Excerpt from ‘Presage in a Bottle,’ by J. L. Forbes

Presage

Twice in my life I nearly drowned in the undercurrent of the ocean. Both times I was caught off-guard by waves of mass erosion sucking and folding me into the lethal body of water like a listless rag-doll. In milliseconds, the shoreline morphed from beauty to beast; first fulfilling my soul, then virtually robbing me of my young life. One of those times, my head crashed into the seaboard. I spun mercilessly inside the rifting tide, which harshly indicated my own vicinity between the water and the land beyond the whirlwind. I was lucky to hit my head regardless of the pain and shock. I dizzily anchored my knees and palms into the sandy floor, offering me enough leverage to stand and save myself. Both of those perilous times, I was dragged, hurled, slammed, twisted and regurgitated. I panicked in the terror of death’s taunt each time, and was instantly alleviated when my pleading lungs sucked in air instead of salt water.

Years later I dreamed of saving a drowning baby girl from a ravage river. Saving her almost took my own life. I pulled her in from the back of a moving speed boat; painfully gripping the wooden swim step with one hand while pulling her out of the river with the other. She was going to die if I didn’t use every fragment of my own strength to rescue her. My heroine tactics sufficed. The girl was brought to surface and survived. She was an infant. I lifted her, handed her over to the people aboard the boat, and then pulled myself to safety.

Upon awakening I knew exactly what the dream meant, although it would be several years before I took heed and followed the path of my heroine self. I fervently remained a drowning child in the hollows of alcoholic bottles and benders with every intention of dying drunk. At the end of my drinking I didn’t care about living. Problem was, I could not drink enough to die. At the end of every bottle and blackout, I found myself awake in the same world I was trying to drown myself out of. Each time I should have died, I awoke in a hospital attached to needles pumping liquid life into me. Goddammit I wanted to remain asleep. Where is my Vodka?

Washing up into a detox facility was me finally saving myself. It was my decision to go. Still drunk from several days of heavy boozing, I was stained with urine, bruised from tumbling on sidewalks and streets, scratched all over from trying to sleep in bushes believing it would be a great place to hide from my desperately searching husband. My right knee was inflated with fluid from clumsy collapses. My palms scraped and bloodstained; face, stomach, feet and fingers swollen with liquor, skin dehydrated and taut, eyes bloodshot and expressive of exhaustion, terror and humiliation. Facing myself in the mirror was seeing an enigma of myself. Who is this lost girl? Where am I?

Cherry Hill Detox felt like shore to me after many nights of drifting out at sea. Even the dry ham sandwiches and watered down tea were satisfactory, as well as the thin plastic mattresses and ongoing commotions from people suffering in withdrawal. Their horror was all too familiar. Sometimes I laughed in sinister appreciation, but mostly I related and empathized in quiet agony and sadness. Opiate detox is excruciating and messy. I’d been in their sweaty sheets a few times when I’d swapped alcohol for pharmaceuticals in a shallow and brief attempt at sobriety. Before my own alcohol wore off during the first night in the facility, I observed what was ahead for me in the likes of other addicts; my hopeless brothers and sisters. What should have been disturbing felt harmonious in comparison to the drunken awfulness of passing out alone in the back seat of my car, or in vacant fields where I always hoped to wake up before being discovered by someone who would overreact at the norms of an everyday drunk.

A presage is a foreboding of things to come. Negative things. An omen of sorts. It isn’t a word I even knew while facing my alcoholism in the end, but you don’t have to know fancy words in order to make intuitive decisions. Intuition does not require any thinking or logistics. It’s a simple knowing of things to come and which direction to follow. Both intuitively and cognitively I knew my ass needed serious help. I had been identifying myself as an alcoholic for seven years by this time.

The morning I went into detox, I was so frightened of my self-destructive behavior, that I completely embraced everything that resulted after walking through those clinical double glass doors. I was in a state of complete surrender, and this is where one needs to be in order to recover. It’s really the bottom line. Surrendering is the foundation of true recovery. And the surrender must be eternal. There is no wavering here. There is no taking back the reigns. You are fucked if you think you get to ever be in control again. When I say “fucked,” I mean, rock bottom becomes a deeper and denser pit. This pit is muddied with terror and self-deprivation. Once you start sliding down that pit, there is less and less in this world, and of yourself, to grab a hold of. Once a person has given up on themselves, all hope dissipates into the wasteland of their own disgrace.

This was the presage in my bottle. The emptiness of every dry liquor container mirrored my internal state of desolation. I knew what was at the end of every bottle. It was more disconnection from who I was, and all of the dreams I ever had for myself, which were many. It was despair beyond measure. No matter the size of my bottle (a half pint, a pint, a fifth, or a five-bottle box of cheap wine), there was never enough. Never enough booze to wet the desert inside of me. It wasn’t even numbing me out anymore. It was scaring me and sucking the life out of me, yet it wasn’t killing me.

