Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Reclaiming Your Power: Victim Identities and Abdication of Your Personal Power

As we wind through this blog series on healing, the next stop takes us to matters of personal power. I've already talked about how to connect to your physical power, intellectual power, and other variants of this topic. When you're imbalanced and don't own your power, this can require a different mindset. Many people have been giving away their power to others throughout their lives. They haven't felt worthy of making a decision, or they didn't want the responsibility of making decisions. So they let someone else do it. Other people have created victim identities that focus on being powerless and use this ego device to manipulate people to get the very power they've given away.

As you can tell, it gets murky around issues of power, but the path to spiritual awakening doesn't leave anything out. You have to take back the power you've given away, and that means there are going to be some bumps in the road.

The Victim Identity and Powerlessness
The victim identity is so common in this culture that it almost is accepted as normal. The ultimate attitude is "Poor me. Why does this always happen to me?" It plays out in words and phrases such as when it rains someone says, "This is just my luck." No. This is the weather. Check a weather report, and take your power back over its vagaries. The weather has nothing to do with your luck. The same goes if you get stuck in traffic, get a last second project at work, or the baby spits up all over your new blouse. It is just part of life. By saying, "This is just my luck," you turn an event into more support for a victim identity, which may be so deeply integrated into who you think you are that this blog may be a little startling to you.

Other victim identities play out over past traumas. For instance, you got beat up in school for wearing a red sweater because that was the color of your cross-town rivals, and now you never wear that color. You may have even forgotten why you don't wear that color. The victim identity is so deep that it's been forgotten and has to be unearthed. Or you had your heart broken, so you never open up to others because you don't want to get hurt again. "Poor me," you say, "I'll never love again." You've given up important power in your relationships. Undoubtedly, it's soured other relationships around you and brought more people with  victim identities to you. It's a chain reaction to give up power; you end up surrounding yourself with powerless people and the occasional abuser/user person who victimizes you further until you stand up for yourself.

Giving Up Power in Decisions to "Better Qualified" People
You don't have to be a victim to be someone who gives up their power. This shows up a lot around intelligence. "Wow. So-and-so is so smart. I'll just listen to her and do what she says." Now, there are plenty of scenarios to listen to other people and do what they say because of their expertise. The HVAC guy can tell me what do with my heater any day of the week, and I'm going to do what he says. That kind of power transference is made cleanly and with awareness. I do withhold the right to ask questions and refuse to do what he wants if I don't feel good about something. But generally speaking, he knows heating, and I trust that.

However, even if the HVAC guy has really got his life together and has some good advice in addition to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, I'm not going to give up my personal power to him to let him make all my life decisions. I know that you're thinking that I'm being really silly, but I encourage you to look at people in whom you've invested authority. Maybe it's a father, mother, husband, wife, boss, or close friend. As on top of their stuff as they may be, they can't be responsible for your life and your power. Listening is important. Taking advice is important. But so is taking responsible action to make things happen in your life. Don't just sit on the sidelines expecting someone else to do it for you or that things will just "come to you." Life does have its grace and things do come to us when we're willing to receive. But for the purpose of reclaiming your power, you HAVE to be the initiator and the owner of your decisions.

Making Mistakes: It's a Down and Dirty Process At Times
Some people come to the spiritual awakening process and the spiritual path looking for the clean, immaculate way out of any situation. "If only I am just good enough...." Well, life is dirty. It's muddy. It's a kick to groin nasty, and when you start standing up for yourself and taking back the power you've given up, you're going to take it in the teeth some times. Because other people don't want to change. Many people don't want to give up the power you gave them. But you are worth it, and you're going to have to find the right way through through fists and fights, sharp words, or leaving unhealthy situations. Usually, violence is a last resort in all of this, and I'm not an advocate of it. But I am leaving space for its authentic use in defense of yourself or a loved one if you're in a really hard situation. Soon after, you most certainly will have to leave such a situation for your own self-preservation.

Rebirth and Renewal of Your Power
Making it through power reclamation is hard work, so I hope you've been developing a spiritual community to give you support and nourishment. However, coming through will renew your own inner fire and your sense of self. This is a rebirth of the "Can Do" attitude, and it helps to rebuild your identity's foundation. The spiritual awakening process is intense, and if you make such a big move, this type of self reclamation can also ignite the awakening. Awakening really has a mind of its own, but oftentimes, it lights up when a large issue is moved or healed. Victim identities and the abdication of power are huge issues that will drain and stifle a person for a lifetime. So if you have the courage to face these issues, you may find a greater reward than you could possibly imagine.

Next blog: Reclaiming Your Power: Tips and Techniques on the Spiritual Path

Monday, November 29, 2010

Opening a Closed Heart

Following up on the blog about broken hearts, I obviously have to turn my attention to all the closed hearts in the world. It's a funny thing that the very thing that makes everyone feel so good--love--is also the thing that many of us shut out. I had a pretty limited heart for a lot of years. Only a very small number of people came within range of my love. My heart had so many qualifications and bear traps before someone could get to me that it was nearly impossible to feel my love. I remember one day in June of 2007 when I was just starting down the spiritual path. I counted out all the people I loved, and I barely got off one hand. A part of me chimed in saying, "Well, that's stupid." I called up a dear friend shortly thereafter and told her that I loved her. And that's when my heart truly began to open.

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But What If I Get Hurt
Okay, on with the regularly scheduled blog post.

The fear of getting hurt tends to be the crux of the problem. At least, it's what most peoples' minds fixate on. In closing your heart, you feel like you've hedged your bet against getting hurt. Well, that's about as bad as stopping breathing. Sure, you won't inhale any smog or pollution, but you're suffocating. Many peoples' hearts are suffocating, dying. It's making people heartless and cruel. Have we seen enough cruelty in the world yet? I sure have. You may not even think of yourself as a cruel person. You think you're being rational and practical. What a load of egoic bologna. That's just a mental pattern that you've adopted to justify why you're afraid to be vulnerable. And when you fire employees without a severance, that's just business. And when you cut someone off in traffic, it's their fault for not taking the open space in the lane. Cruelty starts out smaller than this in neglecting to listen to another or lend a helping hand. You do this because ultimately, you're being negligent to your own heart, and that's the ultimate cruelty itself.

Pain Comes and Goes: The Memory Makes It Linger
If there's anyone to blame for continued pain from a lost love, it's the ego. It has its broken record of particular events that it plays round and round that makes you suffer. That record makes you re-live the events instead of letting them go. So, it's like you're stabbing your heart again and again. In truth, a lot of pain that we feel is much more of our own doing and our own attachments. We fall in love and then we get so attached to the other person that we live and die by what that other person does or does not do. So many ego stories and personal projections play out in a relationship that it is a wonder that people find happiness in the romances playing out these days.

But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't open your heart. Until you start to open your own heart, you'll have a lot of difficulty finding love. In one of the ways where I like the Law of Attraction--which is kind of a spiritual fad these days--the idea behind LOA is that like attracts like; love will attract love. If you're negative all the time, you'll attract other negative people. If your heart is closed, you'll find other closed-hearted people. Then you get to justify yourself and your pain, "God, I only ever date these crazy bitches" or "All the guys I attract are such assholes and jerks." These "unsuitable" paramours are reflections of you and your heart, and it's time to take responsibility for this fact.

Opening Your Heart and the Power of Vulnerability
It is a funny thing how we go through cycles of expansion on the spiritual path. So I've had my heart open up several sizes giving me the strength of ten grinches plus two (It's the holiday season as I am writing this; Go watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas if you want to get the allusion =). I'm back in another heart expansion in my life, and I can still feel the same tremulous vulnerability around it. Yet, I've learned how powerful that vulnerability is. When you are authentically you, you give permission to others to open their hearts and be in a sacred space. Love does a lot of healing between two people when this happens, and it opens doorways to many other things. Some people can find themselves crying or scared when this opens up. So much old karma and pain is getting washed out. Just be with it. Or maybe it's overwhelming because where love was barely a muddy creek running through your heart, now it's a raging torrent. Just be with it. Let it overwhelm and expand your banks, expand your capacity for love.

You will feel horribly out of sorts if you've never been in tune with your heart. And you will want to be careful about who you initially share this with. Your instinct will probably be to share it with everyone. Initially, just let it flow. Your heart has an intelligence all it's own, and you need to learn how to trust it. It's not that you turn off your mind--it's not an improvement to go from being totally in your head to totally in your heart. Balance and ownership of both is important for the integral spiritual awakening path. But for a time, it's not a bad thing to put more of your trust and focus on your heart.

