How do we work with our thoughts?

It is said that the first step towards change is awareness. With that in mind, let’s take a look at our thoughts. How do we actually work with our thoughts? Here’s a way we can begin this process with gentle awareness.

1.) Notice your thoughts. What are they saying?

2.) Notice that the thoughts create a feeling inside of you.

3.) Notice when that feeling occurs there is a tendency for more thoughts of a similar nature – which then reinforce the feeling. (Example: A worry thought creates an anxious feeling, which leads to more worried thinking and a continued or even more elevated experience of anxiety).

Now that we are aware of this, what do we do?

The answer is not to try and forcefully stop thinking negative thoughts. The mind brings to the surface everything we have stored inside us from all of the experiences we have had in life. This is actually a good thing. It is giving us an opportunity to release that stored energy instead of keeping it inside us where it gets triggered time and time again. The way out is to start to realize when a thought occurs you have a decision to make. You are the one watching your thoughts. From the role of the observer, you can be more objective.

The only way out of this is to let your thoughts come up and to stay in the seat of observation. You don’t act on the thought nor do you repress it. This takes on a very deep practice in our life. Meeting each moment as an opportunity to let go of our ego reactions and stored pain puts us on the path to true freedom.

By working with life in this way, our spiritual practice becomes each moment in front of us. The present moment becomes our teacher, savior and path to transformation. We are able to let our stored patterns rise up and choose to see they do not have the power to make us act from that lower energy. We get to decide. We can observe and watch it hit our stuff and then relax and let go. The more we do this, the more peaceful our life and our minds become. 

Not because we are trying to be positive or attract good things, but because we realize we already have everything we need. Peace, joy, and serenity is our natural state when we stop letting ourselves get disturbed by our thoughts. The mind produces thoughts. We can stop trying to manipulate the mind into only thinking the thoughts we want and pushing away the thoughts we don’t want. Mind control doesn’t work and it is not the answer, it creates more resistance.

We make the focus observing our reaction to the thoughts. That is where the power lies. If we stay centered and do not get sucked into believing our thoughts then a natural result of that is the negative thoughts lessen. We feel more peaceful. Not because we attracted more peace. Because we became peaceful; and peacefulness is our natural state when we stop letting our thoughts disturb us. The Law of Attraction is superseded by the Law of Vibration. We are peaceful because vibrationally we are radiating peace. In that sense, we can have anything we are willing to become.

What do you really want?

What do you really want? What is the true freedom you’re longing for? Oftentimes we define it as being able to do whatever we want whenever we want. One fantasy might include being able to quit our job after winning the lottery and travel around the world. Maybe we could buy whatever we desire and live like lifestyles of the rich and famous. Perhaps it is something else entirely different that would represent freedom to you.

The point is, we end up mistaking things like money, special love relationships, fame and recognition as the gateway to freedom and happiness. All of the above-mentioned items are wonderful things and we should enjoy them, but the truth is that we ultimately want what we think these things will represent or bring into our lives. We can easily look around us to see that obtaining fame, riches or a special relationship does not equate to the removal of our unhappiness or depression.

At best it satisfies us for a brief while, then it seems unable to provide the “fix” we thought it would. There are endless stories of lottery winners returning to their same level of unhappiness within two years of winning it big. We find great, lasting love, only to separate or divorce a few years later. If you’ve lived a human life, you get what I’m saying.

Why is this? It is because we can’t change our internal state by making changes to the external environment. If we don’t feel freedom, happiness, joy, peace or love within ourselves or our current circumstances then we are coming from a place of lack. We are essentially trying to find the right situation or circumstances that will make us feel better, more hopeful or less anxious. We all do this to some degree. But true authentic freedom comes from shifting our focus from outside to inside.

From this stable, firm foundation we can begin anew. The first step in generating our capacity to live a truly “wealthy” life starts with knowing what we really want. Most people have that question trained out of them. They don’t really think about what they want, they think about what they can have or create based on the conditions/circumstances of their life. Meaning, what does my age, education, background, health status, economy, bank account tell me that I can have or create. Asking different questions leads to different thinking and that leads to different outcomes…all possible outcomes.

