Boiling Frogs

“A Miracle is a highly improbably or extraordinary event, development or accomplishment (usually welcome and highly valued) which is not entirely explicable by natural laws. Some people attribute these to divine intervention. Others simply say that they are the result of natural laws which we simply don’t understand yet. One thing is for certain – sometimes it takes a miracle to make you believe in the possibility of them occurring no matter what their origin.” ~ SSHenry

I never used to believe in miracles; not even the kind that can be explained by as-yet unknown natural laws.  I always used to think that either something was possible – or it was not.  Oh I’d heard of miracles, certainly.  But even things like spontaneous cancer remissions could, in my mind, be categorized in the “as-yet unknown natural law” category.  But there is nothing like actually experiencing a miracle to understand its true power.

I can’t go into details; the events that led up to this particular incident are still too raw and close to my heart to share openly.  Suffice it to say that I had found myself in a situation that had become intolerable.  It was like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water.

You know the story; a frog is placed in a pot of tepid water on top of a stove burner.  It doesn’t resist being put in the water because the temperature is comfortable.  Then slowly, bit by bit, the temperature of the water is turned up until the frog quietly boils to death; never complaining or attempting to escape because it acclimates to each miniscule change in the water’s temperature.

I was the frog.  I had, over the years, allowed my life to reach a temperature just short of the boiling point.  Yes, it was a bit uncomfortable, but I simply thought that was the way things were supposed to be.  I didn’t fight it.  But then, rather abruptly, someone pulled the lid off the pot and prodded me into leaving the pot, and I’ll tell you right now, the change in temperature nearly blew my mind, as did the realization of just what I had allowed my life to become as well as what I had been living without; things that were my right; things that no one should have to live without. Then someone tried to put me back into the pot of near-boiling water.

Well, you can imagine what happened; water everywhere; the pot caroming off of cupboards and bouncing around on the floor like an ill-tempered poodle that has been ignored for too long. No, I did not go gentle into that good night.  In fact, I refused to go at all.  In the process of refusing to simply slip back into the boiling water I made a mess of everything around me and scalded those around me in the process.

It wasn’t pretty, and I’m not proud of the mess I made or the pain that I inflicted, but there is something good that came out of it.  No, there is something miraculous that came out of it; not only did I realize just what my life had become and refuse to be prodded into an acceptance of the way things had been, one of those I scalded – in spite of being in intense pain and extremely angry at me for upsetting the pot, was shocked into the realization of just what had been happening, of the pain and discomfort they had been inflicting as well by turning up the temperature (though it wasn’t a calculated infliction of pain). In fact, they were so startled when they realized what had been happening that they tossed out the pot as well as the stove and replaced them with a pond replete with lily pads and soothing reeds and lots of bugs where we can both kick back and relax and forget about things like stoves and pots and even kitchens.

The long and the short of it is that the atmosphere has completely changed.  I didn’t think it was possible.  I regret that it took such an upset and that people got hurt in the process, but the change is, not to put too fine of a point on it, miraculous.

Will it last?  I don’t know. I’d like to think so. But in the meantime, I am definitely going to enjoy the pond and being with someone who appreciates me and is willing to share this lily pad with me in spite of the burns I inflicted; burns that have to hurt like the very devil when immersed in the pond water but which will eventually heal when exposed to the warmth of the sun.

Always In Joy

Do you remember when you were a teenager; when there was a guy (or girl) that you really liked and who you wanted to notice you. Do you remember how you reacted?  Do you remember what you did?  Do you remember finding out everything you could about them and then getting interested in it yourself?  Sometimes you’d give up your own interests in order to pursue theirs in the hopes that by insinuating yourself into their world; by showing an interest in their interests, they’d be more likely to notice you.

Maybe it even worked.  Maybe they did notice you.  Maybe you hooked up and had an awesome time of it.  Perhaps for a while you felt like true soul mates; perfect for each other in every way.  But chances are that somewhere along the line something went horribly wrong.  There came a point when you realized that it was all about them.  Everything was about them; all of it; everything that you did together; everything that you talk about; everything that you ‘share’ is really all about them.  Well, of course it is.  You created it that way.   And chances are that you started to feel shorted; slighted even.  You may have even attempted to start introducing your own interests into the relationship in the hopes to correct the imbalance.

Then of course there were probably misunderstandings and miscommunications due to the fact that the other person simply could not comprehend what was happening.  Weren’t the pair of you happy?  Didn’t you both enjoy the same things; enjoy talking about them and spending time together doing them?  Weren’t they the same as they had always been?  Why was it suddenly that what they were giving you was no longer enough?  Why have you suddenly become so demanding and dissatisfied?

And that of course made things worse didn’t it?  Because how do you tell someone that your entire relationship was based on your desire to get them into your life in whatever way possible?  How do you explain that you were never entirely open with them; that when you met it wasn’t on equal terms because you didn’t want them to get scared off or to lose interest?  How do you explain that what you really wanted, more than anything – what you still want – was and is to have a relationship of equals; where both of you were interested in what made the other person tick, even if you didn’t necessarily share all of the same interests?

I know, I know, it seemed like the natural thing to do at the time.  After all, how could you possibly have known that you were selling yourself short in order to get their attention and bring them into your life?  It’s a very easy trap to slip into.  In fact, it’s so easy that chances are, if you stop and take a good hard look at your life right now and at the people in it, you will find that one or more of the relationships that you are currently in are based on the exact same principles as those high school relationships.

It doesn’t matter which side of the equation that you are on; whether you are one of those people who gave up their own interests in order to capture the attention of another person, or whether you were the one who was enamored by the person who seemed to fit your life so perfectly in every way.  Be honest with yourself – is this truly a relationship of equals?  Is it?  Because if it is not, a relationship of equals you need to brace yourself; you see, there will come a time when one or both of you will realize that the relationship is lopsided and will want to correct that imbalance.

Better to take the time now to find out what makes the other person tick; to make sure that you are giving – and receiving – equally then to wait for things to fall apart.  Hopefully you will find that openness and honesty with your partner are enough to clear things up and to recreate your relationship as a partnership of equals; individuals who are truly interested in each other and in where your personal and spiritual journeys are taking you.  If not, well, it is never too late to become the person that you were always meant to be; to take the steps you need to put yourself firmly on your own path to authenticity.

If your significant other chooses to join you, or at least support you in becoming that authentic self, fine and good, you have nothing to worry about and the journey will be a joyful one because you will have the support and company of the one with which you share your life; a choice that true soul mates (or soul mates destined to work together for long periods of time) will do.

If they are not interested in joining or supporting you, do not allow their incredulity or anger with the changes in you to halt your own development.  Do not force them.  Do not feel that you have to hold onto them.  If it makes them too uncomfortable, they will leave (physically or emotionally).  This is not a reflection on you, and it is not your fault if the relationship disintegrates.  It is their decision whether or not they wish to include the person you are becoming;  your authentic self;  in their own view of reality.

Who knows, your authentic self, your path, may not be the one that is right for them and they may feel that to join you or even support you is undermining their own integrity.  Do not fight this if it happens, and do not allow it to influence your own becoming.  If another person’s path leads them in a way that does not bring you joy you do not have to follow out of loyalty for the joy and purpose that you once shared.

Move forward in joy.  Always in joy, and always in the direction that makes your heart smile.

I Surrender to Me

“The concept of surrender is foreign to me.  The idea of giving up control, of ceasing to be myself; of turning my autonomy over to someone else – regardless of how wise or powerful is anathema.  It is only when I remember who and what I really am that I realize that there is only one person to whom I ever need surrender, and that is myself.”  ~ SSHenry

If you are anything like me the idea of surrender; of surrendering control of your decisions or your life to anyone or anything else is intolerable.  Seriously, you can quote Bible verses at me until you turn blue in the face, but the fact remains that the majority of us will cringe and squirm every time that the word is used.

Perhaps the reason that we dislike the word ‘surrender’ so much is because of what it has come to mean in our own culture.  Think about it.  The English word ‘surrender’ has come to be inevitably tied up with phrases of war; with the ideas of admitting defeat, of laying down your weapons.  Even when it is not used in a military reference, we see it as an admission of giving in or giving up and admitting that there was something you could not do or someone who was better than you.

Even the mildest meaning of the word “to submit or yield” puts our teeth on edge.  Why?  Because it by surrendering we let someone else get ahead of us; that we let someone else take the lead; that we weren’t good enough or fast enough or brave enough to remain in the lead.  And that is the real problem, isn’t it? We weren’t enough.

To surrender means admitting that, somehow, we weren’t enough.  We didn’t have what it took to get the job done.

Blame it on the early American settlers if you will; on the spirit of survival that came from knowing that there was no one else that you could depend on; no one to turn to if things went wrong.  Once you landed on these shores, you were on your own. There was no infrastructure or support system to catch you if you fell.  You had to succeed or you died.  Later the pioneers who headed west encountered the same mindset; it was all or nothing.

Maybe it’s ingrained in our DNA or something, but it is definitely ingrained in our culture.  You never admit defeat and you never give up.  This is probably why, even when the term “surrender” is used in a religious context it is viewed with not a little skepticism and definitely some raised eyebrows.  In Judeo/Christian based religions you admit that you are not “good enough” to be saved.  You don’t have what it takes (you CAN’T have what it takes) and so you “surrender” to someone who can make up the difference; someone who can ‘save’ you from your sins; who can serve as the go-between with divinity and plead your case like some sort of cosmic lawyer.

This view, however; this need to ‘surrender’ to a higher power; to admit defeat and to give up control over our own lives and actions to them depends on a person’s believing that ‘God’ as a being that is ‘above and beyond’ so to speak; a completely separate entity from us. But what if you believe that you ARE divinity (or at least a manifestation of divinity here on earth)?

If you believe that you ARE God, or at least a manifestation of God (or your higher self) here on earth; then the concept of surrender becomes something far different than what is traditionally (at least in western traditions) seen as an admission of ‘not being enough.’

