Monthly Archives: October 2014

An Interesting Paradox: Loving What Is

One of the interesting things I have been noticing lately is how unconscious people are of the stories they are telling. Sit around a group of people and just observe their assumptions about reality and you can begin to pick up on how often people aren’t being aware of what they are creating. Everyone participates in the conversation as if the statements are fact and I often sit quietly thinking “that’s not the reality I want to create.”

I hear examples of this a lot particularly when it comes to aging. A good friend of mine has had several doctor’s visits and made a comment “Well, we’re getting to an age where we’re going to have a lot of things going on and it will be interesting to see how we all support each other through this.” I immediately picked up on the assumption that as we reach a certain age we would start to have more and more health problems. Most everyone seems to agree with this assessment, but aren’t there plenty of examples of people who have grown old and stayed healthy? I choose to be one of them. As a matter of fact, I choose to get even healthier as I age.

I also overheard someone at a party making a statement “well, life is hard, you know.” Everyone in the circle nodded their heads in agreement. The conversation continued around some problem or story of hardship. Each person added their version except me.

When it came to me, I tried to turn the conversation. I asked the person who had started the conversation by sharing stories of a litany of people she knows who had a particularly bad week and asked “so, what went right in your week?” She didn’t quite know how to answer and when she did, it was less about something that had gone right and more about a conversation she had with someone that made her think of me. Someone else in the circle caught on to what I was asking and rephrased the question to her as “what went right with you last week?” She turned to him appreciative of the question and then took a bit of time before she thought of anything.

Why is it we are conditioned to talk about what is going wrong? The drama of our conversations seem to be made up with stories about negative things. Sure, every now and then you’ll have a person excited about some good news who will share but it seems more often people are talking about things that aren’t very uplifting or positive.

I turned to a friend and mentioned how i end up feeling isolated because I don’t want to participate in those stories and she started talking about being fully present with someone and connecting on a soul level without any judgement. It made me realize that yes, I am feeling judgement about these stories I don’t want to be a part of, but where is the line between being present with what is and being an activate participant in creating what you desire?

I love Pema Chodron and certainly her main message is being present with what is – letting everything come through without getting attached. In many ways, this is the same message that Katie Byron does in her work about loving what is. Of course, what I like about Byron’s work is that she really teaches the skill of reframing and questioning what we perceive as true. But the essence is still loving what is.

I have been thinking a lot about the balance between these two schools of thought. I support the concept and practice of loving what is but I also strongly believe that there is more to it than just that. Somewhere there is also the participation in our creation of what is. So, can I learn to love what is and at the same time use a combination of perception and visualization to create what I want to be.

I’m still in the process of working this out for myself and would love feedback on this paradox. Send me an email or comment on the awakeninginlove Facebook page and let me know your thoughts!

Awareness Adjustments

Staying connected to others can be challenging when we’re becoming aware because when we start to pay attention to the stories we tell, we become aware of what stories other people are telling. We can recognize when they start to tell a story of something they don’t want. It’s hard not to interrupt and bring this to their attention.

It makes sense, of course, that as we start becoming aware of how our friends or family are contributing to their suffering through the story they are telling, we would naturally want to stop them and point this out. However, most people don’t appreciate it when you interrupt them to challenge their version of reality. Or they half hear us with a “yeah, yeah … but.”

If possible, it’s great to find a friend also focused on being aware to support each other. You have an agreement to point it out when one of you says something unconsciously. It’s a wonderful way to have your own thinking reflected, since often it’s easier to hear the beliefs or assumptions other people make, but not our own.

With most of us, I’d venture to guess, there are initially only a few people around us who sort of get it. Therefore, as we cultivate our awareness and begin challenging assumptions, there may be a time of adjustment and possibly discomfort.

If we can choose to stay with it and keep going forward, then eventually some of that will fall away. We will learn to more quickly identify when we are moving in a direction we don’t want to go, and we will learn how to more gently redirect the people we love when we see them doing so.

The practical application of all this is potentially in every moment. Because each moment is offering up opportunities for choice. We miss so many of them because we have conditioned reaction … our habitual ways of thinking and seeing the world.

As we grow in awareness our conditioned reactions become less and less. We catch ourselves faster when we veer off and are able to return more quickly to the use of our tools for living our best life. The more we can do this, the more changes we will see in what we have constructed as our reality.

