consciousness

Can you go a day without judgement?

FlowersThis morning I listened to Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success as I was getting ready for work.  Chopra talks about accessing the field of potentiality, the space in which your highest dreams have the opportunity to manifest, and how to access this space.  One of the prescriptions he gives is to go the day without judgement.  Along with other tools, such as meditation, going without judgement creates space for the highest potential of any moment to arise.

I made the decision as if it was easy, “Sure I can go the day without judgement!”  Which within ten minutes turned into me becoming aware of how often I was judging the world around me.  I first noticed it standing at the bus stop.  I saw a guy park his car “way too far” from the curb, and as I was thinking this thought, I realized I was already judging!  In conversations with friends and coworkers, I began to notice how often I voiced my opinion.

I wasn’t just noticing negative judgement, I also noticed that I judged things all the time in a positive manner.  I would see a tree and think, “What a beautiful tree!”  I would look up at the sky and think, “Such interesting clouds today.”  Negative or positive, I found that I was constantly in judgement.

This experiment was anything but a failure, it truly helped me see how often I was judging the world around me instead of perceiving it as it really was.  Tomorrow I’m going to try again and see what happens.  I invite you to join me in going one day without judgement, just to see what it’s like!  Let me know how it goes, I’d love to hear your story!

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consciousness

How do you know if you’re being yourself?

Me as a child with my older brother.

Me as a child with my older brother.

When I was a little kid I longed to know who I really was.  I remember wishing someone could just tell me.  I envied my friends from foreign countries who had a strong national identity.  I thought they really knew who they were.  I tried finding my identity in things, like being a writer, an actress, a musician.  But nothing ever stuck.

Now I am grateful for that.  I didn’t yet realize that the self attached to thoughts and things was the ego, the parasitic mind that can only survive through attachment to forms.  It wasn’t until the summer I turned 23 that I suddenly realized what a gift it was to experience the self without definitions and attachments.  It was then, when I realized what I was not, that I became open to finding out who my true self was, how it expressed itself, and how the true self was more expansive and inclusive than I could have ever thought up with my mind.

At first, not buying into your own thought created identity can feel like a black hole with no end in sight.  There is another side.  You will know it through inexplicable feelings of joy, love, and the state of peace.  For me, it still becomes obscured by the ego at various points throughout the day.  The good news is, that once you’ve experienced your true self it continues to grow in presence and power, no matter how the ego may try to reassert itself.  So who are you?  Try asking yourself without answering with words, and let your self show you.

I love this short video with Eckhart Tolle because it can give you an experience of your true nature as pure consciousness, as the watcher:

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consciousness

Don’t Let It Go To Your Head

WinterNegative emotions are low frequency energy currents that pass through the body, and often surface from within the body if they weren’t fully felt and “digested” when they were created.  I sometimes feel negative emotions unconnected to thoughts, which surface randomly.  They are uncomfortable.  But they can also be dispelled.  The trick is, don’t let negative emotions go to your head.

It is easy to not want to feel negative energy currents and try to numb them, or come up with various schemes about how to rid yourself of those emotions.  When this happens, thoughts end up feeding the negative energy currents with more energy of a like frequency, creating a cycle of negativity within the body.  Not only do thoughts create more negative emotions, but they also prevent them from being dispelled.

When I feel negative energy rising up within me I find the most helpful way through it is allowing myself to feel the emotions fully.  I let myself sit with them.  It is not comfortable, but it is also not difficult when I tell myself that it is okay to feel negative emotions.  There is nothing inherently wrong with feeling “bad.”  I give myself permission to feel what I’m feeling, without trying to explain it away or come up with a solution.

Negative emotions are just another frequency of energy we can experience.  So I let myself have the experience.  By accepting what I’m feeling in the moment, space is created around the emotions.  I don’t give more energy to the negativity by wrapping myself up in it, and letting it feed my thoughts.  Instead of becoming the negative emotions, I experience them.  (This didn’t happen overnight, it is an ongoing practice!)

