Your world is made up of your thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Sometimes we lose sight of that and, instead, find ourselves reacting to the world rather than creating it. Today, take a moment to stop and purposely direct your thoughts toward peace and beauty. Allow the peace in your heart to flow outward from you and envelope your world. Feel your own inner beauty and direct it outward into the universe. Sit with the feeling of contentedness for just a moment, then bring your awareness back to the here and now and see how much peace and beauty you have created. You may be surprised.
27 Jul 2012 Leave a comment
I felt like a child standing on the diving board above the swimming pool. In reality I was at work, sitting in a marketing meeting discussing the rollout of a new project. I had stopped listening to the presenter because of a distracting inner voice that was practically screaming for attention.
“Mom! Dad! Look at me! Look! Are you watching? Do you want to see me dive in?” it shouted. “Are you sure you’re watching?” it reiterated as if waiting for confirmation from my invisible parents.
The situations, while seemingly different, both stem from the same basic need. A part of me was crying out for attention, wanting to prove myself to my peers. I felt unable to concentrate in the meeting, wanting others to know of my great experience on the subject we were discussing. Certainly I had more knowledge of the project than anyone else. Why couldn’t they see it?
I couldn’t see it myself.
In this particular instance, my experience wasn’t needed. In fact, decisions had already been made and we were simply being informed of the outcomes. Yes, I could spot the flaws in the plan. Yes, I could see where improvements could be made. Yet it was only when I stopped and reflected on the meeting that I saw what was really bothering me: I wanted to be acknowledged.
The need for acknowledgement is a powerful force in our lives, driving us to achieve and “do” more and more. In fact, as I looked around the room, I could see the effects of this powerful force in vivid detail. There was an abundance of people with advanced education at the table. Some had come from other successful businesses; some had been with the company for years. Many looked tired and run down, the byproduct of working long hours and overtime on the new project. Everywhere I looked was a hardworking employee, trying desperately to be acknowledged and rewarded. Each of them was trying to prove themselves.
This approach to business and to life has been with us for some time but seems to be increasing in our world. The economy has tightened the job market, causing many people to be watchful of their employment. Others who are out of work are desperately trying to find jobs while many retirees are returning to work to make ends meet.
The economy isn’t the only culprit in this game. Our culture, especially in the United States, is causing people to seek more and more. Athletes are supposed to be faster, leaner and make more money than their earlier counterparts. Musicians are supposed to sell multi-platinum albums. And even the average citizen is swept up in the daily pursuit to have the fastest computer, best smartphone and newest car.
We seek these things—status, possessions, fame, and money—in order to prove our own worth. We feel that that we don’t measure up to anyone else unless we are maintaining or surpassing the lifestyle of our peers. We can no longer see through the possessions, through the fame and through the struggle to keep up. If we did, we might just get a glimpse of how wonderful we really are.
What does it mean to “be”?
One of my favorite summertime activities is to go stargazing at my mountain cabin. Far away from the light pollution of the city, the night sky comes alive. Billions of stars and planets shine and twinkle for my wondrous eyes as I try to come to terms with the vastness of the universe I’m witnessing. As I look up, I’m always struck at the perfect “rightness” of the world and my place in it.
The ego is like light pollution, keeping us from seeing the wonder of our own spirit. As our primary protector, the ego wants us to grow and succeed but it wants to do so on its terms. When threatened, the ego hardens and becomes wary of others. It pushes us to go further and relax less in order to reach our goals. The ego aligns closely with the intellect, convinced that the path to happiness lies in hard work, suffering and empty achievements.
Learning how to “be” is like turning down a dial on the ego. As the ego becomes softer and we become more attuned to the present moment, we can start to experience the magnificence of the inner self. “Being” is synonymous with “accepting,” that sublime state of existence where we realize how perfect we really are. “Being” is understanding that we already “are” everything we want to be. All we need to do is learn how to see it clearly.
Softening the ego
Uncovering your own miraculous self is a little like exercise. You have to work at it at first, flexing muscles that have atrophied and building your endurance. It can be done and the rewards are stunning.
First, you must understand your own rightness and your own perfection. Your existence in this universe gives you that by birthright. As we age, we take on the pollution of others. We’re told we’re not good enough; we compare ourselves to those who have more; and we cover up the inner self with doubt, fear and jealousy.
In this instance, you may have to rely on faith to kick-start your understanding. Also, spending time in nature may help remind you of your own glory. As you see and experience the beauty of the natural world, you begin to get a sense of your own connectedness and therefore your own uniqueness.
