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Natalie Lane Eden, LLC

Fully licensed Faith-Based Clinical Counseling

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (Illinois)

Licensed Professional Counselor (Pennsylvania)

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A Faithful Person's Prescription to Overcoming Procrastination.

Posted on August 13, 2013 at 4:11 PM Comments comments (0)


Recently I ran across a 5-step prescription for beating procrastination (Burns, Ten Days to Self-esteem, 1989):

1.       Don’t put the cart before the horse.  Instead of waiting for motivation, get started.  Action comes first, and motivation comes second.
2.       Make a specific plan.  Instead of telling yourself you’ll get started one of these days, make a specific plan.  Would you like to start today?  At what time?  What will you do first?
3.       Make the job easy (little steps for big feats).  Instead of telling yourself you have to do it all at once, decide to do just 10 or 15 minutes of the task.  Break the task into small steps, and remind yourself that you only have to take the first small step today.
4.       Think positively.  Write down the negative thoughts that make you feel guilty and anxious; substitute others that more positive and realistic.
5.       Give yourself credit. 

On the surface, the process above seems plausible enough.   Upon further examination, however for those desiring a faith-based approach, there are a few important issues left unaddressed.  Here is a revised “ faith-based” list of steps to overcoming procrastination:

1.       Pray before even attaching the cart to the horse.  Ask for God’s guidance and the ability to discern His will for the situation.  Be willing to have an open heart for whatever the solution might be.  God has three answers:  “Yes”, “no”, and “not yet”.  Most of us have problems with the “no” and the “not yet.”

2.       Follow God’s plan.  At first, praying and waiting might seem to only add to the procrastination.  A priest once told me, “God is slow.”  I was taken aback by such a statement but the more I meditated on it, the more I realized the issue at hand:  God is not bound by time, everything happens as the Word speaks.  Desiring our answers yesterday, our finite small brains have a tendency to measure and magnify each second as we occupy this universe.  But the truth of the matter is that even if we have to wait the duration of our entire life it is but a speck when viewed in the Light of Eternity.

3.       God makes the job easier.  I agree that we do have to take little steps, especially if we are children of God.  A baby doesn't learn to walk by first running.  We can take comfort in knowing that we have a Heavenly Father and Mother who can catch us if we happen to fall along the way.  A big component to why people procrastinate is fear of failure.  If we allow God to come with us on the journey, we don’t need to fear failing.  This is what taking a leap of faith is all about.

4.       Think guilt-free.  Are there are any sins obstructing your path?  Remember, there is nothing that a good Confession cannot take care of.  The best way to have an open heart to God’s voice is to clean that heart of any junk that may have accumulated.

5.       Give God the credit.  Remember, humility is not putting oneself down.  It is realizing who you are in light of God’s creation.  Praise God for whatever the result might be.  In everything do your best with whatever grace is given to you. Be at peace in leaving the outcome to God.  Even if that outcome on the surface appears to be less than optimal.

Surely, I wait for the LORD; who bends down to me and hears my cry… Blessed the man who sets his security in the LORD, who turns not to the arrogant or to those who stray after falsehood.You, yes You, O LORD, my God, have done many wondrous deeds! And in your plans for us there is none to equal you. (Psalms 40:2, 5-6).

Is it possible to be "self-less?"

Posted on March 10, 2013 at 8:54 AM Comments comments (0)
 
 
DO IT ANYWAY
 
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  
Forgive them anyway.
 If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  
Be kind anyway.
 If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. 
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. 
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. 
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. 
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. 
Give your best anyway.
 In the final analysis, it is between you and God. 
It was never between you and them anyway.
 
(This poem is inscribed on the wall of Blessed Mother Theresa’s children’s home in Calcutta, India.   She and the Missionaries of Charity have made it popular.   Mother Theresa is credited to have revised it from an original poem by Kent M. Keith.  Mother Theresa’s version here is obtained from http://prayerfoundation.org/mother_teresa_do_it_anyway.htm)
 
Definition of charity
I used to think that the word charity meant welfare or a service organization.  Dictionary.com defines charity as “generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless;” “something given to persons, a person or persons in need;” “alms;” “a charitable act or work;”  “a charitable fund, foundation or institution;” “benevolent feeling especially toward those in need or in disfavor.”  So when doing my taxes more charitable organizations always seemed like good news to me.
 
It wasn’t until journeying into my faith that I discovered that the word for charity also carries huge spiritual significance.  Charity, a theological virtue, is synonymous with love.  According to the Catholic Encyclopedia charity is defined as:  “a divinely infused habit, inclining the human will to cherish God for His own sake above all things, and man for the sake of God.”
 
So essentially, the true spiritual significance of charity centers on God as the source, the reason, and the end result.  Charity’s origin is by divine infusion in that it is a gift from God. Charity’s seat is in the human will.  Although sometimes tempered by emotions, charity is essentially an act of the rational will and is not to be confused with our passions. Charity is a specific act and is an outgrowth of one’s relationship to God that spills out to others.  Ultimately charity comes from God who is love.
 
