Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grace period

As is common, I ran across a quote about a week ago on Facebook that prompted me to ponder. Here is the quote of the day:

Photo & quote: If you like me, you're an eclectic Facebook Page
Very powerful statement by itself, without any of my thoughts added.  Of course, I am going to add my thoughts, as that's the whole point of the post! I'm not in any seriously difficult time right now....nothing that is unknown, or that I haven't experienced before.  I'm in what I have dubbed "useful limbo", and that can present its own frustrations as I practice patience whilst waiting on things to finish falling into place.  So, I'm in the "arrow being pulled backward" stage, still preparing to be shot forward into the next stage of Life that I'm meant to experience.

This particular quote and a recent conversation with a friend coalesced into today's post.  I made a comment to this friend that there is never going to be a "perfect, ideal moment" to put a specific desire into action.  This friend is experiencing some enforced limbo, due to outside factors beyond their control. The degree of limbo being enforced is one that could very well drag on indefinitely, and that was what prompted my comment about waiting for that "perfect, ideal moment".  This friend can choose to take more control and continue to live a full life, or allow those outside forces to put their life into a lengthy limbo, or stall mode.

I've often called this thing that we humans do, the Disease of Waiting to Live.  I'm guilty of it.  I daresay most of us are.  We hold ourselves back from fully living, fully experiencing, fully engaging....promising ourselves that when "this bill is paid off", or "when I finish this project at work", or "when the kids graduate", or "when I lose X amount of weight"....THEN we'll be able to step forward and LIVE.  Does this sound familiar to you?  Yep, it does to me as well.  I spent a large amount of my life in that mindset and I still wrestle with it.

Let me share some truths:

  • there will ALWAYS be another bill to replace the one you're using as an excuse 
  • there will ALWAYS be another project or challenge at work to focus on that you'll use as an excuse 
  • when your kids graduate from high school, they will most likely go on to college and you'll use THAT as the next excuse 
  • you will ALWAYS find something about your body you want to improve and you'll use that as an excuse  
Do you see the pattern here?  Life is always going to give us more than ample reasons to Wait to Live.

To a degree, there is logic and wisdom in waiting, preparing and having all the tools and experience you need prior to stepping forward in Life.  What ends up being truly sad is when we continually grasp at brittle straws of distraction to keep from fully engaging in Life.  What does a brittle straw do when we grasp it?  It usually disintegrates in our hands, crumbling to fragments and dust, leaving us with empty hands.  It may sound harsh, but this is a good analogy of what using excuses to not fully engage in life gives us.....dreams that eventually crumble to dust, leaving us with empty, lonely lives.

It takes bravery to step forward and truly engage in Life.  I'm the first to admit that it can be scary and that I fall back on the easier, more lazy side of throwing out excuses.  I do it less and less as I get older, and I find that when someone I'm connected to displays this habit in a manner that affects ME directly, I get a serious punch of a big, strong Life Lesson walloping me head on.  This conversation I had recently gave me just such a wallop.  The frustration of seeing clearly that this other person's decision to turn to easy excuses rather than take the risk of engaging was directly affecting ME in a negative manner was a big wakeup call.

In turn, I was faced with the decision of whether to give this person time to sort through their own immediate entanglements, or whether it served me better to separate myself from that relationship completely.  In order to protect this other person's privacy, I am being a bit cryptic here.  I haven't yet fully made my own decision on what action to take, but I do know that action MUST be taken.  I have specific goals in mind for my life and taking on another person's limbo stage isn't something that makes any sort of logical sense for me. Being understanding and empathetic, and offering true support and friendship is a completely different issue, and I am there 100%.  It is just as necessary for me to display that same support for myself as I wrestle with building solid boundaries that will enable me to maintain clear focus for my life path.

So! Here I am, looking at all sides of this situation.  The analogy of the arrow being drawn back, preparatory to being shot forward....this is where I feel I am, currently.  I'm okay with that, as I can see the logic of it, and I am being very clear about NOT falling into comfortable excuses to delay the release of that arrow.  That clarity and conscious choice to stop getting in my own way requires some tough choices to be made, and I'm still in the process of making them.  My heart wants one thing and can see the potential of something beautiful occurring.  My mind wants that potential to be engaged upon and to STOP WASTING TIME!!  To digress a moment, I happen to be what is known as "balanced brained", rather than right brain or left brain dominant, so this means I can see both sides of a given situation very clearly.  That's a blog post all its own, but it's also another way that I can easily get bogged down in distractions and lose sight of the things that require immediate attention and equally immediate action.  These days, I'm very much about engaging and taking action, so when someone else starts dragging their feet in a manner that affects me directly, it can become a big source of frustration. Frustration is the result of energy stalling and that's exactly what I am working to avoid and smooth out.

