Why do we feel it is all or nothing in our lives, this country, and worldwide? Are you aware of this behavior in yourself? Living this way always leads to disappointment and, indeed, suffering. This behavior has carried over into our politics and is one of the reasons why things are the way they are today. You think it is because of what the other person believes; it is their issue. They are wrong, and I am right. Well, that is simply not true.
Just look around; you will see this behavior everywhere. It is certainly not hidden, but it is often overlooked. Of course, it is always easier to see it in someone else, but we must see it in ourselves; otherwise, nothing will change.
We are righteous in our beliefs, and the truth in our righteousness is that our beliefs are deceiving us. It is my way or the highway, my way is right, and your way is wrong, so we must do it my way. When we have such a narrow view of an issue and the world, it only causes discord and suffering.
Peace will only come when we work together and are willing to compromise. We must take the time to see each other’s points of view, but just seeing it does not go far enough. We must understand the importance and value it holds for the one who believes it. When we discount it without examination or contemplation, we invalidate the other person’s feelings and beliefs. We have all experienced this feeling. Think about a time when someone did that to you and remember how it felt.
When we can move away from being so focused on our all-or-nothing attitudes, we can create solutions; instead of gridlock. We will suffer less and move towards peace in ourselves, this country, and the world. This may seem like a tall order, especially if we wait for the other person to do it first. You must be willing to be the first to do it. Do it for yourself, your children, and grandchildren, and do not wait for anyone else, or it will never happen. The question is, will you?
Remember, there have always been conflicting beliefs from the beginning of time. However, conflicting beliefs do not have to lead to conflict if both parties remain open to the other person’s point of view and are willing to work towards a compromise. We must leave our all-or-nothing attitudes behind and come together, work together like the pieces of a puzzle. We must come together in unity rather than falling further and further apart.
No matter how much you think you love, appreciate and respect the world we live in, you can always love, appreciate and respect it a little bit more. How do you do that? By increasing your awareness and noticing that you have an addictive nature towards consumption. By the way, we all have this addiction to varying degrees. You can see it if you look closely enough at your life. Many of you have at least one area of your life that you are already aware of but cannot change because you think you must stop completely. You may have already tried more than once.
This is a false assumption on your part. You only need to take small manageable steps toward showing your love, appreciation, and respect for Mother Earth, yourself, and the generations to come by noticing your habits and making new choices. Choices that you feel comfortable making. You do not have to sacrifice your joy for something or your life to impact the world positively.
For example, do not eat meat for one meal a week. You may not think this will help, but it will. What if one billion people chose not to eat meat for one meal a week? This would significantly impact our lives and the planet. Or perhaps you buy a water filter system like a Berkey water system instead of using bottled water all the time. You can do so many things that will not change your life that much, but that would ultimately have a massive impact if we do it together. Thinking you cannot do anything about the challenges we face, ignoring them, or believing they do not exist, solves nothing. Do not make these false assumptions because you have not taken the time to bring greater awareness into your life. Show yourself just how much love you have to give to those around you and the world.
The truth is if you take yourself with all your difficulties, pain, anxiety, and suffering to the park one day, you might be surprised to see how much joy abounds there in others.
Your mind will say, but they do not have my problems. And while you listen to your mind tell you this, your anxiety increases, and you begin to suffer even more. You ask yourself, why can’t I experience joy like that? Well, you can if you stop listening to the mind as an all-knowing source.
If you only concentrate on your pain, that is all you will find. Try concentrating on what feels good. Sometimes even noticing a slight difference can change your outlook. For instance, when you are in physical pain, a slight deviation from level 10 to level 8 is a difference in the right direction, even if only temporary. However, we often overlook this difference and see things as the same even though they have changed. Once you notice these differences, you can find hope again and start moving your attention in a new direction.
Do not forget life is a contradiction. Look at any moment, and with a bit of clarity, you can see that all “states of being” exist simultaneously in this world. Even if you feel you are only experiencing part of them, that does not mean the others do not exist. You can redirect your attention toward something different at any moment in your life.
Now I am not saying that you should not feel your feelings or that you should not look at the truth of your life. You can do that and at the same time direct your attention towards that which brings you joy.
Never forget to lean into your blessings no matter how small they seem. The fact that you are alive and able to watch the sunrise and set is a wondrous gift, even if your mind says otherwise.
Have you forgotten this amid your difficulties, pain, anxiety, and suffering?
