“Our best thoughts come from others” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The way I have felt about this week’s topic is the same way I felt after the first day of Philosophy 101 my freshman year in college…totally paralyzed by the enormity of what I was being asked to consider. I can remember trying to do my homework that first night of class and simply not being able to wrap my head around the concept of infinity. There was just no safe place for my thoughts to go – and the harder I tried to figure it out, the more the answers seemed to elude me.
It was definitelty not my favorite class.
And even though I know it seems a little absurd to compare this week’s topic to ‘Gain Wisdom From Others’ with a concept as big as infinity, I have had the same kind of trouble finding a safe path for my thoughts on this subject to go. There are so many different directions I could take that I’ve found myself going in circles trying to decide which way would be best.
And needless to say, since it’s been 8 (yikes!) months since I started to think about this, I’ve been going around in circles for a while.
I think the main problem I’ve had is that really, when you think about it, the only way we really ever learn anything is from other people, right? I mean, the knowledge that each of us has, individually, didn’t just come out of nowhere…it had to come from something, or someone, outside of us. Otherwise we would have been born knowing everything we need to know.
But that’s just not the case. We are born pretty much an empty slate, and as we interact with others, we gain knowledge from them. Just as they gained knowledge from the people they interacted with. And the people before them. It’s a never-ending spiral of knowledge that gets passed from generation to generation, person to person.
The thing that really gets my mind going in circles, though, is when I start wondering about the very first idea. There must have been one. There must have been a kind of ‘aha’ moment when one of our earliest ancestors realized he (or she) had knowledge to share.
In her movie, The Story, Barbara Marx Hubbard refers to these early ancestors as ‘the ones who know they know’. Somehow they became consciously aware enough to understand that by sharing and collaborating with each other, their ability to survive became stronger. It is the movie’s premise that this ability to share and collaborate could be what allowed Homo-Sapiens to continue to evolve, while others, such as Homo-Neanderthal, died out.
Which is probably why ‘Gain Wisdom From Others’ is on the list of ways to raise one’s consciousness. Because in order for us to keep evolving, we need to keep learning. And in order for us to keep learning, we need to keep sharing, otherwise the whole system breaks down.
Somehow, though, it seems humanity has moved away from this sharing philosophy in the last few years. Individuals (and corporations) seem to be more concerned with getting themselves ahead, than getting humanity ahead. Copyright infringement, CISPA, SOPA…I can’t help but believe that this ‘me me me’ culture is going to lead us down the same path as Homo-Neanderthal.
Thankfully, though, I don’t think it’s too late for us. There are a lot of people and organizations out there who understand the importance of sharing and collaborating. There’s TED (Ideas Worth Sharing), Creative Commons (Share Your Knowledge and Creativity With The World), Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia), Linux (Free and Open Source Software Collaboration) and Minds.com (Free and Open Souce Everything), to name just a few.
There is definitely a shift taking place toward a world where sharing and collaboration are the norm, rather than the alternative.
There’s an ancient African word called Ubuntu, which loosely translated means, ‘humanity to others’. In the Xhosa culture it means “I am because we are’. Gregg Braden, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, shared the following story on Facebook, and it really struck a chord with me:
“An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that who ever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run, they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that, as one could have had all the fruits for himself, they said: ”UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?”
It is my greatest hope that one day we will all join hands together and share the fruit.
P.S. I am in the process of moving My Consciousness Project over to Minds.com, a new open source social media site. Please consider joining Minds and subscribing to the My Consciousness Project channel. Thanks!
“Expose yourself to your deepest fear, after that fear has no power.” ~ Jim Morrison
A few years ago when I was in Sedona, Arizona, I went on a hike to the area’s famous energy vortexes, led by a rather intimidating ‘shaman’. I will never forget standing among those beautiful red rocks, on an equally beautiful June day, and having this complete stranger yell at me: “You are so scared, you don’t even know what you’re scared of!”
I was completely taken aback by the vehemence of his words, so I can’t remember now if I even responded. But I do remember thinking he had no idea what he was talking about because, having just finished 5 weeks of radiation treatment for early stage breast cancer, I was pretty sure that I actually did know what I was scared of back then.
And even today, though, luckily, cancer is no longer at the top of the list, I think I still have a pretty good handle on what my deepest fears are.
For instance, I’m scared of being the center of attention. And of being judged by others. I have a deep, inexplicable fear of anything having to do with vampires. I am also becoming a little worried that I won’t get through all 100 topics on my Official List by the December 21st deadline, which I guess points to a certain fear of failure.
Anyway, as I started to think about this week’s topic to ‘Face Your Deepest Fears’, I was reminded of that crazy shaman’s words, and it occurred to me that maybe he wasn’t as crazy as I’d thought. In fact, maybe he had just been trying to get me to do what this week’s assignment was forcing me to do.
Because it turns out that it’s one thing to know what I’m scared of, but to actually do something about it is an entirely different matter. Not to mention, a whole lot harder.
