Life is difficult, being human is difficult, and to live well we must accept that. No one goes through life unscathed from experiencing illness, death, betrayal, failures, abuse, divorce, or other various traumas and unpleasantness. Our world is presently filled with lots of fear and fear propaganda, division, and polarity. But imagine your soul chose the obstacles and challenges you face in this lifetime in order to fulfill your soul mission which is to grow and develop spiritually to see the unity, divinity, and unconditional love that exists in all things of this world. Being human at our best is being open and respectful of one another and ALL our differences, as well as manifesting love, peace, strength, courage, compassion, bravery, humility, and kindness. Being human is powerful as we have the remarkable capacity to accomplish great things when we use our energy wisely, lovingly, and free from fear. Since you are human reading this YOU are powerful, but you must fuel it and be mindful of your energy and where you expend it. There are various forces and people in this world that seek to divide, control, and psychologically manipulate you if you are not careful, and when that happens, and it will, you must diligently reclaim and take your power and energy back. The good news is that you can do this at any time, for every moment is an opportunity for you to start anew, a new beginning to reclaim your energy and your power. That is the power of now.
As someone who works in a helping profession, I can tell you it is very easy to become depleted, burned out, or suffer from compassion fatigue. Many of you reading this may be various energy healers, empaths, intuitives, or sensitive to energy. Everything is energy, which is why when someone criticizes us, we feel attacked or like we have been physically hit, or when someone says “I love you, “sorry,” or “thank you” we feel warm and receive positive energy. We all have different stressors depending on where we are in life although many can be similar in nature regarding with such things as health, relationships, job, and finances to name a few. And just to be clear even if you are not sensitive to energy it will still affect you in various ways depending on your level of awareness but common ones are sleep, anxiety, depression, and irritability. Once a cycle of stress reactivity begins and becomes conditioned it can be quite difficult to break, but the obstacle becomes the path. Mindfulness is one useful tool because a practice in meditation can help bring awareness to fear, anxiety, and whatever else is troubling you. One way I think of this is in Star Wars type sci-fi movies when in out space a space ship uses a tractor beam to disable an incoming ship and take control of it to examine it. Our awareness can be used in the same way as once we have named or identified the issue- say fear or anxiety- we can start to choose how we can best respond to this to work on breaking the stress reaction cycle and create new paths that are more empowering.
For those on a more spiritual path sometimes view others as separate or nature as separate but eventually you will come to understand if you have not already that we are all connected. We also have a collective consciousness. We are all magnificent beings and created with love, and it is to that love and God our souls will reunite with one day. The wounds we accumulate in life can take a lot of energy out of us, which is why it is imperative to be conscientious about replenishing. It is easy to become depleted, and sometimes you will encounter people that can drain you if you are not careful. Being aware and protective of your energy is not only creating a healthy boundary but an act of self-compassion. Creating healthy boundaries is a very important lesson to learn and practice. Remember, life is difficult, and compassion is meeting difficulty with kindness. It is an absolute act of self-love to take you power back.
If you are noticing you have low or poor energy, or are experiencing the beginnings of physical or psychological breakdowns which can be so subtle, then it is a sign that you probably need to make changes in your life. Your anxiety is telling you something… so listen to your mind and body. Many people try to push their anxiety away and deny its existence or people just say they will power through it, but the body keeps score sooner or later and you will pay a price. Also, what you resist will persist and grow stronger if not dealt with.
You have to take your power back, and it starts with this moment. This is very important, intellectually many of you will know this that life is lived in the moment, but the moment is powerful. Setting the intention NOW, to make positive changes or at least the changes you want to see happen in your life is empowering. Choosing to do so with love, compassion, and kindness, rather than criticism, fear, shame, or guilt, will help propel you in this endeavor and ultimately lead to your freedom. Ask your soul (sometimes referred to as your higher self) what it wants you to learn? What is needed now? You can fill your cup in a number of ways through creating art, talking with friends, listening to music, making music, taking a walk in nature, listening to birds. Remember too that you will serve others greatly by serving yourself in ways that you are not used to as the wise Energy Healer Lee Harris shares. Your compassion and love must include you to be complete and in balance. Trust me that is a difficult and humbling lesson to learn, and is always a good practice as it can be relearned many times.
