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Archives for April 2018

When you don’t like what’s really going on…

 

Maybe it was the little dog crawling around on the bed in the middle of the night.  Or maybe it’s because it was Monday morning, but I woke up feeling off.  I couldn’t say why, but I just wanted to stay in bed.

Canola Fields
Photo by Katie Teague

I’m a pretty happy, enthusiastic guy, and I like being that way, so when I don’t feel like that, I tend to judge myself.  “You should just get up, be grateful, and get to work!”, the little voice in my head chatters at me.  It’s like a cute little squirrel, that becomes annoying when it’s right outside your bedroom window on a Saturday morning.  Then it whispers, “None of that spiritual crap works anyway, so you might as well do something useful.”  Sheesh!  It’s mean, and can be so relentless.

So I pay attention to it, good boy that I am.  My inner 4 year old has just taken command.  I’m gonna make Mom proud!  I go get coffee, I open something inspiring on my laptop and start to try to force myself to be happy.

But, I still don’t feel right.  This is the beginning of the war within me.  Great way to start the day, huh?

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” 

—Lao Tzu

When life happens, there is a fundamental principle of spiritual work that is ALWAYS useful:  Acceptance. 

Let things be what they are, and life works out.

But Acceptance is illusive.  What about the experiences that I don’t want to accept?  When the little dog gnaws my ear at 5am, it’s not cute!  I wakes me up, and I want to punt him off the bed.  I don’t WANT to accept it.  I want him to stop!

So, I remind myself about acceptance by framing it like this:

You will never win an argument with Reality.

(And you will make yourself miserable if you try to.)

Reality was this:

Hawkins decided I tasted good at 5am.  I woke up.  I was annoyed and not as rested as I wanted to be.  And I had a bunch on my plate that had to be done that day, and I needed to prepare for it.  But I didn’t want to.  And I didn’t like it that I didn’t want to.  Humph.

So, at 5:45, it seemed like a good idea to let my inner 4 year old take over.  Just be happy!  Life will work out.  Right?

Sure, until what’s really going on inside you builds up to a point that you want to tell your boss that he’s a moron, speed up so that person trying to merge can’t slow you down, or send the kids to time out for no reason other than you don’t like them at that moment. (For those of you who are spiritual adepts, you will recognize this as a form of Spiritual Bypass.)

So, Happy doesn’t always work, especially if it’s covering up what’s real inside of you.  What do you do?

When I realized I was about to go to war with myself, I kicked my 4 year old back over into his car seat, and took back control.  I stopped arguing with Reality and took inventory of what was really going on inside me.

I was sad.  I had a good weekend, but wasn’t fully prepared for the day, so I felt rushed.  My body was tense.  I had just spent the day hanging out with my wife and doggies and hadn’t stretched or walked or done anything that I know is good for my body, so I was stiff.  I needed to move.  My thoughts were telling me that there was more to do than I could actually do, so my brain was trying to rev me up to “conquer those imaginary dragons”.

All that was a weight on me that I was resisting.

Realizing that, I took a moment and turned my full focus to the sensations in my body where the sadness was.  Feelings are always a key place to start.  You never want to, but it always works, so I asked for help from Spirit and focused on my chest.  It was tight, and my heart was closed.

I let those uncomfortable feelings move, and my eyes welled up.  My body began breathing more deeply as the tension released, and this wave of resistance moved through me.  In just a couple of minutes I felt better.  Then thoughts began to arise that made much more sense than the overwhelmed try-to-get-it-all-done-in-5-minutes plan.

I had time during the day to make the phone calls, to finish the bids, to do the invoicing.  It wouldn’t all get done, but a lot would.  I even realized it was only 6am, so I had time to stretch an do 10 mins of yoga.  “I can do this”,  I said to myself, and moved on feeling empowered to do my best, and thankful I had taken the time to stop and connect with what was real inside of me.  I got real, moved through the tension, and was actually now, authentically happy.

What about you?

Do you sugarcoat the tension in your life with happiness?  If so, does it really work, if you tell the truth to yourself?  Or is there a deeper reality inside of you that you ignore?  I know this is inherently uncomfortable, but if you want to grow, you have to first learn to be real with what you actual living experience is.  If you don’t, you’ll wake up one day disconnected from what’s important, bored, or even depressed.  Not a fun way to live.

