Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gratitude...or not?

'Tis the season of  gratitude. And I do attempt to practice being grateful a lot of the time but honestly I can say it's difficult. Life often seems to get in the way. It's the little things like making breakfast, doing laundry, going to the grocery store,  where I find myself on automatic pilot and not even being remotely grateful. Not noticing all the moments for which I should simply say "thank you". And yes, I know that our greatest teachers are the people and situations that most annoy us. Yes, I know the greatest lessons in life are the ones that often bring us to our knees. I know that cultivating a attitude of gratitude creates more abundance in my life. I know all that. And I try. I really do.And often I truly succeed and those moments are indeed miraculous. Somewhere, thought, in the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, the struggle of control vs allowing, gratitude seems to often fall by the wayside. And sometimes it's not that I don't remember it's that I'm honestly just not feeling grateful at all...I'm pissed, or frustrated, or sad, or resentful, or afraid.
But there it is.
So, I intentionally carve out time to find it, all the little bits of gratitude I can squeeze out of my day.  To seek it's presence in my life even when I am feeling anything but. So awhile back I began a gratitude journal with the intent to make me accountable for all the things I am grateful for on a given day. Hopefully, bringing light to all the little moments of gratitude in the hopes it's brilliance would be so overwhelming it would permeate my fog of frustration. I think it was originally an Oprah idea and well, look how good she's doing in her life right? Well, what my journal  became was something of a hybrid gratitude journal really, devoid of much of the lofty spiritual truth I thought I would attain, or moments of miraculous epiphanies. I mean I had those moments don't get me wrong, but this journal was riddled with bits of sarcasm and downright resentment at times. I found I was thanking life but often through gritted teeth.  And as I read back over it I realized something. Scattered through the bits of hilarity or absurdness, even frustration, there was a thread of honesty and simplicity.   I was shaking the truths out of the fluff. Looking back I saw the myriad of moments that asked me to pause and take a breathe, forgive, and refocus my attention. Which is the power of gratitude really. To embrace the lessons in our lives just as they emerge. And when done right it has the ability to set us free.
So, in the spirit of thanksgiving. As we peruse last weeks family dinners, crowded shopping malls, grumpy tellers, annoyed children, and dwindling bank accounts. Perhaps you can relate as you, yourself, grit your teeth and utter the phrase, " Thanks?". We may not feel grateful in the moment, or at peace, or even remotely calm. But can we hold that thought, reflect on it, and be grateful for the lesson?
In homage to this season of thanks and the power of gratitude I wanted to reveal some of what I lovingly call my gratitude journal. As real as it is. I hope it inspires you to do the same.

  • Thank you yoga class for reminding me life is not about being the best, having the best butt, doing a freestanding handstand but about being present.
  • Thank you spider for crawling over my foot and scaring me so bad I spilled all my coffee. I'm think you are teaching me something great but all I can think of right now is "how do i get coffee out of Linen?"
  • Thank you son for showing me yet again I know nothing of which I speak.
  • Thank you leaves that crunch under my feet for showing me that even as you meet your end you are beautiful beyond measure and that even in change there is some constant. Spring will come, this too shall pass. In ending there is beauty just as there is beauty in beginnings.
  • Thank you child of mine for scribbling pencil all over the walls of the house, someday I will laugh at this but not today. Today I clean the walls.
  • Thank you for constantly reminding me today, this moment, is the very best. You know who you are.
  • Thank you coffee...just thank you.
  • Thank you lady at the store who clearly does not have just 10 items in her cart for reminding me to mind my own business.
  • Thank you friends that allow me to be just who I am even if that means I'm confusing, or odd, or quiet. You give me the space to grow without asking me for anything. I am grateful for your patience.
  • Thank you shiny penny I found on the street today for reminding me abundance truly is all around me.
  • Thank you sunset for reminding me to breathe.
  • Thank you chocolate (see coffee above)
  • Thank you early morning for teaching me time and time again the power of silence.
  • Thank you  Dave for always telling me the truth- even when it's not something I want to hear. And for showing me real love is letting go and not holding on. It is faith never fear. I embrace that we are on this path together. It's certainly more fun that way.
  • Thank you kitchen aid stand up mixer. I just can't say how much I love you. You make my life so much easier.
  • Thank you ocean for reminding me that even if the storm is raging above there is calm somewhere. I may have to go REALLY deep to find it but at least I know it's there.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Another Great Reader Question....Am I responsible for the bad things in my life?”

    Reader question.

