Focusing for a Change

It’s moving week. Today I am supposed to be painting my bedroom, but am distracted by the beauty I captured on my phone yesterday. Before I pick up any brushes, I feel the need to paint with some words.

As most of you know, I left behind a long-standing marriage in the summer of 2015. For the next couple of years I worked in a contract position as I went through the process of a divorce. When my 2-year contract ended, I had to make a decision. I could either find another office job (the prospect literally sent me to bed ill for a day or so) or take some real time off to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I found out about the contract end date in August – right in the midst of purchasing a home in which to run an AirBnB. Several circumstances besides the job loss turned me away from that plan, and on September 16 I moved in with my daughter and son-in-law, homeless, jobless, and wondering where all of this was going.

Some of you probably remember the backyard neighbor I had when I lived in TN. The funny blog I wrote several years back can catch you up to speed if you are unfamiliar with the saga, but in case you don’t have the time, let’s just say that he and I didn’t have the same standards in the areas of neighborhood beautification or peace & quiet. Two years after leaving TN behind, I looked out of my bedroom window and saw this:

Talk about contrast launching a million rockets of desire!

In fact, this yard is so much worse than anything I ever saw at Tony’s that I almost feel bad comparing the two. Almost… By the way, my bedroom is the only room in my daughter’s rental home with this view. Go figure.

A couple of months after moving in, I was on the phone gazing out at the madness next door, when I received an inspiration. I wrote about it here, so I won’t rehash it, I’ll just show you the photo of my solution.

One of my friends calls it my stained glass window.

When my son-in-law saw it, he walked up to my daughter and said, “I can see Ireland from your mom’s bedroom!” ūüôā With the view blocked, I forgot about the neighbor’s yard … mostly. Occasionally, I would raise the window up just to see if anything had changed. Nope. But my life has changed drastically in the past year.

In January of 2018, this was my view for about 10 days:

Sunset over Labelle, FL

Sometime in early spring, I revamped my website, and with my son’s help, developed this logo.

In May I self-published my first novel.

In September my dream of visiting Ireland came true.

And yesterday I took these from the kitchen doorway (also the view from my bedroom) in the new home that my son-in-law purchased this week:

Some would say that I have successfully manifested my dreams into reality, but it feels more like I relaxed, found a way to focus on the things that bring me joy, and beautiful stuff just started happening. There’s a little quote on my vision board/window that I grabbed off of the Internet when I was going through my divorce. I believe it truly encapsulates what our first goal should be anytime we are looking to improve something within ourselves or our lives. It certainly has sustained me through many a tough day year:

quote, forget, and shit image

Image Source: https://weheartit.com/entry/48256589

When you are ready to see a completely new life unfold before your eyes, this is step one – forget the past. Step two – accept what is, without judgement or complaint. Yes, you may be unhappy with something or someone, like I was with my neighbor(s), but when things are out of your control, finding a way to focus on something else is the real key to freedom.

Finally, move on. We have to be willing to step into that new future even through uncertainty or fear. I had a moment when I purchased my ticket to Ireland. A moment of pure terror! For about an hour afterwards, I kept asking myself, “What have I done?” After all, I had been out of work for nine months with no job in sight (I wasn’t even applying for jobs!). Yet I had just purchased a ticket to another country where I would rent a car that had to be driven on the opposite side of the road, to spend eleven days exploring an unfamiliar place – completely alone. The fear subsided as I turned my focus on the amazing adventure about to come. Now that my trip is over, I am looking for the next incredible journey coming around the bend!

Today I feel sad that I have to remove my vision board from the window. Those photos have sustained me in so many ways. They reminded me of the life I want to live, the adventures I want to have, and the power that I can exercise over any obstacle. But once again I am moving on. Seasons come and go; flowing with them is crucial to growth, and growth is a vital part of life.

So much good has come from my willingness to refocus – not just my eyes but my heart and mind. Focus is about more than seeing clearly. It’s really about what we choose to look at in the first place. What are you focused upon today? Hopefully your gaze is fixed on your dreams, your goals, your vision for your best life. The Avett Brothers said it well – “If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.” We have been given one life. I think we would all be amazed at what can happen when we really choose to live it.

