WEEK 18: Take Control of Your Lifestyle

“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 dayBut, 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.

I just have to notice.

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Week 16: Express Gratitude On A Daily Basis

“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.

WEEK 15: Befriend Like-Minded Individuals

“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.

 

WEEK 13: Cultivate a High-Performance Mind

~ “The greatest discovery you’ll ever make is the potential of your own mind.”  ~  Jose Silva

I am a little behind with this week’s post for a couple of reasons, the main one being that I was away for a few days and internet access was limited. Well, actually, to be perfectly honest, that’s only partially true…the real reason is that I was a little bit intimidated by this week’s topic, at least at first. I just couldn’t wrap my head around how in the world I was going to ‘cultivate a high-performance mind’ when names like Stephen Hawking and the Dalai Lama kept popping into my head. So I procrastinated. And then I procrastinated some more.

I finally made myself read the book that the author of my Official List had suggested on his website, called “The High-Performance Mind; Mastering Brainwaves for Insight, Healing and Creativity,” by Anna Wise. I picked it up pretty reluctantly – somehow learning about brainwaves all week was not exactly my idea of fun. But I have to admit, by the time I had finished the first chapter, I was intrigued. Her ideas made a lot of sense to me…and were definitely not just for the brainiacs of the world.

According to Wise, a high-performance mind is “one that can enter at will the state of consciousness that is most beneficial and most desirable for any given circumstance.” And, as it turns out, it is something that we are all capable of experiencing, no matter what our IQ might be. As far as I understand it (and I think I have this right), if we can just learn to recognize what our different patterns of brainwaves feel like, then we can consciously shift our mind into the pattern that will be the best one in any particular situation.

The easiest way for most people to learn about their different brainwave patterns, as well as how to tap into them, is through meditation. The book offers step-by-step instructions as to how to master the four levels (beta, alpha, theta and delta) through a series of guided meditations. It’s a fairly involved process, which I totally recommend to anyone interested, but a week was not really enough time to do it any justice. So I can say for sure that I have not yet quite mastered it. I will say, however, that the experience definitely got me thinking about how incredible it is that we all have this untapped power pretty much at our fingertips…we just need to learn how to use it.

One way to learn, besides meditation, is through neurofeedback, a kind of biofeedback for the brain. By measuring an individual’s brainwaves, it’s possible to teach them how to alter their mental state, helping them to overcome all sorts of issues like depression and ADD. Neurofeedback can also help someone take their performance to the next level, whether they’re an athlete looking to improve their game, or a singer getting ready for a big gig. I was pretty curious about the process, since it was mentioned quite a bit in the book, so I decided to give it a try.

And I have to say I’m really glad that I did. Unlike the picture I had in my mind of being strapped to a chair with wires hooked up to my head, it was actually a very gentle and relaxing experience. I sat in a recliner with a few small electrodes on my head and ears, and pretty much just listened to music through some earphones for half an hour. Granted the music skipped a lot, which for me was kind of irritating, but I guess I have a very sensitive auditory system (according to the practitioner), so this is not always the case for other people. The results, however, were a little disappointing to me. Not that they weren’t interesting, but I guess I was just hoping for some great insight into what makes me tick. Or maybe even how to tick better.

Anyway, it seems to me that the most important thing in cultivating a high-performance mind is learning how to recognize it within ourselves. And I think that most of us, whether we’re aware of it or not, have experienced this higher state of consciousness at some point in our lives. A musician may feel it when he’s in the middle of an awesome riff, and an athlete when he’s skiing down the mountain, or running in the park after work. A mother might feel it when she’s rocking her baby to sleep in the middle of the  night, and a writer when he’s lost in the story he’s telling. It’s that feeling that there’s something bigger than ourselves at work, and we’re able to just give in to it, and let go.

I recently heard about a book called “Explorers of the Infinite”, by Maria Coffey, which tells the stories of some ‘extreme’ athletes and what makes them do the crazy things they do. One woman, a mountain climber, describes the feeling she experiences when she’s out there, and I believe it’s a good example of a ‘high-performance mind’ at work:

“…when you leave to go to the mountains, at first all you’re concerned about are your daily routines back home. Your head is full of chatter. Within hours, you’re in this rhythm where you’re thinking only about food, and fuel, and camps. Then, when the climb gets technical, and especially when there’s a level of danger, you become utterly present. There’s no stress, sometimes even no fear. You literally become simple consciousness. Something larger than you takes over. It’s mysterious and inexplicable. You need to go out there again and again to find it.”

Albert Einstein, who acknowledged experiencing similar moments of awareness (though probably in a less extreme way!), described them as feeling “free from one’s own identification with human limitation.” To me, this is the perfect description, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned so far with this project, it’s that if we can free ourselves from our own limiting beliefs, we are way more likely to reach our real potential.

