Dungeon Prompt: Patterns


USGS Satellite photo of the San Francisco Bay ...

USGS Satellite photo of the San Francisco Bay Area.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sreejit’s prompt today:

Our life tends to move in cycles.  From the types of relationships that we get in and out of, to the kinds of jobs that we move through, the swing of our moods, or our change in attitudes towards what is happening around us, there tends to be some uniform repetition.  You probably have noticed a pattern in the coming and goings of these things.  Tell us about one such life cycle, or pattern, that you’ve noticed yourself repeating again and again.

I’ve found patterns in my life sometimes operate in cycles and others are more an ingrained thing that causes the habit or thought to be always present.  I’ve worked more on the latter, particularly of late, when ancestral patterns have been my focus.

So I had to think for a bit to come up with a pattern or two that I would also say arose in cycles.

One was moving.  Before I figured out that “wherever I go there I am” I used to pick up and move every time I felt stymied in a place.  Many moves later, Ellen, the facilitator of my Fischer Hoffman group, looked at me one day and said I was following my mother’s pattern.  My dad moved her to Michigan for better job opportunities and she spent thirty some years up there wishing she was still in Kentucky.

I’d forgotten Ellen even knew about that. I’d never connected my pattern of moving to my mother’s perpetual feeling of discontent with where she lived, so Ellen’s insight came as a big revelation.  I tried like anything to stay in California and I’d have happily abandoned the pattern to stay there but the huge expense of life in the Bay Area at a time when my health didn’t allow me to work full time just didn’t work.  Well, unless I developed an attraction for living under a bridge or in my car.

Now, here I am in Kentucky — going on 17 years — and most of the time I’ve regularly wished I were somewhere else.  I’ve been here now longer than any place else and I’m thinking that even when I’m free to leave I probably won’t.  Not sure whether I ended the pattern or just got old and tired of moving.  Plus I have some amazing friends here and I’m tired of leaving amazing people at a distance.

I’ve been too busy trying to get healthy for some years to be bothered with dating but back when I did, I had an unfailing pattern of choosing unavailable men.  One after another.  Not married men.  Just commitment phobic.  Or  serial daters.  Or  controlling SOBs I clearly couldn’t tolerate.  Finally one day I told the Universe if I couldn’t attract anything better I’d prefer no one at all.  And I got what I asked for :-)

I learned from my mother and an aunt or two to believe that women lose their self hood in marriage and have no choice but to dance to the husband’s tune.  It’s sure how it turned out for them. Eventually I understood that I chose impossible men to have a great excuse for never getting lost in marriage.  I’ve done a lot of healing around that issue but I realize sometimes that some little corner of me still fears getting swallowed by a relationship.

As I feel better, thoughts of getting back out there flit through sometimes.  I alternate between (1) thinking that given the healing process I would attract someone suitable now and (2) figuring it’s all just too much trouble.  One of these days, though, I think I might have just enough curiosity to check out whether I magnetize yet another commitment phobic ass hat or whether I’ve reached a place to attract a good partner.  Maybe.

To be honest, I’ve found it much tougher to delve into the ingrained patterns that ruled my days 24/7.  I don’t know that I’ve completely dumped any of them but I’ve succeeded in living from a different set of beliefs and patterns 90-95% of the time.  Which leaves a significant amount of time for dancing to the old tunes.

For me, the issues of moving or not moving or marrying or not marrying are pretty inconsequential and don’t make much difference.  Moving toward serenity and inner peace through releasing patterns that go the other way feels more important so I focus more on healing those issues — and notice that some of these other patterns fall away or shift as the healing deepens.  And yes, I’m aware of the theme within these themes of keeping my distance… ;-)

Dungeon Prompt: The Turning Point

This week’s Dungeon Prompt:

You may have gone down a lot of different roads in your life, but tell us about the biggest turning point, or change of direction, that happened in it.  Was it inspired, or necessitated by circumstance?  Would you go back and change it if you could or was it the greatest thing that ever happened to you?  Tell us about a moment in your life when you suddenly decided to change direction.