I would eventually cry. Tears would come in ample time, but now I needed to be alert and aware of my surroundings. Relief and the need for survival in this rancid place dammed my frolicking emotions; parting them from the single particle of sanity burrowed in like a calcified gem within the twisted and haunted confines of my mind. You dare not mix one last morsel of sanity with ravaging emotions. In inconsiderate monstrosity, emotion shall devour sanity.

There really is no diversity in addiction when I think about it now. There is no skin color, fat, thin, tall, short or intellectual vs. idiot. The only difference between us is what drug we abuse the most. Even that doesn’t matter because real addicts only care about one thing and one thing only – where their next hit is coming from. We all relate and empathize with one another on that wretched level. There is a safe and harrowing bond between us all.

(Coming soon to Amazon)

http://www.amazon.com/J.-L.-Forbes/e/B00HS980ZI/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1426859153&sr=1-1

Feeling Overwhelmed? GOOD!

Lion

When life is challenging and I when feel overwhelmed, it tends to shadow my inner spark.  I was looking around yesterday and it felt as if a veil of boredom and dread overcame me.  What has changed?  I asked myself, and then it hit me that my daughter has began school again and the traffic to work and back has been heavier than usual (not to mention the ongoing road construction to and from the office).  The old stale routine of American life is hitting me hard.  I recall my dad driving me to school each morning and how I would fade into my own inner darkness about the imposed and dreadful routine of our lives.  I’m an artist.  There is nothing more frightening to me than a stale and predictable daily routine.  I don’t enjoy that our lives are institutionalized.  I’m so fortunate to have a job where I have a lot of freedom, but the drive there always reminds me that I am still surviving by having a job.  I mean, my soul wants to soar, but in order to pay the bills, I’ve got to do the 9 – 3 thing (thank god it’s only part-time).  To top it off we are getting ready to move again (third time in a year) and my body is clinching up in complete resistance to the thought of having to get settled in, yet, another place.  This one is permanent though, so I can at least relax a little in that knowing.  And the idea of feeling settled and secure is delightful, but getting there feels like I’m scratching my nails along a chalkboard. 

I woke up feeling tense, not present about the loveliness of everything beautiful surrounding me, but heavy with that same old dread.  Deep inside, the joy is there knowing that everything is going to be fine.  I know this.  I feel it, but old thought patterns and fears like to brew.  What is it that I need right now?  I ask myself.  Just some good old fashioned grace, and for things to fall into place with ease is all.  Then I was graciously reminded of my own inner strength and how when I am challenged like this, that this is my chance to tap into that inner lion.  It’s not time to fold or to become depressed.  It’s time to stand up strong and to use all of my strength and courage to move through this heaviness.  We forget how incredibly strong we are.  We miss the whole point of life’s challenges.  I have everything in me to overcome my worries, my fears, my stress.  I am grateful (although hesitant) that I am given the mundane physical realm as a roadmap to tap into the depths of myself.  I have resources beyond what the eyes can see.  Time to bust those out.  Time to roar!  (You have nothing on me, Miss Perry).

Regardless of how I am feeling, I can still practice kindness, give myself to others, be a light and trust that I’m being guided.  I will remain sober (although Xanax is frequenting my thoughts lately).  I am stronger than I realize.  I am an overcomer.  I am headed in the right direction with my life, so I definitely should trust each experience I’m having as a guiding post toward my greatest desires.  We can’t climb mountains without feeling dulled at times, and raw during the climb.  Everything I’m feeling is contributing to my beautiful journey, even if the view is obscured right now.   This mundane path is not eternal.  That’s for certain.  And if it goes on too long, I’ve got wings to fly.  I will utilize those babies if I can’t stand the treading any longer.

I used to try to find a way out of the discomfort, but I’ve learned to flow with it instead.  It’s all here serving a purpose for my greater good.  My well-being is always considered, but there are times when the universe gives us great opportunities to utilize our strength and our courage.  It tests us to see if what we say we want, is what we truly want in life.  It doesn’t give us more than we can handle.  We are loved beyond measure.  We are constantly being guided and protected and reminded that everything is connected.  I don’t need to run anymore.  I simply need to stand strong and trust my experience as a gateway toward my dreams coming true.  I am strong.  I am courageous.  I am aware.  I’m climbing a terrific mountain here.  Perspective, perspective, perspective.  Oh, and… ROAR!!!

