Growing your spirit in tough conditions

Use your thoughts, beliefs and imagination as fertilizer for your soul.

Use your thoughts, beliefs and imagination as fertilizer for your soul.

I love spring. Seriously, I really love it. Here in Colorado, the snow is finally starting to melt and the first signs of rebirth are emerging on the landscape.

Glimpses of the Earth’s awakening are everywhere, from tiny green buds on the trees to the appearance of baby squirrels in the back yard. I find these reminders of spring comforting and inspiring especially when I take the time to notice them.

For example, yesterday I noticed a small patch of grass that sprouted up against the back wall of my building at work. In the middle of an untended and unused alleyway, this little plant pushed through mud and concrete to bask in the morning sun. The grounds crew does not tend to it. There is no fertilizer applied. Instead, one lone grass seed decided that conditions were right for it to sprout and grow.

The same thing applies to your spirit. Your soul has the amazing ability to turn any situation into fertile soil that helps you grow and develop. Where you see negativity and turmoil, your soul sees a nutrient-rich environment, selecting those ingredients that benefit your highest purpose and service to the universe.

Too often in self-development, we tend to concern ourselves with creating the perfect environment before feeling secure enough to grow. We concentrate on the barriers to growth and try unsuccessfully to control the world around us before allowing our own fulfillment.

The nutrients your soul craves are the positive thoughts, images and beliefs that come from your inner self. When you take the time to cultivate—consciously cultivate—positive and constructive thought forms, you automatically fertilize the very world you live in. No matter the physical circumstances you find yourself in, you can use your thoughts and beliefs to change your outer environment. Your spirit can flourish in any environment…if you allow it.

 

 

 

 

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Your impulses guide the way

Your impulses guide your soul toward fulfillment. Follow them.

Your impulses guide your soul toward fulfillment. Follow them.

The thermostat of your soul

Your vibrational set point

It’s one of those days. You know the kind: when you wake up and from the get-go things just aren’t quite right. You try to brush off the feeling at first, assigning it to the “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed” category. You trudge on through your morning only to be bombarded by unexpected interruptions, negative emails and rude people wherever you turn.

We typically turn our heads to the universe in times like this and wonder aloud, “What the hell did I do to deserve this?” We look to reasons outside ourselves to understand why we are having these experiences. In essence, we’ve resigned ourselves to being victims of an uncaring universe.

The universe isn’t playing tricks on us. It’s giving us exactly what we’ve asked for, even if we’re not aware of it in the moment. The universe is reacting to our own energy field, utilizing the law of attraction to bring us more of what we’re putting out. And on a bad day, we’re giving out a lot of bad energy.

The universe responds to our Vibrational Set Point—the overall frequency of the energy present in our bodies and souls at any given time. That energy fluctuates throughout the day and throughout the week, but in totality, we tend to set a range of vibration that affects most of the things we experience.

Where does our energy come from?

Our outgoing energy comes in the form of thoughts and emotions. Each thought we have has an electromagnetic quality to it; the same holds true for emotions. And in the most basic of terms, the energy of our thoughts and emotions has a particular “weight” or “density” to it. Certain strong emotions and particular thoughts can have either a light or heavy density. Extreme anger, for example, has heavy density to it. Love, on the other hand, very light.

If science isn’t your thing, simply remember this: energy works on the premise of the law of attraction. So energy that you radiate goes out into the universe and seeks out similar types of energy. That energy comes back to you in the form of experience—situations and people that are carrying the same kind of energy.

Now, under normal circumstances, our thoughts and emotions tend to self-correct. That is, they ebb and flow through our awareness without much effort—the way it should be. People often get worried about their own negative thoughts or “bad” emotions, such as anger, sadness or jealousy. There is no general need for concern. Allowing emotions some freedom helps them move through the body and the mind quickly and (relatively) easily. So what trips us up?

The ego and energy

As is the usual case in self-development, the ego can really cause problems. When the ego tries to control thought and emotion, it acts like a damn, catching energy and holding it back until pressure begins to build. As this energy is pooled around us, it gets bigger and denser until we have a hard time clearing it. And when dense energy (read: negative thoughts or unwanted emotions) says with us, we continue to attract bad things into our lives.

Don’t blame the ego, per se. It feels as if it’s doing its duty by reminding us of how reality really is. It tries hard, really it does. Unfortunately, the ego’s reality is based solely on what it observes from the immediate environment. Sometimes it asks for help from the intellect, which tries to apply reasoning to explain why the world operates the way it does. This is a false premise and it’s where we get in trouble.

Let me give an example to illustrate this better. This morning, I received an email from a co-worker that set me off. Before I could even finish reading it, my blood started to boil and I was thinking of ways to respond, none of which were appropriate. I caught myself at first, trying to put the email out of my mind while I ate breakfast and got ready for the day. It didn’t work.