I’m not sure I can pinpoint the moment that changed my direction, and life ever since has been an unending series of small and large changes, all flowing from the original turn to face a new horizon.

After law school I became a study in misery.  Hadn’t especially wanted to be a lawyer.  Hated law school.  Wound up disappointed in the promise of law.  In the mid-seventies to early eighties a wave of Supreme Court decisions* and public-interest minded lawyers created a wave of jobs and agencies in which the law could be used to foster good, especially in environmental issues.

By the time I earned the J.D. Reagan was in power and those jobs were disappearing.  Although I managed to find a job that mainly involved working to block nuclear power plants, it turned out I just didn’t much like the work.  As noted in a recent post, I tended to whine and complain and at this point the lamenting became ceaseless.

To ease some of the tension I found my way to acupuncture and began having regular treatments that started a bit of energy moving.  But over all the angst went on.

Eventually various friends from scattered places all began to ask me if I’d thought about seeing a therapist.  Even I could see that something needed to change.  My friend Ann had been seeing a therapist who used meditation and past-life regression and somehow I knew that was the therapist for me.

I’d believed in past-lives since reading about Bridey Murphy in high school and had long had a matter-of-fact acceptance of spiritual matters beyond the physical, so I felt drawn to this therapy as soon as she told me about it.

Michele started me off reading The Nature of Personal Realitydoing guided meditations, and learning about creating your own reality.  Soon I was reading Shakti Gawain, taking classes on metaphysics, and visiting channelers.  I felt as if my heart had found its home.  Relieved, excited, in love with a new world view.

Some months later I began taking yoga, which led to more meditation classes–yoga style– and studying pranayama.

By a few years later I could no longer tolerate the law job… or the law.  I walked away into a life of seeking and transforming and uncertainty and never looked back.

But which moment created the change?    Was it when my friend told me about her therapist?  Did the acupuncture open an energy pathway that influenced my decision to try therapy and the therapist I chose?  Did the materials the therapist introduced me to change my course?  Did yoga make the final difference?  Or did I start a march toward all this when I read The Search for Bridey Murphy in high school?

I tend to think of the day I chose to start therapy with Michele as the main turning point but I know enough about how complexly life is woven to look back and see a collection of decisions that all led me down a new and different path.


*Thank you Justice William Douglas

Dealing with patterns

The Power of Positive Thinking (EP)

The Power of Positive Thinking (EP) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although my last post was specifically about whining and complaining, the suggestions I’m providing here can work for moving through any kind of ingrained pattern.  I also wanted to remind you that it’s time to set aside that 10 minutes to pray for peace — see Collective Prayer Sunday page for more info.

Over the years I’ve tried many things and used many practices to shift out of negative thinking and I really think the whole conglomeration has had an impact.  Ingrained patterns are tough to shift and the more deeply embedded they are, the greater the challenge. I’ve found that it often helps to keep coming at it from different directions.

That said, I am NOT suggesting that every person out there needs to try every single thing on this list; nor do you need to do every thing that’s listed under any given category.  See which two or three you’re drawn to and try those.  I also find that over time my intuition about the next step often changes, so I’ve regularly put down one practice and picked up another.  There are also things I’ve done faithfully for years.

Every person is going to find their own path to healing patterns and often one person’s won’t look much like another’s.  I always say whatever works for you is the right thing to do.  Often a friend of yours will achieve dramatic changes with a practice or a workshop that leaves you scratching your head and wondering why nothing is happening.  Something else will work for you that leaves your friend mystified.  Doesn’t matter.  You both found something that helped.

The following list is nowhere close to exhaustive, but represents things I’ve tried or that have helped friends.  It covers a lot of territory and lets you work on different levels of your thinking patterns.

1.  First, drop any idea that there’s a quick fix.  While there are people who have sudden dramatic epiphanies that change everything, most of us slog through overgrown paths, clearing out underbrush, circling back periodically to the same place and meandering down blind paths and twisting by-ways.  Sometimes for years.  Try to stay in the moment and enjoy the journey without worrying about when and how it will end.

