Turn that Frown from Longitude to Gratitude

Gratitude

I know… pretty annoying title, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed, annoyed and perfectly tired of people who spend their lives thinking positive. (Shame on them for not being “realists.” Life is not all unicorns and butterflies). Pretty easy to say things like, “Have gratitude,” or “Look for the silver lining…” when life is not twisting you up inside, but when you’re feeling homicidal or hostile toward the world, those little sayings are enough to make you actually pull the trigger, or to at least pull the blankets up over your head as you sink lower into the darkness. I get it. I understand pragmatism, realism, pessimism… (Murphy’s Law-ism). I’ve tried all these ways of “being” after my recovery peers made me feel like I was walking around with a rainbow up my ass, and my counselor told me to get my head out of the clouds. I decided to take off the positivity suit and to button up in one of those negative attracting gowns. You know the ones… They don’t allow any light in at all, because that would be a set up for my demise.

Okay enough joking around. This is going to be simple enough. Personally, after trying out constant pragmatism, and then feeling mostly frustration and annoyance, I decided to give positive thinking a real chance (without being delusional and ignoring the bad stuff. You can acknowledge the bad stuff, laugh about it, and not get sucked into it, however), and honestly, life began opening up for me in ways that seemed to move mountains in my life. When I was being cooler about life, life became cooler with me. People were nicer, I was able to laugh more, situations that used to boggle me were not that big of a deal, and better opportunities were knocking at my door, rather than me having to climb barbed wire to get what I wanted. I didn’t accept that life was one way. That to me sounded a lot like ignorance. When you are open to receiving, without judging what approaches, with an attitude of gratitude (yes I said it, so roll your eyes… whatever dude), there’s a real intelligence to this way of being. I know a lot of people say that when you’re positive, you set yourself up for disappointment, but that’s only true if you’re positive and expectant of an outcome. So the hell what if life disappoints you once in a while? That simply means that you have to change your thinking around outcome. Open yourself up to a bigger understanding of things. Perhaps you didn’t get that job because subconsciously you didn’t really want it, or maybe your child is acting out because your overall negative energy is causing an imbalance with the world around you. Cars break down, computers crash, people don’t pay attention when they are driving, but it’s your thinking that either causes you grief, or sets you free.

If I was a therapist, the first thing I would ask people when they came to me with a problem, is what their thinking and self-talk is around the issue. I would start from there, because after several years of experimenting with gratitude and positive thinking, I’m thoroughly convinced that the way I think, determines my life experience.

I’ll end with this. Yesterday was my first day at a new job. I went from part-time self-employment, to full time employment. The money is much better, but my mind told me that I was imprisoning myself, and that I would be overwhelmed and unhappy. The funny thing about that is – I believe that I attracted this job into my life because I was feeling restless at my other job, and bored. I need to feel challenged in my work. Anyway, yesterday I woke up feeling like there was a boulder sitting between my shoulder blades and I felt terrible going into my first day with the attitude that I was not going to be happy, so I did what any good recovering addict would do and I surrendered to how I was feeling. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Scared. Worried… I actually got down on my knees and thanked the universe for the new job and for the opportunity that was being provided. I especially asked for help and guidance, and I also asked to make friends, to be of service, and to allow me to be a light. “Shine through me,” I affirmed. “Let this job be an opportunity for me to grow, for me to attract people into my office so that I can build new relationships, and to help me be a positive and kind voice that they hear.” Saying the prayer moved me from my head down into my heart, and when I walked into my new office, I felt a sense of serenity. The entire day unfolded in a way that I can only describe as uncanny. Several little coincidences occurred, letting me know that I was in the right place. My office is up away from the main thoroughfare, but several people came up and introduced themselves to me. I was able to offer them a genuine smile, along with a handshake, and confidence in myself when I let them know what I can do for them. Some of them came back around to say “hello” again, and they even entrusted me with their files. I have a job where I’m supposed to be building relationships and trust. I am certainly not “imprisoned” in my new position. No one is hovering over me. I have complete independence throughout the entire day. I am so fortunate, and I know that this job is the next step in my life. The right one. It’s a big giant step in the right direction, but had I sunk into my negativity yesterday, I don’t believe that I would have had such a good experience. It truly is my responsibility to not just “think” gratitude, but to “be” gratitude.

How can I be of service? How is this experience going to help me grow (emotionally, spiritually, mentally)? What can I do to make this experience a good one, even though it feels terrifying? These are the questions I ask myself now. It is so important to me to make the most out of my life, and to feel amazing while I’m here, so this is why I choose to think positive, and why when I feel homicidal, I surrender. Instead of yelling, “GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES…” I get down on mine.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger (They May be Yoda in Disguise)

Message in a bottle

I’m getting to really understand how everyone around me plays a dynamic role in my life.  I have this almost thirteen year old daughter who is challenging me with her constant negativity toward nearly everything I say.  “Just do not say anything at all if it’s going to be negative,” I tell her.  “Just don’t talk.  I don’t want to hear negativity.”  Instead of fighting with her, I simply let her know that I’m not getting sucked into that way of thinking.  She gets it too, which is good, yet without her knowing – I do listen to her.  Later when I am alone, I think about where she is coming from, and it gets to me.  From her point of view, she cannot see the big picture of things like I can.  I have a vision for where we are headed, and she gets caught up in the bumps along the way.  I don’t like being reminded of the bumps because it distracts me from my vision, but then I recall what my treatment counselors used to tell us when we were being confronted by our peers in group.  “Look for a morsel of truth in what people say about you.”  Even if ninety percent of what a person says about me is garbage, there is probably ten percent of truth in their words.  “Listen to that,” the insistent counselors would say.  It’s beneficial because most of us have a blind spot (or many) when it comes to ourselves.

