May 21st, 2018- Quote of the Day

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.”

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”

~ Eckhart Tolle

This rings very true for me. If I stop the thoughts after the initial feeling and refocus I am okay. It is only when I allow myself to think about a situation and how upset I am that it has not gone the way I needed/wanted it to go that I become anxious, depressed or down.  By working with thoughts we can shift our mood.
I like the second quote as it helps to shift thoughts. I honestly believe that situations we find ourselves in always contain something for us to learn, shift or grow from. I start there and then move forward. At least in my best moments. ; )

Quote of the Day…

“The natural ups and downs of life can either generate personal growth or create personal fears. Which of these dominate is completely dependant on how we view change.” ~ Michael A. Singer

I am rereading The Untethered Soul, by Singer and am loving it all over again.  I have struggled with this concept, as I think we all do at times. In my worst moments I have considered changes, that do not follow “my plan”, a negative or I continually search for what I could have done differently, better or search for anything I should have avoided. In my best moments, I see change as a shift, growth or divine intervention. I search for gratitude and peace in what I might consider chaos or the unknown, knowing that there are ups/downs and constant change. Often it is a quiet mind, observation of thoughts and faith that keep me on a path to serenity.

The Power of Our Thoughts

Our thoughts and views are very powerful forces in how we feel and how we interact with others.  Honestly, I feel it is the foundation to whether or not we are able to feel happy or sad, depressed or angry.  How we perceive things and what we make of them equals how we feel.  Our history creates the template for dealing with current situations.  In psychology we look at how our childhood, relationships and life experiences may be influencing the present and the cognitive distortions we experience as a result.  Don Miguel Ruiz, who wrote the four agreements talks about the agreements we carry from our childhoods as a book of law.  Thich Nhat Hanh discusses the idea of “habit energy” and the sources of our suffering.

I feel it is very important for us to become observers of our thoughts and views.  Often it is hard to do this.  I think the best way to become this observer is to try to quiet your mind and see what pops up.  Just observe/listen to the thoughts in your head, your inner chatter.   You can write it down or just observe it.  Is what you are giving time to for good.  Thich Nhat Hahn talks about a garden and what seeds we water.   Are the seeds we are watering growing positive thoughts and feelings or taking us in direction of obsessive thought, negativity and decreasing our self-esteem?

Perception= Deception  This concept is a huge one for me.  Often I am considering some situation or relationship with someone and I see it in a certain way.  I ruminate over it, feel sick to my stomach, maybe even lose sleep over this; only to find out that what I thought to be true was actually false.   I liken it to looking up at the clouds.  If many people look at a cloud they may have many different interpretations of what they see in that cloud, based on what is on their mind, their day, their favorite animals, etc…  Same for all the rest of the interpretations we make.

“We may praise, blame, condemn or complain depending on our perception, but our perceptions are made of our afflictions cravings, anger, ignorance, possible wrong views we hold and any prejudices we have,” (Thich Nhat Hanh).

Some questions to ask yourself to help with clear, healthy thinking…

“Are you sure? – Have you checked it out and are absolutely sure it is true, based on fact?  Or are you making assumptions? Reality checking.

“If you are not sure, is this a pattern of perception and thought that is habitual and unhealthy? – If so, don’t judge, just know it and try to release it.  It is often important for us to understand where our patterns come from so we can have compassion for ourselves and to allow for us to accurately see whether or not is healthy today.

“What are you doing right now?” – Bring yourself to present moment by paying attention to your current environment and what you doing.  Mindfulness.

“Is there anything I can do about this right now?” -If not write down or schedule a way to take care of the situation and then try the present moment idea.

You can transform your thoughts by replacing them with a more positive ones and by not developing unhealthy thoughts.   For example if we have an initial thought that someone does not like us or is mad at us.  If we have nothing to support that thought, and we are “not sure”, we have a choice to check it out with that person, or if we are not in good space we can “develop” that thought into a billion other thoughts such as- Why is this person mad at me?  Maybe I should have done “x” differently, or I don’t like that person either, etc…  We can even ruminate about our interpretations to the point we drive ourselves crazy.  At any time we can choose not to water the developing thought through reality checking, positive thoughts or distractions, including trying to be in the present moment and utilizing mindfulness exercises.  You can state to yourself that you are losing present moment by continuing to give your time to something you cannot do anything about.  Often that helps to spark you to try to focus on something different.  Honestly, we often spend too much time ruminating on something that we have no control over or cannot do anything about in our present moment.  Let it go!  Move out of fear based thinking into faith.   For more on faith or fear read…

I think it is important to observe ourselves and then water the seeds in our gardens that nurture and support us.  Before we can do that we have to know ourselves well- being present with all that is within us both good along with our old habits and ideas that no longer support or serve us.   When we become aware and take corrective actions we can create new pathways of thought that change how we perceive things and we can handle our thoughts in a more healthy way.