When we come from an understanding that we are interconnected with all of the universe, we begin to relax into knowing that everything we need will be provided and that it’s only our thinking that is creating the problem. We tell ourselves a very disturbing dialogue about our current circumstance by playing worst case scenarios over in our heads.

The reality is that we are consciousness. Our essence is energy. We are way more powerful than we realize. We have the ability to choose by our will, the thoughts we think and where we place our attention. Each of us has life circumstance that we are thrilled with and life circumstances we would prefer to change. True freedom and happiness come from realizing that I don’t have to wait for those circumstances to change. I can decide to be to be fulfilled and at peace today, in this moment.

In this three-dimensional world, impermanence is the ruling force. Life is a moving target. The stability and grounding come from knowing that we are consciousness. And while this physical world is impermanent, we are eternal.

We existed before our first breath and will exist after we take our last breath. Then life seems less urgent and troubled. Each moment becomes an opportunity to connect with the world and share ourselves and gifts with the people around us. There is less struggling and grasping and more relaxing and giving with an open heart – knowing that we are blessed, we are loved and we are taken care of…always.

Who am I?

In order to experience the fullness of our true capabilities we must start with right understanding of who we actually are. This understanding of our true reality is based on what is true beyond the things we can see, hear and feel with our physical senses or achieve/accumulate in day-to-day life. Immediately this can sound puzzling, confusing or just plain nuts.

If I am not my body, gender, race or my collection of achievements, personality traits, career or ancestral lineage, then who am I? If I am not any of the typical markers along these lines that we use to describe or differentiate ourselves as individuals, then what is left? By the standards and approach of the three-dimensional world, this question poses a real head scratcher.

This common conundrum explains why traditional societal norms place a great deal of importance on the above-mentioned categories. It is the very stuff of which the “world” uses to define and often categorize each of us as individuals. This is so ingrained in our very way of life that it is not even typically a consciously directed effort, it just is how we are trained to see the world.

However, there is another way of seeing – an alternative way to view, define and see both ourselves and the world around us. As it turns out, this alternative way is actually founded on the true reality of the question, “who am I”. This alternative way isn’t difficult, but it is different.

Its difference lies in putting more emphasis on the unseen. This alternative view is true regardless and independent of religion, spiritual inclination or belief in a higher power. It is true regardless of our “belief” in it – similar to the law of gravity, it just is, belief isn’t required.

Science and quantum physics have now confirmed what mystics and wisdom traditions throughout the ages have been teaching. We need only look at the world around us, in both nature and the Universe to see the implicit order and witness these organizing principles at work.

Everything is interconnected energy. These different energies have been called soul, life force, chi, spirit, God and many other names. The name is irrelevant, the point is that science has proved it exits. Quantum physics proves that the Universe, including us, is made up of energy – not matter. Atoms are not solid, in reality, an atom is 99.9999% empty space.

When we let these true realities sink into our consciousness it deeply changes the way we interact with everything. The very nature of our way of being in the world is changed. We become open to a myriad of possibilities that were not previously available, not because they weren’t possible, but because we couldn’t see them from our old point of view. The wonder and magic of life is always and only just waiting on us to claim the life we want. Our ability to claim it depends on how each of us decides to answer the all-important question, “who am I”.

Journey home to ourselves

After years of outward focus, we eventually realize that all of our experiences have been leading us on a journey home to ourselves. This realization and truth can dramatically alter our approach to searching outside ourselves for what is ultimately an inside job. We gradually begin to have the awareness that we’re actually not trying to get anywhere. It starts to dawn on us that we have all the resources we need, all the answers, all the compassion…it’s all been right here, lying in wait within each and every one of us.

The problem of course is that so often our experience feels like anything but having it all within ourselves. So, the search starts from a very young age to looking towards the world outside ourselves to fix, fill and fulfill our inner longings and soothe our fears. This is inherently the problem of course.

