Why I Am I Even Here?

I am nothing

You wanted to know me

so I showed up

in the form of you

but you constantly reject yourself

You yearned to be an expression of love

so you chose the human vessel

and you were graciously offered gifts and talents

which you have gravely neglected

You desired to grow in spirit

so you were born with challenges to overcome

and here you are cursing me

for your life being too difficult

You longed for deeper wisdom

the earth provides this to you, in all its mystery

yet you spend your time being distracted by useless things

rather than exploring everything this gracious world has to offer you

You required depth for understanding

this is the reason for your broad spectrum of emotions

yet you drown out your deepest feelings

and hate the appointed ones who draw out emotional experiences for you

You asked to experience joy beyond measure

but joy is hidden beyond fear

Instead of walk through your fear

you have made a quaint little home there

You required to know the truth

so we set up a galactic scavenger hunt

to keep you on the path throughout your life

but you have completely disregarded this path of your soul

and you have focused on the physical

instead of the abstract

you are an artist

yet you’ve chosen to be a beggar

You believe the universe is outside of you

that everything you desire is out of reach

yet you fail to see

that you are the universe

so I cannot help you

until you look in the mirror

and finally see me

this is all up to you

Leading you to water here,
The Big HP

– J. L. Forbes

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Wildflower

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

by J. L. Forbes

For Those of Us Who Are Sensitive to the Energy of Others (How to Keep Your Balance When You Carry the Weight of the World)

Weight of the World
When I was a child, I naturally looked past people’s faults and saw their pain. Not only did I see it, but I felt it deeply. At some point, this gift became overwhelming for me and I could no longer handle all the emotions I carried, so I consciously disconnected from myself and began to live my life on the surface – if not merely to fit in – simply to be set free from the heaviness I carried. Eventually I came back around to myself, but I learned to focus on my own emotions, rather than the emotions of others. I still feel people. Immediately upon meeting people, I know what is going on with them, and when I feel nothing, they are either very clear or incredibly guarded. I feel confusion, anger (this is the worst for me), jealousy, lack of focus, an unsettled spirit (difficult for me to be around), insecurity, neediness, sadness, etc… and I also know immediately when someone is whole in themselves. I feel their entire presence and we usually connect very quickly. I have met a couple of people like this recently and within a short period of time, we have become very close.

One of the people is a twelve year old child. She is experiencing people’s pain and it becomes overwhelming for her at times. It’s difficult because you can’t fix the world, but you want to when you have this gift of empathy. There was no guidance for me at her age, so it is important to me to offer her my guidance now that I have come back around to myself. The thing I’ve learned over these last eleven years of soul searching and truth seeking, is that suffering is a choice. No matter what circumstances we are facing, no matter how difficult things become, suffering is absolutely a choice. How you think determines how you feel, and also, how you think creates your experience, so we must understand that when we are in the presence of someone who suffers, instead of feeling sorry for them, we should give them compassion, but we should also know that taking on their suffering is going to drain us. In the same situations, people experience situations differently according to how they think. I have been very poor financially at times to where I was eating top ramen for months so that I could pay my rent, but I never once thought of myself as poor. I was so grateful to have a job, to have a roof over my head, to be sober and to feel good. The last thing I ever did was compare myself to other people who were affluent. I knew my situation was temporary and I was also more concerned about my well-being than I was about my income. Within a fairly short amount of time I moved up in the world and got a better job, etc. If I would have bought into a notion that I was “poor” and “less than,” I would have never been open to receiving the abundance that I am experiencing now, and it’s only getting better because I still do not go to dark places in my mind when life brings me challenges. The most important thing I do, is not worry about how other people view my situation. I don’t care if Bentley driving Drew over there knows how to drink responsibly, owns several homes, travels the world and has five college degrees – The last thing I’m doing is considering what he thinks of my situation. That would be futile for me.