You are the master of your soul. Never let anyone take power over you. Be selective about who you let into your life and don’t be afraid to set boundaries with difficult people or on the extreme end cut the cord on those who are toxic and taking advantage of you or manipulating you. Be mindful of your energy and who energizes you- who adds to your energy and who takes it away. Declare to the universe that you desire positive people in your life. Remember you are a co-creator of this universe. Your thoughts are energy, use them wisely to create the life you want and desire. Every moment is an opportunity for you to make the changes you desire and take your power back.
One final practice to rid yourself of negative energy. One thing I have learned is that you can manipulate energy with the power of intention. At the end of a day, I use this phrase to help clear myself- “I ask to release all energies & emotions that are not mine.”
I run a group with some lovely people called How to Be Happy. It began as a support group for a workshop called “Renaissance” (defined as rebirth or reawakening) run by Dr. Wendy Hill. Renaissance is an intensive workshop in which we work on identifying self-defeating core beliefs formed in childhood and work to transform them into healthy truths about ourselves. These processes are profound and include regression, meditation, and rescuing our inner child. It is a challenge to face what is in some cases is the worst day of your life. Dr. Hill would describe it as allowing your personal phoenix of truth and joy to arise from the ashes of despair to reawaken into the beautiful human beings and shimmering miracles we are. I recently posed the question to the group as to how we might move forward both individually and collectively as a society. One lovely member said with unconditional love, noting that she is not there yet, and it would be extremely difficult to put into action. I agree. After two years of living in the despair covid, as a society, we NOW have the choice to lift ourselves out of the ashes of fear and despair and allow our collective phoenix as a society to rise up with love, truth, and courage.
Our society is sick, just look around. Rebuilding a healthy society requires all of use to come together, for we are far more powerful when our hearts, minds, and intentions align to promote a loving, free, democratic, peaceful, and respectful community. In mindfulness one of the foundational attitudes is being aware of our common humanity and connection to everyone. But it starts from within us, and we must wake up. We ultimately decide what kind of society we want to have for we are powerful together when we are united. We are at a pivotal point where we need to decide which way this is going to go. There are powerful forces that exist to propagandize and divide us with fear, doubt, and even hate. Just look at our friends in Canada to see how easy tyranny and evil can take over when we let fear win, although I hope that is not the case. Freedom will always be worth protesting for. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “if a man hasn’t found something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” I unequivically advocate for non-violence (ahimsa), as did Dr. King, who truly lived his words and was a martyr for peace, love, and progress. We could all use some of his love, courage, and warrior spirit nowadays.
One of the prayers I say daily comes from Paramahansa Yogananda’s life lessons and lineage of masters and that asks to “…free my life from all obstacles of delusion, and give me material, mental, and spiritual growth.” I say it daily because there is plenty of delusion, distractions, progagand, and bullshit to sift through all the time. It is not easy to stay above the fray, and yet we must try, that is the right effort, and becomes the right action.
If we want our society to become healthy again then we need to invite love into our hearts and minds and mold that into wise and proper action. Peace is every step, and begins within ourselves. Remembering the universal truth of our common humanity, we are far more alike than different. Treat each other with dignity and respect, even those who have different beliefs about anything. Show compassion. Forgive more. Love more. Judge less. Listen more. Stop thinking you are better than other people. Recall the golden rule to treat others like you would like to be treated. Remember the Hippocratic Oath if you are a medical professional. “Do what’s right, Be polite, and Meet people Halfway…” as my former Peace Corps brother Tim Gripka often says and truly lives by, which is beautiful. Imagine what we could accomplish and the problems we could solve by transforming ourselves, awakening, and working together. It is all possible, but you have to believe. I do, and I invite you to join me in manifesting this reality.
I offer this prayer with gratitude for all who read it. May we all awaken the highest good in ourselves.
Dear Great Loving Wise One (or higher self, power, God, or other fill in the blank…),
I feel your unlimited love and energy
I send this love and energy to all sentient beings.
