitual Emotions

One’s behavior seems automatic. It is hard to believe –consciously or unconsciously, by purpose or default – that you chose it. Repeated behavior becomes habit. Habit takes on a life of its own and seems innate; that you just can’t help it – that that is just the way you are. When confronted by a negative attitude or action one may rationalize, “Everybody’s that way.”

Being pleasant and thankful when things go your way is a habit you taught yourself. So is being disagreeable and unappreciative when things do not go your way. Being agreeable or disagreeable both are habits you taught yourself and they habitually surface upon command.

Surface comes from the French meaning “above the face”. The behavior probably seems automatic and is thus hard to see as your having set it. What is “above the face” is also hidden in your unconscious and both are out of your known control. Repeated behavior becomes habit.

Stop and ponder: Have you ever responded negatively in a situation and blamed the circumstances for your behavior? “You made me mad.” “The traffic made me late.” “You did me wrong and I’ll show you!”

Someone or something making you do something is not like an allergy to cats. With an allergy your body’s immune system automatically responds whether the kitten is cute and cuddly or if it is a mangy flea-infested stray.

Get honest and think hard. Has a similar situation occurred and your response was different? “No big deal.” “No harm done.”

So if one day Sue/Sam “made you mad” and the next day – when you were more rested or were not so rushed or so stressed or had spent time meditating or whatever to put yourself in the better frame-of-habit-mindset – then obviously Sue/Sam was not the organic cause of your negative response. In either scenario, you drew on habit responses you taught yourself.

Forming new habits involves awareness. To determine what you do want to change starts with understanding what you do not want to change. Exert mental effort to become aware of your attitude and behaviors – those times you are pleased with yourself for speaking rationally or remained calm or for boldly asserting yourself. Out of this awareness determine effects and whether you wish to maintain them – or not.

Forming new habits involves doing one thing differently. Every time we modify our behavior we have a different experience. This new experience sends a new footpath to our brain. Treading this new path again and again causes our brain to become wired - habituated – to new attitudes, actions and outcomes.

Don’t Cope. Overcome. Avoid the stack-attack-syndrome of frustrated aggressive behavior by learning a sever-assessing-system of assertiveness – one step at a time – one path at a time – to a new hard-wired brain habit.


WARNING: Humor Can Be Beneficial To Your Health

“Humor is the ability to greet life with a fluid flexibility, in spite of its upsets, disappointments and crises.” John M. Irvin

Former Senator Bob Dole believes that “second only to a backbone, everyone needs a funny bone.”

Having a sense of humor is developing the ability to go with the flow of life - ups and downs - and still be able to maintain a strong sense of happiness and joy in being alive. A good sense of humor is beneficial to your physical health as well as to one’s emotional well-being.


* Laughter changes body chemistry; revs up and releasing healing endorphins - the body’s natural painkillers.

* Not only is decision making easier when possibilities are taken lightly - for they are just possibilities - but creative possibilities and morale is increased.

* Aids in quicker recovery from tragedies and illnesses.

* Great help in stress reduction by lightening tense situations.

* Allows one to deliver a serious message while defusing potential stress.

* Improves mental and emotional health.

* Aerobic. When one laughs the lungs get a good work out.

* Doctors have asserted that twenty seconds of robust belly laughing equals three minutes of exercise.

* Improves relationships by building teamwork.

* Laugh lines add character to your face. Did you know it takes more muscles to frown, than to laugh?

* Since aging produces wrinkles anyway, why not make them laugh lines?

* Humor is the breeding ground for loyalty; if you are likeable, people will be more loyal to you.

* Makes you more memorable. Who can easily forget a pleasant person?

* Expands your comfort zone.

* Gives a new perspective on life; begin to see things a little differently.

“A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs – jolted by every pebble in the road.” Henry Ward Beecher

“A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Solomon Prov. 17:22

Use caution in using humor. What is funny to one may be offensive to another. Sarcasm, ethnic jokes, put downs, belittling, etc. are never universally funny and can cause - not only hurt feelings - but also actual harm in relationships.

Laugh at yourself and with others. But in laughing at yourself, do not fall into the Rodney Daingerfield syndrome of putting yourself down to the discomfort of your audience. Do not use humor as a defense to deny reality. “Oh, I was just joking”. Do not allow humor to trivialize an issue. Be sensitive to what you make light of.

If you are going to laugh about it someday, go ahead and make that day today. Have you ever experienced a difficult situation that was stressful or even anger producing, and yet later - when emotions were not so raw - the story became a big hee-haw? Get a handle on stressful situations by finding something humorous in it. See the absurd.