Next, you must stop trying to prove yourself in every situation. Yes, there are times when it’s important to let the ego take control, like during a job interview when you’re putting your best foot forward. Overall, however, you’re fighting a losing battle by trying to constantly prove yourself.
When you’re comfortable with your own being, you radiate a vibration that tells the world, “I am enough!” It’s a powerful, magnetic vibration. It needs no proof of its existence. Your own true self will pull to it the people and experiences you need to grow and it will happen with less effort than you ever thought possible.
You need to understand yourself in order to uncover your own uniqueness. What makes you excited? What angers you? What makes you feel alive? When you stop trying to please others or be something you’re not, you start living authentically. When you stop trying to keep up with others, you’re living authentically. That authenticity carves out a specific groove made just for you. Happiness and fulfillment are yours when you dance through life in your own groove. Following your impulses helps you discover what makes you, you.
Lastly, it’s important to remind yourself of your uniqueness and value every single day. The pollution of the ego can creep up on you and cover up your shining light. Taking a few quiet moments of solitude each day and purposely remembering your glory keeps the ego more flexible. And, the reflection will help the subconscious remind you throughout the day how truly wonderful you are.
Just underneath the surface of your ego is an authentic self that has as much beauty, as much power and as much awe as the night sky. You are a natural extension of the universe. Prove yourself to no one…you don’t need to. Stop pushing, start accepting and see how the real you comes out to play. The universe is watching.
22 Jul 2012 2 Comments
I write a lot in this blog about the “safe universe concept”—the idea being that we live in a safe universe. This is one of the core concepts of conscious creation and it’s a belief that’s hard for people to accept: very hard. It’s even harder when we’re faced with tragic events we see in the news such as the movie theatre shooting that happened in Aurora, Colorado last week.
Accepting that you live in a safe universe means changing your beliefs about safety. It means knocking down old beliefs that are contrary to that concept and changing them, one by one, to feelings of security. To truly embrace the feeling of safety and security, you must purposely direct your thoughts and beliefs to a new paradigm and learn to adopt new thought patterns and beliefs on a variety of subjects. Doing this requires faith and practice. No one said this would be easy.
Having faith that you are protected is new for most of us. We’re conditioned to be on the lookout for threats to our own precious existence. Whether the threats are financial (the economy), emotional (relationships), health (disease) or physical safety (violence), we have grown up in a society that teaches us to be vigilant toward these subjects and take the needed precautions against them. We’ve been taught that we must prepare for danger and actively work against it in our future.
But that old methodology doesn’t fit with the theory of living in a safe world. When you believe, truly believe, that you live in a safe world, those external threats don’t make sense. When you believe that no harm will come to you and when you believe that every action you experience is leading you toward your own value fulfillment, threats take on a new meaning. They are no longer threats. Instead, they’re indicators that let you see if you believe what you now say you do.
I’ve worked with the safe universe concept for a few years now and continue to struggle with it. Our own personal safety is ingrained in our psyche and we’re committed to protecting it. The ego is the main culprit here, as the ego wants us to be safe. The ego reacts primarily to physical data as its basis for protecting us. What it can’t see or doesn’t understand, it ignores. The data that it does see, it usually overreacts to, turning even minor threats into major ordeals designed to get us to react for our own safety.
There’s more to the psyche than the ego. That’s why it’s important to begin the process of changing your thoughts and beliefs about safety. It’s often easiest to start with your conscious thoughts: checking them periodically throughout the day and weighting them against the theory of living in a safe world. Asking “does this make sense in a world where I’m completely safe and protected?” is a good place to start. If it doesn’t make sense, you’ve identified an area you can start to shift to a new, safer perspective.
As I’ve worked on changing my beliefs about my own safety in the world, I’ve become acutely aware of the hardest part in the whole process: being vulnerable. Making conscious choices to accept safety as a way of life means taking a leap of faith that the new thought model will pay off. It’s scary to do this. The concept sounds good but implementing it is a whole new game.
Embracing life from a safe perspective means we must be vulnerable to the world. It means being vulnerable to the things we’ve created with our emotions and thoughts and beliefs and it means being vulnerable to the variations that occur from the creative universe. Being vulnerable is the only way we can move forward in the world. Without that vulnerability, we remain stuck in fear and then in turn, attract more fear.
Vulnerability requires faith and faith requires vulnerability. It’s a declaration of independence from the official life we know. Vulnerability is like standing naked on the mountaintop and telling the world, “I accept what I’m creating, bring it on, world.” Making that declaration then means being open to what we’ve created and what we attract, no matter what it is.