We tend to disregard when people confront us, but I’ve learned to tune in to everything that people are saying, even when they are being completely negative.  There is usually a fraction of truth in there somewhere, especially when I’m feeling challenged or resistant.  These days when people challenge me, I open my ears and heart and seek something that I may be overlooking.  I have grown tired of being delusional.  It’s good to know all sides of a coin and to embrace the value as a whole.  There is value in my daughter’s negativity.  She’s got a very clear message for me, and for once in my life, I’m listening.

Thinking positive is terrific, and it will get you incredibly far in life.  I know this from experience, but sometimes we spin circles about which direction to go, and we need a bit of resistance from the world and the people around us in order to get us focused.  I’ve spent several months trying to “figure things out” for my life and I’m looking around noticing a lot of dead ends.  Still, I try opening doors that will lead me down unfulfilling paths, just to realize that I’m opening doors that will lead me down unfulfilling paths.  I pray an awful lot, requesting direction and clarity.  As much as I want Yoda to appear in the forest when I’m hiking, to give me profound answers about my life (George Lucas lives in the next town over from me, so this isn’t far fetched), often my clarity comes in unexpected places, like from an argument with one of my children, or from me just standing there with absolutely nothing to offer of value to this world except for one single thing, and then I’m like, “Oh, I’ve got to move forward with that one single thing.  Duh.”  But I don’t disregard critics, or haters, or negativity from my children.  I tend to look at the world with rose colored glasses, and I know this about myself, so I very much value the people in my life who ground me with their sinister attitudes.  I appreciate them now, although when they first come at me, I have to admit that I’m quite resistant.  It gets under my skin and angers me a little, but again, all of that is valuable because it points me toward something that I’m probably missing.  If people are negative toward me and it doesn’t get to me, then it’s an indication that I’m centered and in a good space.

Everyone plays a valuable role in my life.  I don’t care who they are.  I try not to disregard people’s opinions anymore when they are directing them toward me.  They most likely (and offhandedly) have something of value to offer along my journey.  People outside of me fill in the blind spots.  If I want clarity, I need to see everything from all points of view, regardless if it’s uncomfortable (especially if it’s uncomfortable).  Those offhanded comments are often the arrows pointing me in the right direction.  If it were not for my daughter’s negativity this weekend, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the focus that I woke up with yesterday, and I know I’m being vague here, but the details don’t really matter.  She snapped me into focus and I suddenly realized that I need to cut out all the garbage, stop being wishy-washy and just go for the one thing I have to offer in this world.  The other stuff I was considering is just filler.  I’ve got to cut the crap and hone in on one thing and one thing only.

I want to make it very clear that I didn’t buy into the negativity that my daughter relayed.  I simply searched for the truth in myself through her discouragement.  I felt something strong about what she was saying, but if I were to get sucked into her negativity, I would have just given up altogether.  Instead, I opened myself up to her expression, grabbed that morsel of truth I needed for some real insight, and cut away the bullshit.  Mine and hers.  Damn, it is clear to me now what I should be focusing on, and I’m grateful to that uncomfortable feeling she offered me, because it set me straight.

I always remind myself that the truth hurts.  If someone says something that hurts, it doesn’t mean that they are 100% right, but it does point me back to myself, where I can go inward and discover the part of me that is not centered enough.  It jolts me back to myself where I can do some serious reflecting.

People say and do offhanded things all the time, and we tend to disregard them.  Sometimes I even find myself being the one doing the pointing of fingers toward others, and I’m like, “What has gotten into me?”  But then I realize that there is an urge inside of me to speak that offhanded comment, and I understand that I’m simply playing a role in that other person’s life.  I don’t like being the critic, but sometimes it just comes out of me.  If that person I’m criticizing would only grab onto the morsel of truth I have to offer them, they would gain some real insight.  It’s none of my business what people think of me, because I trust an overall big picture that is unfolding for others and for myself.

I don’t disregard people in my life experience any longer.  They are there as guideposts.  I am in their experience as a guidepost in return.  We need to tune in a lot more, and recall what we’ve been asking for in our lives, especially when people throw us off.  If what they say pushes us into proving them wrong, then be grateful for them.  In that regard, they have been of great service.  Without them challenging us, we may not have tried at all. Tune in to the truth, rather than tossing the whole of what people say.  Typically, when we are requesting guidance and clarity, it is not going to come in the form of Yoda.  It’s going to come out of the smart mouth of a thirteen year old who probably doesn’t realize she is your greatest teacher along your path.  

Seeking Validation From Others

Seeking Approval

Lately I’ve been following my own advice about giving more of myself than I think I have.  You know, the old getting-out-of-my-own-skin routine.  Life has been coming at me like a curve ball apocalypse and for some reason I don’t have the energy to freak out about it.  I know what I have control over, and what I don’t.  Doing the “next right thing” is the only thing I know how to do.  There is almost too much for me to worry about, so why even go there?  I know everything will work out, because so far, things have fallen into place very well.  If it was going to fall apart at all, I think I would see the cracks by now.  From my experience, the universe doesn’t give half of what you need and then abort mission while you flounder along.  If things aren’t supposed to work out when life comes at you hard, then usually there will be a big sock in the gut that tells you not to proceed.  I haven’t gotten that sock in the gut.  In fact, the green lights are blazing as I step into uncharted territory.  I trust myself and I have an overall vision.  Having that vision is paving the way for me like an unfolding bridge before my feet.

