The Winds of Change

The winds of change are always blowing and sweeping us into new and different circumstances and experiences. We don’t really have a choice if change crosses our path, that is a certainty of life. Our choice point resides in the realm of interpretation and meaning. We get to decide what it means to us when life goes other than planned. It is our own individual responsibility and therefore up to us alone to make this all-important determination.

We will often get support for interpretations that involve complaining, blaming, feeling victimized and helpless. The important thing to remember is that consensus and agreement with misery creating thinking just means we have more people missing the opportunity to take control of the only thing we can control…how we interpret the things that happen to us and the meaning we give those circumstances.

This isn’t some new age way of avoiding reality or pretending life is always sunny and perfect. Reality on planet earth in a human body involves an ever-changing multitude of things we would love to experience and things we would love to avoid altogether. This is the same existential struggle that has plagued humanity throughout history. It sounds like this: How can I get what I want and avoid what I don’t want? Better yet, we think, how can I stop things from changing when I like them just the way they are.

These struggles aren’t new, they will be challenging to every generation of people who encounter the life trials and tribulations of their particular time and place. The point is, we can decide to make this human experience joy-filled. This isn’t accomplished by getting life to be how we need it to be, or fighting against change and disruption to our preferred status quo.

Our lives begin to naturally feel more calm, peaceful and joyful when we realize we can accept life just as it is, disappointments and happiness alike. What is really the alternative? Why waste this one precious and amazing life you have been given fighting against something that is baked into the system. When I started to see life that way, I decided to make it my mission to keep reminding myself life is not here to make my personal wish list of preferences come true.

This human life I am experiencing right here and now has the ultimate purpose of making me conscious of truth. This perennial truth has the goal of using life to expand my awareness and realization that I am more than this human body. Although I may reside in a flesh and bone body, it cannot contain the endless, eternal nature of my spirit, which is enjoying every experience in this game of life. When I have a good enough day to remember that, I can smile as the winds of change blow my way and know it is all in divine order.

Nature’s Healing Medicine

It’s hard to believe the summer season will be soon drawing to a close. I have been taking every opportunity I can to enjoy the glorious sights and sounds of summer. Witnessing the flowers, trees and shrubs in lush shades of green and glorious colorful blossoms is a feast for the senses. But beyond the visual beauty, there is a deeper gift that is often missed in our modern, technologically focused society. The gift nature is offering us is a reminder we are not a witness to, but rather a part of nature itself.

We are interconnected to the plants, trees, insects and animals. In fact, we cannot sustain life on this planet without this symbiotic connection. I think deep down we all know this to be true. The difference is for many decades we have divorced ourselves as a culture from fully recognizing what our “progress” has meant in terms of the devastation to the plant and animal kingdom.

We are at a crossroads as a species. Will we heed the urgent call to change our ways of viewing nature as a commodity to be bought, sold and destroyed? If not, it may mean the end of life as we know it. Nature usually has the last word. Nothing need be done from a standpoint of fear, threats or scary prophecies. Anyone with eyes to see can witness we are out of balance with truth and right relationship to nature and the planet.

How can we start to shift this imbalance? We can begin by looking at our own lives. How can we make better choices that honor the way we interact with nature. By restoring plants and animals back to their rightful place as equal partners, versus subservient to our whims, desires and profit margins – we begin to restore our co-creative union with these benevolent teachers.

Intuition, your GPS for life- Part 2

Last month we discussed how to start living by our intuition. We discussed that the initial step in this process involves a discernment of which voice in our head is indeed our intuition versus the voice of external programming or fear-based emotions. This process begins to bring into our conscious awareness the idea that we may be living someone else’s life. What I mean by this is often our beliefs or way of deciding how to live are dictated to us by sources outside our own inner knowing.

When we open the door to exploring this idea, we start claiming and stepping into our own way of being in this world. We might get intuitive gut feelings telling us these beliefs don’t resonate, but it can be scary to listen to this internal knowing because it goes against the beliefs of one or more of these groups and we fear being ostracized or unloved. This is just one of the ways we shut down our intuition. We say, no way- that doesn’t seem safe to listen to, I’ll stick with the safety of the familiar.

The problem is, the familiar might be slowly draining us of our life energy. We have gifts to share that only we can bring to the world. If we are stifling or shutting down those urges our life will start talking to us in an effort to get our attention. Essentially saying – wrong way! Life usually provides this feedback in ways that cause us to move away from the status quo, some sort of disruption from life as usual.

