Outage blessing: a shift

A couple of weeks ago a big storm took out electricity for a couple of day (previous post) and then our phone/tv/internet service went down for a week.  When the electricity came back but the other stuff was still out I pulled out some DVDs to have something to watch.

I’d been drawn for a while to re-watch some “positive” stuff, like Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life” or “What the Bleep”.  But you know, have to remember how to get in DVD mode and find the stuff to watch, so it kept getting put off…  But with DVD the only possibility, the draw became compelling.  So I started with the Louise Hay.  As I watched for what was probably the sixth or eigth time since i bought it, I suddenly felt like a switch flipped.

Having been aware of her mirror work for years, I finally actually went through all the exercises in one of her more recent books about it a couple of years ago.  I enjoyed it and felt like it did some good, though years of work on similar things meant it didn’t feel like a big change happened.  But I’ve long been aware of a gap for me between my intellectual understanding about positive thinking and my ability to hold on to positive thoughts.

Many people I’ve known over the years have seemed to just flip a switch upon encountering Ms. Hay or Eckhart Tolle or whichever “you create your reality” guru they found.  It’s always amazed me that someone could turn it around so fast.  Sometimes I realized they became very good at saying only positive things but it didn’t necessarily mean they’d really cleared the negative thoughts or explored their origins…

On my journey I realized in increments over many years that lots of old personal and ancestral issues created endlessly looping negative tapes in my thought patterns and that I didn’t know how to turn them off.  It’s taken years of release work, self-examination and creating positive thought loops to progress slowly into a more positive mindset.

But suddenly as Louise and friends discussed loving yourself and mirror work, something in me went, “yes, of course, I love myself.”  I’ve been smiling and looking in the mirror to repeat variations of loving myself affirmations daily ever since and spontaneously looping positive thoughts through my mind at intervals each day.

I’ve waited a while to write about this, wondering how well it would stick.  Must admit the constancy of it has faded a bit over the course of a couple of weeks (probably time to watch the video again?), but by and large I’m still finding myself running affirmations through my mind and smiling into the mirror daily.

It feels like a big shift.  One that was fed by all the work on shifting, sorting, examining and changing that went before, but a shift nonetheless.  Quite a blessing to receive from an outage!

The week+ with no Internet or t.v. has also changed my viewing and on line habits a bit, as I actually watch instead of half watching more things, take more time away from computer and t.v. to read, cook, weed, etc.  I have to say, frustrating as it was, the blessings were greater than the inconvenience.

Part 3 Peace Begins with You: Mental Body

What the Bleep Do We Know!?

What the Bleep Do We Know!? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mental attitude has a huge impact on your life and what you draw into your life.  If you want to be an emissary of peace your thoughts need to be peaceful.  Most of us have a lot of negative tapes playing in our heads, beliefs and ideas planted in early childhood and running on endless loops in the background.  This piece of the series explores some of the things you can do to “change your mind”.

It is tough to break this down into separate parts because all our “parts” are so integrated, but I do think there are practices for each aspect of being and it helps to work on all levels.  Still, it’s been a struggle to separate this piece.

The mental body winds up ruled much of the time by unconscious issues and beliefs held in the emotional body, for instance, so it helps to dig into what lies beneath.  But that’s for the emotional body piece…

When I began this journey affirmations, visualizations and general positive thinking were front and center in the New Age movement and many of us thought we’d spout affirmations for a few months and our lives would be forever changed.  The choice to move in that direction probably did change our lives but we found it takes more and longer for most people.

While I’ve always had some degree of success with visualizing and/or affirming something and creating that reality, this has really been one of the toughest aspects of the journey for me — the “simple” act of changing my mind.  Oh, I thought I’d done it.  Become Miss Positivity.  I was 20 years down the road before I really “got” how many negative tapes looped through my head all day every day.

If you spend 10 or 20 minutes a day purposefully repeating some positive affirmations/statements and then the other 23 hours and 40 minutes running negative tapes, guess which wins?  When negative issues and beliefs are running the show from the unconscious, I think affirmations are kind of like dripping water onto a mountain and waiting for erosion to take it down…

By the time I realized how negative my thinking really was, I’d done a LOT of emotional release work.  Once I began concentrating on positive thinking I could see how much more impact it had than before all that clearing.

Some of the things I’ve used:

  1. I set up a “mindful” watcher to pay attention and alert me to negative tapes and their patterns.  When I realize a given tape is running a lot, I write a positive turnaround/affirmation and every time I catch the negative thought, I instantly repeat the turnaround multiple times.
  2. I created a long playlist of Dick Sutphen’s affirmations on Spotify and generally if I’m on the computer, it’s playing very softly in the background; soft enough to be almost subliminal rather than heard.  Sometimes 8, 10, 12 hours a day, affirmations about just about every subject you can imagine, speaking positive thoughts to my subconscious.
  3. Over the years I’ve put together a small collection of movies like Louise Hay’s Heal Your Life, What the Bleep, and The Secret and I try to watch one or another of those fairly often.
  4. YouTube has some good affirmations videos and I have a collection of affirmations recordings, so I often go to sleep with affirmations playing on my tablet.
  5. I love the Lovingkindness Chant and I say it as an affirmation.  I generally chant it for 10 minutes a day but I also just repeat it to myself off and on and I often go to sleep and/or wake up and say it to myself.   To me the chant covers every major area of life and in a way that invites the Universe to fulfill it in whatever way is best — that for me is the perfect affirmation:  I am filled with lovingkindness, I am well, I am peaceful and at ease, I am happy.  If you chant it enough to make all those things true for you, what more could you want?
  6. I re-read some of my old favorite books on metaphysics like Jack Kornfield’s Path with Heart or Shakti Gawain’s Living in the Light or I find a new one to love like Elizabeth Lesser’s Marrow.  Books that support my ever-more-positive world view.
  7. I hang around as much as I can with people who believe in positive thinking, to attend events that involve ceremony or chanting or a talk on “New Age/New Thought” ideas, and to stay away from negative thinking.   I’ve unfriended a person or two from Facebook and hidden others from my wall.
  8. I have a regular practice of singing Sanskrit chants.  These chants are basically affirmations and I like singing them in a language I don’t know.  I think our souls know all the ancient languages and singing in an unfamiliar language helps you to take in the message on other levels and to bypass your brain and its tendency to question and criticize.  The ancients designed them well to align chakras, open heart, impact the nadis (energy channels), etc. so they heal on many levels.

