Monday, December 5, 2011

"Good Grief"

This blog was created by Faye & myself with the intention of sharing with you the stories we step into as we each navigate through this world. I, therefore, never know too far in advanced what I will write about. Rather, I try to observe life with an awareness of how we are all using our thinking, our consciousness, and our mind to interpret all of life's happenings...and then I write about what I see. There's almost always lots of material to be gathered from all of the beautiful and astonishing things that I notice when I'm able to look from this vantage point...from this place of no personal thinking.

I would say that the happenings from my outside world this week have put me sharply in tune with what kind of personal thinking I'm in...from moment to moment. For this, I am grateful and am approaching life with greater clarity and conviction. You see, last week my young friend died suddenly, and all of the things I thought about how my week would go suddenly meant nothing and were invalid. What I was left with was my ability to listen deeply in the moment through the shocking and unexpected.

What I found was that I could do self-created fears, which I created via my use of thought, were much scarier than the actual experience. In actuality, although I would never wish for my friend to be physically gone, there has been lots of room for love, beauty, kindness, learning, laughter, unexpected support, etc. I know that I was able able to...experience this process in this way, because I understand my thinking. I understand that it's constant and a made up story. It's neutral until I decide what to do with it.

I also know that my feelings are born from whatever thought I've given power to, so this knowledge allows me to use my feelings differently than most. I can see that when in a feeling that I want out of, I must only remind myself that I have thought my way here. I can also remind myself that rather than overuse my thinking, I can rely on a deeper wisdom (aka Mind) to guide me in a healthier, more natural direction. I know that life looks different in this space and feels different too...I am aware of new things, because my consciousness has risen.

This isn't to say that I have escaped the feelings of intense shock and deep sorrow. I miss my friend deeply, and I wish that I could still experience her with my five senses. I have cried many tears and I have heard myself cry in a way that I have not heard in a long while. Life on the outside is real, and sometimes it knocks you down, but there is more to grief than despair and pain.

Wikipedia defines grief as: (noun) 1. Deep sorrow, especially that caused by someones death. 2. Trouble or annoyance. I believe they got it is two-fold.

I call the first part , "good grief", because it is the natural reaction to loss. Sorrow is a natural part of death, and it should be allowed its time. Proof of this can be seen within the animal kingdom among gorillas, elephants, and even wolves as shown in the following story: " [A wolf pack after the loss of a low-ranking omega female to a mountain lion.] The pack lost their spirit and their playfulness. They no longer howled as a group, but rather they sang alone in a slow mournful cry. They were depressed — tails and heads held low and walking softly and slowly — when they came upon the place where she was killed. They inspected the area and pinned their ears back and dropped their tails, a gesture that usually means submission. It took about six weeks for the pack to return to normal." (, 11/4/09).

Now, this second part of grief...this "trouble and annoyance"...I call this "bad grief". This part is unnecessary and counterproductive. To be troubled and annoyed by loss is not a state one should stay in, even while in the feeling of "deep sorrow". It is tempting to get lost in fearful or regretful thinking at this time. You have the perfect excuse to set up camp right at your own little pity party. The problem with this is that it feels awful, AND while you are at your pity party, you're just experiencing the story you have created. There's something so much deeper to attach yourself to.

If you get out of your own way for a moment, you may notice that the part of your loved one that you feel is still with you. For me, I feel my friend throughout the day & this brings a smile to my face as often as it brings a tear to my eye. I honor her and in so many ways she cannot be taken from me. During times of wayward thinking I may forget this, but luckily I know my way back to the truth.

I have a choice here...even in grief. I get to decide how much crying and solemness feels right for me. I also get to follow my joy in life. I get to remember her in a way that serves me well. Because of my understanding of how we each create reality, I get to move through this in a way that allows me to comfort myself quite naturally. Never have I been more grateful for my understanding of The Principles, and never have I risen to a challenge with such courage.

This blog is dedicated to the lovely & departed Allison Cohen.
Thank you for encouraging me to live life right now!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Enjoy Thanks Giving, but check your use-by dates.

Here in America, I'll be celebrating my first Thanks Giving. So before entering into this alien territory, I've been considering my own beliefs and traditions. Beliefs are funny things. The silent killers among us. Have you ever noticed yourself shy away from a situation, judged another or even berate your own desires due to a longstanding belief? The problem is that everyone of us carries around a sack full of them. Some beliefs we wear with pride "I believe that in this day and age everyone should have access to free education". A noble and fashionable belief that many would publicly applaud. However, others lay hidden away amongst the dirty laundry of our minds "I believe that my family doesn't have faith in me". Beliefs like this can be destructive and hurt to admit, even to ourselves. Ultimately these beliefs, conscious or not, will play out in the smallest of details within our everyday life. They crop up time and time again, because they offer us a blueprint by which we make our decisions and navigate our world.