Tips and Techniques for Opening a Closed Heart
To get a little more grounded in my spiritual advice for opening a closed heart, here are a couple things that you can do to get started:
  • Make doing an activity you love a daily practice (writing, jogging, painting, wall climbing, coffee with friends, etc.)
  • Focus on how much you love something about yourself
  • Tell someone that you love them without expecting that love to be returned
  • Share emotional, personal stories with close friends that you haven't shared before
Conversely, healing a closed heart may also involve getting rid of things that do not serve you. Here are some things that you may want to clear out:
  • Stop hurting yourself (Extreme work-outs and anything harmful to the body, mind, heart, or spirit)
  • Stop doing things that make you angry
  • Stop doing stuff that others want you to do, but you don't want to do
A Doorway to Spiritual Awakening
You may find out that you're doing a lot of things that do not serve your heart. This is a doorway to deeper change in your life. For instance, you're saying to yourself, "But my job always makes me angry." The first step would be to see how you're attaching to the situations at work, but if this job doesn't make you happy and isn't what you love, you will likely have to quit it or change it to come to terms with your heart.

I didn't say opening your closed heart would be easy. You've set up a lot of situations around you that perpetuate your current way of thinking and feeling. However, I can't emphasize enough that it's totally worth it. Because as you open your heart, you're going to see your world in a brand new way, and when you start to make changes with your heart, an opportunity for a deeper awakening may now become possible. And as always, this amazing, fulfilling change has been waiting locked away inside you the whole time.

Next blog: Reclaiming Your Power: Victim Identities and Abdication of Your Personal Power

For more on this topic, here's a video you can enjoy:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Entering Your Spiritual Adulthood

One of the terms that I'd like to offer to the world at large is the idea of spiritual adulthood. I think it is an important concept to have and a transition to appreciate as people wake up and subsequently go through the unsettled stage of changing their lives to be in tune with their divinity.

Spiritual Infancy Around the World

Most people are in their spiritual infancy phase. They don't know what spirituality is, and for many people, they don't even care. It's much the same for a child with math, tying shoe laces, or dating. They don't much matter. Children are impulsive and work off basic programming to get what they want. "I want food now." "I want to be warm now."  Adults in their spiritual infancy aren't very much different. They've got a pile of thought structures and life patterns on top of the same immediate gratification triggers. "I want to get laid." "I want to buy that." And so forth. They aren't owning their life in any way, and they can get easily manipulated by others because they have very narrow and self-involved perspectives. They may also manipulate others. They can feel like victims a lot or are always afraid of becoming the victim, which can make them very aggressive. We all know how these cycles work in our lives, and they lead to a lot of pain and suffering, which I talk about more in this spirituality blog post:

Cycles of Pain and Suffering

Waking Up: Spiritual Puberty and All Its Awkwardness

Fortunately, people always have doorways to open and to grow spiritually. These moments are always right here and right now if we know how to look at our lives and the many lessons we naturally attract. In the specific spiritual shift of spiritual awakening, a whole bunch of doorways and life lessons are flooding in. All these issues and old pains that we didn't deal with kept us locked in childhood. Now the growing pains of spiritual maturation have arrived. It's not a fun time period for many of us, although it can be immensely rewarding. Much like in our physical adolescence, everything becomes extremely awkward, and you feel really out of sorts. You kinda know where you're going, but not really. Emotions get really activated. All in all, you don't know who you are anymore.

Sadly, our culture does a terrible job accepting teenagers and the physical maturation they go through much less anything spiritual. We want to ignore them and all the stuff waking up in them. It's a terrible thing because no one really helps teenagers understand the sexual maturation occurring in their bodies (SexEd really doesn't count in my opinion. "Hey everyone. This is a condom. And good luck!"). Subsequently, because it's so ignored or diminished, a lot of the sexual energy can also get stirred up in the overall spiritual awakening that brings us to spiritual adulthood. That's not bad, but it does require a certain level of skillfulness so you don't get lost or overwhelmed in it. The point I'm getting to essentially is that the society doesn't know how to handle this awkwardness that everyone goes through already. Don't expect a lot of external compassion for your shifts. Just go within towards the true love that you are seeking anyway.

Making Space in Society for Spiritual Transition in Adulthood

There is no specific age for when a spiritual shift or transition may come. It arises when it arises. However, I think it's important that society begins to understand, expect, and respect these transitions. Much like when puberty hits, we all understand that there's a process from childhood into sexual adulthood. When people get into their late 20s and early 30s, this can often be one of the first natural doorways into spiritual adulthood. As young men and women finish the physical maturation, new levels of emotional and spiritual maturation may naturally arise.

For a spiritual awakening, people will generally require a sabbatical or extended vacation from the "normal" life of society. What's required of everyone to settle into their spiritual adulthood varies widely. Everyone moves through different issues in different ways, and everyone moves towards a vibration that is appropriate for them. I often like to use plant metaphors to give people an idea of how different we can all be. For instance, the growth and maturation of a rose bush is quite different than a redwood tree, but it's important that this process is embraced regardless of your particular path.

Qualities of a Spiritual Adult

In a stabilized state of awareness, the spiritual adult is much clearer about what is important in life and what is fluff. You don't have to awaken to come into your spiritual adulthood of this lifetime, and since this isn't a term I use too often, I wouldn't even get hung up on this concept. It is merely one way to express the many different levels of awareness we shift through in a concrete way.

Some simple traits to spot in a spiritual adult can include:

  • An ease in offering love and compassion to any situation
  • Greater patience
  • Selflessness
  • Clarity on what is real in life and what is illusion
  • Less inclination to blame others for things
  • More openness in expression and in being who they are

Compassion for Yourself and Others

I hope this spirituality blog post encourages you to have more compassion for yourself and others in times of spiritual transition. I also hope you have compassion for all those who will stay spiritual children their whole lives. This is not a failure or a bad thing. It's just a different soul path. But if you are growing up into a mature spiritual person and different life lessons are arising, I can only encourage you to embrace these growth opportunities and assure you that this too shall pass. Having the sight and wisdom of a spiritual adult will now usher in a new way of living and enjoying the many opportunities of this lifetime.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Face Off Challenge: Taking on the Female Body Image and Social Superficiality

My friend Susan shares her challenge to women to take a look at their true faces and let go of make-up. To join the Face Off challenge on Facebook, click on this link.

Watching Myself, Face-to-Face
I stare into the mirror in my bathroom. The not so flattering light is enhancing every blemish, everything I see as a flaw. I’m holding a worn out make-up brush in one hand and foundation in another. Why is it so disappointing to have the need to cover up who I truly am? I was all too familiar with this topic. After all, I have been battling with severe acne for over 15 years. At that moment I put down the make-up and compassionately looked at myself in the mirror. I stared and just looked.  After I got past examining every blemish I could finally see the real me. I saw a beautiful woman. This is how I came to conclusion to present the “Face OFF Challenge” to every woman.

Why Should I Do This?
This challenge goes beyond promising yourself not to wear any make-up at all for 2 weeks straight starting DECEMBER 12, 2010. It shouldn’t even be presented as a challenge but an opportunity to know yourself on a deeper level. Now you must be thinking that either the lack of make-up isn’t going to change your self image or the mere thought of it gives you a bit of anxiety. The question is how would you really know if you didn’t try? This is an opportunity to see just how healthy your self image is, how closely you watch your ego, how you interact differently in society, as well as notice the physical changes of your skin. This is an opportunity to know your True self and heal the pain/issues that are brought to the surface.

You Make the Rules

I want to cultivate this experience to its fullest potential. The outcome of this experience depends upon the intention you put into it. Since it is your experience, you should have the final say in what the rules should be. I felt it necessary to stop wearing ANY form of makeup (eyeliner, foundation, blush, eyeshadow, concealer, lip color, mascara). If you are a woman that only wears mascara then perhaps you can stop wearing that. On the opposite spectrum, if you can't take out the trash without having your "face" on, then perhaps this is a perfect opportunity to make a drastic change.

In addition, I do not want to make up any excuses to wear makeup. This includes not wearing make-up for any special events, social events, holidays, work meetings, etc. It forces you to be your true self in all situations. Many women, including myself, feel that wearing make-up can give you the extra boost of confidence for a specific event. So far my experience has revealed that I was using make-up as a type of veil, inhibiting others from seeing who I truly am. I also wonder if it is really that important what others think of me. If so, wouldn't that be an indication I don't truly love myself?

