I just re-read my post from Monday about the parking lot incident which illustrates identification, the first step toward ‘freedom from the bondage of self.’ Identification is one of my most valuable self-improvement tools. It allows me to assess the effectiveness of a certain behavior and not judge the person exhibiting it. Identification also frees me from chain-of-pain perpetuated by the prison of self-deception. Because I am able to IDentify a characteristic, I recognize it from memories of my past experiences. If I am willing to accept that I have been just as immature and forgive myself for the imperfection, I open the floodgates of compassion and forgiveness toward the person tempting me to scorn. Miraculously, I feel love for this person who has not yet found this path to inner peace. An overwhelming sense of gratitude follows as a result of realizing that forgiving myself is the key to freedom and peace of mind. How simple is that?
Okay…simple, but not so easy! It is just so tempting to go for the temporary high of ‘righteous’ indignation. Outrage is denial of my own earlier outrageous behavior. The brief exhilaration of feeling ‘better than’ comes from ignorance to the automatic low that must follow from karmic kickback. Why must I feel shame soon after feeling pride? It is because my disgust implies my innocence as if I have never and/or would never do something like that. However, I would not be agitated by this person if I didn’t feel shame about similar behaviors that I won’t admit to myself. Instead, my reaction would be magnanimous and I get a wonderful feeling about myself that lasts. When I tell myself that my agitation is about disapproval of them and not myself, they need to change – not me. While that may seem convenient, it is also very dis-empowering. I am doomed to repeat what I won’t admit. It sets me up for another opportunity to behave shamefully and then another to opportunity to temporarily feel better about myself by shaming someone else, and so on, and so on, and….
Admitting is the act of letting in. I can’t release what I haven’t let in! Conversely, the minute I admit a flaw, I can accept it, forgive myself and move on without carrying it around, walled off buried deep in my psyche like an abscess that causes me to react any time someone touches it. That which I resist will persist. Better to feel the pain of admitting it, so I can let it go. This is like feeling the momentary pain when piercing an abscess so I can feel the relief thereafter instead of guarding and defending it forever. If I could recognize my aggressor’s self-sabotaging animosity as something I have been able to conquer, my response will be gracious. This is far more likely to benefit me and anyone involved or even observing the exchange. Any time I have been able to behave with grace or dignity, it has put an extra spring in my step – not from pride, but from LOVE.
My niece is an amazing softball player. She was just in Florida with her team in some series that attracts a significant amount NCAA scouts. Apparently, the competition was fierce. A key player on her team was ejected very early in the series. Their star pitcher was taunted by an aggressive player on their opponent’s team. She let emotion get the best of her and retaliated with no regard to consequences. Her thinly veiled rage was detected, which is why she was charged with intentionally hitting a batter. This is grounds for dismissal. After this huge misstep, the team fell apart and they lost in a blow-out.
My son tells me that in soccer, savvy players will scout out the weakest link and make every attempt to break them down emotionally so they will react like a pressure valve and call a foul on themselves. I like that he knows this, which has taught him to understand the impact of giving one’s power away. He has learned to see right through taunting and use it to his advantage channeling that energy and adrenaline to enhance his own performance. Unfortunately, my niece’s teammate did not understand that she was falling for one of the oldest tricks in the book. She stooped even lower than her antagonist. She hurt her chances with the scouts behaving like a loose cannon in a high stakes environment. She also hurt her team by depriving them of an important aspect of their strategy – her.
Coincidently, I am friends with the pitcher’s parents. I promise you, they blamed her dismissal on biased refereeing. They denied that the hit was intentional and decried the refs for not intervening to punish the taunting that led up to it. This is a girl who has won prestige for her community service and respect for activism at church. The parents are anti-bad behavior! It was very clear to me that their love of righteousness only worked one way…. for them. When someone else acts out – they are sinning. When one of theirs acts out, it is because they have been pushed to it by victimization. Then I pointed out their self-deluded sweet-spot to my sister in some good old-fashioned gossipy back-stabbing. This is when my alarms starting blaring!