So then are we ever really self-less?
I have often heard it said that no matter what we do, at the heart of it there is some motive for selfish gain. Whether it be for additional deductions on one’s tax return, respect from one’s peers and the community, and/or a cushy seat in heaven next to Jesus. Even I have heard some people say that heaven doesn’t sound like that much fun if it involves sitting on clouds playing harps or praying the rosary all day.  Honestly, heaven probably isn’t very much fun if one doesn’t care about ever loving God.  However, I have heard it say that hell is a state of complete absence of love. Something to think about, especially if God = love!!
 
St. Bernard and the four levels of love
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, in his classic work On Loving God, describes different levels of charity that a person can achieve in his or her own spiritual journey.
 
The first degree of love is a person loves him or herself for his or her own sake.This is based on a person being unable to see beyond anything but him or herself.  This is a selfish type of love and can be largely materialistic and narcissistic.
 
The second degree of love is a person loves God for his or her own benefit. This is where one might turn to God to save one’s own neck out of desperation. This relationship is based on what God can do for a person.
 
The third degree of love is that a person loves God for God’s sake.  A person starts to see God for more than just a benefactor but starts to get caught up in awe and the “taste and see that the Lord is good”. This person sees God for who He is and not just what can be obtained.
 
The fourth degree of love is that person loves him or herself for the sake of God.  This one is the most difficult to understand and usually is not obtainable while on this earth and in this life.  St. Bernard states:  “I would say that a man is blessed and holy to whom it is given to experience this sort, so rare in life, even if it be but once and for the space of a moment.” This is indeed the level where one is indeed free from all selfishness. One loves oneself in God.  I personally notice that it is very interesting that the ultimate goal is to be able to love oneself in God.  This really speaks to how much God really loves each one of us!  Self love is good when it is through love of God.
 
Charity is almsgiving
When does love of God become love of neighbor?  In this season of lent we focus on almsgiving which is an outpouring of charity for others from our love for God.
 
 After all, God is Love (1 John 4:8).

Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes Brings a Big Announcement

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 11:39 AM Comments comments (1)
Pope Benedict XVI at Easter Mass in 2012.  My family and I had the opportunity to attend this.Today, February 11 is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes.  The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes marks the observance of the World Day of the Sick.  This celebration is a reminder to pray for the sick and to recognize for all those who work in health care and serve as caregivers.
 
But today also marks a milestone in the history of our Church, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has taken today Feb. 11, which also precedes the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, to make the announcement of his resignation :  “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.” (Context of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation).
 
Decision was an act of humility through the guidance of the Holy Spirit
 
No doubt Pope Benedict’s decision was made after much prayer and discernment of the will of God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We might never know the complete dynamics of Pope Benedict’s decision, but nonetheless it was an act that took a lot of humility on the part of the Holy Father.
 
I like the quote of Sr. Mary Theresa of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist that appeared on facebook: “Pope John Paul II remained in office so that he might show us how to suffer and how to die. Pope Benedict XVI is leaving the Papal Office so that he might show us how to live in humble honesty.”
 
It is not by chance that the Holy Father chose February 11 which marks the World Day of the Sick and Suffering.  This is the anniversary of the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette in a little grotto in the Pyrenees Mountains of France in 1858.  At that time, no one understood how and why the Blessed Virgin Mary would appear to a 14-year-old uneducated shepherdess.  However, the Blessed Virgin Mary ended up appearing to St. Bernadette 18 times.  Thousands of people witnessed the apparitions where many healings and miracles occurred.
 
 At one time the Blessed Virgin Mary told St. Bernadette to bathe and drink from an unknown spring which was hidden under the ground.  At first Bernadette dug into the dirt and ended up being ridiculed as she became covered in mud.  However, eventually the water started to run clear.  Since that time the spring has been continually flowing.  On the Feast of the Annunciation, The Blessed Virgin Mary announced her name to St. Bernadette:  “I am the Immaculate Conception.”  These events led to the veneration of Mary in Lourdes which has become a place of prayer, pilgrimage, conversion, and healing.
 
On change and transition
 
Most of us don’t like change.  Transitions often involve saying goodbye to an old way of doing things and stepping into the unknown.  In spite of how much we might dislike change, it is the only way that we can progress in our journey and sometimes this involves discovery what God might have in store for us in the road ahead. It takes a great deal of humility and courage to follow the guidance of the Holy Spiril, even when such might not appear popular on the surface.
 
My family and I have had the opportunity to visit Lourdes, France twice.  The first was on a pilgrimage to France in 2004.  The second was before I started my studies in clinical psychology in 2008 which was the 150 anniversary of the apparitions.   We have also been able to attend Masses celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI on two occasions.  The last was Easter Sunday Mass in 2012.  I am thankful for the opportunity to have been able to do this with my family.
Remember the sick on this feast day.  Remember our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.  Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for each one of us and especially the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.

On the Tragic Loss of a Child: The Feast of the Holy Innocents

Posted on December 28, 2012 at 10:34 AM Comments comments (1)
The Feast of the Holy Innocents
 
A person that loses a partner is called a widow.
A child who loses a parent is called an orphan.
But there is no word to describe a parent that loses a child,
Because the loss is like no other. ..”
(Paraphrased from “An Orphan’s Tale, by J. Neugeboren, 1976)
 
Parental grief
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the loss of innocent children, particularly in light of the mass shootings in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. There are no words to describe the grief that a parent experiences after the loss of any child. We cannot possibly fathom what such a person might be feeling. And often it is not only the parents, but other family members, friends, and sometimes even strangers. We have little defense in coping with the loss of an innocent child. Some say that the pain lives with them the rest of their life while here on earth. It does not matter what age the child is, whether a fetus or a full-grown adult. There is still grief. Many who have suffered a miscarriage can testify that the emotional pain is very real.
 