If you can laugh at it, you can survive it.” Bill Cosby


Reading, Writing and Relationship

“Education is the process in which we discover that learning adds quality to our lives.
Learning must be experienced.” Dr. William Glasser

In honor of the late Andy Griffith, TVLand ran a marathon of The Andy Griffith Shows. In one particular episode Opie and his friends complained about school. Seems their new teacher was making them study boring stuff that nobody would ever use – like history – plus they had to memorize dates and other such foolishness. They could not see how something that happened so long ago could possibly have any relevance to them today.

Sad to say, Andy agreed with Opie. In short time, all the boys disliked school.

Andy saw the error of his counsel and used the power of relationship to restore fun in learning. He told the boys exciting tales of Indian battles, the Boston tea party and the shot that was heard around the world. He spoke of great explorations like the Louisiana Territory and the adventures of the pony express and of wars and of conquests.

Opie and friends (and Barney) listened in eager anticipation. Andy casually mentioned that anyone would learn stories like that and more when they read history. The boys were hooked. They liked – nay loved – history. It became their play. Memorizing dates became a welcomed challenge. Learning was fun.

It’s all about relationship. From the cradle to the grave, a universal human need is to be loved and to belong. No matter the venue - home life, workforce, salesmanship, community involvement, government, law enforcement, or breakthrough sciences like Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, it is all about the state or quality of relating.

School is an important part of fun, learning and belonging – a very important part. Teacher Mrs. Crump was so happy to see the turn around in the boys that she referred to Andy as “Svengali”, a person who holds magical sway over another. Andy had turned learning into an experience that increased the boy’s quality of life.

Educators of all types (parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, peers) will have a greater impact on the student’s learning ability through the development of relationship.

Relationship is about being accepted for who we are. It is the feeling of “fitting in” and that we matter. Relationship is the mutual exchange of genuine caring and flow of ideas. Relationship is being esteemed as valuable and that your input counts. Relationship is connecting. Relationship makes for competency in student and teacher.


Choosing Humility

Humility is a do-it-yourself job.

You may humiliate yourself through some ill-thought out behavior or even deem that another has humiliated you - usually by their having seen a chink in your armor - but choosing to be humble - in the face of great accomplishment or heartbreaking failure - is a personal choice, rooted in a true understanding of humanity. Humble is derived from the Latin word humilis, meaning low or lowly and is the same root word in humus (ground) and homo (man).

Humus… human… humility; all have the same root word. Humility is recognizing our humanness. We humans are on equal footing - good and bad, positive and negative, giving and selfish, shadow and light sides. It takes humility to accept both in self and others.

There are five ways of dealing with humiliating situations; the first three comes to us rather naturally and are more destructive than constructive. Doing those things that come naturally often gets us into big trouble. The later two have to be learned, cultivated and nurtured; they entail choosing humility.

1. Passive: suppressive, avoiding problems, gives in; mentally says, “I’m uncomfortable.” “I’ll withdraw. “I’ll get out.”

2. Aggressive: attacks others, demanding, abrasive; mentally says, “I can take care of myself.” “I win, you lose.” “I’m right!”

3. Passive-Aggressive: indirect, sneaky, underhanded, sabotage; mentally says, “I’ll give in, but I’ll get you.” “Got-cha!”

4. Assertive: open, honest, mature, mutual respect; the mental attitude is, “I have worth and value and you have worth and value.” “We may disagree and I’ll still hold you in high regard.”

5. Overlook: Recognizing personal limits and making healthy choices. The mental attitude is “Live and let live.” “ I choose to forgive.”

Learning to overlook an offence requires humility.

There are two questions that can never correctly be answered “Yes”. One is, “Are you asleep?” The other is, “Are you humble?” To answer either in the affirmative belies reality.

One may think of self as being humble, yet has difficulty accepting a simple compliment. It takes humility to graciously receive a flattering remark even though you may think your performance not up to par or deem your hairdo as the worst cut ever.

To respond in a self-depreciating stance, to deny another’s assessment or to launch into defense of the defect is actually to lapse into a false humility.

Learning to graciously respond in humiliating situations requires rigorous self-honesty. You cannot become truly honest and examine your actions and attitudes while in self-denial. As long as you stay in denial, you deceive yourself into believing your actions and attitudes are right. Remove face-saving masques and allow honesty to give fresh perspective.

