Discover You and Move your life forward.

Discover You – A workshop giving you tools to move forward in your life!

“Why did I do that?” Is that a question you ask yourself occasionally?

Do you find your life seems to happen to you …without much input from you?

Are you not really sure how you got to where you are in your life?

Would you like to have more control over your life now and in your future?

On Monday July 28th from 7 – 9pm.

It’s time you start moving forward with your life!

 


 

For thousands of years spiritual masters, philosophers, deep thinkers and every day people have wrestled with these questions. They have found some answers. They have also developed a few methods to overcome the feelings of confusion, powerlessness, and being lost which normal people experience everyday.
This is a class to start bridging the gap between the deep thinkers and you. It’s about giving you some time tested methods for taking charge of your life!

This class is FREE.

If you’re willing or able, I appreciate donations to help me cover the costs.

The class will entail 3-4 fun group activities and discussions. These are designed to help you start recognizing the pressures you feel which subtly influence your thoughts and actions. As you start to see these pressures influencing you, you’ll start to gain real control over your life! We’ll also do at least one activity that will help you quiet the running commentary in your head and begin to bring direction into your life.

This is about You Discovering You!

 

This is not a therapy class. There is no advertising for a service or product. It is not an infomercial or a religious conversion or dogma class. It’s fun group activities and discussion with a little bit of speaking by me.

Please contact me for more information, to RSVP and for the location. Email by clicking here or call me at (470) 222-6461

My name is Blair Ashby. I’m an author, speaker, record producer and really nice guy. In 1993 I was asked to record and edit a spiritual teacher named Thomas Keating. That began a profound journey of self discovery for me. Soon after that beginning with Keating, I started getting hired to record spiritual teachers from all over the world and every major religion.


 

I learned at these conferences that at the root of them, all the worlds religions and most philosophies are really concerned with one thing. How can you and I live our lives to our desired highest potential. However, I also learned that deep spiritual thinkers talk in deep spiritual ways and the common person like me had to really reach to understand what they were saying.

In other words, none of what I heard made any sense to me! Then, in January 2009, I hit midlife and fell into clinical depression. I spent 14 months in depression before I sought help. Within a year after starting therapy, I went through a personal bankruptcy and then a divorce. Finally, I started to learn and spent the next three years rebuilding my life on new foundations. These foundations are shaped by the teachings of the spiritual masters and modern science.

I’m now bridging that divide between the deep spiritual thinkers, science and us. It started with my book two years ago. It continues with my website http://blairashby.com and with a daily email I send out to subscribers. I’m trying to bring the deep spiritual thinkers concepts to the normal person on the street. I strip the theology out (although I use theological stories a lot) and then I try to explain the concepts in basic biological, neurological and psychological language. My goal is that any person, regardless of his or her spiritual beliefs, can use this information to live a fuller, more empowered, more contented and peaceful life. A life lived to your highest potential.

The Great Hero Overcomes Any Roadblock

You Are The Great Hero!

The Great Hero Overcomes Any RoadblockYou Are The Great Hero!
Just like this tree that grew roots between
the roadblocks of the walkway!

Throughout history, every society has developed stories and myths about the Great Hero. It’s an archetype for us to aspire too. I’ve dwelt with this theme a little bit in the last fews days on my mailing list Positive Change. The stories of the Great Hero are an epic story of a hero who faces great trials in their incessant effort to achieve his/her ultimate goals. It’s actually the story of you and me.

We aren’t a historical story of Hercules, Moses, Rumi, Jesus, Joan of Arc or St. Francis. We are everyday people who face everyday challenges of survival. Whether it be physical or emotional survival, we experience great tribulations in the form of recessions, divorces, job loses and loved ones dying. We endure smaller trials of children’s bad grades, expectations unreached, angry bosses, unhappy spouses (all this before 8 AM). We also experience small travails daily of bad traffic, late payments, missed opportunities and unpleasant people. These triggers sap our strength and joy in living.

I don’t think Hercules dwelt very often with too many chariots on the road and I doubt Jesus worried too much about losing his job. But, I’d argue that when you’re the one feeling the negative emotion, you feel like it’s your whole world that is poisoned against you. It’s an uncomfortable feeling pressure, even if it’s only a minor event. That’s the doubt and angst the Great Hero faces.

Negative emotions are very potent and personal. The Buddhists say that suffering is suffering is suffering. I completely agree. When it’s personal, even the stress of your boss yelling at you is a worse feeling (to you) than your experience of the pain your friend feels from their loved one passing away.

A Great Hero though…?

Most the world’s major religions say you have a special place in the eyes of God or the Universe. You are a one of a kind individual. Interestingly, mathematics and biology say the exact same thing. That alone proves you are the Great Hero! However, when we are totally immersed in some negative emotion, we (at least I) don’t feel like we’re special in the Ultimate Reality or even close to being a Great Hero (I just feel a terrible pressure I want to get away from).

Yet, it goes deeper. Christ said we should love our neighbors as ourselves. I don’t think this means we love our neighbors as we love ourselves but rather, as if they were ourself.  Hhmmm…that puts a slightly different spin on things. Hopefully you’re now asking: “What does all this have to do me being a Great Hero and me seeing myself as God does”? It’s time for some lite Blair philosophy.

Let’s start with the very basics.

What is a negative emotion? (I said the basics) This is any emotion or feeling you’re experiencing which you find unpleasant, uncomfortable or just don’t like. Names and descriptions like Anxiety, Stress, Depression, Sadness, Anger, Rage, Darkness, Confusion, Lost, Melancholy, etc. all fit into this realm. There are many more and you are free to send me the names and the descriptions you use. No matter the name, it’s a yucky place to be inside.

Secondly, (this is a little harder to accept) negative emotions are almost always a result of our own thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, memories, reactions and learning. In other words, the vast majority of our negative emotions are our own bad programs. Fr. Thomas Keating says we are 100% responsible for our emotions. I totally agree. However, (also the vast majority of the time) we are rarely aware that we are causing our own hells. SO….