On loss
When someone experiences a loss, they go through all types of different emotions. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, popularized the five stages of grief. Her model lists them as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. And not everyone goes through all of them or even in that order. In fact some might not even go through any of the stages at all. Each person’s experience of this type of suffering is unique. If this is the case, then what good is a theory? It gives us a template from which to work and somewhat of a ballpark idea of what one might be going through.
 
Being able to forgive the unforgivable?
Getting over a loss from a tragedy or murder is wrought with additional trials because it involves a pain that is the result of something that is perceived to have been done unjustly. It is natural to feel angry at such. However what makes the major difference and leads to the greatest healing is how one chooses to deal with that anger. Some might feel that seeking revenge or getting even brings satisfaction. However, God’s way to heal the hurt is through forgiveness. We might ask ourselves, how can one ever forgive someone who has done what seems to be the unforgivable? It might be easier to think of a perpetrator who has committed such a crime to be a horrible, nasty, evil, and even less than human. But the fact of the matter is that such a person is actually a human being. Such a person is actually someone who is wounded, hurt, weak, immature, ill, and/or spiritually blind –for whatever reason. Just like each one of us. While it is true that not every person who has imperfections is a mass murderer, we all can see clearly that someone who kills innocent children might not have their elevator connecting on all floors. They are deeply wounded.
 
Fr. Anthony de Mello, S. J. is quoted as saying “people who hurt are asleep. If they were to wake up they would never behave like that.” (Obtained from “How to Forgive Yourself and Others”, by Fr. Eamon Tobin) Which echoes what Jesus said when He was dying on the Cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:4)”.
 
I have heard people turn their anger towards God. Some people might conclude that God doesn’t care about them when terrible things happen. There are no easy answers to what happens to any of us while on our journey and in this life on earth. Even non-Christians would agree that this world is full of anxiety and suffering. The worse approach however is breaking our relationship with God and deliberately abandoning prayer. However, if we are Christian, we know that God the Father did not even spare the Cross from His own Son, Jesus. And whether or not we are Catholic we can cling to the redemptive value inherent in suffering. There is a lot of meaning in the saying, “offer it up.” I only wish I had realized this sooner in my own life.
 
The Feast of the Holy Innocents
The Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents this week during the Octave of Christmas. This Feast remembers the little babies and children of Bethlehem who were slaughtered by King Herod. In the history of the early Church, these helpless little infants were the first persons to shed blood for the sake of Jesus and as such are known as martyrs. The Scripture repeats the prophesy from the Old Testament: ”Ramah is heard the sound of moaning, of bitter weeping! Rachel mourns her children, she refuses to be consoled, because her children are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15-16).
 
These children of Bethlehem did nothing to deserve their demise. And there are likewise so many innocent unborn and born children who die from various causes known and unknown. It can be said that there is an army of children in heaven. Knowing that these little angels have a soul in eternity can be a great source of consolation and hope.
 
Being able to heal from the pain is a grace from God
Being able to forgive and get over such a loss obviously takes a lot of time, patience, humility and prayer. It is not easy and to think such would be misleading. Taking the step towards forgiveness is actually an act of the will and healing of the hurt most often comes later. This is why often when someone has decided to forgive the feelings of hurt can still emerge even much later down the line. To still feel the pain doesn’t mean that one has not forgiven. One does not have to repress their anger and hurt. It is actually healthy to be able to admit that one is mad and extremely upset. The difference is when one decides to forgive regardless of the hurt. The grace of healing from the pain most of the time comes much later. It is a difficult journey and a tough Cross to carry but can be overcome by the grace of God. This is why prayer is so important throughout the process.
 
Know when to seek counseling
Sometimes the pain is so deep that it cannot be dealt with alone and a person might need professional help from a counselor and/or a spiritual guide. Just as someone needs help to cure a physical illness, it is wise to know when to seek out counseling. Help is warranted when someone has been unable to perform normal daily activities for an extended period of time. What is considered “normal daily activities” and “an extended period of time” can vary from person to person. But in general, a major change from one’s usual activity level can be a warning sign.
 
Isn’t abortion a loss too?
No one ever wants to lose a child. Or do they? According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 22% of all pregnancies end in abortion in the United States (National Vital Statistics Reports, April 6, 2010). The most common reasons cited for abortion include not feeling emotionally or financially capable of raising a child and fear that a child would drastically change one’s life. But still thousands of women who have actually gone through with an abortion still experience loss and its effects have a negative impact on their life. There are websites such as www.silentnomoreawareness.org and www.afterabortion.org where women and men share their stories. The fetus is a life and any mother can tell you that the maternal bond is formed very early in the womb.

After a Tragedy: Helping Your Family Cope with Anxiety and Stress

Posted on December 18, 2012 at 4:21 PM Comments comments (3)
(The following was obtained from information obtained from PEP, the Parent Encouragement Program, located in Kensington, Maryland in the Washington, DC area.  This organization's focus is helping parents to develop parenting skills.)
 
