When I completed my first book, Wife of a Master, I was transformed. I had taken a journey backward, only to propel myself forward. During the three years of writing that book, I developed techniques and methods with which to observe myself objectively without judgement or guilt. From there, I was able to consciously rebuild a less reactive, more productive existence. It was a bit like giving birth. During the process the pain is overwhelming, but afterwards you barely remember the agony as you hold this miraculous new creation in your arms. It is the quintessential example of struggle disguised as an opportunity to regenerate and ascend.
Pain often contains profound lessons that can be used to shift our circumstance. But it is rarely embraced that way. We are too busy trying to avoid it. Our tendency to dismiss discomfort more often functions to veil our illusions, keeping resolution at bay. Identifying and razing this and other types of unconscious conditioning and limiting ideologies is key for personal development. It requires a firm honesty with oneself. You need to consistently affirm a strong desire to want to live differently, until that desire bleeds into and saturates your subconscious.
Many of us state ideals outwardly, but then sabotage ourselves over and over with latent contradictory action. Without a good friend or therapist to tell us to get our shit together, we can con ourselves into living a life of lies behind a smile. The “act” is reinforced with such regularity that it calcifies, becoming our norm. It’s no wonder that our ingrained habits become so difficult to identify, and shatter when we consistently relegate them into a monotonous obscurity.
It is similar to those who suffer from PTSD. Trauma has settled under the skin and into the psyche. It waits anxiously like a nervous finger on the trigger of a gun. Without mechanisms to resolve the embedded emotional conflict, the results can be lethal. Although this syndrome has a name and many studies have been conducted on it, the underlying principle bears a common human thread, conditioning. By repeating patterns of behavior, they take physical form on a microscopic level in our organs and cells.
Traditional Chinese medicine understands this relationship between the emotional and psychological body. When I work with the myriad of public personalities that come through the doors of my school, it is this concept that allows me to remain non-judgmental and treat each one with respect and kindness despite their demeanor.
The criminal, the insecure and the successful business person are all results of conditioned patterns from an early age compounded over time.
Practically all of the insidious traits that interfere with our personal progress are borne of unresolved emotional turbulence from the past that follows us like a shadow throughout our lifetime. How long will we blame our parents, our employer or our circumstances for our misery? When will we finally stand up, reject victimization and take full possession of our lives? The culprit of irresponsibility supports and maintains our juvenile stance, keeping us stuck. Some blatantly disregard it, building a brick wall around themselves. Poor souls, they will continue to spin in an endless cycle of discontent. Others behave consciously, but only to a point, unable to break through the final barrier of the false ego and the self-righteousness it breeds. Much like conditional love, it’s not worth much. Self-created fear is pervasive and stubbornly traps us in stagnation. It is very easy to justify pointing the finger with so many amoral options.
Then there are those few, like us, determined to shift perspectives and improve ourselves. We are the courageous ones. The territory of self-realization requires an unflinching frankness that only the brave dare to traverse.
Many of us believe that we are responsible because we hold a job, take care of our families, pay our bills on time, and go to church every Sunday. It is common to justify ourselves with these mundane examples. Those acts have nothing to do with what we truly need to acknowledge. I refer to those intimate faults and unrecognized destructive habits we, as a race of people, tend to snub on a grand scale. We need to take a hard look at who we are intrinsically, as sentient beings. Not the roles we’ve chosen to play.
Making a strong determination to live differently requires resolute consistency. Frequently, that fundamental asset needs to be relearned. Deciding not to be so reactive, overly sensitive, insulted, angry, or any other negative character trait is a good place to start.
You can make a list of your infractions if you dare. When I began, I used a simple good/bad list. I was amazed how quickly I could jot down the negative aspects, but the positive traits were arduous to conjure and were much fewer in number. Clearly, my opinion of myself needed an injection of improved self-esteem. Starting with a physical outline can often help us to recognize discrepancies, affording a clearer picture of where we currently stand and the path we need to construct toward the goal we seek to accomplish.
