The Awakening Moment – Choosing Freedom

“As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”
—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—
the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim,
that you’re suffering in paradise.”

~ Byron Katie

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The most popular game in the world is the Blame Game, where you choose between three roles: victim, persecutor, and rescuer. But there’s another option.

That’s our necessary starting point for discussing how to choose freedom. As Byron Katie said in the above quote, “As long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering, the situation is hopeless.”

So, is your situation hopeless or hopeful? An honest answer to that question will immediately alert you to your degree of personal investment in the Blame Game. Read on if you’re interested in playing a different game.

Anyone who identifies as a victim – and they can usually prove why they truly are a victim – is living in an illusion of separation. That illusion generates this formulaic result: separation = conflict = suffering.

Let’s take them one at a time but first establish the inconvenient truth that to relieve suffering one must address this chronic problem of separation. Working on conflict resolution is not enough, if the source problem remains unaddressed.




Separation from what? We can start a list with separation from God. Ironically, one technique we’ve perfected for that is called religion. Religion separates us from God by inserting a priest, rabbi, or guru between “me and Him.” Apparently we need that middleman.

Of course, religions are separate from another as well. In fact, true believers routinely go to war with each other, each claiming that God is on their side. That’s separation!

Nature. What about our separation from nature? For many millions of people, nature is no more than a vague backdrop. Consider the successful business man who rides an elevator to underground parking, drives to work, takes an elevator up to his office, goes to a restaurant for lunch, has cocktails after work, drives to the theater or home… day after day separated from nature. Of course, he or she may jog… but that’s about fitness, not simply enjoying a connection with the natural world.

Separation means that conflict is inevitable. The “other” is a problem. Wherever we have built a conceptual wall between ourselves and other people, other beliefs, other customs and practices, etc., conflict will follow and turf wars are not primarily geographical. Sports fans routinely fight each other, based on allegiance to their teams.

There’s no simple remedy for a chronic malady like the disease of separation and the conflict it produces, but nature can sure help. “Forest bathing is the practice of taking a short, leisurely visit to a forest for health benefits. The practice originated in Japan where it is called shinrin-yoku.” 1

The Wikipedia entry goes on to state: “Studies in Japan have measured changes in immune markers and stress hormones in people who regularly walked in specific forests in Japan. In addition, people with diabetes but not taking insulin found substantial benefits by lowering blood glucose levels.”


Of course, nature provides more than physical health benefits. Being in nature, where everything is so obviously connected, can restore our sense of being included, of belonging. And that’s what so much suffering is about. Regardless of our exploding global population, loneliness has become epidemic and, as a recent New York Times article stated, “Researchers have found mounting evidence linking loneliness to physical illness and to functional and cognitive decline. As a predictor of early death, loneliness eclipses obesity.” 2

Separation = conflict = suffering. Inevitably.

But there is another option. We can choose freedom. We can embrace what I call “the awakening moment.” When is that moment? Right now.

This awakening is not necessarily about content. That is, we don’t need to have some sort of remarkable epiphany to experience waking up. Think about your experience this morning. You probably just… woke up!

The spiritual corollary is similar. It just happens, and it’s not usually that dramatic. It’s also easy to describe. The choice for freedom, embracing the awakening moment, exiting the Blame Game, happens when we take responsibility for authoring our own experience. Victims don’t do that.

BTW, we are where we are. It’s easy to judge ourselves and others but this is it… this moment is either the moment to be a victim or the moment to be free, including all our judgments, concepts, etc. Nothing needs to change in this moment except our choice. Everything else follows.

Either we will suffer in paradise, as Byron Katie warned, or we can enjoy this moment. Some choice!

That’s true freedom.


References:
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_bathing
2. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/06/health/lonliness-aging-health-effects.html

Freedom

Freedom 2 – When Would Now Be a Good Time to Feel Free?

“The secret to happiness is freedom…
And the secret to freedom is courage.”

~ Thucydides

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It’s said by some that freedom isn’t free. That’s both true and misleading. Yes, we must pay attention to maintain our freedoms but we are all born free, without needing to do anything at all to earn it.

There’s an effective Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) motivational technique of inserting “now” into a statement, as I did in the subtitle of this blog. “When would now be a good time to feel free?” This is a perfect example of the technique and it raises an interesting question:

If we’re pursuing something, doesn’t it mean we don’t have it? The U.S. constitution guarantees us the right to “the pursuit of happiness.” This suggests that happiness is something to chase, something that we don’t already have. Similarly, the quest for freedom suggests the same limitation.

