Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Worry or Wonder?

Worry seems to be the default activity of a large number of people when it comes to thoughts about the future. Some of the beliefs behind this life draining activity could be something like 'If I worry enough somehow things will be different or I'll figure out what to do.' Or it could have something to do with a belief that worrying and caring go together. 'If I don't worry then 'they' won't think I care'.

Believe me, most people are not aware of these beliefs operating behind the scenes but with just a little investigation you will soon uncover these beliefs or similar concepts lurking in the shadows. I remember when I finally realized that I had been spending most of my nights worrying instead of sleeping. It was many years ago, not long after I had put my oilfield supply company into receivership. I only figured it out then because I was actually sleeping at night instead of tossing and turning and worrying about everything under the moon. It's like the guy who never knew he was a drunk until he woke up sober one day. It's just hard to tell what's really going on when you're in the middle of it. Now it doesn't take long for me to realize I'm worrying because I don't do it a whole lot anymore so the contrast is obvious. Now it's a great reminder that there's some belief operating that isn't working for me and I know what to do about it but for most people this is not the case. It's such a deeply ingrained habit some people can't even imagine not worrying.

If you tend to get caught up in the worry cycle, here are some things you might want to ask yourself :

What am I afraid might happen? (I would suggest breathing and taking a moment to bring gentle presence into the place in your body where you hold the fear when you ask this) Then you might ask yourself, I wonder if I could be wrong about that?

Is it true that worrying about this is going to help? I wonder what would actually be helpful?

Am I really in control of what's going to happen? (99% of worry is about stuff we have absolutely no control over)
I wonder if there is a way I can allow myself to care about (this person, this situation, etc.) that doesn't include worrying?

If it is a person you are worrying about, could you let yourself wonder what you would most want from others if you were in this situation?

 I think you get my drift. Do you want to be a worrier who is fixated on something bad happening when the truth is you simply don't know what's going to happen, or would you rather be a 'wonderer' who is honest about not knowing and willing to stay open to the magnificent world of possibility?


Monday, June 27, 2011

What If It Feels Too Good?

I was having coffee with a friend the other day and in the midst of our explorations about beliefs, etc, she brought up the experience of avoiding feeling too good just as much as we avoid feeling bad. So true, yet so overlooked. Happiness is a feeling too and, as with all feelings, we have learned to be careful about how much of it we will allow.

We don't often think of the possibility that we might be feeling too good at any given time but if you honestly examine your life, you'll soon see that you probably have a particular tolerance level for feeling good beyond which you only venture for very brief periods. You wouldn't generally recognize it as such because it usually looks like a problem showing up that is robbing you of the good feelings of appreciation, happiness, joy, creativity and flow. The Hendricks (Gay & Kathlyn) have a name for this phenomenon, they call it the upper limits problem. When we start feeling too good we have an unconscious mechanism that kicks in to bring us back into the 'tolerable' zone or somewhat below it, especially when we don't know what's going on.

I remember being told not to get too excited as a kid and I've seen lots people tell their kids something similar or somehow shut them down. You know how kids get into the zone of complete joy and abandon in the moment; that can be pretty darn uncomfortable to adults around them who are not so free and joyful. For many of us that kind of energy was simply not acceptable so we soon learned that we had to control that exuberance in order to be safe or at least acceptable. We may be all grown up now but that mechanism is still in place within us.

Another way this shows up is when we are in the creative flow of ideas; they're flowing so hot and heavy that we get overwhelmed and just don't know what to do with them so we find ways of distracting ourselves or again experiencing problems to bring us back into our comfort zones. One belief that may be operating here is that we are supposed to do something with every idea that shows up and we simply cannot do that when there are so many. Another may be a thought like, 'what's the use, it won't work anyway' which is a symptom of unresolved disappointment and discouragement. Again, it may look like there's something or someone out there that comes along to stomp on our dreams but really, that can't happen unless we're already carrying the seeds of our own disappointment.  

