Anxiety

I am in the airport right now and the fire alarm keeps going off with the message that the alarm is being investigated, but they are not turning it off.

This airport as a whole is experiencing anxiety. Everyone looks somewhat relaxed but it is impossible to ignore the alarm, it is so disruptive of peace but everyone looks like they are ok with it.

How often do some of us feel this way, there is possibly something that could go wrong, maybe we haven’t done enough, … we have to stay on alert, in action; this is the feeling of anxiety. Maybe we have been able to cope with it through an outer or even inner veneer of calm but is it really calm and at peace at the core?

Anxiety is ubiquitous in our culture that it is almost an expectation. What would it be like to have no inner alarm going off?

The 2 Essential Skills

The first step is the inquiry into the relationship with self, this inquiry is an inward journey that has vast depth and potential for contentment, creativity, and healing.

The second step, that can happen in parallel but not in isolation from the inner inquiry is into relationships, the inquiry into others. This is the outside journey, the art and science of human interactions. The more work you do on the inside prepares you to learn the external interaction.

There is satisfaction, accomplishment and joy in both inquiries, inner and outer. In my estimation there is no more fundamental expression of being human that the mastery of inner and outer inquiry, the comfort and mastery of the self-interaction, and the expression and creativity of the interaction with others.

Like any other skill in life you, all of you, can explore and develop these fundamental human capacities.

The Curse of Entitlement

Everything you believe you are entitled to causes you pain and robs you of joy. Lets inquire into this:

Become aware of everything you feel entitled to that you don’t have…this would be anything you are angry about, feel sad about, regret, resent, lack, or need. The only way you would have these feelings is that you feel like you deserve (are entitled to) these things, relationships, and experiences. How do you behave when you feel you need these things? How does your belief in your entitlement affect your happiness?

Now become aware of everything you have that you feel entitled to, possessions, relationships, experiences, money, abundance, food…etc. How does your entitlement affect your experience of these things?

Now imagine you are poor, alone, on the street, you have nothing, you are hungry and cold and you receive one thing out of your home, anything, even just a piece of food from the drawer or clothing from your closet. What do you experience? Lack and need? Joy and gratitude?

When did you become entitled to anything? Who taught you? What is the benefit of your entitlement? How does it serve you?

What would happen to you right now if you lost all of your entitlement to anything and the reality of your life remained unchanged, the only change being you lost all of your entitlement? How would you feel? What would come into your life?

It seems to me losing every bit of my entitlement would a great blessing, the lifting of a curse that stands between me and gratitude and joy. I would not stop doing what I do or working or being with my family or anything but I would do it in a totally different spirit.

Grow Up and Be Happy

I spent a lot of years being unhappy in many ways, about many things. I truly believed in all the great reasons for being unhappy, I had great arguments for my unhappiness that convinced many unhappiness skeptics.

More and more of late I am having difficulty producing any arguments for unhappiness and have come to the conclusion that true adulthood is the arrival at an unwavering acceptance and consequently a pervasive inner happiness. I found myself talking to a group the other day and heard myself say “grow up and be happy”, and I meant it.

Loneliness

Loneliness can be such a poignant factor in modern life; perhaps it developed evolutionarily to keep us in the safety of groups and to bring us together despite the challenge of being part of a group. I suspect that loneliness was not much of a factor in pre-history.

I believe it has become a bigger factor in modern life as we have become more separated from each other and many of us have lost the experience of growing up within a close community; perhaps we yearn for that in some ways.

It’s important that we learn to work with our loneliness because it can deeply affect us mentally, emotionally and even physically. At one level loneliness is asking us to create and participate in community, at this level we must listen to it and use that feeling to overcome the fear and resistance of participating with others. Depending on your personality this may come naturally or with difficulty but we can all learn to practice and develop the ability to connect with others.

On as second deeper level we can work with loneliness by developing a deeper, more accepting, more loving relationship with ourselves; being able to be with and enjoy being with ourselves is a very important capacity. Again depending on your personality this may come naturally or easily but you can still learn this capacity regardless of your personality.

If we are carrying loneliness from the past this will greatly effect our relationship with it; in the present loneliness is not overwhelming, just a sense that we would like to commune with others. If we are carrying the weight of childhood loneliness as emotional pain it can feel very strong indeed. Identifying and letting this go is critical to our well-being and for working with the feelings of loneliness.

Loneliness can also impact our patterns of primary relationships. For example if I find a partner and commit to them to solve my loneliness I have set the foundation for later problems. If I have partnered to fix the problem of loneliness it may feel like it has gone away during the infatuation phase of the relationship, I may have the feeling that my loneliness is solved. However as the relationship evolves over time there will be stages where I will not feel like my partner is “completing me”, fixing my loneliness and I am likely to blame my partner for “not being there for me” or that they have let me or the relationship down.