2.  HEAL THE ANCESTORS.  Ingrained patterns often are learned from family or even inherited in the DNA.  Look carefully at all family members and all family history you know (by memory is fine) and see if you see the pattern operating there.  Sometimes it’s easier to see how it operates in others.  See whether you understand any more about how it arose in the family and how it affected you

  • Use the ho’oponopono prayer to heal in yourself the patterns/issues you see in your family members.  I’ve discussed the prayer and presented examples of it here, here and here.  Change the words of the prayer to suit the pattern you’re working on as needed.  If necessary, say individual prayers for individual people as well as separate prayers for each pattern.  Keep saying the prayers daily until you don’t see the pattern any more.
  • Create a ceremony to heal the pattern in your ancestors
  • See a shaman or healer who does work on ancestral issues
  • When you feel pretty complete with exploring and releasing these patterns, do something to forgive everyone involved, whether you create a ceremony, say a prayer or chant the lovingkindness chant for each person.

3.  CHANGE YOUR MIND.  When you have ingrained patterns you have created neural nets that let you automatically react the same way every time the same trigger is encountered.  You need to create new neural nets and a habit of responding from those in order to shift a pattern.

  • Pay attention to your thoughts and note what the basic thinking patterns are and how and when they are triggered.  Then write some affirmations that turn those thoughts around.  Don’t try too many at once.  Just pick a few and when you feel like you’re getting better add a few more.

Example:  I caught myself thinking regularly about not feeling well, with many variations on the theme.  I created an affirmation:  “I AM healthy and full of energy every day.”  I asked my higher self to pay attention and poke me every time I started the mental whining about my health.  Increasingly I began to replace the “I’m not well” thoughts with thoughts about wellness.

  • Use affirmation recordings, subliminal or otherwise.  I’ve mentioned before that I created a Spotify list that has a bunch of Dick Sutphen’s affirmation/subliminal recordings and I keep it running very softly on my computer pretty much all the time.  There are TONS of other recordings available on YouTube and elsewhere on the web so if you don’t like my list or don’t like Sutphen, create your own.  You don’t have to play affirmations loud enough to hear the words; your subconscious can get the message.  I like to have it so if I tune in I can hear it softly running, but otherwise I don’t even notice it.  I’ve been amazed at how much difference it has made.
  • Instead of watching only news or standard TV programs, spend an hour or two watching films like What the Bleep Down the Rabbit Hole, The Secret, Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life, etc.  Anyone with more suggestions of equally uplifting, positive-thinking films, feel free to chime in in the comments.
  • The core holding places for many negative thinking patterns are repressed emotions/memories.  When you explore those hidden places and release the old wounds, many thinking patterns change on their own.  Explore the past and find ways of identifying, facing and releasing issues.  For me, it was a special version of the Fischer-Hoffman process; my teacher, the late Ellen Margron, used 25 years of experience to re-fashion the work into a months-long, more wide-ranging, deeply transformative experience than the one week intensives usually on offer.  The week-long sessions are powerful also (according to others I know) and still available (see here).  Louise at Dare Boldly talks about a program that sounds great called Choices.  I’ve known a number of people who had great success with H. Almaas’ Diamond Heart work.  Some people like The Work.  Others Lifespring.  There are so many more.  Just find a teacher/workshop to which you’re attracted that involves shifting out of old patterns, addressing issues, etc. and do the work.
  • Mindfulness.  Even if you don’t choose to “sit vipassana”, you can work on being mindful.  The more aware you are in every moment, the more you can stay on top of the process of changing your mind.  Most unhappy thoughts arise from things in the past. Keep your mind in the moment and it’s easier to stay away from those patterns.

4.  HEAL YOUR BODY.  If you have ingrained patterns in your mind, chances are you have patterns in your body as well.  Often those negative thought habits and the emotions that underlie them create tight muscles and rigid muscle holding patterns.  [Other types of ailments caused by issues/emotions are beyond the scope of this piece and my expertise]  As flexibility and flow are restored in your body, it’s amazing how much it can impact what goes on in your mind.

