Category Archives: fear

Apathy, Indifference and … Hope

Last week I wrote about Hope being the antidote to Fear. But what is the antidote to Hope?

I actually hadn’t thought about this, because I believe Hope is one of those things that is ever-present. Even in the worst circumstances, there seems to be hope. For years, I’ve written about how in the darkest moments you can still find that grain of sand that is Hope… somewhere… glimmering. I believe Hope is the most powerful energy in the Universe, because it’s the only thing that remains constant in even the most awful situations. Hope restores Love when Fear has taken over.

Hope restores love

But does Hope have an Achilles heel?  And if so, what is Hope’s kryptonite?

After more tragedies in the world last week, I saw a friend post a quote on social media, and I had to pause to take it in:

“Apathy and indifference are the nails in the coffin of hope and change.” – Morley

The late Elie Wiesel said something similar:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

I had to really think about this. Are apathy and indifference the poisons that kill Hope? I wanted to write about it on that day in order to really explore my thoughts and beliefs around the topic, but I didn’t. Instead, I allowed it to simmer on a back burner as I processed the depth of its simplicity.

And then I wrote a totally different piece about my personal life and the struggle I have been facing with regard to my father’s stroke on its 10-year anniversary. (You can read it here.) That piece generated a lot of feedback, love, and support. More than I expected. But it wasn’t until I re-read it that I realized I had described the very scenario that I had simmering on a back burner.

When resignation starts to take hold, hope starts to hibernate.

Resignation, in my opinion, is a form of acceptance without choice. It’s forced. Perhaps because it’s forced, it becomes easier to adopt an attitude of indifference. In some ways, indifference can feel protective. But in other ways, it’s the indifference that opens the door to apathy. And yes, now that I’ve let it marinate for a while, I believe apathy is the antidote to Hope.

I think if Hope were in a petri dish and you doused it with indifference, it would weaken, but not dissolve. However, as the indifference grows it becomes apathy, and apathy has the potential to neutralize Hope. Kill it? No. I don’t believe so, because I think Hope is the Tardigrade of the energy world. But arrest it and prevent it from fulfilling its potential? Yes.

Why does this matter?

I think it’s important that we remember the role Hope plays in times of survival. I hold a view of life that we are always living in one of three ways:

Survive
Live
Thrive

When we are in survival mode, Hope is more important than ever. This does not mean that we diminish and trivialize what’s going on around us by optimistically (blindly?) saying “Love will win” whenever tragedy hits.

Rather, it means that we dig down deep into the nitty-gritty darkest recesses of our souls, knowing all the yuck and darkness, and still say: Love will win and then embody what that means. That’s Hope. That’s holding on to Hope, teaching Hope, speaking Hope, and living Hope.

There’s a reason that at the bottom of Pandora’s Box, after all the fear, pestilence, and misery, Hope remained. Hope resides in the darkest places. Hope resides where we need it most, and the only thing that prevents us from accessing it is apathy … turning a blind eye and/or choosing not to care, because it simply hurts too much.

For many of us it has been hurting too much lately. Tragedy, violence, and other senseless acts that go against our nature cause deep emotional wounds in our collective psyche. It’s in these moments that we get to choose how we want to move forward. We can choose Fear which eventually leads to a protective form of apathy, or we can choose Hope. Even when it’s hardest, especially when it’s hardest, I hope we choose Hope.

P.S. If you’ve never heard/seen it before, here’s a great video by an old friend, Shawn Gallaway, on the choice of Love or Fear. May it inspire you.

How do we make sense of the senseless?

How do we make sense of the senseless? (video here, if you prefer to listen/watch)

To begin with, senseless tragedy and violence seem to be all around us. Our nervous systems are on overload, so even getting into a space where we could attempt to make sense of it all is virtually impossible.

In the last week, we have seen violence on a horrific scale. Whether domestic or international, the crimes against humanity – against our very nature – have pushed many of us over the edge of reason and into empathic overload. I have seen many of my lightworker colleagues retreat in the last 24 hours, because of this. I myself, needed to take a step back to gain grounding and perspective in light of what has been going on. But please don’t mistake silence for apathy. In fact, it’s quite the reverse.

During this time I have repeatedly asked myself what is the most important question to answer here? And I kept returning to: How do we make sense of the senseless?

While, it’s not actually the most important question – it was the gateway to the most important answer.

Firstly, we stop trying to make sense of the senseless. When something goes against our very nature, it is often explained away in order to soothe our ache. For example, when a child dies, we say: God must have needed him or her. We do this to create some sort of balm so we can categorize it and store it away and stem the tide of hurt and pain.

