Tag Archive | evolution

Love Is the Answer. What Was the Question?

Jane Elizabeth Hart, my spiritual mentor and author of Spiritual Power Tools: Support for Your Soul, would often say in her classes, “Love is the answer. What is the question?”

She was reminding us that every day provides opportunities to love—and not just the easy ones. As her students, we would ask her, “What do I do about this person? What do I need to do to forgive and release them from my life?” At times, underneath such questions was the ulterior motive of either making the person change or wanting them out of our lives altogether! Jane Elizabeth would respond with the bottom line answer: Love.

This was our direction: That no matter how much processing, forgiving and releasing we do, our action step is still the same: to love unconditionally, without judgment or hesitation. Her question became a tool in the midst of difficult interactions. We could ask our selves, “If I were coming from love, how would I act?”

At Christmastime, there is an energy of love which opens our hearts to giving and receiving love. Let your Christmas intention be to share love freely, especially with those more difficult characters in your Christmas story.

Love is the answer. What was the question?

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Scratching the Surface of Your Spiritual Growth – Part 3 / Finale

Continuing from my previous post in this three-part series on Scratching the Surface of Spiritual Growth…

sevenstepsebookA powerful forgiveness and resilience tool is Jane Elizabeth Hart’s Seven Steps for Successful Life Transitions. Hart created this method for releasing old patterns, beliefs and other life situations, based on her personal experiences of change, loss and spiritual growth. Each of theSeven Steps deals with an aspect of the situation at hand.  Journaling your responses to each step’s list of questions is suggested, tissues should be on hand, and laughter at some point is a must. (You can access the journaling questions at church or on the Center for Enlightenment website, www.cfenlightenment.org.)

Step one is ‘Gratitude and Acceptance’ and deals with all that you are grateful for in regards to the situation or person at hand.  Write down everything you can think of for which you are grateful.  What joy have these situations brought to you? Sometimes all I can come up with is, “I am grateful for the opportunity to release this [person or situation].”  Don’t worry if you can’t think of anything; simply return to it when you can. 

Step two looks at the ‘Good Times.’  Think of specific situations in the past that have been enjoyable for you regarding this person or situation.  There might be something that keeps bringing you back for more.  Again, skip it if you need to.  

Step three allows you to look at your ‘Hopes and Dreams.’  What do you, or did you, hope will happen?  What have you dreamt that this person or situation would be like?  Get those thoughts from swimming around in your head, creating unnecessary stress! It doesn’t mean that these hopes and wishes will necessarily come true; this is to help you let them go.

Step four deals with those ‘Disappointments and Difficulties.’  Ah, yes, the confrontations, the embarrassments, the arguments, the losses—everything.  What has disappointed you regarding this person or situation? What has been the most difficult thing to deal with? Can you see any unresolved issues within yourself that are surfacing to be healed?

The most important step is the fifth step:  ‘Forgiveness.’  This is how we heal.  Who or what circumstance is the hardest to forgive?  Why?  What does it mean for you if you don’t forgive?  What does it mean for you if you do?  When you can find it in yourself to forgive, you can handle future similar situations or people much better.  Remember, you are not condoning unacceptable behavior through forgiveness; simply accepting that it has happened, and now you have new information with which to make decisions moving forward.

Forgiveness requires a certain leap of faith—whatever yours may be—into a space of allowing another to be what they choose to be without it throwing you off-center.  Forgiveness pulls you out of the mindset that someone can ruin your day by not meeting your expectations; and puts you into a space of compassion and non-resistance toward outrageous behavior in others (and yourself!).  It’s tough, but as you are willing, you add to your inner management abilities.

Finally, ‘Release’ all these in the sixth step, and affirm your ‘Completion’ with the process in step seven.  I like having a ritual for my completion process, sometimes burning my journaling notes, or using Hart’s Seven Step meditation. 

The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself; and when you are okay with yourself, you can be open to better possibilities.  If you get stuck on a situation, be sure to seek further help.  

No matter what has happened in the past, every day opens new doors for you. Your job is to prepare your mind and heart for those opportunities to come forth, not so someone or something will change, but so you can.

Cooperating with the Bigger Picture

My dadI spent two weeks in July helping my dad and mom after my dad had major surgery. I felt grateful enough for being able to be there for them, but the experience of his light and courage topped the experience! My only real job was to cooperate with the bigger picture.

