Sunday, August 23, 2009

Claim your power

In every moment we make choices. We choose to be kind, cold, loving, fearful, happy, sad or any range of emotions. These choices are key to accessing our personal power. For many of us, these choices are made at an unconscious level. The choice seems almost to be made for us because it happens so quickly and at such a subtle level. These are instinctive choices based upon stimuli and past response. Eventually these responses become habit almost to the point where it feels like we have no choice in the matter at all. People in this place will often justify their actions and responses as “that’s just the way I am”. They become a victim of their own emotional states.

At some point we’ve all probably gotten angry at someone for something and said “he made me so mad” or “she hurt my feelings and made me sad”. The truth is that the decision to feel mad, sad, hurt or angry were all choices that we made in the moment. The decision was informed by our past experiences and our response to those experiences. For example let’s say that you said to me “you are crazy”. If I had a history of mental illness I might feel hurt. If I had been trying to make a point and you simply disagreed I might feel angry instead. If I were simply trying to be silly I might feel happy and just laugh it off. The difference between them is based upon the choice I made to feel hurt, angry or happy.

The key here is to recognize that our emotional responses are choices that we make in every moment. As much as I might like to blame someone else for my emotional state ultimately I cannot. When we do that we give our power away. “You made me feel this and that” says “I’m giving you the power to control my emotions”. When we give our power away, we move into victim mentality. When we are victims we feel that we have no control in a given situation. We’ve all been there at some point and probably know people who seem to be victims constantly. Is it any wonder when we’re in that state that we feel powerless to change the situation?

Our emotional responses are shaped by our past experiences. All of our past experiences are stored in our subconscious memory and our conscious minds use those experiences as filters for interpreting current experiences. The catch here is that as I mentioned in the “The power of the mind” post (05/15/09), our minds don’t know the difference between what we actually experience and what we simply imagine or think. Given that, some of the “past experiences” could be real or come from other sources as described in the earlier post. These could drastically alter our emotional response without our being fully aware of it.

Eventually our instinctive minds process the current experience through all of its mental filters and we are left with an emotional and mental response. Our conscious minds take those responses and react in some way and not always in the way that we might desire. This is where our power of choice comes in. This choice happens at the conscious level. We may feel the desire to be angry, fearful, resentful, etc. but by holding our awareness on our reactions we can make the choice to respond differently. This change however will only happen once we have made the decision to change. If we have no desire or motivation to change then we will continue to be victims of the past.

The key to this change is our awareness. Our awareness is that part of our conscious mind that is doing the observing or the focusing. It is that part of you that is following these words and absorbing the information that you are reading. If your mind wanders while you are reading so that your awareness is elsewhere then you are just looking at words and the message is not being absorbed. This is true in any situation. Our minds will not record and process what we are unaware of even if it is happening right before our eyes. One might think of awareness as the lens for our mental camera. Whatever it is focused on is what will be recorded and everything else will just be background noise.

The driver for our awareness however is our intentions. Our intentions are made at the conscious level. So for example, if my intention (desire) is to change my instinctive response of being “angry” to a response of being “loving”, when the anger arises my awareness will notice that angry response. Then using the power of choice in that moment I can chose to respond differently rather than immediately going into a habitual response. This is not something that will necessarily happen the very first time you make the intention to change but the awareness will be there. Learning to access the power of choice and change your response is a learned behavior and so it may take a several instances of angry responses before you change the behavior but it can and will happen with your intention to make it so.

Now this isn’t to say that you should become an emotionless robot, quite the opposite actually. As I discussed in a previous post entitled “The energy of emotions” (06/14/09), emotions are energy moving through your system. When your brain perceives an experience and selects an emotional response (let’s say “anger”) and your brain releases the neuropeptides for that emotion, you may feel anger but that doesn’t mean that you have to respond angrily. All that may be necessary in that moment is to notice the anger and simply say “I feel anger”. When you do that without attaching an angry response, you can now utilize your power of choice and respond from a more loving place. This is conscious choice and it is the key to claiming, or reclaiming, our power.