As an energy current, negative emotions naturally try to feed and grow, but this can be prevented by retaining the awareness that they don’t actually help.  I know that feeling bad isn’t going to make me feel better, or improve my circumstances.  Only high frequency energy can take me where I want to go.  So even as I’m feeling the emotions fully, I am aware that I needn’t let it go to my head, because after they pass through I will once more be on my way to feeling peaceful.  One of the most life changing observations I learned from Tolle is that behind all negative emotions is the belief that they will somehow get you what you want.  But they can only feed on the same low frequency of energy that they are, and cannot improve your circumstances.  What happens when you have a surge of negative emotions?  Does it trigger your thinking mind?  Next time you experience a “bad” feeling, see what happens when you allow it to be there.  It may pass through quicker than you think.

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consciousness

“Stop Trying to Read Other People’s Minds”

Rolling CloudsHas someone ever told you an assumption they had about you, and you thought, “Where did that even come from?”  Several times throughout my life friends have regaled to me their thoughts about my actions and motivations that had nothing to do with my actual experience.  When you’re on this end of an assumption, it is easy to see how inaccurate and unnecessary assumptions are.  At worst, assumptions can be destructive and hurtful.

It is a lot harder to notice assumptions when you’re the one assuming.  I am positive I make several unconscious assumptions every day.  For example, when I’m choosing a TV show to watch at night I’ll think, “My boyfriend doesn’t want to watch this.”  Or when I’m talking to a friend I might think, “They don’t want to hear this piece of advice or story that I have.”  Assumptions are like a cancer, they multiply without discretion, until they destroy whatever they were attempting to create.

In this video from Super Soul Sunday Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, lays out the roots of assumption and how to control those thoughts:

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consciousness

The Spice Girls Situation

Elementary Aged Katie

I ditched school in the fourth grade to see the Spice Girls with a friend and her older sister.  We waited outside in the freezing Chicago winter for hours and they never showed.  Worse still, as I arrived at school the next day all of my classmates were telling me how mad the teacher was that I had ditched.  I loved my fourth grade teacher.  She was a comfort and inspiration.  I am positive that I went on to study poetry in college because of her influence.  She read us poems that she had written to her mother, who had passed away.  She even cried in front of us.

I had never met another adult, who I wasn’t related to, who I felt so strongly connected to.  So on that shameful day after the botched Spice Girls escapade I felt lower than I had ever felt in my short life.  The second I saw her face I started to cry.  At that moment she held me tight in her arms and let me know everything was okay, she had just been worried about me.  She was loving, forgiving, and had expressed none of the anger my classmates had described.  But the idea of letting her down was traumatic.  It was so traumatic that I still remember the scene vividly in my mind’s eye even now as an adult.  And yet, this was not a traumatizing situation.  Now I think it’s pretty awesome that I skipped out on school to see the best band ever.  But in future, anytime a teacher showed the slightest sign of disapproval there was nothing I could do to keep from crying.

I remember getting a C on an important Spanish test in high school and running out of the room lest my teacher see how ridiculously distraught I had become.  The positive side effect of wanting to please my teachers was my straight A record in school.  Deeper than that is an issue common to many people, in many walks of life: the need to please.  For me, my need for approval came from the story that I told myself about how bad it felt when a teacher was angry with me.  My actions were motivated by trying to mitigate an imagined pain.

The stories we tell ourselves, and believe in, have tremendous power to shape our behavior and our lives.  What stories do you tell yourself? While not all stories are negative or fearful, such as “I am awesome and can do anything I put my mind to,” they still cannot compare to reality.  It is impossible to get a true experience of reality when it is seen and felt through the filter of a story in your mind. 

I can see in my own life that I could be held back, from relinquishing stories about myself, because of the fear of what life would really be like.  I might think that living out life according to a story I have about my life will protect me from something worse.  The problem with that logic is that it’s just another story.  True expansion, freedom, and possibility await right on the other side of your story.  The mind might feel lost, because you are letting go of thought forms, but you know that you are not your mind.  And no loss of thought, opinion, or story actually has any power to take away from you, because you are life itself.  You are the platform that allows stories to arise.

I never quite got over my need to please my professors; I ended up Suma Cum Laude in college.  But getting good grades never did anything to increase my learning, creativity, or fulfillment.  I only gained the temporary high of meeting the needs of the story I was telling myself about having to get good grades.  Life went on after my school years ended.  Those grades don’t mean anything anymore.  All that I am left with is my true self; greater than any story I could ever tell, and more abundant than any need I could ever conceive of.