We have been looking outside ourselves to solve and heal our wounds. We can’t find the answers or solutions “out there”, it is only within ourselves that we will finally find the answer. So how can we start to turn inward and trust that we don’t need to arrange the outside world to meet our needs. How can we begin to relax into a symbiotic relationship with our inner self while transacting with the outside world?

One important way is to take a step back from our typical pattern of behaving and become willing to try something new. For example, sometimes we are so busy being self-reliant we don’t really trust that there is a bigger plan for our life. If we could just let go of the reins a little bit, life would demonstrate for us that our meddling and orchestrating is sometimes (actually often) delaying our desires or goals from arriving.

We often operate under the false assumption that goes something like this, “if anything good is going to come from my life it’s all up to me to make it happen and it’s going to require a lot of hard work!”. The truth is, there is a bigger plan and that plan can and will unfold with the timing and details all in perfect order. The perfect order may take longer than we think, involve setbacks and disappointments and often come in unexpected ways. That is where the faith and right-minded thinking come into play.

Life doesn’t unfold on our terms; it unfolds according to the circumstances and conditions that contain mysteries beyond our paygrade. Our job is to trust that whatever shows up is tailor-made for us to learn, grow and experience something essential for our unfoldment. Afterall, that’s why we are here having this human experience.

We are a wholly complete affirmation of life. Life is good and beautiful – even in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances. Many of us have learned to live in exile from our true selves, our authentic selves. We no longer recognize the inherent goodness and perfection, both in ourselves and others. We get stuck always trying to improve, achieve, acquire and use something outside to feel better inside. The fact of the matter is the only thing needed is to unload our mind from the idea that more “work” on ourselves is necessary. The core of any spiritual work is less about adding to and much more aligned with releasing and letting go of our false ideas about ourselves and life.

Saying “Yes” To Saying “No”

While I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, there is an energetic shift I am setting into motion in 2022. The theme of this shift is saying “yes” to saying “no”. I was inspired to make this a goal after reading a chapter devoted to this idea in Anita Moorjani’s book, Sensitive is the New Strong. I really resonated with what she had to offer on this topic and found that as an empath, it was definitely an area that was challenging to navigate – perhaps you can relate to this too.

As empaths, it is typically quite hard for us to say no. We usually are more concerned with hurting people’s feelings or have guilt around saying no. We also are ordinarily not fans of confrontation or conflict. The result being, we say yes to keep the peace or avoid the awkwardness of having a difficult conversation. There is a tendency to do whatever is necessary to avoid conflict or disappointing people, even at our own emotional expense.

All of these behaviors cause us to feel depleted, weary and ultimately, resentful. It also sets us up to be less than honest about our true feelings, often fearing we will let down our loved ones or friends if we state how we really feel or say no. I finally noticed I hadn’t been giving people enough credit with this line of thinking. Afterall, I am not ever upset when someone isn’t able to fulfill a request or says no. By extension, it seems reasonable to assume that would likely be the case in reverse. I realized that the negative response I feared was really my own projection and coming from my own mind.

In reality, people are much more accepting and accommodating than I was giving them credit for. It is true however, if we have trained people to expect us to subjugate our needs for their needs, it might be surprising to them when we shift. The good news is any healthy and loving relationship will survive the transition. People who love and respect us want what’s best for us and are willing to accept our new way of being. In the end, learning to say “yes” to saying “no” is a win for everyone because authenticity is the foundation of all truly healthy relationships.

The Audacity of Hope

At times like these having hope, optimism or belief in the inherent goodness of humanity and the world can be tough. It can even cause cynics and critics alike to consider such ideas naïve or Pollyanna-like nonsense. As it turns out, I’ve always been a real fan of Pollyanna optimism and find that I am perfectly okay with naysayers thinking love as the answer is a naïve perspective.

The truth of the matter is that you, all of you, have been the clear demonstration that this idea is not only a sound hypothesis but is in fact the only reality there is. It has been through my interaction with a myriad of amazing people and animals that I have seen time and again the goodness, wholeness and unstoppable force of love that will transform this great planet.

