Challenging Times

Challenging times can fundamentally change us; in fact, that is what they are meant to do. The only time they do not is when we resist what is happening and fail to remain present. They support the transcendence of our current identity and open us up to new possibilities, but only if we let them.

We will suffer to the extent that we resist what is happening. However, when we see these circumstances for what they are instead of what our thoughts tell us about them, we will gain a new perspective. With this new perspective, our suffering will be diminished, end much sooner, and for some, stop instantly with this awareness.

You do not want to end up being the same person you thought you were before these events took place. Otherwise, you will become more anchored into your conditioned self, leading to more pain.

Know this truth; peace is never found by those who try to avoid life’s difficult times. Without this recognition, you will only see your troubles as unfavorable. And while there may be truth in your troubles, your experience of that truth does not have to be dictated by your thoughts about it. You can rise above them, which means everyone can, not just others who do not have YOUR problems.

Therefore, do not miss any opportunity that a challenging time might bring to you. And yes, it may be hard at first. You may even think it is impossible because you get caught in your pain and fear of the experience. In these times, we do not want to look or forget to look for the positive. We get lost in our endless thoughts, which tell us a story about our suffering, perhaps even how justified we are to remain in it.

We can feel like there is no way out, and we will always feel the way we do now. If you are alive, I presume you have already felt this way, perhaps more than once; I know I have. So based on your past experiences, is it true that you will always feel this way, or there is no way out?

Are you feeling that way right now? And if you are, have you looked for something other than suffering from your experience? Pain can ease with time, but it will rise again unless you find a way to be present with it. Therefore, do not let your fear or thoughts get in the way of you looking for something other than pain. Perhaps you will find something positive, even life-changing, from your challenging experiences, but you will never know if you do not look.

When

When the mind is still, the heart opens.
When the heart is open, love flows freely.
When love flows freely, our oneness is revealed.
When our oneness is revealed, all suffering ends.
When all suffering ends, the search ends.
When the search ends, we have awakened.
When we have awakened, no thought can disturb us.
When no thought can disturb us, our mind is still.

Thinking, Feelings, and Finding Peace

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.

Thought and Awareness

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.

Mind Attacks

Think of a time when your mind attacked you. A time when something happened, and you could not stop thinking about it. Even though you wanted to, let it go. You know what this is like, the sleepless nights and the relentless pounding of thought, sometimes for days or weeks, mulling over something that does not deserve this attention.

Know that as real as that attack feels, it is only in your mind. Even if a problem exists in your life or the world, that does not mean your state must change.

What about when you hear a thought that says what you just did was stupid, you look fat, or some other negative or unpleasant thought? Are these kinds of thoughts one-hundred percent true, or are they often misleading or outright lies? Do you identify with them without question, even when there is corroborating evidence to the contrary? Do you continue to have an ongoing conversation with your mind that leads back to the inevitable conclusion that the mind was right in the first place? How does this make you feel? Even if the mind is right, do you need to feel bad, frustrated, worried, or upset?

Now I am not talking about ignoring problems, feelings, or thoughts that need your attention. I want you to see that you do not have to identify with every thought and feeling that arises. Accepting them without question can lead to trouble. You do not have to allow any thought or feeling to disturb your state. If it does, it is because you allowed whatever arose in your mind, accurate or not, to control or influence your state. Should your mind be able to do this without your awareness? Of course, not!

What can you do about it? First, let me say that since you found this post, I know you were guided here by grace, and you are ready even if it does not feel that way to you right now. Therefore, do not let your mind talk you out of it.

Second, the fact that you read this far down tells me that you relate with these words.

Finally, the mind is cunning so pay attention to what it is saying to you. Let observing and questioning your thoughts become a part of your life like breathing, automatic. Doing this will make it harder for the mind to distract you through frustration or convince you that you cannot do it. You must be willing not to give up. I can assure you that it will repeatedly try to get you to stop. You must be vigilant and patient. After years of habitually accepting what you hear from the mind, it will not always be easy, even if the process is simple to do. It is essential not to let the mind pressure you. Do not put a time limit, conditions, or any other signal that you are making progress or not making progress.