  • Acupuncture works very well with energy blocks.  Using tiny needles (really not painful and trust me, I never liked needles), acupuncture opens energy meridians so that energy and blood can flow in balance.  This can help with many health issues, but it can also help to heal tight muscles.
  • Bodywork comes in so many varieties, I can’t name them all.  But the several most effective modalities I’ve used are:  CranioSacral, Bodypatterning (a school is just starting so there will soon be more practitioners in more places), Postural Integration (an offspring of Rolfing), St. John’s Neuromuscular Therapy.
  • Some movement practices really help release holding patterns.  If you work in between bodywork appointments, you’ll find it goes much more quickly.  Plus, once you know how, you can keep patterns from settling back in and head off new patterns that might arise from accidents, etc. before they can take hold.  Traditional hatha yoga — not aerobic yoga, not hot yoga, just old-fashioned basic asanas — is quite helpful at loosening patterns.  I wound up working with Robert Masters Psychophysical Method and re-worked a lot of his stuff into sets combined with yoga and it has had AMAZING effects.  I plan to have some content about that available on a new site by early 2016.  In the meantime, Robert Masters was a student of Feldenkrais, as was Thomas Hanna, whose Somatics work is readily available on the west coast (not sure about farther east).  Feldenkrais classes are available in many places.

5.  MEDITATE.  Divine connection is so very healing.  And some forms of meditation can help you to let go of patterns and thoughts.

  • Focused meditations.  There are so many forms of meditation that train you to focus and empty your mind.  From techniques that focus on the breath, to staring at a candle or a wall, to counting, these types of meditations help train you to stay in the moment with a quiet mind.  The more you can hold that space, the less you will find your mind staying in negative grooves.
  • Guided meditations:  I think there may be dozens of recordings for every topic you can imagine, from releasing anger to attracting abundance or stimulating creativity or healing, etc. you have multiple choices.  Because these meditations put you in an altered state, the messages for releasing old thoughts or accepting new patterns can settle more deeply than just having those thoughts in ordinary consciousness.  On any given topic they often say to do it daily for 30 days.  If you really want it to sink in, I think you can plan on multiplying that — how many times depends on how deeply a given issue is ingrained.
  • Moving meditations, like Tai Chi and Chi Gung, can not only help with mindfulness but also tend to open energy flow and thus can help shift patterns.  If you do them in silence and focus on breathing with the movements, it’s also a great way to learn mindfulness.  For those who don’t like to “just sit”, these practices are a great alternative — and healthy too.

6. CREATE COMMUNITY.  In Buddhism they call it Sangha.  When you form a community of people with similar goals and beliefs, you create a system of support.  In a world where most of the thinking is negative and little supports your effort to change your thinking, it really helps to surround yourself as much as you can with people who are also seeking a positive view, the end of negative patterns.  If you don’t have people where you live, the internet provides so many opportunities to connect to like-minded people that you can form your own community from wherever  you live.

If you’re constantly surrounded by people who whine, complain or in other ways spout negativity, it’s very hard to hold a peaceful, positive center within yourself.  So not only is it a good idea to find supportive like-minded friends, but to spend less time with the naysayers.

Well, there you go.  Not the definitive end-all list, but  plenty of things to try. They’ve helped me.  I hope they help you too.

Whining and complaining and other ingrained habits

Lucas Cranach the Elder - Cupid complaining to...

Lucas Cranach the Elder – Cupid complaining to Venus – Google Art Project (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had a conversation going on lately with a friend that’s reminded me of an old story from college.  We’ve been talking about the habit of complaining and especially complaining but never doing anything to change things.

During my freshman year at NU I went to lunch one day with some friends.  Apparently I was whining and complaining about something as we ate.  Suddenly they looked up with great annoyance and informed me that I complain all the time.  And they wouldn’t mind the complaining so much if I ever did something about it.  But I never made an effort to fix anything; I just complained.

It was a life-changing moment for me, although the impact unfolded over the course of many years.  It came as a great shock, and, of course, hurt my feelings at the time.  But once I thought about it and observed myself for a while, I could see the justice in their accusation.  And I tried to be conscious about not whinging all the time.

