A Little Gratitude = A Big Dose of JOY

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As I enter into the last day of another work week, I want to give a SHOUT OUT for all of the abundance in my life. It hasn’t been an easy couple of months for me. I’ve made some big changes, but I’m still here and life keeps moving along. I’ve been tested, stretched, lonely, weathered, overwhelmed and filled with anxiety, but I’m still here. I’ve been hurt, confused, scared, broke and at the end of my rope, but I’m still here. No matter what occurs in my life, I’m still here. None of those things took away from who I am. None of those difficult moments defined who I am. I’m learning more and more to stop identifying with circumstance and emotion, while allowing it to flow through me rather than getting caught up in it’s clutches. I’m growing, I’m learning, and I’m walking in the freedom of love instead of caving into the hollows of my fear. Life is an internal journey. I know this now, and everyday I am given opportunities to live in this understanding. I am grateful today for the challenges I have been faced with that helped me walk through my fears.

Several people have entered into my life over the last year, who have offered me a looking glass into myself. At first glance, I noticed their so-called “wrongs” toward me, but then I stopped and looked at myself. What was coming up for me through the likes of these other people? Was it raw emotion? Was I angry, scared, mad, hurt – was I expecting more from them than they were offering? The answer was always YES, so then I was able to spend some time with myself, getting curious as to why those emotions arose for me. When I stopped being affected by the other people, and became interested in myself, the other people went away and I had the opportunity to build a deeper relationship with myself through my emotions. I got to understand myself a little bit better, and I was able to work through things that I may have disregarded in the past while I blamed the other people for their “wrongs.” To these people in my life, who walked with me along my journey, I am incredibly grateful.

Never in my life have I felt lonelier and at times, more hopeless than ever, but I am still here. During this experience of loneliness and pain, I have been able to step inside of the rawness of it, rather than hide from it and resist its temperament. It has been a fractured relationship with myself in the past, where I have denied my human nature while embracing my spirituality, but because of the cavernous scarcity in feeling deserted, I have had no choice but to face the desperate hollows of myself where I’ve discovered that the feeling of aloneness is nothing more than an exaggerated emotion. Like all of my emotions, loneliness is simply a passerby whom I must acknowledge so that she can gently move along. I want to take a moment to thank this harrowing acquaintance of mine for nagging me to befriend it for a day. In a single day, it ate me alive and by the time I had acknowledged it’s jaws, it sank back and took a bow before me. It was just there merely to greet me, but for years and years I have been afraid to face it. I am grateful for the enlightening company of my loneliness this week. What a friend we have inside ourselves when we are aware of what lies beneath the surface of physical reality.

For the moments when I’ve been unable to see myself, and during the times when I’ve been confused about which direction to take, I’ve been able to ask for help. I no longer resist a request for help. Because of this, the fog of my life has been graciously burned away by the light of others. Instead of growing restless and discontent I have learned to ask for assistance and to trust that what I need will be provided – and it certainly has. Just yesterday I listened to a talk show that gave me answers to several questions that I’ve been asking. The greatest question was “Must I suffer for the mistakes I’ve made in the past? Must I drudge through my karma to be delivered into abundance?” This is a question I have been asking myself for months, but I finally asked it allowed, and right on the talk show, I generously received my answer, “You do not need to accept punishment for your past mistakes. Learn to forgive yourself, and acknowledge your mistakes, but then be open to receiving the abundance that you are so deserving of. You can stop that karmic wheel by simply telling it to stop. If you want to be punished, then you will, but once you forgive yourself, you can walk in your freedom. Self-love is the answer to humanity’s suffering, and forgiveness of self is essential to being set free.” I forgive myself today for my past mistakes, and I accept the abundance of my life that I am so deserving of. I am so grateful for the times when I’ve felt blinded in my life because it has given me opportunities to trust in something greater than myself. What an exciting life I am living!

I am so grateful for the challenges, the confusion, the people who have brought me pain and reminded me that I still have things to work through. I understand now that people are not in my life to fill a void – they are there merely to guide me toward my voids so that I have the opportunity to take a good look at them. I am grateful for feeling hopeless so that I’m reminded that I’m human. I’m grateful for all of the sorrows, the emptiness and the despair because I got to know myself a little bit better, and I am still here. Look at me – I am ALIVE! I am provided for, I am always being guided. I am loved – and more than anything, I am incredibly grateful!