If a list seems too daunting, just chose one aspect about yourself that you don’t like and determine to shift it. It’s always best to start simple so that you can experience enough successful results to maintain motivation. Something manageable, such as I’m going to be mindful not to complain to my co-workers when my pain-in-the-ass boss makes a typical derogatory comment. It will not change your employer’s behavior, but it will eliminate our creating a negative action that will ultimately reveal its effects in our life, not the other’s. Hopefully, this new energetic output will render us less judgmental, offended, and free of damning emotions that contradict our wellbeing.
Once we start on this road, and gain momentum, other paths will open and a new journey of self-discovery will lead us out of our mire into better days.
Acknowledging, accepting and forgiving are requisites that will eventually eliminate the negative charge in all of the incidents that created our history. In this way we are able to thank absolutely everything that has occurred thus far. Yes, even the abusive husband whose scars we still wear, the torturous health battles that stole years of our life, and the financial collapse that left us on the street. I know this seems an impossibility, but detachment guided by self-love is the key. All episodes, both positive and negative are the ingredients which have defined our lifetime. Each one created a reactionary process which shaped who we’ve become today.
We can wish that certain horrors hadn’t occurred. But that doesn’t resolve their corrosive influence. We can live with regret, but that certainly is not living fully reconciled nor happy.
I think it’s rather clear at this point that dismissal or repression is not an option either. Preferably, we can learn to use our tribulations as fuel for our evolution. There is a lesson waiting for us in all things. We need to use all that shit as fertilizer for our growth and, once absorbed, new eager enriched soil awaits replanting. Those damning vibrations of the past that unwittingly inflicted defeat can be transmuted into award-winning strategies that serve. Once your past is resolved, you can create a new way of being, unhindered by age-old caustic patterns. They lose their grip on you and you become free to create the life you originally envisioned.
That is what this book is all about: freeing ourselves to take responsible steps to direct our lives, causing greater consciousness and perpetuating richer living.
Think of Nelson Mandela, imprisoned and tortured all those years. Consider the drive, self-reflection, compassion, and conviction borne of that trauma. It was precisely that hellish experience that fed his character, empowering him to actualize his formidable mission. Only through his severe suffering could he develop the tools to influence so many with such a revolutionary outcome. This is a prime example of Hendoku Iyaku. One of my favorite Buddhist terms, which means “turning poison into medicine.”
We all live with psychological, emotional and spiritual toxicity. It is a byproduct of the human experience. Only when you embrace them as valuable ingredients of your life, can they shift to serve you. If you don’t, you will bear remorse and that is not the resolved life we seek. You can choose to cringe, blame, bitch, and ignore, but avoiding the truth won’t change things and you will never feel fulfilled.
As I write this on a gray, dismal day, I’m charged with joy. Why? Because yesterday I had a day covered in crap and anger. I didn’t like me much as I was drawn into a negative state. When I came home that evening it was difficult to release the exhaustion of the emotional demands of that day. I just wanted to go to sleep immediately to avoid feeling anymore. Instead, I decided to sit and write in an effort to release and resolve my unrest.
After many years of sleepless nights, I’ve learned never go to bed miserable. I immediately felt disappointment in myself for not being the example that I write and preach about. It felt it was a mini-failure. But rather than beating myself up, as usual, I got to work to recognize, forgive, and let it go. I used my turmoil as a turning point. I can do that because I no longer dismiss or repress my feelings. I realized that the events of the day couldn’t be altered, but my relationship to them could. In that moment of reflection, I simply chose to detach from judgement, leave it behind, and be content. It was a straightforward, convicted choice. Yes, it can be that easy, once you train your yourself.
I began to sing a song and dance around as my ritual. It reminded me that life is short and the moment in front of you deserves to be embraced, not wasted on misery. I remembered how easy it was to “snap out of it,” using methods I devised years ago. I just forgot for a moment. I quickly forgave myself and went into the next day of battle choosing to be lighthearted without residue.
When I first began using this technique, I fell back into complaint easily, as we do when we are still a novice in anything. With time and diligence, I was able to strengthen my resolve. Eventually, the practice developed into this wonderful strategy that I use regularly.