It’s important to keep a long term perspective on this process. External reality isn’t necessarily going to change overnight. We will be offered up contrary evidence to this belief and it can be easy to give it up as something that is not working.

For so many of us this is what happens and we have allowed the contrary evidence to derail us over and over again. We become aware and so we start to change our stories. But then something happens in our world that contradicts the story that we are telling. We give up, thinking that our new story wasn’t working.

Because we live in an age where everything is so fast, we are not accustomed to having patience. If the first few times we try to put these principles into action and they don’t hold up, it’s really easy to abandon them. If we can, however, hold on to our new version despite contrary “evidence”, and continue to return to the story of what we want to create, then my theory is that things will begin to change in this direction.

I’ll write more on a good analogy of all this soon. For now, keep paying attention to where your thoughts are taking you and make sure it’s a direction you want to travel!

Stories Become Our Reality

Becoming aware means we start to hear the stories and the realities we are creating for ourselves. Being someone who is aware is difficult because people are very attached to their stories. It is their version of reality and you don’t just ignore it.

What is so challenging in all this is how easily and how quickly we can get pulled into one of those realities. After all, it appears to be very real and aren’t we just sticking our head in the sand to ignore it? Some may agree with the principles presented here with a “Yeah … but.”

Being aware is catching yourself falling into a story. And that is what our emotions are designed to do. When the story you are living isn’t a story you’d want then you are going to feel discontent. Thus we all go searching for a new book for the answers or go unconscious again.

Most the people in the world aren’t even aware they are telling a story. We often cannot hear our own stories. If what we are saying or repeating is accepted as reality than it doesn’t seem like a story, it’s just stating the “facts.”

Here’s the kicker – stories become our reality and not the other way around. We think we see reality and are describing it. However, in actuality, reality is conforming to our description. It may not be immediately evident, but if we can keep believing the new story eventually external reality will change to reflect it.

Do you like the story you are telling? And if you don’t, why do you keep repeating it?

We have to start changing our stories and putting our focus on what it is we want. And by this want, I’m not referring to a mansion and more money in the bank than we know what to do with. While that is a want of it’s own merit, what I speak of is a larger scale of what type of world do we want to live in.

Everywhere we look we will see support for the reality we have created. The creation of our existing world is so prolific in our conversations and our agreements about what is happening. Our external reality will validate our internal conscious.

The same is true if we are living a life of our dreams. Our external world will then support our version of whatever that may be. Big mansions and full bank accounts, however will not make us happy.

So, what does make us happy? We can have all the wealth in the world but the minute we focus on something we don’t want, we draw that into our world. The same problems and strife will be in our lives because money can’t fix that.

The only thing – and I mean the only thing – that can fix that is our attention. Are we looking at things that we don’t want to create? And of course, how do we get away from them when they are so much a part of reality.

Does ignoring Eboli and ISIS make them go away? Does turning off the news and enjoying the sunset instead mean we are ignoring something we should be paying attention to? Putting our focus elsewhere doesn’t magically mean those things disappear.

What it does mean is we no longer contribute to the energy of them. The more people pulling their attention away from those things the less power or reality those things will have. Sounds good philosophically.

But a gnat isn’t just going to go away. Which is to say that in the story of reality that we are creating, there are going to be bits and parts of what we don’t want. We can spend a lot of time and energy trying to push them out or we can learn to accept them and move our attention to something else.

This is partly why it is so important for people to live their dreams. Because there are those who feel it is their mission and purpose and passion in life to defend against eboli or advocate for elder, animal, equal, or whatever rights. And if that is a calling, then do it.

If you are not, however, called to directly impact and do something about the pieces of reality floating around that you don’t want, then you learn to accept them. It is what it is.

But co-existing and accepting are not the same thing as embracing. And we still have the choice of whether those areas – that we have just decided we don’t personally feel called to take direct action to change – need to be something we want to focus on. If I am not going to be a part of the solution, I am certainly not going to be part of the problem by continuing to give energy to this thing I do not want.

We must simultaneously remember and keep catching ourselves telling and getting caught up into stories of past, present or future that we do not want to live. We must keep vigilant of our assumptions and constantly be willing to change our perspective. Every minute of every day is going to present to us a choice.