The Magic of Relinquishing Resistance

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Once in while, hopelessness crawls under my skin. It tells me that I’m wasting my time and that my life is never going to be anything extraordinary. It whispers to me that I will always be alone and that I’ve set my sights too high and the best thing I can do is accept that I’m a middle aged nobody. It brings up all the awful things people have said to me in the past, and callously reminds me of the rejection in my life. It harps on me for not being a size six and puts me down for not going to college. It makes me feel foggy and confused, and my clarity is wiped around – a dingy smudged window on a hot summer day. I can’t crawl deep enough under the covers, my jaw is locked tightly and I am unmotivated, so to pick up a phone and talk to someone is not going to happen, and going out somewhere would be to carry around two cement block feet. The covers are particularly comforting and sleep sounds like a million years of it wouldn’t be enough, so I close my eyes after speaking aloud that I need some help and a text comes through that I can’t ignore.

“How are you doing?” It states quite ironically. I stare at it. I stare at it. My mind is laughing – Oh, you really want to know, my friend… well, I’m going to tell you. I’m going to tell you exactly how I’m doing because it’s weird that you ask. I write back and soon we are in full conversation about my hopelessness. Things come up that I am surprised that I’m being honest about. My friend is helpful. The conversation is brief because I’m tired. As I click my phone off from the conversation a wave of pain overcomes me. All of the emotion I’ve been stuffing back rushes to the surface of my body and I decide to stop resisting it. “Fine, come on out and wreak your havoc. I am too tired to resist you now.” Tears, mania, sorrow, fear, anger – my acceptance of what is happening for me emotionally rears ugly faces and I decide to be ok with it. Why do I always forget to do this? Why do I go days and days resisting my emotions, instead of allowing them to simply flow through me? It’s so much easier to feel them as they are and then to experience them flee my body.

It’s never about the circumstances. I have a thousand things I could be upset about and a million other things to be grateful for. It’s when the circumstances bring up heavy emotion, that we must pay attention to the emotion arising rather than getting caught up in the drama of the circumstance surrounding it. Whatever is causing me to feel rejected is like a little act playing out so that I can feel the deeper part of me that tries to ignore that I am feeling lonely right now. The truth is, I’m feeling lonely right now. It’s ok to feel desperate and lonely. It’s not going to kill me. People feel this way quite often. It’s when we try to mask the feeling, or distract ourselves from the feeling that things get complicated, and for some of us, it can be a reason to self-destruct. I don’t want to ride that train any longer, so I am kind of stuck with the discomfort.

Breaking up is a whole process and it takes a lot of time for healing. It is easy to distract ourselves during the process, but when I finally admitted to another human being how I was feeling, and then sat with the awful feelings, I began to feel much better. Sleep came quickly and I woke up with a brighter disposition. It’s going to be ok, especially when I don’t resist the loneliness. At some point it will pass, but for now it’s hanging out with me and kind of mocking me. I don’t have to listen to what it says, however. I simply have to know it’s here. I simply have to accept it. It’s not who I am and this wave of sadness will surely pass in its own casual time. I’m not feeling good right now. I feel like a lemon tree in an apple orchard, but that’s ok. I don’t have to shake off the lemons. I just have to acknowledge they’re there and wait for them to drop on their own. In the meantime, I take one moment at a time and ask for help. I am human. Humans go through hard times. It’s not the end of the world and I expect to grow from this terrible experience. I’m sure I am growing right this very moment, although it feels like I’m being smothered and bogged down. I’ve been through this stuff enough however, to know that something really amazing is right around the bend when I don’t resist my emotions. We must trust in the experiences we are having. I can’t see clearly now, but I know there is magic when I am in acceptance with what simply is.

Anyway, in the meantime, I’ve found a new platform to promote my books, and I’ve placed them out there for free, so if you want some summer reading, here is the link to my author page with the books:

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JLForbes

Why Humility? (Because it is So Underrated)!

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When I lived in Berkeley for two years, I walked and rode my bike everywhere. There was a photography place I passed on my way downtown, and for those two years there remained a painting so profound that I had to stop each time I walked by the window. The painting was simple. It was a monk in a marigold robe. His hands were clasped together and he was standing while bowing his head before a small flower in the same color as his robe. The monk was honoring the flower with the gentle bow of “Namaste” (“I honor the place within you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place within you, which is of Love, of Truth, of Light and of Peace. When you are in that place within you and I am in that place within me, WE ARE ONE”).