So, maybe, if we can experience this feeling of ‘limitlessness’ more often, whether by hanging off the side of a cliff, or sitting comfortably in the bedroom meditating, we will learn to tap into our high-performance minds more easily.

And then, maybe, we’ll not only unleash our own potential, but the potential for the whole world, as well.

WEEK 11: Treat Yourself With Respect

“To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.” ~ Joan Dideon

I’m afraid this week was one of those weeks. Between a sick dog and a house full of 20-year-old boys, I just couldn’t seem to find the time to write this post. And as the week went along, I became more and more anxious about it, because I’ve been trying really hard to stick to my Friday ‘posting’ deadline. Luckily, though, I remembered Project Guideline #5, which reminded me to ‘be flexible’, so I was able to give myself a little breathing room. And as I sit here now trying to think of something to write about, I’m wondering whether, by giving myself that break, I actually ended up doing exactly what I was supposed to do this week – treat myself with respect.

I’m guessing that the reason it’s even on the list of ‘Ways to Raise Your Consciousness’ is because if we aren’t able to treat ourselves with respect, how can we expect other people to? I am also guessing that in order to know how to treat ourselves with respect, it’s important that we are aware of our strengths and weaknesses…and therefore, more conscious of who we really are. Luckily, I am definitely conscious enough to know that the combination of a sick dog, a houseful of boys, and a self-imposed deadline could definitely put me over the edge. And that awareness allowed me to treat myself with the respect necessary to avoid making myself, or my family, crazy.

I think that, on the whole, I generally treat myself with a decent amount of respect. Especially since my health scare, I am way more conscious about the food I eat, and the exercise I get. And I suppose, now that I think about it, even my napping habit could be seen as a sign of respect…yeah! I have also grown a lot more conscious of my thoughts and ideas over the last few years, and am learning to stand up for them in ways I never could have when I was younger. Actually, this project is a pretty good example of that.

On the other hand, though, there are definitely some areas where I could use a little work. For instance, I have a pretty bad habit of saying the word ‘just’ a lot. Like, “Oh, it’s just me” when I call someone on the phone, or “I just think…” when I’m voicing my opinion. I’m not sure why I do this – and actually I wasn’t even aware of it until a friend pointed it out one day – but it is certainly not a word that elicits a lot of respect, from others, or myself for that matter.

I think that in order to treat yourself with respect you definitely have to have a fair amount of self-respect. And I think that to have self-respect, you have to really know who you are, and have confidence in who that person is. For me, in my life, I have to admit there have been a few times when I haven’t been so confident, and I may have settled for something less than I really deserved, just to be safe.

One time, when I was a 20-something, newly promoted account executive at an advertising agency, my boss asked me to make a presentation to the client. Now you have to understand, for as long as I can remember, I have had a fear of speaking in front of people, so even though this was just a small group, and made up of people I’d known for a while, I was absolutely terrified. And as embarrassing as this is to admit, and believe me, this is very embarrassing, I totally chickened out. I let my fear get the best of me. I can still see the disappointment on my boss’s face even now, almost thirty years later, when I came up with some lame excuse to get myself out of it. Yuck.

Talk about not respecting myself! And I think the reason I still fret over that decision so often is because it wasn’t just my boss I let down that day…it was myself. I knew back then, and I know it even better today, that I should have made that presentation. Sure, I might have messed up. And I might not have done the best job ever. But at least I would be able to look back without regret, because I had tried.

And, as I’ve gotten older, I am understanding better how life is, really, all about the trying. It doesn’t matter how something turns out, even though our egos will tell us otherwise, because it is the fact that we tried at all that allows us never to regret the not trying. Why it took me so long to figure this out, I’ll never know…maybe it’s been a fear of failure? Or maybe, as Marianne Wilson suggests in her book, “A Return to Love”, in a crazy, backward way, a fear of success? She says:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We are meant to shine, as children do…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Wow, I wish I’d come across those words when I was 23, rather than 53!

Anyway, in the end, I guess that the key to being able to treat myself with respect is to be confident in who I really am, the good and the not so good, cause then I’ll know more easily what is best for me. And whether it’s letting myself off the hook to keep my sanity, or not letting myself off the hook so I’ll try something new, I should always trust that my true self knows what I need to get my light to shine brighter.

P.S. Dog is ok, boys are gone, and I am liking the Monday morning posting deadline a lot!