    “Are you saying I am responsible for the bad things in my life?”
    The short answer. Responsible yes, deserving no.

    There’s two parts to this question I want to address. The first is the word responsible. I often think when we hear the word responsible we put a punitive slant on it. As if we have done something to deserve a unfavorable situation. It is defining responsibility or karma using our human ego parameters. The truth is the eternal energy, source, god, Tao (whatever you call it ) never judges. It’s never punitive. That’s a human invention. The law of karma is simple- cause and effect. If you go outside in freezing weather without a coat you’ll be cold. So, to be responsible is to be accountable, aware, and answerable to the fact that we have creative power in the world (see blog for more on that). Any blame, judgment, or punitive belief we put on it is up to us. So are we responsible for what is showing up in our lives? Yes. What we label that thing showing up, good, bad, difficult, easy, is our definition. The thing that happened is just as it is. How we interpret that situation is up to us.

    I know that this is such a easy thing to say but  oh so very difficult in practice. When I am challenged do I remember to not judge it? Sometimes. When I look back at some very trying times in my life did I stay present in the moment and not put my story on it? Not often. Did I fall into judgment, blame, despair, and fear? Did I just want it to be different? Absolutely. Do I still. You betcha. I struggle and I grow. That’s why it’s called a practice.

    The other part of the question I should address is the word “ bad”. The word “bad” is so totally  subjective. What you might label bad might be fine for me and vice versa. And even when we are a state of despair, when we are totally convinced it is in fact the absolute worst, can we know that for sure? I don’t think so. Personally, when I am asked how I would handle a horrific event I can’t answer. Honestly, I don’t know how I would handle a seemingly horrific event in my life. To think  what I might do is a hypothetical situation, forecasting into the future, which by it’s very nature takes me out of the present. What I can only hope is that I would remember to ask for help to stay present to the moment. That I would remember to breathe. That I would allow whatever to surface and be honest about it. To rant, to sob, to cry, whatever was necessary. In the hope that in my rawness my edges might begin to soften. I might be able to see a crack of light in my darkness. Because this is when the “practice” becomes a practice.

    “Now when the fight begins with himself, a man’s worth something.” 
    Robert Browning. 

    But how about all those bad things that have happened in our lives. Perhaps, if we look back might we see how they have actually been in fact" good" in the scheme of things? Cancers’ that awoke people to change their lives in miraculous ways. Deaths that have inspired people to show courage even in the deepest of despair. Loss of something so terrible that it cracked them open to a place of joy. I know looking back at my life I can list many seemingly “bad” things that have happened as now some of my most treasured gifts and teachings. So is"bad" really bad in that case? Would I have been able to learn the necessary lessons in a different way? Maybe? But the fact is I didn’t. I needed the lesson exactly as it showed up and for that I am responsible and even grateful. This fact helps me now when I face challenging situations. Remembering that any label on put on it is the cause of my suffering not the actual event. Have I perfected this? Am I able to stay absolutely calm and connected and present in moments of great fear? Am I always open to grace to witness the gift in the moment? No way. But I practice over and over again.

    Healing and growth are simple but not always easy. Realizing our responsibility for whatever happens in our lives is important because it enables us to take our power back. If we created our way in then  we can create our way out. We are no longer victims. We become more interested in freedom than justice. So the concept of responsibility is actually not punitive at all (that's a victim stance) but one of immense freedom and empowerment. A horrible thing may have happened to us once, twice, or numerous times. The act may be over but every time we relive those memories, every time we replay the script, identify, or believe a victim story we become our own perpetrator. We lose our sense of responsibility. If we replay the abuse we suffered we re-offend ourselves with resentment, pain, and blame and we become our own abuser. I choose freedom over being right. Healing over justification. That is what I’m concerned with. So I say with the deepest compassion. We  can all gently, ever so gently, lay down our own sword. Take responsibility for what has happened without attaching to the story. It’s just not worth it, for you. This is illumination. This is what healing is all about.  If you are no longer a victim you will no longer believe you can be victimized and you are empowered. If you no longer identify with being sick you are well. If you no longer identify with any label you set yourself free. This is responsibility. So, are we responsible for our lives? Yes we are.


    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Responsibility- Step Three

    Let’s chat a bit about responsibility because without a doubt real change requires it. Responsibility means we are accountable, we realize we are the agent, and the cause of our reality. If there is something you want to change, a situation that keeps repeating in your life, a relationship issue that keeps reemerging even though the players change, whatever it is, it must be noted that the common denominator in the situation is you. So to change a situation you must be aware of your part in whatever is showing up in your life.