 

Recognizing Stressful Sitations as a Process for Inner Awareness

woman meditating on rock

WOW it’s been a week!  Too much going on, yet no way to slow it down.  I don’t know what planets are aligned where or if Mercury is in retro-freaking-grade, or if Gemini is being eclipsed by whatever, but I feel like a frigging tennis ball.  Friday finally approached, just before a three day holiday I’m having with my family out on our private river island (oasis from this hellish week), and it turns out to be the most stressful day of all.  Unexpected twists and turns – a roller coaster of a day and evening, and none of it was fun, except when I finally sat down in bed last night and saw a really funny FB post.  Laughter certainly eased my anxiety, but then there were the dreams.  More stress, twists and turns and then I found myself purchasing a big bottle of god-knows-what at a liquor store. Drinking dreams.  They’ve come up a lot this week.  The worst ones are so realistic.  I drink and actually feel drunk.  I smell the booze and the next day I cannot recall anything from the night before.  It’s all too realistic for me.  This morning, my nerves are like the tattered strings of an old violin.  I’m spent. 

We all go through off-days and off-weeks.  I haven’t had anything like this come up for me in such a long time that I actually believed I’d transcended chaos.  Ha!  It’s good for me to know that I’m still in the running for Gandhi’s successor (I am so just kidding – trust me I really need sarcasm as a crutch today).  The truth is, I stopped looking at physical situations as “reality” and have come to a place where I understand these situations arise so that I can actually feel what’s going on for me – the inner reality.  I’ve been in fear all week.  I mean, anxiety central right here.  It hasn’t been constant, but there have been several occurrences that have brought up so much fear in me that I could not even pretend to be at peace.  And thank god for that.  I don’t like being delusional about myself.  I want to know what’s really going on with me.  I want my awful ugly side to come up once in a while so that I can get a good look at it and remember that I am human.  Life is not a fairy prance.  It’s raw.  It’s sometimes terrifying, and it comes with unexpected cliff hangers.  I don’t particularly like being on the edge, but it keeps me real.  It helps the suppressed fears to bubble up so that I can shine a light on those fears and release them out of my body.  These twists and turns are like physical exfoliation of my suppressed emotions.  Ugh, it sucks, but man I’m so grateful to be aware of myself, instead of thinking the world is coming up against me.  On the contrary.  It’s time for me to release some of this fear.  It’s time for me to be aware that it’s deep down inside of me.  It’s about time I faced it and had a little rendezvous with my old suppressed acquaintances.  The truth is, nothing BAD really happened this week, although a lot of things could have went “wrong,” and they still could go “wrong,” but now that I’m aware of my fears, I can easily accept any “wrong” that does happen because it isn’t the situation occurring.  It’s truly about facing those fears that come up when those situations bring it on.

I’ve been in jail.  I’ve lost everything.  I’ve faced the entire world on the Oprah show regarding a traumatic DUI involving my child.  People probably wonder why I’m so open about my life and my break ups and all the other shit that comes up for me.  I’m not afraid of other people’s judgment.  That’s LONG gone.  Don’t care what people think about me when I’m being true to who I am.  What I am afraid of, are other things that came up for me this week.  So it’s good that they came up for me through the mirror of physical reality.  I’m quite aware of my fears right now, and I’m not beating myself up for how I feel or my mistakes or for simply being human.  I’m merely taking a good look at myself and asking for guidance as I continue along my path. 

If you’re having a bad week, or a terrible month, or you just can’t seem to break the funk – take a good look at what’s coming up for you.  Take a real good inventory of those arising emotions.  That’s where the focus should be.  The outside stuff will work itself out.  Just keep looking inward.  This is where we need to keep our focus.  You wanna change the world?  Or at least YOUR world?  Well, keep working from the inside out.  Eternal peace often needs to rid itself of suppressed fears, so love yourself enough to allow those fears to dissipate through the mirror of physical reality.  For me, it all started with an earthquake at 3:00 a.m. last week, and here I am almost a week later still having a lot of anxiety.  Good for me.  I’m not anywhere near a place of arrival in my recovery.  It’s a good reminder that I only have right now and right now needs my full awareness and attention!  Never perfection – ALWAYS progress…

Most People Are a Slave to Something – Are You a Slave to Something?

Slave

When I was growing up in church and playing the piano for our youth group (over fifteen years ago now – MAN I’m getting old), one of my favorite song’s chorus was “Break through the chains, in my life. Tear down the strongholds and the walls.  Deliver me from all bondage and strife.  That I may hear when you call.  I give you my all.”  We sang this over and over, feeling the power in the affirmation to break free from those chains.  At the time I thought of marijuana as my chain because I smoked a lot of it and loved it, and lived a double life because of it.  I probably thought of sex too, as a chain, although I was monogamous with the one boyfriend that became my husband.  I loved him dearly, but felt guilty about the intimacy we shared because we were taught in church that if we were not married, that sex was wrong.  I had no idea at the time that I was a slave to more than just marijuana and sex.  I was a slave to fear, to religion, to other people’s ideas and beliefs.  Bottom line – I was a slave.  I had no sovereignty like I have now.  I didn’t know who I was, which direction I was going, what my purpose for being here was, or my relationship with the surrounding world.  I was completely lost.  ‘Amazing Grace’ was one of my favorite songs at the time too, but when I sang the words (“I once was lost, but now I’m found”) – I was lying.  I was not found.  I was still completely lost.  You see, I was going outside of my own inner light to attach myself to a belief system.  I had no idea that I was part of something greater.