“After a tragedy like today’s school shooting, parents are frequently faced with the dual challenges of having to manage their own stresses and anxieties while at the same time trying to do their best for their children. As we support our children, we must not forget to get the support that we need, too. We hope that you will find the following information and tips useful to you, not just in the immediate days ahead, but also throughout your parenting life. Don’t expect to eliminate all stress and anxiety from your life, it’s not possible and such an expectation will only increase your anxieties.
 
Your own behavior: Model for your children healthy ways to react to stress. Maintain an optimistic and positive outlook. Consciously focus on taking care of yourself and your family. Don’t isolate yourselves; keep up your social connections. Make sure you include humor in your life; engage in playful activities and listen to favorite comedians or watch comedies. Don’t neglect physical activity. Learn and practice relaxation and calming techniques. Parents play a powerful role with their children in stressful times. There are things that we do that can help children handle stress better, as well as things that may contribute to the child’s distress. It is helpful to children when adults are interested in them, respectful, and appropriately affectionate. Parents should be supportive even when correcting their children. It is NOT helpful to children when they experience their parents as being demanding, controlling, or critical of the child or other adults. Children who feel that their parents are inadequate or out of control have increased anxiety. Likewise, parents who are overprotective or disengaged from their children add to their children’s stress levels.
 
"Move children towards helping others: Shift the focus from children's natural anxiety towards what they can do for others. When they are working to help others, their own worries diminish in importance. It is empowering to children when their parents both see them as being able to contribute and provide them with opportunities for contribution. Altruism can be related to the current situation or involve doing something for the family, school or community.
 
"Limit media exposure: Carefully consider whether children should be watching the news coverage, as it may contain unsettling footage. This can be very frightening to young children. Older children are capable of understanding what is in the news and even following it closely. However, be careful that they don’t become too preoccupied with it. If so, a “news watching allowance” might be in order. Don’t forget that they are still children. If you want to keep up with the news, consider using earphones, or catch the evening wrap-up when the children have gone to bed.
 
"Be available: Your children need you more than usual now, be sure to set aside time for them. Be flexible and allow time to address situations and concerns as they arise. Be sure to be especially loving and affectionate at these times. Remember to touch children in a warm, loving and appropriate ways. Hugs, caresses, back rubs, or brushing hair are deeply calming and reassuring to children who may be feeling unsettled but unsatisfied by all the talking. Plan and carry out family-based activities that will calm the children, such as cooking and eating together, or offering warm baths with bubbles. When anxiety is running high, encourage children to use art (drawing, clay modeling, collage) to express their emotions. Older children may want to draw or journal
their feelings.
 
"Communicate: Remember that children are good observers but poor interpreters. They take in everything they see, but interpret their observations based on their own experiences and knowledge. It’s up to parents to interpret what is happening for their children. Respectfully clarify their misunderstandings and correct their misconceptions. Present information in honest, age appropriate ways. Keep them talking about what they are hearing and seeing and - don’t forget – feeling. Listen closely to fears and concerns, respect what they have to say. Don’t assume that silence means lack of interest, but also don’t force the discussion if the child is not receptive. If children are feeling anxious, ask them what the family could do to help them feel more secure. It is always helpful to do something, it makes one feel more powerful. Talk with them about how children can support each other.
 
"Maintain routine: Keep to the daily routine as much as possible. Don’t let the natural anxiety of this situation run your life. Use family meetings to discuss concerns, support each other and plan how to help others. Schedule things for the family to do together. This could mean family fun or family tasks, such as cooking.
 
"Observe your child: Watch for symptoms of heightened anxiety... This can happen to people of all ages, but children need special care to help them through it. Pay special attention at bedtimes. Bedtimes need to be reassuring, and parents should consider an increase in transition time, storytelling and book reading to get the nighttime off to a good start. Secondary reactions may emerge such as fear of leaving the house or going to school. Use reflective listening to talk them out in advance. Anxiety and stress may trigger acting-out. Discriminate between misbehaviors resulting from anxiety or stress as opposed to those that come from the usual mistaken goals, and tailor your response accordingly. Remember that you are training your children in the life skills of coping with frightening world events—first, last and always: ENCOURAGE!
 
(As a faith-based counseling approach, I would add prayer to the list.  This involves modeling prayer and Church attendance for your children, as well as engaging in times of family prayer together.  Help them to see that God is our source of help through tough times.  Being genuine in your faith is the best way to communicate God's love. )
 

Are You Feeling Overwhelmed with the Busy-ness of this Upcoming Season?

Posted on November 16, 2012 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)
It is a tough time of the year in terms of having too much to get done in a very little time frame.  In addition to the responsibilities of daily life, there are also the seasonal demands of preparing for Thanksgiving and then Christmas. It seems that theses celebrations have evolved into much more than just sitting around and waiting.  In fact, it can become quite overwhelming trying to juggle shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, wrapping, mailing, donating, finishing or preparing for exams, working, partying, catching up with friends and family, and participating in religious services and holy days of obligation.  Thank goodness most of us modern people don’t have to kill and pluck the Christmas goose, but every year tasks seem more and more demanding.  One might wonder if the earth is truly rotating faster.  The reality is that it might be my own head that is spinning.  With all of these tasks at hand, it can seem next to impossible to maintain a prayerful attitude and to focus on the “real reason for the season.”  In fact, in many ways all of this busy-ness seems downright counter-intuitive.  Here are a few suggestions on how to get it all done and survive.
 
