Each new year brings new energy and a renewed desire for change! How are your New Year’s Resolutions going at this point in our new year?
Often when we have something we want to change in ourselves, the first response we have is excitement and zeal for our changes! But when change doesn’t come as easily as we wanted it to, anger, frustration, and apathy can seep in. We then try to go about our desired change with a hammer over our heads (if we don’t give up on it altogether)!
How many of us do well while getting bossed around, criticized and rejected? It might work for a little while—or a long while, if we are over-tolerant—but after a time, we stop trying so hard, or try to get away from the hammer, thus avoiding the project at hand altogether.
We are better at changing when we have encouragement, acceptance and a caring eye guiding us in the new behavior.
Who is the best person to do that for you? Maybe you have a supportive friend, or an encouraging therapist or group you attend. But you are with you all the time! You are the one who will walk with you through all of the ups and downs of life—which includes those internal conversations!
Here are a few ways to encourage yourself through any change you want to make:
Love first: Ask yourself, “What is there to love about the situation as it is?”
Take one change at a time. Too many changes too fast wear us out! This is why so many New Year’s resolutions are abandoned.
Visualize yourself already changed. What does that look like? See yourself happy and enjoying the results of your efforts! Spend five minutes each day with this exercise. Take notes on how it feels. You will likely come up with new steps toward your goal!
Use lovingkindness. Imagine what you would say to your best friend who was going through a change. Is your self-talk matching what you would say to someone else? If not, write down encourage statements, affirmations or mantras, and place them around your home, car and work.
Exemplify patience. Remember these kindnesses when you are working with others during changes. Patience with others helps us have more patience with ourselves.
A little love goes a long way to melt raw materials and create a masterpiece. Take a best friend with you throughout 2023…YOU!
Let’s break this down: How you ever found yourself in a transition that you chose? Have you ever found yourself in a transition that you didn’t choose?
Those can feel a lot harder, can’t they? Transitions we choose can sometimes feel exciting, empowering, refreshing. But if we didn’t choose it, it can feel like the rug got pulled out from under us. Those can also be the best spiritual lessons ever!
Chris Chenoweth, who has spoken here in the past and was the minister at Unity Village Chapel for years, called these kind of lessons “Blessons” because they were both blessings and lessons all in one topsy-turvy package.
I recently moved from an apartment to a house with my son, and it’s been a whole bunch of blessons left and right and it’s been a great time!
While I was packing, I somehow managed to pack all of my coffee filters two weeks before my move, or at least I thought I did. And let me tell you why this is a big deal. I’m the person who sets up the coffee the night before so all I have to do in the morning is push a button because when I mess around with ground coffee before my coffee, I end up making a mess all over the place. That’s the kind of morning person I am. I’m cheery and pleasant, just don’t ask me to make any major life decisions before at least half a cup of coffee.
I was packing and taping boxes together with a tape gun. You know those large tape dispensers that get the job done fast? I’m taping up boxes and somehow I pick up this tape dispenser by the sharp edge and poke a couple holes in my finger. So now I’m bleeding everywhere, and do you know what else I packed?
No, I hadn’t packed my Band-Aids because I hadn’t gotten to the bathroom yet. The things I barely use, like Band-aids, were right where I needed them in the moment; while the things I use every day, like coffee filters, were packed in a taped-up box somewhere. So, lucky me, right? The Universe was watching out for me that day, right?
Yes, so I bandage up my finger, not because it was a bad wound, but because I didn’t want to bleed all over everything as I was boxing things up. So I bandage my finger and I’m finishing boxing up the kitchen, and guess what I found? More coffee filters. Doh!
So why am I telling you all of this silly stuff? Because things can be topsy turvy in times of transitions! That’s part of the fun!
St. Francis advised his followers to“wear the world like a loose garment,” What he meant was that in order to be free, you need to be in the world without being attached to how it hangs on you.
Transitions, times of change, are those times when we are pushed to hang more loosely, loosen our grip on what we thought was solid ground, because there is no permanent solid ground in life! Things are always changing, and if one thing in your life isn’t changing now, just stick around–it will!
Wear the world like a loose garment. Jesus demonstrated being in the world but not of the world. That’s not so hard when it’s a simple move and we’re talking about coffee filters, but what about losing a job, or a loved one, or a minister, or a house in a hurricane?