I guarantee you that no matter how much your mind tells you that you have the right to suffer or complain, you also have every right to feel joy. You do not have to believe everything your mind says to you. I can assure you that it is constantly lying about or exaggerating your circumstances. Therefore, when the pain in your body or life speaks up loudly, or some person says something that causes you frustration or anger, witness what your mind starts telling you first. Notice that it tells you how bad things are or how wrong that person is. And then, instead of taking up a conversation in agreement with it, look deeper within. Remember that you have the power to redirect your attention and begin to focus that attention on what feels good or brings you joy. Perhaps you feel that is too much at first, but I am sure that thought came from your mind and is not the truth. Find the smallest of cracks because “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ― Leonard Cohen.
When faced with something in your life that you do not like, rather than immediately resisting, take pause and rest assured that whatever is happening is happening for you and not against you. I understand that you may feel that it is wrong and that it should not be happening. However, you may not have taken time to see or feel anything other than your egos dislike for it and immediately rebelled. When we sit in resistance to the present moment, it is impossible to stand in awareness, and without awareness, it is impossible to see the truth.
You may have already experienced this in your life, perhaps many times. Where you resisted an experience, and then one day after the fact, you looked through the eyes awareness and saw the positive effect it had on you. However, at the time, this was not possible because you were too busy battling with what was taking place.
The level of awareness required to see the truth was there all along but not available until you let go of your resistance. Once you did, you fell back into peace again, or a more comfortable space, albeit for some, this is very short-lived, lasting only until the next event.
Pause, find connection and choose peace rather than harm when you feel overwhelmed in the crashing ocean of life. – Cuong Lu
The harm we cause can be towards others or ourselves and levied through thought and deed. Unfortunately, most of the time, this harm is toward ourselves. However, it is always due to a lack of awareness.
If we are aware, we can notice it in the moment, and if not, we may still be fortunate enough to see it after some time passes. However, on too many occasions, it goes unnoticed, which can cause problems for us, either emotionally, physically, or both. Not to mention the consequences it can have on our relationships with others.
The impact on our personal lives can happen immediately, or multiple events can build on each other, leading to a very uncomfortable body, illness, sleep problems, emotional issues, or other disorders. For example, have you ever been upset with someone and gotten a headache or became sick to your stomach? Maybe you think this is no big deal, or you believe that this is just how you are because it has been happening for years. If it happens repeatedly, it could be missed as the underlying cause of your health issue or emotional state since it seems normal to you.
There are many ways to deepen your awareness. Therefore, I will not go to great lengths in this post. However, like a muscle, regular use will make it stronger. A good starting point is to pay closer attention to your thoughts and your actions. Are they unkind at times? Are you easily distracted when you try to pay attention to your thoughts? What does your mind say to you when you try to pay attention? How does your body feel when you are upset or try to pay closer attention to your thoughts? Have you ever noticed? Or is it hard to do anything else but feel your body during these experiences?
Please keep it simple to start with and allow grace to guide you. Do not solely rely on your intellect and knowledge for this guidance because for many, it keeps them stuck in mind. Know that intention gives awareness direction and is the spark. Therefore, make a clear and unbending intention to deepen your awareness, and you cannot fail. Failure is impossible unless you begin to believe what the mind is telling you without awareness. And remember to reach out for support if you need it. That is not a sign of weakness but a higher level of awareness.
Much of your life is spent thinking; even when you wish it would stop, it doesn’t, does it? We tend to think about how we feel too, which, of course, is not feeling at all — it’s thinking.
Through thought, our mind tells us that it is too uncomfortable to feel our feelings. We then get caught in a loop of thought about how painful we feel without ever really exploring our feelings. We can even have body sensations that confirm our thoughts about it. This tendency of the mind leads us down an exhaustive path of pain and suffering.
The truth is we must begin to notice this ploy of the mind to break free of it and then feel our feelings fully. However uncomfortable that may be—resisting them leads to a much lengthier healing process and an increased level of suffering.
Feelings are energy, and as such, they must keep flowing. Resisting them means we hold onto them, and the energy gets stuck in our body, which can cause physical pain and even illness.
Recognizing this truth or knowing it on an intellectual level is not enough; you must have a direct experience to embody this truth. We often end up stopping short on the spiritual path and in life of realizing this because the mind tells us that we know it already, whatever it is. Then we get distracted by thought again and sent down another path without ever having a direct experience. The mind has endless offers to distract us, and many of us can spend our whole life seeking and not finding. How many years or decades have you been looking?
Therefore, the next time you find yourself suffering, notice if you are in your head and having a conversation with yourself. Bring your attention down to your chest, the heart area, and notice that your thoughts begin to slow down. Then focus even more attention there and begin to feel your feelings. They literally are your friend and not something to fear. Know that the mind will try to stop you through thought, physical sensation, and intensity.
