“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.” ― E.E. Cummings
So you want to change the way you are, the way you think, the way you show up in life….. Congratulations!!! Now the real work starts…..
We talked in Part 2 (be do, be do) about how “challenges” arise when you try to make a change. Unfortunately, many times we label these as “tests” from some higher power to our will power. I know I am guilty of claiming that the Universe is really testing me today! Really? Do I not believe the Universe has bigger things to accomplish today than to “test” me?
I told you about our going off of sugar and how everywhere we looked, there were ads, promotions and flat out temptations. But they were there before we changed our eating habits. The stores and the manufacturers didn’t put them up overnight just to trip us up. It was us that changed. Our awareness became acute, and sometimes painful, as we navigated onto the new way of being.
Because this is a making a change in your spiritual outlook, it’s less tangible and seemingly “harder” to keep on track. What can you do to keep from getting stuck or staying stuck in your own story/excuses/drama? Such a good question!
Let’s take the intention that you are going to be a kinder person to everyone, and that really means E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E, not just the people you like or get along with. You can just about guarantee that within the first week, you’re going to get cut-off in traffic, someone is going to make several outrageous demands of your time, someone is not going to understand your side, you’re going to be pushed for time, and you’re going to have to do something you don’t want to do.
Will these things happen to you because you are trying to be kinder? Nope, the examples happen ALL THE TIME, probably multiple times a week. So, the fact that you’re changing your mindset didn’t bring more situations to you, it just opened up your awareness to these opportunities to be a better person.
Someone cuts you off in traffic — again. What’s your first reaction? Okay, probably not something we can print here. Is there something else you could do? I realize that non-reaction would be the best but let’s pretend that we’re not all to that place yet, shall we? Here’s just one suggestion: Take a deep breath, hold up your hand – palm to the person who just cut you off, and say “I bless you on your journey.”
The first time I tried this, I negated my blessing with an eye roll. It’s a process, I tell you! Not going to tell you that I’m a first class practitioner but I’m much better than I was! And it relieves my stress to realize that something is going on in their life that is creating an urgency that I don’t want to carry for them. If I don’t need to add to their burden, then that’s better for them AND for me! I don’t need their anger, fear, stress. I have plenty to deal with myself, thank you very much.
Outrageous demand of your time? I am constantly amazed that when I feel that I don’t have the time to do one more thing, several more, unrelenting things are dumped on me (things that only I can do) — just to prove that not only was there time for the original list, but time to take care of the additional list. I’m learning to not say “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time” for there is plenty of time to do all that is mine to do. The first thing to do is to realize that either this is really yours to do or it’s not. If it’s not yours to do, take a deep breath and firmly relay that belief to the person asking/demanding. If it is yours to do, freaking out is not going to help anyone. Take a deep breath, and another one, and realize that you can do whatever is necessary. Sometimes when things fall off of our proverbial plate, it helps us realize that maybe it wasn’t as important as we thought it was.
Have you seen a pattern starting to emerge? That “taking a deep breath” is what is known as a pattern interrupt. Pattern interrupt is exactly as it sounds, something that helps you break a pattern or habit in your life. They are as easy as taking a deep breath or as complicated as repeating a mantra (which isn’t very complicated) or moving a plastic bracelet from one wrist to another.
Will Bowen wrote a book A Complaint Free World . The goal is to go 30 days without complaining and when you catch yourself complaining, you move a purple plastic bracelet from one wrist to the other. That process raises your awareness of how often you complain or gossip. One of the points in the book is that our mouths are the buyers of what our brains are manufacturing. When the mouth stops buying what the brain is manufacturing, the brain will stop manufacturing crap. It is a fabulous process to work through! And it’s more difficult than you think. Most of us complain without conscious thought and gossiping is just out of control.