I personally stumbled across this not so long ago.  I found myself at an impasse.  I had reached a point where there was nothing else that I could do in a particular situation.  Indeed, I had reached a point where no matter what I did or decided I was simply making the situation worse.  But somehow, the idea of surrender – even to my higher self and my knowledge that she knows exactly what needs to be done in order to bring things back into alignment – still grated on my sensibilities.  “Why should I give up?”  I asked myself – and then sat back and started laughing uncontrollably.

You see, I was attributing the cultural definition of “surrender” to my particular situation.  I was raised in a western society and within a traditional Christian religion within that society, it was only instinctive that my first impulse on hearing the word surrender would be to assume that I had somehow fallen short; that I hadn’t been ‘good enough’ to do it on my own. But that isn’t the case, is it?

You see, I AM good enough.  I am strong enough.  I am powerful enough and wise enough to do anything; to BE anything.  I have the understanding to make anything happen; to bring any set of circumstances into being; to manifest whatever sort of life my heart truly desires.  There is just one problem; I end up getting in my own way.

Yes, while I (my soul – my higher self) may be all powerful; all knowing; all compassionate and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, she’s sort of limited by the fact that she is, at least in this particular physical reality, dealing with (and through) a physical human body with all that entails.

These bodies are not only limited by the laws of physics and biology; by chemical impulses and fight or flight instinct, they are also limited by the overwhelming emotional responses triggered by all of these; responses that can cause us to believe things and do things that interfere with the higher self’s goals and purposes.

And sometimes it takes doing something stupid to remind myself of this. ”  You react or respond in spite of yourself; instinctively as urged by the body; gumming up the works and making things far more complicated than they needed to be. It is then, when I’m standing there feeling ridiculous at how complicated I have just made things or wondering how the devil I got this particular foot all the way up into my mouth, that I remember that the concept of surrender is not as bad as all of that.

You see, when I finally understood that it really is me who is in charge of my own destiny (albeit ‘me’ on a level that I’m usually not actively thinking about) I understand that by surrendering to my higher self I’m not surrendering to someone or something outside of myself at all.   “I” am still in charge, I’m simply getting out of my higher self’s way as an expression of trust that she really does know what she is doing and will do whatever it takes to bring my life and soul purpose into alignment.

 

 

 

One Perfect Life

There is no ‘one perfect life’ out there waiting to be lived.  What there is are a series of moments, each one complete and perfect in and of itself no matter if it contains joy and wonder or sadness and sorrow; each one lived fully and completely and in total awareness.  That is the definition of a perfect life, and that is the life that I am living.”  ~SSHenry

I don’t know about you, but there are definitely days when I feel as if I am spinning my wheels.  I’m not just talking about not being able to get anything done (though that may be a symptom of the larger issue).  What I’m talking about is the feeling that there is something I should be doing in order to bring the life that I was meant to live into my reality besides just visualizing the life that I want to have.

Oh come on, don’t tell me that you haven’t considered how your life could be better!  Most everyone has a picture in their heads; a picture of the ‘perfect life,’ the one they would be living if only things were just a little different.

When I close my eyes and focus I can actually see that life.  I can see the house that would perfectly suit me.  I can walk around and touch the things I’d have in it.  I can see the people that I would be sharing my life with.  I can laugh at the conversations and the experiences and the humor that fill our days.  I see myself in a position of being able to make the world a better place through my words and my example and the feeling of knowing that I am living my life to the fullest.  I can feel the peace that is in my heart and the love that weaves itself through every moment of this life like a bright and glittering gold thread unobstructed and unimpeded and stretching off into an infinity of tomorrows.

I’ll be honest.  The picture of that perfect life is seductive.   It calls to me at the oddest times; tangling me in a lover’s embrace; whispering words of undying devotion in my ear.  It is what I want most; my heart’s desire; and there are days when my heart cries at the thought of having to do without it for even one more minute and when I look around at the life I have and see just how far from perfect it is.

I told this to a friend of mine once, and they said “okay, so now you know what you want, so go out and GET it! Make it happen!”  And I tried to explain it to them – at the time I failed miserably.  Maybe I’ll do better with the explanation today.

You see, while my heart has set its goals; while it knows where it belongs and what sort of a life it would best be suited to, there are still aspects of my reality that I have to deal with right here and now due to decisions that I made yesterday (or years ago) that were not in alignment with that vision for my perfect life.   Those decisions have created situations and have brought people and circumstances into my life that may not be part of that picture of perfection, but they cannot simply be tossed aside either.

Yes, there are some people, who would drop everything to pursue their heart’s desire; who would drop all of their responsibilities and obligations to pursue that perfect but elusive life.  But that is not something I can do.  Not yet.  You see if I did that; if I dropped everything and went out looking for it; once I found my ‘perfect life’, it wouldn’t be perfect any more due to all of the pain and drama I had to go through and that I put other people through in order to get there.

What I can do is to stop being something that I am not.  I choose to be exactly who and what I am at every moment of every day.

This is perhaps one of the hardest things to do; ever.

Go ahead, try it.  Close your eyes and picture that perfect life.  Feel the love and the joy that course through you when you imagine yourself immersed in that life; the places, the people, the experiences that fill you up.  Imagine how you respond to the people and things around you.  Now open your eyes and take a good hard look at the life you are living.  My guess is that most of it doesn’t match up at all.

Now, instead of moping about what you don’t have in your life; about what you are missing, instead of sighing and saying “I’ll just have to wait for heaven,” there is, as I said, just one thing that you can do to change it right here and now; one thing that you can do to bring that life that you were meant to live into existence and that is to change the one thing that you do have control over; yourself.

How?  That’s easy. Stop trying to be something that you are not.

You’ve seen who you really are; that person that occupies that perfect life.  You’ve felt how passionate and enthusiastic they are about life.  You’ve experienced (if only in your heart and mind) the fullness and richness of the life that they lead.  Now stop pretending that you are not capable of living that kind of a life right here and now and start making the kinds of decisions and taking the kinds of actions that they would take in the same situation; actions and decisions that would support and encourage that perfect life and not a continuation of the life that you are currently living with all of its drama and angst.

It’s really not as difficult as you may think.  Actually, it only requires one thing; Attention.

Start paying attention to yourself; to your thoughts; to the beliefs that you incorporate into your life as a result of those thoughts, of the decisions that you make because of the beliefs that you hold and the actions that you take as a result of those decisions.  Are these the thoughts and beliefs and decisions and actions of the person in your perfect life?  Is this how your higher self would act in this situation?  Is this a belief that would support that life that your heart yearns for?  Is that a decision or an action that the person living that perfect life would make?

If yes, then go ahead; entertain the thought, accept the belief; make the decision and take the action.  If no, then slam on the breaks.  Do a 360 if need be and choose something entirely different.

Yes, you may get some astonished looks and some frustrated people who expected you to behave in the same way that you always have.  But remember, this isn’t about them.  This isn’t about fitting into their expectations or about maintaining the guise of you as the person they always thought you were.  This is about being exactly who and what you are in order to manifest your perfect life.

It will not be an overnight transformation.  Most of us (myself included) have far too much baggage stored up to be able to simply change things overnight.  It is going to take time; time and infinite patience and the ability to see that baggage drop to the side of the road and not do the instinctive thing and pick it back up again but to let it go.

As you become more and more yourself you are going to lose things.  You will lose the respect of individuals that you thought were your friends (but who obviously aren’t).  You will lose influence with people who liked the fake you; that persona that you cultivated and who find your authentic self to be absurd or irresponsible.  You may even find that relationships with people close to you crumbling because you are no longer living up to their expectations.

But remember, it is all a part of the process.  And in truth, when it comes right down to it, it’s all about the process – all of it.  Because even though your heart feels the pull of that perfect life, even once you find it, it is not something you simply have.  It is something that you do; something that you are; something that you continue to be, voluntarily, on a day to day basis.

Yes, there are days when I become impatient; when I think that the life I was meant to live will never become a reality.  Then I have to laugh, because I am LIVING the life I was meant to live.  Each moment – including the impatient ones – is part of the process.

Each desire for something more; each longing, each yearning that spurs me on to thoughts and beliefs and decisions and actions that lead to change to bring those things into my life, each new person and experience that brings me another moment (or series of moments) to savor- it’s all a part of the life I was meant to live; the life I AM living.  There is no ‘one perfect life’ out there waiting to be lived.  What there is are a series of moments, each one complete and perfect in and of itself no matter if it contains joy and wonder or sadness and sorrow; each one lived fully and completely and in total awareness.  THAT is the definition of a perfect life, and THAT is the life that I am living.

How to Be Happy

“Happiness is not something that someone hands you, like a sweater or a scarf.  It’s not something that you find hanging on some random hook and which can be ripped off of you by ill-intentioned people or ripped when it catches on a thorn of meanness or misunderstanding.  Happiness is something that you ARE not something that is done to you.  It’s like drinking a glass of water.  Once that water is inside of you it can’t be taken away.  It becomes a part of your body finding its way into every cell and molecule.  Of course you do have to choose to drink the water in order to reap its benefits.”  ~ SSHenry

Are you happy?

No, seriously.  Are you happy?  Do you wake up in the morning with a smile on your face and hope in your heart?  Does your unfettered enthusiasm for life fallow you through the day and spill over onto those around you without you even trying?  Do you see the good in everything and hope for the best in every situation no matter how grim the circumstances may seem?

Yes, I know, I’ve just defined an optimist (or, as some people tend to call them, a Pollyanna).  You know the story of Pollyanna don’t you?  It is the story of a little girl who had every reason in the world to be unhappy.  She was an orphan.  She was sent to live with a cold and unfeeling aunt.  She didn’t fit in with anyone around her.  And yet, she always saw the good in everything to the point that she nearly drove everyone around her crazy with her relentless upbeat attitude.  People actually got upset with her because she was always so positive about everything.  This is probably because they have no idea what happiness actually is.