    "You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself."
    ~ Jim Rohn

    A wondrous and seemingly miraculous thing happens when we take responsibility for our lives. When we work from the inside out. When we identify and really absorb the projections of ourselves in our reality we can use them as prescriptions for what we need to do for change. What's a projection? Very simply projections are the stuff we don't want to own about ourselves that we put on other people, situations etc. It's pointing our finger at another and making a judgement or blaming. Yet that thing triggering you about another is actually a reflection of a truth about you that requires looking at. We can use our projections as tools to enable use to become responsible and accountable for all the "stuff" about ourselves we don't want to but must own. We take our creative power back when we are finally honest with ourselves. When we put the focus back where it should be, on ourselves. When we do this our problems, our issues, our habits seem to fade into the background without a lot of struggle.

    So the final step in our process is to really get how every judgment we have about another person, every time we blame, every time we argue with reality, we suffer. Suffering is really just our attachment to the validity of our thoughts and stories. So if we are suffering we can be sure we are in our ego story. And practically our whole life is spent proving our ego stories true. So the final step in the process about really taking responsibility for your life (and change) is the turnaround, the dismantling of your story by owning your projections. In this process we turn those judgments, thoughts, beliefs, and resentments around so we give ourselves the medicine we are prescribing for others. It is about finding our own wisdom in our projections and being accountable. This is freedom and this is where change just happens.

    Take what you think about others and see what happens when you apply it to you.

    An enemy is the friend you judge on paper in order to see clearly the hidden secrets within yourself. You’re perceived enemy is the projection of your thinking, When you work with the projector through inquiry your enemy becomes your friend”
    -Byron Katie

    “There is only one problem ever: your uninvestigated story in the moment”
    -Byron Katie

    The following is an example of how it’s done. Please note it is imperative that the first two steps in the process be done first explained here and here.

    Find  a belief, meme, judgment, or projection you believe mind and turn it around.
    For example:

    “I am so angry at Joe because he never listens to me”

    Now turn it around and replace "Joe" with "I". There are many options to turn it around and when you find the correct one you’ll know. So keep up the inquiry until you do. It’ll be the one that gives you and energetic zing of truth. I had a great teacher tell me once “You know the one that makes you feel like taking a shower after you hear it? That’s the right one.”

    So some turnarounds are …

    • “ I am so angry because I never listen to Joe” Is that true? Can you find times when you don’t listen?
    • “I am so angry at myself because I never listen to me?” Is that true for you? Do you find yourself not listening to what you need?

    The point is understanding how we are responsible for our experience of suffering, but we blame others instead of owning it. Unraveling this madness is bringing our creative spirit in alignment with what is, truth. From this perspective we can heal.

    How about another one.

    “Joe should listen to me”

    Try the 180 degree turnaround
    • “Joe should not listen to me“.
    Well, guess what, the fact may be he is not listening to you right now? The suffering you feel about  that is believing the story you have made up that he should.  So who’s in charge of your pain? You are. Could you let go of that that thought and just deal with the fact he’s not listening to you right now?
    Now a quick note here because the question usually emerges at some point. Let me be clear in no way am I saying you don’t have boundaries or take a stand. In fact, this teaching is quite the contrary. When you get real clear about your projections you get clear about what boundaries you need to set. Not out of anger, justification, or fear, but out of compassion for yourself and the other person.  Not out of your story, history, or habitual response but out of an energetic reflection of the truth and clarity of the present moment.

    Another turnaround…

    “Joe should listen to me.”

    • “I should listen to Joe” Are you really listening to Joe? Perhaps, there in some wisdom for you in realizing you are not listening either.
    • “I should listen to me”  Is there truth in that? Have you been ignoring yourself and projecting that on Joe?

    This way of understanding our projections can be done on any belief, physical issue, pain, or relationships. Anything…When we take responsibility for our reality we can shift our perceptions, and shift what we are experiencing in a fraction of a second.When we realize that when we point our fingers at someone there are three fingers pointing back at ourselves. No exceptions. What a relief that is because we all know we have no power to change another. We can finally stop looking outward, wishing, hoping, maybe demanding that things change. To change our lives we just need to look in the mirror, perhaps for the first time.

