According to Lucinda Bassett, in her book called From Panic to Power, most people who suffer from depression, anxiety and other such disorders are highly intelligent and creative. The thing is that they have learned to use that creativity against themselves by imagining worst possible scenarios, as one example. When I first read that, in the midst of a debilitating depression, I knew that I’d found a key piece to my own personal puzzle. I thought, “It’s because of my intelligence and creativity that I’m in this situation. If I could turn that around, imagine what I could do with my life!” Knowing that the author herself had overcome huge obstacles gave me faith that I’d get through mine. I gave up the search for the book I thought I was looking for and bought the one that found me. Divine intervention? I’d like to think so, but that’s just me.
From Panic to Power is an old favorite that has helped me through the years, and one that I turn to time after time. Like many sensitive and intelligent individuals, I have had a tendency to scare myself silly with thoughts of doom and gloom, impending disaster and global destruction. There is also a voice in my head that likes to tell me I can’t do things. Lately that voice has been very prominent. From experience, I know that no amount of scolding or telling it to shut up is going to do the trick. What does work? There are four very effective methods that work for me and that I use in my feng shui practice: 1) facing the dark thoughts… 2) diffusing them… 3) focusing on what I CAN do… 4) taking positive steps to transform the energy through the use of feng shui.
Recently, I worked with a person suffering from depression. Having an intimate history with the disorder, I recognized certain thought patterns. I suggested that she write out all the toxic thoughts that she’d been obsessing about in nine specific areas of her life to help her focus and organize them. It’s also a feng shui tool. She posed a very intelligent question by asking “will writing it out mean that I’m going to manifest these things into my life?” Knowing that she was a fan of the “law of attraction” principle helped me understand where she was coming from. I was able to reassure her that we must shed light on the darkest parts of ourselves in order to work with and through them. Getting the thoughts onto paper might give her a much-needed reprieve in knowing that they were out of her head and she no longer had to try to remember all of them in her anxious state. Plus, she could look at them head-on and learn to deal with them in a positive and productive way.
Once we face our negative thoughts, Lucinda Bassett advises that we cultivate the art of “compassionate self-talk” (pp 144). We can learn to neutralize or even put a positive spin on the very thoughts that have been dampening our spirits and holding us back. This is something that takes practice and discipline and is well worth the effort. Another book that helps with this concept is Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, by Susan Jeffers. Susan teaches us that anything important to us is probably going to bring fear with it. Even people who seem fearless still experience the emotion. They just know how to work through it. There are many great tools to be learned from this book, and I suggest you pick up a good used copy if you’re dealing with fear (basically, if you’re HUMAN). It has helped me tremendously! Whenever I’m looking at something that scares the daylights out of me, I say to myself “feel the fear and do it anyway”. And let me tell you, I have done some amazing things in my life!
My episodes of crippling depression have always had a theme. The first one was about studying opera and not knowing if I’d ever be good enough to make it as a professional. A more recent, and perhaps the most relevant to this topic, was about the environment. Having the capability of deeply contemplating the world’s problems can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can breed awareness. On the other, it can scare someone silly!
My therapist at the time suggested that I volunteer to do something about the environment and join a group of other concerned individuals. At the time I thought SHE was nuts! Facing the very things I’d been trying to avoid? What? That was at the very bottom of my to-do list. The medication I was prescribed took the edge off of my obsession, but the concerns were still present for me and I didn’t know what to do about them.
I had no clue about how things would unfold in my life. I thought I was going to be an opera singer (it could still happen) and design jewelry for a living…that still happens now and then. I knew that I wanted to eventually do something that made a positive difference in the world, but I couldn’t see how that would work. Apparently, the “universe” was cooking up some plans for me. My life has been full of surprises, let me tell you!
What happened? I stumbled across the field of green interior design! Having a studied art and interior design through mom and other means, I thought, “wow, I could do this for myself and for other people! If people are going to redesign their spaces, at least I could point them in a more conscious direction.” So, we come to lesson number three: focus on what you CAN do. I found a way to make a difference that was fun, creative and that would help people create healthier environments for themselves and their loved ones. One thing led to another, and I soon was empowered with all kinds of knowledge. Who knew that would happen? Certainly not me.
Now, four years later, I’ve created my own business based on green interior design and feng shui. I counsel people about any issues that they are facing in their lives and show them how making a shift in their environments and behavioral patterns can create a shift in their lives. I even have a motto: “embrace your surroundings, awaken your dreams”. I’ve created a logo and a web-site. I’ve also gotten involved in the “green business movement”. I’ve attended and worked at eco events. I’ve volunteered with Coop America. I’ve been writing for Elephant Journal since January, after meeting editor-in-chief, Waylon Lewis at Eco Gift Festival in Santa Monica. I’ve also been volunteering some time for Elephant Journal. I’ve found my life’s purpose: to support green businesses and practices through the use of feng shui and green interior design. I may even do some green event planning.
It turns out that my therapist was right! I think I need to call her and say thank you, because she’s the one that planted the seed. I found a healthy thing to pour my energy into. I’ve learned so much about green living, green business and green interior design in the past four years by participating in events, actively seeking information and using the power of my creativity and intelligence. One of my favorite mantras is “I have enough creativity and intelligence to handle any challenge that comes my way”. What are your mantras? What do you tell yourself in a difficult situation?
