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11 March 2016 4 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 75: Hitting the Emotional Reset Button

Manage Your Energy Part 75: Hitting the Emotional Reset Button

Last month I drove to Bellingham to visit my Father in care facility. When I arrived I discovered that he was in the hospital. No one had told me. After wading through red tape and waiting for several hours, I managed to change the care home’s notifications to include me, and my Father was also returned to his room. He was actually in decent shape. He did not acknowledge the flowers I brought. He did ask me to hand him what was left of a two pound box of chocolates. I got the impression he had eaten the bulk of it just before going to the hospital. During our visit, my Father did not demonstrate any interest in me or in my life. Fortunately I did not expect external signs of caring. I no longer take his Asperger’s personally, although I continue to find the absence of normal expressions of emotional connection or social graces awkward.

That night I a visited a friend in the Bellingham area. I slept in the bed in which her ninety-six year old mother had spent her last days, and woke up feeling old, worn, and sad. I had also been given misinformation about food ingredients and was inflamed. Exposure to allergens sets off adrenal reactions, which led to sleep loss and amplified my distress. A gradual but relentless build up of painful and difficult-to-integrate experiences over several months, along with a plethora of draining if banal demands, was beginning to feel like death by a thousand paper cuts. Waking up with no particular agenda, I felt sideswiped by an emergence of emotional pain.

Hoping to shift into an easier adjustment, I did some spiritual practice and didn’t feel much for my efforts. Perhaps this was since I was motivated to move away from pain rather than to enter into whatever was

(picture doesn't do it justice)

(picture doesn’t do it justice)

present.

I walked with my friend after breakfast. In the rain, on a bluff over a bay, my pain bubbled to the surface. I let tears come. The experience was keen and sharp, but it did not take long to wash through and return me to the present. Meanwhile, we wended our way over and around fallen trees by the shore. I became absorbed in the colors of wet stone.

On the far side of a spit, the shore turned to sand. Scattered in the wetness, shells with gleaming swirls of purple and cream called to mind spinning galaxies. For a few suspended moments, looking at that shining sheet of unifying wetness drew me into an organic, fluid sense of Creation, like gazing into the universe. Joy blossomed and crested.

What I took from this:
–My morning’s spiritual practice had set the stage for this experience.
–Allowing both tears and joy helped wash away a big chunk of the build-up with which I had been living.
–When we let feeling flow we can move freely from pain into joy.
–Sometimes being in the present moment involves letting the recent past catch up to us enough to release blocked feelings, which no longer color the present once we can experience them enough to let go.
–Moving on can be easier in different atmosphere, away from obligations.
–Nature and beauty are wonderful healers.

What helps YOU to hit the emotional reset button and let go when life events make you feel compressed or grim?

How do you keep from getting contracted or from resisting life during hard spells?

6 March 2016 0 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 74: Self-Inquiry & Going Deeper Versus Wallowing

Manage Your Energy Part 74: Self-Inquiry & Going Deeper Versus Wallowing

Self inquiry allows us to fully embrace our wholeness. It assists greatly in personal growth, and in discovering how to step beyond endlessly repeating painful experiences. Self inquiry takes courage and intention.

It is not uncommon for those entering more deeply into a path of self discovery to have trouble sorting out IMG_0456the difference between self pity and healthy experience of difficult emotions. Tears, for example, are often equated with self pity. If we shame ourselves for tears, we block the relief, compassion, and insight that so often follow sincere expression and release of pain.

When we are Present we are able to experience any emotion without getting lost in it.

Let’s look at some of the many differences between self inquiry and wallowing in self pity or negative emotion:

Indicators for self pity or wallowing:

–no sincere intention to create real change; lack of positive motivation
–negative self talk
–feeling helpless or being a victim
–lack of objectivity
–self absorbed
–a tense sick feeling
–shame or negative emotions take you over
–out of touch with your body
–thoughts about what I did “wrong”
–sarcasm toward yourself
–asking rhetorical questions without answering them kindly or sincerely
–deeper insight is blocked
–thinking may become like a repetitive recording
–judgments instead of exploration
–feeling bad about how you are
–places in yourself you do not want to see
–you get stuck on the emotions you judge
–thoughts loop without resolution
–fear becomes an excuse or a jump-off point for destructive thoughts or behavior
–feeling of being in the dark
–using a difficult feeling to avoid another that is deeper and has more power over you
–feeling trapped
–“That’s just how I am,” is often a futility trap, accompanied by a sinking feeling.

