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.

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What Path of Treatment is Best for You?

Path toward Mt. Tam

Each time I go to an AA meeting with a speaker who says they got sober in AA, and they have several years sober because of AA, and they are living it up (thanks to AA) – I stir in my seat.  AA works for a lot of people.  That rigorous honesty thing and sponsorship is the answer for many.  It also doesn’t work for many because some of us are too clever for our own good.  I remember often wanting a drink after some of those meetings.  It takes a willingness beyond the desire to drink in order to do the work and to surround yourself with people who can support you along the way.  It takes discipline, and that’s a word I couldn’t relate to back then.

When I first started going to AA, I had no idea how self-centered I was, and I was one of those who worked my own program.  I thought I was being honest with my sponsor, but in retrospect I see that I had my own agenda.  Some people realize early on in their drinking (before several multi-car train wrecks) that they need help, and they are smart enough to get their ass straightened out before it gets rock bottom embarrassing.  Not me.  I wanted to see how far I could wrestle with my affliction of alcoholism before it took me to places that I wouldn’t dare confess to a priest (although I’m not Catholic, but they supposedly hear a lot of terrible things in those little booths).  I had to scrape my ass on the rocky bottom of the hole that I dug myself into (not once, but several times over).  It was a seven year rock bottom for me.  AA was the piece of cake that I ate during those seven years, which kept me briefly sober.  In other words, I needed something more intense than a meeting once or twice a day.  My self-destruction and self-loathing was beyond those thin walls that displayed posters of steps and helpful sayings.  I know I’m not the only one here.

I had no idea that there were several treatment centers in the Bay Area (where I live) that were county funded.  If I had known it during those seven years of my toilet bowl spiral, I would have most likely got the help I needed a lot sooner, but I may have not been so desperate for help then, to choose the most intense treatment center of the bunch (besides Delancey Street in San Francisco, which is two years of militant rehabilitation).  I may have gone for easy-street and chosen a program that let me do whatever I wanted, which was mostly sit around and watch tv, eat garbage and drink coffee.  I know a lot of people who go into treatment for a sabbatical from life.  That doesn’t work.  I went to a sixth month program that ripped my head out of my ass and slammed it into the mirror until I saw my bad behaviors around my drinking so clearly that I pretty much left there licking my wounds.  I was chastised and humbled and awakened.  Reality slammed me in that program like madness into the Hatter.  I woke up to myself and saw what I was, which was a piece of shit.  But six months of that, plus ten months of sober-living and aftercare, brought me to complete wholeness in myself.  I know a lot of people who go to 30-60 day treatment programs and come out of it feeling refreshed and alive, just to discover that they can’t cope in the real world.  You’re safe in those programs, you see, and then suddenly you’re exposed to reality again.  When I graduated from New Bridge Foundation (in Berkeley), I not only coped in the real world, but I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted in the real world, and I knew how to go after it, sober.  That’s the place I wanted to be, so that’s why I chose a behavior modification program as opposed to a cushy institution with TVs and endless pots of coffee.  I was willing.  When I first got into New Bridge, everything was weird and regiment.  The clients wore slacks and button down shirts.  There were a thousand rules to follow, and a hundred plastic red chairs.  The counselors kept saying, “hold onto your red chair.”  It was confusing at first, and everything got under my skin.  I was angry often, and bored, and annoyed, but I kept sitting in those red chairs, and standing in their infamous mirror, and eventually, I “got it.”

Here I am nearly four years later, and I know beyond the shadow of doubt if I were stuck on a deserted island out in the middle of nowhere, by myself, with a shit ton of fermenting fruit surrounding me, and there were no AA meetings to speak of, I would not get drunk.  That’s the place I wanted to be in my sobriety.  More than anything, I just wanted to trust myself, so I guess the question you have to ask yourself when choosing a route of sobriety is, where do you want to see yourself at the end?  What kind of sobriety do you want?  Do you want to live your life to the fullest, or do you want to struggle for the remainder of your life with your affliction?  Do you want to know how to live a fulfilling existence sober, or do you want to just get by?  Because it really is your choice.  I don’t go to many AA meetings.  I go hiking.  I go to the beach often.  I write as much as I breathe.  I meditate and listen to positive speakers on YouTube.  I spend a lot of time with my family.  I surround myself with people who are filled with integrity and who love me dearly.  I laugh often.  I go to meetings sometimes to recall what it was like.  I do a constant inventory of my life, and when I’m wrong, I admit it as soon as possible.  I know a lot of people go to meetings to give back to Newcomers, and I think that’s amazing.  I try to give back to the world everyday I’m in it.  I do my best with what I have.  I put up a lot of boundaries with people, even if it means pissing them off, because it keeps me centered and sober.  I stay spiritually connected and surrender to things I have no control over, everyday.  That’s what treatment did for me, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way, even though it sucked much of the time.  I’m eternally grateful for that place.  I still have friends from New Bridge, and most of my graduating group is still sober and very strong as a whole.  That’s pretty incredible right there.