If:

We have bad programs causing us to feel negative emotions.

and

All the worlds wisdom books say God or the Universe loves us so much that God even knows the number of the hairs on our head (not very many in my case).

and

We don’t even know ourselves well enough to know why we’re feeling a negative emotion. So we blame someone or something else for how we feel instead of look at our own programs.

and

Because we don’t know ourselves very well,  we can’t we love our neighbor as if he/she was ourself.

Then:

How can we ever see ourselves as God does, at least a little bit? There is a lot of noise in the way!

That’s a question that puts you on the path of the most amazing journey!

God loves us inspite of our negative emotions. How we think, feel, believe or behave makes no difference to God. God sees us a perfect and whole.

A simple exercise to start seeing yourself as God does,
as the Great Hero.
It only takes 3 minutes.

Part 1 (two minutes): Do this the next time you feel a negative emotion. Try not to spin up into the emotion. In other words, before all the internal commentary starts berating the situation or other person. Sit for two minutes and just feel the emotion. Yes, just feel it. Try not to talk about it, yell or moan about it. Just feel it. Look at the negative feeling. Sense it. What color is it? Where in your body do you physically feel it? Does it have a taste? Does it have a smell? Does it have a sound? Describe that negative emotion to yourself, in one short sentence. Write the description down if you can. Try not to push reasons justifying why you feel it into the description. Just describe the feeling itself.

Part 2 (one minute): Here’s the last part and the most important part. In the last one minute, ask yourself two questions and answer yourself honestly.
1. Who is looking at and describing the emotion?
2. Is that “who” feeling the emotion also? (Search your heart, be honest here!)

That “who”, if you can sense it, is the one God sees. I think with a bit of observation you’ll find that “who” is peaceful and content. It’s not caught up in the negative emotion. It’s perfect and whole. IT’S YOU! It’s your Christ Center. Your True Self. Your Buddha Nature. Your Brahmin. Your Ultimate Reality.
YOU!

That’s who God sees! All the time. Perfect and Whole. No matter what you’re body is feeling, you have a special unique place in the Universe. You are perfect and whole. You are made in the image and likeness of God. How can you be anything else except perfect and whole?

This exercise is a small start to the wonder of who you really are. It’s about you getting to know you and, in the process, discovering an Ultimate Mystery that is God and who really loves you.

And this is where it ties back to the Great Hero: You!

Every great hero faces difficult periods. Your daily life is no different. Every great hero faced the weakness in his/her courage and marched forward with awareness of that deficiency. You are no different. Negative emotions leach the joy from your life. Yet, if you look into those dark feelings, sift them out to the programs you have running that cause them, you too can march forward into your ultimate dreams and goals. It can be a scary, painful transition at first. Every great hero faces that too.

When you feel negative emotions, you have a choice. You can react to the feelings themselves or you can march forward into the reality those feelings are trying to shield you from. You may not like that reality at first. However, with some time, you will find the freedom, peace and contentment in that reality infinitely more desirable than the reactive life you left behind. You will discover the wonderful life God intended for you before your programs got in the way. You will discover the Great Hero you already are!

 

If becoming a Great Hero intrigues you, I offer coaching on life happiness through emotional awareness. Feel free to contact me here.

A picture of 740 Coins, pence and dollar bolls

Positive Change, 740 Coins and a New Knee

A picture of 740 Coins, pence and dollar bills all symbolizing Positive ChangePositive Change, 740 Coins and a New Knee

A new Positive Change began February 2014 when a client I’ve had worked with for almost six years limped into my studio. Several month earlier, her horse had accidently kicked her when it was spooked and Karen’s knee was destroyed. In 2009, when I was suffering through a fourteen month Dark Night of the Soul depression, Karen had patiently talked with me, loved me, reassured me and gently pointed me back to my path when I slipped off the trail. That day in February though, Karen was feeling down.

She’s had leg problems before, but this time, it was really getting to her. Each session she’d walk in and seem to feel worse than the last until finally, in that February, she announced she was getting a new knee. However, the excitement of a new knee quickly wore off and, within a couple of weeks, she was feeling very worried about the surgery. It was my turn to listen to her, love her and try and be a friend.

Karen is a very independent spirit. She’s a minister, she’s strong, athletic and a giver. She’s not good at being in a weak frame of mind. Yet, in the weeks before her surgery, she was expressing considerable stress. She was very worried and maybe even fearful about going under the knife. Questions like, what if it doesn’t work? And the whole threat and fear from major surgery kept racing through her head. I decided to send her a note every day to help her stay grounded. She was bothered by depending on people for her care so my very first note to her was simply: “Karen, Try and ask for a hug from someone today”.

I repeated this message for a few days, “It takes a strong person to ask others for love and help. I know you’re a strong person.  Please try to ask for a hug today”. Karen did. It started to make a difference in how she was seeing herself. That’s Positive Change! On the 17th of March she sent me this text: “Good morning Blair, looking forward to your lovely messages. Have a great day we will see you tomorrow, thanks again Karen”.

With that message from her, my Positive Change began and my messages started to widen their scope a bit.

March 21st: “We humans like to fret and worry about protecting ourselves inside. We then try to find solutions to enact that protection. Yet, when we do, we limit God’s possibilities to work in our lives. Try not to give in to negative emotion. Let God secretly transform you instead. Breathe In: I am perfect. Breathe out: I am whole.”

March 27: “Only by removing your humanity, your emotional programs for survival, can you deeply get to know God. Part of this journey is seeing yourself not as you do but as God does. I am perfect, I am whole, even when I don’t feel like it …in God’s eyes I am.”

April 7: “When you feel emotions and suffering, as painful as it is, it’s best to try and ground yourself in the center of your being. God loves you. God will not let you have more than God knows you can take. There are never two sets of footprints in the sand. There are only God’s.

Are you feeling anything? Be aware of it. See how that feeling wants to influence you?

Repeat:
I am perfect.
I am whole.
Even…. if I don’t feel like it.”

The pattern of Positive Change had been established. Each week Karen and I would meet and she’d always ask me to continue my messages.

