You may have heard it before from various places but it important to remember and sometimes remind ourselves that thoughts are things. Everything is energy. If you have ever delved into learning about the practice of mindfulness, you quickly learn that your mind can have a mind of its own and that thinking is constantly happening moment by moment. Thoughts come one after another, we have around 60,000 thoughts a day. Most people are not paying attention to the quantity of thoughts or the quality of their thoughts- which is called automatic pilot. Like anything else if we don’t learn how to discipline our mind then our mind can control us, and when our mind wanders, it tends to skew negatively, leading to negative emotions and experiences in our daily lives, showing up as doubt, fear, panic, and catastrophic thinking. Maybe you have experienced this or seen close family members and friends suffer from this type of mind virus. Fear not, there is hope, there is always hope and every moment is a new beginning.
Mindfulness is another word for awareness, and it is with awareness that you can start to stop and shift into a new path. Awareness can break the stress reactivity cycle that can wreak havoc on our nervous systems as we can see illustrated below.
From: Journey Mindfulness Stress Reduction Course
The foundational practice of mindfulness is the body scan meditation. It is not sexy, and it is not fun- or at least I would not call it fun. Stress and trauma is held in the body. The body scan is a functional technique used to observe stress that is being held in the body by examining with a highly focused attention to the physical sensations being felt on a cellular level in the body, part by part. One way to think of this is doing your own MRI on the body. Tuning into your body, feeling your body, its stress, and the stories and thoughts that arise when you pay attention to the body.
To give you an example, when I did my first body scan many years ago I noticed several things that surprised me. One was that my blood pressure was rapid and intense, my breath was constricted, meaning I was feeling tense and anxious, and my body overall was tight and my stress level was far greater than I could have ever imagined. My mind was all over the place, thinking about my caseload, people I needed to talk to, phone calls I had to make, crises that needed to be tended to- my mind was everywhere else but myself and my own health and mental wellbeing. I was a mess and had no idea. I would have told you if had asked me that I was completely fine. The full body scan gave me a look under the hood to see what was really going on, and it wasn’t pretty, but it was honest- this is Awareness. The mind can play mental gymnastics and lie to us, but the body will be honest. I see clients all the time with their meditation apps and I have never had anyone tell me they do full body scans, which generally go about 35-60 minutes to put things into perspective. And if you are meditating seriously I recommend no less than 20 minutes.
Circling back to thoughts and thinking and thoughts are things. When you start to observe your thoughts, you can then begin to work with them. What are the quality of my thoughts? Do they carry a positive or negative charge? If you are familiar with the story of the two wolves, then you know that the wolf you feed is the wolf that wins. Is my thinking healthy, practical, constructive, honest, or is it dysfunctional? Most people I see don’t realize they are often catastrophizing, and their thinking is in a mode of fear, worry, doubt, and uncertainty (fight or flight mode).
Someone shared with me recently that someone they love is having difficulty recovering from an injury. Part of their delay in recovery is fear. When they put weight on their leg the first thought they have is “I can’t, it hurts.” If that thinking is not changed, then greater suffering will be endured, and fear will be fostered. The only action of fear is to claim more fear. But if they reframe their thoughts to something more constructive, such as “You can do this, the pain is temporary,” then they will be able to safely rehabilitate their injury, and courage (action in spite of fear) will be forged.
Change your thinking and change your life. Thoughts are things. Your thoughts can create your reality, as such they are precious. I will leave you with some beautiful words from one of my favorite authors Louise Hay from her book You can Heal Your Life:
In the infinity of life where I am,
all is perfect, whole, and complete.
Each one of us, myself included, experiences the richness
and fullness of life in ways that are meaningful to us.
I now look at the past with love and choose
to learn from my old experiences.
There is no right or wrong, nor good or bad.
The past is over and done.
There is only the experience of the moment.
I love myself for bringing myself
through this past into this present moment.
I share what and who I am,
For I know we are all one in Spirit.
All is well in my world.
