Embracing Your Quirks Along with Your Qualities

We all have sides to ourselves that we don’t like.  I don’t want to know or admit that I can be moody, or argumentative.  I want to believe that I am incredibly balanced, super zen, and supremely centered.  The truth is, I can be those things, but I also deal with bouts of anxiety followed by terrible panic attacks.  I grow restless sometimes.  I get irritable.  I still have moments where anger comes up for me, and there is a dark side of myself that doesn’t rear its head often, but it’s undoubtedly there.  I’m human, you know?  And we all are, so rather than trying to rid ourselves of the parts of ourselves that we don’t exactly like, or trying to pretend that we are all that, we should be willing to accept our quirks and learn how to look at them without judgment.

Without judgment?  Yes, without judgment.  There are so many parts of myself that I wish I could change, and I’m constantly working on myself, but I still mess up in life and say the wrong things to people, or get trapped in gossip sessions.  I am not consistently serene.   Every day has its challenges – and people, places and things often pull me in ways and bring out dark parts of myself that I didn’t even know still existed.  I surprise myself at how balanced I can be in certain settings, and also how unglued I can become in other situations, but there is no need for alarm.  If we begin accepting the stuff we don’t like about ourselves, we learn to laugh, rather than scorn ourselves for those things.  Laughter can alleviate the negativity, and it will transform a heavy situation into something more palatable.  Life is life.  It’s difficult.  On top of all of life’s unpredictable nuances, we have moods and stresses that push and prod us, often without our permission.  It’s ok that we are quirky and moody and sometimes unfiltered.  I think the best thing we can do is be self-aware and when we feel like we’ve made a mistake, or when we overstep our boundaries, we simply need to take a step back, re-evaluate and take responsibility.

I think the most difficult situations are when we screw up and we take responsibility, yet another person is affected and does not accept our apology.  When someone else judges us for our quirks, or for our mistakes, it makes it difficult not to judge ourselves, but we still need to learn to let go of what other people are harboring about us.  Most of us are doing our best, and sometimes we are caught off-guard in life.  If this affects someone else and you’ve said your apologies to no avail, then the only thing you can do is let go and move on, and allow that person to have their experience, or to cut you off if that’s what they choose to do.  Beating yourself up never does anyone any good.  Life is way too short to spin out about things you cannot change.  Take responsibility, learn from your mistakes, trust that you are unconditionally loved and always being guided.  Let go.  It’s ok.  Life goes on and you’re allowed to make mistakes here.  Earth is a playground of learning experiences.

I read this cute thing online the other day that some people call taking one step forward and two steps back, a “setback,” while some of us call that a “cha-cha.”  I really liked that.  It’s true.  As a recovering alcoholic, I have overcome challenges that I thought I would never overcome in this lifetime, but once in a while that old addict returns out of nowhere and wreaks havoc within me.  I cannot help this.  It’s just part of who I am as a person in recovery.  I am certain that I will deal with this for the remainder of my life, and when it comes up, I have to sit with it and talk about it and stare it in the face, but I can no longer judge it, because it is part of my own humanness.  The one thing I know is that I have beat it before.  I have moved through the cravings and the restlessness and the negative thoughts with flying colors, so when these things arise, I know there is light on the other side.  I don’t hate myself because of my challenges.  I learn to cha-cha with them without resistance.  It’s a fun little dance, you see?  It’s good when these things come up for me because it’s a reminder that I have come a long way, but I still have a long way to go.  I certainly do not want to go backward, but I am in no way, shape or form at a point of arrival.  We just keep moving forward and picking ourselves up when we fall, and laughing at ourselves for being so human.  Life is not asking you to be perfect.  It’s simply asking for your participation.

Don’t dwell on the negative stuff about yourself.  Just let it be there and observe it, and know that it’s something you can work on, but don’t ever buy into an idea that you’re less-than or not worthy.  Have compassion for yourself and move forward, regardless of how other people judge you.  We all here doing this thing called life, which is not in the least bit easy.  The challenges are set before us for our personal growth.  It doesn’t matter what other people think.  What matters is that you continue moving forward and taking responsibility and trying.  Don’t ever give up on yourself.  Surround yourself with people who care about you, and let go of those that don’t.  You will never please everyone, and not everyone is going to accept you.  The most important thing is that you accept yourself in all of your variations.  Keep the cha-cha in mind, and embrace all that you are.  If you can laugh at yourself, no one else will have power over you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awareness + Openness + Acceptance x Unabashed Faith = Abundance

Financial Abudance
Many of us go out and search the world for answers to big questions. I’ve been to many churches, several temples, inside a thousand books, and out in nature seeking some sort of “truth.” Truth is exactly like a firefly in daylight. You may get a glimpse (every now and again) of the notion of truth, but truth is not something you can capture eternally. Truth is perpetually on the move. It’s taunting and playful and wants to be followed. To walk toward the spark of truth is to walk an invisible path of insurmountable light. At some point I realized that truth is an experience, rather than an actual point of knowing.