If anything inside you is clinging to some other belief, repeating affirmations may bring it to the surface.  I’ve been chanting regularly ever since the election and I’m both feeling positive effects and changes and suffering frequent bouts of major crabbiness — which tells me I’m bringing some anger issues to the surface.

I still have some negative thinking to work on, but by and large several years of concerted effort have shifted a lot of old negative patterns into positive patterns — and it’s clearly favorably impacting my health issues.

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J2PMonday: Not beating the drums

Ever since I read this Abraham Hicks quote, the last part has been running often through my head:

dont beat drum quote

And every time I read e-mails or posts in which someone discusses how bad the world is, how full of problems the earth is, how terrible this or that environmental problem is, I think, “Don’t beat the drums of the problems!”

And more and more I think, “I’m not going to beat the drums of the problems — and I don’t want to hear that beat.”  To me, the image of beating the drums is both about drums as a means of communication and the vibration raised by whatever you’re playing on the drum.

There’s an energy to that vibration and it’s a magnet.  If you’re proclaiming the problems, fretting over the terrible crisis of this or that, you’re magnetizing more of it to us all.  Energy flows where attention goes, so if your attention is on problems and trouble instead of what’s good then the energy of trouble is growing.

It’s not that you can’t notice anything, it’s how you pay attention to it.  Louise, at Dare Boldly, does a lovely job of advocating for the homeless.  I don’t recall seeing any posts in which she was hand wringing or pointing fingers and jumping up and down about the problem.  Instead, she reminds us of the essential goodness of the people with whom she works and tells us about success stories and programs that are working.  It’s a small thing that, to me, makes a big difference.

Although there’s no posting challenge this month, I’m going to issue a challenge for you to just try to pay attention to what you beat the drums for.  For a week, see if you can catch yourself every time you’re clucking your tongue and thinking about whatever you see as problem in the world.  Think about whether you want to beat the drum for that.  Are there positive things you can think about instead?  Has anyone anywhere made progress about the issue?

The media tends to emphasize problems but if you look around there are always great stories of people’s kindness, of great non-profits that people have founded, improvements in environmental issues, etc.  Look for the positive stories and beat the drums for those.  A few spots to check:

CBS Sunday morning also offers lots of great stories about people doing good and interesting things.

What do you tend to beat the drums for?  Are you playing the drum beat that sings of all the good and wonderful things in the world?  Or the drum beat that laments the problems?  Are you becoming a magnet for good or bad?  In the great web of all life, what message do you want to bear?

If post about the exercise, link here and when I pick up the pingback I’ll mention it in the next post.

J2P Monday: Activism and Nonviolence

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and ...

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Responses to my post on “Environment, spirit and me” last week left me feeling I wanted to write another post, addressing activism in general.  At first I thought it really didn’t belong on J2P Monday, but then as I worked on it, I felt it really does.  Gonna be longer than my usual pithy posts…  sorry.

After years of activism on many fronts, my view of activism and what changes the world is radically different.  Which I guess means I’m still a radical, but this time I’m even farther off the main track than in my hippie days (which may not have ever ended 🙂 ).

There are some basic beliefs I now hold that are at the core of my view.  For many people these are way out.  I get that.  And I’m not trying to make you believe what I believe.  Just explaining.  If it makes you want to jump on the bandwagon, cool.  If it seems wacky to you, that’s cool too–if you feel called upon to comment on the wackiness, keep it nice.

First, I believe that everything is energy, including thoughts.  When thoughts are sufficiently focused and strongly held, they have the power to create reality, to manifest what you believe in.

Second, I believe that all energy exists in oneness.  We are all one.  The only part of the energy you can control is your own.  Whether you choose to be war or peace is up to you.  The choice you make does impact the whole, however.  If the majority of energy in the web is focused on battles, problems, struggles, discord, evil, wrongs, etc. then the world reflects those things by producing more and more.

My corollary belief is that if enough people in the world are completely at peace, including in their thoughts and words as well as their actions, then the world will move into peace and harmony.

In the history of the world, by and large, the framework of much of life has been about people finding problems, deciding how to fix the problems and fighting about whether there really is a problem, about whose job it is to fix it, about what solution is the right solution, etc.  There’s an “us” and a “them” and a right and a wrong,  Anyone who doesn’t see it your way is evil, bad, wrong.  All these problems are discussed in terms of battles, struggles, wars, with accompanying vitriol against all who don’t agree.

