A number of years ago, I owned a spiritual retreat centre business called the Ecology Retreat Centre. It’s still near Orangeville in a beautiful rural area of Southern Ontario. There are a few cabins, a beautiful lodge, a dining hall and meeting spaces for groups that want to run their own retreats and seminars. Many of these groups run ecology, spiritual, artistic or psychotherapy programs. The centre had a rustic flavour to it with most buildings, like the lodge, being very modern, however it certainly wasn’t like the Hilton.
The Man with the Lexus
One day, a well-dressed man drove up the driveway in his white Lexus and asked if he could rent a cabin. I immediately thought that he had made a mistake and driven up the wrong driveway. One kilometer down the road was a very posh resort where all a lot of wealthy people would go. When I asked him if he was looking for that resort, he assured me that he had wanted a cabin at my centre. He never told me his real name, but for the sake of the story I’ll call him Steve.
So I drove with him up to a cabin in the woods, got some linens and towels and set him up for the 3-night stay he requested. He paid me in advance.
As I was talking with him I could tell that he was deeply troubled. There was something that was eating him up inside and he seemed close to tears. I was concerned for him but also suspicious.
In November 2012, I spent 7 days in a hospital room diagnosed with a sub-arachnoid hemorrhage (broken blood vessel in my head)
There was an older fellow about 75 in my room, who’d insist on having a smoke every evening against doctor’s orders. “I’ve worked hard in a factory all my life and I deserve to have a smoke. I don’t care if it’s bad for me! Its what makes me feel good!”
The nurses patiently put up with his curses.
Then there was the unconscious gasping man across from me.
About every sixth inhalation he’d gasp desperately for air as if it were his last breath. I remember counting. He looked to be about 80 years old. The nurses would talk to him lovingly as if he could hear them. Sometimes he’d move a bit when they talked.
He was a puzzle to me.
I couldn't understand why a man near the end of his life in so much distress would want to live. Why didn’t he just give up and die? Maybe he was just afraid to die… but I detected no fear in his paroxysms. There was more yearning than fear. I felt some affinity with him.
When I contemplated his fear, there was a sweet and longing quality to it. There was not an intense sense of aversion. After a few moments it hit me what the similarity was. It wasn’t that he was afraid to die.
He was afraid not to live.
His gasping was a grasping for life.
He had experienced what it was like to almost die, come back to life and feel the simple gratitude of just being in a body, able to gaze through human eyes out the window… to watch the wind blowing the leaves across the parking lot… to look in his children’s and see the unspoken love behind all the speaking…to hear a calling and a purpose in life and struggle to fulfill it.
Like him I was afraid that I would die without fully engaging in why I was here. And it became clear to me that the tragedy of life is not that we die… its that we do not fully live.
I sadly contemplated how many people die before their time, not due to some illness or accident but because it is too painful to live their lives with no meaning.
They miss that the simple purpose of life…
Life itself…is just living it fully.
…experiencing all of what we are experiencing in what we are experiencing.
How many people become like the curmudgeon, who in missing the fullness already present in life, try to fill their lives with something else…too much smoking, working, recognition, acquiring, drinking, distraction…
The mind wants so much to find a meaning in life that it overlooks what is already inherently fulfilling...
and if we don’t see it
we will find some other neurotic purpose to occupy us.
Life is Living.
And when we live it fully and then examine it there’s a gold mine of wisdom in it…but the living comes first.
I must confess...
I loved that gasping man.
(even loved that curmudgeon)
They taught me a lot.
I pray that they have recovered and
teach everyone they meet
what they taught me.
Be you to Fullness
If you are like me there are times when I just get fed up.
I get fed up with rush hour traffic, Donald Trump, the bills I have to pay, the people that take too long at the bank teller when I am in a rush, the dirty dishes that always have to be done, the snow plow that covers up the driveway when I just shoveled it, problems in relationships, my back pain, the hour long wait to see the doctor, mechanics who don’t fix my car right, the financial worries about the future, the undone projects...it goes on and on.
But when it comes down to it I am mostly fed up with my mind ruminating over what it is fed up about.
Our minds can be like a terrorist constantly blowing up our inner peace or torturing us with endless re-circulating conversations with others.
Sometimes it feels like hell. We want to tell our minds where to go. But if we are already in hell where can we tell our minds to go?
How do we create some calm space in this internal fussing?
There are lots of meditative techniques that are helpful but here’s a strategy that you might find useful
Go Back to Just Before the Mind Turns On
When you wake up in the morning there is a brief moment just before you re-acquaint yourself with the world. Then the mind turns on. It’s like an automatic switch that turns on all the fussing.
But just before that switch goes on there is a calm space.
The mind is clearer. There is a sense of refreshment from the night’s sleep.
- Make a commitment the evening before to pause in that state the next morning when you first wake-up.