So, the first step to changing your ways is to be aware of what you are doing and saying. The second step is to have a check-in with yourself — is this how I want to show up in this situation? The potential third step (if the answer to the second step is “no”) is a pattern interrupt. Here are a few examples:
– Deep breath (or three)
– Say “Cancel-Clear” (I cancel those words and clear my intention)
– Move a bracelet or rubber band from wrist to wrist (I don’t recommend snapping the rubber band)
– Hand to heart, deep breath, connect with breath and heartbeat
– Say “I choose Love in this situation”
– Close your eyes for a moment and imagine water washing away the stress, the disappointments, the worries
Once you’ve interrupted your patterned response, you have a “do-over” to choose a better/higher way. This isn’t about how the other person will respond, because you can’t control them, this is only about your response. I tell you from personal experiences — when you change your reactions, people around you seem to change. Crazy, I know. When you break bad communication styles and poor-me routines, not only do you feel better, more grounded and centered, but you start creating better relationships and boundaries.
I hope this gives you a few tools to help you on your journey. Remember, the more you practice your higher way of thinking, the easier it gets — but there may be days when you want to chuck it all in. That’s okay….. take a deep breath, now another one…… and one more………. try again.
Okay, so we chatted about how you have to BE something before you can HAVE it. We received a response requesting some ideas as to how to handle the challenges. I’m going to go there in a future post but for now, let’s really dissect the trouble, okay?
Sometimes, I think, we make spiritual stuff harder than it needs to be and we get frustrated with it because there’s not an end point we can shoot for. (Okay, full enlightenment is great, but I would be happy with making it through the day without thinking bad thoughts about someone else.) It’s really easy to think “my goal is to be nice to everybody, all the time” than it is to live it. And when it gets too hard or too frustrating to try and think in an enlightened way, we use the guilt and shame as whips against our souls. Then we affirm that OBVIOUSLY we’re not worthy of the good in our lives, so why try. Okay, I shortened the process here for the sake of space, but I think you get the gist.
When you first decided that you were going to “change your ways” as far as the food you put in your body, do you remember how you felt? Excited, ready to learn, eager to seek support and more information, and maybe a little apprehensive. There was so much to read and learn and think about that thinking about food/snacks/can have’s/can’t have’s became all consuming. It’s all you thought about and all you talked about. If you’re not eating, you’re thinking about the what and the when of your next snack.
I remember when John and I went off of sugar. The first days were terrible! My head hurt, my body hurt and I was just generally cranky. Going out of the house was a true test. I remember clearly standing in line at the grocery store shocked by all the walls and shelves lined with brightly colored ads for sugary items. So, did the grocery chain find out that John and I were off of sugar and put all of those items in front of us to tempt us or to trip us up? (John says, yes, they did.) No! Those things were already there. I just had not ever noticed them to that degree before.
So, let’s go through my analogy a bit more:
My head hurting — Total entrainment with my previous thought pattern. My human mind was trying to help me to see the error of my ways and convince me that I would feel better if I’d just give up these highfalutin ideas. Eating had come easy all of the previous years of my life, why give that ease up now? This new path is hard and I’m tired.
My body hurting — If the mind can’t get you back, the pressure of the many will! I’m going to equate my body to the tribal teachings (societal agreements) that we’ve all bought into as truth. My body didn’t agree with the mind’s choices and was willing to take some low blows to make me come back into the pack. That’s how tribal teachings work — you go against the flow and you pay the price.
And the crankiness, oh, let’s not forget the crankiness — It’s HARD changing your ways. It’s hard going against everything you understand. It’s hard and everyone should understand how hard it is!!! It’s time consuming and frustrating and …. oh you get the picture.
Now, here’s the part that gives you hope. While the first few days were horrible, the horribleness didn’t last. Eventually, the steps became easier to follow and we weren’t fighting against this new way of being.
Here’s where you ask yourself if we’re still off of sugar………. I’d like to say yes, but I’d be lying. However, we did learn a lot about ourselves and what to eat and what not to eat during that stint. Some of the habits we have today stem directly from that particular diet. So, did we “fail” in our attempt to enlighten ourselves?
I say, no. Enlightenment can come to some in an instant (or so I’ve read) but I believe it’s more of a journey. Are we eating better because we went through this diet process? Yes. Did we learn a few things that we’ll always remember? You betcha! For us, the learning is cumulative. Each time we change our eating habits, more ideas make sense and are easier to follow. Spiritual learning is the same way.