“Happiness isn’t optimism” a friend told me once when the topic came up in conversation.   But he was wrong.  Well.  Not totally wrong.  Unlike optimism which tends, at least in most people, to be a conscious choice (choosing to see the good in every situation), happiness is something that you are.  You don’t choose to see the best in every situation; you just see the best in every situation.  You don’t choose to be enthusiastic, you are enthusiastic.  You don’t choose to follow your joy, you are your joy.  This happiness radiates from every pore in your body because it is part and parcel of who and what you are.   Of course, before you can BE happy, you have to CHOOSE to be happy.

Confused yet?  It’s really not as difficult as it may seem.

You see, happiness is not something that someone hands you, like a sweater or a scarf.  It’s not something that you find hanging on some random hook and which can be ripped off of you by ill-intentioned people or ripped when it catches on a thorn of meanness or misunderstanding.  Happiness is something that you ARE not something that is done to you.  It’s like drinking a glass of water.  Once that water is inside of you it can’t be taken away.  It becomes a part of your body finding its way into every cell and molecule.  Of course you do have to choose to drink the water in order to reap its benefits  and there are always those who would rather let themselves become dehydrated rather than deal with the “sloshy” feeling that comes from a surfeit of joy and contentment, and this is where the concept of happiness being a choice comes in.

Like choosing to drink the water, if you choose happiness it becomes a part of you; diffusing through every system and cell in your body making everything run smoother and more efficiently.   It’s true!  The happier you are; the more enthusiastic and positive you are about what is happening in your life and the more content and productive you will be.

No, this does not mean that you ignore the bad things that happen around you or the mean and hurtful things that are said or done to you or even how much pressure is being put on you to accomplish certain things within a certain timeframe.  It simply means that once you have drunk from this fountain of happiness; once you have chosen to make it a part of you, you understand that there is nothing outside of yourself that can take it away from you.

No matter what is happening.  No matter what is being said.  No matter what is being done; you are happy.  This happiness may not always express itself in unbridled enthusiasm or excitement; it may at times simply be a core of peace and contentment that burns steady and bright inside of your heart keeping you warm even in the coldest of times.  But it is there, and it can make all the difference.

The White Knight Complex

“Don’t get dependent on that Knight in Shining Armor.  All being rescued does is remove you from your immediate circumstances.  It does nothing to address the question of how the devil you ended up in that situation to begin with.”  ~SSHenry

Why is it that in every fairy tale that features a princess there is always a knight in shining armor (or sometimes tarnished armor, black leather or blue jeans and a cowboy hat) waiting right around the corner to rescue her?

God I find the princesses annoying; all perfect hair and fluffy dresses (usually long to inhibit freedom of movement) and more often than not under some sort of a spell that keeps them from escaping on their own or even realizing that they are just a pawn in some dark and evil chess game.

Yes, yes, I know, the princess is symbolic of innocence and purity and the knight is supposed to symbolize the noble instinct to protect and preserve those qualities.  But honestly, as a culture we’ve taken this to heart so deeply that we’ve ingrained the idea of the noble knight; the belief in there being someone or something out there that will “save” the princess (or the innocent child, or the weak and willful sinner) into our collective unconscious.

More disturbing to me than the idea of a savior, however, is the thought that so many people who are capable of saving themselves believe that they need someone to do it for them.  Why is that?  Why can’t they see that they have the power within themselves to not only to take care of the problem at hand but to take responsibility for themselves; for today’s thoughts and beliefs; these choices and actions that will become tomorrow’s reality?

That is how it works you know.  It is the thoughts we entertained yesterday; the beliefs we held to be true; the choices we made and the actions that we took that determine where we find ourselves today.

Every thought that enters your head (and more importantly, those thoughts that you tend to dwell on) impacts the beliefs that you hold to be true.  These beliefs in turn affect the choices that we make on a day-to-day basis.  And, just as one domino is responsible for knocking down the next in the line; the choices that we make directly impact our actions; actions which determine the look, feel and flavor of the reality that we will find ourselves in tomorrow.

Ah yes, I know there will be some of you that say that this is far too simplistic of a view; that it can’t possibly be this easy.  It can’t possibly be that all a person has to do is to pay attention to the thoughts that are passing through their minds and to select those that they want to bring into their reality (this is called mindfulness by the way).  I can hear the questions now; “What about the bad things that happen to us; those things that we have no choice in?” or maybe “What about the influence of god or the devil; of good or evil?”

It is true that we do not get to choose all of yesterday’s circumstances (well, true that is unless you believe in reincarnation and soul destiny, but without going into all of that we can still address the issue).  There are things that happen to us that we have no direct control over.  But even so, this does not mean that choices we made in the distant (or not so distant) past may not have some impact on whether or not we put ourselves in a position to have those particular experiences.

And yes, there are some things that are done to you; things over which you have absolutely no control.  But what we do have control over (at least outside of those extreme situations where the trauma is so extreme that the mind disconnects from reality altogether and makes it impossible for the person to change their thought patterns) is how we choose to react and respond to those experiences that we did not consciously choose to participate in.

We can choose to react from fear; allowing those circumstances to control our lives and seeing them as obstacles on our path to happiness, or we can change our perspective and choose to see those circumstances as opportunities to prove that we are in control of our own destinies.

Of course if we do not acknowledge the fact that it is our thoughts as well as the beliefs that are spawned by our thoughts, the decisions we make due to these beliefs and the actions that we take that even in regard to those circumstances that are beyond our control, then it is perfectly understandable that we would look around desperately for someone or something that will rescue us from the tangle our lives have become; a white knight in shining armor who will cut through the crap and free us from the mess that we have gotten ourselves into through our thoughts and words and actions.

Of course relying on these knights opens up its own can of worms; like dealing with the fact that until we learn how to take responsibility for our own lives we will continue to revert back to those thoughts and beliefs and actions that got us into trouble in the first place (and we’ll have to call on the white knight once again to work his magic).

How much simpler to simply acknowledge the fact that it is ourselves and ourselves alone that have the power to change our lives for the better; that by accepting responsibility for everything our lives are right now at this moment in time that we can take positive action to ensure that today’s thoughts, beliefs and actions will work together to create a tomorrow that is everything we could have hoped for.

The Empty Shell

“You can’t ask a butterfly to scrunch herself back into her chrysalis or to go back to being a caterpillar just because you’d gotten used to her like that.  What’s worse is when you try to get her to go back because you fear the freedom given to her by her wings.”  ~SSHenry

There are some experiences; some moments in time; that change your life forever.  Perhaps for you it was a major life event such as the birth of a child, the death of a loved one or a close call that shook you right down to the foundations of your soul.  Or maybe it wasn’t a large event at all.  Maybe it was something much more subtle such as a kind word spoken when it was most needed; the touch of a lover’s hand or a breeze that not only ruffled your hair but stirred up something deep down inside you that simply could not be contained.

I’ve had many life-changing moments.  All of us have.  Sometimes it seems as if these moments come so thick and fast that they threaten to overwhelm you.  At other times you feel as if your entire life is on “pause” and all of the moments having stepped out for a drink or something.   At some points in your life it is as if the moments of realization and wonder and change are so few and far between that you’ve pretty much forgotten what they are like before the next one begins to play itself out and have to remind yourself what exactly it is that you are dealing with each time you encounter it.

My most recent (and not surprisingly most profound) life-changing moment to date came the moment that I walked into my house after a two month absence and realized that there was no way that I could go back to being the person I had been when I walked out that door eight weeks earlier.

The details as to why I ended up gone for two months (illness in the family) or what happened while I was gone are not important.  Yes, I had some interesting experiences while I was off on my own for two months dealing with unexpected issues and meeting people I might not otherwise have encountered. But what really matters is that for two solid months I was detached from the life that I had been living up until that moment.

For two months I was separated from all of the small niggling everyday details that we label “reality” and which demand our attention and catch us up in layers upon layers of drama and expectation; layers that we gladly pull around us like a cloak and call “life.”

For two months I was free of those layers.  Getting rid of them was not pleasant. They got stripped away from me rudely leaving me rather raw and feeling as if I had been flayed alive and then washed down in salt water and I felt as if was being completely inundated with issues and problems and responsibilities that I really didn’t want to deal with at that moment in time.

But the point is that for two months I was not just a wife.  Nor was I just a mother or a daughter taking care of her own mother.  For two solid months – I was me.

Just me.

I was not free of obligations or responsibilities (caring for a sick family member brings with it its own responsibilities and expectations).  But for two months I was free of the obligations and responsibilities and expectations in which I had wrapped myself up for the last 22 years; those responsibilities and expectations that come from being a wife and mother and homemaker extraordinaire.

For two solid months was completely and totally myself.

It dawned on me as I was driving home, to wonder just how I would ever be able to go back to living my old life.  But when I pulled into the driveway and saw my house for the first time in eight weeks; when I walked through the door and took one look around me, I knew that it was patently impossible.

I can’t go back to the way things were; ever.  The person who lived that life is gone.

I could feel the shell of her; that old me; waiting for me around every corner.  “Come on” she whispered, holding out the old life as if it were a soft but comfortable pair of sweat pants. “Don’t you want to slip back into this?  This is where you are comfortable.  This is where you belong.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.”

“Oh yes it does sweetheart” I whispered back “you have NO idea!”

You see, the old life has a lot going for it.  There are many things that I would like to keep and incorporate into my new reality, but not if it means having to go back to being the person that I was.  The person I have become cannot possibly fit into that old skin. Not without giving up who and what I have become.

It would be like asking a butterfly to scrunch back into her chrysalis.  Or better yet, to turn back time and become a caterpillar again.  It’s not going to happen.  I could pretend, but I’m tired of pretending.

I am simply going to be myself.

My whole self.