Before I arrived, I prepared myself for my dad to be incapacitated for the whole time I was there, with tubes coming out of him every which way. Indeed, he had a lot to overcome following his successful surgery! But by my second week there—two weeks after his surgery—he was home, walking around, looking and feeling better than he did before the procedure!

My dad’s courage, will, and perseverance shined through him, even on his frustrating days. He took every day in stride, joked with the medical staff, and displayed a positive, stoic determination that wouldn’t have allowed any other outcome!

My job was simple—stay above my own emotions. Fear had no place near him! Being human, of course I experienced it; but there was no space for that around him.

Fortunately, I had already worked my release process—a couple of times before I arrived!—using the “Seven Steps for Moving through Difficulties” formula I talk about all the time. Doing that helped me be less attached to the outcome I wanted—for him to survive and be whole again, even minus an esophagus!

But he is a soul in evolution, and this was his call to make, not mine! I had to get myself out of the way; I had to be prepared for any possible outcome. I released him to his highest good, knowing that whatever the outcome, that was the most efficient route for his soul journey. The most peace I felt was when I was simply in the moment with him, loving and appreciating his soul with no expectations or demands.

There were ups and downs through the process: How much cancer was there? Did they get it all? (They did!) Irregular heartbeat. Infection. Difficulties eating, and so forth. Each time something new arose, I had to be steady and not lose myself in fear, sadness, or hopelessness. Each time I grabbed hold of a faith I didn’t know was there—not a faith in some god that would give me what I wanted. Rather, faith in his beautiful, wise Soul that knew what it was doing—no matter what!

By the time I left, my dad was laughing, eating, walking and enjoying his newfound health! His healing process will continue for a while, but what a great start to that journey!

Where else in my life can I trust the bigger picture rather than my own puny ideas of what should or should not take place? Where in your life can you trust the bigger picture? It is always there! Trust it. Look for it. Let go of your ideas of outcomes and embrace the plan that is in place for the highest good for all concerned. Cooperate with the process!

Scratching the Surface of Your Spiritual Growth, Part 2

Scratch the Surface!

Scratch the Surface!

Last month I wrote about the process for spiritual transformation—which includes any kind of change you are making toward expressing your full potential.

The question now is, “How do I support myself in that process?” It seems that there is always something coming up and pushing you buttons, doesn’t it? People or situations demanding that you get out of your comfort zone, reminding you of that other awful thing that happened, and so forth. What do you do with that? It can seem like those “button-pushers” stand in your way, but you can use them to stretch and grow from the inside out.

There are three levels of processing demands: Observe and Release, the Agitated Energy Process, and Journaling to Go Deeper.

Observe and Release

This first level includes those thoughts or situations that come up and are easily pushed out of our minds. The trick is to be aware of those things—to be conscious of the thoughts that are going through your mind at a given moment. Observing your thoughts helps you to release the ones you don’t need and act on the ones that you do.

For example, if you are working on releasing judgmental thoughts of yourself and others, you would need to be aware of when those judgments arose. Once you are aware of them, you simply notice and release them on the spot, rather than jumping into a conversation about them in your head. No need to chastise yourself nor analyze the thought; you know what it is, you noticed it, you let it go. End of story.

Agitated Energy Process

This next level of processing involves looking more closely at what’s coming up from inside you. I learned the “Agitated Energy Process” from my husband, which he had learned from his mentor at the time, the late psychiatrist Dr. Mary Allen. Over the years I have changed it just a little bit in order to make it more accessible to the people I meet in my practice.

Here is the revised process:

1. When you feel emotion in your body, or simply become aware of surfacing thoughts that you aren’t able to Observe and Release, ask yourself, “What is the emotion that I’m feeling?” Try not to think about the answer; just let it surface. Gently label the emotions that you’re feeling. Is it anger, frustration, sadness, fear, or some variation of these emotions?

2. Next, ask, “What story am I telling myself that’s causing me to feel this way?” Again, don’t think too hard about it, just let the story surface. What is the emotion telling you about the situation at hand?

Using the previous example, let’s say I have been doing very well at not judging myself or others—Observing and Releasing like a pro. After a few days, I notice that one person at home or at work who did that thing to me that I keep judging and cannot seem to stop myself. You know who I’m talking about. If I am NOT able to simply sweep it away, most likely it is causing me to feel agitated, which is how emotions show up in the body. That is my wonderful cue to go deeper! First, I label the emotion. Let’s say in this example it is anger. Then I ask myself, “What story I’m telling myself about the situation?” Let’s pretend that I am telling myself, “That person is trying to make me feel bad about myself, and I don’t like it!” Excellent! I allow that subjective observation to surface, without judgment.

