Monday, October 28, 2013

I Forgot to Remember

When you are about to leave your home to go somewhere, and forget something, do you say, “Oh, I forgot…” Or do you say “Oh! I remember…”? Well, not long ago, when I realized that I forgot something, and caught myself saying so, I realized that I couldn’t have known that I forgot it until I remembered it. I decided to start saying, “Oh, I just remembered something else!”

Re-framing Is Another Way of Looking At Something

This is a simple re-frame, another way to look at something. It may seem subtle but I am giving myself an entirely different message. It is one small part of moving in an upward spiral instead of a downward one. Reframing is part of New Thought philosophy. It’s taking something that you believe, and turning it around; looking at it another way. Mentally walk around the thought to another side, or turn the thought, and you will see something different. In the same way, I can take a thought, turn it on its head, and find a more productive way to think about it.

I’m Asleep… I’m Waking Up

Recently, fumbling in the kitchen in my just-woke-up-gotta-feed-the-cat haze, I caught myself saying for the umpteenth time, “I’m sleepy… I’m asleep.” I stopped right there and realized what I was saying to myself, so I said, “I’m waking up.” And when I caught myself saying, “I’m tired.” I changed it to, “I’m moving nice and slowly. I’m waking up and being easy with myself.” This is a big deal for me, since I had in my younger years been accused once of tap-dancing on the table at 6am. These days, sleep is more elusive.

On several levels, I would MUCH rather be waking up than sleepy. In the physical process of daily sleep-wake cycle, I am telling myself that I am on my way to waking instead of reinforcing to my subconscious that I am sleepy. And of course in the spiritual sense, I would much rather tell myself that I am awakening than that I am asleep.

Wait a Minute...

So now I have a new practice for myself. Whenever I catch myself saying something that points me in a direction that I don’t want to go, I can stop and say, “Wait a minute!”, and choose to reframe it. The first step is becoming aware that I am doing it. Then I can start noticing it often, and sooner in the process. Eventually I can catch myself as I start to think it, and choose something else. That step takes some practice. Then when I’ve practiced it enough, it becomes a new habit.

Consciously Incompetent

Many years ago at work, I was taught this learning process called the Four Stages of Competence. It comes from Gordon training, and applies to everything from riding a bicycle to learning a new language. And I use it when reframing habits I want to change. That stage where I'm consciously incompetent is where I need to be gentle with myself, remembering that I am practicing a new habit or idea, and it will take time before it's second nature. I can simply notice it a little sooner each time until I am effortlessly doing the new habit. Just like riding a bike.

Competent Eating?

I am currently practicing this process with my eating habits. I eat really healthy food most of the time, but I have a huge sweet tooth. When I go on my friend JoAnn Newton’s e-cleanse program, it helps me avoid what she aptly calls nutritional bandits. And then sometimes I still fall down when I see a plate of brownies at a potluck. Back to consciously incompetent. This may take a while. This may take a LOT of patience.

Practice, Practice, Practice

So it’s a practice, just like meditating. It is an awareness practice throughout the day to honor what
works for me in terms of food. And instead of saying to myself, “I blew it again.” I can choose to re-frame it and say, “My stomach is not glad I ate that.” And associate the mental picture of the brownies with the feeling in y stomach so that next time I see cookies or brownies, I can remember a little sooner.

I can remember, not forget.

How about you? Do you relate to the stages of competence? Do you feel consciously incompetent about anything?

Monday, October 21, 2013

How a Chick Flick is an Action Flick

Maybe it’s because I’m a chick – and I use that term in the most endearing way- but I like chick flicks and have always been averse to action flicks. I know, I know, not ALL guys like action movies, but I’m looking at the overall preferences here. If you are a guy who likes chick flicks, then maybe you can relate. I watch all that fighting and chasing, and wonder when they are going to get to the point. I find the violence and adrenaline quite tedious and tiresome, always feeling like there’s already too much discord in the world. I don’t really need to watch more of it on the big screen or the little screen.

Bad News – Which Came First?

OK, so I’m probably in the minority; I won’t even read the paper or watch the news on TV because it’s unrelentingly bad news. I’ve heard the term, “If it bleeds, it leads.” But who decided that that’s what we want to see? I don’t buy newspapers or watch the news, and get the important news from the radio or when friends discuss it. A journalist friend of mine says that what people want to see. Obviously, or the news media wouldn’t be selling papers and airtime, and would be doing something else. But do you ever wonder if it’s a chicken-and-the-egg thing? Which came first – the news media trying to top one another with gore and grief, or the consumer focusing on that type of thing?

Action in the Arena of the Mind and Heart

On the other hand, for me as an introvert, Chick Flicks are action movies of the highest order - where the arena is the heart and mind of the cast. The kiss near the end of the movie is, I imagine, the same kind of payoff as the tanker truck explosion for the action- and outer-oriented movie buff.