There is no particular reason why I chose to keep the contract with myself for 2 weeks. Many studies say it takes 3 weeks to change a behavior. I started the challenge 6 days ago. The first few days were the most challenging for me. I realized Face OFF is more than not wearing make-up on your day off nestled in the privacy of your home. Once the two weeks is up I predict that you may continue the challenge due to the resulting benefits, start wearing considerably less make-up, or decide the timing for the challenge wasn't right, hence causing you to wear the same amount of make-up (if not, more).

The Experience
Every woman's Face OFF experience is going to be different, some more dramatic than others. I can only hope sharing my experience will encourage you and help you know that you are not alone.

Issues and insecurities I didn’t even know I had immediately began to surface. They were mainly associated with my acne. Looking at myself in the mirror forced me to embrace the impermanence of age. Our form is always changing.

When interacting with others I could only question myself if the other person was judging my acne and therefore judging who I was as a person. Society has conditioned women to have this initial reaction. Society has a completely different viewpoint on make-up. The general population says if you wear make-up, then it shows you care about your appearance. If not, then you don't have self confidence. This theory can be compared to the "you are what you wear" concept as in preparing for a job interview. In the past I felt more comfortable not wearing make-up around close friends/family but not others. I realized I was looking to an outside source to make me feel accepted in society rather than realizing I already had acceptance/happiness within myself.

The opportunity also forced me to actively make a change in improving the health of my skin. By focusing my intention on improving my skin, small but incredibly meaningful events started to occur.  I was standing in aisle and staring for 5 minutes at all the natural skin products at the Food Co-op in Pittsburgh. Just as frustration started to set in, another customer started to chat with me. She shared her story about her acne experience and then proceeded to tell me about the natural regimens she used. Our acne histories were uncommonly similar. I immediately realized this was a blessing from God. The thirty minute conversation with this incredible woman was undoubtedly a blessing from God. That day I began an all natural regimen for the first time which consisted of cleansing with a mild all natural soap (oatmeal, clay, or aloe) followed by applying hand-squeezed lemon juice with a cotton ball. I also started applying all natural Indian clay once a week.

I can already notice improvements in my skin. As each day passes I am becoming increasingly aware of how I interact with others, being evermore in the present moment. I keep a close watch on my ego. Just being aware of how I am feeling and letting the emotions flow through me helps tremendously. This amazing opportunity has helped me realize that I don’t need make-up to help me feel beautiful. Every day I am learning that I am perfect in all of my imperfections.

Susan started to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Creator four years ago when she was introduced to the works of Eckhart Tolle's, "The Power of Now" by Jim Tolles. Her life has been transformed in countless ways since then.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Healing a Broken Heart

healing, healing a broken heart, spiritual healing, spiritual awakening
The path of spiritual healing is a powerful one, and in few places is healing so sorely needed as in the realm of our hearts.

It's a sad truth that many people live their lives feeling broken-hearted after some major event with a significant other or close relationship. But you can't open fully into spiritual awakening without your heart. So for this spirituality blog post, we turn our attention to all those broken hearts and the spiritual tools that can help them mend.

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Forgiveness and Letting Go

In many ways, the reason that your heart continues to feel broken and so very tender is that you're holding on to the experience. In your mind, you are replaying the events that transpired and repeatedly breaking your own heart. It is important to feel through and accept what has happened. But the next step after that is learning to forgive and let go.

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools on the spiritual path. It can transform your life. And you need to forgive the person who broke your heart. Many people don't even really understand how their actions affect others, so letting them know how you felt can potentially be healing for them too. If this person did it intentionally, then let them now carry the full burden of that crime and broken trust. Forgive them. Let them go, and your part of the relationship can complete and heal.

A Spiritual Blog Post About Forgiveness

Facing Yourself and Your Complicity in Breaking Your Heart

A lot of times, forgiving someone else is actually the easy part. The harder part can be forgiving ourselves. Some of you may be saying, "What did I do?" But you know. You let it happen, and a part of you hasn't forgiven yourself for letting it happen, not seeing it coming, not preparing, and for half a dozen other things that the mind thinks it can predict but actually cannot. Your heart was broken. An event happened. You did the best you could at the time with the tools that you had. It's now time to forgive yourself.

Breaking Your Heart Again and Again

It gets worse. You had the event, and then you replayed it over and over in your mind. You turned it into a thought pattern. You replayed the whole set of scenarios over and over. You told it to your mother, your brothers, close friends, and everyone else who'd listen to try and find a mental way out of it. But at night when you'd close your eyes, the mental movie was still playing. In this way, you continued to break your own heart again and again. What was probably a relatively short time period in your life got a long, long extension. So along with forgiving yourself in the moment, you need to forgive yourself for all the moments that you replayed and mentally re-lived the pain. Because each time you did, you shrunk a little more. You closed off your heart from others a little bit further until your heart started to have almost nothing left to give to anyone lest yourself.

Giving Your Love Away

The idea of giving your love away is sitting down at the root of the problem. You can't give your love away. Not like people have been thinking, anyway. There's a wonderful story in Don Miguel Ruiz's The Mastery of Love. In this story, a man finds a beautiful jewel that descends from the sky. It's so perfect and pure that he has to go show his love this jewel. He finds her and gives it to her, whereupon she drops it. The jewel shatters.

In this story, we have the allegory of giving love away. Initially, we all want to blame the woman for breaking the jewel, breaking his love (you can switch the roles and have the man drop the jewel just as easily). But the problem that Ruiz points out is this issue of giving love away. When we try and make someone else responsible for our happiness and love, we give up our accountability to our hearts. We make ourselves dependent on someone else, and if they have a bad day, then we're angry that they aren't giving us what we need. And if they drop the jewel and break our love, then we're angry at them for hurting us. But you can never expect someone else to make you happy and fill you with love. That love is always within you. You have to learn to own it.

The Healing Power of Owning Your Love

When your loves, partners, and external experiences are no longer necessary for your love, you have started to free and awaken your heart. The bondage and the pain of the heart in this world come from placing this love in other things and people. Take back your heart. Own all the pain and feelings there, and then let them wash away. You can shine your love in fullness on others, but do not give it away or expect it to be returned. When you begin to take actions and do things that align with your heart and what you love, your world starts to shift. People will be drawn to you who can reflect you in this higher way, although it will take some work at first. You probably haven't been resonating at this level before and have attracted other people with broken hearts and victim stories around you. Don't worry. The best way to heal is often letting go, and in letting go, you may find that the people around you will have more permission to heal as well.

Clearing Heart Wounds

As you own what you love and what nourishes you, you'll begin to have more energy to clear the wounds in your heart. If you have to confront someone who hurt you, then your heart will guide you to do that. Learning to love yourself is a big piece in healing a broken heart. It rebuilds your foundation in your heart, shifting it from an outward focus to an inward focus. Keep in mind that this is authentic self-love. This is about total acceptance of you in this moment. It's not about saying how great you are. That's the ego trying to create love, and it doesn't work. You are already great and amazing in this moment. As you come to appreciate that, you'll also see very clearly what darkness and things that don't serve you are in your life. You will need to fix them.

There are a lot of wounded hearts in this world. It is time to let go of the pain. It's the only way we can stop perpetuating cycles of pain, hurting ourselves and others. In doing so, you clear the way for more love to enter your heart and to fill your life and all those dear to you.

Next blog: Opening a Closed Heart 

For some more thoughts on healing a broken heart, you can watch this video:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stopping Your Constant Chatter: Time to Face the Silence

One last blog about the voice before we head down into the heart. Broken hearts and closed hearts alike will want to tune in to what's coming. But before we get there, it's time to stop talking. Yes, this blog is aimed at the incessant chatterbox. Constantly talking and chatting, you are saying virtually nothing most of the time and wearing out the patience of a lot of people. They do probably like you, but you need to take a breath. You might also need to learn how to listen. Let's talk through what this chronic chattering condition may actually be about.

Fear of Silence, Fear of Being Alone
Constant talking is very rarely about having something worthwhile to say. It's usually a reaction, a fear, or a need. If someone never feels heard, they may often talk a lot in an effort to feel heard and to get some reflection back that feels validating. In my own life, some people who are more stoic suddenly turn into chatterboxes because they sense that someone can finally hear and validate them. This actually is healthy and will subside as the person feels nourished in connection. However, for people chronically talking in just about any situation, it's more likely that they're really afraid of something...most likely, themselves.