There is no doubt that slavery exists. Things may have changed legally but recent eruptions of racism have sadly revealed that many Americans do feel prejudiced against certain “others.” Ironically, this means that they are enslaved by their own beliefs, restricted to “us and them” conflict where security becomes an every day worry and gated communities become a symbol of what’s going on inside people.

What conditions would need to be put in place for you and I to feel free? It’s easy to think of the obvious. Having more money frees us to purchase what we need to keep ourselves and our families fed and sheltered. Good weather, loving friends, a friendly community… there are countless aspects of our lifestyle that can contribute to feeling free, and happy.




But let’s consider this on a deeper level. Without negating the necessity of developing those lifestyle components that ease the survival burdens of 21st century life, what gets in the way of feeling free? Because we all know that some people make the most of a lousy circumstance while others can feel enslaved midst enviable circumstances. A line from the Eagles song, Lying Eyes, comes to mind: “Late at night, the big old house gets lonely.”

In other words, having wealth does not guarantee happiness, freedom, or anything else. As I said in the last blog, freedom is an inside job. But it takes courage to be truly free, as Thucydides wrote hundreds of years ago.

So, what about that turn of phrase: “When would now be a good time to feel free?” Let’s get serious about answering that question. How about it? What’s limiting you from feeling free right now. Generate a list. See how many obstacles you can name.

Here’s some examples: I need a better job, want a different government, more money please, if only my husband would change, wait until my kids get through college, I’ve got to lose another ten pounds, etc.

And then, of course, there’s the big issues like climate change.

When we link our experience of freedom to external factors over which we have limited control we doom ourselves to slavery; it’s that simple. However, when we realize that freedom is an inside job and decide to bring freedom into our circumstances – rather than trying to extract freedom, or happiness, from our circumstances, things change instantly.

 

Breaking Chains


I call this self-empowerment. You make that choice to contribute. You choose to flip 180 degrees, from a taker to a giver and it happens in a split second. Of course, you need to keep doing it, over and over again, especially in situations where you have felt disempowered or overpowered by forces that seem to oppress you.

Some of them may. But what’s your reaction? What’s your habitual reaction? As I mentioned in the last blog, Nelson Mandela emerged from over twenty years of imprisonment with an attitude of forgiveness. He developed that while in prison!

What’s your prison? How long have you been in there? When would now be a good time to break out?

When we take this attitude, we learn that the door to whatever prison we have been languishing in, sometimes for years, was never locked. It was always up to us to claim freedom for ourselves. Isn’t that amazing?

I encourage you to take inventory of where you feel free and where you don’t. Certainly, there are environmental factors that play a large part in this and you can apply yourself to creating improvements there. But you can also work on the inside to examine your attitude and empower yourself, simply by deciding to follow Gandhi’s sage advice, to “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

That’s true freedom.


References:
1. http://www.abouthypnosis.com/everyday-trance-states.html

Freedom 1 – Freedom is an Inside Job

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

~ Nelson Mandela

 

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True freedom is an inside job. Regardless of circumstance, we can feel enslaved or liberated. It’s a personal choice.

Freedom is one of those values that means something different to everyone. Rather than staking out my own position on this, I’d rather explore aspects of freedom we can all easily agree with.

For starters, Mandela’s quote emphasizes that freedom is more than a value to enjoy for oneself. It must include others. He should know, having been imprisoned for over twenty years. What’s remarkable about his story is that, among many marvels, he developed a loving friendship with his personal guard. And when he was released, he expressed no bitterness towards those who had imprisoned him. He went on to become President of South Africa on a platform of forgiveness.

He demonstrated that it’s possible to feel free even in jail. Now, that puts our own challenges into perspective!

One online definition of freedom is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” That’s true but limited. True freedom includes enjoying life as part of the whole. Typically, we humans have excluded ourselves through our concept of exceptionalism, resulting in the epidemic of loneliness that has skyrocketed suicide rates in recent years.

Even with expensive toys to play with and conveniences to make life easier, thousands of people every year end their lives because they simply don’t want to live any more. They may or may not feel free to “act, speak, or think as (they) want without hindrance or restraint” but they are obviously not free within themselves. A friend just told me about an acquaintances daughter who was recently released from a rehab center where she paid $95,000 a month for treatment of her alcoholism. Not only did the treatments fail, she’s become psychotic.

Another friend told me a story about a doctor who was called to the hospital bedside of a patient who had tried suicide unsuccessfully. When he arrived, he found her surrounded by sympathetic family members. He took a different approach.

“What a loser,” he said. “You couldn’t even do this right.” Of course, family members were shocked and offended. But before they could protest, he added: “If you really feel you’re so worthless, then you should end your life. But all of us here love you. We know your value and we wish you did too. Why don’t you start loving yourself as much as we love you and get a real life?”