Prioritize
First of all determine whether getting it all done is even necessary in the first place.  What is essential and what is unnecessary activity?  Some of us might set unrealistic expectations for ourselves.  Is it really important to get those 200+ hand-signed Christmas cards out before December 25?  I do have to say that I have enjoyed reading those greetings that have arrived a few days and even weeks later.  In fact, in the tradition of the Catholic Church Christmas season doesn’t start until Christmas Day.  The days leading up to December 25 are actually Advent.  Traditionally the season ends 40 days later with the Feast of the Presentation which is in February!
 
On Planning Ahead
Does knowing that Christmas doesn’t really begin until December 25 now spoil any of your efforts to plan ahead?  It is true that the retail stores can have us out and about shopping for Christmas on Halloween.  The office Christmas party might be in November.  Teachers will need gifts before the end of the school term.  And we desire to have something substantial and special to munch on for Thanksgiving and then again on Christmas Day.  So there is a certain amount of valid frantic activity and less excuse for procrastination.  Some things are necessary.  Even the Blessed Virgin Mary traveled to the hill country in haste (NAB, Luke 1:39) to visit Elizabeth.  This leads to the next point.
 
Anticipate Changes in Plans
Be flexible.  Even the best formulated plans can be slammed with an unanticipated interruption.  A surprise blizzard can make travel difficult and risky.  People can get the flu.  There could be a census and one gets called to Bethlehem.   Having preconceived ideas about how one’s celebrations “should be”  sets oneself up for disappointment.  Be careful when thinking in terms that contain “but we always…or “what it should be like”.  Accept the situation for what it is even if a party means just you and the cat this year.  Turn change into an opportunity.  This leads to the next point.
 
Know When to Reach out to Others
Instead of trying to take on the whole Christmas season by oneself, know when and what responsibilities can be delegated to others.  Share cooking parts of a meal.  Do not make dozens of cookies if you plan on eating them all by yourself.  Ask someone to do a favor and return a favor.  Volunteer.  Remember those who cannot get out and are home bound.  The liturgical season is not meant to spend the entire time alone.  Going to services not only gets one out of the house, but also gives one the opportunity to participate in the celebration of this Holy Season.  Remember that the word Christmas is made up of both Christ and Mass.  The highest and foremost is that one can pray and give thanksgiving for this past year and the future.  This leads to another point.
 
Take Time to Smell the Roses
Even if there are no roses, find some.  Do whatever it takes for you stop in the midst of your busy-ness to meditate, contemplate, and to find focus.  Being able to take time out of the day to pray and being mindful of God can help gain a clearer perspective on your situation.  This may mean simplifying.  It is as basic as remembering that God loves you.  Psalm states:
 
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust. (NAB, Ps. 33:20-21).
 
After all in the Season of Advent and we are waiting for God.  Or is God waiting for you?  The final point is:
 
Practice What You Preach.
Actually I have been so busy that it has taken me until now to write this blog!  And if no one reads this — then I am truly writing to myself! 
God bless you all and take it easy!

The Cry for Help: Tips on Seeking Counseling

Posted on October 28, 2012 at 5:33 PM Comments comments (0)
The squeaky wheel gets the oil.
 
Common fears and misconceptions about seeking help
 
Initiating counseling is a very big step for most people. In fact it is very common to have some apprehension about seeking professional help with personal issues. There are concerns about whether or not treatment is done with compassion and respect. Fear of experiencing shame, ridicule, and humiliation can be an inhibiting factor. They wonder if the counselor will treat them with unconditional positive regard and be non-judgmental. Some have anxiety about the social stigmata associated with mental health issues and have serious questions about confidentiality. Another person might believe that their situation is so unique that no one on this earth has ever had to deal with such issues. On the other hand, there are those that might think that their circumstances are not that significant and hope for eventual resolution with no type of intervention. There are some who feel that in asking for help they are a bother, a nuisance,or that they might be a disruption to the status quo. They might wonder if counseling is really worth the time. Finally, there are those who don’t know how to go about getting the help that they need.
 
Getting help is a sign of strength not weakness
 
Mustering up the motivation to seek help is a significant step. It is actually part of the healing process. This is not just because it is the very first step. Asking for help shows a level of commitment for change. It is actually a sign of strength and a good indicator for future healing. Let’s just say that the person who goes to counseling with a willing and open heart has a better prognosis for healing than the one who goes into it kicking and screaming.This is not only intuitive but also backed up by studies. One has to want to be helped.
 
Compassionate and well-trained professionals
 
Most counselors and therapists, if not all, go into the field out of a desire to help others. Many have a deep well of compassion and sincere concern for the well-being of their clients. Counselors are trained extensively in the principles of ethics. In order to obtain a state license they are committed to abiding by the rules of confidentiality, client privacy, and rights. Counselors are required to study diversity which involves a lot of focus on treating persons from various cultures and orientations. This is because everyone on the planet is different. All counselors and clients have unique personalities and backgrounds that they bring to the process. Just as there are no two people exactly alike (even twins are different), every counselor using the same theoretical approaches will end up putting a personal spin to it.
 