It is almost impossible not to get caught up in certain stories. This is why we have a sense of awakening and slumbering. Because when we have gotten caught up into a story we are telling, we have forgotten that it is just a story.

What is your story? Do you hear yourself speaking it and see it reflected all around you. This, you say is reality.

But if we can slowly start to take the parts of that reality we don’t like and turn them around, we can gain momentum to see that we do have an influence on what we are perceiving. As this happens, lo and behold, the external reality begins to change.

It’s so big and so simple but the application of it is a skill that must be learned. It is also a discipline we must undertake. Because for most people, this is not a path they choose.

Simply returning to unconsciousness could seem the easiest path. As a matter of fact, it is what most of us do. We put down the book and pick right back up where we dropped off in our story.

As in meditation with the instruction to return the attention to the breath, we can gently keep coming back to waking up. Waking up means being aware of the stories we tell. It means stopping ourselves from repeating the story of what we don’t want.

Tell the story of what you want and keep telling it. If your external reality doesn’t match, be patient … but don’t let it fool you. Keep on focusing on the story you want to create and watch what happens.

The Perfect Storm

I’m back from retreat where all I thought about all week was the nature of reality. I wrote a bit about how life is a balance of accepting what is and assigning meaning to things and thereby co-creating reality. I immersed myself in a full out psychological exploration of that age old question about the meaning of life and the tools for living our best life.

Coming down off the mountains and back to civilization, I’ve had several people ask me how I’m doing. I can’t seem to answer without going into a long dialogue about the insights and realizations I had about life and all that is. Not exactly party conversation.

I have a friend who has suggested perhaps I might benefit from Overthinkers Anonymous. I can’t argue with her much on this one as I am a prolific thinker. There are no shallow ends when it comes to me.

So, I’m pretty much talking about nothing else since I’ve been back. I assume most people get what I’m talking about as they smile and nod their heads in agreement. I am pretty sure, however, that when they asked me how I’ve been doing, they didn’t expect me to launch into a discourse of my spiritual insights.

And so it was I found myself out kayaking on a lake today with a friend, talking about how since life is all perception, we can make it anything we want. It was a beautiful afternoon, the sun was shining, we had gone for a swim, and were sitting on the far end of the cove taking a break from paddling.

One of the interesting things about the whole “you create your own reality” philosophy is when things happen which simply feel like grace. Today that grace was a text from my friends boyfriend mentioning how dark the sky looked. She tells this to me and I pull up my nifty accuweather app on my smart phone which predicts the rain will start in about six minutes.

Looking out across the lake, it was calm, clear and beautiful. Sure, there were a few dark clouds in the sky to the west, but still loads of sunshine where we were. But there on my phone was the radar showing a nasty storm headed our direction.

We decided we’d better head back before it arrived so got back in our boats and started the long paddle back. I could tell from the way my friend kept glancing at the sky she is getting pretty nervous about this coming storm. We both had shared stories about getting caught on the water in the middle of one and neither of us wanted to relive that experience.

So, I’m still in my waxing philosophical mode and I said “we’re going to make it back and the first drops won’t fall until you’re tying the boats to the back of the truck.” She sort of laughs and says, “yeah, okay, I’ll go along with that.” I said, “no, seriously, we can create this anyway we want. Believe it. See us back right before the storm hits. Can you feel it?”

We both played the little game I initiated and made the picture in our minds really clear and strong. The first fat drops wouldn’t fall until the last knot was tied. Taste it, smell it, hear it, feel it. We described the scene with all of our senses.

The sky kept getting darker and we kept going. I’ve paddled all out and fast in storms before and it’s hard work. We were paddling steady but not at a frantic pace. I kept repeating our agreement that the first drops were not going to fall until we were tying up the boats.

Almost there and a few drops of rain start to fall. I looked up and said “Hey, wait a minute, it’s not suppose to fall until we get back.” She laughed and replied: “No, you said the first FAT drops aren’t going to fall until then.” I laughed too, and then the sprinkling actually stopped.

It happened exactly like we had described it from the other side of the lake. The first fat drops came as the last knot was tied and the minute both truck doors were closed, the sky opened up. I think my friend thought it was all a coincidence … but was it? I’m thinking not …

Our One True Best Friend

In the discussion this week of friends we need to say goodbye to – such as Rumination, Worry, and Judgement/Self-Criticism – and friends we need to watch – such as our two-faced Storyteller – we are finally full circle to friends we want to invite in, keep and cultivate. While there are a number of good friends who have been recommended (Acceptance, Acknowledgement, Trust and Allowance to name a few), I am going to talk about the one who should be our very best friend. Gratitude is one of those friends that we tend to overlook, and yet is our true savior and can most directly influence the quality of our life.