When you, with God's grace, choose to get honest and to change, you begin to like you better, in a healthy way. You are working on the do-it-yourself project of being humble.


Telling Your Story

“God made man because he loves stories.” Elie Wiesel

Everyone has a story and it needs to be told. Everyone has a unique life-experience; honor it. We are all connected –like the threads of a delicate cashmere sweater – and when one strand is broken, the whole is affected. Your family needs your story. You complete them in ways that you, or they, may take years to understand.

My mother kept a diary. Although the entries were scattered, my siblings and I have been blessed by her recorded journey. Through reading her thoughts, we gleaned awareness of her struggles and appreciated her strength. I gained insight into her character that, as a child, I either never noticed or took for granted. Through sharing her experiences, she shared her self.

Someone proclaimed that computerized robots would replace people. Robots are smart enough all right, but only because living, breathing, loving, intelligent human beings programmed their stories into them. Without that unique human element, computers are just blinking cursors.

Abigail Thomas, teacher of memory-writing seminars, says there is no right or wrong way to write your story. One can start at the beginning and continue up until today. Or start at the end and reflect back. Or pick and choose those special moments and compile your own unique book of short stories. She encourages writers to determine their motive for storytelling.

Having identified with Laura Ingles Wilder and Little House on the Prairie, my motive was to relate to our daughter my wonder years. Writing about life on the farm in West Virginia is more non-fiction than autobiography. Although based on facts, the conversations and outcomes may be more fantasy and embellishment than truth.

Ms. Thomas gives her students writing assignments, such as outline a specific ten-year period of your life in two pages. As one writes down choppy outline sentences – Kerrville camping trips, rainstorms in the pop-up, the found kittens - two things begin to transpire. One is that each fragmented idea floods your mind with record-able memories (Mick Collins was delighted the deluge had given us a story to distinguish one camping trip from another), and the other is the ability to pick and choose the most pertinent recollections.

Give pause for your mind to become a story-teller-thinker. Rather than rack your brain for stories to write, use times of routine chores to give your mind free-range wanderings, to think randomly and to casually associate past and present. Hear the sounds around you. Choose to be silent to reacquaint “yourself with yourself”.

Ideas come haphazardly. Keep a pad and pencil handy to jot down your musings. Just write them down without elaboration. Make notes whether they make sense or not, whether they are connected or not. As you go about your daily routine (or while sleeping), your mind – like finding pieces of a puzzle – will begin to stitch these happenings together.

When you sit down to record your stories, your muse will show up. You will begin to see how you got here from there. You will begin to recount how lives are connected and build on each other. You will see clearly and fuzzily, you will laugh and cry, you will discover contradictions and harmonies. You will appreciate all the lives you have lived (and I’m not talking Shirley McClain).

Your children and your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren will thank you. You are one of God’s creations. And you have a great story to tell.


Thinking For a Change

“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” - Jesus
Or so he becomes. It behooves us to think about what we think (believe).   
Psychiatrist Carl Jung is known as the “doctor of the soul”.  Dr. Jung traveled worldwide living among and studying cultures, religions, arts, myths, legends, dreams and fairytales. His research led him to many psychological revelations such as the conscious and unconscious, the anima and animus and the human realities that connect us all - generations past, present and future.
Dr. Jung concluded that man is not complete without religion or myths. Mythology and religion support each other; it is our way of working out our understanding of God, the universe and people.
Dr. Jung’s sought to discard the “invisible pressure of being European.”  What invisible pressure do we, individually and corporately, need to examine? How can we know truth? We believe what we believe until we believe something else.
How can we know truth? We believe what we believe until we believe something else. True seekers observe without preconceived ideas. As sincerely as possible, accept what is whether it makes sense or not. Respect different – even opposing – viewpoints. Search for hints of truth in what may appear contradictory. There is an element of truth in most lies and a component of falsehood in most truths.
Live in the question. How can something as passive as mediation effect change? Where do ideas come from? Mystics and writers of profound truths lived in isolation, what does that say about our modern busy lifestyles?   Where does our dark side come from? How do we access the light? Prayer seems to work, but how? How does faith practices work for people who believe differently than me? Are dreams – nighttime as well as daydreams - really God speaking to me? Are my dreams trying to tell me things about myself that I am not yet ready to receive? How does a feminine divine fit in?
Live in the mystery. If the true King-of-kings and Lord-of-lords, the one before whom everyone bows and worships, has a secret name – as the book of Revelations states – how can anyone believe the name of his god is absolute?