Once we fully recognize that we have the power to consciously interact with our emotional landscape we move out of victim mode and we begin using authentic power. We can begin to harness this power for creating the life we want to live the way we want to live it. The happier we are with the life we live, the more loving and compassionate we become. This loving compassion now begins to shape our emotional response until we begin to respond almost automatically with love to all experiences. Love opens a pathway to the Divine, the very heart and source of Love. In that Love we become one with the Divine. This is only possible through the power of conscious choice.

Hold your awareness on the blame you assign to others and the power that you give them and just notice how that feels. When you catch that happening and you say “(s)he made me…” simply reframe the statement into “I am choosing to be…” and feel the power that it instills in you and your decision making process.

How will you choose to respond today?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I haven’t told you much about the letter to my family lately and I want to give you a quick update on that. I have the letter essentially ready and hope to finish up the final edits on it in the next 24 hours because………everything goes into motion tomorrow afternoon. I’ve invited my mom and my beloved niece out for a week-long visit. They arrive tomorrow evening and I want to get everything out in the open as quickly as I can so that we can enjoy their visit and have plenty of time to talk about it all. Yes, I’m nervous because I don’t know how mom will respond but since I’m not looking for approval or permission from her, I’m at peace with whatever her response will be. I’m certain my niece will be fine with it. Despite her being my niece she’s almost my age and she’s very worldly so I anticipate no issues there.

I recently reconnected with another family member that I haven’t spoken with since the early 80’s. In learning more about her I realize that it’s her side of the family where the drama might surface. I have two older half-brothers. One brother’s family (the side of the niece that will be here) is more “religion neutral” than the other brother’s family. Their side is very Christian based and if you’ve been reading this blog you can imagine how what I’ve said (and what I’ve yet to share) is not really going to fly with them. I’m at peace with that as well because this journey is about me being more authentic in all areas of my life and not living a life that based on seeking approval from others. I don’t expect them all to embrace my beliefs or leave theirs. I simply don’t want to have to hide a major part of my life from them or anyone.

Each time I think about sharing all of this with my family, I can feel myself tense up. Anytime that we choose to reveal a secret there is a lot of fear and anxiety connected with that. Despite that, I’m choosing to go into those fears and fully release them. My commitment to this blog was to open my life up this way and share the experiences with you…and this is just the warm-up act based upon what is ahead for me. Whatever happens, you’ll know about. I’m not choosing just to share the happy and fun parts with you but the whole thing. It is my hope that it might encourage you to release some of your fears and live a more authentic life as well. I recognize that I certainly have to practice what I preach.

I believe that ultimately it will all work out for the very best. For all I know they may get the letter, read it, delete it and that will be that. “No drama” would be very welcome but also very unexpected. Stay tuned, think good thoughts for me and I’ll keep you posted on the outcome.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Focus on love

In my initial post I stated that I was anti-religion and I’d like to explain that a bit further. The basic positive teachings that most religions offer are great things for those on a Spiritual path. Love one another, be kind, don’t steal…all great advice and certainly first steps toward living a more peaceful existence. It’s the negative side of the teachings that give me cause to pause. Teaching people to judge themselves and others and using fear of a wrathful and vengeful God as a motivator are actions which divide us rather than unite us. Communion with the Divine is about union not separation.

Having grown up in the Baptist church I know that churches teach that the Bible is the work of God and so therefore what it says cannot be questioned. Like most people in any Bible based religion, I believed what I was being told and ran with it. At the time I never really did any research for myself into the history of the Bible (the internet didn’t exist then) and so I just accepted the interpretations I was being given and didn’t question them. Once I got myself distanced from those teaching a bit I began to learn more about the history of the Bible, I began to see it more as a historical document of Church philosophy written and revised by man than as a magical book written directly by God. That was a critical distinction that needed to be made for me.

The Bible has a dark history to it and one that isn’t really discussed within the Churches. I guess it’s not really good for business. Wars have been fought over it and countless people have been killed because they were unwilling to convert to Christianity and follow their teachings. The Bible has been translated into many languages from the original Aramaic that it was written in. In these translations mistakes were often made and thus the resulting translation takes on a life of its own. Church leaders were the ones who selected which writings of the time would be included in the Bible and which would be excluded. Many of the excluded books were discovered in recent times and are now collectively known as the “Dead Sea Scrolls” based upon where they were found. Throughout history Church leaders have revised much of the text to suit their needs in order retain control of the followers. Yet it is still promoted as “The Divinely inspired work of God” despite it being the work of man.

