A dear friend of mine recently posted a meme of a silhouetted tree rising into an evening sky. In the foreground is a sea of colorful lights, while floating above the tree in the night sky are these words:
“The best way to avoid disappointment is not to expect anything from anyone.”
(Deep sigh.) While these words may well hold truth, they have never resonated positively in my system and now I feel a need to explore the discomfort. Here's what I've learned about the source of the quote. (No. It's not from the Bible.) In the 18th Century, there lived a poet named Alexander Pope who famously wrote this line in a letter to his friend John Gay:
“I have many years magnify’d in my own mind, and repeated to you a ninth Beatitude, added to the eight in the Scripture: Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
Words from someone who's clearly been disappointed, right? I should mention that Alexander Pope was also a satirist. I learned that much of his work was inspired by human weakness and vices and failings. With this in mind, and his choice to frame this thought as a Beatitude, I can imagine the sarcasm washing over his words as they were first constructed in his mind then spoken aloud. Without the benefit of the actual context of Pope’s words, interpretation is wide open. I maintain that the words arose by way of disappointment. In other words, he expected something from someone and was disappointed. Hence, the tongue-in-cheek, scorn-filled message to never expect anything from anyone ever. Try saying it outloud a little saucy and scorned. Think 18th century war-torn, dirty, overcrowded Britain, likely rife with disappointment! "Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed!”
There is absolutely nothing sacred or serious about this statement when put into that context, and it doesn't quite have the quality of hopefulness found in the Biblical Beatitudes. Quite the opposite! Clearly Pope had just been disappointed and was able to express his disdain in the inverse form of the original eight. Think about it. We all use sarcasm sometimes. It's a great anecdote to the sting of disappointment. If Alexander Pope could have time traveled and had written the Beatitudes they may have sounded something like this:
“Blessed are the pushy for they will never inherit the Earth.”
“ Blessed are the dark in heart, for they will never see God.”
"Blessed are the sad, for they will never be joyful."
Pretty negative, right? Written like the Biblical Beatitudes, the "Expectation Beatitude" might read, “Blessed are they who have high expectations, for they shall find all that they seek in life.” See what I’m saying there?
On the subject of expectations, here are some further thoughts: Why would one not have expectations? There may be a good answer, but I cannot think of one. Except this: Many people simply do not have the skills to consciously set and maintain expectations that reflect their values. If you're someone who does set boundaries and expectations, imagine for a moment what your world would be like without them. To do this, consider common expectations we have everyday. In relationships we expect honesty; in the workplace we expect to be paid for the job we do; when driving, we expect other drivers to follow the rules of the road; and even when we're speaking, we expect to be heard. People who do have expectations will likely have more satisfying relationships, be more successful in their careers and carry the air of confidence of someone who will be heard. None of this is to say that disappointment won’t show up in some area of your life--everyone experiences disappointment--but when we frame our desires with expectations, we minimize the risk and optimize a positive outcome. Those without expectations around these and other life experiences probably won't often be disappointed, but they probably won't have a very interesting life either.
In relationships, when we consciously expect a certain quality or outcome, we attract the quality or outcome that matches our own energetic expression. But what about those people we’ve attracted who seemed perfect for us and then become the very opposite of the partner we desire. How does that happen? I suppose there could be a lot said here about red flags and the denial of same--after all, we don't want to believe we can make such errors in judgement. So why do we attract the one who we think is right for us who at some point becomes the evil Mr. Hyde to kind-hearted Dr. Jekyll. Very generally put, in these instances, there are most likely lessons left for us to learn and we have been given an opportunity to find clarity and discernment that will make us better judges of character. It give us a chance to see ourselves reflected in someone else, especially those qualities we haven’t fully developed. I find it true that what I lack in myself, I see clearly in others. Another person can be the mirror to our own lack of growth or maturity or insight and, should we choose to look into it, from it, direction, correction and self compassion can evolve.
And so what of Jesus and His Beatitudes? The eight attributes--poor in spirit, mournful, meek, passionate, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaking, and martyrdom--lead us to the dangling rewards mentioned at the end of each message. I appreciate the perspective that the Beatitudes refer to people who innately inhabit these selfless qualities, but what of those of us who are lacking? We must have expectations of ourselves, otherwise, what guides us to develop any of these qualities? According to the teachings of Jesus, if I want to inherit the earth, I have to move my ego aside to become meek. Likewise, if want mercy, I must strive to be forgiving. The good qualities then must first become a mission and ultimately an accomplishment that requires growth and change and having expectations of ourselves should we desire the glorious rewards.
So, I say go forth and have expectations and have disappointments! Learn, live, grow, gain insight and perspective from all you do. Know that the silver lining of all disappointment is that it brings with it the realization of what we don’t want. It narrows the focus on what we do want and gives us discernment and direction. Sometimes disappointment comes from our own actions, giving us an opportunity to gain valuable insight and self compassion.