If I could have bought that twelve-hundred dollar painting, I would have. It moved me so deeply. After six months of rigorous treatment in a facility in the Berkeley Hills where I was brought down to Earth from my grandiose thinking, that precious painting was a reminder to me of my place in the world, which is not above anyone or anything, or beneath another man’s ego, but a sacred place where I remain aware that every living thing is an extension of the divine. If all living things are an extension of the divine, then there is no living thing above another. We are all a spark of life in the vast wholeness of our creator. For those of you that do not believe in a creator, you can certainly agree that the spark of life dwells in every living thing; therefore, life is delightful, even if for the moment that it is alive. To honor the life we are given, and to be aware of it in another living thing, is humility. There is not one living thing greater than another. Each living thing on the planet has a purpose and each purpose provides for the well-being of all.

Humility has several definitions, but that painting provided me with a quintessential understanding. Whenever I am on a hike in the woods, I spend a few moments honoring the life surrounding me. Often I clasp my hands together in the presence of a deer, or a butterfly and thank the creatures for blessing me with their divine nature (life) and for their part in the ecosystem of the planet. At times when I am annoyed with another human being, I try to remind myself that I am not above that other person. They encompass the same spark of life as I do. The ego doesn’t see things this way, but the heart does. To be humble is to live through the heart center, rather than in the space of the ego. Sometimes (often) I have to remind myself to drop down into my heart because I am way up in the Tower of Babel of myself where my ego has delusions of its own greatness.

Look around you – although one person may have wealth while another is begging on the street, what would happen if neither had water to drink because of the severity of a drought? Both would eventually die of thirst and the one man’s wealth would be of no use. If you drive a nicer car than many other people, this does not make you a greater human being. If there were a sudden natural disaster and everything got swept away (homes, cars, buildings, etc.), the only thing that would matter to you would be your life and the life of your loved ones. Life is all that matters in the end, therefore life should be regarded each day, rather than taken for granted.

Humility is not about being a martyr or seeing yourself as below others. Humility is standing in balance with yourself and knowing your own divinity, as well as being aware of it in others (even when they are not aware of it in themselves). Humility is the shelter that brings us in alignment with who we truly are. It washes away the delusions of the ego and comforts you in the knowing of the heart. It is the only place I want to be, because it is a place of truth. It is the place of ultimate surrender, and the space where I do not get ahead of myself or where I fall behind. It is a place of total clarity.

When you think of the word “humility,” think of the painting of the monk and the flower. It is simply a place of being grounded and centered – where you understand that there is something great in simply being alive. Be alive and know that this is enough. See the life in others and understand that you share a common ground. Honor the life surrounding you in gratitude of its purpose toward your well-being. This is how you remain humble, and to remain humble is to walk in the entire wholeness of yourself, rather than in the fragments of your splintered mind. Humility is so underrated! It is what keeps me sober. It is where I want to spend the remainder of my life. It is where ultimate freedom welcomes me.

Namaste!

Red, White and BLUE Without a Drink?

After three years, I’m perfectly ok to be the only one not drinking on the Fourth of July. I have always been a little “different” in a crowd. I drank for years, merely to fit in, but you know how the ole story goes – I always drank too much, and there I was again, standing out like a moth at a butterfly gathering.

Last night I went to bed excited about the holiday without even considering what it would be like to drink, yet I was offered a brutal drinking dream, so here I am awake now shaking off the horrible feeling of relapsing, although it was only a nightmare. Those dreadful drinking dreams still come up for me, and I feel like it is simply my body (emotional, spiritual, mental) releasing old toxins – old energies and patterns of thinking seeping out of me in my sleep. In this dream, I carried a bottle of bottom shelf vodka and took sips out of it all day long, trying to maintain a buzz without getting too drunk. I accepted that I’d relapsed, and decided to forget about the recovery memoir I’d written – it was useless to anyone now because here I was drunk again. (Such a waste). People all around me knew what I was doing, and I still tried to hide the bottle while covering up my breath with gum, mouthwash and food. (What a high maintenance addiction – it’s so much easier to just maintain sobriety). In my drinking dream, I knew I was failing myself, yet I was stuck in the old, hopeless cycle. Upon waking up, I felt shame, fear, and then relief as I came to. Dreams about drinking are a reminder of why I do not want to go there again.