I recall a time when I used to look for validation from others, and now, 3.75 years into my recovery, the closer I get to my genuine self, I’m not concerned about needing approval from other people.  For example, it isn’t easy being vegan around carnivores who have strong opinions about eating meat, but being vegan for me is honoring my feelings about animals.  For years, I blocked out the sadness I felt regarding factory farming, and I got to a point where the feelings were too strong for me to ignore.  It was about a year into my recovery when I decided to go with my gut on shifting my diet.  Like everything else in my recovery, I took things really slowly.  I didn’t overwhelm myself with the changes.  I adapted to the earthy food in a way that didn’t shock my body or make me crave a hamburger to the point of going on a fast food bender.  I did it compassionately, like a ceremony of change.  It’s been a couple of years now and I realize that I’m not so focused on food the way I was before.  Food is no longer the center of my universe, and thank the gods, because we only need food for survival.  I got tired of worshiping food and looking forward to meals.  There is so much more to life.  Also, when I’m at a party where there isn’t a lot of food for me to choose from, I’m more focused on my diet than I am about avoiding alcohol, so becoming vegan has had the unexpected effect of shifting my focus away from alcohol.  I also feel much lighter, and I am closer to who I truly am.

I get off-handed judgments a lot for being vegan, but I’m ultimately the one who has to live with myself.  If I were to give in and eat a piece of meat, as often suggested by others, I wouldn’t feel good about it at all.  It may taste amazing, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling horrible about the abused animals.  Some people may call this being too sensitive, but honoring my innermost feelings takes a great amount of strength.  It would be much easier to simply eat the meat when it is offered. I’m very connected to life, and when people say, “Just don’t think about it,” regarding the slaughterhouses, I think to myself, they’re avoiding their true nature and I don’t want to do that anymore.  Recovery for me has been tapping into the well of myself, rather than living on the surface of my emotions.  I go deep because it keeps me in alignment with who I truly am, and in turn, this keeps me sober.  Perhaps from now on when I get glares about my food choices, I will say, “Being vegan keeps me sober.”

In regards to life throwing curve balls, there is always the suggestion that I go backwards and let go of my vision and just give up.  I have a lot on my plate.  I’m responsible for a lot of things, including two young people.  So I think of what it would look like if I stepped out of my vision and went back to my hometown and took another job that just paid the bills and got a place to live near my family.  It’s not that simple though.  There are so many elements to consider.  None of those elements flow together the way things are flowing now.  If they were, I would take a step back in a heartbeat, but I feel very strongly that I am where I’m supposed to be.  I’ve met amazing people along the way.  I feel connected to where I am.  From an outsider’s point of view, I don’t know what it looks like, but from where I stand, everything feels right.  I’m not forcing anything to happen.  I’m simply following an inner pull that has much more commonsense than it may seem.  I don’t think like most people.  I feel.  I feel my way along (because that’s what keeps me sober).

If you go through life seeking validation from others, you never truly get the full effect of living your life in such a way that it feels the universe is embracing you.  Getting guidance from people is one thing, but drawing answers about what you should do and where you should go, needs to come from within.  Yesterday my daughter was struggling with a decision about a friend.  The friend is always causing trouble, but she ultimately has a good heart.  She’s simply misguided.  We love the friend.  She has not influenced my daughter in a negative way.  In fact, on the contrary, but my daughter has been given advice from several people to not be friends with her because of her negative behavior.  My advice was to embrace the friend, to bring her over more often, and to make her a part of our family.  Give her guidance where it is needed.  When I said this, my daughter was so overwhelmed with relief.  She didn’t feel right at all about what other people were telling her.  I said, “You’ve got to listen to your own gut.  You can’t expect other people to tell you what’s right and what’s wrong.  You’ve bonded with this person, and you know that she is ultimately a good person.  She just needs to be taught certain things.”  My daughter is wise beyond her years and told me that her friend claims that she can’t help it that she is often “rude.”  My daughter told her, “YOU aren’t rude.  You ACT rude.  That’s not WHO you are.”  I was impressed.  I mean, that’s exactly right.  If her friend buys into that label about herself, perhaps one day she will literally be a rude individual, but we’re not allowing her to buy into that label.  We’re trying to show her that her behaviors don’t define her.  If she begins affecting us in a negative way we’ll put up our boundaries, but for now it seems that she simply needs a little bit of extra love and a lot of acceptance.

Labels don’t define us.  Religious preferences don’t define us.  Political views don’t define us.  My veganism doesn’t define me.  Getting validation from other people doesn’t breathe life into my existence.  I’ve found a way to stand on my own two feet and to draw from the deep well within myself.  I’ve had a lot of curve balls thrown at me lately, and some of them hurt, but they don’t define how I ultimately feel.  Nothing will sway my stance because I know who I am and where I am going.  I will be tested and tried and pushed and pulled, and I will continue standing on my own two feet and drawing from the deep well within myself.  I have to live with me for the rest of my life.  I’m the only person who has to live with me for the remainder of my life (twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week).  So if I’m seeking validation from sources outside of myself, or drawing from someone else’s well, I will never ever experience the eternal joy that continues flowing even while I’m facing unexpected adversity.  I will only have moments of happiness, which never kept me sober.

Another Way to Look at Birds and Bees (Just BEEEEEE)

birds and bees

My mother had an experience where she was learning about being present.  When we are just learning about being present, the last thing we are doing is being present because we’re trying to “figure out” how to be present, which goes against the whole concept.  On one of her walks along a levee, she finally asked aloud, “What does it mean to just BE?”  She was serious when she asked this question.  Her answer came immediately in the physical form of a large bumble bee that entered right into her space.  Buzz buzz buzz.  My mom got the cosmic joke and pretty much went into hysterics.  What a sense of humor God has!  Coincidence?  I think not.  She asked for “be” and she got “bee.”  It was a sweet (pun intended) lesson to her about being able to laugh and enjoy the moment.

