WEEK 14: Connect through Prayer

“Everything starts with prayer.”  ~ Mother Teresa

Last week was another crazy week in my life, and as I sat on my patio one evening fretting about what I should do about this week’s post, I remembered a prayer that my husband found, years ago, taped to the bottom of his desk drawer at work. Its words have helped to calm me down many times since then, reminding me that there is way more to life than whatever it is I am worrying about.

So, in honor of this week’s topic, here are the words that help me to ‘connect through prayer’.

Slow me down, Lord! Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.

Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.

Give me, amidst the confusion of my day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory.

Help me to know the magic restoring power of sleep.

Teach me the art of taking minute vacations…of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book.

Remind me each day of the fable of the hare and the tortoise that I may know that the race is not always to the swift; that there is more to life than increasing its speed.

Let me look upward into the branches of the towering oak and know that it grew great and strong because it grew slowly and well.

Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values, that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.” 

~ Wilfred A. Peterson

I guess that, for me, prayer is simply a way to connect to something larger than myself. And whether that something is called God, or the Universe, or Allah, doesn’t matter at all, at least to me. What I think is important is that, through our prayers, we are all acknowledging that we actually agree that there is something bigger.

If only we could choose to see that the thing we’ve allowed to divide us the most could be the one thing that might bring us all together.

We just have to let it.

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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 12: Practice Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is choosing to love.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Being a pretty forgiving person, I wasn’t too concerned about this week’s topic to ‘practice forgiveness’. I rarely hold a grudge, and if someone has hurt me I will usually try to smooth things over with them. Luckily, in my life, I haven’t been hurt that often. A boyfriend cheated on me once, which was pretty awful, but other than that I can’t really think of anything that was so painful for me that it was hard to forgive. And believe me, I consider myself incredibly fortunate that this is the case, because from what I read in the news, there is definitely a lot of hurting going on in the world.

Anyway, as seems to happen quite often with these topics, the more I thought about forgiveness, the more I realized that forgiving other people was not what was going to ‘push my limit’ this week. What would be a little more challenging would be to see if I could forgive myself for some mistakes I’ve made along the way…and show myself some of the same compassion that I find so easy to show others.

Growing up, I was always a little envious of my friends who were Catholic because they got to go to confession every week. I thought it was so great that no matter how bad they were, as long as they went to church every Saturday and confessed it all to the priest, their slate was totally wiped clean. Sure, it may have been a little scary to go into the confessional and say out loud what they had done wrong, but knowing that they would be forgiven, no matter whatwell, it just seemed like a pretty good deal to me.

So I guess, in a way, I could look at this week of self-forgiveness as my own personal confessional. Yes, it might be a little scary to admit to myself that I’m not perfect, but hopefully, in the same way a priest offers unconditional forgiveness, I would find a way to offer the same compassion to myself. And from what I’ve learned this week, there is a power in forgiveness that can make an enormous difference, not just spiritually, but physically as well. Given my health history over the last few years, I thought it was definitely worth looking into.

I had no idea that there is a whole science of forgiveness being studied today. Two prominent professors, Dr. Robert Enright of the University of Wisconsin, and Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University, have both conducted research studies into the health benefits of forgiveness, and their findings have proven that the ability to forgive, or not forgive, can directly affect an individual’s health:

“Studies show that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments. The first study to look at how forgiveness improves physical health discovered that when people think about forgiving an offender it leads to improved functioning in their cardiovascular and nervous systems. Another study found the more forgiving people were, the less they suffered from a wide range of illnesses. The less forgiving people reported a greater number of health problems.

Plus, along with all of the new scientific research, I found a ton of forgiveness websites out there as well: The Forgiveness Project, The Forgiveness Foundation, The Campaign for Love and Forgiveness – the list goes on and on. It seems that a lot of people have discovered the power in forgiveness and are trying to spread the word.

My dilemma, however, was not that I didn’t understand the benefits of forgiveness, I just wasn’t sure what the best way was to go about it.

According to Marianne Williamson, “We do not need to know how to forgive. All we need is to be willing to forgive. The Universe will take care of the rest.” Well, I guess that makes sense, but still, not that I don’t totally trust the Universe, but I think, in this case, I needed something a little more concrete.