On the other hand, people are not so different that counselors cannot find similarities. No one’s problems are too big or too small. Everyone has issues. Think about it. Is there anyone who truly has it all together? This is not talk about characters from movies, popular television programs, or novels. Is there anyone who in real life does not have challenges?  Life is a journey with hills and valleys. No one is unscathed from trials. Even the picture perfect family has issues scratching below the surface.
 
A person is not a diagnosis
 
One concern about the counseling process is with labeling a person with a disorder. In fact, some therapeutic approaches to counseling avoid diagnosing altogether. If done haphazardly the diagnostic process itself can indeed pathologize a person. Some clients have concern about diagnoses on their medical charts following them throughout their entire lives. Insurance companies require diagnostic labels for payment. However, such information given to a third party is protected property as there are specific laws pertaining to patient privacy and confidentiality. Obviously counselors that do not accept insurance reimbursement in most cases have fewer parties involved with a client’s personal information. Whatever the situation, it is important to remember that a client is not a diagnosis. A person with depression or anxiety has just as much dignity as a person with a heart disease or high blood pressure. A person would never be labeled a heart attack or a hypertensive. Neither should one be called a manic or a schizophrenic.
 
Some not so obvious ways people go about asking for help
 
There are many ways that people might go about asking for help. While some do actually scream for it, many do it nonverbally. They drop clues and ask in ways that are not so obvious. Children often beg for help by acting out and/or misbehaving. This is because unconsciously they discover that attention for negative activity is better than no attention at all.  Some teens and young adults might show a dramatic change in their behavior for the worse.  A previously good student might suddenly start failing most subjects in school. A person who is previously outgoing and talkative might become significantly introverted and reserved. Someone who is usually calm might become more easily agitated or have frequent crying episodes. Or a person might appear to be unrealistically happy. It is common for some to deny they need any help. Or another might have trouble just asking.
 
An example of motivation and being persistent for change
 
This Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 10:46-52) features a man who is insistent on getting the help that he needs.  Bartimeaus is a blind man and a beggar. Upon hearing that Jesus was near, Bartimeaus shouts, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me”.  Others tell him to be quiet but this causes the blind man to shout even louder and to be even more persistent and annoying to those around him. As a result the Gospel reads:  “Jesus said to him in reply, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man replied to Him, ’Master, I want to see.’  Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Him on the way.”
 
The squeaky wheel gets the oil
 
This passage is probably among the best examples of someone being motivated for change. Bartimeaus persisted in spite of the discouragement of others. And his efforts got results. Ever hear of the saying that the squeaky wheel always get the oil?  He didn’t allow his life circumstances to hold him back.  He asked, he sought, he knocked on the door, and “he threw aside his cloak,” for help.  His healing was so life changing that upon receiving his sight, Bartimeaus “followed Him along the way.” His old cloak was left in the dust.
 
I wonder how many of us are blind or in need of insight but are found weighed down by misconceptions, circumstances, and inhibitions?  An important piece of this Gospel account that cannot be overlooked is the role that Bartimaeaus’ faith played in his recovery. Bartimeaus surrendered himself blindly to Jesus. He abandoned himself in order to obtain help. “Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has healed you.’  Jesus’ healing was such that it made Bartimeaus whole, not only physically but also spiritually and emotionally.
 
A lot can be learned from the humble cries of this blind beggar

Beyond Lives of Quiet Desperation: Moving from Surviving and Coping to Really Thriving

Posted on October 23, 2012 at 8:39 AM Comments comments (3)
(c) Bernard Eden.  A peaceful setting in Hawaii.  Thriving means being content in whatever situation we might find ourselves.  Thriving is also taking time to be in wonder at nature and in awe of God.
 
 
What is it to really thrive?
 
Do you feel as though life has been passing you by? Are you waiting for your ship to come in? Do you find yourself asking if this is all there is to life?
 
Not long ago I was flipping through channels on the television when I chanced upon a point in a program where someone was saying that his or her objective in life was much more than just survival and coping with circumstances. This person wanted to really thrive. What is it to really thrive? This struck a chord with me and is something that I have been meditating on for quite a while.
 
Surviving.
 
Many go throughout life in what might be termed as the survival mode. Henry David Thoreau famously once wrote that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” They chug along just doing the best that they can with what they can get. Focus is on obtaining basic physiological needs such as food, water, shelter, sex, and safety. These are very real issues for everyone but especially for those who live in or on the brink of poverty, unemployment, and/or underemployment. This also pertains to those who are trying to live in spite of physical challenges and health issues.
 
Fight or flight. When the threat of danger approaches, our bodies are naturally wired for fight or flight.This goes back to day of the cave man where surviving an encounter with a saber-toothed tiger meant either slaying the beast or running away.  In either instance the adrenaline is flowing, the heart is racing, the senses are on alert, and the blood pressure is up.  Although no one today has face-to-face encounters with live prehistoric creatures; many still have modern wild dinosaurs that emerge in the course of everyday life that trigger the old fight or flight response. This is sometimes conscious, but most often it is unconscious. Usually there are no physical monsters at all just things and circumstances that are reminiscent of them. Life in the big city is full of stimuli that bombard that senses.  Anything that seems like the saber-toothed tiger triggers the physiological fight or flight. 
In addition, when an immediate threat is over many have great difficulty returning to their baseline relaxation state.They have trouble turning off the fight or flight switch. A perceived danger can swing a person into overdrive quicker than the brain can mentally process. Over time a person can become more and more broken down physically, psychologically, and even spiritually. Anxiety attacks prevail. An extreme form of this may take on characteristics similar to Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).
 