When I was learning about being present, I was trying to figure it out too.  For someone like me who lives inside their head observing and analyzing everything and everyone, being present was a difficult endeavor – nearly impossible for me.  I can honestly say it took me about three years of practice.  That’s a really long time, but one of the things that helped me was the birds.  I was sitting on my front porch bench thinking about being present (oxymoron) and suddenly a bird chirped very loudly.  It woke me up out of my thoughts and there I was, suddenly present to the moment.  Chirp chirp chirp.  The bird was out of sight, but I was aware.  For once I was aware of the surrounding world right now.  I got a revelation that perhaps the bird’s chirp was divinely designed to wake humans up to the moment.  Each time I heard a chirp thereafter it was a reminder for me to get out of my head (which is pretty much like telling a two year old to stop picking their nose – they just can’t help it).

It’s been about seven years and my world is entirely calm now.  Being present is no longer difficult for me because it saved my life.  It is a place of healing.  It is a place where I am the organic, genuine me.  When I am present, I am not planning ahead about which mask I’m going to wear, or what I’m going to say ahead of time.  There is power in being present because it’s where all of me is in one place.  I am not split up in my head between the margins of yesterday and tomorrow.  I’m not on the battleground of my mind.  I’m just here.  When my words come out now, sometimes they are quite intuitive.  I shock myself with the insight that flows when I am present.  When I am present, I can write from a genuine place.  I’m not trying too hard when I am present.

Being present also means letting things go right away.  It means that if I make a mistake, I can stand in awareness of that mistake, and then be present in the next moment where that mistake does not exist.  It’s immediate forgiveness and being in a constant state of healing.  If I am having an emotional moment (no matter what the emotion is), I can acknowledge the emotion and allow to be there with me.  When I am present, I feel the emotion in its entirety.  I don’t judge it or resist it.  I just give it space, and quickly, it moves through me.  There is no lingering when I am present.  Compassion flourishes in the state of being present.  When you are present, there is no resistance, judgment, worry, stress, apprehension or pretention.  You are in a constant state of acceptance of what is, no matter what is.  If the what is brings up raw emotion, you are present with that emotion.  The emotion will pass and there you will find yourself again blossoming in your magnificent awareness of both yourself and the immediate world.

I used to get a little weepy thinking about not holding onto people, places and things that made me happy, but as I’ve been letting go more in my life, each moment that I am completely present (no matter what I’m doing) is enough to fill any void of loss about whatever it is that I’m letting go.  When I am completely present, nothing I’m doing is draining, or that awful either, because being present means not dreading it.  It means just being. 

Being present does not mean that you cannot use your imagination.  We need creativity in our lives in order to invite experiences and things into fruition.  I make space during certain times of day (early morning and late at night) to visualize and make an intention for what I desire in my life.  Many people use dawn and dusk for prayer or mediation.  Prayer to me is being present and it is more of a state of being rather than a thing that we do.   Meditation is something I can do pretty much anywhere.  Being present is also a constant state of mediation.

I used to get wound up about what was up and coming, and what I had to plan for a month ahead of time.  I would get twisted about Christmas – in February.  I thought everything had to be done right this second, but I guess after sitting in a treatment facility for six months and not attending to much of anything outside that facility, I realized that things either work themselves out, or they don’t much matter.  Not as much as we think they do anyway.  If something comes up now, I deal with it when it comes up.  I don’t thrash and spin over the things I have no control over and I don’t get anxious about the future.  Worry never helped me or made things any easier.  On the contrary.  Worry is a life-suck, so I’ve learned to just deal with things as they arise, rather than giving power to them ahead of time.  I know we have to plan things in life.  Of course.  But when I am present during the planning, the planning is much simpler and less of a burden.

Being present is the easier, softer way (if that’s something you’re looking for in your life).  It’s the answer to just about everything.  Many times my daughter will bring up things she’s worried about and I’ll say to her, “Is that happening RIGHT NOW?”  No it never is, and she gets it.  She immediately calms down and usually discovers a smile in the midst of the temporary anxiety.  The only thing that is happening right now is usually nothing.  That’s the truth.  Big things happen in our head more than they do in real life.  Of course, I’ve learned to be so present that even my job and home reflects a very peaceful environment.  That wasn’t always the case.  Like I said, it took several years of practice, but the result is that the world around me reflects my state of being.  The world around me is pretty much calm.  If yours is not, then keep practicing being present in the midst of the chaos.  If you can’t seem to find yourself centered, call aloud for assistance.  Ask for help.  Tell the birds and the bees to remind you about their sweet way of bee-ing! 

This book helped me: http://www.amazon.com/Power-Now-Guide-Spiritual-Enlightenment-ebook/dp/B002361MLA/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1412776299&sr=1-1&keywords=the+power+of+now

Here is my story: http://www.amazon.com/The-Devils-Altar-Dynamic-Recovery/dp/1492957798/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412776367&sr=8-1&keywords=the+devil%27s+altar