    "The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives."
    ~ William James

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Step 2- Bridging the Gap

    “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” – Viktor Frankl

    By this time in our inquiry we are hopefully beginning to be aware of and question those habitual beliefs that keep us stuck. By now we may even  begin to notice the gap, that space between a stimulus and our reaction. It may be a millisecond of time but it is in that tiny void of the present moment, in that gap pf possibilities where we can choose to react differently. Being mindful of it’s presence is why we practice awareness of our beliefs. This is why we question their validity. This is why we challenge our memes and habits. This is why we continue to return to the present moment and not our history. We are ever seeking to get in the space between a stimulus and our response because that space sets the course for the moments to come. From moment to moment we can choose to change our reaction.
     This week we go deeper with our questions as we quest to bridge the gap, between habit and change and proclivity and freedom. That is what all this questioning is for.
     Time to wake up.

    Are your thoughts is alignment with what you want to create?
    How do you react, what happens, when you believe the meme? Do you feel angry, horrified, resentful? Does your back start to hurt or your neck tighten up? Do you get depressed, do you feel powerless? How much of your life is based on a certain belief? Who are you with that belief? Do you find yourself berating yourself, calling yourself names, taking your anger out on those around you? The thoughts or beliefs that create any discord in our lives are not coming from a place of soul strength and they are not serving you on the path to change. Really getting this point was profound for me because I realized no matter how “right” I thought I was, no matter how justified, or how real my memes seemed, it was always MY CHOICE to believe  them.

    "Now, having seen the differences between where you are and where you want to be, begin to change—consciously change—your thoughts, words, and actions to match your grandest vision."
     Neale Donald Walsh

    Benjamin Miller Photo
    When we believe we are in a place without choices we are victims. We are powerless. And we cannot find the space to change. We keep trying to solve the same old problem with the same old solutions. It’s like walking the same path over and over and wondering why it never gets you where you want to go. So “how do you react when you believe that thought” is such an important question because it gives us a clue about what isn’t working and empowers us to make new choices about the direction of our lives. Why choose to align with a belief that reinforces our powerlessness, our despair, our anger our resentment, our lack? We cannot change something in our lives if we believe we can’t. We cannot change something in our lives with the same thoughts and beliefs that created it. The fact is, we can take our power back at any time by choosing to believe differently. Why choose to believe any thought, let any thought into our reality, that isn’t empowering? If we want peace we must let go of all need to be right. If we want health we must let go the beliefs of illness. If we want success we let go of the belief we can ever fail.  You have a choice, a crossroad of consciousness, between a stimulus and a response.  Pick the belief  that puts you on the path that is taking you in the direction you want to go. Pick the belief  that leads to freedom and you bridge the gap.

    “The Divine Plan is one of Freedom. The inherent nature of man is ever seeking to express itself in terms of freedom, because freedom is the birthright of every living soul.”
    ~ Ernest Holmes

    Which takes us to the next question….

    Who would you be without that limiting belief?
    Would you be free if you didn’t  judge yourself? Would you be content if you didn’t stress yourself out? Would you be at peace if you didn’t choose conflict? Would you feel love if you weren’t in fear? Can you find one good reason to keep the belief that isn't serving you ? Think about it. Why even, for a second entertain the belief “I’ll never get rich doing that”. Because without that thought you‘d have the experience of money or at the very least be on your way.  Without the belief “I always get sick around Christmas”. You’d be healthy this Christmas. In Huna there is a principle called Makia, which means, "energy flows where attention" goes. In very real terms we animate our beliefs with our vital energy, with every thought we send a prayer. We know every belief has the ability to create what we want or don’t want in our lives. So we must embrace the beliefs that free us from what we don’t want and the path of change will emerge under our feet. In that space of choice we realize when we change the belief (cause) we change the effect.

    But, so often though we hold ourselves back.

    “When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flown at it to hold it back from flight.”
    ~ James Joyce Quotes

    Why is that we limit ourselves? In many ways we fear owning our own worthiness, our own power, our own authentic expression. We seem to live in a culture that denies the authentic expression of self. Ever get a compliment and feel like apologizing? I have. So, to really change we must be willing to commit to see yourself as worthy of change. To be worthy of a life of authentic expression, abundance, peace, and divine expression.


