"Positivity"...When is it Spiritual Practice and When is it Avoidance? Answering the Call of What's Next
photo credit: Layla Neal
After a rather challenging childhood and early adulthood, I was looking for ways to feel better than were not going to kill me or bankrupt me. I had tried to the usual suspects like drinking and overspending, I was ready for something more meaningful. It was like I was a spiritual anorexic in need of a quick fix at the salad bar of life. Starving but unwilling to eat the calories. I was a perfect candidate for the new age Positive Thinking movement of the moment. I was primed to read many self help books looking for a way out of my perpetual pain from PTSD from being a woman in a Western world that just didn't value me. I was so sensitive and so fragile but I didn't know how to be stronger or more compassionate to myself.
Now, that I know more I can see how I oversimplified life and wanted things to be nicer and easier to control. I wanted sunshine and flowers, but not rain. I didn't understand that flowers don't bloom without the occasional storm. I didn't understand how beautiful yet strong a flower could be. Positivity was a way for me to hide and avoid the reality of what was right in front of me. Let me clarify, we know scientifically that being a positive person and using positive words and thoughts is helpful. It is true. We also know that being negative and complaining is a drain on our energy and a bad way to move forward. I am a fan of kindness and like the Dali Lama think of it as my religion. I just want to be clear, being positive all the time in a world with so much wrong is an impossible facade to keep showing to the world.
We are in a constant assault from social media. We don't need to plaster our limitations or anger in social media like photos of our breakfast, but we do need to embrace realism as spiritual practice. Being truly aware of how we feel and what life is doing to us makes us stronger and gives us an opportunity to embrace the beauty of life even when we don't like what is happening. Being a realist does not mean we stop affirming what we want, visualizing a better future or using compassionate thoughts and words.
Being spiritual requires us to really look at what is happening within us and around it. Bad things happen when good people ignore the real signs in their lives. We can't just use prayer like a vending machine. We pray and what we want drops down. There is so much more to get from life and from love. Enlightened action comes from realism when we absorb what has to be done. We have preferences, which is a very natural response to life, I like this and I don't like that. What is more important is that we are detached from the idea of getting what we want all of the time. We are also in need of detaching ourselves from what we do want. To be more direct, we have to grow up and adult in a way we contribute to the world and address the problems that plague us personally and socially. Our planet is drowning in short term thinking and self indulgence. We need new ideas and fresh solutions. We need you.
It is exhausting to pretend all the time. One of the most beautiful parts of us is our authenticity. It is also the hardest thing to really embrace. In order to do so we have just swallow our vulnerability. We have to find other ways to move forward that to hope nothing bad ever happens to us again. We need to make tough choices and we have to take risks to really grow. Immaturity and self consumption is a short cut to mess our world is now in. We have to awaken to what is and decide what we can do next.
As we face challenges we have to know that loss in life is rarely personal. It is so much more complicated than that. Checking our egos so we don't mistake loss for a punishment is the only way ahead. Our joy can't come from other people's pleasure. It is not sustainable. We have to do the spiritual work to get the rewards. We can't make deals with the universe to always win especially at anyone else's expense. Especially our own.
Life is mysterious. Time is fleeting. We have a lot less fun than we hoped. We need to find ways to be present and to mindfully embrace our every step. We need to be brave and bold in the face of the unfair. We need to grieve in the face of loss and pay homage to the love we thought we would always have conveniently next to us. There is no controlling outcomes and we can't use God as a hostage. We have to show up and get busy being better than we were yesterday or the day before.
Love is without a doubt the greatest reward of being alive. To be compassionate and be able to love life when we don't like the script and don't appreciate the plot twist is to attain self actualization. To be be fully present and aware is the greatest skill we can build. In the world of unpredictable pain, we need to make best friends with the unknown. Set her a place at the table. Let her come to your door and open it wide.
We are sitting ducks waiting to be shot out of the pond if we don't listen to misery. We need to do so much in the world for ourselves, our family, our community and our world. We have to step beyond all this and we have the power within us to embrace the wonderful adventure that it is.