If you are a slave to something, you are probably quite aware of it.  But if you aren’t aware of your dependence on something, how do you find out if you are a slave?  It is really simple… Without it, there will be a grave state of fear in place of that “something.”   If you are afraid to let something go in your life… BINGO! (a.k.a. indication of slavery).

Case and point – I am a fairly spiritual person (really?), and when I first left the rehabilitation center after six months of rigorous treatment, I was challenged by my peers about it.  I was at a place in my recovery then that I was able to look at myself and see myself without debating the people confronting me, or being defensive about my “ways.”  I looked at how I was navigating in the world and realized that I may have been using spirituality as a crutch in order to feel better about reality.  So I willfully let my spiritual side go.  It terrified me to let it go, but I was willing to test the waters without my mask of “spirituality.”  I trusted the process because we were taught to shed our masks in order become whole and firmly rooted.  I walked around Berkeley and went to my two jobs without any thought toward God or the power in my life, or the magic surrounding me.  I simply took on the rawness and mundaneness of the physical world.  It was intense for me, but it taught me something about myself.  You see, I was AFRAID to let that part of myself go.  I was scared to “not be spiritual.”  This was a good indication that I was a slave to my “way of being.” 

For several months I walked in the rawness of reality and it was then that I found my balance.  It was there that I became rooted in who I was (which is exactly where we want to be).  I was not living a personification of joy.  I was not deflecting every situation into a “spiritual lesson.”  Some things in life are just shitty and it’s ok to admit this and to be aware of it.  I was tested and tried in myself.  I felt pulled from the inside out.  I was forced to walk through my fear of boredom and to look at things as they were without insight or philosophy.  It was a time when my repressed emotions came to swallow me whole.  I allowed them to overcome me, and I discovered that I was NOT at peace.  I was not at peace like I believed I was.  This was abundantly clear through my current of my emotions.  So I continued shedding that mask of being a “spiritual person” and simply walked in the world as a human being, which was full of dynamic contrast and incredibly beautiful.  You know what happened?  I woke up.

When I got to a place where I was no longer afraid, is when I knew that I had something solid in my life.  I understood then that I didn’t need the crutch of spirituality.  You see, I became whole in myself.  I understood that I was responsible for my life.  I understood that I was responsible for what thoughts I bought into, and which ones I could toss aside but more than anything, I learned how to feel my way through life.  I saw things for what they were without the rose colored glasses, and felt every emotion that arose from within me, and it was invigorating.  I walked through my fear of letting go – THAT was powerful.  What was on the other side of my fear?  ME.  Just simply me along with my constant river of emotions.  And it is up to me to reach inside myself to discover that inner light.  I had it all along.  I didn’t need to cloak myself in spirituality.  I simply learned to center myself from the inside out, which a spiritually balanced way of being. The human experience accompanies our soul journey. There really is no separation.  When I talk of spiritual things now, and share my insights, it is because I am truly experienced in my walk of faith.  I am solid.  I share with a genuine knowing instead of sharing a belief. 

If you have something in your life that scares the shit out of you to relinquish, then it is a clear indication that you are a slave to that something.  Do yourself a favor and let it go.  Walk away from it.  Put it down.  Recondition yourself to live without it.  Step out in faith.  Be courageous.  Be sovereign.  Be set free from that bondage.  If it is a belief – challenge and test the belief until it becomes a knowing. And in the words of one of my favorite church songs, “Break through the chains in my life.  Tear down the strongholds and the walls…”  Hallelujah – AMEN!

 

 

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?

How About a Little Encouragement… Just for Today!

Encouragment

No matter what you are going through right now, trust that it is an opportunity for growth.  Regard it as a challenge on the vast field of life and know that when you overcome it, there will be victory.  We are not helpless.  We are incredibly brilliant people.  Each and every one of us.  Some of us simply have not tuned into their own inner light.  Many are lost because they do not know their potential, and so many people in the world are chasing temporary pleasures instead of diving into themselves and seeking out the hidden treasure, which is sustainable joy.  Perhaps if you already know how incredibly brilliant you are, you can spend today offering love to others.  Give encouragement where it is due and let your friends and family know how much they mean to you.  Write a letter, send a card, be of service.  We should all be doing more of this, especially when we are feeling down ourselves.  I recall one Valentine’s Day when I didn’t have a valentine.  My mom told me to “be a valentine” to others that day – and it really worked for me.  It lifted my spirits, and it brought me a lot of joy, but more than anything, it was a clue that I already had what I believed I was lacking.  Back then in my early twenties, I had no idea that I was the one I was searching for all along.  My soul doesn’t “need” a mate.  It is whole and filled with love.  When I do meet someone who I want to share my life with, they will merely enhance who I AM.