Apparently, this application of tough love worked. His patient was jolted to her senses and went on to recover and live a long life. Others in her situation are not as fortunate to have someone to help break the spell of disempowerment that propelled them to such a desperate precipice.

This case illustrates a phenomenon that some researchers are exploring, that many people are actually in a trance-like state much of the time. And, that identifying and understanding that state might be a step towards liberating them from their traumatic wounding. As one blog on hypnosis states, “Identifying the deep trance phenomena behind a problem points the way to a solution, as that trance state can be changed or broken. This raises the interesting possibility that hypnosis works by bringing people out of unhelpful trance states – unhypnotizing them, in effect!” 1

It’s illuminating to ponder our own condition of freedom or lack of freedom from this perspective. How free am I, how free are you, moment to moment, from trance-like conditions that limit a full experience of life?

Prejudice certainly comes to mind. We all have them but may not realize their influence on our day to day experience. For instance, presented with an unusual opportunity might provoke an unconscious defense. If it took shape as words we might say, “Sorry, I don’t do that.”

Why not?

Perhaps this is where the phrase, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” originated. For instance, some people might feel it’s too late to begin meditating. Why? Meditation has been proven effective in reducing stress and increasing enjoyment of the simple things in life. When would it ever be too late to do that? It certainly doesn’t require special skills, it doesn’t take much time, and it’s free!

We all want freedom in our lifestyle and liberation inside our minds. And we can easily achieve both: just treat every moment as an opportunity to express an attitude summed up by the words, “I’m free to be myself in this moment!” and learn mindfulness techniques like meditation to free yourself from the bombardment of negative thoughts, one of which might be “I’m not free.”

References:
1. http://www.abouthypnosis.com/everyday-trance-states.html

Progress – Crossing the Finish Line… Never

“The real meaning of enlightenment
is to gaze with undimmed eyes on darkness.”

~ Nikos Kazantzakis

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We can be drawn to the light and ever remain a planet, or we can become the sun for our world.

There’s a story about a man in a mental institution who spent all night every night beside his window with a bucket, frantically scooping at the air and finally collapsing at sunrise with a relieved sigh: “I finally got all the darkness out of this room.”

Are we any less crazy? How much faith do we have in sunrise? So many of us object to the darkness – in whatever form it comes – and feel we must act to get rid of it. We can take issue with other’s sexual orientation, their politics, their lifestyles. And we can champion alternatives, sure that we know what’s best for them. Do we?

This reminds me of the story about a boy scout who retuned to headquarters battered and bruised, with his clothes torn. “What happened to you?” asked his scout master?

“I helped an old lady across the street,” he replied.

“But what happened?”

“She didn’t want to go!”

That’s what happens when we impose our will on others, even with the best of intentions. And why do we do that? Because we decide that something is wrong and we know how to fix it. In other words, the way things are right now needs to change. For spiritual seekers, it means that this could never be enlightenment.

Author and blogger Roy Biancalana writes, “… any practice, method or teacher that promises some future result, some future realization should be avoided. By holding out the “carrot of promise,” that one day you’ll go to heaven, they actually keep you from it. You are turned into a Greyhound dog chasing the rabbit at the dog track. You keep chasing the damn thing and you can never catch it. But if you stop chasing, if you stop seeking, the rabbit will come all the way around and hit you right in the ass! “It” finds you when you stop seeking “It.” 1

There is no finish line for enlightenment, regardless of what any religious program may promise. To conceive of enlightenment as a result is to fundamentally misunderstand what it is. True enlightenment is well described in the opening quote: “The real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with undimmed eyes on darkness.”

One is enlightened when one is shining. “Be the light!” could be the best spiritual advice available. Of course, to be the light we need to be lit up and no one can do that disconnected from the source of light. We are transmitters of light but the transmission doesn’t start with ourselves. Something gives us life, moment by moment, and that is what we can transmit.

Something is beating your heart. Something is steering the stars. Something is ensuring that billions of simultaneous activities everywhere in the cosmos somehow coordinate together to give us the stability we depend on to simply function. We can call it what we want to and disagree on words and beliefs but the reality remains. And we have faith in “it.” We don’t worry that we’ll wake up one morning and fall off the earth.

Since humans began to think we’ve wondered about our place in all this. Of course, the search for answers, the quest for personal meaning and a more understanding of the purpose of life will never end. The path is endless and it doesn’t proceed in a straight line. We can acknowledge our human birth and death as beginning and ending points for this human experience, but the deeper we explore the path of awakening the less constrained we feel between those two book ends. As we sense more of a kinship with life itself, the life that informs our bodies, we begin to transcend those limitations.

