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Mantra Magic

I have shared in the past, that the best approach to working with ourselves in regards to mind chatter is to allow our thoughts to come up and not seek to change, control, engage or repress them. This doesn’t mean there is not an action to be taken, it means that action and response are not our first criteria. Relaxing, releasing and observing are always the best responses to choose from the gap space of conscious awareness.

However, there are times when the mind is particularly over anxious and we find ourselves plagued with an almost constant stream of anxiety causing thoughts. Each successive thought seems to pull us in deeper and take us further into the black hole of these painful emotions. This is usually triggered by a situation or circumstance that really touches our fears and insecurities deeply. In situations like this it is helpful to use a mantra.

A mantra is helpful because it gives the mind a task to perform and serves to interrupt the cycle of anxiety causing thoughts. As much as we like to think we can multitask, the mind is really a single focused entity in many regards. If I say to you, picture your front door. All of you will have an image come into your mind of your front door. In that instant the image occupied the space and focus of your mind. You ceased thinking anything else momentarily and saw your front door.

When you use a mantra and repeat it, either silently or out loud, it serves the same purpose. The mind can’t be stuck in the vortex of anxious thinking and repeating the mantra. You may still feel anxious because the chemicals that cause all of the emotions and reactions in the body last beyond the cessation of the thoughts that caused them.

Stick with it, eventually you will start to feel the edge of the anxiety lessening and pulling away from you. It will not be experienced as something blanketing your entire being and you will feel a bit more spacious. The mantra can really be anything that works for you. In my experience, I can definitely speak to the multiple positive benefits of employing this approach in your day-to-day living.

The Empty Rice Bowl

As a society, we place a great deal of emphasis on having all the answers. It is a highly valued trait that is first cultivated in grade school and continues to be highly valued right on into adulthood. While it’s certainly great to have the answers, when we make this an all-important trait we are missing out in a variety of ways. When having the answer takes top billing, we often miss the golden opportunity of sitting in the question.

When we think we know the answer, or pretend we do, we aren’t open to insight, intuition and other data that might completely change our approach and offer a novel, unique solution. There is a well-known story based on wisdom from the Zen Buddhist tradition called, the Empty Rice Bowl. It illustrates the concept known as “beginner’s mind”. Essentially stating that if our rice bowl (mind) is full of our own knowledge, ideas, preferences, likes/dislikes, etc. how can anything else be added?

This approach leaves no opening for new input, new understanding, new approaches or new solutions. Unfortunately, the older we get the more we tend to suffer from this approach. We think we’ve heard it all, saw it all and understand far more than we do. In actuality, what we know when we approach a question or problem is the data set of our own experiences. When we become more comfortable with the truth that there is more we don’t know than that which we do know, we open up new space in our rice bowl to be filled with that wisdom.

A common slogan in various recovery programs is, “Your best thinking got you here”. This is a reflection of what is currently happening in our world. Our best thinking as a collective society has resulted in the myriad of serious issues facing our planet and humanity. It is time to sit in the question with an open mind and an open heart and ask ourselves what type of world we want to create and leave for the next generation. As we become comfortable with not-knowing the answers or how to enact all that is needed, we become empty vessels that can be filled and used for the highest good of all humanity.

A Golden Opportunity

There is a golden opportunity we have in each and every moment of our life. This opportunity resides in the power of our freedom to notice our thoughts and choose what action we will take next. The key to accessing this freedom lies in the gap between any given event, thought or stimulus and our reaction to it. At first it may seem like our reactions are automatic in regards to triggering thoughts or situations. But as we begin to bring awareness to creating a gap of space between our thoughts and reactions, we will start to experience this moment of choice more consciously.

Due to the repeated pattern of certain thoughts creating certain emotions, we might witness ourselves experiencing anxiety and worry nearly in tandem with particular thoughts, this is actually perfectly normal. We have created a pattern of reaction in our mind, but the good news is, this habit can be re-patterned. How this new pathway gets formed and re-patterned has everything to do with creating a gap of space between our thoughts and action.

