How conscious do you want to be?

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” – Carl Jung

Coming to consciousness, which is our ability to see without distortion, requires that we temporarily turn our attention away from a few trusted anchors, namely, our own thoughts and emotions.

While coming to know and understand the nature of our minds demands our full attention and awareness, if we don’t move past it, we remain stuck in our own thoughts, or worse, come to believe them as truth.

Same goes for feelings and emotions. We can become so certain that because we “feel” something, we must act upon it.  Yet, without understanding the wisdom behind the emotion, we lack clarity– which inevitably leads us back to “enlightened wisdom” because of the pain and or suffering we cause ourselves through sheer ignorance.

Everything we do and don’t do serves the greater good. If we embrace the notion that everything that is happening is actually enlightened wisdom, and can hold this paradox in our hearts, our desire to judge ourselves or anyone, simply melts away.

So, is there a “right way” to expand our consciousness. No. All ways are the way. Even as I crafted this graphic, I realized the futility of creating something semi-linear and “staged”…..however, as our minds do like to try to make sense of these things, I’ve outlined what I see as the evolutionary path of consciousness (our ability to see the world without distortion), and the various stops along the way.

As always, this work of mine has a simple goal; to help reduce human suffering by facilitating human flourishing. If we don’t know where to look, we can’t see it, and therefore, we can’t create the conditions that promote health, well-being, creativity, and true-productivity.

 

The People Who Grind Us and the People Who Shine Us

I’ve been contemplating this for a little while– specifically, the people who have, whether intentionally or unintentionally “grinded” me; meaning that they caused me to reassess, re-think, and re-evaluate, whether personally or professionally, some aspect of my life.

The “grinders” are not easy people. They’re not supposed to be. Their sole (soul) purpose is to show you where you have work to do because you have not fully integrated your own trueness. That’s it.

Getting into any kind of ego battle with a grinder is not only ridiculous, it is wasteful of your energy and creativity.   “Grinders” are learning too by the way,  and you, in fact, are a “grinder” to them/for them! (in Buddhist teachings, the “grinder” is only yourself– there is no “other”).

Ultimately, the “grinders” are a gift because they represent the fullest vision and version of something you yourself find intolerable, and in doing so, provide an incredible opportunity to  consciously change.

And the “shiners”?……they are represented in everyone and everything, actually. Anyone who makes you shine, lights you up, awakens some aspect of yourself, is a shiner– and that includes the grinders……especially the grinders! 

When Life Gives You Lemons

The old adage goes something like this: if life gives you lemons, make lemonade (or add vodka!).  Both approaches are optimistic and speak to the human capacity to rise above adversity, even celebrate it!

Still, when life’s sour episodes flood our hearts, they are often a wake-up call to do something different, something more, and perhaps, something else.

To choose to grow through something that is inherently painful, even tragic, seems paradoxical. But to “dress it up” or “drink-it away” without realizing its full potential is tragic, too.

So yes…..make a lemonade, make a lemon cake, make cocktails, and then, when this is all said and done, take the seeds, plant them, and see what happens next.

The Practice of the Better

Contrast is one of our greatest teachers, and yet, we often miss the point.

When we choose to criticize, judge, or demean that which we find stupid, ridiculous or intolerable, we are, essentially, locking ourselves into a painful dynamic; one of divisiveness and self-righteousness.

In my experience, no one has ever helped me or changed my mind by telling me (or shouting) their “thoughts”. Being locked into a rigid dichotomy that blocks the creative and joyful insights that are available to us all, is painful. However, it is a type of suffering that can be healed within each of us.

Through practicing presence, self-awareness, and discernment we can easily see that there’s not only an alternative to criticism, but a much better use of our God-given talents and energy.

Criticism stems from fear– fear of “what” is up to you…but it’s deeply rooted in separation and desperation. Anytime we feel that “fear” rise within us, it’s a knock on the door of our mind, and an invitation to either enter into battle, or to yield, and instead, practice the better.