- When you wake up, do not get up right away.
- Spend some time just enjoying the relaxation of that state. Notice everything about that state: the way it feels in the body, where the peace is located physically, what it looks like if it had a shape and what the sensations and colours are, (smooth, cool, warm, fluid, solid, dark, light, blue, red, etc) what emotion is there and the slow nature of the breathing.
- Take in some deep breaths and exhalations to anchor or associate that feeling with the calm state.
- Get up and notice when the mind turns on and all the fussing starts again. Experience once again how you experience that fussing state.
Re-experience the State
Then throughout the day when you get exasperated with your mind, take a deep breath, relax with the out breath and see if you can re-call or re-experience that state before the mind turned on. What will help is if you place your attention on those parts of the body where you felt the calmness in the morning.
Alternatively, for a few moments just notice your thoughts and see if you can notice the brief space between one thought and another. See if you can notice that same feeling that you felt when you first woke up. When you do, take in a deep breath, let it out and try to stay in that calmness as much as you can.
Try out this practice every day for two weeks and see if the fussing subsides and you become calmer and more centered.
For more strategies to calm the mind check out:
ClearMind - PureHeart
Living from Presence
I recently talked to a good friend who told me how her heart had been broken by a former partner. She told me it took her 2 years to recover from the grief and how even now it is hard for her to love again.
Her story deeply affected me because I know that many of us including myself have experienced this deep pain. I wrote this for her, myself and for anyone who has felt this profound sadness in their hearts.
I have been hurt in love.
Please sooth the soreness in my soul and show me the way to heal my grief from the pain of loss of the one I so deeply loved
Embrace me with your divine presence so that as I heal I experience you holding me in my sadness and aloneness.
Let me be whole, happy and pure again.
Instead of hardening my heart please bring to me the path, people, circumstances that can assist me to heal in such a way that eventually in good time my pain deepens the connection to my soul and helps me become a more compassionate and empathetic person to all those that suffer loss in their lives.
Reveal to me the essential lessons I need to learn so I can let go and move on in my life and make conscious wiser choices in love.
Help release me from anything that separates me from my perfect soul-mate and prepare me to be the kind of person that can now in good time attract this person so that together we bring more joy, peace, love, consciousness and prosperity into our lives.
Bring me to truly love again and bring true love to me.
There is a new-age truism: “I am not responsible for others reactions or triggers”
This is often used to justify or defend one person’s effect on another.
It is true that we cannot make anyone feel a particular way. The way they react to what we do is their choice. The emotion that is triggered by our behaviour and how they express it is their responsibility.
However, this truism is often used an excuse to act in a non-compassionate way to another’s pain. “Yes I said that you were being too sensitive but you were the one that decided to be hurt by this remark. I am not responsible for your feelings”.
However if we are in relationship with another it behooves us to be sensitive to their triggers.
If we are in relationship with someone who has grown up with a verbally abusive parent it will not bring our partner closer to us to have anger and emotional charge in our communication.
For the sake of building the relationship it may be necessary for a partner to be mindful of the way they relate to one with a history of verbal abusive until they can heal this wound in themselves with their own personal work.
Those people who live from the truism “I am not responsible for your feelings” and use this as a defense to act in insensitive ways to others invariably find themselves without any close relationships.
There is a common fallacy in the spiritual world that we should always approach others with a loving heart and be open to them no matter how they are. After all others are divine in nature are they not?
There is a half-truth to this.
All individuals are non-physical in their true nature but at the same time they possess a personality through which they relate to us. This personality is formed around social conditioning and painful experiences. In many ways the personality is formed as a buffer or a defense against overwhelming experiences that they have encountered in others in the past. It is reactive in nature i.e. and when people interact with others and encounter a situation that resembles the past pain they can unconsciously act out of that pain and inflict injury on others.
Out of their hurt they hurt others.
So if we are always loving and open to only seeing the divine in others we may avoid seeing the potential dangers of interacting with injurious people. Porcupines may seem cute but you don’t want to touch them.
There are some important skills to navigate this.
Conscious Openess Versus Innocent Openness
We need to cultivate awareness in our interactions with others. This means using our intuition when meeting others, particularly those people who say they are of higher consciousness. They may actually be very good at putting on a spiritual personality and be actually using it to manipulate us. Many behaviours can be faked, even compassion and authenticity.
I hate to say this but I have seen my share of sociopaths in the spiritual world. They are everywhere wearing white cotton clothing, smiling sweetly and speaking peacefully.
An essential skill is to practice on a daily basis is choosing to extend your awareness on others and noting in your body what you feel. We must learn to rely on our gut feelings: “Is this person safe?” “How do I feel about their interaction?” “Do I feel they are straight with me or hiding other intentions?” and then respond accordingly.