The Inner Child keeps things from changing—including yourself.

It defines “comfort” as clinging to the familiar—no matter how abysmal that might be.

Feelings and sensations present in healthy self inquiry:

–positive motivation for understanding, freedom, growth, new experience
–an open feeling; curiosity about your processes
–honestly exploring questions that arise
–supportive self talk
–your body relaxes
–you may notice shame or negative emotions and enter into them, but you are always aware that you have space outside of them, to observe them and to nurture the vulnerable parts of yourself even as you notice them
–compassion for yourself for your pain
–capacity for greater objectivity about one’s own and other people’s experiences
–inviting yourself to try new approaches
–feeling of moving forward, even while going down and into your darker feelings
–deeper insight is available
–able to face fears without allowing them to consume you; your Observer stays present
–positive and realistic motivation
–feeling like you are bringing light into dark areas
–allowing yourself to experience any feeling without giving it power over your motivation or life choices
–feeling like this work increases your inner and outer freedom
–“This is how I am and it’s really okay, I accept myself” feel relieving

“How do you experience the difference between self pity and self compassion?”

“What does acceptance feel like in you your body?

25 February 2016 0 Comments

The Relative Value of Religious or Spiritual Practice

The Relative Value of Religious or Spiritual Practice

This excellent quote on the relative value of religious or practice nicely summarizes the theme of my last few posts:

“Often the aspirant is concerned in the early phases of his awakening by his attitude towards established religions and their rituals. All of these have a tendency to encourage the spirit of love and worship, and as such they help to a limited extent in wearing out the ego-shell in which human consciousness is caught.  But if they are followed unintelligently and mechanically, the inner spirit of love and worship dries up.  Then they harden the ego-shell instead of wearing it out.

Rituals and ceremonies cannot carry one very far towards the path, and if they are unintelligently followed they bind as much as any other unintelligent action.  In fact, when they are deprived of all inner life they are in a sense more dangerous than other unintelligent action, Version 2because they are pursued in the belief that they help towards God-realization.” ~Meher Baba.

Steady and consistent practice of a discipline has multiple advantages in creating rhythm, momentum, focus, and depth. It can form positive neural networks that persist and assist us for extended periods of time.

The quote is not intended to discourage spiritual practice, but to point out that awareness, engaged personal expression, and open, intelligent application are essential elements.

Whether a particular action or mindset serves development depends upon where we are along the path. Intelligently engaged action furthers. Taking an aware and intentional breath in the line at the grocery store furthers Awakening more than habitual, unengaged spiritual or religious practice. Fully engaged, Present practice aids development significantly.

The benefits of religious or spiritual practice depend as much upon how we bring ourselves to it as on the particulars of the practice. It could be argued that one action, engaged with Presence, has no greater or lesser merit than another, except as a personal preference. This is more true in abstract theory than in practice. In life, learning to engage ways that express our own Highest Option in the particular moment at hand is ideal. Doing so is a function of inner Guidance.

Have YOU ever felt that the way you are approaching religion or spirituality was keeping you asleep instead of waking you up?

Did you find a more alive and satisfying way to bring yourself to it, or move on to something else?

12 February 2016 5 Comments

What is Genuine Love?

What is Genuine Love?

“How few understand what love really is, and how it arises in the human heart. It is so frequently equated with good feelings toward others, with benevolence or nonviolence or service.  But these things in IMG_0108themselves are not love.  Love springs from awareness.  It is only inasmuch as you see someone as he or she really is here and how and not as they are in your memory or your desire or in your imagination or projection that you can truly love them, otherwise it is not the person that you love but the idea that you have formed of this person, or this person as the object of your desire not as he or she is in themselves.