WEEK 8: Take Conscious Control of Your Decisions

“A life lived of choice is a life of conscious action.” Neale Donald Walsch

I didn’t ever realize, until this week, how many decisions I actually make on any given day. From the very moment I open my eyes in the morning, I start making choices; “Should I get up now, or hit the snooze button?” “What should I wear?” “Cereal or toast?” “Grocery store or yoga?” It is one decision after another, all day long, and it amazed me to realize that, most of the time, I am not even conscious of making them at all!

Sadly, I guess this means that I must be on some sort of autopilot as I go through my day…and I think I make a lot of my decisions more by habit than anything else. Of course, in my defense, it’s probably not necessary to make a conscious choice about every single thing I do – I mean, whether I wear the red sweater or the blue shirt isn’t going to make a big difference in the way my life turns out. But the decisions I make about what I eat or how much I sleep, could actually, in the long run, make a huge difference in the quality of my life, even though, on a day-to-day basis, they seem pretty trivial. Always choosing junk food and late nights, over organic food and a good night’s sleep, would definitely affect my long-term health… so, in order to live the best life I can, it makes a lot of sense to try to be as conscious as possible in the choices I make every day.

Growing up, whenever I had an important decision to make my dad would sit me down with a pen and paper and have me write down the pros and cons. I would moan and groan my way through the whole process, insisting to him that it wasn’t going to make the decision any easier. But, and this made me so mad, it actually did help – I guess that by having to think about all the positive and negative outcomes of whatever it was I was deciding, I was better able to see the big picture, so the choice became more clear. And, even though I really resisted the lesson my dad was teaching me back then, I guess I learned it anyway, because I still reach for the pen and paper whenever I have a big decision to make. Of course, it’s much easier to take ‘conscious control’ of a decision when you are aware of how important it is – it’s not quite as easy when the decision isn’t so big. And I think sometimes it’s in those little decisions that we have the most opportunity to take control of our lives, and perhaps change them for the better.

In his book, “The Divine Matrix”, Gregg Braden talks a lot about our ability, as human beings, to make decisions, both big and small. It is something that separates us from all other living things, and is, when you think about it, a pretty powerful tool that we all have. Braden says:

‘…it’s our ability to purposefully create the conditions of consciousness…that lock one possibility of our choosing into the reality of our lives.”

Whether the decision being made is huge and life-changing, or small and inconsequential, by taking conscious control of it, and understanding how the different choices will ultimately make us feel, we have the power to choose the one that will make us feel better. It is certainly not always easy, because coasting along on autopilot is, quite honestly, a lot less work than having to always be paying attention. But I have learned this week that when I make a decision that feels good inside, then my outside world is better too.

The other night, for example, I had just finished my first draft of this post and had pushed ‘update’ to save it. Something went wrong with the internet, though, and I realized, to my horror, that I had lost the whole thing. Well, needless to say, I was pretty upset, especially since I had struggled with a terrible case of writer’s block all day, so when my husband walked through the door from work, I was on the verge of a full-out pity party. But luckily I remembered (because I had just spent the day writing about it!) that we always have a choice in the way we react to something; I could go ahead and feel sorry for myself, which I really wanted to do, and risk ruining the evening for my family, or I could take a deep breath and laugh it off, because honestly, it’s only a blog. So I shrugged my shoulders, poured a (big) glass of wine, and was able to fully appreciate the power in making a decision to feel good, rather than bad.

Anyway, it seems to me that if we could all just try to remember, both individually and collectively, that we have this power, and consciously use it for our greater good, then maybe we could get the world back on the right track. Barbara Marx Hubbard, founder of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution (www.barbaramarxhubbard.com), believes that we have arrived at a moment in our evolution when we must, as a species, take conscious control of the decisions we are making for the world, or risk destroying ourselves:

“Due to the increased power given us through science and technology, we are learning how nature works – the gene, the atom, the brain. We are affecting our own evolution by everything we do. With these new powers we can destroy our life support systems…or we can move toward a hope-filled future of immeasurable possibilities.”

We have gained so much knowledge in the last couple of centuries, from both the industrial and technological revolutions, that maybe, in our enthusiasm for all the new ‘things’ that have resulted, we’ve forgotten about the ‘things’ that really matter. Aristotle believed we should always look for the balance between too much and too little, and taught us that, “Virtue is the golden mean between two vices, the one of excess and the other of deficiency.” Maybe it’s time for us to consciously start looking for the balance between our scientific and spiritual worlds, and find the ‘golden mean’ that will help us evolve to an even greater level of consciousness. And maybe, if we’re successful, it will help us out of this mess that we’re in, for as another great thinker, Albert Einstein, warned: “Humankind cannot solve its problems from the same place of consciousness in which we created them. A new place of consciousness is required.”