As long as everyone believes the world is full of problems, full of evildoers who don’t admit the problems or who want the wrong solutions, the world will be full of problems, evildoers, etc.  We create what we believe in.  We create what we put our attention on.

Gandhi and Martin Luther King and the Dalai Lama, among many, tried for years to tell us.  Nonviolence is the answer.  I think a lot of people assume that nonviolence means “don’t throw rocks or shoot guns at people.”  But violence in eastern philosophies is about more than physical violence.  They teach us to be nonviolent in our thoughts and nonviolent in our words as well as in our actions.  Violence in thoughts and words can be just as destructive to the world as physical violence.

It often surprises me that in spite of the successes of these leaders–and I think one day we’ll see the good effect of the Dalai Lama’s stance of compassion toward China– most people don’t believe that nonviolence works.  Sometimes it feels like few remember HOW Gandhi got the Brits out of India.

For myself, when I think in terms of being in battle over environmental issues or peace or poverty, when I think of the world as troubled, when I see problems everywhere, I know I am being violent instead of nonviolent.  Those are violent thoughts.  When I speak of problems and issues and the fight to win this or that, I am being violent in my speech.

Meditation and affirmation and creating visions are tools I find very effective for creating change.  They help to refocus your thoughts and beliefs to a more peaceful place.  They help to bring peace into your own heart so that peace is what you carry forward into the world.  Collective vision creates a powerful energy for creating a new reality.

When it comes to the list of my so-called accomplishments in environmental issues I don’t see it the way I did then.  I understand that one way to look at it is that nine nuclear power plants weren’t built and that’s good.

But I look back and wonder, what if we had created a vision of our state having the best, safest, most healthy delivery of energy that the Universe could provide?  What if we sat together and meditated on the vision and then stayed open to receive an answer from the Universe?

You see, I believe that process could lead to realizing we already have technologies that could alleviate the need for nuclear power, oil and all the vanishing resources we currently believe we must have (and we do, why they’re not implemented, another story…).  I believe such a vision could open a space for the Universe — or All That Is or God or Higher Consciousness–to show us an abundant, sustainable renewable energy source that’s as yet undiscovered.

Which is better, from that view?  Stopping nine nuclear plants or changing the entire paradigm of energy in our world?  When we frame things in terms of problems and solutions conceived by brains instead of opportunities and paths illuminated by higher consciousness and heart, we get tunnel vision and fail to see many potential other answers.  So, while I see why, from an environmentalist point of view, it was good to stop the plants, I now believe we could have done something much more effective and lasting.

I know many people think I’m nuts for believing this.  I think it’s pretty nutty to imagine that a framework that has never succeeded in the history of the world will ever lead to a new paradigm of peace.  I think it’s time to step outside of the old box and open to a new way of being.  Hopefully not in a box…

I don’t see how a world of battles and struggles and wars on this and that ever gets us out of battles and wars.  I don’t see how we can ever find peace if we constantly point fingers at other people and declare them wrong.  I see that a vision of what could be can change the world.  I hold a vision of a world in which so many people have let go of anger and fear and instead filled with compassion and love that the world has become a place of peace and safety and harmony.

But this is what I have come to for myself after many years of activism followed by many years of meditation and contemplation and yoga, etc.  That’s my truth and the path my heart must follow.  I can’t tell you what to do or that your path will lead you to the same place.  Your path is for you to discover.

Why did I attract that?

Wildflowers by street near downtown San Rafael

My second week in Marin I dined with a friend who’s particularly good at the right listening side of right speech.  We discussed the story of the big blow up that happened before I headed to California (see previous post).  She was the first person to realize that I’d been so upset because I’d been sent a psychic fireball of anger and she gave me a practice to clear it.  The practices I’d already been doing (lots of ho’ o pono pono and energy balancing) along with getting away to beautiful Marin had taken care of a lot of it and her suggestion finished the process.  The part I continue to contemplate is the question to which she kept returning, “why do you think this situation came to you?”

As previously noted I feel an overarching reason for this sudden shift is that I’d been ignoring an intuition that I should quit focusing on movement classes and put more attention on writing.  She accepted that but still came back to the question so I realized she felt there was more.  Looking deeper I could see a pattern that started with my mother’s ornery sister — a thread of people in my life with big stores of anger and unpredictable flashes of rage.  In fact, there were a lot of angry people around me as a child and, though I’ve managed to have lots of lovely friends who don’t indulge in angry outbursts, I’ve generally always had at least one in whom I could see the anger but ignored it in favor of the aspects I liked about the person — much I like I ignored that anger in my relatives.  I’ve known about the pattern for a while.  I realized this time that I’m ready to be done with it.  Even though other friendships along the thread had broken and I’d acknowledged relief to be out of each specific one, I’d never actually decided to be done with the pattern.  No more friends with unacknowledged lava pits of anger for me.

However, my friend continued to ask the question and I have a notion that she’s right, that there’s another level of the why and that one continues to elude me.  I’ve been in this place many times and I find it both fascinating and frustrating; the process of discovery can produce amazing revelations and yet when something eludes my scrutiny it’s maddening.  Whenever I discover a new issue or comprehend an admonition that I created after some childhood trauma, it feels so great.  Only when I know what’s there can I let go of it so every success in searching for underlying causes leads to a greater sense of freedom.  Even when frustrated I know this new way of handing it is so much better than my old way of letting my feelings fester,endlessly blaming the other person and always feeling “why me?”.  So I’m reminding myself this is better while I scratch my head and feel silly that I can’t see what else attracted a psychic fireball to me…

Following guidance down a long and winding road

Close to the end of my favorite walk here you hit this shady spot… ahhh!