And it doesn’t have to be all dramatic.  Sometimes Stopping the Argument can just be acknowledging that your 4 year old has taken over.  Scooch her back over into her booster seat, and get on with your life.  I hold a bunch of feelings inside, so I have to connect with them regularly to let those puppies run free.  Otherwise their little piranha teeth chew will me up.

“If I could define enlightenment briefly I would say it is ‘the quiet acceptance of what is.’

—Wayne Dyer

Please understand, this is not a formula for happiness.  Sometimes, when I stop to connect with what’s real inside me, I don’t become happy.  Sometimes, I get intense.  Sometimes, I become soft and vulnerable.

You never know what will happen when you Stop Arguing with Reality, but you can count on that it will be better than what it’s like to keep resisting.

You will be letting you authentic vitality move through you.  That’s it’s job, and it will lead you towards your next right step.

So, in summary, Acceptance = Partnering with Reality.  When you realize that you are in an argument with what’s actually going on, you have an opportunity to reclaim your ability to make healthy choices. You stop being a victim of what’s really going on.  You put yourself back in the driver’s seat in your life, the seat of purpose, power and the passion you were born to share with the world.

In my next blog, I’m going to delve in to that elusive spiritual practice, Surrender.

How do you let go of these uncomfortable feelings that seem to hold you prisoner in your life?  I’ll share a reliable practice that will improve your ability to Let Go when you are making yourself crazy.

So sign up on my home page to stay in the conversation (if you haven’t already) and share this with anyone who doesn’t like what’s really going on, and doesn’t know what to do about it.

As always, I love to hear from you, so please drop some knowledge in the comments!  Let me know if this makes a difference for you, AND if it doesn’t, how I can make it better.

Blessings to you as you create the capacity for change!

I was ready to quit…

 

I was on a 2 1/2 week project and had 10 days left to go. At the beginning of the project, the client has asked me to do a few things for free. Things I hadn’t agreed to do. I wanted to give great service, so I did them. It only cost me a few man hours as a gesture of goodwill. Mistake.

Each day after that he would ask for more. When I would say, “that’s not really a part of our contract,“ he would assert that I had told him I would do it anyway. I hadn’t. I felt like I was being coerced and manipulated. When I started to push back and say no, or say yes if he would pay me, he out right called me a liar and told me I was trying to take advantage of him.

I was miserable. I wanted to give great service, but I also needed to keep my timeline and be profitable like any business does.  And I didn’t like the way he was treating me.

After a week of dealing with this, one afternoon about 30 minutes before another scheduled conversation with him, I was ready to walk off the job. To just quit and try to give it to someone else, or just take my losses and move on.  I desperately needed some relief from his criticism and demands, but I hated myself for how I felt. I was tearing myself apart inside, and I needed help. So I reached out to Spirit.

“There are moments that the words don’t reach. A grace too powerful to name.  We push away what we can never understand. We push away the unimaginable. “

– Angelica Schuyler from Hamilton

We live our lives divided inside. We are split. You want to feel free, but you have responsibilities. You want to be happy, but others are counting on you. There was a time when you were on purpose, but may have lost that power underneath the stack of bills, unreturned emails, and all of life‘s mandatory busyness.

You want to shed that extra 10 pounds, but you really need a glass of wine and some truffle mac & cheese!

I get it.  Me too.

The promise of spirituality, or spiritual work, is one of unity, connection, and freedom.

“Do this, and you will be liberated!“, they say.  But then they don’t tell you how hard it’s going to be.

Doing the work of liberation, finding freedom in the circumstances of your own life, that is the work of Spirit. And to do this you have to align these disparate parts of yourself.

If you’ve ever pushed away desert at dinner, only to find yourself raiding the fridge 2 1/2 hours later at home, you know what I’m talking about.

It’s a catch 22 problem. And we don’t like problems, unless we get paid to solve them, or if it’s wondering if Daenerys Targaryen will ever sit on the Iron Throne.