If you are trying to figure out how to stay sober, you’ve got to be willing to do the work.  It isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do everything at once.  You get to do it one moment at a time, and there will be a lot of support around you during the process.  Whether you choose AA, NA, or a rigorous program like I did, do it willingly and with discipline.  Do it to the point that you get to a place where you completely trust yourself.  Because until you completely trust yourself, you are a slave to your drug of choice.  So ask yourself exactly what it is you want, and then go the distance.  There are so many resources and programs that are county and state funded.  If you are worried about leaving work behind, and leaving your family during treatment, think of how not-present you are for your job and family now.  Ninety days or six months of treatment is a drop in the bucket.  When I got out, I found a job immediately and my family was happier than ever to see me.  They rooted me on throughout the entire process, and they supported me going in there because they were tired of my shit.  I have a friend who’s job was waiting for him a year later.  The universe will fall into place for you when you get the help you need.  It truly will, so do whatever it takes, and do it as intensely as you went after your high.  That’s the way to go, and if you have any questions about my journey, please feel free to write them in the comments below, or email me at ArticulatingMagic@gmail.com.

Dealt a Bad Hand of Cards? The Good News Is… We All Were

Hand of Cards

A friend of mine was telling me about a woman who died of heartache after her son committed suicide.  He placed part of the blame on her in the note he wrote before killing himself.  Sadly he was in such a poor state of mind, that he probably didn’t realize his words would destroy his mother.  Even if he did do it intentionally at the time, it was not an act of good reasoning.  He wrote something and reacted to life during the moment it was eating him alive.  I don’t know anything about him, but I know from experience that life can feel like it’s swallowing you whole at times, especially if you are suffering in addiction or with mental illness.  I don’t know if this young man was, but he certainly felt like a victim.  His mother, in turn, succumbed to his victimization.

I recall a time in my life when I felt like I was dealt a hand of shitty cards, and was pissed that I was stuck with them.  Instead of playing them, I threw them down and ran away from the table (a.k.a. life – myself).  I had no idea at the time, how strong, sharp, courageous, or creative I was.  I also had no clue about something very significant, that I understand now.  I was not only the player holding this hand of cards, but I was also the dealer.  Everyone sitting around that card table of life, was me in another form.  Everyone at the table is playing a role and most of us are bluffing without even knowing it.

When we’re born, we immediately wake up in this plane of reality surrounded in circumstances.  Some of us are lucky to be born in a loving home under a nice roof in a country that’s basically free, while others are not so lucky.  Either way, it’s how you think about things that determine your experience.  There are self-destructive addicts that come from a loving home in a free country, and there are brilliant people who are changing the world for the better, who have derived from poverty and abuse.  It’s not the circumstances that mold the outcome of your life.  It’s how you think and how you respond to your experiences that create your life.  If something terrible happened to me today, and I was thrown in prison, I could either go in there as a victim and mold myself into the negativity, or I could make the best out of the situation and remain a positive influence on the other women.