We have so much to learn while we are here and we are stronger than we know, freedom comes from embracing how we really feel and what we think and welcoming a growth mindset. We will be free when we rise about our preferences and surrender to what is instead of what we want. Stay connected to your inner voice and then cultivate it so it is strong and clear in a word needing compassionate togetherness and new solutions. Let's step into what is next with heads held high and hearts unnerved by what was or wasn't our preferences our small minds cling to like needy children. We are so much more than an idea. We bring so much more when we embrace reality with all its beauty and flaws, just like us.
Being busy is a great way to avoid things.
One of my 52 Ways to Free my Mojo from my book is to "Stop Glorifying Busy-ness". It may seem odd to realize that we often rush around because not only do we have too much to do, but we are also avoiding dealing with some inner clutter. We don't really know when to say NO, because we are afraid we will miss something. We don't always say YES to ourselves as a result. In cultures that reward "the hustle" we are really encouraged to achieve more than we are to be aware. Our lives are full and there is a lot of noise. Not just physical noise but also mental clutter and emotional debris. By keeping busy we manage our emotions remotely. We just dial in on things because we don't have time for real intimacy. For most of us, it often works because the truth is that repeating tasks over and over with urgency is easier than rethinking our lives.
I love water. I love lakes, rivers, oceans, seas, swimming pools and even baths. There is something about it that is soothing to me. Even when the tides are rough and wild, I get an energy from water that I treasure. Our energy is also bouncing off us and hitting other people. When we get busy and get anxious, the people around us feel it and respond. None of us can help it as our neurology is programmed to mirror the behaviors of living beings around us. It's probably a survival technique that goes back thousands of years so it's hard wired. Predators have us all on our guard because that's how we survive. Years and years later, our primal drives are still activated all day long because fear is still a trigger to be on alert.
We are so complicated. There is so much going on within us at all times. As the ancient Poet Rumi once said "You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop..." We have our own tides ebbing and flowing. We are a natural marvel whether we appreciate ourselves or not. It is interesting that nature has shifts in energy, tides go in and out. The moon waxes and wanes. But do we allow ourselves to have these energy shifts too? Exquisite self care is the only way to be strong enough to do meaningful work in this world. Exhausted is not an ongoing state to indulge without the onset of illness or accidents. We need to reflect more and do less.
For many years I ran in fifth gear all the time. I pushed through in overdrive because of painful PTSD I felt I could overcome with achievement. I could not. But I was too busy to know that at the time. I tried very hard to push it further and further from me. I engaged the external and used accomplishment to keep the wolf from the door only to find she had given birth to pups in my kitchen.
Like the wolf, I could never be tamed but I denied my own natural needs and cycles to contribute in the world of man made victories. I wanted to win. I needed to feel like I was needed. I kept busy to try to be safe.
In writing this I encourage you to look at the parts of your life you are rushing through. Look at the parts of you that you may ignore or push too far. Look at your natural existence and fully embrace your own nature.
What would that look like for you? Who would you be if you were not so busy?
Changing Course or How to be the Most Inspiring Person You Know
Please indulge me for being a boring Ph. d for a few minutes who delights in finding gems in research and sharing them with other people. A study I read recently shows that taking walks makes people more creative. Once I read that fact I made a sworn commitment to show up for a daily walk. Wind or rain, cold or hot, I am strolling. The gifts that this commitment give me are beyond my ability to express. Now, I question why I didn’t do this always.
In contemplating the answer, I think the most uninspiring reason to take a walk is because you are afraid of being fat or worse yet, you think you already are fat. I think the second most uninspiring reason is because you feel you can’t run or do anything more strenuous. The third least inspiring reason is to think you already know what you will see.
I could do on with this list forever…
The funny part is that when I had a dog for so many years of my life, I believed it was important to walk her. Why didn’t I think it was important to walk me once she passed on? Is that one of human’s little failings that we forget we too are animals? We are creative, imaginative, brilliant beings who are still very much animals.
But, my point is that in order to really explore life and wander through your actual or metaphoric landscape of your life, you have to take some measures that can be applied to all areas of your life in need with some love.