For some reason—maybe it was the challenges of missing my dad and trying to help my mom after the divorce, or maybe it’s just because underneath my gregarious, fun-loving exterior, I often find myself in situations that seem so much bigger than me, stuff that I just don’t think I can handle— but whatever the reason, I’ve always reached out to Spirit for help.

Since I was a little kid in Sunday school, around age 7, I’ve always believed that this mysterious, almost ineffable experience we call God, Spirit, the Divine, or Source… It would always be there for me. No matter what, I could take comfort in It.

So that’s what I did again, on this day when I was ready to quit and throw all my personal needs and values down in the mud, standing in front of this client’s house.

As I reached out for help, part of me gave up. This, too, was bigger than me. I have found, though, that when you ask, there’s always a response. Sometimes it’s harder to hear than others, and sometimes it’s easy. Spirit is so much smarter than me, it’s crazy, but I’ve learned to trust It.

As this defended, afraid part of me let go, I had a thought. A thought about what I didn’t want.

I didn’t want to be a quitter, I didn’t want to be a victim of this man who is being so critical of me.

And then seconds later, came what I did want.

Something broke open inside of me as I reconnected with some qualities of my essential nature.

I wanted to be integrous. I wanted to be the kind of man that was trustworthy and reliable. Someone you can count on. And I wanted to want to do good quality work. And I wanted to do that because it is who I am.  Having integrity, doing my best, and providing a good service are all qualities of my essential nature. (Yours, too, I bet.)

In trying to please this man, and honor his demands, I had forgotten who I was, what gave my work meaning.

When I aligned with these qualities I immediately saw what was missing: healthy boundaries.

Just because he made assertions, I didn’t have to agree with them. Just because he made demands, I didn’t have to do them. I did have to honor my agreements, the ones I had already made with him.  I wanted to do that.

As I let this experience settle into me, I came alive with the possibility of completing the job with integrity, doing great work, and ending on as good a note as possible. I was back in the driver’s seat in my life!

Now you might just call that a reframe, but for me it was a visceral experience. It wasn’t just in my head. Something inside of me lined up. I felt tingles run down my arms and back as the relief flooded in.  Weirdly enough, I sorta felt… happy!

There was a way out, and it was to stay in.  But now I would take care of myself in the process.  I didn’t have to even like or trust him, but I did have to honor what was true for me.

I found I could express my truth with compassion.  While he did not like some of what I said, I wasn’t doing him any harm, and I was creating a space in which I could act in alignment with my values, and do what I said I would do.  With great quality and service.  I just stopped letting him walk all over me.

I did complete the job, and we did end on good terms. I won’t work for him again though. Our values don’t align, and that’s OK. No hard feelings, lesson learned, time to move on in gratitude and greater clarity.

That work I did to get clear about the kind of person I was being – helpless, miserable, and a victim—and who I wanted to be—integrous, trustworthy, and reliable—, and then aligning with that deepest truth inside of me, is the process of spiritual work.  I aligned with what was meaningful, valuable, and important to me.

Doing that I gained greater capacity. The capacity to say no. The capacity to love myself a little more. And the capacity to have more compassion for someone I disagreed with and did not like.

Why is this a spiritual process?

Because it’s a process of self-discovery, a process of chipping away the hard crusty shell that you set up to protect your sweet chocolatey pleasurable center, your essential nature!  It is a process of not only discovering, but of creating meaning.

Something bigger than you know yourself to be comes in and supports you, gives you aid in time of need.  It may sound woo-woo, but it’s real, and it works.  This is my experience of Spirit.  You will have your own.  That’s as it should be; we are all so unique, how could we all have the exact same ways of experiencing the Divine?

Contrast this experience with what had been my likely future before I did the work— one of frustration, divisiveness, and just trying to survive— and I’ll choose the second way of going every time, even though it’s uncomfortable.

Spiritual work is about finding out what’s important to you, discovering who you want to be, and then summoning the courage to take the risks required to know yourself newly.  Doing it changes you from the inside out.  The essential, vital, eternal You bubbles up out of the mess you are in, and lends a hand.

“Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.” —Goethe

 

What to do when you are stuck

Is there a part of you that can feel like a victim in certain areas of your life?