 Are we all connected? Can people be spiritual and not religious? Are the Tibetan prayer flags and the Christian prayer shawls cousins? What about a Buddhist Zen garden and a Christian prayer garden? How can we know truth? We believe what we believe until we believe something else.
Challenge your truth. Be willing to release whatever stifles growth or engenders prejudice and stereotyping. I examine my own unresolved bias for solid foundation. When measured, is my position plumb? Those times I come face-to-face with my prejudice – such as contempt toward an obese person even though my own double-digit dress size is not that much smaller – I hear my sweet then-seven-year-old-daughter saying to me, with absolutely no guile, “Yes, Mrs. Pot.” 
Carl Jung says that people and life experiences are mirrors showing us to us. Give pause for open-minded contemplation whether you like or dislike what you see.  Know what you know while being open to other glimmering facets of the multi-dimensional diamond of life.


Agreement vs. Appeasement

Have you ever been guilty of agreeing when you did not really agree only to be caught up in a conundrum?  Then, because the non-agreement was not a contract – it was just a front to avoid the unpleasantness - you went on your merry way doing whatever you chose?  And it backfired on you?  It damaged your credibility? It cast doubt on your ethics? It may have even done damage to the relationship? You were called to task for not acting on your pseudo-agreement?  You find yourself stuck in excuses and rationalization and justification?   
“Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.” Sir Walter Scott
One may think that agreeing to appease makes things easier, but does it really? It may pacify for today, but what about tomorrow? Or next week? Or ten years down the road? Does mollifying place strain on the relationship? Is each non-truthful act another blow to the dividing wedge?
What will continue conciliating do for your health - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually?
Stuck is when you keep moving and it’s time to be still. That rubbing movement causes friction that leads to provocation, the very thing your false agreement was trying to avoid.
In a moment of stillness, consider the hard truth that no one likes to be pacified. You do not like it. S/he does not like it. Although we absolutely cannot read another’s mind, yet there is something mystical about knowingly/unknowingly discerning what is truth or lie.
You perceive legitimacy/falsehood in others. They perceive legitimacy/falsehood in you.
The current moment is attached to all your future moments. Make them ring true.
Think with the mind and know with the heart. Be proactive by deciding in advance how you will response when the faithfulness of life and relationships presents this scenario again. Decide your truth beforehand. Not for a canned or condescending reply, but for comfort and flow.
Sometimes a person will “agree” with an aggressor as a way of stopping communication. Take a moment to dialogue with yourself to find your truth then verbalize it rather than deflect. If your agreement is not true, summons the courage to speak your truth in love. “I think I understand where you are coming and I do not agree.”  “It is alright with me if you fill-in-the-blank and I choose not to be a part.” Note that a simple “and” instead of a “but” softens a descending comment. 
See the value in the relationship. As you work to repair the damage, respect will bloom again. 
Need a speaker?  Need a Life-Coach? Contact Mona at mona@monadunkin.com 


Control: Internal vs. External

One meaning of control is “to have power over”. Regardless of our rank or position in life, the bottom line is: The only person over whom we have power of control is ourselves.
Regardless of our rank or position in life, no one can control you to make you do anything you do not wish to do.  We can cajole, threaten, humiliate, reward, bribe, punish or instigate other creative measures to control another, but if the upper hand is gained, it is only because he chose to give in to our request/demand.  If we are willing to accept the outcome, no one can make us do anything we do not wish to do. 
As the defiant lad said, “I may be sitting down on the outside but I am standing up on the inside!”  The action may have changed but not necessarily the attitude.
The lad was not controlled. The child chose to sit because to continue in his current action would bring pain. The child internally chose to externally control himself. The one issuing the mandate may mistakenly think he controlled the child.
And thus sets up the power struggle of the human condition.
When we push for control we make it about us. We overcome when we realize that the stressor is more about us than it is about him/her/them. That is not to discount that he is being a royal jerk! It is to become aware that the only person over whom we have control is me and, therefore, I do not have to respond in kind to his behavior, attitude or offense. 
Responding in kind is to give back in equivalent to what has been received.  Just because he has been rude, impatient and aggressive, does not mean that I get to be defensive, frustrated and antagonistic. The less we exercise personal control the more control we try to wield over others. 
Conversely, the more internal personal control we exercise – the more we choose to have power over our thoughts, our actions and our emotions – the less controlling we will be of others.
Everything that happens to you is self-created. Whenever you're responding to any
situation, whether it's a sip of coffee, or a traffic jam, or a love note, or criticism
from a boss, or rainy weather, you're in fact responding to a signal that you
generated within yourself.” -- Deepak Chopra
Once you buy into being aware and put personal responses into practice, you become empowered internally that influences externally. Control of self – your thoughts, your actions and your emotions - is a high form of power/control. Trying to control another backfires into making them push back with equal or greater force (whether that force is aggressive or passive). When we give up controlling techniques we are in a greater position to influence the positive.   