Finally, shouldn't we resist passing on these familiar, outdated, misunderstood adages to our children? And instead of instilling them with beliefs like "never expect anything from anyone," empower them to know that life can be full of goodness and wonder and that having conscious expectations of ourselves and others--and the occasional disappointment-- just may be the secret! (Cue the sea of colorful lights.)
What does it mean to trust your feet? Well, to effectively answer this question, we must first get to know them a little better. Your feet are those two, relatively small protuberances at the end of your legs that are each made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments. All this anatomy is necessary to allow for the kind of flexibility that’s required to negotiate all sorts of terrain from smooth, flat surfaces like a tile floor to sandy beaches and rocky hills. Your feet literally change shape to keep you connected safely to the ground—not to mention, they carry the weight of your entire body!
Feet take quite a beating pretty much on a daily basis. They often get shoved into shoes that don’t fit right; they get stepped on and toes get stubbed; they get stung by bees and bitten by ants; they get splinters and blisters and can get calloused and really sore after a long day of walking or standing. Feet have a unique set of problems that other parts don’t experience like corns, cracked heels, hammertoes, bunions and ingrown toenails. We have a tendency to just accept these kinds of problems with our feet and essentially ignore the sensations they create that could actually be providing us with some valuable information.
If your feet develop health problems, your level of activity and quality of your life can be greatly altered. It doesn’t take long for inactivity to negatively affect your overall heart strength, muscle endurance and pulmonary functioning. The resultant decreased activity can potentially create a serious decline in health and quality of life. The slippery slope toward chronic illness and dysfunction due to inactivity can be avoided by compassionately listening to the messages of your feet and by taking the appropriate steps to care for them.
In Rubenfeld Synergy, feet are a rich source of information for guiding you to listen to the messages that are held not only in your feet, but in your entire body and can be a direct line to connecting mind, body, emotions and spirit! During a Rubenfeld session, your synergist may gently manipulate your feet and “listen” with her hands for any messages they may be holding. These messages may be revealed through stiffness, resistance to movement, temperature or pain sensations. You may even discover images or colors that emerge through mindful observation of your feet. Metaphors to your life may also be found in your feet and can open up a conversation that can reveal answers to significant questions about your life or state of being. Are you resisting moving in a certain direction? Are you tip-toeing around something? Do you have cold feet over a choice you’ve made? Maybe your feet are strong and wide and sturdy, revealing the weight of things you’ve carried throughout your life; or perhaps they are reluctant and weak due to a trauma or injury from your past. Whatever the message, your synergist’s and your own compassionate listening can guide you to discoveries that can open up pathways toward potentially life-changing insights!
Now that you know that your feet carry rich wisdom that can guide you in gaining and maintaining a good quality of life, are you understanding why trusting your feet is another key to optimal health, healing and wellness? Make a commitment to take great care of your feet! After all, your feet have taken you everywhere you’ve ever been and can propel the journey toward healing, health and wellness today, tomorrow and for the rest of your life!
For information about your feet’s role in grounding (or Earthing), reflexology and how to care for your feet, join Patti at Bridge to Avalon on April 26 from 7-8:30 for Part 2 of the workshop series Exploring the Wisdom of Your Body entitled Trust Your Feet!
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
As we awaken and slowly enter the world that awaits us, do we ever become aware of the gift that carries us through the day, the instrument with which we engage and move through our environment? For most of us, the answer is no. Our human body is the gift that provides us with a way of engaging and connecting with the world around us. We tend to take for granted the very purpose of our bodies which is to make connections. We make connections to the people around us; to the life energy within us; and to the sights and sounds that surround us every moment of the day. Many of us have a daily practice of silent meditation which can serve to bring us inward and to connect with our source. Some of us may even practice mindfulness to bring a heightened sense of connectedness to the “now” into each moment or situation we encounter. There are so many ways to be still to connect and so many ways to engage outwardly to connect. It is how we connect that creates our human experience on Earth and what makes us unique individuals. Whatever way we choose to interact---either deep within or outwardly---there is one common element that makes connection possible: the gift of our human body.
What a miracle this flesh and bones body in which we live and breathe truly is! Our intricately designed, complexly integrated bodies move us through the world, allowing us to walk, reach, jump, make love, sing, dance, and to perform the most basic of needs like bringing food to our mouths and brushing our teeth. It’s true that it takes the entire body--its physiology, kinesthetic sense, the skeleton that give us form, the muscles, both intricate and grand, and organs—to perform these and every other action we produce. But how often do we recognize the role of the individual working parts of our design that make all this happen? Do we even really know how to acknowledge and appreciate our feet, for example? After all, they have taken us everywhere we’ve ever been in our lives! What a reason for gratitude and appreciation! And how about our hands for all they allow us to do? Or our articulating knees and elbows? Oh, and our eyes—what a gift! And then there are the parts we can’t even see that contribute to our ability to live and breathe, feel and touch, think and do, grow and love. There’s the brain, that collection of soft curvy flesh and nervous tissue, that houses our memories, creates our thoughts, instructs our bodies to move (or not), and interacts with our bodies through electrical and hormonal signals that keep us functioning in ways we never even consider. We have the liver, spleen, kidneys and pancreas that serve to filter and process for essential bodily functions; and, the part that serves to maintain our very life energy: the heart.