Ok, so for my assignment this week, I decided to face one of my bigger fears (i.e. being judged by others) by trying to do something I’d been putting off for a while. Ever since last summer, I’d been tossing an idea around with a couple of my like-minded friends about getting a group together to talk about spiritual stuff. Kind of like a book group, but without the book. I kept putting off doing anything about it, though, because (and this is pretty embarrassing to admit) I was a little worried about what my other, less like-minded friends would think of me if they found out.
And, unfortunately, the longer I put it off, the worse I started to feel, because I knew that, deep down, I was really just being a total chicken. I kept hearing this little voice in my head telling me that I better be careful. That if I started this group people may talk. About me. Behind my back. Yuck.
But because it was ‘Face Your Deepest Fears’ week, I made myself take a deep breath, shush the little voice in my head as best I could, and figure out what I needed to do to get this group going. And so I picked a date, made a list of people who I thought might be interested, and sent out an email inviting them to come to my first ever Consciousness Group.
Pushing the ‘send’ button on that email may have been one of the scariest things I’d ever done. That is, until I had to stand up in front of all the people who had, happily, all come to the meeting, because that was even scarier.
But the way I felt after it was over was definitely worth every moment of terror that led up to it. I imagine it’s the same way someone might feel after they’ve gone skydiving: elation that they’d found the courage to actually jump out of an airplane into thin air, and relief that the parachute had opened so they didn’t plummet to their death. And though I realize that starting a spiritual group is a very far cry from jumping out of a plane, that is exactly how I felt.
I had stepped out of my comfort zone and survived. I was so happy.
The thing is, in the long run, I’m not sure it actually matters how I stepped out of my comfort zone, just that I did. Because whether it’s starting a group, fighting cancer, or jumping out of a plane, the important thing is to find a way to quiet the voice that’s telling me I can’t, so that I can hear the other voice that’s telling me I can.
Because, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said:
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence in every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
And I think that in order to do the things that I’m not sure I can, I have to listen for the voice that’s going to remind me to be brave, rather than careful. The one that’s going to urge me forward, rather than hold me back.
And, most importantly, the voice that will remind me to be who I really am, rather than who I think everyone else wants me to be.
I just have to remember to be brave.
P.S. I realized as I was crossing ‘Face Your Deepest Fears’ off my Official List just now, that I can actually cross off a few other topics as well. Because in order to do this week’s assignment, I really, really had to ‘Muster Up Some Courage’ (#54) to ‘Form A Mastermind Group’ (#80) so I could ‘Be A Leader’ (#83) to ‘Share Unique Insight and Wisdom’ (#38) and ‘Guide Others in Raising Their Consciousness’ (#77).
At this rate, I might make my December 21st deadline after all. Yeah!
‘Reality is the mirror of your thoughts. Choose well what you put in front of the mirror’ ~ Remez Sasson
I had a feeling the first time I saw this topic on the Official List, over a year ago now, that it was going to give me a little trouble. And I was right, it definitely did, although, surprisingly, not quite in the way I thought that it would.
The week started out with a somewhat sticky situation involving myself and some good friends. I don’t want to bore everyone with the details, so suffice it to say that some information was shared in a way that caused a few hurt feelings. In hindsight, though, I guess I can be grateful that it happened when it did, because it certainly provided me with a pretty good opportunity to try to ‘See Perceived Faults As A Mirror Image’.
And I was definitely starting to perceive some faults, because I honestly didn’t think I had done anything wrong!
Now, believe me, I am no saint. Sadly, I’ve been known to partake in my share of gossip in the past, and have learned the hard way that nothing good ever comes from it. But I really felt as though I had actually, finally, learned the lesson, so when I found myself smack in the middle of this situation anyway, despite my conscious effort to stay out of it, I figured that it had to be someone else’s fault.
But before I could really start playing the blame-game, I remembered my ‘assignment’ for the week. And so I took a deep breath, and forced myself to look at the ‘perceived faults’ I was trying to find in the others as a ‘mirror image’ of something inside me. Not the easiest thing I’ve ever had to do…my ego was pretty reluctant to accept any responsibility, even in the name of My Consciousness Project!
It seems, however, that taking responsibility was, in fact, exactly what I needed to do. According to Dr. Hew Len, an Hawaiian therapist and co-author of the book, Zero Limits, we are all, each and every one of us, 100% responsible for what happens in our lives. And not just for our thoughts and actions. It seems that everything we experience, whether it’s good or bad, our fault or not our fault, is totally our responsibility, simply because it’s in our life. By learning to accept this responsibility, and see our experiences as a reflection of our own inner judgements and beliefs, we can begin to take more control of what happens in our lives.
Dr. Hew Len teaches an ancient Hawaiian practice called Ho’oponopono, which, loosely translated, means ‘to make right’. Basically, it’s a very simple process that involves the following 3 steps:
Acknowledge the negative situation.
Accept 100% responsibility for it.
Silently repeat the words; “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.”