I will start again.  Here.  Now.  As myself.  If that is not enough, or more likely if that is too much, then so be it.  I have wings now baby. There’s no reason for me to go back to crawling when I can fly.

Soul On Fire

“What is your passion? What is it that consumes you and fills you with wonder? What is it which, while you are doing it sets your soul on fire? Do you know?  Good.  So what are you waiting for?” ~ SSHenry

Have you noticed that there are some things that set your soul on fire?  I’m not talking about the warm fuzzy feelings you get when you do something well or the low smolder of contentment when someone tells you how much they appreciate what you do or what a good job you’ve done. I’m not even talking about that glow that comes from connecting with someone or doing something that you find truly fascinating.

What I’m talking about are the full-on forest fires of passion.

The kind of intense heat that sears you from the inside out and fills your heart up with such wonder and awe and joy that you feel as if there is no possible way to contain it, only instead of spontaneously combusting the fires that fuel this passion sharpen your focus and bring out the very best of who and what you are.

Musicians will know exactly what I am talking about; the way that the music grabs you and pulls you in and fills your head and you know that you are playing the best you ever have but you couldn’t explain why or how – it just happens. You become the music.  You are the music.  There is no way to separate yourself from the rhythm; from the notes; from the melody that works its way into every particle of your being.

Artists too understand this passion, and writers; the way that you get caught up in the colors or shapes or words and how it is almost as if you are channeling something outside of yourself.  You are no longer in control of the brush; of the keyboard; it comes to life through your fingers. You look up from your canvass or computer screen to find that hours have gone by without your having the least awareness of it. For a brief time you become your work and when you emerge and look at what it is that you have done you can see your very soul worked into very brush stroke and woven into every word.

I’m not just talking about the zone; the moment described by many athletes where everything falls into place and their performance become effortless.  I’m talking about soul fire; about something which, while you are doing it, energizes you in a way that is impossible to understand unless you have experienced it.

But this feeling is not limited to athletics or the creative arts however.  It is just simpler to describe since artists physically channel this feeling into something tangible that can be appreciated by those around them.

In truth anyone who is in alignment with their authentic self and with who and what they really are – even if just for a moment – will feel this.  They don’t feel it just because they have worked hard and have acquired the skills needed to do the work but because this is who they are.

In spite of what you might think – you’ve felt this.  Even if you don’t have a creative bone in your body; even if you wouldn’t know how to hold a guitar if your life depended on it, you’ve felt it.  You’ve felt it in the sheer exhilaration you get when you are doing something you absolutely love; in the glory of a sunset or the feel of silk against your skin or when you lose yourself in the arms and heart and mind of someone close to you.

So think about it.  What is it that captures your heart and mind so completely that you forget who you are or what you are supposed to be doing?  What is it that sets your soul on fire?

Now, find a way to include in your daily routine; to work your joy into the life you have created for yourself and watch as your existence ignites into a wildfire of joy and passion beyond your wildest dreams.

The Big Picture

“Sometimes it is difficult to understand why certain things have to happen in our lives.  What may be even more difficult to believe is that everything; no matter how seemingly unfair or painful; is part of the larger picture a picture that is being created by a skilled and talented artist who knows exactly what they are doing.” ~ SSHenry

Have you ever watched an artist at work?  I’m not talking about the painter dude on PBS who whips his pictures out in a neat half hour show while talking to his audience about technique.  I’m talking about a painter who is creating something entirely new; something that has never been seen before; something straight out of their imagination.  It’s slow going and sometimes it is not always clear just what they are trying to do.  In fact, watching them step by step can be confusing to say the least.

Layers of primer and base coat colors give way to blotchy looking splotches which slowly meld themselves into vibrantly shaded backgrounds and open spaces.  Bold, angry looking lines and jagged chunks of seemingly pointless blackness become trees and rocks and valleys.

Sometimes it may seem as if the artist is moving quickly with broad strokes blending colors and creating textures in mere minutes.  But then they may let the painting sit for a long period of time while the layers cure, or they may leave one section of the painting to attend to another, leaving the one watching them in frustration as to how things are going to turn out and what exactly it is that is being created.

Sometimes the artist appears to attack the painting, using metal tools to cut through layers of already cured and dried paint in order to lend depth and texture where there was previously only smooth paint.  Sometimes they look as if they are attacking the painting with their brush; jabbing angrily at various patches where an object is slowly taking shape.  Sometimes the brushes slash; at other times they caress so gently and delicately that you could imagine that the artist is making love to the canvass, and sometimes the artist will use a spray bottle of paint thinner to remove entire sections in order to make room for something else.

Confusing?  Yes.  Especially for the one watching the painting take shape, but imagine for a moment that you are not merely watching the painting, but that you are the painting.

Doesn’t it feel that way sometimes?  Doesn’t it feel as if you are being manipulated by some master craftsman; some talented artist who doesn’t take your wishes into account at all but instead is manipulating the situations, events and people in your life in a way that you can’t even begin to understand?

Shall I tell you a secret?

It’s true.  You are being manipulated by a master craftsman; a master artist.  Your life is a canvass; a work in progress and I bet if you close your eyes you can feel the brush strokes on your soul; the colors coming together in vibrantly rich tapestries of detailed light and shadow.

You want to know something else?  This artist is no stranger.  This master artist is no separate and distinct god who is flagrantly manipulating your life for his own purposes.

You are the artist.

You are the artist and the canvass.

You are simultaneously the paint and the brush; the color and the texture; the light and the shadow.

All of it – all of it is you.

Every decision that you make – or don’t make; every action that you take – or don’t take; everything is part of the grand scheme; the big picture that your higher self is crafting out of your life.

You can fight it.  Of course you can.  You can wail and scream about the unfairness of the knife cutting through your perfectly laid paint layers.  You can gnash your teeth about the angry slashes that are marring up your background or the inexplicable color combinations that don’t go with the decorating scheme you chose for your life, or you can accept that there is a reason for what is happening, even if they don’t make logical sense in the here and now.

Or, you can accept that it is all part and parcel of the big picture.  You may not yet be able to see the picture in its entirety, but you can feel the canvass under your fingertips and smell the oils in the air and trust that you know what it is that you are doing and that as the painting begins to take shape you will feel things fall into place.

As long as you remember that every joy and ecstasy, every misadventure and painful goodbye and heartwarming hello is a necessary step towards the future that you are creating for yourself; as long as you remember that every personally painful experience and heart wrenching moment is adding shadow and depth to a work of art that would otherwise be flat and uninteresting you will be okay.

 

One Twisted Sister

I don’t know how many of you remember this, but during the 1980’s there was a heavy metal band by the name of Twisted Sister.  (Note:  Actually, I believe that they are still performing, but I lost track of them after their break up during the late 80’s).  Anyway, my freshman year in high school they came out with a song that spoke to an entire generation of young people and became the battle cry for change, or at least for rebellion.

That year it felt like We’re Not Gonna Take It was playing everywhere.  You heard it at parties and on the radio and kids screaming it in the halls.  It was the classic case of teenage rebellion against parental control; against societal expectation; a million kids standing shoulder to shoulder and screaming that they would be damned if they were going to become their parents.

Well, just as with every other generation, we focused so hard on what we didn’t want that we brought it to us.  All you have to do is look around at the 40-something generation to see that (with a handful of exceptions) they have become what they most feared; they have become their parents.

So what happened?  How did an entire generation of kids so determined to NOT be their parents end up drinking the Kool-Aid, buying houses in suburbia and haranguing their own sons and daughters to get haircuts and clean up their rooms?  Frankly, it was a lack of intention.

You see, one thing that many of the Law of Attraction gurus fail to focus on is that without adding intention to the mix you can focus on happy happy thoughts until the end of time without ever seeing any change for the better.  In fact, if your focus is fear of something (in my generation’s case a fear of becoming like their parents) just wanting to NOT be like them was (obviously) not enough.

So going back to 1984; you had a generation of kids screaming that they weren’t going to take it; that they were NOT going to be like their parents (many of whom had been a part of the flower power generation in their own time but who had then gone mainstream), and for a while it worked.  These kids (like every other generation of teenagers in the history of mankind) went out and did the exact opposite of what their parents wanted.  They let their hair grow and played guitar loudly in the basement.  They refused to give a crap about their education or to take life seriously.  They escaped the demands of reality by escaping into video games and shut out the world around them by strapping on their walkmans.

But for all of their breaking away from reality, for all of their refusal to conform to societal standards or to give a crap about anyone other than themselves, it all fell apart due to their lack of intention.  They knew that they wanted to change, that they wanted their lives to be different; to have actual meaning and purpose, but they had no idea what exactly that meaning or purpose should be.

And so, like so many generations before them, these 80’s children went from screaming “We’re not gonna take it” to accepting it in order to get a job that would pay the bills to bending over and taking it in order to keep the job and continue being able to pay the mortgage and their own children’s college bills.

Yes, as with every other generation there have been exceptions to the rule; individuals who broke free from the traditions and the expectations and who focused their intention on creating a life for themselves free of restrictions.  But for the most part, those without intention; those who were not able to focus their wants and desires into actual decisions simply lost their momentum and turned into replicas of their parents; working within the system if not by choice then out of necessity.

Regardless of what generation you grew up in, just because you find yourself stuck in a (seemingly) unalterable lifestyle does not mean that change cannot happen.  All it means is that you are less likely to break free from it than you were as a teenager when there were fewer obligations and responsibilities weighing you down.  Change can still happen. It just isn’t as easy.

Indeed, if you can pause in your rat race for long enough the need for change can become an overwhelming urge; the desire to break free from the traditions and expectations that have turned you into something that you are not can wash over you with the force of a tsunami and the race for an authentic life; one lived from the heart and not from someone else’s expectations of who and what you should be can take on a driving force all of its own.

But what is to keep you from failing again?  What is to keep your dreams of a fuller, richer life from being just that; dreams?  The answer is in intention.