When speaking of action, this does not have to be an outward physical display or verbalization. We act on the majority of thoughts we have by an ongoing inner dialogue that occurs only within our mind. We have angry conversations with people, events or situations all the time that remain our own private soliloquy. We give plenty of airtime to grievances, catastrophe scenarios and victimization thoughts, which are often playing daily as a stream of internal monologues within our mind.

Every moment, thoughts are streaming into our mind and we have the ability to exercise our will to decide what we are going to do with them. Each moment before us ends up being the most important decision point of our entire life. How can this be true? The nature of this truth is based on the reality which is right in front of us but often overlook. The reality is this: The past is gone and the future hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, our power always and only resides in the moment before us.

All consequences of cause and effect have their genesis in these precious “gap moments” of decision. We have all heard or witnessed the devastating results of someone’s actions where one moment of decision literally changed their life. In these scenarios sometimes people have a lifelong prison sentence to contemplate the actions they took in that one fateful moment of choice. On the plus side, people who have utilized present moment awareness to their benefit report feeling liberated from their past way of approaching life situations as well as the freedom to make new life-giving choices. This is really what the definition of free will means.

We are powerful creators and cannot diminish our power of creativity, but we can misuse it and take our lives in the opposite direction of where we truly want to go. We can reclaim our power moment by moment when we choose to use the gap of mindful awareness. In making this all-important choice we begin to recognize our tremendous power as conscious creators in this beautiful Universe.

Don’t blame the messenger

I recently had a series of unexpected events converge which gave me an excellent opportunity to practice letting go. It was one of those perfect storm scenarios, the kind that leave you feeling like the ground has given way beneath you. I noticed the rising and emerging tendency to blame, criticize and feel angry at the “guilty party”. I spent a good half day in this uncomfortable mental state…and then I had a moment of clarity. These circumstances were pushing me, in fact challenging me to grow in areas that were still sticky spots of resistance. As Carl Sandburg said, “Life is like an onion; you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.”

By grace and remembrance of this truth I emerged from my forgetfulness and despair. I allowed myself to feel sad, frustrated, scared and angry. I just let it wash over me and let go of my resistance to really feeling the full depth of my own emotions. While I allowed this to happen, I let go of the idea that someone or something was to blame for my condition. Basically, opting out of the whole ego game we play of holding people, places and circumstances responsible as the genesis of our painful current experience. What I realized, was that these people, places or events really represent change agents in our lives. The instrument of our becoming and evolving often arrives as an unwanted guest.

Arriving in the wrappings of disruption, change or adversity, we typically feel like it’s not fair, right or just that we are enduring such circumstances. This line of logic is directly linked to why the next step is to place blame and find the guilty party responsible for our misery. When we bring correction to our faulty logic by letting truth lead the way, our ability to sail the rough seas of life improves exponentially. As a side note, this does not mean we don’t hold people accountable for their actions. The difference is that the energy behind the action we take to address the issue will be completely different.

The truth is, life involves adversity and challenge for all of us. It’s just part of the deal here on planet Earth. These agents of change are supposed to knock us off course, shake up our world and push us outside our comfort zone. It is in fact their very purpose and goal. Our fighting, resisting, or denying won’t stop or change disruption from occurring, it is coming regardless of our desire for it. The only difference is how much we suffer internally by feeling it is wrong and blaming the world for our woes. It is the equivalent to blaming the messenger. In this case the messenger is bringing us a very important gift, the gift our own becoming.

How do we work with our thoughts?

It is said that the first step towards change is awareness. With that in mind, let’s take a look at our thoughts. How do we actually work with our thoughts? Here’s a way we can begin this process with gentle awareness.

1.) Notice your thoughts. What are they saying?

2.) Notice that the thoughts create a feeling inside of you.

3.) Notice when that feeling occurs there is a tendency for more thoughts of a similar nature – which then reinforce the feeling. (Example: A worry thought creates an anxious feeling, which leads to more worried thinking and a continued or even more elevated experience of anxiety).

Now that we are aware of this, what do we do?