May it reawaken them & fill them with purpose for the highest good.
May we all live and welcome opportunities & challenges expanding our horizons.
May we seize these opportunities for our highest good, and the good of others.
May this expansion be exciting, fun, and filled with love and healing.
May I embrace flow, love, growth that is filled with the cosmic light.
May the light of your love shimmer forever on the sanctuary of my devotion and
May I be able to share thy love and fill the hearts of all.
May we be free from Fear & Doubt
May we have Strength & Courage to live in alignment with our Truth
May we all be Safe, Loved, & Joyful
May we be Peaceful.
Aum. Peace. Amen. With Gratitude.
The Mind is a superpower, just look at Professor X from Marvel’s the X-Men comic series. His body is broken but his mind is intact. He overcomes his catastrophic injury and is benevolent in his use of his superpower for the good of men and mutants alike. His counterpart Magneto however, scarred from his past trauma and seeing the world from a lens of fear strikes out in aggression and his behavior is destructive, ultimately being his undoing. Both characters have personal histories of past trauma, catastrophes, and tragedies but their hero journey is divergent. One acts out of love for all beings, and one acts out of fear. One seeks unity, the other division. Both have brilliant minds. The mind is a superpower, and you can develop it in real life as you will see below.
Mindfulness can help. Mindfulness means paying attention in the present moment, on purpose, and without judgment. Bringing awareness to your life and becoming awake. If you are willing this requires serious self-observation to everything in you and everything and everyone around you with a detached and keen observation, as if it was happening to someone else. One metaphor I often use to imagine observing your life sitting in a movie theater while observing your life play out on the screen. You need to divorce your ego from the observation so you can see with clarity. This takes mental effort and concentration. It needs to be perfectly impersonal. What you judge you cannot understand. Being mindful means being nonjudgmental. How do you do this you may ask?
The mind has up to 70,000 thoughts per day. Yes, you read that correctly. Thoughts are energy. Emotions are energy. Everything is energy. The quality of your thoughts impacts not only your mental health but your physical health as well. The mind wanders about half of the time and when it does so the thoughts tend to skew negative, i.e. worry, anxiety, depressive thinking, catastrophic thinking, waiting for the other shoe to drop, etc. Mindfulness and self-observation can help you start to pay attention to what is happening in your mind. This is called metacognition. Many people think they are self-aware but they are not. I once had a client meditate for the first time and I had him attempt to count his thoughts. After a few minutes he said he had zero thoughts, no thinking happened. I laughed surprised, this was a great discovery. When I explained the voice in our heads that is constantly chattering he said he didn’t realize that was thinking, but it is. What is that voice saying in your head? Add to the fact that we are slammed with information, notifications, and social media around the clock and the mind is quite busy, too busy.
Our minds our saturated with distractions of all kinds daily and we let it happen by having our personal smart phones on our possession wherever we go. Be mindful of your social media habits, news, and media intake, these are not designed to make you feel warm and fuzzy, but rather stressed and anxious and can easily put you in a stress reactivity cycle and fight or flight. Children are anxious and depressed at sky high levels with the advent of smart phones and social media. I had one client who said he couldn’t get any work done because he would get sucked into watching YouTube videos that play one after the other and hours would go by. These applications are designed by very intelligent neuroscientists to capture your attention. This topic was well covered in a documentary on Netflix in 2020 called The Social Dilemma, that featured Googles former design ethicist, Tristan Harris. I am not denouncing these technologies but want people to be aware of their habits that are in support of a healthy lifestyle, or not, and how they may change them.
People nowadays have access to meditation apps and of course the internet is ubiquitous, but meditation can be helpful. We use the Mountain or Lake Meditation to bring awareness to the mind to help find clarity in our Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course (an online version is on my website). However, silence is the greatest teacher. Words pollute the silence. Your wisdom and insight are found in silence. When you have detached yourself from outside stimuli and are looking inward in silence you will make great discoveries. Over the years teaching stress classes many people fear silence. the unexamined life is not worth living according to Socrates, and I agree. It is okay if you don’t, not everyone is ready for the challenge. It takes courage and warrior spirit to examine your mind, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and beliefs and judgments about yourself and others and challenge them. Yes, you must challenge these things if you wish to grow.