So what do we do about this upper limit problem? Pretty much the same thing we do with any 'problem'.
  • Breathe; breathe deep, expansive breaths metaphorically creating more space for all that great energy. 
  • Focus; let your attention drop into your body and notice what you're feeling. Allow the breath to expand the wonderful feelings of happiness, appreciation or creativity for a moment or two. 
  • Then question the thoughts/beliefs that might shut you down. Is it true that I shouldn't get too excited? Is it true that I have to do something about every idea that shows up? Really? Could those ideas be decisions I made long ago to fill in the gap of my understanding about what was going on for the people around me? Could I be wrong about there being such a thing as too much happiness/appreciation/creativity? 
  • Then let the power of wonder work with the expansive feelings to open you up to the possibility of even more of the joy, creativity or appreciation flowing through you.
If you only become aware of all this after you've experienced the shut down of energy, that's OK. Work with whatever shows up in terms of feelings and beliefs and you will soon find yourself back in the flow.

Life is a wonder and it's beautiful and you are Life expressing right where you are. Look around you, is there really a limit to Life?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Flip Side on Guilt

As I continued to ponder life beyond guilt last night it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to say a few words about the other kind of guilt, the kind that is here to serve us in noticing when we are out of integrity which I mentioned briefly in my last blog.

Those times when guilt shows up as a wonderful tool to help us realize that we're off track with our own integrity are really gifts of Life. Because we don't particularly enjoy the feelings associated with this kind of guilt any more than we do with the toxic variety however, it's easy to dismiss them but we do so at our own peril. If we are out of integrity with Life in some way it's important to pay attention and admit to ourselves what's going on so we can get back on track so to speak. If I've behaved in a way that is out of sync with something that's important and right for me in the moment then the feeling of guilt is the pointer that is showing me that. If I ignore it and try to justify myself and rationalize what I've done then I'm missing out on an opportunity that has opened up for me to come back into the flow.

The way to deal with this guilt is not really very different from what I said previously, we need to move toward it, not try to run away from it. When we allow ourselves to be fully present to the feeling without judgment then we can see what kind of guilt it really is and if it is about misalignment with something that is true for us then we can take those deep breaths and gently admit we were wrong, allowing once again for the flow of creative ideas and solutions to show us the next step that is in alignment. Defending our actions when we know we were 'wrong' is another great way of blocking the flow.

You know the difference between the redirecting and the toxic kinds of guilt when you allow yourself to be fully present and openly curious rather than dismissive, judgmental or too busy justifying. As with all feelings, there is a reason for them, they aren't the enemy, we've just been confused.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Life Beyond Guilt

One of the biggest blocks to happiness and to clear inner guidance is guilt, which is a kissing cousin of shame. I'm not talking about the naturally occurring sense of being out of alignment with Life which is a wonderful mechanism that when noticed and heeded brings us back on track and is soon forgotten. I'm talking about the toxic kind that tends to be embedded in the psyche and debilitating in that it keeps us from expressing our uniqueness and from truly being happy in life.

Physically, guilt is often carried in the lower abdomen and sacrum (lower part of the spine). Guilt could be defined as a combination of fear and the belief that we should be different than what we are and that what we are is somehow the cause of pain for others. In other words, the belief that we're bad somehow. If you should take the time to explore this most interesting of human experiences you will likely find that it is a great motivator to do anything that would take you away from actually being present to it. There is a great deal of resistance to allowing ourselves to feel guilt when it shows up, which is undoubtedly due to its nature; it doesn't feel 'good'.

So how is this kind of guilt developed? As with all human experiences, there are a number of ways this can happen but it is always in relation to someone or some group. It has to do with the way our self-perception developed and what we decided we needed to be and do in order to be acceptable (loveable). Guilt comes up when we do or say things that are in conflict with whatever we decided was the way to be in the world. As long as we stay within the narrow confines of the parameters set out by the beliefs linked to guilt we don't actually feel any guilt because there isn't anything to feel guilty about. Watch out for what happens though, when you step out of line with your own inner 'rules' (beliefs). Feelings of guilt come rushing in which are more often than not experienced as wanting to withdraw or to hideout at one end of the reaction spectrum, to getting angry and lashing out at others on the other end of the  spectrum. Throughout this spectrum of reaction the main goal is to get away from feeling guilty, even though most of the time people don't even realize that's what they're experiencing; they just know they need to get away from this yucky feeling.