The answer is not to try and forcefully stop thinking negative thoughts. The mind brings to the surface everything we have stored inside us from all of the experiences we have had in life. This is actually a good thing. It is giving us an opportunity to release that stored energy instead of keeping it inside us where it gets triggered time and time again. The way out is to start to realize when a thought occurs you have a decision to make. You are the one watching your thoughts. From the role of the observer, you can be more objective.

The only way out of this is to let your thoughts come up and to stay in the seat of observation. You don’t act on the thought nor do you repress it. This takes on a very deep practice in our life. Meeting each moment as an opportunity to let go of our ego reactions and stored pain puts us on the path to true freedom.

By working with life in this way, our spiritual practice becomes each moment in front of us. The present moment becomes our teacher, savior and path to transformation. We are able to let our stored patterns rise up and choose to see they do not have the power to make us act from that lower energy. We get to decide. We can observe and watch it hit our stuff and then relax and let go. The more we do this, the more peaceful our life and our minds become. 

Not because we are trying to be positive or attract good things, but because we realize we already have everything we need. Peace, joy, and serenity is our natural state when we stop letting ourselves get disturbed by our thoughts. The mind produces thoughts. We can stop trying to manipulate the mind into only thinking the thoughts we want and pushing away the thoughts we don’t want. Mind control doesn’t work and it is not the answer, it creates more resistance.

We make the focus observing our reaction to the thoughts. That is where the power lies. If we stay centered and do not get sucked into believing our thoughts then a natural result of that is the negative thoughts lessen. We feel more peaceful. Not because we attracted more peace. Because we became peaceful; and peacefulness is our natural state when we stop letting our thoughts disturb us. The Law of Attraction is superseded by the Law of Vibration. We are peaceful because vibrationally we are radiating peace. In that sense, we can have anything we are willing to become.

What do you really want?

What do you really want? What is the true freedom you’re longing for? Oftentimes we define it as being able to do whatever we want whenever we want. One fantasy might include being able to quit our job after winning the lottery and travel around the world. Maybe we could buy whatever we desire and live like lifestyles of the rich and famous. Perhaps it is something else entirely different that would represent freedom to you.

The point is, we end up mistaking things like money, special love relationships, fame and recognition as the gateway to freedom and happiness. All of the above-mentioned items are wonderful things and we should enjoy them, but the truth is that we ultimately want what we think these things will represent or bring into our lives. We can easily look around us to see that obtaining fame, riches or a special relationship does not equate to the removal of our unhappiness or depression.

At best it satisfies us for a brief while, then it seems unable to provide the “fix” we thought it would. There are endless stories of lottery winners returning to their same level of unhappiness within two years of winning it big. We find great, lasting love, only to separate or divorce a few years later. If you’ve lived a human life, you get what I’m saying.

Why is this? It is because we can’t change our internal state by making changes to the external environment. If we don’t feel freedom, happiness, joy, peace or love within ourselves or our current circumstances then we are coming from a place of lack. We are essentially trying to find the right situation or circumstances that will make us feel better, more hopeful or less anxious. We all do this to some degree. But true authentic freedom comes from shifting our focus from outside to inside.

From this stable, firm foundation we can begin anew. The first step in generating our capacity to live a truly “wealthy” life starts with knowing what we really want. Most people have that question trained out of them. They don’t really think about what they want, they think about what they can have or create based on the conditions/circumstances of their life. Meaning, what does my age, education, background, health status, economy, bank account tell me that I can have or create. Asking different questions leads to different thinking and that leads to different outcomes…all possible outcomes.

When we come from an understanding that we are interconnected with all of the universe, we begin to relax into knowing that everything we need will be provided and that it’s only our thinking that is creating the problem. We tell ourselves a very disturbing dialogue about our current circumstance by playing worst case scenarios over in our heads.

The reality is that we are consciousness. Our essence is energy. We are way more powerful than we realize. We have the ability to choose by our will, the thoughts we think and where we place our attention. Each of us has life circumstance that we are thrilled with and life circumstances we would prefer to change. True freedom and happiness come from realizing that I don’t have to wait for those circumstances to change. I can decide to be to be fulfilled and at peace today, in this moment.