When senseless violence occurs, we try to make the same attempt at understanding in order to diminish the pain and fear, but instead we often end up in a loop of emotion fueled by rationalization. We get trapped, because the very definition of the crime is that it’s senseless.

Therefore, we need to stop trying to understand it, to stop trying to make sense of the senseless. The way forward is to name it and label it for what it is (senseless), so we can accept it as is and work to change at its roots, by understanding its genesis.

All violence, in my opinion, has its origins in the energy of Fear, and Fear is taught. Whether it’s about power, frustration, lack, oppression, anger, rage, victimization, etc. – you name it, it’s taught, often through propaganda. These teachings are grounded in the low-vibration energy of Fear, and are then fueled until they manifest in action.

In most of my studies thus far, I have been taught that the opposite of Fear is Love. And while I know that to be true (Love is the energy of creation, and Fear is the energy of destruction) – I actually modify it slightly.

For years I have been writing and maintaining that the opposite of Fear is not Love, but Hope.

Why?

Because in the absence of Love, and mired in the deepest trenches of Fear, Hope remains. It’s that glimmering grain of sand in the darkness that invites Love back into the conversation.

IMG_6684Therefore, if we look at the vibrational energies on a spectrum, we would have Fear on one end (low vibration), and Hope on the other (high vibration). Anything that is of the lower vibrations associated with Fear (anger, hurt, betrayal, rage, etc.) would then be made better by dousing them with the higher vibration energies associated with Hope (Love, gratitude, compassion, kindness, etc.).

However, I prefer to think of them as a continuum, rather than a spectrum. The reason being is that I know, personally and professionally, that Hope is always present, even in Fear. And it’s a much closer jump from Fear to Hope than it is from Fear to compassion, when it’s on a continuum.

But what does all this have to do with the recent violence and tragedies around the world?

Well, if violence is born of the propaganda and teaching of Fear, then we must teach Hope to counteract it. We must

teach Hope,
speak Hope, and
embody Hope.

What does this look like? Well, for my dear friends who are amazingly powerful and vocal activists, it means speaking out, raising awareness, and lending their voices to a cause. For my quieter more introspective friends, it means sharing Hope by adding beauty in to the world and reminding people that there is much – much – more good than violence and tragedy going on… and everything in between. These are just two examples, amid a world of infinite possibilities.

We know that people listen when they feel heard. In order to even enter into a discussion to create change and foster peace, Hope needs to be restored.

Teaching Hope, speaking Hope, and embodying Hope in our daily lives is the way forward for a more loving and peaceful world that is aligned with our true nature: our divinity and our humanity. We are both, and Hope resides exactly in the center of the two. Hope is the manifestation of what it means to be both human and divine. Hope is at the very core of who we are – and it’s the most powerful tool we have.

Finding Compassion Through Fatigue, Frustration, and Fear

(Or how to survive the holidays with your Self intact)

Last week was Thanksgiving – the official start of the holiday season. My social media feeds were flooded with musings on gratitude and pictures of family gatherings. It was, for the most part, a week of blessings and joy. But it didn’t start out that way, not for me.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving I got sick. Really sick. It was a 48-hour stomach bug that took me down for the count for the better part of the week. (Fatigue) It was not an ideal start to a week typically highlighted by food and festivities.

Two days later, on Tuesday, I started dog sitting for a friend who was going out of town with her family for five days. Her dog, Brutus, is almost 17-years old, and is totally deaf and partially blind. He’s lively and perky most of the time, which is great, and the plan was for me to stay at her house with my dog. Unfortunately, things don’t always go to plan.

On Tuesday night it became clear that my dog and Brutus weren’t exactly keen on sharing space. I had to send my dog home and work out a new plan with my friend, which resulted in my coming and going throughout the next 5 days to take care of Brutus and keep him company, while also being home enough to take care of my dog and life. (Frustration and Fatigue)

That would be enough to make me feel overextended during a holiday week that started out with illness, but it didn’t end there.

Brutus started coughing the day before my friend left town, but it seemed fairly benign…nothing to worry about. By Wednesday night, I was concerned. By Thursday morning, it seemed clear to me that there was a problem. (Fear)

Brutus was hacking stuff up, and it seemed like it was getting worse. By Friday we were at the vet so they could watch him and give him antibiotics. Brutus had the beginning of pneumonia, but we caught it early. He seemed better that evening, but got worse overnight when he vomited the little food he managed on Friday, including his antibiotic. So, on Saturday morning we went back to the vet, and my friend flew home a day early… just in case.