This disruption could be a job loss, illness, death, divorce or really any experience that rocks the foundation of our usual way of processing life. What seems so upsetting and frustrating during these troublesome moments, is really life trying to get our attention. Something is not working in our life and life is trying to get us to go within and listen to our own intuition. A few questions that help with this internal inquiry are the following:

What feelings do you try to bury instead of allowing expression? What are you denying, hiding or running away from (this can be either internal feelings or external situations). What is your heart’s desire? In what ways have you pushed this desire aside, disregarded it or decided your time to pursue it has passed you by. Be gentle with yourself as you explore these important questions. Most of all, remember, if you’re still breathing it’s never too late to claim the life you were meant to live.

Intuition, your GPS for life – Part 1

How do we start living by our intuition? What does this look like and how can we begin to discern our inner knowing (intuition) from the other voices in our head? Learning to understand and live this way is the difference between a life moving against the current, and one in which we are in flow. Essentially, intuition becomes the GPS guiding our life. While life will still present us with challenges, we will navigate them with less resistance and much more ease. Decisions become easier and what to do is accessible to us in real time – meaning we don’t have to gather all the data and analyze everything before taking an action.

The first step in this discernment begins with distinguishing the various voices in our head. We have internalized the voice of so many others in our life and this can interfere with our ability to hear our own inner guidance. These internalized voices typically represent our parents, family members, peers, significant others, society, or religion. As well as the voice of our emotions, such as fear and guilt. So how do we distinguish intuition from these other voices?

Ask yourself if there’s an emotion attached to the voice. When our inner knowing, or our intuition speaks to us it does not scare us or shame us or make us feel wrong or guilty. No matter what is has to tell us, it is always calm and without emotion. Another way to recognize the difference is to notice if we are living based on ideas and beliefs that we inherited but in actuality, these ideas or beliefs do not resonate with us now, or maybe they never have.

This begins to bring into our conscious awareness the idea that we may be living someone else’s life. What I mean by this is often our beliefs or way of deciding how to live are dictated to us by sources outside our own inner knowing. Next month we’ll look at how we can begin to shift from taking our direction in life based on these other voices to using our own inner knowing and intuition as the guide for our life.

The 4 P’s of the ego

So, what is the ego anyway? By the ego I am not referring to a character trait known as egotism nor am I referring to individual unique personality aspects of any kind. I am referring to the systematic self-deception that emphasizes separateness rather than our togetherness. A Course In Miracles says it this way:

“What is the ego? But a dream of what you really are. A thought that you were apart from your Creator and a wish to be what He created not. It is a thing of madness, not reality at all.”

One way I find helpful to understand how the ego shows up in our everyday life and behavior is called the 4 P’s. The ego has four main goals it’s seeking: Profit, Prestige, Power and Protection. In describing these four goals of the ego, I will be stating these definitions in terms of the most rudimentary version of the way this programming talks to us and advises us.

In reality, this is actually a spectrum of experience. As one becomes more aware of the unhelpful ego programming there is a movement towards choices, positions and behaviors that create a lessening of the extremes I detail here. The following are the four main goals of the ego and a description of how the ego talks to us when securely attached to these traits and viewpoints.

Profit: What’s in it for me (not just monetarily)? How can I benefit? If I don’t see a direct way that I benefit I’m not interested in giving my time, money, energy, vote or support.

Prestige: The need to feel admired, superior and special. I need to feel better than you in some way. I am more religious or spiritual than you, more educated, I am from the “right side of town”, I got my education from “that” university, my race, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation or religion is superior.

Power: I call the shots, I need to be right, I control the narrative, whether in my own home, the place I work, friendships, groups or organizations that I am a part of. It’s my way or the highway. I will manipulate people, places and things to get it the way I want it, the way I need it to be.

Protection: In some sense the other three goals of the ego are all about trying to obtain the feeling of protection. Protection from the world, which is fearful, unpredictable, dangerous and essentially every man for himself. My ultimate goal is to make sure that I am taken care of and to feel some safety and security by any means possible.

You can see by these definitions and characteristics it isn’t hard to understand how the world is in such a dire state. This is why the work we each do on ourselves is so important. When Gandhi said to be the change you want to see in the world this is what he meant. Each person that moves away from acting out of the ego automatically impacts the world in countless ways.

It might seem insignificant, but it is actually the way in which we will change the world. One person, one choice, one loving thought and action added together creating ripples that will change the tide and usher in a new way of being with one another and the planet.

