I Hope Your Life is Wonderful

When I was twenty-five I backpacked alone through Ireland. In Limerick, as I boarded a bus to Galway, I met a remarkable person who truly altered my worldview. He was from Germany, and was backpacking as well before returning home to finish medical school. We only spent a short amount of time together, but his stillness and repose left an indelible impression on my psyche.

We stayed in the same raucous hostel full of young people lusting for excitement and adventure. I remember that he could sit, quietly reading a book of Irish poetry in English (not his native language), while the party-goers around him laughed, danced and drank copious amounts of Guinness and Irish whiskey. To date I have never witnessed such pointed focus.

I care about this person, not only because we traveled together, but also because I feel deeply connected to what he represents to me. It is unlikely that he can fully embody all the virtues I have imposed upon my mind’s version of him- but that is no matter. For me, he has come to represent bravery, tranquility, concentration and peace- all qualities that I want to have for myself.

The next, and probably last, energy experiment I will do rests on the premise that all people are linked together in some fundamental way. For Pam Grout, if we are all truly connected, then this means we should be able to communicate messages to one another intuitively. With this assignment the reader is meant to send some person a mental message, and then wait forty-eight hours for an indication that the message was received. I haven’t communicated with my German travel companion for many years, but I suppose I would just like to say to him, “Hey. I hope your life is wonderful”.

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Bumps, Bruises and Limiting Beliefs

The past couple of days have been a bit rough for me physically. Normally a very cautious person, I rarely participate in any activity that could expose me to significant bodily harm. I tend to consider the potential perils behind every move I make- a possible tumble down the stairs or twisted ankle lurks behind every step.

I do not know why I am like this, but my mother told me I was born this way. I walked very late and I rarely climbed trees or rode my bike very fast. I liked to play sports but I was never aggressive or daring enough to excel.

I suppose this means that I have spent my life with a somewhat crippling awareness of my own physical limitations. By this I mean that the awareness of my limitations may have imposed even more limitations on my physical self. If we give any credence to the Law of Attraction, then it becomes clear how constraining these beliefs can be. In other words, a perpetual fear that one’s body cannot perform as it should ensures that it will not.

So, as I said, I rarely get injured, though the last couple of days have proven a bit of an exception. I write to you today with a skinned elbow, a slightly twisted and scraped up ankle and a bruised and swollen finger. I have run into countless door frames and tripped on seemingly insignificant cracks in the sidewalk. I also have a rather attractive bug bite in between my eyebrows and a smattering of pimples covering my generally clear complexion. Come to think of it, my stomach has been a bit wonky as well. So what the hell is going on with my body?!

Perhaps my body is just responding in kind to the limiting beliefs I have imposed upon it. Or, perhaps with the increased spiritual awareness I have been experiencing I am suffering some physical discomfort. Many people theorize that clumsiness and physical illness can often accompany the process of spiritual ascension.

Or perhaps I just need to be confined to a padded room or get one of those bubble suits in order to reduce further risk to myself. Who knows?

On the up side, however, I did have one very positive experience with wellness right about the time that all this other puzzling physical stuff started. I have been visiting my mother-in-law for a few weeks now, and ever since I arrived I have been waking up at night with a strange cough. Allergies are quite severe in this part of the country, so I could chalk it up to that. But I have never had allergies in my life, so this cough has remained a bit of a mystery.

Anyway, every night upon waking I suppressed the cough to avoid disturbing my husband and daughter who sleeps nearby. Instead, I suffered, attempting in vain to inhale a sufficient breath until I was forced to clear my throat just a little. I would do this repeatedly until I fell asleep again. This ritual had been severely hindering my ability to get a good night’s sleep-a precious commodity when you have a two year old.

Then, two nights ago I woke up with the stupid cough and I suddenly felt totally fed-up with the situation. It was 4am and the exhaustion felt all-encompassing. That’s when I started pleading with the cough to go away. I had just reached the end of my tether, as it were, when I had a thought, or an intuition of sorts. A small voice in my head said to me, “you have to let it out. If you don’t let it out, it will never get better”.

So I did. I just let myself cough until I felt better. Afterwards, the cough completely disappeared and I haven’t had a problem with it since. What is more, my family did not even stir. They slept right through it.

The physical situation, i.e. the coughing conundrum, seems a bit silly and trivial. However, the words that filtered into my head that night are really sticking with me. “You have to let it out”.

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I asked The Universe roughly 48 hours ago if I should keep writing. I have received some awesome support from the community encouraging me, and this alone is probably enough. But it is the experience with the little voice in my head that night that has really inspired me to move forward with this blog.

And, in fact, it is encouraging me to go even deeper with it. Maybe I need to trust myself and my small readership with some of the more personal elements of my existence. I suppose I do not only reserve caution for my physical being, but also for my emotional and spiritual self. I have always struggled to share my authentic person with others. So, for better or for worse, I am going to keep writing, barring hospitalization for any injuries sustained in the process.

