Disillusioned and discouraged with your spiritual practice?

If you have arrived at a discouraging point in your spiritual practice, the following article and link is a beautifully written caveat on spiritual openings.

excerpt from “Divine Dynamite” by Robert Augustus Masters

“So being in the crucible of awakening’s alchemy is not necessarily comfortable or consoling — the fire gives light, yes, but it also burns, generating enough heat to vaporize our illusions, lies, and trappings, if we will let ourselves get close enough to it.

Such fire destroys, but only in order to create. And heal. In its flames, our authenticity emerges, minus the case of mistaken identity with which we have burdened and obscured it.

Until the fire is but light, we will have to endure burning. Spiritual stamina. Whatever lies unresolved or unforgiven in us, whatever in us lies ostracized or condemned in some corner of our psyche, whatever in us has been kept in the dark — all will start to surface as we open spiritually. Initially this may seem like bad news, but it is actually great news.”

Read complete article at:

http://integrallife.com/integral-post/divine-dynamite

Deepening Relationships through Authentic Communication

Living from your truest sense of “Self” lies in your willingness to know yourself and be known by others.

Authentic communication can be defined in many ways but in simple terms it refers to speaking from a place of being real, being genuine and being truthful about who you are.

It’s easy to reside in a comfortable place in our close relationships by regularly keeping others from knowing what we are really thinking or feeling about certain topics or issues.  This act of self-protection often stems from a variety of factors including fear of offending someone, fear of hurting someone’s feelings or resistance to being judged, ridiculed or rejected.  Although there may be times where remaining authentic will appear to be the wrong thing to do, it is important to remain open about who we are to those we love, as much as possible.  It is in our openness that allows others to know deeper aspects of who we are which in turn deepens our relationships with others.  Moreover, even though revealing parts of yourself may be uncomfortable for your partner, friend or family member, your willingness to be known gives them the opportunity to know deeper parts of you.  You also allow those who are close to you to validate and shine light on those parts.  By keeping parts of yourself hidden, those parts are more likely to remain in the dark, without a chance to be understood, loved, owned, accepted or transformed.

The tough part of taking risks in close relationships is that we sometimes do not know how the other will react.  Sometimes we might get a judgmental reaction or feel that we have “scared someone away.”  If you open yourself to someone and receive “negative” or critical feedback, this may be communication for you to consider whether this is an area of growth for yourself to be worked on or explored, if it is a sign that this is not a healthy relationship for you, or if something “new” needs to be learned for the relationship to work.  How we handle negative feedback from our environment can also be a sign that we are still growing into being comfortable with ourselves.  Often times we find ourselves in an environment where a conflict will arise or we may be attacked on some level for “speaking our truth.”  But even in this situation, the fact that you may be attacked is communication about how your presence impacts others.  It also teaches you about that other person and their needs or sensitivities.  And in this situation, again, there are many ways to proceed.  You can decide if it is worth it for you to remain in such an environment, if there is something else that needs to happen so that each person’s views can be respected, or if there are new ways of communicating that each person can agree to try so that each person can be heard.

Ultimately, let the light and the dark within you shine….You are not a static being, and it is in relating to others that you have continuous opportunity to grow and emerge.

4 Steps to Connecting to Your Creative Flow

Being able to create is a natural part of being human, regardless of age, education or skill though getting into a creative state of mind can be challenging at times due to any number of factors.  Whether you feel “blocked” or have an over-analytic mind that interferes with your flow and creativity, you can explore different ways of accessing your creative flow.

What is commonly referred to as “creative flow” can feel inspiring and incredibly satisfying as it is a way of allowing your own unique voice and essence to come through you and out into form in the world.  For this reason alone, every person has something different to offer with the ability to enrich those around them in countless ways.  Whether you are left-brained and analytical, a natural artist, or constantly preoccupied with emotions, you can tune into an aspect of yourself that has a creative spark.

Allowing yourself to have time regularly to play with and discover your creativity can be incredibly healing and awaken dormant or unused skills and abilities.  You may like to write, paint, build, sculpt, sing, dance, play an instrument, cook or do any other creative activity which can also include even more analytical tasks that have to do with designing, developing or generating.  I encourage people to have time and space regularly to tap into a creative activity because this gives people new experiences about themselves that goes beyond taking care of daily responsibilities or solving problems.  Being creative can be fun while allowing a person to live from deeper, more resourceful parts of themselves that may otherwise not be engaged in their daily routine.