Be with your feelings, let whatever needs to arise, and let the energy flow again—knowing that you are entirely safe. Some of you may feel the energy flowing along with the emotion, and some may not. Either way is perfect. Do not let the mind come in and question whether you are doing it right or not; it is just another distraction. Keep your attention in the chest. If you are guided by the feeling to another part of the body, follow it. Just stay with your feelings and keep breathing. If it feels too overwhelming, you have the power to slow it down or stop it at any time.
The mind may tell you otherwise, but I can assure you this is the most loving thing you can do for yourself and your body. You are the only one who can offer yourself this kind of unconditional love. We have all felt someone’s love for us being taken away before because it was not unconditional. However, once you feel this kind of self-love, you will know it can never be taken away by anyone. Therefore, do not be afraid to feel your feelings because what is often disguised as pain can blossom into something beautiful if you let it.
Remember that awareness is not just about noticing what is going on around you but also what is going on within you. The mind will use thought to distract you and tell you that something more important is going on out there. What is essential to uncover is not what is happening out there but what arises within you. We must notice how our thoughts guide us unconsciously. The only way to do this is through awareness. Remember that Grace supports us always, so there is nothing to fear. If you want to be free from worry, stress, and anxiety, use awareness more consciously.
Please test this out for yourself and pay attention to your thoughts throughout the day as often as possible. Do not let your mind tell you otherwise until you try it.
Notice when you get lost in thought and how the mind distracts you repeatedly. As you exercise your awareness muscle, it will become more robust, and through this newfound strength, we anchor more into the present moment.
“We see space as what separates us from everyone and everything. But what if space is what holds everything together; what if it connects everything.
Know that sometimes what we believe to be true is not the truth at all. What is true is that if we never question our beliefs, then our misguiding beliefs are sure to create pain and suffering in our lives. So whether you believe that space is what separates us or connects us, we must begin to question our beliefs. Inquiry at this level always leads to a greater understanding of who we are and the world around us—bringing more peace and comfort into our lives and those lives that we touch.”
Life functions in harmony because of its ability to adapt to changing conditions. Therefore, our true nature is always in harmony; it is our natural rhythm. If you are not in harmony with life, it is not because of anything external. Of course, the mind will lay the blame there, but this is just a lie, a distraction from the truth.
Harmony is the natural state of our true nature. This is unlike the life of personhood, where our conditioning, what we perceive, our ideas, concepts, beliefs, etc. often cause us trouble. However, the mind places the blame for our suffering toward outside sources. It is their fault. I would be just fine if I had more money, the job, or the relationship I want. I will be happy if my candidate wins or if only my party could rule the country, everything would be perfect. What in your life would be perfect if, fill in the blank? Would it? Can you say that with one-hundred percent certainty? Haven’t you already tried to find happiness through this method? It may work temporarily, but it never lasts.
Throughout the day, we find ourselves caught in conversation with our minds. These conversations can lead us right back to suffering again. A story is constructed through this conversation that creates fear, stress, worry, anxiety, and other unsettling feelings for us. At least the us that we perceive ourselves to be.
On the other hand, our true nature, the field of creation, from which all things in life manifest, is not disturbed by anything. It is when things become personal that our harmony is disturbed. By personal, I mean that we identify with things; we link to them or become attached. The question is, do things always have to become personal? Do we have to remain attached to everything in our lives to appreciate and experience them fully?
How can these things not be personal? I am me; I am this person, aren’t I. Could there be more to me than I am remembering? Have you ever questioned this? Have you ever questioned who you are? Many people do not, yet there is a deep knowing that there is more to me than just what I see in the mirror.
We believe that I am only this body, feelings, sensations, etc., but is this the whole truth? Or could it be that we are conditioned only to see ourselves as the body? Even as you read this, isn’t there something that knows there is more to it than that? More to you than just the body? Something stable that does not come and go as all things do in this life of personhood? This is what I am calling your real or true nature.
Passages point to our oneness in all spiritual writing, no matter the religion. For example, this passage from Romans 12:5, so we, being many, are one body in Christ; and every one member one of another. There are many passages in the bible and other spiritual texts saying the same thing in different ways.
Your true nature, as I said before, is always in harmony. This is not a place you go to or that you must find. You cannot lose it either—no more than you can lose the blue sky. Yes, the blue sky can become clouded over, but is it gone? No, of course not. Anyone who has flown on a plane and experienced taking off on a cloudy day has flown above the clouds to see the blue sky again. Like clouds, your thoughts can only hide your true nature. It is always there like the blue sky. It does not come and go as everything else in personhood does.