Even in suspense or science fiction, which I love, I still like a movie that makes me think, like The Usual Suspects or Memento. I find those fascinating, and love it when I haven’t figured out the end until at least halfway through the movie. And I love watching the Away Team beam down to a planet and try to find their way around a difficult situation, especially when there was relevant social commentary or when cooperation was the best solution rather than phasers on full.

That’s More Like Life

For me, the chase or the puzzle or the fight is all in the hearts and minds of the characters. There is evolution, insight, revelation of deeper feelings and understanding. In true introvert or chick fashion, I am more drawn to these things.

That’s Where the Real Treasure Is

I prefer these kinds of movies because that’s where the treasure is. There is so much in the inner world, and our societ doesn’t usually focus on that. We divert ourselves with television, movies, the Internet. I couldn’t begin to guess how many hours I’ve wasted on FaceBook after checking in with my friends. There’s a limitless supply of entertainment available to us. And it is so tempting to follow it and forget about the limitless supply of our inner world.

Blow Up Your TV, Throw Away Your Paper

I love that John Prine song! It is a pipedream for many of us – to move to the country. But the idea is to live life away from the media madness and find that slower inner pace in harmony with our origins. That’s where the treasure is. And that’s the real richness of life for me.

How about for you? Do you prefer to dive in to the inner world or succumb to the temptation of entertainment?

Monday, October 14, 2013

How Gratefulness is a Great Fullness

I did an auditory double-take the other day when I heard a word that I had not heard before: Gratefulness. Oh sure, I’ve heard "grateful” and "gratitude", but not the word gratefulness. And I heard it as Great Fullness, which it actually is. The feeling of Gratefulness is a great fullness in my heart, an experience of being full to overflowing.

The Opposite of Grateful

The opposite would be feelings of taking things for granted or complaining, nit-picking, fault-finding, and so on. And I practiced that for longer than I care to admit. I may be stuck on thinking I don’t have this or that, but whenever I step back and look at what I DO have, I am blown away with a great fullness. I have a roof over my head, an income, a car, indoor plumbing, hot water for a shower, a washing machine, and a fabulous cat. There are millions of people who don’t have those simple pleasures that I take for granted nearly every day. If I look only at what I don’t have, it is difficult to see what I do have. It is easy to see only the lack. We live in a society that tells us the a better car, a better mate, more money, a bigger house, will make us happy.

It Just Isn't True

Maybe it’s because I was a teen in the early 70s and related to the flower child generation, but something has always told me that this simply isn’t true. The best things in life aren’t things at all. The important things are clean air, a walk in the woods or at the ocean, connection with family and/or friends, and having the freedom to move, think, and express that we enjoy in our country. And as a woman, the freedom that I have to get an education, vote, work, and easy access to birth control. These are things many women in the world do not have, and we have had for less than a century.

Behind the Iron Curtain

In 1998 I spent 10 days in the former Soviet Union; that was before the wall fell. The people were wonderful and the experience was amazing. But I will never forget what I felt about 45 minutes after our plane took off from Moscow headed for Copenhagen. I suddenly took a deep breath, feeling as though I had come up from being underwater a long time. I was certain that we had just left Soviet air space. And for the first time in my life, I understood what a privilege my freedom as an American is. I have a huge fullness of gratitude for that fact now.

A Wake Up Call

I was never more struck with this difference - between focusing on what you have and what you don't have - than when I received a call for prayer from someone asking for prayer for financial abundance. They spoke about all the things that their significant other was giving them and their child – trips, money, time, family. Yet this person went on for 20 minutes about how they were so frustrated and upset that they had to commute, to work, and the frustration that they couldn't live a life of leisure. Quite upset, I just kept saying, "Wow!" at the amazing things this person had manifested, and wanted to ask how they did it, because I wanted some of that. Of course, I didn't say that out loud.

During this relentless circular story of what they didn’t have, it was glaring that they weren't looking at what they already had. So I prayed for this person's financial independence, and the freedom it would provide. But many months later, I remember this person, the bounty that they had received, and how they were still frustrated and furious that they didn’t have everything they wanted. And they could not see that it was the very frustration and lack of gratitude for the bounty they had, that prevented them from feeling good with their current situation.

I Have So Much

When we focus on what we don't have, there is no opening for what we want to enter our lives. When
we are grateful and happy, we are open to receiving more. So now whenever I catch myself thinking “I don’t have…”, I remember her, and check my perspective. I DO have so much. I have so much to be grateful for. Two eyes that work, two ears that work, two legs that work, a healthy body, a beautiful head of hair, a safe place to live with no bombs dropping in my country, freedom to pursue my dreams, the freedom to live any way I choose. I have so much that millions of people on the planet do not have. If I compare myself to the rich and famous that I see on television, I could make myself miserable. But if I turn the other way and look at all I have, then I am creating a space to welcome in so much more.