Just knowing that you want something more; something different is not enough.  Every teenager wants something different. For that matter, many adults do too (even though they repress it with their need to be responsible and ‘mature.’)  What it takes is intention to turn your dream of something more into your reality of the life you know that you were always meant to live.

Mind you, as adults you have more baggage to sort through, and it is going to be harder to let go of many of those expectations that have become ingrained parts of your life and that are keeping you from creating your dream life, but it can be done.  It is possible to create the life you always wanted; you just have to be able to live life intentionally.

When you can do that, when you can turn the universe’s perverse sense of humor (bringing you what you focus on; in most people’s cases – fear) to your own advantage, everything will fall into place and you will cease regarding the universe as a twisted sister who keeps you from getting what you want and see it instead as simply the source of your own power for change and intentional living.

The Empty Circle

There is a yearning in every human heart; a seeming emptiness that cries out to be filled.

Some people feel this emptiness as a lack. They feel that there is something tangible that is missing in their lives and attempt to fill it with whatever makes the feel better; drugs, sex, alcohol, food, shopping. It doesn’t seem to matter. They feel that if they can just get enough of whatever thing or experience has made them feel good in the past, that they can fill up this emptiness even if it is a temporary fulfillment.

Some people feel that this is a spiritual emptiness; a yearning for God. I’ve heard sermons where preachers claim that it is the voice of divinity or the Holy Spirit speaking to the heart; that if an individual just give up enough of themselves, surrenders themselves; that God will take away the pain and emptiness and fill it with something even better.

But what if it isn’t an emptiness at all?

Zen Buddhism has a symbol – an almost circle called an ensō.  This almost circle is painted with a single brush stroke and it is symbolic of the moment when the mind is free to simply let the body/spirit create.  It  is said that with practice the mind can be taught to leave that center space open on purpose in order to give the body and the spirit room to create the life that you have always wanted.

Seemingly related is the center point of the Chinese Bagua; the eight sided (nine spaced) cosmological chart that is used in order to practice Feng Shui (the art of placement).  In this particular practice the center point – the center space of the Bagua is always (if possible) left open and empty so as to invite in new energy and to give you room to create the type of home that you truly desire.

Indeed, what if this openness; this space inside of each heart is anything but empty?

Think about it.  What if this space that we perceive of as emptiness and equate with loneliness and lack is actually a part of the system design of our body/soul interface?

It’s not that far-fetched really.  All of the most useful and practical of machines are made not only with specifically designed working parts, but with spaces in which those parts can work. Gears have to turn.  Levers have to shift.  Even when it comes to computers, there has to be memory space in order for calculations to be made; places for all those ones and zeroes to gather and process.

What if – instead of fighting the emptiness; instead of trying so desperately to fill it up, we instead embraced it?

What if we accepted that empty space inside of our minds, hearts and spirits as the space in which dreams come true; as the workspace of our souls where it can get to work on putting together the life that we have always wanted?  What if it is here, in the emptiness that our conversations with our souls can begin?

Perhaps then the emptiness would take on an entirely different meaning.  Instead of emptiness and loneliness we would find peace, comfort and understanding, and we would stop trying so desperately to fill something that is simply a necessary part of the way that we were designed.

 

 

Swish and Flick

THE MAGIC OF MANIFESTATION

Wouldn’t it be marvelous if you had a magic wand?  Some sort of device that – if used properly – would bring you exactly what you want a la Harry Potter?  Just swish and flick and bingo, it’s yours!  Did you know that you actually possess the ability to do just that?

Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, especially when things seem to pile up around you and circumstances (like a broken down car and a crumbling relationship and a pile of bills) tell you otherwise. But what if I were to tell you that you have the ability to control every aspect of your reality; that you have the power to swish and flick that metaphorical wand and create the kind of life that you have always wanted instead of being controlled by circumstances and by those around you?

I still remember the absolute freedom that came the day that I realized that every aspect of my reality was under my control.  That I and I alone was responsible for the reality that I was living.  That there was not some unknown quantity determining whether I would be rewarded or punished for the things I do or thought or said and that everything I was experiencing was the result of those thoughts, feelings and emotions that I had been entertaining.

I’m not going to go into details, not here and now, not yet.  But to suffice it to say that it happened.  After years of searching; after years of attempting to understand how things worked and how some people always seemed to get what they wanted no matter what while others while were always dreaming about it; after reading piles of books and listening to hours and hours of sermons and self-help books and praying to God and charging the Goddess and drawing down the moon, I woke up one morning and suddenly knew.

Talk about totally liberating!  The realization that there is no one that I am required to appease or avoid in order to create the life I had always dreamed of; no one and nothing (but myself) standing in my way; I literally sat down and cried for about a week.  Amazing!  I felt totally liberated.  Simultaneously I had never felt more afraid in all my life.

Yes, it was frightening.

Think about it.  Instead of being able to go ask mommy or daddy or the spirits of the earth or air (depending on your particular religious beliefs) to help make things better or to give you what you want, you suddenly realize that you are both the one doing the wanting and the one who is passing out both the rewards and the punishments.  You are the one who is giving out the gifts and the one who is receiving them.  You are the individual that is dependent on specific needs– and you are the universe that has an unlimited supply of everything and will give to whoever asks you.

This is not to say that there may not be gods or goddesses or elementals; beings that will bring you what you ask for if you ask in the right way or if you do something for them.  Plenty of people believe in them.  My point is that there is something far bigger than any of them; something much larger that contains us all and that we are all equally a part of.

This largeness; this bigness that contains us all is not one entity with a personality and an ego that has to be appeased before it will grant our requests.  It is the power, the source that binds us all together; that gives us life and animation.  It is also the source of creation; all of creation, not just the light and love and purity or innocence, it is also the source of anger and fear and darkness as well and it is readily available for anyone that knows how to tap into it regardless of what they are planning on using it for.  There is just one catch; this power is magnetic.  That is, whatever you create out of it will attract more of itself to you.

Call it Karma; call it ‘cause and effect’; call it the law of attraction; the result is the same.

If I (the individual) dwell on the negative; on the worst things that could happen, then I am going to draw those things to me.  The more I focus on the dark and the negative, the more dark and negative things will be drawn to me. If I dwell on love and light, or on the highest definition of who and what I really am and strive to bring that into my existence, then it will come, bringing more of itself with it; drawing more of the same energy to it.  There’s just one problem.  This source of creation that you or I tap into in order to bring these things into our physical reality, it knows what we are really thinking.

I can’t trick the source (which includes my higher self).  I can talk love and light and happy chirpy birds until I am blue in the face (or until I manifest Snow White, whichever comes first though I know which would send my sanity over the edge) but if in my heart of hearts I don’t believe that it will happen; if I think that it is all a crock; if I am reserving judgment until I see proof, or if (most importantly) I feel that I somehow don’t deserve what it is that I am asking for, then the source, the universe (a.k.a. my higher self) knows it, and since it doesn’t know the difference between expressed thought and unexpressed thought, it will simply give me what it is that I am focusing on the most (either consciously or unconsciously).

This is why mastering everyday mindfulness as well as emotional mindfulness is so very important, because it isn’t just enough to realize that you have the power to control your reality, you have to be constantly aware of your thoughts and feelings and emotions and beliefs in order to bring them into alignment with who and what you really are.

Without awareness you are not in control of your life, but you are being controlled (though not by an outside entity, but by your own beliefs and limitations).  You are not creating situations that will serve you and that will help you to achieve your highest potential and to be a benefit to those around you, you are reacting to things that are happening around you; knee jerk reactions that make you feel overwhelmed and powerless and victimized to the point that you are desperate for someone or something to take the reins and to make sense out of it all.

There is no question about the universe (a.k.a. your higher self) bringing you those things that you are most focused on (whether consciously or unconsciously).  Seriously, take a look around yourself right now.  Take a long hard look at your life, at the people that are in it; your job, your house, your car, your beliefs, your attitude; everything.  Right there at your fingertips you have a snapshot of what you were focused most intently on yesterday, last week, last year or even ten years ago.

If you think carefully about where you were and what you were thinking, you’ll see that I’m right.  You created this reality.  Every aspect of it reflects yesterdays (or last week’s or last year’s) views and hopes and dreams and, yes, fears.

No, I’m not saying that every genetic defect and every illness were called into being by your higher self. We are human animals after all; inhabited by spirits, (souls if you will) but still subject to the laws of physics, of thermodynamics and the impulsive squirts of hormones that our brains get doused in on a regular basis as they respond to physical stimuli.  It comes with the territory and those are things that we do not have any control over but which we have to learn to live with and to understand.

Where we do have the control, however, is in how we perceive the life that we are living and in what we consciously and intentionally choose to experience and those people and situations that we choose to let into our lives.

Yes, I know, it sounds like some kind of new age mumbo jumbo; some sort of psychobabble or, at the worst, like some kind of magic, though in a way it is magic, just not the kind of magic you might think.

This isn’t the kind of magic where you wave a wand and something suddenly “appears” in your life because you said the right words or mixed up the right ingredients in your cauldron.  This is the kind of magic that works on a far more subtle basis.  This magic is the magic of belief; a magic that works its spell on your mind and, through your mind, makes its impact on your surroundings; aligning things and people and circumstances in such a way that a year from now, or a week from now, or maybe even tomorrow, you will find that what you have been focused on has indeed become your reality.

And if you do look around yourself and you don’t like where your focused thoughts have brought you there is a simple solution; change your focus.  It’s that simple.  Mind you, it requires that you be aware of your thoughts and emotions until they become focused on what you want to create in your life, but once the technique clicks into place you’ll find yourself laughing uncontrollably at how simple it actually is.

So much for magic wands!

Swish and flick baby!

Sardonic Smiles

Have you ever felt that you were wasting your life?

