Lagom

I am half-Swedish by blood. My grandfather immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager, following his mother who had landed in Minnesota several years before him. He married my grandmother, whose family also came from Sweden. They met in St. Paul, where my grandfather was a streetcar conductor and my grandmother a seamstress in the James J. Hill mansion. I’ve invented elaborate stories to supplement what I know of them.

Last fall I made my first trip to Sweden, an entirely too short trip, but long enough to absorb the vibe of the country and to feel it in myself. It was a true homecoming in the sense of recognizing some part of myself that had been dormant and waiting to be acknowledged. I felt very much at home while there, unlike some other countries that I’ve visited.

Not long after I returned, I learned of the Swedish term, “lagom,” which is said to have no English translation equivalent. According to Wikipedia, lagom means “just the right amount.” Other synonyms include, “in moderation, in balance, perfect-simple” and “suitable (in matter of amounts).” I became interested in exploring this state of being more fully in myself and intuited that these definitions were not quite right, but close. Emotional set-point is as close as I have come in my own contemplations.

Lagom seems to refer to an inner state, an internal equilibrium that one can tune into and cultivate. The Swedes I spent time with and observed seemed to operate at a low-key vibration that exuded a quiet confidence and acceptance, like things were pretty much in hand or in a good state of order in the outer world, allowing for a sense of relaxation within themselves. My nervous system responded to this. Even though I had the usual challenges of international travel to contend with, I never felt that edge that one often needs to navigate the unknown. I felt pretty easily included and welcome. Help was always available if needed it and there was a “no big deal” quality to my experience. I loosened up and enjoyed the little things about my trip as much as the big ones.

Back at home, particularly with the election cycle in full swing, I romanticized Sweden’s national values around providing health care, education, and parental leave to all its citizens, among other things. Lagom on that level meant, “Of course. Why would we not do this? We are all human beings and everyone needs these basic supports to live a good life.” Of course! One can relax internally when one knows that basic needs are being met and that there is help available if something goes wrong or one’s job is eliminated. Having our needs met means we are more available to ourselves and to help others. Even prisons in Sweden are not punitive in the same way because citizens are less likely to offend out of desperation. I could say so much more, but you get the picture.

I recently came across an article by Dr. Andrew Weil that mentions lagom. I love how he refers to lagom as “emotional sea level.” I really appreciate his take on it and am posting it for you here. I especially like his suggestions for cultivating lagom at the end of the article, including meditation. I plan to continue my contemplation of lagom as part of connecting to my inner Swede and I invite you to investigate it for yourself.

https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/mental-health/emotional-sea-level/

Step away from the screen

I’m just about to leave the country for a week. I’ll be visiting friends in Sweden and Denmark and I anticipate being asked sincere, probing questions about what’s going on here in the U.S.A. Specifically, I’m sure that I’ll have to render my opinions on the presidential candidates and my take on our precarious national psyche.

A week away from the news cycle seems like a great relief. I’ve been thinking for awhile that we have developed a national mental illness. Anyone with access to a screen of any kind, even just radio, is constantly deluged with political theatre, infotainment, and a blurry line between facts and opinion. If I had executive power, I would limit our election cycle to 8 weeks (isn’t that what Canada does?), establish rules in which candidates may only state their policy positions and plans, and make character assassination illegal. Oh yes, and candidates would be limited to spending to the same designated amount of money.

Since that isn’t the way it is, we need to regulate our own mental health by limiting our exposure to the political circus, as well as the seemingly nonstop random violence in our own communities and 24/7 coverage of the bad news all over the world. I am not advocating ignoring what’s going on, but allowing our minds to be free of all that for periods of time each day. Especially through the end of this election season, do things like unplug and take a walk, spend time talking about something positive with a loved one, slow down and cook a nice dinner to music instead of the TV, see an art exhibit and fill your senses with beauty.