Our basic understanding of self begins to transform and it leads to this liberating realization: “I will never be enlightened.”

You may become “enlightening,” that is, you may develop into someone who brings light into the circumstances of your life. You may evolve your understanding and experience in ways that mark you as an advanced human but not through what you believe or think or say or even do, but because of the bright revelation of who you are, moment by moment.

And, darkness wouldn’t scare you. Think about it: where is light needed most? Where there’s lots of light already present or where there’s darkness to dispel? Not with a bucket, struggling to right a wrong, but with the natural rising of the sun, the arrival of one’s own shining presence.

During this series of blogs we’ve explored what is and what isn’t spiritual progress. Now, here in the last one, we can expose the big lie about enlightenment. Yes, there will be more “progress” to make – for the rest of our lives! But this is the moment to shine.

You are already “it.”

References:
1. http://coachingwithroy.com/are-we-there-yet-why-seeking-enlightenment-is-a-dead-end-road/

Progress – The Reason for Being

“Whatever you think the world is withholding from you,
you are withholding from the world.”

~ Eckhart Tolle

 

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What can assist us along our journey of awakening? Everything the world gives us… plus everything we give the world.

“It is better to give than to receive” is a well-known phrase attributed to Jesus and it champions the natural generosity of spirit. If we want a tangible example, just look in the sky. The sun gives its light and warmth regardless of anything it receives. Another Biblical quote says that the “rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.” It’s comical to imagine these forces of nature negotiating!

What’s being illuminated is no-strings-attached kind of giving, giving without thought of reward. Most of us have experienced how enjoyable this is. In fact, it’s said that if you are feeling badly, the best way to make yourself feel better is to help someone else.

In fact, human beings are designed to give and receive freely. We all know it, we have memories of those kinds of exchanges, where our motivation was simply to share. Exchanges that involve money and things often engage other motivations, like greed and fear. A sentiment creeps in: “How can I get the most for myself while spending the least?” Everyone likes a deal.

In these last few blogs we’ve been exploring themes related to the direct experience of spirit in our lives. We can avoid the debate about what to call “it” and focus on the experience. What helps and what interferes with our growing experience of spirit?

A primary obstacle is our belief that spirit is disconnected from form, that “this is not it.” It’s easy to take issue with what’s going on right now, imagining that something is wrong and wishing things were different, wishing they were more “spiritual.” On that basis, we distance ourselves from the unconditional giving and receiving that reconnects us with the natural way of life.

A stream does not complain when a hiker walking by shifts a few rocks. It flows around or over them. Imagine the stream saying: “I preferred the way those rocks were before… I was flowing perfectly. I wish it was the way it was before. In fact, I refuse to flow now. Until that thoughtless person rearranges the rocks exactly as they were… I quit!”

Similarly, imagine the sun refusing to shine because it’s cloudy. “Forget it. I’m not shining when no-one can see me. I’ll wait until those clouds dissipate.”

Withholding love as a kind of punishment is often used to motivate people, a kind of emotional blackmail. Of course, we do it to ourselves as well. In a prior blog we considered the quality of our thoughts. That inner critic has a lot to say about how inadequate we are. We withhold love from ourselves for any number of reasons but, again, it all comes down to one primary judgement: “This is not it.” What I said or did, what she said or did, what they are doing… it doesn’t match personal judgments about merit.

What if we were to reverse our position and assume that whatever is happening is happening for good reason? That nothing of value is ever being withheld from us and that there is never any reason to withhold love from ourselves and others?

This describes unconditional love, which includes both giving and receiving. Love flows both ways. So, we might take a moment to examine our personal habits around this. How able are we to welcome the gifts of the moment – the warmth of the sun (seen or unseen), the rain as it falls, circumstances complete with challenges, people who do and say things we disagree with – and how able are we to give back freely, unconditionally?

Seeking enlightenment is a high path but where does that path exist? Have we conceptualized it as some kind of inner journey best aided by meditation and peak spiritual experiences? If so, we’re probably excluding 95% or more of the possibilities for making true spiritual progress. Or does it exist in the real world where we live, complete with daily details?

What if we re-framed this journey as a deepening of capacity to appreciate (and to freely give and receive) the gifts of the world? Imagine calibrating our fulfillment, neither in terms of what we’ve acquired nor the inner state we attain? How about a spirituality that included everything and everyone 24/7, that made no distinctions between what had value and what didn’t?