We always have a choice in life.  It’s not just a hand of cards that we are dealt.  It’s knowing that the hand is an opportunity to be strategic and willing to play the game.  Any of us can fold at any given time. Most of us carry on and hope for the best, but what if you knew something that other people don’t know about the game?  What if you realize that you are the one dealing the cards, and you understand that this whole experience is all a bluff?  What if you wake up one day with the same shitty hand of cards and you pay more attention to your anger about the cards, than dwelling on the cards themselves?  What if you look at the cards you are dealt, along with the smirks on the faces of the other players, and you suddenly know your agony?  What happens then? You wake up. You realize the game is a farce.  It’s a set up.  It’s set up to piss you off, to make you feel like a victim, to break you down, and to finally turn you inward.  It’s here to make you figure out something beyond the game.  There are hints along the way, but we get so caught up in the game that we completely lose ourselves.  We forget what we are constantly dealing with, which has nothing to do with other players, or the cards (the circumstances).  These are all merely reflections of something greater.  When you get this, you can either continue playing the game with a smile on your face, knowing it’s all a bluff, or you can stand up at the table (life), take a bow for your performance in the game, and move on with the understanding that you can now create whatever it is you want from here on out.  You aren’t stuck at that table.  You have a choice to move along to new experiences, but first you must recognize yourself in every aspect of each experience you are having, and in each person you meet.  Then an only then will you understand that you have never been a victim of a bad hand of cards.  You were simply the dealer disguising yourself as a frustrated player, in order to wake up and realize that you are truly the dealer.

I know a lot of people that succumb to an idea that life is filled with adversity in order to remind us that there is a god, and that we can count on him.  That’s part of it.  It’s always good to know that there is a bigger picture, but it’s better to know that you have a responsibility while you are here.  If you throw your hands to God and decide to suffer because you think it’s “His will,” then you aren’t fully getting it.  The idea is to overcome your suffering by understanding that this whole gig is a set up to discover your freedom.  The suffering is like a bad hand of cards.  When you notice your suffering, rather than the bad hand of cards, then you are getting somewhere.  That somewhere is the place that you came here to discover.  It feels like home, because it is.

There is nothing outside of yourself that is more brilliant or better off than what you’ve brought to the table.  No one else’s hand of cards are better than yours.  It only appears that way so that your frustration emanates something very clear.  When you realize what you’ve brought to the table, you understand that the cards were merely a tool along your journey of self-discovery, and you’ll get up and thank all those players in your life who were bluffing to show you the way to yourself.  Most people remain caught up in the game.  Let them be.  Now that you know, you are set free.

The Answer to Your Problems is “Be of Service”

Be Of Service

When things feel out of control and when life feels like more of a labyrinth than a walk in the park, it can really throw us off.  I had this experience in December and it got the best of me until I stood alone in nature and pretty much threw my hands up to the universe.  “I have absolutely no control, and you know what?  I don’t want control, so once again, I surrender.  Let me be a vessel…”  These were pretty much my words.  I have this convo with God a lot in life (I’ve noticed).  I’m always getting ahead of myself.  My wants and needs become crucial, while the simple things in life get tossed aside and overlooked.  I want everything NOW.  Or at least in my timing, which means that I am way behind in where I thought I should be by now.  Yet when I stop all my whining and nonsense, I realize that all of that chaos is in my mind.  Nothing is falling apart right this second.  Everything is going fairly smoothly.  I feel a little bit raw, and where I want to be is rubbing up against where I am, but to know where I want to go is essential.  It is the vision that will get me there, not the drudging to get there.  I don’t have to drudge.  I simply have to know where I’m headed and surrender to the moment.  I need to trust that I’m being guided along the way, and perhaps the universe moves a lot more casually than I desire, but that’s none of my business.  I’m simply a vessel, remember?

I had a dream last night that all of these people were cramming into one house, and I wasted all my time trying to figure out where I was going to sleep, while trying to keep all my belongings in one place, but it was impossible to control the chaos.  People were arriving and more stuff was being crammed into this one house.  There were animals in cages that were hanging outside of their cages because there was no more room.  It was crazy.  Toward the end of the dream, I didn’t know where any of my stuff was, but it was no longer important to me.  People needed guidance and they kept asking me for direction.  I stopped all my worry and just started helping the people.  When I started being of service, all the chaos happening was no big deal.  I felt centered.  When I got a moment, I decided to do some exploring, and I ended up in the back yard where there was a pride of lions.  There were so many lions – male, female and tons of cubs.  I took a photo of the pride and posted on Facebook, “These lions are right in my own back yard.”  I woke up and realized the power in that statement.