Avoiding Your Inner Critic
For many people, their inner critic is out of control. One way to feel like you're getting away from the inner critic is constantly talking. In these instances, you are always on the phone or with someone. You may even talk outloud to yourself. You are so afraid to listen to your own internal dialogue that you bury yourself in external dialogue. And it very likely is taxing to others. You may find yourself running out of people who will listen to you after awhile, and this may be very frustrating. You're thinking, "Why won't anyone listen to me?" But then again, you won't even listen to you, so why would you expect to create a relationship dynamic that doesn't reflect what's going on in you? So much of our external lives are reflections of what's going on inside, and that's why it's so important to pause, to stop, and to start to listen to what's happening inside.

Disconnection, Isolation, Loneliness
Constant talk can also be a way to avoid feeling alone. So many people feel isolated and cut off from others and from themselves. Talking a lot can make it feel like you're not alone. You can avoid the silence, the oppressive silence. Silence is a powerful thing if you aren't used to it. You can't hide from yourself. If you've been disconnected from yourself, the heaviness of your loneliness will press in on you. If you've been avoiding parts of your life, now they surface in your stream of consciousness right where you have to look at it. The good news is that because you've stopped talking and started listening, help can now come.

Meeting Yourself for the First Time
If you've spent most of your life constantly talking and engaged in discourse, silence is a revelation in and of itself. You will get to meet yourself, possibly for the first time in your life. Congratulations. Some people never do. This is a big deal. For you, you're going to start to become present to the dialogue and chatter that is going on in your head. You may be a little freaked out. I already talked about some tools to stop the mental chatter, and meditation and silence will be one of the most important. Practicing listening to yourself and others is also really important. It helps you cultivate the space of the witness and help you to get out of the inner as well as external banter. It helps you gain your perspective and build equanimity within you. This equanimity becomes a powerful tool in all the stressful and charged situations that arise in life, but you can't develop that until you engage with yourself and stop talking.

Clearing and Healing the Voice
The voice creates an energy field about it. It sets thoughts and intentions into the world--an important next step in manifesting realities in life. What have you been manifesting with your voice? Have you been manifesting kindness and happiness and abundance? Or have you been complaining and bemoaning that life isn't giving you what you want, the guy down the street is a dick, and you can't find any good dates? It's kinda shocking when you look at what's been coming out of your mouth. Heck, I feel like I'm zinging myself on some stuff that I do even as I write these questions. Crap. See, I'm right in it with you too.

And we all really are in this whole thing together. I don't have anything that you don't. I know that these blogs sound pretty transcendent or at least moderately conscious and kind, but I struggle with different things as I grow and embody this deeper awareness into me. I've learned a TON about the voice, and still there is more for me to hold in greater integrity. So if you feel like you've got a lot of work, you're not alone, and I'd love to hear any challenges that you face in the comments section if you feel moved to offer.

Next blog: Healing a Broken Heart

Monday, November 22, 2010

Abuse of the Voice and Healing on the Spiritual Path

The healing modality isn't just for victims, but also for perpetrators. In a very real way, a perpetrator of a harmful act against another is also a victim. There's a kind of perverse union that happens in any kind of unconscious act that binds two people together and hurts them both. To yell at someone in order to humiliate them is hurtful to both people. Ultimately, that yelling is a deep, deep unconsciousness that's trying to be heard and find healing, but the person doing so probably has no idea that this is the case. It is part of a cycle of pain that gets passed on from one person to the other. In healing ourselves, we are breaking a cycle of pain.

Abuse of the Voice: Why Are You Yelling?
Yelling is a great example of the abuse of the voice although not the only one. It's like sending an energetic shockwave into another person's body as well as anybody else near by. It's extremely uncomfortable for most people unless they've been conditioned to have to sustain it. Recruits in the armed forces are conditioned to sustain such abuse; it's an overall process of building barriers for self-protection, which is necessary if you are going to be a modern day warrior. I won't say that everything that happens in the military is good by any measure, but there is an important role for the archetypes of the "protector" and the "warrior" that need to be honored in this society.

Nonetheless, no one likes to be yelled at, and people can get activated by someone just yelling in general. The voice is a very, very powerful projector of energy. I certainly know about it's power since this blog and my talking are extremely persuasive to people. There's a lot of responsibility around having a strong voice, and I am very conscious in how I use it, although I'm certainly not perfect.

Abuses of the Voice Continued
Aside from people who like to scream at others, in general, or even at themselves, there are lots of ways to abuse the voice (the 5th chakra, if you will).

  • Lies
  • Gossip (You're perpetuating stories that may or may not be true for the self-gratification of knowing a secret)
  • Misleading others
  • Humiliating others
  • Manipulating others
There are plenty more in there. I think Adolf Hitler is an amazing example of someone who grossly abused the power of his voice. If you remember, he was an exemplary orator. He was able to galvanize many Germans (although certainly not all--he was elected on barely a third of the vote). His actions led to huge destruction and death, so if you ever think that the voice is inconsequential, I'd point to that as an example of why owning your voice and knowing what Truth is are so critical.

Acknowledging Your History of Abuse
It's like many self-help groups say, first you have to admit that you have a problem. This blog post isn't meant to make you feel guilty, although that feeling may have come up for you. That's okay. You will want to explore that guilt and where it's coming from. Your ego will want to rush in and justify yourself--it thinks it's protecting you. It's not. Let the justifications fall away. Just let them go and sit with this understanding of where you've abused your voice and inflicted your thoughts on others. It's uncomfortable. I know. But you need to get used to discomfort in the path of healing. The path of healing takes you through pain. The path of avoidance leaves you stuck in pain and cycles of avoidance for your whole life. It is, as always, up to you how you choose to go on, but personally, I recommend healing because there is hope on that path.

Breaking the Cycle of Abuse
I can't say enough about how important it is to break cycles of pain. You may have lived in a family where everyone yells at one another. It's how you were raised. You may even be saying, "This is who I am." It's not. It's really not at all. You make a choice. You choose to yell or manipulate or humiliate with your voice. You have to own that choice and stop deluding yourself with this garbage about, "This is who I am." You probably don't even know who you are. You probably accepted how you were supposed to act based on your parents, family, close friends, and other early childhood situations. You probably haven't moved much out of your personal development since you were a teenager. You have questioned nothing and lost everything.

But it is not out of reach to heal. It is not out of reach to break a cycle of pain perpetuated by your family. You can choose not to yell. You can choose to rephrase your words when you're upset. You can choose to be nonchalant in the face of someone in your family yelling at you. It won't be easy. Your ego is programmed to act a certain way, and you've been doing things a certain way for years. So, you'll feel frustrated. You'll feel hurt and abused, and it may be that you suddenly realize that you can't be in the same situations that you've been in. Changes in your life are coming if you've been abusing your voice, and there may also be some penance required for those whom you have hurt. You may not realize it, but sometimes the three biggest words to the path to healing and forgiveness will be "I am sorry."

Gossips and Those Who Hold Secrets As Power Over Others
I went after one aspect of an abuse of voice that is often very much associated with men, although it certainly doesn't exclude women. But let's keep going and get after something that is stereotypically in women's domain: gossiping. "Oh no," you're saying, "That doesn't hurt anyone." Of course, it does. We're all interconnected. The stories we tell to ourselves and others have immense power. Gossiping is the mischievous process of gathering secrets about others and perpetuating them. It creates an energy field around them, and people respond to others based on that field. "Oh I heard she's a slut. I don't want to help her."

All these lies probably aren't true. So you can often be needlessly defaming other people for your own enjoyment. All this talking behind hands and so forth makes me sick. In many respects, I think it's a way for someone to distract themselves from the misery of their own life by focusing on the misery, excitement, or lurid details of someone else's life. Lord knows we have a whole news-gossip-entertainment media that perpetuates this awful abuse of the voice. And then everyone wonders why so many stars go a little crazy from the constant energetic garbage swirling around about them.

Your desire for secrets and such news should be investigated. Why do you need this? Why does this interest you? Trace it back into you. It's obviously filling some kind of need, and you now need to find out what that hole in you is. That's what healing is; it's finding the empty, dark spaces in you that you've been avoiding. Instead of saying "Hey, look at what Lindsay Lohan just did?" it's time to say, "What did I just do?" Did you not treat someone kindly? Do you not like your husband? What are you afraid of that you have to escape into other people's lives or abuse their reputations?

Unlearning Bad Habits and Cultivating New Ones
Owning your voice will require you to unlearn so many bad habits. You'll also have to start being in different social circles. Many social circles come together because they share similar issues. A circle of women gossiping all the time will not be okay for you as you heal. You may not necessarily lose them as friends, but you will need to find other friends who support you in the healing of your voice. You will now need to be mindful of all the words that you say and how you say them. It may be very dramatic and overwhelming. Just remember, it's all small steps. Just a few words at a time.