Experiment: Create an intention to sit in meditation in silence. Sit in a straight and relaxed posture. Light a candle in a darkened room a foot or so away from you and peer into the flame. After a few minutes close your eyes to where you see the flame inside your head. You are now observing inside yourself and utilizing your third eye. Sit in silence, free from distractions, away from a clock, or mobile device and practice self-observation. Allow the silence to inform you of the thought process of your mind. Do this for twenty to thirty minutes. Then hand write what you observed on paper or in your journal. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to meditate and there is no goal, not predetermined outcome or insight. What you observe is unique to you. Your insights and your wisdom are for you.
When I first went to a ten-day Vipassana retreat the first two days were miserable. I was in pain from sitting in meditation for two hours at a time starting at 4:30 AM. I was used to pain or so I thought but after seeing a few other men leave I thought (in my mind) that this was too much. I had bitten off more that I could chew. What was I thinking? I had left my ex-wife at home with two young children while I went on a journey to find truth, and it was hard and painful. I wanted to quit. I made an appointment to talk with the teacher and he listened compassionately. He had wisdom. I was in distress, he could tell. I said I was in pain, this was too hard, and I needed to leave. Excuses are lies by the way.
The teacher asked me… “Why did you come here?”
Me: “I wanted to find something new to ease my suffering and find answers, …peace, and truth.”
Teacher: “I understand…, you may leave anytime, no one is keeping you here, but you know what is out there, why not find out what you have yet to discover here?”
If you recall the movie The Matrix and can picture Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne) holding out the two pills to Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) this is what happened to me. When I asked myself the question the answer was: I wanted to find truth, and maybe even enlightenment if I was being honest. My pain was partly physical in my surgically repaired knee and bad back but most of it was psychological as my mind unraveled from all the delusions, judgments, beliefs I had about myself and how I was wronged by others, been disadvantaged in some way, been a victim, been mistreated, and was helpless in changing the direction of my life, all these thoughts floating in my head. That is hard to write.
This purification process of the mind was painful, the teacher knew what I was going through and he knew if I could break through that mental wall then I would be fine. As I reflect on that moment, I wanted to quit so bad, and if I had my life would look very different than it does now.
I share that story because it was in the silence of meditation, when I really started to bring awareness and observe my mind that I was faced with all my bullshit that I had been attached to and selling myself. There was wisdom in that silence. I realized that my anger, that I had been carrying for years (and still some to this day) was from my self-defeating core beliefs that I was not worthy of love, not worthy in general, not capable of being successful in life, and was doomed to a life of suffering.
My insight was that this was coming from me, my own inner critic (the voice in your head that puts you down), who was weighing me down with negativity. It was not conscious. The self- observation must be profound, much deeper than surface level. Most of you reading this will not be willing to do this, but if you do, you will be rewarded. If your intention is to seek truth in finding alignment with your mind it can be achieved. No one is harder on yourself than you, but you can develop an inner compassionate coach to change the way you talk to yourself. I had to learn to meet my anger and frustration with love.
There was a moment in day three of the retreat when my pain, which was intense, simply vanished. It was there one moment and gone the next. I found peace. My psychological pain, the pain in my head that I was sure I was feeling disappeared. That was quite a Jedi Mind trick. We all can heal ourselves from our pain. My pain was caused by myself, by my own mind. I was angry I was not in a better place, but I was the only one getting in my way. Once I brought awareness to that I could begin to work on it.
I needed to start to take care of myself, understand my mind, shift my beliefs, and be more compassionate to myself and the challenges in my life. The process continues to this day but foundation was beginning to take shape. Optimism, love, and kindness started to fill the void of anger that had been uprooted. Self-care is ongoing, it is a constant process.
Exercise: What challenges are facing you in your life, and in your mind? Write them down. When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change. When you start to identify thinking that is destructive or not healthy re-write the thought in a constructive manner. For example from my retreat. One thought I had is this:
“I should be further along in life, making more money, maybe I am not good enough.”