So what do we do about guilt? It's really quite simple, do the opposite of what you've been doing. In other words, instead of trying to get away from it at all costs, move toward it with your breath and with your gentle attention. Wherever you may be feeling discomfort or tension or pain or heaviness in your body (focus on the torso) is likely where the guilty experiences of your past have become embedded in your body so start there. Breathe gently and as fully as you can imagining that you are breathing deep into the darkest, densest feeling in your body. Let your focus rest there as you keep bringing in acceptance with every breath. If you've been running away from this feeling all your life and wondering why things don't work out for you this is not going to be the easiest thing to do at first, but if you sense that it's time to be free of the confines of the guilt you've felt all your life then now's a great time to make the shift.

As you allow yourself to be fully present to the sensations in your body, you'll likely notice a number of images or thoughts showing up that are likely the beliefs that have kept this limitation in place all along. Just notice them, notice how they're decisions you made and experiences you've had based on those decisions but that they are likely not the truth, and keep bringing your gentle attention right back to the body. Let the peace of your non-judgmental focus permeate every atom, every cell where the darkness has been and let yourself experience the sweetness of Life.

The Breath of Life
Guilt is a very thick energy and is not likely to be dismantled in a few seconds. There is usually some relief from the start but the fog generated by guilt will usually show up again in short order. Don't be fooled into believing the BS of the old decisions, bring as much loving attention to the sensations in your body again and again and again as you possibly can, knowing that the story isn't the truth about you. Then let yourself wonder; always let yourself wonder about what's possible now in the space that has opened up where the guilt had crowded in. The breath of life can now reach deep within you to fuel your deepest dreams.

Mmm, delicious.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Filling In The Gap

As I work with people in realizing what is really going on for them that is creating unhappiness or stuckness one of the pieces that is always present is what I call filling in the gap. When things happen around us we generally don't know what's really going on so we insert our assumptions and beliefs into the gap of knowledge then we unconsciously act as though it were the truth.

For example, say I want to ask for something that's really important to me but I'm afraid to ask. Chances are the fear comes from my having inserted an assumption that the person I need to ask will not be happy about it or won't want to do whatever it is I'm asking for. There is likely a belief lurking somewhere below the surface having to do with being a bother to others so when it comes time to ask for something I will most likely unconsciously insert the assumption that I am being a bother and the other won't be happy about it. Notice that all this is happening in the imagination, I haven't even asked yet. In this scenario, the belief that I am a bother wasn't born in this moment, it is the product of an assumption made a very long time ago which has been coloring my world ever since.

When you hit upon a core belief you generally can see a myriad of ways it has played out in your life. So in this example, the current event is the perfect trigger for me to start dismantling a deeply held belief that has limited me throughout my life. It doesn't really matter what's going on, when I remove the assumption that has filled in the gap of the unknown I'm left with a clear, open space from which any possibility may emerge, not just my limited concept.

You'd be amazed how subtle and pervasive this pattern of interpretation is in the human condition. It's so automatic we have no idea most of the time that it's what we are doing. It is the culprit behind a great deal of misunderstanding and unhappiness. The good news is that once you start paying attention and noticing how it works you can make the shift into the creative flow of possibility.

Here's a little animated video I created the other day depicting a mini coaching session around a work related issue that also demonstrates how assumptions that fill in the gap affect us. This is a greatly abbreviated version of a coaching for life beyond belief session but it does convey how it works. Enjoy!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Compassion and Non-Attachment

I had an interesting conversation today where I was attempting to convey my sense of how compassion fits in to the life view that says no matter what is happening it's all perfect. I've mentioned before how I went through a stage in the process of dismantling the illusion where I really didn't care about much of anything. I would say it was a phase of detachment as opposed to non-attachment. It was not an awareness as an expression of all that Life is but rather one of disconnection. My sense is that's quite normal when we are taking apart all the structures that have been holding up our concept of who and what we are.

Then for some reason there was a shift and the experience of compassion, what I define as acceptance and understanding showed up. I feel deeply and at the same time there is no need for  life's events to turn out a particular way but rather there is more of an acceptance that Life is happening perfectly and what shows up is exactly as it should be. That isn't to say I don't become aware of lingering attachments and unconscious expectations; I become aware of them and see them for what they are, mere shadows with residual effects. A little compassionate attention is all it usually takes to see through them and enter the clear space of wonder once again. Now and again a rather deep attachment shows up which may take a little more undoing but I tend to see them as gifts in the process of liberating myself from the illusion and so I feel a great deal of gratitude for it all.