The Decision Maker’s Toolkit

Every new visitor, follower, like or comment on this blog elicits mixed emotions. I feel massive gratitude that even one person wants to read my writing. While I am still a bit on the fringes of this community, the support I have received thus far has inspired me. And yet, with each new view I feel more pressure to commit, to stay active in this world, and to not let anyone down.

And this is what happens when we must make an ongoing choice to commit to an important life decision. We gain tremendously when we choose every day (or every moment), to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. But as with every decision, there are costs.

If I keep writing this blog, I lose time. Time I could use to focus on my paid work or my family or binge-watching every episode of The X-Files. And yet time seems irrelevant when I am writing, thinking and exploring ideas.

If I keep writing this blog, I open myself up to incredible vulnerability because I have never really shared my spiritual views with anyone. And yet, I yearn for membership in a community of people who care deeply about their own spiritual development.

What I mean to say here is that every choice we make is marked by loss. For some, including me on occasion, this certainty is too tragic, too weighty to bear. This can lead to stagnation or even paralysis if we are not careful. So how does one navigate the perilous waters of choice when the risks of loss are so frightfully ever-present?

I think the answer involves two of the most trusty tools in a spiritual person’s toolkit: gratitude and intuition. If the Law of Attraction is real, then gratitude for that which we have gained draws more positivity into our lives in the future. If we allow intuition to guide us, then we give ourselves permission to stop overthinking the decision. We “get out of our own way”, as it were.

But, beyond that, when using both of these tools we get to feel good now without undue emphasis on the past or the future. Gratitude removes focus from past ordeals, regrets or losses. Intuition helps us to stop attempting to predict the future, a futile endeavor.

Ultimately, neither of these “tools” involves much cerebral activity at all. Instead they seem to stem from a less rational, more visceral place. This is something that Pam Grout wants to emphasize in the fifth experiment in her book E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality.

Here, Grout asks the reader to pose a “yes” or “no” question to The Universe, and then sit back and wait for inner guidance, rather than reason, to provide answer. She writes, “The conscious mind was designed for just two things-to identify problems and formulate goals”. Now, we might take issue with this claim-surely the conscious mind is good for more than that? Perhaps it is, but the basic idea is this: Rationality is useful to a point, but it can also hinder flourishing if it is relied on too heavily.

I have already spent several sleepless nights attempting to decide if I should keep working on this blog; and I have come up empty and exhausted. So I have decided to take Grout’s advice, and let intuition lead the way on this one. I am giving The Universe 48 hours to provide a clear answer to the question: “Should I continue writing?”

Vibration Shaming

I am spending the day with my family today, so this is just a quick post. I’ll be back with something more lengthy and relevant to the general topic on Saturday. However, I felt inspired to post this because of something that I keep witnessing that is bothering me quite a bit: vibration shaming.

By this I mean the criticizing of others, who are on their own unique and personal spiritual path, for resonating at a “lower vibration” because of the subject matter they broach, or the opinion they espouse or whatever. I have seen comments on several spiritual bloggers’ pages from people who have taken it upon themselves to inform them that the given post just “seems problematic” or “really resonates at a lower frequency than normal”.

Who, without the cover of the internet, seriously has the balls to tell someone that their thoughts or opinions indicate a lower vibration?

For one, spiritual bloggers are not perfect. They are human, and will sometimes vibrate at a lower frequency. So what? Do they really need people calling them out on this?

For another, what makes the commenters experts on vibration reading? Especially through the f’ing filter that is the world wide web? Maybe these vibration shamers are particularly intuitive in this way, but something tells me they are not.

Perhaps my anger about this issue means I am vibrating at a lower frequency. But, whatever. That is my issue to deal with.

So please, people, stop vibration shaming one another. We are all in this together.

Inspired Action and Ends-In-View

I have to admit, I am not feeling very inspired to write this morning. This is due in part to the fact that my daughter has not been sleeping well, which, of course, means I have not been getting the required number of z’s either. But more significantly, there is another force that keeps pulling my attention away from my writing today: I am planning a road trip through Quebec!

Right about now you are likely feeling something akin to shock, awe or utter astonishment at the synchronicity of this situation. If you have been following my progress through Pam Grout’s book, you know that the fourth energy experiment required me to ask the Universe for something I desire; and I requested a trip.

Seriously!? What are the chances that I would intend to take a trip, and then actually start planning a trip? Well, um…maybe pretty good since I currently have access to a computer and this magical apparatus known as “the internet”?

It seems clear that the reason that my intentions are being fulfilled in this instance is that I am actively pursuing their realization. But I think that this leads to a key insight into this Law of Attraction stuff. You can simply ask the universe to deliver something to your doorstep, and then twiddle your thumbs until it magically appears. OR, you can place your order, and then take inspired action if it suits you. It is up to you.

