Maybe write them down…

Too often we spend a lot of time thinking about the things that are wrong with our lives. We regret the past, worry about the future and miss out on all of the good that’s happening right now. There’s a lot for you to be thankful for and a lot that you’ve done that you can be proud of. Each day, make a choice to recognize the things you’ve done right. Make a choice to remember everything you’re grateful for.

When you consciously remember these things, you automatically create the space for more to come into your life. You’re telling the universe, “I’m happy with this, thank you,” and “I’m really proud of this, thank you,” –and the universe hears you. Your ability to concentrate on and remember the good in your life means you trust life and yourself. You’ll affirm your perfect spot in the universe and revel in your own creation power.

Take some time, right now, to Honor Your Spirit by reviewing your successes and your list of gratitudes. You’ll thank yourself later.

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What is life handing you today?

You are the chef of your life. It’s up to you to take the raw ingredients handed to you and create a masterful feast. Too often, we view some of these ingredients as “wrong” or “bad” or “unwanted.” We fight against what we’re given and complain to the deliveryman. We don’t always see that a seemingly “bad” ingredient may be exactly what is needed to make a masterpiece.

Today, take whatever ingredient you’re given and make the most of it. If it’s a bad situation, find the good in it. If it’s an unwanted surprise, learn the lesson behind it. If it’s exactly what you wanted and needed, celebrate it. You might just end up with something delicious.

Keeping your accomplishments to yourself

With the stroke of a paintbrush, I transformed 60 years of scuffs, dirt and memories into a fresh, beautiful new wall. It was the last project on my weekend home improvement list but instead of being proud of my painting effort, I quickly realized it was my thoughts that needed improvement.

As I examined the freshly painted wall, the first thought that popped into my head wasn’t congratulatory nor affirming. Instead, I stood there and said out loud, “who’s going to care?”  The hallway I painted leads back to my utility room, not exactly the most used room in the house. Sure I walk through the hallway each time I do laundry, but I barely notice the walls themselves. I realized that I may be the only person to ever notice the improvement.

That comment got me thinking: why was I upset that no one would see my handiwork? Couldn’t I just be pleased with myself for painting a wall that desperately needed some attention? The concept grew further in my mind: why do we do most of the things we do? Do we do them for ourselves? For others? For acknowledgement and praise from our friends and family?

Why is it difficult to do something just for your own pleasure?

In the age of social media, it’s very easy to tout your efforts to the universe. Every day, Facebook is full of people talking about their accomplishments: “I went to the gym for 45 minutes!” “I stopped and helped a stranger change a tire.” “I cooked a fantastic dinner!” The posts are endless as is the need for affirmation. We have become addicted to the praise we receive from others when we do something—out of the ordinary or not.

Acknowledgement from others is a powerful lure. It feels good to be recognized for your good efforts and hard work. It is a great feeling to know that others appreciate you—you feel valued, loved and special. Yet there is something missing from this equation.

We have forgotten the importance of affirming the self. We’ve traded in our own sense of self-value for that of the external world and it’s time we take it back.

Self-affirmation means more than trusting yourself and your journey in life. It also means taking pleasure and joy out of everything you do. When you find fulfillment in your own actions, you automatically broadcast those good vibes out into the universe. This need not mean letting others know about your accomplishments; instead, it’s creating a feeling of pride in yourself, knowing that your own acknowledgement is enough.

As you begin to trust yourself and take stock in your actions, you begin building a solid psychic foundation. That foundation is energetically positive and works with the law of attraction to bring you more of the same. You find additional things to be proud of; you see yourself as the director of your life. And as you beam positive energy, you’ll automatically get praise from others.

Take the challenge

Building self-affirmation is best done on a consistent and small basis. Each day, look for things that you can be proud of, whether it’s a big project at work or pulling weeds for an elderly neighbor. Then, watch your thoughts like a hawk. Are you wanting to tell the world about your actions? Do you automatically reach for your smart phone to post your accomplishment on Twitter? If you catch yourself in these situations, stop and reflect for a moment. Give yourself inward praise first. Smile and bask in your own acknowledgement. Feel the sensation of pride in your body and let it radiate outward.