In this three-dimensional world, impermanence is the ruling force. Life is a moving target. The stability and grounding come from knowing that we are consciousness. And while this physical world is impermanent, we are eternal.

We existed before our first breath and will exist after we take our last breath. Then life seems less urgent and troubled. Each moment becomes an opportunity to connect with the world and share ourselves and gifts with the people around us. There is less struggling and grasping and more relaxing and giving with an open heart – knowing that we are blessed, we are loved and we are taken care of…always.

Who am I?

In order to experience the fullness of our true capabilities we must start with right understanding of who we actually are. This understanding of our true reality is based on what is true beyond the things we can see, hear and feel with our physical senses or achieve/accumulate in day-to-day life. Immediately this can sound puzzling, confusing or just plain nuts.

If I am not my body, gender, race or my collection of achievements, personality traits, career or ancestral lineage, then who am I? If I am not any of the typical markers along these lines that we use to describe or differentiate ourselves as individuals, then what is left? By the standards and approach of the three-dimensional world, this question poses a real head scratcher.

This common conundrum explains why traditional societal norms place a great deal of importance on the above-mentioned categories. It is the very stuff of which the “world” uses to define and often categorize each of us as individuals. This is so ingrained in our very way of life that it is not even typically a consciously directed effort, it just is how we are trained to see the world.

However, there is another way of seeing – an alternative way to view, define and see both ourselves and the world around us. As it turns out, this alternative way is actually founded on the true reality of the question, “who am I”. This alternative way isn’t difficult, but it is different.

Its difference lies in putting more emphasis on the unseen. This alternative view is true regardless and independent of religion, spiritual inclination or belief in a higher power. It is true regardless of our “belief” in it – similar to the law of gravity, it just is, belief isn’t required.

Science and quantum physics have now confirmed what mystics and wisdom traditions throughout the ages have been teaching. We need only look at the world around us, in both nature and the Universe to see the implicit order and witness these organizing principles at work.

Everything is interconnected energy. These different energies have been called soul, life force, chi, spirit, God and many other names. The name is irrelevant, the point is that science has proved it exits. Quantum physics proves that the Universe, including us, is made up of energy – not matter. Atoms are not solid, in reality, an atom is 99.9999% empty space.

When we let these true realities sink into our consciousness it deeply changes the way we interact with everything. The very nature of our way of being in the world is changed. We become open to a myriad of possibilities that were not previously available, not because they weren’t possible, but because we couldn’t see them from our old point of view. The wonder and magic of life is always and only just waiting on us to claim the life we want. Our ability to claim it depends on how each of us decides to answer the all-important question, “who am I”.

Journey home to ourselves

After years of outward focus, we eventually realize that all of our experiences have been leading us on a journey home to ourselves. This realization and truth can dramatically alter our approach to searching outside ourselves for what is ultimately an inside job. We gradually begin to have the awareness that we’re actually not trying to get anywhere. It starts to dawn on us that we have all the resources we need, all the answers, all the compassion…it’s all been right here, lying in wait within each and every one of us.

The problem of course is that so often our experience feels like anything but having it all within ourselves. So, the search starts from a very young age to looking towards the world outside ourselves to fix, fill and fulfill our inner longings and soothe our fears. This is inherently the problem of course.

We have been looking outside ourselves to solve and heal our wounds. We can’t find the answers or solutions “out there”, it is only within ourselves that we will finally find the answer. So how can we start to turn inward and trust that we don’t need to arrange the outside world to meet our needs. How can we begin to relax into a symbiotic relationship with our inner self while transacting with the outside world?

One important way is to take a step back from our typical pattern of behaving and become willing to try something new. For example, sometimes we are so busy being self-reliant we don’t really trust that there is a bigger plan for our life. If we could just let go of the reins a little bit, life would demonstrate for us that our meddling and orchestrating is sometimes (actually often) delaying our desires or goals from arriving.