The more you study, the more willing you are to look at, practice and TRY to learn a better way, then more sticks with you and makes more sense to you. One point from a book connects with a talk from a spiritual leader connects with something you hear from an unlikely source. It starts settling into your understanding and you find that you’re not fighting against this new thought process as much.
So, understand that the challenges don’t come up because there’s a “test” or a lesson from the Universe. The things we label as challenges were already there — we were either blind to them or we stepped into them without notice. By deciding that you are going to think in another way and act in a higher way only sheds light on the things in your life that no longer fit in your new mindset. They must be dealt with and released before the “new” way of thinking becomes easier.
In the meantime, enjoy learning something new, stay in the excitement of possibilities and let go of the apprehension.
Make sense? Okay, next time — how not to get stuck in your stuff……..
“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
― E.E. Cummings
We believe in you! You are valuable! You are worthy! And you are sacred!!!
When I finally HAVE __________ (enough money, enough time, enough energy, a better relationship, a lover, the perfect house, the perfect body) then I will DO ___________ (work out more, work on whatever needs to be corrected, read more, sleep more, clean more, worry less, eat better, love more often, judge less) and I will BE __________(happy, secure, free, peace-filled, loving, healthy, the person I know I should be).
This is a trap. A very familiar, well worn, trap. You’re never going to HAVE it all. There’s always going to be something better, greener, thinner, prettier, calmer, and bigger that you’re going to want. This is the way of the human mind. And I want to tell you that it has served you and all of humanity well, thus far. After all, we don’t still live in caves and depend on our hunting and gathering skills to survive, do we?
This longing is why we as a human race have survived and thrived (for the most part) on this planet.
But we are not just substance on this land of substance trying to rise above the next substance. We are spiritual beings exploring this human experience. While HAVING has served our human side well, it doesn’t always serve our spiritual side as well.
You must BE what you want to be. You must BE loving in order to DO loving things in order for you to HAVE love in your world. You must BE peaceful in order to DO peace-filled actions so that you can HAVE peace in your life. You don’t attract what you want, you attract what you are! You can’t fake out the Universe.
Yes, we’ve all seen those people who have money and success and they are just horrible people. Seems unfair, doesn’t it? But they obviously are not happy. They need more and more and more to try to fill the void of who they are not. They are driven by the HAVE-DO-BE and there’s not enough in this world to have before they can be. So, they collect and conquer and collect some more. It’s a trap.
You’ve heard the phrase: Happiness is not getting what you want but wanting what you have. (I wish I could find who said that but a lot of people are claiming it and I’m not going to try to figure out who coined it.) You must choose happiness right now in order to be happy. You must choose to love no matter what. (Of course, healthy boundaries should not be forsaken for loving unconditionally. Different topic.)
When you choose what you are going to be, you will be challenged in that decision. If you choose to be patience, you will have lots of opportunities to practice patience. If you choose to be love, you will have lots of opportunities to demonstrate your choice to those who you may not want to love.
I believe part of this challenge is that we have awakened our awareness in this area. These same challenges have presented themselves many times before but now we’re trying to react in a different manner. Just like any other new habit you are trying to form, it feels hard to accomplish. It feels like everything is difficult and that people are coming out of the woodwork just to trip you up! Do your best. And realize that when you don’t act the way you wanted to, that at least you were aware that there is a better way available to you.
What qualities of other people do you appreciate? Those same qualities reside in you. Claim those. Breathe those. Realize that you have a choice to make. Today, choose to awaken to who you want to be and then put feet to that awareness and BE that. You will be amazed at what comes your way when first you choose to be your spiritual self!
Just as I was starting to drift off to sleep, I thought about my heart. What does my heart know? What story does it tell me?
In the silence, it kept its secrets, gently rocking me back to sleep.
Hearts are like that. They don’t share their story. They rejoice with you, break with you, flutter in a moment of recognition but they don’t share.