“The first act of love is to see this person or this object, this reality as it truly is. And this involves the enormous discipline of dropping your desires, your prejudices, your memories, your projections, your selective way of looking . . . a discipline so great that most people would rather plunge headlong into good actions and service than submit to the burning fire of this asceticism. When you set out to serve someone whom you have not taken the trouble to see, are you meeting that person’s need or your own?” ~ Father Anthony de Mello

Contrast this understanding of genuine love with your conditioning about what it means to be loving.

What do you discover about yourself?

5 February 2016 0 Comments

Corrective Insights About Being “Religious” Post

Corrective Insights About Being “Religious” Post

A friend wrote the commentary, below, on my last post, and another friend shared an insight about the topic. I appreciate and welcome these loving and expansive viewpoints, and would like to share them:

“My religious conservative family in Arkansas and many conservatives I know abhor the word spiritual. It has been constructed as the other, much like the word liberal. Folks like this would say they are religious (period) and are offended by the term spiritual (again, think liberal). To the religious, there are specific forms of practice and these forms are required to be called a person of faith.

I grew up in that world. It worked well for me when it worked, and there came a time in my life when everything I had been taught fell apart. But for the rest of my family, it did not fall apart for them. It still works and be careful, because they have experiences of their faith. Experiences, just like Sufis have.IMG_0261 So you cannot divide believers from mystics around experiences. They both have experiences of their faith but they come to them through different means. Both are valid, even if I do not understand how it works for others who are not like me.”

Since thought and insight cannot themselves be Truth—which is ineffable and cannot be rendered into words—every insight opens itself to what is called “a corrective.” A corrective is another insight or truth that does not diminish the first, but augments and modifies it in an important ways, increasing perspective.

It was my intention to stimulate inquiry into the way rigidity of thought can make us uncomfortable directly exploring the Greater Whole. I like my friend’s comment because it makes my own thinking more flexible and comprehensive. It decreases the inadvertent “other” in my previous post.

A few reflections:

—Hypocrisy comes in both spiritual and religious flavors, as do all human issues.
—Superficiality and rigidity have many different types of packaging.
—Dedication to depth and direct exploration of personal experience are more likely to lead to growth than hand-me-down beliefs we do not actively engage through life experience, no matter what we label our experiences or call our belief systems.
—Either/or thinking limits us and exacerbates “other.”
—When there is an “other” group, each group is likely to project what we don’t like in our own group onto the “other,” just as individuals project inner material that is difficult to own onto other people.

The second friend with whom I discussed my last post shared another valuable insight. He said that some people who become “religious,” in the sense of having a rigid and codified way of managing reality, have emerged into this way of being only after living in unmanageable chaos. In this case, sorting reality into manageable categories is a big life improvement. This is one reason people may go from drugs to Jesus.

It is important to allow our beliefs to be flexible, to reach for experience, and to allow our experience to change as our hearts continue to unfold. Then again, we can only start where we are. Rigidity may compensate for fear, overwhelm, uncertainty, or shame.

Behavior and ways of thinking that are an advantage for some are severely limiting for others. The hermit crab needs a shell that is not too cramped and not too big to get around and stay safe. We are like hermit crabs in the way we view and take on life. We cast off beliefs that are too tight and take on the next bigger size, only to jettison that one as we continue to grow.

Whatever perspective we maintain, broadening it is of spiritual benefit—but we can only do that when and as we are able to do so and remain relatively stabile. Maintaining compassion is more important than maintaining any particular point of view.

When you are set in a particular view, what makes that view resistant to change?

How is this resistance structured inside you?

29 January 2016 2 Comments

What Does it Mean to Be “Religious”?

What Does it Mean to Be “Religious”?

I have a friend who uses the word “religious” differently than most people do. At first I had trouble understanding what she meant. She is a self-aware therapist, a shaman, and a highly insightful elder. I have been contemplating what she means when she describes someone this way—particularly those who are not involved in or interested in religions. Through my meditations on it, I have come to find her use of the term enlightening.

Let’s unpack what she is describing:

Spiritual people who are comfortable with the universal energetics and insights that underlie and lead to the development of religions are not “religious” in the sense I am about to describe–and probably already understand.