Sometimes these issues loom larger than life. This morning, I read a blog post about a friend of a friend who went to the movies after the mass shooting in Colorado. My friend wondered how safe people will now feel to do something as simple as going to a movie. Is there a lingering threat? Should I be watchful of other people in the theatre? Should I always know where to find the emergency exits? Certainly these are big issues right now. I’m not denying that they are important to think about at the moment. The emotional wounds of last week’s shooting are still fresh in everyone’s minds.
Yet once again we’re faced with making ourselves vulnerable if we want to move forward. We must have the faith that we are protected and that taking steps toward that vulnerability will eventually lead us to new feelings of calm and centeredness. It can be scary to move toward that vulnerability but practice will make it easier and faith will help it come closer.
20 Jul 2012 4 Comments
In times of tragedy, it seems like all we have are questions, the most prevalent being simply: why?
In Colorado today, we’re finding ourselves burdened by that oppressive question as we come to terms with the details of a gunman who opened fire in a crowded movie theatre, killing 12 people and injuring more than 50. As the media dissect the story and as witnesses post to social media platforms, the images and emotions of the late night shooting are making their way outward into the world. And with every news story, every status update and every graphic image shared, the question arises again: why?
Why would someone kill innocent people? Why would this happen to innocent people? Why would the shooter booby trap his apartment knowing law enforcement would find it? Why? Why? Why? Like a song stuck in your head, the question of why is always just under the surface of your consciousness, poking its head up every so often, demanding to be heard and answered.
Faith often provides a framework for the question of “why?” but usually seems to only strengthen its hold on your awareness. For every rationalization and for every small bit of understanding gained, the “why monster” only gets bigger and hungrier. It wants more information, more clarity and more understanding. It doesn’t understand that no matter what your religion, your belief system, your view on life, some things in life simply are unanswerable on a level that makes any sense.
I firmly believe that All That Is (or whatever term you use for God) understands events like this and that ultimately there is a reason for them. But right here, right now, I’m locked into an ego-bound consciousness; and, that consciousness simply cannot process such tragedy. The ego interfaces with physical reality and therefore is subject to a limited range—that which it can see and hear and feel. The ego doesn’t have direct access to that part of me that’s connected with the divine and so it feels shut out and abandoned. What the ego cannot understand, it cannot accept.
So for the time being, I simply must rely on my faith in All That Is. I must trust that tragedies such as this morning’s shooting serve another purpose that I’m not yet privy to. I must trust that everyone involved directly with the tragedy is ultimately being led to something bigger and better, even if I can never see it in my lifetime. My own faith in All That Is tells me that my limited ego doesn’t need to know the answers. All of the “why’s” aren’t my concern and that by releasing my need to know why, I’ll actually feel more serenity.
To quell the “why? Monster,” I find I must turn my attention to the things that do make sense and that feel good. Already we’re seeing people come together in prayer for those affected by the shooting. I’ve witnessed parents hugging their kids and spouses reaffirming their love for one another. Like we had a few weeks ago with the forest fires that ravaged Colorado, there is an outpouring of love and concern for our state.
Narrowing our concentration to love and compassion for others and ourselves helps quiet the “Why? Monster.” It’s a monster that cannot be defeated during our time on earth so we must learn to work with it, to understand it, and release it when it gets too big.
For now, I hope you’ll join me in quiet reflection on those thoughts we can control: love for one another and compassion for those that were affected by the tragedy. Those actions and thoughts we can purposely direct and the intent to do so will be felt by everyone involved.
15 Jul 2012 2 Comments
Editor’s note: From time to time I will review books related to conscious creation, self-development, law of attraction and other subjects of interest to my readers. I’ll note when the book was purchased by myself or obtained as a free review copy from the publisher.
Thankfully, some people still write letters
And others turn them into music for your soul.
A good book resonates with your heart. Good music resonates with your soul. So what happens when a talented songwriter pens a memoir? You’re taken one step closer to understanding life.
That may sound a little over the top, but the pure emotion that flows from Alex Woodard’s For the Sender can hardly be contained within its small size. The short book and accompanying CD tap into rich veins of creativity, sorrow, pride, despair, and most of all, love. Woodard’s songwriting background brings a richness to his writing that allows us the honor of feeling our way through the story of his life, reveling in his accomplishments and crying with his tragedies.
In fact, it only took me 14 pages into the book before I finally had to give in and get a box of Kleenex. Woodard’s life story and the letters of inspiration he used to write the book are both emotionally wrenching and life giving at the same time. The song lyrics he includes aren’t just poetic, they’re cathartic, helping move the reader through the sometimes-painful memories each song unearths.
