Why Humility? (Because it is So Underrated)!

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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!

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Being Stressed Out is a Choice We Make

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In review of my life, I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t stressed out about something or someone.  Everything needed to be done a certain way.  Money was tight and schedules were tight.  Cleaning up after my children was constant and it seemed like three meals a day was just too much to handle.  Do we really need to eat that often?  (Children are always hungry – even between meals).  I thought being stressed was perfectly normal and although I hated the tense way I felt, I didn’t think anything more of it except that life was stressful.  When I got to treatment and the same wave of tension overcame my experience, one of the counsellors said to me, “You’re stressed because that’s what you do.”  Period.  End of sentence.  Dreadlocks waving at me in the wake of her swagger.  This intuitive hippy/Yoda-like woman never explain anything after she dropped these simple statements like galactic facts.  She just left us with cliff-hangers that we had to grab onto and explore for ourselves.  I wasn’t into that at all, but when truth speaks, it shouts aloud in your gut, and when she said this to me, I knew that I was royally screwed until I understood what she meant.

Fine.  I know Miss-Yoda is right because she has a knack of knowing things that normal human beings can’t possibly comprehend.  What the hell is she talking about that I stress… because that’s what I do?  I looked around me and observed that most of the other clients weren’t stress-cases in their job functions like me.  I was alone in my stressed out way of being.  I wasn’t doing anything more than anyone else.  If anyone should be stressed, it should be the cooks in the kitchen, but they were always so calm and in the moment. 

I recall being stressed out whenever I had to plan a party for my children, or before holidays when I had to purchase and wrap presents.  Getting out the decorations overwhelmed me.  Christmas was always hell for me.  My ideal Christmas would be to jump on a cruise ship and run away from the ugly decorations and madness.  I literally hated that holiday.  It still gets to me a little bit because I feel like it comes too often.  Every other year would be ideal, but every twelve months is overkill if you ask me.  Anyway, the point is that I was always a stress-case whenever I had to plan anything that required a lot of money and wrapping and buying of decorations.  So I lived like this for several years, but I had a mother-in-law at the time that was ALWAYS busy and ALWAYS planning stuff.  She put on a party like she was filing her nails.  It came very naturally to her and she could pull stuff together in a moment’s notice, while she was laughing and enjoying herself.  In treatment, I recalled this about her and I KNEW that it WAS me who chose to be stressed out about things.  People plan and produce big happenings all the time without feeling overwhelmed.  What was I doing wrong?

It’s been three years, and I’ve practiced NOT stressing out like I’ve practiced NOT picking up alcohol.  Up until this very year, I struggled.  I literally walked around for years and years feeling like an anchor was buried between my shoulder blades.  Physical pain, headaches, sleeplessness over things I had no control over.  Life sometimes comes at you fast, especially when you do things on a whim like me (like moving in a weeks notice).  I had to learn how to Zen-out like Yoda and be present instead of worrying what could go wrong.  I think that’s what got to me the most – having anxiety about the lack of time, and knowing that it may not get done on time.  This was an illusion.  When you slow down, accept that there is a lot to do, but it doesn’t all have to be done this very second, there is plenty of time. Life eases up and you can simply do one thing at a time, and remain present in each moment as you are getting things done.

I have a LOT to stress about today.  A LOT!  If I told you what was coming up for me, you would think I was insane for not being stressed out – but I’m not.  I’m completely aware of everything that sits before me, but I know what I can handle right this very moment and what I cannot handle right this very moment, so I balance that out, and I literally choose to not tense up about it.  It does not help me to be tense.  I serves absolutely no good purpose.  It just makes life much more difficult.  What I cannot handle, I announce to the universe (Dear God, I have a lot coming up for me that I can’t exactly handle all at once.  It’s a little too much for me, so I’m going to turn that stuff over to you.  Please help me manage my time and to enjoy each moment without worrying about the next.  Please provide me what I need when I need it, and please give me clarity in each moment so that I know what I’m supposed to be doing).  When I feel tired, I rest.  When I feel a bit overwhelmed, I take a little break.  It’s that simple.  You really don’t need to rush through things and pressure yourself.  It’s not necessary.

Since I’ve been practicing this calm way of being, I’ve had a lot of “stressful” situations come before me, and because I was aware of my decision to not be stressed, I understood that these were simply moments of truth.  I had to practice what I yearned to become.  So that’s what I’ve been doing and the last thing I’ve been buying into is that I need to stress out.  Stressing out does not make things any easier.  On the contrary.  I have this little voice inside of me that tells me if I don’t stress out, that I’m delusional.  I tell that little voice to go to hell.  I don’t have time for that gibberish.  Putting your body, mind and soul in that state of worry or pressure, is a terrible, terrible way to live.  It is a lie that you need to be stressed.  You don’t. 

I was the stress-out queen and now I am one of the calmest person I know.  I just don’t give into that part of myself anymore.  It’s dead to me.  Even when I was choosing the type of job I wanted last year, I avoided the ones that I knew would bring on too much stress.  I chose a job that was easy going, which paid the same.  If you choose not to be stressed, you will be surprised at how many more choices you get to make.  Life will provide what you request, especially if you are certain about what you want and what you don’t want.  You DO NOT have to settle.  Life will deliver exactly what you request if you put it out there and when you are clear about what you want.  It truly will. 