I could reframe that several ways:
“Even though I am not where I want to be I can use my anger (which is energy) to make the change I want to see. I can learn new skills to find a better job. I am good enough, and I have been through tougher challenges in my life, so why limit myself.”
There are several attitudes from the MBSR program that I believe are fundamental to creating a healthy mindset. One is having an open mind, or beginner’s mind, being patient, trusting yourself- and your gut brain, acceptance, letting go, non-striving, non-judgment, and then being generous and having gratitude- that is being thankful for being alive and counting your blessings.
When you begin to bring a mindful awareness to your mind you can begin to set things in alignment with your truth. Truth is love. Love is the greatest energy. Being kind to yourself and your mind you will begin to bring compassion to your mind, its capability, and superpower, and you will feel that emotion. When you feel that emotion like a weight being lifted off of you or a feeling of lightness you will know that you accomplished something amazing. We all have this potential.
There are Four Foundations of Mindfulness practice which we will briefly explore below. If you have made the decision to begin a mindfulness practice it is helpful to learn about some of the dimensions of both informal and formal practice. Practice is essential. I meet many people who want to reduce stress and better their lives but they don’t want to put in the effort. Practicing will help you create greater self awareness of the mind, body, spirit to better understand ourselves and how we relate to people in our lives and the world we live in.
Mindfulness of the Body– beginning by bringing awareness to the breath, linking mind and body together, and calming them, and noticing how bodily sensations arise, linger, and pass away if we let them (referring to the universal law of impermanence). It can be helpful to explore these physical sensations in a detailed but kind and curious manner. For example if you feel anxious before an important examination or game, noticing where in the body you may feel some tension or pressure and describing it. Is it a small baseball sized pit in the stomach, or butterflies that flutter about different areas in the abdomen. Are the sensations intense, mild, or barely noticeable. Do they pulsate or are they static? When you feel joy, love, or happiness do you feel warmth all over the skin, or maybe the heart, or something else? Ask yourself the question of what it is you notice in any moment, for physical sensations sometimes referred to as “felt sense” is one way information is passed through to our consciousness.
Mindfulness of Feelings– not emotions, but rather immediate pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral reactions before emotions and attitudes come into play. This is an immediate reaction that typically takes place, they might be pleasant when your dog greets you happily when you get home from work, or your child or partner gives you a big hug and a warm kiss, you get a raise you weren’t expecting. Or more unpleasant reactions when you hear the sound of your boss’s voice asking about a TPS report, someone cutting you off in traffic, or losing your keys when you are late for a Zoom meeting. Neutral reactions may seem obvious but when you start to pay attention you may start to find that things you didn’t think bothered you do affect you, or perhaps that there is a positive charge to something small that you didn’t think mattered at all, just a thought… The practice is to be open with a Beginner’s Mind to see what is actually taking place rather than what you think.
Mindfulness of Mind– awareness of mind, dispositions, distraction, concentration, or possibly the roots of suffering, hatred, desire, and delusion, noticing how they arise, linger, and pass away. Our mind entertains up to 70,000 thoughts per day. Many of these thoughts occur while our mind wanders and tend to skew negative. As we delve deeper in practice mindfulness will begin to reveal patterns of thinking we maintain in our heads that we start to uncover, or memories, stories we tell ourselves that impact our attitudes, pain, stress, and can hinder our growth and well being. In silence and stillness there is wisdom to be discovered in practice. But you have to practice whether it is formal or informal, for your experience is your best learning tool. Be patient and kind to yourself, it takes time to develop a practice.
Mindfulness of Mind & Objects– bringing awareness of all the mind encounters within and without. Nearly fifty percent of the time our mind wanders. It is not easy to pay attention. We are not being judgmental but bringing awareness to this mental process. Imagine observing the mind as though you are in a movie theater watching a movie, and sitting in your seat watching everything unfold in real time from that vantage point. As mindfulness originates from a contemplative tradition bringing a kind awareness to how we relate to the inner and external world in any moment. For life is a series of moments that continues to unfold with every breath that we are grateful to experience. Hence, as a wise teacher reminded me recently every moment is a moment to practice being mindful.