April 16: “New challenges arrive today! Both good ones and difficult ones. When something changes how you feel, it becomes easier to see how God sees us. But remember, how we feel is all in our head. God sees us a perfect and whole all the time.

Are you feeling anything?

Repeat:
I am perfect.
I am whole.
Even when I don’t feel like it.

April 24: “The still small voice speaks under the emotion one feels. To listen, one has to see how they feel and then see past that. It’s difficult when we feel it, but with awareness, we can see through our feelings to the voice of God which is always speaking in our heart.

Are you feeling anything? Is it influential in your decisions or perception?

Repeat:
I am perfect.
I am whole.
Even, if I don’t feel like it. God loves me.”

Positive change is a process which grows in us. Jesus, the great wisdom teacher 2000 years ago, said the mustard seed grows into the mighty plant with proper cultivation. As I wrote more messages, Karen found truths about her inside herself and I also found truths in me I needed to understand. We both experienced positive change in different ways. Soon, other people were asking for these encouraging notes.

The messages became more about the areas in my life God was working on in me as I couldn’t specialize messages to every individual wanting one. Positive Change also requires practice. And, for me, these almost daily messages have been that practice.

Now, I’m offering to send you the daily coin of Positive Change I write. It’s about you getting to know you; just like I’m getting to know me. The messages always seem to have emotion tied into them somehow. If you’ve been reading my blog or website, that won’t be a surprise. I believe the way to meet our highest self is through the emotional programs we built to hide behind. Only by seeing through how we feel from minute to minute can we see the person God or the Universe created.

We were created perfect and whole. We learned, were taught, developed and absorbed programs to survive emotionally and sometimes physically. When we see past those programs, we begin to see ourselves the way we really are. That is what I call Positive Change. It’s seeing us with God’s eyes. These messages are an almost daily exercise in doing that. It’s Positive Change through practice!

Please sign up and join me on the path of living a happier, more peaceful and contented life. I look forward to your company!

Blair's Signature

 

 

 

PS: Here’s the story on the picture of 740 coins at the top. It’s all part of Positive Change.

Overwhelming Emotions or Living Your Highest Dreams

Overwhelming Emotions or Living Your Highest Dreams

A Picture representing Overwhelming Emotions and Your Highest DreamsOverwhelming Emotions will rule our life if we don’t recognize them. I know, I know. You’ve heard this all before. However, it’s so easy to be controlled by our emotions that frequently we can’t even see them at work governing us. I went through the first 41 years of my life not seeing it! I meet people everyday who appear to not see their overwhelming emotions governing their lives. I suspect, its way more prevalent than you or I realize.

A while back I walked into a neighbors house. The wife met me at the door, asked me in and immediately started apologizing for the disaster (I suspect that was overwhelming emotions around embarrassment on the state of the house. It appeared a nuclear war had taken place in that house!) There were toys all over the place and clothes were covering every piece of furniture. It didn’t appear to be laundry that needed folded but rather clothes just thrown on the furniture. The window shades were drawn and it was dark. It felt like a dingy old house in a very new neighborhood. Yet, in contradiction to the explosion I was standing in, on the walls were pictures of the happy wedding 13 years ago, smiling children, and smiling family members.

The husband passed through the living room without saying a single word. Immediately after, it seemed the wife wanted to talk. I just stood and listened. They were both 39. The husband was in the basement living in his own little world. He had moved down there a few months earlier. According to the wife, he was an alcoholic. The wife was upstairs also living in her own little world. She spent countless hours online searching out old friends. She was lonely, she said. The kids were at school that day but they weren’t immune to the darkness that filled that house. The oldest daughter had recently given mom permission to divorce dad. They were heading in that direction anyway she had said.

The wife had married him because she thought he would change and she could help him. She thought she’d be happier together and that they would have a wonderful life together. She said she was so in love with him then. Now, she said, she just wanted to get away from him. “I’ll be happy once I get rid of him”. Overwhelming Emotions? Was she acting out on how she felt when she married him? Was she acting out on how she feels when she says “I’ll be happy once I get rid of him”?

I can’t say for certain what the situation was. I only saw a momentary sliver of their lives. Yet, I can easily believe she wasn’t thinking much about what she truly wanted. I suspect she was just trying to get away from the negative feeling pressures and overwhelming emotions she had associated with him. I also can’t say that her actions were right or wrong for her. She had to decide that. But, I can say that if it was overwhelming emotions that got her into this situation, maybe she needs to get in touch with and then see past those overwhelming emotions before she acts on them again.

Why do we humans react to overwhelming emotions
(or any emotion) so drastically?

The hard part of all this when searching for happiness is, we are hardwired to feel emotions first and react to that feeling immediately. In ye olden days, if a tiger is in the bush beside the trail we’re walking on, we will run faster from the fear we feel than from the tiger itself. When we feel emotions and especially overwhelming emotions, it immediately lobotomizes our rational brain and demands physical action. Generally fight or flight.

This becomes a real problem in our search for happiness because we live in a relatively safe world now. The situations that now arise rarely threaten our physical survival. However, we are threatened or stimulated on a psychological level all the time. Strangely, our emotions can’t tell the difference between a physical survival situation and a psychological survival situation. A psychological survival situation is always wrapped up in our desire to feel a sense of approval, feel a sense of security and/or feel a sense of control.

Essentially, here’s what happens when a psychological survival situation arises: We feel emotions related to the situation. Our rational brain gets short circuited and we go back to survival based thinking. At this point we start inventing stories to explain the overwhelming emotions and situation. We then act on the feelings from the stories we’re telling ourselves instead of the reality of the situation. All this happens almost instantly!

Here are some simple examples comparing physical survival and psychological survival situations.

A Physical Survival Situation Using Negative Feeling Emotions:
The Stimulus: While out hiking, you see a wild animal.
The Emotional Reaction: You feel fear and insecurity.
The Story You Tell Yourself: I will die if the wild animal catches me.
The Physical Action: You run away from the wild animal and hopefully live to brag about it.