Let’s consider the heart. At its most basic, the heart is a muscle that is about the size of your fist that functions mechanically as a master pump. But there is much more to our hearts than circulating blood into our bodies. Science is showing there is a vast communication between the heart, the brain and the body. The heart produces electrical signals that can be found within the walls of itself and throughout our bodies. These signals can also be registered in the space around our bodies and may be what gives us our sense of personal space.
We can gather from history that the Greeks believed the heart was the seat of our spirit; the Chinese believed the heart was the center for happiness. Egyptians are said to have believed the heart was home for emotions and intellect, while Plato believed reason came from the brain and passion from the heart. Could it be they were all on to something? We know that the brain sends orders to the heart through neural signals, but what we are beginning to better understand is that the heart sends signals that affect the functions of the brain as well. Through scientific research, we now know that signals sent from the heart prompt emotional processing as well as influence attention, perception, memory and problem-solving within the brain.
How our hearts function can be used as an important indicator of our health, level of physical fitness, and can provide a marker of biological aging through heart rate variability. Many factors can affect our heart rate and rhythm pattern, including the emotions we experience in our daily lives. Prolonged negative emotions such as anger, resentment and anxiety can lead to disorganized, inefficient functioning of systems, depleting precious energy and creating damaging wear and tear on our bodies. On the flip side, experiencing positive emotions such as joy, love, compassion and gratitude creates harmony within the body systems, coordinating physiological functions for efficient performance. Since positive emotions create such optimal functioning throughout the body, it’s no wonder we feel so good when we experience them!
So then, back to this idea of appreciating our parts. Just how does one care for and appreciate the heart? Allowing positive emotions like gratitude and compassion to be present in our daily experiences is one way we can appreciate and care for our hearts. Letting yourself deeply feel positive emotions will serve your heart well and impact the overall function of your human body as well as enhance your human experience. For some of us, this may come naturally; but others of us may have fallen prey to the clutches of negative emotions. Actually, it happens to most of us from time to time. When this happens, how can we make the transition from living in negative emotions to engaging with the positive? Begin without judgment and with self-compassion to consciously choose one positive emotion to engage with and develop. Many studies indicate that gratefulness can significantly impact our lives. If you choose to start with gratefulness, seek out what you are grateful for and attend to this emotion daily. Sit with it; get to know it. Begin to recognize gratefulness in yourself and others as it grows deeper into your consciousness. Gratitude can be the ground in which seeds of other positive emotions can be planted and grown to then nourish your experiences and your life.
Other ways of caring for our hearts include engaging in healthy relationships; participating in exercise, movement and activity; getting adequate rest; practicing strategies to manage stress; nourishing our hearts through proper nutrition and hydration; and balancing work and play. Then, there is simply acknowledging the significance we place on the heart, as evidenced through our language. We speak to and want to get to “the heart of the matter” and seek our “heart’s desire” with passion. We speak of being “heartbroken” and of having an “aching heart” over the loss of someone or something we love. People can be “heartless” or “close to our heart” and we can intend to have our “heart in the right place.” We may even have a “heart to heart” conversation with a best friend and “pour our heart out.”
One final and powerful example of caring for our hearts is through the act of meditation--specifically, of meditating on your heart. During your meditation, as you bring your awareness inward, guide your focus to your heart. Just notice the space where it is held within your body and simply begin to increase this awareness. Maybe you notice a softness in the space or perhaps a hardness that was unexpected. Whatever you notice, be present with non-judgement and compassion. Don’t try to change it; simply notice it. As you sit with this awareness, place your hands lovingly over your heart space and take an easeful breath. As you breathe in, allow a sense of gratitude to stir in and around your heart. Stay with that full sense of gratitude and allow it to expand into the rest of your body and all around you. Continue to explore your heart in whatever way presents itself while you sit in sacred, quite meditation. Be still and listen for the wisdom your heart holds for you and know that this practice of heart awareness is a resource that is always there for you!
The practice of expanding awareness of your heart can create new experiences and inspired beliefs. As you begin to engage with your heart and other parts of your body, sensations and awarenesses will arise that have the power to transform your life. I hope you will join me as I continue to explore the value and contribution of other parts of our bodies through a series of articles and workshops. Next, the journey will take us to body parts that likely gets the least recognition for their essential role: our feet. One step at a time, we will explore, appreciate and learn to value the contributions our feet have given to our life experiences and how they navigate the path we take to follow the true beat of our heart.
Patti Iwer works as an occupational therapist in Johns Island, South Carolina, and holds additional certifications in somatic therapy, LSVT and Reiki. She is the owner of Wellness Rising Integrative Healthcare and co-owner of Island Pediatric Therapy. Patti specializes in dementia care, pain management, rehabilitation and normal development throughout the lifespan.