Happiness isn’t the lack of negative emotions

I recently bought a house that’s about 30 min. outside of the city. Yesterday I was driving to my regular yoga class and had a bit more time to think about things during the drive. All of a sudden I realized there was a tension inside of me. I had no idea where it originated, but I had this thought

“I need to get rid of this tension so I can get back to being in a peaceful state.”

But then I thought to myself, there’s probably a better way to approach feelings like this. That instead of trying to get rid of the uneasiness, I could instead use that as the raw material to create that positive state I was looking for. That a positive frame of mind isn’t won by the absence of negativity, but by being able to work with whatever feelings come up.

This seems to be so much more empowering. Previously it had all been about avoiding uncomfortable situations. That this was the way to happiness. But more and more I’m seeing now that true happiness is the confidence that whatever arises I can use it to create whatever I want.

 

I read a book all about this change in approach that I’d highly recommend. One of my favorites.

On Becoming an Alchemist: A Guide for the Modern Magician

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Thought Personification

In my last post I wrote about an experience I had separating from my thoughts which allowed me to personify them. I thought distancing myself from my thoughts was going to be something I’d be able to do consistently, but in a days since that happened I’ve discovered that this is very hard to do. Like I try to imagine my thoughts outside my head, but it doesn’t really work. It’s not near as effective as what happened spontaneously during that meditation.

BUT! Something else from that post really has worked. The idea of personifying my thoughts. I thought the way this is going to work was first distancing my thoughts, then I’d be able to personify them. But actually I see the reverse happening. I first have to turn my thoughts into a person, then I’m able to work with them.

So I start by asking myself, what do my thoughts look like? Are they a jumbled up mess? A tornado? A rubber band ball? This allows me to disconnect from them a little bit and start looking at them objectively. Then I start asking:

If my thoughts were a person what would they look like?
How old are they?
What kind of emotional state are they in?

I’ve been doing this a ton the past few days and I started noticing a few patterns. This person is usually pretty young. Either a child or a teenager. And they are very pissed off and demanding, but right underneath this is fear.

Yesterday I sent an e-mail to a friend in the morning, and the rest of the day I was plagued with worry over what I had said. LITERALLY ALL FUCKING DAY LONG it was eating away at me. Over and over and over. Absolutely miserable. But then at night something clicked. I was able to see the person behind this worry. How terrified they were. How all this worry was just a way for them to try to be in control of something that is uncontrollable… which understandably leads to that feeling of panic.

And I’ve seen this pattern in the past, but being able to see it as something outside myself makes a hugeeee difference. Because it’s so much easier to extend love and compassion to this image. It’s no longer personal. I’m able to step out of that story and view it from above. With an understanding and a sense of grace that is hard to muster when you’re in the thick of it. When you ARE it.

Non-localized nature of our thoughts

My favorite yoga class is Monday evenings. It’s taught by a super expressive gay guy who loves playing cheesy pop music (couple spice girls tracks last class….), which creates a pretty humorous contrast with yoga which can tend to be overly serious. But what I noticed last class was that I was able to separate myself from the music and really focus in on my experience. The music became something external that was no longer distracting, or really even influencing me. I was kind of in a bubble.

That night when I was meditating the same thing happened with my thoughts. It occurred to me that our thoughts are really non-local. We hear them in our heads, but is this necessarily true? I was at a meditation seminar a couple years ago and the guy running it was asking us where in our bodies we felt like our presence resided. Like if your arm got chopped off, would that affect your presence? Would it be reduced? If you got a heart transplant would that change it? The general consensus was that our presence was somewhere in our chest, but it’s really impossible to pin down.

I think the same thing goes for our thoughts. We’ve become accustomed to “hearing” them in our heads, but I think this is just a learned behavior. I think we can shift them around if we focus on it.