So that brings me to compassion and non-attachment, the free flow of Life. I have no idea why I'm really writing any of this today but then I really don't know why anything happens as it does anyway. It's all just Life expressing so I trust that and let it go.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Being With What Is

First of all, my thanks to Edie for her wonderful comments about the forgiveness post. The difference between truly accepting and intellectual 'forgiveness' is indeed absolutely amazing. Freedom is so deeply desired and yet so rarely a felt experience, but it doesn't have to be so rare, it's available when we are.

Being available for whatever is going on really is living beyond belief. Instead of being caught up in what I believe about what is going on, in those precious moments of presence there is a sense of wonder and possibility beyond what I have previously imagined life to be about. I've actually come to view that which presents itself in any given moment as a question from Life. It's like I'm being asked 'What will I be in this moment?' or 'How will I respond to this?' or 'Am I available for expanded beingness now?' From this view, what is generally perceived as  a problem is seen as being a portal of expansion in awareness and wonder and appreciation and Life. If I'm all caught up in my thinking busy-ness or beliefs about what is happening I am most likely going to miss out on yet another opportunity being presented to experience something wonderful. I very minor example of what I mean would be something that happened today.

We had plans on going to Beaverhill for a family fun shoot (sporting clays). It was raining pretty hard here when we left the house and it didn't really look like it was going to let up but we thought we'd go for breakfast at least where the plan was to meet 5 other people who were planning on going as well. As it turns out we all showed up and had a great breakfast and though it was still raining we all drove out to Beaverhill and 5 of us decided to go ahead in spite of the rain. My shoes and socks were socked within the first 1/2 hour and so were my pants but you know what? I had a great time. I didn't care about the wet or the massive mosquitoes or the fact that I wasn't shooting particularly well. I just enjoyed the company and the liquid sunshine and the beautiful surroundings and felt great! I would not have done that in my past life; I would have been more likely to have decided ahead of time that it wouldn't be fun and just complain about it. I really didn't know what it was going to be like and I was perfectly ok with that. It was fairly wet for the first few stations then the rain stopped and all was well. Now we're home where it's nice and toasty and warm and my beloved is building a fire in the fireplace and all I feel is gratitude and a wonderful flow of warm energy moving through my body. Who'd have thunk it?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


In The Flow of Acceptance

The topic of forgiveness has come up a couple of times this past week so I thought I'd share some thoughts on the subject.

I actually don't use the word very much in my life or in my work. I find the idea of forgiveness is often more likely to end up being about rationalizing or justifying than anything else and I for one have done plenty of that in my life without really having the experience of release from the guilt that brought up the need to forgive in the first place. When people say they need to forgive themselves or others it is usually about something that they have deemed to be unacceptable somehow; why else would there be a need for forgiveness? If this is the case, would it not make more sense to make peace with the feelings of fear and guilt that are often attached to whatever happened and then question the beliefs that caused the non-acceptance in the first place?

I lived with what I would call no-name guilt most of my life. I just felt bad about myself so no matter what I did it was likely to trigger the feelings of guilt and shame sooner or later. It was not rational in any way but it was pretty close to the surface much of the time. I was good at playing the justification tapes in my head which would play over and over and over but never went anywhere. It wasn't until I started really questioning what the beliefs were behind all the guilt and shame that I finally found true release. The beliefs that I was bad, that I was inadequate, that I should be different than what I was (or that someone else was all these things) really kept the guilt game going.

When I realized the fallacy in these beliefs and brought compassion to the oh so familiar feelings I was finally able to break through the barriers that had been erected so that I could open to the wonder-filled world of possibilities that had nothing to do with ideas of being bad or inadequate. That isn't to say that the old feelings don't show up now and again because they do, it's familiar ground, they just don't have any power any more. This is the case with all beliefs we dismantle, they may still show up now and again, we just know they don't have any substance.

Perhaps this is just my definition of forgiveness and its all about semantics but we live in a world of concepts so I've learned, and am continually learning, that I can't assume I know what anyone else means by any particular word, especially loaded ones like forgiveness.

Consider this, what happens, happens. Just as water flows over and around anything it encounters, so do we have the ability to stay in the flow and wear away any seeming obstacle with presence and compassion. We have no idea why things happen as they do most of the time and if we think we do it's usually about a belief we are holding anyway. What if you didn't believe some of the more painful events of your life should have been any different than it was? What if you could simply be present to whatever shows up and in the flow of what you are guided to do in the face of that? How would your life be different?

I wonder...