Namaste,

~C

 

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Letting Go Accountability

Today I had the chance to share my journey into forgiveness with someone on Facebook. I thought I might post it here in case it might be helpful for any of my readers. There really is healing ahead – assuming you want it badly enough.

Question:

How do I stop holding an ex accountable for their behavior? How do I let go and forgive?

My response:

I have been going through this for the past 3 years, so for what it’s worth, here’s how it went for me.

1. I started a vision board for my trip to Ireland, and in the process, ran into a little meme that reads: “Forget shit and move on.” It didn’t have much to do with Ireland, but I put it on my board anyway. It became a very useful tool when I needed to stop the stream of hateful thoughts that came up often in those days. In terms of painful experiences, a short memory is the fastest road to salvation (read: freeeddoooommm). (See Joe Dispenza for more on this.)

2. I spent a reasonable amount of time sending the white light of love to him in meditation. Not something I could do when I was NOT connected to my inner being (who loves him, despite my feelings about it).

3. I started noticing that I kept meeting men who were JUST LIKE HIM. Seriously, ALL of them. Hm, I knew enough about the LOA to know that it was my focus on his faults that was pulling these people into my experience. I was doing it – ME, not him (reminder: I attracted him into my experience in the first place, after all). When I finally had enough, I began with the new people who were rubbing me the wrong way (I couldn’t begin with him). I reminded myself of an old adage, “hurting people hurt people” and started finding positive aspects in those folks. Then I thought about and talked about those positive aspects to anyone who would listen (especially others who were annoyed by those same people). Soon the weird relationships I had been encountering either disappeared (I started meeting really wonderful people), or the relationships began resolving themselves. One in particular continues to amaze me in terms of how much the person changed in my view of them over a very short period of time! Perspective really is everything. Now I just don’t think ill of the ex anymore either – maybe I’ll call it ‘the bleed effect’. I’ve seen too much positive change in my world to want to go back there again.

4. I reminded myself over and over that we ALL do the best we can with what we have. There are people in this world who simply do not have useful tools in the emotional box. Asking a crippled person to walk and then becoming angry when they don’t is worse than counterproductive. Shouting their disability to others who can see clearly that they have limitations is less than helpful. Usually just makes me look like an ass, not them.

5. I started believing Abraham Hicks – that I really don’t need to explain anything to anyone or justify my divorce by trashing the ex. None of it is necessary. Who I was then is not who I am now. If he chooses to change, great; if not, it’s his loss and still won’t affect me in the least. I began choosing to look into the future and stop wasting my energy in the past. A good quote: “Unforgiveness is equivalent to me drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.” You have to get tired of being sick. An even better quote: “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” Something that will never change no matter how much energy I give to it. The past really IS passed!

6. Finally, this person is the father of my children. If nothing else, I can find great satisfaction in the joy that these three beings continue to bring me.  Without him, there would be no them. I am learning from Abraham that the road to healing is paved with appreciation for the positive aspects of everyone in our experience. After all, each person I meet contains wanted and unwanted. What I focus on is MY choice, and only mine. I got tired of being miserable and started either focusing on his positive aspects or looking at something else entirely. It does help to bang a pickleball around 5 or 6 times a week. hehe

Perhaps I have not yet achieved total freedom, but today I am much happier on my journey than I have ever been. And I can even say that I am grateful beyond measure for the 28 years of pain that taught me how important happiness really is – AND the truth about where happiness comes from. Hint: Happiness cannot come from any source outside of myself, so why would I hold anyone accountable for not giving me something that they could never have given me anyway?

Many blessings on your journey into joy!

Namaste,

C

Past is Passed …

… but the Future is Now

Three years ago I read Eckhart Tolle’s book,¬†The Power of Now. The following is my attempt to ‘flesh out’ where I stand currently on what it means to live in the present moment.