I learned from my meditation teacher, Jane Elizabeth Hart, to manage change with grace and wisdom. She taught me about her “Seven Steps” process soon after I first met her 25 years ago, right before I got married because it was a big life transition, and the whole title of the original Seven Step process is “Seven Steps for Moving through Life Transitions.” That’s exactly what it’s for!
It came to her in a vision when her mom passed. She was grieving and didn’t know what to do. She saw these Seven Steps and the different facets of a grieving process: Gratitude, Good Times, Hopes and Dreams, Disappointments and Difficulties, Forgiveness, Release, and Completion. She knew she had to work those steps, too, so she journaled them and was able to move forward after losing that outer connection with her mother.
Over the many years or working with this process, for changes big and seemingly little, I learned that embracing any change is part of life, and it is possible to flow with it, even when you puncture yourself with a tape gun!
In my therapy practice, I share the “Seven Steps” all the time because it’s a great tool for working through all the emotions and confusion that come up during times of change. Doing this work does, indeed, make the crooked road straight! So I share it with everyone I possibly can, as often as I can!
Whenever we have something in our life that we have invested time and energy into, it becomes part of who we are; be it a relationship, a home, a car, a job, anything! When something becomes part of our identity, it’s a garment that we’re wearing. When it’s time to change, we need to take it off the old garment, appreciate all its aspects, then let it go, so we’re ready to put on the new and improved garment of the next scene in our play.
Anytime I’ve ever moved, I’ve taken the place I was moving from up those “Seven Steps” in order to release the attachment and emotion from the current situation so that I’m walking into my new circumstances as clear and open as I possibly can. Before I started packing my coffee filters prematurely, I took my condo up the “Seven Steps” to let it go and move forward.
Our road is clearer when we aren’t taking our emotions, positive and negative, into our new situation. But we have to do our part on that.
I don’t always quote the Bible in talks—I usually leave that to the professionals—but when I do, it’s because a quote or a story has stood out to me and meant something significant to me over the years.
One story that I both love and resist (and you’ll find out why shortly), is Jesus’ parable about the ten virgins:
The Parable of the Ten Virgins (NIV)
1“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9“ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Why do I resist that? Because it’s a great story about being prepared for the next step that’s coming, and that means work on my part, and I’m human, so I resist that! Isn’t there enough work to be done during a transition? Why would I put myself through more work?
Because, like the women in this parable, we have to be prepared for our next step. If we’re not clearing the way for that step to happen as seamlessly as possible, we could end up missing something very important—like making our transition much easier on ourselves!
What’s one thing we can be fairly certain of in times of transition? Uncertainty! We’re moving from one thing to the next, and we have only an imaginary idea of what’s coming, based on the little information that we have.
In times of transition there is so much going on already, why would we want our emotional baggage to interfere and put a hindrance there that isn’t necessary? Why do that to ourselves instead of doing what I call the “front-end maintenance” of the spiritual/emotional/mental work of releasing the old and preparing for the new?
Right now, think of a life transition that may be coming in the future, maybe a making job change, getting a new car, moving to a new home, perhaps someone in your life is preparing for a life transition that will take them out of your life somehow. What in your life needs releasing? What garment needs to be worn more loosely, or replaced altogether?
Use the “Seven Steps” or some other conscious, thorough release process to let it go so that you can walk forward free and clear. Then when you prematurely pack your coffee filters, it’s no big deal! You can adjust and keep moving forward!
Note: This is not a verbatim transcription of the talk. In preparing for a talk, one often prepares far more than needed, and remembers far less than desired. At least, that’s true for me. So this “article” is based on my rough notes before the talk, which is not exactly how the talk went. But, I’m a busy professional, so this is the least time-intensive thing I could post with the video. I hope you enjoy it!
You are a soul in evolution, awakening over time to who you are as a human being, and who you are in your divinity.
Our friends at Mirriam Webster define evolution in this way: “To develop by evolutionary processes from a primitive to a more highly organized form.”
Soul Evolution, then, is the process each soul goes trhough to develop from lesser to greater awareness of itself as Pure Energy, part of the Infinite Presence of the Universe.
We are all in this process together; so, you might be a Soul Evolutionist if…
You want to be connected to that Infinite Presence, and want to develop that connection even more.
You have a desire and longing to feel your connection to something greater than yourself, and feel that longing in your heart and whole being.