In their book, Dr. Hew Len and his co-author, Joe Vitale, share the story of how thirty years ago, Dr. Hew Len healed an entire ward of mentally ill criminals at the Hawaii State Hospital, using only Ho’oponopono. It’s a pretty amazing story, especially since he never even met with these men in person. He simply sat in an office with their files, and, over a period of several years, he would read about what each one had done. Then, if he noticed himself feeling repulsed, or judgmental, or in any way negative about them, he would use the process to clear himself of the negativity:
“Dr. Hew Len’s method involves cleaning yourself of all memories or negativity in order to see change in yourself and even in others. It seems bizarre, but when you take care of your own issues, they disappear in other people. The whole idea is to love the problems away.”
According to Dr. Hew Len, because our reality is a reflection of our internal thoughts and beliefs, when we experience a negative situation it is simply because we have a similar negative thought or belief lurking in our sub-conscious. Ho’oponopono is a way to clear these limiting beliefs so that they will no longer be reflected externally.
Anyway, I decided to give it a try to see if it would help the situation with my friends. So here’s how it went:
I acknowledged to myself that, yes, I was definitely in a negative situation.
I acknowledged that yes, I was (gulp) 100% responsible for it because I was, in fact, experiencing it.
I silently repeated, somewhat self-consciously, the prescribed words.
Now, I would love to say that as soon as I did this the whole situation miraculously resolved itself, but it didn’t happen quite that way. What did happen, though, was that once I honestly accepted the responsibility for being involved, I realized that blaming someone else was not going to help make it right. The only way that I could possibly make it right would be to change the way I was handling it.
Which made total sense when I really thought about it. I mean, if I were standing in front of a real mirror and didn’t like something I saw, I wouldn’t try to fix the reflection. That would be a complete waste of energy because, obviously, it wouldn’t change a thing. The only way for me to change the reflection would be to change what was being reflected. There’s just no other way.
So, I took yet another deep breath (believe me, I took a few this week!), pulled up my big girl pants, and went over to apologize to my friend. And, believe it or not, before I could get one word out, she was apologizing to me!
It was almost like I was looking in a mirror again…but this time I really liked the reflection. And, amazingly enough, I never heard another word about that whole situation again, from anyone involved. It’s like it never happened.
Anyway, I have to say that although this week’s assignment was one of the hardest I’ve experienced so far, it was also the most enlightening. The idea that we each have within us the potential to change our life experience, simply by taking responsibility for the things that happen to us, gives me such great hope for the future.
Just imagine how incredible the world would be if we all remembered to look in the mirror! Because, as the great 13th century poet, Rumi, once wrote:
“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.” ~ Peace Pilgrim
I really didn’t expect that I would have much trouble with this week’s topic because ever since my first health scare a few years ago, I have been a true believer in the power of positive thinking. Since it had worked pretty well for me during those difficult times, it seemed that it wouldn’t be too hard keeping my thoughts positive when things were actually going relatively smoothly.
As it turned out, the week for this ‘assignment’ was the same week that I was going to be down in Florida with my mom and sisters, celebrating my mom’s 84th birthday. I had been the one to organize all of the logistics for the trip – choosing the hotel, renting the car, and coordinating our flights so that we would all get there about the same time. The thing is, as those who know me will attest, I can be a bit of a worrier, especially when I’m the one in charge of something.
So to think, act and be positive this particular week was actually going to be a little more challenging than I thought.
I remembered a trick I’d been taught back when I was sick, which was to imagine a stop sign in my mind every time I caught myself thinking negatively about my situation. Somehow the image of the stop sign really helped to remind me to switch the direction of my thoughts before I ended up at the worst-case scenario.
So I decided my ‘assignment’ for the week would be to look for the stop sign whenever I started to worry that the hotel wouldn’t be nice enough, or someone’s flight would be delayed, or the weather would be bad. And, hopefully, when I saw it, I would remember to switch the direction of my thoughts before my worrying became a reality.
Happily, the trip started out incredibly smoothly. Our flights all got in on time – in fact, some were even early. And although it was pretty cloudy, the sun peaked out just as I was landing, which I took to be a really good sign. The drive to the hotel was very easy.
But when we pulled into the hotel driveway and it started to rain, it was as though every single negative thought I had kept at bay the past few days had materialized right in front of me. Everywhere I looked I noticed something wrong. The hotel was old…and small. The parking was impossible. The pool was tiny. By the time we got up to our suite I was a wreck…and even though my mom and sisters were nice about it, I felt terrible.
And what’s even worse is that I never once saw a stop sign. As soon as we drove in the driveway, the negative thoughts started piling up so fast that I don’t think I would have noticed one even if I had crashed into it. Really, I’m not exaggerating…just ask my mom and sisters!
It wasn’t until we were having dinner a little later that I even remembered it was ‘Think Positive, Act Positive, Be Positive’ week, and I honestly started to laugh out loud. How in the world had I let myself get so caught up in what was wrong that I missed everything that was right?
Because, actually, a lot of things were right. For one thing, our suite had gorgeous ocean views from every window. It was really spacious. It was clean. There was a beautiful print that reminded me of my grandparents’ house. And most important of all, I was sitting around a table with my mom and sisters, which just doesn’t happen that often.
So why couldn’t I have seen all those positive things sooner? Why was it so much easier to let myself get sucked into such a negative vortex?