Let that praise be enough. Give yourself permission to keep your acknowledgement secret from the rest of the world. You can post something else to Facebook later in the day. In that moment, you’re building trust with your inner self. And as you do this more and more, that connection grows stronger each step of the way. Pretty soon you’ll be beaming with self-affirmation and positivity and others will be sure to notice…and comment.

As for me, I’m going to sit quietly in the hallway and admire my painting. Even if no one else ever sees it, I’ll know I’m proud of myself. And, that can be enough for now.

Shifting

Sometimes you get too close to something to see it clearly. Problems, for example, seem magnified when you’re embroiled in them. You get caught up in the intricate details of these problems, not understanding that the universe has a much bigger (and better) plan for you.

When you start feeling overwhelmed by a problem or challenge, or if you just aren’t seeing something clearly, it’s time to shift your perspective. Take a step back; look at it from another direction. Use your imagination to come up with some ideas on what good things can come from your problem or challenge. Have fun with it and make it into a game.

As a human consciousness, you have the gift of changing perspective. That gift allows you to look at your world in different ways: good, bad, indifferent and everything in between. If you don’t like what you see, shift your perspective. Move your body or your thoughts to a new location. Feel the freshness of a different angle. Change your perspective and change your world. You might be surprised what you see.

Stop hiding your true self

Are you letting others see the real you? We’re constantly presented with messages to conform: wear this and you’ll be popular; buy this and you’ll have friends; act this way and you’ll be rich! The messages are everywhere, from television to social media to our friends and family. And as we slowly give those voices credence, we lose a bit of ourselves in the process. When we allow ourselves to be covered up–physically and mentally–with everyone else’s ideals and standards, our own uniqueness starts to fade.

It’s time to reveal a little about yourself to the world. It’s time to drop the facade and let everyone know the real you. Share your talents and let your personality shine. Open up a little bit and let everyone see how colorful you are.

Mystery can be alluring but the truth is sexy.

Pessimistic me

When the intellect gets in the way

The detail would have escaped anyone else’s notice. From the vantage point of my deck, it was a beautiful summer evening, complete with a little cloud cover to keep the temperature at a comfortable 80 degrees. The humidity was low, the air was still and a lukewarm breeze caressed my face. Yet, my eyes continued to return to the same spot, over and over: three yellow leaves on one of the trees.

Within a few moments of noticing those little leaves, my heart sank. Instantly, my mood was transformed into molasses, sinking heaver and heavier into the patio chair beneath me. There was nothing you could do to convince me to the contrary—summer was over.

To others, summer isn’t over on Aug. 6, not by a long shot. In this case, I was being subjected to the harsh and sometimes unrelenting view of the intellect. The intellect is that piece of the personality that helps make sense of the world. It sorts, classifies and categorizes information from the senses to help build a personalized view of the world. It uses memories to form opinions. It works with the imagination to then project those opinions into the future.

Like the ego, however, the intellect doesn’t have access to all of the information available. The intellect generally works as more of a “surface dweller,” taking things it sees on face value. Its relationship to memories and the physical world help it form what it thinks should be happening and what it thinks will happen in the future. The intellect is always operating but in a lot of cases, it’s operating under false pretenses.

When the intellect develops a line of thinking around a pretense (false or true), it works in a rather straightforward manner, like a horse with blinders on. When the intellect makes up its mind, it literally becomes obsessed with finding information to support its claim and it will ignore information to the contrary.

For example, my yellow leaves. When I looked out at the lush greenery of my back yard, all I could spot were those three yellow leaves. I didn’t notice the pot of pink, red and purple flowers right in front of me. I skipped right over the purple butterfly bush and yellow flowers in the garden below. Instead, I noticed that it was starting to get dark earlier than just a few weeks prior. I noticed that it was a little colder that evening than in evenings past. In that moment, I was hooked into the intellect’s power play and I was losing.

I love summer. I adore summer. Or, I should say, I adore and love early summer. There is a romantic quality when the earth starts to thaw and new life begins to sprout. Late summer, by contrast, has always been a bit depressing to me because it means fall is right around the corner. School will start again and the leaves will drop.