Choosing to be Closed
Some of us can be perpetually open, thinking this is more spiritual and find it difficult to be shut down.
Actually it is just as spiritual to be closed, especially to dangerous people.
This is a skill that can be developed.
A great meditation is to practice opening up to an object (say a piece of fruit) noting what that feels like and then closing down to it and noting what that feels like. As you do this over and over you will develop the ability to be open or closed by choice rather than by chance.
This ability you can use in all your relationships. Sometimes it will improve your relationships with others to notice when you are closed and choose to be open. Sometimes it will improve your relationship with yourself to close down to others when you are open to a situation that is abusive.
Sometimes we may find ourselves in situations from which we cannot extract ourselves. In these cases we need to develop psychic armor that prevents another’s disruptive energy from affecting us.
Practice feeling a shell of protective energy around yourself and then dissolving it. Do this over and over again until you can do this consciously in any situation.
These are a few of the strategies to create safety for ourselves. It is true that our conscious expands on the spiritual path as the result of our interaction with others.
I call this co-evolution.
But this interaction must be safe for us to evolve. Even though individuals may be divine in nature they have personalities that may act out in harmful ways. Human history is replete with examples of professed holy people doing ungodly horrors.
We need to interact with others by conscious choice rather than innocent openness.
This is part of the path of becoming a conscious seeker that I expand on in my book Awakening the Guru in You.
There are lots of porcupines on the spiritual path dressed up like teddy bears. You would not want to hug them.
If you like this article you might like:
The Co-evolutionary U-n-I-verse
Everyone wants to meet Mr/Ms Right and when we do we are in heaven.
There is a rainbow in every dark cloud and beauty in every sullen face we see. All that we see is the beloved’s visage and we feel their presence as a constant wave of bliss in our hearts. The romance phase is glorious.
Yet at some time in the relationship, a break in that wonderful state occurs. It’s inevitable in any relationship.
Maybe we are in a group of friends and our loved one innocently says a demeaning remark to us and we are hurt. We talk to them later and suddenly Mr/Ms Right turns into Mr/Ms Needs to be Right.
They have a hard time apologizing and actually seeing our hurt. They may say the words “I am sorry” but it is often accompanied with an explanation or a justification of why they made the remark or a long involved story of what influenced them to say what they said.
Or they confess innocence or even blame us for being too sensitive. No matter how much you tell them of your hurt they just get more entrenched in their story. They may even argue with you to defend themselves. You can present your pain to them for hours and they still won’t see what they did.
It’s a shock to you and you wonder where Mr/Ms Right went.
What Happened to Mr/Ms Right?
I have observed this personality in my relationships, friendships and at work. And often the reason Mr/Ms Needs to Be Right takes over is because they are triggered by earlier experiences of being shamed humiliated or made wrong and stupid by parents or friends when they have spontaneously shared an opinion or innocently made a mistake.
It’s a painful trauma to them.
They don’t want to admit a wrong because those old feelings flood into their consciousness and you remind them of that pain. They do what they had to do back then:
Dig in their heels and defend themselves. To admit a wrong is akin to annihilation to them. Its death.
For Mr/Ms Needs to Be Right they look at being presented with their error as a threat and instead of using this as an opportunity to resolve an issue and get closer to you they see it as a conflict to win.
To be in a working, friendship or intimate relationship with such a personality eventually becomes very difficult. You are trying to work on resolving the issue thinking they are on the same page but they have a different agenda which is to be right and win. Discussions become heated arguments.
The conflict can go on for hours.
Eventually there is an apology but it’s only a pseudo- apology as above. It’s just an explanation. The problem only gets half-resolved.
And because it only gets half-resolved it comes up later and Mr/Ms Needs to Be Right will offer a new rationalization of the incident that takes away the former apology.
You start to feel crazy because you are caught between a truth and a non-truth. Whenever there is an issue to be resolved they start off as the Mr/Ms Right you fell in love with. It appears that they are trying to resolve a problem but when presented with their mistake they become Mr/Ms Needs to Be Right and go into defense and win mode and the apology is not real.
Eventually you begin to shut down around that person. They may then even blame you for not being loving enough or becoming distant.
The unsolved issues create a tension in the relationship and you may in an attempt to reduce that tension take on excessive blame, often apologizing for your personality or creating the circumstances in which the person made an error. It becomes self-demeaning.
“I am sorry I was in the way when you dropped that rock on my head”.
But this never works as your inner strength, self-image, inner peace erodes, and over time sometimes leads to mental health issues like depression. A push-pull dynamic often happens as your loved often presents the Mr/Ms Right you fell in love with and then without warning becomes Mr/Ms Needs to Be Right.
This kind of relationship can often become extremely painful and toxic.