A Physical Survival Situation Using Positive Feeling Emotions:
The Stimulus: Your skin cancer goes into remission..
The Emotional Reaction: You feel elation.
The Story You Tell Yourself: I’ll not take a chance on dying from this bad patch of skin again.
The Physical Action: You have the bad skin section removed to prevent its recurrence and hopefully live to brag about it.

A Psychological Survival Situation Using Negative Feeling Emotions:
The Stimulus: Your boss is yelling but you don’t know why.
The Emotional Reaction: You worry and feel fear and insecurity.
The Story You Tell Yourself: You must have messed up if your boss is yelling.
The Physical Action: You try to butter up the boss and secretly start checking out job postings online.

A Psychological Survival Situation Using Positive Feeling Emotions:
The Stimulus: You see an attractive person who has some bad behaviors.
The Emotional Reaction: You feel infatuation.
The Story You Tell Yourself: I can help them overcome their bad behaviors.
The Physical Action: You try to develop a relationship with that person.

Here the important point! The overwhelming emotions you feel from a psychological survival situation are almost always totally unnecessary. Now, add to that, virtually all unnecessary emotions are negative in the end. In other words, virtually all unnecessary emotions are self induced suffering! That’s an important concept to have ingrained in our skulls!

In the psychological survival examples above, if you’re experiencing the overwhelming emotions of worry about your job and security, you’re actually reacting to the story you’re telling yourself because you don’t know why your boss is yelling. Your worry, fear and insecurity is totally unnecessary suffering! And, if you’re telling yourself you can save someone, you’re trying to justify the overwhelming emotions associated with the infatuation you’re feeling for a person with bad behaviors. That will lead to totally unnecessary suffering as soon as the infatuation wears off!

I modeled the last situation on the couple I mentioned earlier. When I met them, they were on the edge of divorce, angrily living in separate parts of the house, and both feeling a tremendous amount of negative emotions. All of that suffering could have been avoided if they had only taken the time to recognize the emotions they were feeling when they met. Before it had moved into suffering, they could have made decisions on what they really really really wanted. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. At the point I met them though, they had a new chance to pursue their true dreams again. They could sit in the negative emotion for a while and let it filter out to the kernels of truth underneath. Then they could have made decisions together based on their true desires. I don’t know if they took that chance or just tried to relieve the negative pressures they were under.

Your Choices

I like to tell people they have a choice. If they want to live a life filled with more contentment, peace and happiness, they can learn this stuff in pain or they can learn it by practice or, they can choose to never learn it and probably be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Learning by pain is the path of ashes. They learn about themselves as their life burns and crumbles around them. However, if they choose to learn via practice, they can do it while they’re in a good place in their life.

We don’t have to learn about ourselves through the path of ashes!

When crisis situations come – and with it all the overwhelming emotions surrounding the crisis – if you have been practicing emotional grounding, you can move through the situation in the best direction for your overall life. It also means you can live your life always pursuing your highest goals and dreams.

Do you want to react to the emotion you’re feeling now or do you want to reach your highest dreams? Unfortunately, it’s very rare for the two options to be congruent. Overwhelming emotions will come. That’s life, we have to endure it sometimes. However, overwhelming emotions can take you to better places in your life. It can also just take you to different places with the same underlying problems. It’s your choice. Which one do you want?

Here’s the action point of all this blathering. If you want to learn how to feel more happiness, more contentment and more at peace, then start by asking yourself this one simple question:

Are you feeling something?

I offer Life Happiness Coaching when you’re ready to pursue this further. I look forward to hearing from you.

Luminous Darkness, Seeing Wonder Instead of Seeing How We Feel

Luminous Darkness, Seeing Wonder Instead of Seeing How We Feel

I remember a luminous darkness. I was about 14 years old and my family was visiting my grandma in North Dakota. She lived on the outskirts of a small town on the cannonball river. I loved to visit her because there was all kinds of adventures a kid could have around her place. Late one night and I was outside looking at the myriad of stars, the band of the Milky Way and, the Northern Lights. It was amazing to see the sky flow like a liquid and then, when the river of charged particles reached the confluence of the sea of darkness, it faded into the black and stars itself. It was truly a luminous darkness!

I don’t know which of the Christian Mystics first coined the term Luminous Darkness. It might have been St. Gregory of Nyssa in his writing about Moses: “Moses entered the darkness and then saw God in it.”  What I do know it that I personally find the term perfect for the transformation I’ve experienced in my life since I started practicing awareness and especially emotional awareness. Yes this has become a spiritual journey for me and no, it’s definitely not tied to any specific religion.

Since publishing my book, I have many people a month approach me looking for direction. They are usually in their own crisis – midlife or otherwise – and they want answers. To every person I’m fortunate enough to meet, I listen. They talk about all the pain and suffering (the dark or darkness) they are going through and yet, they almost never talk about how they are feeling. I listen for a long time and then usually, they eventually ask me to chime in with some word of wisdom which will take away all their pain and “make” it all better. They want a magic pill.

Instead, I tell them the simple truth (in my own words).  “Ahh, God (or the Universe) is calling you to get to know …you!” If the person is a spiritual person, I add, “And, by getting to know you, you’ll be able to get to know God so much better!” I am usually met with staring eyes at this point. Their eyes reflect total disbelief that they just droned on about how miserable they are to some idiot who can’t even even make a sensible complete sentence.  - I agree with them. It makes no sense …and yet, in my own personal experience, it’s exactly what is happening every day I’m on this path.

Through the five years of my midlife transformation – terrible emotional suffering and personal and financial crisis the first two years and then three additional years of growth so far – I’ve found that the old adage is true: the more I know, the more I don’t know. I’d even add to that, the more I know myself, the less I know about myself. The spiritual path appears to be an unending journey of self discovery. It really is a path into a luminous darkness.

One thing I have found though, relentlessly, over and over, somehow all things work together for the good of everyone involved. Especially, as this is my own story I’m talking about here, my own situations! This doesn’t mean I like how it works out at first, I frequently don’t actually. However, after time has passed a bit, I always find that the whole situation resolved itself very nicely in my favor.