~   ~   ~

Anyone who knows me very well is aware of the serious condition from which I suffer. I affectionately call it¬† made up a name for it:¬†Youtubeitis. It’s more of an addiction than an illness. That’s right, my name is Cindy, and I am a YouTube addict. Whether driving to and from the pickleball court, preparing a meal, or sitting on the couch in my room, you will most often find me listening to back to back talks given by my favorite teachers, all offering their wisdom for free on the Interwebs. My AT&T data plan cannot begin to keep up. The good news is, I think it is finally starting to pay off.

When I turned the last page of¬†The Power of Now, I was fairly convinced that whatever Tolle was talking about, it was both impractical and unreachable – at least for me. Nothing about sitting on a park bench for two years, while becoming enamored with the life force of the leaves on the trees has ever remotely appealed to me. I watched the online class that he and Oprah Winfrey put out to help us ‘get it’, but I still didn’t, and I knew it.

Right around the time that I encountered The Power of Now, a cousin of mine introduced me to Dr. Joe Dispenza. Quickly I found that the science of spirituality made much more sense to me than the esoteric, ethereal notions presented in Tolle’s book. I have since read two books by Dr. Joe, listened to almost everything he has out on YouTube multiple times (this is a great place to start), purchased (and use) several of his meditation CD’s, and in December of 2017, I attended a Progressive conference in Austin, TX. Here is a meditation you can try for free. Let me know what you think in the comments.

About 6 months ago, I stumbled upon Abraham Hicks, and suddenly everything I had learned from Dr. Joe was amplified ten-fold! I moved from directing thought and emotion during meditation to becoming aware of my moment-by-moment feelings throughout the day in light of all that I have become. I am now learning how to elevate my thoughts and emotions in real-time, and the skill is transforming my life in ways I never imagined.

When I first read Tolle’s book, probably my most memorable take-away was that the moment you realize you are in the ‘now’, that moment is gone, and you are actually looking back at the past! Clearly I did not understand how¬†to live in the present moment if every now moment is really a past one by the time it registers in my mind as present. (Try repeating that sentence five times fast.)

This week I have been re-immersing myself in Dr. Dispenza’s interviews on YouTube.¬†Here is one of them. So far, he has not said anything that I have not already heard him say. In fact, the books and conference materials explain the same concepts in much more detail than he provides in the interviews, but somehow I am receiving a greater understanding in terms of application. Maybe something that Abraham said is bringing new meaning to Joe’s words, or perhaps some life experience has built a proper framework for me. After all,

words don’t teach, life experience teaches.

Whatever the cause, I am making new connections that I was unable to make before.

The concept is simple enough. We use our memory of who we were yesterday to remind us of who we are when we wake up today. That means that the majority of us depend on our memories of past experiences to tell us who we are in the present moment. Likewise, the beliefs we have about life and others, come from the thoughts of the past that we have practiced over a long period of time. Added to that, the subconscious mind guides and directs 95% of a person’s actions and emotions on a daily basis, yet the majority of the beliefs governing the subconscious were established before we turned five years old. On a subconscious level, we live completely out of our past experiences. This is why lasting change is so difficult to come by.

So the problem becomes that even though the past is gone, we do not actually live like it is. Every morning when I wake up, I formulate a view of myself and the world based on it. If that past was painful, then pain becomes the defining hallmark of my life. I define others based on the past as well, determined to hold a person hostage to the day I became the target of their bad behavior. But because we define our present reality based on the past, we are unable to imagine a different future. And when we do try to imagine our future (thanks to the subconscious programming in our brains) we envision the worst case scenario based on things that happened to us in the past. We know these fears are rooted in events that are now gone, yet we allow those same events to color our picture of tomorrow in dire shades we dare not entertain thoughts about.

What if a person was able to wake up and only see themselves through the framework of who they wanted to be, rather than who they were yesterday? What if people approached everyone they encountered on any given day as if it were the first time they met? No history of wrongs, no preconceived notions of what that person was like, only a soul, just like them, living out the greatest expression of themselves that they could be in that moment in time. What if people learned to ignore everything from their past (since the past literally does not exist in any form as a reality) and began to focus their attention on the present moment, in the context of becoming the greatest expression of themselves that they could be? Maybe that is what John Lennon really meant.