Two years into my sobriety, I decided to go completely vegan, so today I will probably be the only American at our campsite barbequing vegetables and drinking bottled water instead of enjoying a hamburger with a beer in hand. So what? I’m a little different – always have been. I’ve become completely comfortable with doing my own thing. I’m so incredibly grateful for my life. I love spending quality time with my family, especially my children, while being lucid. Staying awake instead of passing out during the fireworks, is so enjoyable. The sun is out and I’m not going to be dehydrated today because of too much booze. None of my differences take away from my experience of the holiday – in fact, my sobriety enhances the experience because I get to be all up in it! I get the full treatment of this fabulous American holiday. The aroma of barbeque, the sun beating down on my body, children’s laughter, adults relaxing, a spectacular fireworks show, the campfire afterward, and I’ll still be wide awake. I’ll close my eyes when I decide it’s time for bed. I am no longer a slave to the drink in my hand. I’m in control now. This is my life and I’m doing what I love doing, and being myself without shame, guilt, fear or self-destruction. This is a reason to celebrate.

When we were kids, we weren’t even thinking about anything but having fun during this holiday (during any holiday for that matter), so why do we think we can’t enjoy the festivities without a drink? That’s complete nonsense. If you feel uncomfortable today, recall what it was like to be a child during the Fourth of July and become that child again. If you are surrounded by adults who are drinking, find the group of kids and hang out with them. I guarantee you’ll have a lot more fun. I do it all the time. Find a way to enjoy this day and practice getting comfortable in your own skin. Soak it all in – be present and tap into your gratitude today. BE different. BE yourself. There is nothing more liberating than the gift of recovery, and after all, isn’t liberty what this day is all about?

A Culture of Neglected Dreams

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To close my eyes each night is to enter into another dimension of my life.  Vivid dreams have been a part of my experience for as long as I can remember.  I even recall my first nightmare about a monster in a caboose.  I’m certain one day I’ll write a children’s book with this very title.  (Perhaps this afternoon).  Dreams have inspired my writing for decades.  My imagination expands during those precious moments of sleep.  Dreams also tell me a story about myself.  They indicate where I am, what fears I’m still harboring, and reveal my suppressed emotions.  I take a few moments each morning to recall and reflect on my dreams, regarding them as a looking glass into my emotional, mental and spiritual state of being.  I’ve been doing this since I was about sixteen.

I used to take the time to write down my dreams so that I could study each symbol, but now I quickly review whatever images and feelings stand out in my dreams, and I go through them during the course of the day to get an idea of what’s going on for me.  Sometimes friends or family will share their vivid dreams with me to get some insight on their meaning.  Most people disregard their dreams, yet they may spend a lot of money on therapy.  I’ve always been of the understanding that I’m my own psychiatrist.  Nothing is missing from me.  My dreams reveal more to me about myself than any outside person could ever discover by talking to me about my childhood.  As human beings, we are fully equipped with everything we need in order to experience our wholeness.  The way our culture ignores their dreams is like the way we waste an animal after a hunt.  In Native American culture (along with many other native cultures), they used every part of the animal that they hunted.  They also regarded their dreams and had tribal dream interpreters.  We are a culture that wastes some of the most important aspects of who we are.  Being acquainted with yourself through your dreams is like inviting each part of your life experience into your natural wholeness and completeness.  Disregarding your dreams is like trashing important information about yourself.

My children and I share our dreams with one another.  My son told me about a dream he had regarding a lion.  I told him that the lion was himself.  He stood back shocked, knowing I was right on.  His astrological sign is a Leo.  I have dreams about twins quite often and I am a Gemini.  My daughter always tells me her dreams, which are rich and vivid.  She has epic dreams in crazy detail.  I remind both of my children that their dreams are part of their life and they should give ample attention to them to get insight about what is going on for them.  Fears come up a lot in dreams.  It is such a beautiful indicator of what we need to face in our lives.

Everything in your dreams represents an aspect of yourself.  Most people who dream of other people think the dream is about the other person.  More often than not, there is an aspect of that other person revealing that very aspect in yourself.  We are all mirrors of each other in the waking life.  However you perceive that specific person in your dream, indicates those certain characteristics about yourself.  I could go on and on.  This subject fascinates me to no end.  It makes me sad that our culture leaves their dreams under the covers.  Life is always occurring, even during our sleep period, and we should learn to honor our dreams.  It would certainly be less costly if we tapped into our own inner therapist – the natural psychiatrist.