For some reason I’m feeling an urge to tell the story of my “guidance” about writing and the twists and turns of it even though I haven’t reached some obvious conclusion –like, project became successful or project was total failure, etc.  This is more the story of a process and an exemplar of how following intuition can become a long and complex journey.  The creating reality and law of attraction teachings often imply that you pretty much focus your vision on something, think some positive thoughts and it will come to pass.  I’ve said before that I’ve found it often doesn’t work that way; this is a story that shows that process can go on for far longer than much of those teachings ever reveal.

I began studying all this “spiritual stuff” in 1985.  A couple of years in, in meditation I was told that I was meant to write and I received images and messages that indicated the writing would be very successful.  Since I wrote short stories all the time as a child and then became good at writing essays and briefs in adulthood, this seemed pretty natural so I started trying to follow a writing path.  Initially I assumed that the book would be about my spiritual journey and I began chronicling my journey [in which I assumed I was taking giant leaps forward into highest consciousness :>) ] in a book entitled “Peeling the Cosmic Onion”.  I struggled with it, wasn’t happy with the pedantic tone I seemed unable to escape and put it aside.

When I went through Nine Gates Mystery School (ninegates.org) I finally realized my hubris and humbly began serious study, feeling that I needed to know a lot more before I wrote a book that could serve as advice for others.  A couple of years later my kundalini experience began and I virtually channeled a novel, Echoing Ancestors.  I went through all the steps to get it published and worked hard to get reviews (got one great one), get it in bookstores, etc.  but all for naught.  Other than friends I don’t think anyone ever bought it.  I felt hugely disappointed but a meditation also helped me to see clearly that given the major health problems I still suffered at the time, I really didn’t have enough energy to match the size of my dream nor enough energy to do all that would be required if my book became bigger.

I loved being back in the world of writing fiction and fairly soon started a second novel, at which I worked diligently for quite a while and then it bogged down.  I could see that the creative writing spark I had as a child had suffered in the years of writing academic and legal pieces but I couldn’t see how to get back there.

Because of the book I started a web site and, having read that you should offer something for free to people who visit, I began to write “Insights for the Spiritual Journey” and once a week or so I put a new one on the site.  After a while when I asked in meditation what I should be doing to earn a living, I’d still receive the answer that I should write, but now in the form of “write the insights”.   I chafed for a while because I wanted to be told to write my novel but eventually I caved. For several years I kept writing the insights and posting the insights and having no readers and developing no interest in the novel.  Eventually, though, I’d written so many that I began to see how to thread it together into a book.  The next couple of years I still worked at other jobs and trying to get workshops off the ground but as much as I could I devoted time to editing and writing new material and organizing until I had a complete book, Insights for the Spiritual Journey.

I tried a couple of places that had been encouraging about the novel but got no interest.  I also did enough research to realize that the publishing game changed to include a requirement for new authors that you show up with a sizable market already in your pocket.  Since I didn’t have one I wasn’t sure what to do.  So I put the book aside and focused my efforts on my yoga and movement classes.  After a while I started having “insights” forming in my head again, but this time shorter and pithier and with a sense of humor.  I wasn’t sure what to do with them so I turned again to meditation and received the answer “start a blog”.

First I had to find out what a blog was.  I found WordPress and set up a blog and, again on advice of my meditation “counsel”, began to do two posts a week.  Which I read and a friend of mine read.  For six months…  All these years I periodically pointed out to the universe that if my purpose was to be alive here on earth and writing that it would be helpful if the writing provided a way to actually stay alive…  I usually received either silence or advice to trust and keep writing.  Sometimes I shook my fist at the sky.  After six months I was tired of posting into nothingness so I did some research on how to get people to read your blog which led to posting more often, subscribing to a growing list of blogs,  expanding the blogging life to hours and hours a week instead of a couple…  I got subscribers and made blogging friends and had more fun but still had no numbers that would be interesting to a publisher or that would attract advertising.

But after a year-and-a-half or so, I realized that in the whole collection of blog posts I had some themes on which there was a fair body of work.  I’d also begun exploring the e-book world and the relative lack of constraints (like getting rid of the 180,000 word minimum) and heard a story of a friend’s friend who wrote little metaphysical books for Kindle and received a $300,000 check for one pay cycle.  That really goosed me into thinking about what I could do with those blog posts.  In the meantime the manual for my continuing ed movement classes had grown too big to be copying and hauling so I learned how to work with Kindle in order to put the manual up so my students could all get it easily and cheaply without the clerical work from me.

I soon saw the first topic on which I wanted to do a little e-book.  I’ve also had some crazy little pieces that have kept floating in my head the last year which are soon to form a second e-book that has a working title of Saying No to Mr. Wrong.  The first one, which I’m working on here in Marin, is so far titled Relating Heart to Heart:  A guide to playing well with others.  I’m excited about them.  And I can see that all these many steps along the journey were what it took for me to develop a style that feels right and like me.  To gather the wisdom and insight to have things to teach that are actually helpful.

I also can see how my trust in the universe always had limits which was why I kept trying to take other jobs and teach yoga and then my movement classes.  And I have to wonder whether I might possibly have reached the writing style, etc. faster if I’d just trusted and followed only what I was guided to do.  But really I believe that it all needed to happen this way.  I feel very good about this little book.  My health is also finally good enough that I could do a signing tour or say yes to giving talks, etc. without facing a probability of collapse.  It’s about 25 years since I first received the guidance that writing was my path.  I’ve worn a lot of other hats and made my living doing lots of other stuff over those years.  I’ve grown and changed and become healthier not only physically but mentally and emotionally.

