Tag Archive | evolution

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.

How Meditation Supports Your Soul Evolution — Part 2: How Do I Meditate?

Now that you are excited about the benefits you will receive from an ongoing meditation practice, the next step is to begin making part of your daily routine. Here’s step-by-step support for your budding meditation practice:

1. Make a commitment to yourself. Five minutes a day? Ten? Thirty? One hour? Commit to a meditation practice, no matter what daily quantity, for three months; then decide if you like it or not.

2. Choose your meditation space. Make it nurturing, comfortable, simple, relaxing, and peaceful. Use this same space each time you meditate.

3. Choose your meditation time. Meditating at the same time every day builds an automatic response into your mind and body. Your whole self begins to cooperate when you sit down for your time!

4. Find a spiritual symbol that resonates with you. Why? A symbol that is steeped in tradition or meaning for you will magnetize your innate spirituality.

5. Find a methodology that works best for you. Try a few of these to find out your own meditation style preference:

a. Perhaps a guided meditation would help keep you focused. There are CDs, mp3 recordings, YouTube videos, and even smartphone aps with all sorts of guided meditations. Find two or three that you like so you can use them interchangeably.

b. Centering prayer is a wonderful tool for a busy mind! Take a prayer that resonates with you, and recite it slowly to help you quiet your mind. Repeat slowly and sincerely throughout your time.

c. Mindfulness is the practice of observing your thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and breath, with detachment, non-judgment, and compassion. Being present with what is, without having a conversation about it in your head, is an excellent and very portable meditation practice.

d. Visualization is a method often found in guided meditations, but you can create your own. Imagine yourself spreading out of your body, filling the room you are in, then stretching through your whole house, then neighborhood, then city, then state, then country, then throughout the entire planet, then universe! Sit in that expanded state without inner comment.

e. Group meditation is a great way to keep your commitment to yourself. Although it may not be feasible to meditate with a group every day, once a week—or even once or twice a month—has great value. You receive a vibration boost from others when everyone is generating energy for the common purpose of meditation.

6. Keep a journal. Meditation is going to awaken you to new ideas, experiences, and insights. Writing them down helps assimilate those new understandings into your consciousness.

7. Practice every day, no matter what! Some days, your meditation will feel extraordinary, or maybe it won’t. Either way, trust that something is happening, even if you aren’t consciously aware of it. Go back and remind yourself of the benefits of your practice. Let it be okay that you don’t feel enlightened at the end of your first month. Meditation is like brushing your teeth—you just gotta keep doing it for the best results!

Now give it a try! You will be grateful that you gave yourself this gift of a meditative life!