Soon after that, the snow will come and I’ll be holed up in the house until May. When I examine my beliefs about it, I realize that I believe summer is in short supply. There simply is not enough of it to satisfy my soul. Forget about the present moment, forget about the four months of summer, in my belief structure, true summer lasts between May and July.

So that’s what my intellect honed in on. And when it did, it directed my thoughts in such a way that I started to become depressed. I started to think about all the things I hadn’t accomplished and became worried about the things that would soon pile up in September. The intellect was pushing me out of the present moment and keeping me from enjoying a beautiful summer evening.

The intellect is extremely susceptible to your beliefs and will filter reality around those beliefs. If supporting evidence fits with those beliefs (in my case—summer ends in July), the intellect will work with your faculties to help quantify those beliefs (like noticing the leaves or the earlier nightfall). It will also ignore or downplay other information that may be valuable, like the thousands of green leaves, the warm temperature or the singing crickets and cicadas that I had missed earlier in the evening. When the intellect internalizes beliefs, when it accepts those beliefs as its own, it focuses thinking along a thin line with little room for erroneous information.

You’re too smart for your own good

Working with the intellect can be as tricky as working with the ego. Both of these parts of the personality believe they are helping and protecting us by showing us a world that fits our beliefs. Sometimes, however, we want to see the world in new and different ways and when we do, it’s important to change our perceptions accordingly.

A great deal of data that we receive on a day-to-day basis comes to us from sources other than the intellect. The ego works with the physical senses to bring us information on temperature, taste, smell, sights and sounds. Our intuitions tap into unspoken language as well as the vast universal mind, allowing us to perceive things that can’t be explained otherwise.

The intellect needs this intuitional data—any other source of data—to help operate efficiently. When it shuts out those other data, the intellect feels responsible for running the show and can stress the body and mind. This is the normal operating procedure for most us: trying to think our way out of any problem or challenge we’re faced with.

The way to get these other kinds of data through to the conscious mind is by changing focus. Like an awakening, you must catch yourself in the act of thinking and evaluate what you see, think and feel. As you do this, the intellect still tries to operate, continually trying to classify the information you just identified and make sense of it all.

On the deck, I had to consciously choose to examine other pieces of data in my field of perception. I focused on wearing shorts at 11:00 p.m. I tuned my hearing to the crickets and cicadas that were chirping loudly and I consciously reminded myself that there were still several weeks of warm weather ahead.

Intuitionally, I know that yellow leaves may be a sign of things to come, but I had to reassure my intellect that fall is not descending on the earth now. I had to use my willpower to focus on the present moment and return my feelings to comfort and joy.

Should I stay or should I go?

This “catching the intellect in the act” is especially important when you’re trying to solve problems. A friend of mine recently had to decide whether to take a new job out of state. And as part of that process, he tried to collect supporting evidence both for and against the move. But when both lists started to compare evenly, he was stymied.

Again, the intellect doesn’t have all information available. It only has a small taste. In problems and challenges such as this, it takes a look inside the mind and body to help the intellect make good decisions. For my friend, that meant examining how he felt about the move, how he would feel if he stayed, how he would feel if he moved and then determine if one decision “felt” better than the others.

The intuitive capabilities of the personality are in direct communication with the universal mind. They are able to travel the earth and look through many probabilities that exist and send back pulses of information to the conscious mind. Those pulses—we like to think of them as ‘impulses’ or ‘urgings’—can then be used by the intellect to help shape decisions.

Taking a conscious look at your thoughts, looking inside for intuitive information and using your intellect together can help bring about the best decisions: big or small. And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to prune back a few leaves in my tree and enjoy the rest of my summer.

Stop feeding the bears (metaphysically speaking)

Stop putting energy into things that can harm your spirit

Some things seem like a good idea until we have more time, distance and understanding behind us. As in nature, we must stop feeding the things that unknowingly harm us so that we can grow and develop.

The photo above is one of my favorites from my dad. In the late 50s and early 60s, this was a common occurrence in Yellowstone National Park. Visitors would often stop along the road to gawk at the local brown bears and be amused at the way they begged for food. Not wanting to disappoint them, visitors would feed the bears anything handy: sandwiches, potato chips, cookies—you name it.