Beliefs, judgements and ideas; they're all grown from the same seed. The seed of thought. They are just one of those millions of thoughts that we experience everyday. No different from that fleeting thought of 'I wonder if I look better in the blue skirt?'. It's just the thoughts that we recognise as our beliefs often mean more to us. They've been around for longer and we've identified some part of ourselves with them. Up until a couple of years ago, I believed that "people who were older than me knew what they were doing". You'd be amazed at how this influenced my outlook on life. I doubted my own perspective over those who were older, I didn't listen properly to younger people and I was always left scrambling around after someone elses' 'truth'. These were just some of the more obvious symptoms of my underlying belief. I was aware of all these strange character traits, but it wasn't until recently that I realized what was fueling them. This belief. The persistent thought. You see, it makes sense, when we are young it pays to think that older people know what they are doing. It offers security, trust and constant opportunities for learning. However, as time goes by, this thought has lost it's usefulness. Its function has expired. My undesirable character traits were the symptoms of an old thought that had long passed it's use-by date.

Thankfully just becoming aware that I had this thought has allowed me to navigate it more gracefully when it does present itself. I listen more deeply around younger people and I'm less likely to respond to any insecure thoughts that it might fuel. Slowly, but surely that belief experienced through the principle of thought, is loosening its grip on me.

So when beliefs are just well worn ideas and ideas are grown from thoughts, and thoughts are coming and going at a rate of knots every moment; perhaps something less sinister is going on. We are innocently, yet automatically acting out of old knowledge. The Marriam-Webster dictionary says beliefs are "A state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing". This suggests that at some point in our lives we ran this simple equation;

"Situation + Thought = Appropriate Action".

For instance, perhaps when I was young I found it was easier to eat chocolate than to experience sadness, leading to the belief that:

Sadness (situation) + ''chocolate makes me feel good" (thought) = Eat chocolate & feel relief.(Appropriate Action). Fine for a teenager, but the adult body can be less forgiving of this one.

However, such responses can now be understand via the principle of thought that brings these beliefs into being. They appear as thoughts, but more frequently and they come with a physical sensation that is familiar and offers security. In times of 'low mood' when I feel tired and my thoughts are not offering me anything useful, my beliefs offer me a comfortable fall back position. They offer quick solutions that require minimal creativity or energy. However, as human beings we all have the creative potential to find wise and context specific solutions for any given circumstance. We don't have to rely on old formulas. Though it does take courage to know when 'not' to use them. It just takes a little trust and taking a moment to quieten down before we act. By doing so, we can develop a sensitivity to the feeling that accompanies each thought before we act on them. It is familiar and safe? Then it's likely to be old thinking. Is it fresh and light? Go with it, you might just surprise yourself.

At the start of our workshops we often say "Listen with an open mind, you can always go back to what you believed afterward". So here, I am asking you to be more aware of what's driving you. Challenge those beliefs by simply knowing them for what they are; old thoughts. Then use, or don't use them wisely. Using the creative power of Mind, Thought and Consciousness, what beliefs are guiding your day and are they passed their use-by date?

"That's what it is, man. If you got it today you don't want it tomorrow, man, 'cause you don't need it" (Janis Joplin)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Resiliency Trumps Change

I recently spoke as a panelist at a community forum to address change & how to cope during these turbulent times.  This put me into some lingering thinking about change, and why this word provokes such anxiety and discomfort in people.  I found a beautiful reflection:
"Life is change.  Growth is optional.  Choose wisely." ~Karen Kaiser Clark

So this seems like common sense, yet we often meet change with heels dug deep and eyes closed tight.  Where is our wisdom at this time?  I have always believed that adapting to change with some grace is a sign of inner well-being, but I haven't always been the picture of grace through the changes in my life.  Some changes, as it turns out, had quite an undertow & I found myself sinking quickly.

In my life change has had many definitions.  As a child it was exciting and I was curious about it.  The next day full of all different things could not come soon enough. Then somehow as I grew, my excitement about change shrunk.  Change began to mean stress...stress that I could see and measure!
Luckily, more recently my definition of change is much like it was when I was a curious and trusting child.  I have learned again, or remembered, how to stay within myself in a way that allows the world to change as it will.

As simple as it sounds this is true, and here's how: The first thing you need to do is to humbly admit to yourself that you cannot control what is happening outside of you.  This leaves you with a new place to look, and the place that's left is inside you.  When you look there you'll see that you have innate resiliency that is buoyant and always available.  Introduce yourself and invite this new friend to stay for awhile! :) No seriously, it's time to remember that you have all the answers you need right where you are standing!  That fact is not dependent on anything that exists outside of you.  Change cannot touch this truth.