Which is what started naturally happening as I was meditating. It felt like I was sinking down into a well, and my thoughts were staying up on the surface. Like they were above me looking down and trying to talk to me, trying to stretch down their tentacles to hook into me. But as long as they were disconnected like that, they didn’t have near the influence they usually did. It was a very peaceful state.

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I just read “The Love Languages” by Gary Chapman which talks about the different ways we give and receive love. Words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. We each have a primary one and if we don’t receive love in this form our “love tank” isn’t filled. Like for me it’s physical touch. Everyone in the world could be telling me how awesome I was, but if I don’t have that human contact (even just a light touch) it won’t really fill me up.

One of the things he covers is the way we talk to our spouses. Demanding language, trying to coerce each other into doing things is not an expression of love. All you can do is make requests in a loving way and then step back and see what happens.

I realized that once I separated my thoughts I could personify them, making it much easier to see their attitude towards me.. and it was very demanding. My thoughts weren’t making requests, they wanted what they wanted immediately. There was no consideration for my feeling, I was merely the object to execute their desire. Like a husband coming home and yelling at his wife for not having dinner ready. She’s just there to cook for him. A robot you can have sex with.

I saw that when these thoughts are inside me it leads to a pretty horrible existence. It’s like having that demanding husband INSIDE you. Which tricks you into thinking that YOU are the one actually making the request. We believe we ARE our thoughts. How clever… How hopelessly obedient we are…

But not anymore. I’ve established a sense of self that’s independent of my thoughts. I’ll listen to their input, but I’ll only do what I want. What is best for me. And the key here is to not hate your thoughts. They aren’t villainous.

In that book he told a story of a troubled marriage. The husband was incredibly demanding of his wife and she was on the verge of leaving him. She was trying to get him to counseling, but he refused. He said she was the only one with a problem. So the therapist recommended she treat him as Jesus would. Love him despite how she treated her. She was out of options so decided to take on this challenge. And after a couple weeks, he started changing. He felt that love coming from her and naturally started reciprocating it.

I think I’m going to take the same approach to my thoughts. To just extend gratefulness and love towards them. Last night as I did this I went into a huge expanded state and felt this immense, powerful white light radiating out from me. Without my thoughts there to damper it, it’s like that was my natural state of being. And I think if this is the diet I keep feeding my thoughts, they will eventually turn around and mirror this. I will actually have them as an ally. A friend. A partner.

Letting Go Of The Need To Balance

I’ve learned to carefully time my visits back home. I come in on a Friday and leave first thing Sunday morning. While I’m home there’s this angst that slowly builds, and if I can make it out in a day and a half I can avoid drowning in it.

And I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly why I start feeling like this. My family isn’t terrible or anything. I don’t get in arguments with anyone. They’re actually very supportive of this weird spirituality stuff I’m into.

But this time was a little different because of Christmas. Christmas day I spent a ton of time around family, and when that angsty feeling was starting to bubble over I couldn’t just take off, so I went for a long walk instead. It was a beautiful night, and as is usually the case with these things, something clicked into place while I was out.

 

The way my parents behave has always frustrated me. I see little things about how they treat each other, how they treat themselves, how they treat others and it really eats away at me. I realized that the issue here is not so much that they have “problems”, it’s that as an empath I’m trying to fix them. I’m trying to balance the energy so that everyone can reach a neutral place. Be in sync with each other.

I’ve been reading a lot about this recently. I first got introduced to it through “Dancers Between Realms” which is an excellent book all about empaths.

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Thus the parent/child relationship becomes one of push–pull, attraction and repulsion. In addition, the empath child is pulled to resolve and heal mother, father, sister, brother and all the family dynamics. The impossibility of this is not recognized by the child and they feel guilt, because they recognize a capacity to balance things and have not yet learned the limits of this capacity. Understanding that such patterns can exists is one step toward allowing yourself to acknowledge the deep impetus to bring balance and healing, and learn to separate your true self from this responsive child-self. -p.110

This is exactly what was happening. I was trying to balance everyone, but didn’t realize that this wasn’t possible. That it’s not my responsibility to do this. That I don’t have to shoulder this burden.