While this practice seems innocuous, it’s actually rather harmful to both the bears and to humans. The bears became dependent on the handouts from park visitors. They developed a hankering for human food and would flock to the roadways to wait for their next meal. They would go into campgrounds, searching for food left in coolers and on tables. In time, bears were getting killed on the roadways. Cars were broken into and destroyed. Some campers were even injured because of overzealous bears looking for food.

So what does all this have to do with spirituality and self-development?

We all have symbolic bears that we feed. Sometimes the bears are entertaining; sometimes they’re a little more ferocious. In either case, it’s important to recognize when we’re feeding something that doesn’t serve our higher purpose. It’s critical to withdraw the food source to help set us (and the bears) free.

I became sensitive to this topic recently by watching activity on Facebook. Since this is an election year, Facebook is often full of comments, links and commentary from both sides of the political fence. I’m happy to have friends who are passionate about politics; I feel we need activists to help advance certain causes and people. Make no mistake, it’s not my thing, but I’m glad they’re around nonetheless.

A number of friends and acquaintances, however, are feeding the political bears. Rather than promoting a favorite candidate or cause, they spend all of their time bashing the other side. They’re feeding the negativity around the other person or the other side of the issue and they’re causing it to come back again and again.

It’s not just my friends who do this; our media are to blame as well. All too often the media spend a disproportionate amount of time covering the negative characteristics of a candidate or issue rather than all of the glorious supporting evidence. The media—and my friends—are handing over their sandwiches to the bears and the bears are getting bigger and hungrier.

Some of these energy bears hide under the guise of entertainment. For example, a friend of mine likes to point out every news article highlighting the foibles of a particular political candidate. His comments to each story seem innocent enough: “Can you believe this guy?” “Wow, and I thought he couldn’t get any more stupid!” or “This has now become entertaining!” My friend thinks he’s sharing information that makes his chosen candidate look better by disparaging the opposition. But in reality, he’s giving energy to exactly what he does not want. His attention is locked on the opposing candidate and he’ll quickly find that there will be more irritating stories to post and laugh at.

When we feed anything with our thoughts, attention and energy, we’re giving life to it. The more we think about an issue, the bigger it becomes. The more we obsess about a person, the closer we draw them to us. The more we focus on the negative aspects of something, the more we create of those same annoying aspects.

Too many times, we’re purposely stopping the car on the roadway to gawk at the bears and give them something to eat. It’s time for a different approach.

Don’t stop the car

As amusing as those little energy bears can be, it’s best to keep on driving. The bears (opposing issues, candidates, causes) will continue to exist whether you stop the car or not. When you detach your attention to these things, they lessen their impact on you. By purposely deciding to keep moving forward, you acknowledge that the issues or people exist but you don’t need to give them your undivided attention. You are consciously withdrawing energy from them.

No sending postcards, either

Just because you don’t see the bear in person doesn’t mean you can’t feed it. Every time you see a story that you find amusing and want to send to your friends, think about what kind of energy you’re sending out into the world (and back to yourself). If your motivation is to pick out the stupidity of the story or attack the subject, you’re feeding the bears. Every time you find yourself relaying a story at the water cooler about these issues or people, you’re feeding the bears.

Becoming vigilant about your attention will help you realize when you’re venturing into bear feeding country. If you can catch yourself in time, don’t forward the story or continue to tell it. Or, look for something that glorifies the person or issue you support. Tell that story instead. Keep your focus on what you want rather than on what you don’t want.

Find something else to amuse you

If you’ve ever driven through Yellowstone, you know there is an abundance of beauty to hold your attention. The bears aren’t the only interesting things on the side of the road. Buffalo, Elk, wildflowers, majestic mountains, open meadows all vie for your attention. The same is true in life. When you open your eyes to the magic of the world, you’ll find plenty to smile about. You’ll find new things to ponder.

As you turn your attention toward these beautiful new things, those pesky energy bears will fade away into the background. You might catch a glimpse of them in the rearview mirror. Smile at them, release them from your attention and turn your head back to the road ahead. It’s glorious from the driver’s seat.