You are stronger than you know.  This is for certain.  Human beings are incredible creatures.  We are dynamic with powerful minds, eternal souls, and filled with emotions as great as the sea.  When we are in discord with these three parts of ourselves, we feel lost, but when we follow the path that we were destined to walk while we are alive, we discover harmony within.  If you are feeling lost, it isn’t because you’ve strayed in life; it is simply because you’ve strayed from your Self.  I read someone’s post the other day on Facebook that said something about not following the path of God, and how this is “wrong.”  After spending twenty years following God and failing miserably, and trying to stay within the fine margins of “right and wrong,” I understand now that God is not some separate entity from myself.  The only way I can stray from God is if I’ve left myself behind in the wake of my running from who I AM.

Many times in life, we get into relationships that are painful, and we continue trying to make things work with that other person because we “love them.”  I’ve done this a few times in my life.  The truth is, that person is most likely a temporary mirror into yourself to see where you are still looking outside of yourself for wholeness.  When you discover your own wholeness, you will not settle for a painful relationship.  You will wait for the person who comes along and accepts you for exactly who you are without pressuring you into being something more, and who loves you unconditionally.  Continue loving yourself until you get to this place of wholeness.  Too many people settle because they do not understand their worth.

You are beautiful just the way you are, but if you feel otherwise, learn how to take care of yourself and nurture yourself so that you will feel beautiful.  Eat foods that are nutritious.  Take a stroll once a day.  Exercise.  Treat yourself like you would treat someone you actually love.  If you aren’t doing the best for your body, mind and soul, of course you are going to feel bad about yourself.  It is great to love your body, but if it isn’t healthy, then learn to nurture it.  We are responsible for our health, not God – so take responsibility.  Many times people live an unhealthy lifestyle and then expect God (through prayer) to turn that all around.  Isn’t it exciting to know that you have control over your life?  I know when I realized that I was responsible for me, that I became very conscious about my life.  And this makes life very exciting and fulfilling.  Don’t be lazy.  Be set free and walk in your body as if it belongs to YOU.  It DOES!  You CAN have a healthy body by nurturing yourself and by taking responsibility for what you eat and how you live.  This is not out of your control.

You can break free from anything – addiction, bad relationships, and cycles that no longer serve you.  YOU have the power to change your life.  You are limitless.  You are a visionary.  BE everything – you lack NOTHING.  Know this and own it, then go out and share your secret with the world!

 

What Does it Feel Like to “Wake Up” or to Become Conscious?

Conscious Living

When you go through transformation and change, it often feels like the world is squeezing you through an emotional birth canal.  And as you begin waking up to your life, there are times when it may feel as if you are disconnected from everything.  I recall feeling detached from the world around me, which caused me to question even moving forward with “spiritual enlightenment” (this is the label that is placed on ‘waking up’ from living inside your thoughts into living in the present, detached from your thoughts).  Detaching yourself from your thoughts is somewhat like peeling and scraping an old piece of scotch tape from a desk.  It takes some time and strength.  It is certainly frustrating, and there are times you feel like giving up.  Don’t.      

Trust that when you begin this process, there will be some turbulence along the way, but keep your eyes and ears open to things leading you into the right direction.  Know that you are always being guided along your journey.  Be aware of the silence that may feel as if you are completely alone in the world, but don’t use it as an excuse to give up.  The silence may feel like desolation, but it is this desolation you need in order to discover your Self (your higher self).  Silence is the space in which to listen to your inner being.  It’s the place of healing, growing and learning about walking in faith.  In time, silence will become your friend – and the closer you become to your Self and understand who you are through this process, the more connected you will feel to the people and the surrounding world.

When fear comes up for you (oh, and it will), step out of its grip by acknowledging its presence, and by finding out what it’s telling you without following its path.  You can listen to fear without heeding to it.  In order to “wake up,” you must overcome your fear by facing it – for this is what has kept you quite asleep in your life.  If it is becoming too much for you, simply tell the universe to “slow down” the process.  You are in control.  You have authority over your life.  When you begin waking up, you will understand your power, and fear will no longer have authority over you.

You will be tested and challenged throughout this process.  Know this and be aware of it as it is occurring.  People will come along and push you into other directions.  Others may prod you toward “negative” emotions.  They are not aware that they are your teachers along your path.  Keep moving forward, ignore distractions, be aware of anything that enters into your experience to send you off course.  And if you go off course for a time, know that it is nothing more than part of your experience.  Sometimes we have to go off the path in order for the path to become clearer.  Always practice compassion for yourself – no matter what.