As Eckhart Tolle said in the opening quote, “Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world.” How the world changes when we take this piece of wisdom personally and commit to giving and receiving unconditionally. Suddenly, this is it! All of it.

Ironically, that’s the destination we’ve always aimed for, what some call enlightenment. Could it really be this simple?

 

American Indian

Progress – Why is the Still Small Voice Still Small?


“Then a Voice said: “Behold this day, for it is yours to make.”

~ Black Elk, Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Medicine Man

 

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History abounds with stories from those who have heard voices guiding them in life. Many of us can tell our own modest tales. What does this phenomenon mean?

In the Biblical story of Elijah besting the prophets of Baal in a dramatic contest, God speaks to Elijah afterwards in a “still small voice.” A scriptural website explains: “The point of God speaking in the still small voice was to show Elijah that the work of God need not always be accompanied by dramatic revelation or manifestations.” 1

While we’d all probably love to hear heavenly pronouncements regularly and receive wisdom to direct our lives, most often we’re given advice like, “turn off the oven before you leave,” or “I-5 is probably jammed right now; exit here to take the 405.”

In terms of our progress along the path of awakening, these intuitive messages are worth respecting. They may not be dramatic but they are imminently practical. We can all attest to the value of listening and, at least as often, to the damage that occurs when we ignore those directives or never even hear them in the first place.

There’s another reason that voice, however it may manifest for each of us personally, remains small: we’re barely paying attention. The world is noisy and insistent voices assail us from every direction on multiple frequencies, 24/7, so that voice can easily get lost in the midst.

Here is the primary reason why regular meditation is so essential for any genuine seeker. What we seek is what we find when the noise fades, when thoughts flee, and when we are left with a deepening awareness of awareness itself. In that exquisite silence, Spirit speaks.

We can pay attention, not just in meditation but throughout the day. While most people claim extreme busyness here in the 21st century, when we examine the content of an average day, it’s likely we will discover countless interludes.

Our lives are not really the non-stop action dramas we may think they are. In fact, we often find ourselves waiting. We wait for software to load, for red lights to turn green, for lunch to arrive. The tendency is to automatically fill those available moments with more busyness, the favorite tactic being to play with our Smart Phones.

Apparently about half of us check our phones every five to ten minutes. More than 1 in 10 GenExers admit that they probably couldn’t last an hour without their phones and 16% of Americans take their phones to bed with them. 2

We are addicted to the connection we make via technology with a world beyond our senses and intuition. As we become more and more tuned in to that virtual world, we lose touch with both the material realm and the domain of spirit.

Still, that small voice speaks. And we make our own choices as to what we listen to. We could decide to not automatically fill those spaces with texting or surfing or any of the countless other activities that drown out the subtler messages that are also being broadcast moment by moment.

 

Indian Girl

 

Black Elk, the Sioux Medicine Man I quoted at the beginning of this blog, advised: “Perhaps you have noticed that even in the slightest breeze you can hear the voice of the cottonwood tree; this we understand is its prayer to the Great Spirit, for not only men, but all things and all beings pray to Him continually in different ways.”

This comment illuminates another possibility: what we “hear” may be more than the “voice of God,” if we were to phrase it that way. Perhaps we are hearing the prayers of all living things. Perhaps there’s a conversation in progress, all the time, one that we can participate in.

It’s interesting to consider that our consciousness may be alive with another level of communication entirely, beyond FaceBook and YouTube and Instagram and beyond even our own incessant thinking. The term “innernet” has been used to describe this invisible domain and some have even suggested that the Internet is meant to provide training wheels, helpful to develop our own inherent extraordinary perception, an aspect of what I call E.S.P. (Elementary Spiritual Powers) so that, eventually, we can progress beyond the technology..

If you can recall dining with friends in a noisy restaurant you’ll remember how your hearing improved when you focused your listening. That’s also a good technique for improving our ability to hear this still small voice.

We can pay attention where it counts and progress our ability to tune in and remain intimately connected with this inner world, while engaging in the material world to make of each day what we choose.

References:
1. https://www.gotquestions.org/still-small-voice.html
2. http://anewdomain.net/smartphone-addiction-stats-new-survey-infographic/

 

sprout between hands

Progress – Choosing Our Thoughts

“There are two types of seeds in the mind: those that create anger,
fear, frustration, jealousy, hatred and those that create love, compassion,
equanimity and joy. Spirituality is germination and sprouting of
the second group and transforming the first group.”

~ Amrit Ray

 

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We can choose our thoughts, just as we choose what channel to select on the remote control for our television.

In one of my recent books I told the story of a disciple asking his master how long it would take him to reach enlightenment if he meditated two hours every day.