Perhaps today you can take some time to reflect on your dreams and write down some things that stand out for you – colors, emotions, images, experiences.  Notice that every part of your dream is an aspect of you.  If you see water, this is an emotional indicator.  Is the water still?  Is it tranquil or moving rapidly?  Is there a storm?  Are  you at the seashore where the emotional body meets the physical body (harmony)?  If you’re in car, are you in the driver’s seat, or are you riding along in the backseat?  Is the car out of control, or are you in total control?  All of these things indicate where you are in your waking life.  If you have a dream you are curious about and would like some insight, I would be more than happy (trust me) to offer an interpretation.  I have been doing this for over twenty years and am usually right on.  Tell me your dreams.  Let’s stop wasting the aspect of our life which brings us to the wholeness of who we are.  What do your dreams reveal about you? If you want some clarity, feel free to email me: ArticulatingMagic@gmail.com, or write it in the comments and I will comment back.

 

Restlessness – How to Settle the Inner Storm

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Restlessness is a sure sign to me that I am not in my body.  Even after three years and a couple of months in recovery, once in while I still become restless.  It is rare, but it does come up for me.  Yesterday even after meditation, a steadily busy day at work and an hour walk with a friend, I was still splitting at the seams.  A drive home in more traffic than usual, an unexpected encounter, an apartment that was too hot to cook a good meal for myself in – all more reasons to come even more undone.  I had hours before it was time to go to sleep and nothing I focused on could keep my attention for long.  I had to figure something out because this will last a few more days if I don’t get myself back to center.

I understand why I am feeling restless, which is good to know.  I just moved.  The break-up is final.  My daughter is gone for a couple of weeks.  Most of the time when I’m feeling restless, it’s a cue to take really good care of myself.  Back in the old days, the restlessness would vamp me up and I would turn into a self-destructive, unpredictable wild person.  Luckily the opposite of that is true for me today and I am able to see that I need some self-care.  I’ve been going to a lot of meetings and they help a little, but when it gets to a point where I am thinking about getting a tattoo (which probably could ease me back into my body, actually), I know that I’m in a bad space.  Tattoos are ok.  I have one.  I just don’t want anymore, especially one that isn’t planned out very well.  I can just imagine Jon Hamm’s face on my forearm holding a ‘Mad Men’ banner, or something even more outrageous.  I really needed to place my attention elsewhere, so first things first – I ate a healthy meal.  Nutrition and exercise are so important in recovery, but sometimes it isn’t enough, so what else can you do during times of restlessness an/or boredom?

Self-care during restlessness is the opposite of self-destruction, so that’s what I did last night.  There is a quaint little massage therapy place close to where I live.  They were slow last night, so I made myself an appointment and offered myself a little pampering.  It absolutely helped.  Afterward, I was in a different space and I slept very well.  Upon waking up today, I feel more centered.  The place I go is not expensive, which is great, but in the beginning of my recovery I may not have been able to afford any type of massage.  I know how that can be.  During these times, I would take myself to an artsy movie, or walk to a farmer’s market and engage with the people.  Sometimes they offers massages for a dollar per minute at farmer’s markets.  Massage is a great solution, especially if you can find someone who gets in tune with your body and feels what you need.

If you can’t get a massage, I encourage you to take care of yourself no matter what.  Bake yourself your favorite dessert.  Make yourself a delicious meal.  Watch your favorite comedy – laugh out loud.  Whatever you can do, or whatever you can afford to pamper yourself – do it.  Talk to people who are also in recovery.  This is a good time to do service as well, but don’t forget that you need some self-care too.  Even buying a new item of clothing, or getting a haircut and color will change things up enough to loosen that discomfort in you.  It’s important that you don’t spend money you don’t have, because that would be self-destructive.  Spend what you can afford, and if you can’t afford anything, perhaps you can take a swim, or spend an evening with friends.  Go somewhere new.  Take a long walk and listen to soothing music.  Pick yourself some wild flowers and put them in a vase.  Take a bubble bath with lavender to sooth your restlessness.  Love yourself and honor yourself back into your body.  This has really helped me in the past, and it certainly alleviated the discomfort last night when I had a massage.

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Restlessness is part of life.  Any big changes, or even the slowness of life can trigger this experience.  For addicts, however, this is a trigger to use or drink.  Remember that recovery is doing the opposite of what we know, so instead of splitting into several parts of yourself and destroying everything in your path, reign it in and pull yourself together by taking really good care of yourself in these moments.  If you are too busy to do anything for yourself (which is probably an excuse), just remember that this too shall pass.  The restlessness is not eternal.  It will flee at some point, but do not resist it.  Find harmony within it.  Allow to be with you and get curious about why it’s there.  Learn something about yourself while you are experiencing the discomfort, and be present with it.  Tell yourself it’s going to be ok, and then be good to yourself.  Take one moment at a time and don’t judge yourself for being human.  Peace be with you today.  Remain sober (no matter what) and this too shall pass.