Here are 4 steps to getting into your creative flow and re-connecting with that flow when thoughts interfere.

1.  Create your Optimal Environment (where, when, temperature, sound & noise levels, lighting, food and beverages)

Having a comfortable place to create can do wonders for your creative endeavors.  It may not be necessary for you to create, but having a space set aside at home or at your favorite cafe can help you get into your creative flow.  Ask yourself what sorts of things would really make this setting work for you.  Create this optimal space in a way that can excite or “prompt” you into your creative flow.  Minimize interruptions.  What sounds or level of noise would help or hinder your creativity?  Does tea or coffee get you going?  Do you feel energized in this space or so relaxed you could fall asleep?  Remember, this is your creative space, and most people in your life will actually have something to benefit from you giving yourself this time!  The more you allow the flow of your creativity and inner knowingness to be present with you, the more you bring your own unique voice, creative touch and “fingerprint” into being.

2.  Visualize what you are inviting into your universe.     Allow the visual part of you to awaken, grow and evolve!  Allow yourself to see the detail, colors, sounds and textures of what you want.  What’s happening in your vision, how and with whom?  How do you feel in your vision?  Take a moment to welcome that feeling and be with that feeling now.  Let that feeling and vision flow in the background of your consciousness like a song softly playing in your mind or a soothing breeze blowing around you.

3.  Connect to your flow.  Whatever you are doing when you are in your creative flow, surrender to that natural state of creating right there.  You are a unique being and your creative spark is unlike no other.  So, in a sense, the most important aspect of creating is letting yourself create!  Let your creations be created on some level so that your thinking mind does not “think” your ideas out of ever being born.   Getting into your creative flow can be confusing at times because the mind will often interfere with creative inspiration.  This may be experienced as doubts, worries, need for perfectionism or having an over-active inner critic.

When you really get into your flow you may notice that you surrender to that creative impulse from your Higher Self that wants to come through you.  Having a great space of creative flow will often involve less thinking about what you are creating and more being in the now or flow of inspiration.  When this happens, notice that self-consciousness and fear disappear.  People also tend to lose track of time, eating or sleeping when they are in their flow.  You can also tune into a golden space above your ahead and visualize yourself connecting to your own unique creative flow and what that looks like for you.

4.  Dealing with blocks to creative flow: Blocks to your creative flow can arise which can feel like a wall that stops you dead in your tracks.  To find your creative space again, you can start with pondering what inspires you.  Allow yourself to be in a relaxed, open space and let your imagination provide new food for thought that arouses your curiosity, amusement or passionate interests.  Let yourself begin with a “stream of consciousness” to get your creativity flowing again.  If you encounter blocks that you can’t seem to get past, you can meditate on being present with the block and talking with someone who can help you find your inspiration again.

If you are worried about deadlines, details or making things perfect and notice that you are not enjoying your creative space as much, the degree to which you can connect or re-connect to your flow will keep things moving.   Keeping yourself open to this flow is key, especially when the mind begins to turn to problem solving.  Creative ideas that come from a flow of higher inspiration can “enter” and inform the analytical mind though it may be tempting to begin to rely solely on the analytical mind to shape the result of your ideas.  Thus, if you find yourself worried, fearful or critical of your creative ideas, simply visualize connecting to your flow again and allow your flow to come.  If critiquing or evaluating your work blocks your flow, try beginning with a “stream of consciousness” before analyzing your work.  Learning how to find the best use of  your creative and analytical sides can help you polish your creations.

5 Steps to Coming out of Depression

Depression is most commonly described as a state of being associated with low mood, feeling “flat” or lacking emotions, low motivation or energy, irritability or feeling “cranky”, or having lost interest in hobbies or activities that in the past one has typically found interesting or fun.  Depression can also be a period where someone may experience changes in sleep patterns or weight and feel mild to severely sad or suicidal.  Depression also can often times impact our thinking, making it difficult to concentrate or make decisions.

Most people experience some degree of depression at some point in their lives, sometimes due to typical life events such as a death of a loved one, transitions such as loss of a job or divorce or other daily circumstances that bring up feelings of hopelessness or overwhelm.  Talking with a family member, friend or a professional that you can trust is important in not only managing depression, but preventing a “downward” mood spiral where depressed feelings may become increasingly unbearable.

sunlightforest.jpgHere are 5 keys to coming out of depression:

#1.  Talk to a family member, friend or professional who you can trust.  Let them know how you’ve been feeling, what you have been thinking about and any worries or concerns that you may have.  If possible, create a support network.