Lions represent courage, strength and power.  I have been dreaming about lions a lot.  In my dream there were male and female, which is yin and yang.  All of these people and animals were inside one house.  Everything in that house represents aspects of myself coming together.  This last month was so confusing to me, and chaotic, but once I surrendered and just centered myself in the moment, everything I needed (strength, courage, power) was in my own back yard.  (Perhaps the pride was a pun for my own pride that has often held me hostage).  There is never anything outside of myself that I need.  It’s all in one place in the here and now.  If we are confused, overwhelmed, scared and feeling powerless, the best thing we can do is surrender to it and be of service to others.  I have been asking the universe what I need to do to be of service, and the answer is right here right now.  My own job is service oriented.  I can be of service to my children and my roommate.  I don’t have to go to a homeless shelter to be of service, although that would be fine too.  If we can practice being of service right where we are right now, it will remove us from our confusion, immediately.

Sometimes we have to go through monotonous days so that we know what we don’t want, in order to visualize what we do want.  Often we feel overwhelmed so that we can re-evaluate our course.  When confusion throws us off, it is a good time to let go and do something for someone else.  Being of service is the quickest way to becoming grounded.  Give what you think you don’t have.  Be what you think you lack.  Know that the answer is always in your own back yard.  You are not separate from what you need, ever.  It may not be clear in the moment, but if you can just remind yourself to be of service to someone else, you will not only forget about the chaos, but you will become centered enough to receive the clarity you need.  It may feel like you are going nowhere, which can be frustrating, but nowhere is exactly where answers to your deepest questions await your awareness.  In recovery, it’s not about reaching the top of the mountain.  It’s simply about being aware of the moment.  We can very well climb that mountain, but when we get there, we will discover it was all a mirage.  There are more mountains to climb.  The journey is never-ending, so the universe laughs when we get ahead of ourselves.  There is nothing to achieve.  It’s all about now.  Who are you helping?  Who are you being?  How often are you letting go and simply being open to receiving?  What is your vision?  Do you even have a vision?  If you don’t, then get one.  With a vision, you will be guided.  Without vision, you will be easily misguided.  We simply need to focus on where we want to be, and then open ourselves up to moving toward that place, knowing that how we get there is none of our business.  That’s where I am today.  I know what I want.  I know what I don’t want, but while I’m feeling raw between the two, I’m going to put my head down and help others, even if it’s simply helping my daughter get ready in the morning because she’s running late.  That’s where it’s at.  I know it sounds mediocre, but to get anywhere, we have to embrace each moment as if it’s the path toward our vision, because it truly is.

What Begins with WHY and Ends with YOU?

Quick fix

In high school, I recall wanting to lose a bunch of weight quickly, but a doctor told me I would have to eat right and exercise for the best results.  I was angry with the doctor because I wanted a pill to do all the work for me.  Eventually, ephedra was hot on the market, and there I had my quick fix.  I lost the 40 extra pounds I’d been carrying most of my life, and while I took the pills, I remained quite thin.  The worst part about it was that I could eat like a pig and not gain a pound, so I developed terrible eating habits while using ephedra.  Eventually the FDA took the pills off the market because there were a few reported deaths due to heart attacks.  I was more than willing to put my life on the line to take those pills and remain a size four, but I would either have to accept my natural size ten, or figure out a way to keep the weight off organically.  There is nothing on the shelves that will melt the pounds away and keep them off.  Eating right and exercise is the only sustaining answer, so I had to change my mindset.

This last year, after three years of recovery, I have slowly lost weight that I gained while drinking.  It has taken me six months to lose ten pounds.  That sound dreadful, I know, but at least the habit of eating right and a daily exercise routine is something I have been able to maintain, not to mention that my self-esteem has increased, because doing the hard work has made me feel good about myself.  If I can’t look in the mirror and accept myself for what I am right now, then there is a lot more work to do simply than a diet.  More than anything, I want to be healthy, feel good and live a long life.  If it takes me three more years to lose another ten or fifteen pounds, I’ve got the patience now.  I know it will stay off because I’m not using a quick fix, and I fundamentally feel good about myself for once.

This morning I read an article about a vaccine for heroin addiction – a pharmaceutical that will block the cravings.  This is another one of America’s short term answers to a fundamental problem in the culture.  This drug could literally increase the usage of heroin.  I mean, my old addict thinking is like, “Cool.  Now I can try heroin because if I get addicted, I can go to the doctor to stop the cravings…”   (Yeah, that’s how sick I am on an addict level).  There are no sustaing quick fixes in life.  As pioneers, we Americans are also incredibly backwards.  We work ourselves to the bone to maintain a standard of living, and then drug ourselves into zombies in order to maintain that standard of living.  None of it is fulfilling, and there is way too much pressure in our society.  We’ve got to turn this around on a fundamental level.