Luminous Darkness and Liminal Space

Last Tuesday I wrote about liminal space and the midlife transformation I’m in. I wrote about learning in this time of fog and confusion. One of the things I had to learn was how things keep working out, whether I have faith it will or not. This is a hard lesson for me to continually learn. My human desire to have a sense of approval, a sense of security and a sense of control constantly interfere with me having faith. Because, faith is exactly what these three built in human desires don’t want to have to deal with, they want certainty.

There are a couple of very intrinsic stories in the Bible about this exact challenge in the human condition.

There is a story about a rich dude named Abraham. Abe was also pretty old, along with being rich, and he could see the death taxes on the horizon. He knew that if he died without an heir, the government would take a little over 100% of his money in taxes. He felt rather frustrated about his and told his wife Sarah they needed to have a baby so his tax bill would be lower in death. (Alright, I understand this isn’t an exact paraphrase but I’m making a pretty educated guess. When has the government not taken death taxes?) A while later Isaac was born and Abraham breathed a sigh of relief.

When Isaac was a teen, God decided to teach Abe about faith and how if we trust, it all works out for good …eventually. According to the story, God instructed Abraham to give Isaac as a sacrifice to show Abraham’s dedication to God. Abe built the altar, tied up Isaac, laid him down on the altar and raised his knife. At that moment, God stopped Abe (again Abe breathed a huge sigh of relief). God rewarded Abe by making him the spiritual father of the middle eastern people and three religions. Not a bad reward but, I bet it wasn’t Abe’s first choice…

In another story, the Hebrews were wandering around the sinai desert after leaving Egypt. The hunting wasn’t good, the water was scarce, the restaurants were few and far between – not to mention they had a hard time when hordes of hungry people descended on them in droves. All in all, it was a very uncomfortable time for the Hebrews. Yet, even in their discomfort, God made sure to feed and water them. He provided food and drink exactly when it was needed. Not hours or days before, just in time. It takes faith to accept that one is going to be okay when one is scared of not being okay.

This is the luminous darkness I’m talking about.

We, as humans have no certainty. Yet, we strive constantly to feel a sense of certainty. I’m sure God looks at us laughing in wonder that we never learn. See the birds of the air, they eat today and don’t worry where tomorrow’s meal comes from, a wise man once said.

As I traverse this path of learning about my own human needs to feel certainty, I’ve learned that faith requires considerably less effort than worry. That is, of course, after I realized all the effort I put into worry is wasted anyway. Worry doesn’t add one hour of joy to my day or one day to my life. And still, if I forget to be aware of my emotional programs to grasp at certainty, I do it. Habit really.

In the darkness of North Dakota, I could see the results of unseen particles skimming off the atmosphere. In the darkness of crisis, worry and fear, I can see the unseen hand of the Universe guiding variables to my benefit. In both cases though, I had to “just be” in the dark, to see the Light. Worrying about the dark, didn’t help. Porch lights to ward off the dark and make me feel better would have rendered the hand of God invisible.  It’s an important lesson to remember.

Miracles happen to us all the time. It’s often only if we allow ourselves to bAn example of Luminous Darknesse in the dark and crisis, instead of fighting to relieve the pressure of the emotion and “feel better”, that we can see them. We can see God, when we stop giving our feelings about the dark power over us. God shines in our darkest times. It’s a luminous darkness!

That’s essentially what I mean when I say, “Crisis is God calling us to meet ourselves and by meeing ourselves, we are much better able to meet God”.

Liminal Space or Am I just in a Midlife Fog?

Liminal Space or am I just in a midlife fog?

A photo of a liminal fog

Liminal Space defined: At the threshold or in between conditions. Here’s the official definition: Liminal. Or maybe, I’m just in a midlife fog. Is there a difference? I’m not sure but I know both seem to feel true most of the time.

I’m definitely in a midlife fog. I frequently feel completely lost and even confused as to my life’s meaning or goals. I can say I’m pretty sure I want to move in a certain direction in my career and then five minutes later, I can’t find a reason to do anything. I certainly feel lost a lot.

Yet, I also have a deep faith that this is not the defining episode of my life. I have greater things to accomplish than what I have so far. But, I can’t seem to move forward to those goals either. I feel stuck in a no man’s land of neither there nor here. I’m in between but I don’t know what I’m moving into to! That’s a big part of the insecurity I feel about my life’s meaning.

So liminal may be the perfect adjective. Especially as liminal has spiritual overtones to it.

Liminal Space and Wisdom

My favorite scripture is Psalm 27 versus 3 and 4. “I believe I will see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living. Take courage, be stout hearted and wait on the Lord”. That waiting part sucks! When one is floating around in a midlife fog, the last thing one wants is to wait for clarity. My faith in the Universe though, honestly believes each of us has a deep dream we want to accomplish and maybe several of them. That faith means I have to be strong, have courage and wait for it to unfold in my life.

Be strong and wait sounds liminal to me.

What does that mean? I’m not sure to be honest but I can tell you what I think it means. I think it means that as I wander in this fog, in the gray featureless place of midlife, I’m learning things I can’t even fathom which are needed to accomplish the goals for my next phase of life. I’m definitely in a liminal place! I’m between the reality I knew and believed in,  moving into the reality that I’m learning now exists and I know is more true. This liminal thing takes faith….which to be honest, I frequently struggle with.

It takes faith in a Universe that somehow believes in me as much as I believe in it. Call it God, Source, the Universe or dust bunnies. I don’t really care what name you give it, I just believe that I’m a product of it and somehow I fit into it’s bigger picture in it’s own unique way. (Yes, to all you who don’t believe in this stuff, I do. Feel free to stop reading now if you’d like, I truly understand.)