No, now don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing the life you’re living, your job, how much or little you’ve saved, your choice of life partners, your choice in household furnishings, hobbies, or your role as a parent or parent-care provider. But admit it – haven’t you ever felt as if your talents are being wasted? And you gaze around at your cubicle, or the beige walls of your hum-drum office (why do they choose beige, anyway? Don’t they know that it shows EVERYTHING?) or at the sticky mess of jell-o and chocolate sauce that your four year old has just concocted in the dog’s water bowl and said “what the hell am I doing HERE – doing THIS?”

Well, I have a secret to tell you. Everything you have ever done in your life. Every book you’ve read, every experience you’ve had, every song you’ve heard, every person you’ve interacted with, every failed and miserable relationship you’ve had, EVERYTHING was to bring you to this point and time.

What’s more, you’ve been brought to where you are – right here and now – for a reason.

Now don’t look at me, I don’t have a clue as to what you’re reason is! That’s why it’s YOUR reason, and it will be up to you to discover it.

Just keep in mind that at any moment your purpose – your reason for being could be revealed to you. It could dawn on you slowly, like a rose budding and blooming in the spring sunshine, or it could sneak up behind you like a hyper five year old and jump out at you when you’re least expecting it and scaring you half to death.

So when your boss is criticizing your work, or your teacher is criticizing your homework assignment, or your parents are criticizing your ability to act like a civilized human being, or your spouse is criticizing your ability to balance your checkbook, or your ten year old is criticizing your ability to understand the importance of having the latest X-Box model, or your teenager is criticizing you for your apparent inability to understand ANYTHING, keep in mind that at any moment your purpose, your reason for being, could be revealed to you and suddenly ALL of this will take on an entirely new perspective…

Try THAT thought when you’re sitting through your quarterly employee evaluation, your SAT’s, or the parent-teacher conference and I bet you emerge with a small, slightly sardonic smile that will confuse the hell out anyone who sees it.

Finally you will know the answer to the question that has been bugging you incessantly since, well, since forever; you are here to experience being you, and you can’t exactly get around to experiencing when you’re sitting around wondering why it is that you are here.

A Clear Blue Soul

Seeing beneath the surface of reality sounds like such a romantic concept.  The idea of seeing things as they really are; of experiencing the truth; of getting to the heart of the matter; all of it sounds so incredibly exotic and spiritual.  The reality of seeing what is really there instead of what you want or expected to be there is something else entirely.

The reality involves stripping away any illusions that you may have had; any preconceived notions as to what reality is supposed to be like.  This can be hard enough when dealing with circumstances and beliefs.  Beliefs alone can change your entire way of thinking, especially when something you have always believed to be true is proven otherwise.  When it comes to people however, seeing to the heart of things takes on an entirely different perspective, primarily because you are dealing with souls; that fundamental core of each of us that is the essence of who and what we really are.

Seeing beneath the surface of a person’s exterior to that clear blue soul that lies beneath; that can be an incredibly profound and disturbing thing. To see them for the first time as who and what they truly are instead of how you want to see them or how they project themselves; to see them in all of their perfection instead of with all of the human faults failures that you (or they) have attributed or ascribed to themselves or adopted as part of their worldview; it is definitely an experience that you will not soon forget.  In fact, it will definitely rock your world.

In a heartbeat every preconceived notion you had of whom and what this person is; what they are like; what they have done to you disappears.  In its place you find the clean, clear essence and purity that is at the heart of each of us.

So why is this so disturbing?  Why is it that when we catch a glimpse of the true nature of things and of people that it shocks us so profoundly?

Well, one of the primary reasons that most people find themselves so disturbed by seeing beneath the skin of reality is that it reminds them that nothing they see is actually real, that it is all an illusion.

If you will, it’s like what happens when you are watching a movie and suddenly the DVD freezes up.  In a heartbeat the moving images that you were so engrossed in a moment before turn into a blizzard of unrelated pixels and suddenly you are forcibly reminded that what you are seeing is just a recording.

We’ve built our world; our entire reality on a foundation of illusions.  From the illusion of the solidity of physical objects (electrons moving so fast and furiously that they give an object of being solid and dense when it really consists of more empty space than physical matter) to the illusion of separateness when it comes to consciousness, we’re working with illusions.

In order to experience physical existence; in order to interact with people and things around us, we have to act as if the illusion is real.  This is just one of the reasons that it is so disturbing when we see through the illusion, when, for a heartbeat, we see things as they really are and we are forcibly reminded of the fact that there is more to reality than the web of illusions we have created for ourselves.

But if we can get past that fear; if we can step beyond our need to view our reality from one preconceived notion of how things are supposed to be; into the heart of that clear blue soul, you will find yourself looking into the true nature of reality; into the heart of god.

Bringing Your Reality Into Focus

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” ~ Lewis Carroll

If you don’t know what it is that you want, then how can you expect to ever get it?

Think about it; how many times have you felt that your life is not living up to your expectations; like there is something missing; something that you should be doing or that you should have and you can’t quite seem to put your finger on what, exactly, it is? How many times have you gotten the distinct impression that you are ‘settling’ for a life that contains less that you are capable of containing?

Like everyone else, I’d had this feeling myself; this vague, unfocused impression of a larger life; a template of my life if you will that existed just under the surface of reality; the life that I was always meant to live and that I could be living if only I knew how to bring it into my reality.

I’d daydreamed about the kind of life I wanted to have; the people and things that I wanted to be in it; but it always seemed like no more than a dream; wishful thinking all vague and unfocused; unfocused that is until the day that suddenly it all made sense.  In a blink I understood what it was that I’d been missing.

I still remember the moment vividly;   I was sitting at a coffee shop, across the table from a woman that I had just met. A complete stranger until fifteen minutes earlier, she’d been pouring her problems out to me for the last quarter of an hour and I’d been listening; curious as to usual about what it is that seems to inspire people to just start laying their problems out for me, when something she said snapped my consciousness into focus;

“I keep waiting for something to interesting to happen to me but nothing ever does,” she said, sounding rather forlorn.  “I keep getting the impression that I’ve, you know, just settled for something less than I should have.  That there really should be more to my life – I just don’t know what, and if only I could figure out what it is, then everything would fall into place.”  She sighed and took a sip of her coffee and went on to talk about other things, none of which I remember because my mind was busy being astounded.

Heaven only knows that it wasn’t the first time I’d heard someone say this.  In fact, I’d thought this myself on more than one occasion, but for some reason when that woman said it that morning in that coffee shop with the sun falling across our table at that exact angle, everything snapped into place with a crystalline clarity that took my breath away.

Having a vague idea of what I wanted was not enough you see.  Simply knowing that there was something bigger that I was supposed to be doing with my life wasn’t enough to bring that purpose to the surface.  Simply wanting my life to be better was not enough to make it so.

It was like I’d been spending my life creating an impressionist painting; a series of lines and dots and splotches of color; people and places and situations and experiences all randomly splashed onto my canvass; adhering only to the vaguest of outlines and without any but the vaguest impression of what it was that I was painting.

I’d been missing focus.

In those few minutes; the handful of minutes between the words spoken by this virtual stranger and the time she and her extra large mocha latte walked out of the shop to go on about her life, everything I’d ever read about visualization; about manifestation; about creating your own reality all of it finally made sense.  In order to live the life you were always meant to live there is one thing that you have to do; bring that life into the forefront of your awareness and bring all of your focus to bear on it.

Of course this is easier said than done; you have to be able to determine what, exactly, constitutes the kind of life that you want to be living and then be able to hold it in the forefront of your awareness, but once you have gotten to the point where you can keep your focus on what it is that you want to manifest in your life, you’ll be amazed at how quickly things will start falling into place for you and just how quickly the life you were meant to live becomes a reality.  There is just one important thing to remember – don’t focus on what it is that is missing and treat it as if it is missing.  Focus on it as if you already have it in your life; give thanks for it.  Tell yourself how glad you are that you have this particular thing in your life, then watch as it becomes a living breathing part of your reality.

Curious as to some ways to bring your own dreams into focus in your reality?  Try some of the following ideas, you just might be surprised at how well they work:

 

 

 

 

                       

 

 

 

The Perception of Pain

“It isn’t what happens to us that causes us to suffer; it’s what we say to ourselves about what happens.” ~Pema Chodron

 

How many hours have you spent living in pain?  Oh, I’m not talking about physical conditions here; broken bones and painful illnesses and things that can be relieved by popping a few pills or taking a hot bath.  No, the pain I’m talking about is the pain that twists your heart into a knot; the kind that pierces you insides; the kind of pain comes from reliving painful memories and circumstances over and over again; playing them out on the movie screen of your mind in all of their gory detail.

Perhaps they are old memories; things that happened long ago and far away; things that impacted your childhood or things that you have simply not been able to let go of.  Or maybe the painful event happened just this morning; someone saying something unintentionally hurtful as they walked out the door, and you can’t keep your mind from going over and over what was said.

But not only does the scene replay over and over again in your mind, you then find yourself going over all of the possible interpretations and connotations of what was said.  Why did they say that?  Was it something you said or did that prompted them to react that way?  Could you have done something to prevent it?   What did they mean by it?

Before you know it, minutes, sometimes hours have passed and you have absolutely nothing to show for all of your worry but a headache and a tear stained face.  You haven’t had breakfast.  You can’t focus on your work, you’ve called or texted half a dozen different people asking for their input on the situation; their interpretation of what happened, and when they can’t give you a satisfactory answer you find yourself snapping at everyone around you, and all because you can’t let go.

Ah, that wasn’t what you expected me to say, is it?  I’m sorry; did you think I was going to say that the pain you have been experiencing is all because of the event that happened so long ago; all because of the hurtful things that the person said as they were leaving?  Did you think I was going to tell you what a brave soul you are for having to relive that horrible time; to re-experience those negatively associated comments and those situations that scared you for life?  Well, I’m not, because it’s not true.

You are not feeling bad because of what the person said – or because of whatever it is that happened to you in the past.  You are not a brave soul for being able to relive your memories stoically (or even tearfully).  What you are is being selfish, and your selfishness is hurting you.