Is there a part of your life where you feel like there’s nothing you can do to make it better?  Like you are trapped?

If so, ask yourself what’s really important to you in those situations, and who you want to be?  Ask Spirit for help, for a sign post to lead you down a better road, or for a clear billboard that you cannot miss!  And then listen and trust.

Something so much bigger than you know yourself to be will come to your aid, and probably in a way you least expect it.  It will well up inside you if you invite it.  It’s a practice.

There is no guarantee that you will get what you want, or that your circumstances will change, but you will give yourself the option of changing who you are in relation to them.  And that’s what makes the difference.

If this touches you, please let me know.  And if it challenges your current understanding, shout it out in the comments.  I love hearing your wisdom, and your struggles.  And please share this with others on the path so they can join the conversation.

Blessings to you as you create the capacity for change!

6 Signs your Spiritual Practice is Working

You’ve been putting in the time.  You took the time to learn, and now you’ve been practicing.  Perhaps daily, or maybe just one committed time per week.  While you love your practice, and feel great doing it, you still wonder if it’s really working in your life.

How do you know?  Check out these 6 signs and see if you need to add another session or congratulate yourself.

1.  Change is happening with less effort

You are making better choices, choices that make you feel more confident, empowered, and centered.  Where it used to be difficult to do what you know is best for you, now it is easier.  As you connect with Spirit, you are realizing that you are more than your circumstances.  You are able to handle situations that used to leave you frazzled with grace and ease, or at least without reacting with frustration and annoyance.  And you didn’t plan to change those things, they are happening almost of their own accord.

2.  You feel more peaceful and centered.

When you have time to yourself, you find yourself content with silence.  To simply sit and experience what’s happening in your immediate environment, and within yourself.  It’s not that you aren’t engaged in life.  You still participate and may contribute even more than you used to, but now, you don’t feel the need to fill each moment with stimulation.  Facebook will still be there.  So will Netflix.  Right now, it feels good to simply breathe and appreciate your experience.

3.  The way you love is changing.

Acceptance and presence are replacing the emotionally volatile love you have known and longed for.  Instead of trying to get your needs met from others, you are meeting them from within, and that lets you be more fully present.  You know you are loved through the sense of connection with your self, and you still appreciate when others care for you, but demand that they do so less than before.

4.  Your relationships are changing for the better.

Some long time friends may have left your life, but others have entered, and the conversations you are having feel more real and connected.  Instead of gossip, you talk about your dreams, how you are growing, and what you love.  You are more content to listen than to give advice, but when you do it is heart centered.  Your relationship with your body is improving, too.  You are more accepting of it as it is, and you don’t judge yourself as much as you used to.

5.  You are more grateful.

As you accept yourself as you are, and let go trying to control your circumstances, you naturally feel grateful for what you have and what you experience.  Life may not be any easier, but your experience of it is.  When you get your judgments out of the way, what’s left is a simple gratitude for the gift of life.  You find yourself connecting with this sense more often.

6.  You feel more alive!

The work you have been doing is clearing out space in your life, and inside you as well.  You experience more freedom, even though your daily responsibilities may not have changed.  This increased sense of space and freedom make you feel more relaxed and comfortable in your own skin.  As you spend less time at the effect of uncomfortable emotions, you find that your body feels more alive and invigorated.  You are moved by life, and as you express yourself more fully, you touch others more deeply.  You may even receive more compliments and gratitude from friends!

After reading these six signs, you will likely find yourself in one of two places:
Encouraged because you realize that your practice really is working, or you may be disconcerted, possibly even a little annoyed, because these don’t seem like realistic, achievable experiences.
Or you maybe somewhere in between.
Wherever you find yourself, remember that who you are, just being yourself, makes a profound difference.
The world needs your gifts.
Your spiritual path is to discover your unique and precious purpose,
to do the work to free yourself up so you can express yourself fully,
and live in alignment with that purpose.
When you do so you’ll love your life, and contribute others just by being who you are.
Please share in the comments below what your spiritual practice is, and how it’s working for you (or how you’d like it to).
Who knows? You may inspire someone, or give them permission to try something new.
Blessings to you as you continue to create capacity for change!