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Don’t Call It a Comeback

Typically when someone doesn’t post on their blog for almost two months, this is the point where they come back, hat in hand, with a litany of apologies and some reasons/excuses for the absence. This won’t be that kind of post. Well, kind of.

For a while I thought maybe I’d said all I had to say here, but deep down I knew that wasn’t true. For one, I’ve been writing since I was 5 – it’s like breathing for me! Also, my spiritual and emotional growth is something I’ll keep working on for life. But I did spend a lot of the spring on the road and out of my routine – and consequently up in my head. It wasn’t always a good place to be – in fact, that’s a pretty dangerous place for me to be a lot of the time – but it’s where I was.

So this post is about acceptance – of wherever you are. It doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t change things, but accepting what IS can go a very long way to bringing out peace, sanity, serenity.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately considering my future – where I want to go, what I want to achieve, who I want to be. I guess to some degree I’ve always done that but I didn’t always believe that I could have what I wanted. Therefore, I never got it. I’ve worked to change those beliefs. I do think the universe brings us whatever we set as our intent – positive or negative.

But after all of the hard work going into planning, strategizing, list-making, analyzing, and so on, do you know what the hardest part actually is? Letting it all go.

I don’t mean giving up on it, sweeping it under the rug never to be seen again. I mean being OK with outcomes. Accepting them, releasing attachment to them. 

Anyway, I’m still here, still working, and glad to share these moments with you. Namaste!

 

Social Media Zen

welcomeIf there’s one thing I’ve learned to be absolutely true, it’s that there is an immense amount of freedom in taking responsibility for yourself.

The concepts of “freedom” and “responsibility” sound like conflicting ideas, no? But this is what I’ve found to be so freeing: I am the only one in control of me. Other people are the only ones in control of themselves.

That control extends to just about everything – thoughts, feelings, outlook in just about any situation, actions, etc. If someone else feels unhappy, I can apologize if I did something wrong* that caused that unhappiness, but I’m not responsible for that other person’s feelings. In fact, they’re the ones that chose that feeling. There’s not a damn thing I can do to “force” a different feeling for them.

* – (Something wrong, I should clarify, does not include respectfully expressing a conflicting opinion, making a choice in my own best interest, standing up for myself, or not allowing another person to control my actions or attempt to control my thoughts and emotions.)

Wow, I got off on quite a tangent here. What I’m really here to talk about is taking control of your own space in the world of social media. But really, I think you’ll see that these ideas can certainly translate into the “real world” too!

Social media can be both fantastic and awful. There is some amazing, uplifting, funny and creative content out there. We can connect with people we’d never meet otherwise. We can find ideas and knowledge with speed and access never before possible. All good stuff!

But along with it can come bad. It seems some users feel inclined to interact online in a way they’d never dream of communicating in real life. Maybe it’s a “sense of anonymity” that comes with online interaction. It seems some folks have lost their sense of accountability because they’re not in the same room as someone, telling them something to their face. It can get toxic and nasty in a hurry.

But guess what! You don’t have to stand for that. It’s possible to keep your accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc., and still keep your sanity too. Here’s my four-step plan for Social Media Zen:

1. Remember, above all, *I* am the one responsible for reactions to anything I encounter online. If someone posts something that angers or upsets me, I am the one who originated that emotion and the thoughts around it. I can choose to believe it and even act upon it, but that’s MY choice. I have to be willing to face the consequences of that.

2. Don’t feed the trolls. Is there someone who likes to make nasty comments on my posts? I don’t have to respond. If possible, I can find ways to keep them from seeing what I post. If it’s not someone I want to “unfriend,” I have no problem with blocking people from my Facebook wall. I’ve done it before and won’t hesitate to do it again. But in the meantime, I don’t need to get dragged down into the gutter to wallow with someone else who wants to take me there. I can peacefully move on without reacting.

3. BUT … I also need to be mindful of what I put out there. If I share things that are deeply personal (hello! like this blog), I also need to be prepared for the consequences of that. I can’t attack people, ideas or institutions and not expect retribution.

4. I can create my own “happy space.” My Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with positive, uplifting messages from different spiritual healers and other folks who spread a sense of peace, happiness, and serenity. On Facebook, I can block people from my newsfeed without unfriending them. Sometimes it’s the best way to coexist.

So what do you think? How have you learned to own your happiness online?

Grateful for: Bidding Farewell to My Victimhood

Sorry for falling down on the job yesterday – I blame the food coma 🙂 Hope everyone had a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

I used to walk around pretty much feeling like I was a victim of life’s cruel whims. I mean, after all, so many other people out there were so much better off than I was. They had more money, better jobs, nicer cars, loving spouses, you name it. Since none of this stuff had found its way into my life, I felt like a constant recipient of misfortune. So many other people had it so much easier, it seemed, and it had all just been handed to them.

As I began my healing journey, something amazing happened … I learned about the magic of gratitude. I learned to view life from a mindset of abundance, vs. from a mindset of want. And what do you know … I went from feeling like I had nothing to seeing that I actually had everything I needed – provided for me on a daily basis.

Something else incredible happens, I find, when I cultivate a mindset of positive energy and abundance. It attracts more positive things, and even more abundance. For one, I believe that putting positive energy into the world actually moves my spirit and being in that positive direction. For another, it seems that the Higher Power – as I call it, God – is happy to bring us more once we appreciate what we already have.

I am NOT a victim of fate, circumstances, or “bad things.” I am instead empowered to treasure and appreciate everything I have in my life today, right now, this very minute.

How to Change Anything

(Sorry for being away for a while, gang … nothing big going on here, just living life. I missed you!)