My friend Robert Nichols says, midlife is when we find out how absolutely small and insignificant we are in the universe and how absolutely important we are to that universe. I have found that to be true in hundreds of ways the past five years. This Universe has somehow made sure my bills are paid even when I have no money (sometimes only minutes before the bill is due). It has taken care of me, and my loved ones in ways I don’t understand. It has provided me with just what I need right when I need it. And, it has provided me with the people perfect for me during numerous situations. I can not deny the reality of this unknown mystery I call God or the Universe.

Yet, I can not explain it either. More liminal.

None of the events I’ve seen transpire in my life defy the laws of science. They are improbable but, not impossible. In many ways, that takes even more faith than outright miracles. Way too many of these almost supernatural events have happened to me to rationalize them away as pure probability. However, I’m a mere human. I can’t fathom all the ways all the threads of reality weave together to create the tapestry of our lives. I just believe there is some sort of Ultimate Mystery which weaves it all together.

Maybe I’m weak minded. I’m even willing to accept I am. All I know is it helps me feel a sense of value in a random world.

Now I understand – if you’ve read my other articles you’ll know where this is coming from – that feeling a sense of self approval is a feeling to be careful of. Mainly because it’s “a sense of” not a definite thing. Thus, I don’t make decisions based on what I feel moment to moment. I live with my emotions and feel them, sit in them and just let them be. So far at least, most of them have percolated out to a preference I can move forward on. Only after I’ve sat with them for a while though. Some of them a long while! And that is the “wait on the Lord” part that sucks.

“I believe I will see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living. Be strong, be stout hearted and wait on the Lord.” Not all of my confused feelings have filtered out yet to preferences I can believe in. I believe they will though. So when I’m feeling lost, confused or liminal, the best thing I can do is recognize, I’m feeling. I don’t make decisions based solely on emotion. Then, wait on the learning process I’m internally in, even if I can’t see it day to day in my life. It’s a practice, this waiting. It’s not a magic pill but so far, it hasn’t let me down either.

 

Side note: Shameless commerce here. A year ago I did an album based on my favorite wisdom scriptures. The album is called Reflections and you can listen to a sample here. After you listen to the sampler, feel free to also buy it. It’s a great album, if I don’t say so myself.

Anticipation

Anticipation

Anticipation for the Fall - A photo of a tree turning yellow early.Anticipation is a real pleasure and problem for me. Essentially, I love the build up and waiting for something but, in that waiting I frequently start to create  imaginary realities. Those imaginations are usually not even close to the reality which happens once the anticipated event has come to pass. In other words, I invent futures which have no bases in reality.

Anticipation becomes a problem for me when I glue emotions to my imaginary futures. When the future anticipation happens, if I have an attachment to an outcome, or an expectation about how it will unfold, and the event doesn’t meet my emotional plans, I feel negative emotions. The problem here is, all of those negative emotions are totally unnecessary. I didn’t have to feel them!

I can hear the protests already! (Is it anticipation to write that?)

No, I’m not advocating living a life of zero emotions. Instead, I’m suggesting that it’s possible to feel, enjoy (or not enjoy) emotions without unnecessary additional negative emotions tied to them. The key here is the word ‘unnecessary’. And the secret is staying grounded or aware.

Okay, I realize this doesn’t sound like a fun article but stay with me a few minutes. I’d like to write about a couple of ways one can live a life which is much happier, much fuller and much more content.  I should mention though, if you’re looking for a magic pill which ends all negative emotions, maybe you should go find a genie in a bottle or a chemical attitude adjuster. They’re about the only ways one can end negative emotions and still be alive. In other words, there is no such thing as a life without emotions, positive or negative.

What I’m writing about is unnecessary negative emotions (which for me so easily come with anticipation). They can pretty much all be avoided with some practice and initial effort. How does one does this?

Unnecessary emotions are emotions glued to an idea, situation, thought, memory or anything which comes to us via our five senses. As humans, when we tie emotions and situations together, we very quickly start to replace the situation with the emotions we’ve tied to it. That’s when problems start. Once we start to think of our emotions as the definition of a situation, we no longer deal with reality. Instead we deal with how we feel and that can be very different than the situation.

Whether it be in anticipation or every day life, to avoid the unnecessary (negative) emotions, we have to purposefully let go of the emotions or pressures we have glued to an event or idea. This can be difficult especially in the beginning. This easiest way I found to do this is to constantly ask myself three questions:

  1. Am I feeling anything? (yes or no)
  2. What am I feeling? (I try to define the emotions as exact as possible)
  3. Why am I feeling it? (This takes some work to get to the true motivations)

The important thing I had to realize was that by letting go of the emotions and pressures tied to a situation or an anticipation, I wasn’t changing anything external to me. Only internally what I felt about the situation actually changed. The situation stayed the same. However, what happened to me in a very short time was I started to see options which existed that I couldn’t see when I was reacting to the pressure I felt. This was huge for me! It gave me possibilities I couldn’t see before and that gave me some true control over my life; not just a sense of control which emotions feed on.

After I learned to let go of emotions and pressures tied to events or ideas, I started to realize that if I didn’t tie an emotion to an idea to start with, I didn’t need to let it go. With practice, it became almost second nature to just let events happen without gluing my emotions to it.

This was another giant leap for me because it gave me the freedom to enjoy positive experiences immensely and let negative experiences just pass through me without unneeded suffering. I could literally allow my emotions to form and disappear like clouds do in the sky. It is natural for me now  - well at least 80% of the time – to just let an idea, experience or event happen with no attachment at all interfering with my participating in it.

Does this mean I feel no emotions? Not a chance! I still feel them very strongly. I just don’t usually feel the pressure to react to the emotion. Rather, I deal with the true situation. It also means I have much more energy to fully enjoy positive events because I‘m not wasting energy trying to hang onto emotions which I can’t hang onto anyway. It’s a win/win scenario no matter whether it’s negative or positive.

Life has pressures and  emotions in it all the time! Period. It’s especially easy to have them when we live in anticipation. Yet, we can’t be without emotions. However, we don’t need to let them rule us or our reactions. We can choose a better, happier, more contented path. Letting go of emotions is one way to start. Eventually we learn, if we don’t glue ourselves to an emotion, we don’t have to let it go. It becomes virtually effortless. I can attest! It’s a great way to live!