By allowing my heart and mind to be a great fullness for all that I have and know and am, I am making space for a great fullness in all areas of my life.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How Dancing In the Dark Taught Me Not to Be a Victim

 If you ever doubted that your thoughts can affect your experience, or your vibe can affect what’s around you, consider this…

Many years ago, long before I knew that thoughts are creative, or about owning your space, or Aikido, I had a minor life-changing experience while out dancing in the dark to live music one night. Back in the days when I could stay up that late, I often took to the dance floor shoeless. It was the norm to dance solo; what my friend Nita calls “wiggle dancing. Shoes were always optional in my favorite spot, so it was completely safe to go barefoot – that is, if you don’t count the grunge you accumulates on your socks, leading to the inevitable decision of whether to get that grunge in your shoes when you put them back on, or to go home sockless. But I digress.

What The Heck?

So there I was on the dance floor in my socks, having a great time for about a half hour, until a number of couples joined me on the tiny dance floor. No big deal, that was normal. But this time – maybe it was the choice of band that carried a different crowd? – I was getting elbowed in the chest by people taller than me, and I looked around to notice an uncharacteristic sea of cowboy boots and stilettos stomping the floor around me. What the heck? This is ‘70s Cotati, the post-hippie mecca full of flower children and burnt-out longhairs. Why are there cowboy boots and high heels on my barefoot hippie dance-floor? Granted, I wasn’t on the Cotati Caberet’s enormous dance floor that night, but at the tiny Inn of the Beginning. But I was there to have a good time swimming in the music, and these couples were bulls in my china shop. I was outnumbered. My rumination was interrupted by a sharp pain in my right foot as a stiletto heel came down on it. The pain was intense. Even shoes would not have helped much with that drunken misstep onto my instep. I wondered if it was broken. I stood, waiting for the pain to subside.

I noticed that the more perturbed I became, the more collisions I experienced. So I made a decision: I am going to have fun anyway. I am just going to close my eyes and enjoy the music as I always do. And I did. Near the end of the next song, I realized that no one had bumped into me since I had closed my eyes and let go. I opened them, and was pleasantly surprised to see a two-foot clearing all around me!

I Wonder What Would Happen

Delighted at this, I decided to experiment. I kept my eyes open and went back to scrutinizing the elbows and dangerous shoes around me. I didn’t say a word or look anyone in the eye, just this one internal shift. Within a minute, I was being bumped and jostled again. Fascinating! So being all Spock about it, I again closed my eyes and went back to grooving in my own rhythm, abandoning myself to the music and forgetting that anyone else was there. Once again, my space cleared in less than a minute. Magic, I thought! This is amazing. I tested it once more with the same results.
This is fantastic news! When I shrink back from seeming insult – whether intentional or not – the world literally crowded in on me. When I refused to let it bother me, and stayed in my own Joy and space, that space was given to me. 

My Mindset Actually Affects What Happens

So it is with interactions off the dance floor. And in everything. The mindset I bring with me into a situation can actually affect what happens. Not just what I see, but how people interact with me, whether or not they see me. This was proof for me that if I don’t occupy my own space, others will. It’s a physical example of what we might call being a pushover – when we aren’t accepting that we have a right to be here, that this is our designated space in the world, and fully living in it and enjoying it, we can be invisible to other people. Some of the couples around me may have had a feeling of entitlement because they outnumbered me, because singles don’t count in their minds, but I would guess that most of them didn’t even notice. Because I wasn’t filling my physical space, I was simply invisible to them. I mean, they weren’t THAT much taller than me. It was my mindset that was affecting my surroundings, like that science experiment where the sub-atomic particles change their behavior depending on what the observer thinks, does, or expects.

Feeling Invisible

I have noticed this many times since then. In business meetings, where I make a suggestion that is ignored, and someone next to me says the exact same thing five minutes later and everyone thinks it’s a great idea. Something about my manner (I won’t assume it was my gender, but it could be) made me invisible at those meetings.

Still Practicing

I wish I could say that this was the last time I felt invisible, but I’m still practicing decades later. After a second degree Black Belt in Aikido, lots of work, and Practitioner studies, this first lesson stays with me. And when I get grumpy about my surroundings being less than my self-made expectations, I know I have another option: To relax and just Be.

Ahh... That's much better.

You may also like:
Dancing with Chaos
First Do No Harm
Celebrating Freedom and Independence

How About You?

Do you find that things are smoother and easier in your life when you are in your own rhytm and enjoying life?