If It Were My Last Day on Earth

Last day on Earth

A lot of times when I wake up in the morning I ask myself what I would do today if it were my last day on Earth.  I would most likely run as fast as I could for as long as I could, and sing every song that came through my earphones aloud.  I would dance on the sidewalk and in the street.  I would learn something about every person I met.  I would hug just about all of them.  I would give my possessions away to those who needed them and empty my wallet to anyone who asked me for money. I would call everyone of my family members and tell them how much they meant to me and let them know how they influenced my life (my beautiful and dynamic life).  I would genuinely thank a lot of people, and gently bow in the way of Namaste (I honor the divinity within you…).  I would pass out the books I’ve written.  I would take my two children for a long drive and tell them just about everything I know about being alive and about people.  I would tell them to follow their hearts, to take chances, to not be afraid to fail, to question everyone and everything, to listen to their gut, to use their voice, and to search within themselves for all the answers.  “God is not outside of you,” I would remind them, and I would say, “When you’re feeling disconnected, or confused, or angry, or weird, stop everything you are doing and be of service to someone else.  This is the answer to just about every problem.  Be of service.  It takes you right out of your head into alignment with your heart and soul.”  We would go to the beach, and no matter the weather, I would swim in the ocean one more time.  If I had a boat, I would sail.  If there were a parachute, I would jump out of a plane.  If there was someone I loved that I hadn’t yet told, I would tell them that day before I left the earth, and I wouldn’t care if they loved me back.  I would just want them to know.  I would spend money on food I loved, and eat like a queen for the day.  I would write one last letter (or a few of them) and mail them to people I haven’t talked to in a while.  I would get on my knees in the state of surrender that has kept me sober, and I would tell God how incredibly grateful I am for this human experience.  I would mention my health, my challenges, the modern conveniences that I took for granted, and the people I encountered that showed me who I was. I would cry the tears that I’ve been holding back, because a good cry clears away the gunk in the ole vessel of my soul.  I would definitely hug a tree because I just love trees.  I love the relationship we have with the plants and animals, so I would thank everything for being a part of my existence, especially the sun.  If it were raining, I would stand under it until I was soaked.  I would play and record the one song I’ve ever written, on a grand piano in the middle of a mall or in an art gallery. I would pick or buy myself a bunch of sunflowers, roses or tulips, depending on the season.  I would inhale the aroma of everything I could smell, and touch my keyboard as if it were a treasure, because typing is the one thing I’ve probably taken for granted that has moved me forward in my day-to-day life.  I would stare into an orchid just one more time to get a glimpse of the goddess fairy face.  I would definitely climb a mountain, even if it were at night, and I would let the stars be my guide.  I would not be afraid of being eaten by a wild animal or of getting lost.  I would build a campfire and howl at the moon.  I would laugh with everything in me.  I would laugh until I was laying on the ground in awe of the cosmos, remembering that they are a reflection of me.  I am all the elements that are within the stars and I would be grateful for my awareness of this truth, because it has kept me in a place of knowing that I am everything that I ever need.  I would touch the dirt on the ground, take my shoes off and walk around.  I would love with passion and speak with a knowing (rather than rambling), and I would find a way to fly that day, even if it was to ask a stranger pilot to take me for one last spin above the earth.  I wouldn’t be afraid of anything or anyone, or what people thought of me.  I would want to leave the earth knowing that each person I encountered that day knew how special, whole, and incredibly unique they were.  I would never stop smiling that day, knowing that a smile can light up the surrounding world.  I would eat dark chocolate and ice cream without a thought of getting fat, and I would stare into the mirror and tell myself that I was beautiful – not because of how I appear to the world, or because of my remaining youth, but because when I look in the mirror – I finally see my spirit.  I would climb a tree as far as I could go, and I would read a passage out of my favorite book while I was up there.  I would spin with my arms out, and skip, and do one last somersault and cartwheel.  I would hold someone’s hand and tell them that they mattered to me. I wouldn’t be anything other than myself. I would be proud of whom I have become and completely aware of the trials I have overcome.

And if it were my last day on Earth I wouldn’t look at my phone a thousand times, check my email or watch Netflix or YouTube.  I wouldn’t ever look at the time. I wouldn’t waste a moment on my last day here.  I wouldn’t waste one breath or say one word I didn’t mean.  I wouldn’t spend my energy on anger, gossip, envy, negativity or revenge. I would not worry about a damn thing.  I wouldn’t hesitate either. I certainly wouldn’t go to work or wear a suit (unless it were a bathing suit), but I WOULD write one more inspiring poem, or blog or paragraph, and I would do it because it made me feel alive to write.

If it were my last day on Earth, my entire life that day would be an expression of gratitude.  That’s how I would spend my last day on Earth.  How about you?

Why I’m Suddenly Obsessing About the Number Zero

Possibilities

Zero is the greatest number of all.  You want to know why?  Are you curious?  Well, it’s a lot like the word, “surrender.”  If the number zero had a word counterpart (and it probably does, but I can’t find it online this morning), I would suggest that the word be “empty.”  When there is emptiness, there is endless possibility.  This is why zero is magnificent.  Zero is another way of saying “all things are possible.”  When you are void of all your ways, the only thing you have left is just about everything.  You don’t believe me?  Well, I’m no mathematician (by any means – I frigging hated math in school), but I did happen to hear one on the radio the other day who stated that in geometry, when there is nothing (zero-point), the possibilities are endless.  This is why I decided to start figuring out ways to empty myself each day so that I could open up the possibilities of my life.

Surrendering is about letting go – completely.  Giving up the fight.  It’s knowing that you have absolutely no control, but being willing and courageous enough to admit it.  It’s ground-zero.  It’s emptying yourself of everything because you need to discover a new way to be.  We’ve all been there at one point or during certain moments of our lives, but for many of us, everyday is about remaining in a humble place of surrender so that we don’t get ahead of ourselves again.