3. The final step is to ask, “What is the new perception I could take that would be calming to me?” Here, I am giving myself the opportunity to look at the situation in a different way.

Let’s say the new perception that arises within me is, “I don’t know what is going on with that person, but my job is to be in charge of myself, what I am feeling and doing.” Then do a quick self check-in and see, “Do I feel calm now?” If so, then, I am done with this process. If not, then I can restart at the first question, and repeat the process until I feel at peace. This is a deceivingly effective on-the-spot processing tool since it doesn’t take an hour of journaling, and you can do it anywhere.

What if that process does not calm you? Then what? Ah, then it’s time to bring out the big guns, which I will address next time. In the meantime, pick one of these levels of processing and practice with it. You’ll be surprised at your mental and emotional clarity throughout the day. Let me know how it goes for you! I would love to hear about your experience!

Scratching the Surface of Your Spiritual Growth – Part 1

processIf you have become weary of the “positive thinking” aspect of spirituality, then you might be ready to go a bit deeper.

Not to say there is anything wrong with positive thinking—it’s an important tool along the journey!

But it’s not the entire toolbox, as you may have noticed. It can help uplift you in a moment of negative thinking, but it does not necessarily get to the cause of that faulty thinking in the first place.

Our spiritual process is one of in-depth self-exploration and self-understanding. We have to be willing to find out the answers to “Why am I feeling this way? Why is this triggering me? Why am I doing the same thing over and over again, when I know it’s not good for me?” Sometimes we have to do a little digging to understand that process.

The process of self-discovery is systematic; it has a consistent formula. Once you get into the rhythm of it, you understand where you are at, and what to do about it. Here is how I describe that process:

1. Spiritual Commitment: What is your current commitment you are making to your spiritual discovery? Have you committed to a daily meditation practice? To be less judgmental? To forgive someone? Any commitment that supports the expanding of your mind, heart, and intuitive nature will do.

2. New Energy: Any time we make a spiritual commitment, the Infinite Universe responds by filling us with energy to support our commitment! That can show up as ideas and insights for accomplishing your commitment. It usually feels so refreshing and inspiring…for about three or four days…maybe weeks, depending on your commitment. Then what happens is…

3. Second Force: This is an arbitrary form for all the excuses that come up, working hard to keep us from continuing with our commitment! It’s not some sort of evil force—it’s the part of us that resists change. When we have been used to doing things a certain way for years (perhaps lifetimes!), we have created a pathway in our consciousness that has become what we do when we’re on automatic pilot. Simply, it has become a habit. This is where many people give up on their commitment, believing it’s “too hard” or no longer “feels right” to do. And, this is where we have to turn up our grit and keep our commitment!

4. Healing and Release: This is where our spiritual toolbox comes in handy! Make sure yours includes a forgiveness process, an emotional awareness tool, a journal, meditation time, and mindfulness of your thoughts and feelings throughout the day. I will write more about this next time. This is the active work step, and the most important part of the process!

5. New Awareness: This is when we have released what we needed to, pushed through the old habit, and created a new one—a new perspective, a new awareness, a newly expanded consciousness of Self! We can’t go back and see the world as we did before—we have new glasses on! This also strengthens our inner connection (through our hard work from the previous step!) and intuition. This is a passive step, in that it happens through us because we did our work. We just receive!

6. Next Spiritual Step: This is where we grab hold of our next Spiritual Commitment, and start the process over with a new focus, and new energy to support us through it!

Next month, I will go into some excellent tools for our spiritual toolbox so we’ll be prepared for that Healing and Release step! Think about this process this month. How has it shown up for you?

The Third Option: Opening Yourself to Solutions

There is always a solution.

One of my primary jobs as a therapist and spiritual counselor is to be that objective person who can see what I call the “third option”.

What is the third option?

three flowersThe third option is that other possibility for moving through a tough situation. Perhaps there are several “third options”, but when we are feeling stuck, we tend to see our situation in rigid, black or white terms. For example, someone who feels stuck in his or her career may only be able to see two limiting options: “Stay here and suffer, but at least I’m getting paid,” or, “Quit my job and be unemployed because the economy is so bad.” This is a good time to look for those third options!

Why is the third option so hard to see?