Those crazy voices in my head…

So, I was listening to Deepak Chopra today and he spoke of the idea of “no problem without a spiritual solution” and “awareness without boundaries”.   Tough topics, but so essential in living a peaceful, happy, serene life.

He talked of a dark room to illustrate levels of awareness…

 Starting out-  dark room with one candle lit and the idea that you could not see everything and there would be MANY obstacles, and you would be bumping into them

Expanded awareness- you might get a small flashlight and then you would look around and see that all the “so called obstacles” have a specific purpose (a sofa, a table, etc…) and he likened this to “expanded awareness”.  

Awareness without boundaries- then the room transforms with glass walls and the sun shining down on you, and the universe is your playground

Well, I have to say, he had me until the glass walled room and playground.  Then I seemed stuck.  I believe that I often touch that room in meditation, or a spiritual talk, or retreat, and lose it so quickly the moment I become frustrated or angry, or too busy.  I feel overdone and overwhelmed by my life, my obstacles.   Strangely, I think it has to do with the voices in my head.

No, I am not talking about schizophrenia or multiple personalities.  I am talking about the dialogue that plays out constantly.  The one that tells me what I need to get done, that the car in front of me is going to slow, that I didn’t say the right thing or wear the right outfit.  It talks ALLLLLLLLL the time.  I do not need to ask it anything, it already gives me its view.  Honestly, if it were manifested into a human being hanging out with me, I would have ditched it long ago.

Michael Singer, author, calls it “the roommate”.  I call it the crazy voice.  It talks to its self and then answers.  It has assumptions about everything!  Why someone did not call me back, why something happened, why someone made a face at me, etc…  Honestly, it is wrong MOST of the time and has little to no basis in reality.  Mostly fear based.  I speak of this to my clients in terms of distorted thinking (cognitive behavioral therapy).  It has been called the “Gremlin” in some coaching circles.  The list could go on and on as to what people have referenced it as, but what I did not do until recently is step back and observe it.  Truly observe it.

I am not talking about therapy like thought logs and challenging thoughts and beliefs.  I am talking about just the observation to REALLY get how bad it is.  You really have to decide that the voice/voices aren’t useful to make a change.  You have to truly GET that the voice is crazy, and it is taking you down.

OK.  When observing it on and off for a whole day I was shocked.  I have been making decisions and having interactions based on this voice quite often as it elicits fear and then I work from an emotion based space.  It is a vicious cycle of starting out serene, some “problem” arising, instantly that crazy voice chimes in to make sense of it, emotions begin to stir and reactions occur, then the voice begins to voice doubt the decisions that were made and more emotions follow.  If I am lucky I notice my emotions and take time to calm down, breathe, and start over.  If not my whole day is crazy and I go to bed exhausted and done.

I would not tolerate a friend telling me the things the crazy voice says…  honestly, listen to yours and see what I mean.  It will interrupt any quiet moment you have if you let it.  I am pretty sure that this is why I cannot imagine being in a place where the sun is shining and the universe is my playground.

So, what to do?

I am starting by truly observing and distancing myself from the crazy voices and realizing… that if “I” am listening, then the voices are not “me”.  I can distance from it and move to a place where there are always solutions, or as Depak would say, always “spiritual solutions”.   The voices are based off of fear and past experiences, childhood issues and messages I received.  Becoming an observer, helps to see the issue without emotional attachment.  It becomes simple.

Depak Chopra uses the idea of STOP, S- stop whatever you are doing, T- take 3 deep breaths, O-observe, P- proceed with kindness, love and joy.

For today, I am beginning to quiet my mind (no voices), and realize that life is a lot simpler, and in that space I find a bit of serenity.

Handling Difficult Emotions

Thich Nhat Hanh likened emotions to a storm.  A storm comes, stays for some time and then it goes.  An emotion, too, comes, stays for awhile and then it goes.

When experiencing difficult emotions, Thich Nhat Hanh writes that your head is like the top of a tree in a storm.  It is not suggested you stay there.  Instead, bring your attention to the trunk of the tree where there is stability, your belly and your breathing for ten or fifteen minutes.  (Be Free Where You Are, Thich Nhat Hanh)

I used to be very skeptical of breathing exercises, however I found that paying attention to my breath or just paying attention to my surroundings- what I see or hear, or just focusing on drinking a glass of water or tea can truly help.  It can be difficult due to our old habits and patterns that direct us to do what we have always done.

I decided to test this out for one day, trying to be aware of when difficult emotions were present and taking a ten minute break by focusing on my breathing and my surroundings.  It was difficult to give it a full ten minutes, and to be honest, in the beginning I could not, but even a few minutes made a difference.  After one day I was amazed at how my emotions shifted.  I decided to keep at it, and over time my patterns and habits have shifted.  I still struggle at times, but I am truly grateful for this tool.

For those that despise breathing exercises or just can’t focus on breathing, the five senses mindfulness exercise might be for you.  It is simply stopping and focusing on your five senses one at a time.  This too can make a huge difference if you enter it in a couple times a day.