Now I want to point out that my trip planning process has been helped along by some strangely synchronistic occurrences. For one, my husband sat down to dinner last night and asked, “Are we going to take a trip this summer?”

“Why yes we are, husband! Don’t you worry. The Universe and I are already in cahoots about it!”

With that, just after we’d decided to visit Montreal, I received an email from a travel website advertising Quebec as their featured destination.

I definitely think it is important to acknowledge these sorts of synchronistic signposts when they appear. Yet, for me, this is always coupled with intentional action, or what one self-help author calls, “the hustle”. For instance, I clearly love to travel, but it is not only the destination itself that gets me excited. One of my greatest pleasures in life is actually planning my future travels. I relish the process of researching a place, exploring various possibilities and weighing options. I love pouring over photos of scenic vistas, bustling cities and serene villages. I diligently investigate a place’s culinary scene until I know exactly what I should try and where I can find it. And more than anything, I love delighting my travel companions with hidden gems that only my rigorous and finely detailed research could produce. It is possible that I sound a little nutso here, but I am telling you: planning travel is one of my greatest sources of joy.

So, for me, the trip itself is what John Dewey refers to as an “end-in-view”. It is not a concrete, static aim, unsusceptible to revision. Instead, it is a malleable goal that drives inspired action forward. But, if I were to discover, through the interest driven process of planning, that I wanted to change the destination, this would be entirely acceptable. To leave your goals immune to revision is to create a static, extrinsic aim for yourself. For Dewey, nothing squelched interest-based action like a concrete aim imposed from without.

All of this is to say that when we do make a wish, say a prayer, or place an order with the universe, we must be willing to recognize the opportunity for inspired action, and accept that the end goal might change. To do otherwise is to stifle the joy of your present in service to a yet unreached future.

Should We Worry About Attachment?

(NOTE: I am going to start posting a series of discussion questions in the evenings that are related to the ideas I explore in the regular posts.  Please feel free to contribute your thoughts in the comments section.  I would love to hear from you!)

A central concern of Erich Fromm’s was the rampant materialism that Fromm observed in our modern, industrialized culture. He worried that as a result of current day economic realities, people were more oriented toward “having” and less toward “being”. By this he clearly meant that the material objects that a person accumulates define her. Yet he also wanted to suggest that we often take a “having” orientation toward people, vocations and skills. We “have” our children, our jobs and our abilities. The problem, then, is that our identities become deeply bound to that which we possess rather than to something more internal or intrinsic to our individual selves. So if we lose those objects (“object” here meaning anything that is possessed), we risk losing ourselves. We risk rendering our lives meaningless. I am not certain, but I think this is similar to the notion of detachment in Buddhism and Hinduism.

So what do you think? Is there any value in possessing objects external to our inner being? Or, like Fromm, do you worry that “being” and “having” are antagonistic concepts?

Happiness and the Wonderful Weirdness of Reality

Our lives are not as limited as we think they are; the world is a wonderfully weird place; consensual reality is significantly flawed; no institution can be trusted, but love does work; all things are possible; and we all could be happy and fulfilled if we only had the guts to be truly free and the wisdom to shrink our egos and quit taking ourselves so damn seriously. Tom Robbins

For the philosopher R.S Peters, the fundamental question of human existence is “Why do this rather than that?” But a deeper analysis of this question reveals another seemingly different, but profoundly related question: “Why want this rather than that?” In other words, why are certain actions (or things) more valuable to us than others?

For Pam Grout’s fourth energy experiment, she finally gets down to the brass tacks of manifesting. In this experiment, she asks readers to spend the next 48 hours intending to receive from the universe an object or event that they desire.

But any time I contemplate the question regarding what I actually want to manifest in my life I am always confronted with an uncontrollable regress toward some “end in itself”. Said differently, I cannot stop asking myself why I value the thing that I think I want. Do I want money? Sure, but why? Because it brings security. But why care about security? Because it frees my mind from worry so I can pursue other activities I enjoy. But why do I want to pursue enjoyable activities? Ummm….

When I first read Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics I was struck by how it seemed to address this fundamental question of existence in such a satisfactory way. For Aristotle the ultimate “end in itself” is eudaimonia, the Greek word for “happiness” or “flourishing”. Eudaimonia is not instrumental to some other good, but is something sought for its own sake. We want to be happy because we want to be happy. That’s it. That’s the end of the line.

So if all “goods”, material or otherwise, lead toward the ultimate end of happiness, then why not skip straight to the point and ask the universe for happiness instead? This is a question that I think Tom Robbins addresses in the quotation above. Sure, a person can certainly ask for happiness if that is what works for her. But maybe it is also okay to stop overthinking it and just play. Maybe it’s cool if we just explore the wonderful weirdness of reality without spending so much time contemplating what we “should” do.

With that I have decided to stop taking myself “so damn seriously” and play along with Grout’s fourth energy experiment. I love to travel, so I am asking the universe for a trip, big or small, to someplace I will enjoy. I can’t wait to see where this goes!