I’m a big fan of the word “surrender” because it’s what keeps me sober, but I’m always open to deeper insight, which is why I am so incredibly excited about knowing and understanding how when you have “nothing” that everything is possible.  I like the idea of being a blank canvass and clearing my mind so that I’m not disturbing the peace of my experiences.  The idea of having a blank mind means that I’m not blocking things from occurring in my life because I’m not tossing any doubts or negativity toward possibility.  It’s like constantly having beginners luck when you are open to all things being possible.  Let me explain how – I was invited to a Giant’s game the other day.  I like the Giants and everything.  I’m from the Bay Area, so of course I root for Bay Area teams whenever I do watch sports, which is rare, but I wanted my children to have the opportunity to go to a ballgame, so we went.  My friend bought the special events tickets, which only occur twice during the season.  I knew nothing (there’s that word again) about this.  I had no idea that people weren’t allowed to go on the green except during these special events.  Apparently going on the green is like a really big deal.  I wasn’t that impressed about it because it takes a lot to impress me, but it was really cool, especially because my friend was super excited about being on the green.  Anyway, we started doing the special event Yoga and there standing on a stage right before us was Michael Franti doing the music for our yoga session.  The Yoga session was incredible and it was occurring just as the sun was setting behind the stadium, so it was pretty surreal, but I was just taking it all in, incredibly grateful that we didn’t take off after grabbing our Giants yoga mats.  We stayed for the whole thing and the experience was beautiful and so much fun for all of us.  If I had expectations about what was to come that afternoon, I don’t think my experience of it all would have been so pure, unidentified and incredible.  I’m pretty certain that I would have jaded it with my expectations and notions.

Beginner’s luck is not knowing the odds, and not blocking the possibilities with fears or ideas by dwelling on the odds.  If you know the odds, you tend to focus on them which create an experience of odds.  If you don’t know anything about the odds, well – you’re open to the possibilities.  So there you go.  Surrendering is a really big clue about how to live in a way that opens your life up to all things possible.  If you empty your mind of odds and negativity, you are creating a wind tunnel for everything good to come through.  Clear the slate today.  Be present.  Experience life with beginner’s luck.  Stand in the ground-zero of your life and open yourself up to everything possible! Let’s see how far we can go. (I’m not even aiming for the stars anymore because that would be limiting myself from what’s beyond them!)

New Day – New Beginning

New Beginnings

Nature is the greatest example of “how to be.”  Nothing in nature (besides human beings) worries about what comes next.  We are the only species that has the ability to embody fear indefinitely.  Some of us walk in the darkness of our fear without even knowing it.  But if we look around and see how the plants and animals live in harmony, we will notice that they are in a constant state of trusting their environment in a state of being present.  They thrive from the offerings of the earth and they don’t worry.  They innately know that they will be given all that they need.  This is a great lesson for all of humanity.

I wake up as the sun is rising and it is a beautiful reminder that each day is a brand new beginning.  The crickets and frogs pass their symphony onto to the birds.  The darkness is relinquished as the sun moves her dance to this side of the planet.  A morning dew refreshes the plants, and we wake up again.  A fresh start is offered to each living creature. Tomorrow does not exist.  Yesterday is long gone.  The thing that we are generously given on a constant basis is NOW.  The only thing that takes us out of now, is our labyrinth of thoughts.  We wake up with regrets, worries, plans, ideas and often we rush through our mornings to get somewhere on time.  We lose ourselves throughout our day, and forget to touch, taste, see, smell, listen, laugh… feel.  We forget these gifts of life because we think that life is a car, a job, parenting, wearing the mask of professionalism, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, finding out what’s on the news… etc.  I’ve got news for you.  Real news.  There is a whole universe you are missing out on while you’re engrossed in the surface of life.  The whole universe is you and this very moment.

I used to think life was incredibly boring.  I was so bored that I despised even being here, and there were times when I looked forward to death.  If I wasn’t bored, I was terrified, which is even worse.  How did that all change for me?  Well, first because I yearned for it to change, and second, because one beautiful morning in 2011, I woke up with the sunrise and realized that it was all I had, and it was all I ever needed.  There was nothing other than me and this moment.  That was it.  That was always going to be it.  How refreshing.  How thirst quenching.  How simple and incredibly profound.  So here I am.  Here you are.  Wake up.  It’s a new day.  Embrace the new beginnings rather than embody your fear.  Let go of the need to control outcome and take it all in, because this is all you have.  This is all you ever have.  Thank God for that, because it is so perfectly uncomplicated – this right here, right now moment.  The whole universe (you) is encompassed in today.  Isn’t that something to behold?

When People Die, We Ask WHY, Instead of Opening a Conscious Eye

Life and Death
Tragedy blusters our entire being. It halts us in our tracks and shoots an expansive ache throughout our body. When the world hears of a tragic death, we all feel it as a whole. We feel it as a body of people. For a few moments in time, the masses share a common pain, but rather than meditate on this sorrow, or acknowledging the sudden mass awareness, we begin to chatter.

I’ve read all sorts of posts about the “suicide” of our beloved Robin Williams. Some of them are generous and loving. Others offer information about depression as education to those who do not understand the darkness of a mental illness, and I’ve read a lot of judgmental posts too. “Suicide is never the right thing to do.” “Suicide is wrong, PERIOD.” “Suicide is the devil getting his way…” Another post I read said that the only thing that Robin Williams needed was Jesus. REALLY? Because I had Jesus my whole life, since I was four. I knew Jesus, prayed to Jesus and loved Jesus. Knowing Jesus never stopped me from drinking myself into oblivion, and loving Jesus didn’t stop me from wanting to kill myself several times when I’d lost all hope in my addiction. In fact, I’d woken up so many times after drinking myself to death, furious that I was still alive. I had Jesus. What I didn’t have was self-love or self-respect. 

A lot of fear and condemnation surrounds the act of suicide, but here’s something to think about – there is not one scripture in the Bible that mentions suicide, nor does Jesus ever bring the topic up. “Thou shall not kill” was one of the commandments, but if I recall correctly, Jesus pretty much blasted through those laws and told his disciples that most important of all the commandments is to “love your neighbor as yourself and to love God with all your heart, your mind and your soul.” Let me stop right here (for those of you who are not exactly Christ followers). Again we circle back to self-love.