If you are sincere in your interests on the spiritual path, you have to know how to speak your truth. But to get there means you have to stop with lies and any kind of abuse. The healing tools and communities are out there for you if you are ready to reach out. If you do, you may soon find a brand new and amazing voice emerging from inside you.

Next blog: Stopping Your Constant Chatter: Time to Face the Silence

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Finding Your Lost Voice

This spirituality blog post is directed towards those who lost their voice or whose voice is really underdeveloped. For you, talking to others or speaking in front of people is very intimidating. It may be so bad that you find yourself a mute in certain situations. If it's underdeveloped, a lot of the practice will be needed to find your comfort and to work out the issues that are constricting your vocal (and probably even written) expression. You don't need to worry about talking about spirituality specifically. You simply need to practice talking.

When Your Voice Shutdown
For those dealing with wounds to their voice and their abilities to express themselves, you need to go back in time to when you felt like you still had your voice. This may be a little tricky because the voice can get squashed at an early age for some people. You may be feeling like you don't remember ever having a voice. But even if you feel like you have to imagine being a baby when you could scream, wail, babble, giggle, and everything else, there is almost certainly a time when you had a strong voice. Then something happened.

In all likelihood, you probably absorbed someone else's voice issue. If someone had been abusing their voice around you or towards you, you may have shutdown to protect yourself. People who yell and scream at others feel like they themselves have no voice. They are trying to be heard and recognized, but obviously, this isn't being done deftly. It most likely is meeting with resistance or silence from their audience, and this may confuse the person more. They may think that they're just expressing themselves, but they aren't mindful at all of how they are doing it or how they are influencing others. One of the big things about retrieving your voice will require you to be mindful in how you bring it back. Otherwise you may perpetuate a similar cycle.

What You Have to Say Is Important
Part of a damaged voice often comes through a lack of self worth. You feel like you don't have anything worthwhile to say. That's just not true. You have many beautiful things to say, and you should offer them to the world and to others. Even if what you are saying is known to others, the value is in the practice of speaking, and for many friends and family, they genuinely do want to hear your expression. I may not be saying anything new about climate change or spirituality, but my friends genuinely want to hear my expression because they love me. Not talking doesn't give my friends space to appreciate my voice, and it also diminishes the relationships.

No One Is Listening: The Importance of Spiritual Community Strikes Again
Well, you don't have to talk to friends in a spiritual community at this point, although it helps. Any community that actively encourages you to talk and make mistakes without judgment is a helpful one. You could join a toastmasters group or sign up for a public speaking class. I am sure both will scare the fear right out of your vocal cords...eventually. The point is to be around a community that actively listens to you. Active listening is incredibly nourishing and encouraging. Active listening reflects the energy that you project from your voice. It creates a stronger bond that supports you. This type of community support further helps your healing and can allow you to own your voice more quickly and easily.

Your Voice and Intimacy
There are a wide variety of issues that can affect your voice. You may lose it in specific situations where an issue is activated in you. Perhaps you aren't comfortable with your sexuality, so when you're getting close to physical intimacy, it shuts down. Perhaps you aren't comfortable with your heart, so when you're getting close to being in love, you can't talk to your partner. Whenever it shuts down, you have been given a clue as to what the underlying issue is, and you can use that clue to go back in your memories to find a time when that issue first ignited. Perhaps you were about to tell your very first boyfriend/girlfriend that you loved him or her, but that was the day that person broke up with you. So now, your voice immediately shuts off when you get close to someone still expecting to be hurt right at the edge of that space of connection. Bring your awareness to this issue, and then with your next partner, you can start talking about this beforehand. A loving partner actively listening to you can be immensely healing, and they can offer encouragement by understanding the issue at hand.

Voice Robbing and Traumatic Events
There are plenty of other really nasty things that happen to people that cause them to lose their voices. A violent crime coupled with intense shame can leave many people unable to explain what happened to them. In serious situations like that, you may have to find the perpetrator (in a safe space) to confront them and take back your voice. This would have to be done with a lot of support and preparation. If it's not possible to do it with a perpetrator in a safe way, you may seek out others to set up the situation and allow you to relive it. This time you are able to use your voice. This is an intense thing to do, and you'll need a very safe space with very strong people to be with you to relive a trauma. This is also assuming that talking about the situation hasn't brought healing to you along the way. Talking in safe spaces is always the first part for finding your lost voice. You can even begin by talking to yourself at home. You  may feel crazy, but you aren't. You're just learning to be with your voice and to take back what is yours.

Experiencing Your Voice Again for the First Time
Healing your voice is a powerful thing. It will shift the relationships around you. Where some people have been used to doing all the talking, they'll have to learn to give space to your voice. True loving friends will do so, although they may be surprised that you have so much to say. It's okay. Stick with it. It really is all right to express yourself because if you don't, who else could possibly speak for you?

Next blog: Abuse of the Voice and Healing on the Spiritual Path

Friday, November 19, 2010

Patience and the Path to Spiritual Awakening

I had a friend ask me to write about patience, so here goes. I honestly can't see how patience isn't important in just about any aspect of life, spiritual or not. Of course, if you've been following along with these posts, then you know that I don't believe there is an aspect of life that's not spiritual--even the depraved horrible parts have their seeds of awakening locked within. Regardless, patience is important. It arises from an acceptance of the present moment, and in that space, you no longer feel like you're waiting or anticipating.

Impatience and the Present Moment
In Western Society, we are fraught with impatience. We are always trying to get somewhere, and then we want to get somewhere sooner. One of my fellow spiritual bloggers wrote about "Instant Gratification" in a recent post that gives a great example of how impatient everyone is at a grocery check-out line. Other examples that come to mind for me include: My email isn't fast enough. Traffic is going too slowly. When will my date show up? Why isn't this meeting over already? And so on, and so on, and so on. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself what this impatience is? Do so now. Why is this present moment not okay?

Impatience is a statement from yourself to yourself that this isn't the present moment that you want. You want to be in a different situation because you think it'll make you feel happier, safer, and other feelings that you've assigned as positive. Chronic impatience can make you feel nervous and edgy. You always feel like you need to do something soon, but that moment hasn't come yet. You are elevating your heart rate and blood pressure. With lots of impatience, you may be creating internal conditions such as chronic fatigue, hypertension, and plenty of other nasty little body-manifestations of your upset mind.

Developing Patience in Life and the Spiritual Path
I'd love a magic spell for patience. I'd take two. But there isn't. You just gotta keep coming back to the present moment. Bring your focus back to now. Focusing "over there" will lead to more impatience. So long as the path you are on is building a road to "over there," eventually you'll get there, wherever it is you are going.

For people focused on the spiritual path, you will learn that the unfolding of life has a lot of rhythms, forces, and energies that are far greater than your own. It's a humbling path, and one in which your little you, your little ego, that wants what it wants will begin to see that there's a much bigger picture out there than what's going on for you. So if you haven't gotten to enlightenment (and good luck "trying" to "get" enlightenment), then perhaps there's something you're not ready for or is not in alignment with energies that you're currently in.

There are a lot of people who don't have the spiritual support to embody the awakened space, and if they somehow were able to push into it, then they'd do one of those fast expansions and horrible painful contractions. What happens is the person gets hit with all the beauty in themselves followed by a huge realization of all the things they have to change and heal in themselves. Without a strong framework for understanding, teacher, and community, many people simply freak out (contract back to their lowest natural energy state, also where their biggest issues are that are holding them back).

Unaddressed Issues and Restlessness
In a slightly more benign way, impatience may be a subtle urging that you're supposed to be doing something that you're resisting. This may turn into restlessness and appear less as impatience, but some of the elements may be the same. Patience combined with informed action is important here. You need to address what you've been avoiding (and you probably know exactly what it is; you just don't like it). But you need to do it with diligence and patience so that the actions can come to fruition. Rushing to get it over with will likely make a bigger mess, and you can potentially rush by solutions and opportunities along the way.

Time to Integrate
For those who are actively awakening, you are probably moving back and forth between awakened moments and healing old issues. This is very normal. This is the spiritual awakening process. While spiritual awakening is a time-free event, most people don't wake up entirely and easily flow into a brand new life. Too much karma and too many issues are lodged in us. That doesn't mean that it's impossible to just wake up, but I see so much ignorance around spiritual awakening that I am writing about it as a process to address the continuum of wake up and then backslide that so many of us do (myself included).

Along the way, our bodies, hearts, and minds need time to integrate the lessons we learn and heal the newly cleared wounds. Patience is needed. At times, you won't have much energy. You need to rest and find space to nurture yourself however you see fit (lately for me, it's anything to do with water; I spent part of an afternoon in a hot tub yesterday). Allow the intelligence of your whole system--not just your mind--the time to learn what needs to be learned and the time to unlearn that which does not serve you. Patience is key. And it's always right in this present moment and nowhere else.