The better what? The better way. The peaceful way. The sane way. The way that places YOU at the helm and realm of possibility and of leading by example.

You have a better idea? Don’t tell us. Show us. Forget about tearing down the other— that’s easy.

Criticism is unmanifested creativity. Go create the better.

365 Days Together

In 2017, I took part in a beautiful experiment. The “365 Days Together” initiative by INSIGHT TIMER  challenged our community to meditate every day.  Given my schedule and commitments, I honestly wondered if I could even do it. I’m grateful that I tried.

How did I do? Well, while I did not meditate 365 consecutively, (my longest span was 332 days), I have, since the start of my time with this app, meditated for a total of 938 days, and sat for 995 sessions.

What I found through my practice is that even on the days I did not actually sit down and use the APP, I was moving through my day with a different awareness and energy. Essentially, my actual life became my spiritual practice that day.

While “sitting down to meditate” is critically important, what I’ve noticed is that my waking life; my thoughts and behaviors (e.g. the way I expend and conserve my energy and what I choose to create) have become their own meditation, too….which invariably makes me long for increased and deeper communion through my meditation practice.

There’s no question that meditation has transformed my life.  In order to become a better mother, educator,  coach, and writer, I had to become a better student. I had to be willing to begin again, and again, and again– to sit and practice radical presence, patience, and self-compassion. More importantly, I had to be willing to ask myself better questions. I had to be willing to miss the mark and to embrace these seeming “failings” as an inherent and essential part of my own journey and transformation.

This year, what are you willing to try for 365 days?

Vocational Arousal

This provocative term, vocational arousal, came by way of the joyful and visionary Barbara Marx Hubbard. She, in conversation with Steve Farrell, were discussing the obvious (and necessary) shift in our collective consciousness, and what this means for humans as we now them…us.

Vocational arousal describes an internal yearning or calling to our highest work; to our specific “duty” while on Earth.  While this “calling” used to be experienced by the few, specifically those in spiritual vocations, artists, healers, nurses, physicians, and teachers in particular, this arousal is being expressed, en masse, by more and more people on the planet.

In my own work, I use the term soul-work to describe this calling–this yearning deep within each of us that is often at odds with the duties and responsibilities of one’s person-hood….or so we think.

To this end, several of my colleagues at Soul Publishing Group and I are sharing our own stories of vocational arousal. These narratives, many of them decades in their unfolding, describe the journey of shifting from conventional thinking, to one of a higher consciousness and state of being. Many describe the sheer panic, the struggle, the ridicule, the second-guessing that accompanies any journey that is guided by the soul, our higher-calling.  The courage and grit of these stories are a true testament to the power of the human spirit.

To be true to who you are is the single greatest gift you can share with others. Then, when we unite with others who are similarly inclined, the synergy and creativity that unfolds is beyond what any one single individual could ever do, or even imagine.  Of course, we can “sense” these things– deep within, but our human minds are actually limited when it comes to fully grasping the magnitude and effects of the consciousness of connection and what this means for life and work as we know it today.

What is calling you? What is your soul-work?

Grief

The recent passing of a beautiful friend brought me heart-to-heart, once again, with grief.

When my father died in 2014, I was thrust into a space unlike any I’ve ever experienced.  I still remember how my days felt; unreal, cumbersome, painful, as if I were in the midst of some energetic goo, going through my days in slow-motion. Every action required effort. Every thought, one too many.  

Although grief is a shared human experience, it is not experienced this way at all. It is deeply intimate and confronting. Only you can travel this heart-road.  It is an excruciating and painful journey, but one that is bearable only because it is fueled and directed by love.

During the most painful and growthful times of my life, the words and writing of John O’Donohue have provided me great comfort. Like a fine wine, his words rich and opulent in spirit, are even more meaningful today.

For Grief
John O’Donohue
To Bless the Space Between Us

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life.
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well,
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

Adapting

Adaptation is a bit of a paradox.

While it is wise to adapt, it also feels like we’re surrendering, or somehow “giving up”.