Does that sound rather harsh?  Perhaps it does.  But that does not make it any less true.

As humans, we cling to our pain – it’s what we do, and there certainly seems to be enough of it around.  We pin our hopes and expectations onto people and circumstances; onto events and outcomes, and when they fail to live up to our expectations, we feel hurt and rejected. We experience pain.

But we can’t simply let it go at that.  We can’t simply feel the pain and then move on.  Oh no, we have to cling to our pain.  It wasn’t simply enough to experience it.  We have to own it.  We have to keep it close, locked away in a pretty carved box; one that we can take out and rummage through whenever we feel the urge to trust again; whenever we feel the urge to live.

We cling to the memories of those things that hurt us because we have an instinctive urge to avoid pain; because we don’t want to be hurt that way ever again, and reliving that painful event or circumstance; playing that memory over and over again in our minds is our way of protecting ourselves against its ever repeating.  The thing is, in making ourselves repeat these memories over and over again, we are hurting ourselves far worse than the event ever could – or did.  Instead of experiencing the pain once; learning from it and moving on, we force ourselves to experience it time and time again.

It is far better to let go of all of the old hurts and painful memories. Will this leave you open to being hurt again?  Of course it will.  But if you want to really live and not hide yourself away, it is a chance you are going to have to take.

Try it.

When you find yourself recalling a painful experience, instead of letting it play out in your head, stop it in its tracks.  Lift it out of your mind complete and whole as you would a flower that you have picked and hold it in front of you; over a pond or river in your imagination.  Acknowledge the pain that the memory caused, and then let it go. Drop it into the water.  It is gone.  The fear and the pain that were attached to it are gone too.

Will this leave you vulnerable to be hurt again?  Yes it will.  But it will also give you a freedom and lightness of being that will make your spirit soar seeing as that it is no longer weighted down with the fears and expectations that you had given to it for safekeeping.

Besides, if you remember that the pain of experience comes not from the experience itself but rather from what we tell ourselves about the experience then you will find the way that you view your experiences changing radically, all it takes is a shift in perception, and the ability to let go.

 

 

 

 

The Power of Responsibility

Learning to take responsibility for yourself; for the life that you have created; for the decisions that you make is one of the most important things that you can do.  But where is this kind of responsibility learned?  For most people, responsibility is learned from their parents.

There is nothing, nothing like holding your child in your arms for the first time; looking down at her face; the perfect features; tiny fingers and toes.  The knowledge that you have created life is so awe inspiring that it takes your breath away and sends you into a world of awe and wonder from which you don’t emerge until you bring her home from the hospital and suddenly realize that not only have you created life, but now you’re responsible for it.  And you are not just responsible for today, or for this week, but for the next 18 years. It is then you realize that your life is never going to be the same again.

I still remember the day that my husband and I brought our brand new baby girl back from the hospital.  I took her out of the carrier and handed her to my husband while I unpacked my overnight bag.  When I came out he was still standing where I’d left him.  He looked at me and, in a stunned voice said “now what?”  It only took a moment before we were both laughing rather hysterically.

Now what indeed!

Now we become parents.

And becoming a parent is not a temporary role.  It’s not something that stops when your child turns 18 or goes to college, finally gets their own apartment, gets married or even has children of their own. Being a parent is something that will follow you for the rest of your life.

But it’s the concept of responsibility that comes with the title of “parent” that hits you right between the eyes, and it’s each parent’s interpretation of responsibility where things really get interesting.

For some the responsibility of being a parent becomes a power struggle; an attempt to control their child in order to ensure that they fit into a particular mold; that they become the kind of person that the parent believes that they should.  For others, the responsibility of becoming a parent means helping the child to become their own person; to take responsibility for themselves and to give them the tools to craft a life for themselves out of the raw materials of childhood. In short, it is your parents’ definition of responsibility that determines your own take on the subject.

Those whose parents were open with them; who allowed for the child’s own interests, skills and abilities to be valued; those whose parents encouraged them to take increasing amounts of responsibility for their own lives as they matured will find the idea of taking responsibility for creating their reality as a logical outgrowth of this process.

For those whose parents were controlling and domineering – even if it was with the best of intentions and the desire to protect the child from those things that might harm them – the idea of taking responsibility for your own life; of listening to your own heart when it comes to the decisions that you make can be a foreign one indeed.  They have become so conditioned to doing what they were instructed to do by their families; by their schools and governments and societies that the idea of taking responsibility for their own lives is about as familiar as the Arabic language, and inspires the same sort of fear-based avoidance.

Of course this does not mean that there is no hope for those whose parents brought them up to conform to the standards that they, their society or religion or government imposed on them.  It simply means that there are more layers to be peeled away before you can get down to the task of re-inventing yourself as the kind of person that you were meant to be.

Peeling away these layers can be a painful and time consuming process, and whether you choose to work through them yourself by reading self-help books, taking up meditation or chronologically journaling your life (and all of the bitterness and resentments that tend to surface during the process) or whether you choose to seek outside assistance in the form of a psychiatrist or spiritual counselor, it is well worth the effort and can lead to the kind of life that you have always wished for yourself.

It can also completely revolutionize the way that you view parenting and the importance of everything that you say and do to influence your child as well as the impact of every decision that you make that affects them.  It doesn’t matter if your child is two or twenty; your own ability to strip away those layers upon layers of conditioning in order to take responsibility for your own life can make a world of difference, not just for you, but for all the generations yet to come.

And that, my friends, is the true power of responsibility.

Breaking the Ostrich’s Egg

“Life does not put things in front of you that you are unable to handle.”

~ Unknown

How many times have you been faced with a seemingly hopeless situation and have ended up avoiding it altogether because it seems so impossible?

Oh don’t look at me like that.  Everyone does it.  You’re life is clicking along seamlessly (well, if not seamlessly than at least without too many potholes) and suddenly you come face to face with something that seems insurmountable.  The problem is just too big.  You’re not ready for this.  You don’t have the resources to handle it.  No one’s ever taught you how to handle something like this.

So what do you do?  If you are like most of us, you’ll find a way to avoid the situation altogether.  Either you will play the victim, run away from your problem, or pretend that it doesn’t exist.

Playing the Victim

Playing the victim is usually the easiest choice.  After all, you didn’t ask for this to happen, did you? That makes it easy to feel as if you are being ‘put upon’ or being manipulated by circumstances beyond your control.

Believe it or not, this belief; that we don’t have any choice in what happens to us; is a belief that is almost as old as mankind itself; almost a kind of archetypal thinking.  It is this overwhelming sense of helplessness that has spawned many of today’s religious belief systems, especially the kind with the evil villain/good savior dualism that puts both “good” and “bad” things firmly outside of your ability to control or handle on your own.

More recently victimization has taken a more psychological bent with psychiatrists helping individuals to come to terms with their victimization by pinpointing who or what is responsible for what has happened to them.  But even though it at least helps the individual to take responsibility for the feelings that they are having now, it is still feeding that ages old concept of being a victim.

The thing is, for all that it is easier to blame someone else; for all that it makes us feel better to not have to take responsibility for what has happened to us, it is the rare individual who doesn’t understand – even if it is on a deep, subconscious level, that the whole concept of victimization is, for the most part, something that is used to help us avoid having to deal with frightening or unpleasant situations.

Run for the Hills!

Running away is probably the next most popular means of avoidance.  Honestly, what can be more to the point than coming head to head with a seemingly insurmountable problem and simply giving up and walking away?  This is the most basic of avoidance instincts – the “flight” part of the fight or flight instinct that is built into nearly every living creature on the planet.

By removing yourself from the situation you can avoid having to deal with it.  There’s just one problem.  Running away has become associated with being a coward in modern society.  Of course we don’t want to look like cowards, so we come up with any number of ways to convince ourselves that we “can’t” deal with the situation, or that we really don’t have the time to be bothered by it.

These can include everything from literally physically walking away or withdrawing from the situation, to immersing yourself in work or drink, overeating, politics, drugs, sex, fantasy fiction, the nightly news or anything else that will keep you from having to think about the problem.

Once again, there isn’t a human alive that doesn’t understand that running away from your issues, (whether it is physically walking away from the situation or in masking your fears or worries by wrapping yourself up in layers of protective habits) is not going to resolve the situation.  This is why Alcoholics Anonymous and so many other 12 step programs have become so popular in the last two decades.  People know what they are doing.  They understand that there are issues that they are avoiding and that they have developed “methods” of avoidance that can’t be classified as cowardice in order to avoid their problems.  This leaves us our good old flightless birds, the Ostriches.

Playing the Ostrich

The last avoidance option; sticking your head in the sand and pretending that there is nothing wrong; is one that is used by those who do not choose to employ any of the “flight” options listed above such as playing the victim or running away.

Perhaps they are too honest with themselves to be able to walk away from the situation.  They know that running isn’t going to solve it, and they have enough understanding to realize that they have nothing or no one to blame but themselves.  However, these individuals tend to opt for another, less obvious (and sometimes more harmful) method of avoidance.  They pretend that the problem doesn’t exist.

Now yes, I’ll be the first one to say that you do create your own reality, and that you have the power and the ability to choose your life; your state of mind.  I’ll even agree that your thoughts determine your reality and that by focusing on the negative you are bound to bring more of the same into your life. But there is a decided difference between a fully conscious human who uses their creative abilities to sculpt their life to their specifications through intentional and authentic living, and someone who simply refuses to see what is right in front of them because it is unpleasant or frightening and they don’t want to have to deal with it.

Dealing with the issue is not dwelling on the negative.  In fact, many times it is the means by which we can remove the negative from our lives once and for all and focus on maintaining the positive life that we want for ourselves.  But we can’t kid ourselves and pretend that these issues do not exist.  That is just asking for trouble.