When I was twenty-seven, I already had been married for six years, birthed two children, and maintained a stressful career for nine years.  I got the children ready in the morning, did all the laundry, kept my house in tip top shape, cooked dinner most of the time, and cleaned up afterward.  I was doing what I thought was “normal,” but I was miserable.  I got through it with ephedra and alcohol.  We all know how that ended.  My husband was fighting his own demons at the time, trying to contort his natural way of being, into a standard American husband model.  We both failed greatly.  I don’t know how most people do it without going insane, especially if they are doing it sober.  All of that keeping up with the Jones’ nonsense, felt like I was twisting my soul inside out and then flushing it down the toilet.  To make things worse, some people made this lifestyle look incredibly easy, and the pressure from outside people, was terrifically constricting.  I didn’t know anything about what I wanted in life, yet I was molding myself into something completely opposite of who I truly was.  I’m an explorer, not a homebody.  I’m creative, not regiment, like my career required of me.  I’m also not keen on committed relationships.  I cried a lot back then.

It takes a lot of courage to discover yourself, and all your defaults of character on a fundamental level, but some of us don’t have a choice.  For some reason (perhaps a deal I made with the gods before I was born), I couldn’t ever drink myself to death, so the only solution for me was to figure out how to live my life sober without being completely miserable.  Nearly four years later, here I am sober and happy.  My lifestyle is nowhere near what it was in my twenties.  It certainly doesn’t live up to the American standards, but I am fulfilled.  I took the time to find out who I was.  I explored myself and the world around me enough to know that I’ve got dreams, and hopes and yearnings.  To ignore those, is futile for me.  I have nightmares of people telling me, “You have a calling to be a pianist in a church…” blah blah blah.  (You might as well stick a needle in my arm and call it a day).  God, the last thing I need is people deciding what’s best for me, yet that’s what I did until my late twenties.  Thank the gods for my rebellious nature.  It eventually did me a world of good.

I truly believe that there are people who have naturally addictive personalities, just like there are those who are naturally hyper.  I call that “excess energy.”  It simply needs to be channeled.  Put an addict to work on something they love, and you will see passion.  That extra energy simply needs to be focused.  Most people who have an addictive personality, are incredibly ingenuitive.  You can’t put a bird in a cage and expect it to forget about flying.  I hate seeing birds in cages.  It’s awful.  It reminds me of a creative mind being forced to learn algebra.  (Kill me now…)

There is no quick fix to a fundamental problem.  We need to teach our children how to channel their creative energy into what they’re passionate about.  If they are drawn to horses, we shouldn’t direct them toward tap dancing just because that’s our dream.  If another family has all their children in sports and your child doesn’t like sports, don’t force them to be in sports.  It’s a dangerous thing we’re doing by keeping up with the Jones.’  If you hate working nine-to-five, find a way to make a living more creatively.  The good thing about America is that we have a lot of choices.  We shouldn’t settle, and we should never stop exploring.  It is not human nature to be stagnant.

I feel like there are many people who are fundamentally unhappy, and rather than taking the time to explore ourselves, we quick fix it.  Many people don’t have a drug or alcohol problem, but they eat to fill a void.  This is so common.  Other people are chronic relationship chasers.  Listen, we all have an inner void.  It’s there for a reason.  Explore the void, rather than trying to fill it.  It takes less time to enter into that void than it does to fill the void.  You can never fill the void because it isn’t a void at all.  It’s your inner-self needing your full attention, and it gets louder and louder until you acquaint yourself with it.  We need to learn to sit quietly with ourselves, and to be uncomfortable once in a while without trying to numb the discomfort.  We all have traumas and pains and sorrows.  They are there to assist us in our spiritual development, but if we ignore them or numb them, then we end up even more miserable for a longer period of time.

Self-love is the answer to this backwards thinking society, but not on a topical level.  We need to go deep.  It doesn’t take as long as we fear, and the journey is incredible.  The bottom line is that if you’re unhappy, you can turn it around, but you need to do the work.  Admitting it is the first step.  If you can do that, then you’re already brave.  You also need to be courageous and willing.  And if you can’t muster the courage up, think about the end of your life and reflect on what it’s going to feel like if you didn’t make an effort.  If you spend your life trying to impress other people, how is that going to add up in the end?  It’s not worth it.  We are responsible for what we do, who we hang out with, how we feel and where we are headed.  There is no one or nothing that can pump you full of self-esteem.  It takes work, and time, but it’s worth it because the journey is truly fulfilling.  Along the way you realize what you’ve been missing all along, which is incredibly profound.  I won’t give it away, but it begins with Y and ends with U!