This resurgence of loneliness may happen as a partner gets more involved in their career or when a child or children are born, or even as the children leave the home. If I have married or bonded to solve my loneliness these changes may bring about conflict and dissolution of the relationship. This process can also extend to other reasons for bonding with another person, if I don’t feel like I am enough, or good enough, or don’t like myself, or… any reason I bond with another to fix a lack in me sets the seeds for the feeling of betrayal or let down in a relationship.

At one level we must learn and grow to be whole within ourselves to cure our loneliness while at another we must let the natural aspect of loneliness guide us to create satisfying bonding relationships with others and participate in community. We all must heal the relationship we have with ourselves so that we can also be with others in a healthy way. In the same way other feelings of lack within us can guide us to cleaning up the other lacks and pains that keep us from feeling whole and interfere with our connection with others.

What do you need to clean up in yourself to be whole within yourself and to fully participate and be with others?

 

Everything is Waiting for You
-David Whyte

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

— David Whyte
from Everything is Waiting for You
©2003 Many Rivers Press

Meditation/Contemplation

Meditation is getting a lot of press lately.  I have a meditation practice and feel that I get a lot of benefit from it.

In a recent Scientific American article they reported the findings that through different meditations we can create changes in our mind depending on how we practice.

The type of meditation I practice helps change one’s relationship to thinking and the capacity to disconnect from thoughts and be more present.  This has been a very helpful skill.  Much like lifting weights or working out, we can strengthen any aspect of our brains that we practice.

It is the same with the practice of Inquiry Method, we can retrain our brains to be curious and engage life and people with a sense of wonder.  We can develop the capacity to open ourselves and others.

In the current interest around meditation another important daily practice may get obscured or lost: contemplation.

Contemplation differs from meditation in that, instead of quieting thought, we examine and engage with thought.  By giving time in our day that is unfilled by stimulation and activity we can tap into the useful contemplative and reflective mind.

The practice of contemplation is also clearing the mind.  Your mind has a job to do.  It is to make you aware of important activities, events, actions, and perceptions; it is there to help you work through problems and plan future actions, to remember people in your life and warn of potential issues.  It is there to create personal vision and intention.  It is there to help you.

If it does not get its say, a good hearing, it will impose this unaddressed thinking at inappropriate times, interrupt sleep, relationships, even feel like a nagging awareness in the background.  This background sensation may create a feeling of anxiety, stress, or the sense of things undone.

Take some time for contemplation daily.  Today I took a pad of paper to my favorite coffee shop (Mix), I got quiet and gave my mind some free reign, I let it go where it wanted, I wrote notes, allowed it to solve problems, gave it a listen.  I left feeling clearer, refreshed, inspired; I took some actions, made some choices, my path seemed clearer, I knew myself better.

Just like a child that is ignored, your mind will be incessant in its interruptions until you take the time to listen.  It is on your side, it may have some funny ideas but you may find it more peaceful if you give it a listen.

Give your mind a hearing and see what it has to say.

Noble Friends

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” -Jim Rohn

Who we spend our time with has a huge influence on our lives.  It is also a reflection of how we see ourselves.  As social creatures we naturally adapt to those around us, we take on interests, worldview, language, behaviors, goals, attitudes, etc.  I know when I am around someone with an accent or particular idiomatic speech pattern I tend to begin to match it, using inflection and some of the words they use, it is clear that they also have a much greater impact on my perceptions, attitude and thinking.

The people in our lives have a huge impact on us.  As you get clearer about how you want your life to be, who you want to be in the world, start finding people who bring up your average, who inspire and encourage your journey, not just directly, but by who they are and what they are doing with their lives and in the world.

My teacher in India calls these people Noble Friends: people who uplift, inspire, encourage, model, and support who you want to be.  Who calls you to your highest self?

This is one of the powers of mentoring, we consciously pick out someone who has the characteristics that we want to develop and create an intentional relationship with them.  Through regular contact and direct transmission we begin to shift in that direction.

We don’t even need to be in contact with a person to get the benefit, you can often bring your mind back to a teacher or someone you admire.  By keeping the person present in your mind you will be drawn to their way of being in the world.  This is why we have pictures of idols and famous people around us, it is why we watch heroic movies etc…  On some level we are drawn higher by those who we consciously and unconsciously honor with our attention.

Of course if we accept this premise then we must also be careful in the other direction too.  Who around us takes us in directions we don’t want to go?  What are we watching, reading, etc. that is not supporting the highest us?

Once you recognize the uplifting, noble people you bring into your life begin to consciously honor and appreciate them, take time and energy to bring them into your mind, associate yourself with them, find more of them.  The principal of noble friends is a huge support and encouragement to your growth and wellbeing.

 

 

Handheld Talking Computer Communicator Game Console

I was and am a fan of science fiction; I enjoy looking into the benefits and challenges of technology, social and cultural development. My phone is up there with my wildest childhood dreams comes true. It amazes me every day and I continue to find new benefits and uses.