Because the universe is made up of vibrations and light, everything we experience is a direct result of our own thoughts (which are vibrations). Even before we were born, we were a vibration in the universe. This is quantum physics here – I’m not talking out of my airy-fairy ass. Therefore, it is clear to me that this human experience is but a grain of sand in the ocean of experiences. I am convinced that we live several different lifetimes. When I encounter someone who is suffering, I not only look at them as my brother or sister, but I see them as myself. Because I believe that we are all one, I understand that we all experience every facet of life. This means that we have all been the aborted child, the mother who aborts her child, the homeless man on the street, the drunk, the junky, the murderer, the President, the Pope, the affluent person, the person of poverty. I no longer buy into a concept that I am separate from anyone, but I do understand that I have the ability to create my experience now. This means that everyone else is creating their experience too, and I don’t think it begins at birth. Because we are already vibration and consciousness prior to birth, I trust that we know exactly what we are getting ourselves into when we join the human race. Yes, I feel that I knew my challenges before I even came into this world. Perhaps a child who knows it is going to be aborted, chooses that path in order to move a mother’s consciousness into a higher level, or to give the mother an experience that she wouldn’t have had without the abortion. This is why I no longer judge any situation or anyone who does anything. Since we are all very connected, we all influence each other’s lives. at some point in our experiences, we wake up – we completely wake up, but it can take several lifetimes to get to that place. Because we only have a very limited point of view of the overall picture, I’ve decided to trust that I know nothing. All I know is who I am, and all I can do is get closer to that I AM, while offering love and compassion to others along the way. I cannot fix the world or change anyone. I can change myself, however, and that’s where I place my focus.

Ground yourself in yourself and ask for help when you need it. Be true to who you are without being influenced by the people around you. Keep your balance by focusing inward, rather than out. If you “feel” someone’s deepest emotions – feel the emotion all the way through. Allow the pain to roll through your body so that it is quickly released, but do not hang onto it, or dwell on how you think the person is feeling. They are having their experience of life, while you are having yours. Having compassion means allowing others to have their experience without interfering. You can be a guide to them by simply being whole in yourself. The last thing you should do is take on their experience.

Trust your intuition about people without judgment. If you feel a stir within you that doesn’t feel good, there is no reason to remain in the presence of that person. We get so caught up in attachment. Learn to let go everyday. Life is constant movement. You do not have to stay anywhere or with anyone who does not feel right. It is good to learn to keep moving and to trust yourself along the way. Since I have been more aware of myself, I am much more aware of what is going on with other people. I have learned to remain solid, but I do waiver at times – and this is ok. It is good for me to feel that insecurity because it gives me something to work on. I don’t have to judge myself or condemn myself for not being completely whole in myself all the time. I am always growing, learning and becoming closer to who I am. Life is a journey and nothing more. It’s just an experience. Don’t get too caught up in the drama. Just learn to be present and keep moving forward!

A Little Gratitude = A Big Dose of JOY

WP_20140120_011
As I enter into the last day of another work week, I want to give a SHOUT OUT for all of the abundance in my life. It hasn’t been an easy couple of months for me. I’ve made some big changes, but I’m still here and life keeps moving along. I’ve been tested, stretched, lonely, weathered, overwhelmed and filled with anxiety, but I’m still here. I’ve been hurt, confused, scared, broke and at the end of my rope, but I’m still here. No matter what occurs in my life, I’m still here. None of those things took away from who I am. None of those difficult moments defined who I am. I’m learning more and more to stop identifying with circumstance and emotion, while allowing it to flow through me rather than getting caught up in it’s clutches. I’m growing, I’m learning, and I’m walking in the freedom of love instead of caving into the hollows of my fear. Life is an internal journey. I know this now, and everyday I am given opportunities to live in this understanding. I am grateful today for the challenges I have been faced with that helped me walk through my fears.

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

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

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

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

The Magic of Relinquishing Resistance

Settled

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Humility? (Because it is So Underrated)!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Namaste!

A Child’s Temper Tantrum Doesn’t Throw Me Off Course Today

Meditation

Meditation was introduced to me by a former roommate who practiced it at the kitchen table while staring into a candle.  I walked in on him one day and interrupted him out of his “trance.”  “Oh, I’m sorry,” I declared as I put my groceries away.  “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”  He was not angry or annoyed with me.  We spoke a bit about the practice and I became curious.  That week I went online and discovered there was a Monday night sitting group, just downtown.  I decided to check it out.  During this time, I was searching for something more spiritually enriching and sustaining, but I did not know what that could be, so I was open to everything.