The word catholic means “broad-based, diverse and liberal” when it is not capitalized. It is used largely to refer to a person’s tastes. The same word refers to the Catholic religion when capitalized. Similarly, my use of “religious” here is like an antonym or opposite for catholic. It refers to tastes or habits of mind that are narrow, based on either-or thinking, and rigid. In this case “religious” specifically refers to IMG_1056belief that is mind-based, garnered from something one has been told to believe, instead of upon direct personal experience.

Here is an example: Someone I know was listening to a transformational speaker and became fixated on the fact that the speaker mentioned that he likes a particular country. Instead of paying attention to the transformative value of the speaker’s offering, she went off on a mental tangent, judging him for supposedly tolerating atrocities she associates with that country. Obviously she had no way to know the speaker’s standpoint on the problems. This thought-based, emotional reaction was irrelevant to the main thrust of the talk.

The content of the talk applied directly to life issues she was too fearful to take on. In this incident, judging the speaker and taking attention away from what was being said constituted:

–a defense, preventing insight from getting in
–a way to stay stuck, avoiding life change
–a conceit, owing to the use of moral superiority to hide behind

We cannot say someone is “religious” based on one incident, any more than you can say someone is Catholic if they attend one Christmas Mass. The habit of thought I am talking about is consistent. It is a defense against insight.

Implications of “religious” and characteristics of people the term fits:

–narrowness gussied up as idealism or Rightness
–judgment of other people under the veil of moral superiority
–black and white thinking
–trying to navigate life from a set of rules instead of sensing what is going on and making a fresh and principled response

Let me unpack this in more detail: Unfounded, mind- or belief-based, idealism is “religious.” It is unfounded on experience, impractical, unpracticed, or even unpracticable in actual life. Movements or political actions based on concepts that spring from judgments, reactions, and suppressed personal emotions create, at best, ancillary problems. This can be seen as a naive attempt to solve a problem without appreciating the context in which the problem exists. I will skip making an example here to avoid inadvertently stirring up reactivity, taking those who most need to hear this off on a distracting tangent.

From the perspective of learning personal balance by working with the Elements, being “religious” can be described as: too much Air (thought), heated up by Fire (passion), in the absence of adequate Water (emotion—this kind of reactivity is out of touch with personal emotion and uses reactivity as a substitute), with the Element of Earth being both deficient and stuck (Earth represents grounding in reality. When it is stuck, people become rigid and resistant.).

From another point of view, being “religious” is almost the same as being controlling. The person is seeking security and stability by being Right. Like all psychological defenses, this behavior protects the person from insight and change until he or she is ready and able to face life’s paradoxes and inconsistencies more directly.

A lot of people who are spiritual dislike anything religious because they lump it in with the “religious.”

Similarly, many good hearted people resist spirituality because they associate it with control issues and hypocrisy, including wars and outright abuse, supposedly founded on religions. Those who have openly explored numerous religions understand that the universal and spiritual heart of each religion stems from something lovely. The “religious,” unable to grasp the heart of it, become fanatic and sometimes perpetrate upon others. Again, that is a conceit and a defense.

None of us are totally free from limited thinking or judging others. Excessive resistance to religion can show a “religious” reaction toward those who are religious. :)

People being people, there is no group anywhere that does not contain individuals who are “religious.” Wherever we have beliefs, we have people who grasp them with their minds and become passionate, without yet being able to live these beliefs from day to day. This is a call for compassion.

It serves us to look inside and see where we are being “religious” ourselves.

What are YOU “religious” about?

How does this play out in your life?

What persons or groups show up as “other” when you hold this view?

22 January 2016 4 Comments

Barriers

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers

within yourself that you have built against it.  ~ Rumi

 

IMG_0843

 

8 January 2016 3 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 73: When Personal Growth Becomes Narcissism & Dealing with Self Hatred

Manage Your Energy Part 73: When Personal Growth Becomes Narcissism & Dealing with Self Hatred

“The moment a person becomes straightforward a straight way opens before him.” ~ Inayat Khan

Personal growth becomes narcissism when one engages pursuits of growth in ways that demand attention, without taking the steps that release oneself (and others) from the self-obsessed compulsions of what we consider to be our flaws.