If something comes up now, I look at it in the face and deal with it right then and right there.  If I can put it off for a little while because it’s overwhelming, I do that too, knowing that I am going to have to face it sooner or later, but I don’t stress about it while I’m putting it off.  If it’s bugging me too much, then I deal with it immediately.  There are ways around stress.  You simply have to be aware of what is right in front of you and take charge of it.  Sometimes it’s a person that you know is going to blow up, so just prepare your mind and body to take that all in before it happens, and when it happens, there are no surprises.  Nothing like that can really kill you or truly hurt you anyway – we fear a ghost most of the time.  You can’t do what you can’t do, and in those moments, you’ve just got to suck it up and let the cards fall as they may.  Do your best, stay present and be aware of what is before you, but don’t allow it to take over your well-being.  Life is too short to stress out about something that won’t matter even one week from now.  Trust me – If I can overcome my own stressed out way of being, ANYONE can. 

If One Door Slams Me in the Butt, A Whole Wide World Awaits My Awareness

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Rejection letters used to frazzle me.  Probably because I was full of hope, which is a terrible, terrible state to be in (trust me).  Hope is a farce – a real sham of a way to be.  When I hear the word “hope,” a chill runs through my spine like it did when my mom told me she found a black widow spider in her kitchen.  Hope does not belong in our thoughts no more than a black widow spider belongs in a kitchen.  I do not engage with hope anymore than I suit myself up in fear.  It’s the same thing.  HOPE = FEAR.  Think about it real hard. 

If I am living in a state of hope, I am not in acceptance of ‘what is,’ nor am I living in the solution of whatever problem I am hoping doesn’t linger.  It’s one thing to hope dark chocolate is hidden inside an incoming grocery bag; its another thing to hope someone gets better when they are very ill.  I must trust that whatever is occurring is for the well-being of everyone involved, and know I you can handle whatever comes your way.  A higher purpose is always at work even when circumstances seem futile. When people receive a message of “hope’ it is because they are currently residing in a state of fear. This hope brings them light, of course, but they have not yet walked through the fear. We all do this. I’m not immune. I’m just clarifying how hope is a fear based emotion, and I try to be aware of it when it comes up for me.

Standing in the light of acceptance (k-sera-sera) is a place where you will not be crushed when a literary agent sends you an informal letter informing you that your hard work wasn’t worth their time.  I wasn’t crushed this time around because there is a whole wide world of opportunities simply awaiting my awareness.  When I got the letter on Saturday, nothing even moved inside of me.  I was perfectly ok about it and really enjoyed the remainder of my day.  “Ok, no problem Universe.  Let’s keep moving, shall we?”  I planted some tomatoes and basil and enjoyed the sunlight.  It was a perfectly lovely day.  No skin off my back (progress).

The same book that I sent to the literary agent was sent to my friend in prison who has been struggling with his time in there.  I self-published the book in paperback, so it was easy to mail it off from Amazon.  We’ve been down similar paths and he’s been part of my life since we were children.  Parts of his life are in my book and it was important to me that he got a chance to read it, but I knew that he too, could easily reject it.  We’ve had our differences.  And if he rejected it, perhaps someone else in prison would pick it up and get something out of it, but if not… oh well.  It’s a book about addiction and recovery – my life story with answers to very large questions that so many of us ask when we are lost. 

I received a thick letter yesterday from my friend in prison.  He read the book with his cellmate, and now the other guys in there are passing it around and ingesting it like a pack of cigarettes!  I was so touched by his letter which praised me for my hard work.  He was moved emotionally and the book has given him a bit of popularity with the men.  I had no idea the book would have this effect.  I merely sent it to give him something to read and trusted that it would sooth him momentarily.  It had more of an effect than I ever expected.  His letter went on and on.  I would take his letter any day over a letter from an interested publisher.  He and his cellmates are real live people who relate to me, and who felt the book in a way that an agency could not.  His letter moved me, reminding me that nothing is a dead end.  I wrote the book knowing that it needed to be written.  It was a yearning inside of me that beckoned me to write it.  Who am I to limit the book in its movement? The book will travel where it is needed.  If prisoners are reading it and getting something out of it, then job well done.  These are the kind of people I want to reach anyway.  They are the lost and they have time on their hands.  The words I wrote are actually being absorbed, rather than tossed aside in a pile.  I am blessed beyond words.

Whatever I am aiming for may not be what the universe has in store for my life, and I have to accept this.  This is why I blog a lot about knowing exactly what feeling you are trying to reach, instead of chasing specific things, or expecting certain outcomes.  When I write, I simply want to relate to other people.  I desire a connection with the world through the likes of my writing.  I don’t discriminate on who those people are.  I may not be reaching publishers, but I am reaching prisoners.  I think this is incredibly beautiful.  It’s real life poetry if you ask me.  Other things that tend to worry me will fall into place because they always do.  I simply have to follow my gut and trust that I’ll be taken care of.  It’s none of my business how the universe takes care of me.  When I am on my path, I’m always provided for.

If FIVE doors slam in my face this week, a whole world still embraces me.  This is my understanding and its yours for the taking.  Thank you to my readers in Greece, Bulgaria, Mexico and South Africa.  Thank you to my American readers, and my prisoner readers.  Here is a link to my Amazon page:

http://www.amazon.com/J.L.-Forbes/e/B00HS980ZI/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1400074569&sr=8-1