My ego became involved early in this case. I took the information in the email personally; I felt I was being wrongly blamed for a failed work project. Since the ego wants to protect the self (me), it took the information on face value. Certainly, the ego reasoned, the email was aimed specifically at me and I had better start preparing an appropriate response to it. In English terms, the ego said, “How dare she?!? How are we going to fight this?” The ego wouldn’t let my conscious mind look for contrary evidence; it had already made up its mind who was at fault.

Despite my best efforts to forget the whole thing, even for a few moments, my mind wandered back to the email repeatedly and I would get angry all over again. Once the ego got involved, it was almost impossible to let go of the thoughts and related emotions. It’s pretty easy to see what’s happening at this point: the ego was damming up negative energy and it was growing bigger and bigger by the minute.

As the day progressed, things just got worse. I found myself attracting negativity wherever I went. The line at the coffee shop was out the door; drivers were rude on the street; some jerk almost hit my car when he was parking next to me. The list went on and on. My overall energy had fallen into a dangerous zone and I was attracting more of the same (remember the law of attraction?) wherever I went.

Back to your Vibrational Set Point

We tend to only think about our own Vibrational Set Point when we’re dealing with so-called negative emotions and for good reason. It’s uncomfortable. It brings bad things into our lives. But the same holds true for the opposite. A higher Vibrational Set Point can also bring things into our lives, such as love, abundance, happiness, joy and serenity.

On an average day, your Vibrational Set Point will usually be set to a range that works best for you. Are you generally a happy person? Are you frequently sad? Are you prone to anger or jealousy? Or my personal favorite: are you always sarcastic? We each have tendencies that feed overall into our energy field. As we have experiences such as my bad day above, we move the needle of our Vibrational Set Point, inching it closer to negativity or positivity.

Your Vibrational Set Point sets the stage for future experiences. It’s important to remember that so that you can learn to attract what you want instead of what you don’t.

It’s a moment-by-moment job

So if the goal is to have a Vibrational Set Point that’s at the higher end of the scale, i.e. in the range of positivity and love, how do we get there? It starts with becoming aware of your thoughts, emotions and energy at multiple points throughout the day. And when you find yourself moving down the scale, it’s time for action.

As I said earlier, thoughts and emotions naturally move through the mind and body. Left alone, a good percentage of your thoughts and intense emotions will probably pass in a moment’s time. It’s when those thoughts and emotions get stuck that you’ll want to take notice.

If you find yourself ego-obsessed with a negative thought or emotion, rouse your consciousness to do something about it. This takes work and practice. It takes a commitment to self-development. I won’t lie to you: it can be hard. I spent the better part of the day purposely trying to change my Vibrational Set Point. After many attempts, I was finally able to pull my ego out and allow my vibration to rise.

On the other hand, if you find yourself dwelling on happy feelings and reliving say a wonderful call from a friend, stay with it. Look for other things that match the vibration, like petting your dog or taking a moment to appreciate the sunset. Enjoy the feeling; revel in it. Ride it like a wave.

Becoming aware of ego-bound thoughts and emotions is the first step in changing them. Sometimes, it may seem impossible to move higher up the scale when you’re faced with a difficult thought or emotion. Realize this is where you’re stuck and remind yourself that staying stuck will only bring you more of the same. This is the all-important “choice point.” You can stay stuck or you can move out of it. Be brave and set your intention to re-set your system.

Reality Challenge

To help become aware of your Vibrational Set Point and understand how it forms your future experiences, take the next two days to examine what you’re thinking and feeling. Combine this with short journal entries so you remember what you were doing at the time. Simply note how you’re feeling and where your mind is. For example:

Time               Activity           Thoughts                                            Emotions

12:15 p.m.      Gardening      Dreaming of new garden ideas       Good; happy; excited

3:00 p.m.        Lunch             Enjoying Mary’s company                Content

5:00 p.m.        Phone call      Repetitive thoughts about project  Angry, consumed

Try this exercise for two days. This way you can begin to see what kind of energy you are attracting to yourself. Of course, if you’re having a day like I did today, it will be pretty easy to see how a change in vibration can add up to a whole different day. If you find yourself becoming ego-bound in negative thought or emotion, stop and see if you can change course. Distract yourself, pamper yourself, do whatever it takes. If nothing else, realize you have a choice in how you feel and respond and then let it go.

With awareness and practice, you can learn to change your Vibrational Set Point. Learning to adjust your vibrational thermostat to a higher frequency will not only change your attitude but your future as well.

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.

 

 

For the Sender (Book Review)

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

Cover art of “For the Sender.”

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.

The storyline

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.

Details

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.

Available through

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Hello, my old friend

Silence opens up space for our spirit to come through

Harvesting silence

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.

Silent retreats

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.