Well, as it turns out, there actually is a reason. Scientists call it a ‘negativity bias’ which, according to Wikipedia, is a ‘psychological phenomenon by which human beings pay more attention to the negative things in their life than the positive’. Studies have proven that the brain actually shows more neural activity when it is reacting to negative input than positive!
Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist, explains that ‘the mind is like Velcro for the negative, and Teflon for the positive.’ For instance, if someone were to give me ten compliments and one criticism for a job that I did, it would be the criticism that would stick with me, not the compliments. It seems our ancestors, in order to survive, had to be much more aware of the things that could go wrong, than the things that could go right.
I had no idea! No wonder I have to work so hard to stay positive!
But what I think I have to try to remember, and this is definitely easier said than done, is that even though I might have this ‘negativity bias’, I also have within me the incredible power to choose the way I think about something. So when I find myself spiraling out of control in a negative ‘this is the worst hotel ever’ vortex, I can reverse that spiral anytime I want. And whether it’s by putting up an imaginary stop sign, or making a shift in the way I’m looking at something, what’s important is my conscious awareness that a change is necessary.
I recently watched a video called ‘Celebrate What’s Right With The World’ about a National Geographic photographer, Dewitt Jones, who uses the lens of his camera to show how the seemingly ordinary subjects he’s had to photograph can be transformed into things of beauty simply by asking himself, “What’s right here?” Sometimes the answer doesn’t come immediately, so he has to be patient. And sometimes he might even have to shift the angle of his lens in order to see it. But his incredible photographs are definite proof that there is always something ‘right’ to be found…it’s just a matter of choosing to see it.
So from now on I am going to choose to look for what’s right in the world, too. Because, as Dr. Wayne Dyer has always said:
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”
“Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf” ~ Jonatan Mårtensson
One of the very first books I read after my health scare a few years ago was Dr.Wayne Dyer’s,The Power of Intention. And one of the things that really struck a chord in me was his assertion that no matter what the circumstances of our life may be, we always have the choice to feel good, rather than bad. It’s not always an easy choice, especially when the situation justifies feeling bad, but, according to Dyer, when we can make the shift, no matter how slight, from feeling bad to feeling good, we raise our vibration to a higher level and the Universe will respond in kind.
The tricky part, at least for me, is remembering to notice how I’m feeling at the time that I’m feeling it. Sadly, I think I spend a lot of my day on auto-pilot, not really paying attention when life’s little stresses are getting to me. And if I don’t know they’re there, then I can’t make the shift to something better.
So this week’s topic to ‘Be Aware and Accepting of Your Emotions’ seemed like the perfect opportunity to test Dr. Dyer’s theory out. If I could just discipline myself to tune in more often to how I was feeling every day, then I would be more likely to notice when I was feeling badly, and could shift my thoughts accordingly. And to help keep me on my toes to remember to do this, I tied a string around my finger as a reminder. Every time I noticed the string, I checked in with myself to see how I was feeling. I’m not sure exactly why tying a string around a finger helps, but it certainly did the trick!
Dr. Dyer suggests in his book that, in order to shift our thoughts more easily, we should choose a kind of ‘go-to’, happy thought that we always have on hand for when we catch ourselves in a negative frame of mind:
“Make a conscious choice to select a thought that will activate good feelings…Ultimately you’ll come up with one that you agree makes you feel good, if only temporarily. Your choice might be the thought of a beautiful sunset, the expression on the face of someone you love, or a thrilling experience. It’s only important that it resonate with you emotionally and physically as a good feeling. In the moment of experiencing an anxious or stressful thought, change to the thought you chose, which makes you feel good.”
Ok, so it was really easy to choose my happy thought (i.e. sitting on knoll in Maine, looking out on river). And it was even easy to make the shift to that thought when I was totally stressed about being late to a class because I’d left my purse at home and had to go back for it. I could actually feel my body relax for a second as I thought about sitting on the knoll in Maine rather than about how I late I was. And who knows…maybe making that shift was the reason I ended up getting to my class in time after all.
But I have to admit that it wasn’t so easy to make a similar shift when I found myself really upset by something someone said to me on the phone. I was mad, really mad (which, honestly, doesn’t happen that often!) and no matter how hard I tried to switch from my very angry thoughts to my happy Maine thought, I just couldn’t make it stick long enough to calm me down. I was so sure I was right, and the other person wrong, that my anger felt totally justified. I deserved to be that mad.
But, according to Dr. Dyer, that was really just my pesky ego trying to confuse me and take control. Egos have a way of always wanting to be right, even if it makes us feel bad in the process. To overcome this need to be right, Dyer suggests that we try not to take ourselves so seriously, something he calls ‘Rule Number 6′. He writes:
“When you have the choice to be right or to be kind, pick kind, and push the ego’s demand out of the way. Kindness is what you emanated from, and by practicing it, rather than being right, you eliminate the possibility of stress in your moment of kindness. When you find yourself being impatient with anyone, simply say to yourself: “Rule Number 6,” and you’ll immediately laugh at the piddly little ego that wants you to be first, faster, number one, and to be treated better than the other guy.”