Would you be willing to imagine such a world? Do you think that you could imagine it? A world where people everywhere viewed themselves and others in light of what we are becoming, rather than dragging forward what we/they have been. The fact is, the only way to truly live in the present moment is to utterly leave the past behind. Tolle probably said that, but clearly I did not get it.

The key to it all is the human brain’s incredible ability to use thought. Did you know that when you entertain a memory (a thought) of something that occurred in the past, your brain produces the exact same cocktail of chemicals that were released during the event itself – no matter how far removed you are from it in time? Human beings are the only species on the planet who have the ability to make a thought as real as an actual event. It follows then, that our brains are capable of producing chemicals equal to future possibilities through thought alone as well. In this way, our thoughts are able to bring the future we desire into the present moment, but instead we continue to practice the habit of dragging the pain of the past into our now. We could be dreaming about a future filled with joy, appreciation, love, health, peace, and happiness – all along releasing the necessary chemicals that can change the hard-wired programming in our brain. This skill would enable you and me to live with intention going forward, and it is the true meaning of the power of now.

Backward is impossible. Forward is inevitable. And if you can imagine it, you can create it – good, bad, or indifferent. We have the choice to stare fixedly at the past, or to dare to imagine a better future. Whatever we give our attention to is what we will create in our present now reality.

Perception really is everything.

One Magical Life

I can no longer remember how or when the idea for a vacation in Ireland came to me. I know it began as a desire to spend an extended time (3 months, even) in a different environment, possibly tied to writing my novel (fantasy fiction with a Celtic feel). I do remember creating a bucket list, and those few short sentences morphed into a vision board overflowing with photos of¬†Ireland, modest homes surrounded by peaceful gardens, and a few pithy quotes to help me move past a difficult divorce. Continue reading “One Magical Life”

All the Little Ways

The universe (God, goddess, angels, universal consciousness, whatever you want to call it) speaks to me in many different ways. I have had dreams, visions, heard a public speaker (complete stranger) reiterate in a talk the exact words of a private conversation I had with a friend earlier that day, seen repeating numbers, and on rare occasions, heard a voice inside my head. I cannot count the number of times I have thought of a friend only to have them call or email me soon after. So many serendipitous things have happened in my life that I no longer believe in coincidence. My family even coined the phrase co-inky-dink years ago in an attempt to make light of these strange occurrences.

I’ve been getting messages of one kind or another my whole life, but it has taken me some time to really learn to pay attention to them. Many were so subtle that they could have easily passed by unnoticed, yet they are the ones that speak the loudest to my soul. We all hope that the universe will come through for us in the big stuff (the job, the healing, etc.), but when something small happens just to delight us, well, then we truly experience the whole of the depth and breadth of the love available to us.

If you will indulge me, I would like to share one of my favorite examples of the universe speaking to me from circa 1996:

It was early, maybe six-thirty in the evening, and I was where I usually was at that time of day, in front of a sink full of dirty dishes. My husband stood behind me in the doorway to our kitchen talking at me. Apparently he knew the script of our lives as well as I did – he was in his place as much as I was in mine. In the background I could hear my two girls arguing over some perceived injustice that one had suffered at the other’s hand. I had grown so accustomed to the constant bickering that it was little more than background noise. They knew I would not choose a victim and had been forced early on to learn to work out their squabbles on their own. My husband was another story. He was always the victim. Me? I was the sounding board.

The townhouse the four of us shared was nothing to write home about. At least it was in a nicer area of Georgia than some I’d seen. God only knows how we paid for it. Life for the wife of a pastor-turned-construction handyman was no walk in the park. Wasn’t God supposed to take care of us? Then why was I never able to buy shoes for my children? Why did I have to choose between health insurance and groceries? I had learned one very useful thing over the course of ten years: how to pack a kitchen in one hour or less. Since 1987 we had lived in seven different dwellings, three different states, and one foreign country. After almost ten years of moving, I was tired. Tired of jobs ending. Tired of every application being rejected. Tired of listening to the pie-in-the-sky delusions that comprised my husband’s life story.