“Do Not Conform to the World, But Be Transformed by the Renewing of Your Mind…” (This is a constant)

Thinking

We underestimate ourselves, and settle for way less than optimum. From a very young age we are conditioned to think that life is mostly against us, while being ignorantly taught “survival of the fittest,” although this statement was never coined by the late Charles Darwin, who not only studied the theory that life struggles to remain alive, but later confirmed that this was not so. He determined the reason why life continues living, is definitely not because it fights. It’s because it adapts to its environment and goes with the flow. Harmony allows life to thrive on this planet – not competition. It is not the strongest creatures on this planet who thrive here. Those that collaborate with their environment, are the ones who flourish.

Our most idolized scientists of late (including Stephen Hawking who is still profoundly alive), study their own theories so thoroughly, that they prove themselves wrong, and end up opening another one of Pandora’s boxes in nature. It seems that there is no solid, fundamental particle that gives us the true make-up of life, although science has been trying to pin the source of life down for centuries. Even the Higgs Boson field (discovered in July 2012 – a.k.a. “God Particle”) is incredibly subjective and “unstable.” What is being discovered, is that consciousness and human intention plays a significant role in how subatomic particles (like quarks) navigate. It is within a human being’s innate power, to observe and create their own experience by what they focus on during the experience. Over and over, science has proven that human consciousness plays a direct role in how an experiment unfolds. Results of several experiments are subjective, according to whom the observer is during the experiment, and according to what they believe while they are performing the experiment.

We have be un-empowered in this society, believing that we must compete in order to thrive in the world. We must work hard, and struggle if we are going to succeed. (Does “divide and conquer” ring any bells? What a great way to control society, so that individuals don’t realize their true nature). It is a competitive culture we live in, but we all end up in the same boat – “From ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” There are many people who have had it all, just to discover that money and power doesn’t equal joy. If you compete your way through life, there is no end to the competition. There will always be someone richer, better, prettier, etc. If this is your goal, then it is completely unobtainable, and if your goal is to live the “American Dream,” then you are selling yourself incredibly short. That material way of thinking is terribly unfulfilling. Our nature is to create, to evolve, and to thrive. In order to thrive, we must be open to life. If you have a strict opinion or belief about anything, then you are shutting yourself off from the incredible journey of being. Life is subjective, according to the observer. Life moves and unfolds according to how you think. If you are open to great things, then great things will occur for you. If you are shut down and opinionated, then life will be very small, and you will probably discover yourself agitated when things don’t go your way.

People are so busy pointing fingers at what is wrong in this world, fixated on the problems of society, and praying for God to deliver the planet from corruption, that they are too blind to see that their own human power, when focused and directed with total consciousness, has the power akin to the light of the sun. One human being has the power to illuminate the entire world. Some people are so arrogant to think that they have solely been blessed by God with special gifts and powers, but the truth is, we all have consciousness, which means we all have the innate power to change the course of humanity.

Rather than competing to be right, contending to be the best, or fixating on the problems of society, we should focus our energy on healing disease, and breaking down the walls of institutionalized thinking. You cannot place a box around life and expect it to flourish. God does not reside inside of a church, and the answers (which are always subjective) are not discovered within the walls of a classroom. You cannot pinpoint the truth, because it is always flowing and moving and changing according to the observer. God is not one thing, or several. God is, which means that you can’t grab God and label God and identify God’s source. It will never happen.

Your own consciousness defines and determines your experience of life. You can either package your life up into an ideal, or allow it to flow, evolve and thrive. You can focus your energy on a standard way of living, or open yourself up to a spectacular way of being. There are no limits to what can occur when you are open. You completely limit yourself when you are convinced about anything. Life is incredibly subjective. We have the power to move mountains, so why are so we fixated on mediocrity? Soon we will understand how ignorant we have been all along, now that science is realizing that consciousness is the very fabric of our existence.