If you are not feeling in harmony with life, it is because the mind catches you. You think or believe something that makes you feel disconnected from your true nature, but this is not valid.
We have such a strong identification with personhood that we become impacted by other people, things, and experiences in the world that do not support our highest good. But this does not have to happen. Identification is a choice, and you can build the choice muscle up by observing your thoughts and recognizing that many, if not all, of your unsolicited thoughts are not valid. We can trust that life will unfold the way it needs to. Without judgment, we can remain present with our true nature and rest in the harmony of life.
Many years ago, I had a severe back injury. I was diagnosed with bulges on four of my five lumbar discs. To make a long story short, after suffering for many years, I was eventually told by my doctor, a neurologist, that I would live in pain for the rest of my life. I was informed that there were no other options except to learn to live with it and manage the pain.
At the time, I could not explain what happened next except to say that I heard a voice. Yes, a voice as clear as if someone was standing next to me that said, do not listen to him, you will find something that will help you. Now I know that that was my first mystical experience.
I left the doctor’s office bewildered, not knowing what the voice was, where it came from, or what it meant, but from that moment forward, I knew I was going to get better. I did not know how, but with a strong belief and unbending intention, divine guidance, and desire to heal, I live practically pain-free, and the journey continues. I have gained so much more than freedom from pain; this healing journey has changed my life forever, and in more ways than I ever thought possible.
In December of 2018, I started having nerve pain in both elbows at the same time. The exact cause is unknown, but I believe it occurred using improper form weightlifting. And once again recently, I was told by a medical professional that the pain I have in my elbows would probably never go away. When I heard him say this, without hesitation, my first thought was, that is not the truth. This time I did not need any encouragement from that voice. Not only did I think it, but I immediately heard the words come out of my mouth, telling the practitioner I understood his thinking, but that I was choosing not to believe it and that my elbows will heal.
What I am pointing to in these stories is an essential lesson for healing and living a life that is aware and awake. Once we identify with and believe what we are told, it becomes our truth. Our life then becomes a living expression of this belief. It does not matter if a medical professional tells you that you will live in pain for the rest of your life, or someone else tells you that you are not worthy.
I am not saying that we should ignore medical advice, far from it. I am saying that we must question what we are told before we accept it as truth. A thought is no different; unsolicited thoughts appear in our minds all the time. If we identify with them without question, then we become the living expression of these thoughts. Our problems begin here and end with the manifestation of anxiety, emotional pain, worry, stress, and suffering.
At some point in your life, you have experienced someone saying something about you that was not true. It was only their perception about you, and if you believed it, it formed how you interacted with others after that point in time, or at least until you were able to rise above their comments. Sometimes when we hear these things, they have no impact all or only for a short time, and then some words or judgments can influence our lives until the day we die.
Only through the grace of awareness can we free ourselves from this self-punishment. Awareness is one of the greatest gifts in our life of personhood because it gives us the ability to observe what is taking place. The mind will always want to blame someone or something else outside of ourselves for our problems. You may have noticed this in your life but have certainly seen it at playout in someone else’s life.
Freedom comes through awareness, not by watching or blaming others, but by observing our behavior and paying attention to our thoughts. We can watch our unsolicited thoughts arise with awareness, hear the conversations that we have in our minds, and wake up to see that what the mind tells us is nonsense and usually, if not always, untrue. The mind is needed and useful. However, there is a big difference in using it and allowing it to use you.
Can you ever recall having conversations with yourself about what might happen if things did not go a certain way? Then, fear arose, and a conversation continued, maybe even a whole story was created around this thought about what was going to happen. Your fear grew, worry and anxiety came, but the story that you created never happened, and in the end, all your worry and stress was for nothing. And because of this, you missed the present moment; you lived in an imaginary future.
A single thought that you believed in misled you down a path of suffering for no real reason. This happens to everyone more than once and continues to happen to us until we notice it occurs through awareness.
Therefore, I encourage you to take the first step, and that is to notice and question just a few thoughts you have each day. Notice when you get pulled into a story about something that is not real. Notice if you find yourself thinking about what somebody said to you that made you mad or upset. Catch yourself having a conversation with your mind about something that is not important or true. Just notice, it is that simple.
Now it may start to become uncomfortable because you might be surprised how often this is occurring. Let this be another opportunity to notice how the mind operates. Notice that it has an opinion about this process and wants you to stop or tries to distract you somehow. Notice if your body is uncomfortable in some way. The uncomfortableness is a clue that you are caught again by your thoughts. Find the signals that alert you to wake up to these thoughts.