You are a miracle. I repeat, YOU are a miracle. Every life has a reason. Every life has a purpose. You are a spark of the cosmic flame, which means that your life is very special and precious. You are loved, and you are also guided on this journey. You are not alone. You are never alone. You came into this world as light, and someone put a name on you. This light can sometimes be covered and buried deep in mud metaphorically by our early childhood experiences and the subsequent stories we tell ourselves that shape how we view ourselves and the world and relationships around us. As is often the case, we forget who we truly are, and so to understand ourselves we must embark on a journey and a special effort to rediscover our true nature, our humanness, our power, our courage, and our ability to love, be peaceful, and to create wonder in this world and in our lives.
Early on in our lives when we become conscious, which is probably earlier that you can remember our experience is impacted by events that carry an emotional charge. If we are fortunate, these early life experiences are nurtured and filled with love from our parents, family, and friends with a stable home and community that is safe and peaceful. If this was your experience, then it is something to be grateful for. It is far too easy for us to be judgmental and unwise to compare our experience with others, mindfulness teaches us to aspire to be nonjudgmental, which is much easier said than done in the practice of daily life. We all meet adversity in life in various forms, and we have different lessons to learn. Some people as children experience unimaginable trauma, abuse, and hostility, where the environment is anything but safe. Regardless of where your personal experience lies on this spectrum of being good or bad we all have something called high impact moments that shape our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves and the how we view the world and our place in it, beliefs about the safety of the world, feeling secure enough to take risks, and live with fun, love, and experience adventure, or if the world is scary, dangerous, and people are not to be trusted, in which case we may operate from a place of fear.
These high impact moments and beliefs become our mind’s default operating system found deep inside our subconscious mind. For one example, a child with an alcoholic parent may set aside their own emotions and sense of safety to help care for the parent who is coping with their own emotions maladaptively. With the roles reversed the child can become numb or even detached to the emotionally unsafe environment and can fail to develop healthy ways to manage their own emotions and wellbeing. The child is not allowed to be a child. The child may learn to become numb to emotions and pain, and then repeat the maladaptive behavior in their own adult life. A self-defeating core belief might be that the child does not deserve to be loved, and therefore won’t know how to love themselves or others in a healthy manner. Their adult relationships and more importantly their relationship with themselves may suffer unless they seek to understand themselves on a deeper level.
Mindfulness and other psychotherapeutic techniques and inner child work can help us bring awareness to our subconscious beliefs about ourselves and our relationships with friends, family, and our partners. The question being once you get to it is:
How am I showing up in my life in this present moment?
How do I want to be?
Chances are there is room for self-improvement, or at least that is my experience, and I say that without judgment. Understanding yourself requires effort to examine your life with thoughtfulness, compassion, and courage. It is uniquely terrifying to look inward and acknowledge what is good in our lives, what we could improve, and what we might feel negative about, including emotions such as guilt or shame- which are some of the lowest vibrational emotions you can carry. We all have off-peak moments, have been embarrassed, and have skeletons in our closets. We are all flawed. We are all human. May we all accept our humanness and understand that we are all just doing the best we can. For those who seek the truth in understanding ourselves while the effort can be scary it is also terribly wonderful. The legend of the phoenix arises from the ashes when you put in the work to reawaken the possibility of bringing in greater love and joy into your life. You may even ask:
How do I want to BE in my life, in this present moment?
What do I need to bring more joy into my life?
These questions require time and effort. Be kind to yourself and be patient as you work to understand and bring awareness to how you view yourself, others, and the world around you. Is it possible, and all things are possible, to forgive yourself, forgive your past, forgive your enemies, and those who have hurt you and the people you love. Are you open to that possibility? To know in this present moment, NOW, you can BE safe and secure, happy, joyful, loved, and free from fear. You can choose to act from your heart center, with love instead of fear. You can be kind to yourself. Love yourself and forgive yourself and others who have hurt you. You can let go of hate and resentment if you are carrying that emotion with you. You have the power to heal your life. Nothing that has happened in your past needs to weigh you down anymore, you can be free if you want to be.
Understanding ourselves means realizing that our beliefs are very powerful. We are powerful. Love is powerful. We are made with love. We are made with light. Remember you are a miracle, and a spark from the cosmic flame. Your light is special. Remember your light, that there is good in you, and see the light and the good in others- this is perhaps needed now more than ever in our lives.