I know this because I have been so deeply moved and inspired by the many wonderful people, I have had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with through this work. I see the same beauty, love and yearning for each soul’s expression into greater authenticity and resonance with one’s true self. I see the support and unconditional love of animals helping humans recognize their shining light of divinity and goodness. Endlessly, always sending the same message of love, only love.

So, when people ask me if I am hopeful for the world, the future and humanity. I respond with a resounding, yes. I can respond confidently because I believe in you and I believe in me. If you are short on belief, you can borrow mine. I have the audacity of hope that together we will transform this world one loving act at a time, one connection at a time, one moment at a time.

Your perfect, glorious self

We come into this world perfect. Unfortunately, the perfection of our true nature gets covered over rather quickly. By the time we are old enough to enter preschool, we already have concepts of being “good” or “bad” and all the self-doubt that comes with it. Babies and animals are the perfect teachers to demonstrate for us what self-acceptance looks like. Babies and animals have no guilt, shame or comparison.

They love and accept their bodies, feelings and emotions. They just put it all out there and totally live in the moment, expressing their glorious authenticity fearlessly. We were like that once too. But somewhere along the line we listened to messages from the world that told us we were “not good enough”. We began to believe this poisonous lie and started down the long, arduous path of self-criticism.

Let’s decide once and for all to stop all that nonsense and get back to loving and accepting ourselves exactly as we are. If there are areas in our life we would like to change, we can accomplish this only through first accepting ourselves totally as we are, right here and now. No successful and lasting change comes from shame, self-hatred or guilt. Love and acceptance are the healing balm and alchemical magic that transforms. Only then can we truly see the beauty that was always there just waiting for us to come home to our perfectly magical divine selves.

You have to name it to claim it

There is a saying, “You have to name it to claim it”. This essentially speaks to the importance of knowing and defining for ourselves what we want to cultivate, nurture and create in our individual lives and the world. Sometimes we can get bogged down by the idea that this has to be some grand vision or purpose with far reaching effects. This month I offer you the idea for contemplation that small is indeed BIG. My challenge to you and to myself is to bring heartfelt reflection and awareness to claiming/defining what happiness looks like as demonstrated in my daily life.

By this I mean the actual details of how it would look, what it would feel like and the very specific ways it would make itself known in my every day experience of life. When we take the time to actually define what this looks like for us personally, we reap a multitude of benefits. It sets us up to get immediate feedback on a moment-by-moment basis when we are in alignment with our values or moving away from them. It also creates a ready-made vision that we can work with to channel our creative energy and life force into projects that support our self-defined goals.

Defining what our own version of happiness looks like may seem self-indulgent on the surface or not impactful to the world at large, but I disagree. The world needs each and every one of us to bring our love, talent, excitement and creativity to the table. This is accomplished best through people who feel happy and joy-filled sharing their good vibes in every interaction. We are always transmitting our vibes to the world we interact with, whether we are conscious of it or not.

Why not become a conscious co-creator and join with the force for love, joy and happiness that exists all around us? Impactful change is never a top-down driven agenda. By definition the status quo is rarely interested in changing. Societal change is enacted by small groups of dedicated individuals that believe a better way is possible. They bring their joy, passion and unwavering commitment to making it happen. The world is in dire need, luckily the Universe has a plan, it sent you.

Reality is okay with me

I was listening to an interesting talk the other night by one of my favorite people, Michael Singer. The topic of the talk was, “Reality is okay with me”. Right away I noticed I had some resistance to this idea. How could reality be okay with me, especially in the times we are currently living through. In the midst of death, disease, violence, civil unrest and environmental degradation, reality seems anything other than okay. In fact, thinking it was okay seemed outrageous.

I was interested to see where this topic would go. I’ve listened to enough talks by Michael Singer to know I always come away with a plethora of aha moments. As expected, in the end, what he offered was a real eye opener in a multitude of ways. What I love most about the way in which Michael Singer conveys a meaningful message is his simplicity of explanation. It is always free of convolution and complication. He’s an expert at providing the straight forward truth.