I have seen very damaging break-ups where husbands and wives are using money, in-laws, lawyers and even the kids to get even with one another. Both people in the couple get reactive and lash out in unhealthy ways. Often Mr/Ms Needs to Be Right, wins in the end but it’s a “Pyrrhic Victory” .The emotional and mental damage to everyone is so devastating that it takes years to heal.
There’s an old saying about relationships: “You can either be happy or be right”.
It’s so very sad to see the damage that is caused by people who used to deeply love each other when Mr/Ms Needs to Be Right shows up, when the solution could have been an easy self-reflective moment of self-responsibility with a simple brief apology.
It’s a deep tragedy.
Some of us have one or more troublesome inner voices that frequently put us down in our daily grind.
It’s like we have a negative commentator in the audience in the theater of our lives: “You’ll never succeed”, “Who do you think you are thinking so highly of yourself?” “You’re an idiot” “Control yourself” “Just settle for less”. The commentaries are like little vortices going endlessly round and round in the mind gradually drilling deeper and deeper into our self-image and eroding our confidence.
Sometimes these voices are the internalized voices of our parents, peers or other caregivers when we were young. Sometimes they are our own voices echoing erroneous conclusions we have made about ourselves from experiences we have had with others that we didn’t quite understand. Their behaviour was confusing so we decided something about ourselves was wrong: “I’m no good”, “I’m not loveable”, “I’m to blame” etc.
Sometimes these voices yell so loud that we rarely notice that we are really good at heart with the best intentions for most people.
What can we do about these voices?
Well the worst thing we can do is tell them to shut up...that just makes them go into a temper tantrum and scream louder.
In my experience the best thing, (which might seem counter-productive), is to listen to them.
- Listen to the voice and then allow yourself to experience the state it puts you in. The state can be your emotions, body sensations and posture, your thoughts or all of them put together.
- Go into that state and then ask yourself what character this voice would need to be coming from to say what it is saying. It could be the Inner Critic, Controller, Victim, Saboteur, Rebel, etc.
- When you name the character an interesting shift happens. You start to realize that it is a just persona, a mask you are wearing. Its just your ego, not the real you. You will feel some freedom from the ego as you de-identify with it. You are you and the real you is just wearing a mask. You are not the mask.
- Then you can ask that personality what its deeper positive purpose is. The message might be: “I’m here to protect you” “I’m here to offer correction and advice” or “I’m here to guide you” etc
- When you get the real message you make a deal with that persona: “Well Inner Critic here’s the deal if you stop yelling at me, I’ll listen to you but only if you’ll give me your direction when I really need it, not all the time. Then we can live together in peace” When that deal is in place a wonderous thing can help.
Your ego becomes your ally.
It stops upstaging you and becomes part of your supporting cast of characters. Its opposing force turns around, joins with your energy and empowers you more fully to achieve the success and fulfillment you desire.
If you can resonate with what I have said here and you would like to explore this process (and others) to let go of your internal barriers and to make friends with your ego then check out the one day workshop Becoming Your Own Best Friend.
Imagine what can happen if you spend a full day working through this process?
What big shift can happen in your life?
Check it out here: BECOMING YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND
or the the other series of Bright Life Workshops.
One of the biggest things that influences our prosperity is our beliefs about money.
To show you the truth of this, I'd invite you to do a little experiment.
Just for a moment, entertain the belief that all grey upholstered chairs are very bad for your health. Really take this on...Then imagine yourself sitting in one for an extended period of time. How would you feel in the chair with that belief?
You probably would feel nervous about sitting on it, maybe even somewhat ill. You would not want to sit on it for very long.
I don’t know about you but there have been many times in the past when I just didn’t know what choice to make. I would second guess myself after I made a choice and then go back on it. Or I would decide on something and become fearful that I’d made the wrong decision.
It got to the point where I’d get so anxious I just decided to go along with whatever anybody else wanted. I had lost my capacity to choose.
Sometimes this problem is related to
“I saw myself as being exactly as I am. The beauty of it was beyond anything I could describe. I felt that every single thing I did was being done for the first time: food was unbelievable, my reflection in the mirror was beautiful and hilarious, my belly – which I typically have a negative relationship with – felt bountiful, solid and exactly the way it should be. I wanted absolutely everyone in the world to experience what I had experienced!"
—Brenda McMorrow - Singer/Songwriter, Guelph, Ontario
- Why Is It Important To Know Who You Are?
- Why Is It Important To Know Who You Are?
- The Dyad Technique For Insight and Enlightenment
- What Do You Do When The Present Moment Is Not A Pleasant Moment
- Awaken the Guru In You - sample chapters
- Painful Blessings by Rob Brezny read by Russell Scott with a commentary
- Two Words that Can Create Havoc in Your Life (maybe for a long, long time?)
- Why Do Affirmations Sometimes Fail?
- Transforming Bitterness
- Mr Potato Head's Awakening Experience