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consciousness

Who are you, really?

flowering

If there were nothing but thought in you, you wouldn’t even know you are thinking. You would be like a dreamer who doesn’t know he is dreaming. When you know you are dreaming, you are awake within the dream. (Present Moment Reminder, Eckhart Tolle)

You are not thoughts.  After that seemingly simple realization you have “woken up.”  You have the power to experience your true being, and to see life as it really is from the vantage point of the watcher.  You have the power to change the situation, to be an active participant in creating your own reality. There can be no diminishment of even the smallest glimpse of awakening.  Once you know, experience, that you are not your thoughts but the one who perceives, you have initiated the flowering of your own existence.
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consciousness

Need a break from the voice in your head?

The world comes alive the moment the voice in your head ceases.  Can you remember any moments in your life when you weren’t thinking?  They are usually very memorable, because your awareness of the situation increases astronomically.

What is life like when your attention is not dominated by your thoughts?  While it is miraculous, the only way to truly know what will happen, is to try.  This video provides the all important “how” for silencing your thoughts:

Thank you Eckhart and Oprah for that wonderful Super Soul Sunday discussion! This next video I’m including as an example of how the direction of your attention drastically changes any situation.  In this simple video of a father asking his child questions when she is crying, the principle of anchoring your awareness can be easily identified.  

Eckhart taught us ways to shift our awareness from the voice in the head to our inner body.  For this child, when her attention shifts from crying to answering a question, she is no longer in the grip of reaction. An adult mind usually has too much momentum to cease when interrupted by a question, which is why anchoring your attention first within the body helps to slow thought.

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consciousness, spirituality

“Err in the Direction of Kindness” – George Saunders

The other day my dear friend Melissa Gati sent me an email with a link to a New York Times article regarding George Saudners’ 2013 commencement speech at Syracuse University.  All Melissa wrote in the email was, “You should read this!!”  The two exclamation points convinced me, so I clicked the link and began reading.  My later reply to Melissa included an “OMG” and some more exclamation points.  I felt this speech in my bones, in the truest whispers of my being.  And to anyone who is slightly unsure of the purpose of their life, or of the direction they are going in, these words offer sincere clarity.  I truly cannot articulate the brilliance of this speech, so I won’t.  But I’ve included it here that it may bless your life as it has mine:

Down through the ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you).

And I intend to respect that tradition.

Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?”  And they’ll tell you.  Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked.  Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

So: What do I regret?  Being poor from time to time?  Not really.  Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?”  (And don’t even ASK what that entails.)  No.  I don’t regret that.  Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked?  And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months?  Not so much.  Do I regret the occasional humiliation?  Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl?  No.  I don’t even regret that.

But here’s something I do regret:

In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class.  In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be “ELLEN.”  ELLEN was small, shy.  She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore.  When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.

So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (“Your hair taste good?” – that sort of thing).  I could see this hurt her.  I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear.  After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth.  At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: “How was your day, sweetie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.”  And her mother would say, “Making any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”

Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.

And then – they moved.  That was it.  No tragedy, no big final hazing.

One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.

End of story.

Now, why do I regret that?  Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it?  Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her.  I never said an unkind word to her.  In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.

But still.  It bothers me.

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. 

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly.  Reservedly.  Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope:  Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Now, the million-dollar question:  What’s our problem?  Why aren’t we kinder?

Here’s what I think:

Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian.  These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).

Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.

So, the second million-dollar question:  How might we DO this?  How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?

Well, yes, good question.

Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left.

So let me just say this.  There are ways.  You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter.  Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend;  establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition – recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.

Because kindness, it turns out, is hard – it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include…well,everything.

One thing in our favor:  some of this “becoming kinder” happens naturally, with age.  It might be a simple matter of attrition:  as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish – how illogical, really.  We come to love other people and are thereby counter-instructed in our own centrality.  We get our butts kicked by real life, and people come to our defense, and help us, and we learn that we’re not separate, and don’t want to be.  We see people near and dear to us dropping away, and are gradually convinced that maybe we too will drop away (someday, a long time from now).  Most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving.  I think this is true.  The great Syracuse poet, Hayden Carruth, said, in a poem written near the end of his life, that he was “mostly Love, now.”

And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love.  YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE.   If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment.  You really won’t care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit.  That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today.  One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever.

Congratulations, by the way.

When young, we’re anxious – understandably – to find out if we’ve got what it takes.  Can we succeed?  Can we build a viable life for ourselves?  But you – in particular you, of this generation – may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition.  You do well in high-school, in hopes of getting into a good college, so you can do well in the good college, in the hopes of getting a good job, so you can do well in the good job so you can….