We need to take care of ourselves or the pulse of hatred and aggression can seep in and take hold. Most of us are seeking connection, not separation or a hard-edged view of life. There is so much good happening and it’s up to us to be aware, take it in, and feel the natural beauty and love that is around and within us. Step away from the screen. Unplug your device. Breathe in and let your heart be touched by the simplicity of this very moment.

Sometimes all it takes is a smile

I just got off the elevator in my apartment building. When I got on, I was greeted warmly by a handsome young man of a different race than mine. I greeted him back and both of us smiled. I asked him how he was doing and he said, “Great!” I said how much I appreciated hearing him say that. He said, “Yeah, why not actually answer when someone asks how you are!” I agreed and each of us commented on how being open and smiling can make such a difference in the day. I was beaming and so was he when he hopped off the elevator. That was a one-minute transaction and I’m still beaming.

Sometimes people get on the elevator and won’t even make eye contact, much less say hello. Ok, I accept that there are times when we don’t want to make small talk with strangers. However, it’s been a tough summer for violence in the U.S. and with racial overtones. Small gestures can repair trust between people. Mindfulness, to me, means being present with my environment and doing the best I can to get beyond my little ego. When I am able to do that, it’s more likely that I won’t miss the opportunity to have a moment like I just did. I know that I’m a hopeless idealist, but I think that this is how we heal the world.

Resting the Mind Matters

Every minute you spend resting your mind, you heal your body, mind, and spirit. Every minute you spend healing your body, mind, and spirit, you simultaneously heal your environment. Every minute you spend healing your environment, you also heal the world. This is not hyperbole. It’s the truth. -LL

New Thinking About Addiction

I’ve been reading and participating in forums about a new approach to understanding addiction. As a professional who has also been in recovery for decades, my own thinking and experience has been evolving. Most of the people I know through recovery circles, as well as those I have counseled, have experienced some type of trauma or deprivation in their lives. There is so much to say about this and I plan to write more, but for the moment I offer a link to this animated video that captures the essence of our shift in thinking about the causes of addiction:

Sam’s Experience

“I was broken before I met Linda but I didn’t know it. I told her
about my past, but I thought it was unrelated to my current
difficulties. Linda was able to guide me toward more positive and
constructive conversations with my inner self, and from that new
perspective, my previous defensive postures look out of place. I would
highly recommend Linda’s counseling sessions. They helped me be more
open and honest with myself, and even though that led me to discover
some hidden weaknesses, I think I found some hidden strengths as well.”

Speaking Engagements and Workshops

Does your group have a need for professional development? Mindfulness meditation and emotional intelligence are strongly correlated. It is a real gift to many people to have a chance to deepen insight into their emotions and develop skills to work with them. From this base I can add specific training in related areas, such as active listening skills or another defined need of the group. I am based in Saint Paul, Minnesota (and am willing to travel by arrangement). Feel free to contact me to discuss how I can help.

Mindfulness-based Counseling Can Help

Are you struggling with any of the following life situations?

Depression, anxiety, anger management, effects of trauma from an abusive situation, repressed emotions, impulse control, addictive behaviors, co-dependent or toxic relationships.

Mindfulness-based counseling can help you to develop:

Emotional regulation, effective communication skills, a positive sense of self, good boundaries, healthy behavior patterns, and strategies for improved health and resilience.

In mindfulness-based counseling, we become aware of conditioned patterns that affect the health of the body, mind, and spirit. We work toward adjustments that can free us from patterns that no longer serve us and rediscover our own basic goodness, which is our inherent right as human beings. Through meditation practice, we learn to be more at home with ourselves, become attuned to our internal timing, and discover more options for working with our lives. Clients report feeling more empowered and compassionate toward themselves and others.

If this sounds helpful to you and you’d like to get started, give me a call.

Linda

Monte’s Experience

“Working with Linda Lade has produced some remarkable results in my life! Her work with me as a counselor has helped me to uncover and heal some of my deepest wounds and her skill as a meditation teacher has given me the tools to be more alive and present in each moment, each day.” – Monte, client