When I was 19 years old, I had just completed my term as International President of the Youth of Unity (Y.O.U.), the youth group of my denomination. It was a fantastic year, filled with joy and loving connections across the country. I felt satisfied as I entered my sophomore year in college. Over the second weekend, my roommmate had gone home, and I decided to clean our room (primarily my mess!). I put in a cassette tape (eek) of some of my favorite spiritual chants to listen to while I was cleaning. My favorite one came on, so I sang along with the words: “I surrender to the Love of God, flowing through my life.”
I sang these words over and over again as I moved around the room picking things up. Suddenly, I started crying and dropped to my knees. As I watched myself cry from the inside, I wondered, “Why am I crying? Everything is going well; I have no reason to cry.”
I then “heard” a loud, booming voice. I turned to see if someone was in the room with me, but knew it was coming from inside of myself.
“Don’t be done with God, just because you’re done with Y.O.U.”
A montage of images flashed through my mind, showing me how one part of me thought I was doing my spiritual service for the accolades from family and friends. What this “voice” was showing me was that I was acting out of the deepest desire of my heart. MY heart; not anyone else’s. I adjusted my life plans to align with this desire from that day forward.
What is your deepest desire, and how do your actions align with that?
You might be a soul evolutionist if…
You know there is a “morfe” to life than what you experience with your five physical senses.
We call this intution, and it is an innate appendage to who you are. The more you use it, the better it works for you. Call on it. Ask for guidance in the little things to help hone and strengthen your awareness of and trust in your intuitive promptings. The Soul Evolutionist knows to turn to that inner resource in life circumstances, big and small.
You might be a Soul Evolutionist if…
You want to understand why things are happening inside and outside of you.
You see the injustices of the world and wonder why they exist. Why is my son a natural musician and I fizzled out of my piano lessons when I was ten years old? Does God love him more than me? Is he special and I’m chopped liver? Or, did he work hard to deveolp that talent before he came into this world?
There are answers to these questions, and the Soul Evolutionist is no longer satisfied with the mystery. You ask “Why?” and forge your way deeper into learning the workings of the Universe, while at the same time beginning to understand your own inner workings.
You might be a Soul Evolutionist if…
You know that you are responsible for taking part in the awakening of yourself to your Self, and you embrace that active participation.
It’s not just about knowing a little bit about meditaiton, or forgiveness, or intuition; it’s about realinzing that with that knowledge comes a palpable responsibility to do something about it–to put your spiritual understandings into everyday practice. How do you use meditaiton to support your awareness? How do you use forgiveness when up against someone who is really pushing your buttons? How do you incorporate your intuition in every area of your life?
How do you consciously, willingly, triumphantly support your soul’s evolution?
One of my favorite sayings of my spiritual mentor, Jane Elizabeth Hart, is “The joy is in the giving.”
It has taken me many years to appreciate this as more than just a pretty platitude–especially moving into the holidays!
Finding joy in giving means to understand that when we are acting only for ourselves, that energy has no where to go but back to ourselves. This is important, to replenish and refresh ourselves sometimes. But when we give freely with joy and loving kindness, that energy ripples out into the far stretches of the universe! For that moment, we have expanded ourselves far outside of where our energy normally resides. It is like an amazing, huge yoga stretch!
Plus, finding joy in giving makes us want to give more—to re-experience that joy, that refreshing stretch beyond ourselves. Once we get out of our box, we don’t want to go back inside that small space!
Recently, I helped some friends pack Christmas gifts for children in other countries. There were several boxes, and as we filled each one, we were silently blessing each toy and piece of candy. I could imagine the love and joy the child would experience as she or he opened the box—an explosion of love and light! I could feel my own energy expanding beyond myself, beyond this country, rippling throughout the planet.
The song I sung in childhood that reminds me of this concept is “Magic Penny”. Do you remember singing that song? Did you ever realize that the magic penny symbolized your own energy, multiplying and supporting you in infinitely greater ways? Here are a few of the lyrics:
Love is something if you give it away; You’ll end up having more. It’s just like a magic penny: Hold it tight and you won’t have any. Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many They’ll roll all over the floor.
As you give this coming holiday season, no matter how big or small a gift, put your energy of love and joy into it, and don’t let it stop flowing at your gift’s recipient—see that love and joy rippling out, sending a wave of blessing throughout the planet.
When it comes to working with emotions, I hear from a lot of people, “I don’t want to feel _________” (insert tricky emotion here). While we certainly don’t want to get stuck in an emotional experience, emotions are there to help us resolve whatever might need to be resolved within us.
