Change the channel

If you live in the United States, you’re probably sick right about now. No, not because of the cold weather, but because we’re a week away from a general election and the number of political ads on television, radio and the Internet is at an all-time high. No matter where you turn, you’re likely to see or hear an ad promoting (or bashing) a political candidate, referendum or party. It’s enough to make anyone a little queasy.

It’s no surprise then that a lot of people have learned to modify their own behavior during the last few weeks before the election. Many friends tell me they watch television with the remote control in hand, ready to change the channel at every break to avoid seeing the ads. Some friends have told me they are no longer answering the phone with the barrage of “robocalls” going out to registered voters. People have had enough and many are realizing they have a choice.

That choice is the conscious decision to tune out specific incoming—and annoying—data. It’s a choice to turn your attention to other things. This choice, however, doesn’t need to start and end with the election. We can apply the concept of choice to our own limiting thoughts and destructive fantasies; it just takes some time and practice.

Not just for politicians

We all have some limiting thoughts that vie for our attention (and for some people, more than a few). And like the early stages of an election, we tend to listen to and entertain those thoughts on a consistent basis. Those thoughts are usually born from fear, uncertainty, self-doubt, powerlessness or panic and they can be effective…if we let them. Sometimes the thoughts don’t even appear to be negative at all yet they can be limiting nonetheless. The same holds true with daydreams and fantasies: they can quickly turn to negative attacks on our wellbeing and growth.

The ego approves of this message

When we aren’t vigilant about our own thoughts and fantasies, we’re at the mercy of a negative advertising campaign sponsored by the ego. And like any good political campaign, the ego will pull out all the stops to get you to see things its way. The ego uses scare tactics, inflexible attitudes and harsh imagery to get your attention. And like a political candidate, the ego only wants what’s best for you. The ego means well—it really does. It simply isn’t used to looking at the world through any other window but its own.

The path to self-development starts with awareness, specifically of your own repetitive thoughts, emotions and mental imagery. It means taking note of those times when you are unhappy or that you are complaining or when you try to put too much physical or mental effort into a situation that simply won’t budge. It often takes time to realize these kinds of limiting thoughts but with a little investigation, you can see them plain as day.

Quite unknowingly, these types of limiting thoughts start to mimic political advertising. Before you know it, the thoughts are everywhere. The mental movies play in your head while you’re driving to work. Negative self-talk is whispering in your ear while you read a book. Sometimes the ego even enlists the invisible help of your friends and family when you suddenly hear a familiar voice spouting talking points in your brain over dinner.

So what next?

Once you’ve become aware of thoughts you don’t want, it’s time to start exercising your right to vote for something different. This is the right to change your mind by changing your focus and it requires as much diligence as changing the channel every time a political ad appears on TV.

Changing your focus can be accomplished several ways. For starters, acknowledge where you are. For example, when you catch yourself saying, “I’ll never be able to lose this extra weight,” first admit what you’re doing. Tell yourself, “That’s a limiting thought and it’s simply a statement based on my own thinking. I have a choice in the way I approach this weight loss challenge.” Okay, so maybe you won’t be so formal with yourself, but acknowledging that you are having a limiting thought is the best way to turn it around in your favor.

From there, you can try substituting the limiting thought with a positive one. Keeping with our example, “I am making healthy choices when I eat lunch and that’s a good first start to losing this weight.” In a similar fashion, stating the exact opposite is sometimes effective, too: “I am losing this extra weight.” That statement may not be true in this moment, so tell yourself that for right now, you will accept the statement as fact and a starting point for a new pattern.

Time for change (even small change)

For many of us (myself included), this is sometimes an incremental process with very slight adjustments that will add up to measureable success. As Esther Hicks and Abraham are fond of telling us, “sometimes it’s just a matter of reaching for a better feeling thought.” That’s excellent advice and one that I turn to frequently. That better feeling thought may be only a small shift (such as realizing your big toe feels good when the rest of your body is in pain) but it’s important to start the process.

Changing fantasies and mental imagery is also important when shifting to a new thought pattern. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else and frequently must reconstruct my drama-dreams into constructive-dreams. Too often I find myself acting out a negative or limiting thought pattern in my head with all the vividness of a Hollywood blockbuster. When I “wake up” and catch myself, I stop and consciously choose a new (happier) ending for that same movie.

What else is on?

When all else fails, one of the best techniques to utilize in thought-movement is simply to distract yourself with something else. Like changing the channel on the TV, look for other things to give your attention. Take a walk, read a book, or listen to some music. Engross yourself in housework or head to the grocery store—anything that gets your mind off of the limiting thought or situation can help calm your ego and give it something else to work on. A small warming, however: if you decide to call a friend, don’t let yourself get wrapped up in the thought or idea you’re trying to change. You have the choice to think a new thought and try a different approach. Use that new approach now.

Vote now

Changing repetitive and limiting thoughts is a tough thing to do. It requires stepping out of your comfort zone and shedding the familiar thoughts you’ve come to know and accept (note I didn’t say “know and love”). Like those annoying political ads you keep hearing, you will eventually reach a saturation point with your limiting thoughts and know it’s time to take action. Turn the channel on your own thoughts and look for things that make you happy.

Elect to put new and better thoughts into your current awareness. It’s your choice…vote now. ;-p

 

 

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God nose

Spirituality is like your nose. It’s always there; you’ve just trained yourself not to see it.

This may seem like an odd reference, so let me explain. First, you can always see your nose (go ahead, try it – I know you will). Your eyes have simply learned to ignore it consciously so it doesn’t interfere with your line of sight. The same can be said for your relationship with the divine.