Yes. It is both, and.

It is only in surrendering (our ego) that we allow the grace of life to enter our being.  To surrender to life, however, is no easy task.

In our Workbook of Human Superpowers we define adaptability this way: openness to changing conditions

Adaptability, then, is not necessarily something we do, but is more of an orientation, and openness, to whatever comes our way. If we desire happiness and personal peace, it is our task to adapt; constantly.

Control is the opposite, of course. However, control is something we all must do and try– until we learn, for ourselves, the futility of our effort.

Life is a constant flow of favorable and unfavorable events and circumstances. If we can be mindful (aware) of this, it becomes easier (slightly) to “go with the flow” and to adapt to what life is asking of us.

The Anatomy of Suffering

Ever since childhood, I’ve wanted to understand why there is suffering in the world; specifically, why we create it. This curiosity has led me on numerous intellectual, spiritual, and practical explorations, which I am still uncovering.

As a young girl, I was fascinated by the stories of my aunts and uncles– the stories of their trials and triumphs…of death and life regained. One of my favorite aunts used to say, when asked how she was doing, “ahi, en la lucha”….literally, in a battle, and this always confounded me.

Was life really a battle? Or just her life? Did all the grown-ups around me feel this way, too? How can life be such a “battle”, when it is filled with such beauty and abundance?

Yes. Life can be a battle. Life can be brutal. It is brutal. The opposite is also true.

After 52 years of life on Earth, and struggling with PTSD for the better part of 30 of them, I understand the anatomy of suffering and why life can feel like a battle. I also understand that the great equalizer of suffering is consciousness; our ability to awaken the mind and see beyond our circumstances.

It seems to me my daughters came better prepared for life on Earth. Perhaps they’ve benefited from generations of brave men and women who forged their own paths in search of a “better life”. Perhaps their video games, filled with countless “realities”, have equipped them with an upgraded mind; one that is less hampered by the negativity bias, false ideas about the way life works or is, or the way things used to be.

Reality is truly in the eye of the beholder. If you believe life is a battle, a competition of sorts, this is your reality. However, if you believe that life is actually heaven on Earth, your choices and responses will be much different. Much like Viktor Frankl reminds us in Man’s Search for Meaning:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Your attitude towards the inherent suffering of life can either enslave you, or liberate you. Everything in your life at this moment; your home, your partner, your friends, your work are ALL expressions of your attitude toward life. Are you free?

Letting Go

This is probably one of the most paradoxical and challenging aspects of being a human being; letting go.

How can one embrace life and also let it go? This question used to haunt me and grew painfully loud when I became a mother.

Life and death are a single point in our existence. For anything to be born, something else dies, which then makes the “thing that died”, part of the living thing.

It has taken me many years to fully understand that letting go is both a spiritual and practical practice; one that is critical to my overall health, productivity, and well-being. There are countless teachers and books to guide one through the process, but the best “teacher” is your own life.

Letting go is one of the biggest “advancers” of consciousness– it can literally transform your human experience from one of chronic suffering (mental, emotional, and physical), to one of personal freedom and peace.

Father Richard Rohr has a passage in one of his books about “the colonized, the marginalized, the recovered, etc.” as a sub-set of our human family who are intimately aware of the necessity of forgiveness and the letting go of the distortions that block personal reconciliation and healing.

How do you reconcile (literally) the injustices, crimes, and ongoing abuses of fellow human beings? For anyone who has ever “done me wrong” (harassed, abused, threatened me), I see that I have two options:

Option A (my ego): engage with “my attacker” and fight back
Option B (my soul): understand their pain and suffering (their distortion) and let go

From the words of Jesus, near the moments of his own death, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24), there are few more poignant reminders of the power of understanding and forgiveness.

Letting go is not a sign of weakness.  To yield and release has been one of the most profound practices of my life. This is true in everyone’s life. Yes, your ego (Option A) will always tell you otherwise. Fact is, however, that letting go is a conscious and awakened choice and the quickest route to the birth of something new.