Compassion, why is matters

Empathy and compassion are the essential building blocks of quality relationships. Not only do these qualities create connection between ourselves and others, it also makes an important impact on our wellbeing. When we see suffering and are compelled to act to reduce that suffering, we are being motivated by compassion.

When we bring the lens of compassion to the way we view disturbing events, difficult people and circumstances, we seek to make connection and understanding our goal. If we seek to understand and connect with each other, compassion is the gold standard for achieving this goal. We can judge others or we can have compassion, these are mutually exclusive states.

Compassion reminds us we are all in this together, humanity is sharing one planet and we all need to recognize our welfare and wellbeing is inextricably tied together. Our life flourishes when we feel part of a connected whole. When we feel isolated, alone and insignificant, we feel frightened, anxious and fearful. In essence these feelings create a self-fulfilling prophecy where judgement and condemnation become our viewpoint towards “others” that are “the problem”.

This lack of compassion further isolates us and makes us feel more scared and anxious. It becomes a vicious cycle. The way out of this is through compassion, both for ourselves and others. It starts with the idea that there might be a different way of viewing our own faults and foibles as well as the often-triggering behavior of others which tempt us into judgment. Simply stating in our minds and hearts, “I am willing to see this differently”, is a fantastic start. Our willingness is everything. We can make a daily practice out of this approach by addressing any situation that tempts us to judge, with this alternative intention: Please show me a compassionate alternative, I am willing to see this situation, person, circumstance with fresh eyes. As they say, ask and you shall receive

Let It Be

A common statement I hear from skeptics of all things “psychic” goes something like this, “I’m a realist, I believe in things I can actually see.” While I am never in the business of convincing, cajoling or arguing with anybody in these matters, I do often offer a response in hopes that it be food for thought. Perhaps a way to plant a seed that might lie dormant for now, but eventually sprout with the beginnings of a new expanded view of life.

Typically, my response is as follows: Can you see electricity, love or thoughts? We see and witness the effects of these things, but not the thing itself. The laws that govern electricity existed long before we recognized the capability. It was our level of understanding and awareness that had to catch up with the discovery of what was waiting there for us to harness. Every day we interact confidently and assuredly with things we can’t see.

If someone told us we don’t have thoughts because they can’t be seen or measured, we would simply laugh. Often, we might wish we didn’t have thoughts because they can drive us nuts with their compulsion and persistence! The unseen world is just as real, or more real, than the tangible physical world. In fact, one of our greatest scientific minds of all time, Albert Einstein would argue it is the physical world that is the illusion.

He knew that science was proving everything was energy. Even objects which appear to be solid are simply vibrating particles of energy. The whole idea of matter is in fact an illusion. The truth is quantum physics has proven what the mystics of all traditions have been saying for thousands of years. All that being said, as I stated earlier, you can’t convince anybody of anything that they are not ready to accept.

Often people have certain beliefs that feel too uncomfortable to let go of for a multitude of reasons. Consciously or unconsciously, they may feel too afraid of accepting ideas or truth which contradict those beliefs. Part of life is accepting we are all on our own journey and no path is better or worse, it just is what it is. When we can honor and accept our loved ones, friends, acquaintances and people in general however they show up. When we are able to do this, we are in harmony with truth and honoring life.

The fact of the matter is it is all perfect, and we can support others even when they disagree with our beliefs and way of viewing the world. Life would be pretty boring if we all thought alike. Diversity is part of the divine design. When we can learn to enjoy all of life, just how it is, we will watch our life flourish in ways we can only imagine. Life becomes joyful when we’re not spending time and energy trying to convince people to see things our way…which in case you haven’t noticed, never works anyway.  

Mantra Magic

I have shared in the past, that the best approach to working with ourselves in regards to mind chatter is to allow our thoughts to come up and not seek to change, control, engage or repress them. This doesn’t mean there is not an action to be taken, it means that action and response are not our first criteria. Relaxing, releasing and observing are always the best responses to choose from the gap space of conscious awareness.

However, there are times when the mind is particularly over anxious and we find ourselves plagued with an almost constant stream of anxiety causing thoughts. Each successive thought seems to pull us in deeper and take us further into the black hole of these painful emotions. This is usually triggered by a situation or circumstance that really touches our fears and insecurities deeply. In situations like this it is helpful to use a mantra.

A mantra is helpful because it gives the mind a task to perform and serves to interrupt the cycle of anxiety causing thoughts. As much as we like to think we can multitask, the mind is really a single focused entity in many regards. If I say to you, picture your front door. All of you will have an image come into your mind of your front door. In that instant the image occupied the space and focus of your mind. You ceased thinking anything else momentarily and saw your front door.