The truth he served up this particular evening was no exception. I’ll do my best to convey the nuggets of goodness he shared in this interesting talk. The basic premise he started with was the fact that every single thing every single person does, they are doing out of fear. We are either afraid of not getting what it is we decided we need to be okay or we are afraid of losing what we managed to get to make ourselves relatively okay. This sounds normal because everyone is doing this, but it is living in defense mode. In this way we set up a struggle with life where we are trying to get things to be a certain way so that we will feel less fear. Have you ever noticed it doesn’t work?

If there is any particular way life has to be for us to be okay, by definition we are not free. We can’t be free when we need life to be a certain way. We create a full-time lifelong job for ourselves by trying to manage what needs to happen for us to feel less fear and more safety. He suggested that we each make a commitment to take the road less traveled and to stop blaming our lack of well-being on the outside world. Stating that the real work is to realize that as long as our inside peace is conditional on the outside world we will be condemned to a miserable life.

Michael’s suggestion was that we start to engage with life on very different terms. Using the everyday events of life to break us open to a deeper and truer experience of reality. Anytime anything happens that affects our psyche, heart or mind we remember we want to use our lives to liberate and free ourselves to be unconditionally okay. Essentially at the moment of discomfort we say to ourselves, “Here is a condition that has challenged my okay-ness – I am going to let go of whatever is inside of me that can’t handle this condition”.

Notice that this does not mean we aren’t engaging fully in life. Things will happen and unfold in the world around us and we interact with them. The difference is that we have shifted our focus to “I want to be okay no matter what” instead of “I need things, people, events to be this way in the world so that I feel okay” – this is 180-degree difference in every possible way. If we continue to separate out the good, bad, right, wrong, pleasant and unpleasant we are out of harmony with truth. The truth is that life has unfolded for 13.8 billion years and we are here experiencing it for a few decades. Whether or not we like the circumstances that are unfolding is irrelevant.

The way to get rid of fear, according to Michael, is to not be afraid of it. When we realize that we are okay no matter what we will see that fear can’t hurt us. It is just an experience like everything else in life. This won’t be easy. It’s not supposed to be. We have habit formed tendencies that tell us to change the outside to feel better inside. This path is the road less traveled, but once you know it’s really the only path that works, we have a choice to make. Are we ready to stop doing what will never work in exchange for living in harmony with true reality and the freedom it offers?

The Art of Allowing

If you’re anything like me, it can be challenging to practice the art of allowing. What I mean by this is the irresistible urge I have to control outcomes. I can always make a good case for why I need to get in there and fix things or “help” the situation to arrive at the desired outcome. As a matter of fact, the only way I started to release this tendency was when life provided me circumstances that truly forced me to surrender.

There was nothing left to do but fall back into allowing and just be there with the discomfort, pain and dwell in the unknown. Scary stuff indeed, however, coming out on the other side I had inadvertently created a new awareness. Life didn’t need my help to get things squared away. It did a great job all on its own. Sure, the path wasn’t the route I would have preferred, but there I was, I had made it through intact. Ironically, I felt more enhanced and confident than before. I was clearly able to see it was safe to stop being so anxious and fearful about life and instead relax into life’s perfection.

This change didn’t happen overnight, it was a gradual unfolding as life continued to present situations that confirmed and reinforced this new found truth over and over. There are still times I slide back into the old patterns of behavior. However, the detour into madness gets shorter and comes with an awareness that I am out of alignment which allows me to return to sanity in short order.

Looking back, I am so grateful I learned to trust life. It makes this human experience infinitely more enjoyable. It takes a lot of time, energy and effort to control circumstances and attempt to force outcomes. Energy that could be better spent living our lives right now in the present – trusting that whatever happens, we can and will be okay. The truth of our collective situation is that we are all on a return journey back to spirit. A journey which began the moment we were born. This human experience has a shelf life, let’s commit to enjoying it as much as possible while we’re here.