Withdrawal and avoidance. There are other types of fight or flight responses that a person might fall into. A person might become combative, irritable, and/or have difficulty managing anger. Another manifestation is seen in a person who might try to avoid anything perceived as a stressor, or to flee from anxieties. Some might even withdraw altogether in relationships and have difficulty making decisions, commitments, and evade responsibilities.
 
Psychological needs. In addition to the physical needs, there are some very real psychological needs and challenges as well. Psychologists have shown that the needs of love, belongingness, self-esteem, respect, achievement, and meaning are sometimes even more essential than food.
  
Spiritual needs. There are also spiritual needs of which some people literally starve themselves.  A person can have everything in terms of material possessions, fame, and fortune but yet still be very empty inside. They build bigger and bigger warehouses to hold all of their goods to no avail. In the Gospel of Luke (12:15) Jesus gives the warning, Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
 
Developing coping skills.
Many seek out counseling in an effort to develop coping skills superior to the old intrinsic fighting or fleeing behaviors and to stop their biological systems from physically going into overdrive. Coping skills help a person transition from being a victim to taking control over their circumstances.
 
Addictions.  The survival mode can get out of balance and result in less than optimal coping skills. Addictive behaviors can happen when a person tries to self-medicate to deaden or heighten their senses, to be avoidant, to flee from circumstances, to find meaning, to obtain comfort, to relieve boredom, and/or to just satisfy curiosity.  Studies have shown that such attempts at self-soothing behavior can be both conscious and unconscious.  Addictions do not always take the form of drugs, but also can be manifested in terms of behaviors. Sex addictions, shopping, and gambling are common examples of activities that produce artificial highs and a false sense of coping.
 
Chemical imbalances.   Some persons through no fault of their own might experience chemical imbalances. A common example is what happens when a person might have swings in blood sugar with hunger. They might become easily irritated and impatient due to changes in insulin in their body. There are others that are biologically predisposed to overdrinking and over indulging. Some might seek comfort through overeating. However there are also those who engage in not eating at all. Though not in every case, cigarette smoking and marijuana usage has been linked to people challenged with serious psychological conditions and mental illness.  Such persons could indeed be searching for balance and trying to find a more optimal way to get through their lives. Although from a diagnostic standpoint, it is a gray area of whether substance abuse causes mental illness, is a form of escape from psychological distress, both, or neither. One sure thing is that an addiction doesn’t make things any better in the long or even short run. In psychology it is common that those who fight some sort of addiction also have a comorbid condition or conditions. By comorbid  a person has more than one diagnosis complicating  their emotional health picture.
 
Thriving.
 
Life is a journey.  That journey involves peaks and valleys. It also involves running into and away from monsters.  But at the same time it would be nice to realize that we can do more than just survive and cope through life.  We are more than victims in the jungle.  We can thrive. Thriving implies growing and making progress.  Interestingly, one can be on the brink of death and still thrive. One can be physically starving and still thrive.  A person who has been in the valley of addictions can still rebound to thrive. Everyone has encountered at least one person in his or her life that is a blessing to others through their suffering. This is what testimonies are made of.  We don’t have to look too far to find a Savior who was crucified, died, and was resurrected.
 
What is thriving?  Thriving is an attitude and a state of the soul. It is learning how to be content with whatever state we might find ourselves.  Sure, everyone wants to be happy. Everyone wants peace. But many confuse happiness with pleasure and crumble in the midst of a storm. It is being able to appreciate and value the joy and love that can be found in relationships with others. It is taking the time to have wonder at the beauty of the natural world around us. It is being in awe of God. It is rising above the flight or fight response.  Sometimes it means calmly standing up to the saber-toothed tiger with complete confidence. It does not mean being the biggest or the greatest. Often it means being the most humble. This sounds next to impossible, doesn’t it?  But we have to remember that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).
 
Tools for thriving. Prayer and participation in the Sacraments are essential for thriving. We can obtain grace from these things. Grace is participation in the life of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1997). Unfortunately many have imposed spiritual starvation upon themselves. In the medical world, a baby that refuses to eat is labeled as having “failure to thrive.” We are more than animals that are fighting and fleeing creatures in the jungle.  In the spiritual life many of us are still babies and we do indeed need spiritual food to thrive. This life is not all that there is. We have souls that need to be fed and nurtured for life here in preparation for eternity.
 
Similarly tested in every way.  This past Sunday’s New Testament reading (October 21, 2012) spoke of our source of strength:  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.  So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”
 
Help comes from One who did not spare Himself from the trials and difficulties of this world but rather is a trailblazer through the storm. Jesus has said, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”  This sounds a lot like thriving to me.