One of the principles in my book 52 Ways to Free my Mojo, is that we need to stop glorifying
Busy-ness. We witness everyday ourselves or those around us being to busy to connect with themselves or with one another. Changing course requires us to slow down and move at a different speed. Being a robot going through daily routines automatically may be contributing to the high rates of anxiety and depress we see burdening the world.
Something is off in our world and it looks like all attempts at waiting for a hero to solve them are futile. We are the hero we are waiting for and have been all along.
In every mythical story telling structure in the world there is a hero who has to be at the center of the story. The hero has a quest and it looks quite likely that the hero will not accomplish this – but then through adventures and exploring options that do not work at all, the hero learns self mastery and miraculously conquers the quest.
What if you are that hero?
What if it’s your time to realize that all the efforts you made that disappointed you were merely lessons to get you stronger, wiser and fitter in overcoming obstacles, enemies and your own weaknesses? What if you changed course and turned your face to the wind and walked with confidence and purpose directly into the unknown.
Being a parent of a child on the autism spectrum was probably a tragedy I hoped I would never face. And then I did face it. It took me years to grasp what any of that meant and how my life would continue. The obvious was lost on me. My life as I knew it was over and I did have the right to mourn it, but what awaited me was a much bigger and more daring life. I was headed down a new course and I went towards it silently kicking and screaming, while outwardly stoic.
What if it’s time to embrace the journey. Today as I took my walk I saw an older woman ahead of me strolling to the left. I had never gone that way before. So I decided to change course. I walked along a windy country road. At the end of the road there was a field and above the field the sun shone over the sea. The golden glow of the sun reflected in the ocean right beyond the field. The green Irish field right before the ocean was one of the most unusual scenes I have ever stood before. The morning light was glorious and the field was still and emerald green. I stood there and just felt as if I lived in a visual poem.
After making my obligatory post on social media, I turned and I walked back up the winding road excited about the climb and pull in my leg muscles. It occurred to me then that over the years my life mission had really changed. I had been burdened by ambition and achievement for so many years. Now, it occurred to me, my new goal was to help people overcome their resistance to living life full. I want to be the most inspiring person I know. Because let’s be honest, if you cannot inspire yourself maybe you are off course… Perhaps it's now time for you to turn down all the noise in the digital world and listen to your inner hero. It's time to be your own guru.
Please join me soon for new upcoming retreats, workshops and webinars if I can inspire you too. If I can help you with private coaching or project consultation email me anytime at email@example.com.
All those who wander are not lost.
I heard the phrase many times that "you can never go home again" and there is a tendency amongst people that if you hear something often enough, you believe it must be true. For many of us, life's journey involves much back and forth between tasks and obligations, but little exploration that gives us radical new insight into ourselves or our world. We don’t always question the folk legends or collective beliefs such as you can’t go home. So we stay. Or worse yet, sometimes we get stuck.
After many years of living in the United States, recently I returned to live in my birthplace and previous homeland, Ireland. That casual sentence makes all that sound very matter of fact when it was actually anything but that…
When facing a major life decision that will involve uprooting those you love along with you, you don’t enter into it casually. For decades I put off this decision in large part because I probably didn’t think the return was even possible. Obligations and habits kept me going to and fro like an ant on a trail carrying crumbs. It didn’t occur to me that I didn’t like crumbs.
“What do I really want?” I started to ask myself this question. I did not have an answer.
If you pause and ask yourself that question now, what is your answer.
Is that really your answer?
Do you really truly know the answer?
This process of asking myself questions and then examining the answer was new. But the startling part was that I was not clear or sure. I didn’t have the confidence in the answer at all. But, one day when I must have been feeling very brave on a hot Florida day, I whispered in a little voice “I want to go home…” The vocalization of this desire was met with tears. I would call it weeping but it was more like wailing in the spirit of the ancient banshees on the open moor.
The follow up questions followed. Yes. Yes. Yes. Answers came getting stronger each time.
Once the decision was made, the rest was easy. No, that’s not true. It wasn’t easy. That’s the problem with positive thinking, we have an illusion that what we want should come easily. It was not hard to leave after being in America for decades, but it was possible. And more than that, it was worth it to not just me but my partner and child.