Do not believe any unsolicited thought from the mind. Remember to observe and question your thoughts as best you can; when you can. When you forget, then begin again, without judgment, without self-punishment.

Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself? Are these thoughts making you feel better or worse? Do they help you resolve the issue or perpetuate your uncomfortable feelings? It will only be through this careful observation that you can awaken to this silent opposition. Over time, you will be able to let go of its false guidance. Pay attention and trust that this will unfold naturally without any unique practice or event needed to happen. Just observe, keep it simple and relax. We tend to forget that what we are seeking is already here. A mind attack cannot be successful without your full participation. If you do not link to or identify with a thought or feeling, they have no power. Therefore, have some fun with this and try it. Discover for yourself the power in observing your thoughts and feelings. Let me know what happens or any questions you might have.

The Harmony of Life

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.

Driving the Mind

Before you learn to drive a car, you take driving lessons. You learn the car’s ins and outs, and you practice driving. You do this before you go and take the test to get your license. But there is no course on how the mind works in our everyday life. When I went to high school, we had a driver’s ed class, but there was no class on how the mind impacts our daily life, no mind ed class. Yes, we might have learned the science of how it works, but not the practical ways it impacts our everyday life. A class like that would have helped me immensely and would have been life-changing. I would imagine it would help everyone to some degree, and for others like me, it would be life-changing.

How many of you have learned to drive your mind? What do I mean by drive your mind? I mean, how many of you have taken the time to learn the ins and outs of your mind, like you did that first car?

Are you driving the mind, or is it driving you?

How much attention do you pay to your thoughts and what they say to you throughout the day? Do you just get picked up by one and then driven to a destination that takes you out of your way? This happens to most people multiple times a day; we are driven around by our minds. It takes us where it wants to go, which may not be where we want to go. Do you know it is possible to get back in the driver’s seat to control where you always go and not get lost again?

It may seem impossible to some of you, I know, because I have been chauffeured around by my mind too. Even after you start driving yourself again, in the beginning, it can be easy to get distracted by the mind and then end up being chauffeured around again. It is much easier to be chauffeured because it takes focused attention to drive yourself. Have you ever been driving your car and driven past your exit or turn because the mind took over? Or have you ever arrived home and not remembered the drive along the way because you were lost in unnecessary thought?

Well, you do not have to be in a car for this to happen. No single person is reading this right now that has not experienced being caught by unwanted thoughts. We have spent years, maybe decades identifying with unsolicited thoughts and being chauffeured around and distracted by these pointless thoughts.

I am here to tell you that you have a choice, but it will only change if you want it to, and that is entirely up to you. You can have greater freedom, or you can continue to suffer.

It begins by using your awareness to wake up to how the mind works. We can watch and pay attention to what it says to us. Please make no mistake; it is sending you unsolicited thoughts, distracting you, disturbing your peace all the time. Maybe even right now, while you are trying to read this, it might be telling you something that is not true. As you begin to pay attention to this, you will be astonished at how misleading it is. . Naturally, this can feel uncomfortable, and of course, the mind will be right there to support this idea so that you stop.

Make the correct choice not to listen to it and get back in the driver seat. You can do it!

Transactional or Transformational Living

We all live a transactional life to some degree. But many never go any further; they never explore real transformation.

What exactly is a transactional life? It means, on some level, there is an expectation of getting something in return for our efforts. This is often a conditioned response, and therefore we all experience it to varying degrees. For example, I do a job for you, and I expect to be paid. The example I just gave is part of our everyday work life, but there are other situations where things are not always that clear. They can end up being one-sided, which can lead to problems for anyone that has unmet expectations. For example, I do something nice for you. I then expect to be thanked. If I am not thanked, then I can feel hurt or become upset.

The following are examples of questions you might want to explore. Let them stimulate your own questions. Does the above example warrant my state being disturbed? Can I control my response in any situation where my expectations are not met? Do I have to have expectations in every exchange?

In a transactional life, the world is no bigger than we can see or feel. Living a transactional life is the easy way. It does not require anything extra, only what we are willing to give at any moment to get what we want. However, living this way brings pain and suffering. This is because when we do not get what we are expecting, life seems unfair. We feel cheated by life, and then we can feel that life owes us because we have suffered. Even if our lives do not fall to this level, we can become trapped in a transactional life and still feel that our life is okay, but have a sense that something is missing. That there must be more to life.