Hearts are very in the moment, very in the Now. You can’t conjure up that same feeling of heartbreak. You can’t make it leap with joy. And yet, we know it will break in the future just as it will jump with joy.
There are whole sciences around the heart. The experiments being done on heart energy alone are staggering and mind boggling. But I don’t really need to know any of that to know that my heart soothes me, carries me and provides for me more than just pushing fluid through my body.
My heart knows my story. My heart recognizes another’s pain and happiness. And in the middle of the night, when I’m still, I simply allow the resonance of my heartbeat to carry me back to sleep.
I just finished Marianne Williamson’s book The Law of Divine Compensation. Marianne and I have a love/dislike relationship. (Disclaimer: I don’t know her personally, she’s never heard my name so this is nothing personal towards her.)
I’ll be reading along and a paragraph will just be so true to my heart that it takes my breath away. And then there’s a whole chapter that I’m tapping my toe, wondering how many more pages to go.
Marianne Williamson authored one of my favorite quotes:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
This is a glorious call to claim your greatness! Just when I start thinking, “who am I to think I can do _____,” I hear these words in my head.
However, there are plenty of her thoughts that don’t speak to me — and that’s okay. There is a quote attributed to Buddha:
Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.
Which, apparently is a very poor translation. Here’s a better translation:
“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.
(Very interesting reading on the above website!)
The point of this post is — read inspirational writings! And know that not everything is going to make sense to you, or speak to you or will you even agree with it. From the time that man could discuss beliefs, we’ve disagreed. Some of us are born “old souls” with wisdom beyond our years, some of us earn our wisdom in our lifetime and some of us don’t care. We talked about the lesson that most of us need to learn about not touching the hot stove by actually touching the hot stove. The reality is that using your own inner barometer, your own experience and your own judgment is the only way to discern your own Truth. And you should be willing to change your mind!
How many times have you heard a phrase or a concept and the meaning suddenly hits you. You understand the concept in a deeper, more touching way. And you’ve thought, “gee, I’ve heard that story/phrase/thought a thousand times and never really got it.” Perhaps an experience made that teaching come to life for you.
So pick up those authors who write words of encouragement or challenge. Don’t get stuck on the stuff you don’t agree with — you may change your mind later, or you may always have the same opinion. But be willing to look at what they have to offer. Be willing to challenge your way of living and your level of awareness. And be willing to share the gems that help you change your mind or that lift you up!
The last paragraph in The Law of Divine Compensation reads:
Today’s reality is simply a mirror of yesterday’s thinking. Now, in this moment, standing in the field of miraculous possibility, you can disenthrall yourself from the limits of your past. Nothing binds you except your thoughts; nothing limits you except your fear; and nothing controls you except your beliefs. Think God, think Jesus, think Light, think Love, think whatever form of divinity calls to you. And all else will fall away.”
Amen. You said that very well, Marianne!
A few days ago, when we had the umpteenth April snowstorm, to say that that I was cranky about yet one more long commute on less than safe roads with the thousands and thousands of other commuters, is an understatement. My darling husband tried to pull me from my funk. He made me my breakfast juice and tried his hardest to make me smile about the snow. It didn’t work. And so, as I pulled on my coat and my gloves, his last hurrah was to tell me to “try to find the zen in the drive. Look for the beauty in the surroundings. And enjoy your drive!”
Ahem. I would like it noted that I did not throw anything at him.
He clearly had not heard how tired of the snow I was. He clearly did not know the darkness in my heart and the sheer wrath and frustration with the weather. He CLEARLY did not know the whole story!!!! And if I’d had the time, I surely would have cleared all of this up for him. But I didn’t, so I chewed on his advice, and I was chewing with my mouth open. An angry “zen this!” was all that repeated in my head……
About an hour into my commute (which is usually 25 to 35 minutes), I found the zen. It was pretty, all that white snow covering all the tired winter’s muck. The DJ’s on the radio were trying extra hard to be entertaining. And traffic was moving so slowly that I did not see one accident.
At the two hour mark, I’d lost the zen.