Our desires don’t just impact us but they impact all those we love. Our actions are like stones thrown into the center of a pond and rippling out. They impact people in waves depending on their closeness to us.
What is important here to note is that not everyone will be happy for you when your desires don’t help them. When you decide to do something you deeply want that will not benefit them personally, some people will be unhappy with you. The people who will positively benefit from your desire, will be pleased with you. But, this is when you find out who really loves you, because those who love you will actively help you and support you in your courage.
Having a vision for what you want is just a longing unless you put an action plan together with it. I can want something all day, but without action steps getting checked off my list, I will be no further along.
It’s important to know yourself and to have a deep awareness of who you are and what you want. Not just for you but for those closest to you. It’s impossible to get what you really desire if you don’t even know what it is.
Everyday that passes either moves you closer to what you want or further from what you want. It’s really your call but we live in such a busy, noisy and demanding world, it is very hard to know that.
The only way to be true to ourselves is to find ways to be quiet. To strip away all the cultural clutter and chatter to see what is really true for us. No one will give us this time so we have to create it.
There is no danger in living a life you don’t love except that one day there will be no more days. And we don’t know when that day will be. It’s not meant to be morbid but it is a reminder about the fragility and preciously fleeting nature of life.
So, what do you really want? Once you answer this and take action your life will come full circle. And you will be home. Wherever that may be.
I shall see you there. As one of my favorite quotes says “we are all just walking one another home.”
What is your focus: The new Millionaire mind.
I recently attended a conference for entrepreneurial women. One speaker asked if anyone in the audience had a million-dollar idea. I immediately without thinking put up my hand…
If you have ever attended such an event making yourself the target of a presenter’s scrutiny is often a mistake.
Or was it?
There have been GOALS I wanted in my life: To get a Ph. D, to compete in Triathlons, to direct films and be in Film Festivals and to write a book. I have a silent roaring ambition. I select a goal and then I go for it and I keep moving until I get it or I decide, I do not really want this goal.
As I typed this bold title I thought “Hmm, that’s pretty audacious to claim that people can meet their goals every time – and you know the secret. And then a little small voice inside me said “But, I do know…”
So do you want to know too so you can get what you most desire and be happy.
It’s taken me a lifetime to crack this code but I am willing to share it with you …are you ready to hear it?
HOW FUN ARE YOU? How much do you prioritize enjoying yourself in everyday moments in life? Do you love what you do? Can people relax around you and know that being with you will be FUN no matter what. FUN. The other "F" word people really need daily. If we cannot be fun, and value fun then being creative will be unsustainable.
Have you noticed that we live in a largely fake world? There appears to be a society wide and personal pattern of pretending. Perhaps more than ever what we are looking at or hearing may or may not be real. Inauthenticity has become an art form. “Fake news” is a real concern. We are surrounded my reposts, retweets, CGI sounds and images, chemical food and artificial products. But it's not just the media. It's in relationships too. Who people are and who they pretend to be can often be incongruent. People post on social media about their great lives meanwhile they are dangerously depressed. It’s not easy to navigate anymore. People frequently manipulate images and words but worse than that – they manipulate their own mind. And if you’re not careful they try to sell the manipulation to you. You just can’t afford to buy it. Fake is fatal.
IS CONSTANT CREATIVITY POSSIBLE IN A NOISY DIGITAL WORLD?
So much of our culture is imitation. The generic nature of franchises, sequels and stereotypes can zap us of our MOJO. It's as if creativity is a rare, weird, random trait mostly possessed by artists who are already dead. People just re-post and repeat life daily. So is the MUSE just a fleeting romantic notion or can we shack up with her as our permanent roommate. It’s not easy but luring and keeping the Muse at the kitchen table, the desk, the studio bench or the stage is possible. IT’S JUST NOT EASY. But I am doing it so I know you can too. That’s why I literally wrote the book on it. I am concerned about living in a dull world with boring repetitiveness and predictability as the conformist norm. So I need you.