The truth is that the authors of the various books of the Bible were human beings just like any of us. They were inspired to create a story of their experiences, beliefs and teachings to pass on to others. As the Christian religion of the time grew, those in charge gathered the stories, modified them to be in alignment with the desired Church doctrine of the time and presented them as the Bible. Any organization that wants to be successful long-term needs to define and document their philosophy so that they can share it with their members. The important thing to remember about it though is that it is for those members of that organization to follow and not for the population at large. That’s where things get murky with the Bible. It’s not presented as a “member handbook” but rather it is being used as a rule book for all humans and those who don’t believe it become the enemy and must be destroyed. There is a well documented history of what happens to those considered to be the enemy of the Church. In much of recorded history, they were put to death.

It’s important to keep the history of the Bible and the Church in perspective from both sides, members and non-members. Followers of the Bible however don’t see that because of the power the Church puts behind the Bible and the teachings contained in its text. They lose the true history of the Bibles bloody past and get lost in the mysticism surrounding the book. Even questioning it is taboo. That is the motivating power of fear.

My problem with all this comes from the negativity that emerges from this belief system. Accepting the Bible as “the only truth” means that everyone else is wrong and therefore according to the Bible, evil. At the simplest level it would be like our President compiling a book of stories from our countries history, labeling it as “the gospel” and then declaring war on every other country because they weren’t in line with the book we just created. They are different and therefore must be brought into agreement or destroyed. At some level that is what is happening with our country and the planet at large. We are all divided by our differences rather than celebrated for our diversity.

It is important to see the Bible for what it is in the context in which it was written. The stories and their “rules” were meant for the people of that time. What was believed to be true almost 2000 years ago is very different than what is believed to be true now. It was a very different time and a very different world. It was simply the various authors’ way of trying to explain creation, life and the after-life. It was based upon the belief that the Earth was the center of all existence. We now know that we are in fact just one tiny dot in a Universe of unfathomable size.

Religion by its very nature is static based upon archaic belief systems. Spirituality is dynamic and personal and teaches each of us how to be a part of the whole. By choosing to look within and following the deepest directives of our hearts, we are choosing to align ourselves with love. When we align with love, we connect with others through that love and we celebrate our oneness therein. As long as we maintain a sense of separation brought on through judgment and fear we can never achieve true harmony with all that is.

All of the world’s religions are founded on the stories of those who had the experience of Oneness with the Divine, Life, Love, Spirit, God or whatever label you chose to give it. Those stories should be seen as inspiration and guidance for those seeking that experience and following that path. Just as each of us is unique, the path we find to the awareness of Oneness will be unique and our expression of that experience will mirror that uniqueness. Truth is One, paths are many.

This is not all to say that the Bible is bad and should therefore be destroyed but rather coming to understand how and why the Bible was written can help it come alive at a much deeper level. It is a powerful historical document full of many great teachings but one has to be able to separate the teachings from the stories. As an example, take a modern work of fiction such as “Lord of the Rings”. We know it is fiction because we know its history; however there are powerful teachings which underlie the story. There is the classic story of good versus evil but there is also the teaching that when we band together despite our differences we can accomplish things far beyond what any one of us could have achieved separately. The Bible needs to be viewed in the same way. We have to find the deeper teachings beneath the stories. It becomes a case of separating the message from the messenger.

For many Christians however this thought will be challenging. What I hope to do is to bring some context to the stories and show how it all fits into the larger picture. I’m not attempting to prove or discredit the Bible but rather show how softening the focus on it can actually help us to see its true power. As long as we live in fear of this document and judge the world according to it we can never become one with all of humanity. The simple act of judging keeps us locked into a sense of separation. Unconditional love is only possible through complete acceptance of the self and others. Unconditional love is the force which will carry us through the challenges that we are currently facing as a species and as part of a planetary body.

Are you motivated by fear or do you focus on Love?