Suicide is a demonstration of the act of free-will, which we have all graciously been given. Nobody knows for certain where a soul goes after death. Let’s just get this straight. We have beliefs. We do not KNOW anything. If people are ignorant enough to debate heaven and hell, obviously they have no idea that people like Robin Williams (and me) were already in hell. He was desperate to find a way out of hell and that’s why he decided to take his own life. He was (like me) probably tired of being a burden to his family. He was literally a genie wanting out of the bottle. As a whole, we are focused on his act, instead of understanding the bigger picture here.

A few years ago one of my recovery peers lost her best friend to a sudden heart attack. She spoke to someone wise who told her, “There is always a bigger picture playing out.” This angered my friend because at the time, my friend was focused on the tragedy, but as time has gone on, so many beautiful things have occurred as a result of that death. My friend has bonded with his son more than she would have if he were still alive. My friend has always wanted a child of her own, and hasn’t had the opportunity. Because of her friend’s death, and his son needing extra care, she is getting the chance to know what it’s like to love a child unconditionally. There are several other good things that have risen from the ashes of that tragic death. Death may be the end of one person, but with awareness, it can be the birth of many possibilities.

Likewise, there is a bigger picture playing out with the suicide of Robin Williams. Suicide is “never the answer.” So many people say this, but how do they KNOW this for certain?Obviously for him it was. More often than not we only think of ourselves, and when people die, they are dead. The ones who suffer are the ones who are left behind, and none of us like pain, so we say these things because we don’t ever want to feel the kind of pain that suicide leaves behind. I have news for anyone who says this – THAT PERSON WHO COMMITTED SUICIDE, WAS IN THE WORST KIND OF PAIN.  MORE THAN YOU CAN COMPREHEND. What you feel after someone takes their own life is NOTHING compared to the pain and torture that person was in.

After someone dies, GRIEVE. That’s what death brings us no matter how the death is caused. Grief is part of the human experience. Life and death is part of the human experience. “This could have been prevented.” When things could have been prevented, we tend to focus on that, and then we get lost in the tape of our mind playing the “what-if” song. Well, it wasn’t prevented, so now what? Feel the grief. That’s really all we can do in situations like this, but when it is all said and done, we should be open to receiving whatever comes after that death. Death leaves so much room for open-mindedness. It is a lesson about life. It is a time for reflection. There is so much beyond grief that is very beautiful and fulfilling. There is a generous amount of joy that comes up for us when people we admire pass away. I feel it now when I think of Robin Williams, who has been one of my favorite actors since I can remember.

Love. Love comes up when we think of Robin Williams. Adoration, laughter, chills, joy, saddness. All of these things come up for me when I reflect on his life. He was in pain – in so much pain – yet he brought so many people JOY. How is this even possible? As a unevolved human species, we label everything and point fingers and we tend to look at one aspect of situations, rather than have a human experience when things occur. I would ask you today to really begin to FEEL what comes up for you if you are feeling anything at all over this celebrity death. Feel all of it as it arises in your body. Notice all the emotions and be present with them. Let your thoughts, your judgments and your ideas about suicide go. Just be present with yourself and experience all the emotions that enter into your experience. Reflect on what you’re feeling and take time to meditate on the emotions. Now stay with it as it rolls through you. THIS is the bigger picture. This is what we should be doing no matter what occurs in life. It’s called self-awareness, and when we have it, we receive a lot of clarity. When we have it, we are getting to know ourselves a lot better. When we are aware of ourselves, we are learning to love ourselves, and if we learn to love ourselves, we will stop self-destructing.  Self-love naturally extends out into the world.  You cannot love your neighbor as yourself, if you do not love yourself.

We are not taught to experience life this way (from the inside out), which is why so many of us drown out our emotions, or distract ourselves from how we feel to the point of tragedy. When someone dies, we tend to talk rather than feel. Since I’ve began feeling, my life has begun to blossom. It doesn’t matter what I’m feeling – from embarrassment to happiness, each emotion is a like a flower expanding in my body, brilliantly. Feelings do not last eternally. They are ever-changing. I’m learning that life is an internal journey and that the world outside of me gives me opportunities to feel myself from the inside out. Bad things happen in life. They just do. But when we learn to feel, rather than to try to figure out why, we will evolve.

In the East they teach that we all come here in this human form as an actor with several roles to play while we are alive. We are all here reflecting different things to one another. What one person is to me, is someone else to another person. Robin Williams mastered so many roles in his lifetime, except the one where he played himself.  The question is, what did he reflect for you when you watched him do his thing?  What’s coming up for you now?

People are going to come and go throughout our lives, and sometimes when they go it will come as a shock. Experience the shock. Go through the grief. Experience yourself through the roles of others. You are the only one that you are going to be with for the remainder of your life. You only have YOU. So why not spend your life getting acquainted with you? Why not FEEL your way through life, rather than talk about what’s occurring outside of you? I’m doing it now, and it took me from being an unconscious observer, to being a conscious participant while I’m here. I overcame depression because I learned how to live my life from the inside out. I learned how to feel and how to love what I’m feeling rather than drowning it out. I learned that my emotions are more relevant than the situations occurring. People bring stuff up for us emotionally. Rather than point fingers at them, we should honor our emotion and thank them for pointing us back to ourselves.  If you are judging, you are closing yourself off from feeling and that, my friend, is a tragedy.

Thank you, Robin Williams for being a reflection of joy, of love, of adoration, of brilliance. Because of you I’ve gotten to FEEL a lot this week, which reminds me that I’m very much ALIVE. I’m not here to judge your life experience. I’m merely here to experience mine.