Here I was, the teacher of the mirror philosophy, pointing out a hypocrite as if the very act of doing so wasn’t utterly hypocritical! I had to stop to accept and forgive my self-delusion so I wouldn’t be swallowed by my shame and begin trying to rationalize or justify my behavior. Rather, I admitted it to my sister and explained all the various ways I have done what she did and how easy it is to fall into her parents’ trap… as I had so clearly just demonstrated. My God, this stuff is insidious Everything I spot – there I am!! This is why I affirm quite often that I intend to see and assume the best in all encounters and situations. As I always say, I am a work in progress that looks like two steps forward and one step back, two steps forward…..
Be certain you want to keep revisiting a memory – the energy the memory evokes is an electromagnetic attractor field. If you cannot visit a memory without becoming sad, bitter or anxious…why would you want to attract more of it?
Just before Christmas when I was 7 years old my dad died and I experienced a life altering paradigm shift. It was as if the curtains closed at the end of an act on the stage of my life and when they reopened, the scenery had completely changed leaving me feeling unsafe and bewildered. As a result, I can rationalize, deny and forget anything. It is a mechanism I employed to make sense my unfathomable reality. It helped me survive the grief and terror that threatened my sanity for decades and felt life threatening. I thought I was safe in my head even though I knew on some subconscious level that I didn’t feel safe. This ‘survival’ mechanism carried me until I was 35 years old when it backfired for the last time.
At the age of 35 I experienced another paradigm shift. I could no longer escape my reality. I had to embark on that treacherous journey from my head, where I rationalized my experiences, to my heart, where I began realizing them. When I ‘surrendered’ and began processing my crippling feelings of grief, rage, shame, resentment, etc., something amazing happened. I learned that the seemingly miraculous solution to any of my ‘problems’ is contained within my deepest fears! When I began to feel the feelings I had resisted, I made some critical discoveries:
That which I resist persists.
My emotions won’t kill me.
Emotions are simply energy in motion.
EMOTION = Energy in Motion
My emotions they cannot pass if I resist/deny/stuff/block them.
When I feel my feelings, I can release them and drop my ‘baggage.’
Once I process the emotion, I discover that “peace that passes all understanding” rationally.
Established in this peace of mind I am able to and I want to stay in present moment awareness.
The Intelligence and the Power that creates worlds exists only in the present moment.
Connected to that Power – my fears slip away and I gain ‘control’ of my life.
When I feel a constricting emotion it is my sign that I am shutting down, resisting my experience, and cutting myself off from the Power to change that undesirable experience .
When I accept the experience as it is, I return to the present and the Power it has. A feeling of expansion results.
The ‘control’ (over my thoughts, words, deeds and experiences) that I craved was in my Awareness all along!
As long as I was looking for that Power and Control over my life ‘out there,’ it would remain illusive.
This EOS (Emotional Operating System) is my infallible IGS – Internal Guidance System. If I remain aware and pay attention to it, it will guide me to the life of my dreams and deepest desires.
I can think of many examples in life when I ignored the wisdom of my IGS and paid a steep price. One obvious example was in my early twenties when I took a job as a mortgage-backed securities bond broker. I was about to become the only woman on a dog-eat-dog bond-trading floor. I had many reasons for taking the job despite a nagging ‘sinking’ feeling. I was unable to show up for my first week on the job because I had colitis, which in retrospect was my IGS on overdrive, desperately trying to get my attention. I had stuffed every emotion that surfaced before and after taking the job because I was in survival mode. I felt that I had to stuff the grief associated with selling my soul to survive because I believed I had to take that job. The disease I developed as a result of my dis-ease with my decision forced me stop physically. But since I refused to stop mentally long enough to just be in the present moment, I delayed my discovery of true Power.