And this is actually O.K.  If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers.  We have to do that, to be our best selves.

Still, accomplishment is unreliable.  “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.

So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up.  Speed it along.  Start right now.  There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really:selfishness.  But there’s also a cure.  So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf – seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.

Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.  Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.  That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been.  Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s.  Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place.  Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been.  I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.

Congratulations, Class of 2013.

I wish you great happiness, all the luck in the world, and a beautiful summer. (Saunders)

Thank you George Saunders!  And now, it’s that time again!  What have you been doing for your “1 new thing a day challenge?”  Yesterday I ate at a tapas restaurant, Benjamin Tapas, for the first time, and I am so happy I did!  It was delicious and perfectly portioned.  Today, on day 4 of the challenge, I ventured down several new streets to a friend’s new house.  The exciting part was not getting lost.  I also got to enjoy the moon in the bright blue daytime sky as I made my way there.  If you have had any new experiences lately I’d love to hear about them!

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consciousness, spirituality

“Build a Life, Don’t Live One” – Ashton Kutcher

Today’s post should really be called “don’t judge a book by its cover.”  Admittedly I have judged a book by its cover, when I was in the 4th grade, and that book turned out to be Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.  So in that instance judging a book by its cover worked swimmingly, as the Harry Potter books became my favorite series.  But I digress.  In general judging a book by its cover, so to speak, keeps you from discovering a myriad of wonder lying just beyond a dull exterior.  This principle made itself very clear to me yesterday as I was scrolling through YouTube and came across a video of Ashton Kutcher at the Teen Choice Awards.  I’m going to be honest; I started watching the video because of the headline “Ashton reveals his first name.”  I don’t know why that happened to hook me, but alas it did.  As I watched the video the first name thing was not interesting at all, but what followed blew my mind!  I was amazed by the wisdom that came out of his mouth; I was left completely speechless.  There is no prescription for where wisdom comes from.  Generally, I would surmise, people aren’t watching the Teen Choice Awards in order to become enlightened.  But everyone in this audience ended up receiving infinitely more than they paid for:

Thank you Ashton!  The more human beings that begin “building a life” instead of living a life prescribed in advance by their predecessors, the more the world will be transformed into the heaven that it always had the potential to be.  

Now for a brief update on day 3 of the “1 new thing a day challenge.”  I have yet to do my new activity for the day, but last night I tried pizza with pineapple on it for the first time.  I am picky eater so that was big.  And it really wasn’t half bad!  Although, it just left me wanting to eat pineapple on its own.

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consciousness

Right and Wrong

I wrote the following paragraph a while ago, and have yet to post it until now. The reason being, that it contains a difficult truth for me to swallow. When someone says something that is blatantly  untrue, or just has an opinion I find to be offensive, I will disagree and argue my point. But I know that deeper than these surface disagreements is the one true being that we all share. So I post this not to say that I am so perfect in my understanding that I can incorporate all ideas no matter what, but rather that I promise myself I will attempt to look beyond disagreement to the true self in each person, the one being we all share.

When someone thinks what you say is wrong that’s okay. If someone believes you are wrong and they are right, that is fine. While the truth is ultimately one, whole and unified, the truth manifests in all its aspects differently through form, through us. It makes sense that the truths in our worlds would be expressed differently, understood with different words, different ideas. The infinite aspects of the whole are not in disagreement, so why should we be? There is nothing that can be given or taken away from our being, so when someone has a different opinion than I do or thinks I’m wrong, I understand that is true for that world, that experience of existence. In that world the words and ideas I am using are not the same words and ideas it uses to express the truth. There are infinite ways. We are each one of them.

Now onto a brief update on day 2 of the “1 new thing a day challenge!” My boyfriend loves playing video games, whereas I do not. I never play video games with him. I don’t mind when he plays, but I am always doing my own thing in the meantime. Today, in honor of the “1 new thing a day challenge,” I decided to actually play a video game with him. I am a huge Blackhawks fan, so he chose NHL 10, and let me be the Hawks. Not only did I get to participate in something he enjoys, but I even scored a goal! Even though I was no Hatrick Kane on the ice, I enjoyed attempting a new activity with my loved one. What new thing did you try for day 2?

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