How you think, and what you believe, determines the result of your life experience. If you want greater things, then it is up to you to be open to those greater things. It is not going to appear out of the sky in the blink of an eye from someone outside of yourself. You are determining your life experience right now. The more love you give, the more you will receive. The more support you give, the more you will receive. The more compassion you give, the more you will receive. I had a big wake-up call the other day when two people told me that I was responsible for my own success. My success is subjective to how I think about myself, not how society thinks about me. If I think it is subject to how society thinks of me, then I am completely stifling myself from my full potential. If we have the power to move subatomic particles on a fundamental level, then imagine our power on a universal scale.

We underestimate ourselves because this is what we have been conditioned to do in our society. The people in the world who are of greatest influence, are those that do not subject themselves to one way of thinking, but open themselves up to possibilities beyond measure. This can be you, but it is clearly up to you to get out of the box and flourish. How boring we have become in America. We are creatures of habit, and parrots of our predecessors, rather than realizing our own dynamic potential. Why so much addiction and mental illness? Because we are completely going against nature, and it is driving us mad. There is so much more to life, but we have cultivated a society of limitations, laws, with an institutionalized way of thinking. What for? I don’t exactly know, but I certainly don’t want any part of it. I am not afraid to walk against the crowd if it means that I get to discover something beyond that which I’ve been taught. I don’t want to be told – I long to discover. I want the magic, not the material.

There is magic to behold. It is up to each person to realize their full potential. If you are tired of your life, then change your thinking around it. Do something different. Be open to a subjective existence rather than being stuck in the familiarity of your conditioning. All those beautiful stories in the Bible are illustrations of the human potential, yet we’ve ignorantly condensed them into a religious belief system. Even the interpretation of such texts is incredibly subjective. Don’t you see? It is through your vision that the world expands. It is your belief that determines your reality. The only limitations are our own.

If technology is synthetic of nature (and I propose it is), then as you can see, there are no limitations to what will evolve out of technology. Likewise nature is non-absolute. It is subject to interpretation and open to our imaginations. There is so much more to this existence merely than having a career, reproducing, retiring and dying. Don’t you agree? So if you’re bored like I was, in this institutionalized society, then might I suggest that you go a little bit deeper? Learn about who you truly are on a conscious level, and do experiments with intention. Practice giving yourself what you are looking for outside of yourself. Go the distance in your lifetime. If you are straight, gay, transsexual, Muslim, Christian, disabled, female, male, an addict in recovery, or simply feeling lost because you don’t know who you are, then you are clearly a human being with a brilliant mind who has the ability to move mountains, simply by directing your mind to greater awareness. Your differences are more about how you think, than they are about how you label yourself.

“Be not conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2)  This is a empowering scripture. We can transform anything by simply changing our thinking, and we should continually be changing our thinking if we want to be constantly renewed.

Encouragement for Transformation in the New Year

Trans

And we do not know what we are looking for,

Until we come again to our beginning… 

Robert Lax from Circus of the Sun

There is something significant about feeling lost once in a while. For me, it’s a reminder that I have no control over anything, which is good because when I try to be in control, I’m bound to make a terrific mess. This new year, there was a lot on my mind, and a discomfort that I can only describe as slow inner torture, overcame me to the point that I had to sit unnervingly with it. There the terror emerged, flopped around inside my gut, agitated me to the point of tears, and then gave me insight that wouldn’t have come if I would have carelessly numbed it out with a drink. While I sat with the discomfort, I thought the suffering would never cease, and this was the point at which my fear took over and told me that it was necessary to drink, because there was no other way out of my misery. Thank the gods for that vivid tape I play in my mind of my old self, who used to heed to that mocking fear. She ended up in even worse misery than where she began in the first place. There is no way out of misery except to embrace it. In the words of the beloved poet and sage, Rumi, “The cure to pain is the pain.” Yes, it is true.

Today, doctors will give you something to numb the anxiety, which may seem like a perfect answer in the middle of an emotional crisis, but as a person in recovery I have to ask myself if this is the way to go. From a spiritual perspective, life is not always comfortable, especially when inner growth is occurring. The problem doesn’t lie in the discomfort itself, but in the resistance of it. We are a fast food thinking society, conditioned to eclipse our pains and moods with pills, rather than learning a very natural process called healing. What a concept – to heal, rather than to anesthetize our inner conflict. But during the conflict, it is almost impossible to conceive that this is simply a spiritual rebirth, which is terribly confusing and constricting. It takes a great amount of faith and courage to accept the agony, but it is necessary if we are truly in recovery. During these times you just have to know that your soul wants to play its role here, and if it’s not able to emerge, it’s going to make things very uncomfortable. I have to constantly ask myself if I am in my natural state of “being,” or if I’m being bounced around by outside conditions. I am very sensitive, so I must be careful with moving too quickly in the world, or becoming stagnant. Either one of these things will send me into an emotional spiral. I am certain most of you in recovery can relate to me here. We need to keep aware of ourselves, so that we don’t lose ourselves during times of spiritual development.