When I get frustrated, I have to be even more vigilant to keep myself from racing forward and making snap judgments that I might regret a few days later.  It's one of those delicate balances and my mind goes right back to that arrow being drawn.  Perfect balance is necessary in archery.  Have you ever tried it?  It is astonishing, the physical and mental strength necessary just to draw the arrow back in the structure of the bow, then hold that pose whilst focusing on the target.  Your breathing must calm, your heart rate must calm, your mind must calm....myriad levels of quiet have to be achieved, all in order to direct the course of that arrow.

Just imagine if someone next to you reaches out and knocks your hands as you're in the midst of this focusing. Everything falls out of focus.  You have to readjust, regroup, come back to calm and quiet and it usually takes a while to regain your original focus.  That's where I am, currently, being jostled by other people here and there, as I work to focus on my personal aim.  Other people don't necessarily mean to distract us, mind you, that's just part of the pattern of Life and how we interact. Our job is to stay true to ourselves and my word, that's just downright challenging on the best of days!

I know this much:  I don't want to continue a negative cycle of Waiting to Live. I'm doing some admittedly difficult personal work to cut and erase some of my past negative habits that embraced that Waiting to Live mindset.  And as is common, when we're ready to take that next step of personal evolution, God/Universe/Spirit usually hands us a hefty test to experience in the midst of it all.  Then we are assailed with a boatload of doubts.  Will I make the best choices and take the best actions?

What I have learned over my life is that there are no "wrong" decisions and choices.  They're just decisions and choices and we do what we know at the time.  My focus and my intent is to make the BEST choices and actions for myself that I'm capable of.  That requires some reeling in of emotions, some conscious wrestling of Ego and some determined engaging in detachment.  If you're like me, those actions can feel like trying to draw a delicate pen and ink sketch whilst wearing great big mittens five sizes too large for your hands.  It's not comfortable at all.  But it IS necessary, as all those things force me to breathe into calm, slow my heart rate to calm, bring my mind to achieve clarity about the best course for myself.  I'm that arrow, waiting to be released, and I owe it to myself to put this much effort into the preparations.

And equally important, there is NO logic in an arrow being knocked, pulled back, aimed....and never released!  Who wants to exist in an eternal state of limbo?!  Well, "waiting to live" is a different flavor of that concept. I'm going to serve a much better purpose if I stop allowing other peoples' energies to overlap my own least stop allowing their energies to distract me enough that I fall back into Waiting to Live mentality.  At this moment in my life and my growth, I know I am capable of making choices and decisions that will serve my greater good.  I have to be brave enough to take those steps....and I am aware that I still have a bit of a Grace period.  I'm taking that extra moment, relaxing into the process, rather than fighting it.  I'm doing my level best to ignore the distractions, refuse to give into the excuses and believe that my best choices are resonating in the right harmony for me to hit that target.

I shared the above quote on my Facebook page about a week ago and it appeared to hit a common chord for many, going by the number of comments I received. That's why I chose to sit down and write this post.  Something tells me it is a topic, and a quote, that many of you will find applies to what you're currently experiencing. We're never truly alone, even though it often feels that way.

In my mind's eye, I see a huge, misty field with untold numbers of us standing in archer's pose....arrow knocked, bow drawn and each of us focusing on our respective target.  Some of those around me have let loose their arrows to fly.  Others are just stepping onto the field to choose an arrow.  I'm still in the brief Grace period of arrow knocked and drawn back.  I'm curious to know where each of you are...and I invite you to join me on the field.  Perhaps the woods...those spaces of Waiting to Live...are comfortable and easier to inhabit, but the field isn't as imposing and scary as you might think.  Step forward with me and leave Waiting to Live behind....but only when you're ready.  As far as I can see, this misty field never goes away, and the archery tools are always available when each of us are ready to step forward and take aim.  I'll see you there.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

If it feels bad....pursue detachment!


I get this wonderful e-newsletter each day in my Inbox.  It's called The Daily Love, and is the brain child of Mastin Kipp.  He starts each newsletter with a series of quotes chosen to underscore the content of his current Daily Love post.  Quite often, those quotes give me that "A-ha!" moment, and the subsequent ponderings occasionally will spark my own blog article.  Below is such a quote:

All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won't succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy.
- Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, quote taken from The Daily Love newsletter

We all know one, or probably several people who insist on focusing on negatives.  Emotional vampires.  People who insist on believing the worst of others.  People who insist on believing that everyone out there in the world is jealous of them, wants what they have and that all those other people are spiteful, hateful and envious.  They can take the most mundane, innocuous, sincere comment and warp it into something ugly, despite the fact that such negative, ugly intent was never intended.

