Becoming a Truth Seeker

Becoming a Truth Seeker

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

Take Your Power Back

Take Your Power Back

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.”

Embracing Fear & The Bangladesh Ferry

Embracing Fear & The Bangladesh Ferry

Fear is often defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the perception of a real or imagined danger. The natural effects of fear can range from mild emotional distress to debilitating physical trauma. Our ability to address new and existing fear is a skillset that requires awareness and support. Without this ability, fear can thrive, wreaking havoc on your mind and body, while imprisoning your soul and preventing you from experiencing life in its true perspective.

Throughout the current Coronavirus pandemic, individuals have been required to respond to both physical and psychological threats, which were often veiled within conflicting messages about personal safety and social responsibility. Many of the response options have revolved around our personal judgments and ability to overcome our fears. Whether quarantines, social distancing, avoiding family or friends, education choices, government support, and trust in the medical industry, this year we have all experienced fear and it’s paralyzing effects.

While walking on a trail recently in Old Ellicott City, a middle-aged woman yelled at me when she noticed that my mask was resting just below my nose. It did not matter to her that I was more than the obligatory 6ft. away and following posted guidelines in the park, in that moment I was a physical representation of death, she feared me, I was a sabretooth tiger in her mind. Juxtapose that with another hike in the Patapsco Valley park where I was fully masked. A mountain biker laughed at me, saying, “Hope the trees don’t give you the virus, haha!” for wearing a mask in the woods. I laughed too, it was funny, and wished him well, but I was motivated by my own fear of being yelled at by another “Karen.” We never please everyone, don’t try.

Recognition of fear can be healthy, and even lifesaving, when approached with a balanced mindset. To recognize fear, one must acknowledge its existence to cultivate awareness of how we react so we can better respond to this unpleasant emotion. Fear produces emotional, cognitive, and physiological reactions. Fear and excitement feel the same in the body. We can learn to identify and use these signals (physical sensations) to shift towards a more functional and creative mindset.

Not too long ago a client in my clinical practice was faced with the prospect of his employment contract expiring. When I asked him what he would do if that scenario happened, he became angry at me as to why I (as a therapist) would “put that idea in my [his] head.” He was denying that it was a possible outcome and wanted to avoid the fear, pain, and unpleasantness. The contract was not renewed and the fear, worry, and emotional pain came anyway. He did what many do, his belief was that if he did not think of the negative outcome it would not come true. Live and learn, right? I have done it, have you? No judgment is a skill to cultivate.

Contrast that with a more resilient client who when confronted with a similar prospect faced his situation with a more calm, wise, and creative mind. He reached out to his network immediately and identified several potential landing spots for his services. He was able to embrace the possible change and work with uncertainty. Remember that both change & pain are inevitable, but suffering is optional. Had the first client prepared for the possibility of change earlier, then losing the job would have been less painful, for he would have prepared for that potentiality. His fear was valid. The second client did not lose his job and is continuing to thrive but is now more confident in the knowledge that options exist should things change, as they probably will.


The Bangladesh Ferry Incident


When I was in Peace Corps Bangladesh, I lived in a village called Gopalganj, several hours south of Dhaka. To travel anywhere I had to cross the Padma (Ganges in India) river by ferry. Crossing a river by ferry is common and can be rife with danger. Try googling bagladesh ferry boats.

The process was this; take a passenger bus to the river, disembark, get on a small passenger ferry, and then cross the river while a second bus on the other side would continue the journey. On this occasion while crossing, a sudden, fast-moving, and fierce thunderstorm came upon us, causing the shallow draft boat to rock from side to side to the point I had to hold on to keep from falling off. If you can visualize the Viking ship from an amusement park going side to side versus front to back, not pleasant at all. At points during the pendulum motion, I was staring face to face with the fast-moving current. I quickly realized this was where my life would end, and if you have ever felt this or can relate… time stood still.

In that moment of stillness, a lifetime passed my conscious awareness. Some might say my life flashed before my eyes. I thought about my loving parents and family, and how terribly sad they would be, and how they would wonder what they could have done to prevent this tragedy. I didn’t see anyway out of this so I wanted to communicate to them that I loved them and to let them know I would be okay, I KNEW that somehow. A knowing beyond knowing.

I then remember smiling and being grateful for the life I had. I could not complain. I had wanted adventure traveling the world and I had found it. I also remember being in awe that the story of this life was coming to an end, we always wonder but never really know how or when our point of departure may occur, but this was the moment, and I found a tremendous peace in that.