While this last avoidance issue is by far the most insidious and the most difficult to deal with, there is one sure way to break the Ostrich’s habit, and that is to break his egg.

Breaking the Ostrich Egg

Contrary to popular belief, Ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand to avoid confronting danger.  This myth is thought to have originated with a quote from Pliny the Elder who wrote about Ostriches thrusting their head and neck into a bush and imagining that their whole body is concealed.  Actually, Pliny was wrong – they don’t even stick their heads in a shrub – they simply lay their necks out flat along the ground and spread out their wings to keep as low of a profile as possible.  This causes their bodies to appear – from a distance – like a shrub or low mound of dirt.

This of course makes sense when you realize that from a camouflaging point of view that the body of an ostrich really does resemble the kind of shrubs that abound in the Australian outback. So when the Ostrich’s elongated neck is concealed or isn’t immediately visible, most predators will simply walk right by them and not even notice.  But the fact is that most Ostriches only hide in certain situations; such as when they are laying eggs or have been physically injured.  Most times when an ostrich is threatened they don’t hide – they run.

This also makes sense, because the Ostrich is a fast runner. It’s true; they’ve been clocked at speeds up to 45 mph, which makes running away from a predator a very good option.  They can also maintain a steady running speed of about 32mph, which makes them the world’s fastest two-legged animal.  The thing is that there are times when an Ostrich simply will not run; when they refuse to run.  The most well-known of these is when their nest is threatened.

Indeed, threaten an Ostrich’s nest or (heaven forbid) break its egg, and the game is up.  You will see a different side of the Ostrich, one that most people don’t even suspect exists, because the Ostrich is also an extremely fierce and effective fighter.  Their powerful legs can deal out kicks that can seriously injure or even kill a predator, and their very strong and sharp beaks (driven by those muscular necks) can make quick work out of anyone or anything that threatens them.

So, Why are You Running?

Like the Ostrich, you too have the ability to not only face your problems, but to work through them.  While there may be a time and a place to blend in with your surroundings, or even to run, there is nothing keeping you from using your strengths (and you do have them!) to address the issue at hand.

It doesn’t matter what you are being asked to face. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have the right skills; the right training; the right credentials to handle the situations. It doesn’t even matter whether or not anyone believes that you can do it (including yourself!).  If the universe has presented you with a challenge, it is because you are ready to take it on.

Does this mean that you will inevitably succeed at what it is that you are attempting? Of course not.  Well, actually, it depends I suppose on your definition of success.  In fact, sometimes the whole point of the challenge is to help you uncover those things inside of yourself that will allow you to handle this sort of situation.  So if it is your first time facing up to this kind of situation- to this kind of challenge – then it may take several attempts for you to get it right.

But the point is that when you are presented with a challenging situation – even a seemingly hopeless situation – it doesn’t do you any good to blame someone else, to run away, or to pretend that the situation doesn’t exist. It was put in front of you for a reason.  It’s up to you to make the most of it.

 

The Magic Web

We live in a magical world.  If you don’t think so, just look around you; look at the intricacies of a spider’s web (Her mother dies giving birth to her – so how does she know how to create that? Where do the designs come from?) Look at the glory of a sunrise; at the intimate dance of sunlight and shadow across the surface of a pond; at the delicate ecological balance of life taking place just beneath the surface of that water.

Truly, mysteries abound.  The secrets of fierce nuclear fusion that give birth to the life-giving warmth of our sun, the cycling of our stars and the complex combination of interlocking chemical and biological systems that make up the human body.

But probably one of the most amazingly mysterious and magical concepts is the fact that each of these mysteries; each of these intricate layers of creation is connected to everything else around it.  Like the spider dancing across the strings of her web; we too are connected to everything around us.  We share our energy with that spider.  We dance to the sinuous music of the wind in the trees and in our hearts burns the same fierce brightness that fuels the sun itself.

You don’t believe me?  Go out into your yard before dawn some morning; go out in your bare feet and feel the dew on the grass beneath your toes; close your eyes and let the silence soak into your skin; feel the stirring of the wind; feel the power of the earth soaking into the soles of your feet.  Listen as the birds begin to welcome the first rays of sunlight; then open your eyes and watch as morning breaks and then tell me that you are not connected to everything around you.

It’s just that sometimes there is so much to take in.  Sometimes it is too much to take in.  Sometimes it feels that if we try to take it all in our hearts will burst with the sheer beauty of it.  In fact, chances are that the last time you truly took the time to let yourself connect to everything and everyone around you was when you were a child; when you could still comprehend the vastness and the mystery of it without needing to understand why.

No, for most of us there comes a time when our openness and willingness to accept our connection to everyone and everything becomes too much to bear.  Usually this occurs when someone or something within our web lets us down; when we can no longer see the beauty of the connection because of the pain of disappointment and dashed hopes; when even trying to see this connection hurts us too much and we withdraw to a safer, less vibrant level of reality where it won’t hurt so bad because we are no longer as open to life.

And it doesn’t end with our first step away from openness.  Most of us spend our lives narrowing our connection.  For most of us, our webs of connection to the world around us get smaller and smaller over the years; our connections fewer as people and circumstances fail to live up to our expectations.  And instead of dealing with the pain we simply narrow our focus; spinning smaller and smaller webs until finally the last filaments of our once glorious web drift away in the evening breeze because of our neglect and we sit forlorn on the fencepost; alone and unconnected and waiting for the end.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

That talented spider with her delicately spun web does not let a little thing like a disappointment or discouragement –or even failed expectations keep her from maintaining her glorious web.  She spins and spins and spins and spins again.  And even when her web is broken by struggling insects; by gales of disappointment; by the careless actions of others; she quickly re-creates her web, continually opening herself back up – yes, to the pain and the disappointments – but also to the beauty and the wonder that caused her to choose that particular place to spin a web in to begin with.

So what is keeping you?

What is keeping you from re-spinning that web; those connections that you had in childhood; those connections that bound you with awe and reverence to the wonder and the mystery that surrounds you?

The only thing that is keeping you from once more opening yourself up to the joy and beauty that could be yours is your fear; the fear of disappointment; the fear pain; the fear that once your web has been torn apart you won’t have the strength to spin it out again.

Funny thing that, because the spider doesn’t even question whether or not she has the strength; she simply chooses to spin; stretching herself out to catch every subtle drop of beauty and possibility that is her birthright and accepting the pain as part of what it means to be alive.

Authentic Living 201: Living Intentionally

There is a difference between living and living an intentional life.

No, seriously, everybody lives.  Unless you’ve been in a serious accident and are fighting for every breath you take, living is not something you actually have to think about.  It simply happens, usually when you aren’t paying attention.  In fact, one day you look up and realize that half your life has gone by and wonder where the devil it’s gone.  It was just here for pity’s sakes.

Suddenly you realize that you’ve slipped so far into routine that you’re drowning in it.  For whatever reason your life has become mundane – each day just like the one before, and it doesn’t matter how good your life actually is.  It doesn’t matter how nice your house is, or your car.  It doesn’t matter how much (or how little) money you have in the bank – your life is being lived – you’re not living an intentional life.  So, what is the difference? What does it mean to live intentionally?

What is Intentional Living?

Intentional living is not about turning your life upside down.  It is not even about manifesting change in your life.  Intentional living is about being here – now; it is about doing everything you do with complete and total awareness of what it is that you are doing and why it is that you are doing it.

From eating your breakfast to sitting through that aptly named board meeting; from playing Frisbee with your kids to walking the dog; you need to pay attention to what it is that you are doing.  You need to use your mastery of everyday mindfulness to pay attention to what is happening in your life and to be totally in the moment as you do it; paying attention to all the details and being open to all the nuances.  And yes, I’ll tell you right now, it’s harder than it seems.

You see, we have this sense of urgency that surrounds everything that we do.  I’m sure you’ve noticed it.  When you are doing something mundane or boring your mind tends to either shut off or to race ahead to what needs to be done next or sometimes berate us over past mistakes and things that we could have done better.  Very rarely are we actually fully in the moment.  Well, it’s time to change all of that.

Living the Intentional Life

Using your mastery of mindfulness to pay attention to what is happening here and now, you’re going to make some interesting discoveries.  You are going to find that there are things that are a part of your life that no longer serve you.  You may have gone years – or even decades without realizing what you were doing; the time you were wasting on something that you really have absolutely no interest in whatsoever; things in your life that are just taking up space.

So, why are you still doing them?  Why have you kept them all these years?  What is keeping you from letting go of those things that no longer serve you so that you can make room in your life for something that actually makes a difference?  Yes, I’m sure that if you think hard enough you can find a reason to keep them in your life.  But is it worth it?  Is the time, effort and energy that you spend on them worth what is given back to you in the satisfaction of possession or in the completion of the action itself? If you were fully present every time you did this – used this – would you still want it in your life?

And it won’t just be physical objects or routines that you find cluttering up your life.  You’re going to run into friendships, acquaintances, even romantic relationships that are called into question, especially if – once you start actually paying attention to them – you find that neither of you is getting anything out of it; or if the relationship is unbalanced.  Just like physical objects and everyday routines, sometimes there are relationships that have run their course; that we hold onto out of habit, but that would serve everyone better if we simply let them go.

But it isn’t just about getting rid of the excess; of the mundane; of those things that no longer serve you or that have run their course.  Living intentionally is also about coming to a realization of those things that you are missing; those things that you really want to be a part of your life but didn’t realize were missing until you started paying attention to what you actually had.   Only once you realize what it is that you really want can you go about taking the necessary steps to bring it into your life.

So go ahead – start today!  Start paying attention to the life that you are living.  Start living your life intentionally.  Stop living on autopilot; never fully engaged in what it is that you are doing, and start putting a part of yourself; a part of your energy; into everything that you do.  Start being fully present in every relationship you are a part of and not just because you have to; not just because you feel obligated; but because you want to; because at that particular moment in time there is nothing you would rather be doing, for in the end that is the only way to really be alive.