He was at it again – telling me his plans for the job he had applied for one week ago. Never mind that it could take up to a year to even hear back from a church. He had no interview scheduled, did not even know if anyone would ever look at the application, but he had plans for the money he was going to make, for the ministry he would do there, and he had already mapped out the place we would live. He had a plan for everything – everything except another rejection. He assured me that this church would be the one, this time it would happen. I had listened to the same speech multiple times over the previous months – many, many more if you count all of the years of training. Same song, umpteen millionth verse. And like the tune, the outcome never changed.

In seminary we had two children. I stopped working to care for them, so we learned to live on student loans and my family’s charity. Seminary included a year-long internship in Australia (it was not glamorous, sorry to disappoint). Then in 1992 a mission board told us we were not missionary material. By their estimation our marriage had a three in ten chance of survival. Graduation from seminary was followed by an eighteen month stint where my husband served as a youth pastor. It ended in disaster, financial and otherwise. Application after application generated rejection after rejection. Even though one church voted to hire him in 1994, the Presbytery said no – twice. Standing there in front of that soapy water, I could not have imagined that two more failed internships, bankruptcy, a three-month separation, military service and deployment, another job loss, three more years of graduate school, twelve more moves, and finally divorce were headed¬†my way.

Yet even then, I had run out of words.

I could not muster a response to his assurances. All I could do was bristle in silence against the barrage of his pipe dreams. I remember rinsing the last of the dishes while staring at my reflection in the darkened window above the sink. My eyes looked hollow and empty of life – just like I felt. Whatever joy I had known was gone, trampled under the hardships of a life lived without enough of anything – money, stability, family ties, friends, or, most importantly, love. In my head I spoke to the only one I thought might be listening. “God,” I said, “I can’t dream anymore. It’s too painful.”

I rinsed the soap down the drain then turned and left the kitchen. He was likely still standing there talking as I plodded mechanically up the stairs. I went through the motions of my nightly routine with my own voice still echoing in my head, “It hurts too much to dream.” The truth was, I had never learned to dream about much of anything for myself. As a child I was told I had to marry because women needed to be taken care of by a man. The church told me I had to obey my husband, follow his dreams, and die to whatever it was I might desire. In my mind, there was no room for my dreams, even if I had them. In my marriage, there was no room for me.

Funny how the universe has a way of giving us back things we do not even realize we have lost.

It has long been my practice to read before falling asleep. In fact, since I was in middle school (maybe even earlier), I cannot remember my nightstand bereft of a book or six (yes, I am always in the middle of approximately six books at a time, don’t ask me why). That night I was reading He Still Moves Stones by Max Lucado. After flipping on the lamp, I climbed into bed, pulled the covers up, and opened the book to my mark. The entire page was nothing but the title of Chapter 5. It read:

It’s All Right to Dream Again

Suddenly I could not breathe. The words before me bled together like watercolors bathed in my tears. The shock of such an immediate and crystal clear answer to my thoughts left me speechless. I smiled as I placed my bookmark back where it had been, shut the cover, and set the book on the nightstand. Then I turned out the light and went to sleep. I did not need to see anything else. The universe had spoken.

Message in a book

Since that night twenty or more years ago, I have heard that voice speak to me again and again. Sometimes it has been direct, like the title of Chapter 5. Other times it has been more subtle and harder to perceive. Perhaps hearing the universe speak is a function of belief – I expect it to speak so it does. I trust that what I am hearing is a message for me and that the message is good. So I work to hone my intuition, increase my attention span and ability to concentrate, and develop exceptional listening skills. Meditation is helpful, although in my experience, the universe seems to wait until I am surrounded by noise just to show me that it will always be louder, truer, and more reliable than anything else I hear. After all, what has the power to drown out the still small voice of love? Absolutely nothing.

Do you ever receive messages from the universe? How do the messages come to you? How do they make you feel and what do you do when you get them?

If you are game to share an experience you have had receiving an unexpected but timely message, please email me at cecetarot@yahoo.com. I would love to feature your story as a guest blog here on Ripples of Insight.

Much love and light,

~ Cindy