The recent blow up that finally has me focused on the writing even seems like a blessing in many ways.  I kind of wish I’d followed my intuition earlier instead of reaching the point where the universe felt like it needed to yank the rug out from under me.  But I probably needed that lesson too.  The point of all this is that I really believe the messages I received 25 years ago were true.  I also believe that I had a very long journey to accomplish in order to reach the place where the vision could become reality.  It’s possible that I’m going to discover there are some more lessons that have to happen but right now I’m excited to see what happens when the “Relating” book goes up in a month or two.   More important, I’m really enjoying the process of creating it.  And I promise I’ll be posting about it whichever way it goes…

Healing Journey Monday: Flowing body, flowing life

weeping cherries

weeping cherries

With some nice weather finally arriving, I’ve been out walking lately, trying to get in shape for walking those steep climbs and drops in my old neighborhood in Marin (just a couple of weeks!).  As I walked along today I tried to stay aware of how my body was moving.  In these last five years since I developed the movement work I’ve been using and teaching, I’ve been slowly realizing how much more fluid my body is and that I had lost track of that flow as my natural state of being.

The more I release all the patterns and open my body the more I note that my back has lots of moving parts and they’re fluidly moving around as I walk if I let myself relax into it.  My arms no longer just swing like a couple of blocks of wood but have fluid motion in which the hand, wrist, lower arm, elbow and upper arm are all gently flowing as I move.  All the parts of my legs have their own part to play in the movement of walking.  I had been so stiff that I completely lost any memory of that kind of flow as my natural state.  And when I look around at the way most people walk through the world, I see very few who have any fluidity.  These days I’m sorry to even see that a lot of children are holding themselves stiffly by the time they’re five or six.

Hips, I’ve discovered, have their own special story in our society.  At around the same age (12 or 13 when I was young — possibly younger now) girls were told that swinging their hips was slutty and boys were told that swinging their hips was girly so most of us started tightening our muscles all around the hips and pelvis in order to avoid the slutty or girly labels.  Added to lack of exercise and too much sitting most Americans have practically frozen hips by the time they hit 30.  Those cultural admonitions run so deep that even though my students and I laugh about doing the slutty walk as we flow around the class room, we’ve found that in public we go back to walking stiffly unless we stay mindful of letting the opening we’ve gained stay in play.

When you can apply words like stiff, inflexible, tense, frozen and locked to your body, you can probably apply those words to other aspects of your life as the state of your body reflects the state of your emotions and/or suppressed memories and/or world view and/or your “stance” in life; in other words those words describe you in some way.  As I’ve felt the shift from being stiff and frozen to being fluid and flowing I’ve developed a theory about the Law of Attraction and how it relates to the body:  if the energy can’t flow through your body, it probably isn’t magnetized toward you from outside very well either.   In order to align your being with the life you want to attract it’s important, as many teachings assert, to have a positive attitude, but I think it’s at least as much about energy.

In Hawaiian Huna they talk about building enough mana (chi, vital force energy…) to match the vibration of what you try to attract.  I think an important part of the equation is opening your body so that your energy freely flows through.   In the Kriya yoga tradition as I was taught it, the main point of the asanas is to open the body so that prana (chi) and kundalini (divine energy) can flow freely–and it’s believed that you can’t ultimately connect with your divine nature unless the energy can flow uninterrupted.  Whatever your spiritual path, I think it”s impacted by whether you have a balanced and open body.

Walk around and pay attention to what you feel.  Do you have that flow?  Do the various parts of your body move easily in their own separate patterns as you move?  If you find stiffness and tension instead of fluidity, the state of your body may be a big block to whatever your spiritual goals may be.  Are you willing to do what it takes to flow?

Trying again… when attraction hits a wall

Photo by Captain Furry on Photobucket

As my life has begun turning a corner — on many fronts, but for this post, the career front–I’ve been contemplating the long string of failures along the way to this moment.  The simplistic versions of the law of attraction or you create your reality ideas imply that if you just hold a vision and put some positive thinking into it you’ll draw to yourself or create what you want.  My experience has been a little different and I’ve seen it go differently for lots of people.

When I first encountered the “create your own reality” idea in 1985 I was enthralled.  Something opened for me for a while there and I actually had a number of experiences that proved it to be true.  But then I hit a wall.  It took a long time for me to realize that the wall was composed of all my conflicting beliefs and admonitions so at first I was stunned when I started ventures with great enthusiasm and positivity and watched them fail.  For instance, I put together a stress management class that, at the time, was fairly leading edge in giving people lots of easy practices that they could do in a minute or a few to take the edge of f of stress.  A spiffy brochure was created, massive mailings were undertaken and I booked lots of free lunchtime demos, all of which received standing ovations.  But not ONE place offered a paying gig.

It went on that way for the next 20 years.  I found minor things like proofreading and copy editing and managing a church along the way with tiny paychecks and no relation to what I wanted to do but every step I took toward any vocation that seemed to suit me and my skills and qualifications led to a thudding nothingness — I mean lots of money expended and not a single dollar of income from a single client, ever.  My California friends watched this journey in disbelief that anyone could have undertakings that seemed like great choices  fail so utterly time after time after time.