Habitually indulging self hatred, for example, can be a fancy way to avoid self awareness. The intensity of feeling becomes like a sand trap one wallows in. Engaging the hatred can become a way to stay stuck, to avoid personal growth. This differs IMG_0430from sinking in to the feeling to carefully observe and release our tendencies, structures of experience, motivations, and the less-familiar emotions underneath. Seeing behaviors in yourself that you don’t like and saying, “I’m bad! I hate myself,” without aiming to discover what exactly what you are actually doing and what you need reinforces the issues instead of resolving them. It’s like spinning around and around in an eddy.

Discovering self hate can be startling and arresting. Be very kind to yourself if you are in this place. This type of condition is very difficult, especially for those who do not have the advantages of Inner Work, who have not been exposed to techniques for self observation, forgiveness, exploration, and transformation, and do not have the support of qualified professionals.

Those who do have the advantage of such skills and support, who habitually stop at self hatred without moving into and then beyond it, may be indulging narcissistic or masochistic tendencies by wallowing in self hate. The narcissistic part shows up in rage at one’s self because one “shouldn’t be this way,” and is “better than this,” and in being too caught up in one’s own process to respond compassionately to others.

When we get lost in any negative emotion by reacting against it, we are turning away from noticing important aspects to what we are doing, inside and with others. We short-circuiting awareness and remain with the familiar feeling. Hatred or negativity then function as an inverted form of self love, feeding the ego self. This works the same way that an inferiority complex accompanies and underlies superiority.

Attempts to make oneself look good delay solutions and function as a fancy form of defense. Such attempts ultimately backfire. Avoidance makes things persist.

Genuine, healthy remorse of conscience supports healthy motivation and healing. This requires going THROUGH the self hate or negative emotion, without stopping at that depot. Remorse of conscience is not like guilt. Guilt is a sand trap. Remorse of conscience is a process of sensing into the heart and making a decision based on understanding and deeper values.

Accepting, embracing, and then relaxing underlying motivations slims them down and helps to integrate them, creating greater scope for genuine positive expression.

What steps help to release this type of compulsion?

  • Quit judging and stay with feeling—but do not allow feeling to become stuck or static; keep going deeper.
  • Identify the behaviors you use to avoid looking at your feelings and experience.
  • If self hatred arises, welcome it gently and look more deeply. Do not give self hatred special importance.
  • Stop identifying as ‘special-bad,’ as if your issues are more unforgivable and damning than those of anybody else.
  • Identify and take responsibility for your underlying motivations. Notice what motivates behaviors that challenge intimacy or success.
  • Admitting to the parts of you that want to stay stuck. Accept them—without endorsing them. Find positive ways to address the underlying fears.
  • Remember that emotions are not excuses.
  • Take direction from your true values and allow them to inform your choices. Aim to be true to them even while you are having negative emotions .
  • Create straight-forward ways to meet healthy needs and desires, while accepting and releasing those that are not.
  • Take responsibility for communicating your needs without being demanding or trying to make someone else responsible for them.
  • Get help addressing the remnants of childhood issues with your parents, which will otherwise inform your behavior with intimates.
  • Never suppress or ignore emotion—but do not allow it to run you. This means being aware of it, not it acting out.
  • Practice compassion by bringing your spiritual practice fully into your body, right along with your difficult emotions. Allowing them to be less important without trying to get rid of them. If they intrude, acknowledge them or get to the bottom of them, then bring in love and change the subject inside.

What is the difference between having an emotion and being run by an emotion?

What makes the difference between whether talking about your emotions (with someone who is open to feeling) develops intimacy or becomes overly self-involved?

1 January 2016 4 Comments

Managing Your Energy Part 72: The Big Question About Spiritual Unity

Managing Your Energy Part 72: The Big Question About Spiritual Unity

Underlying some of the distress that can accompany intermediate personal and spiritual development is the following situation:

As we become more able to experience Unity, we may be treated as “other” by those who cling to the confines of what they can categorize and define. Those who cannot see where we are moving from, because it is outside of their experience, tend toIMG_0070 make up something they understand, or feel unsettled.