What's that you say?  You can't hear your inner wisdom and well being?  Don't worry, this happens to all of us every day, and there is a simple remedy.  Your personal thinking has gotten too loud and has been overused to an unhealthy degree.  You must shut it down, wait, and restart.  In other words, find a distraction, if one doesn't come wait for an insight, now restart with your awareness on a new string of thinking.  That's it, that's how to do it...rinse and repeat!

The other good news is that once you experiment with noticing your own resiliency you will automatically begin to see it in others, as well.  Now, this isn't the same as controlling your environment (which is where we started), but it does create an entirely new experience of it. Presto!  All you need to navigate through whatever change you're facing...and you had it all the time!  I encourage you to have fun with this. Remember, as this anonymous author states, "If you don't bend in the wind, you will break."  So may you enjoy the wind in your hair with no fear of breakage!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I'm not lost, I'm right here.

It’s been a year since I felt the insight that changed my life. It was a murmur. A deep longing that, as I cycled around Sellwood district in SE Portland, it said to me in no uncertain terms; “I want this”. What ‘this’ was, I couldn’t really be sure. Was it the wooden porches, the vegetable gardens, the sunshine or smiling strangers? No, it was the feeling. It was a deep feeling of clarity and connection between me, that moment and everything around me. This felt right. And from that moment on I’d been educated about what it felt like to be in the right place, or doing the right thing. This wasn’t an analytical conclusion, but instead based on a felt sense. It’s hard to explain that sensation without trying to over complicate it. But like I imagine we’ve all felt from time to time, this was me, that small voice that whispers just beneath my thinking self. It was indicating that I was on the right track.

The interesting thing is that from that moment on, I swore I would take more notice of that feeling and see where it led me. Likewise, I decided I would take more notice of when I wasn’t being guided by that feeling. Considering for once that maybe my personal intelligence could learn something by trusting this impersonal, but deeper felt sense. I realized I had a sensory and physical intelligence that quite possibly knew more that I could put into words. Some people might call it ‘intuition’, ‘Gaia’ or ‘God’. Personally I called it ‘wisdom’. They don’t teach us about it in school and sadly, from time to time the connection gets a bit murky. But, it’s always there. On that day, in a single moment of insight, I understood that for myself. I was beginning to embody everything I’d been learning about the Three Principles.

This moment of insight instigated a whole chain of events that eventually brought Cory Willson and I together. We’ve both been taking part in our own life experiments. Both led by our understanding of how the Three Principles underpin our human experience. I admit this is no humble statement, but it’s honest. Understanding life through the Three Principles has brought many subtle and also profound experiences into being. Cory and I are united by our experiences, our love for Portland, Oregon and our fascination with the human mind. Living life only through the lens of thought can be a turbulent experience. Thankfully, with our understanding of how these three simple principles work, we have gained the interesting perspective of frequently (though not always) seeing life from under the lens of thought. It makes for a whole different perspective. It’s a bit like riding in a run-away car, but with a seat belt and a safety ejection button. It takes the utter fear out of the experience, leaving you to enjoy the thrill of the ride. Cory and I have a shared sense of humour and deep appreciation of how these Three Principles of Mind, Thought and Consciousness play out in our everyday experiences. This allows us to marvel and for the best part, enjoy the limitations of our humanness!

It was Teilhard de Chardin, the French Philosopher, paleontologist and once controversial Jesuit Priest, that said “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience”. We’d like to suggest that since it’s the fact that we ‘think’ that makes us uniquely human. Perhaps it is those thoughts that relentlessly immerse us in this human experience. Introducing the Three Principles into this theory, we have an alternative viewpoint for experience. Life viewed only through the lens of thought might lead us to conclude that we are all formed individuals, consisting of often unyielding bundles of expectations and habits. Perhaps, this is how many will know us; the busy yet hugely enthusiastic mum (that’s Cory) or the single, just turned 30, ‘what am I doing with my life’ explorer that I’ve become. But what if when you look closer, all these bundles actually just consist of thoughts? Neutral thoughts with habitual physical and emotional responses that have married over time. What if all the while, underneath this, we are innocent beings just trying to make the best of the ride?

It’s with this in mind that Cory and I decided to write this blog together. It’s a forum to discuss the real life experience of being human. To laugh about our limitations and to ponder those moments that move us further away, or closer to that connected, clarity bringing and wise self. We’d like to share our learning about how we attempt to navigate between these existences; the being versus the having, the fearless versus the fearful and the potential versus the form.

The chances are, if you are reading this blog you have been to a Three Principles workshop, or perhaps you've been learning from Cory or myself via osmosis. So, along the way we’d welcome your questions, comments and insights. This is a space for reflection, humour and learning. We are looking forward to sharing it with you.