Many years passed before I started understanding more about that day and realized several layers of things were operating.  That complaining thing is a big habit in my family.  On both sides to some extent, but particularly on one side.  One of my by-marriage aunts once confided to me that she didn’t like hanging around with her husband’s (my) family that much because they were always judging everyone as if they’re somehow the arbiters of right and wrong.

Upon consideration I could see the justice in her view, but more than that I could see that it’s more than just judging.  It’s constantly looking around the world for what is wrong.  Which, of course, they prefer to find in others :-) Sometimes I think they actually take pleasure in complaining.  And maybe feel that grousing makes them somehow interesting.  Or at least living lives full of drama.  And I could see all that in me.

I’ve noted how that habit comes into play when a solution is suggested or the possibility of trying something is offered.  The first reaction is to question it.  To think up every single reason why it might not succeed.  My parents still do it regarding just about any suggestion made.  And I see others who instantly question things offered or solutions provided on a frantic hunt for the reason why it won’t work.  I run into this pattern often enough to see that it’s a fairly common thread — though by no means familiar in all families.

The habit of complaining without solving means you don’t really want solutions.  Hence, the corollary habit of rejecting solutions.  Sometimes there’s so much angst involved in thinking up the reasons why an answer won’t solve the problem that I can’t quite decide which fear is greater:  that they might try and it won’t work or that if they try things will get better.

Back at the college lunch scene, the girls who confronted me happened to all be from wealthy families and they had a gung-ho confidence about the world combined with an expectation of things working out as they wished that was completely foreign to me.  Since then I’ve seen it isn’t just the wealthy.  I’ve known people who somehow arrived with a positive attitude and a dose of self-confidence and maintained it regardless of environment, staying centered and knowing that all will be well.

The two sides often don’t get one another.  Those who haven’t been raised to see the world as a hostile environment in which good seldom arrives tend not to get the deeply-seated beliefs of those who see the world as full of problems and grievances.  Those who are used to complaining have trouble understanding the confidence and positivity of those who weren’t raised to expect the worst.

It recently struck me how much this divide impacts people trying to live by the Law of Attraction/Create Your Own Reality principles.  Because if your ingrained way of thinking is to view the world as full of stuff to whine about and an unhappy place in which nothing you might try is likely to help, you’re pretty much never going to attract the positive stuff.  The attraction of good stuff comes from that place of confidence and the assumption that good is coming.

It doesn’t help to do a daily meditation with a vision of a better job or relationship or more friends or deeper happiness, etc. if all the rest of the time you’re whining and complaining about all that’s wrong.  It doesn’t help to say an affirmation a few times a day if the other thousands of daily thoughts in your head are about all the things you think are wrong or how you’re suffering, etc.

I’ve realized in waves how deeply ingrained the negative thinking habit has been in me and it’s been quite a journey to reach a different view — most of the time; I can still whine pretty good :-)  Next time I’ll provide a bunch of suggestions about how you can get past these ingrained patterns.

J2P Monday: Bear with me

Peace Bird by Dean S. Miller

Peace Bird by Dean S. Miller (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The final throes of unwinding have been keeping me awake and kind of generally bugging me, so when I tried to compose the post I intended I found I just couldn’t concentrate.

The planned post relates to ancestral and familial patterns and how they interfere with peace.

So I thought I’d just throw out a suggestion — or a challenge, if you will — to give some thought to your family and start exploring your ancestors.

When I started thinking about my extended family in terms of patterns I could see running through the generations, I realized I could see a lot of character traits and physical holding patterns that I’d never noticed before.

Then when I started searching on the internet for more information about my ancestors, I started seeing that some of those patterns started long before the family of my lifetime.

So just think about the family members you’ve known and think of them in terms of patterns and physical movements or ways of holding the body and see if it illuminates any aspects of your life.  See whether censuses and birth and death certificates can suggest more about patterns.

Just explore.  As soon as my muscles settle down and I can get some sleep I’ll work on the post and then you’ll have more you can do with the info you’ve gathered.