So, a quick internet search led me to a website, ForgiveYourself.com, which made the claim:

REVEALED! How to Forgive Yourself Once and For All – Even if You’re Unforgivable and You Don’t Deserve It”

Well, that certainly got my attention, and even though it turned out that I had to spend $25 to find out exactly how to forgive myself once and for all, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. Luckily, it didn’t turn out to be a total scam, and I actually ended up learning quite a bit about the whole forgiveness process.

It seems that our bodies have a way of holding on to stress, and trauma, and guilt in ways that can actually cause illness. Even the littlest hurt, or guilty feeling, can settle into our psyche and have the potential to cause quite a bit of havoc, not only in our minds, but in our bodies as well. And even though I’ve known this for a while, until this week I hadn’t really bothered to take the time to figure out what those things might be for me.

As it turns out, there are a few choices I’ve made in my life that still make me cringe a little when I think about them…mostly because I’m pretty sure I hurt some people I care about in the process. And whenever one of those memories pops into my head, even though it happened a really long time ago, I still feel terrible.

So it seems that those bad feelings are the source of a lot of negative energy. And even now, years later, every time I think about what happened, that memory creates even more bad energy, setting a pattern which, according to this website, can only be disrupted by forgiving myself for making the bad choice in the first place:

“Forgiveness works by freeing up your energy. We all have a tendency to hold onto events of the past and patterns of the present. But it takes energy to hold onto anything, whether it’s physical, mental or emotional. And if your hands are full, you must let go of something else. Letting go of what you’re holding onto right now frees up your energy…so you’ll be better able to handle what’s next.”

This made a lot of sense to me because, as a Reiki student, I totally believe that maintaining the flow of positive energy through our bodies is instrumental to our well-being. And, it goes to reason, that when there aren’t a lot of blocks in the way of that energy, it can flow that much more smoothly.

Anyway, the website goes on to provide a step-by-step process as to how to get rid of those blocks and, I have to say, I think it was pretty effective, at least for me. It’s a little time-consuming, so I won’t go into all the details, but having taken myself through the steps a couple of times, I definitely feel a little lighter when I think about those bad choices. I can’t change the fact that I might have hurt someone, but I can forgive myself for making the choice that led to that hurt. And, hopefully, I was able to remove some of those pesky blocks in the process, which may have been causing me a little trouble over the years. So, yeah!

The thing about forgiveness is that it is not always a very easy thing to do, whether we’re forgiving ourselves or someone else. In fact, it is probably one of the hardest things, so ‘practicing’ it actually makes a lot of sense. And, as is true with anything else, the more we practice something, the better we become at it. And the better we become at something, the more likely we are to do it, right? Which can only be a good thing, individually and as a whole. For as Martin Luther King reminded us:

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.”

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 10: Pursue Higher Intelligence

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.” ~ Michel Legrand

Well, I have to be honest….I had no idea what I was going to do this week to ‘pursue higher intelligence’. I just couldn’t think of anything that would be interesting to learn about, and at the same time be something that made any sense for this project. It’s been my aim every week to think of things that I can ‘do’ that are a little different from the norm, but this week, for whatever reason, the ideas that I came up with were all just really boring.

Then the other morning I was on Facebook, going through my old messages, when something a friend had written (during ‘Re-connect with True Friends’ week) popped out at me. She mentioned how she had done some work in ‘A Course in Miracles‘, which I’d actually heard about before, but had always considered a little too touch-feely for me. But because this friend has always been one of the more grounded people I’ve known, I figured that if she could handle it, then maybe I could too.

‘A Course in Miracles’, by the way, seems to be the holy grail for most of the spiritual authors I’ve come across. People like Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer, and even Oprah, often refer to it in their books and on their shows. As I understand it (and believe me, I don’t understand a lot), the course is a practice in forgiveness; a step-by-step process which is meant to help us break down the separation between ourselves and our fellow-man, and help us take responsibility for our own actions. Not exactly a beach read, and certainly not something that would be appealing to everyone. But as I clearly hadn’t come up with any other ideas, I decided to look into it.