Neuroscience tells us, “Name it to tame it”. When we can label our emotion, it instantly becomes more manageable than when it stays at a somatic (body sensation) experience.
In psychology, Carl Jung taught us that making the unconscious conscious is our way to healing. This is certainly true in our spiritual expression as well.
In this video, I teach you a three step process that I’ve been using for over two decades, and frequently use with my clients and in classes that I facilitate.
The steps are three questions to ask yourself when you become aware of an emotion:
1. What is the emotion I’m feeling?
2. What is the story this emotion is telling me?
3. What new perspective could I take that would be calming to me?
Spring cleaning is not just for Spring, or for your house! Here are five tools for your inner housecleaning that you can use daily, as needed, and enjoy the fresh air that peace of mind brings!
1. Meditate. For five minutes a day (at a consistent time and location), observe the thoughts that go through your mind. Don’t push them away, judge them, or feel ashamed; just notice what they are saying to you and let them pass.
2. Journal. Write about the time during the day when you felt frustrated, hurt, sad or angry. What were you feeling and thinking? Get to know your reactions and look for a pattern in them. Writing about your feelings can help you understand when to back off, and when to stand up for yourself.
3. Forgive. Jane Elizabeth Hart’s Seven Steps for Successful Life Transitions is an excellent forgiveness method. Unforgiveness balls you up in body, mind, and expression; while forgiveness frees you to experience more overall joy.
4. Use difficult people to learn about your hidden issues. Take that guy at the office that grinds you like fingers down a chalkboard. Get your journal and list all the qualities and behaviors about him that bug you. Ask yourself who this person represents to you. You can learn a lot about what is blocking you from your potential by embracing those you find difficult to be around. Forgive them even if you don’t know what it is that you don’t like. The health benefits of this action alone will be worth your effort.
5. Trust yourself above all others. There is no teacher, master, therapist, guru, or life coach out there who is any good unless they are telling you to listen to your own inner promptings. As you watch your own thinking and journal out your feelings, you will begin to understand more about who you are. This is a wonderful and scary thing! Trust that your inner wisdom will reveal itself and support you as you work to resolve fear and false beliefs.
Did you grow up with platitudes that don’t seem to work in everyday life? Can you recognize them as you scroll through Facebook?
A platitude is a statement, usually with a moral message, that is used so frequently that it loses it’s true meaning.
Even though my family was part of a positive spiritual community, I still grew up with several platitudes that I eventually had to unlearn.
Anytime we receive advice from others, or see an inspiring message on social media, we need to still run it through our intuition: Is this right for me? Will it help me resolve and move forward from my present circumstance?
What platitudes have you evaluated and found to work only in certain circumstances?
A root I encountered which my mind reacted to as if it were a snake. Our minds are not always reliable upon first response!
At any given moment, there is a voice talking to you in your head. Maybe it’s a positive voice. Maybe it’s a negative voice. Maybe it’s a neutral, narrator, commenting on your every move. Do you notice it? It’s processing as you read this, maybe throwing in an opinion or two. What do you find it is saying to you right now?
That voice can be likened to the weather in the Midwest: If you don’t like it, wait five minutes and it will change.
To understand why this is so, let’s define a couple things. Your brain is the organ through that functions as the machine for many physical functions, thinking being only one of them. Your mind is how your consciousness moves energy through the brain in order to function in your life.
Your brain stores every experience you have had, ever, and the thoughts, decisions, attitudes, emotions, and opinions surrounding those experiences at the time that you made them. Some of those are well-outdated, yet there they are, in the storehouse of your brain’s memory.
Your mind, in its automatic, semi-conscious state, pulls up those memories, thoughts, decisions, attitudes, emotions, and opinions as it sees fit. In neutral times, those thoughts, etc, might be simply random. Other times, the mind is quite certain that the thought, emotion, opinion, etc, that it is pulling up is quite fitting for the situation at hand, even if it might not be helpful.
For example, think about what you think about while driving. Maybe you’re singing along with a song (lyrics pulled up from your brain’s memory). Maybe you are worrying about what just happened at work or with that family member; in which case, all past experiences, opinions, emotions having to do with that person, or someone very similar from your history, come up and invade your thoughts about the current situation. This adds confusion to the current situation: Are you really upset at the thing that just happened, or is that thing not so bad, but it is reminding you of that other thing that happened, so the negative thoughts and strong emotion are actually coming from some previous experience, being dumped onto the current one? Probably both, but the current situation is getting the brunt of the past, unresolved emotion.