Since the universe is always on our side, it’s easy for me to see why this particular book made its way to me at this time in my life. Within the first few pages, I was hooked into Woodard’s storyline, feeling my own life mirrored in his discontent of dreaming for a better life for himself. While I’m not an aspiring songwriter or musician, I think he adequately captures the denseness of living a life that isn’t quite fulfilling.
“These cold realities of the music business slowly begin to creep under my skin and some nights, as I lay alone in bed, I weave a make-believe coat of dreams as protection to keep me warm: dreams of ‘making it,’ dreams of having somebody to grow old with, dreams of little feet on hardwood floors. That imaginary coat of protection keeps the cold out, but it also keeps most of myself hidden from anybody else,” he writes.
That metaphor creeps in and out of the storyline as Woodard takes us back a few years so we can understand his own state of mind as he learns to let go of the life he thought he should be living and accept the life he has.
For the Sender is more than Woodard’s life story. It’s a story of how he came to accept and understand his life by reframing the stories of others through songwriting. Those stories come in the form of four letters he received over a period of several years and the 12 songs that were written from each letter’s inspiration. In all, the letters and songs connect us to Woodard’s life and our own stories, which are as natural as the world can be.
The four letters Woodard received became inspiration for Woodard and some of his musician friends, pushing their creativity to capture the feelings and emotions emanating from the letters’ authors. The letters came from four women, sharing their intensely personal stories:
- Emily, who met her soulmate only to have him pass away. She began writing letters to her lost love and she included one in her letter to Woodard. The grief, despair, hope and acceptance in that letter made a profound impact on the songwriter.
- Woodard and some friends visited a homeless shelter for teens to inspire the kids and in the process became inspired by the center’s director, Kim. The story of her troubled youth and understanding of her own unique gifts is fodder for two songs.
- Alison is a medic who was one of the first responders after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Her selfless devotion to the people of Haiti and her questioning of the will of God caused Woodard to reflect on his own faith.
- Katelyn was struggling to handle the demands of a newborn when her police officer husband was killed in the line of duty. Her resilience to move on touched Woodward and his friends as they wrote about the circle of life.
Woven throughout the storylines of each letter is Woodard’s reflection on his own life. We see his anguish over the loss of his best friend—a black Labrador named Kona—who died in his lap. His companion was a benchmark for Woodard and his dreams and her death helped clarify where his life was headed. Until he received the first letter from Emily, he had concentrated solely on writing about himself, using songwriting as a form of self-expression and emotional release.
The letters helped Woodard see life through a different filter: that of other people. He realized he could express the raw emotions of others through his songwriting and in the process, solidified his own thoughts and feelings on life and spirituality.
Woodard’s reflection on the letters and his own struggles with life help him understand the shared experiences of everyone on Earth. He understands that the letters are written more for the sender’s benefit than for the receiver. Yet the ideas, emotions, hopes and dreams of the letters are so universal that they can be appreciated by anyone.
Reading For the Sender, I felt privileged to peek into the creative process of Woodard and his friends. Like alchemists, the songwriters sifted through the words of each letter and distilled the bare essence of the sender’s souls. What remains is pure, clear insight into the human condition and a soothing tonic for understanding the world in a new way.
From a self-development perspective, I enjoyed watching Woodard’s growth through the songwriting process and ultimately his own changing consciousness. His understanding of conscious creation comes through as he breaks down his own self-defeating thought processes and begins to understand his role in creating his life.
“Under my breath I tell myself to stay out of the way and trust the process. Lately I’m finding that sometimes what I want isn’t really what I need and the right things seem to happen if I’m patient,” he writes as he begins to see the letters and subsequent songs take on a life of their own.
Ultimately, he realizes that life is best experienced when he drops expectations, when he stops trying to control every detail of his life. That’s a hard concept to process, let alone experience, but he gets there one day while surfing in the Pacific.
“These moments are what my dreams are made of now, more so than all the things I thought I wanted someday. Surfing isn’t about someday. It’s about now. I let go of someday every time I take off on a wave and become more present in the moment. Life is better then, when I’m not thinking about me.”
Who should read this book?
You don’t need to be interested in music or in self-development to find enjoyment in For the Sender. However, anyone with an interest in songwriting, creativity, spirituality or new age concepts will be pleasantly surprised by the storyline of this memoir and especially in the lingering buzz it leaves on the reader.
For the Sender does tug on the heartstrings in a most blatant manner. I attribute this to Woodard’s poetic writing style that eliminates extraneous details in order to focus on the things that matter most to him and the women who penned the letters that inspired his songs. It’s a quick and easy read but is one that is sure to stir your own deep emotions and leave you feeling hopeful for the future.