Throughout the six days from Sunday to Saturday, I struggled to find compassion. I was frustrated, fearful, and fatigued. My mind was on overdrive:

What if my dog got sick from that one night with Brutus? (Frustration)
What if Brutus died on my watch? (Fear)
What if I am making myself worse, having started the week out so sick? (Fatigue)

Did you see all the “what if” statements in there? Yeah, that’s where I was. My head was wreaking havoc with my emotions, exactly because I was so tired and overextended. I joked with my friend that my parasympathetic nervous system was overwhelmed, but it was no joke. I had no more bandwidth for anything, physical or emotional, to be added to my plate. My frustration levels had peaked, my fatigue had maxed out, and I was living with fear.

Somewhere in the process, though, I had a thought as I looked at the helpless little dog in front of me:

Where has my compassion gone?

I knew that all my buttons had been pushed and that compassion was clearly absent, for myself and for Brutus. I knew it. And I knew I had to do something about it, but what?

As I cycled in and out of conscious thought on the subject, alternating my presence with my overwrought absence, I allowed ideas to percolate to the surface. It was then that I asked myself the question: How would I want my dog to be treated?

Breakthrough!

I stepped outside myself and thought of another, someone I love dearly, and asked a simple question. I took perspective.

I pulled Brutus next to me, covered him with a blanket and rubbed his back. When he coughed, I gently patted his back and pet his head softly so that he knew I was there. When he curled up on his bed, I sat next to him on the cold floor. I even hand-fed him some food so he could take his medicine.

I did all of this, even though I was tired, scared, and annoyed at how the week unfolded, because it was the compassionate thing to do. It was the kind thing to do. I did all of this, because I was tired, scared, and annoyed.

I talk a lot about being in authentic alignment with who we are as a path to wholeness, peace, and joy. Fear has no place in my authentic alignment, nor do frustration and fatigue. They simply are not expressions of who I am at my core, but kindness is. Compassion is. And yet, I’m human.

When fear, frustration, and fatigue took over it was very easy for me to lose connection to myself, to who I am at my core.

Taking perspective allowed me to find compassion through these challenges. It may seem like compassion is all about someone else, but compassion is also a guaranteed path back to your heart, to yourself. It returned me to me.

The important lesson I received last week was not in being “good enough” while managing a stressful situation, but in knowing that even when I am pushed beyond my capacity, barely managing, and overextended to the point of feeling wholly out of alignment, there is always a path back. What mattered most was that I was willing to acknowledge it and, subsequently, do something about it. For me, that meant asking a perspective-taking question. And I think that’s true for most of us, actually.

Brutus was just a dog, and the situation was certainly not extraordinary, but what if…

What if you took the same idea and applied it to family gatherings this holiday season? Or work situations?

Or… What if we applied the same premise to the refugee crisis? To homelessness? etc.

Fear, Frustration, and Fatigue are guaranteed to take us away from our best Self, from who we know ourselves to be at our core, in our hearts. When we pause and allow ourselves to take a different perspective – to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, if you will – we swing open the door to compassion and kindness. Compassion is the first step to returning to alignment when we’ve lost our way, both personally and globally.

Brutus

Brutus – happily resting by my side 🙂

Acceptance Made Easy(er)

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about “acceptance” and how important it is for living a balanced and happy life. And I agree. Acceptance is one of the cornerstones of living well.

Where I have a teensy-weensy problem, however, is the connotation that has developed around the idea of acceptance.

To address this, let’s first look at what acceptance is not.

Acceptance is not:

  • Settling
  • Surrender
  • Giving up
  • A consolation prize
  • Relinquishing responsibility

Nor is it blind faith and/or an abandonment of free will. Rather, acceptance is a calm embrace of what is. It’s a knowing.

Acceptance is peace through wisdom.

Acceptance doesn’t require abandonment of understanding and/or exploration. Rather, it requires questioning. Questioning that moves us through to acceptance from a place of strength, courage, and presence.

Acceptance asks us to question everything so that we arrive at the knowing underneath, the knowing that was always there. There’s a quiet grace in true acceptance that transcends chaos and fear.

In other words, if it feels like settling or giving up, it’s not acceptance. Acceptance is an embrace, not a letting go.

Speaking to Joy

Recently, I was speaking with a client that is venturing into the online dating world, and this came out of my mouth:

Find someone who speaks to your joy, not your fears.