That little example holds about five topics of discussion; but for this article, let’s simply understand that the mind has a mind of its own, and a lot more is going on than you are often aware of. In fact, there are many voices in your head, and often they have competing opinions and perspectives! You’ve probably heard someone say, “The committee in my head is arguing about this.”
What can you do about that mind that can be so unruly?
Notice it, step back from it, wait a few minutes and it will change.
Notice it. You can’t be in charge of that unruly inner voice unless you are aware of what it’s doing in there. Take a few breaks during the day to check in and listen to what it’s saying to you. Is it positive? Critical? Sad? Afraid? Numb?
Step back from it. Listen with compassion and non-judgment; be the observer of it. Cup both hands together and hold them in front of you. Pretend that the thoughts and feelings going through your mind are in your cupped hands. Since they are now outside of your head, watch them like a scientist watches her experiment with curiosity, not knowing what exactly is going to happen. What do you see happening with those thoughts and feelings?
Wait a few minutes and it will change. As you observe the contents of your mind, they will inevitably shift and change. See how long you can hold them before they morph into something else. How long does it take? Five minutes? Twenty? Three? One? This is a great practice in not taking your thoughts too seriously. Just because it is wafting through your mind doesn’t make it true.
This simple process is helpful especially when big emotions are on the surface. As you observe and wait patiently and compassionately through the wave of emotional dialogue and felt sensations, you will feel yourself rise above it into a clearer thinking space. As you practice with this, your conscious self moves into more of a leadership role in the mind/brain process. You can be more in charge of who’s talking to you, who gets the promotion, and which voice gets phased out.
Sometimes it takes a lot to push through resentment to find the gratitude.
I knew someone who had purchased a condo to help a friend in need–a place for the friend to stay while she was trying to get back on her feet. All things were going well until the friend lost her job and stopped paying rent. Then one day, she disappeared to another state without explanation.
How betrayed he felt! How could she do that? She left him with thousands of dollars in mortgage each month, plus his own home’s mortgage! No word, no apology, no help!
For several years, he tried to sell the condo. Sale after sale fell through for this reason or that. Every failed attempt to rid himself of the condo was one more reminder of the betrayal of his so-called friend, a reminder of how angry he felt at himself for trusting her, a reminder to forgive again.
One New Year’s Eve at a Burning Bowl Ceremony, he wrote a letter to himself stating that for the new year, the condo would be sold! The letter was mailed to him eleven months later, and eleven months later the condo still hadn’t been sold.
He had been sharing this story with me over time via email, and I could now hear the disappointment in his words. He had worked faithfully with the Seven Steps for Moving through Difficulties, a forgiveness process I had shared with him toward the beginning of this difficult, healing journey, and would return to it each time a condo sale would fall through.
When he shared with me about his letter for the year, and his yet unmet commitment to continue to forgive, I could suddenly see the message loud and strong, and I replied:
“You have worked hard this year to continue to free yourself from that condo, through all the sales that fell through, plus the forgiveness work that you have been persistent in affirming. Perhaps the condo is still part of your life, but you have freed your heart so much this year–and your free heart is something you get to take into the new year! Congratulations!
“Sometimes we forget that the Universe uses our human circumstances to do a job that we might not have done otherwise. If the condo hadn’t been a reminder of your friend’s betrayal all this time, how would you have paid attention to that forgiveness need? It might have been buried in your heart like a needle in a haystack–only to poke you when you least expected it!
“No wonder it’s so important to look for the good in all things! It is always there. You have done a great job on fulfilling what you wrote in your letter last year! Now you’re just waiting for the sale to go through. Give thanks for all things–mysterious and obvious alike!”
As is true so often in my work, I can’t give encouragement without seeing how it applies in my own life. As I composed my email, I could see the many people and circumstances that have been so challenging in my own life this past year (and some for several years!). I could see how I hoped a struggle would be over, only to have it rear its ugly head over and over and over again. I could see my persistence, but also how it looked so disappointing because things didn’t change according to my ideas or timing.
Yet I could also see how the struggle is what strengthened me, slowly but surely! It loosened my grip on my desired results. It reminded me of the inner work left to do. It reminded me to forgive what needs to be forgiven, and that I wasn’t finished quite yet.
Outer results are easy to see, easy to be grateful for. But to see that there’s something bigger going on? That takes looking beyond results.
What in your life continues to show up and remind you to do your inner work?