Know that this becomes easier as you break down your old habits of identifying with thoughts and building a new habit of using your awareness to catch them before they catch you. This is not about being perfect, so do not beat yourself up if you forget or get distracted by the mind. The mind can be very subtle, even tricky, in its efforts to mislead you. Respect its cunningness but remember you oversee the mind, not the other way around, even though it may feel that way as you begin to bring more awareness into your daily life.
As we journey down the spiritual path, we find countless options to wake up, become the person we think we should be or find enlightenment. We can even believe if we connect with our divine self, we will finally be free from problems and live in endless happiness. Sounds good, right, but is it true?
With so many options, we struggle to decide what to do. Should we take this workshop, read that book, or work with this person or that practitioner, etc. For some, this can become an addiction with the mind supporting you every step of the way. It will tell you what a great job you are doing. It will tell you how you are better than those who do not do this exploration. It will tell you that you are so close to getting there, only to have that mark moved year after year, decade after decade. Sound familiar?
And yes, you have made progress, you know that you are different. And yet, something still does not feel right or complete. You thought you would be further down the path and even arrived at your intended destination by now.
This continuous shopping around becomes a ploy of the mind to distract you. The thought that you must reconnect with your real nature seems complicated, something separate from you, even distant. This thought is another distraction, another lie.
Thoughts arise that tell you that you are so close; if you only go to this next workshop or do that next thing, you will finally feel and be the way you want. So, you take the workshop coming home on a high. You feel so good about what happened, what you learned, what you let go of, and your progress. And then it happens, someone does or says something to you, or perhaps something insignificant happens like misplacing your car keys, and you get upset, maybe even angry. You say to yourself, but why, I have done all this work on myself. Why is this still happening to me?
You must realize that what you have been doing is not working in the way you thought or intended when you started your journey. Even though everything you have done has added value to your life, it has not done what you thought it would, and if it hasn’t by now, will it ever? You must see this if you want to wake up; otherwise, you will continue to follow your mind’s guidance and schedule that next workshop or appointment. Understand that I am not telling you not to do these things. I am saying to do them with awareness, and not out of a compulsion that they will be the answer to what you seek.
We are talked out of doing things by our thoughts all the time, even when they for our highest good. Have you ever wondered where those thoughts originate? Have you noticed they are unsolicited and appear out of nowhere? If that stirs something in you, then start observing your thoughts, and it will lead you to remember your real nature, which is and has always been with you. The thought that you must find it is a lie. Direct experience of your true nature helps, but it is about remembering who you are, not finding something outside yourself.
Prove this to yourself, do not take my word for it, or believe it is true. Just having a belief will end up being more thought and distraction through the mind. Look with the intention to prove it to yourself. You have a choice to identify with whatever thoughts are coming up now and telling you this is nonsense or that it will not work. Or you can observe what is arising and choose not to identify with it. It is your choice, not the minds.
When it comes to having a direct experience of our true nature, the paradox is, we find what we are looking for when we stop looking. Your mind does not have to accept this for you to know the truth.
Note: To help you see how subtle the mind’s deception can be, if the act of observing is observable, then the mind is once again playing a trick on you. When we are in our true nature, it cannot be observed from somewhere else; that is impossible because there is nothing outside of it.
If you want, take a moment to get quiet, see if what I have said in the paragraphs above applies to you, maybe you already know it does. But if not, find a quiet place, somewhere free from distractions. Draw your attention down to the heart area of your chest. You can even place your hand there to bring your attention from the head to the heart if you are having trouble.
Know that the truth will not come to you through your mind in the form of thoughts, and it will not come from all the knowledge you have acquired. It will arrive directly from your soul, consciousness, Divine Creator, or God if you prefer. It will come in the form of insight or direct experience.
Become empty of thought by keeping your attention in the heart area. If any thought arises to distract you, notice that it is observed, and let it go. The key is not to identify with it. If you don’t, it has no power. Body sensations, emotions, or images may come. Notice that all of this is observable.
More thoughts will arise, that is a given. They might say I do not know how, or I cannot do this, etc. Stay connected to observing what is happening, instead of being in the movie, watch it play out. Do not identify with anything, and do not imagine. Now the mind may come in and say this is hard. You observed that as well, now let it go.
Once you feel ready, ask any question you want. For example, from what was said above, is this true for me? Perhaps you will hear a reply, feel something, or come into more clarity. If it seems nothing has happened, be watchful of your thoughts not getting caught in a new story. Trust that something has happened and watch over the next few days to see if anything is revealed or changed in some way. It will not come through the mind but will reveal itself in a moment of insight. You already know what it feels like when the truth is shown to you. You just know somehow, don’t you?