For the Sender is scheduled for hardcover release on September 18, 2012. A CD of the songs inspired by the letters is included and proceeds generated by the songs from each letter will be donated to a cause of the sender’s choice.
You can watch videos of the songs created from the letters, as well as read the letters themselves, at the book’s website at: http://www.forthesender.com/
FTC Disclosure notice
I received this advanced copy of the book for free from Hay House Publishing for review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.
12 Jul 2012 1 Comment
Silence may be golden but as a commodity, it’s hard to come by. Just look around at all the tools we use to fill our heads and physical spaces with sound: iPods, television, YouTube, not to mention simple conversation. You can even buy sound machines to create artificial ambient sound. It’s no wonder we’ve become uncomfortable with the sweet sound of silence—we’re not used to it.
Silence allows us to connect with the universe on many levels. Clearing away noise clutter lets us hear the voice of our spirit that is always gently guiding us toward a better life. It’s hard to hear that voice with the constant sound of conversation, music or even your own thoughts.
Yes, thoughts count as noise pollution. Repetitive concentration on your problems—ruminating—is just as distracting as your neighbor’s radio blaring at full volume. I admit there are times I sit in complete silence only to be wrapped up fully in the sound of my own thoughts. Even without audible sound, thoughts can drown out the sound of my inner self, or nature, and deprive me of their benefits.
Silence creates space and that space is important for spiritual and psychological development. True silence roots you firmly in the present moment—that precious time where your spirit meets the physical world. Immersing yourself in the present moment allows your ego and intellect to take a back seat for a moment. In that moment, your inner self can come out and make itself known. Your inner self has access to the entire universe and when you give it space, it will reveal exactly what you need to know.
Reducing noise pollution also has health benefits. Spending time in silence can reduce blood pressure and calm your nerves. That is once you get over the initial shock of being quiet for more than five minutes! Some daily (or at least weekly) time in quiet solitude can help your body fully relax which helps lower stress levels.
How much time should you allow yourself to be quiet?
This is a personal choice and is primarily based on how comfortable you are with silence. For many people, silence is uncomfortable. And for some, it’s unbearable. The more uncomfortable you are with silence, the more you may need to set aside daily time to “be” in silence. Once you become accustomed to it, you may find that you like the space that silence gives you and add more of it to each day.
Many people find that quiet periods at the beginning or the end of the day are just what the doctor ordered. Starting the day with quiet time allows your body to ease into the day. You may find that morning quiet time helps you remember your dreams more vividly. Alternatively, quiet time before bed helps quiet the mind and the body and can help you fall asleep more easily.
Do you need to do meditate?
Meditation creates the same emotional/psychic space that helps you connect to your inner self. Having said that, it isn’t imperative that you meditate when trying to enjoy silence. Finding silent periods (or creating them) during your day helps you connect with yourself, your environment and with others. For some, learning to be silent with other people is just as important as taking time to meditate. Silence allows you—and sometimes forces you—to be present with yourself and others. It can be uncomfortable until you’re used to it.
Practicing silence in different settings at different times can help you learn what feels best to you and your spirit. For me, one of the most powerful times I can be quiet is driving through the mountains. With no radio and no companionship, the silence allows me to be present with the road, focusing my attention on driving as well as creating some space for my inner self to solve problems or be creative.
My first silent retreat wasn’t planned as such. A few weeks after my father died, I decided I needed some time alone to process my emotions. I drove to our family’s mountain property with the dog and had the intention of being alone, thinking, reading and meditating for a few days. I hadn’t really thought about noise nor the lack of it.
As the first day drew to an end and the sun went down, I suddenly realized I had never scheduled time to be alone for a few days. That first night was tough on me and the silence was the worst part. I could hear every sound imaginable. After a few hours, I could even hear the deafening sound of silence. The night was still and at times there was only the sound of my own breathing.
After two days I realized I wasn’t even talking to myself mentally as much as usual. I hadn’t ceased thought but rather entered into what I can only describe as “knowing” with my inner self. There was no need for thoughts or words. Even my communication with the dog turned into glances and feelings as we learned how to be quiet together. The retreat replenished my psychic energy and helped me feel better.
Since that experience, I purposely schedule silent retreats for myself. Sometimes it’s camping in the wilderness for a few days and sometimes it’s heading to my favorite Buddhist retreat center. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a retreat for everyone but if you really want to experience the power of enforced silence, I highly recommend it.
We’ve become over stimulated in our technology-driven society. Finding time each day or each week to enjoy the sound of “nothing” can really help you connect with your spirit and refresh your soul. It seems strange to purposely set aside time to be quiet but as our world becomes more and more connected, it remains an important tool in developing your self and honoring your spirit.