Here is one thought that I know to be absolute truth:  if YOU spend the vast majority of your life believing that everyone else in the world is exhibiting one or more negative emotions such as jealousy and envy, the actual truth here is that YOU are describing yourself.  That may sound a bit convoluted, as it appears repetitive.  Let me put it into a different format:

We are incapable of accusing another person of a negative emotion unless we, ourselves, are guilty of fostering and acting out that same negative emotion. 

Do you insist that others are jealous of you?  Spiteful and envious?  I posit to you that you would never recognize such traits unless YOU are capable of perpetrating the same thoughts, behaviors and emotions.  Those are just random emotions and traits I plugged in as an example, but any negative emotion will fit the same premise.  Anger, hatred, envy, jealousy, discontentment, sour disposition.  I just do not believe we accuse people of things we're not also capable of harboring inside.

Another strong truth along this same line of thinking is that if you spend large amounts of time proclaiming all these other people to be a specific negative, who are you trying to convince?  If you actually need to constantly voice this opinion and insist it in a public forum, most likely, you're trying to convince yourself.

People who are emotionally healthy, balanced, happy and content won't even give thought or time to such an activity.  Emotionally healthy people find no need to waste valuable time and energy focusing on such negative behavior.  Emotionally healthy people recognize that what other people do, say or feel is really none of their business.  Why devote so much energy into trying to convince the world that other people are behaving in a negative manner??  What does that really accomplish?  It merely promotes more tension and negativity, and that, in turn, turns that negative energy inward.  I am not saying this is a 100% claim, but I notice that people who dwell in negativity like this quite often battle health issues that are difficult to diagnose.   All that negative energy that is being spewed outward tends to come right back to that person, multiplied, and it bombards their physical and etheric bodies with a level of toxicity that begins to spark health issues.  The sad part is, these people who dwell in negativity rarely see that they are a strong link in their own maladies.

Let me also say that I am not indicating every illness is self-initiated.  I am speaking of a very specific behavior here, where an individual knowingly and consciously focuses extreme levels of negativity and accusations outward.  From a psychological standpoint, there is a term called "leveling" that disturbed patients will adopt in order to manipulate those they see as "better than" in some manner.

These behaviors interfere with the normal process of socialization and character development, and they also often serve as tactics to manipulate and control others. - & Dr. George Simon, PhD. Psychology, Philosopy & Real Life blog, 2009
I am not indicating that every person out there who gets stuck in a negative mindset is emotionally and/or mentally disturbed, but I will point out again that those who are in a healthy state rarely waste time on this type of behavior.

Do we all have bad days and moments of crabbiness where we recognize ugly behavior and motives in others?  Of course we do!  And being able to recognize these things is a vital coping skill in today's world where we are bombarded with so much negativity on a daily basis.  Recognizing a negative behavior is one thing; endorsing and embracing a negative behavior is a completely different thing.  One is a sort of diagnostic ability and valuable to keep us on an even keel and able to avoid those negative personalities.  The other is literally making that choice to embrace negative thoughts and behaviors on a daily basis.  I think most of us would prefer to be the former of the two and able to take that proverbial High Road.

It is also important to note that people who dwell in these very dark, obsessive and unhappy states of mind are so caught in a whirlpool of their own discord that this is all they can experience. I imagine it must be a self-perpetuating cycle, and a very sad one.  Focusing blame on the rest of the world in order to make oneself feel superior is a truly sad state of existence, and these people are literally screaming to the world that they are in pain.  Sadder still, they spew their confusion, rage and childhood scars out onto the world in such a toxic manner that they are unaware of how abusive their behavior is towards others.

As happiness is what we all want, I always advocate looking within when something is making us feel a negative emotion.  The easiest definition or diagnostic tool we are given is a very simple one - if it feels bad, then something is wrong!  Plain and straightforward, yes?  If something or someone makes you feel badly, then that something or someone doesn't serve your better good. If it is a behavior you are exhibiting, honesty is necessary to change that behavior.  If it is a behavior coming from others and you have identified it as such, it is up to you to be strong enough to either address that negativity from those people, or be strong enough to choose to excise them from your daily life.  Both options require some work, some bravery and some pragmatism.  Often, some of those negative people are ones we love as friends or as family members, so the choice to cut those relationships takes time and careful thought.