Well, I wish I could say that I practiced ‘Rule Number 6’ and took the high road by calling the person to apologize for my part in the argument, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. And even though I knew such a call would make me feel a whole lot better than I was feeling as I stewed in my self-righteous anger, my ego won out. I chose to feel bad.
So much for raising my consciousness!
Fortunately, though, when I woke up the next day and realized that I was still feeling terrible, I took a deep breath and picked up the phone. And lo and behold, after I fumbled through an apology, the other person apologized too. In fact, she took the blame for the whole sorry mess. I hung up feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and realized that I could have saved myself a lot of angst if I had just picked up the phone a little sooner.
Anyway, I guess what’s really important in life is not necessarily feeling good every single minute. There are always going to be times when we feel stress, or fear, or are just really, really mad because, well, we’re human. But because we’re human, we have the remarkable ability to consciously shift those negative emotions to something more positive – we just have to be aware of how we’re feeling. Because it’s in that awareness that a shift becomes possible.
And the more I am able to make the shift from feeling bad to feeling good, the more the Universe will reflect that good right back to me.
Or, as Dr. Dyer puts it:
“You feel good not because the world is right, but your world is right because you feel good. “
“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” ~ Indira Gandhi
Well, life has definitely thrown me a couple of loops these last few weeks, so getting this post written has not been the easiest thing to do. Although, to be totally honest, I think it was going to be hard anyway because physical fighting and abuse are, luckily for me, just not a part of my every day life. And it’s kind of hard to find a way to avoid something that isn’t there to begin with, even in the name of raising consciousness.
So I am going to let myself off the hook again, and rather than rack my brain for something I can do to ‘Avoid Physical Fighting and Abuse’, I am going to share Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Joint Principles of Non-Violence‘, which I came across the other day as I searched the internet for some inspiration. I can’t think of any better way to raise my consciousness this week than to reflect on these principles, and try to incorporate them into my own life:
JOINT (GANDHI-KING) PRINCIPLES OF NON-VIOLENCE
1. Non-violence means to honor the inherent worth of every human being. In non-violence we naturally seek to understand each other, build friendship and community.
2. Non-violence means believing that our lives are linked together, that what we do impacts the lives of everyone we encounter. That we are responsible to and for one another. That we can trust one another and work toward the common good.
3. Non-violence means dedicating ourselves to the fundamental rights of every human being (Justice, Equity, Equality)
4. Non-violence is courageously choosing to practice compassion with our adversaries. We oppose injustice, not people.
5. Non-violence means recognizing love as the power of the human spirit to triumph over injustice, inequity, suffering; a true hero’s journey of personal-social change.
It is my fervent hope that in the new year before us, these principles find their way into everyone’s heart (especially those who are in power!). I totally believe that we are at a tipping point right now, and with some courage, and a little shift in the right direction, we will find ourselves in the world that Gandhi and Dr. King envisioned.
I heard this song by Tracy Chapman the other day, called New Beginning, and the words offered me hope that a more peaceful world really is possible:
“We can break the cycle – We can break the chain.
We can start all over – In the new beginning
We can learn, we can teach.
We can share the myths, the dream, the prayer.
The notion that we can do better.
Change our lives and paths.
Create a new world.”
So in this season of hope and peace, I am going to make an early new year’s resolution that in 2012 I will be brave, and help make the shift to a better world happen.
“Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.” ~ Bhagavad Gita
For some reason this week’s topic to ‘Choose Empowering Beliefs’ has really thrown me for a loop. I just haven’t been able to figure out what direction to take, and so every time I sit down to write, I find myself going around in circles.
I can’t really put my finger on what is making this one so difficult either. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really like my ‘assignment’ that much. Or it could be that I’ve read so many different things about beliefs that it’s hard to pick one area to focus on.
But whatever it is, the time has come to stop fretting about it and just get started. Hopefully, I’ll figure out the best direction to take as I go along.
Anyway, a couple of years ago I saw this YouTube video of a little girl standing on her bathroom sink, loudly affirming how much she loves everything in her life:
And when I was thinking about how to ‘Choose Empowering Beliefs’ this week, I thought it might be fun to try something similar by giving myself a little pep talk every morning. Simple enough, I thought, and a good reminder about all the things I have to be grateful for.
So I found a list of empowering beliefs on the internet, and picked one that I thought would help me start my day off in the most positive way:
“Anyone can do anything and anything can happen.”
Well, I was a little surprised, at first, to discover that talking to myself in the mirror is not as easy as it looks! When I stood staring at my reflection on the first morning, I was actually a little embarrassed to say anything at all, let alone with the enthusiastic abandon of the little girl in the video. And even though it got somewhat easier as the week went along, I have to admit that I was never really very comfortable.
Which started me wondering whether I was uncomfortable because I was talking to myself in a mirror, or because I just didn’t really believe, deep down inside, that what I was saying was true. Which kind of confused me, because I had pretty much thought that I already believed it! I mean, I love hearing stories about someone who’s done the seemingly impossible…the underdog who’s succeeded against all odds. I’ve probably watched the movie ‘Rudy’ a hundred times and have absolutely never gotten tired of it!