That connection to All That Is never leaves you. You are the living, breathing manifestation of the universe in a beautiful physical package. But when life demands a lot from our conscious selves, we often start to feel empty and spiritually vacuous and we go in search of God to feel better. We use mysticism as a way of looking to reestablish that connection we have forgotten.

A lot of religious and spiritual teachings talk about mysticism—using thought or contemplation to feel enlightenment and grounding or to feel connected to something larger than ourselves. Meditation and prayer are two excellent ways to remind us of our true selves. But do we really need to spend so much time looking for something that’s already there? No.

You don’t need to go looking for God. All That Is already exists inside of you—you are made from its source. In fact, the harder you search for what is already there, the more you are likely to miss it. It’s there, plain as day.

To see the nose on your face or the God in your soul, you simply have to readjust your focus. You have to re-train your inner vision to hone in on the one thing that’s already there: you. Remind yourself of whom you are, where you came from and that you are a conduit for the divine. Oftentimes this gentle reminder will give you a glimpse of your God-ness (or Goddess-ness if you prefer) and soothe your aching soul.

This reminder won’t solve all your problems but it will help remind you that you are never alone. It will help you feel your connection to the rest of creation and beyond. It will help you see that you are something special—someone special—because you are a descendent of All That Is. And that is as plain as the nose on your face.

You can see it if you try.

 

 

Forget the Joneses

“Because I have to.”

That’s the usual response I get from friends when I inquire why they are involved in so many activities—activities that are clearly causing stress and fatigue. I see this a lot in families with young kids: adults racing around from work to school to the practice field to piano lessons to… the list goes on and on.

It’s not limited to families, however. I also see my single friends in similar situations. Work, happy hour, a second job, and social engagements fill their calendars to the max. So who’s the culprit behind all of this running around?

It’s those damn Joneses.

Of course I’m referring to the age-old parable of “keeping up with the Joneses,” those famous neighbors/friends we all love to hate. We see the Joneses in all parts of the city. In the suburbs, they’re the ones with the better house, the better lawn, and the kids in four after school activities. In urban areas, the Joneses are the jetsetters, driving their fancy cars to lavish parties, expensive restaurants and going on ultimate vacations. The Joneses can be found in every corner of the world.

It’s not them, it’s you

Behind their backs, most people hate the Joneses. But it’s not the Jonses that are the problem, it’s the constant comparison of our own lives in relation to the Jonses that is the problem. To make matters worse, our constantly-connected world now allows us to keep up with the Joneses 24 hours a day through social media. We fill our computer screens and minds with evidence of our own lack in comparison to others. This non-stop storyline causes us to feel jealous, empty and inadequate.

That perceived inadequacy is what causes us to overextend ourselves. As our social networks grow larger, I’m noticing even more of a drive for people to try and live up to some unachievable lifestyle, and they’re willing to put their health and sanity on the line to get it. It’s the reason I so often hear, “Because I have to.”

But do you have to? No, you don’t.

It’s time we reclaim the perfection that is our own lives. It’s time we focus on our own accomplishments, our own victories and our own contributions to the world. It’s time we remember that through our own unique lives, we are positively affecting the universe. We just don’t always see it.

The reason we don’t see our impact is because of our old friend the ego. The ego is our interface with the physical world. It examines the world and helps us make sense of the landscape around us and it determines how we should interact with others.

The ego isn’t always right. Yes, it means well. Its job is to protect Number One—the “self” that we know and relate to. But the ego suffers from not having all of the information available. It becomes scared and overprotective. It blows things out of proportion and causes us to question our own motives.

The ego is susceptible to the constant comparison with the Joneses. It views the success of others as a threat, reasoning that we will be judged negatively by the world if we don’t act the same way, achieve the same things or do better than our neighbors, friends and coworkers.

Most of us don’t take the time to question the ego, we simply rely on it to guide our actions and responses to the world and call it good. But this is only the beginning of our troubles, for when we accept—unquestioningly—data from the ego we get a skewed view of ourselves.

When we don’t challenge that data, we simply assume that we have to keep up with the Joneses. We accept that the world will judge us negatively if we don’t do everything in our power to live up to standards set by the media, coworkers, friends, family, or our own one-sided egos. We feel trapped and hypothesize that the only way to live is to keep up with the rest of the world, whether we want to or not.

Reality challenge™

This week, I invite you to challenge your relationship with the Joneses and your ego. Whenever you catch yourself feeling overextended, overwhelmed, or are doing something you really don’t want to do, stop and ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Am I doing this activity because I really want to?
  2. Am I getting any pleasure out of this activity?
  3. Who am I expecting to notice that I am doing this activity? (friends, spouse, kids, neighbors, PTA president)?
  4. What’s the worst thing that would happen if I didn’t do this activity?
  5. Would I still be involved in this activity if no one knew who I was?
  6. Could I quit this activity tomorrow?

As you can see from the questions, what you’re trying to do is get your ego to be a little more objective. Yes, there are certain things you have to do, like going to work and taking care of the kids. But is anyone forcing you to volunteer your time every night of the week?

The answers you give to the questions above should help you see how much you are trying to keep up with the Joneses or if you are really wanting to involve yourself in activities that give you a good return. What advice would you give to a friend who gave you the same answers?

We oftentimes don’t see how we have painted ourselves into a corner with our lives. When we let prestige, honor, materialism or acceptance rule our activities, we seldom get a good return. When we use our time in purposeful, nurturing,  and fulfilling ways, we get an excellent return.

So, which will it be? A good return on your time or a stress and fatigue trying to keep up with the Joneses? This week, make it a priority to find out.