Now, as I have the unique challenge of gearing up for a relocation to a place that I feel driven to try out, some of those thoughts of “I can’t” have been very present. The other day, I woke up to a bunch of them swarming around in my head. I promptly wrote them down on paper, so as to diffuse their energy. I found myself writing “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t” over and over. I started to laugh when I realized I was having an “I can’t rant”! My quirky sense of humor had saved the day for me again. Thank goodness for that! I was able to work through those thoughts and have come up with a very powerful plan for what I CAN do, despite these difficult financial times. I can, for example, learn how to market my services more effectively. I can work on the book that I’ve been planning to write regarding the environment and feng shui. I can sell the collection of pearls that I’ve been carrying around since my jewelry design days. I can sign up at various temp agencies. There’s a lot that I can do in the month that I have left. Action is very powerful!
Now, for the feng shui part. This one can be complex, so I’ll give you a few basics. Organizing can be a big help. Click here for my article on the benefits of getting organized. Clutter purging is what your doing with the previous three exercises. The clutter is your dark and obsessive thoughts. Do it with your stuff, too! Eating a balanced diet of clean-burning food (organic) and getting proper sleep (minus the Electro Magnetic Fields near your bed) can make a huge difference. Feng shui can help a LOT with sleep. That’s material for another article, perhaps. Going for a walk in the morning, especially if you work from home, can do wonders for your energy. I call this “running your chi”. Treating yourself with compassion…all parts of yourself, even the dark ones…can have astounding benefits. Taking steps to turn your “good” dreams into reality is immensely powerful. I use the nine areas of the bagua (feng shui tool) to help myself and my clients create a balanced life.
Imagine, if there were only open doors in your life, what would it look like? What do you dream of for yourself? Now’s a great time to find your journal and dream about the following nine areas: 1) family/income…2) wealth/abundance…3) health/vitality…4) helpful people/travel…5) children/creativity…6) skills/knowledge…7) fame/reputation…8) career/lifepath…9) love/relationships. Note: this doesn’t necessarily mean that these things are for sure going to happen…what it can do for you is help you at least get the energy moving in the direction of your dreams. Remember that you’re dreaming from your current reality. Your circumstances and ideals could change or they could remain constant. However, taking action towards your dreams (and being socially and environmentally responsible about it) can open all kinds of doors!
There are plenty of scary things happening in the world. That’s a truth. There are also plenty of fantastic things picking up steam, such as the green business movement. The term LOHAS (lifestyles of health and sustainability) is becoming more and more common. Stores like “The Road Less Traveled” and “The Spiraled Stem Floral Design” have appeared in Orange County, the ultra conservative place I grew up in that seems bass-ackwards compared to Santa Monica and San Francisco. We have a president in the white house who seems to care about the environment, for the most part (nobody’s perfect) and who, despite the many challenges that we’re facing as a nation, has a “take charge” kind of attitude and seemingly indomitable spirit. Elephant Journal is going strong! Opportunities to learn and take action are everywhere!
There are things that we can do, and there are certain things that are just out of our control. Do what you can and let the rest go, is my suggestion. Start with yourself. “Think globally, act locally”. I believe that we each do have an impact on the planet and on the collective consciousness. We all matter. The more we do, the more we can do. Anxiety and depression are crippling things that can keep us from being able to do much of anything. Empowerment and awareness are expansive things that allow us to build upon our knowledge and ability to take action.
To recap, here are the four steps that I’m recommending: 1) Be honest with yourself. What is a dark thought that’s lurking in your headspace? Go ahead, write it down and bring it into the light. 2) How can you diffuse that thought? What woud you say to a friend? 3) What CAN you do in your life to empower yourself? 4) What can you do to take charge of your health and create a healthy living and working environment for yourself?
I’ll use myself as an example. 1) Disempowering thought: I’ll never raise enough money to get myself to Portland by mid-July. 2) Neutral/positive thoughts: I don’t know that for sure. In any case, I have a month to work with and I’ll do what I can. If I can’t go for some reason, I would be sad, but it wouldn’t be the end of me and I’d learn to deal with the disappointment. 3) Things I can do: There are many things that I can do, as previously mentioned…I can also sell the extras that I know I’m not taking with me. 4) Feng shui plan of action: I can take my own advice of going for a walk in the morning. I can eat as well as possible, given my budget and circumstances. I can keep my room organized so I can think clearly. I can find new homes for my stuff as an act of faith and to create room for new opportunities.
So, you see, when we focus on what we can do, it’s amazing how much energy can be freed. I dare you to try these techniques out for yourself. Let the energy that’s released build upon itself and carry you to your own personal freedom. For further reading, check out the inspiring book Life Without Limits, by Lucinda Bassett. Another powerful book is End the Struggle and Dance with Life, by Susan Jeffers. Thanks for sticking with me. I’d love to hear your comments and questions, by the way.
Claire Burstein, whimsically called “the feng shui fairy”, is a feng shui consultant, writer and environmental advocate. For more info, please visit her web-site at www.thefengshuifairy.com. You can find her on twitter under the name dynamicbalance. E-mail Claire directly at [email protected].