And oh my God, WHAT A RELIEF!!! I was instantly transformed after letting go of this. All that angst instantly melted away and I was lighthearted again.

And I also noticed something else that was totally unexpected… The way I was approaching my parents was the exact same way I was approaching myself. Always feeling like I needed to fix something. I couldn’t just relax and let myself be. And when I let go of trying to fix my parents, I also let go of trying to fix myself. And as I did this I realized that I have miniature versions of my parents living inside of me. This is what Matt Kahn talks about, that as an empath you try to heal others by taking on their patterns. You duplicate how they are, heal yourself, and think this will heal them. And naturally you get pretty frustrated when this doesn’t actually happen, which is why I was getting so angsty around them.

 

A few minutes later I realized that letting go of this need to fix everything provided the space to embody my true self. That constantly churning away on these patterns takes up all my energy, and that when it drops away something beautiful and authentic takes its place.

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To give you an idea of what this looks like, here’s the piece of paper I took with me on that walk. It’s like I’m a detective sniffing out a trail. I get a revelation and write it down, walk for a couple minutes, getting another revelation, walk a couple minutes… and so on…walk note

I don’t care what your thoughts are, what do they look like?

I think we spend an over abundance of time concerning ourselves with our thoughts. We’re told how powerful they are, and how they manifest what we see, so we better control them, right? We don’t want any negative thoughts coming in. Only positive stuff!!!

But it seems like the only thing controlling your thoughts does is drive you a little crazy. And actually, I think it can be much more serious than that. We’ve all seen people that are imprisoned by their thoughts. How compulsive and ridgid they are. I think this can lead to serious autoimmune diseases. And also to things like hoarding and OCD.

I was watching pawn stars the other day and saw someone trying to sell them an iron lung. I knew of iron lungs, but had never seen one. It made me think about how awful an existence that must have been. I spent like an hour planning out how I would have killed myself if I was trapped in one. It’s hard to imagine a more horrendous experience.

iron lung

But it occurred to me that this is exactly what most of us do to ourselves. We use our thoughts to build up an iron lung that we keep ourselves trapped in. To protect ourselves from the world. To not let people really see us. Touch us. Hear us. We just barely let ourselves breathe, which is actually true.

And this is so ingrained that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We don’t realize there’s another option.

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I think there are two keys to unlocking us from this prison.

1. It’s necessary to separate your self from your thoughts. You are perfectly capable of functioning without them. Think of professional athletes, racecar drivers. They aren’t thinking and yet they do incredible things.

2. We’ve been trained to verbalize everything. Like when we are reading we sound out each word in our heads. This isn’t necessary. You can just scan over the words and your brain registers it just the same. Verbalizing your experience grinds everything to a halt. What we are can be so much more nimble and responsive than this. Instead try looking at things energetically. Instead of a thought just being a word you hear in your head, what does it feel like? What does it look like? Where does that energy sit in your body?

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After I got some distance from my thoughts and started paying more attention to their energetic structure, I first noticed that most of the time it felt like I was trapped inside a prison. Like I couldn’t breathe. Like I had a straitjacket on. But in seeing this I could gradually shift their structure to where my thoughts were more of a cloud. Something that I could choose to ignore and push aside. They became much less important. Much less appealing. I’d much rather sit in my body without them. This is actually enjoyable. I have room to breathe. To let things flow in and out. I can see things clearly. It’s peaceful.

I can still pull down that bubble and engage my thoughts when I need to do something analytical, but most of the time they aren’t necessary. I can just let them do their thing out there in the cloud, I don’t really need to pay attention to it.

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If you’re trapped in an iron lung, thinking positive thoughts is going to be an uphill battle. You might get a couple here or there, but you’re trapped in a fucking prison. Think about that for a second. How incredibly difficult it would be to be happy in a situation like that. You’d have to be some sort of zen master. I’d fucking lose it if I couldn’t move my body more than a couple inches.