Learning Not to Judge Others

Karma
When you put yourself out there to practice certain principles, the first thing that occurs is that you get several opportunities to practice these principles. It’s a given. While I was learning to practice compassion for myself a few years ago, I kept making mistakes that I probably wouldn’t have made prior to deciding that I wanted to offer myself compassion. Embarrassment and self-disgust came up for me several times until I understood that I was human and that I should learn to give myself a break rather than beat myself up. Over the years, I have learned to move through my mistakes a lot less clumsily without the self-hatred, but in the arrangement of mine to give myself compassion, I’ve had to deal with people who judge me harshly. People judge. It’s what we naturally do. Some people will follow another person and bite at their heels all the way to justice being served, while others hold grudges for years. Some people gossip until they exhaust their own soul, and others are hateful and awful toward the person that “did them wrong.” Life is not that black and white. There is always a backstory to every situation. I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning and makes the decision to screw someone over. Most of the time people neglect themselves before neglecting another human being. I think the key here is that when someone does you wrong, or won’t listen to your side of the story, you’ve got to set yourself free by simply accepting that more than anything, that other person is human. Take it as an opportunity to practice love and compassion rather than becoming self-righteous.

It’s really interesting to me now to turn this all around and to give other people the same compassion as I give myself. With my children (whom I practice on the most), offering immediate forgiveness and compassion comes pretty naturally, because they are an extension of me, but what about the people in the real world who seem to be separate from me? How do I manage to offer my compassion to total assholes? There are so many of those riding in the middle of the street on their bikes without looking back while I’m in a CAR trying to get to work… (Satire here – I don’t truly think they are assholes). There are grumpy people, petty people, fussy people, people in a hurry, and people who I don’t have the opportunity to offer compassion toward because we pass each other through life so swiftly. I find myself impatient while I’m driving. I always tell my children, “I am a very spiritual person, but none of that applies in the car.” While on our vacation last week, we experienced two bad accidents coming home and two hours of bumper to bumper traffic through San Francisco. As I sat there tired and ready to relax in the comfort of my home, I decided to not get uptight about the whole thing. It was a good opportunity to practice patience and to just be in the moment. I did complain about a few things, like how bad the roads are in California when there are millions of taxpayers here, but overall, I kept my cool for once. Children observe everything, and if I’m not being cool, calm and collected in the car, that’s what they are going to bring up when I try to act like I’m a saint overall.

Regarding judgment of others – lately I’ve made several connections with so many new people and all of them are so dynamic in their own way. Every person I meet has experienced something in life that I haven’t experienced. I used to go into conversations excited to talk about myself, but now I’m finding myself extremely interested in what other people have to say. I love people. I love experiencing energy when I walk into a room full of people who are all there for the same purpose. I’m noticing the more I am accepting of people, the more they are accepting of me. It is true. The world reflects whatever you put out. I used to think of myself as a lone soldier who people didn’t “get.” Instead of thinking this way, I’m putting myself out there to see what I can learn from others, and everything has turned around for me. It feels like there is a lot of love out there for me. I’m not talking romantic love – I’m speaking about acceptance. Now that I am embracing the world and the people in it, the world and the people in it are embracing me.

No one is perfect and it is so easy to judge. What isn’t easy, is to offer love and compassion to everyone you encounter. This is a challenge. I heard it in a movie this week, “You’ve got to see through all the obvious, down into a person’s heart,” bottom line. People put up walls, and act like jerks, but underneath most human beings is a vulnerable soul. We have all been hurt and done wrong and been abused in some way, shape or form. Many of us are grieving for someone we’ve lost. Each one of us has experienced a bad day. I was treated poorly this week by a cashier, but I looked beyond that and saw that there was some frustration behind it. Obviously that guy was having a rough day. We’ve all had those. Instead of making his day worse by telling his boss, or by complaining directly to him, I offered a broad smile and told him I really appreciated him bringing the box of paper to my car. Why waste my energy getting angry when it takes a lot less time to be kind? I could have dwelled on that all day, but instead, I let it go. Let it go. There’s a concept.

Instead of noticing what a person is lacking, I’ve been practicing a new way of thinking. What is their gift in life and what do they know that I don’t know? Probably A LOT. We attract everything that comes our way, so instead of rejecting people by judging them, I’ve decided to be open to them. It’s all part of the flow that I so often talk about. Don’t stop the flow of your life. People come into our experiences in all shapes, forms, sizes and with different belief systems. What are you going to be for them? I no longer put a guard up. I simply open myself up to whatever experience comes my way with each person I encounter. I don’t have to pretend to like them. I simply have to accept who they are. When you accept people for who they are, they automatically open themselves up to you. It’s incredible. People notice when they are accepted. They are drawn to acceptance. I’ve noticed since I’ve been doing this that people are very drawn to me. And I’m not getting a bunch of riff-raff – I’m getting to experience people with their guards down too. People want to be loved. They want friendship. They want acceptance because the world offers a lot of judgment as it is. Everyone has something to teach us about ourselves and about how to be.

Let it go. Let people make mistakes. Allow them to be angry, to be short with you, to be in whatever state of mind they are in at the moment. It takes much less energy to smile than it does to argue. I’m still learning this (especially in the car), but it is liberating. Life is too short to remain angry. Life is too precious to keep a guard up. Life is too generous to be self-righteous and judgmental. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten more second chances than I deserved, so I’ve decided to offer that same generousness to others. If you want acceptance, you’ve got to learn to give it first. That’s the golden rule we learned about in Sunday school. It’s karma. It’s not a bitch. It’s kind of beautiful actually.

Wildflower

wildflower
In the vast field of life
I’ve chosen to be a wildflower
Not a blade of grass
nor an unwanted dandelion
I’ll not be confined in a yard
prided over by man
fertilized, groomed and watered
then heedlessly mowed down
by the same keeper
I bloom freely and upright
Beautiful and bright
I sway in the gentleness of the wind
and keep my face toward the sun

by J. L. Forbes