There is so much that we take for granted for which we could be giving thanks. It is often not until things are taken away that we fully realize their benefit. For example, I didn’t fully appreciate my corporate job with steady paycheck until it was gone. Then, there are those things we take for granted that are a part of our every day existence, such as a roof over our head (for most of us), food on the table, the computer or tablet you’re reading this blog on, and perhaps a car or other mode of transportation. Also, there are simple things for which to appreciate such as our eyesight, our ability to walk, our ability to hear, taste, smell, etc.

So there are all these things going on in our life all the time for which we have to be thankful. There are also a multitude of things happening for which we would most certainly NOT consider giving thanks. We’re stuck in a traffic jam, we miss our flight, our relationship ends.

We can look back years later and see how the break up with the one we thought was the love of our life was a blessing in disguise, or how losing the job led us to something even better. Most things in life, when we look back, have been gifts. They just don’t appear to be so at the time.

Granted, there are times we can see no silver lining. I know there are those who will argue that there are things that have happened that are simply awful. The loss of a child or a pet, or some other inconceivable event that is tragic.

I tend to believe that life is like a giant colorful tapestry and we can’t always see when one string is pulled how that affects the big picture. The woman who started Mothers Against Drunk Driving would not have been courting Gratitude as a friend, however there are many who owe her a debt of gratitude for saving countless others. In times like this we simply have to have trust and do the best we can.

I don’t mean to get all Polyanna on you, although I generally tend to be more PollyAnna than not. My point here is that when we begin to turn our attention to looking for the things for which to be grateful, we begin to appreciate our lives so much more. Inevitably it will seem as if more and more good begins to happen.

So, of all the friends you might have living in your head or taking up the rooms of your mind, Gratitude is the one I would encourage to keep the closest and entertain as your very best friend. What are you grateful for?

Our Two Faced Friend

Hopefully by now you’ve broken up with Rumination, Worry and Judgment/Self-Criticism. I know I have to keep a close eye on those three to keep them from slipping back into my life. Another trickster is around worth discussing, although realize this one is always going to be with us. Meet the Storyteller.

Storyteller shares the same DNA as the three friends we just kicked out, but deserves a special mention because no matter who we chose as friends, we’re going to find this one there. Being aware of our thoughts is the first step in identifying who lives with us. Listening to what stories are being told is the next step to changing them.

We make up meaning all the time and tell ourselves stories about everything that is happening. I call Storyteller a two-faced friend because sometimes those stories serve us, and sometimes they do not. Likewise, sometimes the stories seem very true, but that isn’t always the case.

See if you can catch yourself next time you are telling a story about something. Byron Katie’s work on this is really interesting. She has folks ask four questions: Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true? How do you react/what happens when you believe that thought? Who would you be without that thought?

Then comes the fun part. She has people do what’s called “turnarounds.” From her website,

Each turnaround is an opportunity to experience the opposite of what you originally believed.

A statement can be turned around to the self, to the other, and to the opposite (and sometimes to “my thinking,” when that feels appropriate). Find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true in your life, and then allow yourself the time and presence to feel them deeply.

For example, “Paul doesn’t understand me” turns around to “I don’t understand me.” Find at least three specific, genuine examples of times that you have not understood yourself.

Another turnaround is “I don’t understand Paul.” Relax, close your eyes, and with an open mind witness as the images and feelings within you begin to show you, example by example, where you have not understood Paul. Be very gentle and thorough.

A third turnaround is “Paul does understand me.” Be still and witness as your mind reveals to you examples of how this turnaround is true. Those examples might look like:

a. He understands that when I’m angry I always get over it.

b. He understood me last week when he laughed at the joke I was telling him.

c. He understood me yesterday when I told him I really needed to get away with friends. He even stayed home with the kids.

As you can see, this type of practice can be pretty powerful. It’s a good one to start recognizing how our friend Storyteller can pretty much make up anything at all. So, what story are you telling yourself … and, perhaps more importantly, is it serving you?