Having realized that the obstacle had to be me, I spent most of the 90’s and a good bit of the 2000’s journeying inward, mapping and releasing beliefs.  I delved and delved and nothing ever seemed to make the shift.  I suffered many crises of faith yet somehow found a way to look at the good that came from each failure and to pick myself up and try again, all the while continuing to deconstruct the belief systems that stood in the way.  I’ve watched a number of people give up and decide that the law of attraction isn’t true or doesn’t work.  It can be a long, dark night of the soul when you reach the place where your unconscious reasserts its beliefs against the conscious choices you’re trying to make.  And that darkness is not helped by those who imply that if you’re not drawing the life you want you’re doing something wrong.

Around 2000 I could see that my ongoing health problems also stood in the way and the low energy associated with feeling so poorly also meant that my vibrational level didn’t come close to matching my vision for my life.  I gave up pursuing big career goals and focused on getting my health and energy back.  See earlier post for the energy practices I used as aids.  Eventually my spiritual journey also led me to my ancestors and the very slowly dawning understanding that I carry some very deeply held beliefs about poverty and failure that have been passed down for generations in many lines of my family.  In the convergent points where (1) my health has been getting better and (2) I’ve done a lot of working on healing the ancestral patterns, something turned around and things are going well.

I can also see that the path I’m moving along now combines lots of elements and things I learned from all those failed attempts–the failures and the searching and the deconstructing and the learning all wove themselves into a new pattern.  Everything added up to form a whole that I couldn’t have foreseen while I was stumbling and falling and picking myself up again.

I wanted to share this story because I think a lot of people hit those blocks where nothing seems to work and I want to encourage you to keep getting back up and trying again.  Find what you believe that stands in the way.  Have faith.  Sometimes the universe leads you along some by-ways that feel like detours or wrong way turns but turn out to have been just where you needed to go.

This is for Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday, which is T this week.

Question Everything

First of all, off topic, I want to say a big thanks to kdkh from the Peace With My Life blog, who nominated me for a Sunshine Award. As I’ve previously noted, I’ve given up on going through the steps for these awards (see post), but I always feel grateful.  In this case I’ve received one before so I’m going to refer you to that post for other bloggers, etc.  Please be sure to check out Peace With My Life for lovely posts.

I’ve been thinking a lot for a while about a post on “questioning everything”. Every time I try to work on it I wind up realizing that it needs to be divided into more than one post. I’m loathe to commit to some regular time to keep putting up additional thoughts on this topic so I finally decided I’d just throw out an opener and tell you I’ll be coming back to this but not on a schedule.

I first started thinking about this topic in line with the “create your own reality” idea that seems to have been replaced with the “law of attraction”. I found over time that unconscious beliefs often have more impact on reality, or what you attract, than what you’re consciously thinking. Once I started exploring belief systems I realized that the ideas that bind us are far more widespread than just what we learned from our families and have many roots so deep in societal, religious, and cultural beliefs that most of us are held in place by beliefs so ingrained we don’t even question them.

In spending a lot of time exploring Buddhism after those initial thoughts, I came to feel that those beliefs are also a big part of what practices “detach” you from and that belief structures are obstacles to success on pretty much any path if you don’t become conscious of them and find a way to step outside the structure.

In several past posts I discussed why I think some sort of mindfulness practice is crucial, made suggestions on a variety of ways to achieve mindfulness and added ideas on how to give your thoughts new directions. So I’ll just reiterate here that I think you not only have to dig around in your consciousness to understand all that you believe but you also really have to learn to be mindful, which is Buddhist speak for being in the moment. Without mindfulness it’s unlikely that you can track your thoughts well enough to note when you’ve stumbled upon a belief to address, nor will you be able to focus your thoughts well enough to stay in the moment being present and unattached to all those beliefs that direct your thoughts.

I’ll open with this thought that arose for me in Bali. I was stunned to discover that the Balinese don’t really have a concept of individual pursuit of happiness (at least they didn’t – I have my suspicions that the explosion of visitors from the west is probably changing that…). Life there is centered around the temple and first allegiance is to serving the temple and next allegiance is to serving others. That simple difference between putting community first and putting self first blew away my assumptions about life and the pursuit of happiness and the rightness of putting the individual first. And I realized how many differences in world view flow from that one simple difference in belief. I don’t know if all visitors realize how much of the beauty and the absolute charm and kindliness of the people there is the direct result of that belief in putting others first. But it’s magical.

I can’t say that I’ve completely changed my attitudes about individual rights but that single experience opened a window for me and a breeze has been blowing through ever since, leading me to see how many assumptions I make because Americans make them or Southerners make them or middle class people make them, etc. How many thoughts and actions are conceived because I accept a whole array of beliefs about how life works or what one must do. Once I understood that none of those beliefs are set in stone, nor are they universal truths, I saw how limited my thinking is.

I also saw how easy it is to embrace a new spirituality that is far from the mainstream and to imagine that you’ve thrown off all those fetters. In actuality I still find quite often that on the one hand I hold beliefs that are far outside the norm and at the same time I operate from so many learned assumptions that arose from class and country, etc that it’s unnerving. As I let go of all those “musts” I become more peaceful. What beliefs do you hold about action, inaction, love, war, peace, ownership, service, etc. that you learned from your school or town or family or country?

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Exploring the process of visioning

Daydream Believer by Josephine Wall

Note: I’m using Josephine Wall again, and again the link is to the main page as her permission for non-commercial sites to use her work contains a request not to link to individual pictures. This picture is in the Goddesses section of the Art Gallery.