But no matter how loudly or often I would say this affirmation, I couldn’t ignore the little voice in the back of my mind telling me it just wasn’t true. That people do have limits, and so it’s not really possible that anyone can do anything.
What I couldn’t figure out, though, was where this belief had come from. I really have no honest recollection of anyone ever telling me such a thing, so I guess that somewhere along the line I must have done something, or witnessed something, that made me believe it was true. And the fact that I didn’t even know it was there is a little bit worrisome…I wonder if there are other limiting beliefs lurking in my subconscious?
In any case, I started thinking that maybe this is true for a lot of us – that because we don’t always consciously choose some of the beliefs we have, we’re not even really aware that we have them! We grow up with parents who have certain beliefs they pass along to us, which have been passed along to them, and even though we might question them as we get older, it’s probably pretty hard to get rid of them altogether.
And the same way this can happen with families, it can probably happen just as easily with our different cultures and religions. I imagine generations have come and gone with no one ever really questioning the beliefs that have been passed along, because it’s just the way it’s always been.
And, according to Neale Donald Walsch in his book, The New Revelations – A Conversation With God, this is exactly why our world is in such trouble today. Because many of us are really reluctant, whether consciously or unconsciously, to challenge some of those beliefs that have been passed down through the generations. And so we keep making the same mistakes, because we’re unwilling, or maybe just scared, to question the wisdom of our ancestors:
“Your world is facing enormous problems right now, and you must solve the problems at the level of belief. You cannot solve the problems at the level of behavior. Seek to change beliefs, not behaviors…You can take whatever action you want to take to alter someone else’s behavior or to stop it, but unless you alter the beliefs that produced such behavior, you will alter nothing and stop nothing.”
Unfortunately, it seems that we humans have a pretty hard time when it comes to altering our beliefs, even when there’s solid evidence that those beliefs are completely false. For instance, Walsch reminds us, we used to believe that the earth was the center of the universe. When Copernicus, and then Galileo, both offered proof that this assertion was false, they were called blasphemers and heretics. No one believed them. It wasn’t until 300 years later that Galileo was finally pardoned by the Catholic Church and the world accepted this new belief.
It’s amazing how stubborn and fearful we can be when we’re faced with a new way of thinking.
Take what’s going on today with the Occupy Movement. The protestors are being criticized for not having a cohesive message, but I think the message is actually crystal clear. Something is wrong. The world is just not in a good place right now. And whether you’re in the 1% or the 99%, there is just no getting around the fact that our system isn’t working.
And maybe it’s not working because some of our most basic beliefs have become outdated. Economic and political policies that may have worked at one point in history may just not work today. Not necessarily because they’re wrong, but because the world is changing. And people are changing. And the climate is changing. Everything is changing.
It just makes sense, then, that some of our beliefs about how the world works may have to change too, so that we can adapt to what’s happening and be able to move forward.
Albert Einstein put it this way:
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
Maybe if all of us, both individually and collectively, would consciously choose to consider some newer, more empowering beliefs, we’ll be able to see which of our old beliefs may be holding us back. And perhaps then, with that newfound awareness, we’ll find ourselves at a new level of consciousness where we can start solving some of our problems.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I definitely think it’s worth a try.
So I’m going to start by choosing a slightly different empowering belief to say to myself in the mirror every morning:
“Anyone can do anything, if they truly believe that they can.”
I think even the little voice in the back of my mind can believe that.
“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” ~ Anthony Robbins
Is time speeding up, or is it just me? In the last few months it just seems as though I’m not getting the things done during the day that I want to. I get so distracted…even when I make a list to keep myself on track, I still find that I’m having trouble fitting everything in.
Maybe I feel this way because I have my project filling up a lot of the spare time that I used to have. Or maybe it’s my age, so instead of the years flying past now it’s whole days. Or maybe, in some crazy scientific way, time actually is speeding up! Whatever it is, though, I’d really like to get a handle on it, because being this unorganized goes completely against my Capricorn nature.
So as I was pondering the best way for me to ‘take control of my lifestyle’ this week, I remembered something I had read a couple of years ago in Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. I guess it made a big impression on me because I was going through a bit of a lifestyle overhaul myself, at the time, and his idea seemed so, well, smart.
It was called a “Plan For Attaining Moral Perfection” and in it he listed 13 ‘virtues’ that he believed would set him on the path to success if he was able to incorporate them all into his daily life. They included: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility. It was his hope that if he could adhere to these virtues every day (and he kept track in a little book he carried with him), then he would ultimately lead a very successful, not to mention morally sound, life. And, given what we know about Benjamin Franklin today, I guess it worked pretty well!
Anyway, my favorite part of his ‘Plan’ was the daily schedule he made for himself to help him keep ‘Order’ to his days:
Doesn’t it just make life seem so doable? And such a perfect way to ‘take control of your lifestyle’? I decided to give it a try myself.
So I divided my days into 6 parts, just like above, and challenged myself to stick with it for the week. And I have to say, I think it really worked! I found that just by adding a little structure, if only in my mind, to how I thought my day should go, I was able to keep myself from drifting off track a lot more easily.