#2.  Identify a positive activity that you can engage in on a regular basis (at least once/week) such as going for a walk, exercise, art, yoga, listening to music or playing a musical instrument, etc.

#3.  Increase time socializing.

#4.  Identify things that have meaning for you or are interesting to you and invest time in pursuing those subjects of interest.

#5.  Journal about your thoughts and feelings.  Begin a thought journal and make a daily list of thoughts that often lead you to feel more depressed afterwards.  Have 3 columns where you write a column for thoughts, feelings and positive, reality-based replacement thoughts.   Becoming more aware of negative thought patterns and consciously replacing them with healthier thoughts can help change negative patterns of thinking and feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do I do about my negative feelings?

When was the last time you felt angry, judgmental, irritable, critical or jealous?  A few hours ago?  Minutes ago?  While standing in the slow “10 items or less” line at the grocery store?  Perhaps it was during a 20-second interaction with your child over what seemed to be a trivial matter….

Better yet, perhaps you have good reason for your negative feelings towards a situation or person but feel guilty about even having your feelings so you hide, trash or criticize them.  Or, are you a master at feeling negative about a whole lot and don’t know (or possible care) about how to stop complaining or feeling upset?

It is human to feel…positive or negative.

I think about feelings sometimes as a feedback system that reflects the current state of being you.  Though there are times when expressing what you are feeling may seem like a bad idea, your feelings are communication about how you are doing, in relationship to what is going on in your life.   So, my question to you is, “what could you do to really listen to yourself so that you could begin to let go of your negative feelings? Is there something you can do to meet this need or have this need be met, either partially or fully?  Is there something that you need on a relationship level that is not being met that you can talk to a friend or family member about?  If it is too difficult to really hear your own needs, it may be all too familiar to place more responsibility for your feelings on others rather than tuning in and taking care of yourself.  Is there something you need to do for yourself today that would decrease negative feelings you have about someone or something else?

This is where the whole notion of “expressing your feelings” comes from and why it is important.  Though I understand that numerous people would beg to differ, regularly ignoring or holding back from expressing or feeling your feelings has consequences.  Not having space to feel has the capacity to create distance between what you are doing and what you need emotionally, mentally, physically or even spiritually.

Some people are quite fluid at expressing themselves or “saying it like it is” but perhaps find it challenging to express intense negative feelings in non-destructive ways.  By “non-destructive ways”, I mean are you expressing yourself in a way that does not hurt your communication with others, prevent authentic communication from others or bring harm to you, your relationships or your goals.  Most of us know that deep down satisfaction of verbally taking revenge on someone else who has “hit a nerve” with you.  But if your anger or irritability isn’t ultimately getting you want you really want aside from revenge, it’s probably worth considering a different way of communicating.

What would a different way of communicating look like?  What would it look like to be assertive about your needs rather than aggressive?  How would it effect you and your relationships if you used a calm but firm tone of voice when upset with someone rather than a condescending or insulting one?

On the other side of the spectrum, if you express yourself plenty but struggle with letting go of negative feelings, think of your feelings as meant to be “energy in motion” or e-motion.  According to the Taoist view of emotions, they, like all else – are forms of energy that must flow freely.  If you’re angry or upset, somehow, this e-motion must move through and out of your system, before it becomes a stagnant or stale source of feeling or energy in your body.  The less you express your feelings freely, the more likely that those pent-up storages of old unexpressed feelings can lead to having a general “bad mood” that you just can’t shake, or even worse, long-term dis-ease.

In the end, if you have expressed yourself and have done the most you can in a bad situation, consider what you could do to change the way you are feeling.  Take a moment to reflect on the gift of how children can move in and out of sheer joy and enthusiasm to pain and anger in a matter of seconds and forget all about what they were upset about minutes later.  Physical activities, dance, singing, art, listening to music, talking a walk somewhere peaceful or beautiful or just breathing can all impact what you are thinking and thus feeling.  If you don’t have time, consider how you would improve your overall experience of life and yourself if you had less prolonged experiences of negative feelings.   Would positive things happen if you let yourself have more time feeling good?  Can you take a step in owning more of your “response-ability” to your personal needs for the sake of feeling better more of the time?