There are many religions and beliefs, but I no longer subscribe to man’s ideas about life. If you were to ask an ant how he views the world, you would immediately discover (as a human being) that the ant’s perception is incredibly limited. He knows nothing about something greater occurring outside of his colony. When breadcrumbs fall, he gathers them and takes them home. I doubt very seriously the ant ever worries about running out of food. The ant trusts that there is an abundance of food, and even if he doesn’t know what abundance is, the ant still never worries about starvation or death, or anything for that matter because the ant is simply “being.”

In the grand scheme of the universe, human beings are even smaller than an ant. Yes, we have something greater than an insect – we have the ability to conceptualize, philosophize and create, but our perception of life is still very limited, no doubt. We also carry around a lot of fear which limits the way we navigate in our lives. Instead of stepping out into the wide open world and experiencing all that is offered to us, we often play it safe. I’m learning more and more to get up on stage in front of people I do not know, just to sing a song, or to read one of my poems. Before I get up there my mind tells me all kinds of awful things and brings back horrible memories of me messing up in front of a crowd, but then I pretend that this is my last day on Earth (because “now” is all we have) and I get up there and I do my best, and it feels so liberating. Instead of feeding off of the crowd, I began experiencing my own self up there, who goes from completely shy and awkward, to excited and carefree. I stopped limiting myself to what my fears tell me, and I’ve learned to stop comparing myself to others. Self-acceptance has been my biggest challenge over the last three+ years of sobriety. And as I have begun accepting myself, I have become much more accepting of others. In fact, I’m much more interested in other people’s differences – because they obviously have something to teach me about life that I don’t already know.

It is difficult for me to tell people what religion I subscribe to. I grew up Christian, walked a few miles as an Agnostic, dabbled in Buddhism and have discovered myself (without even knowing it) following the path of a Shaman and eventually coming to a very Hindu understanding of life. Regardless of all of my “religious” costume changes, the one thing I have never left behind was my faith in something greater occurring than what I see. Even as a momentary Agnostic, I was still chasing the firefly. Come to find out, “Agnostic” simply means that a person doesn’t claim to know anything ultimately. Being Agnostic is being aware that there is no ultimate answer. So it comes back around to awareness, which is basically a place in which all things are possible. This is a very liberating place to be. This is the dwelling place of abundance. If all things are possible, then nothing is impossible. How cool is that?

The Buddhist understanding of life was interesting to me until I discovered that Buddhists don’t put much weight on desire. In fact, The Buddha pretty much tells us that desire creates suffering. To some extent, this is true, but because I am extremely curious, I don’t just buy into something without exploring it thoroughly. If it were not for human desire, the world would lack creativity. Creativity creates worlds, therefore I believe what The Buddha was saying was that we should learn to make peace with what is – to be in acceptance of all things that we encounter, rather than desiring a different result. Desire can take away from the present moment, which is all there truly is. Like everything in life, we must learn a balance between what is now, and creating the life that is ahead. When a desire suddenly comes to me (as it so often does), I trust now that it’s the universe nudging me forward toward that desire. My decisions right now, are often influenced by that desire. Whatever that desire of mine is, has already been granted you see. It’s merely awaiting my awareness, openness and acceptance. When I follow this unabashed faith of mine – what always follows is abundance. And what I have learned is not to expect things the way my limited mind projects what it thinks it wants. I have learned to be open, and to receive life however it presents itself to me, because, again, my perception is very small. Most of the time, what life offers me (when I am aware, open and accepting) is something much greater than I ever expected.