So I turned to the internet to see if there were any classes offered in my area, and lo and behold, there was one being held Wednesday mornings at a church in a nearby town. I emailed the minister to see if a new session would be starting soon, and learned that I could start any time….all I needed was the textbook and I could jump right in. Well, ok – this seemed pretty perfect. Not only would I be pursuing higher intelligence, I would be pursuing higher spiritual intelligence – the whole reason for my project in the first place! Yeah!

Wednesday morning came around and I have to admit, I was a little nervous. I wondered what kind of people would be there, what the teacher would be like and whether I would understand anything at all. And then, to make me even more nervous, what I saw when I arrived was not exactly what I had pictured in my head! I found myself in a make-shift church, rather than the real one I had expected, over a car dealership, without another soul in sight. But because I was a little early, I made myself wait until it was at least time for the class to start before I totally chickened out.

Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long before someone showed up. An older gentleman, dressed in a dark suit, suspenders and hat, appeared at the top of the stairs and, as soon as he saw me, opened his arms wide and embraced me as if we were long-lost friends. Thinking he was the minister, I followed him over to the bookshelves where he handed me a copy of the very large, rather intimidating, textbook. And then another gentleman appeared who was, in fact, the minister/teacher. There was not a lot of small talk – besides asking my name, neither of them asked me any questions at all – they just led me into a small conference room where we sat down at a table, opened our books to where they must have left off the week before, and began taking turns reading the passages out loud.

Talk about jumping right in! But I guess, in hindsight, it was the perfect way for me to understand what I was getting myself into. As I mentioned, the book itself is very big, consisting of three different parts; the Text, the Workbook for Students, and the Manual for Teachers. I was a little put off at first, and actually still kind of am, by the religious overtones of the Text, but realized after we read a few pages, that many of the messages in it were very similar to the things I’ve been learning about with this project. In fact, one of the first passages we read was about making conscious choices (#8: Take Conscious Control of your Decisions):

“You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think.”

I couldn’t believe it! And the more we read that morning, the more similarities I noticed…it was crazy! I wonder if the person who wrote my Official List was a student of ‘A Course in Miracles’?

Anyway, as the class went along a few more people trickled in, and it was very helpful for me to realize that, even though they all had a lot more experience with the material than me, we all seemed to have the same questions. And, I have to say, the questions definitely sparked some pretty interesting discussions! I also realized, fairly quickly, that even though the course was described as ‘a self-study curriculum to assist in a spiritual transformation’, I would probably not be doing a whole lot of ‘spiritual transforming’ if I did the course on my own…I absolutely would need some sort of guidance if I was to understand any of it at all. But the 365 daily lessons in the Workbook didn’t seem too hard, and I was assured that they only took a minute or two to do each day. All in all, by the time the class was over, I was feeling pretty confident that this was definitely something I could handle.

So I guess the big question comes down to whether or not I will actually stick with the class, even though the week for ‘pursuing higher education’ is over. It’s definitely a big commitment, no doubt about that, and I’m not entirely sure the whole thing is really my cup of tea, but there seems to be a part of me that wants to keep going. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my project so far, it’s that I need to pay more attention to that inner voice when I hear it. So I guess I will keep going and just see where ‘A Course in Miracles’ takes me…because maybe it’s going to take me right where I want to go.

WEEK 9: Always Be Open-Minded

“If you keep doing things like you’ve always done them, what you get is what you’ve already got.” — Anonymous

I have always considered myself to be a fairly open-minded person. I will, for the most part, always listen to someone else’s point of view and, even though I might be getting just a teensy bit set in my ways, I will usually consider a different way of doing something, if it seems to make sense.

So when I stumbled upon an internet quiz, “How Open Minded Are You?”, earlier this week, and only scored a 65%, I was a little surprised by the result. It seemed pretty low – kind of like getting a D on a math test (which I’ve had some experience with) and I just couldn’t understand how I did so badly. Was I really that wrong about myself? Well, just to be sure, I decided to take another look at the results, and noticed that along with the number score came the following description: You are tolerant and flexible, and appreciate most lifestyles and viewpoints.” Well, ok, phew! I guess 65% wasn’t so bad after all…but it definitely got me thinking about the other 35%. I decided that this week was the perfect chance to take a look at the areas in my life where I may be just a little less than open-minded.