Karen Wan, of Writing Your Destiny, made a thoughtful comment on my post on Monday about visualizing and as I thought about how to answer I decided it needed its own post. Trying to keep the posts short means sometimes a topic just has to be covered in more than one post….

Karen mentioned that she thinks dreams often have to start with hope, which I think is so true. To bring a dream into being ultimately takes belief, but sometimes you just have to be willing to hope to get it started. In one of my favorite parts of The Secret one of the teachers mentioned that you have to start by affirming and that you may not really believe what you’re affirming at first, but as you keep the positive thought in mind, belief grows.

I’ve found that sometimes I have to keep affirming and holding a vision for a very long time before I feel that shift where I know it’s true to my core. I have to check in with myself really deeply to sense where doubts lie or old issues still dictate a different belief. For instance, prosperity for me has messages that go back generations on both sides of my family—rich and poor alike had major issues and insecurities about getting and/or keeping money and whether it’s okay to have much at all, with lots of nuances and side issues—and I seem to have taken on all of them. Every time I think I’ve finally let it all go I turn and face another nuance.

Which leads me to the other part of Karen’s comment I want to address, which is that dreams may take a long time—the bigger the dream, the longer it might take. I think there are two parts to that, one being the Universe doing its work outside of time and the other is that sometimes you have to clear away a lot of stuff. If the time factor gets you down so that you quit affirming or quit believing, then any progress that had started working out of sight to grow your dream may be lost. For me, getting past illness has been one of several long pieces of the road to my dreams (another post sometime soon).

Really there are two levels of belief with which I’ve worked. First I have to have enough belief that the law of attraction works to sustain me while I get to the second level where I totally believe in a specific dream. These are some of the things I’ve found to be true for me. Might just be my reality…

This post is for Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday, which is E.

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Visualizing Your Dreams

Whether you started with Napoleon Hill‘s Think and Grow Rich or Shakti Gawain‘s Creative Visualization or The Secret or you landed on one of the tomes in between like Serge King’s Imagineering For Health, if you’re on a New Age or New Thought path you probably encountered the idea that thoughts create reality and thus what you envision can become what you experience. I’ve believed that since I read The Nature of Personal Reality (Jane Roberts) and I have created aspects of my reality with affirmations, with visualizing and with changing my energy. There are lots of theories about how to do it and many spiritual paths that don’t want you to do it at all. I don’t have a definitive answer–and if you’ve been reading me for a while you know I don’t believe in definitive answers—but I can tell you something about my experience.

As with all things spiritual, there are lots of theories. Some say you need to decide precisely what you want and visualize with as much detail as possible. Others advise you to ask more generally and let the Universe provide the best available response. A variation on the latter theme is to concentrate more on the feeling tone associated with your vision; for instance, the happiness you’ll feel when you find the apartment you’ve dreamed of. For me it’s worked best if I keep it general and adding or subtracting the feeling tone varies.

My favorite story in visualizing happened years ago. I had a part-time temp job after law school and I knew that the firm planned to hire a permanent person soon. At first I was so anxious about it that I just wanted to be offered that job. But I soon realized that I wasn’t actually that happy there and so I began to visualize and affirm that I had found the best law job for me–really nothing more specific than that. A few weeks later I dreamed that I got a call back from a long ago interview asking me to come in the next Friday to interview again and that they called a week after that to offer me the job. I updated my resume but they found me at the temp job and called to ask me for another interview (the next Friday) before I sent it. The following week they offered me the job. While I ultimately decided that the law was not for me, if I had to have a law job, that one was the best I could have hoped for.  And it showed up on my doorstep without me taking any of the steps that pundits would say you have to take to get a law job. At the time I didn’t have a vision beyond getting a law job so my affirmation/vision magnetized the best situation that fit my dream at the time.

When I got around to Buddhism I suffered a lot of confusion about visualizing what I want because everything about it seemed to me to say that I shouldn’t want anything. Somehow the teaching on creating reality always felt true and right to me, though, so I alternated between envisioning what I wanted and feeling that I shouldn’t want. In my recent pondering I’ve realized that my heart has always felt the true ring came from the teachings that say my thoughts and visions create my experience. While I also believe that those who believe differently are right too and that their experience will reflect their beliefs, I’m moving away from spending much time in the philosophies that seem to confuse the issue for me.*

In recent years as I’ve worked a lot on energy I am coming to understand that the feeling tone you hold is also really important. If you maintain a positive outlook and/or strong, flowing energy and/or a peaceful heart you’ll tend to draw people and incidents that reflect those feeling tones and without having to affirm or visualize anything.

My feeling is DARE TO DREAM! You’ll have to decide whether you believe that you need really specific visions or whether you need to be general, whether you really believe it’s okay to have what you want or to want at all and whether your feeling tone or vibration makes a difference. You may decide that you want to accept what is and not desire anything else – in that case, ignore this post. For everyone else DARE TO DREAM!  

This post is for ABC Wednesday (V) and AlphabeThursday (D).

* I love the Eightfold Path because I feel it states so well the basic principles of any spiritual path and I love some of the mindfulness and chanting practices but the philosophy just doesn’t work for me.

For me, it’s all just energy

Tonight as I practiced kundalini yoga and felt the giant energy boost from all that breath of fire, I realized that in all this pondering of philosophy I haven’t really remembered that the main thing I’ve believed in for a long time is energy. I’ve written a couple of other posts about energy so I don’t want to repeat the same things here (see:  The Energy of It All and Working with Energy ).