I could have kept my less than stellar mindset from you and let you believe that I’m pretty good at listening and following higher calls, but that’s not always the case. I’m pretty good at listening and recognizing a higher call, but sometimes my response stays in the lower arena.
There were two things that came to mind as I processed my experience: 1.) Most of the time, we do recognize when we’re stuck in our story. We know we’re not behaving in the manner we’d be proud of, but we’re so stuck that we just can’t get out of our own way. And, 2.) those who call us to step up higher are annoying.
Is there anything more annoying then when you’re having a tough day or dealing with a tough situation and someone says to “Smile! It’s not that bad.” Really, because the last time I checked, you were not in my head. Sometimes you do need time to process stuff on your own time. Sometimes you do need to stomp, pout and get angry — just to get it out of your system. And sometimes you need someone to invite you to step up to a higher perspective.
I recognize that John wasn’t telling me to find the zen just to annoy me. But it did. We were able to laugh about it later that day when I told him about my “zen this” thoughts. We have that relationship where we feel safe enough to encourage and challenge each other. But it doesn’t make hearing those call outs any easier.
I will tell you that the rest of the week, I’ve been very aware of any “suffering” I’ve been doing. I’ve been looking for those zen moments. And when I seek, I find.
I’m sitting here in my house with the doors open and sun streaming in. The cat is in the window soaking up the sunbeam and the dog wants to be outside investigating. It’s peaceful in my heart.
It may have taken a few days …. but the zen is here.
We have one son, who is now 24, on his own, living the Army way. It wasn’t in my plan for him to be an only child, but that’s what happened. I’ve often said that God knew that it was going to take all my strength just to raise this one. I have to admit that while this is a sorrow of mine, when I look back, there are years that I don’t know that I could have successfully raised another one because the one I have was so all consuming.
I wanted this child, oh how I wanted him! And there were days I could have walked away….. oh, I say this half-heartedly. I couldn’t have, wouldn’t have EVER walked away from him. But I did entertain the dream!
I was one of those young women who scoffed and scorned parents whose children were out of control in the store or restaurant. “My child was NEVER going to do that!” And, for the most part, my son was great in stores and restaurants. (There was that one incident in the middle of the drug store that gave me all new insight on what you can control and what you can’t.) But my child made me pay in other ways, in ways that no one in my family understood, in ways that no one around me understood and in ways that I clearly didn’t understand.
Simple punishments did not work on him. We had locks on our TV’s so he wouldn’t spend his life in front of one. We couldn’t ground him long enough to get his attention (and we tried). The more we punished him, the more isolated he became. It was having the opposite effect.
His room was never clean. I learned to help him sweep through it a couple times a year to get the trash out of there and then I’d close the door.
I thought I’d be the fun mom of the neighborhood. I’m crafty and creative. I’d enjoyed fun gatherings when I was in high school. I thought my house would be the hangout house with the cool mom. Hah!
My son’s friends thought I was the toughest mother they’d ever been around. (This is in stark contrast to the adults who counselled me to quit being so easy on him) One of his friends actually told me that for years he didn’t understand it but then one day, he clearly got why I was so tough. My house occasionally had a kid or two in it but never the gang. This house just wasn’t the fun house.
Why do I share this with you? Because sometimes your plans don’t go the way you think they should and there isn’t an option of turning around.
I tell you this because if we can raise a kid who this day is responsible and plugged in and happy, you can, too.
So, in those moments when you are wondering what you were thinking wanting to have a sweet little munchkin take a deep breath. And then take another one. And take one more. Your job is not to raise a straight A student (although it is a plus) or the star gymnast. Your job is to raise a productive, responsible grown up. I encourage you to look up and look around and look to the future person your child is becoming. It’s really easy to get caught up in the small things that can ruin the enjoyment your own child.
And if you see a young woman giving you the stink eye because your child is misbehaving, smile at her and know that one day she’ll have clarity.
And if you see a young mother trying to deal with a child who is having an unholy meltdown, smile at her and give her an encouraging word.
And if you see me laughing at my son when he calls to tell me how rotten his (not yet conceived) children are — you’ll know that God smiled on me that day!!!