Contradiction on the path of wisdom

A Contradiction in DestinyContradiction on the path of wisdom

Contradiction on the path of wisdom has become a normal thing for me to experience. It seems the more I understand, the less I know. Contradiction. The more clear my path becomes to me the more it’s hidden in wonder. Contradiction. The more peace and contentment I feel, the more insecurity in life I come to accept. Big contradiction! And, usually, I’m okay with that insecurity. That is a huge contradiction to me. (I hate feeling insecure yet, for some dichotomous reason, as I practice awareness more, I am more accepting of the insecurity of reality. Maybe it’s because for some strange reason, the more insecure I feel, the more I know that somehow my life will be okay. …Yes, I realize, that’s also a contradiction.

Several studies I’ve read say that 80 percent of the people in the world have a midlife crisis. Ironically, 80 percent of the people who have a midlife crisis are living in the Western Hemisphere. I don’t think that’s too surprising; it’s just ironic. The Eastern philosophies and religions are more accepting of dichotomies and contradictions. It’s almost built into the society to be accepting of the unity of opposites.

In the Western world, we like to pigeonhole concepts so we feel a sense of control over our environment. Yet, that very internal organization is what prevents us from seeing the bigger picture of our lives. When we try to package our lives into controllable containers, we limit ourselves and our options.

One of  the biggest contradictions I face comes in the form of emotions. I have learned that I can feel several conflicting emotions at the same time. I can feel fear, happiness, insecurity, anxiety, love and anger all at the same time. More importantly, I can tell I’m feeling them and separate them all out, trace the threads back to the causes in me and, even separate the individual motivations so that my anger doesn’t interfere with my happiness, fear or anxiety. It’s not easy. But, I feel so much better when I’m not taking my anxiety out on a loved one when they don’t deserve it.

I’ve also found that my fear and anxiety (which I’ve felt a lot the past three weeks because my dad had a stroke three weeks ago) does not overcome the peace and contentment I live in day to day since I’ve starting practicing emotional and mental awareness. That means that while I was feeling fear my active dad my not be the same active dad I’ve known my whole life, I have a peace that it’ll all work out okay because God draws straight with crooked lines.

And realistically, that is the biggest contradiction I’ve found. God always draws straight with crooked lines! I stand constantly amazed at how events come together for good in spite of my mental contradiction that they shouldn’t. Always! When I was emotionally, mentally and spiritually asleep, personally catastrophic events would have devastated me! I could never have seen the wonder and good in them. Now though, I can usually see the myriad of ways that God weaves all the threads of all the people involved together for the greatest good for all. This doesn’t mean it’s always the greatest good I want. I definitely didn’t want my dad to have a stroke! However, as he has, God will now take this catastrophe and weave the lives together of all involved for the betterment all of all. Does this mean my dad will be back to 100 percent? I certainly hope so, however, if he doesn’t get back to normal, if my dad chooses it, I will watch my dad build a new life which will probably be as satisfying as his previous one. Not the same normal but, a new normal. It will be up to my dad to allow that to happen though. I hope he will pursue that path no matter what.

And that is where I want to make the point of this article. We have to choose how we want to move forward in our life. We have an active part in our paths. The important part we have to play is dealing with the reality of the situation not just the emotion we feel from the situation. That’s hard to do. We feel emotions so profoundly wen when we don’t know we feel it. So, it’s easy to react to how we feel and not the real situation. When we do this, we usually make the problem bigger than it is. This does not usually help us live a better life. Instead, when a situation arises – negative or positive – if we choose to sit for a bit and recognize that we are feeling something related to the situation, we can then choose to look past that feelings to the reality of the situation and deal with that reality.

When we live in reality, we live our authentic life and can go after our true dreams. We can live fully, in the present and completely. Christ said, “I came that you may have life and have that life more fully.” Awareness of our emotional and mental programs frees us to live that life. Go for it! Live more fully!

Ego Perception and Our Reality

Ego Perception and Our Reality

Ego perception is the way we see ourselves and our world from the self awareness and spiritual teaching point of view. Ego perception usually refers to the system we use when we’re just reacting to life but not actually living it. We are emotional beings and we live our life completely dominated by our emotions until we wake up and start to take an active part in our life. Essentially, that sleeping state is precisely what our ego perception is. This awakening usually takes place as part of midlife but, not always. Thus, the question may arise, what do we have to wake from? What is this ego induced sleep? Why do I feel like I’m in a fog?

As emotional beings, our emotions filter everything we experience. That means that every thought, physical sensation, memory, perception, belief and experience goes through our emotional filtering system and gets colored by it. When we are asleep to our lives, we think the filtered view we see of the world is reality. We then react to that filtered view; making decisions based on our perceptions and not on reality. Let me try to describe this with a picture.

An Ego perception view of RealityNotice the beautiful sky. The bridge and the light pole lighting the path. This is an ego perception of reality. Looking at it we think it’s perfect and it looks inviting. We want to walk the path across the bridge and enjoy the sky and clouds on this gorgeous day. But beware! This is an ego view. Not the reality.

“How can that be”, you ask? “It’s obviously exactly what it looks like! I’ll just go and walk that path across that bridge and enjoy that perfect day.” This reaction is living life by the ego perception. I’ll try to explain.

How do we know this picture is real? How do we know what we see really is what really is. We don’t. This picture is a captured moment in time with limited information. So, what do we actually know? We know there is sky in the picture. We know there is a bridge in the picture and the bridge is near the light pole. Honestly, that’s about all we know.

Here’s another way to think about reality versus our perceptions. Think about being with a friend and you say something critical about them. Immediately their face scrunches up, their eyes squint, their lips purse together tightly and their skin starts to redden. Without even thinking, you apologize and backtrack trying to soften the blow. You right away think you’ve upset them and it’s going to cost you an argument.

However, what in fact truly happened in this scene? You made a critical comment. Their face scrunched up, their eyes squinted, their lips pursed together tightly and their skin started to redden. You have no idea what they are feeling! Yet, did you react to what they looked like or what you thought they were feeling based on your interpretation of how they looked?