    We must ask for and accept help because we are worthy of it

    Giving up our idea and facade of control is scary, thus so is asking for help. But it is the false self, the ego self, that is believing our story of fear. Wayne Dyer has called the ego- “edging god out” and when we are in alignment with our ego selves that is exactly what we are doing, we are edging out our very divinity with our facade of
    control. In that space between stimulus sand response where the choice emerges we can continue to listen to the ego self or choose to tap into the river running through us that is soul not reason, truth not ego. It is our sacred right to have access to our own divinity. But we so often we forget to ask and then we forget (or choose not to) listen to the answer. We are so busy thinking about what we think should happen, how it should happen, worrying that it won’t happen, and what we are going to do after it does or doesn’t (edging god out). At any moment we can remember we are worthy of help and  choose to listen to our innate wisdom. We can trust it as we let it lead us forward. The answers we find may not “make sense” to others or even ourselves. We may not like what we find, what our teachers tells us, but it is what we must do to feel whole, to heal. We may be asked to re-evaluate those things in our lives that have defined us. Our jobs, our relationships, our roles. Because that part of us connected to the river of truth  cares only for truth not aesthetics.

    “What I am actually saying is that we need to be willing to let our intuition guide us, and then be willing to follow that guidance directly and fearlessly“. -Shakti Gawain

    In accessing our innate wisdom for guidance we acknowledge our hallowed worthiness.  And when we choose to follow the guidance of our inner lighthouse we tend to not notice the stones under our feet or the incline of the path ahead. Suddenly, when we are walking the path of sacred worthiness we are inspired. And when we are inspired we infuse that space of choice, that gap of possibilities, with grace.  Teachers, coincidences, synchronisities, appear in our reality in amazing and miraculous ways. Because when we ask for help we are opening  to new ideas, and new experiences. We are declaring we are worthy of a transcendent life experience.We are allowing rather than excepting and  trusting rather than controlling. Lasting change cannot be forced it must be relinquished.  We can only find permanent change by no longer believing, or aligning with the stories, thoughts, and habits that keep us stuck . When we let go of what no longer serves us and align with our true nature we no longer get lost in the minutiae of our problem. We allow the lighthouse of our soul to show us the way home.

    “It’s easy to act as if you are a weathervane, always changing your beliefs and words, trying to please everyone around you. But we were born to be lighthouses, not weathervanes. Imagine a vertical axis running through the center of your heart, from your deepest roots to your highest aspirations. That’s your lighthouse. It anchors you in the world and frees you from having to change directions every time the weather shifts. Inside this lighthouse there is a lens and a light. The light represents who you are when nobody else is looking. That light was meant to keep shining, no matter how dark or stormy it gets outside…when you find that light inside you, you will know it. Don’t let anyone else dim it…and one more thing: remember to look for the light inside others. If at first you can’t see it, look deeper. It’s there.”
    ~ Robert Coope

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Inspiring Words

     One of my favorite things is finding words that are put together that inspire me in a miraculous way. I love finding wisdom that makes my skin prickle and my heart burst open wide. The following is such a writing and one that you may seen before. I make a point of reading it over and over again as needed. So as we spend time contemplating change in this transitory time the message of the following letter is inspiring, deeply meaningful, and profound beyond words. It is a true teacher that can find words to teach in moments of tragedy and shine a light of  hope in our moments of the deepest despair. Ram Das is such a teacher. The following is a letter he wrote to two grieving parents whose daughter had been tragically murdered.  Read on and be inspired.  or Listen here 

    Dear Steve and Anita,

    Rachel finished her work on earth, and left the stage in a manner that leaves those of us left behind with a cry of agony in our hearts, as the fragile thread of our faith is dealt with so violently. Is anyone strong enough to stay conscious through such teaching as you are receiving? Probably very few. And even they would only have a whisper of equanimity and peace amidst the screaming trumpets of their rage, grief, horror and desolation.

    I can't assuage your pain with any words, nor should I. For your pain is Rachel's legacy to you. Not that she or I would inflict such pain by choice, but there it is. And it must burn its purifying way to completion. For something in you dies when you bear the unbearable, and it is only in that dark night of the soul that you are prepared to see as God sees, and to love as God loves.

    Now is the time to let your grief find expression. No false strength. Now is the time to sit quietly and speak to Rachel, and thank her for being with you these few years, and encourage her to go on with whatever her work is, knowing that you will grow in compassion and wisdom from this experience.
    In my heart, I know that you and she will meet again and again, and recognize the many ways in which you have known each other. And when you meet you will know, in a flash, what now it is not given to you to know: Why this had to be the way it was.

    Our rational minds can never understand what has happened, but our hearts– if we can keep them open to God – will find their own intuitive way. Rachel came through you to do her work on earth, which includes her manner of death. Now her soul is free, and the love that you can share with her is
    invulnerable to the winds of changing time and space. In that deep love, include me.

    In love,

    Ram Dass