Do I have your attention? Good! Pull up a chair. I’m going to tell you how to change anything to become exactly what you want it to be.

Here’s the catch: You might have to change what you want. Or you might have to open yourself to different outcomes. In either case, it’s absolutely imperative to admit you have no control over what’s happening.

The only thing any of us have control over is ourselves – our attitudes, thoughts, behaviors, actions.

Once you’ve got that down pat, I can guarantee that you will change any situation drastically, because you will feel so much more freedom around it. Isn’t it so much more freeing to let go of a situation, rather than scratching and scraping and digging to try to figure out exactly what you need to do in order to produce the outcome you’re looking to create?

“There are two things you can do in any situation: Accept it, or change it.”

I’m not sure if I have that quote exactly right. I think it’s a good one. But I also think there’s a middle way. You can accept it, and change your attitudes and thoughts about it at the same time. Changing it can mean walking away from it, or at least detaching from it. 

The real secret to changing any situation, person, place, or thing, is to let go of it. Release it to the universe. Give it away. Realize it isn’t yours to master, steer, or coerce. Of course, changing the curtains in your house is one thing. But thinking a person needs to behave how you see fit is not the answer. (Conversely, watch out for other people who would look to have this sort of control over you.)

I’ve had a series of encounters lately where I’ve thought, “good grief, why can’t this person shape up and just do what they are supposed to do?” (Translated: Why can’t they do what I want them to do?)

Answer: I have no idea. It’s not up to me, not mine to control. But when I think about why I want this person’s behavior to change, it’s because I’m wanting them to act in a manner that would leave me more comfortable in our interactions. It’s not wrong for me to want that. If we had a different type of relationship, I would probably walk away from it. That’s not a viable option for me in this case, so this is what I’m asking myself:

  • What’s the lesson here that I am meant to learn? (I think it’s a need to extend more compassion to understand what’s behind this person’s behavior, while also reclaiming my emotional power for myself. A combination of empathy and detachment.)
  • How can I act in a way that is in accordance to my heart and spirit? I strive to step away from hostility and contempt. I can be direct and firm without being disrespectful.
  • How can I maintain a sense of peace and serenity in this situation? (By doing all of the above!)

I feel like the biggest lesson I’ve learned and taken to heart lately is this: Everything will be just fine if I just let go to the unfolding universe. Good things will happen for me, much beyond what I ever could have dreamed or planned, if I just allow for it to be. I am always where I am intended to be, no matter how difficult or trying it may be.

There is something being worked out in me, a sense of knowledge or wisdom that is coming my way and will become clear – eventually!

“The hardest thing you’ll do today is quiet your mind.”

SailingWe’re balancing on one leg, pulling our back leg up high, higher than our heads. We’re trying to take our foreheads to our knees; the tops of our heads to the floor. Oh, and the room is 106 degrees. Over and over again, the yoga instructor’s refrain is: “The hardest thing you’ll do today in class is quiet your mind.”

Oh, so true.

After many starts and stops, I seem to have truly and legitimately started and stuck to a meditation practice. I’ve been doing it every day for about the past month, usually in the evening, right before bed. It’s a great way to quiet my mind, and I think it’s helping me to sleep more soundly and deeply. I find I really look forward to that space of time where I can really just sit quietly and breathe.

Meditation can certainly be intimidating, because lots of us focus on doing it “perfectly.” We think that unless we can totally clear our minds, and keep them clear for an extended period of time, then we aren’t doing it right. So, why even try?

I’ve discovered that meditation can be many different things, and even I don’t approach it the same way every time. Here are the many different faces it’s taken on for me:

1. Guided meditation: This is a great way for beginners to try it out, and for experienced folks to try something new. I use the Omvana app on my iPhone; there are many different podcasts and thousands of other recordings out there you can use for this purpose. I do my best to focus only on the words being spoken.

2. Affirmations: Sometimes I will pick a topic I want to focus on – a feeling I want to cultivate, a goal I’m seeking, a spiritual or emotional change I want to make – then concentrate on that topic for a specified period of time, usually about 10-15 minutes. (I use binaural sounds or white noise as a background with this.) It might be focusing on overcoming a fear, saying kind and loving things to myself, cultivating a sense of gratitude and peace, and so on. When my mind starts to drift I just gently bring it back to the affirmation I’m using that day.

3. The vision exercise: Remember my previous post about building the life you want through belief? This goes to that end. I’ll think of what it would look like and feel like if I became everything I wanted to be, and if all of my desires were fulfilled. A few years back, many people became devotees of “The Secret,” and I’ll admit that I scoffed at the notion … seemed like a bunch of hocus-pocus, just another spiritual fad perpetuated by Oprah, a woman who seemed to already have everything she could ever want. But now I’m thinking the tenets of that actually do work, if you truly believe it deeply enough, and, beyond everything, truly feel worthy of it. It all begins with the deep belief that you are worthy of getting the things you want, and capable of achieving them.

4. The quiet mind: I meet with a meditation group regularly, and this is the approach I most often take in that setting. (I do this in yoga as well.) I try my best to be absolutely present in the situation, to concentrate on how the chair feels below me, the sounds of the room around me, the temperature of the air, and so on. It’s hard for me to hold onto that mental silence for an extended period of time, so I will often bring a simple affirmation into it in order to refocus myself.

There are many ways to think about “what meditation is” and its benefits. Some say that prayer is asking God for things, and meditation is listening for the answer. Some say it’s a way to manifest beliefs and to improve concentration. Some say it’s simply a means of growing more peaceful and serene. Whatever you’d like to get from it, I hope you’ll try it out. Like everything else, it gets better with practice!

I wish you all a peaceful, present, quiet mind.

Andrew Hines

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