“Five years,” his teacher replied.

“And if I meditated four hours every day?” pressed the eager student.

His master chuckled and replied, “In that case it would take you twenty years.”

Spiritual progress does not accelerate with extra effort. You can’t strive to let go! Instead, you can relax from the deeply ingrained habit of efforting, you can unlearn and deprogram… ultimately, you can shift to an entirely different operating system.

The old OS equates work over time with results. More work plus more time, equals more results. The new OS is not linear. More is not necessarily better. What matters is quality, not quantity.

As Amrit Ray wrote in the opening quote, we do have different kinds of seed thoughts and what we choose to focus on will grow. Seeds, of course, always become what they inherently are. A carrot seed has never become a watermelon! And a hateful thought cannot be changed into a loving one. It’s a choice: think the hateful thought or think a loving one.

Our thoughts do influence our progress, if we want to call it that. They also influence other people. In his book, The Shape of Thought,” H. Clark Barrett writes: “Investors’ beliefs about the state of the economy influence stock prices, which in turn, influence others’ beliefs, goals, and behaviors.” 1

They say that birds of a feather flock together (and fools seldom differ!). Our thoughts birth the words and behaviors that attract/repel others. In this way, all of us create a personal world of relationships based on which thought seeds we nurture. We end up with our own mutual support network.

There are pivotal moments in every life where a person takes stock and realizes some sort of deep change is necessary. This could be, and often is, stimulated by an emergency, like a dire health diagnosis or an ultimatum from a partner: “Change that behavior or else!” Confronted with an urgent crisis like this, we often try to change that behavior in order to get different results.

It seems to make sense and this is known as first order change. It can work, temporarily. But there’s a more effective long-term strategy, known as second order change which focuses on shifting our mind set. Athletes know very well that changing their mindset is what changes behavior to develop improved results. “Fake it ‘til you make it” is a popular success strategy.

This works in many aspects of life but not relative to our spiritual life. We can’t fake experiencing the truth of ourselves! We can choose which thoughts to entertain. And, like seeds, they grow… if they are nurtured by our attention.

The most effective mindset for making progress in the truly important aspects of our lives – experiencing meaning, growing loving relationships, etc. – is to embrace our inherent worthiness. Self-esteem problems routinely sabotage even the most concerted efforts to grow and change.

But self-esteem issues can’t be solved with proclamations to the contrary. For instance, manipulating thoughts into affirmations like “I am worthy, who I am is perfect,” is a mental imposition based on judgment. Who would repeat such words to themselves? Certainly not someone with high self-esteem! Likewise, trying to solve financial problems by repeating words like, “I am wealthy; money is pouring in from the universe,” is not a strategy a wealthy person would adopt!

Toiling in the jungle of ego ambition is futile and it’s the virtual opposite of what we’re discussing relative to choosing our thoughts. No, we choose from those thoughts that present themselves, understanding that we are not required to manufacture thoughts but rather to select from the momentary thought menu, just as we choose where we go, what we do, and who we engage as friends.

Our thoughts are emerging, not just because of influences from the physical environment that our senses detect but also in response to our inner connection with Source, in relationship to our own unfolding destiny.

The Bible refers to “the still, small voice.” In this series of blogs we will explore how to culture that inner knowing in order to change our thoughts at that deep level and generate real progress in life.

References:
1. The Shape of Thought: How Mental Adaptations Evolve (Evolution and Cognition) by H. Clark Barrett, page 128

 

Help – We All Need Each Other

“Holiness grows so fast where there is kindness. The world is lost for want of sweetness and kindness. Do not forget we need each other.”

~ Mother Teresa

 

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Where would we be without others? Regardless of our differences, we are one human family, learning how to get along with each other.

It’s not unusual for family members to quarrel. But we work it out. The same challenges face us as members of the family of mankind. And, we’re working things out, thanks to those of us who value diversity and understand that we need each other as we are, not converted to some kind of sanctioned sameness. Viva la difference! as they say.

This is our final blog based on an alphabet of spiritual literacy developed by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat1. I’ve been inspired by their list and developed my own elaborations. These are best considered as meditative morsels and digested as nourishment that can deepen your momentary experience of connection with life and communion with each other. In fact, we are always connected, it’s inherent in life, but the epidemic of loneliness assaulting our human species testifies to a special irony: we need each other to remember that we need each other, to overcome this alienating side effect of civilization.

Here are the final seven key words on Brassat’s list.

Silence

“Silence is golden.” Why do we say that? Because we understand that spirit is always active, alive in the silence and spaces of our lives. When we learn to honor the unseen and unheard, we expand our experience from the literal to the poetic and become able to embrace a largeness to life that is unobtainable in the material world alone. In the silence we grow and dream and love and share.