Emotions will arise – some of them so intense you may feel like you are nowhere near “enlightenment.”  Don’t suppress your emotions.  Don’t be a fool and act like they do not exist.  Emotions have to be regarded so that they can move through your body.  Anger and rage may overcome you at times.  Sadness may envelop you for no reason at all.  Scenes in movies may trigger you to cry uncontrollably.  Allow the tears to flow.  Feel any rage that comes up without acting on it.  When I was going through this process, I felt completely out of control at times, and it would usually be when I thought I’d reached the height of my “awakening.”  It was a gentle reminder that “waking up” is an ongoing process.  It never ends.  Each day is a practice of self-awareness and living consciously.  There is no end to the path, except perhaps upon death when we are in spirit.  As you continue this practice of acknowledging your emotions, they will begin to move through you much more swiftly, and you will discover this is because you are firmly rooted in joy.  Your emotions are like rain and your inner joy is like a window that the rain merely rolls down and dissipates while the window remains in tact.

Shedding the ego is part of this experience, and for me it always feels like something in my body is thrashing.  I am still shedding my ego.  When it occurs, is usually when I’m feeling the most restless.  I used to dread these moments of restlessness, but now I embrace them knowing that it is a time of great growth.  The ego is afraid to let go.  It feels like it must protect you, so it fights when you are ready to move on from that portion of yourself.  It is helpful to talk to your ego and to tell it that it is ok to move on.  Give it permission to leave.  Gently tell it that this part of you no longer serves you and that you are graciously letting it go.  Thank it for wanting to protect you.  If you are anything like me, you will feel something in your being, squirm and wrestle around.  It will also provoke emotions.  Watch it, rather than buy into it.  The shedding of the ego is like getting rid of “demons.”  When I read about Jesus casting out demons in the Bible, I truly believe that he was clairvoyant enough to see the ego, and to call it out by name.  The way the Bible describes how the demons reacted, was exactly what I feel in my own body when the ego is being shed.  To remain humble, we must shed the ego.

Waking up is a choice and once you make this decision, there really is no turning back.  In a room that is dark, when a candle is lit, you can blow it out, but the memory of that room will never go away.  There are times when I doubted everything about this awakening process, and then I understood that doubt is part of the experience.  Waking up to yourself is like going into the dense wilderness and coming out with a fresh and beautiful new perspective.  Learn to meditate for clarity, pray for guidance and practice trusting that where you are is exactly where you need to be, without judgment.  If you are going through this process and want to share with others what you are experiencing, please post in the comment section.  

We All Share a Longing for the Same Thing

Feeling Good

It’s so easy to pick apart someone else’s life and to see where they may have gone wrong, or to point a finger at something they are doing with which we don’t exactly agree.  After being such an incredible f*ck up for so many years, and then bouncing back into myself and following the path of my dreams, I have become humbled in the way that I observe other people.  I mean, who am I to judge?  Seriously.  But I’m certain because of all of my past shenanigans, that a few people still judge me by my past mistakes.  It may take several more years for me to rise up from the ashes in other people’s eyes.  Thank god I don’t worry about what those people are thinking as I move freely about my life these days.  We all have skeletons.  And the one thing I think about quite often is that no one truly knows what it was like to walk in my shoes.  No one knows how deeply I hated myself and how lost I truly was.  No one knows the struggles I faced and how hard I was on myself during that time.  And certainly no one knows WHY I went through that difficult time.  It was all part of my own path, you see.  And it was part of my children’s path too.  Take a little side-step with me for a moment…

If life is merely an experience, and we are all here on a journey of the soul, then why do we get so locked in on how things are supposed to be in the physical realm?  I was talking to someone this weekend about how most people are very controlling (present party included).  It is easy to see this about yourself when you are in a relationship, or parenting children.  We all want things to be a certain way, but why is this?  What is it about getting our way that makes things better?  For me (I’ll speak for myself here), if I’m getting my way or getting what I want, or having things done the way I like them done, it makes everything feel safe for me.  It gives me a feeling of relief.  And the very bottom line is that I feel much happier when things are done my way.  (Ah-ha!)

We all want to feel happy.  Who doesn’t? (Duh).  But when everyone is running around trying to control the surrounding world so that they feel happy (i.e. content, safe, secure, relief), then someone (a lot of people) are going to get their toes stepped on.  This is how arguments are cultivated.  This is how wars begin.  Everyone wants things to be a certain way.  It’s kind of a funny thing if you really think about it.  And this extends outward too.  When we observe other people doing things in a manner that wouldn’t make us happy, we label it as “weird” or “not right” or “strange.”  Why do we put so much emphasis on what other people are doing?  I had to really look at this in myself, and get to the bottom of that judgment of mine.  I discovered that most of the time when I was judging someone else, it was because I was jealous of their life experience.  It would make me feel so much better about myself if that other person would just remain within the margins of my life experiences.  Perhaps for others, people are pushing the boundaries of your own personal limitations and it makes you feel uncomfortable.  This may not be the case for you, but I would still question where the discomfort derives from.  It’s good to know this about yourself, because it paves a path toward self-awareness, which builds a foundation of letting go and being present.  In the present moment, I don’t have a problem with how other people live their lives.  I don’t focus on what my ex-boyfriends are doing.  I don’t get myself twisted in a knot over how amazing other people’s lives are compared to mine.  In fact, when other people are doing what I wish I was doing, I thank the universe for putting them into my experience so that I can get a clear vision of what I want in life.  It is good to have an image to focus on in order to create a path toward our desires.  Knowing people who are “living it up” is like having a animated vision board.  It’s pretty amazing.