So, for me, I am going to start looking for that ‘new place of consciousness’ in my own life. It may not be that easy, because I’ve been on autopilot for a while, so having to pay attention all the time may be a little hard. But I have to believe I will find what I’m looking for a lot faster if I am in control of the decisions I have to make along the way.

WEEK 6: Tell the Truth

“Our lives improve only when we take chances…and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” Walter Anderson

As with most of the preceding posts, the topic for this week seemed, at first, as though it would be pretty easy for me. I consider myself a fairly honest person, so I just didn’t think it would be too hard to tell the truth for a week. But what I am beginning to understand as my project goes along, is that what appears simple at first glance, becomes ever increasingly complex the more I think about it. And the more I remember my rule to push myself (Guideline #7), the harder these ‘assignments’ become. So when I decided, instead, that I would tell the truth to myself this week, rather than other people, well, the bar definitely rose a little higher, taking me right out of my comfort zone. That surprised me a little, too…why would the thought of being honest with myself make me uncomfortable? Well, maybe it’s because I just don’t often think about what I truly believe, about life, or myself. A little sad, I know, but, nonetheless, pretty true.

Another thing that worried me about all of this, is that other people may perceive these beliefs of mine as somehow wrong, or different, or even worse, foolish. So I just had to keep reminding myself that nobody’s truth is the ‘right’ truth, because we all experience life differently. And what I believe to be true about something, may just not be the same for someone else…but that is ok. I think that where we, as human beings, tend to run into trouble, is when we convince ourselves that our truth is the ‘right’ truth, rather than considering that another person’s truth could be just as ‘right’ for them. Max Born, a German physicist, said, “The belief that there is only one truth, and that oneself is in possession of it, is the root of all evil”. Well, the good news is that I definitely don’t believe my truths are the only truths, so I guess I don’t need to be nervous, or worried, that I am going to offend anyone. But still…this is very scary!

So, what truths do I have about myself? Well, I am loyal. I am a little impulsive. I am thoughtful. I am fair. I am kind of lazy. I am tolerant. I am, at times, a bit manipulative (this was a hard one to spit out!).

And what are my beliefs about life?  Well, hmmm, this is a little harder. But ok, I know I believe that we are all connected. That our souls are eternal, so death is really just a transition to a different vibration. I believe we are all here to learn lessons, both individually and collectively, so that our souls can evolve. And I truly believe, that right now, we are, as a species, being spiritually challenged to evolve to the next level.

What I found kind of interesting, as I contemplated these truths, was that the things that I believe about myself haven’t changed much over the years, while the things I believe about life have changed dramatically from when I was younger. For instance, as a child I believed that when people died, they disappeared forever into a completely black nothingness. I don’t know where I got this idea, since I know I understood about God and heaven, but I remember, distinctly, laying in bed at night and trying to imagine being nothing, forever. Needless to say, with thoughts like these, I was terrified of dying, and continued to fear it well into my adulthood. But when my father passed away, it was like a switch went off in my head, and I realized that it just couldn’t be possible that we become nothing when we die…our souls must go somewhere. And this new belief, that my dad’s soul would be waiting for me wherever it is that we go, brought me incredible comfort, and allowed me to let go of the old belief that had brought me so much pain.

I guess, in a perfect world, we would always be able to recognize when certain beliefs we have aren’t working, and consciously replace them with some that may work better. And, also in that perfect world, we would accept the idea that the truths we have for ourselves are no better, or worse, than the truths someone else might have…they might just be different. In his book, The New Revelations, A Conversation with God, Neale Donald Walsch suggests, among many other things, that the world would be so much better off if, when voicing either our individual or collective beliefs, we would begin by saying, “We are all one. Mine is not a better way, mine is merely another way.”

Just imagine a world where our first impulse, when faced with an opposing point of view, was to acknowledge that it’s really ok for that person (or country, or culture, or religion) to have that belief, instead of immediately trying to challenge it, or worse, condemn it. In our family, we call this impulse to challenge each other “the oppositional reflex,” and, unfortunately, it’s a bad habit we all share, and one that definitely creates a lot of unnecessary conflict. And since I am one of those people who really hates to argue (another truth about myself), it is a habit that I would love to see broken. I don’t know why it has to be so hard to simply agree to disagree…and to not always have to be ‘right.’ Anyway, I just have to believe that the world (and our dinner table!) would be a lot more peaceful if we would just allow each other the freedom of our own truths, and not feel threatened by their differences.

I think, in the end, what this very soul-baring week has taught me is that, in order to create my perfect world, it’s not only important that I’m honest with myself, about who I am and what I believe, but that I honor those beliefs, without dishonoring anyone else’s. I know that it won’t always be easy, but for a chance at that perfect world, it just has to be worth a try.