Upon entering the room, there was a place to remove my shoes, so I gladly took mine off and walked into a very quiet space where the lights were dim and people were already sitting in the lotus position with their eyes closed.  The room was small and appeared to be the nursery of the church.  Chairs were spread about, but most people were sitting on pillows.  The main person sat in the front of the room cross-legged and peaceful with a pillow beneath him, beads around his neck and a singing bowl before him.  I found my place quickly, grabbed a pillow and took the position.  The most interesting thing to me at the time, was how natural the lotus position appears.  Just seeing people sitting this way with slight smiles upon their faces, with their eyes closed in silence, seemed like the most natural thing I’d ever seen human being do.  I wondered why meditation was never practiced in my own religion.  This whole experience was the most sacred thing I’d ever walked into.  It was so incredibly still and it simply felt right.

There are many ways to meditate, and I walked into the room without a clue as to what I was supposed to do while I sat there.  This was a half hour sitting.  I crossed my legs, closed my eyes and laid my arms along my legs.  Within ten minutes my feet were falling asleep and my mind was a whirlwind of thoughts.  I wondered how long it was going to take me to be like those other people who sat completely still without fidgeting.  This was not as easy as it looked, but it still felt “right” and I continued going to that sitting.  Throughout the next few years, I went to Buddhist temples on Thursday evenings for sittings, and read about meditation practices.  I spent time sitting at beaches on the Bay, where I lived, each morning and eventually found myself sitting quietly at home, on buses and on BART more often than not.  My mind was slowing down, and even during meditation moments when it was busy, I learned to watch my thoughts rather than identify with them, or to get caught up into them.

In treatment, we meditated almost every evening and I really looked forward to that time of stillness.  It brought me into a centered space of simply being aware of what was happening for me.  If anger was part of my experience, I didn’t judge it.  Instead I would allow it to flow through me, or to stir within me.  Sometimes, like this morning, no emotions came up for me, but I found myself having a difficult time sitting still.  My body wants to do other things than sit there quietly.  My mind tells me that I should be writing, or outside running.  Without judgment of the inner stirring, I sit for twenty minutes at a time and simply get a glimpse into my own inner happenings.

Prayer is a practice I’ve been doing since I can remember.  Meditation is something I learned as a young adult.  Both are incredibly powerful practices.  During one practice, I am offering my own voice to my higher power.  During the meditation practice, I am becoming acquainted with my inner dialogue.  I get a glance into my emotions, my thoughts and my body.  This is so important – to be acquainted with myself; to understand what is moving around and what stirs within me.  It is good to center myself inside my body so that I can go out and greet the world in a stance of awareness.  Many times we begin the day in a rush and don’t have a chance to gather ourselves and to enter into our day with an intention to remain centered.  Other people’s energies take over our peace of mind.  The busyness of work overwhelms our being.  Unexpected occurrences throw us off, but beginning our day with a quiet sitting eradicates the experience of getting sucked into the chaos.  I wish I would have a learned this as a child.  I always wondered how people could remain at peace with so much going on in the world.

Breathing is another thing I must remind myself to do.  I tend to take shallow breaths and to rush through my life.  This last year, I’ve been paying more attention to my breathing.  When I feel overwhelmed, instead of react right away, I try to breathe in and out to slow myself down.  When I pay attention to my breath, everything outside of me becomes less disturbing.  As I am writing this, I’m hearing a child screaming and crying, so I’m practicing that breathing thing, and it immediately takes my mind off of the annoyed feeling I’m having and brings me right back to center.

I used to be very curious about people who walked around so centered, joyful and undisturbed.  Now I understand that they must have mediated.  They were acquainted with themselves enough to remain in alignment with who they were, on a very deep level.  Prayer is an offering to something outside of yourself, while meditation is an offering unto yourself. 

Well, that kid is still crying and throwing a bit of a temper tantrum, but I am finding myself smiling.  I’m so glad I took the time to meditate this morning and to center myself in my body.  Each day brings up new emotions, new experiences and unexpected details.  Meditation keeps me centered and in a place of constant serenity. I highly recommend it for anyone who hasn’t tried it.