If others are doing things in their lives different from how we do them, and they are not causing any harm to themselves or to others, then we should observe their joy, rather than point at their demonstration of that joy.  Or, you can do whatever you want, but what I’m learning in life, is that we all express ourselves in different manners, and we all demonstrate our path toward happiness in very different ways.  The demonstrations of the path toward happiness is like a shell.  When you look inside of that shell, you will see that most people in life are simply trying to feel happy, and we all demonstrate this in so many different ways.  Some of us (like me) who had a very difficult time sustaining that happiness – we end up imploding on ourselves and self-destructing.  But in order to truly find my joy, I had to go through that stuff.  It was all part of my experience.  Some of us take the full swing on life’s pendulum in order to get a full perspective.  And because my children were part of my life experience, they have been given a much broader perspective too.  Perhaps they needed that kind of experience in order to move quickly through things that may have taken them years.  I have no doubt that my two children are very focused human beings now because of the chaos they have endured.  They are stronger, they are wiser and they have learned a lot about forgiveness at a very early age.  They also know exactly what path they do not want to follow.  It is important to know what we don’t want in order to go for what we do want.  No one can look in from the outside of my life with my children and see the whole of the picture.  There is a lot playing out that you cannot fathom from being a mere spectator.

I think it’s beautiful that there are so many ways to demonstrate our experience of joy and happiness.  To look at it from another perspective, think of how there are so many different kinds of sports.  In each sport, the main objective is to win.  There are other reasons we play sports, of course, but we all do it so that we can experience a victory.  If victory is the main objective, then what does it matter what sport we play?  Wouldn’t it be an ignorant thing to say, “Oh, he plays football instead of golf.  What a jerk!”  But we don’t say that because we understand that people are all drawn to different sports.  Same thing with religion.  The objective of religion is to have a closer relationship with God.  Bottom line.  So why do we judge another person’s demonstration of their path toward God?  It’s ludicrous.  And if you are an artist who likes to paint, I doubt that you are making fun of the photographer, or scoffing at the writers in the world.  There are many paths to our passions and joys.  Who are we to say that someone else’s path is wrong?

Likewise, if people are doing things we don’t exactly understand, we can at least agree that whatever they are doing probably brings them joy, which is the main objective.  And if what they are doing is wreaking havoc on their life at the moment, we should understand that this is probably their own personal path to discover sustainable joy in their life.  They may be killing themselves to get there.  They may struggle and harm other people in the meantime, but rather than judge them – pray for them.  For whatever reason, those people that they are causing harm toward, have attracted that kind of “negative” experience into their life as well.  Everything is connected.  We attract experiences and people into our life in order to grow spiritually, and we may have agreed to encounter these experiences prior to even coming into this human form.  When you observe someone who is serving him or herself with temporary pleasures, you must realize that they too, are ultimately desiring happiness, but perhaps they have yet to tap into that sustainable joy (which we all desire). 

We are all having a human experience while we are here.  We all need assistance along the way.  We all want guidance because it’s difficult to see the forest past the trees.  We all want the same exact thing – happiness.  Give people a break.  Live your life the way you enjoy and compassionately allow others their freedom of expression.  Live and let live, man.  It’s a much more joyful and liberating way to be.

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

If You Want Truth – Question Everyone and EVERYTHING, Including the Very Ground You Walk Upon

Think for yourself

The best teachers are the ones who allow you to discover the truth for yourself.  The best gurus lead you to water and stand back while you get to choose if you are going to take the satisfactory drink or not, without influencing you one way or the other.  The best pastors are the ones who lead with compassion rather than trying to mold a congregation into a single-minded group of followers.  Now that I am an adult separate from the influences of other people, and standing on my own two feet without a chain linking me to someone else’s beliefs and ideas, I am able to walk in the way of my own understanding.  There was a lot of fear surrounding my addiction, so I went to treatment to learn how to remain sober.  Once I got myself sober, I continued walking through my fears because this was the only way I was going to be liberated in my life.  Of course to stay sober, you have to follow certain guidelines and get support and be honest.  There is a program of recovery suggested to follow, and I surrendered to it all because I was at a place where I needed help.