Right this very second is abundant. Look around you. Find gratitude in the bold taste of coffee, or in the morning sunlight. Be aware of the clothes on your body and the people who offer you a genuine smile. Tune into laughter, feel the skin on the hand that shakes your hand, look deep into the eyes of your lover. Life is now. It’s not ten minutes from now. It’s not when Jesus comes back. It’s not when Obama leaves office. It’s not when your bills are all paid. It’s the purring cat, the chirping birds, the cars driving by. We live in a universe of abundance. You are never apart from that abundance unless you are looking somewhere outside of right now. Somewhere in this illusion of time, we will learn to enjoy the firefly in all it’s movement, rather than wasting this moment trying to capture it.

http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3AJ.%20L.%20Forbes

To Walk in the Power of The Serenity Prayer

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The first time I heard this prayer, it was through a former boyfriend who was helping me to let go of my anxiety.  I wasn’t even in recovery yet, and oddly, he wasn’t much of a “God” guy.  For a second after I read it in his email, I actually thought that he wrote this prayer… specifically for me (self-centeredness is so blinding), but then later (in the rooms) I realized that this was a prayer written for everyone.

This isn’t only a prayer of letting go, or relinquishing the need to control outcome; it is a deliberate prayer for balance.  Most of us can digest the first sentence “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” but what about the last two requests, “The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference?”  How do we know when to walk in the path of courage, versus letting go of outcome?  And if we don’t know whether to be brave or to sit still, then what?  Honestly, I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here.  No matter what path you choose, there is always a learning experience, but this is when “doing the next right thing” comes into practice.  Either way you choose, if you’re doing the next right thing, then this is your opportunity to practice your own balance.  The questions to ask yourself in deciding if your doing the next right thing are:

Is this harmful to me?

Is this harmful to another person? (There is a huge difference between hurting someone, and harming them, so be clear on this.  If you’re breaking up with someone, they may be hurt, but they are not ultimately harmed.  Harming someone would be like a betrayal, or lying to them).

Are my intentions pure?  (In other words, are you doing something for selfish reasons, or do you have an ulterior motive?)

If you answer “no” to all the above, then you’re left with a decision.  If the decision is whether or not to look for a better job, or to wait for one to fall in your lap, I would say… there is no harm in looking for a better job.  If your decision is something that involves another person, then I would suggest communicating with that person before proceeding, so that you can make an educated decision with all the information laid out before you.  I know this is vague, but so often we think there is a “right” or “wrong” decision to make, when in fact, we are ultimately being guided, loved and provided for, no matter what path we choose to walk upon.  Even the bad decisions we make deliver consequences that ultimately provide opportunities to learn something of great value. 

In my own recovery, I have learned that if I’m getting hung up on the decision making process, then clearly I’m still stuck in “controlling outcome” mode.  Sometimes you’ve just got to follow your gut and move forward.  If moving forward feels wrong, then stop and sit still for a while.  Get used to “feeling” what goes on for you as you’re navigating throughout your life.  Most of us are result motivated, but the real treasure of our human experience, is the abstract abundance of personal growth.  I’ve met several people who have virtually nothing of value in their possession (house, car, income, etc.), yet they are spiritually rich and incredibly content.  They’ve discovered something that most of us fail to recognize; life is not about what you have, it’s about who you are.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept… The courage to change the things I can… and the wisdom…”  Walking in the light of this prayer is courageous.  It’s the both a statement of surrender, and the vow to stand on my own two feet within a powerful state of acceptance.  It’s a rich balance between humility and strength; it’s trusting in something greater than myself, and trusting in myself; it’s faith and reason all in one magnificent package.  This is the balance of our human existence.  This is what we practice when we are living consciously.

As we make decisions on a daily basis, let us remember this delicate balance without getting hung up on outcome.  Remember, it’s not where we end up, but what we learned along the way. 

 

 

 

 

Being Patient with Yourself

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More often than not, I get ahead of myself.  I plan, over think
things and analyze my life more than I’d like to admit.  Lately I’ve been feeling extremely uncomfortable and restless.  This occurs about once every four months or so (I’ve skillfully observed), but it certainly doesn’t last more than a week when I’m willing to shine a light on it and not buy into the discomfort as an eternal state of being. If I allow it to be with me, and even invite it into my experience, it will gently pass, and usually there is some emotional and spiritual growth involved. 

Because things are going pretty well for me, and I feel good most of the time, I find myself thrown off by these uncomfortable moments in my sobriety.  My relationship seems futile.  My nerves are exposed.  My thoughts are a wasteland of incomplete… I can’t even think of the word I’m looking for right now.  It’s just frigging uncomfortable, and I’m feeling a little bit like a failure this week.  I wonder when I’m going to be like a complete human being after so many years of self-sabotaging?  Things go great for months at a time, and then something will arise out of nowhere, reminding me that I’m not emotionally capable of a lot of things that “normal” human beings are naturally equipped with, like say… nurturing.  I get reminded of this all the time through the mirror of my relationship. 