Teachers

Where would we be without our teachers? Indeed, we probably wouldn’t survive. We come into this world completely vulnerable and defenseless. Parents and teachers help us equip ourselves to live successfully and happily. The best teachers are those who also understand the inner journey and can guide us from the inner trail they are walking, at least a few steps ahead of us.

Transformation

Life is transformation. From the spectacle of a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly to the everyday unseen regeneration of cells in our bodies, every moment of life includes some degree of fundamental change. It’s easy to forget that if our lives become dulled by routine, but we can recapture the magic of any moment. How? It could be as simple as voicing an appreciation for some simple gift we are receiving right now. Like the air we are breathing, the sun shining on us, a breeze cooling us.

Unity

Unity is not sameness. Think of an orchestra. Each member plays their instrument, using their unique skills, and – by all following the same score and heeding the conductor – can create beautiful music together. True unity is diversity in harmony, a reunion of separation that enhances every part.

Vision

The Bible warns that “without vision the people perish.” Vision is more than seeing; it includes intention, peering over the horizon of the moment and extending a force of creativity to establish an energetic foundation for the material form of our daily living. With vision, we can build miracles, because we’ve started where life always begins, with the invisible, the unseen, the genius of spirit awaiting articulation in the 3D world.

Wonder

We lived in wonder as children and it’s not too late to reclaim our heritage. It’s only resignation to a perceived sameness that dulls obscures the wonder of a moment, oppressing with unconscious beliefs that turn novelty into routine. “What if” is the core question that can unlock our capacity for experiencing and growing wonder.

Yearning

It’s natural to yearn for what we want. But, what do we want? Behind all “things” are feelings. When we understand that true desire lives in the soul, we can surrender our quest to feed that hunger from the material world. Jesus said, “I have meat you know not of.” He yearned for God, for an ever deepening connection in oneness with his Father within. This is the natural yearning that lives in the heart of desire. When we accept this, we can release our addictions and return to the center point of connection and Love.

We all need each other to live. Look around, notice who is here for you, and marshal an attitude of gratitude for what these friends and family and teachers and healers are bringing you. And, in the same breath, appreciate what you are giving them. We live, truly, in a free sea of generosity, giving and receiving Love to expand our awareness and experience of the overwhelmingly magnificent gift that life is.

References:

  1. http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/alphabet

Help – Exploring Your Life

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

– T.S. Eliot

 

Press play to hear an audio enhancement as you read.

 

Life is meant to be explored. That means leaving our comfort zones for the unknown, one moment at a time.

This is the third blog elaborating on an alphabet of spiritual literacy developed by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat1. They’ve compiled a helpful list of qualities to remind us of the power of spiritual expression; I’ve taken inspiration from their descriptions and crafted my own.

Treat each of these as a mini-meditation, reading slowly and allowing the meaning to flow into you. Words can bring medicine into our lives and expand our awareness, especially when we open to the meaning woven between the lines and the words and the characters. Without space, there would be no meaning. That in itself is a helpful realization, midst a world that values form so highly.

We can navigate this object centered world very differently when we deliberately emphasize relationships, and come to experience ourselves as “one with” rather than “separate from.” That expanding sense of union is the core of all spiritual questing.

Here are the next seven key words on Brassat’s list.

Nurturing

We won’t feel confident to explore until we feel safe. Our life journey is from known to unknown so the necessary priority is to feel genuinely nurtured. This happens through loving relationships and courtesy of our growing connection with Source, which I prefer to call Love. When we feel held in the embrace of Love, from within and from without, our natural urge to explore can be safely followed.

Openness

What a wonderful quality. Openness allows us to enjoy new experiences. It adds color to our lives, the joy of novelty and the unique challenges of learning. Unfamiliar territory can seem thrilling or intimidating but with our connection to Love strongly in place, we can forge ahead with the trust and spirit of an innocent child.

Peace

Peace is an inside job. When we culture an atmosphere of peace within ourselves and test it throughout the rigors of daily life, we become a peacemaker, bringing peace through our thoughts, words, and actions. Physicists inform us that courtesy of “quantum entanglement” we are always affecting everyone and everything. Peace within us contributes to peace in the world.

Play

A life without play is arduous and stressful. It’s a condition that not even meditation can cure. Rather than adding play to work, we can re-format our entire life as play and include work in a playful context. When we remember that most of what we encounter is illusory, we can relax and enjoy the play of consciousness, starring in our own life story, and finding novel ways to turn each moment into an opportunity for playful learning.