For Those Having Difficulty with Prayer

Posted on October 16, 2012 at 1:41 PM Comments comments (103)
 
 
 
A saint who had a tough time in prayer
 
There is a very special Saint that sympathizes with all of those who have difficulty in prayer.  Like most of us, she experienced the distractions of everyday life, a wandering mind, hardships, boredom, challenges, and everything possible to pull her away from lifting her heart up to God.  It is hard to imagine that a saint who eventually became a spiritual Doctor of the Church once had a tough time praying.  But she did.
 
The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection
 
October 15 is the Feast Day of a Doctor of the Church and the Carmelite nun St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1585).  She is also referred to as St. Teresa of Jesus. She is known for her profound writings on prayer and the spiritual life.  Her works include her Autobiography as well as deep mystical reflections in The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection. She wrote of castles and mansions but not the type that most of us are familiar with in fairy tales.  Rather she described the castle of one’s interior heart and the soul’s journey in achieving union with God.
 
Off to Africa to get her head chopped off
 
St. Teresa was born in the Avila province of Spain on March 28, 1515. At the age of about seven, St. Teresa ran away from home with one of her brothers in hopes of going to Africa to become a martyr.  She figured that in such a way they would get to see Jesus quicker. Their plan was to seek out the Moors in order to beg for beheading. Their little adventure became short-lived after barely getting out of the neighborhood. So they attempted to become hermits in their own back yard. In the midst of these acts of piety, St. Teresa eventually grew into a typical teenager of the 1500s in that she also enjoyed reading romance novels, fashion, flirting, and parties.
   
Convent was quite the social center in her day
 
At the age of 15, St. Teresa’s mother died. She had difficulty adjusting to the death of her mother so her father sent her to live in a convent. St. Teresa actually found the nuns there to be quite the socialites and less strict than her own father. During her day, the convents were places where many women went because they had no other place to go. Their habits were worn attractively and the parlors were full of visitors that included young men.
St. Teresa considered herself to be quite the sinner. Upon taking a vocation, she tried to embrace the Carmelite order very seriously. She dedicated herself to long hours of prayer of which she felt unsuccessful for many years.  The environment of the busy convent became a hindrance for her. A likeable and popular person, she felt herself becoming easily caught up in the gossip, flattery, and social events surrounding her community.
 
Struck down with illness
 
Then she became very ill with malaria and went into a coma for several days. Many thought that she was dead and started digging her grave. After surviving this event she became paralyzed for three years and never regained perfect health. At this time she encountered even greater difficulty in being able to pray.  She was easily distracted and would come up with whatever excuses she could find not to pray.  It wasn’t until she was 41 years old that a priest convinced her to take up praying again. Gradually she progressed from being able to recollect her thoughts, to having devotions of silence, to experiencing ecstasies, visions, and spiritual union with God.  It was out of these experiences that she became a master of mystical theology and went about reforming her Carmelite order. Along with St. John of the Cross, she became the founder of the Discalced Carmelites.
 
Some of St. Teresa’s advice on prayer
 
The advice that St. Teresa gives about prayer comes out of her own personal experience. Her works, very profound and detailed, make them a challenge to describe with just a few short words. Yet, they contain simple wisdom that can be understood by anyone with childlike faith. 
 
According to St. Teresa: “Contemplative prayer [oración mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”

A Little More About Hope

Posted on October 3, 2012 at 12:15 PM Comments comments (0)
(c) 2012 Natalie Eden.  Downtown Chicago, IL
Seizing the Moment
 
If you have not already noticed, an image of downtown Chicago appears on the "location" tab of this website.  There is a little story behind that picture.  I am fond of it because I took it myself and it was one of those unanticipated occasions to take a really nice picture.  Usually I see something and by the time I am finished fiddling with my camera or I-phone, the window of opportunity has passed, like many of my failed attempts at stealing a picture of my kids or getting my cat to pose. But this time I was successful and was able to seize the moment.
 
It is only a camera phone image.  It was taken about an hour after I felt my high rise building sway.  An earthquake had hit the east coast in Virginia several hundred miles away.  That afternoon I happened to look out over the river and I saw the beautiful rainbow emerge over the city.  It was there long enough to get my camera phone.
 
What About Those Shaking Hills?
 
What a strange series of events!  And isn’t that just like life?  Rainbows remind me of God’s promises, like after the flood in the Bible.  And as such to me seems interesting that a beautiful rainbow appeared on a day when several hundred miles away the earth had been shaking.
 
Sacred Scripture Speaks of "shaken hills".
 
“Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, My love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the Lord, who has mercy on you.” (NAB, Isaiah 54:8-10).
 
God's Promises are True
 
What a beautiful promise from God and what a great source of Hope.
I know that there are lots of people right now who are struggling with some very serious issues.  In fact difficulties and crises never come at a good time.  But no time is ever a good time.  We are too busy trying to live life to have to stop to deal with a problem.  I know that there are those dealing with cancer, broken relationships, unemployment, addiction, financial hardship and many other things.  But in spite that the “hills be shaken”, God’s promises hold true. 
 
I know that no matter what we might be facing, there is a Light that shines in the darkness.  Even now as we are in Fall and soon we approach the dead of Winter, the new life is just around the corner if we can just hold out til Spring.  That is like Hope.
 
When I see this special image, it makes me say, “God bless my city.  God bless the people within it.”  There is hope for all of us.  For some reason, in my heart — I know that God’s promises are true.

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