Peace time and Dungeon Prompts

Juilliard

Sleepiness is ongoing (see post) and you may have noticed I’ve been posting more erratically than usual :-).  Thought I’d combine my response to Dungeon Prompts this week with a reminder to set aside 10 minutes to pray or chant for peace on Collective Prayer Sunday.  Kind of a lazy two-fer-one post…

This week’s prompt:

How do you measure up to your eight-year-old-self’s plans for the future?  We all had childhood dreams, or fantasies.  How did you imagine the world as a kid?  When you were eight years old, what did you plan on being when you grew up?  What would that version of yourself think about who you are now?

This has been an interesting one to contemplate the last few days.  While I know I’m not living the life she dreamed of, I’m not sure how eight-year-old me would feel about sixty-two-year old me.

As a child, I dreamed of nothing but a career in music.  Originally the dream was Broadway or movie musicals.  As I got older I dreamed more of rock or jazz.  I’m not sure if I ever had the talent for the type of music I wanted to sing, but when I begged for voice lessons I was handed classical training starting at age 12.  By the time I was old enough to realize my musical preference, I had a voice that didn’t fit the music.

Still, I dreamed and when time came to look at colleges, I wrote away for nothing but catalogs from music schools.  Which led to the big discussion about music as an unrealistic career “even for people with talent” and the bottom line that my parents weren’t paying for music school.  Not being the rebellious, independent sort who had a clue how to just take off and make it happen, I went to Northwestern as an education major.

My collegiate career started the fall after Kent State and by sophomore year I was a jeans and work-shirt, marching, protesting hippie with a growing array of social concerns.  And that new viewpoint stayed.  In some ways that expression of political and social values not shared by my parents was the first time I spoke as me.

In my twenties, I did sing in a band for a while but I finally understood that the voice created by training was never going to work for the kind of music I wanted to sing.  And that I lacked the ability to create a style uniquely my own.  My interest in pursuing it pretty much ended there.

I also carried a lot of angst and sadness from childhood on, though I was in my thirties before it became clear how strait-jacketed I was by my own demons and issues.  When it became too bad, I finally started down the personal growth and spirituality seeking path that I’m still meandering along.

My life right now is far from any dream I ever had.  And my dreams have changed.  I’d like to think that anxious, repressed little girl — who I believe still lives inside — is happier now and pleased to be more free and peaceful even though at the time she never acknowledged her deep unhappiness.

Dungeon Prompts: In Hindsight

The Dungeon Prompts challenge this week–for which I’m barely making the deadline since it went up last Thursday– is:

All of our mistakes have made us into the people that we are today, and so this is not meant to be an exercise in regret, but rather a fun look back with the thought, “that was maybe not such a great idea.”  Tell us about a past exploit of your younger, less wise self.

The article that you link to this prompt should be a new post written specifically for this assignment. 

For the most part I’ve come to believe there are no mistakes, just a journey of many possible paths and twists and turns.  In hindsight many odd side-steps and seemingly “wrong” paths have all brought me skills or wisdom or helpful people or insights or growth that are all contributing now to the whole tapestry I’m weaving.  No mistakes, just lots of colors and patterns to help me create the work of art that is my life.

Bell bottoms.

Bell bottoms. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the interest of living up to the “fun” aspect of the challenge, I thought of a few:

  1. Back in the early 70’s feminists burned bras and my friends and I joined the bra-less trend.  What were we thinking?
  2. Also back in the 70’s, hip-hugger bell bottoms.  Seriously.  Who thought that up?  I don’t mind the bell bottoms so much but that low riding thing…  I can’t believe it came back in both outer and under wear.  Really.  One round of it long ago and I NEVER wanted to revisit.  However many pairs I had, it was that many pairs too many.
  3. Deciding the sauce I was cooking for the main course at a dinner party would be fine simmering on the stove while I ran an errand and coming back to find it reduced to just about nothing so I had to make another.
  4. Walking on a deck with lots of steps up and steps down while carrying a view-blocking pile of stuff.  Oops.