But what if instead you’re lying in a field somewhere feeling the breeze blow through your hair, soaking in the sun. You’re going to be pretty happy without exerting a lot of effort. You can just get out of your way and let everything be.

So if you find yourself trapped in a prison, don’t try to think happy thoughts… GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!

The-Shawshank-Redemption-Script

Terminator

Something big shifted for me last night, and it’s always interesting to me to look back and see the mini shifts that have led up to this large one.

1. My friend Deborah helped me set up my home garden a couple weekends ago. This was the first time I had really gotten my hands dirty like this in a couple years. Which seems totally crazy to me, because it’s something I really enjoy. But living in an apartment, it can be difficult to find situations to really get back into the earth.

garden

I think what this signified to me was the willingness and enthusiasm in getting dirty. Everything doesn’t have to be nice and neat all the time. Self-contained in its nice little box, organized, put away. This is not how nature works.

2. I listened to an amazing TED talk about stress. The idea is that stress is only harmful to you if you believe it’s harmful. If you don’t believe this, stress can actually be immensely beneficial. It’s your body’s way of revving itself up to take on a challenge. You can use this alert energy to move forward into whatever situation you find yourself in.

How to Make Stress Your Friend

So it’s this idea that everything that’s happening within us is actually okay. It can all be used to benefit us. I very much put things into “good” and “bad” buckets, and if I deemed something as not serving me my only response was to try to get rid of it. Now I can take a step back and see the larger picture, and how these uncomfortable feelings can actually serve me.

3. I had an amazing day where I saw my value in a huge variety of situations. It started off seeing my value as a friend, then as a business partner, then on a radio show, then as a counselor, and finally as an energy healer. Each situation was totally perfect and by the end of the day I felt so complete. Self-assured. The feeling I had was like being made out of bronze. Negativity had no way of latching onto me. There weren’t any soft pockets of self-doubt that allowed it entrance. There was no sense of lack.

The image of being bronze encapsulated that, but it wasn’t totally right because it seemed too static. But it was close…

So those are some of the experiences that helped set the stage for what happened last night.

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I was meditating before bed like I always do, and I entered this weird mental state. Almost like I was sinking down into my subconscious. My thoughts were kind of drifting around thinking things that make no logical sense. In usual waking consciousness my thoughts are very orderly. But here, it’s almost like they were in a pre-conscious state so it was much rawer, primal.

And this is where I noticed something interesting happen. I could see how I like to keep things very structured in my mind. Organized. Everything has its place, and I like to keep them separate from each other. This keeps things clean and I believe this helps me think clearly.

But this structure started to collapse a little bit. The boundaries between my different thought systems started to break down and overlap. At first I had these old habits come in trying to keep everything in place, but then I was like “Why am I doing this? What’s it going to hurt if these boundaries come down?”. So I continued to observe this happening, watching everything merge together, and it’s like I was pouring all of these separate parts of myself into a big bowl and mixing it all up. There was some fear here that this was me going crazy. How would I think clearly if everything was mixed up like this? How would I access things quickly in this big mess? It’s like I thought this was going to make me stupid.

But then as it continued I realized something amazing was happening. These tools that I had kept separate meant that they were in a largely static state. They were very powerful when I first started using them, but as I continued to grow and evolve they would loose their effectiveness. So I was always on a hunt for new tools to replace them. But with everything mixed together, all of these separate tools were coming together to create something much more powerful than any tool could be by itself. They could all borrow from each other. So in a trying situation I wouldn’t reach in for a specific tool, I would let this pool form into the perfect tool for that situation. It’s a total flip. instead of trying to make a dynamic world fit a static tool, I now had a dynamic tool that could perfectly interface with any situation. It’s not about finding the right tool, it’s about creating it.

The image I got was of the metal Terminator who could change himself into any form. It wasn’t like the old Terminator who had to use static tools (guns), the newer one could create whatever tool needed. He was completely dynamic.