I want to speak to anyone who has this calling to something more significant in their life. Perhaps you have just reached a point in your life where something must change; you just cannot take it anymore. Or maybe you feel something that words alone cannot seem to describe, but a deep soulful yearning persists. Perhaps it feels like God is calling you. Maybe you do not know what is calling you, just that something is. We may describe this call differently, yet we know it must be answered when we hear it, or more suffering and melancholy comes.

The calling rises from somewhere deep within; however, it is often overlooked. We become lost in routine and repetition. Others become lost in their pain and caught by thought, making it easy not to hear this calling. Eventually, though, they cannot deny it; however, some will resist until their last breath.

The mind often steps in to offer direction through thought. However, if you pay attention to these thoughts, you will find that they are not as helpful as they seem. Many have traveled the religious or spiritual path for decades, making changes yes, but never reaching their desired destination or expected goal.

If we begin to question our thoughts, we can eventually see what is truthful and false. We can wake up to hearing the mind’s misguiding ways and realize that we do not have to identify with any thought. That this is just a habit, but it can be a choice.

Now, how many of us live a transformational life? A transformational life does not require money, notoriety, or anything the mind may think. It only requires the willing, those that feel a calling for something more to life and can no longer resist that call. A person who lives a transformational life uses their pain and problems for their highest good. With awareness and discernment, they use their thoughts, pain, and problems to awaken to their true nature. Remember when you are curious, you learn, but when you are desperate, you discover. Learning is limited, but discovery, is life-changing.

Therefore, I encourage you to begin to awaken to your true self. Take the time to notice where your life functions as a transactional life and question it. Use the following to get you started. Notice, would you be disappointed if your expectations were not met in any given situation? Is what I am expecting to get reasonable or selfish? Is there a need to have this expectation?

You will never regret beginning to question your thoughts and expectations because a transactional life without awareness will always lead to suffering. A life with awareness and transformation will always lead to more joy. Yes, there will still be transactions, but you will be doing them with awareness, which changes everything.

Right Vision Comes in the Gap

If there is breath in the body, a fresh viewpoint is always available. Right or clear vision happens in the gap. The gap is devoid of beliefs, concepts, judgments, conditioning, and thought. What feeds all of these and our troubles in life is identifying with the endless flow of unsolicited thoughts we have every day.

Experiencing the gap is simple but often misunderstood or thought to be hard, impossible, or only for a few. Which is funny because what causes us to misunderstand or think it is hard, impossible, or only for a few is the very same mind that is causing our problems in the first place. Therefore, experiencing the gap is not the problem. The problem is the thought that says you cannot experience it or that you do not know how to do it. Once you identify with a thought that says you cannot do it, it becomes impossible until that thought is no longer believed. The mind will do what it must to keep you distracted and reinforce the impression that it is impossible. Seeing this becomes very clear in the gap.

We put our complete trust into something that misleads us all the time, our mind. We do this by identifying with whatever arises in it. Once we do, there is no opportunity for discernment or to question the information’s validity. When we slow the mind down, even a little bit, it creates some space to begin to question what it is telling us and to see that most, if not all, is false.

How do you begin to slow the mind down? By questioning what arises in it, which guides you into the gap. Can it be that simple? Yes, it can. But it does come with some challenges for many of us. We have developed a robust habit of identifying with our thoughts without question. And now, this habit is anchored in place after many years or decades of reinforcement.

Once we begin to see how incredibly untrue our thoughts can be, it can be unsettling at first. However, do not let this discourage you; it means you are onto something. So instead, let it motivate you and propel you forward. Continue questioning your thoughts as often as you can. Begin to question who you are. Are you the body, your feelings, your thoughts, or your personality? Are you something more significant than just those things? What is your true nature, your true self, do you know? Have you had direct experience with it?

Your true self or true nature refers to the aspect of your being that is entirely aware of its expanded nature no matter what you may be experiencing in your life of personhood. The gap I am speaking about is your expanded nature. It is stable and not bound by time. Our personal lives, the psychological self, on the other hand, is bound by time, and it is the one that experiences problems and suffers.