I got through the agony because I surrendered to it, but it wasn’t easy, and I also know that it won’t be the last time I go through this sort of spiritual discomfort. It’s a good practice to journal during moments like these, so that we can refer to something when we experience it again. We tend to forget that life has its ups and downs and spirals. It is ever-changing and so are we. Becoming spiritually aware and emotionally mature is a bitter process, but it doesn’t last forever. The last thing we should do is numb it out. We should always ask for help when we need it, which I did. I had to lean on friends this last month, more so than I have to in a long time. Today I’m feeling anew after weeks (or probably months) of discomfort. It was worth it to not take a drink. I’m so glad I didn’t, but man, the old alcoholic self really wanted one. What have I learned from this process? That I really need to let go of all the things I want, and trust that there is a guidance system in place for my life while I am here. My soul wants to emerge and shine and play its role here. I do not have a clue as to what that role is. I really don’t, but I know that when I let go of trying to figure things out, clarity comes rushing in, whether it’s through dreams, or from the mouths of my friends. I get to experience the magic of simply surrendering and saying, “Damn, I have no control, and I’m letting go now. I’m giving the universe the reigns of my life because I know from past experience that I will be nurtured, guided and protected during this process. The discomfort is temporary.”

Do what you have to do to nurture yourself when life is difficult. It’s important that you stop everything and just ask yourself what you need, rather than extending yourself even more. I finally did this, and after one day, I feel myself centered again. By simply taking time to honor my own being, I received clarity and balance. I should have done this sooner. The other thing is when you feel lost in the world, or misplaced, don’t try to figure things out. Just surrender. When I did this, some interesting people came into my experience whom I wouldn’t have expected. Two of them told me the same exact thing on the same day. “You need to be your own best friend.” They said this when I told them that I feel like I’m lacking any mentors or support, or guidance in my life. “Be your own best friend.” What a concept. The third person who came into my experience was a comedian and motivational speaker, Michael Pritchard. He spoke at our office meeting yesterday. I rarely go to these meetings, but it’s the beginning of a new year, and I heard he was good. He spoke of happiness and how to collaborate with people, rather than to compete with them. He works with children and inspires them to live from their hearts. While I sat there listening to him, I realized that he’s doing exactly what I want to do. I had been wondering what I wanted to do. Now I know. It’s very clear. He works in my county, so the first thing I did was email his foundation and find out how I can volunteer. There are always signs pointing us in the right direction. You simply have to be aware, open, and willing. Sometimes you’ve got to get out there and talk to people, and ask for help along the way. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. In fact, it’s imperative.

So in a very short amount of time I went from floundering, to feeling centered. That’s a huge shift. It was a very transformational new year for me, although it wasn’t anything that I would have planned for myself. It would have been easy to cave and give up. That’s for sure, but I kept thinking about people in life who have it worse, and those who never give up.

Never give up. Continue moving forward. Find a reason to get out of bed, even it is simply to feed your cat. Sometimes you have to push yourself a little bit, or a lot, and most of the time, you need to be your own best friend, your own support, your own motivation, and your own nurturer. If you do this for yourself, the world will follow suite.

My New Year resolution is simply to let go, and also to try new things, meet new people and volunteer somewhere. Sometimes you have to give what you don’t feel you have in order to receive what you need. Life is cyclical. Once you give, you open yourself up to receiving. Usually all we are ever looking for when we feel lost, is ourselves. So if you feel lost, or out of control, don’t go numbing it out with a drink, or distracting yourself through another human being. Simply let go and know that the universe surrounding will return you to center, if only you listen and watch for the arrows pointing you toward the right direction. In time you will see that the arrow is pointing right at you. With love for the New Year – J. L. Forbes

http://www.amazon.com/J.-L.-Forbes/e/B00HS980ZI