What is exciting to me is seeking the truth about the world and this thing we call life. Who am I? Why am I here? Who or what is God/Source/The Intelligent Infinity? What is the purpose and meaning of life? What do I find value in? What is meaningful to me? If the unexamined life is not worth living, what does a life worth living look like? These are questions that inspire me to constantly learn, seek wisdom, travel across the world, experience different cultures meeting interesting people, and practice deepening my awareness about the world and myself as an individual, and now as a single father to two beautiful children.
I was raised in the framework of the catholic church and felt a strong connection to the teachings of Jesus as a young child. If heaven existed, and I was taught it did, then I wanted to get there, although my concept of heaven would later evolve. I believed we have a soul, that resonated, and that in this life our soul has an experience in a body, an incarnation. While attending university I was told by a professor, Dr. Drew Leder, a medical doctor with a PhD in philosophy who identified as a “Jewish Quaker with Hindu beliefs in reincarnation” that reincarnation was a fact! A fact I did not believe with my Catholic Christian upbringing… until I did! Thanks in large part to studying the research on reincarnation by Dr. Ian Stevenson, a psychiatrist and professor at the University of Virginia’s Medical School. The work struck not only my intellectual mind, but perhaps more importantly my intuition as being true, sometimes you just know it in your bones and deep in your soul. This is what I understand to be true. You may feel different, and that is okay. There are many paths to God, or source, and whether you believe or not really doesn’t make any difference. Your actions in life do matter. Take what resonates and leave the rest.
One of the most challenging lessons I had to learn for myself on my own journey is when I started working with Dr. Wendy Hill to learn about hypnosis and complete my own inner child work. She agreed to teach me on the condition I went through the process. I had thought previously that this was unnecessary, the only thing that mattered was the present moment. However, I came across a roadblock with a client who suffered from tremendous anxiety and had hidden childhood trauma. While meditation could help retrieve some past memories of the trauma that had been blocked from conscience memory, I could not do this reliably. Hypnosis I later learned really was meditation but only more clinical in the sense I could use a current event and like a scalpel go back in time to the original wound to help the person heal their own trauma. That was fascinating to me. I could help lead others to heal themselves, which is how it works.
I had what I would call a great childhood, with really no complaints. However, we all carry baggage from our childhood that shapes who we are now, whatever age you are presently. This moment carries the past with you even though it is subconscious. My journey led me to confronting emotions. I had emotions, although often they were masked by anger. I know anger well. I had worked on my anger for years from a mindfulness lens. It wasn’t until I used hypnosis, that I discovered the root of my personal challenge with emotions. What I learned was that I had not learned to really feel emotions. I had learned to take care of other’s emotions, discounting my own. I could not feel love, not really, nor could I feel pain. There were benefits to this condition. However, this is what became my own personal self-defeating core belief. I was incapable of receiving love. The cure was simple, my truth, and the answer to my condition was to realize that I was loved. Love is always the healing frequency. While that may sound easy to some of you reading this, I can assure you, that truly loving yourself can be quite challenging, as we are often our own worst enemy. In the words of Dr. Wendy Hill, “it is all terribly wonderful.” If you are willing to explore your past you can experience the joy of the phoenix rising again.
What came next should be obvious, I listened to Foreigner’s “I want to know what love is,” over and over. It has been nearly three years since I went through my Renaissance experience with Dr. Hill, and it has opened my world to seeking even greater truths about myself, how I see the world, and how I can continue to grow and evolve. We all can heal. All you must do is ask. Everything starts with intention. When your intention is sincere and powered by love, you will inevitably be successful. As Paulo Coelho writes in The Alchemist, “When you want something, the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
We are in school right now and we all have lesson to learn. Our learning never ends, it simply grows. Seeking the truth about life requires a few things, including being open minded, curious, non-judgmental, patient, kind, having gratitude, and loving ourselves and others. While we may differ on our spiritual path, we can respect our differences knowing that in the end we all want to experience, peace, joy, and love in our lives
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.