For instance, and this is a little embarrassing to admit, sometimes I can get so caught up on the computer in the mornings that I am still in my pajamas at 10:00am. And then I have to scramble to get myself dressed and the house in order, which somehow sets the tone for the whole rest of the day. But, happily, what I found this week was that because I had allotted 7-9am as my ‘morning’ time, I was much more disciplined about being dressed and ready for the day by 9:00. And what a huge difference that made in how much I got done in the next time slot, and the next.
I also think it was really helpful to go over the day before it actually started…or as Franklin put it; “Contrive the days business”. I found that by spending a few moments in the morning picturing in my head how I wanted the day to go, I actually had more success in getting the things done that I’d hoped to.
I guess that, really, the main thing I realized this week is that it’s a lot easier to be in control of my lifestyle when I am consciously aware of what I’m doing, when I’m doing it. I think the problem I was having stemmed from the fact that I tend to switch into auto-pilot mode more often than maybe I should, and so when I drift a bit off track during the day, I don’t really notice. And then I’m surprised, not to mention frustrated, when I don’t end up where I thought I was headed.
Of course, the trick now will be trying to stick with this new daily schedule, because otherwise I’m going to end up right back where I started…wondering where in the world the time is going. But I think it’s a lifestyle change that I won’t have too much trouble with because, really, it’s just a matter of paying a little more attention to what I’m doing during the day. Switching from chardonnay to pinot noir was way harder!
And if I do still find that I’m drifting off track every now and then, I will take comfort in the fact that even Benjamin Franklin had some trouble with this particular virtue. He admits in his autobiography:
“In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order; and now I am grown old, and my memory bad, I feel very sensibly the want of it. But, on the whole, tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by endeavor, a better and happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.”
The key, I think, to taking control of my lifestyle is, ironically, knowing when I don’t have control. Because it’s in that awareness, in that conscious realization that I’ve drifted off track, that I can try to make the right adjustments to get me back on course.
“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures” ~ Thornton Wilder
I have to say I definitely turned a corner this week on understanding what raising consciousness is really all about. Up until now, I have looked at all of these different ‘assignments’ for my project as a means to an end. That if I meditate, or re-connect with true friends, or practice forgiveness, or any of the other 100 things on my Official List, then I am eventually going to get myself to a better place. To a better me.
What I realized, though, as I tried to ‘express gratitude’ this week, is that there really is no end point. Raising my consciousness is not at all about the future me, it is about the me right now. In this moment. It’s about being the best me I can be today, not 100 weeks from now.
So what was the turning point? Well, having heard over the years about the benefits of keeping a ‘gratitude journal’, I decided that would be the perfect way for me to ‘express gratitude’ this week. I found an old notebook and committed to writing down 5 new things every night that I was grateful for. Why 5? Because I’d read somewhere that that’s how Oprah does it. Plus, it seemed pretty simple.
Well, the first night was simple…in fact it was so simple that I didn’t stop at just 5, I wrote down every single thing I could think of. I fell asleep in a haze of gratitude – it was awesome. The next night, though, was a little trickier and I had to dig a little deeper to come up with 5 more things to be grateful about. It wasn’t actually that hard, but it did make me realize that if I was going to come up with enough new things every night, then I was really going to have to start paying a little more attention while I was awake!
The next few days were pretty fun as I started noticing things that I might have overlooked, or forgotten about, in the past. Like finding the perfect parking place on a rainy day. And getting the last box of my favorite cereal at the grocery store. Seeing hundreds of dragon flies flying around the field below our house. Certainly nothing life-altering, but I found myself feeling grateful about them nonetheless. I was definitely looking at my world through a whole new light.
And that’s when I realized that all of this consciousness raising I was doing was not just a way to a better life, it was the better life.
Now some might say that it’s easy to find things to be grateful for when life is good, but what if I were hungry, or poor, or sick? What if I was hungry, poor and sick? Well, according to a lot of the books I’ve read (and believe me, I’ve read a lot!) that’s when it’s the most important to find something, anything, to be grateful about. Even if it’s just that the sky is blue, or my heart is beating…it doesn’t matter what it is at all. What matters is that I’m making the choice to see something positive rather than negative. Because it is in that choice, that decision to stop saying ‘woe is me’, even if I have every reason in the world to say it, that life can start to change for the better.
One of my most favorite spiritual gurus, Eckhart Tolle, put it this way:
“Gratitude is very important. It transforms your whole life, if you can remember the importance of being grateful for life. As you go through your day, every day, you can even have little reminders – of the importance of being appreciative of life. Every person has to verify for themselves, what can I be grateful for at this moment? Sense the being that you are – not just the physical, but the sense of your own presence. That’s a great source of joy, to feel your own presence, it cannot really be defined. That’s the ultimate gratitude.”
It is so easy, at least for me, to take life for granted. To get so caught up in my day-to-day worries and problems that I fail to remember what an incredible gift it is to just be alive. Even after being jolted out of my complacency a few times with health scares, I still find myself coasting along on auto-pilot every so often, not paying any attention at all.