Overcome Taking Things Personally

“No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”  Eleanor Roosevelt
At a potluck dinner a woman’s contribution was several gallons of unsweetened tea.  A man in the line sarcastically asked, “What, did they not sell sweet tea?” 
The woman took it personally and became offended. The comment was more about the man than it was about the woman.  It showcased his selfishness of wanting things catered to his likes and his apparent laziness of adding sweetener.  It was more about him until she intercepted it and made it about her.
Taking things personally is agreeing while disagreeing and becoming upset. It is a selfish response that assumes everything is about you.  When you make it all about you, then you feel the need to defend yourself. Or go prove the other person wrong by trying to impose your way of seeing things onto them.  This produces conflict.  Even if it seems directed at you - “What did you do to your hair?” - maybe it is not about you.  Maybe she is having a bad hair day and taking it out on you.  Take yourself out of the middle with a neutral, “Sorry” or “Yea, I know.” 
By choosing not to take the comment personally, you are in a position to honestly evaluate if it is truth or not.  If the comment is untrue, choose to overlook it and pleasantly change the subject. If it is true you still have choices.  On the positive, you see the offender as helping you grow; you acknowledge the wound and determine steps for self-improvement.  On the negative note, you embrace the wound and add to your victim status.  You view the offender as keeping you down.
A friend of mine has greatly improved his relationship with this family as well as his own well-being.  How? He chooses to see their criticism as a misdirected way of showing love.  After all, criticism is a disconnecting way of making a request. 
Why be offended by truth?  For example, suppose someone calls you fat.  If you are not fat, you can more easily see how the offensive remark is more about the other person than about you. She is hurling attacks in a misdirected way of trying to make you look bad and her look good. If you are fat, why be offended by the truth?  Did the statement really make you aware of something you did not already know? 
Taking things personally is suffering for nothing.  Evaluate: Did you take the comment personally because the statement hit a sore spot? Perhaps it highlighted a habit you are not disciplined enough yet to correct?  Perhaps it was because of a bur in the relationship. If your best friend had comment about your hair, how would you have responded? 
It really is all about you.  In the unsweetened tea example, the man could have picked up a packet of sweetener and said nothing about only one option of tea.  The woman could have nicely handed him a packet of sweetener and said nothing about the comment. Although we can choose not to take comments personally, a pleasant outcome to a negative situation is more about us than it is about them. 


Self-Evaluation: What do you Really Want?

What do you want?  Over the course of your life thus far, how many times have you been asked that question? What do you want for Christmas? What do you want for your birthday?
What do you want? What do you really want? What about those times you “want something” and go searching for food even though hunger is not the issue? Or find something to do when that doesn’t fit the yearning either?
Asking ourselves what we really want is probably the most important thing we can do for ourselves - whether it’s about those big life/visions/goals or in-the-moment stuff. 
Have you ever wanted – and gotten – a new car thinking it would transport you to prestige, fun, dignity and self-worth?  Only to be sorely disappointed once the glamour wore off? And the payments continued?
What we want is produced by our emotions.  Emotions are the outcropping of the thoughts we think.  Emotions and perception (the way you see things) feed on each other, either to rev you up, or to calm you down.  It depends on what mind movie you are tuning in to.  We assume our lives are shaped by events. Actually our lives are shaped by our perceptions and reaction to events, people and/or stuff.
In the midst of a heated discussion, take a deep breath and ask yourself, What do I want right now.” 
More than likely the true answer is not, “I want to argue!” Odds are it’s more likely, “I want to be understood;” or, “I want to stop this harangue and I want to show up as the highest version of myself I’m committed to being!”
When you evaluate what you really want, then you are in a position to create it.  It is no longer about proving a point, it becomes about being the person you truly are. It is all in the decision. When you become clear on what you want (or who you really want to be), the “how” to be that person begins to fall into place. 
Change either what you want, or change what you are willing to do to get it. The human heart beats the same whether in the 21st Century or the 1st Century, before or beyond.  We really do all face the same issues, just in different flavors. 
The answer to what we want is usually not stuff or food or money or handouts or advice - although those things may have their place.  The answer to what we want is usually about being.  To find out who we really are, we must acknowledge who we have become. We must face the way we hide from ourselves.
Blind Bartimaeus cried out, “Jesus Christ, Son of David. Have mercy on me. I am a sinner.” Jesus responded to his plea for mercy by asking, “What do you want me to do?”  (Mark 10:46-52)