Psychic Healing: Energy Awareness, Boundaries, Past Lives, and More

The psychic/subtle energy world is perhaps the stickiest place to work. Psychic phenomena has been pushed off into the realms of superstition and witchcraft to many, and the rational mind has all but outlawed discussion of psychic realities from the conversations of common sense. That hasn't been all wrong. So much of the psychic world has been wrapped up in five layers of superstition that the truth of the situation has been obscured. Plus, some of the people acting as psychics have been charlatans, and others still haven't actually done the spiritual work to be clear channels, meaning that their messages got mixed up and confused.

However, psychic abilities are very real. We all have them to varying degrees. Psychic abilities are like physical abilities; the more you use a muscle group, the stronger it gets. And some people have more natural ability than others. I can play a lot of basketball, but I can't play it like Shaquille O'Neal. With that said, many naturally open psychics have a myriad of problems that need to be healed to build a safe container for a spiritual awakening.

Some Common Psychic Abilities That You May Have
Being psychic doesn't mean having a crystal ball and reading tarot cards. In some cases, it can. But our psychic abilities are much broader than that and show up every day.
  • Intuition. Intuition to me is essentially a psychic knowing. You are tapped into the energy around you and are able to understand those energies naturally. Thus, you can sense when something is about to go wrong. You know who is calling on the phone without looking. The more you practice it. The stronger it gets.
  • External guidance and guardian angels. There are all kinds of energy beings that can come to help (or hurt) us. Obviously, my focus is on the helpful ones and clearing out any hurtful or controlling spirits. Learning how and when to engage with them and stay grounded in the physical world is critically important.
  • Channeling. You can channel energy or information from other planes of existence.
  • Energy healing. Your natural psychic ability here involves understanding people's energy as well as your own. You can sense how to shift or heal things naturally. This can be a piece of a broader energy awareness that allows you to see where healing is needed on a micro (working with an individual) or macro level (working with world energy). You may also naturally see auras.
  • Foresight. To me, foresight is advanced intuition. The more you practice your intuition, the more you can get senses of bigger movements in your world and where things are headed. It can also manifest in dreams or visions.
  • Telepathy. Some people can know what others are thinking. Some can know what they are feeling (which to me is slightly different than knowing thoughts). The closer you are to someone in your connection, the easier this can be. In small ways, this has shown up in my family for years and with different lovers and close friends, although it's been more in the realm of a feeling than in specifically knowing what they are thinking for me.
  • Astral project/out of body experience. Because I have relatives who've had these experiences without trying, I think it's really important to mention this one. Finding yourself outside of your body can be quite unsettling if you've never been around others who know what this is and how to be with it.
There are plenty more. If I left out one you have, you can contact me to talk about it. The point is that there are a variety of psychic abilities that we all have and can grow into.

Healing Psychic Issues, Wounds, and Blockages
The biggest first step is acknowledging your psychic awareness. You're not crazy. This is a recording. I will continue to repeat this over and over through these blog posts. You're not crazy. A world that decimates its environment, hoards money needlessly, kills for profit, rapes, murders, and so forth: that's crazy. I hope that offers a better perspective on where the real crazies lie in life.

The best thing you can do initially is to find a psychic community to talk with or to start writing down your experiences with as little judgment as possible. Once again, the beauty of a journal is that no one has to see it. So you don't have to judge anything you write, and you can say the wildest things you feel like saying. The wound that's being healed in this scenario is the mind. The mind has blocked out these gifts, quarantined them, or otherwise held them hostage. It's like cutting off your arm if you're a very gifted psychic. A part of you just went dead. Well, it's time to revive it.

Learning to Believe in Your Psychic Gifts
As you work through your mental block, you need to practice believing in and having faith in your gifts. If you know who is calling on the phone, stop fighting that. Don't judge it. Just allow the thought to surface, and then see who it is. This is a way to start using a balanced faith or confirmed faith. You will start to find the true psychic connection and not the mental chatter that says, "Well, I think it's my cousin Debbie calling." Your awareness will just say, "It's Debbie." It'll be very clear.

Common Psychic Issues and Psychic Power Abuse
I've been writing about very benign psychic issues. Some of you may have gotten into trouble with your gifts. You may have gotten into strange cults because it's the only place you could find acceptance. You could have gotten into games to prove your powers or to get what you want. All of this must stop. Your talents are locked up with ego, and the pain of that path is immense. Your psychic talents are here to help you and others, not to control or manipulate. This is a very serious thing, and you can do some serious damage to your energy on this plane of awareness if you continue to abuse your psychic abilities.

Common psychic issues:
  1. I don't feel like I'm in my body.
  2. I feel everyone's energy in my body.
  3. I feel attacked by others' energies.
  4. I have nighttime visitations from other beings.
  5. I feel like I'm having other people's dreams and nightmares.
  6. I feel sick all the time.
The list can go on for awhile. The biggest things that I teach involve boundaries, grounding, and connection to the divine universe. I use creative visualization as my primary mode of working through a lot of these issues.

Healing Psychic Boundaries and Grounding Issues
I could really talk for some time about a lot of these, but to start simply, boundaries and grounding are essential for very open psychics. Now, I don't believe a psychic awareness is the same thing as a spiritual awareness. An awakened spiritual awareness can open up psychic abilities for many people, and it aligns psychic awareness with the divine plan. Without an alignment, psychic awareness is just another car driving around on auto-pilot on whatever road is present: good, bad or indifferent.

Finding ways to ground yourself are important. Exercise, good eating, and visualizing your connection with the Earth are helpful. You can imagine yourself growing roots down into the Earth if you like. Whatever image works for you, you should do it.

Then, you need to work on a creative visualization to protect yourself. You need to start working through what psychic abilities you feel ready and able to handle. Put intentions to grow those slowly and carefully. Meanwhile, you should come up with some visualized bubble, shield, forcefield, or whatever to wrap around your energy body. I do this pretty much on a daily basis to shield out the random energies flying about in the world from angry words from a motorist to someone upset with me.

Settling Into Your Psychic Awareness
As you find some comfort with your abilities, more stuff will come up. Past lives may come up. Old connections in this life may come up. You'll begin to see where things need to heal or be cut loose. I recommend finding a psychic teacher to help if you find really dark issues still clinging to you. Help can be very important with major psychic issues.

As you go along, you'll also be carrying more responsibility for using your awareness with integrity and love. These gifts are meant to help and to heal. Never take that for granted. As you earn this responsibility, you'll also be amazed at what can open up for you in the levels of awareness and connections with yourself and others. It isn't a scary world necessarily, but it is one that must be approached with a great deal of delicacy and caution if you are just starting out.

Next blog: Finding Your Lost Voice

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Over-Thinking and Over-Analyzing: Healing the Frenetic Mind

I've already outlined a number of different common mental conditions that must be healed before much of awakening and divine connection can take place. My tact in previous blogs was to look at the different pieces and personas that the mind can split itself into amidst its endless chatter and activity. For this blog, I'm attacking this topic from the perspective of a more unified persona that is constantly thinking. This persona may not be self-critical in the way that I've described in previous blogs. This persona simply is continually thinking and planning as well as possibly criticizing others. It can be an extraordinarily effective persona in the world of business, but much of what it does is aimed at deflecting its own thought away from itself. In this way, it stays perpetually busy and avoids other repressed thoughts and unmet psyche.

Your Mind Is NOT You
If I haven't said this before, it's certainly important to say it now. You are NOT your mind. In the West, this is a revelation. If you haven't heard it before, you may not even understand what I'm talking about. In our minds, we create elaborate personas and identify with them. These personas are built up of selective feelings, memories, and thought patterns. Most of us have one dominate persona. I call mine, "Jim." This can be a useful thing. It helps me get around in the world and generally live what feels right to me. I am, however, not "Jim." The deeper truer self is beyond my selective feelings, memories, and thought patterns. It encompasses all of that and so much more. I say selective because we don't remember everything in our lives. We pick and choose, depending on our ego and the identity we're crafting. I'm actively focused on spirituality, so I'm crafting a spiritual ego (which I don't see as a contradiction). I focus my thoughts in that way, but I'm much bigger than a term like "spiritual." So are you.