We often operate under the false assumption that goes something like this, “if anything good is going to come from my life it’s all up to me to make it happen and it’s going to require a lot of hard work!”. The truth is, there is a bigger plan and that plan can and will unfold with the timing and details all in perfect order. The perfect order may take longer than we think, involve setbacks and disappointments and often come in unexpected ways. That is where the faith and right-minded thinking come into play.

Life doesn’t unfold on our terms; it unfolds according to the circumstances and conditions that contain mysteries beyond our paygrade. Our job is to trust that whatever shows up is tailor-made for us to learn, grow and experience something essential for our unfoldment. Afterall, that’s why we are here having this human experience.

We are a wholly complete affirmation of life. Life is good and beautiful – even in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances. Many of us have learned to live in exile from our true selves, our authentic selves. We no longer recognize the inherent goodness and perfection, both in ourselves and others. We get stuck always trying to improve, achieve, acquire and use something outside to feel better inside. The fact of the matter is the only thing needed is to unload our mind from the idea that more “work” on ourselves is necessary. The core of any spiritual work is less about adding to and much more aligned with releasing and letting go of our false ideas about ourselves and life.

Saying “Yes” To Saying “No”

While I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, there is an energetic shift I am setting into motion in 2022. The theme of this shift is saying “yes” to saying “no”. I was inspired to make this a goal after reading a chapter devoted to this idea in Anita Moorjani’s book, Sensitive is the New Strong. I really resonated with what she had to offer on this topic and found that as an empath, it was definitely an area that was challenging to navigate – perhaps you can relate to this too.

As empaths, it is typically quite hard for us to say no. We usually are more concerned with hurting people’s feelings or have guilt around saying no. We also are ordinarily not fans of confrontation or conflict. The result being, we say yes to keep the peace or avoid the awkwardness of having a difficult conversation. There is a tendency to do whatever is necessary to avoid conflict or disappointing people, even at our own emotional expense.

All of these behaviors cause us to feel depleted, weary and ultimately, resentful. It also sets us up to be less than honest about our true feelings, often fearing we will let down our loved ones or friends if we state how we really feel or say no. I finally noticed I hadn’t been giving people enough credit with this line of thinking. Afterall, I am not ever upset when someone isn’t able to fulfill a request or says no. By extension, it seems reasonable to assume that would likely be the case in reverse. I realized that the negative response I feared was really my own projection and coming from my own mind.

In reality, people are much more accepting and accommodating than I was giving them credit for. It is true however, if we have trained people to expect us to subjugate our needs for their needs, it might be surprising to them when we shift. The good news is any healthy and loving relationship will survive the transition. People who love and respect us want what’s best for us and are willing to accept our new way of being. In the end, learning to say “yes” to saying “no” is a win for everyone because authenticity is the foundation of all truly healthy relationships.

The Audacity of Hope

At times like these having hope, optimism or belief in the inherent goodness of humanity and the world can be tough. It can even cause cynics and critics alike to consider such ideas naïve or Pollyanna-like nonsense. As it turns out, I’ve always been a real fan of Pollyanna optimism and find that I am perfectly okay with naysayers thinking love as the answer is a naïve perspective.

The truth of the matter is that you, all of you, have been the clear demonstration that this idea is not only a sound hypothesis but is in fact the only reality there is. It has been through my interaction with a myriad of amazing people and animals that I have seen time and again the goodness, wholeness and unstoppable force of love that will transform this great planet.

I know this because I have been so deeply moved and inspired by the many wonderful people, I have had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with through this work. I see the same beauty, love and yearning for each soul’s expression into greater authenticity and resonance with one’s true self. I see the support and unconditional love of animals helping humans recognize their shining light of divinity and goodness. Endlessly, always sending the same message of love, only love.

So, when people ask me if I am hopeful for the world, the future and humanity. I respond with a resounding, yes. I can respond confidently because I believe in you and I believe in me. If you are short on belief, you can borrow mine. I have the audacity of hope that together we will transform this world one loving act at a time, one connection at a time, one moment at a time.