God will not violate our free will. How often do we ask for help not knowing what we really want or really need?  We do not recognize our spiritual poverty and thus do not receive mercy.
In evaluating what we want from Christ start with the ever true declaration of “I am a sinner”. After a soul-searching inventory be specific, “I am a sinner by being stressed that you will not provide for my needs.” “I am stressed because So-and-So does not follow my sage advice.”  Become more specific. “I am a stressor. I am a stressor because I want to control people and situations.”
What we want is actually about peace, contentment, healthy relationships and effective behaviors.  They are readily ours as we make time to follow the Biblical mandate to examine self before partaking in experiences that would render us ineffective (I Cor. 11:27-33).


Let the Light of You Shine

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond
measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”  -Marianne Williamson
We are complex individuals living in a complicated world.  Things are not as they first appear to be. For example, invisible atoms collectively make up everything in this universe. One of the deep scientific truths is that there is no empty space. What seems to be vacant space is filled with atoms. 
Another invisible yet power aspect is the aura surrounding each individual. Definite it as personality or characteristics, nonetheless there is a special air that precedes us. We draw to us - not what we want - but what we are.  Like draws to like. 
There is nothing to be gained by playing small. Humility has its place when not confused with a false modesty. The person who brags about what s/he does yet refuses to receive a compliment has confused meekness with arrogance. Humility is not thinking less of yourself; humility is thinking of yourself less. Humility is being true to you. 
So what prevents us from allowing our light to shine? When you think of speaking up for a principle or cause, what stops you?  When that promotion is imminent, what pushes you to put a ceiling on it?  When that relationship is flowing, what causes you to self-sabotage?
How would shining in all your glory threaten your comfort zone? Who would be upset if you shine? How would becoming who you are created to be upset the established family structure?  For whom would releasing your genius create insecurity?  
How does it serve you to stay small? Are you afraid of your own brilliance? 
Most are not afraid to shine unless they have been hurt or shamed for standing out and shining. How have your wings been clipped, either through reality or your own perception? Have you replaced another’s criticism with your own destructive self-talk?
Each individual is blessed with a wide spectrum of temperaments. The speedy hare may seem difficult a pokey turtle – yet each are being true to themselves. When a cat scurries up a tree is he showing off? Is a dog a wimp because he cannot climb?
For those of us who find it difficult to love ourselves, it becomes easier when we wake up to the truth about who we are. Light is released through living a truthful life. Understand you are a lovely and loveable individual, wart and all. Even imperfections, you are both fabulous and flawed. We are in “process” and – in reality - do not need to the approval of others to validate our worth. This is freedom indeed. Not the freedom to be obnoxious or stubborn, but the freedom to develop one’s shadow side. Speak the truth in love – to yourself (without condemnation) and to others (without accusation).
To walk in truth is to walk in perfect love, and if we walk in perfect love, then we do not walk in fear because perfect love cast out fear. 
When our lives shine of natural gifting and pure intention others will notice and be drawn to your light.  When in doubt, look inside; are you being less than truthful to you?  You have enough light for the step you are on. Keep growing. Keep shining. The world needs your light.


Overcoming Self-Sabotage

Rather than doing what contributes to your success, how many times do you engage in busy self-sabotaging activities” Low priority things like checking your e-mails? Or paper shuffling?

Look behind the procrastination and ask yourself: “What if I actually do what will benefit me and it does not work? Have you really lost anything in pursuing this achievement? Will you be further down the road and more prepared for future endeavors? What may you learn in the process?” 

Also ask yourself: “What if I actually do what will benefit me and it does work?  What if that one dreaded phone call energizes me? What if those few minutes of planning really does shave-off on execution time? What if getting out of my door opens others doors for me?”

What if? And why not?

What are you afraid of?  Failure to get honest with our fears produces self-sabotaging acts. Fear stunts our growth: small moments filled with fear keeps up from becoming large.

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” 
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd US President

President Roosevelt beautifully articulated the paralysis that cowardly lurks behind our unidentified, shadowy trepidations. When we firmly believe that fear truly is false-evidence-appearing-real, we can get behind that apprehension and shed light on it. 