Healing the Mind
When the revelation that you are not your mind sinks in one day, everything will change. Things will fall apart, and you may now have a chance to heal. You don't give up the mind, and you don't destroy the ego. Instead, you make a new contract. You are now running the show. Could you imagine what it'd be like if you let your computer make all the decisions for you? You'd never get any new programs and would constantly cycle through the old ones. Our minds are programs that know what they know. By itself, it will not evolve, but when you blend your connection to the universe with the mind, things start to open up. Epiphanies and revelations are the manifestations of divine knowledge. They come when your mind lets go. I can't think of any time when I'm thinking really hard about a problem that I ever come up with something half as good as when I let go of the problem and walk away. Soon enough, the inspiration comes. Where does that inspiration come from? I definitely have my answer, but perhaps you should explore this question in a journal or with a friend to discover for yourself.

Symptoms of a Mind Blocking Divine Knowledge and Self Knowledge
The more awareness trying to manifest and the more repressed you are, the worse off your head is going to feel. It's going to feel like it's going to explode. You may start to feel really crazy, and subsequently, you may try to turn up the volume in your life even louder. But no matter how many crazy parties, rock concerts, and exercise routines you bury yourself in to try and get relief, you can't get away from yourself. You may even manifest physical symptoms such as:

  • Chronically stuffed up head (non-allergy related)
  • Headaches ranging from mild to severe migraines
  • Wild dreams or nightmares

Your body and your psyche are trying to get your attention. So long as these aren't attributable to other things (if you're allergic to your home, for instance), then you've got an energy issue at work. You're going to be debilitated by yourself because whatever is trying to talk to you is super important. You probably should start listening.

Over-Thinking: Just an Old-Fashioned Avoidance Mechanism
In your life, you probably don't have to make half as many decisions as you think you do. The mind has been placed into such a high level of importance that it kinda thinks it needs to be on all the time. Things like schools and colleges turn students into mental juggernauts. I know it certainly amped up my abilities, as if that needed to happen.

Start to let go of that need to decide, do, or discern. Give yourself more space to allow things to come up. Daydream. Daydream, but not too much. This is an invitation to your imagination to wake up a little. It can break the vice grip of the rational mind and start to relax the mind. With that relaxation, other things may begin to surface. It could take a little time, and as things suddenly pop up, write them down. If you're having very active dreams, keep a dream journal to see what themes are revealing themselves to you.

Over-thinking is essentially a defense mechanism and a pattern that you've reinforced for years. Start to let that go. Your life will probably not fall apart because of that. There are many points where the spiritual awakening process will tear your life apart because you see all the things that must change. But at this juncture, letting go of decisions, judgments, and planning can give you a little more peace of mind and hopefully, one less headache.

Next blog: Psychic Healing: Energy Awareness, Boundaries, Past Lives, and More

Today's picture comes from Becky Stiller. You can see more of her beautiful photos on this Flickr link.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Problems With Blind Faith

Faith, Spirituality, Spiritual Awakening
I think that few people would argue that blind faith is good faith. In many ways, it really is its own kind of superstition. Where superstition falls outside of religious approval, blind faith often falls within those boundaries. Both presuppose that you should simply believe in something because someone else tells you or because of past precedents that often have little relevance to the present moment. To me, blind faith is not an internal faith in God, the divine, or the universe. Blind faith is more like saying, "I am supposed to believe in God, and I do. I believe in everything without question." It's this last part that is so problematic. True faith is an inner alignment with yourself and with God. It's a balance of trusting the universe to provide and doing your part to co-create with the Creator.

Buddha Knows Faith
I think this is a great quote from which to approach authentic faith:

"But, whatever, after thorough investigation and reflection, you find to agree with reason and experience, as conducive to the good and benefit of one and all and of the world at large, accept only that as true, and shape your life in accordance with it." -- The Buddha

Blind faith is part of an old form of learning in the Western Society. Charles Dickens once expounded in Hard Times that students would come to schools and be treated like empty vessels to be filled up with knowledge by the teachers. This type of approach has been used in many religious traditions for years. You go to a place of worship and the priest or spiritual teacher is supposed to fill you up with faith and spiritual juju--I mean what do you think spirituality is? A gas station? Hey, please fill me up with premium spirituality and get me a corndog while you're at it. Sheesh.

Relearning Learning
Anyone on the spiritual path or who has moved into the intensity of awakening has probably come across the truth that you have to relearn how to live. So many things are out of alignment with reality that it's made things a huge mess. You can watch the nightly news or listen to the arguments in your family if you don't believe this. You have to relearn how to engage with the world and find real truth--not just what someone else wants or needs you to believe. Faith is no different. Blind faith will have you following around a pastor, priestess, or teacher with no ownership of your spiritual path or your own will. You will give up your power, possibly even money, to get that spiritual juju from them, forgetting that you already have all the spiritual awareness you will ever need.

Additionally, you may have a blind faith where you simply think God is going to do it all for you. You may believe so blindly that everything will work out fine, and you do no work to get there. And even if you are getting all of God's help, you probably don't even know what that looks like because you haven't engaged your mind enough to interpret what that help is. You are more likely to turn your nose up at a kind stranger offering you something you need because you think God will take care of you. And how is that kind stranger not a part of God's overall plan?

Powerlessness and Manipulation
It gets worse. Blind faith will lead you down difficult paths. It leads you into problems simply so that you have to open your eyes. It's like refusing to look at a map while boldly telling everyone that you know where you're going. Once you're hopelessly lost, maybe then you'll get out that map and its accompanying compass. In the mean time, you are extremely easy to manipulate. You are blindly shepherded around because you put all your faith in someone who supposedly speaks in the name of God, but you don't maintain your own awareness and faith in yourself to discern truth from fiction from hidden agenda. Pretty soon you're giving up your life savings to a spiritual con artist--this isn't just provocative writing; we've seen this before.

The Mind Performing Its True Purpose
I've been delving into issues of the mind in past blogs, but one place where it can be the champion is in bringing reason to faith. The two need to be in balance as you move into spiritual awakening. The awakening process can be so tumultuous and muddied at times as you clean out soul-gunk that your perspective can get really skewed. It's a temporary situation, and having a clear line of balanced faith helps to guide you through. A discerning, rational mind helps you to hold faith in yourself as well as the divine. It teaches you to discern what spiritual teachers and communities to trust and be around. You don't have to make snap decisions on this path, but when situations arise, it will be clearer what you need to do.

Blind faith will simply get you and others in your life hurt. It's a way of trying to get out of your responsibility to engage and analyze your life. While there are parts of life that we over-analyze, a little bit of this logic is a good thing, and a balanced sense of faith instead of blind faith will help you through your hurdles in life and on the spiritual path.

Next blog: Over-Thinking and Over-Analyzing: Healing the Frenetic Mind 

For more thoughts on this topic, here's a YouTube video that I recorded about faith:

The photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. You can check out her beautiful work on her flickr link.

The Voices in Your Head: Time for a Meet and Greet

Healing the mental blocks and noise in our minds is a big deal in this culture. That's why I'm spending so much time drilling into this topic. The healing power of silence can be profound, and I've talked with people who have had amazing experiences from taking a week-long silent Buddhist Vipassana retreat. That would probably be really intense for a lot of you. The very idea of being silent for that long (as well as meditating for so much time) probably makes your teeth ache. I can't say that it's tops on my list of things to do, although I've worked through a ton of issues on my own and in silence in different ways. A silent treat is just one more road on the spiritual path running straight at you, and there are no detours.

You're Not Crazy; You Just Have Too Many Guests
So many people in this society are afraid that they're crazy. In some ways, we really all are, but I suppose you can take some reassurance in having company. Eckhart Tolle has an awesome example in one of his books about how he realized that the "crazy" homeless man talking to himself in public was just like him. The only difference was that Eckhart wasn't saying out-loud all the things that were going on in his head. This is an important realization, and maybe it will give you a little more compassion towards those in our society who are so overwhelmed by the madness of the mind that they endlessly jabber verbally.

But with all that said, don't worry. None of this is beyond repair, easing, and re-programming. In many respects, I want you to consider this aspect of the spiritual path something like a re-programming assignment. You've let society for most of your life dictate what programs to download and install in your head. I can't imagine how much crap I'd have on my computer if I installed every new thing that sprung up on the Internet. So why should we let the same thing happen with our minds?

The Power of Naming
One of the techniques that can help you begin to organize the mess happening between your ears is to name the voices. You may be thinking that now you're really going to go crazy. But I think this is a powerful technique to engage with what's happening. Each voice is a program, and each program has a purpose. It's been put there by you or accepted by you to defend an aspect of you, achieve a desire, avoid a fear, and many other purposes. Voices that you may name can include the voices of:

  • Your mother
  • Your father
  • Another really influential person (football coach, high school English teacher, etc.)
  • Ex-girlfriend/ex-boyfriend or former spouse

Other voices may be labeled as the good boy/girl or bad boy/girl. Still others may be named in more of an archetype fashion such as The Judge, The Lover, or The Jester.