I seem to have reached a ‘certain age’ when I often may do something more out of habit than anything else. Take the kinds of food I eat. Being a fairly picky eater, I don’t usually ‘experiment’ with anything new…in fact, I can pretty much decide if I’ll try something based solely on the look of it – sad, but true. So the other night when I was offered an appetizer at a party, my first inclination when I saw it was to say no thanks. But then I remembered what week it was, so I took a deep breath, cut one in half (I know, a little wimpy) and popped it into my mouth. And, well, as much as I would like to say I loved it, to prove my point, I’m afraid I can’t. I just didn’t like it. It was really spicy, and as anyone who knows me understands, I am just not a spicy food kind of girl.

So, even with an open mind, the fact is that there are just some things I don’t like. And that’s got to be ok – we’re allowed to not like things, right? What’s important, though, at least for me, is that I remember to consider trying new things, whether it’s food, or ideas, or whatever, even though it might take me out of my comfort zone. I think that a lot of times, whether out of habit, or laziness, or maybe even stubbornness(!), it is often just a lot easier to stick with the status quo.

For example, much to my son’s dismay, I am pretty set in my ways when it comes to how I get my news. He has suggested, a few times, that it might be good for me to broaden my horizons a bit and check out some alternative sources. Up until now I haven’t been too receptive to his suggestions, but in honor of ‘Always Be Open-Minded’ week, I spent some time looking through a few of the websites he had told me about.

Well, it was certainly an eye-opener! Reading about some of the issues we are facing, from a totally different perspective, made me realize that maybe he had a point, and I have had some blinders on, so wasn’t able to see the whole picture. And even though I can’t go so far as to say those websites are any more right than the mainstream media I usually watch, I will absolutely agree that it’s important to open my mind to some other points of view more often. Especially in this day and age, when there are so many ways of distorting the truth with technology (i.e. digital imaging, Photoshop, etc.), and so many people with their own agendas, I think it’s going to require a certain amount of conscious effort to really understand all sides of an issue. It’s not like in the old days when there was Walter Cronkite and…well, Walter Cronkite. Today there are so many choices about where we get our news that it’s almost paralyzing.

So I realized this week that being open-minded, at least for me, is really about my willingness to acknowledge that there is a possibility of another way of looking at something, whether I agree with it or not.  What can be hard, though, is that in order to acknowledge that possibility, I have to let go of my need to be right, and, unfortunately, my ego sometimes gets in the way of that. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. In his book, “The New Revelations; A Conversation with God”, Neale Donald Walsch has a lot to say about this human tendency to always want to be right. He believes that if we could let go of that need, and open ourselves up to the possibility of some new ways of thinking, then we might actually have a chance of getting ourselves out of the mess that we’re in:

So long as you believe that there is such a thing as Right and Wrong, you will be willing to risk everything to be ‘right’. You will not change your beliefs if you think that doing so will make you, or someone you love, wrong. Yet as soon as you change the Right-Wrong axis to a What Works-What Doesn’t Work paradigm, the difficulty of critically analyzing – to say nothing of changing – basic beliefs is eased.”

Maybe if I could let go of my need to be ‘right’ a little more often, and replace it with a need for ‘what works’ instead, then my ego wouldn’t care as much. And without my ego in the way, maybe I could be open-minded more than 65% of the time.

Then who knows…by opening myself up to other possibilities more often, I might actually end up with something that works even better than what I started with.

And I think that is definitely worth a try.

WEEK 7: Find And Live Your Purpose

“Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” Aristotle

I pretty much just had to laugh when I saw this week’s topic – I guess maybe I should have looked a little more closely at the ‘Official List’ before deciding on the weekly format for my project! The whole idea of finding and living my purpose in the next seven days seemed a tad unrealistic…I mean, after all, it is one of life’s biggest questions – some people spend their whole lives trying to figure it out! How could I, just an ordinary, everyday person, expect to figure it out in a week? Well, I decided, I would at least give it a try, and so I did what I imagined anyone would do when confronted with one of life’s biggest mysteries…I googled it.