In the above example, you may be able to quickly see that there are certainly other possibilities than those mentioned. But, when we are in the middle of our own stuck place, it can be hard to see third options! Our own circumstances trigger our emotions, which keep us from being able to see other possibilities. Can you guess which emotion is most prominent in our example above? You are correct if you guessed fear. Fear is one of the biggest blind spots we have as human beings. It keeps us from seeing beyond the two walls that feel like they are caving in on us! Fortunately, our fears are seldom accurate; so having an objective viewpoint can help us see other choices that are there, closer than we may perceive.

A close second to fear in why we’re sometimes not able to see the third option is that often they are wrapped up in things we may not want to do—and those might just be the action steps that would support us the most! Let’s face it: Our problems are here to stretch us, and stretching pulls us beyond our current state of flexibility…and comfort. That means that 99.9% of the time, we will have to do something we’d rather not. The plus side is that it often feels great to do just that!

How can we learn to open ourselves to the third option?

When we find ourselves feeling stuck, the first thing we must do is to recognize the potential (and need!) for growth. This will help relieve the worry and fear, and allow us to take a step back from the situation and see the bigger picture.

Next, brainstorm possible solutions. Remember how we learned to brainstorm in elementary school? Everything goes! Write down all those potential solutions, even and especially the silly ones! Have fun trying to think of ways to resolve the situation.  Make sure that list includes those options that you think you would never do. You might just come up with something you would do after all!

Try asking yourself these questions:

  • If I were my best friend, what would I tell him/her to do?
  • Since I can’t control the other person(s) involved, what can I change about what I am doing?
  • Am I waiting for something to magically motivate me to change?
  • If I were run by my soul instead of by my ego, what would my soul tell me to do?

There is always a solution, and we can find it when we step back and look at the bigger picture!

Self Forgiveness – How Do We Do It?

Many people around the world are observing Lent, the 40 days leading up to the Easter experience. Regardless of our religious affiliation, this is a time of year loaded with possibility and new beginnings. What could you do (or not do) for 40 days that would support the positive changes you want to make within yourself, to support your spiritual awakening? Here are a few thoughts on Lent…

Breathe. Reflect. Release. Renew.

Now that we are in full swing of the Lenten season, what have you released for this time?  Are you spending your energy staying away from chocolate or sugar?  Or have you decided to release something that will make even more of a difference to your Soul?  Even if you have no investment in the traditional Lenten season, how about ditching guilt and resentment towards yourself for a while?

It is so much easier to forgive other people, isn’t it?  I mean, we don’t have to live with those people (not the easy ones to forgive, anyway), so why should we hold a grudge against them?  But our own selves?  We have to see our own thinking and behavior every single day!  That starts building up after a while.  And if we find out we have been wrong?  Watch out!  We pull that guilt hammer out and start hitting ourselves with it so quickly!

How do we release these regrets and resentments directed at ourselves?

First of all, find out what you need to forgive about yourself.  Acknowledge it, understand it, label it.  This helps us have something more concrete to release rather than it being an abstract, generalized ideal.  For example, seeing times when I have been impatient with others over time is much easier to forgive than trying to forgive myself for being a “bad person”  over all.  “Bad person” doesn’t teach me anything, nor does it give me new choices for my behavior.  Impatience, on the other hand, I can grasp, and it has the alternative of being patient.

Secondly, speaking of patience, be patient as you transition from the old behavior that you are releasing to the new behavior.  You might have heard the saying, “A habit wasn’t created over night,” meaning that it won’t be changed overnight either.  You have acknowledged, understood and labeled your behavior, now let yourself practice the new behavior, with a gentle and wide learning curve.

Finally, during this transition, add energy to the positive choices you make, and quickly pass by the times you fall into the old behaviors.  Yes, see that you missed your desired mark, but move on quickly!  Don’t let that old hammer have time to resume its flagellating!  Take time to feel  gratitude toward yourself for your new behavior.

Forgiveness is not just about stating that we are suddenly just peachy about ourselves.  It is about making changes, with compassion, and moving into a new way of being with ourselves.  Enjoy your chocolate–give up the guilt!

Keep It Simple, Keep It Spiritual

Ahhh, the New Year is upon us, and all the new light and hope it brings! Do you feel uplifted and refreshed at this time of year? If so, it is because there is Universal energy that pours onto us every year!  It gives us that push to better ourselves each new year, and is why so many of us create resolutions.

My motto about New Year’s resolutions has always been: Keep It Simple; Keep It Spiritual.

Keep It Simple:

Ask yourself the following questions for each resolution you want to make.