I read a story this week that my niece had sent out to our family, about a social experiment, organized by The Washington Post, on how people perceive certain things. Back in January, 2007, they arranged for a very famous violinist, Joshua Bell, to play incognito in a DC Metro station, during the morning rush hour. He played music written by Bach on his $3,500,000 violin for an hour, and during that time about 2000 people passed through the station. Of those 2000, only 6 people actually stopped to listen. The question asked at the end of the story was this:
“If we don’t have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, on one of the most beautiful instruments ever made…how many other things are we missing?”
Well, if I learned anything this week, it’s that if I want to be the kind of person who stops and listens to the music, I am going to have to slow down every now and then so I can hear it.
“Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” ~ C.S. Lewis
Well, I guess when I started my project back in March I should have given a little more thought to how I would keep up with it during the summer, since I am away (and unplugged) for a lot of it. So rather than spend my vacation fretting about how far behind I was getting, I decided to simply add another guideline to my list:
Number 11: Don’t take myself too seriously – it’s just a blog!
So, in the spirit of that guideline, I enjoyed a very relaxing summer, and now I’m ready to pick up where I left off back in July…Week 15: Befriend Like-Minded Individuals.
I’m pretty sure that if I had actually given any thought beforehand to how I was going to go about finding a ‘like-minded individual’ to befriend, I might have panicked a little bit. I mean, it’s not like meeting new friends is the easiest thing to do, like-minded or not. Luckily, though, I didn’t have to think about it. It was almost as though someone led me on a treasure hunt, and the prize at the end was the perfect ‘like-minded individual’!
What’s amazing though, especially in hindsight, is how easily I could have not met this person, because a lot of the decisions I made along the way were pretty out of character for me. I’m not sure if it was fate, or the universe, or just dumb luck that led me down the right path, but I am incredibly grateful that something kept pointing me in the right direction. Otherwise, I might still be out there looking for a like-minded person, and be even further behind than I already am!
So here’s what happened:
A friend read my blog on Facebook and thought I might be interested in going to hear Gabrielle Bernstein, a young spiritual author, speak at a local playhouse. Now, I don’t usually like to go out during the week if I can help it, so it would have been much more like me not to make the effort. But for some reason I went. That was Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #1
When we got to the event, some vendors were set up in the lobby, and there was a long line in front of one of them. When I found out that everyone was waiting for a free ‘angel reading’ I was pretty intrigued, so I got in line. That was Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #2, because I really hate standing in long lines.
The reading itself was brief, but amazingly accurate given the circumstances, and so I took one of her cards, thinking an ‘Angel Reader’ might come in handy when I got to #70 on my Official List: Connect with Your Spirit Guides. So a couple of days later I checked out her website, and ended up sending her an email to get a few more details about what she did. At the last-minute, I decided to include a little bit about my project, and added the link to my blog. Now, I have to tell you, I have never shared my blog with anyone I haven’t met before, so this was definitely Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #3.
We started a little email exchange and she suggested that maybe we could meet for coffee sometime and talk more about my project. I was so excited…someone I didn’t even know actually liked my blog! So I sent her a quick reply saying that I was getting ready to leave on vacation, but I would love to have coffee as soon as I got back. I had no sooner pushed the send button, though, than I turned the page on my calendar and saw that my next week’s ‘assignment’ was to ‘Befriend Like-Minded Individuals’! It seemed too good to be true!
So, at the risk of her thinking I was completely nuts, I quickly sent another email asking if she would possibly help me out by being my like-minded friend for a week, and she agreed to get together before I left. Now, for some people, meeting with a complete stranger may be no big deal, but for me it is just not something I do every day. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d never done anything like it before…so Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #4!
We met a couple of days later, and luckily, despite my worry that it might be totally awkward, it was just really, really fun. Talking to someone who is on the same path is so energizing – especially when that someone is a little further along that path. I felt like I’d known her forever! And believe it or not, even though she and I had never really met, I actually knew her husband. In fact, I was going to be seeing him later that morning! It really can be a crazy, small world, can’t it?
Of course, I’m sure there are people out there who might read this and say that it was all just coincidence, and that I am making way too much out of what happened. But the week after all of this took place, I randomly picked up a book called The Celestine Prophesy, by James Redfield, and to my utter amazement the whole first chapter was about experiences such as mine. According to Redfield:
“…these coincidences are happening more and more frequently and, when they do, they strike us as beyond what would be expected by pure chance. They feel destined, as though our lives had been guided by some unexplained force. The experience induces a feeling of mystery and excitement and, as a result, we feel more alive.”
Redfield refers to such experiences as ‘meaningful coincidences’ that lead one in a particular direction, and he believes they happen a lot more often than we realize. We just miss recognizing them because we are moving so fast through our lives. Perhaps if we could slow down and take ourselves off autopilot once in a while, we would notice more often when we actually have a choice to make that could point us in the right direction.
Looking back on all of the ‘coincidences’ that led me to my new like-minded friend last week, I have to say that the experience left me with an incredible sense of possibility. That if I would just step out of my comfort zone a little more often, and perhaps try some new ways of thinking (and doing), it would be much more possible for me to experience the limitless opportunities (and friends!) that are out there, waiting for me to find them.
I just need to slow down so I’ll notice the clues.