Light dispels darkness. Make an enlightened a conscious choice: 1) bravely go forward and conquer – or at least advance - or 2) give you full permission to just not do it.
Either way, make an honest, on-purpose, conscious, deliberate decision. 

What’s holding you back? Whose permission do you think you need to proceed? Are you conflicted over being both a business mogul and a parent? Are you stressed over getting an education and starting a blog? What if you could be both/and rather than either/or? What if you could focus your energy in a few select venues and still remain stable?

When you decide that you are enough, then you really can do it all. When you decide that you are enough you get to be a fantastic partner and a great parent and an astute business person and a community activist and a loving involved family member and …

A decision is the alternative to self-sabotaging stagnation. When you engage fully in love, creativity or work, the cowardly Milquetoast fear remains in the shadows.

Need a Life Coach?  Contact Mona at 254-749-6594 or mona@monadunkin.com   


Truth or Dare

Lily Tomlin, portraying five year old Edith Ann, was a regular feature in Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In TV series (1967–1973).  Edith Ann sat in a huge rocking chair and recounted outlandish adventures from her childish point of view. Each segment was ended with her looking directly into the camera and boldly proclaiming, “And that’s the truth!”

Life tickles our funny bones. The comedy in Lily’s skit came from the audience’s knowing that Edith Ann’s truth may not have been quite like she saw it. We find humor in situations with which we identify. And sometimes it’s good to laugh at ourselves. To see our foibles. To recognize our shadow side.
Only sometimes life breaks our hearts. The heart ache is not from seeing truth, but from refusing to be set free by the truth we see. Truth hurts only when it is supposed to.
Feelings don’t tell you the truth; they just tell you what you feel. Beliefs don’t tell you the truth; they just tell you what you believe. And what you believe is your best guess at what is real. Our best guess at reality is conditioned by the society in which you live. 
Society doesn’t tell you the truth; society goes with fads, trends or the in-thing.  Your thoughts don’t tell you the truth; they just try to tell how you measure up to society’s dictates. Or not. Circumstances don’t tell you the truth. No matter how real they seem to be they are really your thoughts trying to prove to you that your beliefs and your feelings and your viewpoints are truth.
So what does tell you the truth? Life.
Life demonstrates truth. Life is not prejudice. Life tells us the truth whether we can handle it or not. Rain or drought or hurricanes or tsunamis falls equally on the just and on the unjust.
Life reveals whether our actions are plume or not. It matters not if one is a skilled iron worker or a nuclear scientist or an adventurous roof-scaling child, the truthful law of gravity shows itself to always be accurate.
When feelings are bruised, look deep inside to see if you really are a fool or if maybe you just did a foolish thing.  Big difference.  When your thoughts bring increased frustration or anger or sadness or instability then maybe it is time to challenge what you believe. Does it hold water? How’s it working for you?  When circumstances are less than ideal, look deep inside to see what lesson life is trying to teach you. Obey the rules of the road and the chances of speeding tickets, wrecks or traffic violations are greatly diminished.
Listen to your internal moral compass and obey its directions. BUT NOTE: it speaks quietly, softly, gently. It must be tuned into in order to be heard. It must be given space in order to grow.  It must be proven in order to stand firm. 
Need a Life Coach?  Contact Mona at 254-749-6594 or mona@monadunkin.com   


Joys of Journaling

“I began these pages for myself, in order to think out my own particular pattern of           
 living… and since I think best with a pencil in my hand, I started naturally to write.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
Thinking with a pencil in hand is an excellent way of knowing yourself. Journaling is a discipline I began in the early 1970’s and it is a luxury I continue to give myself. I journal as a way of “getting it out of my system” so I can interact with people in a more loving, kind, non-threatening, affectionate way.  Reflection on self and others is at the root of integrity. Journaling is a mirror that helps to bring resolve by being more objective; it gives me insight into my actions or reactions.
“The trouble with following the crowd is — it’s crowded.”  Infinity Car Commercial
Journaling helps brings emotions and thoughts into perspective.  There is something concrete about seeing your thoughts in black and white; it helps bring clarity and meaning, rather than just having them bounce around in your head, “driving you crazy”.  Journaling helps to bring these controlling emotions into control and makes them more manageable.  It gives you an opportunity to see what you do believe and what you want to hold on, or want to discard. 
Journaling is a sounding board from you to you.  It like talking to another person, only to one who truly understands what you are saying and who can genuinely help you find solutions.

