Thanksgiving week: How gratitude can change your life

thanksgivingIt’s Thanksgiving this week. The holiday has always been a favorite for me, and not just because I love to eat. I also love the thoroughly secular opportunity that it gives Americans to express gratitude.

Gratitude is an emotion that we’re not in contact with a lot of the time. Life is hard, and even though it’s also beautiful, we’re far more likely to notice the hard bits. After all, when you feel well, you don’t tend to think about it all that much. When you fall ill is when you notice: my head hurts, my nose is running, I’m so tired, and so on. It’s only human to notice the bad more acutely than the good, especially when the good is not Peak Good. Not every day can be college graduation, your wedding day, Christmas, or winning the lottery. But when you stop to notice is, most days are pretty okay. Some of them are even deeply beautiful.

I’m not even talking about noticing the sunset, or hearing the joy in a child’s laughter, though those cliched things are important. I’m talking about simple stuff. Notice the way a fork fits in your hand, and is the perfect tool for the job. Smell how truly great coffee is when you’re stumbling down the stairs in the morning. Take a moment when you turn the key in the ignition of your car to recognize that you have a car, and can drive it anyplace you want. If you’re about to drive it to your job, take a breath of thanks that you have a job.

These little pieces of gratitude can have a dramatic effect. The science is mounting: gratitude, besides just feeling good, is wonderful for our health. It improves optimism, increases exercise, moves us toward our goals, and enhances our connection with others.

But more even than that: it connects us to ourselves, and our deepest truths. After all, what says more about what you value, about who you are, than what you are truly thankful for?

Try this, starting on Thanksgiving and going through Christmas – classically, one of the most stressful times of the year. Get a journal, if you don’t already keep one, and take two minutes each day to record something that you’re grateful for. When it is especially hard to find something, pay special attention. Give thanks for your breath. Or your feet. Or your warm bed. Or even your pain. Your sorrow. Your many-times broken heart.

Starting this Thanksgiving, see what happens to you when you open yourself to gratitude. And if you’re ready to come home to yourself, find your true desire, and transform your life, contact me for a free phone consult.

Have a wonderful holiday.

Announcing my new range of services!

Things are in continuing revision here at Power In Your Hands, but I’ve just completed a pretty good version of the page for the audience I’ve been reaching lately.

Take a look here to see my new, expanded range of services and the people I’m hoping to reach.  

While I’m still in revisions, comments are welcome.

Several new pages will be live soon; stay tuned!

More writing by me, in a new spot

I’ve been busy setting up my profile and getting some content going over at YourTango, a site that focuses on sex and relationship expertise.  My profile is right here, and so far I’ve mirrored a few of my posts from this blog to that one.

The forum is slightly different than this one: I’ll mainly be writing about the sexuality aspect of my practice there, whereas this blog will remain more broad-based.  Please, go check it out and let me know what you think, and let me know here what you’d like to see me write about there!

 

Working with Sexuality: Decoupling touch and sex

In a previous post, I mentioned how often, especially for men, touch can be linked up in their bodies with sex.  In our current society, unfortunately, we have a disordered relationship to touch.  When we are tiny children, if we are lucky, our parents and other caregivers touch us all the time.  We are carried, cuddled, rocked and patted.  But as we get older, we are touched less and less.  I remember very well when my father stopped carrying me in to bed when I would fall asleep in the car on the way home.  It felt like a terrible loss.  And in many of today’s schools, children aren’t allowed to hug each other, and teachers mustn’t touch the children at all if they can help it.

Once kids hit puberty, it’s true that touch can become complicated.  A whole new dimension is added to what touch might mean.  But prohibiting kids from touching altogether doesn’t allow them to develop the appropriate judgment and boundaries for determining what kind of touch feels safe and right to them, from whom, and at what time.

And once people are adults, the relationship with touch shifts yet again.  Women more often have access to casual, friendly touch with other women, but some do not, and as people get older and separate into isolated, nuclear family units, cuddle piles of friends tend to disappear, if they ever existed.  For men, this tends to be even more true: from puberty onward, or even earlier, boys are taught to tamp down sensitivity, to be tough, to not seek or need affection, and to play sports – the team variants of which are the only allowable outlet for men to touch each other.  (Have you ever watched a football game on TV and seen the incredible amount of butt-patting and hugging that goes on in addition to the tackling?)  As a large proportion of men and women enter exclusive relationships, get married, and have kids, their only source of loving touch comes in one of two ways: through intimate contact with their partner, or through loving contact with their small children – in the most literal way, a natural extension of that sexuality.

Never mind all of the incredible health benefits touch has been shown to have.  Even without the research, it’s fairly obvious: we are tribal monkeys at root, and what we do constantly to feel safe, comfortable, and right with ourselves and each other is to touch.  And the fact that our culture is so disconnected from that says volumes about our current sicknesses, pathologies and screwed-up behaviors as a society.

So it’s not at all surprising that when some people reach the table – whether it’s with a massage therapist, an energy healer, or a Rubenfeld Synergist, the loving, nonjudgmental touch they receive often triggers sexual feelings.  After all, there aren’t a lot of other contexts for receiving gentle, loving touch as an adult.  For women, this can be terrifying: a married woman may feel that she is being unfaithful, or that she is having inappropriate feelings, or that the healer is touching her inappropriately.  For men, it can be terrifying, too, or they – more often – may turn to inappropriate expressions of those feelings toward the healer.  For anyone, it can be confusing, can arouse feelings of shame or guilt or both, or can tap into memories of sexual abuse or incest.  For all of these reasons, touch can be like a match to dynamite, and treating it with the utmost respect is vital to the success of any treatment involving touch.

The truth continues, though, that what has happened to the body remains in the body, and must be healed in the body, as well.  Whatever trauma, abuse, neglect, memory, feeling, or story resides in the person I am touching, that thing must be eventually brought forth, and the trauma decoupled from the experience of receiving loving, non-sexual touch.  Unfortunately or not, the only cure for that is the touch itself: receiving, acclimating, and learning, little by little, that touch can be okay, that touch can be relaxing, that touch can be loving without it being about sex, that touch doesn’t have to demand anything from you, lead to anything else, hurt you, arouse you, wound you.  That you own your body, and that you can decide when and how it is touched, and by whom.

That decoupling may also be called a kind of re-pairing: taking apart allows for another kind of putting together, so that a client can pair up touch and love, touch and solace, touch and peace, instead of touch and pain, touch and sex, touch and demands.  Giving clients more options for how they might experience touch is incredibly healing, and opens up more options in their lives as well.