Isn’t it amazing how the internet can take a fairly broad question like, “How do I find my life’s purpose?”, and actually narrow down the results to sites that claim they have the answer?  “How to Discover your Life Purpose in about 20 Minutes,” “Life on Purpose: 15 Questions to Discover your Personal Mission,” and “How To Know What Your True Purpose in Life Is”, were just some of the sites I had to choose from. I felt a flicker of hope, though, when I saw these…maybe I could find my life purpose in a week! So I spent some time going to the various websites and testing out their theories, which were, by and large, mostly just a lot of soul-searching questions. But I did end up with a few new insights, so I thought I was off to a pretty good start.

My internet search also led me to a book called, “The Instruction – Living the Life Your Soul Intended,” by a psychic named Ainslie MacLeod. It caught my attention for a couple of reasons…first, because I am fascinated by anything having to do with psychics, and second, because I recently spent a week learning all about ‘intention’ for my project (Week 5: Have the Intention to Raise your Consciousness). So, to find a book about life purpose that combined both of these things – not to mention it was also recommended by Oprah and Dr. Oz – well, let’s just say I couldn’t wait to read it.

The basic premise of the book is that each of us comes into this world with a purpose that our souls have chosen before we are even born. Depending on the age of our soul, and our experiences from past lives, we come into the physical world with certain goals and talents that will, if we use our free will wisely, allow our soul to evolve to the next level. The book is the result of the author’s communication with his ‘spirit guides’, and contains easy to follow ‘instructions’ as to how to tap into our soul’s original plan. MacLeod writes: 

“The Instruction is designed to give those who are open to it an understanding of how the Spiritual Universe works and to help those on the Physical Plane become more connected to their soul’s purpose.”

Well, I was definitely open to it, especially this week, so I decided to give it a try.

What I discovered, after going through the step-by-step process, is that, unfortunately, figuring out a life purpose is just not an exact science. There are no right and wrong answers, so the results I came up with were based more on my intuition than anything else. But still, some of the answers were pretty interesting, and gave me a little more insight as to what my purpose may be. For instance, it seems I am an old soul; on a scale of 1-10, I am a Level 9, so I guess I’ve been around the block a few times! I am a Caregiver soul ‘type’, with a life mission of Change and Healing. My past life fears include Failure and Self Expression, and my soul’s talents include Communication and Healing. And, although I know hindsight can be 20/20, I’m thinking that it’s really too bad I ignored my childhood dream to become a nurse, since Healing seems to be one of my souls’ more prevalent traits!

Anyway, my experience this week has made me realize that the most important thing I can do to understand my life purpose is to listen a lot more closely to what my gut is telling me. Sometimes it’s easy – there have definitely been times in my life when that inner voice has been so strong that nothing in the world could have stopped me from doing what it was telling me to do. For instance, when I was in my mid-twenties I knew, without any doubt whatsoever, that it was time for me to be a mom. It was such a powerful urge, and it came from so deep inside, that there was not much that could have stood in my way – just ask my husband! Similarly, I think that the inspiration for this project may have come from that same place…just a deep inner knowing that this was something important for me to do, no matter what.

Of course, there have been a lot of times in my life when it’s been less clear which path I should take, especially when my inner voice is being drowned out by all of the other voices jabbering away in my head. And whether those other voices come from my ego, or from the expectations I think other people have for me, perhaps I need to try to ignore them a little more often, and listen more closely to what my heart is saying. Sometimes that can be a little scary, especially when my inner voice is telling me to do something that is way out of my comfort zone, but maybe that’s when I should pay the most attention. In his book, ‘The Power of Intention’, Wayne Dyer says:

“Somewhere, buried deep within us, is a call to purpose. It’s not always rational, not always clearly delineated, and sometimes even seemingly absurd, but the knowing is there. There’s a silent something within that intends you to express yourself. That something is your soul telling you to listen…”

I guess that, for me, the bottom line in all of this is that I believe finding happiness is, as Aristotle claimed, my soul’s greatest purpose. Sometimes the path to that happiness is easy, because my inner voice is very clear, and sometimes the path is a little harder to find, because I can’t hear, or I choose to ignore, which way I am supposed to go. So I will just have to trust that, as long as I have the courage to really listen, my soul will tell me everything I need to know to live my purpose, and find the happiness it has always intended for me.