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It’s so cool to me to see how the past few weeks have led up to this.

It’s a breaking down of the static, rigid structure.

It’s seeing that every experience, every emotion can enrich this pool of potential. I don’t have to evaluate something on its potential as an isolated entity. Everything I experience adds value when it can interact with everything else. So that fear, anxiety, worry…. I no longer have to push it away. I can pull it in and use it to feed that pool, I can use it to enrich who I am.

And finally it’s that image of being bronzed. Except it’s not static. It’s constantly shifting, evolving, forming itself to be whatever is needed in the current moment. Especially if that’s a lethal killing machine… I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty 😉

Progression of Correction

I’ve been doing a lot of chewing the past couple weeks on this idea of relinquishing control to the divine.

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Chapter 2, section VI. Fear and Conflict, paragraph 1:
“My control can take over everything that does not matter, while my guidance can direct everything that does, if you so choose.”

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As I’ve seen this happen, I’ve been able to experience what a relief this is. How it removes this gigantic burden off my shoulders and lets me get back into the flow of life.

The past couple days I started to realize there is a progression here. When what the course refers to as the Holy Spirit first starts correcting the ego it’s very abrupt. I go for long walks pretty much every night, and a good example of this first stage happened as I was waiting for a car to pass in front of me before crossing the street. I noticed I was trying to do this thing where I would heal the person with my gaze. Like I would look into their soul and cure whatever ailed them.

I realized this is something I’ve been doing for a long time, and the Holy Spirit interrupted this process and was like “Hey, do you see what are you doing here? Healing people is my job, you don’t need to try to shoulder that responsibility. Let me do the hard work. Just relax.” And then I was like “Oh… You’re totally right, I’m beating myself up doing this, and not really accomplishing anything.”

So there was this whole dialogue that started where I saw this habit I was engaged in, had it interrupted, and then analyzed what was going on. Why was this habit there in the first place? What does it mean for my ego? What’s the best way to correct this? And on and on and on…. I do think dialogs like this are helpful to put things into context. Make all this a little more digestible, and easier to share with others. But at the same time they can very easily lead to stagnation. They can be a trap.

Here’s where I started noticing stage 2 of the correction process. When whatever habit was disrupted in stage 1 gets disrupted again in the future, that dialogue happens less and less. At first maybe I just summarize what I had gone through in stage 1. Then maybe it’s a few sentences. Then just 1… or just a few words. The basic idea is that I transition much quicker from a stuck position to getting back into the flow of life.

And what I’m just beginning to see is actually a third stage. I started noticing that it went from a whole analysis, to a couple sentences, to a couple words, to just one word, and then it dropped down to just a feeling. I could tell when this loop was starting before I got any thoughts in my head. So the correction happened RIGHT after the disconnected thought, so fast that I couldn’t even really tell what was happening. Just a slight slowdown, a slight restricted feeling, and then back moving again. Like I had digested pretty much everything I needed to learn from that lesson.

One of the main reasons I like walking at night is it really clears my head. Gives me a different perspective on all this stuff that’s whirring through my head. And I always have a notepad with me to jot down when things start clicking (many a blog post has originated on these walks…). I realized tonight that these walks are a perfect illustration of the stages.

When I first have a correction and am in stage 1, I stop walking, pull out my notepad, and jot down my ideas. This is very restrictive because I’m not moving anymore. I’m static. My ego might be learning, but at the expense of really living. Then in stage 2 I might just stop and jot down a word. And in stage 3 I never stop walking. And I noticed that if I stay in stage 3 for a little bit, it feels like I have a force field around me. A bubble of love. That there is nothing that can distract me or slow me down, because the correction is happening before it even enters my awareness. It’s like I’ve fully released control and the Holy Spirit is holding me in its hands.

 

So the take away here should be to get out and go on walks! Improve your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health! Is there an easier, legal way to do all of this? I don’t think so…

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