Clearing Out Some of the Voices
Undoubtedly, many of these voices have lost their usefulness. I don't run Windows XP anymore. With Vista and Windows 7 available, there's no point, and it would just clutter up my system to keep it. And there's no way to run two operating systems. It would probably crash my computer if I could. If you have a couple really powerful internal programs, you may feel like you're trying to operate two completely different operating systems. This happens to many in their spiritual awakening process because an old ego is being replaced by a higher vibration, spiritual ego (ego to me is not an evil thing; it's just a tool). You start to feel like you're trying to live two separate lives, and you really can't do that.

As you go through and name all these different aspects of your mind, you do need to understand their purposes. If the voice of your mother has been telling you to clean up your room and you're obsessive compulsive about this, then take a look at your room. Is it clean enough? If you are doing an adequate job with that and you're happy with it, you can start to let that voice go. You may as well talk to it (it has been talking to you a lot).

"My room is clean enough."
"But there is dust on the shelves."
"Thank you for reminding me, but it is clean enough. I have appreciated your reminders, but I no longer need this voice anymore."

This may not end the discussions immediately, but I've found gratitude goes an immensely long way towards letting go of issues and old mental programs that have lost their purpose.

Healing the Mind
Along the way, you're going to start to find moments of deeper peace in your mind. Maybe they don't come initially, but they will come. You will also start to feel empowered because you will feel less at the whim of the mind. It's been a ship on rough seas, and now you're taking the helm, starting to steer and direct it. This will entail moving through more rough seas. You've got a lot of stuff that's been lodged in your noggin, and you gotta figure out what actually belongs there and what actually serves the highest good. Your truth will start to emerge, and if you have trouble facing some of these things, I still can't encourage you to find a spiritual community for support or even a spiritual teacher. But with diligence, courage, and love, you will clear space for silence, and your amazing inner knowing will start to emerge.

Next blog: The Problems with Blind Faith

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Healing Power of Silence: Finding Your Inner Knowing

As I continue to work through healing for issues on the mental, spiritual, and psychic planes, the power of silence becomes extremely important in this work. As I mentioned in the previous blog, mental chatter has become all too normal for most people, and it's perpetuated by a society that plays its collective stereo at top volume. So many peoples' social training in how to think and live is to create huge amounts of mental and intellectual noise. Some of it can actually be categorized as thought (directed, clear, and inquisitive--thought is very helpful). But most of the rest is noise meant to fill up empty space for a variety of reasons (people are scared of the silence; they feel alone without noise; other issues they've been avoiding suddenly appear). I mean do you really need to be listening to your iPod all day? If so, why?

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Inner Knowing Is Essential to Spiritual Awakening
When I work with a student, I can't over-emphasize the importance of developing your inner knowing. I can't possibly have all your answers. I'm honored if I even have a few. No, your answers are within you. Much of this series of blogs focusing on healing that I'm writing is directed towards getting to your inner knowing. When you align with that part of you, your intuitive intelligence emerges very quickly. It will tell you what needs to change in your life and what needs to be healed in you. That's a powerful ally, but it can't really develop in you until you're willing to face silence.

Fear of Silence
I think many people are afraid of silence. I think they're also afraid of stopping. I think part of this is that on some level many people realize that they haven't been living their lives, their dreams, their hopes. In that way, they're afraid that they're going to find out how lost they are, how bad they are, and how screwed up their lives are. And this may indeed be the case. It depends on your life. But depending on where you are, if that's what comes up for you when you stop and make space for silence, you should also know that you've entered the very space where you can heal and fix all the things that are out of alignment. That may or may not be an easy thing to do, but it will make you feel more deeply happy than any amount of noise and things you can buy to fill up your life.

Building Space for Silence
As I mentioned in the last blog, getting rid of a lot of media and external distractions is step one. Now you need to sit in it. Take a deep breath, turn everything off, and sit in silence. If you need to go some place away from where you are, that's fine. You can meditate or journal, but I'd encourage you to not even do these things. Do as little as possible. Some people are already thinking, "But I'll go crazy." No. Probably not. If anything you already are crazy--bought into all the social rules about how you should value yourself and what you should be doing. Constantly, this society tells you to "Do! Do! Do!" The spiritual path says, "Just be." See how long you can sit in a moment. And then do it again. (Please don't time yourself. This is not a competition, not even against yourself.)

While you are here, listen to the stories of your mind. Begin to cultivate the experience of the watcher or the witness. Practice listening to these stories as if they were someone else's stories. What are they telling you?
  • Are you supposed to be going somewhere? 
  • Are you supposed to be planning something? 
  • Are you not good enough?
  • Are you not rich enough? 
What are those repetitive monologues and dialogues going on in your head?

Psychosis, Severe Mental Disorders, and Demon Possession
I feel like really pushing this out to some extreme edges. Severe mental illnesses do need psychological support and the support of a spiritual teacher. We're too early in the process for people with these challenges to really try this set of exercises. Unless you feel guided to do such, these are instances where external tools are critical. While I always guide people towards their inner knowing to find their healing solutions, these are instances where the mental divisions are extremely toxic, and the ego (possibly a shattered ego) is so unable to handle life and the forces within that a lot of wise, loving, and strong support is needed to help them heal. Most people wouldn't get down into these spaces if they had the tools and abilities to get out of them.

I throw demon possession into this bunch because it is a real thing, albeit a bit of an edge case. A spiritual teacher or other very aware being would be able to tell the difference between possession and a seriously deranged mental persona. It has to do with what's going on energetically within the person, and from an energy viewpoint, it's actually relatively obvious. The only time it's less obvious is when there's a mental illness and a demon possession situation (This might occur if a person's psyche was shattered in a violent rape or war trauma, and in that shattering, their normal psychic defenses were ripped apart allowing other energies to infiltrate them). Possessing spirits are typically going to want to control and damage the host as well as other people to varying degrees. An exorcist is needed, and spiritual community support is essential to heal this particular situation.

You Can Start Breathing Again
That last section may be a little intense for people. You can start breathing again. A lot of that doesn't apply to most people.

In general, when you're sitting in silence, remember your breath. It is one of the most helpful tools to bring you into the present moment. I am always astonished how often I feel like I've been holding my breath or not breathing. I suddenly take a deep breath and feel so much better. It's incredibly relaxing. Breathing melts away any fears of a situation that I may have. The great thing about breathing is that we all have to do it, and it's free. There are breathwork classes that you can take to explore your body, heal issues, and even move into different states of consciousness. However, for the time being, just practice being in a quiet space and listening. Listen to everything you have to say. Then breathe. See if a little bit of silence starts to step in.

Compassionate Self-Questioning
As you practice this over time and as silence does start to last for more and more seconds, you can start to focus on questions to ask yourself. Be gentle. Many times, we are all so hard on ourselves. So put an intention of compassion with each question. It may not make the inner dialogues and answers easier, but it will help. Start simply with:

"Am I happy?"
"Am I where I want to be in life?"
"Am I who I want to be?"

See what answers surface. Initially, you'll probably have a lot of head noise. Maybe different aspects of your inner persona will battle it out. Some will say one thing. Others will say another. Various sides will defend the positions. Here's a good inner conversation based on the first question:

"No. I am not happy. I hate what I am doing."
"But we have a great wife and family. We should be happy."
"Well, I am not."
"You're ungrateful. You are never satisfied with anything."
"Nothing makes me happy. My job sucks. I never have time to have fun."
"You won't let yourself have fun. You work all the time."
"I have to to pay for the mortgage and all the stuff the family has to do."

This can go on for awhile, and it's not my intent to find your solution. Finding your solution is your job. And as you build more silence in your life, inspirations may pop up. An inspiration is your inner knowing saying, "Aha. How about this?" And it will come without fear or desire to control. You may have a sense of knowing coming from outside you--from a divine connection too. Wherever you sense it coming from, intuition and inner knowing will make sense. Of course, your mind may rush in to say, "No, no, no. I can't do this." But the inspiration and knowing always come first. The mind and fear come second. As you build space for silence, you can start to create a division between the two. In that space, you will find deeper comfort and peace. And through that space and being able to hear your own truth, you are going to have one of the most essential tools to healing your life.

Next blog: The Voices in Your Head: Time for a Meet and Greet

Today's picture comes from my student, Jenn.
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