If being seen as other bothers us, we will be inclined to perceive those who ‘other’ us as other. This disrupts our current potential to experience Unity. It is on us, therefore, to be able to accept being othered so we do not other others.

How do we manage to see those who other us as ourselves, yet maintain the boundaries required to establish and maintain a spiritual resonance that invites the experience of Unity?

Do YOU ever experience being “othered”?

Please share your personal reflections on the topic.

 

25 December 2015 6 Comments

You Do Not Deserve God’s Love ;)

You Do Not Deserve God’s Love  ;)

We have it backwards: “You don’t get love by being good, you get good by being love.” ~TD

Issues about whether or not we deserve love are relics from childhood. Divine Love is not earned. Some might call it a birthright. I agree—but with prejudice. “Birthright” language evokes entitlement, which is often toxic. It also presupposes that we are separate from Source. Having the right to something brings Cosmic Teaup the sense of not having it, and having to demand it.

But where would we demand Love from? This again smacks of childhood wounding.

From an energy perspective, to invite higher Love we need to resonate with it. To resonate with Divine Love we become it. This means finding, sensing and feeling the quality of such Love inside—and amplifying it. Doing this is an act of creation. This does not mean it relies on fantasy. Fantasy is a sidetrack. The path is to locate the resonance of Love inside by learning to focus and call it forth from within. Then we blow on that like an ember. This takes spiritual work. Anything that stands in the way must be embraced—but not allowed to stand as a distraction.

When we have something, we can give it away. If we do not have it, it is not ours. Having Love means receiving it first. When we seek that in other people we are bound to be disappointed, as we probably were in childhood.

We do need to generate love for ourselves—but we need to catch the perfume or resonance of it somewhere in order to really grasp just what it is we are seeking. Finding Source can be very abstract. Most of us need one or more human role models to get a sense of how to ‘run’ that Love in our bodies.

The role model we choose is less important than learning to bring forth Love. Since I am writing this on Christmas eve, I would be remiss not to say that Christ could be one such model. Owing to various conceptions and experiences, that name aggravates some people, and many have belief systems that cause them to recoil from religion.

A current of Love and truth underlie and run through religions, but codes of belief do not in themselves produce the miracle called Love. Whether or not we are attracted to one or more religions, we take great benefit in identifying someone, somewhere, some time, who represents to us the possibility of being a human who is capable of experiencing and expressing the vibration of Divine Love. The word “God” can be too abstract, and also laden with freight. “Source” is abstract as well.

From where do we receive the impressions that stimulate in us true inspiration?

This is a wonderful question to ponder in this inward time of year, when we long to bring forth true joy, blessing and generosity.

Ideal Love will be a little bit different for different individuals, depending exactly which vibration of the rainbow of all love is key for that mind, heart, and soul to take the next step toward becoming it oneself. The being, saint, prophet, person, spiritual teacher, or element that inspires us may even change as we develop. It is important to learn to identify and allow our hearts to be impressed (like soft clay) by real Love when we see it, and to own as our privilege in being human, our right to enjoy and express that Love.

Having God’s love (change the g-word if it bugs you) means having it flow through us to others and into the world. It is not something we earn and then receive like an award for being a self or being good. It is something we cultivate and practice over many years or even lifetimes. Seeking to GET it enhances ego issues about deserving. We get more of it by giving. I am not talking about over-giving, driven by old wounds, I am talking about expressing from your heart.

No matter what is going on with us it is okay to allow Divine Love to come though us. If this depends on mood or being in a particular way, we will withhold it. When we let Love touch us despite our shortcomings it will help us to move beyond them, gently over time. Even if we do not move beyond them, our lives will have meaning and value because we have been vehicles for Love. There are no prerequisites. Concentration, attention and intention invite it. Noticing and making room for it when it comes helps sustain it. These are aids. There are no prerequisites.

Please feel free to comment.

I send you love in this traditional time of calling forth Light.

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