So often in life we look for a mate who meets certain criteria, because it’s what we think we want or are told we want. We look for things like: successful, attractive, sense of humor, tall, etc. All of these things are great and not necessarily fear-based. But if we scratch beneath the surface just a little bit, they actually are. Here’s why:

All of these criteria are externalized to your joy. Therefore, the criteria themselves are based on some internal fear that you are experiencing for which you want someone else to fill the void. Another way to say that is:

When a desire is based in the energy of lack, rather than joy, we are setting ourselves up for future disappointment.

It’s an idea worth exploring, because nobody (nobody) can fill an internal void. What a partner CAN do, however, is help to expand your existing joy to where you end up filling the void yourself.

That’s what I mean by finding someone who speaks to your joy. Now, what does that look like?

If you think about people (friends, family, etc.) who already exist in your life and make your heart smile when you’re around them… that speaks to your joy. It’s not about external attributes. It’s about recognizing how someone makes you feel.

Therefore, the question isn’t:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they do? or
  • How do they look?

The question should always be:

How do I feel when I’m with them?

If you can answer that with a smile, you’re more than halfway there. 🙂

Why Love?

Why love?

This holiday weekend got me thinking. Love is the answer to so many questions. So I thought it prudent to ask another question: Why Love? It seems a simple enough question, with an equally simple answer. Right? But let’s look at it from a different angle.

Why not Love?

Well, the opposite of love is fear. It’s not hate. Hate is a byproduct of fear. Fear is love’s nemesis. When fear is present, it does everything it can to keep out love. If life were a bus and fear were driving, you can bet the passenger list would look something like this:

Insecurity
Anger
Envy
Jealousy
Greed
Loathing
Despair
Loneliness
Low self-esteem
Low self-respect
Self-centeredness
Hate
Bullying

And the list goes on and on…and on. Fear drives, loads up the bus, and picks up more passengers as it goes, constantly edging love out.

But here’s the good news: Somewhere on the bus, perhaps in the last seat, pressed against the window, searching the passing scenery for inspiration is a passenger that never leaves. It’s a passenger that is on every bus, everywhere, all the time. Eventually it makes its way to the front of the bus and slowly redirects fear to the stop where love can get on board once more.

That passenger is Hope.

Hope is the often silent, but ever-present passenger on the journey. Thankfully, hope never remains silent for long. Hope restores love when fear has taken over.

hope restores love

So, to ask the question again: why love? For so many reasons, but mainly because with love, there is always hope. (Yay!!)

What and If

Two (somewhat) harmless words on their own, yet when combined “what” and “if” carry the entire power of the Universe in 6 letters that can be simultaneously destructive and/or creative.

Here’s the difference:

“What if” is attached to the most creative and infinite power of all: imagination. As a tool for exploration and innovation, these two little words open up endless possibilities. Dreams become realities.

However, “what if” when used in hindsight becomes the harbinger of shame, blame and despair. The ‘shoulda-coulda-woulda’ of that which was not done or seen. The hallmark of regret and the key that unlocks the abode of fear within the mind.

Six letters, two words…powerful beyond measure, and what separates how they are used, is you.

Fear and Gratitude

A favorite quote/mantra of mine: “Fear cannot live in a grateful heart.” Not sure where I first heard it or who said it – but it has been a guiding light in many a situation over the years. More recently, however, it has been a great tool that I have shared with clients, friends and family. And now I’d like to share it with you during this week in which we focus on giving thanks. Here’s how it works:

1) Think of something that causes you fear, anxiety or worry. Think of it, see it, and then FEEL it. Recognize that feeling within your body, physically. Sit with it for as long as you need, in order to commit it to memory – but not more than a minute, if you can last that long!

2) Now think of something for which you are grateful. Anything. The day, the weather, family, friends, a child, even your car or a new pair of shoes. Sit with this and truly feel the gratitude you have for whatever this is as it fills your body with love and joy. Allow that feeling to permeate every corner and every cell. Enjoy it. (you can sit with this one for as long as you want.)

Ok – now you know the two feelings and you have committed them to memory. Here comes the life-altering part: Whenever you have even the tiniest twinge of fear, like in the first part of the exercise, whether it shows up and registers as fear or not you now know what it is. You have a memory of it and a barometer, of sorts. When these feelings show up in your body, take a breath and switch into gratitude. Again, it can be gratitude for anything. Gratitude for the train being on time, or your coffee being delicious – or even having the money to buy a coffee. By switching from one emotion to the other, and consciously putting your attention onto your feelings, you are creating new habits and behaviors that will ultimately become automatic, and you will find that life becomes a little easier, smoother and more joy-filled.