The theory I’ve been operating under for some time is that if everything is energy and I am energy then maybe the way to health is to work on energy. And it’s been working. As I mentioned in my post on working with energy, I’ve been practicing the Eight Key Breaths, the Five Tibetan Rites and Flying Crane Chi Gung for about five years now in order to balance my endocrine system, balance my energy, build my energy and restore my health. More recently I’ve added kundalini yoga practice, focusing mainly on sets that give a boost to glands and organs.

From the extremely low energy place where I started (one of my friends quipped that I was a “chi free zone” after acupuncturists shook their heads over how little chi I had) it’s been a slow build but in 20 some years of journeying toward health these practices have taken me most of the way.

I particularly like the impact I feel on the nadis. The nadis are a system of energy channels that roughly correspond to the nervous system. When your muscles are twisted up and tight the nadis are blocked so that energy can’t flow freely. When I do these energy building practices I can feel the energy get stronger and stronger in my system and start bumping up against the remaining knots in my muscles. The process of opening the muscles has really sped up since I started working on the energy – helped along by Cremean’s Bodypatterning and the triggers of release work that I designed as well as 26 years of yoga.

Beyond the health benefits, since thoughts are energy and visions are energy and your vibrational level is energy, when you build and balance your energy it changes everything. When you say affirmations and change your mind or sing kirtan and find yourself calm or meditate and become peaceful you are changing energy. When you change the energy you change everything.

Pondering my philosophy

A while back I wrote a post in which I discussed the many variations in spiritual paths and concluded that it’s a good idea to decide what principles you believe, especially if you’ve chosen to follow more than one path. At the time I was becoming aware that my eclectic path—from New Age to Huna to Buddhism to Hopi with a big vein of yoga and dollops of Sufi, Taoism and more—had left me confused and that the choice I advocated was one I needed to make.

More recently it came into clearer focus. I realized that in a lot of ways I’ve been just been spinning in place since I started studying Buddhism 14 years ago. Up until then I followed the New Age philosophy that “you create your own reality” and then I became interested in Huna, which, on the surface, is probably the closest tradition to New Age—at least as taught by the few teachers who write about Huna. The core belief that what you think (believe) creates reality means that if you change your thoughts you change your life. Currently this idea is discussed more as the Law of Attraction.

Teachings on this path encourage you to create and affirm visions of what you want in order to have the life you wish. Buddhism (among others) advises that you should not want anything—or that’s how it always seems to me. Desires and attachments, according to this thinking, lead to suffering and the way to end suffering is to end desire and attachment. I know lots of people think that all paths are the same, but, while I see that they all lead to the same place, I find they are often contradictory in their theories of how to get there.

I have long thought that the main thing about any path that leads to success in connecting with your divine nature is the depth of your belief in that path. Because I believe that thoughts create reality, I also think that sincere belief in any path and its precepts leads to God. But following two paths with contradictory beliefs left me without one coherent framework to follow. Hence the spinning.

When I first saw that I’d been going in circles around these conflicting ideas I started trying to resolve it. But for a long time I just alternated between creating a vision of the reality I want and then beating myself up for wanting anything. In the meantime I kept up with practices from meditation to pranayama to chi gung and let my mind contemplate the various principles in the background.

I have a mind that naturally synthesizes so I decided to let it all whirl gently without worrying about it. In recent weeks it’s finally coming together—that’s its own post. If you, like many of us, are dabbling among paths—some Eckhart Tolle here, some Thich Nhat Hanh there, a little Native American saging and weekly yoga classes for instance—you may have some log jams of thinking. It’s worth separating out the various logs to make sure you don’t have opposing concepts running in the background. If your subconscious is confused in the midst of conflicting principles then your practices may not succeed. Personally I think the hardest part is creating your own blend in a way that’s consistent.

Posted for ABC Wednesday – today it’s “P”.


Getting around myself

 

A friend of mine held a small gathering today for creating vision boards for 2012. When she first invited me I thought it sounded great, particularly as the guest list was small (prefer small social gatherings over large) and included some of my favorite people. Though I don’t ordinarily like arts/crafts projects I’ve always had a penchant for collage so vision boards are right up my arts and crafts alley.

But then the e-mail arrived with the attached files explaining the type of vision boards we were going to do. One attachment was a bagua – the feng shui map of the areas of a house– and the accompanying file let us know we were going to be creating vision boards by the layout of the bagua. I loathe having to deal with graphs and charts*, especially having to organize data or material to fit them so my first reaction was, “Oh no, talk about sucking the fun out of doing a vision board!”

For a couple of days I mulled and flip-flopped. In the end the main driving force became my recent realization that with my health doing better I want to start re-entering the world. It seemed self-defeating to forego a chance to hang out with my friends just because I have an aversion to charts. And I had to admit it couldn’t hurt to give it a chance instead of rejecting it before trying it.  Small and silly though that may seem, I haven’t always been able to step around my aversions and open to a new experience.

I really enjoyed the afternoon and I like my board. I’d prefer to do my usual free-form board the next time, but this was interesting and the process turned out to be more fun than I expected. The time with my friends – priceless. Sometimes the hardest thing about enjoying life with tranquility is sidestepping our own little foibles and roadblocks. It’s not always a big issue you have to delve into, here and there you just have to get around yourself.

* Not an issue I feel a need to address; since I’m not a mathematician nor a social scientist it matters very little in most of my life that I don’t like charts and graphs.