I was extremely ‘successful” and convinced myself that I was in control (happy, safe and secure). I went on compromising my integrity for years saying and doing things that made me so uncomfortable I could hardly stand in my skin…another feeling I worked at denying ! Every year it became more difficult to contain all the trapped energy of my repressed emotions. Finally at age 35, I reached the tipping point. Choices I made (albeit unconsciously) resulted in a situation that I would typically have denied, but at that particular moment, I could not house another emotion without imploding. As a result, I accepted reality in the moment and suddenly, in touch with true Power, all my walls collapsed instantly and I stepped into this new miraculous paradigm.
When we are not living consciously we run the risk of making choices that we don’t realize are choices – on autopilot. We become victims of our own conditioning. Unconscious living makes us susceptible to making choices for the wrong reasons – without checking our motives. Exhaustive research reveals that about 96% of humanity does not even realize that this is an issue, which is to say that 96% of humanity is sleepwalking. Fewer realize that present moment conscious awareness is the single most important factor of success in life – whatever success means to each of us. Our lives are enjoyable and rewarding to extent that we are present in it. Being present means being aware in the moment as our thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body, and/or events unfold throughout our day enabling us to check-in with ourselves:
• We might ask ourselves, “Is this train of thought life-affirming, loving, in-line with my goals, worthy of me and suitable for me to share without shame?”
• We can pay attention to our IGS (my Internal Guidance System) noticing feelings of constriction or expansion within?
• Am I acting according to what I have said and what I think?
• Is this really my thought or am I being a parrot?
• Is this thought true? Is it valid? Is this a belief?
• Do this person’s action match up with their words?
• Does this thought or action help me or hinder my progress?
• Why I am thinking, saying or doing this?
• Am I paying attention?
• Am I hearing what I want to hear instead of what is really being said?
• What was I thinking before I did this?
• Should I acknowledge what I just saw, heard, said, and/or did?
These are just a few examples of the type of insight available to one who is practicing present moment awareness. Insight is awareness of and attention to one’s inner vision. Insight grants us every advantage to create the life of our dreams. Life is not happening to us. It is happening from us. Life is lived from the inside → out. The observable world that each one of us experiences (‘outsight’) is the result of our prolonged, habitual focus and the quality of that attention – interpretation of what we are experiencing.
When we intentionally choose our attitude each moment, and when we decide where to direct our attention & energy each moment, we choose the experiences that ensue. People, who do not know this, keep observing and reacting to circumstances (aka: the result) with little or no sense of our responsibility for them. Unable to improve their circumstances permanently at the level of cause, they spin out in a continuous feedback loop.
One of my clients described a scenario that illustrates this quite well. She told me that her husband is making her crazy. She can no longer sit with him at their son’s basketball games. He is aggressive at best and often downright abusive. He directs his negativity toward their son, his coach, the referees, the other players on his team, the other team, the other parents, and so on. The tension comes home with them and has often led to family drama that continues for days. The father is mad at the son for ‘underperforming;’ the son is mad at the father for the abuse; the wife is mad at the husband for once again disrupting the family; the husband is mad at the wife for not supporting him, etc.
In this scenario the father keeps focusing on what the son did wrong. The son keeps focusing on his father’s anger. The wife keeps focusing on the pain this causing everyone. She told me, “Yesterday, I screamed at him asking him how he could be so stupid. Did it ever occur to him that he has done this for 13 years and it has not improved the situation one bit? The same thing keeps happening over and over!” I asked her if she has chastised him for as long. She flushed. I got my answer.
If we keep looking at the result of negative thinking we will keep seeing things we do not like: If she could begin to change her inner dialogue to predispose her to the solution, little by little things would evolve more favorably. If she could inspire her husband to change his perception and inner dialogue, things would have to change for the better very quickly. The burden of stress their son carries would evaporate and his performance would be affected measurably. All the evidence we need about stress blocking us from the zone is demonstrated for all to see by Tiger Woods. More importantly, the long-rage impact of support and encouragement instead of disapproval and disappointment is obvious.
The cost of sleepwalking is devastating and the benefits of remaining alert in the present moment are so magnificent that everyone’s main goal should be learning to stay present and think constructively.