I don’t usually feel “less than,” but just yesterday while sitting in an office meeting with several successful co-workers (appearing polished and successful myself), my inner voice screamed, “You fraud.  You are nothing like these people.  You are still at the bottom of the totem pole.  FRAUD.  FRAUD.  FRAUD.”  I slipped out of the meeting immediately after it was finished, so as not to further present myself like I have it together.  I’m good at bullshitting, but I’ve somewhat relinquished this mask.  I only use it when absolutely necessary, and yesterday it was more necessary for me to get back to work. 

You know, I’m doing my best with what I have.  Sometimes it’s completely overwhelming for me, but I still move forward in my recovery.  I continue to face the mirror when it presents itself, although there is still the inner tug of resistance.  I’m making progress, although quite slowly at times.  My boyfriend keeps reminding me that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  I know this, but it’s frustrating to wake up some mornings knowing that I have a long way to go, when just yesterday I felt like I was at the top of a mountain.  It’s these ebb and flows in my life that create inner havoc, reminding me that I must slow down and be patient with myself. It’s perfectly ok to feel incomplete some days.  It doesn’t mean I am.  It’s simply a feeling, that I certainly do not have to buy into. 

It is important for me to write this today, because I often have an extremely positive attitude.  My writing is on point most of the time, and I’m excited about my life more often than not… Yet then there are these dreadful moments, which are so important to acknowledge.  I know others can relate, and I just want to remind myself today (and whomever else needs the reminder), that in recovery, we are doing our best.  We must not compare ourselves with people who haven’t been down our crooked street.  It will rip you apart if you do.  Please remember to have patience with yourself during moments of restlessness, boredom, or discomfort, because they will surely pass.  Let others know what you are experiencing, so that they have the opportunity to offer their patience as well.  Be open to these experiences and allow them to move through you without buying into the belief that they are eternal.  I’m going to spend the remainder of my day sitting with my discomfort, rather than lashing out at the world and my loved ones because of it.  This too shall pass…</p>

Acceptance Creates a Path of Laughter

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Sinking down into a place of complete acceptance, wherein all judgment ceases, feels as if my life is resting upon a down comforter.  I didn’t realize how judgmental I still am, until I intentionally observed it in myself.  I was accepting of many things, but not of others.  It all hit me as I felt judgment coming from people, which prodded me to look at my own self.  Trying to clear myself completely of judgment doesn’t exactly seem plausible, so instead of looking at the judgment, perhaps I can begin with acceptance.  We tend to unsuccessfully abandon the negative parts of ourselves, rather than opening up to our positive aspects.  The acceptance I have in my life, outweighs the judgment, so this is where I have decided to place my energy this week, and hopefully thereafter.

Acceptance is an incredible tool to use throughout the day.  To set an intention of acceptance, is to create yourself a path of laughter.  I know this from experience.  Imagine one of those Mondays where everything goes wrong, from the time you wake up and hit your toe against the dresser, to dropping the shampoo several times in the shower, and finally there is an accident on the way to work, when you were already running late.  Coffee spills, high volumes of phone calls, chronic problem solving at the office, you forget your lunch and your wallet; it’s just one of those days.  But what if on this particular day, you had made an intention of “acceptance.”  At some point, maybe between the coffee spilling and forgetting your wallet, wouldn’t you have to throw your head back and laugh? 

I imagine acceptance as an internal smile.  No matter what is occurring, you have this secret super hero power where nothing affects you negatively, because before it happens, you decide to be ok with it.  There is so much compassion in this, and it certainly feels better than being angry and cussing out the dresser for being in the way of your toe.  It also feels amazing to smile at the antics of the person at work who usually bugs you.  By accepting them today, you are able to take nothing personally. You are graciously allowing them the space to be who they are without being annoyed by them.  I would rather walk through my life with an attitude of acceptance, than feeling annoyed, angry, or frustrated.  It simply FEELS better.  

Human beings tend to think that life is better when everything is in place, exactly how they want it to be.  In actuality, how you feel, is what truly creates your experience.  If you can change the way you feel, your experience changes.  I used to drink to feel good.  This didn’t always pan out for me.  Now it’s simply a matter of me being open to my experiences and not placing expectations on anything, which creates a calm and joyful experience in everyday situations. 

I love it how gifts like acceptance are absolutely free. It’s a gift that continues giving, and it makes life so much more palatable.  I highly suggest a daily practice of absolute acceptance.