Wholehearted conviction is the key.
No problem or person is as important as your well-being. Actualizing this daily is the goal of this book. To resolve our problems based on prioritizing our actions based on an unflinching self-love that pulls everything into proper perspective. So, just like the series that follows, the starting point is forthright recognition. Let’s open our eyes to the world around us and within us.
With the media and heightened drama of our society constantly punching us square in the face, we easily succumb to its perversity. Do I physically look the part? Do I have all the necessary status symbols of success? Do I have an acceptable entrepreneurial attitude? How can I fulfill my ideals without a life partner? Our focus is so pressured to hone in on what we don’t have that we easily ignore the bounty we are naturally endowed with. This is a petty but common stance that we need to eliminate. It is indulgent, wasteful, and antithetical to harmonious living.
Perhaps so many enlightened Yogis emanate from India as a response to a culture whose social strata is defined so differently, with little hope for millions of its impoverished people to attain financial freedom. To be denied outwardly often forces internal growth.
We can all use more internal harmony. But the idea of seated meditation twice a day for an hour, or even half an hour daily is not a realistic option for many and puts others off. It may be that you are working three jobs, you have five children, there is no place in your living area to be alone or quiet. There are inexhaustible reasons why this won’t work for you now. But don’t completely eliminate it as a possibility at some point. It is rare to find a spiritual teaching, a life philosophy or an ancient dogma that does not honor the practice of stillness and quiet as a method of self-realization. It is almost essential. It took monumental effort for a type A personality like mine to master it. I would glance at my watch impatiently, thinking so much time had passed when in reality it was barely a few seconds. Only with time and persistence did meditation become a fluid part of my daily “happiness ingredient,” where I can now sit for an hour easily. It is aligned with the same principle as wisdom, which can only be acquired through countless experiences one is exposed to over the endless sea of time.
But never give up, as life is constantly changing and the chance might present itself when you least expect it. So, stay open. Time and place often reveal the perfect opportunity in accordance with the cosmic flow we are all engaged in. Just keep dancing to its music while singing your own special song with eyes and arms wide open.
Meditation aside, I write this as a strategy to conquer small battles. Rather than becoming frustrated over a goal that is desirable but currently unattainable, we can still experience forward motion in small calculated steps, rather than intimidating giant leaps of faith.
There is little hope of quieting a mind if you have no control over its constant daily chattering. It meanders like water, without boundaries, running anywhere and spilling everywhere. When you consider that we are what we think, this is dangerous stuff.
Any successful person in any field will attest that defined, focused intention is key. However, there is a big difference between grasping and trusting an outcome. One is exhausting, while the other flows effortlessly. One works, the other fails. Which one would you prefer to experience? Without some semblance of calm self-control, progress in any endeavor will remain elusive and tension-filled.
So, first things first, what are you thinking? Get a grip, literally. Become aware of yourself beyond your external activity. Go beneath to develop an intimate relationship with your thoughts. After all, you are their creator. No one else is to blame. Ideally, it all works out when thoughts are rooted in self-respect and love. That way of thinking needs to be the foundation of all of our endeavors. No matter what the trauma, medical issue, or circumstance, the essence of all our conflict seems to lie in this simple yet profound concept of self-love, a relationship with oneself freed from the contaminants of condemnation, guilt, fear, and all the other self-created emotions that stand in the way of our happiness.
Without the profundity of this simple concept, you will think you have gained clarity, only to be constantly pulled back again and again like a relentless riptide. It’s not enough to say I don’t want to suffer anymore. You need to be able to establish such a deep conviction and focus that your love never grows tired, never judges and never gives up until you are satisfied with your life. I know this can be done because, as a suicidal person for most of my life, this difficult but enlightening process over time, and only with the necessary amount of time, allowed the reformatting of lifelong habits that hindered my evolution. Eventually, a brighter, happier woman was revealed, and I was so inspired, I was compelled to write it all down so I could share it with you.