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!