Every aspect of our lives deserves inquiry including how we use technology. Give it a try, be objective.

What percentage of your life is lived through your technology device?  Pick a number and then begin to really observe yourself, be aware of when and how often you are using it and thinking about it.  After a day or more of watching, see how close your number came to the truth.

How does your device make your life better? What benefits do your experience? Make a list right now.

Now, how does it distract from your life? What does it keep you from doing/experiencing?

How could it serve your better?

How could you amplify the benefits?

How could you reduce any imbalances?

What do you do that you won’t let your device interrupt? How often are your truly alone from interruption?

When do you turn it off completely? How do you feel when you do?

How often do you connect with nature?

I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with our equipment – I too enjoy the benefits. However, it is easy to just get carried along by our culture and the momentum of technology.

I know many people who have backlogs of 1000’s of emails. I know that when I get a few emails behind that there is an unconscious feeling of burden. I make it a point to regularly clear out my inbox and unsubscribe from things; I don’t like the feeling of undone work or obligations.

How do you want to relate to the new forms of communication? How do you want it to be? You do get to choose.

I think many of us have been carried along with the technology in our lives; for me that is the scary part, when the technology starts dictating my life. Everything we do, consume, listen to, watch, practice, eat, touch, smell, read, etc. has an impact on us in subtle and not so subtle ways. As we grow and get more sensitive/aware/conscious we want to become more aware of the effect of what we expose ourselves to.

I encourage you to start noticing, inquire into your patterns and consumption, notice how things effect you, make choices not out of discipline but from what supports you in feeling the way you want to feel. What supports your sense of wonder and joy in your life?

14 Days

The future is unknown.  We all love a great mystery; there is suspense, inquiry, discovery and revelation.

We may, at times think our life is static, we may even prefer to think of it in that way as a way of feeling secure, but when we have this approach it is also what we get.

Your life is unbelievably dynamic, on the power of your intent and viewpoint hinges the activity and experience of your life.  If we begin to look into the actual detail and flow of our daily experience it is rich with information, symbolism, and mysteries each of which are portals and opportunities for growth and inquiry leading to a sense of adventure and growth.  No matter how routine your life, life is not static and flat, it is full of rich fields for your exploration.

I love this quality of life; we are all in a context that invites us to grow and deepen.  We are all in a hero’s journey.  Here is a game that may help you see it and experience it.

Take the next 14 days and mark them on your calendar.  Decide you are on an adventure; in these 14 days you will discover something about yourself that you were not aware of before.  For the next 14 days you are going to pay close attention to your life, your relationships, your behavior, opportunities, messages, rumors, portents… because you know that there is something for you to discover that will change your life and improve your sense of well being if you can just see it.  You will not be able to know what it is at the beginning, it will come out of you being present and aware, and most importantly because you are looking.

At first you may just notice something like a pattern in your life or may be like life is trying to tell you something.  You may find yourself resisting the message, you may start questioning yourself; stay present and alert.  Once you know what the mystery is or are aware of the message you are getting you may at first feel anxious or not know how to solve it, you will not know how to resolve the issue or grow into the person who can inhabit this new insight; again be patient, allow the new mystery to be there until insight comes to you… it will; maybe you will see the solution in a book, or it will pop up in conversation, or just come to you when you wake up, who knows, just keep looking and be ready.

Once you get the insight all you have to do is to put it in to action; no need to force, just let the new knowledge or awareness work its way into your life.  Recognition is the key at this point; I had a mystery, I paid attention, I got an insight, I put it in to action, my life has evolved, wow.

Now acknowledge your process and the value of your insight, your life has the capacity to grow, no problem or mystery cannot be tackled in this way.  Empower yourself to keep looking into the mysteries of your life.

Once you get the hang of it you can pay attention to the mystery all of the time, a constant unfolding of new awareness, new insights, new levels of engagement with life, more effective ways of being, more joy, more fun.

Give it a try, 14 days just looking for something, you don’t know what it will be but you are very present and aware, paying attention.

The Source Code of Happiness

It is interesting to look at language, it is the source code of your thinking and your thinking has a huge effect on your perception of life. Often times when we change our language we change our experience. As my mentoring clients know I can be a stickler for using language correctly to support our experience and interpretation of life.

One of these language keys is… (blank) made me happy.

This is sloppy language. Every time we say this we externalize our happiness.

As long as we believe that happiness comes from outside, from changes in our circumstances, possessions, money, relationships, children, bosses, employees, health, … We get a little farther from the true source of happiness.

Every time we say… (blank) made me happy. We rehearse this belief in our mind.

The converse is true too; when we say (blank) is making me unhappy, we are also reinforcing this belief.

What is true is that… because of (blank) we are deciding to be happy or unhappy. A decision is a choice, once you put it in these terms you give freedom to your happiness; it is now at your command.

Watch for this language in yourself either verbally or inside your mind, catch and correct yourself at every opportunity.