1.     What is my goal? (Keep it simple, realistic and attainable.)
2.     What would keep me from achieving this goal?
3.     What do I have to give up in order to make this goal happen?
4.     What do I have to begin doing in order to make this goal happen?
5.     What would support me in achieving this goal?
6.     How can I break this goal down into manageable steps?
7.     What is a good first step toward this goal?

This process will help you narrow down your list before it becomes overwhelming and ultimately unachievable.

Keep It Spiritual:

Every year brings ample opportunities for each of us to courageously grow, change, love, forgive, help, and to be kind and generous. Why not commit to an open heart, or listening more to your intuition? With a resolution like that, everything else will follow!

For 2015, keep it simple and spiritual: Commit to yourself, to your conscious awakening—which includes a greater awareness of not only your true self, but of those around you who need more (or something different) from you!

Happy New Year!

Perfection Schmerfection

Last month, I had the pleasure and honor of co-leading a women’s retreat, with the theme based the book The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, PhD. What a powerfully moving and insightful experience for all who participated!

In reading and preparing the materials for the retreat, I had many opportunities to revisit my own perfectionist issue. Such a delightful activity to spend time on (not), especially since this issue already presents itself quite frequently. Half of my preparation began with, “God, You are funny, aren’t You?”

Yet, as a therapist, I tell my clients so often, “The only way to the other side is to walk through it”; and I am no different in striving to free myself from old thought patterns. So I embraced the process and here’s what I was reminded:

Nobody cares if I do it right or wrong. I just need to do it. And “it” can mean anything from speaking from my authentic Self, playing a game, singing a song, listening, supporting, or being supported.

“Perfection” is a made up thing in my head. What I think is “perfect” may be stodgy to someone else—and maybe to that person I am aiming to please in a given moment. There is no such thing as perfect. It is a black and white thinking fallacy in a world made up of beautiful shades of grey.

The question to ask is “Am I doing what feels right to me?” I shared this in the small group I led. This is the measuring stick to replace the perfectionist concept. Am I in tune with myself? Am I okay with me right now? That is what will bring the greatest peace of mind.

The more I stuck with these understandings as the retreat process unfolded, the more space Spirit had to move in and through the materials, my co-leaders, and every woman participating. We danced together in love, joy, and gratitude throughout the weekend. We were in the flow of the best kind of perfection—hearts open to our Higher Selves.

Journaling to Support Your Soul’s Evolution

Journaling is a tool that is always on hand!

Process journaling is a tool I often use—and support my clients in using—even though most of us (myself included!) don’t like taking the time to do it. And it does take time and effort! But so does brushing our teeth every day, but we (hopefully) find time to do that twice a day. Just as brushing teeth is an important part of our physical hygiene, journaling as part of our emotional, mental and spiritual hygiene just makes sense.

Journaling’s benefits include helping you to get out of your head (versus letting thoughts spin around in the hamster wheel of your mind); allowing you to better focus on the facts of a situation, versus the emotional content and potential projections by you or another; and helping you attune to your own intuition by letting out the clutter and listening for what remains.

Unless you’re excited about writing a little every day (and a rare one you are, if that’s true for you!), when is it a good time to journal? Besides “anytime” as the best answer, other times include when you:
• Have a question about what to do
• Have been triggered by a person or situation
• Had a dream that stood out to you
• Need help prioritizing your day
• Need to forgive
• Wand to understand a character trait/pattern in yourself
• Want to understand a character trait/pattern in someone else that drives you crazy (why?)
• Your mind is racing and you don’t know what to do

Building writing time into your schedule, making it a priority in your life, is a must for serious spiritual seekers wanting to learn more about who they are. Here are some tips for setting up a writing practice:

1. Have two journals: One for processing with pages you can tear out and burn, shred, recycle; one for recording your insight, understandings, intuitions.

2. Ask a question about the subject, and write your answer. For example:*
a. What emotions am I feeling?
b. Who or what pushed my buttons? Who was upsetting me today?
c. Does this always happen to me? Is this a pattern in my life?
d. When has this happened to me before?
e. If I was guided by my soul, rather than being run by my ego, how would I handle things differently?

3. Did you receive your answer? You may not right away. Set aside your journal for now. Resume tomorrow.

Whether you prefer using a phone app, keyboard, or good, old-fashioned pen and paper, writing down your insights each day is guaranteed to support your awakening. Taking time to write will help you assimilate new understandings, support the changes you want to make, and help you remove blocks to reaching your spiritual goals.

*Questions partially modified from Jane Elizabeth Hart’s amazing little book, Spiritual Power Tools: Support for Your Soul, © 2004, 2009.