In my younger days, I would frequently feel huge amounts of frustration when I interacted with people like this - the ones who dwell in negative mindset.  It took me a while to find balance and to instill personal boundaries.  That boundaries thing is one I still wrestle with, but it is now much easier.  That simple diagnostic tool of, "How does this make me feel?  Good?  Great!  Bad?  Then address the issue!" has become an automatic reflex for me, and one of the most valuable actions I can take.  Yes, there are moments with this where I stumble, because I give too many Second Chances and I tend to lead with love, forgiveness and compassion.  That is something I like about myself and that will likely never change, BUT I have also come to the realization that this mindset of mine can become a hindrance if I allow people too much leeway. I work on it regularly, this setting of boundaries, and for the most part, I feel that my life is abundantly blessed with like minded Souls who focus on the positives in life.

Those around me who choose darkness and negativity will always spark compassion within my heart, but I also know that detachment from such people is critical to my own well being.  I check in with myself endless times each day with that "How does this make me feel?" question.  In the beginning, this action can feel cumbersome and exhausting, but with repetition and mindfulness, it becomes a very healthy and beneficial habit.  The Daily Love article annotated above focuses on forgiveness being vital in these instances where we run up against negative mindset in others.  I agree with this wholeheartedly, and add my own thought that forgiveness with detachment is what works best for me.

Recognize the behavior in that other person that is negative, extend your heart in understanding, compassion, love and forgiveness....and remember to give yourself that same understanding, compassion, love and forgiveness followed up with detachment.  What do I mean by "detachment"?  I mean accepting this person for who they are, choosing how you will allow their presence in your life, or choosing to step back from regular interaction with them, and being okay with either outcome....this is detachment.  And believe me, it is challenging!  It is human nature to want to engage in the negativity, to defend ourselves against untruths and accusations that are motivated by darkness.  The reality is, nothing we say, no matter how much we attempt to explain, or respond to negativity, people who dwell in that place aren't going to be receptive.  Our Ego wants to jump right in and fight that battle.  Detachment, I have found, serves me much better and complements my Life Choices.

Finding that place of detachment where you do not attach ego to the outcome is a Big Ticket Item for all of us to work towards. What I can say of my own path with detachment is that it is the most freeing state of mind.  Achieving detachment is a whole separate blog post....probably hundreds of I will simply say it is a state that I seek actively.  Detachment doesn't mean being cold and withdrawn.  It means being in the most healthy mindset possible for YOU, loving and releasing attachment to what others think, say and do, then moving forward to pursue what makes you happiest.  You can choose to engage with that toxic person and expend a great deal of wasted energy, but ultimately it is more important to make yourself happy.  That person attacking you, vilifying you or jabbing at you won't change their behavior because of you, but YOU can choose to not engage, to forgive, to release with love and compassion, and seek detachment. That person may actually escalate their toxic behavior for a time, because you are not responding as they want; you are not playing their toxic game properly in their eyes.  How those people react is not your problem or your focus.  Your own mental and emotional health and harmony are what matters, because ultimately, a happy, healthy you will be a much more effective tool of change in the world.

The really interesting part of practicing detachment is that once you get the hang of it, and fully embrace it, you will find that the instances of negatively motivated people begin to fall off dramatically.  Detachment helps to cut the cycle of engaging in unhealthy, reactive behavior.  It allows us a healthy distance to recognize that those negatively motivated people are lost and stuck in a morass of seething emotions, without the coping skills to seek a better path.  This realization allows compassionate thought, understanding and love to step in, and forgiveness to be exercised.  It's a process, I won't lie to you, but it is a process well worth investing your time and attention.

My Granny Reagan, whom I quote often, phrased it very succinctly:

Tending to your own backyard will keep you plenty busy.  Don't worry about what others are planting, or if they're letting weeds grow.  Focus on your yard and let them do the same.          - Alpha Celestia Nelson Reagan

The answer is always within; we just have to be brave enough to search for it and absorb those truths.  Another strong truth is that there is only perceived lack, which will motivate those negative behaviors - in actual truth, there is enough everything for everyone.  If we can embrace this positive energy, Life begins to shift in a beautiful manner and there is simply no time left over to dwell in any other state but a positive one.  Choose good things for yourself.  Choose things and people who lift you up and encourage you, rather than those who tear you down and suck you dry.  Choose to embrace looking within and recognize what your own connection to Divine Presence is telling you, and act accordingly.  Easier said than done, of course, but each day gives us a chance to start fresh with better choices.  Make those better choices and watch how Life blossoms for you!