They could have just stepped on a nail and they felt pain in their foot. Maybe they see a spider crawling up your sleeve and they feel fear for you. Maybe a mouse just raced up their leg and they bracing for squirms. We can’t know without asking them. Yet, when we’re asleep, we react to how we feel about what we think they are feeling. Can you see why it’s not really a surprise when people have disagreements.

A dose of reality…

Now, back to the picture. Let’s get some more information. In other words, let’s not just see our ego perception. Let’s see the whole picture as much as possible. Here is the bigger picture, the whole picture if you will:

The Whole Picture not just the the Ego perception.

Notice, all I did for the picture above was take the reflection in the black smelly putrid pond and turn it upside down. However, we wanted to see the beautiful scene and thus, closed our eyes to the small items which gave it away as a reflection. (I promise it’s the exact same picture; look at the park bench to see the give-a-way)

This is exactly how the ego works! It refuses to see the reality if that reality isn’t what it truly wants to see. Instead, it will ignore the little peeks at reality to bolster it’s view of the world. It does this because it thinks it’s helping your chances for survival. And, this is where we get back to emotions and our ego perception of the world.

 A bigger view of our lives

Ego is a term I’m hesitant to use now days because it’s perceived very differently by everyone. Ego is a Greek word that means “I” or self.  As an example, here’s the Wikipedia page on Ego. When I’m coaching or writing or speaking with groups, I prefer to use the term EPS which means Emotional Programs for Survival.

We are emotional beings. We perceive the world emotionally. Thus, to fully live our own lives, we have to see through our emotions or ego perception to the reality underneath. It’s not always pleasant (think of the black putrid pond above) but it is always real. When we live in the reality of our lives, we have real power to make our destiny. We have the ability to control our decisions and move forward into the life we truly want to live, not just the one dictated by our emotions.

When we start to wake from our ego induced sleep and ego perception into the reality of our lives, we frequently feel like we’re in a fog. It’s a difficult move at first. What is real and what is our perception? I suppose that’s why it’s generally called a midlife crisis. It feels like a crisis when everything we held as true is all of a sudden torn away and we see reality for the first time. It’s hard but with some time and practice, we start to recognize our EPS at work and see past it. We can use our emotions as one wisdom tool we have versus our whole toolbox.

Career, Midlife and One Way I Found to Move Forward

Career, Midlife and One Way I Found to Move Forward

A photo of One Possible Way to Go In my careerMy career was thrown to the wind when I hit mid-life. Midlife, my midlife crisis and my midlife transition, started only two months after I turned forty. It hit me like a brick wall. I went on to spend 14 months in depression. After the depression started to lift a bit (with the help of therapy and the antidepressant Paxil), I began to deeply exam what was going on in my life. I found in many ways, I felt totally lost.

I’ve regained a lot of my footing since those dark days but, career wise, I still feel lost. As I speak with more and more people in coaching or at the talks I’m invited to give, I find the career lost-ness feeling is a pretty common theme.

In my own experience, it now appears the Universe or God is pushing me to let go of the security I feel in my recording studio business career. I believe this is happening because, my total income from my studio is diminishing. Additionally, I don’t really want to pursue new jobs unless it’s big composing jobs. I notice I frequently think I’m about finished with the studio as my main career.

I’m okay with that.

What I feel the most concern about is, I haven’t found my author/coaching/speaking career filling in the income gaps… yet (I hope). So, obviously, the first question I ask myself is ‘do I really want it to?’ I believe that is a very healthy question for me to ask myself!

My friend Tony D’Souza repeatedly asked me in the summer of 2009 while I was suffering the worst of the depression I went through, “What do I really want?” I couldn’t answer him about my career or anything else in my life. I think I can answer him now… I say ‘think’ because I’m not totally sure.

When I was asleep (pre-forty years old), it was so easy to go about life because I never thought about what I really wanted. As a matter of fact, I never thought much at all. Instead, I just reacted to the pressures I felt inside and acted out in the way which best relieved the pressure. I never thought about what I wanted, just what the pressure wanted.

Now though, I realize that my studio business could be much more satisfying if I really put the effort into it to take it the direction I truly want it to go, composing. Unfortunately, I don’t have the internal motivation to chase that dream any more. I would gladly compose for a job dropped in my lap but I don’t want to chase any down. I have new dreams I want to pursue.

Yet, unlike the easy way of relieving pressure that being asleep afford me, now my dreams require real motivation. A motivation built out of what do I find meaningful for my life; what are my goals and dreams and desires. This new path of being awake requires me to be actively involved in my life. I have to deeply examine what my authentic desires are. That can be hard to discern.

One way I’ve found to learn about myself and my true desires are to watch myself in action. I watch myself constantly to see what it is I feel the most passion about. I notice that audio work only stimulates me a little bit. I’ve seen that composing work leaves me feeling deeply satisfied. I’ve also seen that I feel the most passion about coaching, writing and speaking. I feel a true sense of satisfaction when I can listen to someone and then ask them questions which help them find their true life they want to live.

Throughout this whole site, I talk about how emotions are the key to understanding our motivations. We are emotional beings first, even if we don’t think we are. Thus, it’s just as useful to look at ones emotions to find ones positive motivations as well as one’s negative motivations. The important distinction is to see through the emotion and respond to the reality underneath it. Reacting to the emotion you feel will probably not meet your deepest goals. I’ve instead found that responding to the reality under the emotion will always serve you best.

When I look at my emotions in action while writing, speaking or coaching, I feel deep satisfaction. From that awareness, I can then closely examine the underlying motivations for those emotions and decide if they are authentic to my life dreams or just an emotional response to some sense of approval, security and or control. In other words, not my deepest goals.

I realize it’s a straight and narrow path. It’s generally not easy. However, since choosing this path of wisdom, I’ve always experienced a life affirming peace and contentment. I find that to be a wonderful way to live even, if I do sometimes feel confused on my career dreams.