When you use a mantra and repeat it, either silently or out loud, it serves the same purpose. The mind can’t be stuck in the vortex of anxious thinking and repeating the mantra. You may still feel anxious because the chemicals that cause all of the emotions and reactions in the body last beyond the cessation of the thoughts that caused them.

Stick with it, eventually you will start to feel the edge of the anxiety lessening and pulling away from you. It will not be experienced as something blanketing your entire being and you will feel a bit more spacious. The mantra can really be anything that works for you. In my experience, I can definitely speak to the multiple positive benefits of employing this approach in your day-to-day living.

The Empty Rice Bowl

As a society, we place a great deal of emphasis on having all the answers. It is a highly valued trait that is first cultivated in grade school and continues to be highly valued right on into adulthood. While it’s certainly great to have the answers, when we make this an all-important trait we are missing out in a variety of ways. When having the answer takes top billing, we often miss the golden opportunity of sitting in the question.

When we think we know the answer, or pretend we do, we aren’t open to insight, intuition and other data that might completely change our approach and offer a novel, unique solution. There is a well-known story based on wisdom from the Zen Buddhist tradition called, the Empty Rice Bowl. It illustrates the concept known as “beginner’s mind”. Essentially stating that if our rice bowl (mind) is full of our own knowledge, ideas, preferences, likes/dislikes, etc. how can anything else be added?

This approach leaves no opening for new input, new understanding, new approaches or new solutions. Unfortunately, the older we get the more we tend to suffer from this approach. We think we’ve heard it all, saw it all and understand far more than we do. In actuality, what we know when we approach a question or problem is the data set of our own experiences. When we become more comfortable with the truth that there is more we don’t know than that which we do know, we open up new space in our rice bowl to be filled with that wisdom.

A common slogan in various recovery programs is, “Your best thinking got you here”. This is a reflection of what is currently happening in our world. Our best thinking as a collective society has resulted in the myriad of serious issues facing our planet and humanity. It is time to sit in the question with an open mind and an open heart and ask ourselves what type of world we want to create and leave for the next generation. As we become comfortable with not-knowing the answers or how to enact all that is needed, we become empty vessels that can be filled and used for the highest good of all humanity.

A Golden Opportunity

There is a golden opportunity we have in each and every moment of our life. This opportunity resides in the power of our freedom to notice our thoughts and choose what action we will take next. The key to accessing this freedom lies in the gap between any given event, thought or stimulus and our reaction to it. At first it may seem like our reactions are automatic in regards to triggering thoughts or situations. But as we begin to bring awareness to creating a gap of space between our thoughts and reactions, we will start to experience this moment of choice more consciously.

Due to the repeated pattern of certain thoughts creating certain emotions, we might witness ourselves experiencing anxiety and worry nearly in tandem with particular thoughts, this is actually perfectly normal. We have created a pattern of reaction in our mind, but the good news is, this habit can be re-patterned. How this new pathway gets formed and re-patterned has everything to do with creating a gap of space between our thoughts and action.

When speaking of action, this does not have to be an outward physical display or verbalization. We act on the majority of thoughts we have by an ongoing inner dialogue that occurs only within our mind. We have angry conversations with people, events or situations all the time that remain our own private soliloquy. We give plenty of airtime to grievances, catastrophe scenarios and victimization thoughts, which are often playing daily as a stream of internal monologues within our mind.

Every moment, thoughts are streaming into our mind and we have the ability to exercise our will to decide what we are going to do with them. Each moment before us ends up being the most important decision point of our entire life. How can this be true? The nature of this truth is based on the reality which is right in front of us but often overlook. The reality is this: The past is gone and the future hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, our power always and only resides in the moment before us.

All consequences of cause and effect have their genesis in these precious “gap moments” of decision. We have all heard or witnessed the devastating results of someone’s actions where one moment of decision literally changed their life. In these scenarios sometimes people have a lifelong prison sentence to contemplate the actions they took in that one fateful moment of choice. On the plus side, people who have utilized present moment awareness to their benefit report feeling liberated from their past way of approaching life situations as well as the freedom to make new life-giving choices. This is really what the definition of free will means.

We are powerful creators and cannot diminish our power of creativity, but we can misuse it and take our lives in the opposite direction of where we truly want to go. We can reclaim our power moment by moment when we choose to use the gap of mindful awareness. In making this all-important choice we begin to recognize our tremendous power as conscious creators in this beautiful Universe.