I tried unsuccessfully to smoke a cigarette in the rain to calm my nerves a little and prepared to jump. One thing we were taught is that if the ferry vessel goes down it will suck you down if you don’t get far enough away. There were several other men standing around the back of the ferry with me smoking and nervously chewing betel nut. Inside the cabin of the small ferry were mostly women and children crying hysterically and wailing out loud and praying to “Allah” to save them from certain death. The atmosphere was charged with energy of the collective nightmare taking place. The ferry was overloaded of course with at least 150 people, maybe more, all believing that death was shortly upon us.

I curiously investigated the river as the boat rocked back and forth and was waiting for the precise moment to jump. I knew that jumping into the water meant death but there was at least a chance. My muscles began to tense. I was a decent swimmer, but the current was incredibly intense, especially with the winds of the storm. Michael Phelps would not have had a chance, but what the hell, I had nothing to lose. As I worked up the courage in my mind to make the leap a moment happened that changed my life forever.

I heard the words “DON’T JUMP!” vividly vibrate through my entire body.

It shook my soul and I stood there frozen. In that moment I heard God, the Creator, Jesus, Allah, Krishna, my guardian angel- call it whatever you want. I knew crystal clear, without a shadow of any doubt…that God or some angelic spirit had just spoke to me directly. I knew in that moment that the boat would make it to shore, which made absolutely no sense. This rickety overcrowded ferry in an already dangerous river in a storm with a shallow draft making a successful crossing defied my logical brain. My soul, or intuition knew we would live.

One of the old ferry men who had a weathered face with a white beard looked into my eyes just then and said “okay,” meaning we would make it. It made no sense to me at all, but his eyes looked calm amidst the storm, wailing, and crying of the women and children, and I was surely not alone in my catastrophic thinking. There was a lot of praying and negotiating going on with God in those moments. My brain knew instinctually that we should be dead at any moment, I hoped it would be quick… and yet my heart and soul knew that we would survive. My death was not happening today. I remembered the story of St. Paul and mused “I guess that is how that works.”

When the boat got closer to the shoreline I did not wait to disembark, I just jumped off the boat onto the muddy riverbank. I tried to climb up in the intense rain but kept sliding back down toward the water. I was covered in mud from head to toe, I looked ridiculous. Eventually I was able to claw my way up to the top. It was raining so intensely that all the mud just washed away as quickly as it appeared.

I was the only bideshi (foreigner) in the area, all alone, no one to share the story with. The bus conductor came up to me and apologized for leading such a hazardous journey on the Palash Bus Company of Gopalganj. I assured him that I had no complaints about him or the company. He was on the ferry with too, and I know he felt the same fear I did. I was just relieved to have dodged a bullet Matrix style on that trip. For the record I love the Palash Bus Company, and Gopalganj.

In one of the scariest moments of my life God revealed himself. Some people ask for signs. I did not on this occasion, but I did express gratitude to God for the life I had. I admit I was fortunate to have the experience, which is why I share it now. It is just impossible to doubt something like that when it happens to you. I do remember questioning myself- “Did that just really happen?” … “How in the hell did we just survive that?.” I spent a lot of time in my journal and in thought contemplating that event and my conclusion is that I had a purpose, it was not my time, and even though I did not know everything, I had lessons to learn.

We ALL have a purpose and lessons to learn. You do not need to believe in God, go to a specific church, or have the right faith. God made all of us in his image, we all come from the same source.

Years later having survived various challenges in life and now a pandemic I can honestly say that I am not afraid of death. My body will return to dust, but my soul and conscious awareness will continue to exist. It just is.

I share this story to hopefully inspire others in some small way. If you are still reading there was a reason, for there are no coincidences in life. Often in psychology we (professionals) fear talking about death and spirituality as some fringe aspect of life and the unknown but as a clinical therapist and more importantly a student of life, I have learned that many people have stories like mine but are afraid to share them even with loved ones for fear of being mocked and ridiculed.

I have heard far too many stories. However, science is increasingly studying the phenomenon of Near-Death Experiences, or NDE’s, and the research is beyond compelling. When we speak of mindfulness and conscious awareness, where does it begin and end? Perhaps the future and past are all wrapped up in this present moment.

Some people believe that all anxiety can be whittled down to a fear of death. If you are not afraid of death then you can begin to understand there is nothing to worry about. The happiest country in the world meditates on death five times per day in the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Think about that. When you are not afraid of death, you focus your time on living in the present, learning new things, spending time with family and friends. Mindfulness can help minimize distractions and prioritize paying attention in the present moment to meet fear and difficulty with kindness, love, and compassion.

Remember that the real meditation is the moment that you are living in right now, it is life. Do not be afraid to live, take risks, and fail. As my mentor Dr. Wendy Hill says, “from the ashes of your despair arises the Phoenix of your truth and joy.”