Journaling helps to express the intensity of your emotions without harming the relationship.  You can express hate without devastating the one hated; or at least the one you hate at the moment. And when you realize the emotion is not really burning hate but a deep frustration, you are more at east being with the offender knowing you have not deliberately wounded him/her. 
Journaling is a catharsis that helps clarify in writing what you have difficulty speaking.  It is a self-awareness skill that leads to overcoming.  Journaling helps you to listen to yourself, to seek resolution and perhaps leads to relationship building ways to reconcile with those who have hurt you (or whom you have hurt). 
Journaling encourages you to make time for yourself and for spiritual quiet time.  Journaling helps to process deep and raw emotions.  It gives access to levels of understanding that otherwise would have remained elusive.  It leads to the possibilities of writing stories and teaching materials directly from my own wounds, which brings healing to myself and to others.   
Not only can journaling help you come to terms with present situations, is a way of keeping a history of your life; recording thoughts, emotions, remembrances of days gone by, special moments with children, mate or friends. It is a way to record experiences you do not want to forget.  It is a way of expressing your life to future generations (should you ever choose to share them). Failure to journal is a waste of wonderful memories.  Go ahead; discover the joys of journaling.


Getting Our Needs Met

Relationships are about need vs. need. Healthy relationships give and receive for the good of the whole. When your need is being frustrated by his need (and vice-versa) the key to maintain harmony is in learning to be responsive rather than reactive. 
You may ask, "But HOW?"
I love when people ask the question. If we try to give an answer before the question is being asked, no matter how wise our words, it falls on weak ears.  Let's start with the solution before we address the problem. 
Solution:  Start your day by choosing to invest time to set yourself up to have a great rest of the day. Making time to 'pray it forward' is enough to guarantee that you will be in charge of your thoughts throughout the day.  And, after all it is our thoughts that produce our emotions. A few minutes of sincere meditation/prayer gives you a different nervous system for the entire day.
Problem:  The content of our thinking produces our receptivity. The cells of our body have two modes, and one and only one mode operates at a time. Our cells are either open for growth or closed for defense.  By going into defense mode one compromises the optimal function of his/her nervous, endocrine and autoimmune systems.  Not only does defensiveness harm relationships, it harms you physically, emotionally and spiritually. 
Our thoughts produce our emotions.  So listen to what you are thinking because that is what is stirring up your emotions.  When you set the condition of me against you, you ironically set the conditions for you to be against yourself. It’s called “destroying your own house”.  
It is more about you than it is about them. There may be some truth to thinking that the situation will get better when the other person changes but it is not an absolute truth. How so? A person may genuinely be making strides (clumsy and inept) to cooperate but as long as we look at their actions through our angry glasses, we will fail to appreciate their effort and misjudge their intent and disregard their point. Even if our basic need is being met we neglect to notice.   
The progress s/he makes is in keeping with his innate gifting which is often different than the way we would do things.  Irony: opposites attract. We are drawn to someone whose strength compliments our weakness. We are repelled by that same someone when she does not measure up to our expectations.
But what if he never changes?  Then we have to decide if it is a deal breaker or not. If it is a not a deal breaker then look inside for your own answers.  Sometimes for the good of the whole we have to lower our expectations.  That is not to throw a wet blanket on hope; it is to dampen unrealistic expectations.  Assertive is making a request without demanding it.  
Honesty with self promotes personal growth. Every day you have a chance to set into motion positive changes in your relationships. It’s like the disgruntled office worker said when she began to appreciate her job and her co-workers, “These people around here sure have changed!” 
Maybe the Golden Rule really does work.  Respond to others in a respectful manner and give room to grow into reciprocating in kind out of their own human dignity.  Negotiate – give and receive - for the good of the whole. 
Again, you may ask, “But HOW?” 
Answer: Graciously. In the Bible verse, "God's grace is sufficient" the verb "is" is a past/present/future reality. As in…
        Past: God's grace was sufficient yesterday I just chose to say, "No thanks, I'll handle this myself, thank you anyway!" 
        Present: God's grace is sufficient today (right this second) and is a reality awaiting my acceptance and employment. 
       Future: God's grace will be present tomorrow or next week or whenever it is needed. 
There is always a current supply of grace to us and through us; grace can be refused or used but it cannot be horded or stored up. Like the manna in the wilderness saved grace becomes stale. Grace is delivered fresh, toasty warm and sweet smelling from God's outpost within you.  Receive it. Share it. Bask in the needs-fulfilling nourishment it gives in all relationships.