Questing

The heart of question is “quest.” Questing is an attitude of going beyond known answers, living in the spirit of discovery. It’s fine to not know from one moment to the next. In fact, a core competency for spiritual mastery is surrendering the need to know and becoming comfortable with not knowing. Socrates said, “I know one thing, that I know nothing.”

Reverence

Reverence for life is natural and it’s infectious. Anyone who is in love with life is inherently lovable. Nothing stops any of us from deepening our primary relationship with life itself and there is nothing we can do that is more powerful for upgrading all our relationships. When we put this first, we learn that the love we share with others is all based in a mutual love for life.

Shadow

Our fear of the dark is based in ignorance. Without night there could be no day. Everything casts a shadow, including every individual. It’s difficult to see our own which is why evolved friends and a spiritual teacher are so helpful. We can invite illumination, we can welcome our shadow and go fearlessly into the dark of our lives when those moments come. Even the dark can be nurturing, when we’re secure in our relationship with Love.

There is no greater adventure than exploring our lives. We can climb mountains, build families and businesses, vacation in exotic locations but what shows up consistently in every situation is you. Adopting the attitude of a life explorer turns every moment – from mundane to magnificent – into a learning adventure.

References:

  1. http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/alphabet

Help – Enjoy Your Challenges

“If you aren’t in over your head how do you know how tall you are?”
– T.S. Eliot

Press play to hear an audio enhancement as you read.

 

Challenges come to us all, but not all of us have learned to welcome them and allow them to help us grow, let alone actually enjoy them.

In last week’s blog we introduced an alphabet of spiritual literacy developed by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat1. They’ve compiled a very helpful list of qualities to remind us of the power of spiritual expression, and how to turn challenges into opportunities. I’ve taken inspiration from their descriptions and crafted my own.

Gratitude

It’s easy to be grateful when we pause to contemplate the many blessings we enjoy, starting with the freedom and time to read something like this. Gratitude lives at the heart of mindfulness, which is the simple practice of being fully present in each moment.

Hope

There are two kinds of hope. Most often, hope is wishful thinking and diminishes vitality. The other kind of hope is based in your personal connection with Love, which acquaints you with the hopeful nature of Love, always expanding at the heart of consciousness.

Hospitality

The Good Samaritan story provides a reminder of the essence of hospitality. True happiness is impossible without helping others. “No man is an island” means that we are all connected. When we help others, we are also helping ourselves.

Imagination

Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Sadly, our educational system emphasizes knowledge and rewards linear thinking. Our brightest minds usually bail on formal education, for that reason. But it’s never too late to begin exercising our imaginal muscles and learning how to consciously create our lives in alignment with Love.

Joy is natural. Although our modern civilization has invented countless paths to joy, from shopping to sex, none can fully substitute for the simple joy of living. But we’re impervious to that experience, and vulnerable to the seductions of those substitutes, until we commit to life itself and fully embrace our experience moment to moment… because that’s where joy is always found, here and now.

Justice

Justice is not a legal matter, ultimately it’s a term for the “rightness” of life. Some say that life isn’t fair, and that’s true to a certain degree. Bad things do happen to good people. But that doesn’t obviate meaning. There are reasons for everything, well beyond our capacity to understand. Fortunately, we don’t need to. We can be advocates for justice by living in harmony with life and choosing to express Love, as appropriately, in every situation.

Kindness

Kindness is never a mystery; all of us can recognize it, both when we receive kindness and when we give it. Kindness is a tender gift that can change lives in an instant, especially when it is given into the face of hatred as a powerful method for conflict resolution.

Listening

Listening is more than hearing. We know when someone really hears us, which means they are listening for meaning between the words. True communication is always an act of intimacy which can reward our willingness to be vulnerable with unimaginable gifts of reciprocating Love.

Love

Love pervades everything. Those who imagine we live in an unfriendly universe have divorced themselves from this power, this spirit which animates everything. Love is the essence of all, taking form in every form, and filling every moment with the potential for sweet communion, until we finally know in experience that Love is what we are.

Meaning

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” This is meaning. Meaning is not a concept, an achievement, even a belief about oneself. Meaning is proactive, the exercised ability to choose for oneness.

These brief descriptions of ten qualities can remind us of the wealth of inner experience that is available for those who choose to explore those realms. Why? Because we need both inner and outer resources to successfully meet the challenges life brings our way.

Imagine evolving to the point where you can face a challenge with an attitude of gratitude and the learned ability to enjoy every one!

References:

  1. http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/alphabet
  2. Victor Frankl from Man’s Search for Meaning