Now you may find what I just said hard to believe, but of course, that is just a thought. Is it based in fact or an assumption? Notice that thought can be observed.

We have all experienced our real nature or true self. In truth, everyone has experienced timelessness. Think of an experience where you lost track of time. Perhaps you were watching a sunset or enjoying the company of a friend; I am sure you can remember an experience like this where time ceased to exist or flew by. You were not distracted by thought during this time, but instead, you experienced oneness or presence.

Please verify what I am saying for yourself by beginning to watch your thoughts. See them slow down and notice how this affects your state of being. Perhaps you will feel more peace or joy, pay attention, and see what is different. As you practice, you will find at some point that you have dropped into the gap. The mind is no longer your master but has become your slave. Now it can be used when needed and no longer has the power to interfere with your life in the same way. It can only disturb you when you give it the ability to do so by identifying with what it has presented to you through your thoughts without question.

The Root Cause of Your Disturbances

Are you feeling frustrated because things are not going the way you want in life? Perhaps you are looking for a job, relationship, or you have a desire that will not manifest. Maybe your fearful of all that is happening in the world today.

Do you know what the root cause of your disturbance is? Does your mind immediately tell you that it is another person, outside circumstances that cause it, or maybe it is something you perceive to be out of your control, like covid19 or something personal like your age?

Have you noticed that all these reasons that show up in the mind are entirely unsolicited? They do not come from critical thinking; they just show up spontaneously. What would happen if you did not immediately identify with these thoughts? Would your life unfold differently if they never appeared?

Let me answer that last question for you; yes, it would be very different because your thoughts would no longer be in control of guiding your life. You would be free from doing things in the same conditioned way you do them now, and you would have a stronger connection to your intuition. You would be free from frustration and worry, or it would be significantly minimized. You would have more energy, and your life would change in many unexpected ways.

The question is, how do we take our power back. I can offer you a simple process that works. It may feel challenging at first because we are unconsciously habituated to listening to and identifying with our thoughts without question. The extent of this varies for each of us. But we have been doing it for years, if not decades, so do not think that you are the one person not impacted by it.

Most of us will make gradual progress over time rather than giants leaps or the expected instant gratification the ego wants. Our progress is based on our ability to connect with greater awareness and then bring this awareness into our experience, which may feel uncomfortable at first. Particularly for some people, they notice the volume of unsolicited and negative thoughts; previously unseen is much greater than expected. Many of these thoughts can sound ridiculous once we start to pay attention to them.

So, what is this simple process? It is the observation of your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations that arise from them. When we can observe them occurring, without identification, we create some space or freedom from them. The mistake many make is trying to stop them consciously. You will only find yourself identifying with them more, a subtle trick of the mind to distract you.

When we no longer perceive ourselves as the thought, we notice that all thoughts come and go, just as everything does in personhood. This is an essential recognition because we often begin to THINK that uncomfortable circumstances will last forever. Our thoughts reinforce this misunderstanding. You can verify this by looking at past experiences. By having this erroneous perception, we begin to experience frustration, anxiety, fear and worry. We begin to have pointless conversations with ourselves in the mind that reinforce this story and keeping us stuck. We can no longer see a way out, which causes tremendous suffering. Suffering that is unwanted and unnecessary. The desire to not have this experience can intensify our suffering because we now have conversations about how bad it is, so the cycle persists.

We must regain command of the mind, our thoughts, and feelings if we ever want to be free from suffering. Therefore, I offer you this simple and effective way to begin breaking the habit of the cause of your suffering. Begin today, observing your thoughts and any feelings that arise as often as you can. Notice when you get pulled into a conversation with the mind and question if it is essential. Are there body sensations that clue you into being caught by the mind? Notice and see. Bring more awareness into watching this unfold in your daily life, and I guarantee that you will begin to see how much time is wasted being dragged around from one meaningless thought to another by the mind. Feelings arise from these thoughts, and cause disturbances in the body, pay attention.

With some attention and awareness, a little practice, and some time, you will begin to master this innate ability, and your life will change. You will experience more peace, suffer less over things that do not need your attention, and find your way back to the present moment.