The most challenging part of this exercise is recognizing the fear emotion, and then taking the pause (or breath) to consciously switch it. That’s why the first part of the exercise, though not pleasant, is important. You need to have the conscious memory of the physical feelings associated with these emotions in order to recognize and change them. As with all things, it takes practice, but it gets much easier the more you do it.

So, now this begs the question in this week of Thanksgiving: What makes you feel gratitude? Make a list. Keep it with you so you can call on it whenever you want. Add to it, change it, and see how different your life can be. For truly, when your heart is full of gratitude there is no room for fear.

With deepest gratitude for allowing me into your life…
In love and light,
Martina

What now?

What do you do, when you don’t know what to do? I was recently asked this question by one of my clients. And truth be told, I’ve asked it of myself many times before. It’s more common than you might think. Often times it simply comes in the form of doubt or fear: Fear of moving forward, fear of not moving forward; Fear of making the wrong decision, and fear of making the right decision. Sometimes others provide us with the answer of, simply, “do anything!” But is that helpful? I suppose it can be, but the vagueness of that reply can reinforce and underscore the feeling of emptiness inherent in the question. So, while it’s certainly encouraging – it’s not necessarily helpful.

Here’s what I think works better: when in doubt, leave it out. Initially, perhaps that’s a bit counterintuitive, but it makes sense if you look at it. So let’s do that. If you are in doubt about something, it automatically muddies the water of your life by creating friction between your conscious and subconscious minds. Muddy water can then seep into other areas that were previously quite clear, which ultimately results in the exasperated feeling of “what now?” So, to start with, we omit the portion that is sullying the water. Yes, it’s easier said than done – but here’s a trick:

Rather than focusing on omitting the cause, focus on everything else. Go as simple as you need to go, until you are in clear water again. As with everything, when we focus on the negative things and try to change them – we only give them more power and influence over our lives. But if we focus on the positive things, and do our best to expand them, then we are really living authentically for who we are. Here’s an example:

A few years ago, I experienced this feeling of “what now?” and I felt myself going in circles. I tried to fix that which I thought was broken, and the resulting distraction from what was good in my life only caused the good things to be more neglected and ultimately need my “fixing” attention as well. I realized, with help from others, that this was not working, and I paused, shifted my attention, and started to focus on that which was good. Nurturing it, loving it, accepting it. Unfortunately, I had let it go so far, that I was really stripped back to the basics. I spent many days and weeks waking up and simply looking around me and allowing myself to feel grateful for the simplest things: a beautiful tree outside my window, a bird’s song, a smile from a friend, a roof over my head, food on my table, etc. You get the idea. These are the simple things that most of us take for granted, because we have been too busy, or not had occasion to be without. In light of what’s going on in Haiti, this exercise is even more poignant. Oprah introduced the concept of a Gratitude Journal to the world. This concept has been around for a lot longer though. A child’s prayer by his bedside at night is the original ‘gratitude journal’ – whether he is praying to God, Allah, Buddha, etc.

What I’m saying is that when we feel overwhelmed by life, and all the chaos and clutter in our minds, hearts and houses – the best way to move forward into peace, happiness and serenity, is to seek out that for which we are grateful, and focus on those things, one at a time. Once our attention is turned, and we can catch a breath or two, we can then take deliberate action, one step at a time, to make changes in our life that will lessen the chaos and disorder. Therefore, instead of looking at a pile of laundry, look at the many clothes you have, and be grateful. Then, do one load at a time – maybe one load a day, until you’re caught up. When it’s all folded and ready to be put away – perhaps there are a few items that you no longer need: items that have added to the chaos and clutter in your life. These are items that may be a blessing to someone else. Could you let go of them? When we are truly grateful for what we have, we sometimes realize that we have too much. Especially in times of need, what a blessing it would be to share our abundance with others. Not only will we be helping someone else, but we will be helping ourselves, too – by taking steps toward preventing a future uprising of that “what now?” feeling.

It all begins with your decision to pause, and choose a different perspective. And isn’t that just amazing? That a feeling as overwhelming as “I don’t know what to do,” can be transformed into empowerment within a few seconds, simply by pausing, looking around you and allowing yourself to appreciate what you already have, and what you already have done. What a gift.

In love and light,

Martina