In treatment I was mercilessly stripped down to the bare nothings in who I thought I was, and all of my beliefs, ideas, opinions, childhood conditionings, and my speculations about life were demolished.  Even my spirituality was questioned to the point of me letting it go for a time.  And for me, this was brutal.  Because I was so willing to remain sober, I let the spiritual aspect of my life go and spent several months in complete rawness of myself and world around me, without any thought toward God or ideas about how the universe works.  For those of you who follow my blog, you know this must have been a time of desolation for me.  To some degree it was, but I trusted that it was part of me remaining sober.  If I had to spend the rest of my life in one-dimensional reality to remain sober, I was willing.  At the time, I was surrounded by peers who kept me in the raw world, and this was good for me.  This built me a very strong foundation in my recovery because I wasn’t lost in a realm other than the one that was occurring right before my eyes.  

As time went on, I felt much more confident about who I was and in my recovery.  After questioning everything about myself, I began to understand exactly who I was. I was noticing for myself, that there was no room for exploration in the one-dimensional kind of thinking.  I began to question how people thought about things, and how their reality reflected that kind of thought process.  For example, in my group of people there was one particular person who was afraid to spend money because they believed it was irresponsible at their age to do anything but save money.  This person worked two grueling jobs and never did anything except for save money and work.  In the years that I spent observing this person, nothing changed for them, and honestly, they seemed quite unhappy.  In other situations, people had ideas about how being successful meant working hard, so they spent their life working themselves to exhaustion, and they were never happy.  There was a person who had a very negative view on life, and life kept throwing them lemons.  Then there were a few people who didn’t think they could afford a place to live in the city we were in, so they limited themselves to looking in the seedy areas outside of the city, believing that this is all they had as an option.  I’ve been pretty “poor” my whole life and I’ve never lived in a seedy area because I’ve always trusted that I could find something nice in my price range.  I always have, so after a time of observing how people’s ideas and thoughts reflected their reality, I decided it was time to go out on my own limb.

Fear came up for me a lot, but I decided to be aware of it instead of buying into it.  I made a clear path of what I wanted for my life and began following that path.  Everything that did not enhance or harmonize with the vision I had for myself, got tossed aside in my thoughts and in my reality.  If someone in my world was pulling me in another direction, I let them go.  If a job came up that took me away from that path, I didn’t take the job.  When there were choices to make and I was confused, I sat quietly with myself and allowed things to pan out for themselves with my eye focused on the reality I wanted to create for myself.  This has been my path for about two years now, and not only am I still sober, but I am incredibly happy and fulfilled.  I’m closer to my dreams than I ever have been, and I continuously get confirmations from the universe (i.e. coincidences) that tell me I’m being supported along the way.

As a young girl, I thought about things deeper than a lot of people I knew.  Because of this, I didn’t fit in, so I molded myself around other people’s thoughts and ideas about life so that I could be “part of.”  This obviously did not work for me.  Instead of trust my own inner compass, I disregarded myself and became someone who was acceptable to others.  I think we all do this to some degree.  Recovery has brought me back to myself – back to that child who is a deep thinker.  I do not reject her anymore.  I simply found a place to live near like-minded people.  At a young age, I did not know I was an artist.  In fact, I didn’t consider myself an artist until a few years ago.  Now I know why I think differently than a lot of people.  Artists have an abstract view of life.  I’m following my own understanding of life now, and things are unfolding for me like never before.  I question everything and don’t limit myself to believing life is one way.  There are endless possibilities, but it all begins and ends with the way we think, the way we observe and how we perceive our surroundings.   

I don’t believe the way I think is “right.”  I simply feel that we can think anyway we want, and that our reality will unfold for us in that mindset.  If you want greater things in life, then you must think bigger.  If you buy into fear, then you will never know freedom.  Your reality is a reflection of your way of thinking, so allow yourself to explore and discover what the world has to offer.  Be a dreamer and follow that path.  This is a universe of abundance, of love, of grace and of harmony.  If you think it otherwise, you will discover otherwise.  If you think you don’t deserve certain things, then you are closing yourself off from receiving.  It is a playful reality we live in, which is why I have decided to play and to explore, rather than buy into one mindset.  Recovery doesn’t have to be a strict path we follow.  If we follow certain principles, like being honest, we can learn to dance freely in our sobriety.  We are not limited in our lives simply because we cannot drink or use drugs. Recovery is a gift of life – it brings us back to ourselves – to the one we left behind when we were uncomfortable in our own skin.  It is a liberating state of being.  Don’t just buy into what people tell you – question it.  Question the ground you walk upon.   Question your fears, your ideas, your beliefs.  Question religion and keep questioning.  This will lead you to amazing discoveries, and I promise you life will never be boring again.  I think that was what got to me the most when I thought about sobriety.  I thought it would be boring.  Well, it isn’t.  Especially when you are living life as an explorer, rather than a limited thinker.  Have fun today (and tomorrow and for eternity)!  Think beyond your ideas about life, and life will gladly allow you to walk in it’s vastness.

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.